July 27, 2014

Summer Travels to Chicago: City Sights

During our four days in Chicago, we had lots of great time with friends and family, and we also had such a wonderful time taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Windy City, too!

We got into town on Monday night, and we headed northwest of downtown to spend a few days closer to Hubby's brother and best friend.  We took the route through downtown, though, and the girls were mesmerized to see the city at night.  They're very rarely out after dark, anyway, and they'd never seen such tall buildings with all the lights.  They loved driving past the airport, too, and Baby A, in particular, was mesmerized that the L kept appearing and disappearing again as it went over and under ground.

On Wednesday morning, we headed toward the city to spend the day.  Our first stop was a visit to Lake Michigan, and to see the park where Daddy used to play soccer.  It was pretty chilly there, especially out of the sun, in the breeze, and super-especially by the lake!

After the lake, we went to Lincoln Park zoo.  Here are the girls, preparing to go in...

And outside, after our visit...

For lunch, we drove to the area where Daddy used to live, to eat at a Serbian restaurant.  By that time, the sun had come out a bit, and it was a beautiful little walk through Hubby's old neighborhood to the restaurant.

On Thursday morning, we drove into the city again to check into our downtown hotel, just across the street from Grant Park.  The girls were taken with the parking garage.  They thought it was something pretty special to turn our keys over to the attendant and watch someone else drive away!  And they were such good little troopers, wheeling their suitcases to the hotel.

On the walk to lunch, Baby A was tickled to see her TRAIN!

And while we waited for that famous Chicago-style deep dish, we got to watch the US-Germany game.  It was such a fun atmosphere!

(No matter where we are, sights like these always melt my heart!)

After lunch we headed to Millennium Park.  The girls loved all the sculptures!

And then we spied the famous BEAN!

Asked a lady to take our picture...and you can see her reflection in front of us.  HA!

The widest angle selfie one could imagine!
The dizzying view from inside!  You can spot A's bright peach jacket (several times over) if you look carefully! 
More views from Millennium Park...

Love this amphitheater!!!

One of my favorite pics!

And then we began our trek to Navy Pier.  The fog here, in contrast to the bright blue skies -- literally only a block or so away at Millennium Park -- was pretty crazy.

Love this pic, too!

At last, we were to the girls' most-anticipated destination, the ferris wheel!  They'd never been on a ferris wheel before, but they were some kind of excited to try it!

From the ground up!

Although the ride was so much fun, the view wasn't very good.  It's amazing to see the fog, just 3:30 or so in the afternoon on an otherwise sunny day!

The view from the top!
After the ride...all smiles!

Then we were all ready for some ICE CREAM.  It was a really (really!) long walk to Navy Pier, and we were in need of some refreshment!

Despite the contemplative face, she loved it.
Outside Navy Pier, we had to give our review...

Thumbs up from B, and all fingers up (even better!) from A!
Then we headed back to the hotel, taking in more sights along the way...

A cool mosaic wall...

A gigantic fountain...

The view along the river was so pretty!

And this is one of the more bizarre sights I've seen...the shadow of the Trump tower against the fog.  I wasn't shaking when I took this photo...that's really the way it looked!!!

After a pit stop back at the hotel, we took a walk through Grant Park, and spent a little more time lakeside.

At last we headed to dinner, to a little restaurant we kept passing, a block from our hotel.  I had a Chicago-style beef sandwich, Hubby had a gyro, and the girls were pretty incredulous when I asked if they wanted a Chicago-style hotdog.  (We very rarely eat hot dogs, and I think they didn't know they existed in a restaurant!)

My A scarfed down every last bit!
We got VERY LUCKY and scored a SUITE at our hotel...a very cool, historical place.  We could get spoiled to this!

Here are the girls on Friday morning, each in their own QUEEN-SIZE bed, next door to our enormous CALIFORNIA KING-SIZE bed.  WOW!!!

Good morning!  Here comes the sun!!!
We had a wonderful trip to Chicago!

July 25, 2014

The Sweetest Day

Wednesday we had the sweetest day…one of those that just gives me pause to think what precious, BIG kiddos I have.

We didn’t have plans for the day, and it started with our usual breakfast and play time.  The girls wanted to build a bucket truck, which we did out of their Magformers, and then we built a Lincoln Log house to be “on fire” for said bucket truck to attend to.

Mid-morning, I had the idea to go to Nashville to look for some chairs we need for our office.  I ran the idea by Hubby, and he was all for it…all for the three of us going, and him “attending to the house”, that is.  While I was disappointed he didn’t join us, the girls and I had the absolute best time.

We headed out around 11…later than I would have liked…but we were in full roll-with-it mode.  We made it to the big mall, and we headed for Carter’s to buy some school clothes.  I reminded the girls, with it just being the three of us, that they would need to obey Mommy very carefully, and that I would need their help shopping.

They were fantastic! 

They walked with me throughout the store.  As I was looking for a particular color or size, they might help me, or they might walk to a nearby display to look at something different.  If they did they, they were great to say – unprompted – “I’m going to be right here, OK, Mommy?

I know it helped that the store wasn’t crowded (and maybe that we were shopping for them!), but they were patient and polite and helpful.  It was actually FUN!

After we did our damage at Carter’s, we headed to Gymboree.  They were again the best sidekicks I could have asked for…holding the items we chose, helping me look for sizes, working together to decide what we should get.

By that time, we were all pretty hungry.  We opted for Macaroni Grill (one of Daddy’s faves…serves him right for not being with us!  HA!).  We had a lovely lunch, and then we headed to the middle of the mall to ride the carousel.  How I love that the girls still delight in that.

We left the mall and headed to do our chair shopping.  We took a little [unplanned] detour, but Mommy finally found her way to World Market.  The girls wanted to try out every.single.chair.there…but that was OK by me.  They did it politely, and I figure that’s one of the joys of being a kiddo.

By that time, we were all ready for a snack, so we found a Panera – one of our faves – and treated ourselves to TWO cookies.  It was such a treat for this mama to share with her babies. 

We were preparing to make the journey back home, when I spotted a Home Goods store.  Since we still hadn’t found the perfect office chairs, I asked the girls if they were up for one more stop.  Baby A was game, but Baby B I think would have preferred a late afternoon nap in the car.  She acquiesced, though, and we had a fun time going through all the goodies there.

I have made a concerted effort not to position shopping as any type of recreational activity.  We go to the store when we need something, and the vast majority of the time, we stick to our list.  I would position this a little differently to the girls, but this was just the best day of shopping and lunch and afternoon cookies I could have asked for. 

Before the girls were born, I imagined days like this together.  The stress of oversized double strollers and public potty phobias are behind us.  What a pleasure it is to be out and about on the town with my babies.

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!
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