A Post About Nothing

Posted in Everyday Life on August 14th, 2012 and tagged , , , , , ,

This post is about nothing because I should be in bed.  I’m writing as a way to vent because I can’t sleep.  We’ve let our daughter have sleepovers pretty much constantly for the past 2 weeks.  We’ve run into some of her friends and figured what a better way to end summer in a fun way than with some sleepovers, especially with these friends we don’t see often.

Problem is, all these girls seem to lose track of the rest of the world when they’re together.  They run up and down the stairs like a herd of elephants (I am SO not going to mention this out loud – what could scar a sensitive pre-teen girl more than comparisons to the largest land mammal??), they giggle incessantly, and they BURST into our bedroom at midnight complaining of a scary noise.  And that’s what led me here.  Having a group of kids burst into my room as I’m trying to relax with some quiet reading time at midnight apparently set off my adrenal glands – big time.  It’s now almost 1 am, and I can’t even think of laying down again for fear of my quiet bubble being burst yet again.  My adrenaline is pumping so hard; I feel like I’ve just ridden a roller coaster or like I’m about to deliver a speech.  The kicker is, with little or no sleep, how I am going to be able to supervise 6 kids tomorrow – with one of them being a VERY exploratory 10-month-old??  I don’t know how it’s going to work.  All because of a scary noise.  Well, unfortunately for this group of self-absorbed ‘tweens, they’re about to find out that a long day with a very tired and grumpy Mom is infinitely more scary than any kind of noise or bump in the night.

Good luck, girls.

Harvey, You Were Awesome

Posted in animals on December 31st, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

I was thinking that I should get in one more blog post before the New Year.  I was going to write a general update about my beautiful family, but before I got to writing it, I found myself thinking of Harvey.

Let’s begin at December 26, 2011.  My husband and the kids surprised me with a wonderful Christmas gift:  they had all saved and planned for months to buy us a zoo membership.  Our family loves zoos and has had a membership to the local zoo (whichever zoo happened to be local at the time)  for as long as Hubby and I have been married.  I remember that our most recent zoo membership expired on April 1st of last year – I remember this because I made sure to visit on April 1st for what would be our last visit to the zoo for many months.  For budget reasons, it didn’t make a lot of sense for us to renew the membership because I was expecting our 5th child in October – what pregnant lady wants to take her 4 kids to the zoo in the summer?  Not this one.  So we let the membership lapse.  I missed our visits to the zoo, but at the same time, plagued by pregnancy related nausea and fatigue, followed by post-cesarean surgery recovery and the joys (and trials) of caring for a new baby brother to 4 other kids, I didn’t really miss our visits to the zoo…

But then my family surprised me with that membership.  Now that I’m healed from the surgery.  Now that the baby has stayed with the babysitter a few times and actually liked it.  Now that I can take my home-schooled kids to the zoo any time I feel like taking a field trip!

This past week was a great one!  Hubby was able to flex his work schedule to spend a lot of time with the family, and we all enjoyed the break, which included visiting the Toledo Zoo.  In our travels to zoos over the years, we saw many amazing things and learned many amazing things.  Among them:  zoos are GREAT to visit in the winter!  Many animals are so much more active in the cold weather, and there are many less people, allowing visiting families opportunities not normally offered (Example: my kids made bird feeders as a craft at the zoo and loved it!!).

Being winter, some of the exhibits were closed.  Other animal environments were rearranged from the last time we had been there, so we couldn’t quite keep tabs on our familiar favorites.  We did notice that the Great Apes area was rearranged.  There was a sign saying that the Great Apes area was going to be closed for the Lights Before Christmas event, but we saw the gorillas and orangutans, so we didn’t think much of it.  Until we didn’t see Harvey the Chimp.   When I got home, I looked in the Toledo Zoo’s newsroom online  and saw that Harvey had passed away in August.  It was sad for me; Harvey’s exhibit was one of my favorite stops at the zoo.  He was an elderly chimp who loved little kids, and here is a video I have of him playing with my kids.  I can’t be too sad though; Harvey died in his sleep, at the healthy chimp age of 52 – DOUBLE the average life expectancy of a chimp in captivity.

My other favorite exhibit at the zoo, the orangutan family, was also rearranged – during our visit we saw only the mom and daughter – what happened to Boomer (my favorite zoo animal until Harvey stole the title), the patriarch of the orangs?  Such things are commonplace in zoos, and I’m thankful that I once again have a membership that gives me insight to studying the wonderful creatures inhabiting the zoo.  As much as I mourn my old favorites, I will be looking forward to watching the new additions as well:  baby Lucas the elephant, the new baby tigers soon to be exhibited, and the new addition soon to be announced to the public due any day!  Yes, I have inside info!  One thing I love doing while visiting the zoo is talking to the volunteers, and one was beside herself with the awesome news of an impending birth!  So much so that she couldn’t keep it to herself, even if she was supposed to!  Would I do the same if I was a zoo volunteer?  Dunno…  but in the meantime, a HUGE THANK YOU GOES OUT TO HUBBY AND THE KIDS!!!  I’ve already enjoyed my zoo membership more than you would have ever hoped for when you planned and saved!!  LOVE YOU GUYS!!!

