Saturday, October 30, 2010

Granddad Days

This September had been a big month for having fun with the grandparents. I've written before how my father-in-law is the pastor of the church we attend. One huge treat for the kids is taking lunch to him at his office. We hadn't done this in a few months, so we picked up some burgers and fries on a Thurday afternoon and invaded his space. It usually is literally invading as the kids love to explore all his desk drawers, bookshelves and draw all over the dry-erase board.

Of course, they also love to check out the many souvineers he had from his travels, mainly to India. He has these wooden animal figures that have smaller animals inside them. But the biggest hit for Jared is always the dagger set from Pakistan.

Grandad had an awesome idea to make paper airplanes to fly in the gym, so helped the kids fold them before heading downstairs.

After flying the airplanes for a while (we found they will go varying distances depending on how they're folded), we opend the closet and played for the next hour with the hockey sticks, balls and scooters.

That weeked, my mother-in-law went on a woman's retreat to Wisconsin, so we invited Grandad to go with us on a bike ride. We rode through our favorite woods, but this time we went further than we had evern gone before. It has been so much fun riding as a family for the first time this year. Steve and I were commenting just a few days ago how we wished we had had more bike rides this summer. I still can't go by myself with the kids because Jared rides so fast and gets out of sight so quickly while I need to stay behind with Alexa who likes to take her time. At four years old, he isn't that great about stopping before he gets to a busy street.

We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire pit in the back yard when we came home. I'm so thankful for our fire pit. It gives you a little feel for camping, and yet you have your own private bathroom just a few feet away. Now that's my kind of camping!

Day Out with Grammy Part 2

After a long day downtown, we drove back home. The kids had a nice rest in the car, while I actually was able to talk with my mom without being interrupted every thirty seconds. I love, love, love the kids, but their energy and conversations wipe me out most of the time. We had planned to pick up a chicken dinner at Jewel for dinner, but we weren't quite hungry yet. By the time we drove down to the Riverwalk area, the kids were close to waking up.

We went down a path I've never been down before and came to a really pretty area by the river. I love how we keep doing that...discovering new places within just a mile of our house. I get so anxious to travel and explore new places (so much that I'm working on planning a year long round-the-world trip for us in the future), that I forget that there are still many places near my own house that I have yet to explore.

We came down to this section of the river because my mom had ridden her bike down here and saw a large area filled with clam shells. Sure enough, the ground near the river was littered with them.

There were different varieties of shells. The kids helped fill the camera bag, and we decided to use them soon in some kind of art project.

Later that evening, after our chicken dinner, we watched The Incredible Mr. Limpet before crashing into bed.

I've included the above picture of the rhinoceros because it was one of only two animals we saw at the zoo the following day, even though we were there for close to three hours. What did we do in the meantime? Mostly this...

It's amazing to me what fascinates kids. We're in this place with awesome animals to look at and the kids would rather collect acorns and thrash away at the leaves with sticks. Not that I'm complaining. I was able to sit on a bench with my mom and cheer them on instead of traipsing all over the zoo, which was a good thing since I had bad allergies that day.

We did pass through a new bison area, but they must have been hiding around some hill because we didn't seen any. It was cool to stand next to a life-sized picture of the bison and see how tall you were compared to it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the zoo's playground. The found several new friends, and once again I had a relaxing time chatting with my mom. During lunch, we had a crowd of geese begging us for food. We fed them, of course, and only felt a little guilty when we pass the "Don't feed the geese" sign when we walked out. At least they only had wheat bread and apples from us instead of nachos and chips.

The kids had a spin on the carousel once before we headed back to the car and on our way to great-grandma and Pappa's birthday party. I had to include this picture of Jared next to a car trunk we passed. Kind of difficult to explain to a four year old why some people find it funny to drive with a pretend foot covered in pretend blood hanging out the back of their car trunk.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day Out with Grammy Part 1

So, like I said in the previous post, Steve had to be out of town for four nights in September. We hate, hate, hate when he's away.  It's like the kids forget he's gone every morning and wake up asking where he is. Jared especially takes it hard and will wake up crying in the middle of the night for him. I can't even imagine families where the dad is in the military or a similar situations and has to be gone months or years at a time.

Our first adventure after my mom came over that Monday morning took place at the Chicago Children's Museum downtown. We've been there quite a few times already but have never gone with my mom. We arrived near lunch so we went to the atrium area, a sun-lit place full of tropical trees and plants, and ate. Birds soon flocked near our feet looking for some crumbs, so we obliged.

As soon as you enter the museum, you pass through the fire station exhibit. Even though we've been here many times already, they (particularly Jared) still like to dress up and play with the hoses.

During the next few months the museum is hosting a Mexican tradition exhibit in the revolving exhibit room. I found the masks warn in Day of the Dead celebrations fascinating. I had thought Jared would have too since he loves dressing up, but since these were locked away behind glass, they held little appeal for him.

