Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A year in Review

2010 is quickly coming to a close, so it really is time for another post.

You will notice something new about this post. Instead of a bunch of photos clogging up the entire post, I'm trying out slideshows. Let me know what you think! I've also included a couple of videos just for fun.

Since this is only my fourth post this year, I felt it fitting to truly do a year in review. Let's start with last January...

Jack turned 2. We had a Thomas the Train birthday party with our family. There's actually a post covering this if you are interested :). We also went skiing in Lake Geneva with the Mortensens and Nama.

Somewhere around February, Steve took a new job at a company in the city, Model Metrics. He has re-entered the world of consulting, but this time the company focuses on cloud computing. He's had a very good year there meeting lots of new fun people, learning new things, and even traveling a bit. He's been to D.C, Kentucky, San Francisco, Minnesota, and a few other places. Luckily, they don't usually ask him to been gone for more than a night or two. We miss him too much then!

March, April and May were busy with work and school for all of us. Jack started in the two's room at Bright Horizons and was working hard at potty training. Karen was busy planning a STEM for ALL Conference for Wheeling High School and coaching the journalists for their IHSA competition. Steve was busy learning the ropes of commuting to the city and home while juggling a new job and two classes for grad school.

Then June came... summer.

Karen was still busy with the conference planning, but also got into high gear helping Cathy finish her wedding planning. She and Mike were married in early July in a beautiful ceremony. The reception was pretty fun too if I remember correctly!

July brought vacation. Steve, Karen and Jack took Grandma Sue and Pepere with us to Florida. We ventured south despite the ranging oil spill in the Gulf. And boy are we glad we did! We spent an entire week on vacation starting in Ft. Lauderdale, staying in Marathon Key for most of the trip, and finishing in Miami Beach. We all loved it.

August brought us back to school. Steve has been taking two grad classes at a time each quarter this year. And he's doing an excellent job. Not to brag, but he earned all A's last quarter :). He is beginning to see the light at the end of the Kellogg tunnel. He is on schedule to graduate this coming August. Of course, he has a lot to do before then. He will be traveling to South American for a class this spring. Karen and Jack are a little jealous.

This past fall we worked hard to incorporate a lot of fun family activities. We realized we had been working and schooling so much, we were missing out on the fun stuff. So, we went apple picking, pumpkin picking, christmas tree harvesting, and sledding (well, sledding is on for tomorrow!). We went on a ride on the Polar Express with grandmas. We visited Santa at the Mall. It's been a very fun-filled fall and early winter.

So we are ready for 2011. As much fun as we have had this year, next year has much more in store. Happy Holidays!

Karen, Steve and Jack

Florida Vacation

Emmett's 1st Birthday

Connie and Mike's Birthday

Aunt Connie visits with her Wee-Woo

Apple Picking



Polar Express

Just for Fun

Family Photos

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm a lucky mommy

We just got back from our Florida Family Vacation (more on that a little later). We got home a little later on Sunday evening, so Steve picked up hot dogs for dinner. As we sat at the table eating, Jack said to me, "I eat my hot dog; that make you happy Mommy?" I said yes, and then I asked what makes Jack happy. His reply: "Cupcakes." So this past Tuesday, Jack and I made cupcakes (yellow cake, chocolate frosting - who wouldn't be happy?!) After we ate the fruits of our labor, we were getting ready for nap. Jack was bouncing around and being silly. I commented that I am a lucky mommy. His reply: "I'm a lucky Jack." It's good to be home.

I finally have that summer feeling. The workshops for work are on hold. My main priority is my family. And best of all, I'm spending a lot more quality time at home.

Steve is still very busy with grad school, but he was able to take a week off of both work and school so we could go on a real vacation. We decided to go to the Keys. We also invited Grandma Sue and Pepere to come with. We took off the Monday after Cathy and Mike's wedding (more on this later) and stayed away for an entire seven days.

We spent our first night in Ft. Lauderdale right on the beach. We were able to get up and have the beach all to ourselves Tuesday morning. This was definitely my favorite beach of the vacation. The water was crystal clear and the sand was so soft. And the beach was free of seaweed! On Tuesday afternoon, we climbed into the rental car and Steve drove us down to Marathon Key where we settled in for the next four nights and five days.

We spent a ton of time at the pool. I think this might have been Jack's favorite part. He "goes under" by putting his mouth, and sometimes his nose and eyes, under. He loved checking out the drains by walking around the edge of the pool. He also loved jumping from the ladder into someone's waiting arms. To say we have a water baby is an understatement.

