Thursday, March 10, 2016


I was walking to my car from the library yesterday.  Outside it was a bit grey and the weather was mild and it was raining, but in that way that is more of a mist of tiny dots of rain making everything wet but far from a sprinkle, even.  I closed my eyes in the middle of the parking lot and could imagine my walk in Milton Keynes from our house to Jocelyn's school.  The weather was the same, and it all flooded back to me.  I miss England.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

We had such a fun Christmas this year!

Both kids had performances.  Joe had a band performance and Joci had a chorus performance.  Both were so much fun.  It doesn't get much better than watching your child perform something they worked so desperately hard on.  Their proud faces seeking you out in the crowd and smiling shyly from the stage.

Mom was here practically the entire month of December.  She got to see the kids' performances, their birthdays, Christmas and New Years.  Her help here was undeniable, and just her prescence is so comforting.  Everyone is just that much happier and the kids just love being with her

One of my favorite tradition that we've done for so many years is Jon reading 'The Night Before Christmas' to the kids.  We have a beautiful copy that Nonnie gave us.  It is a gorgeous, intricate pop up book with the full poem within.  The kids always love seeing the pop ups and Jon loves that it's his and his alone.  I like watching him read to them.

Of course, Christmas morning the kids are terribly excited, looking forward to opening gifts and their stockings.  I love to watch each person open a present, each and every one of them.  That's why I insist that we open them all one at a time.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Joci talking with Santa.  He was lovely.  He asked her lots of questions and made her giggle.

Santa asked Joe lots of questions, as well, and I loved how easily Joe enjoyed talking with him.

One of our favorite Santas ever!  We were at a little village craft fair and he was there for visits.  Not many kids there and so we had lots of time with Santa, and he was just lovely to ours.

Making Gingerbread men!

Jon reading 'The Night Before Christmas' pop up book to the kids on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to my Sweet Joseph!

Only one year left until my oldest is thirteen.  How did twelve come so fast?  I don't know where the time went.  It's only been a year, of course, since the last birthday, but it seems like he's grown up three years in that one.

Joseph loves sports now.  He finished out his football season, at the Superbowl with an unfortunate loss.  But, it was a fantastic season and after a summer of training and getting him in shape for the season, the improvements he showed were well noticed by the coaches and his teammates.  He improved ten-fold.  After football comes wrestling.  He's started out not knowing much and has made huge advances, always the coachable teammate.  Go Joe, go!

He's still as sweet as can be and straight as an arrow.  He is my rule-follower, my kindhearted hero.He's quick to tell you if you're being mean to someone, or if what you're saying is not very nice.  I love it.  I hope he stays this way forever.  Joe has a fantastic memory and recalls his Grandpa very often.  Dad would be so proud.

Joe is doing very well in school.  He could try a bit harder in writing, but all in all, he's an awesome student.  His one fault is trying to stay organized and get all his assignments in on time.  But, other than that, each teacher is happy to have him.

Personally, I've seen such growth in him this year.  Physically, mentally, he's lept ahead to this preteen boy that I'm so proud of.  I can't wait to see what this next year brings him.

We did have a bit of a small birthday party.  He got to choose what he wanted for dinner, and after we had an ice cream cake from his request.  We were so lucky that Mom was here to help celebrate, not only his birthday, but all of December as well.  It was a lovely evening and he was so happy.

Happy Birthday my darling boy!

December 16, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

School Lock-down Drill

Today both of my kids had 'lock-down' drills at their schools.  They told me about them on the ride home from gymnastics today.  They also included that they have not yet had a tornado drill yet.  When they told me that, all I could think is that it must be because the likelihood of having an armed intruder enter their school is higher than a tornado, and that literally made me sick to my stomach.

My children today practiced how to hide from armed assailants and 'hope' that they make it out okay.  Everything in me became angry that this is even a thing to be considered.  That this is a reality.  I used to be very pro-gun.  I grew up around guns, my Dad had them, they were never locked, we were taught to respect them.  After having kids, though, my views have changed.  My children's well being is more important than being able to have an arsenal in a home, and after living in England, well, there is scant gun violence there.  I felt safe there.  I NEVER worried about my kids at school, certainly not that there would be some crazy trying to get famous by killing kids while in school.  Living in England showed us that there is a more civilized way to live.

I am angry that gun violence is so prevalent in the city that I love and live so close to, Chicago.  Every week they have a tally of all the people injured or killed over the weekend and it is appalling.  My friends in England never understood how Americans could just let it go on and on.  Especially after the Sandy Hook shootings.  They wanted to know why we allow so many guns, and I realized how hard it was to explain...because we feel entitled to them...?

Our children should feel safe in their schools.  They shouldn't have to worry that some maniac, who is feeling thrown away and ignored, can come into their school and kill kids and teachers to become famous.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Parent Epiphany

While I was taking a shower this morning I had quite the epiphany (showering is usually when I have my best thoughts and ideas) about my Dad and his macaroni and cheese making.  Turns out, I could have been wrong about a few things...gasp!

A little trip back in time...

