Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crazy Days

I apologize for the silence on the airwaves recently. We have had so much going on so far this summer, it makes me dizzy just thinking about it... and it's only just beginning! Still to come: a trip up north with the family, a trip to Rapid City, a trip to Austria... and that's all before August!

So, to tide you over until I find a spare moment to blog, here's a picture of what greeted me this morning when I left Louie downstairs by himself for three minutes.

Well, what's wrong with dumping a bag of Kix onto the landing for a morning snack?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peas Please

My eldest son and I are currently engaged in a battle of wills. As I sit here, he is downstairs at the table refusing to finish his peas. I know, I know, it doesn't get any more cliche than that. The only thing that's missing is a family dog to clandestinely eat the offending foods.

I never thought I'd be at the point of vegetable wars, but apparently the time is here! He wants chips, and in order to get chips he must finish every pea on his plate. Not a huge deal, I thought. But Max has decided that this is where he will make his stand. It's 12:30 pm, and he has been at the table since 11:30. Louie and I long ago finished our meals, chips and all, and still he won't budge. The thing I can't figure out is that he loves peas! He'll pop a handful in his mouth any day! He actually ate more than half of today's serving before deciding that he was "full" of peas (but still hungry for chips, surprise, surprise). Can anyone explain this to me?? It's not like I was trying to feed him mashed turnips with brussel sprouts or something (he'd probably even like that...)

I think he has decided that it's fun to test my limits. Let's just hope that I have the patience to persevere. I'll let you know if it lasts until dinner... or breakfast tomorrow!

Monday, June 20, 2011


We have officially taken the pirate level up a notch in this house. Costumes don't cut it anymore... I left the room for one minute while Max was coloring with markers, and he ended up with THIS on his arm.

You've got it right, folks. That is Max's very own Jolly Roger Flag Tattoo. This is one thing I didn't foresee when the pirate obsession started. Eye patches, sword fights, plank walking, stealing treasure... those I was prepared for. But body art?? Lord help me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Taste of Wisconsin

Second time's a charm! Although I had a dream two days before our trip that Max woke up puking, the actual morning of our trip broke sunny and healthy. No sick kids, no sick adults, bags packed, ready to go!

I drove the kiddos down to G&G's in the morning, and not even Louie took a second glance when I walked out the door. When they're with Cody & Company, even Mom is old news. Ben and Norah arrived around 11:00, we picked up bagels for the road and hit the highway as soon as Paul got home from work. First stop, Black River Falls!

Sand Creek Brewery was our destination for Day 1. We learned everything we could have ever wanted to know about brewing, beer history, the history of Sand Creek (formerly Oderbolz Brewery... back in the day) throughout the course of our three hour tour of the facility. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and sported some really awesome facial hair, but any tour that gives a beer break mid-way through might note that they are going a little overboard. (Three hours??)

We were all a little underwhelmed with many of their beer offerings, but the Hard Lemonade was a winner. Mike's move over, you don't even deserve to be called Hard Lemonade! Sadly, the Twin Cities doesn't offer Sand Creek beers; I guess we'll have to drive to Hudson next time we have a hankerin'.

We stayed the night in Black River Falls, grabbing dinner at a hole-in-the-wall pizza place recommended by our guide. And that's the way to do it, folks. Get the advice of the locals! The pizza was awesome, and there's no way we would have considered stopping there had we driven by uninformed.

Later that evening, we were sitting in the hotel's Orange Moose Bar & Grill when we looked out the rain-spattered window at a huge plastic orange moose statue across the pond. Rain or no, we were going to pay a visit to the Big Plastic Moose.

And his little brother, Medium Plastic Moose.

Saturday morning came early; everyone was up and ready for the continental breakfast by 8:00. Then, armed with coffee and beef sticks, we continued on toward New Glarus. We had no idea that we were driving straight into the middle of Little Switzerland, complete with European-style buildings and a Polka festival! We checked out a local pub for lunch and got a demonstration on how to tack a dollar bill to the ceiling! Apparently it's been a tradition there for years, and they just recently cleared off their ceiling and donated the $3000 to charity.

