Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010 is in the books. All in all a good day, but I'm surprised to learn these last two years that it's actually easier to have Halloween on a weekday than a weekend. It's just too hard for kids to wait ALL day for dusk to fall marking the start of the sacred trick-or-treat ritual. It was however, a fabulous tool for achieving near-perfect church behavior. Amazing what the "no trick-or-treat" threat can accomplish.

Here they are all set to go, after a late afternoon visit to Coralville to show off their costumes for Grandma and Grandpa.
Edward was clearly pandering to his audience, as our neighborhood skews a bit to the senior citizen end of the scale, many of whom are dyed-in-the-wool Hawkeye fans. Plus after yesterday's trouncing of (former) No. 5 Michigan State, Hawkeye spirits are high.

Let it be noted that this is our third Halloween in a row with the firefighter costume. Edward has worn it the last two years and Daniel has been chomping at the bit for his turn.

Yesterday was warm enough for back porch pumpkin carving, which was good as I was in no mood for a kitchen disaster after spending my third Saturday in a row in class. (We have next weekend off and then one more Friday/Saturday blitz to the finish line.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What happens when you start a new MBA class in an accelerated format the day after you return from vacation? The vacation pictures languish and the blog goes dormant.

Our Evanston vacation in a nutshell:
five nights/six days, seven different parks, four cousins (three kid/one adult), two aunts, one uncle, one trip to the beach including waist-high immersion (for the kids), two real construction helmets, two articulated city buses, one el train, one fire station, one visit to Aunt Nora's apartment in the sky (a.k.a. "department") including use of the garbage chute and a rooftop view, one aquarium and one zoo. (Not to mention three concerts for John, one of which I also attended.)

Playing in the park with our favorite Wisconsin cousins. My sister actually captured better versions of many of these same shots of the cousins and posted them on her blog. A note about Daniel's combination of greens--it wasn't actually supposed to be shorts weather during our trip, but I threw in a pair for each boy at the last minute while packing, thinking we might be able to play in the sand at the beach. I didn't expect him to wear them otherwise. Not only was it warm enough for sand play, but they also soaked themselves from the waist down so that we had to wash the short while they napped so they could wear them for the rest of the warm afternoon. When the cousins arrived from WI, the boys were still sleeping, but we knew they'd had enough rest so we let Maggie and Katherine go to Edward's room to wake him up. A little while later they had not come down, but we heard giggling and went to check things out. Edward was standing on the bed shouting "underpants, underpants" while they all collapsed in giggles. We quickly retrieved Edward's shorts from the dryer and enjoyed an afternoon of fully-clothed fun.
Playing on Gram and PopPop's porch of toys. Some of these train pieces came back to Iowa City with us. Also, the castle in the background has ignited a new interest in knights and castles. The best literary discovery in this genre so far: Do Knights Take Naps? by Nick Sharratt, which ends with a decisive Yes! to the titular question.
Reading with Aunt Nora. True to form, Gram had a huge stack of books from her library just waiting for our boys. Some of them were so new they had not yet begun circulating to the children of Glencoe, IL. This one was an instant favorite--about a dog named Edward who wanted to be a firefighter.
We visited a fire truck park AND a real fire station. As usual, the boys just walked right in and made themselves at home on the trucks. This fire fighter was extremely friendly. Although we've made many trips to the fire station, this was our first time being there when they got a call. The boys were a little unnerved as we quickly scooped them off the trucks and ushered them out the door as the fire fighters pulled on their gear. However, we soon began to wonder if it was a real call or a "hey, these people have been here for 15 minutes, let's get them to move along" call because they were pretty slow to leave and then did not turn on lights or siren as they made their way up the street.

We were lucky our visit coincided with a "free day" at the Chicago Shedd Aquarium. Both boys were intrigued by the diver in the tank for feeding time and Edward was quite excited to be one of the kids who got to ask a question of the diver (via the microphone of the narrator outside the tank.) He asked why the diver wasn't wearing an air tank and learned that he was not really SCUBA diving, but attached by hose to an external tank. A later question revealed that the diver was in fact feeding peas to some of the fish. Daniel's indoor attention span ran out before Edward's so my mom and I took him outside where he happily ran around this fountain for about 45 minutes. Luckily we had a lot of pennies in our wallets and he threw them in with gusto. When he tried to fish them out again, I had to hold his shoulders so he wouldn't tumble in head first. (It wasn't deep, there really was no call for a full immersion experience.)

