Monday, April 19, 2010

My Dream Home

If you are interested, click on over to my other blog to see my dream house I recently found in the magazine House Beautiful. It is gorgeous.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I have been enjoying every moment of spring this year. Every moment. And not just because we've had a couple days like this:

You see, I usually look forward to spring wistfully as January and February slowly pass by. I say to myself, "If I can just make it to March, then we'll start having some warmer weather mixed in, some days in the 40s. The snow will start to melt and the end will be in sight." But then March comes and I find myself unsatisfied still. I find myself wishing it wasn't so muddy or annoyed by the chilly wind. If only the wind would stop... By the second week in April I'm usually wishing the leaves were out. By the beginning of May I realize that what I've been longing for is MAY.

But not this year. Granted, we have had some beautiful weather. March was a perfect succession of gradually warmer weather and slowly melting snow. There wasn't a lot of run-off, just a perfect seepage into the ground. Over the course of about one week, the snow just disappeared.

Mud season seemed short, and the chilly wind didn't bother me as much.

My grape hyacinths I planted 2 years ago are really taking off and have bloomed beautifully this year.

The grass is a lovely green and every moment of warm sun on my face has been noticed.

I have also found myself nostalgic this spring. Spring is passing so quickly and soon it will be gone and summer will beupon us. I have this overwhelming desire to take in every moment this summer, to live in each moment, to simplify, to savor. I want to drink lemonade and swim in rivers. I want to walk in fragrant meadows with daisies and buttercups nodding around me. I want to breathe in the scent of fresh-cut grass. I want to hear sleeping bag zippers being pulled up and the muffled sound of my children's voices as they settle down to sleep in the tent, while Lincoln and I linger at the campfire. I want to snuggle into a blanket and stare up into a night sky heavy with stars. I want to listen to my children giggle as they chase lightning bugs. I want to watch my children play tag in the front yard as the sun sets in all its fiery glory. I want to catch the scent of warm, drying hay on the breeze. And corn fields, the sweet, heavy smell of corn fields in high summer is heavenly. I can't wait to work in my vegetable garden, among varied scents of tomatoes, dill, and green beans. I am eager to watch my food storage grow as I can produce. I want to savor the first, warm strawberry of the season, fresh from the field. And don't even get me started on the first tomato sandwich! I want to stretch out in the dappled sunlight under a towering maple tree and read all afternoon.

All this and more, the simple joys of summer. My heart almost aches for it. And yet, in my anticipation of summer, I am still enjoying each moment of spring. The gradual transition, the awakening of the earth. Each tulip and daffodil makes my heart sing.

Each warm spring rain that falls on my face and every booming thunderstorm is a joy. Ah, the age-old desire to slow down the passing of time! Happy spring! Embrace it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicago, Again...

...but this time with the kids. This past week was spring break and in the interest of saving vacation days and money, we decided not to take a big trip. We did want to do SOMEthing as a family, though, so we decided it was time to take the kids to Chicago. Lincoln decided that Wednesday would work well for him, so he cleared his calendar and took the day off. Let me just say, he picked the PERFECT day. It was sunny and warm- close to eighty degrees. We could not have ordered better weather for the last day of March.
We left the house at about 8:15 and drove to the Cumberland Station park and ride. It took us some time to figure out exactly how much money to put on our transit cards to have sufficient passage for a family of seven. Once the attendant had helped us figure it out, we discovered we needed some change. Renie was also desperate for potty break #1 of the day. I waited at the station with the other kids while Lincoln and Renie walked to a nearby grocery store for change and a potty. While we waited, I suggested the kids try to jump the cars as they passed below us on the interstate. This kept them quite entertained for the 15 minutes until Lincoln returned.

We finally got our passage paid and headed down to the platform. The kids were pretty excited about riding the train and i was actually glad we had to wait a few minutes so they could really enjoy the anticipation and excitement. Jesse, who is obsessed with trains, was very excited once we were on. Devon just kept asking me when it would go underground. Once we did go sub-terrainean, he realized it wasn't so exciting after all to just see the black walls passing. Then he kept asking me when it would go up high again.

We got off the train downtown and transferred to a bus for the remainder of the trip.

I think the kids, at least Kennedy and Julia, may have actually liked the bus better. The idea of driving down the street, UNbuckled, and STANDING was thrilling to them. Even if there were ten seats open, the girls preferred to stand and hold a strap.

