Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snow Daze

Here's a thumbnail of a slide show I put together for the boyz. I hope you can view it on a big enough screen to enjoy it;) The annual trip to the north woods was full of fun, wonder, and time in the great outdoors. I marvel at what we accomplish each year, all disguised as pure fun. Ethan snowshoed 9 miles in 2 days, tackled his first blue downhill run, and played his first semi-aggressive game of snow football. Kola poured on the focus for his first solo runs on some steepish green downhill cruiser runs, spent about six hours outside with only a short lunch break, and did his first solo tube run. I managed more than 20 miles of cross country over about four days, and was awash in the sights and sounds of an expansive forest all to myself. This was the first year I tackled the black cross country runs -- the uphill treks were like inner thigh camp, but the downhill payoff was exhilarating.

It's always enlightening to enter a new environment and see what the boys come up with. When we got to the hotel we overnighted in on the way up, Kola asked, "mommy -how are you going to cook here?" When Pete - the operator/groomer at Afterglow - towed the kids up the tubing run in his snowmobile (it's the only way up) Kola asked, "mommy, can I have Pete over to our house sometime for a playdate?" I'm sure Pete would be quickly conned into taking Kola to school on his snowmobile.

Ethan was highly motivated to snowshoe all the trails since they're color-coded on the map, matched with colored tags along the routes. As with his CTA obsession, he had to do all the colors and check all the transfer points and when he wasn't trekking, he was making intricate drawings of the trails.

I grinned ear-to-ear on the two downhill days we had - one was sunny and warm, and the other delivered 4-5" of fresh powder throughout the day. Ski school and my hula hoop training paid off with two kids who could safely ski solo, and feel happy and proud on the hill.

On one of our lift rides up, I took a picture of Kola's skis. "Why did you do that mommy?" "Because they're so cute and little and someday you'll be big a big guy with big skis and you'll beat your mommy down a realllllllly big mountain." "A really big mountain? Let's go there! And will you be a fireman with me, too?" Ah, what a great day.

Other highlights - seeing two bald eagles, frequenting supper clubs, eating my weight in leftover christmas cookies, broomball (glad my dad recovered from a super hard fall), Kola's 5th birthday on 1/5. We already booked our res. for next year!

Friday, October 23, 2009

In tents

Jim, constructing his haunted man...

Glorious, Cihlas' acres

Ready to be a-mazed

Brent's spooky storytelling

Bountiful fall harvest

Me-n-E, self portrait

Nothing like a trip to Michigan to fully embrace Fall. Ethan and I hit the road for an October weekend, inspired by my high school friend's annual camping extravaganza. Dave does it up with a maze - a swath he cuts through a few acres of prairie; a carefully orchestrated haunted trail, complete with music, push lights, and a cemetery; a karaoke barn; candy barn; cook out; and camping. Storytelling around the campfire, shadow theater, a burning effigy, and great times with "old" friends are just a few of the treasures that bring me back each year. Driving to the hotel through the countryside on a moonless night might be just enough to get me to pitch a tent next year, but the 35 degree overnight dip and a 6-year old made me think better of it for this time.
I missed the Sunday a.m. rehash and late night shenanigans, but got an even trade with a 3-hour morning hike through the dunes and long walk along the lake, plus a visit to Dinges farms - a favorite local hangout. We returned home with a harvest of pumpkins, concord grapes, squash, mums, acorns, fresh air and smiles. A nod to thanksgiving, so thankful for that peaceful, introspective weekend! xo bb.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And they're off...

First day of tackle

A winner, score notwithstanding

It's been off to the races with the beginning of school. I usually keep our schedule in my head, but the past couple weeks, I'm referring to the back-up paper version at least twice a day. It's great to have a community of parents here looking out for each other - somehow we all manage to extend a hand before something falls through the cracks. The first example was the one out of six surveyed first grade kids who admitted to having homework on day two. The news spread like wildfire so we all managed to get it done.

My nephew and godson has started high school and we were all very happy to attend his first football game. He's played flag in the past, so when I showed up at the stadium the morning of his first game and I saw the cross country team circling the track, I asked someone in the stands if this was the right location for Frosh flag football. "This is the right place, but it's tackle, not flag." Kola was ecstatic - Andrew trotted onto the field sporting full pads and a helmet! Kola has since played football with Andrew and gets a good view of the turf on each play - he's happy to spring back up to try to bring down almost 130#s the next time. His persistence and sausage intake will pay off sooner than we think.

Simply perfecta in the box seats at Arlington

Both are smaller than I thought

Bet on 3 races, only lost $2.20

Behind the scenes at Arlington Race track

Mr. Ed and friends

Feeding a peppermint treat

Feeling the horse twitching

"mamma, I look like a snowboarder!"

