Monday, July 18, 2011

Fun with the Maaloufs!

My sister Karen visits the states from Lebanon every summer for a month or so and we usually get to catch her for a couple weekends.  This year, however, she flew through Chicago and stayed here for almost a week.  Then, my dad came up to spend the weekend and drove them all back to the farm.  We had so much fun with them!

Anna is 7 years old now and Thomas is 9.  Anna was super helpful with Elliot (ehem, that's code for almost smothering him!) and unfortunately, he responded with too much pushing and biting, even when she wasn't trying to hug or carry him.  Really, though, she was a nice set of hands to have around.  Thomas helped a ton, too.  Maybe it was boy-bonding, but Thomas tended to clue into Elliot's "space" more and thus was well-liked.  Anna took it in stride and I think everyone is excited to get back together in a few weeks when the entire family will be at the farm-- all 9 cousins to play together!

We got really used to having them here and it was sad to see them leave on Sunday.  Karen kept us fed well and easily worked around Elliot's naps, etc.  We were able to do the city on the cheap with free passes to places and getting lucky with other free options like storytime at the library and an art session at a local museum one afternoon. 

We have an awesome local pool that we just got around to checking out (free!).  Very specific hours for family swim, but that keeps it organized and not a rowdy day-care-drop-off situation.  It has a huge water slide... this is them waiting in line for the slide.  The evening was a little chilly, so there were lots of shivers.
Everyone (except the stick-in-the-muds-moms) went down the slide more than once.  Elliot goes down with dad, and just has to be lifted up upon entering the water.  It's a 3 ft pool with a lifeguard right at the bottom, offering a helping hand.

Dinner on the deck.
They snagged the pass from the library to the Planetarium (it's slim pickings in the summer but this wasn't a bad one to get stuck with!).
Getting to try on NASA gear.
Karen had a work meeting on Friday night.  We took the kids for a quick play time at the park... but they played so beautifully together, making this sand city, that we stayed for a good long while.  I am sure the neighbors were thinking, "What kind of parents have their kids at the park at 9:15p?!"  Elliot came home all bug-bitten.
Grandpa made it up for the weekend before driving back with the crew.  Grandma was out of town, so we convinced him to make the drive on his own and stay for a night instead of meeting half-way for the swap. 
Since we didn't pay for anything all week, Karen treated us to a boat ride downtown.  The kids just loved it.  Just a short taxi ride, then we took a break at Navy Pier.
Elliot loved looking over the side.
"Land Ho!"  ??
We were headed to Millennium Park for the fountains, but found this one first at Navy Pier and couldn't stand to not get in when it was 95 degrees out.  They had a ball and remained drenched for the rest of the afternoon... no one seemed to mind.  Then we caught a pirate song-and-dance show inside (free too!) on a lark, took a break in the AC, and then headed back out.

By the time we got to Millennium Park, everyone was just about melted down.  Grandpa and I headed home with Elliot while Pat and the crew stayed behind to catch the train home, just to have a train ride added to the vacation events.  What a full week-- we had a blast!!

Summer Fun.

Pat went for a jog a week or so ago and came home, all excited that someone had a "FREE" sign posted on a baby pool.  We were borrowing my parents' van in order to pick up my sister and her kids from the airport the following week, so we had the right vehicle.  We all jumped in and zoomed over.  I had said to Pat, "Grab your wallet or id or something."  He grabbed his driver's license, only to realize once we got there that the little girl was selling cookies at a small table by the sidewalk.  We dug and dug, but wouldn't you know, my parents don't have a dime (literally) in the van.  We graciously and sheepishly took the pool and had to pass on the cookies. 

Needless to say, it has provided hours of fun for Elliot!  The one night we left it filled, and we looked out around 8pm to see another family using it (Tye has the same birthday as Elliot and two older sisters).  We went down to join them, and next came down Riley (8 mo older than E) and his family (1 year old sister too).  We had an impromptu pool party!  It was so much fun.  Tye goes to bed super early, so when they whisked him off, crying, Elliot and Riley froze and looked on like, "What are they doing to him and where are they taking him?!"  The look on their faces was priceless. 

Many more afternoons have been spent in the yard already.  And many more to come, I am sure!

Looking down from our deck.
If looks could kill?

2 Years Old!

Our little guy turned TWO last Friday.  We're amazed at how fast time is going, and yet, I cannot remember not having him around.  His 2 year checkup let us know that he has FINALLY passed that ever-so-daunting number of 20 pounds... he weighed in at 22lb, 11 oz.  Certainly on the very low end, but that's nothing new.  A little higher for height.  No concerns, healthy and doing well!

We had family visiting, so we opted to go minimal with the party-- cake/cupcakes, some balloons tossed around, and a few party hats.  Somehow, he still got super spoiled!  It was great being so intimate, however, because he truly seemed to know it was a celebration for him.  He really enjoyed himself.

