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  1. November in a Nutshell

    Posted 28 Jan 2018

    After Halloween, as normal, came my birthday. It sneaks up on everyone, including me. Unfortunately a case of food poisoning also snuck up on Jen so it wasn't quite as joyful as we would have hoped. Other than that it was pretty much the perfect birthday.

    Oh No Four O

    Except for which one it was.

    Refinishing the Basement

    Refinishing the Basement

    My dad and I spent a lot of time refinishing the basement after our basement flood almost two years ago. Not only are the rusty carpet tacks no longer poking out of the floor but it's actually extremely comfortable down there and the kids can go play without me being worried about stepping on a rusty nail or smashing their head on cold concrete.

    Final Baby Gate (Before)

    Final Baby Gate (After)

    A much simpler project, though just as gratifying, was removing the final baby gate. This simple change provides an obvious aesthetic improvement but the most satisfying bit is how luxurious and wide our staircase feels now. Added bonus: carrying laundry or other items up the stairs is no longer fraught with peril.

    Elliott Spells out "Come On" in Glow Sticks

    Elliott spent much of my birthday party writing "COME ON" on pieces of paper and handing it to Jen. At the end of the night he spelled it out in Halloween glow sticks and called me in.

    Jen has made a huge tactical error in sharing how much she hates it when they say this to her so, obviously, they have doubled their efforts. While this isn't unusual for kids it is amplified by the DNA coming specifically from her side of the family tree. Once Jen and her sisters learned how much her mother hated monkeys they have never stopped getting her monkey-themed cards, wines, pictures, or anything else they can get their hands on.

    Payback is coming hard for Jen.

    Jen Becomes an American Citizen

    The following week Jen and I headed downtown for her to be sworn in as an American citizen. Personally, I think she's making a huge mistake. That being said, she is very excited to get to vote out of pure anger and rage.

    Saying Goodbye to Mr. Tim

    We had to bid a sad farewell to our neighbors Mr. Tim and Ms. Anita. They have been absolutely the most perfect neighbors anyone could hope for and we will miss them dearly.

    Goodbye Card for Mr. Tim

    Elliott drew a card of his favorite memory with Mr. Tim. Of course that memory was of the day Tim came over with a giant box of their son's old toys and gave them to the boys. Elliott still gets choked up when he thinks about it but mostly because he knows it will never happen again.

    Inaugural Basement Theater Viewing of Return of the Jedi

    One night when Jen was out we had the inaugural movie night in the basement. The boys actually requested Return of the Jedi. I was more than happy to oblige.

    At Wild Kratts Live

    The following day we surprised the kids by bringing them to a live show of the Wild Kratts. The kids were blown away by the show and spent the next few days reenacting scenes and dressing up in their costumes. I've got to say it was a pretty incredible show. I'm not really sure how those guys keep up their enthusiasm levels for ten minutes let alone for an entire live show. They definitely had complete control over the audience. It was like watching a band at the peak of their popularity play a stadium. The kids in the room were in awe.

    Charcuterie Board Project

    Charcuterie Board Project

    I also finally got to work on my charcuterie board project, something that is slow going. My complete lack of woodworking skill is certainly contributing to the pace of the project but my hopes are that it will still turn out okay.

    Mummy and Josie at Daycare Thanksgiving Feast

    This year marks the first time my work schedule has allowed me to go to the Thanksgiving feast at day care. Josie had a really fun time with us there and against all odds did not freak out when we didn't take her home with us after it was over.

    Illuminations

    We also did our fifth year at the Illuminations at Morton Arboretum. We discovered the secret to doing this after five long, hard years at this event: have children that are five or older.

    IMG_9291

    The boys did great. There was a brief period where they were unhappy about how hot their hot chocolate was but they walked the whole way, were up for viewing the entire display, and in very good spirits. Josephine, on the other hand, melted down about halfway through. It was better than the freezing cold year, and far better than the year it rained on us, but still not quite ideal for the under five set. Cousins Evelyn and Oliver were similarly cranky and it was understandable. It's a tough thing for a kid. When the final cousin is five years old it's going to be an amazing Illuminations experience.