Another big hit was our trip to the track for family day - including pony rides, a petting zoo, bets on the races, and a behind-the-scenes tour. My mom's friend since college (and mine since birth!) is a part owner of horses that race at Arlington. She gave us a grand tour of the box seats, owner's room, and stables where the horses who might race there are kept. Ever since, Kola begs for piggyback rides so he can practice being a "jockey." I think that's one career which will soon be eliminated for both our "little" guys. xo bb

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hoosier buddy

racing on an elevated track at the Indy 500

It was kola's turn to hit the road with "mamma." And luckily, our trip was wide open all the way to Indy. I thought I made record time in just under three hours, until our visit to the speedway where I learned time trials exceed 230 MPH. The good news there was that Kola and I were able to do a little shopping.

my mother's day present, 2025

Our real reason for the trip to Indy was so see former neighbors and still friends Laura, Pat, Colin, Brendan and Caroline. It was terrific to see them again, and pick up where we left off.

kola, are you having fun yet?

A special treat

big dipper

little dipper

The time whizzed by - I loved catching up with everyone and extra time out with Laura, for cocktails or coffee. Other highlights were kola finding his feminine side playing dress-up, my time swimming and diving with Brendan, tracking Colin's progress during baseball tryouts, watching Caroline's soccer game, and a dinner party with Laura and Pat's friends. It's always such a joy to spend time with their family and we look forward to going back soon. As we drove away, Kola fought back the tears and said, "mamma, I feel sad. I'll miss Caroline." So today we wrote a letter: "Hi Caroline. Thank you. Happy Valentines Day. Love, Kola."


first day, first glimpse of his teacher

On his first day of school, Ethan woke up at 6:15 ready to seize the day. He's been increasingly excited about the start of school, looking up his teacher in the yearbook, studying his class list (he knows about 8 of the 22 kids), and savoring every nugget of info. I solicit from other families about his teacher and 1st grade. Although Kola continues his campaign to petition his way out of preschool and into grade school, he was equally as excited on Ethan's first day. Upon pick-up, Kola wore his John Deere hat and carried one for Ethan to wear home, too. He missed his buddy, and had his face smashed up against the school door, eager to see his brother.

Ethan was a font of details after his first and second days, uncharacteristically chatty about things like: the "no nut" table in the cafeteria, that he could choose from "cow milk or chocolate milk," that his teacher is the 2nd tallest in his school, that Zane had trouble opening his supply kit, describing his classroom which features stairs and a pit (if it had a ramp, he surmised, the kids would walk into class too fast), that his desk can open and close...I'm very excited to share in his new discoveries and contagious enthusiasm. A few parents on the playground noticed Ethan's bleached hair from our summer beaching and his growth spurt - it should be worth a few laughs to try on pants soon, since he hasn't worn any since May. Good thing capris are still in!

Kola starts at his school in earnest next week, and is definitely ready to be an upper classman. Shortly into his one-hour open house Wednesday a.m., he made his case for needing to be bumped up to Ethan's school, but seeing old friends and his teacher from last year reminded him of how much he likes his home away from home. The teacher had Kola showing a couple three-year-olds the ropes including the bathroom, meeting room, and reading loft, and he eagerly stepped into his new role as a leader. We're off to the races with soccer and gymnastics, art and french to follow soon. Thanks for checking in! xo bb

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life on parade

Ready to step off

Da mayor with his future CTA Director

Wouldn't you know it, the CTA saved Ethan from the long walk...

In late winter at a UIC department dinner and silent auction, one of Sig's co-worker's wives and I decided it would be a good idea to bid on 6 spots in a parade of our choice as guests of NBC channel 5. I'm glad it worked out for the Bud Billiken parade on the south side on 8/8. We found fantastic spirit and hospitality in the people we met, and were lucky to shake hands with Mayor Daley, Ron Huberman, Pat Quinn, and a few other notables who walked and floated with us near the front of the parade.

Ethan and Kola got the waving down pretty quickly, and when we started to space out as we soaked in the crowd, the smiles and waves the spectators delivered pulled us back in the groove. Although we stepped off with NBC5 and the Chicago Public Schools float, the boys were like moths to the flame when they saw the CTA mini bus riding behind us all. After about 5 blocks, the CTA group encouraged the boys to hop on and were more than happy to share their stash of snickers, grapes, and iced tea. (The first time we were encouraged to eat on a CTA bus!!) We marched from 40th to 55th along Martin Luther King Drive and as I was warmed by the crowd and welcomed by the other entrants, I thought about how different a march this could have been when I was Kola's age (1967.) It's hard for me to believe I was only two years older than Ethan when we moved from the south side.