We got a day trip in to Key West where we had lunch at Margaritaville and visited Hemingway's House. Everyone was awesome about doing this for me. This was probably the most uncomfortable day we had. It was typical July Florida weather: very hot and very humid. To make it more awesome, Hemingway's wife Pauline, who lived in and designed the home, traded all of the ceiling fans out for her chandelier collection. She was very into looks, not function. Jack and Steve made it through the visit by playing with just about every one of the 48 cats that inhabit the estate. Grandma and Pepere endured the tour with me. We did go to Margaritaville first, so maybe the margaritas helped!

I think I could have a nice retirement gig as a docent at Hemingway's Key West home. Our tour guide told me he didn't read Hem's books, he found Hem's life much more interesting. I did not tell him that most of Hemingway's books mimicked aspects of his life. That would have been rude.

During our time in the Keys, we also visited Pidgeon Key (the home for the workers who built the seven-mile bridge and the rest of the rail line); the Dolphin Research Center (where Jack and Steve pet dolphins); Bahia Honda State Park and Beach (where Steve and Pepere got some snorkeling in); and lots of fun restaurants. After we got Jack to sleep (either for naps or bed time), we were able to see some sunsets, and Grandma Sue and Pepere even got in a boat ride (ask them about it, it's a funny story).

Steve planned a wild night for our last night of vacation. He booked us a suite on the strip in South Beach. We had a great room at the Beacon Hotel, which is right across the street from Miami Beach. We had a nice walk along the beach before the rain hit and we went to dinner. We met up with Pepere's childhood friend, Ricardo, and his wife Nety. They are such nice people! They drove in to South Beach for us (which is akin to driving into Wrigleyville on a Saturday afternoon along with everyone else going to the Cubs' game and Lincoln Avenue Rib Fest). We had a great Cuban dinner and then headed back to put Jack to bed before checking out Ocean Drive. We had great intentions, but we all must have been pretty tired because we all fell asleep. Guess we will have to go back to see the neon another time.

I've saved my favorite story for last. Jack was an incredible traveler. I was a little worried about how he would do in the airport and on the plane. We've all heard the horror stories of the crying child on the plane. Jack was awesome though. He was so excited about take-off and flying through the clouds. On both plane rides he napped like a champ. He even was great about getting through the airport! He got to ride on Steve's roller suitcase with his little backpack on (unfortunately, no pictures of this, sorry!). The hardest part was chasing him around the gate areas while we waited to board. He just wanted to explore and touch everything. He was definitely a good enough traveler that we will fly again, and hopefully soon!

Here are some of the key shots from our trip. The whole experience reminded me of why I work. I love that we are able to do things like this, and I plan to make sure we do more of these things in the future!

Ft. Lauderdale

Playing Zappers at the Marathon Resort

Exploring Key West

Too Cute Not to Include

Playing with a Hemingway Cat

Karen at the Hemingway House

Going Under at the Pool

Playing with the waves on Miami Beach


So I mentioned earlier that Cathy and Mike got married. They had a beautiful wedding on July 9 in Rolling Meadows/Arlington Heights. I don't know that I have many photos after we got our hair done. I was a little busy being matron of honor and getting my party on. Let's just say that Cathy and Mike know how to throw a great party. I am so happy for them. So now Cathy is an Augustin, which means there is only one "true" Watts girl left. Good Luck, Connie. Carry that name proudly!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer is here!

So I actually "got out of school" on June 11. However, last week I was in a workshop all week, and on Monday, I worked summer school for a day. Today, Jack and I officially kicked off summer (at least for me!). We started with breakfast at Panera. Then we hit Safety Day at the library (awesome!). We took a nice nap after lunch. Then swam at the pool this afternoon. It was a great day.

Fire truck wee woo

Fire truck wee woo

I know I haven't updated since March (remember, quarterly updates :) ). So here's the scoop.

We celebrated Easter with the Watts family at Grandma Sue and Pepere's house. We prepared beforehand by coloring eggs, although we colored more on Easter.



Blowing up peeps with Grandma

In April, I went to Portland for the semi-annual Journalism Convention. But this isn't a work blog, so I won't go on about that.

In May, we celebrated Mother's Day at our house with a brunch. Pretty low-key, but very nice. I was also very busy with Cathy's wedding party fun. We had her shower at Auntie K's house.

But now it is June. Steve finished his grad classes for the quarter the same day I finished school. So we have packed a lot of fun into a week or so.

We hired a landscaper to get our yard under control. And boy did he and his crew do an awesome job. Watch your email inboxes for invites to our house now that we don't need a jungle guide to get through the weeds! We love it!


For Father's Day, we went to the Kane County Cougar's game. Jack actually watched a few at-bats. You have to start somewhere. His favorite part of the event was the jump-around obstacle course.

Steve's awesome photo of a baseball (don't you just love that lense!)

