July 27, 2011

When Things Seem Hard...

...you inevitably get a reality check, a punch in the friggin' gut, forcing you to acknowledge that things could always be so much worse.

Yesterday, a wonderful guy left us behind here on earth for someplace better.

Transcended this earthly life so, so soon.

For the past year, I have followed his story, prayed for healing, prayed for comfort, and thought often of his family.

Bryan & Katie, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Time & distance may have caused a literal lapse in a friendship we once knew, but I still hold you both dear. And my heart breaks for the sorrow you must be overcome with right now.

Kristen, while I never had the chance to meet you, I have admired your strength and courage in your writing through this entire trial, and great is the reward for someone with as much love as you have given.

Rory, you will be missed by many!

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

July 26, 2011

1145 Miles, 180 days...

1145 Driving Miles.

A span of 5 states.

Approximately 180 days.

Which rounds out to 6 months.

Departure Date: Saturday, July 30th

Return Date: Unknown

Things that will take place during the lapse in time: Tink's 3rd birthday party, Tink's 1st day of preschool, Sassy's 1st day of Kindergarten, Tink's 3rd birthday, fall soccer, Tink's 1st dance class, Walter's Pumpkin Patch, apple picking, annual trip to Topeka for PLC, photos at the governor's mansion, and a trip to the KC Ren Fest, Halloween, all things Thanksgiving, all things Christmas, holiday baking, the need to shovel the driveway, cold toes and warm hearts, lots and lots of growth, lots and lots of memories, events unforeseen.

So, I'm sure many of you are wondering what this is all about. Well, in short, there are some major changes coming up for certain members of the SPH.

Specifically, Tyler has taken a 6-month contract position as a design engineer for Honda Jet... in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Contracting is a risky business. There are no guarantees. Well, there are never any guarantees, but that is especially true with contract positions.

We have assessed the pros and cons, ins and outs, and ups and downs of this situation to excess, and have decided that this is the best course for our family at this time. We have lots and lots of reasons for that, which I do not need to bore you all with, but mostly we are hoping this provides us an opportunity to begin digging ourselves out of a massive, expansive crater of student loan debt, intermingled with some other acquired debt, and allow us to breathe a little easier.

Which, my friends, does not come at zero expense.

For the past few weeks, as we've weighed both sides of this decision, one of the local churches has had the following on their billboard: Salvation is free, but it isn't cheap. While I obviously understand the religious implication of the true intended meaning of the sign, it's also struck another chord with me.

An obvious first step in the job-search progression is to look at the bottom dollar. Here is where we are now, here is where we want to be, and will this help us get there?

Easy enough, right?

Well, then please tell me how you put a value on memories? Time? Emotions? Because I'm rendered helpless and without logical explanation here. It may be a free maneuver, but it's costing us a heckuva lot.

That list I made earlier- all things that Tyler will miss in our lives. Things, all important to us, that the girls will have to experience without their Daddy by their sides. How do you make that choice willingly?

We were not forced into this situation. Tyler's current job, to the best of our knowledge, was not at stake. He was not activated to make this move. He was not deployed. It was a choice.

And we made it.

Deep breath.

While I've known about this for a couple of weeks now, and our family and close friends already know, it's been exceedingly difficult to write it all out. Maybe that's because it comes with a sense of finality- of putting it all out there. Maybe it's because it's forcing me to process through a lot of really hard feelings. I don't know.

But the fact remains- Tyler is days away from leaving.

I am completely overwhelmed right now. Part of me wants to check off as many of the 4,792 things I would like to get accomplished before he leaves. Part of me wants to turn my head to all responsibility this week and relish in the time we have left as "the four of us". Part of me wants to retreat to my bed, pull the covers over my head, and hibernate for six months until it's all over.

None of the three options are very realistic.

I'm sure I'll have much more to say and to share on the topic as time progresses and I continue to plan and to process.

For now, this is all I have.

And, one thing is for certain... I am pretty confident that I will be turning to all you lovelies for support in the coming days and weeks and months.

Thanks in advance.

July 25, 2011

What Happens on the River...

Guess what, friends?!?!

I survived Float Trip 2011.

As you may remember, I was a bit nervous.

We left Thursday at around 4:30 PM. I decided not to bring the DSLR, but I did take a self-portrait or two just in case. I would want my family to have a recent picture of me and all...

We hit the road, chatted it up, and made a stop here for dinner in Independence, KS. Fun times.

We arrived at our hotel after 10:00 PM. We checked in, got settled, and headed to Walmart next door to shop for snacks and lunch for the following day. We headed back to the hotel, ate some snacks, had a drink or two, and went to bed.

