Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Guess Who's 2

Can you believe it??  

We kept his birthday low key.
We bought him this sandbox as his gift:
 It's on our back porch, in a fenced in backyard.  He's had a lot of fun out there already, but he doesn't want to be there by himself.

Grandma and Grandpa Barlow sent him a package with some goodies inside:
Mummi and Pappa sent a card with money.  We still need to figure out what to buy him with that.  Something Peep and the Big Wide World-ish, though, of course!

I bought him some strawberries (one of his favorites!):
 We had homemade pizza for dinner (another favorite!):

 And then the elementary band performed for him that night, Spencer included (playing the saxophone, middle row, 2nd person, shaggy hair):
 And then the best part...CAKE:
 So typical--perfectly happy with Spencer, but always pushing Mea away:

Happy Birthday, booger!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Big 10

Spencer turned 10 on the day of our 11th wedding anniversary.  So, of course, our anniversary took a back seat to his festivities.  

Here he is, the morning of his birthday, opening his gifts from us (a baseball bat weight, Super Mario Bros for the wii, an origami book and some origami paper (he's been really into origami recently):
 His "party" started right after school.  We learned last year that we were done with big parties.  We told him he could invite a few friends along to an activity, we'd buy dinner, and call it good.  Of course, though, he reminded us that we've been telling him for years that he could have a sleepover when he turned 10.  So that became part of the plan.  But we limited the number of kids to 3.

I found a Groupon for a place called Adventure Realm.  It has medieval themed laser tag and this thing called "MagiQuest"--the kids have wands and go on these quests to kill dragons and fight wizards and find gold.  It was about 45 minutes away with no traffic, but, of course, in Chicago on a Friday afternoon, that 45 minutes morphed into 1.5 hours.  Luckily the boys brought along the origami and I had some popcorn, so they did amazingly well on the long, unexpected drive.

Here they are after the laser tag.  I think Spencer had the highest amount of points:

 And here they are after the MagiQuest:
 They all loved it.  They were the perfect age for it, and they are really into that stuff right now, thanks to "Clash of Clans."  And it was an easy event for me;  I just sat there for the 2 hours and read a book while they ran around getting sweaty.

Then back to the house for pizza dinner, a movie, gifts, and ice cream sandwich cake.
 Luckily Spencer's 3 friends are all amazingly well behaved, so the sleepover part of it turned out to be a piece of cake, too.  I think it helped that we let Spencer have free reign of electronics on his birthday (the 1 days we allow them to do as much as they want without earning it).  They fell asleep to a movie and woke up playing Super Mario Bros on the wii.

Don't you love Spencer's friends, J's, footy pajamas??  I wish I had gotten a better picture of them:

I still can't believe I have a 10 ear old.  And that Evan and I have been married for 11 years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spring Break

Our spring break this year was super low-key.  I just wasn't up to planning day-to-day activities like I've done in years past.  Plus there were a couple of doctor's appointments, and Evan had a bunch of meetings, so the kids were kind of left to fend for themselves and be creative with their time for the first half of spring break.  We had plans for the weekend, though...

We decided that it was time to visit Erik in Springfield.  He comes up and visits us almost every month, but we hadn't been down to see him since last August.  And we decided that if we're ever going to see St. Louis while we're here in the Midwest, this was the perfect time (it's only an hour and a half from Springfield).  So we combined seeing Erik and seeing St. Louis all in one weekend.  

We headed down to Springfield on Thursday night.  Erik had work on Friday, so we went and got a dozen Mello-Cream donuts and went to Lincoln's Salem.  

Lincoln's Salem is supposed to be a re-creation of the village that Lincoln lived in for a few years before he became a politician.  They say it was there that he sort of grew into the person he would become.  In the summer time there are people in costume, acting as they did back when Lincoln lived there.  But it had just re-opened after Winter, and it was a freezing day, so there was only one worker on site.  Many of the buildings were still shut up, but there were a few open for viewing.  

We brought the stroller for Davin, but he insisted on pushing it instead of sitting in it.  And yes--he's on a leash.  We are one of those parents.  (It works wonders!)
I was a bit disappointed in the place, but the kids both said it was better than they expected.  Plus is killed the time while Erik was at work.  So win win.  

That evening when Erik got off of work we headed down to St. Louis.  But on the way there we had to stop in a little town called Carlinville.  It's a dinky little town about halfway between Springfield and St. Louis.  It has just under 6000 people and is home to Prairie Farms Dairy.  But most importantly, it was where Evan spent the first 10 years of his life.  Evan has talked about this place so much since I've known him that I thought I had a pretty clear picture of what the place was like.  I wasn't even close.  I will be the first to admit that it was better than I imagined.  First stop was his old house:
 It turned out to be in a wooded section of the town, with hills and a pond.  And there was an empty lot next door.  I imagined it in the middle of nowhere (like the rest of central Illinois).

Next stop was his old elementary school:
 Unfortunately it's no longer and elementary school.  It's now a bunch of apartments.

