I have nothing much to blog about and it’s wonderful.

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Sep 032013
 

There were lots of things I had on my to-do list this weekend. Rooms to paint. Mulch to spread. Stuff to organize.

I did none of it. And it was fantastic.

For the first time in recent memory, we had a weekend at home with nothing going on. We’ve been on the go all summer; for example, three separate trips to Michigan in July/early August had us home just one weekend out of five.

So when our Labor Day weekend morphed into one with naps and Sun King growlers, I decided to embrace it. One look at our September calendar, with its good times like meetings on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday nights this week and not a single weekend without something scheduled, and I happily ditched the responsibilities and grabbed the sunblock.

And what did we do with all of our free time?

Well, we spent part of Saturday and Sunday floating in the Y pool.

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I beat eight levels in Candy Crush.

Andy made an impromptu overnight trip to Chicago for a fantasy football draft with friends he hadn’t seen in forever.

Andy and I took turns dozing while the kids gorged on the Ninjago and Lego Friends they discovered on Netflix.

We broke in Andy’s new bicycle with a few family bike rides.

Andy and I watched six episodes of Breaking Bad.

I watched eight episodes of 30 Rock.

We went to the Star Wars exhibit at the Indiana State Museum, on its very last day because I am always so organized and on top of things. Henry loved the droideka, Eleanor loved the star destroyer, Andy loved the Millennium Falcon, I still loved it all the second time around. The kids were more into the hands-on science-y parts than I thought they’d be. We took very few normal photos.

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We grilled out and dined on the deck, toasting our beer and milk to the last weekend of a full and fun summer.

I made plans to try to have no plans more often.

Jul 142012
 

The kids are at THE perfect age. The lake is the warmest I’ve ever felt it. I have a feeling this will be our best year at the lake yet. And also the most over-documented.

Here’s today, as seen through my iPhone lens.

(not pictured: the trip to the library, where Eleanor checked out one of her brother and sister’s memorial books; the first time we’ve ever spent the ENTIRE afternoon in the water; Andy throwing the kids into the lake with a big splash and huge smiles and shouts of “do it again, Daddy!”; Henry’s ears sticking out from his mask strap; Eleanor floating on her back for 37 seconds; Henry turning the dock into a spaceship and putting it on autopilot through a meteor shower; Eleanor looking for shells and swimming with Grandma; swimming AGAIN after supper which the kids declared “way funner than a bath;” Andy and I wondering if our children had sprouted gills; a tired family conking out, ready to do it all again tomorrow)
May 292012
 

May is a big deal here in Indy, and for the past spring or two Andy and I have wondered, “should we be taking the kids to the track?” This year they seemed the right age so we headed to the Speedway for the Indy 500 Pole Day.

Despite the heat, Henry and Eleanor did great and we all had a blast. As each car did their qualifying run, it was so cute to watch the kids look towards Turn 4, yell “I see him! I see him!” (or her!) as the race car entered the turn, and then see their smiles as ZOOM the car raced past us at 220+ miles per hour. We cheered for Josef Newgarden (a driver for Sarah Fisher, have to support the woman-owned team!), Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Tony Kanaan (my favorite driver). Everyone in the stands did a collective “WHOA” when James Hinchcliffe did his 227 mph warm-up lap.

Henry and Eleanor also enjoyed using the walkway under the track and hearing the cars zoom overhead, the bounce house set up for kids, and seeing a race car up close as it was towed up Gasoline Alley. We also exposed them to some of the finer racing culture, such as the shirtless tattooed guy gnawing on a huge turkey leg, and the extreeeemely drunk old lady who fell face first into the grass in the parking lot (providing a good “this is why you see Mommy and Daddy only have one or two beers” teachable moment, after Andy helped her to her feet).

I’ve been to the track during May three times now, once for the race, once for a practice day, and now Pole Day. And the thing that always surprises me is how much I love to watch the cars. Andy would ask me, “Who ARE you?” and I would look up from my iPhone, where I was following real-time lap results while muttering about Lotus engines and wail, “I DON’T KNOOOOOWWWWW!”