I wish everyone reading this a very happy and safe New Year!

Here are tribute videos to Harvey the chimp – watch how he played with my kids!  We will miss him!

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Little Luke Likes Lights

Posted in Kids on December 4th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thought I would post a quick little update about our youngest child who is growing so quickly that I don’t know if we can call him our “new addition” any longer!  Luke James is almost 2 months old, and among his likes are being held, listening to music, and looking at lights.  He’s been especially impressed by the colorful lights on the Christmas tree.  These things are common favorites among many almost-2-month-olds, but Luke is a very special baby – he has been able to hold his head up for a few weeks and is extremely alert for a baby his age.  His VERY FAVORITE thing to do in the whole world is to be held like this while his little hands open and close and his eyes bulge as he takes in the world around him:

Luke doesn’t sleep well at night, but we aren’t really surprised because none of our 5 kids were very good sleepers as babies.  But Luke doesn’t sleep much during the day, either – he takes about one good nap per day about 3-4 days per week.  And by “good nap” I mean him sleeping for over an hour without waking up.  Actually, I thought of the perfect way to describe Luke the other day: he is an intense baby.  He wants what he wants when he wants it, and he’s not shy about asking.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that he is a disagreeable baby, and he is very smiley.  He’s just very demanding, and since he is always awake…  well, you can understand why my free time is down to almost none and the blog posts from me remain infrequent.  Especially because he demands to have 100% of the available attention, whether it’s eye contact while playing with him or using both hands to feed him – he is not a fan of a multi-tasking parent.

He’s already able to play – he loves looking into the eyes of people who play with him, and he especially likes to exchange baby talk with “goo” being his favorite word.  He loves when his sisters and brother play with him, but it’s hard to tell if he has a favorite yet.  Christopher is 3 and Luke’s only brother, but he doesn’t play with him often – it seems like Christopher is afraid of hurting Luke, and he also seems shy about talking to him or playing with him.  Disney likes to hold Luke (she’s 5), but she loses interest in a matter of minutes.  Taylor is almost 12, and she enjoys Luke’s cuteness, but she is too busy with a life of her own to spend a lot of time with her baby brother.  Sammie stands out as the remarkable sibling.  7-year-old Sammie just adores her baby brother; she’s always asking to hold him, and she doesn’t soon grow tired of it.  She plays with Luke, asks how he’s doing, expresses interest in his activities, misses him when she’s gone, and loves seeing cute pictures of him.  I’m looking forward to watching their special bond strengthen even further as they grow up together.  His brother and sisters love their baby brother in their own ways, and any time Luke does something new, he is crowded by an admiring entourage that can rival that of most celebrities.

Luke also really likes baths.  He smiles like crazy the whole time he’s in the bath; he’ll even throw out a couple of “goo”s and “gaa”s and doesn’t seem to notice that he sounds different when his ears are under water.

Luke is also the tie-breaker in our family – we have 3 brown-eyed people and 3 blue-eyed people.  Two months old is too early to tell what color a baby’s eyes will be, so right now we don’t know which “side” will win.  It’s interesting also that our 2 blue-eyed kids are left-handed while our 2 brown-eyed kids are right-handed.  Will Luke be a tie-breaker in only the eye color category or will he break the mold and be a blue-eyed righty or a brown-eyed lefty?

Even with his intensity, Luke is a wonderful baby and it’s been nothing but a pleasure so far to get to know him as his personality develops – I wouldn’t change any part of him or anything about him, no matter how far behind on stay-at-home-mommy-work I am!  Here he is wearing the adorable camouflage hoodie someone got him – it’s so cute!  And here’s an interesting bit of culture clash for you – where I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Luke would wear this and we’d be trendy.  Here in the woods of rural Northwest Ohio, I put the camo hoodie on Luke, and we heard no fewer than FIVE comments about hunting and him being a little woodsman  🙂

Luke James

Posted in Everyday Life, Kids on October 11th, 2011 and tagged , , , , ,

Our 5th bundle of joy arrived on October 7, 2011.  His name is Luke James, and he was born at exactly 8 am, weighed 7 lbs 11 oz and was 19.5 inches long.  He is healthy and a very happy easy-going baby.  He seems to have his days and nights mixed up though, which I suspected based on his movements when he was still in the womb.  We are enjoying him immensely, and so are his 3 sisters and his brother.  I am recovering from the c-section pretty well, and I will write more about Luke’s first days at home when it doesn’t hurt to sit in a chair for longer than 10 minutes.  I would love to put up a hundred pictures of gorgeous little Luke, but my bunny chewed my camera cord, and I can’t get any pictures off my camera.  I hope to have this situation remedied soon, but I depend on Hubby for all my tech-related needs, and Hubby is exhausted staying up with the baby at night, taking care of me and the kids during the day while also keeping up with his responsibilities at both of his jobs.  It just seems mean and commanding of me to place more demands on him now, so I will have to somehow be patient about the picture taking and sharing.  I wonder how long I can last; Luke is one of the cutest babies I’ve ever seen!!!

