Monday, July 21, 2014

Here, Not There

Here is New Berlin, WI.  A city of 40,000.  The place, the neighborhood, the house where I grew up.  And we're spending 7 weeks in it

The difference between home in Toronto and here in New Berlin is...well, everything.  Just completely, totally different.  Country, population, landscape, density - it's all opposite.

But the biggest difference we've noticed is the wildlife.  Yes.  Wildlife.  These city kids are astounded.

For example, every single night, these are in the backyards.

Two Of Many

It's gotten to the point where the kids who used to say, "Mom! Look! Deeeeeer!!!" now just say, "Deer again."  How quickly city boys are jaded. 

But what astounds me is the long list of wildlife they've seen in 2 weeks that they've never seen in the city in their entire lives.  Such as: a muskrat, hawk, cardinal, frog, woodpecker, rabbit, owl, daddy long leg spider, a doe and her fawn, a million lightning bugs, a bird fly into a window and take an hour to recover in the grass, and...


...a grasshopper. 

All of these in nature, near the house, mostly in the backyard.  I should add a reported coyote sighting by the neighbor, but we won't go there.  Won't talk about last summer's grass snake, either.  I think you get the city vs country point ;)

I guess it's just me taking growing up here for granted, and then realizing how truly amazing it is when I see it through my children's eyes. 

To be honest, we've seen more animals than this.  But we cheated.  At the zoo.

Ten points for the person who can spot the rhino, hawk and peacock in this picture.  I know.  Me either.

Hooray for city kids having a "country" summer.  Maybe by the time we go back, they'll be excited to see squirrels, pigeons and raccoons-who-aren't-afraid-of-people again. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Happy 4th (+4)

Today is the 8th.  But I'm still reminiscing about our fun on the 4th.  So good! 

When I met my Canadian husband, I made it clear that I'm an American through and through.  So he's known from the start: 4th of July + American Thanksgiving = must do's for me.  And now with three dual kids?  He's outnumbered for life. 

Each year is the same.  Hometown festival.  Park, parade, fireworks.  Except this year, the big boys are 8 and 6...finally old enough to enjoy two big days of activities. 

What?  You thought the 4th was just the 4th?!?

The 3rd is all about wristbands and rides.

The carnival sets up what seems to be almost a week early every year.  And sells wristbands for all-you-can-ride nights leading up to the 4th.  Best $20 ever spent.

Charlie & George
George & Charlie

This shot is my fave.  It's like George is having the time of his life and even the ride operator is in on it.  Bliss.

Jumbo Corn Dog

This was not free with the wristband.  But he loves corn dogs so much.  It was worth the whopping $6.  And it actually started out double the size seen here. 

I'm not justifying.  It is the truth.  And he ate every crumb. 

Then the big boys did something new this year.  They stayed at the park (after riding 937463928374 rides) for the late night "flashlight candy hunt". 

Ready, Set...

Three adjacent baseball fields are covered with candy in the outfield.  The lights go out and the kids run with flashlights.  This year was our first time, since it doesn't take place until 9:30pm. 

The 3 year olds would be throwing tantrums by 8:00.  But these guys loved it. 

Best item found by Henry: McDonald's Happy Meal Toy (of course)

--- Go home, sleep, wake up, back to the park ---

Parade Watching

All five grandchildren made it to the parade AND STAYED THE WHOLE TIME.  This is a first.  We were thrilled.

The hands over ears were deserved.  Because Wisconsin is the home of Harley-Davidson.  And our parade kicks off with over 100 of them.

Just One of Many

But as soon as those go by, and we wait for the rest of the parade to catch up...

My Brother and My Biggest Boy

...there's a guy we know that makes an appearance.

Front Row, Left = Dad!!

He breaks order and high fives Jake every year.  Love.

After the parade, we go back to the park to drink more, eat more and roll ourselves out of there.  Until we return for these.

It isn't the 4th without fireworks.  Until next year!!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

We Made It

First this happened...

Last Day of School

...then this...

Road Trip

...and now this...

We love summer!!!!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Return of the Garden

This was 7 weeks ago.

April 15, 2014

And this is today.

June 5, 2014

Seven weeks is nothing.  But that garden is everything!  I'm amazed how much has filled in, especially with the beating the backyard has taken over the last 3 years.  I really thought more would be lost.  Incredible. 

Almost all of the garden came back on its own.  Hooray for perennials.  Only a few spots took a big hit, due to the fence, which I had to fill in this year.