I even went on a complete internet blackout the day of the race, to not get any spoilers before Andy and I could watch the race rerun on TV that evening. Yes, you read that right, I gave up THE INTERNET. And then stayed up past bedtime to watch all 3+ hours of the race, and cared about stuff like lead changes and gas mileage. And then felt sad that May in Indy was over.

So I’m still not sure how I became this big Indy Car fan, when I couldn’t tell you the difference between a clutch and a transmission. But I AM sure that I’ve already made plans to attend the race next year, and to encourage my Hoosier children to enjoy their hometown’s most fun month.

 

Apr 242012
 

We are on the road very frequently, but our trips are always to visit family. Worthwhile travel for sure, but we’ve never done a “just the four of us” vacation. So last week we packed up the car and headed north to the land of nasally accents, deep dish pizza, impressive architecture, and failed sports teams:

We spent an action-packed two days there, enjoying family time and exposing the kids to new sights and experiences. Here, let me break it all down for you (and apologize for photo quality, we were supposed to have rain so I left the fancypants camera at home):

Accommodations
We stayed at the Best Western River North, right on Ohio and close to lots. Henry’s review as he walked into the lobby: “Wow, this is a neat place.” My review: fancy hotels are nice, but we weren’t there to stay in the hotel the whole time, so this place worked out perfectly. Close to bus and El, free parking, recently remodeled, a pool the kids were fired up for, $110 a night, and did I mention free parking? And the free parking? Also impressing Henry: the doughnuts we brought to eat for breakfast, Mom letting him lounge and play Angry Birds on her iPhone.

Eats
My love of McDonald’s coke aside, Andy and I are anti-chain and are annoyingly smug about it. I read a recommendation for Wishbone in a Frommer’s article, so for lunch our first day we schlepped the kids over to the West Loop for pancakes (H & E), crawfish etouffee (Andy), and beans and rice (me, and I’m still daydreaming about them).

That evening we tried out Lou Malnati‘s pizza. Andy and I declared it our favorite Chicago-style pizza; “yeasty” is such a gross word but that’s what the crust was and it was delicious.

As we were getting ready to head home, Andy and I debated the merits of leaving right at the start of rush hour. Figuring it would be best to feed the kids first and avoid some traffic, we swallowed our smug attitudes and headed across the street from the hotel to the Rainforest Café, which was Henry and Eleanor’s restaurant heaven and their parents’ tourist nightmare. But seeing how excited the kids were to sit next to an aquarium, watch the fake elephants swat their ears, and chat with the tree frog mascot made our overpriced nachos totally worth it. The kids started hugging everything good-bye as we left, so I’m going to wager a guess that this was their favorite restaurant of the trip.

Transportation
We parked the car at the hotel (did I mention it was free?) and didn’t see it again until we left. Henry and Eleanor were excited to ride in a taxi, bus, and subway for the first time. Henry loved the TV in the taxi, Eleanor liked the “bus that was not even a school bus,” and they both loved watching for the subway trains to come down the tunnel. I have to admit, I love subways, too. I love putting your ticket in the slot thingie and going through the turnstile, and subway maps, and the griminess mixed with interesting tile in the underground stations, and the warnings that the doors are about to close, and the dusty oily smell all the tunnels have (which, yes, is sometimes mixed with urine-y smells, looking at you, Paris and occasionally London).

We took the bus the most, though, and discovered they are great places to nap.

Attractions
We came to Chicago to have fun, and we had no trouble finding it. Our first stop was to Navy Pier, to ride the giant Ferris Wheel.

The kids loved it, and I was impressed at how well scared-of-heights Andy did. We practically had the place to ourselves and got some great views of downtown. Next stop was to Millennium Park to see the art.

Henry and Eleanor equate park with playground so we heard a few murmurs of “boring” from them. So we kept our visit short and looked at our reflections in the Bean and the giant faces spouting water. Henry and Eleanor had fun watching the faces and waiting for them to spit, if it had been warmer I’m sure they would’ve been splashing around.