    Illuminations

    Illuminations 2021 is going to be lit. Literally. Literally. Literally lit.

    Family Photo Shoot

    We also did a family photo shoot. The kids did great but after a solid hour of pictures were pretty done but we rewarded them with lunch downtown. Cousins were sick so they weren't fully into it.

    Sick Josie Napping

    The sickness spread and Josie came down with hand, foot, and mouth for the second time. Third time? I don't know but with the kids we've gone through it about ten times now. Each time gets easier. Each time is still profoundly crappy.

    Sick Josie Decorating Tree

    Jen flew out for work and Josie spent a day with daddy decorating our new advent calendar tree which she is obsessed with. Also, we watched Frozen four times before the boys got home from school. Then one more time with them for good measure.

    The cold never bothered me anyway.



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  2. Christmas in January

    Posted 28 Jan 2018


    December started with me being able to enjoy my birthday gift, a trip back to Rhode Island to see friends!

    Leg Room!

    I got first class on the way there and a space with so much legroom on the way back that it might as well have been first class.

    IMG_0012

    I had some nice beer while I was there but, for the second trip in a row, I did not purchase this Rhode Soda at the airport.

    Spicey

    As I went through security with the rest of the plebes I got to watch as my fellow Rhode Islander, Sean Spicery, was ushered through the high-speed TSA Pre-Check line.

    Beervent 2017

    When I returned home I was greeted with my third annual Beervent where 24 brand new beers awaited me!

    gingerbread houses

    gingerbread josie

    This year's gingerbread house decorating was probably the smoothest and most complete to date. The boys finally had the attention span and manual dexterity to realy decorate their houses instead of just sitting there and eating the candy. Josephine even did a pretty good job. For the first year ever Jen even got to join us.

    charcuterie board

    Charcueterie Board Final Polish

    I also put the final touches on my charcuterie board, the project that dominated all of the fall months for me.

    Working For Extra Prizes at the Hair Salon

    The boys learned the value of hard work. After requesting additional prizes at the hair salon (I don't remember getting any prizes at the hair salon when I was a kid) they were made to work for them. They then eagerly swept the floor for the first time in their lives.

    Hot Cocoa Social at Day Care

    While Jen got her first time doing gingerbread houses, my schedule finally allowed me to get my first chance to meet Josie at school for her hot cocoa social.

    The Last Jedi

    We were able to go see The Last Jedi on opening weekend. I have a lot to say about it but not here.

    2017 Christkindlemarket

    We even got to go to the Christkindlemarket and have glugwein, eat delicious raclette sandwiches, and watch an up and coming teen pop star perform. It was a great night.

    Asleep with all the lights on

    When we returned home from the market and our friends' Christmas party we found the boys completely asleep in their beds with the all the lights on seemingly unbothered.

    Naperville Christmas Light Tour 2017

    We also had our best ever Christmas Light Tour where the kids were all in very good spirits and really loved seeing all the lights.

    Snowy Backyard

    Jedi Pics

    We got a good amount of snow in December and the boys took advantage of it by staging a "Jedi on Hoth" photoshoot.

    Leaving Treats for Santa

    This is the first year where the kids were beyond excited for Christmas morning. It's hard not to remember that feeling. Sometimes they would just lie there in their beds and weep about how far away Christmas was. I remember that feeling as well. Lately I know the feeling of a parent who can't believe Christmas is already here and how unprepared I am for it. This year was particularly difficult for both me and Jen with more work than normal to do and even less time to prepare for the big day. However, by Christmas Eve night, when they laid out Santa's snacks, we were in pretty good shape for a great day.

    sitting by tree in dark

    The day came after only a few hours of sleep for us. The boys woke up around 4am and I was able to keep them at bay for while with their stockings in the upstairs playroom but they were far too excited to get back to sleep. Last year we had to wake them up fairly late.

    family by fire

    So it was we ended up finishing unwrapping their gifts well before I would have hoped to even be awake.

