Chicago Driving

This past weekend we took a long overdue trip to Indiana to visit some friends. We had a great time, us adults had lots of time for visiting and catching up, the girls all played well together and their daughter even gave us a tour of the Notre Dame campus.

Thinking of the great time we had I was trying to mentally calculate when we’d next be able to get together when I remembered an itsy bitsy detail of the trip that was a bit of a problem – the drive.  Not that it was too far – no, it’s just that there is this place in between us, you may have heard of it, it’s called Chicago…

Ever since driving through the Windy City with Ivy screaming in the back (because that’s what she always did in the car as baby) and Henry the cat meowing incessantly (because that’s what he always did in the car) while I attempted to stay calm as I  crept along in traffic next to a semi whose trailer was burned out and swaying frighteningly in the breezes I’ve been a little twitchy about the whole driving Chicago with children thing.

I’m sad to report that the way over did nothing to calm my fears.

Construction appeared, traffic slowed down, kids started yelling.

It was like magic.

Dark, bad, black magic.

Fortunately, I was not the only adult in the car, the bad magic was short lived and we made it to our friends house…eventually.

Unfortunately, before I knew it our weekend together was over and it was time for the drive home.

The trip home started out great, we timed our leaving perfectly for Jane’s morning nap, part way through the drive we stopped for a break/lunch/shopping trip/shooting/African safari/run/fish watching/turtle finding/tent testing at  Cabela’s (Best store to take a driving break in with little kids!) and got back in the car for the last half (HA!) of the trip.

Apparently we forgot that this was the half with Chicago in it.

John and I had just congratulating ourselves on our timing, the fact that our  two youngest were sleeping, decided on our route through the dreaded city and just about when we had finished patting ourselves on the back (Foolish, very foolish, never tempt fate, traffic or small children.) we looked up to this:

Which is precisely when Jane woke up and filled the truck with an unmistakable sound and aroma, and then proceeded to tell us just exactly how she felt about that. Did you know that when you combine crying babies, poopy diapers, traffic jams, questioning 5 year olds and sketchy neighborhoods time slows down?  I was paying close attention to the passage of time and I feel I can accurately report that  John found a very nice apartment complex with a few empty parking spots, (which we used to do the fastest diaper change ever) a mere 7 million hours and 57 minutes after Jane’s initial blast. If that’s not some sort of evil magic at work I don’t know what is!

No matter the cause we aren’t about to let it stop us from visiting friends and family on the other side. We’ll be ready to drive back around Chicago just as soon as our blood pressure comes down, our knuckles regain their normal coloring, and our kids have all reached the age of 18!

Just kidding.

I think…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Friendship

Weekly Photo Challenge: Friendship

My friend Sarah (of thinkbigmuch) and I have been friends since second grade.

When you’ve been friends that long you tend to fall into a few patterns, for instance:

Sarah says, “You should have a blog.”…I say, “OK”

Sarah  says, “You should move your blog to WordPress.”…  I say, “OK”

Sarah says, “We should do the photo challenge on friendship together.”  I say, “OK” (I’m always this easy going, just ask John…)

A large flurry of e-mails and phone calls later we have our friendship photo. Two friends on the same afternoon, four hours away from each other:

To go along with our photo Sarah has shared the top ten reasons why I am her friend. I thought it would be sort of boring if I did the same since you’d be reading basically the same list with our names in different places. Instead, sometimes against my better judgment, I decided to share my top ten memorable moments in our friendship.

In no particular order we have….