**UPDATE**

Hubby devised a way to transfer my pictures using my ebook reader – genius!  So anyway, here is a picture of swaddled Luke at 1 day old:

Highlights From A Beth Moore Bible Study

Posted in church on June 20th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the activities that’s been keeping me so busy lately is the Beth Moore Bible study I’m attending on Mondays, called Jesus The One and Only.  It’s great; I’m learning a lot, getting to know other women from my church, and it gets me and the kids out of the house for a few hours every Monday morning.  The kids can blow off some steam while I go through the workbook with my small group and watch the dvd.  A fun class, but there is a side effect of all the learning: homework.  Our workbook is divided into weekly sessions, and there are 5 days of homework for every week’s lesson.  Each day has about 4-5 pages of homework that involves creative thinking and looking up passages in the Bible, contemplating them, comparing them, and answering thought-provoking questions.  Time-wise, it’s intense, especially for this pregnant mother of 4.  This is the 3rd week of class, and so far I’ve been able to get all my homework finished on time and am really enjoying it.  I struggled a bit at first with the stress of trying to find those extra hour 5 days a week that I was sure I didn’t have, but I’m managing and reaping the rewards.  Before I begin today’s homework, I thought I’d share some things that I’ve highlighted in my workbook.

Before I do that, however, I will recap in a nutshell what the study itself is all about: Jesus.  We began our discussions talking about Mary, and Beth Moore is really great at delving more deeply into things and encouraging the student to give more thought.  We talked about what Mary might have been like as a young Jewish woman (Mary was probably around 13 or 14 when  she was told she was about to carry the Lord’s child  – did you know she was that young?  I didn’t!), and we talked about her pregnancy (of particular interest to me right now), her thoughts and feelings, her journey to see her cousin Elizabeth, and then we moved on to talking about Jesus himself.  We talked about him as a baby, a child, and about how he was led into the desert, all while relating it to our own lives.  Some of Beth Moore’s statements that stuck out to me in the workbook are:

God seems to love little more than stunning the humble with His awesome intervention.

Seasons of intense temptation are not indications of God’s displeasure.

God emphasized that the road to redemption would be costly and confrontational.

Luke was the only Gentile God inspired to write a Gospel.

God allows circumstances to exist in our lives that drive us to dependency on Him.

God is far too faithful to let anyone make it through life without confronting seasons of utter helplessness.

The good news Christ may want to preach to you today is that you don’t have to subsist.  You  were meant to thrive.

I’m quite sure if my healing process had been painless, I would have relapsed.

Many people sincerely love God, but I don’t think anyone stands to appreciate the unfailing love of God like the believer finally set free from failure.

Easter 2011

Posted in holidays on May 1st, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Easter is definitely a favorite holiday of mine.  Can’t be THE favorite because nothing beats Christmas, but it’s proven to be even better than Halloween these days.  No matter how you celebrate Easter, there is always lots to do this time of year, and I think our family found the perfect balance between celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the traditional kids’ stuff like Easter eggs and bunnies.

Every year, our community has an Easter egg hunt, and my kids always love it.  My oldest is now too old to participate, but I was proud that she chose to come along with us and that she was a HUGE help with the little ones.  Our community’s Easter egg hunt is more of a candy scramble now.  They used to have it in the park, and the volunteer teens from the high school would hide the candy all around the park, but they got tired of having to move the event indoors at the last minute because of inclement weather.  With Easter being in April, you just can’t guarantee a sunny, dry, Saturday morning without muddy ground in which to hide the Easter surprises.  So now they have it in the middle school gym, and while they can’t exactly hide the candy, the kids seem to love it all the same.  If the kids find a piece of candy with a colored dot on it, then they win an extra prize, and 2 of my 3 kids did just that – those of you who know our family can guess who was the one with the (as always) bad luck  – poor kid.

At church the following day, we had two special guests join us – one friend who doesn’t go to church but began to come after falling on hard times in his life, and a new friend who is also going through tough times and looking to switch churches.  I’m so happy to report that New Friend now calls our church her church home – she and her kids really like it!  Also, Friend #1 has been coming to church every week since!  God is amazing!

Monday, we were invited by some friends to attend “The Living Last Supper”, a show near Fort Wayne Indiana staged solely for God’s glory – to depict the last days and the death and Resurrection of Jesus.  It was an awesome, powerful show; one I strongly recommend.  This will be an annual tradition for our family for sure!  Especially since all 4 of our children were moved by the performance, and we didn’t even need to use the child care!