Back Right Corner

The planter used to be on our old deck.  I moved it to the back corner to give some height where I lost an evergreen bush.  It's ok.  I love the fence more than I ever liked the bush.  This corner is super shady when the leaves come out, so I chose ferns along the back and hostas in front of the planter.

More Green

I split the big green hosta and hoped they would fill out.  They obeyed.  The yellow one in front of it gives a pop of color in the shade.  And, of course, I planted in threes. 

The rest just grew in.

That corner is so deceiving!  I'm surprised every year by how shady it gets.  Spring comes and I think, maybe I really CAN plant "part sun" or even "part shade" plants there...  Then, surprise!  The elm tree in the corner leafs out and it's dark enough for my toddler to take his afternoon nap there. 

It's shady over here on the left side, too.  The plants up against the fence get no direct sun at all.  That's where I put in those blue-green hostas which love the shade.  The darker their color, the shadier they like it.

But 2 feet away from the fence, it's a sun fest, which is brand new.  Before the new fence, we had a tall lilac bush/tree on our neighbor's side that blocked the sun to the brick "edging".  Now, those part-shade lungworts at the edge are not sure what to do.  They may find a new spot, but I'm giving them a chance.  And splitting up sunnier hostas for this little corner as I wait and see...

But, in the meantime, this sunny right side has gone gangbusters.  Even the Japanese Maple that I almost killed 4 years ago.  It's a running joke with my husband.  I pruned it so badly, it almost died.  I was so so sad.  So I made a deal with him.  He gave me one chance to bring it back to life or else dig it up.  A respected professional came in.  He fertilized it and made me PROMISE never to touch it again.  I haven't.  And so far, it's obeying, too.


This might be my favorite little corner.  I transplanted a few sun loving perennials from semi-shade here, so they should grow larger soon.  Nothing is blooming (the clematis on the right will, soon) but I think I prefer it this way.  There's something about only texture that I love. 

And the firepit.  Oh that firepit.  I still don't know where I stand with it.  Right now it holds all the old 1900's brick that I can't bear to part with...and there are stacks of extra driveway pavers hidden behind it.  There's enough "growing" on around it, that changes may wait another year. 

Then I'll rip the whole garden out.

But for now...let's have a look at what 7 weeks can do for a backyard.

Well, I'm amazed.  Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, really worked in this case. 

But I'm not ignoring that awful patch of semi-grass.  Or this...

...what you see when you step off the deck.  Oh, you know, just the old dirt footprint of our last deck.  I don't know if I am gung-ho enough to rip out and lay new stone.  But I could pinterest all day, dreaming of what I'd like to go there. 

For now, I'll just sit back and ignore the dirt enjoy the view!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Still on the (Fig) Wagon

The fiddle leaf fig plant.  It seems like it's been so over done, but I can't quit it. 

We finished renovating our house 10 months ago.  That's how long my first fiddle leaf fig plant lasted.  Which is a miracle for an indoor plant killer like me.

The end began in February when it dropped about 15 leaves in one day.


That sad little north-facing bay window gets very little sun.  So I set out to replace it with something else.  I visited Lowe's, Home Depot and a fancy indoor plant nursery.  Nothing, nothing and very very pricey.

And then I went to IKEA where I found that fig in the first place.


Hallelujah!  And the price.  The price!  $14.99 to bring one home.  I spend more than $14.99 on a bunch of flowers that last a week if I'm lucky.  So I found the smallest one and threw it in the car.

Yes, it was the smallest.  For 14.99.  I still can't believe it.

Before // After

It may not last another 10 months, but for that price, I'm willing to try.

Finding a pot in the basement helps change things up, too.  I might spray paint it gold...  To match the kitchen chandelier??!!

So, for now, I'm still on that bandwagon.  It works for me.  And $14.99 works for my husband, too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


"Next year, let's stay one more day." - upon reaching holiday traffic at the border.

This line sums up our trip.  We did it.  It was awesome.  So awesome, we'd do it again.  Annually.  I'm so excited, I can't wait for next year!

But first, let's go through this year.

It was awesome.

We started by driving through pouring rain.


Of the 11 hours it took to get there, it rained for about 9, and about 4 were monsoon-like conditions.  Not the best vacation weather, but better in the car than walking on the street.

We parked overnight in NJ and took the ferry across the Hudson.  Not only did we save almost $50,000 in parking, but the boys got to ride a FERRY!

