Summer Days

6:00 AM

Naps...is there anything that speaks more of lazy summer days?

Well, possibly beaches. We are within a few blocks of Lake Michigan, and it's a short little walk to the beach. The water is still pretty chilly. The day this picture was taken, it was frigid, but still delicious on a hot day.

Leone Park Beach is right next to Loyola Park Beach, but just a much tinier field house.
There are always people at the beaches in the summer - playing in the water, grilling out (or BBQ as they call it), huge gatherings of people and the smells that waft around...MAN, it's good stuff. 
We live in one of the only areas in Chicago where you can walk to the beach without having to walk under Lakeshore Drive. It's just a regular walk across regular streets. Very nice.

This summer has been interesting. I've done something new this year which is to enroll my oldest three kids in a Summer Day Camp program through the Chicago Park District. It's a 6 week program, Monday through Friday, 9 to 3. They provide lunches and snacks, activities, field trips...at incredibly reasonable prices.  It varies slightly by park, but basically for Touhy Park (our local park), it's a little less than $200/kid. For 6 weeks. Pretty much the best bargain ever. Which leaves me some quality time with Wyeth and Wilder.

I still make a whole lot of food for my ravenously hungry kids, but at least lunches are taken care of for Brooklyn, August and Dorien. They even provide vegetarian options! 

I have eased into the Chicago Park District programming which is quite unlike anything I've ever encountered. There are hundreds of parks in the City, each with their own unique programming. They also each have a superintendent, a field house and depending on the area, that field house could also include soccer, baseball fields, basketball courts, a gym, a pool... There are so many class options to sign up for, from woodworking to gymnastics to Kiddie College. The classes run by semesters, are usually an hour a week and are crazy cheap. Like $13 for a Mighty Fit Kids class. 

At the urging of my friend and neighbor, Kate, I got my feet wet this spring by signing the kids up for Mighty Fit Kids on Monday afternoons at 4pm. Wyeth, I signed up for Tiny Tot Sports, at 11am on Tuesday mornings. He was extremely reticent about being left by himself, so it ended up that I usually stayed and then he would participate. His class was super small - usually just him and one other girl, Bella. 

Dino Diggers started right after Tiny Tot Sports, and one day, Wyeth stayed to participate.
Touhy Field House has two rooms - a little kids room and a more open gymish area.  August read a book while Wyeth learned about dinos. He's sitting on the "balance beam" Wyeth used in Tiny Tots.

Brooklyn also found a reading spot amid the playmats.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Kristen, the Touhy Park coordinator, led the littles in the Dino Digger craft. 
I have become friends with her over the past few months and really really like her. Based on my knowledge of her and trust in her, I signed up the kids for the Summer Day Camp. I was nervous, for sure. But I knew Touhy can't hold a big group of kids, and it was capped at 25, plus, I knew 7 of those would be my kids and two neighbor families. After much prayer and counsel, I enrolled them.

The camp started June 26 which seems late, but Chicago public schools didn't get out until June 21st. Crazy, I know. So, we had a few weeks of our own time before camp started. And it will end on August 5th, and pretty shortly after that, we'll start back our school, while CPS starts after Labor Day. I just don't want to be doing school into June. Seems weird.

The kids have loved camp! Oddly, I am experiencing for the first time waking up earlier than normal and picking them up at a regular school time. Leaving me with hours in the middle to get things done and be a mom to a much smaller crew! 

Wyeth is loving the time alone with me and Wilder. He thrives on it. 
We go to the beach together.

A few weeks ago, my brother Jeremiah spent about a week with us, and it was absolutely lovely.
He followed my routine with me - we dropped the kids off to camp, went to the Evanston YMCA to work out, then cleaned house, talked, walked to the beach...

There is a tiny beach at the end of a nearby street that is deserted during the day. 
On the weekends, it fills up, but during the day, there are very few people around.
Making it absolute perfection.

Wilder has yet to touch the water, but he's digging the sand and rocks he finds.