Friday saw the annual kid-friendly tradition of egg coloring, and I think this was really the first year we’ve done egg coloring with a little BOY in the house.  Our son is 2, and what a difference there was between his rowdy excited way of dropping the eggs into the colors versus his sisters’ delicate quest for prettiness in their egg designs.  Our son barreled through his allotment of eggs so quickly that his sisters were still working on theirs when he was done, and this is what happened:

After dinner, our family sat down in a circle to do another one of our favorite Easter traditions: Resurrection Eggs.  It’s a set that was given to us by my sister last year, and I have to remember to tell her how much we enjoy doing this every year.  We even lent our set to some friends this year for them to enjoy!  It comes with a booklet, and we take turns reading the little paragraphs that tell the story of Jesus’ death.  The booklet asks questions and gives you places to pause,  and you open each of the 12 eggs when prompted.  Each of the different colored eggs contains a little something that represents the part of the story that was just read, and we have kids take turns opening eggs.  It’s a wonderful way to combine the eggs aspect and the spiritual meaning of Easter into a fun-filled educational family activity, and we love it!

Saturday morning the kids got a nice surprise – the Easter Bunny had visited early and hidden their gorgeous eggs!  I think the Easter Bunny thought it would be too much for us to search for eggs while trying to get to church on time Sunday morning, and he was right 🙂  Oh, here’s a pic of the kids with their eggs; Dude is still recovering from his egg coloring tantrum:

After the egg hunting , we attended a fun Easter event at the community theater up the street, and the weather actually cooperated.  There were Easter egg hunts, games, lunch, and plenty of prizes for everyone, and the kids had a blast.  We returned home and made a last minute decision to check out another Easter drama at a friends’ church.

It seems that the Easter Bunny made another visit to our house on Saturday night since Sunday morning the kids woke up to a laundry basket for each of them full of surprises.  We went to church, and I enjoyed a whopping class size of 13 first-graders to teach!  Problem was, all of their jacked-up-on-candy brains could only think about the other aspects of Easter, and we had difficulty doing some of our planned activities.  It’s often difficult to accomplish much when I have a class of that size anyhow, so I took it in stride and we went to the gym early to run around and burn off some of that sugar!  At adult worship, we were blessed to see enough friends join us so that our group filled up an entire row!  It’s not about quantity, but it was amazing to see some friends there who don’t regularly go to church and some whom we’ve been inviting for years and haven’t come until now.  I am so excited to see what God is doing in the lives of those I care about!!!

We went out to brunch, took a family nap, and then we took the kids to the movies.  No, we didn’t see Hop, which might have made sense for Easter, but our older kids have already seen it.  So we took in Rio, which is a cute family movie about a couple of rare parrots – fitting for our family since we reside with a jerky parrot of our own, and we had fun.

Overall, one of the best Easter seasons ever; actually, this season just keeps getting better and better every year, especially as I become aware of what the season is all about and how to really celebrate it.  I am truly blessed!

So a belated happy Easter to everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and have many more to come!  Celebrate Easter, celebrate Jesus, celebrate love, celebrate family – Easter is great & we have God to thank!

A Christmas Blessing

Posted in holidays on December 25th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Speaking of family outings, we found a fun place weekends ago in Fort Wayne Indiana  – it’s an indoor ice skating place, and they have THREE ice rinks!  But we didn’t have time to try ice skating; our family was more interested in the bouncy castles.  At $5 /  head from 1-4pm, it wasn’t a bad deal.  The only problem was that they had the bouncy castles in the ice arena area, and it was freezing in there!  The kids were ok, but we weren’t able to stay as long as we wanted, plus they were all frozen by the time we left.  If they had just noted their arrangement on their website, we could have dressed for the occasion, but that’s ok, it was still fun.  After that, we had a delicious dinner at Golden Corral – YUM!

But something strange happened there – I was waiting for a man to finish at the buffet, and he apologized for taking so long (he wasn’t) and then handed me a “Christmas blessing” on a folded up piece of paper.  He was vague in the details; just mentioning ‘Christmas Blessing’, so I opened up the paper, and it was a copy of a newspaper article about the man’s family – mainly his elderly mother.  Looking at the picture in the article told me that the man who gave it to me was Raymond, whom you’ll read about below.  Although the article was from 1996, he mentioned that he was with his mother that day at the restaurant – she is doing well here in 2010, 14 years later!  I find the family’s story inspirational, and I thought I’d help the man spread his family’s touching story – the story featuring his mother’s boundless faith and he and his father finding Christ.  Below is a copy of the article he gave me; I hope you find it inspirational reading on this very special holiday.  Merry Christmas!

‘She taught us by what she did’

Thanksgiving this year had a special glow for Arlene Berger, 74, and her family.
They gathered for the holiday meal in the new house the Flushing Township resident, severely brain-damaged in a 1994 traffic accident, shares with one of her sons, his wife, and two children.
Her house was built with funds from her accident settlement and her family is determined life will be as meaningful as possible for the woman left with physical as well as mental impairment.
Her progress has been awesome, as has been the help she’s received from others, according to two of her five children.

Raymond, 47, the eldest of her four sons, and David, 32, the youngest, this week recounted details of their mother’s accident and her life of righteousness.

With 15 years separating them, they hold different views of how their mother’s faith affected them.