We then drove up to New Glarus Brewery. By 'up' I mean that the brewery was literally on the top of a hill overlooking the town. What a gorgeous location, and what a gorgeous building! We did a self-guided tour of the facility, then we joined the crowd outside for tasting. We sampled some pretty tasty beers, but I think we'd agree that the winner was their Two Women Lager. It was just so drinkable! And yummy. (Note my use of technical terminology...) Then Paul made friends with a lawn gnome, possibly the highlight of his trip. (Just kidding, honey).

We squeezed in a quick game of mini-golf before heading toward Lake Mills and Tyranena Brewing Company. Ben creamed us all... I think he had a trick golf ball.

We arrived at Tyranena just as a band was setting up to play live music! We kicked back and enjoyed some Bob Marley tunes while sampling the brewery's offerings.

I'd say we all agreed that we hit the jackpot here! While I'm not an IPA fan, there were three bitter beers that won the approval of the rest of the group: Scurvy, Stone Tepee and Bitter Woman. Of the three, I enjoyed the Bitter Woman the most... don't read into that too much. There were also two super tasty porters: Dirty Old Man and Chief BlackHawk. Think coffee, chocolate, and campfire in a beer. Ok, maybe that sounds weird. Or gross, even. But it was so good. However, my favorite was the Headless Man Amber Altbier (I know, what's with the crazy names, guys?) It was smooth, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, great color, an all-around good beer.

After eating our Jimmy John's for dinner (delivered to Tyranena!) we drove to Madison for the night. We swam, ordered pizza at midnight, played some cards, then crashed. Paul and I found a church in the morning, and after Mass we began our roadtrip home. It's amazing how much quicker six hours go when there are no kids in the car and NPR is playing their weekend programming!

When we got to my parents' house to pick up the kids, they were both so excited to see us! This is the longest I've ever been away from both of them, and I REALLY missed them. It felt good to know that they missed me too- even Max!

It was an all-around great weekend, and it was so fun to share it with such great people. If you're ever looking for a fun weekend away, check out the microbreweries in Wisconsion- they are so numerous, we didn't even scratch the surface! But I learned so much and have such a greater appreciation of the craft of beer brewing. Now instead of having Paul choose beers for me that he thinks I'll like, I might be able to order for myself next time I see a drink menu.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Memorial Day Celebrations, the conclusion

We sure love our family. And we loved every moment spent with them over Memorial Week! Yep, why have a holiday last only one day when you can celebrate for a whole week? Paul's family arrived Friday evening, and they were joined by Monica and Glenn late Friday night. Saturday, the men set off on their expedition while the women and boys hung out in WSP until leaving for Chicago Sunday morning. You've heard all about the Chicago trip, but the fun didn't end when we returned from the big city! Even though Monica and Glenn were no longer with us (sad face...), we had a really good time. The guys went bowling, we ate an awesome fish fry on Friday, then Saturday we spent most of the day at my parents' house in the pool for Liam's birthday. The family left after Mass on Sunday morning, and we slept for the rest of the day!

Here are a handful of my favorite pictures from the visit that I didn't publish in my previous posts.

Max cuddled up with Grandma and Liam for storytime

Max made an "Alligator holder" for Uncle Peej

Uncle Glenn using his very best Pirate Duck voice

Our baby birds hatched! And Paul Sr. and Patrick got attacked by an angry mommy and daddy bird

At the pool, having a great time!

Blindly jumping into the water... he didn't want to get his eyes wet!

"I want me some of that tasty grub!"

Liam came away with a new fishing pole, a tennis racket, and two card games!

"Skip around the pool, skip around the pool! Won't shut up til you skip around the pool..."

The remains of a very tasty ice cream cake

A Hot Time in the Old Town

Paul has been trying to plan a Boundary Waters trip with his dad and brother for a long time. Last year plans fell through, so this year they were going to make it work no matter what! Since there has been an addition to the family this past year, they invited Bro-in-law Glenn to join them on their trek.

