Thursday, December 17, 2015

Merry & Bright

Ah, it's that time of year again.  The time of year when the Carlsons wage a battle of multi-color vs. white lights on the tree.  Tracy learned the best tactic is to decorate the tree under cover of night and was crowned this year's victor.

Tracy is still plugging away at the same job, and for the sake of managers potentially reading this, is loving every minute of it (doing Event-Based Marketing at BMO Financial Group)!  Due to frequent trips to Canada, she is becoming somewhat of an expert on all things Toronto - hit us up if you are heading that direction and need some travel recommendations.

Many of you know Tracy's father passed away this year from a short battle with an aggressive brain cancer.  Thank you so much for all the thoughts, prayers, and kindness shown to our family as we deal with the loss and the first moments without him as we move throughout the year.

Kevin started a new job at Heitman as a Finance Manager.  While it was tough to leave his colleagues and friends at LaSalle, he is lucky to have a weekly movie night with many of them.  Sometimes Tracy gets invited along as well (just learned she is invited to the Star Wars movie and is thrilled.  Don't tell the kids they are being left behind).

The highlight of the year was a family trip to Alaska where we traversed numerous towns and cities -- hiked, kayaked, and (our personal highlight) dog sledded on a glacier -- and commanded our own team of dogs.  Though it was disappointing when they caught us sneaking a pup home into the helicopter.

Our townhome continues to suck money while simultaneously adding zero value to re-sale.  We had to purchase six new windows and two new doors to take care of rotting and the "minor" issue with rain pouring inside our house...which we assume isn't the goal.  Thinking about a kickstarter campaign to fund further updates on our house.  Feel free to get in on the ground floor (literally, we would love new floors) -- we are accepting check, paypal, or google wallet payments .

The boys (Chase 5yo, Kiefer 3yo) have been loving school, their friends, and Star Wars.  Highlights of the year include Chase breaking a wood plank with his knee (on purpose) in karate, Kiefer dressing in costumes, nightly light-saber duels, riding the El, and general other kid stuff.  They are great, but may require a hearing check as they seem unable to hear phrases involving "time" -- as in: Time to go to bed, Time to get up, dressed, brush teeth, hopefully we can get that fixed over the next year!

We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and look forward to hearing from you (as Kevin and Tracy CAN hear) in the near future!

All the best,
Kevin, Tracy, Chase, and Kiefer

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Game Night

Family Game Night is so nostalgic.  To remember family game night is to remember nights with family and friends -- evenings filled with laughter, teasing, bickering...and general hilarity with everyone around.

That, and my dad peacocking around as he annihilated his 8-year-old daughter in ping pong, cards... anything else, really.

Finally the day came when our children were functional enough and ready to start a new tradition.  Most importantly, ready for me to kick everyone's butt (in an absolutely gracious, lovely way) with my mad skills in games like Sneaky Snacky Squirrel.

Things went really well...for the first full minute.
Until our older son realized he wasn't winning.

There were tears.  Pieces went flying.

Not exactly the idyllic family bonding moment I had envisioned.

To be fair, research does say it may take time for kids to catch on and be able to play without getting upset.  Many stress how important games are to learn the art of winning gracefully and developing resilience. 

We want resilient kids, so we trudged through.
And Trudged.

With little to zero progress.  Okay, zero.

Surprisingly, our Game Night started to "slip" off the weekly calendar.  We just didn't have the stamina (or maybe I should say resilience?) to guaranty a ruined night each week.

And when we did play, "cooperation" or "team" games were in heavy rotation.

Everyone was happy, but we knew we were cheating ourselves.  So recently we started re-introducing games with competition (and the resulting tears).

Our younger son continued to be a champ - courteous, smiley, whine-free (and shockingly good at Hungry Hippo).  What was happening with the other fella?  And how close are my husband and I to a triggered fear response when anyone mentions Monopoly?

One day, the dreaded Chutes and Ladders was requested.  I know we aren't supposed to use the word hate, but man, I hate that game.  However, I put on my best enthusiastic act, and away we went.  Early on, a lip tremor was seen.  The next move landed him on mega, game-changing chute and he lost it.

Yet there was a breakthrough:  He kept playing.

While he didn't stop crying, he kept playing.  I'm not exaggerating when I say we played another 20 minutes (not including breaks for meltdowns and nose blows) until we finished the game.  Even though the rest of the game was torture, I was so proud of him.

Although we may still have a long way to go, it is still so incredibly exciting to see there may be a glimmer of light in the distance.  Maybe we can start to get some positive memories associated with game night soon!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Car Party (DIY)

Thought I would come out of my semi-blog-retirement to post a completely untypical blog for the Will Blog for Sleep site.

This weekend I pulled together a Car Themed Do-It-Yourself Party for my 3 year old, and wanted to share for those who also have car enthusiasts at home!  After spending hours researching ideas online, I pulled together these favorites, which ended up being hits for the kids too!