Friday morning, we met for a continental breakfast (i.e. stale toast and cereal) at 7:00 AM. We went to Walmart, bought all the supplies we needed to get our coolers set up (i.e. ice, water, pop, and alcohol), and headed to Shady Beach in Noel.

It was 9:45 by the time we set out on the 5-mile course (the only course available due to the low river levels), and we had a rough first mile. Like, it took us over 2 hours, and involved lots of getting out, dragging our raft, and cursing. And drinking.

Not long after mile one, we got into our groove and had a blast! We paddled, floated, laughed, ate an amazing lunch, swam, and laughed some more for the better part of the day. I did take some pictures with the disposable underwater camera left from our cruise, and I'll share some of those once they are developed.

Friday was wonderful- every once in a while, we'd see some other floaters and say hello. But, for the most part, it was quiet, serene, and relaxing. We got off the river just after 4:00 PM, headed back to the hotel, showered, and headed to Bentonville, Arkansas for dinner.

We ate here. It was pretty tasty. Enjoyed my first, albeit short, visit to Arkansas.

We had to stop again at Walmart for lunch supplies for the next day. We saw this in the parking lot. HILARIOUS!

Friday night, we hung out in the hotel room, had some snacks, and went to bed pretty early.

No amount of sleep could have prepared me for Saturday, however.

We ate McDonald's for breakfast Saturday morning, did our cooler run, and went back to Shady Beach.

Immediately, I could tell it was going to be a different kind of day. School buses were lined up one after another to shuttle people to the river rather than the 15-passenger vans from the day previous. It was BUSY!

There were gobs of people on the river. There were lots of college kids. Younger than college kids. The music was loud. The swimming attire was skimpy. The alcohol was flowing.

The only thing I can equate it to was a pseudo-spring break atmosphere. With a Mardi Gras bead theme going. Yeah.

I saw more private body parts than I care to disclose. You couldn't help it. Everywhere you turned, people were going crazy!

It was fun. We met some interesting folks. We did our fair share of partaking in the adult beverages. Like I said... fun...

...until it wasn't. But, what happens on the river stays on the river. Let's just say that we ended up down 1.5 men, and thankfully, I was not one of them. HA!
Despite all the craziness, we all made it back alive, and awake buy the time we reached out take out point. YEAH!

We had a lovely dinner here and sat out by the hotel pool until the wee hours of the morning having some wonderful, much needed girl time. ♥

After three nights of less-than-stellar sleep and a dose of Dramamine yesterday in the car, I was DONE by the time we got home yesterday afternoon.

Float Trip 2011- a success!

Float Trip 2012- details to come...

July 20, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat Raft...

Don't look for this SPH Mama around these parts tomorrow evening through Sunday afternoon.

Why, you ask?

Apparently, I'll be floating haphazardly down some river.

Or, so I've been told.

That's right, folks. I am joining the ranks of kooky Kansans and insane Iowans and mad Missourians and...

...you get the picture.

Yep, I am going on my first float trip with some friends this weekend.

Am I excited?

A little.

The trip's timing has been overlapped with some crazy events in our SPH lives, and I'm not sure quite how to feel about it all. More on that front soon.

I'm more nervous, I think, that I will be stuck on a river for two days in 150 degree heat and hating.every.moment.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking that would really suck.

Who are we kidding? I am not the poster girl for outdoor adventure. The lazy river is like my mecca. Add in dirty river water and bugs and mud and sunburn and the necessity of peeing in a bush... not so much.

I'm trying to look at it as a grand girlfriend adventure.

We are floating on the Elk River through this company.

We are driving south Thursday after work, floating Friday & Saturday, and heading home Sunday morning.

We are staying here.

I am just a teeny bit nervous about staying at a place called The Booneslick Lodge.

Just sayin'...

However, any fear or reservation is completely understated next to the intense, superfluous sense of joy I experienced the moment it was confirmed that we would not be roughing it completely.

I found an item on Pinterest that mirrors my sentiments exactly:


And, that's the truth.

So, dear readers, please help a girl out. Tell me everything you know about float trips. What do I need to know? What do I need to pack? What do I need to avoid?


In return, I promise to spill the good, the bad, and the ugly once I return if I return!

July 19, 2011

Mama, Mama, Melodrama...

Saturday night, some ladies from my wonderful mommy group met for a night on the town.

We started the evening off at River City Brewery, where we enjoyed dinner, a few drinks, and some much needed girly chat time. I enjoyed a delicious Summer Tomato Salad and a not-so-delicious mixed something-colada drink. I swaer, nothing can compete with The Cruiser anymore.

