Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bike the Drive

4:30 a.m. - We head downtown with five bikes and five helmets and five tired people for this event:

Basically, the city of Chicago closes Lake Shore Drive from 5:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. so people can ride their bikes on it. We had never done this before, but I've always, always, always wanted to ride downtown and never had. This was the year, and I think we picked a winner.

5:50 a.m. - Hello, Sunshine!

6:00 a.m. - Sunrise over Navy Pier

6:15 a.m. - Good morning, Lake Michigan!

6:35 a.m. - Belmont Harbor

Around 6:45 a.m. we made it to our turnaround point where they had snacks and water for us, so we rested for a few minutes before heading south again.

7:00 a.m. - Heading south on Lake Shore Drive. A couple of my girls were getting a little tired at this point, so I told them to just keep looking at the John Hancock building. That's it on the left. That tiny black bump over the trees.

7:08 a.m. - This scene reminded me of the biggest editorial blunder in the movie "When Harry Met Sally." Do you remember it? At the beginning of the movie, Harry and Sally are driving to Chicago from New York to attend the University of Chicago, which is on the south side. They arrive in the city and are driving south on this stretch of Lake Shore Drive to, supposedly, get to the U of C. Now, if they had really been driving from New York, there's no way they would have even been on this part of Lake Shore Drive--they would have been coming from the south and they would not have even gone into this part of town.

It bothers me every time I watch the movie.

7:20 a.m. - Almost there!

7:25 a.m. - Right underneath it. John Hancock, we love you!

7:27 a.m. - Riding past some of the most expensive property in the city.

7:35 a.m. - Had to stop for some gorgeous photos of Trump Tower. I hadn't seen it from that vantage point before (the building was just finished not too long ago) and thought it was stunning.

7:50 a.m. - Back to our starting point in Grant Park. At this point the girls and I hung out while B did the south loop (another 15 miles). What can I say? He's a stud. I'm not.

On our way back to the car we rode around Buckingham Fountain--isn't it pretty? See that red building in the background (the CNA building)? It's a little hard to tell, but there's a Chicago Blackhawk insignia put in the side of the building. We all thought that was pretty cool.

What a great day. We made memories I'm sure we won't forget for a long time, and that is what summer is all about.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Coopersong Giveaway

There's a lady who used to visit my daughters' elementary school every year to talk about ecology, conservation, being "green," whatever you call it these days. She would tell the kids crazy things like how her clothes were all made out of corn husks.

**Really, Mom? Even her underwear? 'Cause I think having underwear made out of corn husks would be pretty uncomfortable.**

*I agree, honey, and I'll never make you wear corn husk underwear. I promise.*

Anyway, this woman used to scare my kids. Every year when ecology day came around and Green Lady came to the classroom, I knew we'd have a lot to talk about after school.

Sorry, but she made being green seem kind of weird. Like something only hippies do.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I'm no Hippie, and I wouldn't call myself "green" by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in taking care of my little corner of the earth. I'm also no extremist, nor am I an evangelist when it comes to things of the earth, so you'll never hear me commanding you to recycle (or wear corn husk underwear), even though we do it here (the recycle part, not the corn husk part). I'm just not into scaring people about stuff like that.

But when a green product comes around that excites me, I mean one that is really practical and cute and stylish even, I want to shout it from the rooftops. Which is why I'm so thrilled about today's giveaway.

But first, a little background.

Remember a while back when I told you about our French Market? Well, a couple of Saturdays ago I was there with one of the girls, and we saw a display of bags that were . . . to put it bluntly . . . cute! I mean, really cute. Not just your run-of-the-mill homemade tote bag that even I, who does not have the crafty gene, could make. No, these were special.

Because the handles are made of rubber. LIke tires. In fact, they ARE tires. Inner tubes that have been recycled from old bicycle tires.

Cool, huh?

And the fabrics. Oh, the fabrics. Insanely adorable.

And I immediately recognized the name of the company because one of my blogging friends, Sandy, had told me about her sister-in-law, Deanna, who lives right here in my town who had this really cool company.