The bus dropped us off right in front of our destination, Shedd Aquarium. We corralled our crew and headed to the entrance, only to discover a line that wove back and forth through the large lobby, then stretched out the door, down the steps through the tent, and across the concrete to a little behind where I was standing when I took this picture.

I had not anticipated this at all. It was nearing 1:00, the kids hadn't eaten lunch, they were already tiring from the excitement of the train and bus, and we had at least a solid hour of line-waiting ahead of us. We had discovered before we came that it would be cheaper for us to purchase a family membership for the year than it would be to purchase a single day pass for each of us. The kids and I held our spot in line while Lincoln went to ask someone if we could go through the door to the right labeled Membership, if we were planning to purchase a membership that day. Luckily we could. We walked right up the steps, in the door, through the lobby to the membership desk where there were about three people ahead of us in line, and within 15 minutes of arriving, we were stuffing our jackets in a locker and making potty stop #2. I can't even begin to tell you what a relief it was to skip that line!

The aquarium tour began and I was worried we were in for a rough day. It was pretty crowded and so hot in there I thought I was going to pass out. The kids were having trouble finding a viewing spot at the galleries and complaining of the heat. My backpack was making my back sweaty and I was stressing about losing my wandering Renie in the crowd. Of course, stressing made me even warmer and I was beginning to feel like I couldn't breathe. We decided that if we left the Amazon River section, the temperature might feel less like the Amazon River climate. We ducked out of there and found immediate relief.

The rest of the day was much like any aquarium tour, with a few highlights along the way like:

The penguin play area:

The kids had a lot of fun here, dressing up like penguins and playing around. It was impossible to get a picture of all my kids, in costume and in the frame. Every time I heard the attendant say something like, "Let's not climb up there, OK? That's kind of high." Or, "Penguins slide head first, but children slide feet first, OK?" I knew Renie was close by.


This dolphin/beluga whale/sea lion/red-tailed hawk/penguin show got mixed reviews from our family. It was very theatrical, with the trainers in costume, people being carried across the water by cable,

colored lights,

music, movie screen. But to me, it seemed like lots of smoke and mirrors to make up for a pretty lame animal show. I mean, I know it's not Seaworld, but I felt like the animals' participation was overshadowed and it wasn't very intimate. The trainers never talked (at least, not so we could hear them) so it was hard to tell what the animals were doing. The sea lion was in the show for approximately 1 minute.

The red-tailed hawk just flew across the water a couple times, the penguins walked in front of the bleachers one time and a few people got to pet them.

But the thing I thought was the lamest, was the "Trainer for a Day" portion of the program. They picked a young girl ( probably 11 or 12) from the audience to be the trainer for a day. She was given a "magical pendant" and flown across the water in a boat. She got to help give commands to the animals and otherwise participate in the entire program. They made a big deal out of giving her a pair of rubber boots to wear and and acting like they were telling her where to stand and and what to do. Yet it was painfully obvious that she was part of the show and not a randomly selected child. I mean, to the point that my eight year old picked up on it.

The rest of the family ranged in their reviews from "it was OK' to "That was really cool."


We grabbed lunch in a little cafe at the aquarium. Lunch itself was nothing to write home about, but the tables were set up around the underwater viewing area of the dolphin tank. It was pretty fun to watch the dolphins from underwater. They were doing a show so we were able to see it from both above (Fantasea) and below.

Caribbean Reef:

This was the last viewing area we visited and it was my favorite of the day. It was a huge tank with a very large viewing area, colorful fish, not many people, and cool air.

Most of my pictures of fish are grainy and/or blurry because you are not allowed to use a flash when photographing the fish.

This was a cool spot where the viewing area was mostly under your feet. There were some rays swimming around down there.

A Staring Contest:

We came out of the aquarium to lovely warm weather. We took some pictures and enjoyed the day a bit before catching the bus back to the train and riding the train back to our parked car.

That's Navy Pier across the little bay from where we are. We'll have to make a summer trip there...

I am happy to say we managed to navigate downtown Chicago and public transportation without losing even one of our five children. I'd say that was a successful day! It was a long, exhausting day, and we arrived home about 10pm. Next Chicago trip will be Legoland and dinner at Medieval Times.