Monday, July 31, 2017


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2017."

Cruz: You turned in your summer reading log at Saturday night's Bucks game and earned a free ticket and a free pass to the Kids Zone.  You were a 140 minutes shy just a few days before the upcoming game and I was proud to see you spend more time with your nose in a book leading up to the weekend.  You've moved on to chapter books this summer and are really liking the series, My Weird School.  

Mila: Daddy went to help Papa Curt with a big landscaping project Saturday and Cruz was invited to spend the day with a buddy.  After they both left Saturday morning, you looked at me and said, "Well, I guess it's just you and me!"  We made the most of our girls' day, enjoying the gorgeous summer afternoon at the Hearst Center with all the fixings for a tea party.  I love this sweet little tradition of ours and this year was the most fun yet.     

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Our Big Disneyland Surprise

You know those Disney commercials they always show around Christmastime, the ones with the home videos of kids discovering that their parents are taking them to Disney tomorrow for a vacation, completely unbeknownst to them until the moment they open their Mickey ears and put it all together?  Before I even had kids, I've wanted to throw a surprise like that.  So months ago, when Beau learned he had qualified for his company's annual reward trip for families, to Disneyland, we tucked it away and knew the kids would be the perfect ages to surprise.  Still pretty oblivious to a lot that goes on around here (I started stacking clothes for vacation week prior in our bedroom and random Mickey stuff started surfacing a lot more than usual), yet very aware of vacation and hotel stays and all things princesses, we knew we could keep the trip a secret and have a lot of fun surprising them.  Farm Bureau covered a lot of the arrangements for us, including a four-night stay at the Grand Californian Hotel, and left the fun details to us, including just how we would unveil the big surprise to Cruz and Mila.

Since we had booked early (and direct) flights out of Minneapolis for Sunday, we decided to get a hotel up there Saturday night.  After spending most of the day Friday in our bedroom with the door closed packing suitcases, bags were packed and ready to go Saturday morning.  So while Beau entertained the kids outside for awhile, I secretly turned our house into a Disney scavenger hunt for our two little detectives.

I was shaking with excitement by the time I had carefully arranged the eight clues around the house.  These kinds of moments are what make parenting the coolest gig in the world.  Beau had worked so hard for this trip, I had spent hours planning all the little magical details for a weeklong adventure together, and I was excited and a bit nervous to finally get on with the fun.    

Beau videoed the goose chase it was and I am forever glad he did!  It was so cute to watch them work through the clues for what I'm convinced they thought was just a random activity I had planned for their Saturday morning.  They really were that oblivious!  Mila threw a few tantrums when Cruz would beat her to the clue (and really whenever it wasn't her turn), and I loved re-watching and noticing how patient Cruz was with her!  Favorite moments were when Cruz figured out the Snow White card, watching his wheels turn and lightbulbs go off as he read and thought through each clue, stealing quick glances and smiles with Beau from across the room, Mila's "follow me" when they solved the riddle about Belle and her books, and Cruz making sure I would have gum for him on the airplane (he still talks about his ears popping when we brought him to Disney the last time!).

Here is the video compilation I put together of our hunt!  It's not my best producing skills, but I love it nonetheless!  It's such a true depiction of our family right now - Mila's hot tempered, hilarious personality and sweet little voice, and Cruz's patience, sweetness, and reading skills, and I'm convinced we will enjoy this for years to come.  My favorite part?  When Cruz and Mila spent five minutes searching for the correct mirror and walked into our bedroom WHERE ALL THE LUGGAGE IS!  Nooooo! 

A few pictures, too!

The last clue brought them to our mudroom in search of Cinderella's lost shoe.  There, they discovered two Disney tote bags with a few fun surprises - a set of Mickey and Minnie ears, two autograph books, Mickey and Minnie pjs, and a few fun activities for the plane  ride.  Then, collecting their eight envelopes, they had to open them up and unscramble the word sentence that would reveal the surprise: 


After Mila's "Oh my gosh," and a lot of processing from Cruz, we celebrated with Mickey and Minnie cupcakes, courtesy of Scratch Cupcakes.  The best part was that our bags were packed and we were ready to hit the road shortly after.  

