Friday, June 22, 2012

Scabs, Sharpies, and Trumpet Vines

Sometimes life can be so random...kind of like this post.  Here are just a few things that proves we're no where near done moving, learning, growing, loving, etc.:

1. James is ALL boy. :)  You have to understand.  We've never really experienced the "boy" thing yet.  Although we have 4 of them...they're not really fans of getting dirty or wrestling.  And they certainly haven't had many scabs.  So now that James lives on his bike, he's experiencing the joy AND the pain.
2. Eliza does not understand the concept that writing apparatuses are only for paper.  We have "taught" her several times.  I guess we didn't make it clear that a sharpie is also a writing apparatus.  Yes, a sharpie...on the wall AND carpet.  Lovely.
3. At first glance, you would think our backyard is in a beautiful tropical forest.  Look at those vibrant flowers.
So beautiful.
Attracts hummingbirds.
But when you look away from the pretty flowers, it is very much a jungle in our backyard!  These innocent looking vines are trumpet vines.  They're extremely invasive and have been known to tear apart siding, roofs and cement slabs.  Their beauty comes with a price.  Fortunately, these are only on the back fence.  But the shoots have literally overtaken the entire backyard.
So tomorrow morning, we'll begin chopping them down and applying concentrated Round-Up to the open cuts so the poison will be absorbed into the roots.  They say it should kill the shoots entirely within a year or two.  And now we'll get to design a beautiful landscape for our backyard.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Scout Trip

No, not the Boy Scouts.  This was an old fashioned scout where we scouted out the area to learn everything we could.  We have tentative plans to take the family to Chicago later this year.  So I booked two round trip train tickets to Chicago for me and Mark.  Our objective was to see what the train experience was like and check out various sites in the Windy City so we could have a better idea of what we might do with the whole family.  

So here we are in the Bloomington-Normal Amtrak station early in the morning.  This was the first time Mark would be riding a train...and he was pretty excited.
Our first stop was the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower...aka tallest building in North America and 3rd tallest building in the world).  The elevator would ascend over 1300 feet in a matter of 60 seconds.
I zoomed in on this next picture...if you look closely, you can see four glass enclosed balconies that extend beyond the rest of the tower.  They were added just a few years ago and certainly added to our little adventure!
On the way up, there is a screen above the elevator doors that tells you how you compare with other structures in the world.  We passed buildings like the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid, the Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State Building.  It made a short trip to the top go by even faster!  
The views were just like you've seen in all the other pictures from high elevations. :)  But it's always fun to experience it in person.  Mark was in rare form making the best faces!
1.5 inches of glass separated Mark from a vertical drop 103 floors down!  I didn't realize until after I took the picture that Mark was crossing both of his fingers.  I thought that was cute.  That first step is always the hardest.
This is looking towards the building.
And now we're finally comfortable and sitting on the 1.5 inches of glass.  What a feeling!

After the Willis Tower, our next stop was Millennium Park.

That metal bean is not much to look at in a picture, I'm sure...but when you see it in real life, it's actually quite fascinating.  Who thinks of things like this?!?
Here we are taking a picture of ourselves.  
Chicago is definitely a city worth exploring on your feet.  The architecture is amazing and there are plenty of parks to break up the city blocks.  There were also a number of water fountains/playgrounds for kids and adults alike to cool off.

After walking down the "Magnificent Mile" on Michigan Avenue, we ventured over to our last stop of the day: Navy Pier.
Mark and I agree...neither of us recommend the Ferris Wheel.  The view was nice but it was pretty boring.  It's a slow ride.  The wheel is constantly moving.  Riders get on and off without the wheel ever coming to a stop.  You make one revolution in 7 minutes and then you get off.
Here's the view from the top:
Oh, and Mark spotted this ride while we were on the Ferris Wheel.  So, of course, we had to check that out, too!
I stayed on the ground so I could take pictures. :)

Lake Michigan is absolutely beautiful.  There were sailboats and speedboats and lighthouses.  And it was probably 10 degrees cooler on the pier with a constant breeze.  Navy Pier has just as big of an indoor area as they do an outdoor area.  We explored the outdoor areas on our way to the end of the pier.  On the way back, we walked through part of the indoor section which included an art exhibit and lots and lots of shops.  
We had walked all day long, so we opted to take a water taxi on the Chicago River back to Union Station.  It was a great way to end the day.  Seeing the city from the river was a cool perspective.

