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Sunrise Trees

Driving Canyon to school in the winter is cold and sometimes slippery but the pay off is morning light. I dropped him off the other day and went to run some errands. I saw these trees while I was at a stop sign, thought it was too much to turn around and take a photo, drove three blocks, turned around and took them! So glad I did!






Santa Has Great Taste in Playmobil!

Canyon’s teacher sent home a letter saying that the school had been adopted by a local business who wanted to play Santa and purchase a gift for each student. The older kids would write letters to Santa but Canyon’s pre-school class should send a list of a $25 toy that the child would enjoy.

To us, $25 is a lot of money for a toy so we took the request seriously. We knew he would like Playmobil and sent over a list of stock numbers of about 4 toys. I never thought anyone would actually take the time to go out and find one of them and purchase such an expensive gift, but we sent it over anyway.

On Santa Day Canyon bursts out of the side door of the school holding one of his wish list items, the Playmobil bus! Wow! Then his teacher says, “Canyon really scored, the Native American set is in his back pack!” WOW!





So whoever drew Canyon’s name out of the hat was so inspired that they bought him TWO of his wish list items! I am sending over these photos so hopefully his Secret Santa can see how much we appreciate that they took the time and expense to make him happy. He loves the bus so much he slept with it for about 5 days. And drove it through the Native American village a few times…


Deck The Halls of Our Home…Fa La La La La…The Kids Are Breaking All My Ornaments…

I knew this Holiday Season would be hectic so I made a list early on of the things that I wanted to make sure we did. It was ambitious, but not ridiculous. One item was get the Solstice/Christmas Tree up and decorated and hang lights. I recruited the children to help. Well, really, I didn’t have a choice. They were going to help no matter what!



Raven is watching “Sesame Street.” The kid can watch “Monster’s Inc”, “Brave”, “How To Train Your Dragon” -movies that are much scarier-with no problems but for some reason that episode of “Sesame Street” was a nail biter!


Side note-I am obsessed with these hand me down Christmas jammies. He could wear them 24/7 and I would still be delighted.




When it came to the tree was a bit stuck. I didn’t want to load everyone up in the cold van to pick one out at Home Depot and I didn’t want to try to get it by myself. So I asked John to go pick one up. He was wisely all “No way! What if you hate it?” “I won’t hate it. I just want a tree. Please go get me a stupid, cheap as possible tree from Home Depot.” He agreed and I practiced pretending not to hate it. He grabbed one that was the right height, the right price and totally wrapped up and frozen so he had no idea what it looked like.

It was perfect! I didn’t have to lie at all! So disappointed I didn’t get to use that expensive acting degree I have!


I told myself not to put up any glass ornaments, nothing precious or breakable. Lots of wood, plastic and felt. But there are a few ornaments that I just love and it wouldn’t feel like the holidays without.


And after the kids managed to break two of them I rescued my Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” ornament and put it back in the basement until it is safe to come back out and join the wood, plastic and felt ornaments.



Cute Alert-Kids Snuggling With Animals

River and Lilo enjoy sleeping in…


I had to use the night flash mode to catch Kele De snuggling up with Canyon at night…


And then there is Raven and Shaylah. Poor Shaylah. She loved the kids when they were babies but over the years she has become more suspicious. She has spent the last few months hiding in the closet or basement-only coming out when she knows they are asleep. That is OK with us. We missed having her around but totally respect her personal space. Then one day she just popped back up! Totally back to sleeping at my head at night, napping in the big bed and generally being more good natured. It’s either because the closet is cold or she heard me say her photo wasn’t on the family Christmas card. Whatever the reason, she comes out more. And Raven was pretty damn happy about it.





We Were Razzled AND Dazzled (and maybe a little bit Frazzled) at the Yo Gabba Gabba Live Holiday Special!

December 15, 2013

When it comes to television shows we are a Yo Gabba Gabba house. Have been for about two years. Remember when Canyon got his first Foofa? And then the singing and dancing Brobee? Calliou and Dora are not welcome here. Sesame Street and the Teletubbies are welcome to visit, but Yo Gabba Gabba is our main thing. We have the toys. We have the clothes. We know the songs and the dances. And when Yo Gabba Gabba comes to town, we go.

This year I thought I had missed the discount tickets to the Yo Gabba Gabba Live Holiday Special so I posted on Facebook for people to let me know if they heard of any deals. So when the Groupon offer hit my friend Amy messaged me first thing in the morning. I saw it when I was off walking in the woods so I called John at home and we ordered the tickets immediately, to get the best seats. We were smart about it and ordered an extra ticket so we could recruit my sister to come and help with the kids. We knew things might get crazy. (Over the next three days I got about twenty messages from friends letting us know about the deal. Thanks for looking out for us everyone!)

