July 16, 2014

Summer Travels to Chicago: Family and Friends

We've been trying to pack a lot of adventure into this much so (in addition to work and home, of course) that sadly I have found little time to write about said adventures.

Before I can legally post pictures from our fabulous trip to New York last week, I want to post pictures from our fabulous trip to Chicago a couple of weeks ago.  It was a wonderful mix of family and friends, along with sights, sounds, and tastes of the Windy City.

First, pictures from the Family and Friends network of the greater Chicago area.

We visited the girls' uncle's farm, just outside of Chicago.  The girls got to help with a few of the more fun (for them) chores...bottle feeding a baby calf...

...feeding the goats, sheep, and alpacas...

...and amid the turkeys, hens, and roosters, they hunted for eggs.

Their absolute favorite "chore", though, was snuggling the baby kittens.  They **really** wanted to take them home to live with us!

After a great meal and too many desserts, we gathered the E family for pictures.

Uncle V, Daddy, Cousin M, along with B and A

We also spent time with Hubby's best friends, the girls' "Uncle" Steve and "Aunt" Svetlana.

The girls hadn't seen Steve since they were 2 1/2, but they remember him from the visit he made to our house.  They don't remember meeting Svetlana when they were infants, but they couldn't get enough of either of them.

I love this picture so, so much!!!

And the girls were tickled to get to play a little soccer with Daddy and Uncle Steve.

Regretful goodbyes to the greatest honorary uncle.

After a couple of days exploring the city, we left via Steve and Svetlana's daughter's house...who just happens to have a little girl 15 months younger than A&B, and two-year old twin boys!  (Their names are A&B, too!)

Silly girls at lunch!

...with ice cream for all for dessert!

We are so thankful to have spent such wonderful time with our family and friends!

June 15, 2014

Father's Day Top 10 for 2014

The girls had so much fun making these conversation bubbles this week!  I love this picture...a great addition to our Top 10 list tradition, I believe!

On this year's list:

10. You got us a beautiful house with an awesome basement, and we love sharing it with you!

9. You showed us how to milk a goat and took us to New Orleans…fun!!!

8. You are the master of Ne Ljuti Se Covece, Jenga, and Monkey in the Middle, to name a few.

7. You found the best place for sledding this winter and you posted yourself at the bottom of the hill to keep us from sliding into the rocks.

6. You take us to the Olive Garden for special Daddy-Daughter dates.

5. We enjoy sweet snuggle time with you when we watch Too Cute! and Aerial America.

4. You learned how to put our hair in ponytails (kind of).

3. You cut pineapples and melons better than anyone in the world.

2. You give us the best nose kisses and hugs.


Happy Father's Day!!!

June 8, 2014

Berries and a "Bouquet"

We had plans to pick strawberries with some friends a few weeks ago…but the weather and life happened, and we didn’t make it.  I’d been meaning to call the farm (a place about 35 miles from here, somewhere we’d never been) to see about their berry patch, but, well, life kept happening, and almost too much time went by.

I finally got myself together to make that phone call on Wednesday, and I was told they would only have strawberries for a couple more days.

Thankfully, our schedule didn’t have anything concrete on it, and we quickly dressed and found our way to the farm [in the middle of nowhere!].  We got on our sunscreen, donned our hats, and went to work!

Baby A, showing me what a pretty berry she found!

Baby B, amid the rows.

The raised beds were very easy to navigate, and before long, we picked just more than 10 POUNDS of strawberries!

Not quite 10 pounds here, but the girls were showing off their bounty.

We paid for our berries and left them at the stand while we went to have some lunch at a little restaurant there on the farm.  We decided to walk across the grounds…and I’m so glad we did!  This mommy had so much fun taking pictures!

I loved the side of this barn!

Reaching up, showing our bellies!

When we got to the apple orchard, Baby A was mesmerized by all the blooming clover.  She knelt down , being very meticulous to pick just the right ones.

She was adamant about hanging onto her bouquet.  I kept it for her through lunch, and when we went to the restroom, we all traded turns holding it.  I wet a towel and wrapped the stems of the bouquet so we could take it home.

Baby A decided she wanted to give it to her daddy.  I put it in a vase (a tall shot glass from our honeymoon in Cancun…hahaha!), and Daddy was very gracious in receiving his gift.

The “flowers” lasted for two full days on the table.

And I got to see Baby A’s eyes light up every time she looked at them.  The strawberries were delicious, but this has to be my favorite part of the trip.

June 3, 2014

...and They're OFF!!!

I had to check back through my pictures to see that the girls got their bikes on May 1.  It’s hard to believe it’s only been a month since they got their wheels!

