Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Sleepover in Kentucky

After leaving West Virginia, we headed back to Ashland, Kentucky, to put the kids to bed. The adults stayed up late chatting and drinking wine, and somehow I ended up sleeping late. When I woke up, Greg said Nick was "playing outside." I'm not used to kids being able to play unattended. It was a nice feeling. When I peeked out the door, this is what I saw.

That's a hose, not a sprinkler. I guess they were messing around with it, and one thing led to another, and pretty soon they were both soaked. Oh, and in the photo below, Henry is holding a can of sprinkles he stole from a cabinet.

Nick loved having other kids to play with. Henry did, too, though he tried to pull hair (on both the girls and the dog).

I had a major case of refrigerator envy. Look at the size of the fridge behind them. Yes, the kid is cute, and the husband ain't too bad, either. But be still, my heart. That refrigerator! Greg, if you are reading this, I'd like one of those for Christmas!

Pancakes were had by all, and they were mighty tasty.

Henry attempted to help clean up, but I don't think he was much help.

Nick loved playing with all of the little girl toys. My son is an enlightened guy who likes pretending to cook and drive Barbie around town. Of course, he also found a snorkel and instantly turned it into a machine gun. Henry, on the other hand, always impresses people with how quickly he can absolutely trash a room. He found this nice little art table and created this mess in about four seconds.

This was a really fun visit, and I'm thinking we're going to have to get together with Greg's friends more often. It was worth the drive. Neither boy wanted to leave, though they were excited to get into the new minivan. Well, Nick was excited. Henry was stuck in the wayback. That's another story, though.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An Evening in West Virginia

I'm in the middle of a series of posts about our whirlwind trip through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. On Saturday, I wrote about our acquisition of a new minivan. Yesterday, I wrote about our Ohio adventures. I left off when we crossed the border into Kentucky. We continued on to Ashland, KY, where a friend of Greg's lives with his wife and two girls. So how did we end up in West Virginia, you ask?

Well, Ashland, Kentucky, is part of a tri-state area, including Ironton, Ohio and Huntington, West Virginia. The three places are very close, and there was a classical music concert down by the river. I'd never been to West Virginia, so visiting a new state was pretty cool.

First, we had dinner at an Asian Hibachi restaurant in Huntington (before the concert). Nick sat next to our friend's daughter, who is nine, I believe. They had a great time. Nick likes older women. She helped Nick with his fortune cookie. I'm thinking that without her help, Nick would've just eaten the whole thing, fortune and all. What's supposed to happen if you eat your fortune instead of reading it?

When we arrived at the concert, we found out that it would be $15 per person, including the children. That was a bit much, but a helpful lady told us that if we just walked down a block we could listen from behind the fence. Plus, there was a park for the kids. So we stayed on the non-paying side of the fence.

The kids had a great time running around and playing on a hill by the river, listening to some classical music.

It was a really lovely night, and the view of the river was gorgeous.

Then we hit the park. Nick loved the swirly slide.

Henry was all about the swings.

After a day spent mostly in the car, this was a great way to relax. I think Saturday evening and night were my favorite part of the whole trip. Socializing with another couple was great, and it was neat how the kids all played together and didn't require much intervention. That doesn't happen often at our house.

This concludes my first visit to West Virginia.  :) We drove back a few minutes into Ohio, then back to Kentucky, and within 30 minutes we were back in Kentucky. Tomorrow I'll write about our stay in Ashland.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forty-Five Hours in Ohio

Greg and I were just adding it up, and we truly only spent forty-five hours in Ohio. I didn't take many pictures, because I was too busy kid-wrangling and dealing with all of the detritus that comes with traveling with two small children.

On Thursday, immediately after Nick's first day of preschool, we headed onto the expressway to begin our journey. Most of the day was spent traversing the fascinating state of Indiana during a big thunderstorm that seemed to go on forever. We finally crossed the border into Ohio Thursday night around 6 p.m., and after another few hours, we pulled up to the dealership.

There is a lot of paperwork involved in purchasing a new car, and there isn't much to entertain young children while said paperwork is being completed. This dealership also had special sports cars on display. Both of my boys were fascinated with the cars, but weren't allowed to even touch them. So while Greg filled out the paperwork for our new minivan, I chased little boys and wrestled them away with from the muscle cars. We were exhausted by the time we finally got back to the hotel.