Next up was the Field Museum. Henry and Eleanor are more do-ers than looking-at-things-ers, so we only spent a couple of hours here. I liked seeing Sue the T. Rex, and could appreciate what an important specimen it is, to have a complete skeleton like that. But after a few years of monthly visits to our Children’s Museum, where the dinosaurs look like this (complete with changing sky and occasional dinosaur roars and thunderstorms)…

…this was a little underwhelming.

Henry and Eleanor were basically like “whatever” and then ran off to the Egyptian exhibit. And if that last sentence sentence can’t convince you that my children are spoiled, I’m not sure what can.

We tried a slower pace after our “swim Ferris wheel park museum swim” first day, and spent our second day at the Museum of Science and Industry. Definitely worth a repeat trip this year, we didn’t make it through everything we wanted to see. This museum had more hands-on exhibits, which was right up Henry and Eleanor’s alley. We played in a children’s area, watched model trains weave through a multi-million-dollar display, flew a 727, created a tornado, sat in a tractor, modeled tsunami waves, and (our favorite) watched eggs ready to hatch and new baby chicks.

Silliness


Jennifer doing her best William Shatner impression at the Field Museum


at Field Museum exhibit of taxidermied animals
Andy: This is like Sad Zoo.


Field Museum, Egyptian exhibit
Henry: Do you think the mummy escaped?


Museum of Science and Industry
Kids: What’s this?
Jennifer: It’s a Foucault pendulum. It’s how you show that the Earth rotates.
Andy: And how you find the Island.


Museum of Science and Industry
Eleanor: Look! It’s the Serious Tower!

Souvenirs
Henry and Eleanor came home with toy baby chicks from the museum gift shop. Andy and I came home with stomach flu germs. So far (knock on wood) the kids haven’t caught the stomach bug. I’d love it, though, if they caught our travel bug. Andy and I are already brainstorming on where we can take them next.

 

 

Flesworthy Family Fun: Geocaching Partial Fail & Kite Puppetry Win

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Mar 192012
 

It seems like Andy and I have been tag-teaming our parenting lately. Our weeks are always hectic, and our weekends usually consist of “I’ll watch the kids while you go running, you watch the kids while I run errands” type of taking turns being the parent-in-charge.

So it was a wonderful change of pace to spend the weekend enjoying some family time. Because when Nature hands you sunshine and record high temps, you get outside and enjoy the heck out of it.

On Saturday we headed to a nearby park to try our hand at geocaching. I thought Henry and Eleanor might like to go on a “treasure hunt,” as we called it. I registered at geocaching.com and wrote down some coordinates to caches at the park where we were heading.

We arrived and I typed in the coordinates into my phone. We headed towards the red dot that appeared on my map screen. My phone’s GPS was off by 20 feet or so, and we spent some time looking in the wrong patch of land. We doubled back to head to the other side of the path, found the solution to the clue that was given, and voila! Our first find!

Caches usually have a log of some sort inside to sign. They can also have trinkets to swap out, coins to take and add to another cache, or other collectible items. We added our names to the log, took the special collectible coin another family had left in the cache, and carefully placed it back into its hiding spot, ready for the next geocacher to find.

Henry and Eleanor were excited to try to find another “treasure.” So we set off for another set of coordinates, and…well. Either the coordinates/my GPS was off, or we weren’t good searchers, but after a fair amount of looking we came up empty-handed. Our treasure hunt turned into a nature hike and playground time instead. I’m not a hiking fan, but it was awfully cute to see the kids whip out their magnifying glass or binoculars to check out a flower or chipmunk. Henry was also excited to spot an older man in what looked like a cross between a cowboy and a safari hat: “Mom, there’s a paleontologist here!”

On our way back to the parking lot we attempted one more treasure find. This one had comments on the website such as “my 6-year-old found it,” so how hard could it be, right? Nope, didn’t find it. I’m guessing we’ll never be recruited for a pirate crew. Which is probably for the best, I don’t really like rum.

•••••

Sunday was another beautiful day, so in the afternoon we headed to the art museum for a performance by IBEX Puppetry. Called “Celebration of Flight,” it used kites and puppets (and puppet kites) to tell the story of a whooping crane. Henry and Eleanor were able to make their own kites beforehand, which they were overly fired up over.

