28 July 2011

Chi-Town

I feel pretty fortunate in the friends department.

After almost six years of living in different parts of the country, the distance hasn't pulled my best friends and me apart in the slightest. If anything, our growing families and myriad of life experiences have aligned our lives even more.

Although we communicate often, our conversations are usually broken up by the time difference and needy children in the background. Sometimes our chats seem like power catch-ups because there is always a meal or a nap or an outing for one of us to tend to.

So, it was pure bliss when we took a two-day girls' trip to Chicago, leaving our collective seven children behind.

Our getaway began in the wee hours of the morning. The logistics of starting in various cities, spreading our children out with grandparents in additional locations, and spotting our cars all over the state of Michigan as we joined together were a tad complicated. But we made it work, and all of the coordinating was a million times worth the headache for the trip that resulted on the other side. Once we were all together, we boarded a train for the rest of the journey. Each time we realized that we didn't have to worry about keeping little ones quiet or breaking up food into tiny pieces, the smiles on our faces grew a bit brighter.

We laughed at the inevitable one-liners that ensued and how we seemed to keep having issues with following simple rules in the big city. But mostly, we talked. And talked. And talked, and talked, and talked. We had so much to catch up on.

In between all of the talking, we soaked in little bits of beautiful Chicago.


We ate more than we thought was humanly possible, but it was impossible to pass up the goodness of deep dish Chicago pizza. 


Or Garrett Popcorn, the real reason why anyone goes to Chicago.


We did lots of shopping on Michigan Avenue and Water Tower Place.


We mostly browsed. And found some obnoxious hats.


Most of our second day was spent at Navy Pier.








We couldn't resist the Ferris wheel. 


The view from the top was amazing.


While we were at it, we thought we better go ahead and give the swings a try too.




We took a water taxi back to our hotel.


Another gorgeous view (the scenery, not us).


We sufficiently went shopping.


And found some more over-the-top hats.




We squeezed in a little Cheesecake Factory before boarding our train back to real life.

I love these girls so much.

They have changed my life for the better and I'm so thankful for them.


25 July 2011

Moment Enthusiast

I talk a whole bunch about moments.

Life is full of them.

Moments consist of so many different things. Each moment, someone is getting married. Someone is at work. Someone is having a baby. Someone is at the hospital with a dying loved one. Some moments are average and routine. Some are insanely busy. Others are incredibly boring. Some moments are hysterical. Others are devastating. Some moments are full of health and others are full of sickness. Some moments go as planned and others do not.

I love the variety that the culmination of moments brings.

I long to make all of the beautiful moments that fill my life tangible.

That’s why I take so many pictures.

I want to do something that will make the moments stay with me longer. I want to hold on to them because I know in a matter of seconds things will change. That same light won’t be shining through the trees in the same breathtakingly beautiful way. My children’s smiles will change. The expressions they make will mature.

Yes, other rich moments will take their places. And they may be just as good, or even better. But I hate that those things that bring me so much joy so quickly slip through my mind. I wish pictures could bottle up the smells and the feelings and the sounds of my life, never to be lost in my feeble memory.

As a mother, I recognize that the best moments are fleeting. This struck me recently when I dropped Blake off at his weekly Sunbeam class at church. He eagerly sat down next to his friend in a miniature chair in the classroom. I began to walk away, until I heard his sweet voice shout, "Mom! I forgot to give you a kiss and a hug!" He jumped out of his chair and paraded in front of his entire class and teachers to wrap his arms around my neck and smack his lips on mine. It made me dread the day that he will be embarrassed to show affection towards me.

With each moment, motherhood melds into something new. Some days I am a compassionate mother and I notice the sweetness of our children and can hardly stand not just kneeling down and hugging the guts out of those darling boys we call our own. On other days I am a frustrated mother as the toilet paper gets strewn across our house for the 56th time or the 17th morsel of food is chucked on the freshly mopped floor. Some days I am a tired mother after too many nights of waking up all night with children or staying up too late to get things done after those sleepy sweethearts are finally slumbering away in their beds. But most days I am a thankful mother as I take a moment to watch the interactions of our children swell up so much that it hurts. In those moments, I am reminded that I have the ultimate, most amazing job that could ever be.

I realize that there is no standing ovation that comes with the hard work of raising children and elevating families. But the rewards pour out when I soak in the moments with our children.

My brother picked up on that fact that I sound like a broken record when I talk about moments. Sitting in my email inbox today was a video he made using some of my "moments" quotes and pictures. I had no idea that he was using his editing skills to put the clips together. Even though I've drilled to the bone the idea of finding joy in simple moments, sometimes I need the reminder most of all.



