When vacation feels like home

A few weeks ago we went on vacation to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We actually took the train from St. Louis to Chicago and then drove up to Milwaukee from there. We had A BLAST.

We (Chase, J, myself, and my parents) left on a Saturday morning out of St. Louis and the train ride took 6 1/2 hours. This is a little longer than driving, but no one had to drive. Plus, J LOVED the train. In a car he would he have been in his car seat strapped in a 5 point harness barely able to move. No wonder he hates the car. In the train he was able to walk around, sit on his knees and look out the window, play games, and more! He was incredibly excited when cars would have to stop for US at the train tracks, you know, instead of the other way around like it usually is. We would wave out the window to the people as we passed the crossing.

We arrived in Chicago early Saturday afternoon, and took a taxi one mile down the road to pick up our rental car. The taxi was no joke. Those taxi drivers definitely do not follow the rules of the road, let alone laws. Craziness. But we made the one mile safely, the blessed one mile. After we picked up our rental car, we drove a few more miles down the street and then around in a large circle since we missed the correct street, and finally made it to the Willis Tower (which will forever be the Sears Tower). First though, we had a snack at the busiest McDonalds ever, and then we went across the street to get in the 3 hour line to go up to the top of the tower. It really is worth the wait though. You can see everywhere in Chicago. That was my second time to go up, but Chase’s first time to see it all. He was brave and had his picture taken on the walkout portion of the skydeck. J also stood with him, but he seemed pretty oblivious to the scariness of it.

After our one thing in Chicago, we took off for Milwaukee and stopped at Panera on the way for supper. We made it to our hotel sometime after 9pm and we were pretty beat.

Sunday we all had trouble waking up, but we somehow did it, and made it to the Historic German walking tour at 9:30am. When we arrived we were told the tour had sold out so there wasn’t room on the bus, but they were super nice and told us we could drive our own car to meet them at the start of the tour. It wasn’t really that far away, so it was back to the car, and off to the starting point. We learned so much on our walking tour! A ton of Germans immigrated directly to Milwaukee between the 1850s and 1900. By 1900, 1/3 of Milwaukee’s population was German immigrants. And some of these people were my great grandparents! My grandparents were second generation German immigrants. How cool is that?!
There are three rivers that run through the city, the Menomonee, the Kinnickinnic, and the Milwaukee which flow into Lake Michigan. The three rivers divided up the city when the Milwaukee was first settled. Another thing I loved about the tour was seeing all the old buildings, churches, and cathedrals still standing. Most of the German immigrants were either Catholic or Lutheran and you can still see one church or the other every so many miles throughout the city.
After the tour, we went to GermanFest and ate some schnitzels and J and I rode a lift over the whole GermanFest to see it all from up above. After that, we went back to the hotel for nap time, and then went out to eat at Georgie Porgie’s Treefort Restaurant. They had amazing cheeseburgers and the atmosphere was really family friendly! After we ate we went to Woodman’s, which is the biggest grocery store I have ever seen. No, seriously. They had everything you could ever think of, and the prices were super reasonable! It quickly became one of my all time favorite stores. That evening Chase and I went to see a movie while J stayed at the hotel with my parents and played in the pool before bed time!

Monday we had a tour scheduled at the Clock Shadow Creamery, the only cheese factory in the city of Milwaukee. We learned how cheese is made and watched a little of the process, and then we bought a bunch of yummy, so good, cheese! After the tour, I asked the tour guide where the best place was for lunch to experience Milwaukee food. She suggested the Milwaukee Ale House. A-ma-zing! They were located right on one of the rivers so the view was fantastic! Although we had to eat inside, because it was too chilly. That’s the thing about traveling north, the summer’s are way cooler up there! And that specific day was a little chilly, highs in the 60s. The Ale House had some of the best fried cheese curds! All of their food was so good. After lunch we went to Veteran’s Park which is right on Lake Michigan. We bought a cheap kite thing and tried to fly it (note to self, bring our own kite next time) and walked the trail around. It was beautiful! On one side is the lake and the other side was the skyline of Milwaukee. After the park, we went back to the hotel to nap, and then Chase and I took J down to the pool! After some fun in the water, we went to Cousins Subs to eat some good sub sandwiches, and then we found a Sendicks market (another grocery store) and bought some cheese curds. Because it wouldn’t be the best trip ever without some squeaky cheese!