Now the kids didn’t know all this was happening. They probably wouldn’t have understood if I did tell them. But I knew. Oh I knew. And I was excited. This was my taking the kids to Disneyworld moment. Silly I know, but hey, they LOVE this show. We took Canyon last year but River and Raven were too little. This year they were still probably too little but I knew they would love it.

The day finally came! We loaded everyone up in the minivan and headed to Rosemont. I was excited. Like, really excited. Like, giddily explaining the show to my sister non-stop. The kids were all dressed in their Yo Gabba Gabba t-shirts, we had packed three of the dolls so that we could avoid the ugly scenes at the merchandise counter. On the drive I kept getting more and more ramped up. My sister just looked at me like I was insane. She had seen the toys at our house and been to our Yo Gabba Gabba themed birthday parties but she never really experienced the show and it had been years since her kids were little enough to attend these kind of things.

We got there. The kids were excited just to be a the theatre.


And they all split off into different directions! We got there a bit too early so the kids had plenty of time to explore. John took Canyon, Jenny got Raven and I had River.


She was running all over, happy dancing and hopping. I looked around and would catch glimpses of Jenny and John with their charges. We were all in motion!

Thankfully the show started and we tried to trap all three in their seats with the enticement of milk. Raven was interested but we kind of don’t think he realized they were real at first. River was wide eyed and wanted to rush the stage. Canyon was a little overwhelmed with the sensory input and the excitement so John held his ears for him. He lasted in his seat about ten minutes tops and then he was racing around the theatre. Luckily the ushers at this show do not care if you run around so he was all over the place, John following behind. Raven was happy to sit in his seat and eat snacks and watch the show. River still wanted to rush the stage. Then she NEEDED to rush the stage. So we rushed the stage. But even that wasn’t enough. She was crying, her little arms open wide-her sign for, “I WANT TO HOLD THEM!!!”

Luckily it was intermission and the characters left the stage. Twenty minutes to kill! For us this meant chase children.


For most parents intermission was spent buying stuff. Let’s talk about the merchandise. Holy crap it was expensive! The worst of the expensive items was the light up spinner toy-something that cost about $1.50 wholesale and they sell for $20. TWENTY DOLLARS FOR A STUPID LIGHT UP TOY!!!! And parents were just forking over the cash to get them. This year our kids wanted them but were not desperate for them. Next year I am bringing our own-along with some light up sticks and bracelets. Some parents I saw this year had giant Toys R Us bags with them so they could give the kids the toys in the moment but not pay the crazy merch counter price. But most parents were buying the $50 toddler sweatshirts, light spinners, $5 slices of crappy pizza, etc.

I do love the Yo Gabba Gabba parents. So many cool Dad’s dressed up in character t-shirts. One Dad totally rocked a DJ Lance Rock outfit with his two year old dressed as Brobee. I just wanted to high five all the adults who were just as excited as I was.

After intermission we switched kids and I took Canyon. This was a good excuse to go up front to the stage.


He rolled around in the snowflake glitter that fell during the show.


We got up close and person with Biz Markie,


Then Canyon wanted to go up to the balcony. That was fine. The only scary thing was the railing is pretty much non-existant and I was terrified he would slide over the edge in his excitement. Then he wanted to run up to the very top. The balcony wasn’t even half full so I let him and stayed down on the first landing, watching him run back and fourth. Then he disappeared.

Like, totally disappeared. He was right there, all blonde hair and smiles and then he was gone. Holy. Crap. I raced up to the top and couldn’t see him. There was an elevator door but I would have seen that open. I ran up and down the aisle. No Canyon. I texted John, “I lost Canyon in the balcony.” I ran down the stairs and grabbed security. “I lost my son in the balcony. He is four years old, Autistic and Non-Verbal.” Boom. They were on it. John raced up holding Raven and handed him off to me and headed up the stairs. I dropped Raven with River and Jenny and ran down to the stage, looking for him in our favorite spots. Then I headed back up to the balcony and got word that John had found him. All of this was maybe 8 minutes but it felt like a lifetime. Canyon was just sitting on the floor up there but I couldn’t see him in the dark. I kind of knew he had to be there but I also wasn’t going to take any chances. The show was almost over and I didn’t want him to get swept up in the crowd and head outside alone or with some creep.

John has not given me shit about this. I would have killed him if the roles were reversed.

So back to our seats and I took Raven up to the front for curtain call.


He was impressed!


He was also impressed with watching himself on the camera…


And there were streamer cannons!


I took a huge armful of streamers home so we could relive the moment over and over. (It’s been over a week and I am still cleaning them up!)

By the end we were all exhausted. Jennifer is a children’s musician herself and was not impressed with the songs or the show. I kept trying to defend it to her. I still want to defend it! I sometimes catch myself wanting to call her and say, “But did you notice this?” Ha!

So in the end we were all Razzled and Dazzled in our own way. The kids have been making us watch the Christmas episode of the show over and over and they get extra excited over the parts that were in the live show.