22 July 2011

Sunset

Nothing quite beats the breathtaking sunsets on Lake Michigan. I've tried to explain them to friends out west who can't quite visualize them. But they really must be seen in person.

As usual, I couldn't resist the beautiful slanting light en route to the sunset view. 


You may have noticed that Blake only has one "posing" face as of late. The only way I can get him to semi-cooperate for pictures is to have him squish his cheeks in his hands. He calls it his "brave face." And sometimes it turns out a bit angry-looking.



Mountains of sand have crept their way onto every surface and crevice.



But all that sand is a million times worth the mess when we get to experience moments like these.





21 July 2011

Beach

While in Michigan, we are renting a little place across the street from beautiful Lake Michigan. Our days are filled with sand and water and more sand. It is delightful.

Did I mention sand? 

In Blake's mind, the number one reason for our trip to Michigan is to play with his friend Skyler that he shared his Disneyland adventure with. It makes me sad that we only see her about once a year because they are two little peas in a pod.

The "littles" were quite fond of each other too. It made our hearts swell to watch them sharing sand toys.

Beach days aren't quite what they used to be when Steph and I are both chasing around our very busy one year olds and keeping everyone fed and sunscreened. But we managed to escape for a short row-boating excursion while they were napping. We talked a mile a minute and I'm convinced that we still will never be completely caught up.

The paddling was short lived because the boat was a hot commodity.

Our evenings are filled with bike rides and walks along the shore and channel.



I wanted to lay right down in that silky soft sand too.

This is not going to get old anytime soon.


19 July 2011

Home Sweet Home

photo credit: Kyle Lawson

My first three impressions:
1. Everything is so green here.
2. Lake Michigan sand is so much softer than I remember.
3. It is insanely hot and humid. But I don't mind melting away because waves of nostalgia wash over me with every corner I turn.


16 July 2011

Treasure the Doing

I was right, this is our summer. Our summer of freedom and fun. I wake up every morning thinking how I can wear the boys out. The only time we are indoors is when we are eating or sleeping and I could not be more happy about that.

I know I've quoted her before, but I just love this reminder:


I am trying my best to focus on the doing this summer. I can't ignore every distraction, but we certainly have been doing a lot of doing. 

We are barreling through our summer bucket list.

This is what I look like on a day to day basis:
Children, double stroller, water, snacks, sunscreen, and camera in tow.

All to invoke the most sincere fascination over things like paper train tickets.


Near the beginning of our summer festivities was a Disney festival downtown. We were under the impression that Mickey Mouse was going to be there, which thrilled Blake beyond belief. He thought that Mickey was flying in from Disneyland. Mickey Mouse did not end up being there, and Blake was not as excited about the substitution; a cardboard cutout of Woody.

He got over it when he came to the conclusion that Mickey Mouse must be taking a nap. And a train ride helped to ease his disappointment.


Nash and I crammed in the little train too, resulting in some serious hair tickling (whoops).

We love friends.

Even if it means piling on top of each other in our very tiny backyard pool.

We especially love friends that are twin girls. There are two sets in our neighborhood and our boys sure dote over them.




We have played at 14 different parks so far. Our list is constantly growing and I have no doubt that we will far surpass our summer goal of 20 parks. I love how visiting so many parks is expanding our horizons. One of our favorite parks had a splash pad and a foot deep pond to wade in.





Nash was all for consuming the pond water.


We paid another visit to the children's museum.






Nash knows all about my mantra:




There was a new exhibit that featured life size game pieces. Blake is head over heels about anything with the number 3 since he is 3 years old. His sandwiches have to be cut into thirds. He asks for three pieces of candy when given the option. He moves on to the next task only after three more minutes. The list goes on. So, naturally, he was ecstatic when he found a pool ball that matched his shirt and had the number 3. 


We like to be in water whenever possible. We stopped at the shooting fountains in a shopping center downtown.


Once again, Nash tried to slurp up any standing water.


My prediction was that Nash would run right into the sporadically shooting streams of water.


And that Blake would run away from them as fast as possible. My predictions were spot on.

Blake was much happier sitting by the waterfall on the sidelines.

We also made our way to our annual neighborhood carnival. It doesn't get much better than a bounce house obstacle course.




Sweet Brooklyn, the same friend that showed Blake the ropes last year at the carnival, stayed by our side all morning and helped Nash through the obstacle course several times. 


There was some shooting of rockets involved.


And a carnival wouldn't be a carnival without some cotton candy.




I cannot believe this summer is already half way over.

Time is spilling away so much more quickly than I can seem to bottle it up.