My Dad was the primary cook in our household growing up.  Typically things were great, though, like all of us home cooks, there could be some blunders here and there, his pies are a whole story in themselves for another time.  My Grandfather was also the primary cook in his house, that I can remember, and he made the best macaroni and cheese.  He would use spaghetti instead of noodles, and there was just something wonderful about it.  My Dad's mac and cheese was good, but it was never JUST mac and cheese.  He ALWAYS had to add something to it.  We would ask what was for dinner and he would say pork, mac and cheese...yada yada yada, and we would be ready for it, until we saw the macaroni and cheese which was decidedly a casserole.  He couldn't help himself.  He HAD to add something in, typically it would include green chilies, but there was always something.  We would groan and tease him that he was incapable of making JUST macaroni and cheese and he would take it, usually laughing along, sometimes getting his feelings hurt.

I could never understand his need to add more...until this morning's shower.

I do the same thing.  I feel a desperate need to make sure that I get lots of healthy goodness into my kids' dinner.  Veggies and more veggies, vitamins, minerals, they've all got to be there.  I feel the pull to add more goodness, sometimes where it doesn't belong.  I long for ways to sneak in spinach and kale to one pot meals.  Salads always have too much stuff in them.  And, then this morning while I was contemplating macaroni and cheese with dinner, I thought it...what can I add that will make it better, and WHAM, my inner hypocrite sounded it's warning  Wasn't that Dad?  Didn't I mercilessly tease him for not being able to leave the macaroni and cheese alone?  Here I was thinking what I could add to make it more wholesome, and perhaps a one pot meal, and I.  Was.  Him.

I get it now, and I feel like I kind of owe him an apology.  I can feel him chuckling under his breath, thinking I finally got it.  You know, one of those, "when you're older you'll understand" moments.  I am a little sad that I can't call him and tell him, and make him laugh, but I do feel that he is already.

Sorry Dad!

Now...what should I add to my macaroni and cheese?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mom's visit to Chicago!

I'm so proud of my AWESOME Mom!  She is such an inspiration and definitely the strongest woman I know!  After Dad's passing, I admit that I thought she would be a little lost without him, and certainly there are times that she needs him and I know that she misses him every single moment of the day.  But, he would be so proud of her, making her life the one she wants to live, taking care of issues that arise, and enjoying her independence.

In July, Mom drove across country to visit family in Indiana and then proceeded to stay over a month with us.  She brought with her a magic that affected us all.  She inflated us with happines, she energized us and motivated us into getting projects done, and she was here when I had my hysterectomy.  She was a god-send!  So, when we were able to bring her back out here for a month in December/January, I was overjoyed with excitement!  Not only will she be here for the holidays, but for the kids' birthdays and their respective band and chorus performances.  I am so excited to see her again!

While she was here in July, we took a bit of a road trip down to Chicago and had loads of fun exploring the city right around the Millennium Park area.  It was an amazing day and I love that she enjoys exploring as much as we do!

At the new Millennium Park which is amazing, by the way!  Huge park and loads of fun things to climb on, slide down, or run around!

A fun little mirror garden.
Mom really loved being in downtown, and of course, any time spent with the kids is a great time for her.  
If you're in Chicago, you have to see the Bean, or as it's supposed to be known, Cloud Gate.

The kids had fun playing in the fountain.  Every so often the 'mouth' spits out a huge deluge of water and the kids all squeal in delight!

In a cute little side garden that we found and had really lush landscaping.

Hooge family photo, 2015

Famous Art Institute of Chicago's lions.

I thought this was a beautiful picture, a lovely place to relax and meditate!

I loved that they had an Urban Agriculture garden.  It was full of beautiful, bountiful food!

Buckingham Fountain.

We ate at an AMAZING Chinese restaurant in China Town.  Minghin had the most amazing Chinese food I've ever had.

As we were crossing the Millennium bridge we just happened to run into our very good friend from the UK, Simon.  I saw him walking in the opposite direction and turned to point him out to Jon, thinking surely it's not him, just when I turned, Jon called out his name.  It was like seeing someone from your hometown.  I miss England so much and to see one of our friends, it was a true blessing!
Chicago, IL July 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Oh, wait, am I a little late on that?  Sorry!  I have been slowly editing some of my more recent photos and decided to start here for July 4th.

Last year we spent the 4th at my cousin's house, she lives right on the parade route, in Lebanon, Indiana.  I love doing the 4th there.  It's an idyllic time.  Everyone wears red, white, and blue.  They drive around in decorated golf carts, the floats are original, and the parade always has lots of columbines and characters galore.

The family usually gathers and in days past had Uncle Perk's homemade ice cream, which is the most delicious ice cream ever!  Everyone chips in and brings the favorites like pulled pork, banana pudding, bean salad, etc.  The food is delish!

Originally, we had planned on travelling from Chicago down to Lebanon for the 4th, meeting my Mom there and then driving back up, with her, to our house.  We found out that our town has a pretty great parade, too, that literally comes as close as just a couple of houses away from us, so...we decided to stay and see what it was all about.  I still did miss Lebanon, though.

It was a fantastic parade, made even better that our house was so close.  It seems our parade is used to being shot at with water guns, and so when the watches spray them...they spray back.  We will definitely have to have our water guns ready for next year.  The kids had fun and it was a blast seeing neighbors we know and meeting new people from our area.

After the parade and a short walk home, we met our good friends for a July 4th BBQ.  The kids swam and met new friends.  We shot off little fireworks and the kids had sparklers.  And, again, it was fun meeting new people.

It was a great day to celebrate our Independence!

July 4th, 2015