Union Station in Chicago is MUCH different than the cute little Amtrak station in Bloomington!  It was a maze to find our train.  But we found it and got home safely.
It was a great scouting trip.  We learned a lot and had a lot of fun.  We're not sure this is a trip for a family of 8 (especially when several of them have such tiny legs)...but we haven't done a complete report back to a decision has still yet to be made.  We've done 4-mile hiking trips before...just not in the city.  Can you imagine our little family trekking through the city of Chicago?!?  They wouldn't know what to do with us! :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I hope to never have to make that kind of phone call again.

"Bloomington 911, what's your emergency?"

It was hard to speak and actually say why I was calling.  Even typing now, tears come to my eyes. 

Our sweet little James has been learning to ride a bike.  When he left the house, he could only coast.  He hadn't learned to balance while peddling yet.  But 30 minutes after he left, no one could find him.  Anya raced around the neighborhood on her bike.  But he was no where.  So I sent her off to the park down the trail that runs behind our house.

I drove around the block a few times to double-check and couldn't find him either.  I came home and walked down the trail to find Anya.  She was crying pretty hard when I met up with her.  She couldn't find James anywhere and she was scared.

Even though the bike was no where to be found, I told Mark to check the whole house.  I got back in the car and started going up and down every street.  I started to say several little prayers for James...we all were.  The reality of what might have happened was tearing me up inside.  I was a half mile from home...passing the pool in the subdivision...and it hit me that there is no way James got this far.  He didn't know how to ride a bike.  All he could do was coast and that was it.  I turned down another street and headed back home.  If something happened, I had to make the call.  "Oh, James," I prayed.  Heavenly Father knew exactly what those two words meant - all the emotion...all the feelings of a concerned parent...the desire for James to be comforted wherever he was.

I pulled up the driveway and called 911.  I answered questions I never want to answer again.  I tried to be brave around my family.  I assured Anya and Karen that we would find him.  But my face probably said something else.

Anya and I headed down the trail again.  This time, we went the other direction.  She wouldn't go ahead of me.  I asked her to peddle to the creek...she would still be in my sight.  So she went on ahead.  I asked bikers and runners if they had seen a little boy on a green dirt bike.  Then I heard a sound behind me.  Mark was chasing after us.  Poor kid doesn't understand that he needs to volunteer critical information without being asked.

I asked if they found James.


The dispatcher called shortly after Anya and I left and said that a police officer found James walking his bike.  I called to Anya and told her.  I've never seen her ride so fast. 

We all were on the driveway (including a concerned neighbor) when the cop pulled up with James in the back and his bike in the trunk.  The police officer did a little siren and pulled up saying that they were leading the parade.  He was really quite nice about it all.  He shook James' hand and thanked him for being so polite and so brave.

James was pretty shaken up.  Apparently, he knows how to ride a bike now.  He started peddling and just kept going.  And then he got really lost.  So lost, I couldn't find him while I was driving around.

We hugged him a lot.  We enjoyed some ice water and popsicles in the kitchen while we talked about what happened.  We were excited he learned to ride.  Anya talked about when she got lost in a store.  I talked about when I got lost when I was a kid.  We laughed.  We told him how Mark mentioned how weird it would be to sleep in his room alone.  James replied, "I didn't even know Mark liked me!"

So we're fine now.  We'll draw a map of our new neighborhood.  We'll implement the buddy system.  (We would have already done all that had we known he could ride a bike!)  And it's never felt so good to have James home.  That was too much emotion for one afternoon.

But we are so grateful that James was kept safe and found his way back home.  I think our FHE lesson on Monday night will relate this experience to our journey back home to Heavenly Father.  It will probably be an experience James will never forget.

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's a Y Chromosome Thing

What boy wouldn't be in heaven?

To continue the festivities of State Farm's 90th anniversary, a car show was held in the courtyard of Corporate South.  There were cars on display representing every decade since 1922.  It was really cool.  So I took the four boys to show them what Hot Wheels cars look like in real life.

This was probably the most expensive car on display.  It was immaculate.  A 1929 Packard.    
It was in between a Model A and Model T Ford.  The owners drove them in the morning of the car show.  The Model A has a cruising speed of 35 MPH.  He only knows that because he's had someone follow him.  He's always asked how fast it can go.  And he responds, "it depends on if you're going up or down a hill."

