Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photo Booth Mayhem

The boys and I were having so much fun with this feature on the mac! I was laughing so hard I almost threw up! I guess it's a good thing it doesn't take much to entertain us!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Kayaking

Today we were lucky enough to find ourselves invited to an afternoon on Mary's pontoon boat. The day wasn't completely cooperating with our plans, giving us a freakishly unseasonal 70 degree temp and clouds threatening rain, but we're tough and we really, really wanted to go for a boat ride.

The kids had a blast, as usual, and Aaron spent the majority of his time in the kayak, paddling around. He's perfecting the art of eating a chocolate muffin while kayaking and if it ever becomes an olympic event, he's destined for gold.

The heartwarming moment of the day came when both of my kids squeezed into the one-person craft and paddled around as though they were best friends. And then I was convinced to give it a whirl - what a blast! Mary and I now have plans to do some paddling of our own as soon as the kids start school. A little paddling, a stop for a cocktail, a little more paddling...sounds like the perfect afternoon to me!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Trip to The HOT Windy City

We finally managed to get our kids to downtown Chicago for a mini-vacation. We travel to the suburbs a couple times a year to visit family but we've never had time to take the boys to see any of the cool places downtown. Steve found himself with a week off while waiting for his next contract so in a sort of "spur of the moment" whirlwind, we plotted our course, made our reservations, purchased our tickets, kenneled the dog, and (whew!) we were off!

Obviously, there are so many things to do in Chicago, but we only had 2 1/2 days so we had to plan carefully. Both boys are complete science nuts, they cannot get enough of Mythbusters, so the Museum of Science and Industry was a no-brainer. We had a blast! Tornados, explosions, creepy underground coal mines, fun mind games and a gigantic model train exhibit - it doesn't get much more fun than that! We spent about 6 hours at the museum, they practically had to kick us out at closing time, drove to our hotel, found a yummy place to have dinner and then fell into our beds, completely exhausted.

Day two was a trip to
the Shedd Aquarium located about 2 miles from our hotel, with a lovely lakefront sidewalk to travel there on foot. There was quite a bit of whining coming from our 8 year old, but even in the 90+ degree heat, we managed to get there, wilted but excited. The fish were amazing, especially the coral reef exhibit in the lower level...I could have spent all day down there watching the sharks, starfish and the other colorful creatures from the deep. Aaron loved the Beluga Whales, Evan's favorite was the Puffer Fish. At closing time we headed to the nearest water taxi - we were NOT going to survive the walk back to the hotel! The "Blue Dog" took us on a quick trip across the water to Navy Pier, where we spent time enjoying cold cocktails (italian ice for the boys), experienced Evan's first ferris wheel ride and then wilted some more in the 102 degree heat. Did I mention that it was HOT!!!!! A dinner at Gino's East Pizza (Super Yum!) and a nice walk back to the hotel made for the perfect ending to another great day.

Aaron was not going to leave Chicago without a trip to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), so Day three began with car trip across town. We had been warned of the potential for very long lines to ride to the top but I'm happy to say luck was on our side and we practically waltzed right in. I have a really serious fear of elevators, but the trip to the 103rd floor only took about 60 seconds, not even enough time for me to break into a sweat. The big deal about a trip to Willis Tower for Aaron is the opportunity to step out onto the "clear floor" platform they have installed that allows visitors to sort of experience what it might be like to take a step off the edge of the 103rd floor. I actually had no intention of stepping near that thing, but once I was up there I had to try it. Stepping out there really goes against every instinct of self-preservation your body has, I've never had an experience like that in my life. I did not spend more than 60 seconds out there, but I did look down and I did survive without needing to change my undies!

Our trip home included a stop to see our newest family member, my great-nephew Stuart. He's only 3 months old and looks just like his daddy. So Cute!

And now we're safely home with lots of great memories (and piles of laundry). Our next scheduled adventure is the first day of school in a couple weeks. HOORAY!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Farmers Market

We are so fortunate to live in a community that provides such a wide variety of wonderful opportunities during the summer months. The lakes, beaches, outdoor dining, the zoo and my favorite activity of all, the Madison Farmers Market.

From April to late October, you make your way around the Capitol square, spending a sunny Saturday morning taking in all the delicious smells, the breathtaking colors and the comfort that comes from purchasing locally grown produce, directly supporting the farms and families who grow them.

Our family has established a routine with stops along the way at our favorite vendors - squeaky cheese curds from Chula Vista, hot and spicy cheese bread from Stella's Bakery, donuts from the Oakhouse Bakery and bison jerky from Cherokee Bison Farm. Depending on the season, we might pick up lovely peppers and tomatoes to make homemade salsa, fresh ears of sweetcorn and maybe a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers for the house.

I love that my kids can experience the market and have contact with the friendly people who are responsible for providing all of this wonderful food. It's a great family activity for everyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is Your Mama a Llama?

My family often refers to me as "the llama". I don't remember when it started, or why, but I have been putting up with it for years. They get a huge kick out of it. Me, not so much.
Why can't I be a giraffe? The long legs would be an answer to many prayers. Instead, I'm a pack animal with mangy hair, prone to spitting when agitated.
While at the zoo this weekend, my loving family thought it would be the perfect setting for a family portrait, maybe even worthy of this year's Christmas card...
The Dodson Family, 2010