Tuesday Chase and I took J to the beach. On our way we dropped my parents off at an Antique Mall downtown. We went to Bradford Beach and although it was beautiful it was not the beach experience you would normally have on a beach in Florida. The high for the day was in the mid-70s so that morning it was just a little chilly for water, but add to that the extremely cold Lake Michigan and “Brrr!” There was also a flash flood a couple of weeks before we came that caused one of the sewage drains in a nearby town to overflow into Lake Michigan so the water was still environmentally not the best for playing in. But we put our feet in and made an extremely sad sand castle. It was mostly sad because we didn’t know what we were doing and only had cups for building.
After we went to the beach we drove a few miles to the Historic Third Ward. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places and we had walked through it on our tour on Sunday. A lot of the businesses and restaurants are still owned by 3rd and 4th generation German residents. I wanted to go to the Spice House. As soon as I walked in my senses were overwhelmed. My nose picked up a million different spice scents and I saw wall to wall herbs and spices. I bought some Saigon Cinnamon, Maple Sugar, and some Herbs de Provence. I have already used the Herbs de Provence in a recipe and it is SO good. If you ever run across this mixture of spices, buy it and use it! By this time we were starving and decided to eat at a nearby Italian restaurant. A policeman was coming out as we were walking in and he held the door open for us. He asked if we were coming in and I said I thought we would check it out, he responded that we wouldn’t be disappointed. He was right.
After lunch we picked up my parents and drove another couple of miles (seriously, everything is that close together) to Purple Door Ice Cream. They are said to have the best ice cream ever. I can’t really disagree. I’m pretty much an ice cream snob, and their ice cream was probably the best I have had in a long time. They have a ton of different concoctions. I like my ice cream pretty plain, but I branched out and had Honey Vanilla. You could taste honey in every bit of it. YUM!
We went back to the hotel for nap time and then we went out to eat at Miss Katie’s Diner. President Clinton and Michelle Obama have both eaten there along with a few other famous people. The food was really good home cookin’ food. Plus the 50s theme of the diner was fun. After supper, we went to Gander Mountain and scored some clearance and then back to Woodman’s because I really did love that store.

On Wednesday we woke up fairly early and drove back to Chicago. We had just enough time to go to Millennium Park and see the The Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, The Great Lawn (where they host concerts), and The Crown Fountain, which is basically two large towers with water cascading down the sides. J loved The Crown Fountain. I knew my parents would appreciate the “Bean.” I loved it the first time I went to Chicago. We had a quick lunch nearby at Subway, well, most of the family did. I ran across the street and grabbed lunch at Toni Patisserie & Cafe. I had a baguette filled with fresh tomato, huge slices of soft mozzarella, gruyere, and some fresh basil. Yum! After lunch we hurried to the train station where Chase dropped us all off more than hour before our train was supposed to leave. He took the car back to the rental place and walked the mile to the train station. He said it was a pretty awesome walk through downtown Chicago. We left Chicago around 2pm and arrived in St. Louis an hour later than scheduled. During our train ride we decided to eat on the dining car because it was super time and we were feeling pretty hungry. Food on the train is so expensive! But it was still a neat experience.

Thursday we drove back home after staying in St. Louis for the night. It was such a great trip! I loved almost every minute of it. I really enjoyed Milwaukee. I loved it so much that I kept telling Chase I wanted to move there (minus the actual moving part). The town felt like home! I loved every part that we saw. I loved how so much of the historical neighborhoods have been restored and are still around and while at the same time everything is very modern. I loved how three rivers ran through the city and a lot of businesses and restaurants were on the river banks so you could walk or eat on the side of the rivers. I loved how the town always seemed so clean (even though the Lake needs a LOT of work environmentally). I loved the suburb we stayed in, Oak Creek, and how peaceful the town seemed and all the shopping that was close by, yet it was only 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee. SO MUCH FUN!

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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