Small world?

I think so.

So I introduced myself to Deanna and told her that her sister-in-law was one of my bloggy friends and she looked at me like I was completely insane. Which I was. Over her bags.

Unfortunately our family needed to eat actual fruits and vegetables and bread that week, so I didn't have enough money to buy one of her to-die-for purses. Strike me down now, I was coveting.

The next week at the French Market, there was Deanna, with even more cute bags, and this time I was ready. I brought some money with me to purchase a tote bag which, unfortunately, was not for me. It was a gift.

We got to chatting again, and Deanna graciously told me that I could do a giveaway on my blog. Excited?! You bet I was!

So here's the deal. I am giving away a $25 gift certificate to anything on the Coopersong website. Anything your little heart desires.

Like this tote bag.

Or this lunch sack (the one Maggie wants because all the middle school girls have them).

Wristlet, anyone?

Or this purse (the one I was drooling over).

Here's what you do if you want to be entered in the giveaway. Head on over to the Coopersong website, take a look around, drool a little, then come back here and tell me what you'd get with your $25 gift certificate.

And even better, if you tell a friend about me, I'll enter you again.

And if you "Follow" me, I'll enter you AGAIN!

So there. Three chances to win a Coopersong bag. Get going!

I'll announce the winners on Monday, which is also Memorial Day. Have a great weekend!


P.S. If you were really paying attention to this post you would realize that I STILL don't have a Coopersong bag of my own. But one of these days I will. And I'll shout it from the rooftops.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

People Get Ready

. . . because tomorrow there will be an awesome giveaway.

Right here.

Come back.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Confess . . . I'm a Fan

Yes, we watch American Idol. We've had fun with it this year and love, love, LOVE both of the top two contestants.

I'm a Chicago girl, so, in addition to the Blackhawks this week, I'm rooting for Lee tonight, but Crystal is pretty amazing as well. Needless to say, I have decision-making issues, so I didn't vote last night.

Here are my favorite performances from both of the top two this season. Enjoy!

And a little bonus . . . the top two singing their amazing duet. Love it!!

So??? Have you been watching?? Who do you want to win tonight?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Favorite Children's Books

I don't know why, but for some reason I have been thinking about children's books. Who knows why I think anything, right?, now that I've let you into the inner workings of my brain.

Anyway . . . I must be getting nostalgic these days. Graduation is coming. New stages of life are forming. It's as it should be, but I can't help thinking back.

We did a lot of reading when my girls were little. A lot. Surprised? I didn't think so.

So today I thought I'd let you in on some of our favorite children's books. These are books that the girls would ask me to read again and again. Books I could probably recite in my sleep.

Some are probably books you've heard of and have probably read to your own kids, but I am willing to bet that there are a couple on this list that you have never heard of. Nevertheless, they are books that have become Wild-fam favorites.

I'll start with one of our favorites that I am almost 100% certain you've never heard of. I would probably rank it on the top of our most-read list when the girls were little. It's called Ba Ba Sheep Wouldn't Go to Sleep, and it's a sweet story about a little boy sheep who thought he'd just stay up all night long and what happens to little boys (and girls) who don't get enough rest.

Not that I ever had a child who didn't want to go to bed at night. Oh no. I wouldn't know anything about that at all.

Bad news about Ba Ba, though. It's hard to find. Our public library has it, and yours might too, but on Amazon you can only find used copies. Must be out of print. Which is a shame. It's such a good book!

Moving on. . . . When one of my girls was in first grade she came home and told me that her teacher had read them such a good book that day that she might have just cried a little bit in school. Well, when a book makes a little girl cry in school, I must know what it is. I'm ashamed to say that at that time, many years ago, I had never heard of this classic, but the book that made my daughter weep was Love You Forever.

If you've never read this book, you should. It'll make you weep, too.

Speaking of "love books," here's another classic that my girls absolutely loved (get it?!). Guess How Much I Love You. Oh, Little Nutbrown Hare, how I love you, too.