  1. One night in grade school we were at my house and had been sledding but were now just laying on our backs under a tree. Sarah asked me why I never talked this much in school. While I was extremely shy during my grade school years (and beyond) talking to Sarah was never a problem. Getting Sarah and I to stop talking… that’s a different story.
  2. When thanks to the gift of a case of beer from my older (read legal drinking age) boyfriend we were obligated to acquire a taste for beer together – on our roof. Thank you John!
  3. Between our sophomore and junior years of high school Sarah’s family moved to Canada. The memory of watching Sarah and her Mom walk away from my Mom and I the last night before they moved can still bring tears to my eyes.
  4. Stealing a candy bar from our friend in grade school and eating it in the bathroom. We were such rebels… except that we weren’t, I have no idea why we did this!
  5. The first time we saw each other when we both had babies.
  6. In high school Sarah was back visiting in Pewaukee during the time she lived in Canada. We had spent all the days (and nights) she was there sleeping minimal amounts and drinking far too much Diet Coke so as not to waste any of our short time together doing something so foolish as sleeping. The last day we were at the kitchen table and started laughing, which turned into crying, we were just one big sleep deprived mess, so happy to be together but knowing that our time was almost over. I can still picture Sarah laughing/crying and my Mom looking at the two of us like we were nuts – which we were.
  7. Weddings. My wedding, her wedding… happy times!
  8. Once we stole a bottle of Tequila Rose from a friends party. We literally ran it home to our own apartment, laughing like maniacs the entire time and then ran back. Apparently you should watch your food and drink around us.
  9. Discovering during a late night of beer appreciation with a tape measure that while I am taller than Sarah, her legs are significantly longer than mine. Our husbands were not astounded by our discovery, a flaw I forgive them for.
  10. Talking on the phone. Talking in the car. Talking late at night. Mumbling early in the morning. Talking. Talking. Talking!

All in all I think it’s been a good start to a life long friendship!

Five Under Five

When my friend Sarah and I started having kids, we started at just about the same time. We’d get together, have fun with our two babies, take piles of pictures and go home rested. Then we each had another… and then she had one more.  Now with five kids under the age of five we take no pictures, think that we possibly had fun and go home exhausted.  Last weekend we saw each other for just a few hours and I was determined to get a picture.  The kids were clearly unimpressed by my efforts and I don’t blame them – these are not my best pictures ever.

But crazy monster faces and stick to the forehead aside no one is actually crying and we do now have proof that they’ve all been together –  I’m calling it a success.

Happy Birthday Sarah

Today is my friend Sarah’s birthday.

Therefore I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you all that she’s pretty darn cool.

How cool? So cool that we have managed to remain friends for twenty three years.  Twenty three years that have not always been easy years to keep a friendship going, but we have.  Over the years the obstacles have changed but we’ve still manged to be there for each other the whole way through.

In second grade Sarah moved to Pewaukee and ended up in my class. It didn’t take long before we became friends and up until fourth grade life was easy. Our main challenge to overcome was whether or not Sarah had vacuumed yet  and if she was grounded or not. Sarah was grounded a lot.  For a girl that seemed pretty good, she must have been a terror behind closed doors.

In fourth grade she and another friend decided they hated me. You would think this was a large obstacle, but due to a fortuitous combination of my being stubborn, unable to take a hint, and my lack of other friends, I hung in there and we came out the other end friends again.

From fourth grade on to high school my swimming schedule threw a monkey wrench in things. Swimming a half hour away from home every night, plus practice and/or meets on weekends kept me busy in the pool.  Fortunately Sarah still had a lot of vacuuming (amongst other activities) to keep her busy and we manged to stay fast friends.

Then things got tricky. In the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school Sarah and her family moved to Canada. Many tears later, chat rooms were discovered and we spent hours keeping in touch while jumping around rooms to avoid anyone who might intrude on our conversations. I attribute my typing speed and abilities completely to those years, unfortunately for my spelling,  Sarah was a champ at  figuring out my interesting words. To this day it’s a good thing that I have spell check, and a husband to tell my how to spell obstacle when all spell check can come up with for my typed word is obstetrics.

Sarah moved back to Wisconsin in college and joined me at UW-Stevens Point – it was a good time.  We lived together for two straight years with only one spat the entire time (don’t move my bed, it turns out I hate that) and had more fun than is prudent to mention on a blog my family reads. By the end of college we were closer than ever and husbands were on the way.

Turns out husbands are no big deal. They are understanding of our friendship, get along great and suddenly we had four people for card games. If ever we needed some girl time we could always easily get rid of the boys by waving a video game in front of them.

