Friday, December 23, 2011

Magic

Without knowing a thing about celebrity-mashed-up nicknames (a la "Brangelina" and "Bennifer"), Kate informed us most enthusiastically that if Nick and I combined our names to form a "couple name", we could be called "Magic". Love it.

(While I find this to be incredibly sweet and romantic - and is an accurate description of how I feel about my marriage - I must confess I believe she came up with it due to her obsession with the magical world of Harry Potter and her desire to wake up one morning and be able to cast spells)

Darling.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanks and Giving

This Thanksgiving was peaceful and relaxing - a truly wonderful opportunity to reflect and give thanks, and also think about how thankful we are that we are able-bodied enough to give.

I don't want to sound all high and mighty, or preachy. However, I cannot help but take some time to be overwhelmingly grateful for what we have been given, and the fact that we value service and love so much that we work hard to "give back" - and that we instill those things in our kiddos.

I am thankful for my ability and opportunity to serve our community through Ever After Gowns and Kappa Alpha Theta. I am thankful for my professional privilege to help shape minds via my teaching career at the University. While those things have a lot of opportunity for service, the truth is I don't know if there is such a thing as pure, unselfish service....because in truth I receive so much personal joy from all of that. I get to work with incredible, amazing people. I get to be exposed to astounding brains, talents, and hearts in the college students and volunteers that I encounter. Yes, I aspire to make an impact on the world...but honestly the world has made such an impact on me. I am so blessed to have my heart open to that. We are so thankful to be aware that we always have more to learn.

I am thankful for the fact that Nick and I volunteer in our community (be it my organizational involvement, our membership in the Jaycees, or Nick raking leaves for the elderly or doing Habitat work or mentoring high schoolers....) and it has "rubbed off" on our kids. They make a point to consider donating clothes and toys on a monthly basis. They point out someone's car stuck in a snow bank in our neighborhood so we can join in the crowd and help dig them out.  They gleefully help me sort inventory for Ever After Gowns. They bring food donations for the food shelf.  They ask "how can we help"?  My heart bursts.  I am over the moon crazy in love for this family of ours.

Again, I don't share this stuff to brag - though of course I am proud of their loving hearts. Rather, I just don't know how we cannot take some time to share the many blessings that we have been given! We have so much to be thankful for. Certainly, our needs are met with a warm home and food on our table. But we have so much more. Love and happiness, not just a job but professional opportunities, educational success, a good amount of health, and the chance to travel now and then.  Any challenges we have with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, work issues, or general life irritations are so insignificant! We do not take anything for granted - I think I am especially thankful for that awareness.

So - to sum up.....we are thankful!  :-)  Here are some things that the kids are thankful for, in their own words, and in the exact order that they shared.

Kate:

I am thankful for:
family, shelter, that my parents have jobs, Jesus and God, Mom and Dad, food, water, transportation, family time, holidays, Nintendo, my pillow pet, American Girl dolls, balloons.

Liam:
I am thankful for:
all the things that I can do, animals, the world, Mom and Dad, kids, Christmas, people, things that keep us warm, my pillow pet, Hot Wheels, houses, coloring.


Liam helping sort some inventory at our warehouse for Ever After Gowns.

Kate and Liam helping pick up some donations for Ever After Gowns from a local business. 

Maggie and Nick volunteering at the Minnesota State Fair with the Jaycees. Income that would have been earned was instead donated. Super fun working at the Fried Pickle booth! Really a fun day.


We are thankful for technology - it keeps us connected as Nick has been traveling extensively this year. Even in big moments, he is able to "make an appearance".

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Goodbye Fall......



The Fall days are coming to an end. Having now turned back the clocks thanks to the end of daylight savings, we will be waking up in the deep darkness and, well, welcoming the evening much sooner.  Daylight hours are shortened, the leaves are getting close to being completely off the trees, and soon enough the snow will fly!  I don't mind. That just means cozy days and hot chocolate and more toasty snuggles. I won't think about the scraping of the ice and the shoveling and the brrrrrrrrrr.  Instead, I will focus on the fun to be had - including BASKETBALL season (especially BUTLER basketball) and will just look forward to the summer sunsets in less than a year!

BIG BUTLER BASKETBALL FANS!

Soon enough the summer sunsets will be back! It's why we endure these winters.

Fun Fall Pics

The kidlets continue to make us smile and laugh and almost burst with love and pride on a daily basis. Truly there are times when I can barely look at them without losing my breath they are so amazing!  Here are some recent photos:


Kate on "Picture Day" at school. Seriously, this pic turned out better than her actual school pictures.


 The kiddos on Halloween. Kate is "Hermione" from Harry Potter (she has a total obsession with all things Harry Potter). Liam is a Knight. He bears a striking resemblance to the knights from Monty Python's "Holy Grail", but did not really take well to Nick and I asking if he would trot while trick-or-treating as we followed behind banging coconuts together. :) (If you know not of what I speak...sorry!)


 My clever, creative, fun little guy. Fall fun with sidewalk chalk has him carried away! :)

Kate is 8!!!