Next, we skipped down the block to Mosley Street Melodrama for their production of Desperate Housewives of Sedgwick County. OMG. I really had no idea what a melodrama was like, or what to expect. It was interesting, to say the least. Very cheesy. Audience participation encouraged. Mediocre acting & singing, if I must be honest. But, really a good time. Oh, and a delicious "show special" blue frozen margarita!

We celebrated Sarah & Laura's birthdays, and the "hero" gave them a little special attention. HA!

We couldn't even stand to stay for the "country review" aftershow, so we headed over to Rain for a few more drinks and some more chatting. Rain is one of Wichita's equal-opportunity bars, so that was a first for some of the girls. Ah, Kansas. Always a step or two behind the times. More or less.

It was fun. All the ladies looked cute HOT.

How to teach a friend to use a DSLR in 10 seconds:

How to teach a random guy to frame a picture through a viewfinder in 10 seconds:

We stayed out way too late for my old-lady sleep requirements, but it was great. We even made a late-night stop at this fine establishment on the way home.

What can I say?

Moms' Night Out rocks!

July 18, 2011

Too Hot for Tanganyika...

Saturday, we planned a PAT field trip to Tanganyika Wildlife Park.

In July.

When our highs have been well over 100 degrees consistently.

Who does that?

Apparently, we do.

I kid, I kid.

We had a wonderful, albeit HOT, outing at the park. Our families were excited to see something new, and the kids were thrilled to have some close encounters with the animals.

Once we sorted out admissions, our family headed straight for the lemurs, considering we didn't quite make it there during our last visit. The girls LOVED the lemurs!

It's totally worth the $2 craisin to see their faces light up!

Apparently, Tyler made a buddy...

Lemurs are really fun animals to watch. They were just lounging on this rock. We learned that they are actually nocturnal animals, so they have to be woken up in the morning to come meet'n'greet. HA!

We made our way to the rabbit & tortoise stations, where the kids just had a blast! Little Miss C just took it all in... isn't she gorgeous?

The bunnies were soft & cute & cuddle & tolerant, just like always...

The tortoises were a bit excited for their lettuce, can't you tell? Tink took it all in stride, with the mountain of tortoises at her feet. E even tried to feed the tortoise the clothespin once the lettuce was gone. HA!

The newest feeding station is the rhino. We didn't participate this time, but we watched the feeding. You literally chuck a pellet into his {extremely repugnant} mouth. A mouth only a mother could love, for sure!

We hit the lorakeet lair just before we left. I think the birds were HOT. They didn't care as much about the interaction or the nectar this time. Still cool to see, though.

We headed to the park, let the girls slide down the ginormous slide a few times, and took refuge in our wonderfully air-conditioned vehicle. We didn't even stay to eat the picnic lunch we packed.

I know, I know.

It was SO H-O-T.

Maybe one of these days I'll get used to crazy Kansas summers.


July 16, 2011

Where's the Goose?

...cuz, we sure have a big 'ole goose egg here in the SPH!

Last Sunday evening, Tyler, the girls, and I went to my Mom & Dad's apartment for dinner. Tyler had given them a big 'ole ham from when we purchased the 1/2 pig. Oh, I never told you about that? Probably because the act nearly resulted in divorce and I just didn't feel the need to go there... Anyway, they decided to cook it and have us over.

Since my Grandpa is staying with them now... wait, what's that? I didn't tell you about that either? Gee, where have I been? Yep, the week we hosted the soccer coaches, my Mom received a phone call that her father was not doing well on his own anymore. She and my Dad hopped int he Blazer and drove up to Coloma, Wisconsin to pick him up, gather some things, and bring him back down to Kansas to stay...

Anyway, since my Grandpa is staying with them now, the girls no longer have a proper bedroom over at my parents place. It was tough for them. They really, really enjoyed having a space over there, and they were a little sad, disappointed, and not quite sure what to think when they saw everything in its new changed state.

I digress. Sort of.

So anyway, Sunday was the first time since our return to Chicago that the girls had a chance to spend time over there since Grandpa has arrived. My Mom was hyper-aware of their feelings and tried to make it up to them by leading them into her bedroom and telling them they could do whatever they wanted in there whenever they wanted.


Never a statement you tell to a five and a two year old.


While I was trying to keep an eye on what was going on from the front room, I heard a thud. Then I saw Sassy sprint into the bathroom. Moments later, she began wailing and running towards me.

What I saw made me instantly nauseous.

