Monday, August 27, 2007

Are we traitors?

I have to admit. As I sat at the Chicago Fire game cheering for Chicago, I felt like a traitor. FC Dallas is my team. And now I root for someone else? Even though the match was against Kansas City, it felt wrong. Seriously, when I jumped out of my seat clapping for the first goal scored, I looked over at Johnny and said, "this is not right!"

Maybe over time I will get used to it. After all, our boys both play for the Chicago Fire Jrs. program now, so we are expected to be all about the FIRE. But, deep down, I'll always be all about Dallas. I guess you can take the girl out of Texas but you can't take Texas out of the girl. I mean, I wasn't just messing around....I lived in Texas for THIRTY-ONE years. It's strange to be in Illinois after all that time.

But, as I've said all along, I will embrace what the Lord gives us. But I don't have to turn my back on my team. I will go to the Fire games and enjoy the atmosphere and the soccer, and I will even cheer for them, but they have not replaced my HOOPS! And the day they play each other? I might just stay home.

Chicago Fire Game!

We went to our first CHICAGO FIRE soccer game on Saturday.
The stadium was nice, but not nearly as cool as the "sunken" FC Dallas stadium.

Before the game, the kids that play for the Chicago Fire Jrs. got to play a short match on the pitch. Can you find Parker and Grayson? (Hint: Parker is in white....his red jersey has not come in yet.)

Halle went with us this time. We usually left her home with a babysitter because she did not enjoy the soccer games. But, now that she's older, she had a GREAT time. She was very well behaved and happy the whole time. It was great! She brought her dalmatian Webkinz with her, and she realized that the Chicago Fire's mascot is a dalmatian. Boy, did that ever make her happy. Although her dalmatian is named Jewel, she has declared it's middle name the same as the CF mascot: SPARKY. Now she has decided that we have to name our new dog Sparky....when we get one. (The voting on our poll is NOT in my favor!!)

The boys having a great time at the game.

At the end of the day? VICTORY for Chicago. They won 2-0 against the Kansas City Wizards.

As a side note, I have some additional comments on cheering for the Chicago Fire. But, I have decided to post my thoughts in a separate entry. Check it out if you want.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What the heck is a sump pump, anyway?

A sump pump. It was listed on the appliance list for 99% of the MLS listings we looked at in Wheaton. I didn't know what it was, but I thought if most of the houses in Wheaton had them, we should make sure one came with the house we purchased. And, I'm happy to report that our new house does indeed have a sump pump.

After arriving on the scene I began asking questions about the sump pump. Just what is it and what purpose does it serve? I was directed to a closet in our basement that houses the plumbing and was shown a large, open, plastic bucket buried in the floor with all sorts of tubes and wires (that's what girls call that sort of thing.) This was the sump pump. It's job? To keep water out of our finished basement. I liked it already.

Throughout our time living in Wheaton, I have noticed the sump pump running A LOT. You can hear water trickling into the bucket, and after the water level gets to a certain height, the pump kicks on and pumps the water out into our yard. I have to say, this was a pretty scary thing the first time I witnessed it. The water sometimes pours in, and if the the bucket gets full and the pump doesn't come on, well, the water seeps over the rim and is officially on the floor of your basement. Not a good thing.

But, our sump pump has proven incredibly efficient. It does, however, have one tiny flaw. It is powered by electricity. This becomes problematic when rainstorms bring with them both a lot of rain, and in some extreme cases, a power outage.

We were advised to buy a back-up sump pump that would run when the power goes out, or to get a generator (like our neighbors at the end of our cul-de-sace have) to keep our regular one going. This is a costly fix to a problem that supposedly rarely occurs. Well....rarely until yesterday.

The kid's second day of school started out fine. Halle and I came home and I began to work on setting up my scrapbook room. About 2:30, the sky went really dark. By 3 it was apparent that rain was coming. Since Wheaton Christian Grammar School doesn't have organized carpool, I had told my boys to cross Harrison Street with the school crossing guard and meet me at the corner of Harrison and Irving. This is much easier than trying to get into an already overcrowed school parking lot. I was proud of my brilliant plan until I realized that I didn't have a back-up plan in place in case of severe weather. Who knew I would need this on the SECOND day of school, but evidently, I did.

The boys get out of school at 3:25, and because I sensed the rain coming, I thought I would leave early and get a spot in front of the school in the hopes they would see me and not attempt to cross the street in the pouring rain. At 3:00 I decided to help Halle get into her shoes and head to the school. I could not find her shoes anywhere. I looked in her room, and all over both the main floor and the second floor. I had a brief brain lapse that we have an entire basement, but I never thought to look for the shoes there. (I found them there later.)