So Steve is back at school this week to bust through another two courses this summer. I still have lots of curriculum planning to get done before August. And we have an awesome wedding we are looking forward to in just a few weeks. Then... Vacation! We are leaving on a jet plane, so be sure to check back in July when I will update with those fun details.

Until then... enjoy the photos!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be forewarned, there's a lot to read

Jack is with Grandma Sue and Pepere today, so I'm taking advantage of the downtime to update the blog. I have a lot to cover: Christmas, birthdays, mini-vacation, new job, and I'm sure a few other items I will think of as I write. Read what you like, enjoy the photos, and hopefully by the end, you will be caught up on Barrett Family Life.

Christmas was a lot of fun this year. Jack learned about Santa Claus (we are still singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town before bed; it's March!) and Jesus's birthday. I think he was pretty impressed by it all. We had our first Christmas celebration with the Watts side of the family the weekend before Christmas. Grandma Sue had a birthday cake and we sang for Jesus. As far as Jack was concerned, that was the highlight. Oh, that and the boots Grandma Sue and Pepere got him. He wears those all of the time and can even put them on and take them off by himself.


We celebrated Christmas Eve with the Reilley side of the family at Aunt Sharon's house. Since it was just us and the aunts and Nannie, Jack was spoiled with attention. He ate it up. I think the highlight of the night was watching Jack roll his new luggage from Nannie around the house. He also received "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" from Aunt Sharon, and that has become one of his favorite books.



Christmas morning was spent at our house. Auntie Bubbles slept over the night before so she could be with us in the morning. Jack had lots of fun on his new bike that Santa brought for him. He was even good about telling everyone about the new bike when they asked what Santa gave him. Christmas afternoon and evening was spent with the Unger side of the family at the Carlson's house.


Jack collecting Auntie K's candles to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

As soon as Christmas is over, we start thinking about Jack's birthday. On his actual birthday, Steve and I took Jack downtown to the Shedd Aquarium. What a blast! Since his birthday fell on a Monday, there were hardly any people there right at opening. We felt like we had the place to ourselves! We got to see the new show in the Oceanarium, play in the penguin area, and see all kinds of fish and sharks. We all had a really great time. While we were in the city, we met up with Steve's cousin Michelle for lunch. Needless to say, Jack slept pretty well all the way home that afternoon and that night.

This year we decided to have a Thomas the Tank Engine party with family. A couple of my students from Wheeling helped me make cardboard box Thomas and James engines. Both Jack and Nicky loved them. The engines didn't make it through the entire party, but the boys had a great time with them.



And now that Jack is two, it is hard to believe that he was ever a baby who sat quietly cuddling on our laps. Now, he talks up a storm, wants to play all the time, and is just and endless bundle of energy. Steve and I got Jack a bunch of sporting equipment for his birthday: a tee-ball set, a soccer goal and ball, a golf club and ball. Since his birthday, he's been playing with the golf club (which he calls his hockey stick) inside. Last weekend, when the weather was a little warmer and the sun was out, we actually got to play outside. We actually got to play tee-ball and hockey on the drive-way! It was awesome!

In February, we had the chance to spend President's Day weekend at the Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva with Shayna, Dick, Shane, Emmett, and Nannie. We took the opportunity to get a little skiing and waterpark action in. It was awesome. Unfortunately, Jack is still a little too small to ski (next year though, look out!), but he had a great time playing with Nannie and Aunt Shayna and Emmett while Steve, Dick,and I took Shane out on the slopes for the first time. Jack really loved the indoor waterpark at Timber Ridge the next day. He just wanted to be in the big pool swimming around and watching Shane.




In the midst of all of our winter fun, Steve got a new job. He is now working for a company called Model Metrics. He gets to ride the train downtown every day, which isn't awesome, but he does like working in the city again. Of course, Jack is incredibly jealous that Daddy gets to ride the choo-choo. If he only knew!

So you can see we've been busy and having fun. Jack is growing up like crazy. He talks all of the time, and I am constantly amazed at his pronunciation. Just ask him to say enchiladas, and you'll see what I mean. He has also started to enjoy watching movies with us, so we have started the Disney/Pixar collection. He really likes Up and Monsters Inc. Those are the only two we have right now, but at least he likes the balloons and the monsters.

He has also recently learned to "fix" things. One of his Christmas presents was a Handy Manny radio repair kit (from Aunt Shayna and Uncle Dick). It came with Felipe, the phillips head screw driver. He carries that thing everywhere and fixes any screw he sees. I think I've put in a good couple of hours fixing the crib.


Okay, I'm sure there is more that I have forgotten to include here, but that's life these days. Feel free to check back soon for another update. I realize that three and half months is a long time to go without an update, so I will try to be better.