Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School is Back in Session!

Today Brooklyn started her second year of preschool! She was so excited to see her friends and her teacher again (and I was happy to have 2 1/2 hours of play time alone with Lily.) She had a great day and is looking forward to a fun filled year learning about the world she lives in. Here is a list of a few of her favorite things... according to her on her first day back at school :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Starved Rock, Camping, and a visit from Eric!

On August 26th, Kevin's cousin Eric drove out from D.C. for one last visit before he gets married to his beautiful fiance, Kayla. We were a little sad that we didn't get to meet Kayla, but super excited that Eric came for a visit.

Shortly after his arrival, Kevin got home from work and we packed up to go camping at Starved Rock National Park. It was dark when we arrived, but we made good time getting our tents up and then me and the girls crawled in bed while Eric and Kevin stayed up and talked about manly stuff.

The next morning I was awoken at 6:00 AM by Lily, who was bright eyed and bushy tailed. She was so cute, singing songs and talking to herself.

After listening to Lily for a little while, I decided to reach my camera over Kevin's shoulder and take a picture to see if he and Brooklyn were really sleeping. Apparently Brooklyn wasn't as happy as her little sister... and Kevin was definitely still sleeping!

To remedy Brooklyn's bad mood (and hopefully give Kevin a little more sleep) I got the girls up and walked them over to the playground that was attached to our campsite.

Brooklyn made fast work of the whole thing. She loved walking on the balance beam and spinning on the flower chair. She also enjoyed climbing up all the obstacles and collecting rocks.

Lily also enjoyed her time at the park. She attempted to climb everything that Brooklyn climbed, loved being pushed on the swing, and even braved the slide all by herself.

Soon the boys woke up, broke down camp, and came and found us. Then we jumped in the car and headed over to the Starved Rock to find some good hikes. After a short consultation with the map, we were ready to go.

But not until Brooklyn staked claim on Eric's shoulders. It seems she had a little crush on him and didn't want him out of her site. ( I deduced this when she whispered in my ear that she thought Prince Eric was very handsome.)

The park was absolutely beautiful! and although we don't really count walking on a flat path as "hiking," it was still nice to be out in nature again.

The girls attempted much of the hiking on their own, but preferred to be on some one's shoulders... which wasn't that bad since it helped us to walk a lot faster.

But it wasn't all work and walking. We stopped several times to goof off and take advantage of photo opportunities.

Which came by the dozens with these clowns!

And of course, because of the little girls who wanted to mimic them.

Soon we reached our destination. The picture doesn't really do it justice, but it was quite beautiful.

The girls really enjoyed being up close and personal with the water.

Especially when we let them play in it!

After a while we realized that the girls were about to expire, so we put them back on our shoulders and hiked back out.

Once we were out, we hopped back in the car, drove back to Lisle, and spent a little more time with Eric before he had to head back east. It was so much fun to see him again and get a little camping in at the same time. Thanks Eric for a fun filled weekend, and good luck with the rest of your wedding plans!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Burns and McDonnell Summer Picnic

Every year, Burns and McDonnell throws a summer picnic for their employees. The first year we were with them we couldn't go because of transportation issues. The next year we were entertaining company at the time of the picnic and the year after that, Kevin went and did a laser tag game for the kids while I stayed home with a sick baby. So this was the first year we ever got to go as a family and MAN were we glad we made it!

The food, of course, was wonderful! But the highlight of the picnic for us was the Traveling World of Reptiles show that Burns and Mac had brought in!


The guy they brought in to do the show was an excellent entertainer! He knew his reptiles, and he DEFINITELY knew how to work with overly excited kids... which from my experience, is a VERY hard thing to do!

His show included MANY reptiles, but also some amphibians and THIS hairy guy! He asked if I wanted to touch it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it :)


Toward the end of the show he asked the kids who wanted to hold the baby alligator. This boy volunteered but was surprised when the guy planted a snake on his head as well!

When the show was over, the guy allowed all the children to swarm the giant turtle (who had given the kids rides on his back earlier in the show) and feed it grass!


At first Lily didn't want anything to do with the animals, but after seeing how happy the other kids were, she decided to give Mr. Turtle a chance :)

Soon we were all reptiled out and ready to go home...but not before the girls had an impromptu party on the playground with their daddy.

Anyway, it turned out to be a VERY fun event and we were grateful to Burns and Mac for putting it on. And you can count on us saving the date for next year too!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Our Last Good Byes

On July 29th, I woke up early with the girls, got dressed and packed, and jumped in the car with my mom to eat breakfast at IHOP before we had to go up to Kaysville, and eventually home to Chicago.