More Rain

After a bus ride to the hotel and immediately scarfing down the city's best pizza (with a glass of wine for mommy & daddy - we made it!), we hit up Times Square.  In the, you guessed it, rain.

Loving It

Times Square was 16 blocks from our hotel.  We walked it.  Fast.  And the whole time, I kept asking them if they were too wet.  They adamantly said NO.  Then after this picture, they begged me to take the subway back to the hotel.  I happily agreed.


We ran into some street performers when we got off at Penn Station.  To say the boys were enthralled is an understatement.  They absolutely loved it. 

The next morning, Steve ran out to get a NYC staple.

Coffee & Bagels

Then we hit the street for our first tourist adventure.  The Top of the Rock.

Rockefeller Center

The weather was GORGEOUS!  We totally lucked out.  We didn't luck out in the ticket department, though, so we had to kill an hour before traveling to the top. 

I could have pre-purchased tickets online, but I wasn't sure if the kids were going to be up for everything I planned to do.  So although we had to wait for this attraction, their disinterest in other attractions saved me hundreds of dollars.  I win.


What to do when you have to burn time with 3 littles?  Lego store.  They were so into their Lego keychains, they completely missed out on the bronzed statue in the plaza.  Kids!

But they loved the climb to the top.

Made It

George stayed in his stroller (thank god), Henry refused to hold anyone's hand while creeping in and out of crowds behind us, and Jake kept saying "I don't feel so good right now." 

Empire State Building

I snuck George out to get a good view of the Empire State Building, though.  He found it in the sky everywhere we went all weekend long.

Then came the time when we split up.  Steve took George back to the hotel for naptime.  And I took the big boys out for a few hours.  I don't know who lucked out more.

City Kids
In His Element

Steve's mom calls our boys her "City Kids."  Bang on.  Their refusal to hold my hand at all times -because we're in NEW YORK CITY, gosh darn it, and anything can happen, you know!!!!- led to me just letting go and trusting their eagle eyes on me.  It worked.  We came home with three kids.

Saturday was our shopping day downtown.  Jake got the new shoes he was obsessing over.  Henry got Skylanders at the Toys R Us with the ferris wheel inside.  And I got to walk up Lower 5th, my old 'hood.


If there was a better weather day in the city, I don't remember it. 

Friday vs Saturday

Saturday was also amazing because we got to see old friends.  There's nothing like reminiscing about the good old days before you had a dinner table full of crazy kids (ours, not theirs). 

Gelato in Little Italy!

The next day, after I started obsessing about moving back to NYC, we spent the day doing only half of what I planned and all of what the kids wanted to do. 


We took the subway up to Steve's old neighborhood to visit the Museum of Natural History.  After trying to corral the kids unsuccessfully to read them the riot act before entering the building, I decided to ditch the tourism and go for the nature. 

Best $0 I ever spent. 

George in a Bubble!
Turtle Pond

I can now officially direct anyone to all playgrounds in Central Park.  We hit them all.  Nonstop.  Well, stopping only for bubbles, turtles and all street performers.


We did, however, sneakily wind our way back to the Upper West Side for daddy.  He loves burgers.  And Shake Shack delivers on the best burger in the city (when you have kids with you), hands down.  I snagged Jake to wait in line for 1/2 hr with me, while Steve and the little two snagged a park bench across the street.  Worth. It. 

At naptime, I managed to get a little tourism in. 

The Blue Whale

I shouldn't have gone with the "extra exhibition" tickets.  These guys have zero attention span.  Lesson learned: General admission = Blue Whale = Full Stop.

Then, after naptime, we hit the...park.  Again.  Why mess with a good thing?

They Are Up There Somewhere
Best Playground

We found the very best playground for all three of our boys, aged 9, 6 and 3.  Just inside the SW corner of Central Park, at Columbus Circle, was this enormous play area with regular slides, swings and climbers...but more structures integrated with the natural rock, too.  It was mostly enclosed, so you could let your kids go free in some areas.  But there were open enough spaces so you could man your kid without getting in everyone's way. 

You're It

I may have gone down that slide myself during a game of tag.  I was it, and the kids loved it. 

Um, Hello.

But the best part was the fact that we were there.  In it.  NYC.  And loving it.  

We hit up a chocolate store before heading back to the hotel...and took a ride in a taxi.  How can you visit NYC without riding in a taxi? 

Tired #3
Tired #2
#1 Is Just Getting Started

While the ride home was a little longer than we expected, and LOTS longer than Google expected, we loved the trip.  I can't wait until next year.