Not too long after the husbands became official we each had a kid and only two months apart we pretty much entered into motherhood together.  While it was harder to chat and visit with two kids around other than one very memorable and exhausting trip where Ivy learned that if she yelled “MINE” it would cause Natalie to freak out, they have gotten along remarkably well.

But, now there are more, our second kids are four months apart, and Sarah’s third trails them by a bit over a year. Now when we get together our weekend seems to consist solely of feeding kids, breaking up fights,  putting them to sleep, and waiting for them to wake back up while trying not to drown in a sea of toys.  Once this summer someone asked when we were all visiting together if Sarah and I had fun… Umm yeah… Wait was Sarah there? Yeah I think we had fun, I don’t know I have to call her later and talk so I can find out…

Things aren’t as easy as they used to be.  I continue to have trouble getting away from the animals in the summer while Sarah works during the school year.  We may spend quite a bit more time wondering if the weekend we just spent together was “fun” or exhausting and as the kids grow we will continue to cross our fingers they’ll remain friends, or at least friendly. In the meantime we’ll continue to have phone conversations squashed in between the rest of life, and be thankful for free mobile to mobile minutes.

While I’m always sad when we can’t spend a birthday or other important event together, it’s good to be able to look back at a lifetime of friendship and know that this challenging time will also pass.  Lately we’ve been talking of a husband-less/kid-less trip when we turn forty.  And who knows, one day we’ll probably end up sharing a room at an old folks home.  One day we’ll be celebrating our birthdays together again even if we are no longer sure how old we are!

Happy Birthday Sarah!

Days That Make You Go…

Remember last years  post about the fun of the Long Lake Lager Fest?

Remember the car trouble on the way home?

The Third Annual Long Lake Lager Fest was again a great time with friends – an excellent tradition in the making.

And again we had car trouble on the way home, except worse – not such an excellent tradition.

Today was the day the report from the mechanic came in.

Some days just make you go:

I’m thinking of hitching a ride for the Fourth Annual Long Lake Lager Fest, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun but I’m not sure we can afford the drive home!


Why do we call the process of preserving food in jars canning?

Why not jarring?

These are the questions Tyler and I asked each other in our canning delirum at one in the morning.


The weekend was planned as a venison canning weekend. And it was. The last of the 64 pints are in the canner as I type.

Of course had we not found so many other things to do we’d be done already and we’d have skipped the delirium last night.

But where’s the fun in that?

The first set back in the canning progress was that Sarah and I have never been brillant about rationing time spent together.  That history is a whole post that involves two countries, too much Diet Coke and a lot of tears, so I won’t go into it here. I’ll just say we saw each other, it was fun, and I probably should have been canning.

Then after staying up canning until delirium set in last night Tyler took me grouse hunting this morning.

I recommend hunting with Tyler.

Today he was my guide/Sherpa/driver/child sitter/dog handler.IMGP5953

While I did see a grouse and lots of track this morning I didn’t get a shot off , but I’ll forgive my guide/Sherpa/driver/child sitter/dog handler, he had his hands full.


More Roofing!

While John and I had been talking hypothetically about re-shingling the roof since last fall it wasn’t until last weekend that we set a date, you may have realized by now that that date was only a week away.

I’d like to dispense a bit of free advice here and mention that if you are planning an epic project like this it would be helpful to set your date more than a week in advance.  I’d also advise you not to have your hot water heater die around 10pm the night before it starts, if that were to happen it’s possible you would spend the weekend without hot water. If you spend your roofing weekend without hot water I hope you have really nice neighbors that will let you shower, you’ll need one!

While our one week of planning was a bit frantic we did manage to make a plan, order supplies, and line up help.   Our help consisted of  a few friends that we were able to convince that what they would really like to do for part of their labor day weekend is give us a hand on our roof, and of course we got my family involved. In addition to the fact that they came with most of the know how (remember Memorial day weekend?) projects seem to be what my family does. I hear other family’s get together and eat, or camp, or golf… mine does things like, take down dead trees, build fences, clean barns, and roof houses.

