Friday, August 29, 2014

65 - A Little Trip to Michigan

As the warm days wind down so does my list of summertime to-dos. The final item hanging out there was a weekend away at a cabin. As luck would have it Luke's former boss offered us a few days at his A-frame cabin in Michigan harbor country. It's a popular destination for city dwellers since the drive is only about two hours from Chicago.

We hadn't budgeted for a vacation this year and so a chance to stay somewhere for free that didn't require expensive flights either was too good to pass up. When Abel was one we had stayed there for a night and I spent the entire time keeping him off the stairs. This time we remembered a baby gate and before we brought the boys inside I gathered up anything breakable. Without having to worry about the stairs or the boys breaking all the glass fish platters the dynamic felt so much more relaxed.

It turned out to be just what our family needed. The boys slept in every morning which is a really big deal when you have toddlers. Abel caught his first and second and third and well, seven fish all together. He quickly became just as obsessed with fishing as his Daddy and seeing them share such enthusiasm was too cute. We spent an afternoon out on a boat. And the boys even humored me with a day of shopping in which I scored a beautiful painting and a bench at an antique store. It was everything and more than we had hoped for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

64 - Wooden Bead Necklaces

For the most part we've spent our summer outdoors enjoying those things you should while the warmth lasts, but on the occasional rainy day or when I just need Abel to stay entertained we've turned to indoor crafts. Recently I took him to the craft store, grabbed a couple of bags of wooden beads and let him pick out whatever paint colors and leather cord he wanted. Bead necklaces seemed simple enough for a three year old to make by himself. I had no idea how into it he would be. He patiently painted each bead with multiple colors and they turned out very cool and marbleized. So far he has spent two afternoons making necklaces for himself, Ansel, and me. We love 'em!

Monday, August 11, 2014

63 - Memento of our beach days

Each time the boys and I have visited the beach we've found a shell or two, a few pieces of driftwood, even some sea glass. I've been meaning to do something more than leave them sitting on the kitchen counter. This afternoon Abel and I hammered small holes through a few shells and some wood and strung them up. It's a nice way for us to remember the days we spent together enjoying the sand and the sun.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

62 - A Day at the Park

I want our boys to experience the magic of our bustling city, the dream of architects and planners. The way things are always growing and changing and becoming something more.

We live on the northwest side of Chicago and so a trip downtown doesn't happen everyday. It is a special experience and our boys loved every minute of it. We hopped the brown line el in the early afternoon on Saturday. It was time for them to see Millennium Park. Cloud Gate more commonly known as the Bean is so much fun for a three year old. A giant mirror to dance and wave into. After a short detour to enjoy the gorgeous sculptures currently on display in the Boeing Gallery, really breathtaking, we headed to the Crown Fountain. I knew this would be the highlight of the trip for the boys, the water, the changing faces. Both were enamored and only when the sun had finally descended behind the buildings and their lips started to turn blue was I able to pry them away. Bundled up in towels and after a quick dinner we headed to the train with two very sleepy, sweet babes. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

61 - Learning to Cook Simply

I love to cook. Used to go nuts with all sorts of exotic recipes, baking homemade bread, braises that took endless hours. Then I had kids. I mourned the time I had been able to squirrel away in the kitchen. Suddenly take-out became a regular fixture, we started eating frozen pizzas. All this because I was unable to adjust my mindset to a realistic set of cooking expectations. When I would manage to get a moment in the kitchen I would attempt to make something that took so absurdly long that it would inevitably lead to a great deal of frustration and dinner at nine o'clock. I started to think I didn't love cooking anymore. Somehow thanks to the gods of obvious I realized there was all sorts of fantastic food that could be make quickly, or in advance, even frozen for a later date. At least I figured it out before baby boy #2 arrived.

Here are some simple and satisfying dinners we've had lately...

1. Steak & Black Bean Tacos / 2. Pork & Veggie Kabobs / 3. Antipasta / 4. Pimento Cheeseburgers & Oven Fries / 5. BLT Salad & Garlic Bread

Saturday, August 2, 2014

60 - Summer Camping

Summer days are whipping past as they always do. Everywhere I go there are signs advertising back to school sales and such. And that list I made of summer things to do is whittling down to just a few things.
One of the biggest items I wanted to check off was taking the boys camping. Abel had his first camping trip at the beginning of the summer with my parents and was dying to go again. He came home filled with stories of campfires, raccoons, hiking sand dunes, and of course marshmallows. I wanted to experience all those things with him, not just sit on the sideline and hear how much fun he had. So I called Luke at work and said we should just pull the trigger. Sure the boys might not sleep all night and yes they would be absolutely filthy but isn't that what summer is for. After rummaging through the attic and basement I realized much of our camping gear had been destroyed or completely lost in the flood we experienced last year. But after a quick trip to buy a new tent and borrowing some essentials like a camp stove from my folks we were ready to take the plunge.

We woke early Saturday morning and packed up the car. It felt so chaotic and our little Forrester so stuffed I almost called quits on the whole thing before we even hit the road. But off we headed, our boys and their cousin in tow. And the further we got from the city the calmer I felt. Soon we were driving past hundred year old barns and homes made from the most gorgeous stone and through the rolling bluffs one would never expect Illinois to hold. We were headed to Apple River Canyon, a state park I've visited so often before I know every trail it holds. I forget how necessary it is to break free of the bustle of Chicago and just breathe.

After a quick jaunt into the local grocery store for some easy camp foods (hot dogs, fruit, mac 'n' cheese, and such/no way I was getting gourmet on such short notice) we headed into the park, found a nice spot and set up camp. In no time we hit the trails with the kids, exploring the bluffs and the river below. I taught Abel about wild blackberries, yum. Luke braved the river with the kids. And then we spent the rest of the weekend in classic camping fashion surrounding a fire with marshmallows included.

It may have been very last minute, totally nuts trying to pack the morning of, extremely dirty, and yes I might have sat rocking a one year old for 3 hours in the middle of the night, but I was so happy to see the excitement on the boys faces. They have such wonder for the world and I am glad to be a part of it.

Friday, August 1, 2014

59 - Beach Days

As most mommas can attest to, it becomes easy to fall in a rut with your littles. Sometimes the effort it takes to muster all the things we'll need and pile the boys into the car in order to shake things up just sounds so exhausting. So I decided to write a list of things I hoped to do with my boys this summer, some were more challenging like taking them camping and some felt like goals I could reach such as regular beach days. We live about 15 minutes from the beaches of Lake Michigan. I grew up even closer and spent summers practically living there, jumping off the rocks, tanning (horrible, I know), and generally being a beach bum. So far we have a couple visits under our belt and another planned for this week.

Ansel was a little unsure of the sand and ate a couple unfortunate mouthfuls before he warmed up to it. Soon enough though he was zipping around, splashing in the water, trying to climb in the lifeguard boats, and helping build, otherwise known as demolishing, Abel's sand castles.

And not to toot my own horn but I was proud of myself for getting over my worries of taking a 1 and 3 year old to the beach alone. It was perfectly enjoyable and the boys just loved every second of it.