Then on to Nick's Pizza for dinner:
  It was actually really good pizza, which was not at all what I was expecting!  Turns out my little hometown of Laie is a lot more ghetto and run-down and pathetic than Evan's was.

Last stop was the park where Evan played all his little league baseball games.  Spencer and Evan were wanting to play catch for a while, but by the time we got to the park it was so dark we could barely see it (hence the lack of picture).  Plus the field was half under water.

It was great trip down memory lane for Evan, and it was fun for the kids and I to see the place that Evan speaks so fondly of.

After that we continued on to St. Louis.  We stayed in a hotel that night (the kids love staying in hotels!), bought our tickets to the arch online (and it's a good thing we looked, because the tickets to the arch are timed and often sell out), and then set out in the morning.  First stop:  The Donut Stop, St. Louis's famous donut shop that's in the nation's top 10 donut destinations.  We bought another dozen donuts (yes, our second dozen in 2 days)--they were amazing!!, especially their fritters.  

Then on to the arch.  They were doing a bunch of construction around the arch, so the normal parking location was closed.  So we searched around for parking, and ended up walking quite a bit, and barely made it in time for the time on our tickets, only to find out that they were running about 45 minutes behind schedule.  Gotta love that.  

On the way up to the top of the arch, we had to sit in these little pods that seat only 5 people.  It was kind of claustrophobic.  But at least there was a door with a window so you could see your progress up through the inner part of the arch. 

 I love Davin's face in this picture as he's watching where we're going:

Can you tell I'm not good at selfies??  I'm completely looking in the wrong direction:
The view from the top toward St. Louis:
Looking down at the ground below:

The view toward the Mississippi River:  

Davin was talking his head off the whole time and loving the view:

Again, bad selfie picture:

Did you know that the arch was designed by a Finnish architect??  Eero Saarinen.  It's really the only reason I had to go to St. Louis and see the it.  :)

The kids had fun rolling down the hill as I was taking pictures:

Next stop:  City Museum.  (We vacillated between going there or going to the MagicHouse, but decided on City Museum because we figured it would be a better fit for Spencer and Mea). It's hard to see from this picture, but the City Museum is basically an old warehouse that's been turned into a giant jungle gym.  Everything is recycled/upcycled, and there are nooks and crannies and places all over for the kids to go explore and climb and slide and play.  The kids had a blast.  It was the coolest museum I've ever heard of or been to.  No joke.  If we lived in St. Louis, I'd buy annual passes every year (something I never do).

The giant ball pit.  Don't you love Mea's static hair:

I didn't get too many pictures of Spencer and Mea.  They were off with Erik and Evan for most of the time, in places I couldn't access with Davin, and usually couldn't even see.  Most of the museum is designed for bigger kids, but they had a toddler corner that we discovered, so Davin had fun in a more age-appropriate setting: 

I loved this off-key piano that the kids could play:

I wish I had more pictures of the museum.  And of the kids having fun.  Even Erik had a blast!

After that we headed back to Erik's for the night and the day on Sunday.  Then back home Sunday night.

Even though the start of the week was boring for the kids, I think our weekend trip make up for it.  

Signing off with a random photo.  Davin decided one day that he wanted to fall asleep in Spencer's bed.  One of these days we'll transition him out of his crib, but I'm just not quite ready for that yet...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Random Spring Happenings and Easter

Wow, I didn't realize how behind I was on this blog.  There's so many things I haven't posted about.  And I'm still trying to figure out how to get the pictures off my phone and onto my computer (there's got to be an easy way, but I haven't figure it out yet).  That's where the pictures from our Spring Break are.  So the next few posts may be out of order chronologically, but is anyone really paying attention, anyway??  :)

The great thing about the age difference between Spencer and Davin is that there's no competition between the two.  Spencer's just thrilled to have a brother, and Davin soaks up all the attention he can get.  They share a room, and quite often Spencer just brings Davin out when they wake up and they chill on the couch together:  
It makes me happy to see them snuggling together.  

Spencer and 3 other friends from school were teamed up for the "Battle of the Books" competition.  The team is responsible for reading 20 books from a designated list in a matter of 5 or 6 months, then competing against other teams on who can answer the most questions about the books read.  Spencer and his friends of 4th graders competed in the school against other teams of 4th and 5th graders.  Quite honestly, we weren't expecting anything, but they won the school competition!!
They went on to compete in the district competition, and were neck and neck with a team from another school.  They ended up losing by 1 point, but there was some fishy activity with the other team--one of the team members was competing via Skype, and no one was monitoring what she was doing.  But Spencer and his team were watching, and there were a few times where no one on the team knew the answer, and the girl would disappear from the screen, then come back with a confident answer.  Despite all parental protests and letters, that team still won.  Not cool.  

And on to Easter:  
 We kept it low key this year.  A simple hunt in the backyard:
 And some egg-dyeing:

And, of course, Easter baskets on Easter morning.

That's it for now.  More to come when I get around to it.  :)