I can't get over how "professional" they look in their helmets!  Tour de France, here we come!!!

Thanks to their training wheels, the girls could ride their bikes as soon as they got them.  It only took a couple of minutes before they were making their way around the flat part of the driveway.  That first day, though, they couldn’t quite make it to the top of the driveway.  There’s a slight slope, and it was just enough to stump them.

The next day, the girls mastered the driveway.  They were so proud!  And I was so amazed at how quickly they built up their strength and stamina to cross that hurdle.

The next hurdle was making it off the driveway (there’s a very slight [1/2”?] drop from the drive to the pavement).  They did that on Day 2, and they were able – with constant supervision – to make it around the dead-end circle in front of our house.

The next hurdle was making it to the top of the hill in front of our house, about three houses up.  It took another couple of days – and lots of pushes from Mommy – but they mastered it pretty quickly.

Those obstacles gave the girls a lot to practice, and they spent quite a bit of time zipping up and down the drive.  (Going off the driveway still requires permission – and accompaniment – from Mommy.)

The next hurdle was going down the hill, to the stop sign at the bottom of our road.  I had to make sure the girls had good command of their brakes!  Once I built up my courage (!!!), they had no trouble making that route.  Coming up the hill was another story, though.

It took a few tries, but Baby A finally mastered the hill coming home last week.  For the first time today, B made it [without Mommy’s assistance], too!

Today, June 3, we made our first voyage outside the safety of our dead-end street.  The girls rode (and I ran!) all the way to the pond in the middle of our neighborhood.  It’s a solid ¾ of a mile there, and there are several hills, too.

We took a few water breaks, but I was incredibly impressed with the girls!  They made it the entire way, on their own pedal power!  They followed my instructions, and they took turns leading the way.

I told the girls that I would get a bike when they learned to ride more proficiently.  At this rate, it looks like it won’t be long before I’ll have my own two wheels!

May 31, 2014

A Challenging Day, Then a Good Day, and Integrity

Thursday was a challenging day.  

There were lots of good things about it…like the girls working together to build a block tower almost taller than they are…like them surprising me by making MY bed! having our friends bike over to our house and playing outside together for most of the morning…like snuggling on the couch, reaching Little House in the Big Woods…like all four of us playing Monkey in the Middle in the basement…but there were a couple of huge challenges, too.

Although the girls’ “no bikes” punishment carried over through Friday, I wanted to start Friday off on a very different note than on which Thursday ended.

The girlies got up, and I surprised them by taking the three of us out to breakfast.  Going out to breakfast is a huge treat…and the three of us have only gone together (without Daddy) once before.  The girls chose to go to JD’s, a downtown bakery/café that we hadn’t been to in quite a while…a place that has farm-fresh milk and eggs and THE BEST pancakes.  We each had a super-yummy pecan pancake and truly ahhh-mazing bacon.  Bliss!

After breakfast, I further surprised the girls with a trip to the park, “the park with the wiggly chain things,” that my A had requested just a few days before.  We had the park to ourselves! 

Before we went to the playground, though, both girls wanted to go to the little soccer field “to run”…and run, they did!  We played a little bit of tag, and then A suggested we take turns sprinting across the field (???).  The funny thing was that A went, then B, and then A wanted to go again before she allowed me to take a turn.

We hit the playground for a while, and then headed home…sweaty, but invigorated.

The girls played SO WELL when we got home from the park.  They spent most of the rest of their morning upstairs.  When I went up to join them, they had a “store” set up, and Baby A wowed me with her ability to count change.  (Seriously!!!) 

After lunch, the girls cleaned up the den, and then we settled for some Little House in the Big Woods.  I left them for a few minutes to get ready for a work meeting, and they prepared for their beloved Miss Jenny to come over – the first time since she left for a semester away in January!

It was such a fantastic day with my baby girls…just what I had hoped for after the challenges of the prior day.

And when I got home from my meeting, just before supper, I could not have been more proud to hear what Hubby had to tell me.  When he got home, he offered – as usual – for the girls to ride their bikes.  He told me how Baby A ponied up, “I don’t think Mommy wants us to ride our bikes today.”

What integrity my baby girl exhibited.

A proud Mommy moment to cap off such a great day!

May 27, 2014

Things I'm Loving This Week

1)      GG visited us last week.  I love seeing how much the girls adore her, and her, the girls.

2)      I [finally!] bought the first “Little House on the Prairie” book for the girls.  They are in love!  We’ve read about 1/3 of the book already, in just two days.  Sweet memories from my childhood!