“I used to mock her; my other brothers did,” Raymond said of his youth in Flint.

David said, “She was the most giving person, many of us thought to a fault.  I remember a couple of times she didn’t know how she was going to pay her bills, and when I asked her about how she had spent her money, she had given some to this person, some to that one.”

Raymond concurred, “We thought she was being used.  We told her there ain’t no God and to quit giving everything away.  But we weren’t thinking like she was.”

Their Bible-reading Baptist mother was living up to the passage:”Give, and it shall be given to  you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Now she’s on the receiving end.” said David.  “Because of the way she was before the accident, people want to do for her.”

Church members are showing up to care for her to  a degree  the family never could have imagined.

“She gave everything away her whole life, and now her kids all want her to have an enjoyable life,” David said.

It was not just her older sons who derided her faith.

Raymond, a Flint truck plant employee, recalls his late father chasing ministers away from the door.

“He had been anti-religious.  He worked and he drank.  I didn’t really know him until I was old enough to drink, old enough to go to the bars,” Raymond said.

In 1981, their father had a massive heart attack.  His wife’s church prayed for him, and he survived to embrace salvation.

He lived the last two years of his life a Christian.

Raymond said he also has been saved, and has seen the difference faith has made in his life.”That was a miracle,” he said.  “I never thought I’d see my dad in a church.  I never thought I’d see myself in a church.”

David, on the other hand, attended John R. Rice Baptist Academy in Davison and went on to graduate from a bible college.  He teaches at Bridgeport Baptist Academy during the day and works at Delphi Saginaw Steering Systems at night.

He was the assistant pastor at Landmark Baptist Church, where his mother was headed Feb.24, 1994, when her car was hit in the driver’s side by a Jeep Cherokee whose driver had run a red light, he said.  He was notified that his mother had been taken to Hurley Medical Center, where she was in critical condition.

She underwent two emergency surgeries in short order.

A CAT scan showed 11 brain hemorrhages and blood on her brain stem, he said.

“She was in a coma the whole time,” David said.  “After three months, the doctors told us she might not ever come out of it because of her age and the length of time since the accident.”

Her children were told of the probability that she would never be able to walk, talk, or feed herself.

“Well, you ain’t God,” Raymond told them.

After three-and-a-half months at Hurley, she was moved to Riverbend Nursing Center in Grand Blanc, where she stunned David by allowing nurses to walk her in ” baby steps” the first day.

She progressed out of the coma.  Raymond rememberedd first noticing her fingers tapping to the inspirational music tapes her family supplied.

Raymond and David recall the times she responded with an “I love you, too” to each of them.

Arlene Berger received three months of therapy at Riverbend before transferring to McLaren Regional Medical Center to build skills she would need for living at home.

His brothers and sister back David up in caring for their mother, who lost her left eye and use of her left hand in the accident and now has an erratically functioning mind with an IQ of 90.

“A lot of people live for themselves, don’t do for their kids.  And then the kids don’t do for them,” David said.  “She taught us by what she did.”

Zoo Snoozin’ – Part 2 – And Then Some

Posted in Everyday Life on May 6th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , ,

Bright and early at 7am last Friday at the Toledo Zoo, we were gently awakened by one of our guides (or not-so-gently awakened at 5am by the screaming parrots if you were in the Michigan group sleeping in Nature’s Neighborhood) after hitting the pillows at 1am just hours earlier.  No problem, what better motivation could I have to get out of bed than already being IN the zoo?  We got dressed and packed up our gear and headed to the Carnivore Cafe for a generous breakfast of bagels, cereal, yogurt, applesauce, juice, and coffee (thank goodness for that, and I chugged two cups for fuel).  Oh yeah, if you’re not a regular reader and  happened upon this post unintentionally, then you probably don’t know that I’m talking about the Zoo Snooze my daughters and I went to last week –  see installment one here.

After breakfast, we headed over to the gorilla exhibit, but we got stopped halfway there because there was mis-communication – we were supposed to be at the primate exhibit instead.  So we did an about-face, and headed over to the primates to watch them play with our tubes we had made the night before.  THEN we headed over to the gorilla exhibit, and we had to take the long way since they were re-doing the sidewalk between the primate and gorilla exhibits.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Toledo Zoo, there is A LOT of walking.  Not as much walking between exhibits as other zoos, such as Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, but still a lot of walking.  As frequent visitors to the Toledo Zoo, we’ve found ways of cutting down the mileage, especially when pushing the double stroller.  But on the second day of the Zoo Snooze, we were all over the place.  And I loved it.  It was a nice day.  My kids were tired, but I was rarin’ to go, so I didn’t even mind any of the detours.  So  we watched the gorillas play and tussle over their enrichment treats, and we listened to the gorilla keeper tell us about their personalities.  The gorilla troupe of Toledo holds a special place in my heart – their silverback (male gorilla leader) Kwisha, was born at Brookfield Zoo in 1988 – right about the time when I was a frequent visitor there as a child.  I remember ogling the gorillas and especially the babies in the (then) new Tropic World exhibit, and it’s quite probable that I admired Kwisha (who is the youngest and last son of Samson, a famous Brookfield silverback) way back when he was a gorilla tot.