    Christmas Morning grandma and josie

    Christmas Morning breakfast

    We had a great morning with delicious food and great times. By the time noon hit the kids were fading fast. We'd been up for eight hours so I decided that in order to save Christmas I had to force them to nap. Elliott was easily convinced but I literally had to hold Martin down until he passed out. Luckily this lasted only a couple of minutes before he stopped protesting and went into a deep sleep. After a couple of hours of intense napping they woke up rejuvinated and ready for the rest of the day.

    Christmas was saved!

    christmas charcuterie spread

    That night I was able to give my charcuterie board its inaugural run and it was a huge success. The board didn't come out perfect but it has done its first of what I hope are many Christmas spreads.

    christmas dinner

    Our dinner was merely a beef roast with some potatoes and vegetables. I'm hoping this can be our last Christmas dinner as the charcuterie spread is usually more than enough to make everyone uncomfortably full.

    Playing Pokemon on the Switch

    The next morning the boys got to play one of their first games on the Nintendo Switch which they enjoyed a lot, that was until Elliott displayed clear dominance and crushed his brother's morale.

    Freezing Cold Walk

    After an emotional morning and afternoon we took the kids out for a very short walk seeing that temperatures had just barely crept into the positve numbers. They came back in with a renewed appreciation for being inside.

    Making Maple Candy

    We also made maple candy with some cold snow which was a bigger hit with the adults than the children.

    New Year's Eve

    For New Year's we had a party again for the kids. This year I was not suffering from the flu so it was much more enjoyable for me than last year. We played movies in the basement and once Elliott catches a glimpse of Captain Underpants he is immediately siezed with an uncontrollable urge to roleplay.

    nye dinner

    After the kids were asleep me, Jen, Nana, and Grandpa all settled down for a proper adult dinner. This year was grilled beef ribeye, mashed potato with duck fat, and hot buttered king crab legs.

    Jen Getting Back Into The Sims Game

    Jen was able to spend a good chunk of time on New Year's Day getting back into playing The Sims with The Sims 4. Here she is creating a character that is an uncanny representation of herself.

    No Spend January

    In January we decided to partake in "No Spend January" whereby we try to spend little to no money on anything, including food. This resulted in the first of many lunches like this at work where I took some leftover peanut butter and jelly from my fridge and ate them alongside crackers that had expired in September.

    Sledding

    After a long winter break the kids returned to school. You can see the joy in Jen's face as she gets a brief break after nearly 20 days alone with the kids. I had a mere four of those days off of work if you include Christmas Day.

    Sledding

    The stars were able to align enough so that we could take the kids sledding for the first time in years. Last year we got essentially no snow. The time around Christmas was so cold that we didn't take the kids out for fear of only being able to spend ten minutes outside in the negative temperatures. One day temperatures got into the forties and there was still enough snow on the ground to sled and have a great time.

    Oliver's Birthday

    With Christmas and a new house to move into we weren't able to celebrate Oliver's second birthday until part way through January but he did not seem bothered in the least and had a great time.

    Two Brothers Collaboration Dinner with Whiskey Acres

    One exception to No Spend January was having a great whiskey dinner collaboration between Two Brothers and Whiskey Acres with some friends.

    Paddington 2

    After a night of much whiskey we had committed to taking all of our kids to see Paddington 2 the next morning since the kids were all off school. I have to say this was not something I was really looking forward to but I'm pretty sure the adults liked this movie even more than the kids did. The praise that this movie is getting is not without merit. Go see it!

    Homework with Martin

    Schools are starting to wise up about giving kids homework. Unfortunately our kids get homework because parents complained when their kids weren't given any. Thanks, guys. We were really running out of tasks and chores to fight with our kids about. Thanks to the great parents in our school district we have one more thing to add to the list!