The theme revolved around the collateral found on Etsy - LuluPaperPrints

She worked with this pattern to create invitations, Food Tent Cards, and some of the signs below:

Next came the activities - wanted something where kids didn't have to be watched 24/7 (it's a party for parents, too, for goodness sake!) and where everyone would still have fun!

We  chose (we, who are we husband learned what was happening the day of):
  • Car Photo - Made with cardboard and Spray Paint, specialized license plate
  • Race Track - Raced hot wheels down the track - Made by our Grandpa, so one of a kind :) 
  • Emissions Testing - Bubbles
  • Create a Road - Chalk
  • Car Detail - Paint your own wooden car (huge hit!).  CarsSmocksPaintsBuckets
  • Dealership - A few cars kids could "test" drive
  • Tire Testing - Bean Bags tossed at inflatable tires
  • City Paths - Used indoor road tape and existing buildings, train set, etc to create a city.  And every city needs a farm, zoo, and super heros :)

For snacks, we tried to keep the theme as well.  It was morning, so we didn't have to have a lot (pro tip ;)
  • Spare Tires - Oreos
  • Dipsticks - Pretzel Rods with Cheese Dip
  • Fruit Cars - Apple Slices with Grapes Tires
  • Body Shop - Extra grape "tires"
  • Traffic Lights - Rice Krispies with M&M lights
  • PB&J - Shaped like cars (used car shaped cookie cutter)
  • Red Car Cake - Grocery Store

We had a great time and I had a blast putting it all together!!

...and HUGE thanks to my husband and the Grandparents for creating the race track, and getting up early to make PB&J sandwiches and fruit cars!!

We had a blast!

(gift bags were car finger beams, Car Erasers, Pull Back Car, and Traffic Sign Sucker)

Friday, March 13, 2015


I am a tad behind in the app-world of smart phones, as I have been fumbling around with my first smart phone for only a week now.  And, I have to brag, have yet to drop it.

That being said, am hoping you can feed into my growing obsession of apps.  Below is a ((very) short) list of my favorites and would love to hear from others on apps they prefer and why.  From apps for hobbies, working out, kid-centric, I want to know about it!

If you have a favorite, tell me.  Favorite ten, even better.  Faves in excess of 20...maybe think about getting a new hobby...after sharing of course.

  1. SpotHero - Best parking rates available near any location to provide. It's been fantastic for us in Chicago.  Which is great when you are cheap like us.
  2. Park Chicago & Parkmobile - parking meter apps for city of Chicago.  CLUTCH if you are like me and typically carry your phone.  And only your phone.  Side note: I need to start remembering my wallet.
  3. GasBuddy - Locates the least expensive gas rates from where you are.  see comment above re: cheapness.
  4. Urbanspoon - identifies restaurants near you or a selected location - can search by cuisine, location, price.
  5. CTA Arrivals - Um, this is the best one my husband uses and I can't find it anywhere, so I guess am looking for a better system than "CTA Tracker" - this no longer exists (sadly), so have begrudgingly moved onto Transit Stop
  1. Kids Media - provides information on movies, TV shows, Apps, and Computer sites for kids.  Ranks them based on age of children, violence, language, so you know what you are getting yourself into (ie. we liked How to Train your Dragon, but will be waiting a few years for the second one).
  2. Night Lite - just used this at out hotel so Chase wasn't bumping into walls in the middle of the night.  It was awesome.  And much quieter.
  3. Cut the Rope - if you can get past that it is all about feeding candy to an adorable little monster, this is a great problem-solving game.  My 5 year old loves it, but my 3 year gets frustrated as the difficultly goes beyond what he can do.  Our kids make zero connection to candy and wanting candy...or maybe the fact that they always want candy means it is a wash.
  4. Thinkrolls & Thinkrolls 2 - Great game for kids to do problem solving, not too hard if the kids are younger and they can increase the difficultly as they acheive levels or repeat the same levels if younger and mastering.  Another great thing is if you are stuck in one spot, the child can easily re-start.
  5. Tozzle - little puzzles that move when completed.  Our 4 yo loves them.
  6. KidsDoodle - Again, Chase loves this and there is a video where it plays back what they have drawn.
Health, Recipes, Travel Tips / Road Trip Ideas:

  1. Roadside - This gives fun facts and pit stop ideas to breakup a road trip.  I have only used it once and it was fun to point out facts along the road and if we weren't focused on just getting to the destination as fast as possible would have even ventured to see a few of the notables up close.  This one is purchased and then it is a bit sneaky because your purchase only gets you one "area" of the US.  So, luckily we don't travel by car too many places and the options work well for us so far.
  2. Waze - Great option to Google Maps as it points out police presence along the route and traffic issues.

Annnnnnnnd that's it.  Please help me - post in comments or on FB your recommendations - I can't wait to be up and running on this little machine!