 We met Sarah, Tau, and their boys at the restaurant and then enjoyed a scrumptiously fattening breakfast whilst saying our last goodbyes. It was hard to leave them all, knowing that it would be a long while before we would see each other again, but I was grateful that they were able to clear their schedules to bid us farewell.

 When we got back from IHOP, Jennie picked me up to go rock climbing ... after which, we went out to eat some more fantastically fattening food before she brought me back to my mom's house to be driven up to Kaysville. Once again, it was a hard goodbye, but so much fun to spend a few more hours with my best friend!

 Once in Kaysville, the girls and I got to enjoy a little more Grandma and Grandpa Hanks time, as well as some tree climbing and trampoline bouncing. It was nice to be in the Hanks home when there wasn't any family reunion chaos going on and we could have Grandma all to ourselves. :)

Then on July 30th, a full month after our arrival, we hopped on an airplane and said goodbye to Utah, the beautiful mountains, the amazingly dry air, our good friends, and all of our family.

The girls were pretty good on the plane, which made things a little easier... and we were greeted by the most incredible man in the world when we got to the airport, which made things WAY better! But it was still hard leaving everyone else behind. Luckily, it wasn't long before we had some visitors coming our way! More to come on that... LATER!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Zion's National Park

On July 22, my BFF Jennie picked me up from my mom's house in PG and we headed South to spend a weekend in Zion's National Park!!

It was so amazing for me to be camping up against the beautiful backdrop of Utah mountains. I didn't realize how much I'd really missed them until I was staring right at them again!

 Jennie and I didn't waste any time when we got there. We quickly set up camp, changed our clothes, and then headed out for some hiking!

Everything was so beautiful and relaxing. I'd nearly forgotten how amazing nature can really be... and how amazing a weekend with no children can be as well! :)

Jennie (as always) was an awesome hiking buddy. She knew all the right spots to stop, carried all the water (sorry Jen), never got lost, and was the perfect conversationalist.

On our first day we ended our hike at a rocky pool, but the camera died right after I took the above picture so you can't see how serene and secluded the place really was. It was so nice in fact,  that Jennie and I found a nice slanted rock over some soft sand and took a little nap before we hiked back home.

The next day we woke up bright and early for breakfast and a chance to hike The Narrows. When we got to the trail head the squirrels were out in full force and I got to witness, first hand, the potty habits of a rodent!

Anyway, it wasn't long before we reached the water, along with about 50 other hikers (it was a very hot day,) and we charged right in.

The water stayed mostly around our ankles, shins, or knees the whole time, but there was one point at the beginning of the hike where the water went all the way to my neck. Jennie took this shot just as I was heading in.

After a couple hours of hiking we reached a "road block" that we really wanted to get over. By now the hikers had thinned out but we were lucky enough to have a young couple in front of us to watch climb the wall before we attacked it on our own. It was wet and slippery, but with Jennie's awesome rock climbing skills (and the brute strength she used to help pull me up) we made it!

And I'm glad we did! It gave me the chance to take a plunge off some rocks and cool my head down from all the hiking.

Soon after I took the plunge, we realized that we needed to start heading out if we wanted to get home on time. It was much faster hiking out with the currents than hiking in against them, and it was fun to wade back through the deep parts in front of hikers that didn't know it was going to be that way! One little boy saw me sink down to my neck and just gave up walking. He jumped right in and swam across :)

Once we reached the trail head again we took off our shoes, put on some sandals, and started the walk back to our car.

But not before we took an "after" picture of ourselves to document the incredible time we had together! Thank you Jennie for spoiling me rotten and taking me on a much needed side-vacation! Miss you!

Some other Stuff we did...

As you've probably been able to tell, we did a lot of things when we were in Utah! Here are a few more that I was able to get pictures of:

We got to visit with my cousin Farrah and her sweet kiddos.

 They played really hard with the rest of the kids! They swam, swung, played video games, ran around like crazy, played with barbies, and ate some good grub! We loved seeing the Jensen's and were glad they took the time to drop by!

Tony and Liz invited us over to their new home for a BBQ on one of the days we were out there. We played at the park for a little while and then enjoyed some very tasty burgers and dogs!

My sister Sarah and I spent some of our down time crocheting monsters for the kids to play with. I wish I had a video of Uncle Tau snowballing everyone with them. Very funny!!!

My sister Rachel and I were able to go out on a lunch date with no kids! We had SUPER yummy Thai food and enjoyed some uninterrupted conversation too.

But one of my favorite things we did BY FAR was our Harry Potter Marathon. Every night when the kids went to bed we would try our best to make it through the Harry Potter movies. I think it took us three days to watch number 2 because we kept falling asleep :) Luckily we managed to finish them all before we went to see number 8 in the theater. It was the perfect way to end our movie marathon!