    Laying Down Some Vocal Tracks

    I was even able to convince the kids to lay down some vocal tracks int he studio. Expect their new EP to be dropping this summer!

    The Chicago Wolves Game

    The Chicago Wolves Game

    Last year we took the kids to their first hockey game. This year we upped the ante and took them to see The Chicago Wolves! Martin was so excited when they won. Elliott was devastated because, apparently, he is a huge Cleveland Monsters fan.

    I'm not sure what that's all about.


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  3. October Round Up

    Posted 29 Nov 2017

    October

    As October dawned we got ready to say goodbye to Auntie Lauren and Uncle Doug's house, a place we've spent a considerable amount of time over the past several years.

    Evelyn and Martin

    Evelyn and Martin got to enjoy their last arguments in the old house, preparing for fresh and new trivial things to get in shouting matches about when they move into their new place.

    Canadian Thanksgiving

    We also hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving feast for the largest group since we moved here. It still doesn't top thirty-five adults at our old two bedroom apartment but it was pretty close albeit far easier.

    Roast Turkey

    Even the turkey, usually not the highlight of any Thanksgiving I prepare, turned out pretty well.

    Josie Picks Out New Bed

    The following day we took Josie to IKEA to pick out a big girl bed. This took her just under two seconds as she ran across the showroom and leapt into her bed of choice. I can only wish that her mother and I could come to decisions at IKEA with that amount of expedience.

    Josie's Old Crib

    So it was that we said goodbye to her crib, a crib that has served us well for over five years and is thoroughly warped, stained, and damaged form hard use.

    Josie Helping Me Build her New Bed

    I spent the afternoon putting the new bed together, a task made much easier when there's a two-year-old assisting you.

    Josie's New Bed

    And in ushers the era of no cribs. The interesting thing, six weeks later, is that Josie still hasn't figured out that she can get out of her bed on her own. This is actually pretty handy in that we don't have to worry about any surprises. Still she will call for us to come and remove her from bed. I'm not sure how long this will last but I'll enjoy it while there are only two wanderers I need to be concerned about.

    Josie in Baba's Bed

    We even got a new bed for Baba, something Josie was eager to test out personally before allowing Baba to try it out.

    Martin Reads "Hug Machine" to Josie

    Martin read Josie a bedtime story per her request and she went to sleep really easily. Perhaps not having a twin in the same room to cause trouble with makes the transition to a regular bed a little easier.

    Family Photos

    I had a brief break as I traveled home to Rhode Island for a family wedding.

    Cousins!

    I got a chance to see my cousin Rebecca, someone I don't get to see enough. It was a beautiful wedding and the joy of sleeping without children around was not lost on me in the least.

    Trunk or Treat (2017)

    Back home the kids got to do trunk or treat at Josie's day care.

    Downtown Trick or Treating

    They then did trunk or treat downtown at all the local businesses.

    Pumpkin Carving

    We carved a pumpkin on the night before Halloween and watched some Halloween specials. We've tried about a dozen different Halloween specials this year but the kids were mostly afraid of everything. Even the Garfield Halloween special was too much for them. The Bugs Bunny special gave them nightmares. The only reason I kept trying is because they claim to love spooky things. Apart from The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown special I haven't found much that is in the correct spooky range for these kids.

    Trick or Treating on Halloween Night

    Finally we concluded the week with Halloween proper where we did trick or treating again. By this time Josie and Martin were done. Elliott had a bit more stamina but Josie and Martin had had enough of the whole process by this point. Martin looked up at me and said, "Okay, Daddy, I think I have enough candy now. Can we go home?"

    This is something I don't ever recall saying as a child. I only got to go trick or treating once and I had to be dragged back home.

    And so continues my smooth transition into old manhood. Kids today, they don't know how good they have it!