Our Disneyland Eve was a special night, too.  We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Bloomington, a nice park-and-fly hotel directly across the street from the Mall of America with a big pool and jacuzzi.  We dropped our bags off and headed over to the Mall for a little while, where Mila and I explored the American Girl Doll store and Beau and Cruz built some legos at the Lego Store.  They practiced their character greetings when Mila spied Dora at Nickelodeon Universe, and we had delicious burgers and shakes at Burger Burger.  And lastly, as a little prelude to our week of magic, I took the kids to the Disney Store and instructed them to each pick out one new stuffie to take on our trip.  Mila fell in love with an Elsa doll and Cruz fittingly chose a Mickey Mouse.

We headed back to our room, got in an hour or two of swimming, and bathed and jammied the kids in their fresh Mickey pjs.  And after a round or two of monkeys on the bead, we settled them with a Disney bedtime story, sprinkled some make-believe pixie dust over their eyelids, and whispered that tomorrow was the big day.  It would be a miracle if any of us slept!

Sunny California, here we come!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Weekend to Chicago

I have hundreds of pictures and stories to recount from our travels to Southern California last week, a vacation that was collectively one of our favorites as a family of four.  I don't want to forget it, yet I'm also stuck in the usual tension that exists at the end of summer, wanting to savor these days at home while I have them without spending much time in front of a computer screen.  My mind is now distracted with preparations for a new semester, but I'm so badly wanting to maintain our slower, carefree pace here at home.

But before I dig in to our trip to Cali, Beau and I enjoyed a spontaneous adults weekend to one of our favorite cities with Brian and Angie the weekend prior to our family vacation.  The kids were excited to spend the weekend with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Ray, and the weather was looking picture perfect for a fun few days away.  

There's just something about Chicago.  The energy of the big city, the architectural beauty and culture, the endless possibilities for good food and even better adventures just brings you to life!  We rolled in just after happy hour Friday night, checked in to our hotel right on State St., and found rooftop seats and summer ales at Rock Bottom Brewery.  With nothing but a Cubs game on the docket for our Saturday, we were without plans all weekend and decided to progressively eat and drink our way through the Loop Friday night.  We ended up on the river walk, revisited the dreamy, The Kitchen bistro, had the most amazing asparagus bruschetta with burrata cheese, and ended the night at the gorgeous Porcellino.  We sat in the open aired seating area towards the front of the restaurant, dined on pea pod paste and crostini, homemade pappardelle, and plenty of merlot well after midnight, and listened to old school rock and roll at this vibrant and well-lit little place. 

We couldn't have asked for a better weather weekend to enjoy Chicago.  We woke up to sunny and seventy for our Saturday, and decided to make our way to Lake Michigan for the morning.  Because Beau's foot is still on the mend after his ladder fall Father's Day weekend, the boys had the idea of renting one of these four-person bikes to stroll around on.  After a couple of close calls on the busy trails by Lake Shore, we paid for our hour and hit Navy Pier, ordered some margaritas, and decided our next mode of transportation would be by boat, purchasing tickets to our first ever Chicago Architectural Boat Tour

If you haven't done this before, I highly recommend it.  It was such a fun way to see the city and we learned so much about the design history of the famous skyline.  After our boat ride, it was time to freshen up and head to Wrigley Field for a night with the Cubs.

This was our first time back to Wrigley since their World Series win and it gave me all the feels!  It was also our first night game, and our first time anticipating a game in the bleachers that wasn't going to be HOT.  The energy of Wrigleyville was palpable and we couldn't wait for a night in the bleachers.  

The Cubs may have lost the game, but we had such a great night at Wrigley!  We celebrated back-to-back homers, I got to watch my favorite Arrieta pitch, and also got to devour a true Chicago dog, and it was delicious!  It wouldn't be a night in the bleachers without making friends with neighboring fans and ushers, and we felt like college kids again, collecting plastic Old Style cups and singing our hearts out with Harry for the seventh inning stretch. 

And like any good weekends in Chicago go, we woke up Sunday feeling like this city had a piece of our hearts and a whole lot of our pocketbooks. ;)  We left for home, but not without donuts, of course!  We tried two of Chicago's favorite spots, Stan's and Glazed and Infused, and they did not disappoint.  My favorite had to be Glazed and Infused's pineapple mango donut with a chili lime glaze.  It was flavorful and weird, two of my favorite qualities when it comes to food!  

It was fun to spend a beautiful weekend in the city with good friends!  And the kids had such a fun weekend with Grandma, picnicking and riding the super cool zipline at Hariman's Park.  They had as much fun as we did!


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