3)      One afternoon last week, when GG was here, the girls needed some down time.  I asked if they wanted to watch an episode of “Too Cute” on Animal Planet.  Baby A jumped into the corner of the couch, and invited B to sit in her lap.  Then B said, “Hold me, Sissy.”  They snuggled like this for an hour!

4)      We delivered GG to Nashville yesterday, to meet Uncle Tommy and Aunt Janet for her trip home.  On the car ride down, with five of us in the car, I sat between the girls’ car seats.  That little space is not really fit for a human, I now know.  I sat tall and straight and tried to keep my eyes closed most of the way, willing myself not to get car sick.  I may not have felt very well, but I had the sweetest company.  The girls kept stroking my arms with their sweet, tiny hands.  Sometimes we held hands, and they would kiss my fingers.  “I love you, Mommy,” they alternately whispered.  I could endure the torture of that seat again and again for those sweet nothings.

5)      During lunch with the family, Baby A asked me, “Do you think it’s OK if I sit in Uncle Tommy’s lap?”  Of course it was…he loved nothing more.  I watched the light in A’s eyes as she hung on his every word.

6)      After we ate lunch, I spied a big sale at one of my favorite shops.  B didn’t want to go (and Daddy certainly did not), but A did.  While Daddy and B drove around for a few minutes, Baby A helped me shop.  She was a great assistant!  She held the blouses I picked out, and as I tried them on, she kept saying, “What do you think about it so far?”…before I would even have it all the way on.  HA!

7)      This morning, the girls called me to take their picture.  “Come see, Mommy!  We’re two peas in a pod!

I'm loving it!

May 8, 2014

New Orleans...The Big Easy!!! {Part II}

We woke up on Day 3 to the most beautiful sunrise over the Mississippi!

The view from our hotel room...the girls were smitten!

 After breakfast, we caught the trolley to the Garden District.  The girls had been so looking forward to a trolley ride since we were in Memphis two summers ago!

Canal Street.

We had a nice morning wandering around the Garden District.

Baby A wasn't much in the mood for pictures that morning, for some reason.  I had to take what I could get!

Baby B was much more indulgent.

My A didn't mind stopping to pose on this super-cool tree, though!  She loved it!

The girls weren't super impressed, but we got to talk to Archie Manning's gardener.  HA!
Just before lunch, we headed back to the French Quarter.  B got a really special opportunity to sit in the driver's seat on the trolley (at the back of the car)!

Proud as punch!  And holding on tight!
For lunch that day, we decided to try another oyster house, known as the arch rival to Acme (where we ate our first meal).  It did not disappoint!  I think we have a new favorite!  And the girls got some long-awaited (chargrilled) oysters, to boot!

Feeling like such big kids!

The afternoon was reserved for a swamp tour.  Daddy had been on a swamp tour many years ago, but this was a first for Mommy and the girls.

We drove to a little town about 15 miles outside of downtown New Orleans.  We were a little early, so we took a walk around the levy.  We were so excited to see a gator, sunning himself.  Little did we know there were dozens of these guys swimming around...some many, many times larger!

What a cute little guy!
 We headed out on the boat...

Look at the moss!

And then we met Winky:

He is estimated to be 110 years old, based on his length!  Yikes!!!

Before the boat ride was over, we got to hold Killer:

He was really cool!  And the girls were super excited to check him out!
For supper that night, we were seafood-ed out.  A burger hit the spot!  Afterwards, the girls posed with this big alligator statue.  Hubby joked how much we looked like tourists...guilty!

He was a little more tame than our friends in the swamp.
After dinner, I had one last treat in store...we went to a little confectionery where we watched some talented ladies make pralines...and then we got one of those wonderful confections for ourselves.

We walked to the river and found a bench to enjoy ourselves.  It was a little bit cool, and a little bit blustery...but I love this picture of A, the remnants of her praline still quite visible with her big, bright smile...the last bits of the day's sun in her eyes.

Wednesday morning, we headed to Jackson's Square for one last visit.  I love this family photo so much!!!

And then we headed to Cafe du Monde one last time, stopping to see the horses on the way...

We scored primo seating, right next to the sidewalk!

The girls loved their beignets...this time, with hot chocolate...extra-super-special, for sure!

Baby A is sold!
 I gave the girls each a dollar, and they put it in the donation basket for this little band, parked right outside Cafe du Monde, right in front of our table.  Baby B was excited to get a picture with them...but A was a little more tentative.

Such a fun memory!
And I snagged this gem, the girls hanging out in the hotel, looking at A's iPad together, as Mommy and Daddy were getting the suitcases packed.  Of all the awesome scenery, this is one of my absolute faves.

What a blessing it was to share one of our favorite places, one in which we have so much history, with the girls.

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