While he was here, Jeremiah introduced me and the kids to Dude Perfect...we laughed so hard while watching their Youtube videos. It was such a blessing to share that time with my little brother. I value his friendship, wisdom, practical help around the house, and just his presence. It was fabulous.

Some days after Wyeth, Wilder and I leave the gym, we explore nearby restaurants for a date! 
Something I can't afford to do with my whole crew! 
One day, we tested out a place called the Lucky Platter and it was fantastic. Nice ambiance and amazing food. I truly enjoyed time with my boys.

Wyeth got a delicious cheese pizza and huge bowl of fruit. His crust is hand-made and tasted so good. I got an omelette with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and it was pretty much the best thing ever. Second to the Apricot Cheese Flaky on the left. Oh My. And the breakfast potatoes were also phenomenal. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

This summer hasn't been all fun and games, though. We spent the whole month of June dealing with a teething Wilder. He cut four top teeth at one time and it was miserable. He's such a happy baby, but it all changed. Snot pouring out his nose and eyes, low-grade fever, even more drool than usual, clingy like nobody's business, just miserable through and through. I even took him to the doctor at one point just to make sure it really was just teeth! (it was)

There's really nothing quite like squeezing 7 people plus a nurse into a tiny room.

I even made some chamomile tea, soaked some baby washrags in it, wrung them out and froze them for Wilder to gnaw/suck on. He really liked this one particular one. Chamomile was supposed to have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. 

This summer has also involved training! 
I think I mentioned that Kyle and I signed up for the international/Olympic distance Chicago Triathlon on August 27th.  It's kind of our 40th birthday present to ourselves. Kyle turned 40 last November and I am about to on August 24th. Nothing like a good physical challenge to mark a milestone birthday. Nothing like trying to train for a triathlon with 5 kids to present a huge challenge, in general!

So I've been doing more early morning runs and bike rides. I have yet to test out my wetsuit in Lake Michigan, but I will. 

I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of mornings on the Lake.
I have some great prayer times while riding or running.

Every now and then Kyle and I get to enjoy our baby boys while the older kids are occupied.
Here's a pretty good representation of Wilder's teething mood.

On the weekends, and random days when I decide to keep the kids home from Camp, they are endlessly busy and creative in our tiny yard. Watching the constant flow of people walking past or just inventing things to hang from the trees.

They were making a pretend camp fire and "roasting" leaves on a "spit".
Don't ask me why Brooklyn is wearing her snow boots.

August's creativity with nature is pretty mind-boggling. He gets REALLY into it. He's built lean-to's against our trees, hanging devices, pulleys over branches...and whatever he thinks up, Brooklyn and Dorien are gung-ho about it too. Those little green things are apples from our backyard apple tree.

So clever, these kids.

You just never know what you might see going down the street, either.

One of our favorite spots to chill is our screened in porch on our second floor. 
It has been undergoing some cosmetic improvements...namely the removal of the nasty green astroturf.

August is in a phase where he canNOT make a normal face in a photo. It's really special.

This is a particularly great picture of my family, I think. Post-dog walk, Kyle just collapses with an already collapsed Wilder. Our cat Aesop got all snuggly, Wyeth fits himself in there and Dorien grabbed an edge. Love it.
 
Here the kids play with our neighbor twins, Olive and Hazel. They are good buddies of the kids and also in Summer Camp with them. Love those girls.

Brooklyn can't decide between building Legos or reading books.

We also had a chance to have a wonderful family dinner with our friends, the Leiva's. 
Gio made some killer soup - a Guatemalan recipe that was unbelievable.

On a slightly random note, while driving down Clark Street, I passed the most awesome sign - Niffty Nik Naks. English is very possibly not their first language?
So many many things to love about that signage.

Now here's a happier Wilder! 
And some photo-bombing brothers.

Little man is getting so big these days.
9 months yesterday and 22 pounds! 
Darn close to walking, too. 
Drooling like mad, still, but now with a bandanna to catch most of it. 
Nice. 

And yes, he's on my counter, but for 2 seconds. And no, I don't make a habit of that. 
Happy Summer to all of you!


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