I finally told her to get her sandals instead because I wanted to get in the car and on our way before it started raining. At exactly 3:09 a SEVERE storm hit our house. Enormous trees were being tossed around outside like leaves. I seriously thought all of our trees were coming down. I should have grabbed my child and headed for the basement, but I was so amazed by the force of the winds that I stood here looking out my kitchen window almost frozen. Almost simultaneously, the power went out. Oh well I thought.

The power going out was really the least of my worries. I didn't care about my trees or the fact that my new car was in the driveway instead of in my garage. No, I was worried about my boys. School gets out at 3:25. It was now about 3:20 and I was not yet on my way to retrieve them. This was only the second day of school. Would they be worried that I wasn't there? I guess I wasn't really thinking clearly....I was more reacting like a mother hen whose chicks had scattered. I mean, clearly they would not open the doors to the school and shove my children outside in the middle of a severe thunderstorm with (as I learned later) a TORNADO WARNING in effect. I always get the tornado watch and warning confused, but evidently WARNING is the bad kind! Ha Ha!

My power was out so I couldn't call the school, and I have a hard time getting a cell phone signal in my house. I felt isolated and unsure what to do.

We are remodeling our bathroom. Sounds like I'm completely changing the subject, but stay with me. Anthony has been coming to our house for the last 5-6 weeks, working on the remodel. He usually goes upstairs and shuts himself in what will be our new bathroom and I never see him. Well, I'm glad to report that in the midst of the storm he came walking down the stairs. Whew! Another adult to consult. He had been able to get his cell phone to work and his wife had advised him that the public school was holding all of the kids until 4 pm. I felt safe in assuming that our school would do something similar. So, I stopped lamenting about not picking up the boys. I took a deep breath and decided to wait until the storm blew over before heading to the school to get them. (I know, brilliant, right?)

But then Anthony mentioned the power being out......and oh no! The sump pump was of course NOT PUMPING WATER!

We both went tearing down into the basement and there was the large open bucket, half full of water. The strange thing is that no water was pouring in. Usually, throughout the day I can hear water trickling in and the pump coming on and pushing it back out. Not today. It just sat there, not moving in or out. Weird, I thought. We were getting pounded by all of this rain, and the sump bucket sat there, unchanged.

I again turned my attention to getting my boys. The hard rain and wind really lasted only about 15-20 minutes. I left at 3:30 to get the boys. As I pulled out of my driveway, I couldn't believe all of the debris in the streets! The police had barricades everywhere for trees had been blown over and were covering the road. The power lines at the end of our street had been blown apart. Picture this....the pole was snapped in half and the bottom part was lying in the ditch, and the top part, still attached to the wires, was suspended in the air. Interesting. Probably the cause of our power outage.

I carefully maneuvered my way through the soggy streets to the school, chaging my normal route to avoid intersections that were completely underwater. On my way, I saw a tree that had been snapped in half in someone's front yard and had landed on their house. All things considered, our house and trees handled the wind.

This is a tree that went down across the street from us.

More damage across the street.

Debris in yards.

(These pictures are MINOR compared to what I saw later today!!!!!)

When I arrived at the school, I realized of course, that they had kept all the kids inside until their parents came to get them. Why should I have worried about that? It took us 30 minutes or more to get home from what is usually a 5 minute drive.

We got home to find the power still out. The rain had stopped, so I was feeling ok. I had been praying for the power to come on and for no more rain. The prognosis was good....for now. About 5:30 I realized that it was going to get dark early and we still had no power. I began to prepare for the worst thinking that at any moment the power would click on. I checked the sump pump again. No movement in the water. How could that be???? I left and gathered candles and flashlights still hoping that they would not be necessary. And then I heard the thunder. Large clapping thunder, with lightning. The kind that scares children. And adults with sump pumps not working because the power is out.

I became aware of some activity on our cul-de-sac, so I went out to find out what the neighbors thought. Is this weather normal? (NO!) Do they usually get the power on quickly? (USUALLY!) Is it supposed to keep raining? (YES!) And then the rain came POURING down. No horrendous winds this time, just buckets of rain. YIKES! I accepted that the power was not likely to come on anytime soon, and so decided to prepare my house for the dark and then turn my attention to the sump pump.