What's fun about this car is that James has the exact same Hot wheel car at home.  
This car reminded the boys of the movie Condorman.  Peter really wanted to sit inside!
Can you tell who needs a bathroom break?!?  When Luke needs to go, the whole world knows!
A Ferrari was one of my favorite cars as a kid.  Lots of the cars on display had their engines in the was the first time the boys had seen that.    
And who doesn't think of "Back to the Future" when they see a DeLorean?  The speedometer only went up to 85 MPH...maybe that's why they chose 88 miles per hour in the movie. (?)  This one didn't have the flux capacitor.  
The owner revved the engine of his Camaro for us.  It was a beautiful sound.
It was a beautiful day for a car show.  And it was a fun father/son experience.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

State Farm Play Day

If you were to ask the kids, THIS is the reason we moved back to Bloomington, Illinois.
90 years ago this month, State Farm was founded.  The first Saturday of every June, the company hosts a special carnival for its employees called Play Day.  And it really is quite an event.  We spent 6 hours here, yet the kids didn't get to do and see everything they wanted to.  
The pony ride was extra fun because Luke was riding a pony named Luke.  
There were inflatables for big kids and little kids.  So each group had their own fun.  
After some energy was expended jumping around, the kids got their faces painted for the first time.  Eliza was very content sitting in the chair while the woman created this little masterpiece.  How cute is she?!?
Eliza was a party girl, Peter was a lizard, Anya chose the butterfly, and Mark showed his man-side and went with bricks.  
Mark is attending a rock climbing camp this this was good practice for him.  He scaled the entire 25-foot wall.  Not bad.
Dad took the 3 little ones down the Fun Slide.  The lizard boy got a head start...but super man was close behind.  I think Eliza had just as much fun going down the slide as she did climbing the stairs.  She is easily amused these days.
There's just something really cute about a little boy accompanying his littler sister.  They enjoyed the little Ferris wheel.
Dad would have much rather preferred the little Ferris wheel over the "big kid" one.  I had never been on a Ferris wheel before.  While we were waiting in line, someone I had worked with before stopped by for a little chat.  She mentioned how she doesn't ride Ferris wheels...and I thought to myself, "what's the big deal?"  Well, the look on my face in the picture below is the point in which I realized I was not comfortable with heights when I'm not in an enclosed building.  And this was only half-way up while we were slowly ascending so everyone could get on.  It was a whole new experience once the Ferris wheel actually starting spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning.  Good thing I had two brave boys next to me.  Thanks Peter and Luke! :)
After the Ferris wheel adventure, the little kids and bigger kids split up.  The little kids did Mommy-approved rides.  Eliza could have stayed in this train all afternoon.
The bigger kids tackled rides Mommy could not watch.  And Dad doesn't do spinning rides, so I did my best to warn them before they went through the gate of...
Scat 2.  It's the kind of ride that spins while it spins.  I did these rides when I was a teenager and could barely handle them then.  When these three are together, they have no fear.
So they went through the gate.  And when they got off the ride, they said it was the coolest thing EVER.
They went on more and more spinning rides.  Each time I warned them.  But they would not be deterred.  There was another Ferris wheel-type ride.  Only this one had enclosed cages around the seats.  Because as the Ferris wheel went around and around, the cage also went around and around.  The kids were upside-down half the time trying to get it to spin as much as they could.

Then the big kids and little kids regrouped for one more ride together.  It was fun to see Anya helping Luke get strapped in.  And we're glad she did.  Luke was having so much fun once the swing got faster and higher that he needed the extra security only a big sister can provide.
And we have to give a shout out to James here.  As they all ran in to get a seat, Luke quickly fell behind the bigger kids and was going to have to sit by himself apart from his siblings on the other side of the ride.  Plus...he wanted a red chair.  So James gave his seat to Luke.  Those are the seemingly little moments that really make a parent proud of their kids.

Peter enjoyed the ride as well.  I love this picture of him.
Remember how I warned them each time they got onto another spinning ride?  Well, here's a classic, "I told you so."  Mark was done after the swings.  And he knew it.  I've never seen him voluntarily lay down in his life!  He was on the ground for a while.  Poor guy!  But Anya and James thought nothing of it.  They quickly abandoned him and went off to a few more spinning rides before we left for the day!
On the bus ride back to the car, we captured this face.  It's the face that says, "Thanks...I'm is good..." all in one expression.  We work hard to get these faces on our kids.  And sometimes, a family play day is just the way to get it!