And I am already excited for next year…watch for that Groupon, friends!


Fresh Fallen Snow, Luminary Lit Trails and Warm Chestnuts in our Pockets

Saturday December 14

The snow fell all day and stopped just before the start of the Winter Solstice Festival and North Park Village Nature Center. This is one of my favorite events of the holiday season. We’ve only missed it twice in the last few years-once John had to work and last year it was freezing rain. This year the snow was too inviting to pass up so we bundled up the kdis and headed over.

This was our first time attempting an event without the stroller. Our Valco Double is sturdy and snow-worthy but we knew none of the kids were going to want to sit and ride when there were trails to explore and adventures to be had.



We made it to the outdoor fireplace as a family.

Canyon loved sitting by the fire and watching them roast chestnuts.
I filled my pockets with the warm nuts and we started off down the luminary lit trails.




This is where we split up. Canyon wanted to run and skip down the trails so I went ahead with him and John took on guiding River and Raven.

Canyon was in bliss. This was his first time getting to be on the trails at night-he was too little to remember his first two visits to the festival-so he was laughing and giggling the whole way. The moon and ambient light from the city behind the clouds lit up the deep white snow.



By the time we made it to the last leg of the trail we were both warm from running through the snow and Canyon took off his hat. I point this out so people don’t think I am a horrible mother who let’s her kids run around without hats. But I am. It wasn’t that cold and we were moving fast.


We made it back to the big bonfire. The only disappoint of the night was that the Big Wolf people couldn’t make it due to the storm. I love watching the big wolves by fire light.

Canyon took his place by the fire and we waited for John, River and Raven to return.





And we waited. And waited. I was about to send out a search party when they finally came around the bend.




We went back to the chestnuts. River gave one a try but was not a fan! Of course now I am looking at the photo and it doesn’t look like it was peeled all the way!

We finished the festival inside for cookies and hot chocolate.

We took a long way home to look at holiday lights. When we returned we took off our wet boots and enjoyed a hearty winter meal of beef roast, toasted rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy that I had wisely prepared for the day.

It was an excellent night. Blessed Be.


Filling Up The Tank

I was Parent of the Day at the Co-op with River and Raven on Thursday and was pretty worn out by the time John and Canyon picked us up at 2pm. I was also starving so John suggested we head over to our favorite sandwich place, Jersey Mike’s. Yum! Yay! So there we were in Skokie and the sky was already starting to turn for sunset and the Caribou Coffee in Winnetka had a buy one get one free special and there’s a great thrift store there and we needed boots for Canyon and well why we were all the way out there we might as well go check out the sunset at Canyon’s favorite beach!

To get to the beach you drive down a crazy narrow road lined by two stone walls. It makes for scary driving but a beautiful display when you come through. That night it was breath taking.



Canyon was asleep by the time we arrived but was thrilled to wake up at the beach. He was up and out of the van and headed to the water wearing my gloves.


Then he realized how cold it was and was like, “home?”


So back to the warm van with Canyon but now River was ready to come out. She took over my gloves and headed straight for the view…


River was not put off by the temperatures at all. On the way back she slipped on the ice for the first time. She went down slow onto the soft snow and was totally confused by the experience!





River went back in the van kicking and screaming. I offered to take Raven out for a minute but he was happy sitting in his carseat, munching on pretzels and watching the sunset from the warmth of the van.

Yeah. It’s 19 degrees and I am standing outside admiring a sunset while drinking an iced latte. Take that Winter!


The drive back into Chicago was not as scenic-unless you consider rush hour beautiful-but I was smiling the whole way home. I explained to John that I was feeling a little drained until we went to the lake. Even a short visit to somewhere natural and beautiful reenergizes me-fills up my tank. Totally worth the drive. I am thankful that I have three spontaneous toddlers who are happy to be in carseats. All three would rather be strapped in and going somewhere than just sitting around the house. And I am thankful for a husband who is willing to come on these adventures when he would rather be just sitting around the house!


Santa and Mrs. Claus Meet Canyon, River & Raven

I told the kids there was just one thing I absolutely wanted to do while we were at Winter Wonderfest and that was get their picture taken with Santa Claus. Luckily the line was not long and Santa and Mrs. Claus were understanding because River and Raven were not so thrilled with being asked to sit on those jolly laps…



The funny thing, well one of the funny things about these photos, is that I had explained to the Elf that Canyon was non-verbal and autistic so he wouldn’t be saying what he wanted for Christmas and might not want to do the photo. But he was fine with the whole thing! It was River and Raven who were TERRIFIED.


I love how River has just given up in this one…


Things got a little better when Papa jumped in the photo!


Well not too much better…


It really was hysterical to watch this all happening. Everyone was laughing-not in a mean way-but it really was funny how insane River and Raven were. Poor little things!

And just for nostalgic kicks-Santa photos for 2011 and 2012.