I remember when Kate was a baby so many people would stop me in the grocery store etc. and comment on how adorable she was and then say "It goes so fast! They grow up so quickly!". SO. TRUE!!!!

The Little Miss turned 8 at the end of September. For her family party, she chose to go bowling so off to the lanes we went. It was a really fun night and Kate loved bowling in a Birthday Tiara and a special Birthday button.


Minnesota Moments

People often assume that, because we live in Minnesota, our outdoor time is limited or miserable thanks to weather or mosquitos. While the winter can certainly put a damper on some outdoor activity, for the most part we get to enjoy the outdoors more than most places, I would think. A good chunk of the winter allows for snowy fun, and the summers are not too hot and the fall is absolutely breathtaking! This summer and fall have been wonderful. We have gone from climbing trees and soaking in the lush green of the summer to meandering through corn mazes and crunching through dappled leafy hiking trails in the fall. Here are some pics that show us doing exactly that!

Monkey man.


Katoo in a tree, and happy to be there.

A fall hike - so lovely. We only saw one other person the whole afternoon! Gorgeous.

Mastering the corn maze - - and also hiding in it with Dad and jumping out and successfully scaring Mom! 

Ben's Buddies

This September we had the honor of traveling to New York City as a family - as in, our ENTIRE McKenny side of the family - to support our nephew, Ben, who has Down Syndrome. Ben was selected by the National Down Syndrome Society as one of the individuals with Down Syndrome that they would feature as part of their Buddy Walk presentation in Times Square!!! Isn't that incredible?! Ben's photo was shown on the jumbotron in Times Square as part of the NDSS's effort to raise awareness about Down Syndrome.  How could we miss this opportunity?

So - a giant group of Ben Fans convened in NYC for a long weekend to see his photo in times square (taken by our dear family friend, Julie) and to participate in the Buddy Walk. Of course we enjoyed the city as well (See next post for that).

It was a muggy, warm day, but we all enjoyed spending time in Times Square and then picnicking and strolling in Central Park to support our Ben. The cutest baby that you have EVER seen. Actually, he just turned ONE! I cannot believe how quickly time flies. We all feel so lucky to have Ben in our lives - he is the most sweet, joyful, cuddly guy in town.

Here are some pics with captions:


Almost the whole gang! Ben's Buddies in Central Park  - ready to walk!


Kate with her medal of completion. She was really proud. I am so thankful for these opportunities for our children to learn, grow, and love!


K & L on our way home from the walk - their first subway ride and they are clearly trying hard to pose but reaaaallly wanting to look behind them at the train approaching. I love how they are looking in opposite directions, it makes me smile!


Cousins in a row in Times Square!


Cousins!  After our picnic lunch on this rock, we started the walk!


Ben's Picture on the Jumbotron!!!!! SO neat!

I want to be a part of it....

New York, Newww Yooorrrrrrk!  As mentioned above, we traveled to NYC as a family to support our nephew Ben in the Buddy Walk to raise awareness for the National Down Syndrome Society. Of course, though, we took the opportunity to soak up as much of the city as we could with the kiddos! I cannot express enough how impressed Nick and I were by our children - they trekked all over the city with us, nonstop. They were eager, enthusiastic, joyful and....this is the part that I love the most....polite and well behaved! I have to brag for a minute and say that, truly, everywhere we went people stopped us to tell us how delightful and polite our kids were (until the last 30 minutes before we boarded the plane home when Liam had a meltdown over a pizza slice that I think was really about exhaustion and not wanting to end vacation).

Seriously, though, the kids happily trekked all over the city! From schlepping through torrential rain in midtown on our first day there to enjoying singing waiters at Ellen's Stardust Diner....from the Buddy Walk to strolls through Central Park....to subway rides uptown and down to wandering the many halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art....to seeing the live musical "The Lion King" on Broadway to overlooking the city from the top of Rockefeller Center....to a boat trip to see the Statue of Liberty to a spin on a Ferris Wheel in Times Square's Toys R Us...AND SO MUCH MORE....the kids were amazing. As luck would have it, Nick and I got some extra evening time in the city because our babysitter from the past FIVE years in Minnesota had just  moved to NYC! And she lives only 4 blocks from our hotel!!! :) SO Holly got some great time with the kids that allowed Nick and I to stroll the high line in Chelsea and grab some great ethnic meals out with friends and family. I was so proud of how much our family cooperated to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of that trip. It was an amazing opportunity and we used up every bit of it! Goodness gracious we are blessed. 

Here are some pics with captions/thoughts.


Kate and Liam LOVED Ellen's Stardust Diner. The servers sing constantly and many have gone on to Broadway shows! Such a great deal to get such great entertainment with your meal. Cheesy? Yes. Fun?! Absolutely!


 Kate and Liam at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This may have inspired Liam's Halloween costume!


K & L in front of a costume display from the Broadway show of "The Lion King". They LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! (So did Nick and I!)

K & L "Walking Like Egyptians"....they did this periodically throughout the museum to the true delight of the security guards who got a happy giggle.  Looking back, I think ours were the only kids there! And we went on a weekend!

Another one from our night at Ellen's Stardust Diner.

