Monday, January 26, 2015

Mid-Winter Visit to the Valley

We used part of Jackson's long-weekend to end the 2nd quarter of Kindergarten to visit Gramma, Aunt Murph, Uncle Larry, Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Wayne!  Our first stop was Gramma!
 Jackson reading TO Gramma :)
 Even our littlest guy knew that you always get ice cream at Gramma's :)
 Coloring :)
 LOVE this picture!  Gramma made us a delicious lunch of spaghetti and meatballs, fed us ice cream treats, and just hung out for the first part of the day.  After a little down time for Jackson, a short nap for Graham and us trying to help her set up her Kindle, we took off for our next stop.
 We got to Aunt Murph and Uncle Larry's with some time to hang out before dinner.  Graham always loves checking out pictures of himself on other people's phones ;)
 Snacking as Aunt Murph got ready for dinner.
 Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Wayne joined us for dinner and hanging out afterwards!!!
 The Smiths and the Haysletts
 We spent the night at Aunt Murph and Uncle Larry's, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed watching Uncle Larry fill the birdfeeders... and the results!
 We headed out to Gypsy Hill Park for a little fresh air and to burn off some energy.  I LOVE this park and so wish we had something just like it near our house...  Aunt Murph sent the boys with a couple of quarters to feed the ducks--it was a hit!
 They all flocked right over once the boys threw the first pellets in!
 Sweetness :)
 Not to be left out!
 The firepole is one of Jackson's more recent accomplishments at the playground, and he loves showing it off!
 Our own Spiderman!
 King of the rock wall!
 Aunt Murph and Uncle Larry met us for lunch before we hit the road for home!
Back at home snuggling under their new blankets (we did a little belated Christmas celebrating!)  :)  We had a great time catching up, and luckily the weather behaved to help us enjoy ourselves!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Such Cuteness Amidst the School Delays...

Jackson had been asking to go back to Build a Bear to build a reindeer, and he ended up with a little Christmas money, so that's what we went to do after getting back into town!  Our new friend's name is Blitzen, and he can most often be seen sporting Star Wars jammies :)
It's a good life while Mommy cleans after weeks and weeks of craziness and travel!
Fresh haircuts, cute fleeces and a fire!
We finally got outside for a run!  It was chilly, but worth it!
A new Lego build on a "snow" day!
Baby Heff ;)
I cannot get enough of this picture!
My handsome BIG boy!
Such silliness
Lots of stories in this weather...
Yogurt belly...sigh...

We have had quite a few two-hour delays, and one whole day off due to the weather...  Who knows what's to come still?

Monday, January 5, 2015

RIP Petey, Welcome Penny!

Meet Penny, our new-to-us Prius (one year older, 20,000 miles younger, and blue instead of black)!

Graham and I were rear-ended on Thursday, December 11th.  I suspect the driver behind us was distracted by his phone, but we don't know for sure.  I had come to a stop at a stoplight, and he did not :/  It was a hard and fast crash pushing us into the intersection.  Both Graham and I were VERY shaken up and upset, and I jumped out of the car to see the damage.  The other driver, THANKFULLY, stopped and also got out.  We called the police, but the firetruck and ambulance arrived first.  Such mixed feelings when you know those sirens are coming for you, but you desperately want them to get there to help you!  Graham and I seemed to be fine--thank goodness for car seats!!!  They helped move our car out of the way--it was not really drive able due to the back bumper bending under the wheel.  It really only went backwards.  Luckily (?) we were right by a store, so we had a safe place to sort the rest out.  Also luckily, I was on my way to meet Jolene and was almost there, so she was minutes away and came to help out.  The firemen and paramedics were SO nice and helped get Graham and his carseat out (his door was jammed shut).  Jolene and I started shuffling everything to her car from mine--of course my car was in such a state--I REALLY needed to clean it out and was so embarrassed of all she pulled out!  The police finally showed up and started the exchange of info, filling out of police reports, ticketing of the other driver for following too closely, and taking our statements.  The other driver's story started changing as he said the light was still green (it was definitely yellow), I was stopped in the intersection (that doesn't even make sense), etc.  Once that was "settled," I began the game of calling the insurance company.  I started with ours and they got a tow truck all set up.  I really could not have been more thankful for Jolene being there to entertain Graham, wait with us for the tow truck/pick up lunch, and drive us home!  The tow truck came quickly and we all got home.  We unloaded everything from Jolene's car and she headed home with Owen.  

Graham laid down for a nap and I called the other insurance company to see if I could get that ball rolling.  They really couldn't do anything until the other driver called in.  Totally understandable, but really frustrating since this was not my fault, but I now had no car to drive and needed to replace our carseat!  Friday morning I chaperoned Jackson's class field trip to see a production of "The Polar Express" at the high school, which was a fun distraction.  Then I got on the phone again to see what was going on.  By then, the other insurance company had spoken to the other driver and was taking responsibility for the accident.  They got us set up with a rental car, which I went to pick up with the help of a neighbor keeping the boys.  

