Monday, September 19, 2011

In which we go camping, Part II

I need to start this blog by saying I'm sorry it took so long to get around to Part II of this camping trip. I'm sure you were just on the edge of your seats! The last few weeks have been less than stellar ones for my body. I managed to get giardia (yes, giardia) and then completely throw my back out thanks to the baby taking up residence on top of my spine making walking, sitting or moving in general excruciating. But, I'm past the worst of it and am looking forward to having a fully functioning body again....someday....

And now back to the exciting tale of camping Malleycats style:

So it's dark and raining and we have to put up two tents and get a campsite ready after what's been a really long and rotten day. Luckily Seth and Chanel know what they're doing and got the tents up quickly while I unloaded the car and got other things taken care of. After getting settled in for the night I lay there listening to the sounds of nature. And the sounds of the people the next campsite over. And I came to two conclusions: First, there is some kind of bug or animal out there that makes a squeak that sounds exactly like someone jumping on a rusty trampoline right next to your head. All. Night. Long. And secondly, that apparently people stay up reeeeeallly late when they're camping, and my guess is that they are drinking while doing it because the volume of their voices got louder as the hours passed. The combination of these two things kept me up until after 1 am, when I finally fell asleep....only to wake up an hour later having to go to the bathroom, stat! As a pregnant lady, time is not on your side when it comes to bladder control. There is a very finite window of time in which one can safely get to a bathroom before one's bladder decides, "ready or not, here I come!" Luckily our campsite wasn't too far from the bathrooms, so I managed to shuffle there quickly. When I finally fell back asleep, it felt like I had been asleep approximately 11 minutes total before the kids woke up with the first sunlight and were ready to go. So far the score of camping was at a -28.

The scenery really was beautiful. Not beautiful, however, is that picture of me stirring pancake mix in a bucket. We forgot a bowl, so this is me making due with what we had. Luckily no actual sand had been in that sand bucket our pancakes were grit free. Plus 7 for camping.

Once breakfast was cleaned up we got ready to head for the beach. It was the most perfect day ever. Talk about the calm after the storm...

This is what the dunes looked like when we arrived. Not a soul in sight, and the most glorious day ever. It was (and I borrow this phrase with all the respect it deserves) AMAZEBALLS.

Since Eloise had a cast on, we had to MacGruber something so she could have fun at the beach, too. Because nothing says fun like sand all up in your cast, right!? So we used the tools at our disposal: A garbage bag and duct tape. Pretty soon we had this....

It did exactly what we needed it to. She didn't miss a beat. You know who else didn't miss a beat? Penny the wonder-dog. It was so much fun having her along for this trip. She had such a blast playing in the water.

Seth discovered he could run down the dunes at full speed and jump over a clump of trees. I was impressed with that, but when Bennett decided to join in I was blown away! Bennett is often referred to as Seth's "Mini-Me", and I think it's pretty obvious why.

One of the most random parts of the day was visiting the French fur traders reenactment camp down the beach. There are people whose actual job is to dress up like french fur traders and then tell you about it. Prior to reading that last sentence, when was the last time you actual realized french fur traders were a group of people you should be aware of? Yeah, me too.

Also, did you know French fur traders wore loin cloths? I'm pretty sure that was a well-kept secret for a reason. These guys were rockin' it. Seth was alarmed at the number of pictures I took of these men in loin cloths, but in my defense--when else am I ever going to get a picture of that?!

After a most excellent morning at the beach, followed by a rad lunch of walking chili-dogs (take a little bag of fritos, pour warm chili, cut-up hotdogs, cheese and sour cream on top, then stir and then eat) Camping was up about 30 points, making it all worthwhile in my opinion. That afternoon Seth put up a hammock (cuz, yeah...that's how he rolls) which quickly became the hot spot.

Another hot spot for Oliver was this pile of dirt

45 minutes of straight entertainment. Makes you wonder why I bother buying toys of any kind. More dirt, less toys I say.

One of the highlights of the camping trip for me was when we were tucked in at night I would read Harry Potter to the kids until they fell asleep. We brought it out by the campfire as well, and managed to get through about half the book that weekend.

After learning my lesson the night before about how the sounds of nature and me sleeping don't really mix, I took two sleeping pills before going to bed the 2nd night. I slept like a dream. And funny enough, Seth laid awake all night listening to all the things I complained about like the trampoline-jumping bug and drunk people a few campsites over. He cursed me for bringing it to his attention in the first place to which I said, "You're welcome", and then promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. At some point in the wee hours of the morning I woke up to the sound of something banging around the campsite. Penny the wonder-dog couldn't be bothered with actual wildlife, so I poked Seth and informed him he needed to go investigate. When he got out of the tent there were a little gang of racoons that just stared at him like, "Yeah I'm eating hot chocolate out of the can, what are you gonna do about it?" Once all remnants of food (we thought stuff in a can was safe) were safely packed back in the car, we went back to sleep for like 4 minutes until the sun rose, and along with it, the kids.

Day two brought more fun at the beach which looked like this

Now let's talk camp food: Aside from pancakes made in a bucket and frito-bags-of-tastiness, the other high points included lil' smokies (who knew?!), and Seth's peach cobbler. You know what's not tasty? Foil dinners. They are dumb. I hereby swear I will never make another foil dinner as long as I live.

Packing up camp is for sure the worst part of the whole thing. The amount of smoky, sandy and otherwise disgusting towels, blankets and clothing was kind of amazing. Making it all fit in the car again is kind of annoying. The thought of taking all that stuff home again is kind of overwhelming. Thankfully Chanel had the bright idea to stop at a laundromat and wash everything there, saving 8 loads of disgustingness from ever coming in the door of our house.

So in the end though our story may resemble "Green Acres" more than "Man Vs. Wild", I have to admit that I had a lot of fun camping, and though it's a LOT of work, it may just be worth it.

In which we go camping, Part I

I am not a camper. I've never really been camping, nor have I ever seen a need to. That's not to say I thought camping was dumb, it just never sounded fun--especially considering that in the last 6 years I've spent a good amount of time either pregnant or nursing--neither of which sounded particularly awesome whilst in the wild. Seth, however, loves camping and has gone camping dozens of times over the years while serving in the boy scouts or the YM of our various wards. Add Chanel into the picture, whose family are like professional campers, and the pressure has been on for me to come to the dark side. Which is exactly what I did last week.

After getting our pictures taken at the Indiana Dunes earlier this summer we determined that the campgrounds there would be the perfect place to camp. The long-awaited weekend arrived, but before we could leave that Friday afternoon we had to take care of a little something. Something we had been dreading, but were hopeful would bring an end to a horrible situation: Mediation for our lawsuit regarding the business we owned. It was hours and hours and hours of back and forth with someone who is complete and total scum. It was emotionally draining and infuriating and ended with no resolution in sight. As we were driving home to pack up and leave, Chanel told us that Eloise had hurt her arm, and she thought it might be serious. So we got home and checked her out. She didn't seem to be in a ton of pain, but considering she had been to the ER a few weeks prior with an injury to the same arm (which turned out to be a dislocated elbow, also known as nursemaids elbow) we knew you can never really tell with kids. So I took her to the emergency room thinking I was totally overreacting...but sure enough, the x-ray showed it was fractured. She was a total champ through all of that, with not a single tear shed. That is until they went to wrap her arm up in a splint, at which point Eloise had a full-blown pyscho-billy freak out. I mean kicking and screaming and flailing and crying like I've NEVER seen her do. It wasn't like they were hurting her. She just didn't WANT a splint. Plain and simple. She squirmed her way out of the first cast and before they tried to wrangle her into another one I asked them to give us a few minutes alone so I could talk some sense into the girl using my persuasive powers. Five minutes later (following threats of no camping if she didn't cooperate) she had a new cast on, and we were on our way home to finally go camping.

This picture is just as the freak-out started. Of course when I realized what was happening, I stopped taking pictures and started trying to calm that girl down.

By the time we left for camping our plan for dinner by the campfire was replaced with McDonalds at the overpass and we finally arrived at the campsite it was dark and had started raining. Those are two conditions under which I was not looking forward to starting my first real camping trip....

Monday, September 12, 2011

In which Nana and Corky come to visit!

My kids are incredibly lucky. They have a lot of people who love them. In addition to Mark and Vicki Malley (my father and mother-in-law) who are really fantastic grandparents, they have the unconditional love of Mark and Debbie Taylor (Chanel's mom and dad). They are known around here as Corky and Nana. And my kids adore them. Having never had grandparents myself, I am particularly grateful for the role they play in my kids' lives. So when they came to town last week for a visit we were all thrilled out of our minds!

The downside to their visit? The fact that they left! The morning they left Eloise woke up find them gone and just dissolved into tears. We definitely had a day of mourning. Luckily we had lots of fun new memories to keep us going.

After the Taylors spent a day sightseeing downtown, Seth and I had the chance to meet them for dinner at Harry Caray's. Aside from making one of the tastiest steaks ever, it's a Chicago institution and always a great time. Both Corky and I were eating for two that night: Me for my unborn child, and Corky for his mustache.

We also had a chance to go to the Last Fling in downtown Naperville. It was loads of fun, and Lincoln's dream of having his face painted finally came true. Corky and Nana couldn't resist his pleas to be painted like a tiger. Can you blame them? Look at this guy!

Lincoln was so incredibly happy. He stopped to say hello to every.single.person he saw the rest of the day just to show off his face. He was a total rock-star that day.

Bennett wanted to be a dragon

Eloise wanted a butterfly. While the really good face painting lady was busy on the boys, another lady stepped in to help. She did a one-inch butterfly on her cheek. But when Eloise saw Lincoln and Bennett's faces, she quickly realized her little butterfly just wasn't going to cut it. So the good face-painter lady took pity on her and added pretty much everything you see in that very blurry picture.

Oliver wanted a dolphin tattoo on his arm. I know. I was as confused as you are. But obviously he was really happy with the results!

As if that weren't enough awesome for the day, the kids were also spoiled with a train ride on the mini-train. And we were spoiled with the visual masterpiece that was the train conductor's outfit. Behold! the jorts!(that's jean shorts for those of you who don't regularly make fun them)

Do you see Nana giving it the thumbs up in that picture? I just need you to understand that this man was like 6'4". That's a lot of jorts people.

There were also balloon animals, and prizes, and bounce houses and petting zoos (is Bennett trying to wrestle a chicken in that picture?) and basically more fun than you could shake a stick at. It wore us all out. Having that much fun is exhausting.

The day ended with baths and story time, and went down in history as one of the best days ever.

And since we like to put our house guests to work, Corky fixed every squeaky door in our house along with a busted door frame and even killed a wasp's nest while he was at it. Not to be outdone, Nana worked on the kids' Halloween costumes and now we're all ready for the festivities. Don't you wish they'd come stay with you?!

We are so blessed to have them in our lives and can't wait to see them again soon! Thank you Nana and Corky!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

In which I attempt a summer wrap-up

Summer: Where did it go? Somehow it's come and gone and it was filled with all the things that make summer great, like popsicles, waterparks, friends, swimming lessons, carnivals and lazy days.  So before we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall,  I thought we should take a little look back on our Malleycat summer. 

           Oliver developed a love of goggles. Protective eye wear is very important to this guy.  He's also now two years old.  Remember when he was a newborn? It really seems like yesterday.

We got a kitten and named him Colonel Mustard. He is rad. Unlike Francisco, he is not mentally retarded (and I don't say that jokingly).  He licks his own nether regions, poops in a box, and is snuggly and friendly and hilarious.  Everything we wanted in a cat. And he's here to stay. 

We went to the carnival and it confirmed everything we knew about carnivals to be true: Carny folk are seriously frightening, carnivals are ridiculously expensive while being totally ghetto at the same time--which is pretty impressive,  and sadly,  our kids love them. Which means we will probably feel obligated to spend one billion dollars at a creepy carnival again sometime in the all-too-near future.

 I won a pie making contest! That is not actually a picture of my award-winning pie, but that is a picture of Oliver getting in on the pie-eating contest.  I made a caramel apple pie that was fabulous--as evidenced by my blue ribbon! It had homemade caramel layers, apples, a cheesecake layer atop a graham and caramel crust. Good stuff people. Good stuff.

This has nothing to do with summer. I just saw this when I was at PetSmart getting some kitty supplies. I want to know if anyone has ever purchased one of these.  And then I want to meet that person and shake their hand.  Also, how psyched is that model to be the representative for such an awesome product?! I'm sure she's got that one in her portfolio front and center.

Thanks to a last minute standby ticket and the support of my incredible husband I was lucky enough to spend 2 days with these clowns--Wendy and Tyler of Blue Lily at a GoPro workshop, wherein I learned more about photography in 1 hour than I learned in an entire semester at the community college.  On top of that I laughed so hard I cried, and loved every second of it.  I know I already wrote a whole blog post about how much I adore Wendy and Tyler,  so I'll just say that I love those people, and leave it at that.  It was a weekend I will never forget, and it was made even more awesome by the fact that the rental car people gave me a VW Beetle for $15/day, and I executed the best surprise ever and got to spend the day with Mandy and Dusti.  Even writing about that weekend makes me all happy and giddy again.  I am so lucky I kind of want to slap myself.

So summer is ending and school is starting. Bennett started the 1st grade and was so excited to get back to school. I dropped him off on the first day of school, and the only person who cried was Oliver--who was NOT happy about Bennett leaving.  So when Bennett came home from the bus, I expected smiles--but instead I saw tears welling up in his eyes.  When I asked him what was wrong he put his hands over his face and said, "I didn't want you to see me like this!  I just want to be happy on my first day!"   I said, "Did you have a good day? Did something happen?" He said, "I had a good day--but I just missed you!"  I explained how we can feel happy and sad at the same time, and that it's normal to miss your mom on the first day.  He seemed comforted by that, and in no time was back to his happy self. But I swear my heart broke in a million pieces when he said that. What a sweet little guy.  The next morning he asked if I could take new pictures of his "first day" so that he would look happy in them.  And I did.  And he does. But this is the picture I will remember.

And to end our summer recap, I'll leave you with picture of who's coming this January.  When we told the kids that we were having a boy, Lincoln said, "4 boys coming in for a landing!!"  We still don't really know what that means, but it still makes us laugh.  I'm sure our son will someday be mortified that there is a picture of his wang in utero out there on the internet. I apologize in advance son. But you were unabashedly flashing your goods during that ultrasound so that even the tech said, "wow", and just stood there in admiration.  You made your dada very proud.