Some of the neighbors were pooling together at our next door neighbor's house--the Woods. I sent my kids over there, fully intending to follow. I grabbed my flashlight and decided to check the pump once again. Ok...movement in the water level. And rising, although slowly. I decided to BE the sump pump! I got a large cup and began to move water from the bucket in the floor to 5 gallon buckets, haul the water upstairs and dump it in the kitchen sink, for pouring it out in the basement or back outside would have defeated my purpose. I probably scooped close to 50 gallons out of the bucket. To my amazement, the water level did not change at all. (*Note to self: this does not help. I'm still bewildered as to why, but it doesn't none-the-less.) I became aware that all of my children were next door so I ventured outside to check on them.

Karen lives two doors down from me, and right next door to our BRILLIANT neighbor with the generator. When the second wave of rain came, she smartly got an extension cord and plugged her sump pump into Kareem's generator. When I hit the scene, the Wood's, who live next door to me but two houses away from Kareem were busy stringing extension cords together to plug THEIR sump pump into the generator. I thought the situation hopeless for me, so I asked Wood's to please send my kids home and told them that I was going to go back to my bucket in the basement and scoop water out of it all night. I said, "I'm going back home to FIGHT!" determined that our basement would not flood.

Brilliant neighbor with a generator (3 houses down).

Pause a moment. Is anyone wondering where Johnny is? He was DRY in San Jose, CA. Upon our move to Wheaton, Johnny's travel stopped almost abruptly. This was maybe the second trip he's taken during the week since we moved. He's had to go to a few weekend conferences, but for the most part, he's been home every night. Call it lousy timing. I know he felt helpless in CA knowing what I was dealing with, but I was on my least I thought.

I went back down to my basement and started packing towels all around the sump pump bucket, watching the water level rise. Then I heard a knock on my basement door. I looked up and there was my next door neighbor. He said, "we've got Karen's house and our house hooked up to the generator, and you're next! Grab some 3-prong extension cords and come to our house." Wow. I never expected that. How generous! Kareem was sharing his power, and Reid was going to help get us plugged in in the absence of my husband.

When it was all said and done, it probably looked hilarious. Extension cords were strung all over our neighborhood like Christmas lights. Reid was careful to tie loose knots in the cords where each one connected together, and careful to keep them up off the ground so that they were not in puddles of water. We draped them over drink coolers, trees, buckets covered with frisbees, you name it. BUT, it worked! They plugged me in and I heard the sweet sound of the sump pump doing it's job! Praise the Lord! Our basement was spared.

Water cooler housing live extension cord wires and keeping them dry.

Extension cords draped over trees heading into our backyard.

It continued to rain hard all night, and the generator continued to pump water all night. Our power came back on around midnight, but I was too afraid to take my pump off the generator for fear the power would go out again. After all, it was still raining.

I awoke to find the power still on and the pump still running. I plugged it back into my own power source and it worked just fine! Whew. Then I went outside to survey the area. The neighbors that live on the left side of me didn't pipe into the generator because their basement is not finished. They got about 2 inches of water in their basement. If I wasn't already, I became compeltely aware that that would have been us as well. Wow! What a night.

I will wrap up the already too long story with a few points of interest. Evaluate this situation with God's hand in it:
1) Why did I not think to look in the basement for Halle's shoes before the storm hit? God protected us, that's why! Had I found the shoes, I would have put them on her feet and left the house. I would have been on the road when the storm hit! God totally protected us by keeping us in the house. This was no coincidence.

2) Why was the sump pump bucket not filling up with the first rain storm? The only answer is God was protecting us yet again. I could not have gotten it plugged into the generator at that time. I had to get the boys and the rain hit too fast. God knew that I could not handle a basement flood after the "trauma" of moving 1000 miles away from my home.
3) How often do I have people working in my house? Hardly ever. This is the first time we've done a re-model. The fact that Anthony was here was a tremendous help to me. It kept me calm and helped me make better decisions.
4) Why weren't any of us electocuted when we were running around in the rain, and lightning, sopping wet, WITH EXTENSION CORDS?? Easy answer. God is not finished with us yet!

5) And lastly, what a blessing of great neighbors. Everyone was out in the rain lending a hand. Even our neighbors with the unfinished basement that DIDN'T tap into the generator were out in the rain, offering their extension cords to protect their neighbor's basements. Thank you Lord for placing us in this place, with these people that have accepted us and already love us. What an extension of you! I will be forever grateful!