We stayed to watch more of the parade and were treated to spectacular performances from the Jessie White tumblers, drum corps, dance teams and more. We capped it off with a zoom up to Millennium Park to reunite with friends Nancy and Rick from St. Paul, MN. We perpetuated our awe of the city with our walk through the park and lakeshore, serenaded by sound bleeds from Lollapalooza. Of note - a hot dog and a pop at the Bud Billiken parade: $1.50; a hot dog and a pop at the stand across from the north exit of Lolla: $6 (and I'll bet the hot dog at BB would be way tastier!)

I celebrated my birthday at Lollapalooza, for the fourth time ('91, '92, '08, '09.) Checking my stub from '91, the one-day admission was $27.50 with $2.50 in service charges. 18 years later, $80. But well worth the cost of admission every time. I'll spare you the review of the bands, but am happy to report I've found a few new favorites and rekindled my appreciation for my oldest favorite.

Kaiser Chiefs under glass

Our band of merry travellers

Our congested commute from one stage to the next (well, it IS chicago...)

Perry - ringleader of Jane's Addiction and Lollapalooza, backed by the infamous Dave Navarro

Searing 95+ degree heat did not seem to agitate the crowd, and every few minutes during concerts, I'd get slapped by a cold burst of water from someone swinging their water bottle over their head. The first time it happened, it felt like a burn and my heart skipped a few beats. By the time I left, the back of my clothes were soaking wet. It all went too fast and we saw a lot of great talent. I was glad to have good friends with me who proudly broadcast my b-day, got me a Jane's shirt (we earned it, dodging the mosh pit and holding our ground in the 10th "row.") I found a few "old" friends there by texting, and met a few new people, too. I believe a very good time was had by all, and with great people and band watching, it was an entertaining and enriching view of life on parade. Come to find out the next day, St. Paul friends Nancy and Rick were watching us from the 95th floor of the Hancock over chilled martinis. Got me to pause at the the good fortune I've had to witness such a panorama of Chicago views in my 46 years here. xo bb

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just press >play

Breakfast guest

Take a bow

On the first day, we lost count at 147 (number of times Kola used the words jet ski)

Our guide and cap'n

Lap 2

Not wet...yet

Cracking the whip

All in

Thanking our lucky stars (about :45 minutes early)

We're fresh from one of our favorite annual summer traditions - a visit to Lori/Werner/Adriane's Michigan cottage. From tubing to raft diving, and cocktails to campfires, it's the quintessential getaway weekend. The boys squealed as we pulled in the driveway next to the boat trailer, and I squealed and held on for dear life as Lori drove our age on the jet ski. Highlights included great conversations, DJ'ing (by Werner), baby turtles, fresh summer produce, boat cruises, swim lessons, a great blue heron on the swim platform, and a deep, rich sky teeming with stars.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

up, up and away

Awaiting the blue line (note my vintage, BKF-initialled Lands' End duffel, circa 1981)

Paula and me on Brady Street

"Before," 9:57 a.m.

Watching it unfold

With wings outstretched

MAM entrance skylight peppered with a Calder

Ethan and I thoroughly enjoyed our hop up to Milwaukee two weekends ago, to visit our friends Paula and Marie. Paula and I met nearly seven years ago, in a prenatal yoga class when we lived in Chicago, and I'm thrilled we became friends and are still in touch. Since her 6 y-old and husband were away camping, Ethan and I had the pleasure of setting up camp in Shorewood for a couple days. The weekend whizzed by as swiftly as the Amtrak that took us there. Ethan absorbed as much about the train trip as he could, flipping the tray table, testing the bathroom, admiring the luggage rack, following the schedule, and enjoying (or enduring, he's such a sweet kid) my string of train stories from my previous travels.

Within an hour or so of arriving in WI, we were at the beach, stripping the the fair city of its rock specimens. Later, Paula and I enjoyed a wonderful night out of catch-up, local flavor and a late-night chat. Milwaukee is such a great city, if you haven't been, I highly encourage it.

Ethan is fascinated by the variety of mint box packaging on store shelves, with the seemingly endless combinations of shapes, colors, sliding doors, panels, flip tops, and boxes with multiple openings. So I was itching to show him the impressive opening of the Milwaukee Art Museum, an addition designed by Calatrava featuring huge wing-like panels that gracefully unfold over a 3.5 minute timespan. Ethan was just as impressed with the interior and art -- the museum is very kid-friendly with thin crowds, bite-sized introductions to a variety of forms and time periods, two kids' project studios, kids' sketch kits you can check out for the day - tailored to specific exhibits/areas of interest, mac-and-cheese al fresco, and an unmanned coat closet where you can run through passageways for a quick game of hide and chase. The Amtrak tickets in our pockets limited our MAM visit to 3 1/2 hours.

On our return ride, I asked Ethan his favorite part of the trip, expecting his usual, diplomatic answer "all of it." But was touched to hear him say, "Spending time with Paula and Marie." I second that emotion. We're lucky to have them and you as friends. We'll be back! xo b/s/e/k