Spectacular China Lights Exhibit

If you ever hear of the China Lights Exhibit in your area, I’d highly recommend going! We went several months ago, but I enjoy looking at our pictures from that night so much that I decided it was “blog worthy.”  My entire family really enjoyed it!

We had tried going during the week, but arrived too late to really see much before our kids needed to go to bed. For our second attempt, we arrived extra early to buy tickets before the gates even opened. To pass the time, our kids played in the leaves, and we took a selfie with the entrance gate in the background.


Fall fun as we waited for dusk – playing in the leaves, Daddy & Mama O. with the red entrance gates behind us.

While it wasn’t yet dark when we entered the exhibit, we did enjoy grabbing some Chinese food to fuel up.  Around the dining area were animals representing the Chinese zodiac signs. I’m a monkey. Daddy O. is a horse. My daughter is definitely an ox – well described as determined and a bit stubborn. My son is a rabbit, which was not as easy to see, but he is fast!

After eating dinner, I managed to grab this great picture of the pagoda with the brilliant blue sky behind it. As you can see in later pictures, the sky turned to black as time passed.


The pagoda was one of the highlights of the exhibit, positioned right near the entrance. 

The dragon was huge and beautiful. The white speck in the sky is the moon. It really was a lovely night for viewing the lights.


Huge dragon, bottom left: Gates near the entrance, me & Daddy O., Fish, and Flower Lantern walkway

These pictures were just a sampling of the exhibit. There were animals of all kinds – zebras, giraffes, swans, penguins, bears, birds, fish, and more!


This dragon was made from glass bottles. 

You can see some animated characters from “Finding Dori” in the background too. There were a collection of four glass-bottle dragons.


My daughter really liked the flowers and peacocks on this giant fan display. 

The China Lights truly were beautiful! We had such a fabulous time walking through them as a family.  Have you seen them before? What lovely pictures are waiting in your queue for your blog?


Fly on the Wall: Just Mama

Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post. Today 6 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house.

Here’s who you’ll be hearing from:

  • Me, Mama O.
  • Daddy O.
  • Big Sister, age 7
  • Little Brother, age 5

And here we are, enjoying the beautiful fall leaves and some amazing weather!


As overheard at the Dinner Table 

Daddy O: We need to take the leaf out of the table.

Big Sister: I don’t see a leaf. (a leaf of the table to make it bigger)

Little Brother: I’m eating an army of grapes.

Daddy O. remarked one morning,”That’s a bird in a blanket. (I had wrapped up a sausage in a pumpkin pancake) My reply, “What, I thought it was pigs in a blanket.” Daddy O. explained, “No, it’s turkey sausage, so it’s a bird.”

Highlights from the Kids

Little Brother while eating ice cream: Neck freeze! (as opposed to brain freeze)

We had a great time playing at Grandma and Grandpa’s House with cousins. I made a comment on how nice they played with their cousins, and Little Brother set me straight, “They are not our cousins. They are our friends!”

At dinner recently, we were asking the kids about their favorite part of the day. My son chimed in, “My favorite part of the day was Mama.” I asked, “Well, was it something you did with mama?” His reply was precious, ” No, just Mama!” Melt my heart…I wrote about him still being my baby in this post.

Big Sister declared, “The older I get the funnier I get.” Don’t we all?!

Big Sister: Do you know what I call weeds? The flowers’ mean neighbor.

New Level of Humor in our House

One of our toy magnetic board and decorative skeleton will never be the same.


The man figure is going potty (the circles are butt cheeks), and the skeleton is self-explanatory. Sigh…and so it begins at age 5 and almost 7.

What’s Really Essential?

One evening I told him, “I declined to be part of a candle fundraiser.” He replied, “Good, we don’t use those.” I added, “Yea, and some family members now use essential oils more.” Daddy O. responded, “I’ve never understood for what or for whom oils were essential.” I laughed, “Me too. Good one!”

Burn it Now

I had my super organized BFF over, and this time we attacked my closet (after organizing toys one other time she visited). To some of my clothes she said, “Oh my, burn it now!” I highly recommend having some adult beverages while enlisting the help of a good friend to downsize your closet. Fun times and lots of laughs! Here were some of the cast-offs from that night:


More Fly on the Wall Fun

Now shoo fly, and be sure to click on these links for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado                   http://www.bakinginatornado.com/

Menopausal Mother                    http://www.menopausalmom.com/

Spatulas on Parade                     http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/

Searching for Sanity                    http://singlemumplusone.blogspot.com

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy         http://dinoheromommy.com/

Visiting the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

On a trip to Chicago, the kids and I ventured to the Lincoln Park area and visited the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on a very hot and muggy afternoon. The museum was perfect for escaping the heat and learning about nature during our two hours there.