I bought this book for Kate when she was young because I liked the idea of the Jack and the Beanstalk story with a strong female character. Kate and the Beanstalk is a very funny twist on the original. Love it. Love Kate.

Love Mary Pope Osborne. (She came up with the Kate idea.)

One of my very favorite children's books of all time comes from Max Lucado. You Are Special is just so . . . well . . . special. It tells the tender story of Punchinello, a wooden Wemmick who has, unfortunately, listened to what others have said about him just a little too often. He is defeated, dejected, depressed. But the Carpenter offers some words of wisdom that change Punchinello's life.

Awesome book. I might just have to pull it out as we traverse those ugly junior high years again. And, you know, even parents can learn a little something from this book.

Finally, here's a book that I'm pretty sure none of you have ever hear of. Ever. And if you have, definitely let me know because I would love to be proven wrong about this. It's Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big.

This is a wild, fun story that actually does teach kids a lesson about lying. And the great thing about this one is that boys will love it as much as girls, so if you have a boy who doesn't necessarily like to read, this might be a good choice.

One reason we loved this book so much is because my college roommate, Jennifer, brought it for the girls when she came to visit one time. It just reminds us of Jen, and it makes us laugh (so does Jen). A lot. In fact, I read this book to a classroom of elementary school kids once, and they all laughed and loved it too.

So there you go. A few good books to check out as we head into those long, lazy days of summer . . . if, of course, you have little kids.

But then again, these are so great that even if you don't have little kids you might just want to read them anyway.

So tell me, what are some of your favorites? What do your kids beg you to read over and over again? What books did you like when you were a kid?


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Alright, folks, get ready. I'm about to let you in on just a smidge of how my brain works. It might scare you away forever, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

All my life I've "pictured" the days of the week and the months of the year in my head. I think maybe once when I was young I tried to describe this to a friend, but she looked at me as if I had lost my mind, so I never spoke of it again. Not once. Not even to my husband.

But I've always, always, always classified time visually. It just works for me.

Well, this week I feel like I've joined the real world, finally, because Emily admitted that she, too, visualizes the days of the week and the months of the year. You just have to--HAVE TO--go read this post because she explains it so much better than I do.

It's O.K. Go ahead over there for a minute. I'll wait.

I was so excited to read Emily's post that I told B about it. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind, just like my friend when I was younger. But this time I felt justified. I am not alone. If you scroll down through Emily's comments you'll see that there are all kinds of people like us who visualize time.

It's like I'm breathing a sigh of relief here. Breathe with me, will you? In. Out. In. Out. Ahhhhh. I'm not crazy!!

Anyway, just in case you didn't scroll down to read all the comments on Emily's post, here's what I told her about how I see the year and the weeks:

"My year looks more like a balloon that's laid on its side. January and December are separated by the knot in the balloon, and spring lays on the bottom (picture the balloon lying on a table). Summer is my upswing, and fall is on the top of the balloon, heading back down toward the knot. . . .

You mentioned the weeks as well. My weeks definitely have a shape. I always picture two weeks at a time, in the shape of a football. (You promise not to laugh?) The side toward me is the current week; the side farthest away from me is next week. Of course, the weeks shift position every week. And each day is a sort-of square, like the squares on a sidewalk. Like I'm walking through my weeks."

Thanks to Emily, I've learned that this "condition" is called Spacial-Sequence Synesthesia. Wikipedia has an interesting explanation.

Another article I read said that people with this "condition" also have superior memories, which actually makes me laugh because I definitely DO NOT have a superior memory. BUT, I do have this other kind of uncanny ability . . . I remember phone numbers. B is always asking me, "Hey, what's so-and-so's number?" and I can usually tell him.

And you know how I do that? For some strange reason I just visualize the number by picturing the buttons on the phone.

Emily also mentioned another type of synesthesia that involves color. I don't have that, but apparently some people associate numbers or letters with colors. Weird, I say.

So last night I was talking to my family about this. B doesn't get it at all. No surprise to me there--he's a very linear, analytical person. Maggie doesn't have it either, although she does say she sees shapes on the pages of books she reads. But as we were talking, Abby walked by and I asked her if she pictured the days of the week in her head. She kind of smiled and said, "Well, yeah. And every day has a color."


