Sunday, September 28, 2014

On the Record: Ari at Three

Two years ago I started a tradition of interviewing Riker on his birthday. Ari has just turned three and this is his first birthday interview!

By asking the children the same questions every year, we'll be able to see how their personalities and interests change (or stay the same).

What are you going to be when you grow up?
Want to be a digger.

What’s that going to be like?
Hm, dig up the road.

What are your favorite toys?
Chocolate cake (laughs).

What is your favorite food?
Chocolate cake.

Who are your best friends?

What makes you happy?
Nothing (laughs).

What makes you sad?
No Mummy or Daddy or Riker or Grammy or Grandpa. And it makes me sad when all of you are gone.

When you dream at night, what do you dream about?
(Laughs) Chocolate cake.

What do you like to do with Daddy?
Go to the playground.

What do you like to do with Mama?
Watch the big TV.

What’s your favorite color?

What’s your favorite book?

What does Daddy do during the day?
Have a chocolate cake. Watch the big TV.

What does Mama do during the day?
Have a chocolate cake.

What do you do during the day?
Watch the garbage truck.

What do you want to learn or do before you turn four?
Mummy, when I turn three I can ride my new bike. Well, not all the way to Gavin and Edwards. When I one hundred I will. One hundred is about this big (shows all fingers).


Riker was fixated on trains in both of his birthday interviews to date and in this particular moment in time for Ari, it's obviously chocolate cake. One of his favorite things to do with his new play kitchen it to mix up the pretend ingredients for a chocolate cake so plenty of talk about that in this interview!

I've shamelessly pilfered the interview idea and the questions from my friend Lauren over at Sparkling Adventures, You can read the birthday interviews of her four darling daughters here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Aussie Visitor: Take Two

As I might have mentioned once or twice, my colleagues at ANUgreen were all pretty freakin awesome people. So I was delighted to hear that Adam was going to pay us a visit on his year long adventure around North and Central America!

Adam was only here for one full day but we managed to give him a good dose of McMillin hospitality with a giant family dinner and a brief tour of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

On the Ohio and Erie Canal visiting a lock which was once used to raise and lower boats between stretches of water at different levels.

I think it's terrific that our Sustainable Transport officer is able to have such a grand adventure in multi-modal global transport! I also think it's pretty cool that within two months, we've had two Aussie visitors!

Thanks for including us in your itinerary Adam and have safe and amazing travels!

Adam points out that I  forgot to mention that he had to make a McMillin House rite of passage: drinking your body weight in mead!

Friday, September 26, 2014

First Day of School

I'm a month behind but it's time to share Riker's first days of school as a kindergartner at Chippewa Elementary.

 First day of school. Riker and his cousin Gavin wait for the bus together.

The boys pause momentarily for a photo before climbing up that big step!

Riker got on the bus easily enough that first morning but it was all downhill from there. He came home saying he didn't want to go back to school and he didn't want to ride the bus again. We urged him to keep going but for a week and a half he cried and displayed unprecedented anxiety about being away from me and going to the big school.

As you can imagine, this was agony for us having had extensive deliberations about which school to send him to and if it would be too much for him having just endured the huge transition of moving overseas. We nearly pulled him out after three days of sheer torture and emotional turmoil for all of us.

The school psychologist and school counselor were terrific and spent lots of time talking with me on the phone about our transition and all Riker has gone through with moving overseas, changing schools and not having our own home yet. They seemed to grasp the enormity of the upheaval in his life, perhaps even better than we can as we're busy coping, processing and planning ourselves.

Fortunately, his cousin Gavin has been so wonderful in taking his hand and walking him to class and even checking in on him during the day. How sweet is that?

Then, after about two weeks, something changed. He started to come home saying one or two positive things about his day. We started hearing names of other children he'd enjoyed playing with that day. And the "I don't want to go to school" remarks slowly dwindled. By the second weekend, Riker was asking if he could go to school on Saturday.

We're not entirely sure what changed his perceptions or if it was just a matter of gradual familiarity leading to comfort and confidence. Whatever it was, I'm immensely grateful that we've come out on the other side of a very challenging few weeks!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Aussie Guest

We've only been in Cleveland for about two and a half months and we've already had an Aussie visitor!

Chris (last seen in Tasmanian travels) arrived from Melbourne to spend a few days with us before heading up into Canada. Since we were the first stop on his North American agenda, we didn't plan any major tourist adventures so as to let him recover from jet lag, but we did keep ourselves busy with a few fun outings.

 Brian and Chris spent an afternoon kayaking down the Mohican River.

We went for a bike ride on the towpath trail and ended at Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm and Market. The boys loved these pots overflowing with mums.

 And they each got to take one home in their favorite colors.

Riker adores spending time with Chris and is always happy to have a willing player in his train games!

Thanks Chris for including us in your itinerary! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

McMichigan Holiday

This year, the (second) annual McMillin summer retreat took us to Michigan. We found an eight bedroom vacation rental house on Campau Lake that could sleep all twenty five of us. Not easy to find, I tell ya!

Campau Heaven

Our backyard complete with beach, dock, paddle boat, canoe and kayaks.

