Wednesday, October 2, 2013


This past weekend Matt had a conference in Chicago. We have known about this for almost a year, and when we decided Ben was going to school this year, we also decided that when Matt had short conference trips, we would pull Ben out and go with him. Despite the fact that Matt is in his conference all day, it makes for a nice family getaway.

So we left Sunday morning for Chicago and Matt dropped me off with the boys so I could meet my college friend Mollie and her dad to go sailing. Her dad has a sailboat and offered to take us out for a ride. It was a beautiful day for a sail. Slightly chilly, but not too windy with lots of sunshine. We had a great time!

We walked around downtown a bit before heading back to the hotel and saying good-bye to my friend. Then we crashed for half an hour before Matt got there and we headed out to dinner. We were staying in an Embassy Suites that was just blocks from tons of shopping and restaurants, so choosing where to eat was no simple task. We found a Chinese/Thai place and just as soon as we ordered, Elijah let us know that he had missed his nap that day and was ready for the day to end. I felt a little sorry for the tables of people around us. We were one loud and fussy table.

Monday morning the boys were up by 5:20! I am usually a decaf only coffee drinker, but I went for the caffeine that day. We headed out early to go to Millennium Park and see the Bean.

 As we walked down Michigan Ave., I was overwhelmed by the number of homeless people sitting along buildings, holding signs with various pleas for money. As one man asked us for money, I offered to buy him some food. He looked embarrassed and turned down my offer. We went back to our hotel so Elijah could nap and I felt heavy. In small group last week, we were challenged with a simple yet profound concept, which was to approach every person you come into contact with as someone Christ had died for. Simple, yes, but do I live that out regularly? No. But I've been amazed at the amount of ugliness I have in myself when I don't view people this way. So much pride and so much self focus. So as thought about the people I had seen as we walked, and about how Christ had died for them and loved them, I was overwhelmed. When Elijah woke up, we went back out. We passed some of the same people. I felt paralyzed. I wondered what their stories were. We headed to Subway and bought a few sandwiches to offer. One lady was standing outside when we walked out. I asked her if she was hungry. She hadn't eaten all day and was grateful for the offer of food. She asked me if there was mayo on the sandwich.  I told her there was, and she asked me to help her scrape it off because she had an allergy. So I gave her money to go back in and get something she could have. She left her money cup with me and asked me to hold her spot because she couldn't lose it. When she came back out, she told me that she is hoping to get into an apartment by Friday. She's been waiting three years to get in. But she has to come up with $59 each month. Her husband was abusive and she left him. She has two kids. They ride the train back and forth at night so they are not sleeping outside. She's afraid of getting caught and losing her kids. When she can come up with $27, she and her kids stay in a cheap motel. Her kids get breakfast and lunch at school, but providing dinner and a place to stay is often impossible, so she does what she has to, which sometimes means selling herself. I felt powerless. My offer of food seemed so trite. But what could I do long term? I prayed with her. I've kept praying for her.

We headed back to Millennium Park and I let Ben take his shoes off and play in the weird face fountain. I rolled his pants up thinking they might stay dry. Ha!! He slipped and fell and had a blast getting soaked from head to toe. The temperature was pretty cold, but he didn't seem to mind.

 Elijah was a bit more cautious about the cold water
 Elijah did not want Ben to be in the picture. :-)
Ben was so fun to hang out with on this trip!
Later on the way back to our hotel, we passed the same man who didn't want me to buy him food. I offered him a sandwich and some water. He told me he had gotten lots of food donations that day, but asked if he could have the water. Then he told me that he doesn't mean to be dishonest asking for money for food, but if he told people he wanted it for a hotel, they would look at him like he was crazy. He told me that he finally had enough for one that night and would be getting a shower for the first time in three weeks. He said he starts trade school on the 8th and is hoping to get a job.

We met a coworker of Matt's for dinner Monday night at Rainforest Cafe. Ben had a great time and wished there were more thunderstorms. Elijah loved the music and was dancing in his high chair.

By Tuesday morning we were all super tired! We had breakfast, loaded up the car, and then I put Elijah down for an early nap. He slept for two hours before we had to check out of our hotel. We wandered over to Navy Pier. Then over to a beach just a couple blocks away. Both boys ended up covered in sand, but had such a great time! Lunch was pretty late by the time we walked there. We at at a deep dish pizza place. It took an hour to get our food, but both boys did really well even with the wait. By the time Matt was done with his conference, we were ready to sit for a while. Overall, a great weekend away!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Backyard Fun!

Ever since we moved into our house, we have been talking about getting a playset for the backyard. We thought about doing it last year, but since we moved into our house when Elijah was 10 weeks old, I was still nursing seven times a day and not sleeping enough, and well, nothing really got done but the essentials. We are blessed to live so close to the school with an awesome playground, so we made use of that a lot. But this year, we planned on that being Ben's birthday present. We had a busy spring with landscaping and yard stuff, but other than a few casual searches, we never spent time researching playsets and figuring out what we wanted. Finally, in August, we decided it was going to happen this fall for sure. We had pretty much decided on a set, partly because it looked nice, and partly because you could have them install it. We are not really DIYers when it comes to that stuff, so in our minds, professional installation was a given. But, as is my usual way, I have a hard time spending big money before I make sure it's really the right thing, so I was still researching. We are not good with maintenance and I just could not see us being diligent to stain/seal a wooden playset every couple of years. I had come across a line of metal playsets a few months before, but they were well over our budget, so I didn't think they were an option. So when I was looking at Costco's website and came across that same brand, only for much less, I started getting excited. We went back and forth quite a bit because installation was not included and we were freaked out that we would start in on it and not be able to get it together. But in the end, we decided to go for it. Our yard is anything but flat. Not only that, but it's solid clay, so putting it together was a beast! Matt's parents came to help out and Matt and his dad worked on it for about 22 hours total. Much of that time was spent digging out under the poles to get the playset level. And the first day of that was done in off and on, but mostly on, pouring rain. But it's together and the kids love it.
 The boys enjoyed getting to play in the rain!
 The playset was delivered in this crate and Ben had a great time trying to tear it apart!

 This is how you keep a six year old occupied during the long hours of patiently waiting for a new playset. Masking tape and a very patient grandma. :-)

 Two happy boys!