This is how we potty train

Today is J’s second day to be in big boy underwear. He is 3 1/2. And I am so proud of him. Up until now something, instinct maybe, told me it just wasn’t time to potty train. He didn’t want to use the potty and had no interest in it. Once last year, I put him in big boy underwear for half a day and he just didn’t get it. I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t be the mommy who pushed potty training. I was going to wait until he was ready. I had two main reasons for this thought. One: I didn’t want to have to be on him all the time asking if he needed to go or cleaning up messes. Two: I wanted him to do it when we both knew he could do it and do it well.
Every parent makes their own decision on this and on everything else regarding how to parent. We decided this didn’t phase us as parents. The “when” didn’t matter. We are the kind of parents who make sure you put your shoes up where they belong every time and always say please and thank you and pray before meals and bedtime. But we aren’t going to force the learning years, those first 3-5 years, to go faster than they need to. I had several moms that just didn’t get it. “But you have to BUY diapers” “He is 3!” “You should just make him do it.” “You have waited too long and missed your window.” and so on. I have heard it ALL. And ignored it all too. Instinctually, I knew it wasn’t the right time. The average age for a child to learn to use the potty on their own is 3 1/2! That means if someone can do it when they are 18 months than someone isn’t learning until they are 5 years old. And so what! Everyone is different. Even adults learn things on their own time.
On Sunday I knew it was time to switch to underwear. How did I know? I have no clue. I just knew. It was that gut feeling! So I told J he was going to start wearing underwear on Monday and we talked about it pretty thoroughly. He totally understood it all. Monday morning we were both as nervous as the other! And on a side note, I also figured out I don’t have time for potty training bootcamp. I have too much going on to stay home for 3 days straight! So Monday morning we went to the gym and J went to the kids gym and while he was there, he let the lady know he had to use the bathroom. He totally got it. Sure we had some accidents when he was completely concentrating on something else, but nothing horrible. What I love about it is, he gets it. He understands exactly what is going and what is required of him. This afternoon I was talking on the phone and all of a sudden I hear him running down the hall. I go to check on him and he is sitting in the bathroom, all by himself, without even letting me know, because he gets it.
So to all of you moms who potty trained your child at 18 months, kudos to you not having to buy diapers anymore! But I think my little boy is awesome for completely getting it from the start. 🙂

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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


Baby Time

Last week I helped watch my niece. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be at all. She is 3 months and J is 3 years old. At first J was super excited about her, but then the next day he was asking when she was going to go home. This really only lasted about half a day. He got used to her pretty quickly and he was such a good boy about pretty much everything. If he wanted something he was fairly patient while I took care of the baby. He was also super cute when she was asleep and he tried his best to be quiet and to whisper, even when it may not be necessary! By the end of the week I was pretty tired, and I remembered a lot about what it was like when J was a baby. It’s odd how you forget some things once they move on to the next stage.
My niece is a good sleeper at night. A few nights she slept through the night! The few nights she was up a couple of times, she would go back to sleep after I took care of what she needed. This past week showed me that yes, I can take care of two kids at once, and yes, there will be an adjustment period if/when J has a sibling. Getting out of the house with two children was super stressful! But I did it, and I was on time. Although afterward I felt like I needed to take a nap. 😉

Having two kids is a little more time consuming, but that is to be expected. My life is already all about me being a mommy so adding another one to the mix didn’t change that too much. I remember when J was first born and my world changed SO much! I had to learn how to be a momma. If you want to become the most unselfish person you can be, having children would be one of the ways to get you on that path.
One friend of mine once said that having the first child is the hardest adjustment because not only are you learning about your baby but you are also learning to be a mommy (or a daddy). When the following children come along, you are already a mommy so the major adjustment is learning your new child and figuring out how to juggle more than one child who wants/needs you. But you already have the mommy thing figured out. You already know you are “the mommy” and your alone time is slim. Looking back, I think I struggled with that a lot more than I thought I would. I also struggled with finding out who I was once I became a mother. I had a whole new “hat” to wear, not just every day, but every minute of every day. There was no taking this hat off. You couldn’t “come home from work” or even be off the clock when you were asleep. I felt so mentally exhausted. I remember hearing baby cries when J wasn’t even crying! Phantom cries. Every mom has experienced this I am sure. I’m not sure if waking up at 2:15am to phantom cries is good or not. At least you can go back to sleep…

It took some time, but I eventually adjusted and figured out who I was as a mother, that I am still ME, I am in there. No, I don’t have to be this do all, be all mother who all of a sudden becomes this woman who has it all together. I just need to be me and that is enough because God knew J and I would be a perfect match for each other. God knew that Chase, J, and I would fit together just right, and of course, He was right!

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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


Things to Remember

Here are some things J has said or done in the past couple of weeks that I don’t want to forget.

Me to J: “We are going to color some Easter eggs!” J: “Yay! Eager Eggs!”

J: “Is Momma going to eggersize? I want to eggersize with momma!”

J: “I do it yourself.” or “J does it yourself.”

J: “What are you doing momma?” M: “I’m going to put clothes in the washer.” J: “Can I help momma? Can I help puh-lease!” M: “Sure!” J: “Sank you momma!”