Instead the kids were interested, for a short time anyways, in the small play figures and little replicas of Mexican stick huts.

Next, we visited the large central area, which also holds revolving exhibits. This month's focus was on physics and had a lot of toys and angled slides.

They were really psyched to show my mom the dinosaur room. They had already worked at digging for pretend fossils the previous time were were here. This time they were more interested in trying on the life-sized dino claw (sorry, I forgot which one it was!) and hiding inside the jaws of a T-Rex.

We ended the day with a trip to the grocery store....

a ride on the bus....

and some climbing and sliding in the lower level playground.

By this time my mom and I were ready for a treat. So we bought some delicious cinnamon-sugar  and cheese prezzles and headed outside near the lake. A mini-train ride was set up next to our tables, so the kids just had to take a trip.

Birthdays Part 1

In real time it's October 20th, and was beautifully warm all day outside. I found some great sales at the grocery store, and Steve caught an early flight home and was able to meet up at Alexa's make-up ballet class. In blogging time, however, I'm still in the middle of September. I've taken on some new projects, have been on the go with the kids and have just felt too darn tired to write at night. But this blog is important to me. My goal is to get much more into the details of our learning lives, share more about our free life of learning, and list resources and other cool things we've been using. So, my wonderful hubby will play with the kids this evening and I will write like crazy to get caught up!

We've had seven birthday celebrations since I've last posted.  We celebrated my brother's birthday in the beginning of September even though it's really in July. We were in the Smoky Mountains then, and just let life sweep us up when we got back. We made it up by inviting him over for dinner and having a little private party. Of course, the kids were most excited to lick the candles and eat cake, but I think playing with Uncle Andy ranked pretty high, too.

Alexa is always in her element when she can read the birthday cards.

We also celebrated Steve's mom's birthday in September. The kids were able to hang out with their older cousins (a rarity), and Jared presented Grandma with a big bag of corn candy which he prompted set to eating himself.

Grandma had the greatest idea for her birthday. She wanted us all to give her money which she used towards buying tickets to see Billy Elliot for her,me and Steve's two sisters. We had a wonderful time going a few weeks later, taking the El downtown to the Oriental Theater, and then going out to the Flattop Grill afterwards. I hadn't seen a play (not counting children's theater) in a while, and it reminded me how much I love it and want to go more. It's just that the tickets are so darn expensive! Our tickets were $75 and we were seated in the second balcony.

We had a combined birthday party for my dad and grandma since their birthdays are two days apart. My grandma is 92 now.

Since Steve had to go away for a few days, and a trip that the kids and I had planned with my mom fell through, my mom decided to spend a night at our house instead. My next two posts will be about those days, but at the end of the second day we came back to her house and celebrated the birthdays.

My dad went to slap Jared a high five across the cake, and Jared soon had a high five full of cake. He definitely didn't mind at all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Church Picnic

So, this was the fifth church picnic the kids have been to now. The church used to sponsor pony rides, but I think it started to become too expensive. In past years, there was also catered the food at the picnic, but this year we had a potluck. I brought BBQ beef sandwiches made in the crock pot. I guess it turned out ok. I always have this great idea of making something really unusual and gourmet, but in the end I always go for the easiest thing I can think of to make.

After eating, we walked to the adjacent skate park where the kids had fun running up and down one of the half pipes.

A little while later Alexa and I went over to the game area where they had water balloon tosses, sack races and egg tosses. Alexa looked so so old hanging out with the bigger kids. She stayed with them for quite awhile. I was always within sight, though, so when she started to get a little panicky and looked around for me, I was right there.

Jared didn't want any part of the organized games. He was very, very content to ride his bike in the skate park. We didn't stay long, but I'm glad we came. There's something about coming back to the same place year after year. It brings back memories of years past, and it starts you thinking how things will be at this same place the next year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Art Institue and Picnic by the lake

This is the third year we've visited the Art Institute for its free Family Day, and we were definitely not disappointed. Last year we saw a dance performance by a local ballet company, and this year we heard  African jazz music by an awesome band. Jared especially was drawn to the drums. I hadn't ever heard music quite like that before, so I was excited to be introduced to new music.

After the performance we went to check out our usual rooms: the miniature room, the touch room and some of the Impressionist paintings. Unfortunately, Jared was not content to stay near us and started dashing off through the museum. He was pretty upset we made him hold Steve's hand. It's not easy staying sane when your kid is having a mini temper tantrum while people are trying to quietly check out great masterpieces. This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but the one thing that got him to settle down was to point out the butts of the sculptures we passed. What can I say? He's really into talking about butts, and it did get him interested in the art.

Then we walked down a few blocks to have a picnic right on the lake.

It was a hot day (this was at the end of August), so we moved to a shady spot under a tree. Here's a picture Alexa took of the sailboats on Lake Michigan.

It was a wonderful, wonderful afternoon. Not stressful, not exhausting......just right. I wish we had done this more during the summer.