Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Father's Day

My dad loves fishing. Besides baseball, fishing was the only other thing he really liked to do when we were little, even though he didn't get to do it that often. My sister's husband loves to fish, too; he has his own gear and everything. Steve, on the other hand, is kinda iffy about fishing; he'll try it if everyone else is doing it. I think his dad is the same way, too.

So, to give it a try, we went to the Lake View Nature Center in Oakbrook for Father's Day. We met everyone after church and a quick lunch as Tom's. My dad and Joe caught some small fish, but no luck for the kids. I guess you can tell who the real fishermen were!

The center usually has paddle boats you can rent for $3 per half hour, but they weren't renting that day. So, we hung out in the nature center for awhile....

....and then took a walk around the pond, a run down the hill and ended up at the playground.

Before saying goodbye to Steve's parents, we gave his dad our gift to him - some lights for his backyard and a new grill top.

After leaving the nature center we went to my mom's house for a chili dinner and dessert.

I am so thankful for my wonderful husband. I've never met another man who spends as much time with his children as Steve does. We're very blessed to have him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pirate's Cove

Last week the kids and I met my friend and her son at Pirate's Cove in Elk Grove Village. It's a really cute, small children's theme park. My kids are five and it was perfect for them. It has a carousel, playground area, sack slide, climbing wall, train, art area, a pirate show, a bounce house, and small boats.

It's $9 per child for non-residents and adults are free. I'm glad we went when we did because while it was a little crowded, it just gets worse later in the summer. Plus, it wasn't that hot the day we went.  When we first came two years ago, we walked around with sweat dripping off us.

Do you go to some of the same places year after year? Isn't it fun to think back about the first time you came? I remember the kids looked so small in these boats when they were three. It was a little tricky for them then to get the hang of turning the paddles, but they knew right what to do this time.

We're not a big amusement park family; we usually prefer to hike or get out in nature somewhere, but we enjoyed how small the park is and how, if you come early in the season, you don't have to wait in lines at all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Day of Summer!

It's the first day of summer! As a kid summer was always my favorite season, and understandably so. Now, most of the time my life feels like a summer vacation, so spring is now my favorite season, followed closely by fall.

The weather has fluctuated so much this spring that it's often seemed like winter, spring and summer all in the same week! We tried to take advantage of the hot days by getting outside as much as we could. A few weeks ago we met my sister and her son at Phillip's Park in Aurora. There's a free splash park there, but it's small and gets pretty crowded, especially on really hot days. Jared and Alexa liked the spray gun, but they didn't spend too much time running through the water.

On the not so great days, we've been opening up some art kits the kids received for Christmas and still hadn't opened up yet. I bought this clay kit at Michael's.

After not picking up a camera that much, Alexa has gone back to taking pictures again. She only wants to use my new camera, though, which makes me a bit nervous. I love how she likes to be a photographer, but the camera was so expensive! She likes to open pages of her favorite books and take pictures of the pictures.

Jared still loves to line up his figures, something he does for hours every day.One day he brought in a branch from outside, laid it on its side and pretended his soldiers were marching through the jungle.

Some days I wish the kids would go outside more. Sometimes days go by when they aren't interested at all in going outside. They still love to mix up concoctions, which they call their science experiments.

They HAVE liked going outside at night, though, especially since the fireflies have come out.

We've been taking a lot of family bike rides after dinner and then coming home to catch fireflies. The kids see how many they can catch and put in their bug holder, and then release them before we go inside. The past few months have been a bit stressful for me, but lately I've just been amazed at how much better I feel when I just make myself relax,sit and just be with the kids. I've built up so many great memories in the past few weeks from just the simplest times together. I love travelling with the kids, but these memories are just as special.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Museum of Science and Industry

On June 1st, the kids and I went downtown by ourselves to visit the Museum of Science and Industry.  It's always been one of my favorite downtown Chicago museums, even since I was a little girl. It was the first time I took the kids by myself, and I was a little nervous how it was going to go. They've been much better about not dashing off away from me, so I thought it would be a good test whether or not we'd have a good time together, or if I'd feel too stressed.

I'm happy to say we had a wonderful time together. It's fine going with other families or other people in your own family to museums, but we felt so free to take our time seeing the things we really wanted to see and spending as much time as we wanted to at each exhibit.

One of my favorite exhibits was Science Storms. The had so many awesome hands-on simulations, including a storm chaser that kept us there for at least a half hour. It was like sitting in the passenger seat of a truck that chases tornadoes. Then it shows you getting out the truck, going around the back, and helping set up the equipment that would measure things like wind speed and air pressure.

The kids' favorite room was the Idea Factory, which is really a children's museum inside the museum.

Alexa was fascinated with this set of angled mirrors you can open and close. She'd run back and forth and put different things in front of the mirrors, and then open and close the mirror to see how often the objects doubled or tripled.

Jared stuck with what he loves to do best: throwing things. He spent almost the whole half hour (before they booted us out to make room for the next group) just picking up balls from the water and throwing them over the ledge at the top.

We worked also together at trying to balance the scale.

Then we headed to the miniature train exhibit. It's a huge exhibit; trains run through models of downtown Chicago, through tunnels and the countryside.

Next to the trains, you can sit in an old trolley car. The kids started holding hands, and Alexa told Jared they were on their first date. (Alexa's fascinated with the concept of "dates" now). I was lucky to take this picture of them hugging each other. So much better than fighting!

 After the trains we went to see the baby chicks. We've been visiting this exhibit ever since the kids were a year and a half. It made me tear up remembering how when we first brought the kids, we had to lift them up to see inside the glass since they were too short to look inside on their own.

I don't have a picture of it, but I can't end without recommending that you visit the Coal Mine exhibit if you ever go to the Museum of Science and Industry. We had to wait 45 minutes in line, but it was worth it. You go down with a group of about 15 other people in an elevator, and they turn off the lights to simulate what the miners must have felt like. You also ride in coal carts and stand in rooms similar to what the miners experience. It's an extremely sobering experience.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cantigny Park on Memorial Day

What a better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to go to Cantigny - a 500 acre park that houses two museums: the Robert R. McCormick Museum and Cantigny First Division Museum.

Before going to the museum, we climbed a few of the 11 tanks dating from World War 1 through Desert Storm.

Then we took a quick tour of the First Division Museum - a museum that presents the history of the 1st Infantry Division from its pre-Revolutionary day to details about its role in wars since then through Desert Storm.

For a free museum (you only have to pay $5 per car to enter the park), it's absolutely phenomenal. You walk through scenes that make you feel like you are on Omaha beach or walking through the jungles of Vietnam.

After our tour, we drove back home and Steve cooked some BBQ ribs. We've had non-stop rain around here, and the back yards are starting to flood. Our neighbor's yard was so bad that day that it was like a mini lake. The kids didn't mind, though. They put on their swimsuits and splashed through the water while we looked on, took pictures, and reveled in their laughter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Daddy's Gone

We hate it when Steve has to travel out of town on business. I'm really, really thankful he hasn't been gone that much so far this year; the kids and I really feel his absence. I usually try to plan a lot of extra fun things to do on those days so the time goes by quickly.

That also usually involves inviting other people to spend the days with us. So, when Steve left for three days the end of May, we decided to go to the Little Red School House and nature center with my mom. The first time I was supposed to go to the School House was in third grade. My teacher at the time decided I was writing my cursive G's incorrectly (in fact I was writing them correctly) and said I would have to stay back while the rest of the class went on the field trip. And this was at a Christian school, too.  A great way to show God's love, huh?

Well, at least the first visit to the school house was with my children who will never know what it's like to be punished for something as insane as that. They'll also never know what a "field trip" is. Travelling to fun places is just a part of our lives.

The nature center is pretty new; I think it just opened last year. We saw lots of small animals like birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They also have a little play area for young kids.

Jared really enjoyed building a beaver dam with sticks. Next to the nature center the school house sits in the same place where the original building too, which was a one room school house in the mid 1800's. Inside there's a model of what the school house looked like at that time. A group of school kids were there that day;  I was so sad to see them walking around with worksheets to fill out. Instead of taking there time exploring the room and gravitating towards the sections they found interesting, they tore frantically around the room trying to fill in the "correct" answers to the questions on the sheet. Sad, sad, sad.

With so many kids tearing around the room, the Jared and Alexa understandably didn't want to go inside the school house; instead we walked down by the lake and the kids had much more fun digging in the puddles and building their own dams.

We ate lunch at my mom's house; then she watched the kids while I went grocery shopping, and then we all met at our house for dinner and a movie.

The next day we met my mom and my sister's son at one of our favorite children's museums, the DuPage Children's Museum, for some more fun. We hung out at the gift store for a few minutes, trying out hats....

....and then went upstairs for some fun with shapes...

... and more shapes....

...and looking at slides under the microscope. 

After we dropped off Owen at his house, we drove back to my mom's for pizza and watched Daddy Day Care. Then it was off for home to see Steve. Yea!!!!