He has started incorporating clapping into his begging “pleases” lately so he will say “Pleeaase!” and clap his hands and smile real sweetly… Oh yes…

J has some favorite blankies and one of them recently developed a hole near the seam. I guess he decided he didn’t like it, and it wasn’t worthy of being his lovey until the hole was fixed because he would put it to the side of his favorite blankies and in bed he would hide it under other blankets or under the pillow. When I asked him about it, he would just tell me it needed to hide because it had a hole. Yesterday, after a few days of him hiding the blankie, I finally sat down and sewed the hole. When I showed him that the hole was gone, he examined really carefully and then said, “Oh! Sank you momma!” and then ran off and put it with his other blankets. He also slept with it again last night. I really feel better for the blankie.

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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


Fast weekend trip to Arkansas

This past weekend we went to Central Arkansas to visit all of our friends. We haven’t been back since we moved so it has been about 8 months! We also needed to pick up a few of our things we had left behind that our awesome realtor, Adam, had stored for us in his garage: Chase’s bike, a folding table, and a bike pump. We stayed with some friends of ours who graciously shared their house with us while we were barely there because we were out and about pretty much the whole weekend!
On Saturday morning we had a photoshoot at The Click Chick. Jennifer does a great job, and I was sad that she didn’t get to take J’s 3 year pictures this year. We actually hadn’t gotten around to having professional pictures of him yet this year so when I found out she was doing her Easter quick takes on the same weekend we were coming I knew it was perfect timing! J did such a great job in his pictures! He wore his Easter suit and he got a kick out of cheesin’ it up for the camera with an actual bunny and a chick. He talked about it the rest of the day.
The rest of Saturday was spent seeing lots of friends we have missed. It was great to see everyone and we felt so loved!
Sunday we went to church and then out to eat and had a quick nap before we headed home. For anyone that knows me, you know I can be accident prone when I am tired. More so, you may know that I have hit my head on so many random places over the years, that I am pretty sure I have the weirdest list out there of places to hit your head. So on that note, I just have to share, that only minutes from leaving town I was getting something out of the trunk and completely forgot the bike rack was on the top of the trunk. Yep. There was no bike on it yet, just the rack. I reached up without looking and before I could tell my brain “No”, I pulled the trunk lid down so the bike rack hit me square on the head. And then I fell to the ground. So once again, I can add something crazy to my list. I have now hit my head with a bike rack. Seriously. It was pretty bad. I couldn’t move without feeling dizzy and nauseous for a while and my speech was extremely slow and soft. But my awesome husband watched me for any signs that he might need to take me to the hospital. So thankful that minute by minute (or half hour by half hour) I felt better and better. One hour after I hit my head I was acting pretty normal except for my huge headache.
Just one more hit on my head to add to my list. I know I need to stop doing it because my poor head can only take so much!

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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


Things to Remember

If you recall the last time I posted things J says, he has already outgrown most of those. I am not sure when he started talking in complete sentences let alone whole paragraphs complete with hand gestures. He also likes to place lots of emphasis on certain words to make sure he makes his stories entertaining. Wonder where he gets all that from…

Here are a few phrases J says now:

“Where are we go-nen (going) momma? Where are we go-nen?”

“The sun is down! The sun went night night! Oh No! What’re we gonna do!?”

He now says the word “dwib” for bridge and he still says “chicken” when he means kitchen. It makes me smile every time.

We bought him his first kite a couple of weeks ago and it only took about 10 minutes for him to get it stuck in the tree. It’s still stuck in the tree, and I’m not sure if it is coming down anytime soon. Every time we see it he has to comment on it. “Oh no! The kite! It’s stuck!” We have been reading a book lately where one of the characters is flying a kite and gets it stuck in a tree. J says “No! Wock out! (Watch out!) The tree! Nooo!” So I’m pretty sure one little boy learned his lesson about keeping kites away from trees.

Sometimes J will come up to me with a complete story and he starts talking so fast he runs a lot of his words together. It’s hard to get him to slow down so a lot of times I have to piece the words I did hear together and ask him if that is what he was trying to say.

It’s been warmer lately so J has been asking for us to roll the window down when we are in the car. It is so hilarious to hear him shout out the window “HI!” and wave to each car we stop close to at a red light or if we drive right next to them on the road. Since a lot of other people have their windows down too, he has actually gotten a lot of smiles and responses back! I love how it makes people smile. We need more of that!