Lucky for us, I say. Because of Glenn's absence, we decided to infiltrate Monica's home in Chi-town for the week while the boys were roughing it up north. We had a blast! We overcame 90+ degree weather and a forgotten stroller, plus a seven-hour drive each way with a full Buick. Go us!

I knew we were going to forget something, but a STROLLER? I actually carried Lucian 6 blocks to the beach the first two trips... and then my arms (and my sanity) were saved by Monica's neighbors, who we ran into on a walk with their kids. They lent us two strollers, so even Max got a ride! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

At the beach, Max lost himself in digging for pirate treasure and splashing in the shallows. Then Liam and Monica taught us all about sea glass hunting, and that became our pastime of choice. We visited the beach at least once a day to sift through sand and pebbles for the smooth, colorful pieces of broken bottles. It's pretty cool that the water can take litter and make it into treasure!

On Tuesday, Monica had to work, so we beat the heat at the Evanston Library. Liam put on puppet shows for Max, Lucian, and a handful of other kids who happened by the puppet theater. He was quite the puppeteer, let me tell you! We were treated to stories about aliens, bears, fairies, and - best of all - "How to Be a Friend".

Wednesday was our day to explore downtown, the "El" (or is that the "L"?) and all! We rode the train from Monica's neighborhood into the city and met all kinds of characters. Although, come to think of it, they probably thought the same of us-- we were quite a sight with three women, two strollers, a ten-year-old kid, and all but one of us totally clueless about train protocol.

Downtown, we walked to Millenium Park to visit the Bean and the fountain. Both were a hit with our group! We wandered around the crazy sculpture, looking at funhouse-mirror reflections of ourselves. Then when we got too warm, the kids splashed in the inch-deep water at Millenium Fountain with throngs of students on field trip- it was crowded, but it was so much fun!

Lunch was at the Corner Bakery, crowded but very tasty. AND they came around with free banana chocolate bundt cake for dessert! Any place that offers free dessert samples goes right to the top of my list. After lunch, Lucian fell asleep in his stroller and stayed asleep through our entire visit to the Cultural Center. Halleluiah! And, oh, the cultural center... air conditioned and free, it was the perfect place to wander during the hottest afternoon hours. Liam zoomed Max around in the stroller, popping wheelies and spinning in circles, keeping him thoroughly entertained while the ladies enjoyed the art exhibits and architecture.

We spent Wednesday evening at the beach collecting sea glass, knowing it was our last visit before departure. When it started to get dark, we made our final stroll back to Monica's house and settled in for the night. In the morning, we packed up the car and got our GPS set for home. It was hard to leave, but I couldn't be too sad after such a fun week!

Thanks for having us, Monica. We can't wait to see you again!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Liam!

I have so much to write about, it's going to take me a few posts to catch up! I've spent the last week and a half with Paul's family, and they just headed back to Rapid City yesterday. The time we got to spend together was just AWESOME. We have missed them all so much! Today has been our first day back to normal routine, and it seems so quiet around here. Thankfully, we get to see them again in July- and our summer is so busy, the time is going to fly.

I'll get to the details of the trip as soon as I can, but I wanted to devote my first post back to a very special person. Liam Michael just turned TEN! Where has the time gone?? It was so great to be able to celebrate his birthday with him; Max just thinks he is the coolest guy in the entire world. And who can blame him? Check out this cool dude:

Every time I got out my camera, he turned into a total ham! I don't know if I have one picture of him smiling a normal smile. Oh man, oh man...

For Liam's birthday, we went swimming down at my parents house, had ice cream cake, opened presents, played Bean Bag Toss and had an all-around great time! Instead of the traditional 10 spankings for a 10th birthday, we opted for 10 throws in the pool. Poor Liam wasn't dry for a minute of his birthday party!

Happy Birthday, Uncle Liam! Max and Louie miss you already!