So I asked her to explain. She said, "Well, Thursday is orange."

I'm not sure I should even admit this, but I almost cried with pride and joy. Another synesthetic person in our home! Hooray!

(Kate is out of town this weekend, so I can't ask her about this, but you can be sure I will bombard her with questions as soon as she gets home. I'm guessing she has this too.)

Well, there you go. A little insight into my brain. I know, it's scary. But there it is.

Strange? Maybe. But it sure makes sense to me.

So how about you? I am dying to know--do you picture the days of the week or the months of the year? How do you see it?


Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm in Love

We have a joke around here about Joe the Trader. We're in love with him. And my husband knows it.

If you don't have a Trader Joe's where you live, you might just want to click away right now because after you see this you're going to be sad. And if you do have a Trader Joe's, I might just become your new best friend.

Because I am about to give you some classified information. Classified not inasmuch as it's available to everyone, but classified because it comes from me. (I know, that makes no sense. But that's because I'm listening to music while I write and that's just a no-no where I'm concerned. Multi-task-listening is not my forte.)

Anyway, I'm in love with Joe. Joe the Trader. And I don't care who knows. (Most people who know me already know it anyway.)

I have a lot of favorites. You know, things I buy every time I go there that have become staples in our home.

Like coffee. Be still my heart!

And jam. Even though it's the same price as grocery store jam, the quality cannot be beat. I'll never buy Smuckers again.

But recently I was introduced to what I think may become my all-time favorite Trader Joe's purchase. Of all time. Forever and ever amen.

Have you ever had these little puppies?

No? Well, let me introduce you to Trader Joe's frozen chocolate croissants. Hello, precious!

In all my travels I don't think I've ever had a chocolate croissant this good. And, trust me, I have sampled chocolate croissants all over the world.

I've always thought it might be fun to learn how to make croissants because, well, I'm a little crazy that way. But knowing that these are available, I don't think learning to make my own will be necessary.

Because all you have to do is take the little tubes of dough out of the box and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet overnight. You don't even have to cover them! Just open the box, plop them on the sheet, and go to sleep.

When you get up in the morning, here's what you'll be greeted with.

Poufs of gooey deliciousness. But don't eat them yet. Brush them with an egg wash and pop them in the oven.

After about 25 minutes, you'll be calling yourself Jacques of Francesca or Madelleine because you'll feel like a French baker. At least, that's how I felt this morning when I opened my oven to this.

Now the hard part. You have to wait about 10 minutes before you eat them. I'm not sure why--that's just what the box says. And you know I always follow the rules. Just ask my kids.

Seriously, though, you probably want the chocolate to set just a little bit before you bite into all that gooey deliciousness.

I served these this morning for our last 6th grade girl's Bible study, and to say they were devoured would be an understatement.

Now, if you've read this far and haven't been salivating I'd guess that you don't have any salivary glands. So why are you still sitting here reading? Get on over to TJ's and treat your family to some of the best pastry you will ever taste. Ever. In all the world. Right here, in your own hometown.

You can thank me later.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Lifeguard Team

Oh boy. I came to my blog this morning--Thursday, mind you--and realized that I haven't updated since Monday. In blog-time that's, like, forever. So today I really need to put something out there. Anything.

Except I can't think of anything to really tell you.

I'm sure you don't want to hear my laundry woes. Or me complaining about the weather. Or the furniture that was supposed to be delivered that isn't coming now until mid-June. (Grrrr.)

So, to find some inspiration, I went to my reader and started reading blogs I like. And you know what? At least four of the blogs that had updated this morning started out with some form of "I've had writer's block all week and don't know what to write about."

So it's not just me. Thank goodness.

But I have had one thought swirling around in my head all week that probably needs to come out. It's really just a recap of the sermon our pastor gave on Sunday, but it has stuck with me, which, to me, is a pretty good indication that I should share it with you guys.