There they were bright and early Saturday morning  ripping off the old shingles, lovingly working together…

… too much coffee was clearly not good for Tyler or my Dad so we cut them off and by midday my brother  had assumed the stance.

This is the,

“What in the…”

“How on earth…”

“Why did they…”

stance that anyone working on our house gets at one point or another.

This unfortunately brought us to the “Tyler?” part of the project.  At this point Tyler, who was in charging of telling his family what to do so we could ignore him and do it wrong, was being called all over the roof.

“Tyler now what do I do?”

“Tyler how do I put drip edge on here?”

“Tyler how do we fix this hole?”



This slowed down our progress by quite a bit and irritated Tyler,  but by Saturday night we had completely deconstructed the roof and had it sort of put back together.  The shingles were arriving via boom truck Sunday morning, and we were not quite ready for them…

Shingle delivery guys don’t care if you are done prepping the roof  they just show up when they are told. So Sunday morning there came the shingles, and the grey sky, and the evil, evil, weather forecaster who every fifteen minutes on the radio liked to remind us there was a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday night.

More help arrived and with my kids being taken care of and the weather looking iffy I went up on the roof…

Please note that this is not an insignificant thing. I do not like heights, I don’t like them at all.   But, the girls were being watched, and there was nothing to do on the ground so I went up to the shortest roof over the mudroom where there was also nothing to do. Then my brother looked at me and said something really inspirational like, “Shut up, get over here and help me.”

So I did.

I helped out on top of the house for the rest of the weekend.  This is why I have no more pictures of the project to share. I was on the roof, and I was doing it without crying or hyperventilating but I wasn’t about to use one of my hands, that I was really hoping were acquiring sticky tree frog-like properties, to do anything that wasn’t completely necessary, like take  a picture.

By Sunday night we had some shingles on, the rest of the roof was ready for shingles, Tyler went home, only my Mom and Dad were planning on coming back and the rain had started.

Sunday was a bad night.  Sunday evening we made a lot of phone calls.

Monday morning the phone calls had paid off and things were looking up. John’s parents whisked the girls away  first thing in the morning. Then my Dad’s friend saved the day by crawling around like a monkey and doing all sorts of things to shingle the highest of the roofs that I can’t even think about, much less type about, without wanting to sit on the floor. While John helped out on the high roofs, my mom and I finished most of the low with Dad pitching in where he was needed.  As we worked, I studiously avoided looking at anyone crawling around higher than me, walking near the edge or doing anything that looked like slipping. This is because I had learned that watching any of those activities made me really wish I was back on the ground. The problem was as soon as I wanted to be back on the ground the thought of navigating steep slippery roof and rickety ladders was also way too scary.  So instead I would will my toes to also acquire tree frog like properties and stick where I was.

I like to think I was persevering in finishing the job rather than that I was frozen in terror.

Just as we were really starting to get sick of anything that looked like a shingle, we had one last friend show up to help finish things off, and we did just before dark on Monday night!

Thanks to all our helpers. We never ever would have gotten it done without you all!

Tyler for all the work and the question answering.

Jeff, Steve, Stephen, our friends who like us well enough to help shingle a house.

Jessie who came to pick up her puppy Saturday morning and didn’t leave till she had helped do everything from tear off to kid care Saturday night.

Jess, who came along with her own baby and helped watch both of mine as well.

Tom and Chris who let us shower at their house since we had no hot water.

George and Lois who ran to Menard’s, cleaned the kitchen, and helped watch kids.

Mighty and Marcia, who lent us tools and told me what color to pick.

Rick, the man who saved us Monday morning.

Pat and Al, for taking the girls so we had a chance to not only finish the roof but do clean up unencumbered Tuesday morning.

Granny and Grandpa, who not only helped finance the project and sent along food everyday but also came out to help in the house and run to Menard’s on Sunday.

and to Mom and Dad who did it all, all weekend long!