Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Day at the Orchard

I have such fond memories of apple picking during the fall season as a child. We were fortunate to have a big orchard minutes from our house growing up. Here in Chicago, the closest orchards are an hour away, which isn't horrible, but it takes a bit more planning that a five minute drive. A few weekends ago, we packed the car up and headed out to County Line Orchard in Indiana. We got there right for opening at 9am and I'm glad we did because it just got busier and busier throughout the day. 

First up, was the children's farm. Little m is obsessed with animals and she basically ran around like a maniac saying, "More anmals! Real anmals!" This girl has no fear and is more than happy to feed and pet anything that will get close enough to her. 

Next up we took the "Moo Choo" tractor ride around the farm and orchard. It was a bit of a tight squeeze with the two of us. As we passed the orchard, Little m just kept pointing in amazement that apples were actually growing from trees! 

Next up, we hopped onto the tractor to hitch a ride to the corn maze. It was a very exciting ride for the little one!

The pumpkin patch came later, and I was reminded how difficult it is to get a good picture of an active toddler! Here is her pained "cheese" expression!

And finally, apple picking! We ended up with 13 pounds of a variety of apples, plus our fair share of taste testing while picking. I think Little m ate her weight!

And after a busy morning, we ended with a picnic lunch where we fought off the bees while eating pb&j plus delicious (still warm!) pumpkin and apple donuts from the orchard's bakery. So good.

Finally, I was able to capture a real smile and I think it shows how much she enjoyed our day at the orchard. This will definitely become a yearly tradition! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eleven Years in the Making

In the past few years of having this blog I've talked about M's exam writing only a handful of times. In reality, these exams have consumed our lives for the last eleven years. ELEVEN! And I say "our" lives lightly. Of course I am affected by them (especially after having a child and having to be a single parent) but I'm not the one who has to write them, so really, I have no idea.

But I do think it's important to document this painful! experience because in a few years, the memories will be distant.

Since I've known M he's been writing two exams a year, an April sitting and a November sitting, with many online modules and assignments thrown in just for extra fun. Each exam required four months of preparation and hundreds of hours of studying. It was pretty much impossible to make weekend plans. Easter holiday was missed every year. Stress stress stress. Tears and heartbreak at bad results. Feelings of failure, inadequacy, and questioning - is it really worth it?  Heavy hearted celebration at good results, knowing that studying for the next exam would begin too soon. Not being able to fully relax during the two months it took for results to come out. Thousands of dollars spent on exam fees and books. Anxiety and dreams about bugs in the middle of the night. People comparing these exams to a CPA or CMA - just don't. And still, even after reading this, not fully comprehending this long process unless you've lived it.

Anyway, all of that is over now.
On July 12, we found out M passed his very last exam. It was the second happiest day of my life! Usually I am overly eager to check the website for results but this year I just couldn't make myself do it. M signed up to receive a text message, which he received at the 18th hole of a golf game he was playing. A minute later he texted me "OMG!". Instant tears and then it was party time.

We were at a family cottage during this time and when M got home from his golf game, everyone stood in the doorway, giving him a round of applause and hooting and hollering. Haha, it was quite funny, but even now, just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

I'm so unbelievable proud of my husband for his determination and hard work! And so happy not to have to share him anymore.

Good riddance. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Bucket List

This is the first October in many years that M hasn't had to study for an exam. I am thrilled! I love all of the fun fall activities and it's so much better experiencing them as a family as opposed to just me and my gal. I have a love of lists so it made sense to create a "Fall Bucket List".

It makes me happy every time I open my cupboard door and see the list. It's also nice to have ideas readily available for weekends or days that I'm not working, plus it gets us out of the house, which is the only way to keep my little one out of trouble.
And doesn't it feel great being able to check things off a list? We're not far into fall and we can already check off hay ride! It was a hay ride through the city streets, but still a hay ride, right?

What's on your must-do list for this season?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ice Cream Social

It's been a month and a half since Little m turned two but I can't not document the big day! Horror of all horrors! Last year, for her first birthday, I hosted a rainbow themed party at my parents' house back in Canada. It was so much fun, but this year I really wanted to do something in Chicago that included all of her little friends. And obviously, I know this party was more for me than for Little m, but after having a child (and with the invention of Pinterest), party planning has turned enjoyable for me.

Me and the birthday girl!
I wanted something simple, so chose an "Ice Cream Social" theme. It was not simple. Not at all. Actually, planning was simple, but the execution was not. I arrived home the day before the party after a week away in Washington D.C., and had to clean the house, shop for groceries, prepare everything, etc. all the night before and morning of. Thank goodness I had major major help from my parents, or I probably would have spontaneously combusted. My mother-in-law also assisted with some food prep, which was nice. M didn't arrive home until the day of the party, so I couldn't even load him up with jobs. Anyway, everything turned out well - if you enjoy being surrounded by screaming toddlers, that is. 

Let's get to it. 

The party was at 3:30pm, so I served finger foods that I thought both adults and kids would like: tons of veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, grapes, cherries, and heart shaped watermelon pieces, tortilla chips with chicken salsa dip from Treasure Island grocery store (to die for), and the ever favourite crowd pleaser - bacon wrapped water chestnuts. 

I spent WAY too much time and effort filling water balloons and freezing them to create ice cubes and it was an utter Pinterest fail. Water balloons are so thin that they break easily if touched by anything, including juice boxes! It wasn't a big deal since the ice was already frozen but I will not be attempting that again. 

For dessert I bought a ton of ice cream and frozen yogurt, all types of cones and waffle bowls, plus all the fixings for ice cream sundaes. I cannot find the equivalent to a Bulk Barn in Chicago, so I had my mom pick up a lot of the toppings, which included: blueberries, raspberries, mini marshmallows, gummi bears, chopped up oreos, reece's pieces, homemade brownie crumbles, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate sprinkles, and maraschino cherries to top it all off. We had lots of leftovers, which I was not too upset over ;).

Instead of a more traditional goodie bag, I sent the kids home with a rice krispie treat in the shape of a sundae, inside of a chocolate sprinkled waffle cone. It turned out less cute than the example I saw on Pinterest, but such is life. 

This little monkey pretended to be so bashful during the birthday song, but we all know she was enjoying every moment.

And now just for fun, let's compare 1st birthday to 2nd. Look at that hair growth! 
I think the ice cream was a hit! It was the only time during the party that I could hear myself think over the noise of 12 children :)

Exactly 15 minutes after dessert, the sugar high hit and Little m was spinning circles in the middle of the room. Hilarious. 

Oh, this girl. I just love her to pieces. 

Thank you to all of our friends and family from near and far who came or sent their best wishes for Little m. We had a great day.