The party hats tended to multiply, as you will see below... it became a game of sorts as to how many dad could get on Elliot's head

The "normal" crew...

The crazy crew!

He never tasted the cake... so we offered him some animal crackers and he was in heaven.

Up to three hats...
Getting into it himself-- he was trying to put more hats on his head.
Anna took the prize for the most creative use of the hats when she became a dragon/dinosaur (I think Uncle Pat had something to do with this...).

What a fabulous 2nd birthday!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 4th at the Farm.

After having to jump the car because the lights were left on after I let Elliot play in the front seat while I hunted for the credit card I forgot to get back from him during our last trip to Target (sigh...), we finally got on our way to the farm for the 4th!  I've been pumping Elliot up about visiting Grandma and Grandpa Ulrich, and getting out the swimming gear, so he was definitely excited.

He has his version of Grandma and Grandpa-- it's Goya and Gatta.  Not sure how that came about, but alas.  Mom thinks it sounds Scandinavian-ish... Once we figured out what he was saying, he's pretty darn persistent about using these titles!

I guess you could say we had a blast-- he played so hard each day that he crashed each night and had excellent naps.  We got on the road at 4pm on Monday to drive back, and he slept for 3.5 hours of the drive, we made record time with a fly-by for gas!  Once he woke, Pat said to him, "We're almost home!  Back to Chicago!"  His response-- a very loud protest of, "NOOoooo!"  Followed by, "Goya, Gatta, home."  

 The 4-wheeler is always a hit.

 We ended up with a lot of plans, but on Saturday evening, we were open so Uncle John and Aunt Melissa and boys came for dinner.  They all played out in the yard forever and wore themselves out, running up and down the hill, playing baseball, you name it.

 Being nice to Salt.  He then bent down and gave her about 5 or 6 kisses that she didn't know what to do with.

 Heading to the big fireworks bash at Aunt Amy's-- the place to be every year, but this year it was partnered with cousin Scott's graduation party (from OSU).

 Cousin Ann and Jenna (Scott's sister+3 1/2 yo) came up from Georgia.  The newest entertainment for the summer is this GI-gantic water slide/pool so she brought it along.  We knew it would be fun... but Elliot would stand there, purple, and shiver.  Of course, though, he wouldn't get out.

I was talking early on in the playing, and he slipped and went under before I noticed.  He got himself back up and took a minute to cry.  Gave me a good scare and reality check of how careful we need to be with a toddler and water!

 Manning the water gun.
 One attempt at getting out-- very short-lived.  He hardly ate the whole evening.  Notice, he is still hugging one of the foam water guns.

 A view of the "amusement park" at Aunt Amy's-- you see the GI-gantic water slide, then another kiddie pool, the play set, and just to make sure everyone would have fun, she put a slip-and-slide around on the other side of the yard.  Then there were multiple yard games for adults and PLENTY of fireworks!!  The little ones (well, everyone!) had a blast.  I think there were at least 8 little ones under 4, then others who were older...
 This water got saturated with red sand from the sandbox.  Did it stop this guy?  Nope!
 Cousin Mya with a water gun.

 Dad keeping watch.
 Please note how the other children are out of the water and in dry, clean clothes...
 And he had to go back in the big pool.  We took off the swimshirt when it turned dark and he seemed to be even colder... Last kid in for a good while.

 Finally, out and dry.  He LOVED the fireworks-- the louder, the more colorful, the more he cheered.  He kept yelling, "MORE!"  and we had to remind him to add his "Please."  (Next to him, cousin RJ who is 4 mo older, has cried each time and fallen asleep in the middle of the big bangs!)

 More festivities!  A family friend, Amy Billich, invites us to her brunch each year and has a pool in her landscaping.  Elliot did awesome with the floaty ring-- he was kicking like crazy and loving it!  Super adept and comfortable in the water.

Again, he slipped near the edge and went in, even with two adults right next to him.  He was fine, of course, but I personally think the scare was a good thing since he was immediately so comfortable in the water-- I want him to fear it a little.

 Trying to stop the shivers on a break.

 You can see how the surroundings are at this pool-- lovely!  All the rocks she has hauled up from her creek.

 He gave tons of great hugs this weekend, but wormed right back down, so again, I have no good shots of him with "Goya and Gatta."  I tried here and this is his reaction to "Smile for the camera!"

 Not so keen on getting in with the calf...

 Better from outside the fence...

 Every trip to the barn had to include multiple sittings on all the vehicles.  And if he got down there without you, he'd climb up himself.  Lawnmower here.

 Grandpa's old tractor.
Back at home, watching neighborhood fireworks from our deck, with more encore requests of "More!"  What an awesome weekend away.