 Time for an updated sisters photo! Heather, Liz and I.

 The house was full of nooks and crannies and forts and hiding spots for kids of all ages.

 Gavin's new fishing pole was tested by all the kids. That's Gavin's and Riker's first fish!

Fourteen year old Lilly and her parents joined us at the last minute and all the parents with young kids were SO glad to have her around. Her parents wouldn't let me take her home but said she could come for a visit!

 Teagan with a long line of painted creations.

 The huge dining room table was a terrific gathering place...

...but wasn't actually quite big enough to seat all of us!

Heather got all the kids matching shirts once again this year. She wanted something with a positive message and found these adorable bee themed shirts that say BEE KIND, BEE STRONG, BEE YOURSELF, BEE BRAVE, BEE HONEST, BEE GOOD.

Even the littlest joining-us-in-January McMillin gets a shirt!

Cael, Teagan, Lilly, Gavin, Edward, Katie, Ari and Riker in their matching shirts. Too bad Porter was asleep!

And the excited version. Some more than others :)

As Leah, Carl, Keith and Gavin (and Aunt Nancy) all have birthdays in the same week, Heather was kept busy baking and frosting delicious cakes! 

Gavin asked for a rainbow cake for his birthday.

 Teagan and Katie watch while Heather works frosting magic.

Voila! Rainbow tie dye cake!

 One afternoon was spent at Sky Zone.

 Trampolines as far as the eye can see!

 Teagan shows her moves.

 Leah, Ross, Penny, Liz, Edward, Jan, Teagan and Joan. This getaway included a whole range of in-laws and out-laws.

 Katie, Edward, Cael and Riker enjoy Icees after jumping.

 A bubble machine provided hours of fun. Notice the reflection of the house in the top bubble.

 Evenings were spent chatting and catching up on the wrap-around sofa or in the basement lounge which was further away from sleeping kids.

 Dave and Katie on the paddle boat.

Fishing and splashing and pouring and squirting on the dock.

 Better watch out!

 Porter can now get about with lighting speed!

 Joan and Ross

 Bill and Barbara

 Keith and Liz

The moon rises over the lake.

 Kids enjoy the (not very) hot tub.

Brian and I met Rochelle when we lived in Maui and we hadn't seen her for at least ten years. As she lives in Michigan, she and her two kids came to spend an afternoon with us. So great to see her!

Like our trip to the Adirondacks last summer, this holiday was a great chance to celebrate the McMillin clan and spend some quality time together. Now we just have to decide where to book the 2015 getaway!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Glarus Brewing Company

We've been enjoying beers from the New Glarus Brewing Company for many years and on our journey east out of Minnesota, we finally made the time to stop and tour the iconic Wisconsin facility.

I expected our visit would be interesting but I was blown away by their impressive buildings and grounds!

The grand entrance to the premises. Like everything else in the small town of New Glarus, the brewery features Swiss inspired architecture and design.

 The internal courtyard is a comfortable and spacious meeting place.

 The outdoor bar is the central point of the courtyard.

 A rinsing station lets customers clean their glasses between varieties of beer.

 The other side of the elaborate rinsing station.

 Inside, we took a self guided tour of the brewery since there were no formal tours offered on the day of our visit. These large vessels are for boiling the grains and hops.

These large tanks hold the water for just one batch of beer.

 Miles of spotlessly clean pipes transport water for brewing.

 Detailing on the wrought iron rails guides visitors past large fermenters.

 The Stairway to Heaven....

...leads visitors up to a small platform for viewing the huge barrel fermenters that stretch up to the ceiling.

 Mammoth fermenting tanks.

 A thirty litre pilot brewery tests new product ideas.

 Just some of the equipment in the expansive bottling area.

 A cabinet featuring a slew of awards.

 This interesting poster outlines the myriad of ways to describe beer flavors.

 Back out to the courtyard.

 "Ruins" are scattered throughout the outdoor seating areas and offer the kids a great place to run and explore.

 This beautiful maternal statue looks over the courtyard.

 In the gift shop, Riker picked up this key chain and pointed out the continent of Australia. I was somewhat stunned that he'd discovered that Wisconsin turned on its side looks an awful lot like Australia! Of course, I had to buy it and I pointed out this interesting observation to the clerks who were very impressed with his cleverness!

The actual shape of Australia, for reference. The Gulf of Carpentaria shrunk a bit and Tasmania was once again forgotten but the similarities are otherwise striking.

The boys compare the new key chain to the right-side-up state of Wisconsin. Then they used their fingers to trace their way through the maze formed by the fingerprint.

 I appreciated the attention to detail throughout the place and the kids noticed these fairies dancing in the garden.

 An overview of the whole place gives an idea of what a massive establishment this is.

Three of our favorite New Glarus Brewing Co. drinks - ales brewed with raspberry, strawberry rhubarb and apples/cranberries/cherries. Delicious!

New Glarus beers are only available in Wisconsin so if you've never tried their products, I highly recommend finding them next time you're in the state. In addition to the three above, we also highly recommend the cherry ale!