Actually, most of our pastor's sermons stick with me. He's that good. And, knowing Josh, he would say it's not him. He'd say it's just him being faithful to the Word. And he is. Which is probably why his sermons stick with me.

Anyway, we've been working our way through I Corinthians on Sunday mornings because that's what we do at our church--work our way through books of the Bible. It's called expositional preaching and not that many churches do it anymore, but ours is pretty traditional and that's what we do. I love it.

Last Sunday we got to chapter 10 of I Corinthians (or "One Corinthians" if you're British like Josh is). Here's what 10:33-11:1 says (in the NIV): "For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." And here's what our pastor said about that: "Following Jesus, imitating Him, means giving our lives for the salvation of other people."

Clear. Simple. Direct. We aren't here for ourselves. We're here to make sure others get saved.

And then he used this illustration (the part that has really stayed with me all week). Josh talked about going to the pool in the summer and going down the water slides. They are fun. They are fast. They can be dangerous, which is why they have lifeguards standing at the bottom of the water slides to make sure the kids are safe. He then said, "Wouldn't it be terrible if the lifeguards were just standing around at the bottom of the water slide, talking about their weekend or what they are going to do when they get off their lifeguard shift, when all the while a little kid is flailing around in the water, struggling to stand up?"

Yes, it would be terrible. Because the job of a lifeguard is to save lives.

Then Josh said that as believers, we are all on the lifeguard team. Our job is not to argue about the small things (a big theme in One Corinthians), but to have a purpose. And that purpose, according to I Corinthians 10:33, is to save lives.

I don't know about you, but for me this really puts things into clear perspective. It helps me figure out my priorities, gives me direction for my days. Not that I have to stand on the street corner and shout "Jesus Saves" to the passing cars. It's just that what I need to be about, whether it's through my writing or taking care of my family or being a friend to others, is being a lifeguard.

Because you know what? There's a whole world out there that is drowning.

Toward the end of his sermon Josh addressed those who might have been in church who didn't yet know Jesus. He said, "You might not be on the lifeguard team yet. You might feel like you are drowning. But you've come to the right place, because here you are in a room full of lifeguards." Isn't that cool? A room full of lifeguards, just waiting to help rescue the few who might not yet believe.

I used to be a lifeguard way back when. I worked at the pool at my high school when it was available for community use. Most days I would do nothing. I would sit in a chair by the side of the pool and watch the swimmers go back and forth, back and forth. But one day I noticed that a little girl was struggling, so I did what I was trained to do--I jumped in and saved her.

You know what? That was scary for me. I wasn't sure, after all those hours of sitting poolside, whether I'd be up to the task. But I jumped in anyway and did what I needed to do.

This week I've been thinking a lot about being a lifeguard. I am on the lifeguard team, and I want to be ready to be used whenever I'm needed. It's scary. I pray I'm up to the task. But I want to be ready and available.

Will you join me?


Monday, May 17, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

Since it's Monday and it's cloudy here and it's cold--way too cold for this time of year--and because, well, it's Monday, I thought I'd just share some miscellaneous things that have been on my mind.

My weekend was busy with house/homemaking projects. We all know I don't have the crafty gene, but I was kind of proud of the fact that this dress (which Maggie wore to her piano recital on Sunday) used to be long (well, too long for her taste).

And now it's shorter. By about 3 inches, thanks to my iron and the handy-dandy sewing machine my mom gave us a few years back which doesn't get nearly enough use.

And looky here! I actually made a curtain! In about a half an hour.

Seriously. In the time it took to watch Giada on Friday afternoon I installed the curtain rod and hung the valence. Can you tell what I used?

And finally, look what B and I did . . . together!

Let's just say that we're not one of those married couples who can tackle house projects together. Like, ever. Without fighting. But for some reason the stars aligned this weekend and we actually went to Costco together (always an expensive proposition when B comes along, which is why he's only allowed in the store under the most dire of circumstances), bought three arbor vitae trees (bushes? what are they?), shoved them in the back of my mini-van, brought them home, and planted them.