1st Floor Highlights:

We sort of few through the Riverworks and then paused a bit more to see the live reptiles and amphibians. The exhibits are very much hands-on, reminding me more of a children’s museum. Both my four and six year old enjoyed the Hands On Habitat area, designed for kids age seven and under. They played in various animal habitats, went down a “tree” slide and even played dress-up in animal costumes.

2nd Floor Highlights: the Butterflies!

The butterfly haven really stole the show at this museum, though on our way there, we did walk through the taxidermy areas that showcased Illinois ecosystems. Most of my pictures are from the butterfly area. I just love this oasis – it’s so peaceful and relaxing to watch the butterflies flutter around the greenhouse.

So many butterflies

I loved the Blue Morpho Butterfly, upper left. My smartphone camera took some decent shots!

Butterfly collage

Upper left – feeding time, a butterfly by the fruit plate. Upper right – turtle hanging by the pond / waterfall. Lower left – a Blue Morpho butterfly landed right by my kids!

The circle of life is represented in this habitat. In the picture above, lower right corner, there is a quail and below a bird that both eat dead butterflies.

Bird in the butterfly exhibit

Pretty bird. Must eat a lot of butterflies too…

After hanging out in the butterfly haven for some time, we made sure that none were coming with us (not one butterfly landed on us), and left the greenhouse. Outside we could see the chrysalis with the next crop of butterflies for the garden. I think the lifespan of these butterflies is about one month in the garden, so I can imagine how many have to hatch to re-populate this beautiful exhibit.

hatching butterflies

Hatching new beauties

We spent some time in the weather exhibit, having the most fun with the green screen! My daughter did pretty well reading and keeping up with the lines.

Fun with the green screen and reporting

This line was perfect for the HOT weather we were experiencing that day. 

You could choose between fast or slow reading (we chose slow for my soon to be 1st grader), which was nice. I think all kids (adults too) enjoy seeing themselves on camera! \

After one more visit to play in the under age seven habitat area, we briefly hit the gift shop and cafe. While there are many tempting and exciting items (my kids wanted a lot of the stuffed animals), we managed to each buy a drink and then leave the building to hike the nature trail outside.

My kids found some ducks and scared them into the pond.

Enjoying a hike outside the nature museum

Ahh – noisy kids, better swim away!

It was a really nice, shady nature trail that hooked up with a larger park, so we could have kept on walking if we wanted. Instead we cut our time short and headed back to the car. This was our view as we left:

View of the Chicago Skyline from Lincoln Park

All in all we enjoyed our visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum! It is a nice, manageable museum in Chicagoland that is not in the main museum campus near the lakefront, so it was relatively easy to find. I think it was perfect for my kids, though it seemed people of all ages were visiting. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.

You Might be Home with Kids for Summer if…

    1. Your vehicle is gaining its own garbage dump.
    2. A moldy piece of fruit is found in aforementioned dump.
    3. You feel like you could be an Uber driver with all the taxi-ing you do.
    4. You hear “I’m bored.” at least once a day.
    5. You feel like a cruise director, trying to entertain your kids with some activity each day.
    6. You’ve heard your kids say, “You’re the worst ___ (insert family member title here eg. brother / sister / mom / dad) EVER!”
    7. Your grocery shopping can’t keep up with all the eating that goes on, and you constantly say, “Really, that’s gone already?!”
    8. Camp chairs, seat cushions, and a picnic blanket become permanent fixtures in your trunk.
    9. You’ve let your kids buy junky toys that fall apart in a matter of days hours. See this post for that story!
    10. You have a countdown to the first day of school.

Cheers to a great summer! In between the drama and time-outs, may you find wonderful moments with your kids!






Fly on the Wall: Stop Chatty, Chat, Chatting

It’s that time of the month again! Welcome to a Fly on the Wall group post.  I’ve written these posts before, and you can find past posts on this page of my blog.