After the gorillas, we had to walk across the zoo to the elephant exhibit (the long way, remember, because of the construction) to watch Louie play with  our enrichment treats.  Louie is the zoo’s baby elephant – well, not so much anymore…  he was celebrating his 7th birthday last week when we were there.  I have a video of Louie popping our treat bags into his mouth – whole thing, bag and all without even opening it – but I put that in my previous post, so refer to the link above if you’d like to see it.  And then it was time for the Zoo Snooze to end, and the gates to open and let the real visitors come into  the zoo.

So we hiked back to the car, and we got many a strange look from regular zoo-goers who were wondering why we were carrying sleeping bags and backpacks and pillows.  We stashed our stuff and spent some time in the gift shop, which is not normally something I do on zoo trips, but it was a nice change of pace.  Besides, I was missing my little ones so much, and I had that zoo membership card burning a hole in my pocket – I just had to buy them something.  At this point, it was starting to get rather warm outside, and my kids were exhausted.  The rest of the group was going quite well, but my kids kept asking if we had to go back into the zoo.  Keep in mind that we come often, so they were old hats at the zoo who were extremely tired.  I patiently explained that we were going to do whatever the people who we were riding with were going to do, and that was that.  As it was though, everyone was exhausted and the people we rode with seemed to be asking us for permission to not go back into the zoo.  FINE with us!  I explained – not because I had had enough of the zoo – that would never happen, no matter how little sleep I’d had…  but I wanted to  be on their schedule, plus I had the potential for two very tired and crabby kids on my hands AND a trip to Illinois scheduled for the next day.  We ended up staying on the side of the zoo where our car was parked (Toledo Zoo straddles the Anthony Wayne Trail – a major thoroughfare, and the zoo has a walkway above it.  But it requires a lot of walking to get from side to side, and most of the exhibits are located on the opposite side of the parking lot), so stayed on the one side and still got to see the Polar Bears, Wolves (who were passed out because of the heat), giraffes, and zebras.  And then it was time to go.

During the entire Zoo Snooze, I had planned on  napping the whole way home, but I found myself having an intriguing conversation with our drivers instead.  We arrived home about 5pm, and I unpacked and then I re-packed for the trip to Illinois the next day and made up some lost time with my little ones.  By the end of the night, I was seeing things and not making much sense because I was so tired, but it was well worth it!

We awoke bright and early Saturday morning and left at 8am headed for Chicago, and wouldn’t you know it – a traffic snarl.  It was too early for the kids to nap, and they were awesome in the car – at least until  we hit stop and go traffic just outside the Loop.  An hour and 4 miles later (yes, you read that right – it took us an hour to go four miles!), we discovered the reason for our delay –  a bridge had begun to crumble, so  they had to close down 2 lanes to repair it, which left all the traffic to merge into ONE lane.  Ah, Chicago traffic, don’t you love it?  NOT!!!

The kids were pretty great during all of this, as was I for running on fumes – I think I was still high off my Zoo Snooze.  They did start to lose it a little, but luckily I had some powdered donuts packed, so between those and the Veggie Tales dvds I put into the car’s player, we managed to not kill each other.  We arrived at my mother-in-law’s house 55 minutes late, even after Jill the GPS had predicted us getting there an hour early all morning.  This would have been fine, except that my mother-in-law had previous plans, so we got to see her for a whopping 15-minute-hi-goodbye-here’s-this-here’s-that-I-love-you-hug-kiss-goodbye session while my husband’s sister and brother-in-law managed to avoid us completely…  long story, there’s bad blood there, but I thought we were over it by now.  Guess not.  Whatever.  We moved on to a local Chicago beef place (NOTE to non-Chicagoans – just because you call it Chicago Beef, a French Dip IS NOT CHICAGO BEEF no matter how hard you try!!)  where we shared great food and even better conversation with a friend from way back, Derek – SO glad he called us and that the traffic jam didn’t ruin this part of our trip!

Our next stop was my Grandpa’s nursing home, and that was awesome.  It’s pretty much on the way from my husband’s family’s house to my family’s house, and I wouldn’t dream of going to Illinois without seeing him, especially since my grandparents do not travel and have never been to our home in Ohio.  Going to Hellinois Illinois is the only way I can see them and so every time I’m in the area, I make sure to stop by and let our kids have a  visit with their great-grandparents.  My little boy, who will be 2 in July, had a special buddy in my grandmother; it was really sweet, and I don’t even know why.  But we were there for over an hour, and the whole time, he kept saying “Grandma!  Grandma!”  making sure that she was doing everything right along side him.  My grandpa made me a bet – will the Chicago Cubs (my team – he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan) or the Chicago Bears (a football team, also a favorite of his and my husband’s, for that matter) win their respective championship first –  World Series or Superbowl?  Stay tuned to find out…  😉