And the best part is that we did it without a single argument. About anything. Amazing.

(Now, don't get us started about the one that seems to be leaning a bit toward the driveway. We know, we know. We may have to fix that, but knowing us it probably won't get done.)


Speaking of house projects . . . here's one I didn't do myself. At all. I left this one to the professional (our friend, Drew).

But I'm so happy with the tile work that I just had to show you.

It's only taken five years to get a backsplash. I think my kitchen is finally done.


Happy birthday to my mom today!

(Aren't they cute?!)

Now, if you don't know my mom, you have surely not met the friendliest woman on the planet. When I was growing up she would bring home people she met in the most random of places . . . like the post office or Tastee Freeze or Marshall Field's. She always had a place for everyone at our table, and she always made people feel welcome in our home.

One quick story about Karen. Once, when I was a kid, I woke up in the middle of the night to hear voices downstairs. We were having a terrible snowstorm and, since Dad was the road commissioner (which meant that he was the guy with the snow plow), I knew that he would be out plowing the roads. I couldn't imagine who my mom was talking to, so I crept downstairs to find her sitting at the table with a neighbor, an older man who liked to drink a little bit too much every now and then. He had driven his car into the ditch near our home and walked to our house to use the phone. My mom made him some coffee and sat with him until his daughter came to collect him.

So that's our Karen. Beloved by neighbors, strangers, and drunks alike.

And beloved by her family the most. Happy birthday, Mom!!


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Nature of Work

On Monday of this week I worked in my garden. I had purchased some plants a few days earlier, and I had heard it was going to rain the rest of the week, so Monday was the day I HAD to get the plants in the ground.

When I surveyed the situation, I realized that there was a LOT of work that needed to be done.

I removed some hosta.

I planted perennials.

I even turned over some old beds and planted two flats of Impatiens. All in all I probably worked for five or six hours.

Tuesday morning came and I gotta say, I was tired. Five hours of manual labor was probably more than my body was ready for. Or will ever be ready for. I mean, I walk a couple of miles every day and I'm in O.K. shape for a 40-something mother of three, but it's not like I dig around in the dirt for hours every day.

When I got up on Tuesday morning I really felt my age. I was a little bit sore. I was definitely weary. And I walked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Only slower. And without my arms out in front of me. And no seaweed either.

So maybe I wasn't exactly like that creature guy, but I was definitely moving slowly. Veeeerrrry slowly.

And all week I've been thinking about my dad, wondering how he did it all those years. My dad was a farmer. No, he didn't plant corn by hand--he had some pretty cool and very large machinery that did it for him. But my dad's work was a lot of manual labor, nevertheless.

And I've been thinking about how some nights he'd come in the house well after dark. He'd wash his hands and arms at the laundry tub, scrubbing for what seemed like a very long time, then he'd sit down at the table to a plate of food that had long gone cold, and he'd eat his dinner alone while we kids would run around him, begging for his attention. I remember how he'd always remove his hat before sitting at the table--the yellow one with the seed company label across the front--to reveal the line across his forehead where his very tan face met the pale part that had been covered up.

I remember some nights when my dad was so tired that he'd eat and head straight to bed, sometimes too tired to say much of anything. I don't know how he did it. Especially as he got older. The exhaustion must have been consuming at times.

I thought, as I was rushing to get my plants in the ground before the rain came, about the nature of farming. How my dad sometimes had to work through the night to get the seeds in the ground before it rained. About how he had to wait for just the right time to harvest. How he was at the mercy of God and nature for our family's sustenance.

On Tuesday morning of this week I gave thanks that I could get out of bed, that I could move my muscles even though they were sore and tired. I gave thanks for my own dad who must have been exhausted some mornings, but who made the trek out to the field every day so that I could go to college. And I gave thanks for the father of my own children who, although he sits behind a desk most days, still comes home later than he'd want to on some nights in a state of exhaustion that his type of work brings.

I guess it's the nature of work, this exhaustion. And if work brings exhaustion I say bring it on. I'd rather be exhausted from working than to not be able to do anything. Thank God for being tired.