Everything was going smoothly until Monday when we found out the shocking news that the car was going to be declared totalled since the amount of estimated work was more than 75% of the value.  We couldn't believe it!  It definitely didn't look like what you would imagine a totalled car would look like :(  At this point, and over the next couple of days, the reps from the insurance company I spoke with were great!  They agreed that the carseat and stroller needed to be replaced and thought it wouldn't be too big of a deal that we had this two-week trip planned coming up.  We really were assuming we would be driving the rental car on our trip and buying a new car when we got home.  

Enter "Total Loss Representative" from the insurance company.  This has to be a terrible job, BUT, this guy showed no compassion let alone flexibility.  When he called me on Wednesday afternoon (almost close of business) he informed me of the amount of the settlement check and that we would only have the rental car until Tuesday (we were scheduled to leave for Evanston super early in the morning Saturday).  Obviously, this was a ridiculous expectation!  How were we expected to research and buy a car that we were not planning to buy until a day or two earlier?  After all kinds of frustrating back and forth, Josh and I decided it would be in our best interest (and stress levels) to "give in" and start trying to get this closed out as soon as possible.  We did serious car research, found a couple of great options, made a last-minute stop at the DMV for a replacement title (that was a blessedly painless process), and test-drove our soon-to-be-new-car.  Once we were on the phone again, we were informed that the funds would not be deposited into our bank account until the car title was in the hands of the insurance company (to be overnighted Friday night) AND the old car was en route from the repair shop (the total loss rep himself had scheduled the tow truck for MONDAY)!!!  Let's just say Josh took over then and explained over and over how this was a ridiculous and impossible situation: we were being forced to buy a car in a crazy short time period with funds that would not really be released to us in time.  WHAT?!  Again, we took the route to end this quickest, and with some amazing help from my parents, got the car purchased so we could leave on time.  The bank caused us a little hiccup, but that too worked out rather painlessly.  

We had left the house around 9am, had Graham with us all day, and Josh was pulling the new car up to the house around 4pm.  CRAZINESS!  We got the title picked up by FedEx for overnighting, returned the rental car, and I got everything all packed up so we could really leave on our schedule!  The whole thing gets extra ridiculous when the money was FINALLY deposited into our account on the 30th, which was AFTER the extra little extension for the rental car Josh has managed to negotiate.  WTH?  So, yes, we were not injured, we do now have a comparable replacement to our damaged vehicle, and we were reimbursed for an equal/better car seat and stroller, but the whole process was insane!

Friday, January 2, 2015


Jackson got this adorable Spiderman Shaving Kit for a gift, and he COULD NOT WAIT to try it out!  Seriously, asking and asking for days!
I love this shot in the mirror!
Josh showed him how to pull down on his neck a little to get all of the tricky spots ;)
Without us even asking, Jackson let Graham in on the fun--such cuteness!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Eve Fun Day!

Instead of exchanging gifts for the kids, Brandi and I decided we would go DO something all together!  I think that was perfect (especially since they are all in withdrawal from all of the super fun days they had together on their Super Ultimate Sleepover this summer!).  Our plan evolved through a few ideas, and we finally settled on Fantasy Kids in Mundelein.  It was perfect!  We also managed to unintentionally plan to go during a daytime New Years Eve "party" they had since they were only open for three hours that day.  We paid admission, and for that day it came with a few tokens and a goody bag!  There were lots of choices of what to play: about six different bouncers, rock climbing wall, dance floor, go karts, a small arcade and a toddler area.
Air hockey was a big hit!
Ready for go karts!
Of course, Graham had to go too!
Ready to race!!!
Kaitlyn ready to rock!
Graham decided at the last minute he only wanted me to ride with him!  We had a fun race with Jackson and Kaitlyn :)
We did a great job wearing everyone out, so after picking up lunch at Portillos, we laid Graham and Liam down for naps, set Kaitlyn and Jackson up with a movie, sent Scott out to keep Josh company while he found his last few caches leading up to 1,000, and Brandi and I hung out and snuggled Ellie :)  After resting, Jackson helped Liam and Kaitlyn build a really fun Lego Liam got for Christmas!
Scott was a great wingman braving the freezing cold with Josh to go out on this mission!  Notice the sign has all of the stages of a beard :)

Brandi and I took a turn to go out on our own sans kids--we went to the ever-exciting Target, but it IS so exciting when it's just us :)  We grabbed coffee and got in some good catching up.  We got back just in time to do a little photo shoot of the kids all jammied-up wearing their swag from the "party" earlier!  

It was SO fun to get to spend the day with the Buerstattes!  We didn't plan anything super exciting to ring in 2015, but just spending time together was perfect :)
Check out Josh's bedazzled beard!
After Graham went to bed, the bigger kids baked a treat in Kaitlyn's Easy Bake Oven, and I took the time to make our traditional New Year's Eve Hats!
The next two pictures I took today since Graham was asleep last night ;)
Happy New Year!!!  Here's to 2015 being full of new adventures!!!