School is out today. Not for the reasons I would have thought school would be cancelled here (aka SNOW!) So, my neighbors invited us to go have lunch with them today. Maybe I'll get a deep dish pizza. How else do you celebrate weathering a Chicagoland storm?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First Day of School

AUGUST 22, 2007
I was really proud of the boys on their first day of school. They were very excited to meet their teachers and all of the kids in their classes. It's got to be hard being the "new kids" but they handled it with grace!

Grayson at his desk on the first day of 2nd grade.

Parker at his desk on the first day of 4th grade.

We are anticipating a fabulous year!!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Currently 8/18

The temp was a mere 60 degrees as I was driving home from running errands today. Here is the proof.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Our Street

I thought you might like to see what we see every day.
This is our street. I am standing in our driveway.

This is the other end of the street, the cul-de-sac. Parker and Grayson are playing roller hockey with Andrew.

These are the houses to our right. The driveway you see at the bottom is ours.

Our New House

Halle's Room

Here is our sweet Halle in her new room in Wheaton. Notice the beautiful trees out her window!

She likes to read books!

Toothless in Wheaton

Look who finally decided to lose a tooth!

Why such a Hot Topic?

The WEATHER. Why is everyone constantly talking to us about the weather? When we announced that we were moving North, everyone enlightened us on the winters to come. And now that we're here, everyone snickers and asks if this will be our "first" winter.

While I appreciate the warnings, I think I'm over the conversation. At times, I've gotten myself so worked up that I'm literally scared of cold temperatures. This doesn't seem healthy, so I'm done being concerned. The way I see it, God created the world, and the weather that goes with each part of the country. Sure, it's colder in some parts than others, and warmer in some parts than others, but I'm no longer letting this conversation dictate my mood.

I am stepping up and embracing the fact that God moved us here for a reason, and that the weather doesn't affect that decision at all. We will stay here and thrive here for as long as God sees fit. We just might be thriving from under big sweaters and coats. This is an adventure......want to walk alongside?

I set up this category for those that are interested on how our thin, tanned skin is adapting up North. Check back for updates!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Out with the old....

See my car? A 2004 Lincoln Navigator Ultimate. There are lots of things to like, and it was the perfect car to handle the Dallas suburbs. However, since moving to the burbs of Chicago, I have become slightly less-enchanted. Why?

  • First of all, I realized that my car is a very big premium gas-loving vehicle. And when premium gas costs 'ya over $3.50 a gallon, you raise your eyebrows. Seriously, over $80 to fill my tank? OUCH!

  • I also realized that the parking spaces in the Chicagoland area are geared more towards COMPACT cars.....which of course, mine is NOT. Small parking spaces lead to lots of door dings--albeit on other people's cars--but this hurts my conscience. AND, there is constant yelling at my children to BE CAREFUL.

  • Halle has grown. How is that an issue? She is the perfect height to run smack into the door with the top of her head, never seeing it coming. Bummer for her.

  • Can you image parallel parking that bus into an already cramped space? And I've never claimed to be a champion parallel-parker.

  • Finally, I've come to realize that those air-conditioned seats might not be as necessary here....

So, what does all this equal?

A New Family Car for Jennifer!
Welcome the new, 2007 Honda Odyssey! And I'm very pleased to announce that I'm driving the very same vehicle as every other mom in the state of Illinois! Yah, sure, it sort of strips my individuality, but there's something about BLENDING. Besides, my Texas accent gets me more attention than I'd like! I gave up a few features that the Nav had, but I also gained a few great ones: a more sophisticated Navigation system with voice command, a DVD player that will pick up where you left off when the car was shut off, and XM satellite radio! The hardest thing to give up? My TEXAS plates! Now I'm off to the DMV for an Illinois driver's license.....

Parker's Room

Surf's UP Dude!!

Parker likes to collect lots of things. We wanted to pick a theme for his room so he could display some of his artifacts. His largest collection is stuff from the beach...shells, sharks teeth, and the like. We though a beach-type theme would go well.
One of his walls is painted like a giant surf-board. Cool huh? (Johnny and I have been uncovering all sorts of hidden talents! Who knew?)

Grayson's Room

Grayson's picked a soccer room of course!

This mural is all the way from the UK! When you're in Grayson's room, you feel like you're right in the middle of a soccer game!

Go Fire!

Chicago Fire Jrs.

Grayson made his debut the past weekend as a proud member of the Chicago Fire Jrs.

Grayson with his fellow teammate and friend, Clyde Wight. Their uniforms look sharp!

He even got to play one half in goal. He LOVES to play goalie, but he's usually needed on the field.