The next morning, we hung around the hotel and ordered a room service breakfast. The boys made a mess playing with the garbage cans, and Henry climbed on everything in sight. I'm actually not sure why Nick was chewing on his blanket.

We stayed at the Doubletree, and were really pleased with our choice. The food was great, our room was lovely, and the pool was fun, if a little bit cold. Henry went in with his special "turtle suit" life jacket. While wearing it, he can float on his back peacefully.

Nick was a little more reticent about the water. He finally did join me in the hot tub, but he never strayed from the edge.

We spent some time visiting with Greg's Uncle Todd, too. Nick really loved him and his pool table. Uncle Todd is a bachelor and he has lots of really cool toys, just not the kind that hold up to toddler abuse. So we had to be really careful.

We left Dayton Saturday morning, but didn't cross over into Kentucky until around three in the afternoon. That's because we went through the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in southeastern Ohio. I have never been on roads like that before. It was downright scary going up and down and around the curves. Nick and Greg were calling the sudden drops in the road "ticklebumps." They didn't tickle me, they made me nauseous. The country was beautiful, though. It took so many hours because the speed limits on most of the roads were 35-45 mph. When we finally crossed over into Kentucky, I was relieved that the roads had been cut into the mountains so that they were relatively flat. Ohio was gorgeous, but I couldn't take many more "ticklebumps" at that point.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Wheels

There comes a time in every man's life when what worked before just doesn't cut it anymore. When a man reaches this very special stage in his life, change is necessary.

That time arrived for Greg last week. His 2003 Taurus bit the dust after 140,000 miles, so the search began for a new vehicle. Greg's Uncle Todd from Dayton, Ohio, knows several people who own auto dealerships, and he found a great deal for us. Our only real requirement was that whatever kind of vehicle we got had to have a third row seat and more storage.

Uncle Todd found us a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan. Yup. A minivan. Though I read some reviews on this one, and the masculine styling led it to be called a "man van." Does that make it cooler to be driving a minivan? Nick sure thinks so.

It doesn't have a lot of the super-fancy features, but it is really comfortable and gets the same gas mileage as my Chrysler Sebring. I think that's pretty good for a van that can carry seven people or four people plus all of their junk!

We drove to Dayton in Greg's old car, which was leaking three or four different fluids. The mechanic said it was safe to drive, though, so long as we periodically had the fluids topped off. Apparently, people drive cars like that for years and just keep topping off the fluids. I can tell you that once we ditched Greg's car (Uncle Todd sold it) and put our things in the minivan, traveling suddenly became much easier. More comfortable, too.

We spent over eight hours in the Taurus last Thursday, driving through a seemingly endless a rainstorm on the way to Dayton to buy the minivan. The boys kept whacking one another and stealing toys on the way down. On the way back to Illinois, though, Nick was in the second row and Henry was in the third row, or "wayback." This cut down on most of the bickering and both boys slept more. 

Tomorrow I'll write more about our four day trip, which was kind of a whirlwind tour of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.We arrived home last Sunday night after 11 p.m. School for me started Monday morning. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Date with Henry

Nick has been getting lots of attention lately, since he is a big boy who goes to school. I didn't want Henry to feel left out, though, so I took him with me for a little date. We went to the Barnes and Noble to pick out a few books.

Henry loved pulling the books from the shelves. He also followed other babies around in their strollers. For a guy who doesn't talk yet, Henry can be pretty sociable.

Once he became fixated with climbing on the furniture, though, I decided to take him across the store to the cafe. Henry picked out his own cookie.

Nick did some flirting as well in the cafe. At one point, he climbed out of his chair and walked over to the table with those teenage girls behind him. He tapped one of them on the leg, and grinned up at them with a cookie face. They oohed and ahhed over his baby cuteness. Then he threw a piece of cookie at them and tried to climb on the table. (My children can serve as birth control for other people, you see.)

Henry has always had his brother around, so these times when it's just me and him seem so quiet in comparison. I'm sure that'll change when Henry learns to talk, but for now, it was nice to concentrate on just him. 

I'd go out on a date with this guy anytime.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Day at the Beach

I started school yesterday. While I always look forward to the beginning of a new school year, I'm wishing my summer had been just a bit longer. I've been looking at my pictures from the end of summer and reminiscing. A few weeks ago, the boys and I met my dad and stepmom at Centennial Beach.

It was a cloudy day, but both boys loved the beach. Centennial Beach is a beautiful place to go, and kids love the sand and the shallow water. We've taken Nick before, but not in a long time. 