Next it was on to my sister’s house, where there was a birthday party for my nephews who both have April birthdays -they turned 2 and 7 this year.  It was a great party; a wonderful chance to see family; immediate and also my sister’s in-laws who are very nice and interesting people to chat with.  My sister’s nephew is my oldest daughter’s age (10), and he has been interested in the weather since he was about 3 years old.  His hero is Tom Skilling, a local Chicago WGN weatherman, one whom I’ve always liked also.  Tom always teaches about the weather and its systems and patterns rather than just simply forecasting it.  But anyway, my sister’s nephew has his own weekly weather newsletter that  he writes and send electronically himself, so I put myself on his mailing list.  When I got the newsletter this week, I was impressed – just as I was when talking to the little guy and being dwarfed by his weather knowledge.  As is usual, my kids had such a wonderful time with their cousins that they hid when it was time to leave, and we had to dig them out, this time out from under my sister’s bed.  I’m done with being embarrassed about this; especially since my sister dug up some memories of us hiding from our parents while playing with our cousins!  I don’t remember this, but I’ll take her word for it…

Anyway, time got away from us, and we left my sister’s house at 9pm –  which was 10pm Ohio time.  Arrived home at 2:30 in the morning and had two crazy dogs and some kids to  put to bed, and we begrudgingly gave up our church dreams for Sunday.  But lo and behold,  we were all up and ready for church on Sunday, so we went, and almost one busy week later, I’m still catching up on sleep as I write this, no surprise there.  But thanks for reading my rambling, and may this Mother’s Day find you blessed, happy, and healthy – hope you have a good one!!

A Not-So-Cynical Look At The 2009 Holiday Season

Posted in holidays on December 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was thinking about our family’s 2009 holiday season, now come and almost gone already, and I was envisioning words to describe this wonderful season, despite the fact that this year ours was peppered with unpleasant familial dramatics.  But about a week ago, I made what was a conscious decision to pull myself up from the depths of despair I had fallen into after losing a beloved family member just one week before Christmas.  So, in my good humor, I chose 24 of the best words to describe my holiday season, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  Here goes…

Avatar – Saw it and actually liked it, despite my typical sci-fi reluctance.  But I liked Avatar so much that I’m really hoping the timing and budget work out so that I can see it again in 3D at a more technologically savvy theater.

Big Family Christmas – We traveled to Illinois on Christmas Day and got to take part in a huge gathering of my husband’s large extended family.  His 92-year-old grandmother, who speaks with a thick east-coast Connecticut accent (and who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day from age 16 until age 70!) told many of her infamous stories that had everyone in stitches!  After hearing one of Monie’s stories, I could have used the words Blue Boob for B, but I will spare you those details…  😉

Christ Was Born – We went to a beautiful church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate and reflect upon the entire purpose of the Christmas holiday.

De…  There are two words that come to mind for this letter based upon certain recent events in my life, but I’m not going to go there; this is to be “A Not-So-Cynical Look…” blog post.  So here, D will stand for Dumbledore, since I’m almost halfway through my first Harry Potter book and lovin’ it!

Elf – My favorite holiday movie, and we actually had time to watch it this year!  It, unlike a few other favorite Christmas experiences, did not lose any magic this year.  I still felt that warm and fuzzy “Christmas Magic” feeling after I watched this movie – I’d pull it out more often, but it’s not the same unless it’s Christmas! 
“I love smiling; smiling’s my favorite!!”  – Buddy The Elf

Friends – We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends, and I can’t thank them enough for the things they did and just for being there during this bittersweet time.

Grandparents –  We were able to visit 3 of our grandparents this holiday season!  Even being in our 30’s, we have 3 surviving grandparents among my husband and I –  we were blessed to be able to spend time with all of them this year!

Homemade spaghetti – Best.  Christmas.  Gift.  EVER!!  My mother-in-law sent us home 4 huge frozen batches of her out-of-this-world spaghetti sauce!  AND a large bag of grated Asiago cheese.  AND…  something I’ll save for another letter…

Ice – Drove through plenty of it to reach IL and get back to Ohio on Christmas day.  Luckily, traffic was light and travel for us was smooth and safe.  The kids were good as gold and slept for the majority of both drives.

Jill – Screwed us over again!  This little story begins with Walmart.  Since this is “A Not-So-Cynical Look…”, I won’t go off about Walmart, but I will simply state the facts:  the pump in our windshield wiper cleaner fluid dispenser stopped working after the last time we got an oil change at Walmart.  We didn’t really need it until Christmas night, when we were driving past the city of Chicago, and apparently smog + snow = some sort of disgusting pollution paste.  So visibility is limited, and we still don’t know exactly what happened since we’ve driven this route dozens of times, but basically the express lanes on I-90 seemed to suddenly dissolve into city streets.  So now it’s 10:30 on Christmas night, and we’re wandering around in the city.  We can’t see out the back of the car since there’s tons of Christmas presents, and we can’t see out of the front of the car because of the pollution paste.  This is where Jill comes in – and she directs us straight back to I-90.  Only problem is, our van can’t just jump guardrails; we needed an entrance ramp, and Jill was only directing us to streets that crossed over the expressway and didn’t actually intersect with it.  So we crossed bridge after bridge, and we criss-crossed I-90 until one of those streets had an entrance ramp.  Then Jill freaked out and tried to get us off of the expressway again, but she got her power button pressed – we knew our way from there.