She had this INSANELY large protruding lump on her head that looked like there was about 1mm of skin left, which was all that was preventing it from splitting open and gushing blood everywhere.

Chaos ensued.

I immediately covered it with my hand. Why? I'm not really sure. I knew it wasn't going to make it disappear or anything, but I certainly didn't want to look at it. All the while, I am yelling for Tyler to get ice, like, 10 minutes ago. I shove Sassy off to her Dad and march in the bedroom where Graycop is comforting Tink, who was upset because Sassy claimed she was pushed by her, but Tink swore she didn' do it.


I was contemplating taking her in to make sure she hadn't fractured her skull, but was talked down by everyone else in attendance (what a fun party...) and I felt comfortable enough monitoring her head and her behavior for the next hour or so.

Anyway, a few ice packs later, her lump did begin to recede and she was looking, talking, and acting perfectly normal. She ate dinner fine, kept everything down, and I decided that she was OK.

Of course, that night when we got home, I forced her to allow me to photograph her (now much smaller) head injury.

C'mon, like you didn't see that coming.

Ouch, huh?

Yep, that's what I said.

When she posed like this, I began laughing and told her that she ought to get used to walking around like that for the next week or two.

For the first several nights, we continued to ice. On around day 3, she whacked it again during bath time, adding insult to injury. (Seriously, it will be a miracle if we make it through the rest of the summer without a broken bone or something)...

Here are a few shots from day 6. It's starting to look worse better. That's better, right? HA! At least she is rockin' the Frankie Stein attitude. She was pretty over-the-moon when I commented that her "scar" and skin tone rivaled Frankie's. ♥

Oh, that girl. What am I going to do with that girl?

July 15, 2011

Downtown... and DONE!

We were still enjoying our Chicago trip, but by Thursday morning it was back to reality and back to work for Auntie Kelli and back to daycare for Tucker. We all said our good-byes Wednesday evening, and Kelly, Randy, and Tucker all snuck out well before the girls and I were awake.

Once we woke up, ate breakfast, and got ready for our day, we started off on a rather grand adventure...

I was actually brave enough to take the girls downtown on the train... by myself... without a stroller!

Quite the lofty accomplishment for me.

I knew the route and directions well. Randy had even printed us out a google map with explicit direction on how to get from their doorstep to Cloud Gate.

Like, literally, step.by.step directions. HA!

I would have loved to take the girls on a new Chicago adventure, but I was confident I could get us to "The Bean" and less confident I could get us anywhere else, so Millennium Park it was. Anyway, they were thrilled, having great memories from our trips downtown in 2009 and 2010.

So, we drive to the Oak Park garage and hopped on the green line towards the bean.

By ourselves.

No matter how much I knew where I was going, I felt the need to double check with Tyler AND Kelli on the way. Seriously, I don't know that anyone can understand the horrible anxiety that I go through about getting lost and not trusting in my {pretty awful} internal GPS. It's really not fun.

The girls loved the train, and asked all kinds of questions about the sights we saw on the way downtown. We met some nice ladies in front of us, and they were just tickled pink by the girls. They sure can turn on the charm when they want to!

So, we hopped off the green line at Madison, and were literally a stone's throw away from our destination {hence the choice of said destination}...

I love the girls at this age- they have such a sense of mission wherever we go! And that quest for independence... well, don't know quite what to say about that.

Low and behold, Cloud gate stood waiting to reflect our cute little faces!

It is SO fun to watch the girls stare in awe at this sculpture. Really, if you are ever visiting Chicago, I consider Millennium Park to be a "must see". Great free entertainment!

LOVE this side of the bean, with the reflection from all the buildings. See the sweet peas under there?

We actually got some decent self-pics this time!

After we had our fill over at Cloud Gate, we headed to the Target Family Fun Festival tent. We first discovered this at Millennium Park last summer, and it's so neat! Every day between June 13th and August 21st, the tent is filled with free family activities from 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM. Craft projects, stations that encourage literacy, nutrition, fine gross motor skills, story times, performers, etc. It's awesome!

The theme during the week of our visit was Global Adventures, and the craft activity was so neat! Each of the girls was given materials to make a travel "passport" that folded out. They were able to write in different places they have visited and then draw some of their favorite things about each place underneath.

The passports turned out beautiful, naturally...

On our way out, we stopped to take a rest, and a few more pictures of the bean from a different perspective. The girls were cracking me up- check out their facial expressions in some of these shots! They are just too cool for school.

We made our way over to Crown Fountain, stopping in front of some really nice, colorful sculptures along the way...

Then, it was fountain time!