One exhibit the boys both liked was one about frogs with about five buttons to push to hear the sounds of different frog croaks. They giggled with glee, prompting another mother walking by to exclaim of Daniel, "That's the BEST giggle I've ever heard."

On another day, we visited Aunt Nora's apartment and took the bus from there to Lincoln Park Zoo. If you were 4 or 2, which part of this adventure would be most exciting: visiting Aunt Nora's 12th floor Lake Shore Drive apt (AKA "department"), going up to the roof sundeck of said apt, throwing a trash bag in the garbage chute and listening to it slide all the way down to the dumpster, riding an articulated city bus... and sitting in a seat in the bendable middle, or the zoo at the end of the city bus ride?

The answer to this existential pondering on Facebook was pretty much unanimous: the garbage chute. This seemed to make the biggest impression at the time, but upon further reflection, the most talked about item from this list has been the articulated bus.

I'm pretty much over taking pictures at the zoo. Until I become a more skilled photographer or get a better camera, I have enough pictures in which both the animal and the kid are so tiny as to be hardly recognizable. But we did manage this family snapshot while waiting for the return bus. I should probably tape it to my refrigerator to keep me from opening it so often. Oh, vanity!

More park time. As noted in the beginning, our total park count for the trip was seven: Saturday, Rochelle, IL for a picnic on the way to Evanston; Sunday, Robert Crown Park, our childhood park across the street from my parents'; Monday, Evanston's South Blvd. Park (which may have another name, but that's what we called it growing up), which had a fire truck; Tuesday--none; Wednesday, undeterred by morning rain, we hit three different Evanston parks; and Thursday, back to Robert Crown in the morning followed by the Iowa Welcome Center playground for a post-car-nap romp before completing the final hour of the road trip. (eight visits to seven different parks)

And in answer to the remaining questions from the initial description: the fourth cousin was my cousin Keith, who stopped by briefly on his way home to Reno, NV, from a weekend wedding in Wisconsin. And the construction helmets were actual hard hats liberated from my dad's downtown office (one was actually his, that he won't need when he gives up that office later this month.) Although they weren't initially as excited about them as he'd hoped, turning instead to favorite standbys on the toy porch, they were clearly a hit of the visit and morphed fluidly from construction, to fire gear to knight apparel and back again.

All in all a great vacation. I extended it by two days, not returning to work until Tuesday, Oct. 19, giving myself a fabulous birthday present in the process. TIME!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

We had a busy weekend with the Homecoming Parade on Friday, apple picking and leaf jumping on Saturday and "fossil hunting" on Sunday.

Pictures of the parade didn't turn out. I was trying to capture the boys with their hands over their ears as the band marched by, but my composition was seriously lacking. They enjoyed the pre-parade activities almost as much as the parade though. We were sitting right at the starting point where a squad car and fire truck were lined up waiting to move. The officer in the squad car was extremely kid friendly (his own kid was hanging out nearby) and let the boys not only sit in the passenger seat, but also press the button for the siren. Just quick taps, no drawn out "whee-oo, whee-oo."

Saturday morning was busy with errands and a library trip (Daniel insisted upon taking the bus) but in the afternoon we squeezed in a trip to the apple orchard. The boys didn't get up from naps until close to 3:30 and the orchard is only open until 5, so it was a bit of a whirlwind. Good thing it's only 15 minutes away!

The most important part of the trip of course is the wagon ride, especially when conditions are right for the tractor to pull it straight through a shallow creek that meanders through the orchard. A close second is the apple turnovers, which we somehow managed not to devour on the way home, saving them for dessert.

Earlier in the week I'd raked a big pile of leaves for some outdoor fun on a glorious fall afternoon. John added to the pile and then experimented with some settings on our camera, which we've had for more than two years, but haven't fully explored. He found one that helped capture a better action shot:
And one that did a sort of weird color-capture thing (which I'm sure has a photographic name, but I'm no expert, obviously):
The boys supplied their own goofy, no special camera setting required:
The floods of 1993 and 2008 exposed a large fossil bed next to a dam-created lake north of town and we've said all summer that it would be a good place to explore. Just as well we waited for a late fall afternoon though as the cool weather definitely added to the enjoyment. As it turned out the concept of a fossil was too abstract, even for Edward, but they had fun running on the rocks and dipping their hands in the rivulets. Daniel picked up every rock he could and shouted, "Here's another fossil!"
Then we hiked up a road under construction and from a higher vantage point could see playground equipment in another part of the park. So we headed over. It was a great set, likely fairly new, and with two super fast slides. A new park is always a good thing and this one was definitely a weekend highlight.