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  4. September Recap

    Posted 28 Nov 2017

    September saw some pretty nice weather this year, like every year. Normally we just assume that the leaves will be falling and the smell of hot cider will fill the air as soon as September first hits. Instead we're generally walking around all sweaty trying to force the season and pretending we like pumpkin spice.

    Josie Pitching

    The boys had a lot of fun playing baseball, however, Josie always insists on pitching. While her stance is adorable her accuracy leaves a little something to be desired. The boys want me to pitch but Josie's screams of protest are usually enough for them to humor her at the expense of their own fun.

    Frozen Garden Tomatoes

    Like we do most septembers we loaded up the fridge with all manner of garden and farm vegetables, mostly in the form of peeled and diced tomatoes.

    Mixed Grill on Polenta

    Our friends Debbie and Michele came to visit which meant I could cook something nice for one of the three or four times a year I am granted the time to do so. I made a mixed grill with chicken, ribeye steak, and a friend's homemade sausage on a bed of creamy polenta.

    Dinner on the Deck with Debbie and Michele

    We also got to enjoy a drink or two on the deck, something we had hoped to do many times this summer but didn't happen until mid September.

    Martin as Goalie

    Martin continued his constant goalie practice in the driveway and roped anyone he could into playing with him whether it was a brother, parent, grandparent, neighbor, or someone simply walking past our house.

    Elliott Riding Bike

    Elliott spent most of his time riding his bike. Martin has given up on riding his bike. Even though he can do it, he decided that since he fell once that riding bikes is just not for him.

    Apple Picking

    We also got in early on the apple picking this year. Since the kids are in school full time we weren't able to go on a weekday and have the entire orchard to ourselves. We did, however, get a chance to enjoy some cider donuts and have it feel a little less like we were trespassing on someone's private orcahrd after hours.

    After School Pokemon Hunt

    A few days running I have taken the boys out to play Pokemon after I picked them up for school. I even purchased the Pokemon GO late for them in the only setting where I did not feel embarrassed to order it. It's much less shameful when there are five-year-olds around.

    Martin Meeting Dogs

    As with any Pokewalk we take Martin manages to convince every dog owner he meets to stop so he can pet their dogs. I'm shocked at how few dog owners are annoyed by this.

    Wood Plank

    At the end of the month my wood plank arrived, a vertical slab from a cedar tree. With a lot of research (and even more luck) I intend to make a charcuterie board to be ready for Christmas this year. If you don't see it in my Christmas pictures this year and I don't mention it you will know that something has gone wrong and that I have spent a lot of time and money effectively ruining a beautiful piece of wood.

    Let's hope for a Christmas miracle!



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  5. Summer Fun Done

    Posted 31 Aug 2017

    As summer draws to a close we are faced with wrapping up the last few items from our Summer Fun List with the kids. Sure there are technically three more weeks but with the boys starting Kindergarten we are effectively in the fall, thinking about pumpkins, Halloween, and hot cider as we sweat in the ninety degree heat.

    Helping Daddy with Flood

    August began with a huge rainfall that had me dashing out into the yard, wading through shin-deep puddles and trying to fix our sump pump exterior drain as hail pelted me in the head and bare feet. I returned inside, soaked, and greeted by the boys who had gone into the basement and gotten as much emergency gear as they could to help me out.

    Back to School Shopping

    Soon we found ourselves at Target buying the most insanely specific set of back to school supplies including things I had never imagined even existed such as pre-sharpened pencils. Why buy a dozen unsharpened pencils for $0.34 when you can get them sharpened for just $6.99?

    Hawk in Yard

    Back at home a family of Coopers Hawks (which previously I thought was just the name of a restaurant) have taken up residence in our yard. This explains why we haven't seen any rabbits this summer. That and the fact that a family of raccoons also decided to call our yard home as well. Thankfully the raccoons have been persuaded to go elsewhere before they took up residence in our attic as seems to be fairly common around here.