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized


Sugar Sugar

I will always have this memory of a guy I knew that was overweight in his high school years and years later he had a lost a ton of weight! Everyone asked him how he did it, and his answer was simply that he had given up desserts and refined sugar. Nothing more. It was an amazing transformation and extremely informative to me on how sugar can impact our health.

Here are two entries I have written on how it has been for me to give up sugar:

3/11: It has been about a week of no sugar so far, and it’s been a little difficult. I love sugar. I am a refined sugar addict. I usually start out my morning with a flavored coffee creamer in my coffee, and then it’s down hill from there. My meals are usually pretty decent meals that don’t include a lot of sugar, but my snacks are horrendous. The snacks sometimes include cookies, left over birthday cake, chocolate candy bars, candy, chocolate covered raisins (okay, not so bad), sweet tea, etc. Now granted, I don’t eat a ton of sugary food. I do have my limits. But I scatter my sugar intake throughout the whole day.
For lent I gave up refined sugar to include items that have high fructose corn syrup or sugar as the first 5 ingredients. And if you are thinking, “why is she participating in Lent?” In the words of a friend of mine, “I really like the tradition of Lent, giving up something to help focus more of my attention on God. It’s not “part of” my church’s traditions, but I’m making it part of mine.” I do not participate in the whole of Lent, but yes, I really do like the idea of giving up something you “love” to be closer to the One God whom you should love with all your heart, soul, and mind.
Being off of refined sugar has meant that I have been eating things like bananas, apples, yogurt, and cheese crackers for snacks. The first couple of afternoons were rough because I wasn’t listening to my body very well and in the late afternoon I was crashing from low blood sugar. One afternoon I almost blacked out, but my banana finally kicked in and all was well. Since then I have done a much better job of listening to my body and eating a snack before I even get to the point of feeling off. I am so thankful for snacks like chips and crackers. I don’t know how people go on these diets where they give up sugars AND carbs!

3/27: Today makes 3 weeks that I have given up refined sugar. Some days I don’t even miss it, but occasionally I have a major craving for something chocolate. I admit to having a dream about eating a chocolate dessert last night, and in my dream I *knew* I was cheating! HA! Thankfully, it was all a dream. 😉
So far I have learned:
-Pretty much everything has sugar in it (of course), and since I am trying to not eat anything that has sugar listed as one of the first 5 ingredients, it’s been eye-opening. There have been a few snacks that I wouldn’t have considered sugary, but sugar was listed as the second or third ingredient so I put it back. I mostly stick to veggies, fruits, cheese, and crackers, and sometimes chips, popcorn and other salty foods, like Gardettos! Yum.
-I need to eat something about every two hours. If I don’t, I start to feel sick. And here’s the kicker. When I start to feel sick, it can take a long time to feel like myself again. Two days in a row this week I started to feel lightheaded and hungry and it was close to lunchtime so I ate lunch. My body and head didn’t recover from that awful feeling for a whole hour! I have always had problems with low blood sugar, along with low blood pressure and lower body temperature. I just like to be on the low side… But really, it’s annoying. I have to eat a lot of salt on a daily basis to keep my blood pressure up where it needs to be or again I feel lightheaded.
-I haven’t lost that much weight, just a few pounds. But I can tell I have lost an inch or two. I didn’t measure myself before because that wasn’t the point of all this, but it’s still interesting to note. It also makes me realize my sugar intake probably wasn’t as awful as I thought. Yes, I scattered eating sugar throughout my day, but I rarely ever gorged on sugar. I might eat one or two cookies mid-morning and maybe a piece or two of Dove chocolate with a granola bar in the afternoon. So this has been pretty eye opening to me.
-My mind is a lot clearer in the mornings since I stopped eating refined sugar. According to the hubby, this is because the brain works on sugar. Sugar is your brain’s food. When you are feeding it sugar at night time before you go to bed, you wake up with what your brain feels is a “deficit” so your mind doesn’t want to work until you give it sugar. Hence the flavored coffee creamer. It was definitely needed. I now know it was the sugar and not the coffee that kicked my brain into gear every morning! Now I wake up with a clear mind and I have no trouble processing thoughts and chatting with everyone who comes into close proximity to me (sorry husband!). But sometimes my body just doesn’t want to wake up so coffee is still a morning tradition.

If you read this far, you deserve a prize. Maybe a cookie, or a doughnut, or a cupcake. Mmmmm… But in all seriousness, I hope you were able to find something to take away from what I have learned so far in my sugar fast. 2 1/2 more weeks and I may celebrate by eating a girl scout cookie that I hope I have successfully hid from my household!

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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized