Category Archives: pictures

Donating the Dress

5 years ago, I unsealed my wedding gown box so that I could try on my dress. I was thrilled it zipped, even if it didn’t quite fit like it had on my wedding day.

I mentioned in that post that I was thinking of getting rid of the dress, because I am just not terribly sentimental about things. Everyone in the comments (and there are a TON of them!) freaked out and insisted I keep the dress. Go read it…lots of great ideas about what I could do with it.

So I kept it.

And then we moved across town, and 5 more years went by, and during that time I lost 30+ pounds (I’m still so happy about this!). I got the gown out again in January to try it on while going through some things in the basement. Obviously, it’s way too big now.

And 5 years later, I’ve found that I am still not sentimental about keeping it. So really. Why is it still here?

The decision has officially been made: I am donating the dress…like it’s literally boxed up and going to the post office today. And I’m donating it while I still can: there is only one wedding gown charity that will take it because, you know, it’s ancient in terms of wedding fashion. (For the record: I still think it’s really pretty.)

I’m sending it to Adorned in Grace in Portland, where the proceeds will go towards eliminating sex trafficking in their city. I love that my dress will make another bride happy AND do good.

Here’s a list of several wedding gown charities, in case you might be ready to let your dress go do some good for someone else, too. If your dress is 5 years old or less, there are lots of different options for you to choose from!

I put it on one last time last week and had Matt take a picture…

um, once upon a time i, uh, filled out this dress a little better :/  it’s sad that we can’t choose WHICH part of our bodies to lose weight from.

Spring Break 2015

I can’t believe it, but we’re on the other side of spring break already, which means the countdown to the end of the school year is on…39 days! 

The first several days of spring break were here in STL, and we stayed busy hanging out with friends, going to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration (we are the absolute least Irish people ever, but this was so fun), and enjoying a few 70 degree days outside all day long. 

The end of the week was spent in Chicago and the burbs. The boys couldn’t remember being at the Shedd Aquarium (I don’t even remember how long ago we took them), so that was the activity for Thursday when we got to the city. The entire family’s opinion post-visit is this: we’re pretty much over aquariums. I mean, it was cool, we saw some fun stuff, but meh. 

 Now, I LOVE downtown Chicago. I love the hustle and bustle, the crowd, the hotels and restaurants. Since the boys hadn’t ever stayed right on Michigan Ave, we decided that’s what we would do, and stayed at the Hard Rock. Love its location, and it’s a nice place. 

Overall, though, the boys weren’t all that impressed. I mean, they liked the hotel, they thought Michigan Ave was OK but not that big of a deal [mostly they were like, “we have to walk everywhere?” Suburban kids (shakes head)]. Millennium Park and the food were probably the highlights of our 24 hours in the city. I can’t say I blame them on the food: they had Garrett’s popcorn, Giordano’s pizza for supper, and Wildberry for breakfast. Plus Starbucks hot chocolate in the morning with their dad while I snuck in a workout at the hotel (see above list of food to know why this was necessary).

 We headed out to Wheaton Friday late morning for the next part of our trip: seeing Matt’s sister Heidi and her family in their new house! This was just so much fun for all of us…the boys all left in the afternoon to play baseball, and Heidi and I stayed home while her two little girls napped, which gave us a great chance to talk for a while. It was just so good to catch up! 

The rest of our time was spent with the boys playing with their little cousins and Rockit the dog, eating more amazing food, and the adults just enjoying each others’ company and a few good drinks, and a trip to a great museum on Saturday morning. 

On the way back to STL on Saturday afternoon (our Sunday was full of baseball practices and team pictures and the like, so we needed to get back), Matt asked the boys for their highlight of the trip, and all three said Aunt Heidi and Uncle Jeff’s! :) 

   

                 

 Here’s to the next few weeks flying by. The pool is calling my name…

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

Vacation 2014: The Steamboat Springs Part

Finally. I Did It!

If you ask my older kids what popular saying I hate most, I’d say there’s a good chance they’d answer “YOLO” (You Only Live Once if you aren’t in the know). I hate it. I hate that young people generally use it as an excuse to do dumb stuff and somehow justify it.

However, there’s obviously loads of truth in that stupid phrase. You really only do get once. And there’s certainly something to be said for not having regrets about the way you’ve spent your time. I’ve lately spent a lot of time thinking about how short life really is, particularly in the context of my mom. More on that in another post…that’s another topic for another day.

What this meant yesterday is that I was googling tattoos (again, it’s a hobby) and came across an identical tattoo to one I’d drawn out several weeks ago. “Drawn out” makes it sound like it’s complicated, so you’ll laugh when you see that it’s really just >>>. However, seeing it on this girl’s arm, and knowing it was exactly what I’d been thinking of, somehow made me decide it was time. Like now. Before I lose my nerve.

I texted a picture of it to several friends and my sister, and my friend Robin jokingly responded that she’d take me now (it was early afternoon – she has a tattoo and has said for years that she wanted to go with me, plus she’s the one who mentioned to me that if I did ok with the cortisone shot I recently got, this was no big deal!). I started a text exchange with Matt, making sure that he was 100% on board with this*, and told him I was going to see if Robin really could take me that night. Because I was finally ready.

We worked out our evening schedule, and Robin picked me up, and we headed to Iron Age. Envision lots of giggly girl screaming on the 25 minute ride, with both of us repeatedly saying we couldn’t believe this was really happening.

[Funny story to interject here: I told the boys about the tattoo in the afternoon. I told them that it represented the three of them, and Jack Henry’s immediate reaction was that I should instead get three stick figures tattooed on my arm. #whykidsdontmakethesedecisions]

We walked right in, met a super nice tattoo artist who didn’t act at all like this was the dumbest little tattoo he’s ever done, and got started. He was so professional, and talked me through the whole process, making sure I was happy with placement, etc., and that I wasn’t going to freak out. I was happy to hear him say that I seemed relaxed about it; I was (I mean, I have no idea how people usually act, but I was glad that I didn’t seem like I may hyperventilate).

Robin documented the whole thing with pictures, and gave me lots of encouraging smiles and held my hand for the first few seconds of it, but it really wasn’t that bad. First of all, it’s six tiny lines, with no shading. It was literally about 2 1/2 minutes of tattooing. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t feel good, but it was fine. Plus, there’s the added benefit of feeling like you have superpowers when it’s over. Plus? I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and I FINALLY DID IT!

So here it is! For real!

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I love it!! I’ve stared at it all day long, and it caught me by surprise at Walgreens today when I stuck my hand out for my change. I almost giggled when I saw it!

*He is. So supportive. Can’t believe I really did it, and I think a teeny tiny part of him is scared he’s married to someone he doesn’t know, but he’s being a champ about it all :)

Third Child vs. First: A School Project Comparison

Mmmkay.

A week ago, Jack Henry came home from school with an assignment I’ve seen before: the family tree. I’ve done the identical project with both of his brothers in first grade, also.

It was a typically-busy week around here, and we did a couple of things to work on the project. Jack Henry said he could decorate it however he wanted, and I remember distractedly saying “fine” several days ago while making dinner. As in, I encouraged him to do the part that he could do on his own.

Friday afternoon my sister helped him get everyone’s names on the leaves. Thank you, Hayley.

So Sunday afternoon rolled around. Guess what? I hadn’t done my part yet. And we were hosting small group in a few hours, and I had food to make and a house to clean up. Me: “do you just maybe want to draw your family members on the tree?”

That was a big no. I mean, I get it. Lame.

So we quickly chose a few pictures on the computer, including ripping a few pics off Facebook of our family members, and had them printed at Walgreens (our color printer hasn’t worked for a long time, so this is a cheap, close-by option).

I quickly cut them into rectangles for him (JH: “oh, I thought you were going to cut them into circles, but this is fine”), and we glued it all together. Done. And in time.

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So yeah, that’s an American flag in the tree. And a giraffe and some play-doh and some marker stamps on the trunk. I mean, whatever, man.

{I would like to point out that we included every family member (please keep this in mind as you look at the next two pictures. This is the one redeeming quality of Jack Henry’s family tree.).}

For comparison’s sake, here’s Luke’s:

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Normal.

And Bennett’s:

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Also normal. Sigh.

I swear I’m still totally plugged in.

Fifteen.

A couple of months ago, I was looking at Instagram, and a popular blogger that I follow on IG had posted a picture of her sweet family…they’d been travelling in an RV for a number of weeks together. She seems like a fun mom, and I love watching what she does with her kids through pictures. However, what caught my attention was the couple of comments that were visible under the picture.

I’m paraphrasing, but the gist was this, from 2 different moms: “We do EVERYTHING with our kids. We have never ever gotten a babysitter, even to go out for dinner, because we never want to be without them. Why would we want to go on an adventure and not include them?”

I almost choked on my tea.

Because, you see, I love my kids. So much. My only serious childhood ambition was to be a mom someday (and a cashier and an Avon lady. Which hasn’t happened yet, really. Who knows what the future holds though, right?), and I am one. I love travelling with them and seeing new things for the first time with them.

But are you even kidding me? Never getting a babysitter? Never doing anything without them? I’m sorry, but to me, that’s just not healthy for you as an adult human, or for your marriage. I’ve blogged before about how I think couples have to be careful not to lose sight of each other while they’re in the messy throes of raising kids (12 in ’12 was all about this for us), because before you know it, those kids are on their own, and you’re married to a stranger. No one wants that, right?

So, all that to justify say: Matt and I ran away to the beach last week for 5 days to celebrate our 15th anniversary, and it was truly, truly one of the highlights of my life. And we have Matt’s parents to majorly thank for totally stepping in and taking over the household for us while we were gone…they even left me with a clean house and garage, and the laundry done. Doesn’t get much better than that!!

We joked that we didn’t even know if we would be good at going on a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach vacation, since we’re usually go-do-a-ton-of-stuff vacationers (Nashville, Nashville again, Boston – though one of my Boston highlights was our drive to the Cape Cod seashore…). However, as it turns out, we killed it at laying in beach chairs. Literally for 4 full days, our only responsibility was making sure that we reapplied sunscreen regularly. We read books (you guys, my non-reader husband read TWO WHOLE BOOKS while we were gone), listened to music and the ocean, walked the beach and collected shells, and made getting back to the beach (or, just staying there all day) for sunset our job. Oh, and plenty of eating, and drinking Lime-a-Ritas like they were nutritious.

I can’t go back to do-something vacations after this. I’m afraid it ruined me in the best way possible.

It’s not that I ever would’ve shunned a vacation at the beach. I mean, hello, parenting babies and toddlers is incredibly exhausting, too. But as we reflected on the trip, and the time of year that we took it, it made sense why this felt like perfect timing. For the past couple of years, and the foreseeable future, our March-September is c-r-a-z-y with baseball. And you all know we wouldn’t have it any other way! The rest of the year feels so much more regular-busy-family manageable.

October is the perfect time to go to the beach. I’m polishing up my persuasive speech skills to talk Matt into this again. :)

I didn’t even mention where we went, did I? Siesta Key, Florida, right outside Sarasota. We visited a few neighboring beaches, too, to compare, and none of them even came close. I’d choose Siesta Key again in a heartbeat.

Sigh. So that’s it. Here are a few pictures, to make you want to go, too.

Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll blog about body image and what living in a bikini for a few days taught me. We’ll see.