Brother and Sister in Times Square!!!! (It had been pouring rain alllll day)

Kate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. People looked at her and grinned when we walked into this room because she exclaimed "Oh my goodness! Look at these Monets!!!!" I don't think they expected a child to know. Sad, right?


Kate at the top of Rockefeller Center, overlooking Central Park.


Liam and Nick at the "Top of the Rock"


Kiddos with Dad on the boat heading closer to the Statue of Liberty

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Smiles

This summer my sister came to visit for almost a whole month! It was so wonderful to see and spend time with Erin, her hubby Nick, and their FOUR beautiful children. Our dear family friend, and incredible photographer, Julie came to snap some lovely shots of all of us together. We had such a fun day at the lake with her and she produced some treasured images. We cannot recommend her enough - be sure to visit her at http://juliekraaiphotography.com/

All photos courtesy of Julie Kraai Photography:





I love Paris

As I mentioned below, Nick and I got to have a dream come true this May 2011 when we traveled to Paris together to celebrate our 10th Wedding anniversary. I will let the pictures do the talking, but to summarize...it was truly the most perfect, wonderful, incredible trip I have ever been on. I now have a complete and total obsession with Paris and cannot wait to return. BUT. At the same time I am scared to ever go back because I do not know how any visit could ever possibly be as perfect as this one was. In a way, I want to always remember it just as it was on this trip for us. I want to always have  *this* Paris. Enjoy. We sure did.



The Space Between...

Despite my best efforts and intentions, the space between postings grows longer and longer. It is certainly not for lack of material for the blog. I will admit that the use of facebook and twitter has put a damper on my blogging.  Why write lengthy descriptive posts when about 100 characters can sum up a moment? I have grown more adept at summarizing my life, thoughts, and feelings in a few sentences via those social networking sites. However, I do miss the fun of blogging away.  I won't make promises here about frequency or length of blog updates, but I will try to do what I can.

Somehow, Nick and I find ourselves at our 10 year wedding anniversary mark this year! We have two beautiful children in grade school full time (Kate in second grade and Liam in Kindergarten!). We are abundantly blessed.  We celebrated our 10 year anniversary in Paris, France and it was truly heaven on earth. I will try to post some of the pics on here. The kiddos are healthy, happy, and active. Kate is a reading machine and spent the summer - when not in the pool - reading the entire Harry Potter series. At seven years old, that is quite an accomplishment!  She is so bright that it floors me sometimes. I love her brain, her sweet nature, and her giggles. She is excited to be in choir, dance, piano, Brownies, and swimming this year.  Liam is a whirlwind of activity. He has the mind of an engineer and is also reading up a storm. He requests story time every night, only now it is him reading to us.  His smile is the best thing in our world, rivaled only by his hugs. He is excited to be in Karate and swimming this year and I am sure more activities will pop up as the Kindergarten year rolls along.  He is sad that Cub Scouts does not start until first grade...the boy really wants to be a cub scout!

Nick has been traveling like a madman. He is gone probably 70-80% of the time for business, but we make it work. Technology is a big help - he has been known to read the kids bedtime stories via Skype, and the ease of facebook photo posts and online chatting has kept us in closer touch.  I am so proud of his hard work and, frankly, I am darn proud of us for managing the schedule and the stress of it so well. We are both very supportive of each other and encouraging of every opportunity there is. I miss him when he is gone, and I know he misses us. Really, though, it all works out very well.

As for me, I am still President of Ever After Gowns and I volunteer for Theta. Those are two passions that I am so blessed to be able to be involved in. I love the incredible women that I get to work with and the difference in the world that I am able to make. It is very rewarding to see growth and success in those parts of my life. I am also now working for the University of Minnesota! I teach there! It is an absolute dream come true for me. I teach Leadership development in the Leadership Minor program and it is pure professional joy for me. Never have I felt so professionally supported, encouraged, and energized.  Lucky lucky lucky lucky me. I get to see brains sparking and action inspired in the students and it is the coolest thing ever.

So - now you know the general situation for our clan for this Fall 2011. It is controlled chaos to be sure - - - Nick flying here, there, and everywhere, me zipping between meetings and work while the kids are in school and then me being a personal assistant and driver to the kids while I drive between activities, doctor appointments, dentists, playdates, birthday parties and the like. Dinners and bathtimes and homework and reading and PJs all before 8pm and then lights out for the kidlets....and sometimes then a glass of wine for Mom (and Dad when he is here!).  It is blissful exhaustion that somehow is energizing at the same time.

Blessed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jazzy

videoNick found a great old jazz trombone from the 40's in an antique shop a few years ago and got it for next to nothing! Though, as predicted
by me, it sat in the basement for a few years, it recently enjoyed it's inaugural blasts in our home. Nick used to play and gave the kiddos some tips. Both got the hang of it on the first try, but Liam was particularly thrilled with it. This video clip cracks us up!

Back to Life, Back to Reality...

;
 Christmas was an absolute delight! From cookie contests to Christmas Mass, we loved every minute of some much needed family time. We are back into the full swing of a very full life - from school to daisy  scouts to piano to dance class to work, darts, and volunteer work we are often on the go. We cherish any time when we are all together.