Henry played peek-a-boo with the towel. He loves games like that lately. 

It was Grandma Patty's birthday, so we had some peanut butter cookies. We figured out that Henry isn't allergic to peanut butter, because he stole one. 

I already miss these summery days. Starting yesterday, my alarm goes off every morning at a quarter to six. I'll have to remember to visit the beach more often next year, since the boys like it so much.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Veggie Fest

I'm always looking for interesting things to do with my boys on Saturdays. Greg works on Saturdays, so it's just me and Nick and Henry. On August 11th, we decided to visit Veggie Fest 2012 in Naperville.

Nick wore his new t-shirt for the occasion. It says "Give peas a chance," and I thought it was appropriate for a vegetarian festival. Now, Greg and I are decidedly not vegetarian, let alone vegan. But I figured that maybe I'd pick up some yummy recipes. Besides, both of my boys generally enjoy eating most vegetables, and I'd like to continue to encourage this positive attitude. What better way to do that than getting vegetables painted on your face?

Henry had his face painted for the very first time. We chose an ear of corn.

Henry did pretty well for his first time. It must've tickled, but Henry didn't complain. He did try to grab the paintbrush a time or two, though. Nick chose a carrot, and was pleased with the results.

In the children's tent, we watched some performers and Nick did some dancing. Yes, that is a dancing bunch of grapes. They were singing a song about not eating anything with a face.

There was a meditation tent that Nick wanted to go in really bad, but I explained to him that, "For meditation, you have to be very quiet and still." Nick wasn't into that, so we went to a different tent. We watched a cooking demonstration and tasted some yummy Indian food. Nick and Henry ate a ton of granola.

The smoothies were a big hit with all of us. We tried this yummy rice dish on top of an Indian flatbread. That was delicious. We also had some veggie kabobs, but I think they must've had some soy in the "chicken." Both of my boys (and I as well) are extremely intolerant of soy. We wouldn't make very good vegetarians, I think. The veggies and fruits we ate, though, were very well prepared. I think I might be willing to try a vegetarian meal now and then.

I would definitely visit Veggie Fest again. I think Henry and Nick both agree.

I thought this festival was interesting, fun, and a great way to learn about new foods and cultures. I have to be honest, though. When we got home later, we went with hamburgers for dinner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nick's First School Supply List

Nick starts preschool this Thursday, and man, is he excited! He's been asking us for nearly a year, "When can I go to school?" On Monday, Nick and I had a little date at the Target, where we had to shop for a whole list of school supplies.

I was surprised at how many school supplies Nick needed for three-year-old preschool. He's going into a four day, two hour program through our local school district. I shouldn't complain, though. The school told me not to worry that he isn't completely potty trained yet. (Completely? Going on the potty can happen either 17 or 0 times per day, depending on Nick's particular mood.)

The school supplies were pretty typical, crayons and glue sticks and such. But Nick did need a thermos for bringing milk and a folder. I let him pick his own folder and thermos. He chose a Cars thermos (the most expensive one in the store, of course) and a folder with race cars. I had already picked his backpack for him (I went with the $5 Kohl's Skippyjohn Jones one because, well, it was only $5!) and he didn't seem to care that I did the choosing. I was a little disappointed at the selection of folders for boys (and with the lack of unisex ones). Nick got to choose between car folders, skateboarding folders, and plain ones. That was all we could find.

When I was a kid, shopping for school supplies was my absolute favorite thing about August. I especially loved shopping with my dad, because he didn't argue with me to get the $0.39 plain folder instead of the $0.99 one with unicorns. "Throw it in the cart," my dad would say. That's how he rolled. (Literally. That cart kept rolling because my dad just wanted to get out of the store.) My mom was a little different, more particular about price. She also checked that list carefully to make sure I was only buying what was on the list. I have to say, though, that she spent a lot more time helping me pick the best items. She wouldn't get mad if I deliberated for five minutes between the purple sparkly binder and the one with kittens. I wonder if she had some inkling that she had a future teacher on her hands?

Back to school shopping is something I still adore, even if I'm now the teacher instead of the student. Is it any surprise that I made our fulfillment of the supply list into a special afternoon? Nick and I even stopped at the Starbucks Cafe afterwards for some coffee cake and a drink.

I will be staying up a little late tonight to label all of Nick's supplies with a good 'ol Sharpie.