It was rather ironic, the weather. All week long it had been hot and humid and sunny. Our zoo trip the day previous was HOT. But, Thursday was relatively overcast and a whole lot cooler. Adding to that is the lake effect temperature drop, so it was very enjoyable to be outside in, but the girls were a little chilly at the fountains!

The girls were pretty impressed by the size of the structures. Don't they look so tiny next the them?

Sassy and Tink ran walked as fast as their little legs would carry them back and forth and back and forth and...

After awhile, they finally became brave enough to let the fountain spray hit them. But, not for long... it was too cold!

I ♥ this city!

After our water fountain adventure, I took the girls over to a little forest-y nook of the park to dry off better, slip back into their dresses, and do the sneaky wet-bathing-suit-to-panties switcharoo. I am talented like that. The girls spent a few minutes entertaining the passersby with song and dance. Nice.

We walked across Michigan Avenue and headed to one of our favorite lunch spots- Noodles & Co!

On our way back to the train, Sassy asked me what a certain colorful storefront was, to which I replied Jamba Juice. Sassy promptly remembered that Adam {soccer Adam} had said Jamba Juice was one of his favorite.places.EVER and she practically begged me to try it. I, for one, do not delight in disappointing small children, nor do I find it wise to pass up Jamba Juice when the opportunity presents itself...

Just sayin'.

Speaking of soccer Adam, soccer Kellie was in Chicago for the holiday break with several other Challenger coaches, and we met up quickly on Michigan Avenue to chat before heading back home. Small world.

After our exciting morning into afternoon in the city, we took the train back to Oak Park, retrieved our car, and headed back to Kelli & Randy's. I figured I'd lay Tink down for a rest, pack the car, and at least do the dishes that has been dwelling int he sink for a few days to help out a bit. We proceeded to get "locked out" of Kelli's due to a faulty key and had to panic for 30 minutes while Tink's knee dripped blood all the way down to her shoe from a trip on the concrete until I finally figured out how to work the stinkin' door. Yeah.

It was awesome.

After getting the car packed and the dishes done, I packed the girls into the car and headed to Rockford to visit Auntie MiMi, Uncle Jay, and the girls. We had dinner {pizza...yum!}, went to bed early, and headed out before 5:00 AM Friday morning for the long trip back to Kansas.

It was a LONG day.

I was SO tired.

But, we made it safe & sound.

Another trip to Chicago on the books.


July 14, 2011

Making the best of a bummer of a start...


Yeah, Wednesday kinda sucked.

Not going to lie.

Kelli & I had big plans for an exciting day filled with taking the kids to Brookfield Zoo.

Things were going swimmingly...

...until all of a sudden, they weren't.

Kelli got a phone call from Randy that he had been given activation papers.

I'll spare all the details. We all knew, once he enlisted with the reserves (after a 10+ year Navy career), that there was a chance he'd get called up. I think we all assessed that risk as pretty low, but low and behold, he'll be headed back to Cuba in October. For 270 days.

It's tough pill to swallow.

I think the hardest part is the thought of him being away from Tucker for 9 months. It was a bit different when Kelli was back by herself before Tucker. It kind of puts a hold on a lot of things. But, hey... to anyone who has been in a similar situation, I am preaching to the choir.

Make no mistake, there was no "pouting" going on.

Just that pit in all of our stomachs.

It's going to take a bit to get used to all this.

We decided to go to the zoo anyway.

It was going to do us all a world of good have a glance in a more positive direction.

It was a HOT day. We came well-equipped with water and snacks and sunscreen and...

Kelli & I were able to reminisce about our days as little ones at Brookfield.

We made fountain wishes, saw lots of cute animals, and perused the gift shop... the girls chose a stuffed camo penguin (Uncle Randy's favorite) for him to bring to Cuba.

Tink was thrilled to see everything!

What a HAM!

We checked out the children's farm...

Be still my heart, they are like little dominoes.

We explored, rehydrated, and weighed our options on where to go to next...

...but, ultimately followed the man...

...to the snack hut! HA!

We checked out The Swamp for a bit before...

...making good on a promise to Uncle Randy and taking the kids to see the dolphin show!

Heat & humidity aside, it was a nice experience. It was really the first time the girls were able to see large marine animals, that I recall...

Then, it was back to Kelli's for naps and waiting for Uncle Randy to get home. We made a nice dinner and spent our last night together before the girls and I headed to the next leg of our trip the following day.

Uncle Randy, we'll miss you while you're gone...

...and, as hard as it will be to be away from this little guy, here's to hoping that 270 days will be over before we know it and everyone will be happily reunited again!

P.S. Holy identical profile, Batman!!