A Full Weekend (Part 2)

After our grand adventure to the serenity of nature, we woke up early the next morning and drove into Milwaukee where we met the train to take us to Chicago for the day.  It was an early birthday celebration for Jake, since we were both booked with work on his actual birthday.

This was the kids' first train ride, and I'm not sure they actually experienced much of it!  Ha!  They were so tired from the week before, it was actually a great way for them to rest before we rushed around for the day.  I love this photo of Cole and Maurah.  She kept picking her head up, looking over at me, and smiling with stars in her eyes.  She was over the moon about snuggling with that brother of hers.

When we arrived at Union Station, I took the kids to see the Great Hall.  I wish I had photos of it, because I love that room, but the kids really weren't that impressed!  To them, it was just a big room and they wanted to go outside and actually see some things!

We took the L-train (again, another first for them!) to Lincoln Park Zoo.  This is my all-time favorite zoo I've ever been to.  

It's a tradition of ours to take a picture at this spot in the zoo every time we come.  We've been doing this since Cole was two years old!

I'm sad to say that I think our zoo days are close to an end.  It could have been that they were all tired (who planned to do this trip after such a crazy week anyway?!?), but they weren't that impressed.  We made it to maybe half of the zoo before we decided to sit in the shade, take a break, and then move on to our next destination.

We did manage to see a baby zebra while we were there though!  That mama zebra stayed as close as she could and every time the baby moved even just the littlest bit, she turned to look at him and moved even closer.  I love seeing how mamas have that protective instinct even in the wild!

Big sisters sometimes have that protective instinct too...

We then took a bus downtown to Michigan Avenue.  The kids were so excited because they had earned money for some large purchases they'd been saving for.  Maurah and Hayden in particular worked really hard to save up for American Girl dolls.  Jake and I told them we would pay half if they came up with the first half.  Lo and behold, they did!

A few months ago, Maurah wrote a letter to our neighbor, and has been doing odd jobs for her ever since.  She has spent hours picking up sticks in their yard, she babysits their goldfish when they're gone, and she picks up their mail.  Hayden wrote a letter to our friends the Hoffmans and she spent an entire day working at their house, weeding the garden, dusting the whole house, and organizing.  These two were SO PROUD to get their dolls, something they've wanted for so long!

This smile from Maurah says it all.  She has fallen in love with Julie, her American Girl.  Check out those stars in her eyes!

Laina, at six years-old, has not quite learned the value of working hard for something.  However, she had enough saved money because of birthday and Christmas gifts.  SO....the lesson wasn't quite learned, but a doll still made it into her hands.  We're working on her!  

Cole had saved his money to go to the Nike store and darnit if I didn't get a picture of him.  He walked out with two pairs of socks (his latest obsession) and a cool soccer jersey since our team is in the Olympics this summer.

We then went to Milennium Park and enjoyed the "fastest slides ever!"  I'm pretty sure this girl is 
going to own the city some day!  

It was hot, hot, HOT so the kids begged us to go to the restaurant and sit in some air conditioning.  We went to Giordano's for dinner and introduced the kids to what pizza should always taste like!  Then, we just went back to Union Station, even though our train wasn't due for a couple of hours.  Still, the adventure continued there!  We love this city!

A Full Weekend (Part 1)

This past weekend is one I want to remember forever.  There was nothing flashy about it, but it was a few days put together where the world just seemed right.  The summer has not started off on a "smooth sailing" note for us, so getting away as our little pod of six was just what we needed.  Sometimes when you feel like you're on everyone else's time and trying to meet everyone else's needs, it's so good to just stop and take a minute to breathe.

We did this first on Thursday night as I went to scope out a spot for a photo session I had coming up.  It was at Schlitz Audubon, a nature center in Milwaukee that I quickly found out is AMAZING.  The kids were exhausted on the 40 minute drive there, having just finished their first week of summer school.  Cole was especially tired, having done summer school, then basketball and football camp, all back-to-back-to-back all throughout the week.  There was so much nagging and fighting over even the littlest of things.  I thought for sure I had made a mistake having them come with me.  But then, we stepped out into nature, and what a miraculous thing nature is.  The fighting ended, the energy in my kids came back, and we were suddenly on a grand adventure together, one that everyone enjoyed!

The waves in Lake Michigan were especially awesome that evening...

These two bicker like the best of them, but it's so funny to me, because I have photos of them holding hands or hugging on every single trail they hike.  Maybe that's my new plan of attack when they're at each other!  ;)

I couldn't get over the light and all of the beauty that was around us.  We would come up over certain hills and it was just breathtaking.

We climbed a tower that seemed to go on forever and were able to see for miles and miles on end.

How this kid got to be 10 and start acting so old, I'll never know.  But we're definitely eating up this stage with him!  I love that even though he's getting so big, he's still our little loving man who holds his dad's hand.  

Laina quickly found a turtle shell she was enamored with and Cole couldn't believe the Queen Anne's lace that was bigger than his head!

We ended our hike night with a relaxing drive along the coast of Lake Michigan and then getting ice cream.  The weekend started early with this little mini-trip....and only got more and more exciting.

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...