Kalachkies – I have a fun memory of a Christmas years ago when my forgetful Polish grandmother was sitting in her wheelchair, instructing my equally Polish uncle and myself how to make kalachkies, a usually delicious Polish cookie.  The end results were inedible and referred to as “hockey pucks”.  This year at Christmas, my husband’s cousin made homemade kalachkies – real ones, no hockey pucks, and they were delicious!  Thanks Lilly!

Late night drive – One night, we took the kids out in the car in their pajamas with some snacks, and we drove through the snowy countryside to a town  about 30 minutes away for a drive-thru lighted display that’s just wonderful.  Late night drive could also refer to my husband’s and my peaceful drive home (after the unscheduled tour of the city) while the kids were asleep all the way from Illinois to Ohio – nice.

Mashed Potatoes – My mother-in-law is a great cook!  I guess it’s been  awhile since the last time I had her mashed potatoes, because I  didn’t remember how they tasted.  But I told her the truth after Christmas dinner – they were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had!

Noodles – My mother-in-law’s spaghetti sauce also came with EIGHT pounds of whole wheat gourmet organic pasta!  I love whole wheat pasta – it actually tastes better, and you don’t get the pasta-stomachache / horrible stuffed feeling that can accompany pasta over-indulgence.

Onions – One of my favorite holiday dishes is creamed onions, and it was a nice surprise to see this dish on the Christmas buffet.  Fortunately for me, my husband can replicate the taste of his mother’s creamed onions –  yum!

P.A.S. – Pompous Ass Syndrome – my poor brother-in-law is a victim.  Enough Said.

Quiet – With 4 kids and Christmas celebrations spread out over 2 weeks, there really wasn’t much of this.

Revenge – My brother and sister-in-law gifted our kids 3 little gumball machines.  Cute, but not when you realize how many gumballs needed to be pried out of our candy-obsessed toddler’s little hands, for one thing.  Who would give little kids gumball machine gifts?  Wait, isn’t that what we got her 3 kids last year?!?  I’m all for re-gifting; I really think it’s a smart thing to do.  But maybe next year I’ll choose our Christmas gifts more carefully…

Snow – It’s been snowing on and off for a week and a half here in Ohio.  The Chicago area was unexpectedly blanketed with about a foot of snow on Saturday – thank goodness we left for Ohio on Friday night!

Turkey – We ate it and it was good.

U-Turn – see “J” – Jill the GPS.  Besides the time we were lost in Chicago, Jill caused us to make at least one other U-turn on this trip.

Vile – Odor in Gary Indiana – I don’t care what the Music Man had to say – Gary Indiana STINKS!  Literally!!!

Weather  – I was worried about it all week, but thankfully, it didn’t impede our journey in the slightest.

X-changing gifts –  Ok, that’s too generic?  What else could X stand for, the rating of Monie’s Blue Boob story?  We x-changed gifts many gifts, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Yellow Puppy – When our friends heard about our family’s heartbreak, they gifted us a gigantic (stuffed) dog.  This cute puppy’s headband wouldn’t even fit on my head, and she wears a sweater that could probably fit me – or at least all 4 of my kids in it together…  so cute and so thoughtful, and the kids LOVE her!

Zoo lights – With everything that was going on during this December, I’m so thankful that we were able to make it to  one of our favorite Christmas destinations this year –   the Toledo Zoo for their Lights Before Christmas displays.  Beautiful lights in a peaceful atmosphere, and if you get there early enough, you can see some zoo animals, which is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole world!

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a great New Year!!!

An Old Friend, A New Perspective…

Posted in Everyday Life on August 17th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago, we learned a friend from way back was going to be in the area on his way from Illinois to Florida with his family, so he came by and brought the fam.  That in itself was very unusual – after 10 years of friendship and various business associations and partnerships, we had somehow never gotten around to meeting his family in person.

But on this day earlier this summer, they all stopped in, and his wife and two kids (the oldest was off on some kind of school function) were really very nice, fun, and interesting people – we had a great day together.  Their kids, although quite a bit older than my kids, were nonetheless kept entertained by my kids, especially their pet rats.  Overall, it was a great visit with a nice family –  we really should have gotten together sooner!

And I have some advice for our friend: appreciate what you have, buddy.

I don’t know why he does some of the things he does, but he sometimes acts, um, I’ll call it restless, and now that I know how awesome his wife and kids are, it’s going to be that much more difficult for me if I continue to hear about any more dumb choices on his part.  He seems to be going through some sort of mid-life crisis, so I can only hope that he finds what it is he’s looking for without hurting those wonderful people who love him!