I was overly fired up myself when I discovered that Heather Henson, daughter of Jim himself, was the main puppeteer.

Despite my guilt over dragging Andy to an event during the Michigan State basketball game, it was a really great performance. We all loved the kites, especially when they would swoop low over our heads. I was impressed that Henry and Eleanor were able to follow along with the story as the crane grew up. Although Eleanor did ask me “is that how big a crane is?” at the sight of the larger-than-life bird at the end of the show.

For the finale the puppeteers invited the kids to come participate with their kites. Henry and Eleanor LOVED this part, and from the looks of it so did all the other kids in attendance. And as if on cue, as the performance ended two bald eagles started circling above. Andy and I were all, “look kids! eagles!” They were more “whatever” and went back to running around with their kites.

So they were less than impressed with our nation’s symbol, but we had a great time experiencing something new, and we made it home in time to watch the second half of the game (go Spartans!)

And Henry and Eleanor can add “performed puppetry with a Henson” to their resume. How cool is that?

Birds from flesworthy on Vimeo.

Oct 082011
 

I had a lot on my to-do list today: clean/laundry/paint the guest room/organize/yardwork. But we discovered that Andy’s new favorite band (Polkaboy) was playing at a local farm, so off we went to the Trader’s Point Oktoberfest for an afternoon of fun.

It was a MUCH better use of our day, don’tcha think?

Jun 012011
 

Indianapolis is a great place to raise children, and we want Henry and Eleanor to be proud of their hometown. We don’t partake in all Hoosier traditions—listening to John (Cougar) Mellencamp songs and discriminating against homosexuals spring to mind—but there are others that we want to instill in our kids. As a result, much of May is spent celebrating the Indy 500. I think we’re a year or two away from taking Henry and Eleanor to the actual race, but it was a great year for heading downtown to the parade.

We splurged on tickets for assigned seating, and had front-row seats for the floats, balloons, marching bands, and celebrities. And I have the blurry back-of-their head photos to prove it!

See? I was feet away from my BFF-in-my-head Anderson Cooper!


That’s really him! Pinky swear!

And Mrs. Brady was there, because she always sings at the race for reasons I don’t know!


Why won’t anyone wave to our side of the street?

But even better than the celebrities were the “celebrities.” It was TOTALLY worth $15 a seat to rub shoulders with such luminaries as:

REO Speedwagon!


Yes, Champaign readers, those air quotes are warranted!

This guy from CSI! No, not that CSI, the other one!

The chick from American Idol who mispronounced “salmon!”

This racing guy!

That racing guy!

The woman from the Carol Burnett show that Andy thought had died!

Indianapolis’ loose definition of “famous” aside, Henry and Eleanor were enamored of it all, and Andy and I enjoyed watching both the parade and the kids’ excitement over it. Henry and Eleanor spent the rest of the weekend watching the race and carrying around sections of the newspaper featuring the lineup of race car drivers. I think we’re doing a good job of raising authentic Hoosiers. You’ll NEVER get me to listen to “Jack & Diane,” though.

Aug 242010
 

It was hot and dusty and crowded, and my funnel cake cost $6, and we couldn’t find the way out of the parking lot, and I didn’t get to browse the exhibition halls, and we picked the shuttle train whose driver just went on break, and my camera battery died, and it took us three tries to find a bathroom.

But to experience it through the eyes of two excited three-year-olds? Totally worth it.

(See all my state fair photos here)

Jul 092010
 

The Fourth of July means all the obvious things, like being thankful for the freedoms of our great country, and fireworks, and Toby Keith songs about boots and rear ends.

But to our family, the holiday weekend meant even more. It meant

golf cart rides

big-kid swings

first-ever sips of soda

Canadian beer

chasing ducks

catching fish

marveling over chicken eggs you found all by yourself

sneak-attack cousin photos

and being thankful for a wonderful family.

Hope your Fourth was just as fabulous!

(Wanna see more photos? Head over here: I’m posting them to Flickr)