Today 12 bloggers are inviting you to catch a glimpse of what you’d see if you were a fly on the wall in our homes. Come on in and buzz around my house.

Here’s who you’ll be hearing from:

  • Me, Mama O.
  • Daddy O.
  • Big Sister, age 6
  • Little Brother, age 4

Animal Antics

My kids really love animals, so I wasn’t surprised when my son said, “I am chewing my spaghetti as a llama.”  Oh really! He’s continued to say this whenever we eat pasta now.

Little brother sniffing me (like an animal), then told me, “When you wake up, you smell like a stinky ball.”

I asked him, “Do you smell like a stinky ball when you wake up?”

“No way!” he said.

While riding in the car, Little Brother declared, “Guess what? Wolves and African wild dogs can tire their prey to exhaustion. They run and run and run and then they get the moose.”

Me to Daddy O. “Wow, he’s just like that kid in Jerry Maguire!”

Tonight in the car, the kids were comparing my driving speed to how fast animals can run. “A lion is 40 mph. Did you know giraffes can only run 25 mph? This is way slower than a cheetah can run. Yeah, that’s 70 mph.” They really crack me up!

New Desserts

As I may have mentioned in other posts, I have a lot of time at home with Little Brother while Big Sister is in all day kindergarten. During winter we try to stay busy even if we’re indoors, so we’ve ended up baking together several times. One day he came up with his own dessert and starting giving me instructions:

“First take a chocolate granola bar. Then put Nutella on it. And then add green sprinkles.” He let me make my own version with Nutella on a graham cracker, saying “you get the pink sprinkles.”  This guy is chocolate lover like me!

Every year for the past 14 years we have been fortunate to receive some Japanese candies along with a card from a family I met when I spent a summer in Tokyo. In turn, I try to send them American candies.  This year it was fun trying all of the candies as a family. My daughter recently held up a fig-newton looking bar, and asked what I thought it was.

“It’s not chocolate! I know that much. It’s probably bean paste.” (as an aside, my mom had mistaken chocolate for bean paste when she visited me in Japan and bought a dessert all by herself – big disappointment).

Big Sister gave it a try, and exclaimed, “You gotta try this bean paste!” I guess I have a new ingredient that I can sneak into baking…

Just because we’re on the topic of baking and desserts, I thought I’d add a few comments around our 10 year anniversary.

Daddy O: I would really love a cherry pie for our anniversary.

Me (later in the day): I made you a marriage of our favorites – your tart cherries and my dark chocolate made one delicious chocolate cherry cake!

Daddy O: This is so good, I’ve had to have two a day!

Mama O and Daddy O on their 10 year anniversary

The selfie I took of Daddy O. and me on our actual anniversary.

Say WHAT?!

I took Little Brother shopping recently, and he spied some camouflage walkie talkies. He was all excited and of course wanted to buy them. I told him that he should bring his money to buy that toy, so we went home to empty his piggy bank and count it. When Daddy came home he said, “I have enough money for a wafee toffee.” I corrected him, “You mean a walkie talkie, right?”  Little Brother, “No, wafee toffee.”  We ended up returning to the store to let him buy the walkie talkie, and he since has stopped saying “wafee toffee.” It sounded pretty cute though!

When Little Brother is getting impatient (usually when we’re out in public), he has taken to saying, “Stop chatty, chat, chatting.” But my name is Cathy…isn’t Chatty Cathy a thing?

We were driving around, looking for a place to eat Sunday brunch, and as we passed a favorite neighborhood bistro, Little Brother professed, “I love bistros.”

Big sister wanted to play some apps or read some e-books on my Nook Tablet, and asked for the password, “Can you tell me the password when I’m like 13 or 14 years old?” Yes, I sure can. She’s so cute!

Life Isn’t Fair

Big sister at age 6 is becoming prone to drama – eye rolls, hands on the hip, and stare downs from time to time! Ugh!  She blurted out, “Jordan and Kate ALWAYS get hot lunch. How come I NEVER get hot lunch?! Life isn’t fair. Don’t laugh at me, Mom.”

Oh my child…I could not help but laugh.  How much you have to learn! And I am sure I will be hearing, “Life’s not fair” from you many more times!

For more Fly fun, be sure to click on these links for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado

Juicebox Confession

Menopausal Mother

Someone Else’s Genius

Spatulas on Parade

Searching for Sanity

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Not That Sarah Michelle

Southern Belle Charm