    First Baseball Game

    We also took the boys to their first baseball game with Grandad. They are still talking about it and we are still required to play baseball in the yard daily to reenact the game we saw in an alternate reality where the home team actually wins and the River Bandits lose in disgrace.

    Paddleboats

    Much to Elliott's delight we also hit the paddle boats before they closed down for the season. This has not prevented them from asking about going back to the paddle boats again every day since.

    Pokemon Go Raid

    We also hit some Pokemon Go raids as a group where Martin and Elliott boasted to the hordes of twenty-somethings about their impressive stable of Pokemon that they have caught.

    Renaissance Faire

    We also went back for our annual trip to the Renaissance Fair which is always a hit. Every year the weather gets better, we stay longer, and the boys have fewer meltdowns. I'm sure this will all be for naught as soon as we bring Josie into the mix on our annual trip and all hell breaks loose.

    Ready for Fun at the Beach

    We made it to Centennial Beach on the exact last day of the season which was nowhere near as busy as we thought it would be. We got to get a great swim in before retiring our flotation devices for the season.

    Baba with Sunscreen

    Josie took extra care before we went to the beach by making sure she lathered up Baba for some fun in the sun.

    Josie's First Day of Beginners

    Soon after Josie began her first day in her new classroom which went over very smoothly.

    Kindergarten Preview

    The boys got to attend their Kindergarten preview and set up their rooms for the school year.

    New Yard Drainage System

    Back at home we were having a drainage system installed so that we could avoid future flooding, hail-related toe injuries, and save Martin and Elliot the trouble of haivng to suit up to assist me by running around the house screaming as I redirect pipes in the yard.

    First Day of Kindergarten

    The first day of school was a huge hit. On my first day of kindergarten I was fine until a girl in my class, Chelsea, lost it and fell on the floor screaming at her mother. I remember thinking that she must know something I don't know then I became very emotional.

    On the boys' first day of kindergarten I was also fine, that is until I saw the other parents sobbing and I once again wondered what they knew that I didn't and I too became emotional.

    The circle is now complete.

    Bike Ride

    The boys are both doing extremely well with their new pedal bikes. They picked it up right away and have gotten by with only minor crash-related injuries. I've been more concerned about what will happen if one of then careens into Josie as she gets used to her balance bike.

    Kindergarten Drop Off

    Jen flew out of the country for four days and I got to experience dropping off and picking up the kids from school every day which was a lot of fun. It's amazing how fast six hours goes by. It doesn't leave one with time to do very much. I can only imagine what the parents of half day kindergarteners would have done in the past.

    Scott Scoot

    The school organized a 5k race which went right by our house and we were able to go watch it on Saturday morning and cheer on the participants as they ran past.

    At the Bouncy Park

    After a failed nap attempt for Josie we all went to the park where the boys insisted on dressing like Mario and Luigi for unknown reasons.

    At the Bouncy Park

    They also befriended some extremely friendly middle-schoolers who were fishing.

    At the Bouncy Park

    The fishing kids were so nice and they showed all three of the kid show to fish, let them all try it, and even gave them some lures to take home as a souveneir.

    Josie in "Daddy's Bed"

    When Jen was away Josie decided that she would sleep in "Daddy's Bed." This is the nest of spare duvets that I keep beside her crib when I or Jen inevitably end up sleeping in her room to get her back to sleep in the middle of the night.

    Josie with Birthday Party Present

    On Sunday we all went to the boys' friend's house for her birthday party.

    Moana Birthday Party Theater

    It had been planned as an outdoor party but with some raid the kids all ended up in the basement watching Moana in an amazing home theater setup. Needless to say no one complained about this, particularly the parents who all hung out in the bar which was conveniently located adjacent to the movie theater.

    To make things even better it cleared up as soon as the movie was over and everyone played outside for the remainder of the party.

    With summer wrapping up we gear up for fall. Elliott is already excited for his favorite holiday, Halloween. Martin is ready for colder weather which is more conducive to playing hockey. Josie, she's just ready to wreak havoc in yet another season.

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