I know, I know.  I have a blog and I haven't been present here for weeks.  Life.  Let me tell you friends it has been full and then some.  So here is a brief, or maybe not, catch up of the life lately around here.  These "catch up" posts are becoming my go to form.  They're concise, to the point and full of photos, my favorite.
There's this holiday celebrated world wide I'm guessing, commonly referred to as Mother's Day.  That's the one. And yes we do all have a mother.  Mine is super.  Unfortunately I was not able to spend the day with her so I spent it with the four that made me a Mama.  It was a wonderful day.  Beginning with breakfast  delivered to the pitch by Thing 1, where Thing 4 had an early morning match, lunch at one of our favorites, movies and snuggles in the afternoon and Husband Jared and the Things in the kitchen making dinner.  All six of us.  Together.  
The next weekend was prom for Thing 1.  We made a day of getting her ready, starting with mani - pedi's in the morning, make up application in the afternoon and hair done by yours truly just before pictures.  This day brought me untold joy.  Watching our young lady have her beauty show from the inside out was memorable to say the least.  She went with a group of friends that met here at our house before their diner dinner at Snuffy's.  They boarded a boat on Lake Minnetonka for the actual event and danced the night away underneath the stars and a gorgeous Minnesota sunset. 
Well the adventure continues and one night a few weeks ago it lead us straight to urgent care.  Only this time not for one of the Things but for me.  I'll spare you the bloody details but when all was said and done the kitchen knife won and I walked away with six stitches in my thumb.  Husband Jared simply could not resist this photo op.  I haven't laid in a hospital bed since Thing 4 was born. 

Next up, a volunteer opportunity coordinated by Things' 1 and 2 Bible study group at school.  Husband Jared and I were the adult chaperones so we made it a family affair and all went to Feed My Starving Children and packed food.  The best part about this night, other than the fact that immediate needs were being met, was watching these young adults in action.  And then hearing Thing 2 pray over the boxes that would be sent out about did me in.  So very powerful, all in the name of Jesus. 
The ERA group
Thing 4 and our buddy Jack!
Onto a fun, family-friend night.  Maybe a bit out of order but nonetheless it happened within the month of May so I deem it ok to be included.  Whether chronological or not.  We hung out with some family friends of ours and since the weather had turned the corner we were outside the entire night.  The kids ran around and played, we ate our first s'mores of summer fireside and even the Coke-Mentos science experiment was completed.  I only wish you could listen to the audio to accompany this photograph.  Squeals of sheer delight from every single babe, regardless of age.  What joy!
For Memorial Day weekend we made a quick jaunt to Tennessee for a visit with Papa, who was on vacay from Phoenix.  Our time it seems is never quite long enough to make the rounds when we are there.  We put our best foot forward and made the most of our hours with Papa.  Whether it was playing cribbage, fishing or boating on the pond.  There were games with our nieces, a trip to the Franklin's Farmer Market, some hot chicken (pictured below), a little bowling, dropping Thing 2 off with her second family for a week at the beach and then relaxing. 
The visit was sweet and memorable. 
Thing 4, first swim of the season

Thing 1 shooting the bb gun
Us Six and Papa

Husband Jared and Thing 3
Ron, Jeanine and Papa

Giddy up Uncle Jared
Hot chicken, because what would a post from me be without at least one food picture!
Polo has been readying himself for summer too with a new haircut.  He was showing off the other day and I couldn't resist.  Check him out. 
Such an old dog.
We christened the beginning of pool season here on Memorial Day, early in the morn after our drive back from TN.  It was the perfect time.  We laid ourselves out and relaxed and let the worries melt away in the sun.  At least Husband Jared and I did.  The Things all went swimming and wore themselves out.  Since that was so much fun I gifted myself with a few alone trips to the pool recently as well.  Me, some magazines, a little paperwork and the hot rays from the sun.  Oh, happy days!
That brings us full circle, the month of May covered in one post.  Only 5 more days until summer officially begins (school is out) and we can celebrate with our annual sundae party.  This Mama can hardly wait.  I'm fairly certain the Things feel the same way. 


NYC In Three Parts...Part 3

Journal Entry, day three, verbatim:
Slow day, coffee in bed, planning our day.  Beginning with a bagel, eaten outside in the city

Classic everything with cream cheese, yes please.

A short cab ride to change hotels and a walk through Times Square.  People everywhere.  Like Vegas on steroids.  Lights and tourist traps and t-shirt selling locals trying to hustle for a few bucks. 
Escape to the subway station to find The Plaza and Central Park.
Clearly we were not invited to the party at the Plaza so we rode the escalator down to where the food court and shops are.  Bakeries and restaurants, even a flower shop underneath the glamorous foyer.  High end shops no less but a glass of champagne was calling my name and at the counter so we toasted to the magic.  And then laughed because neither of us felt comfortable upstairs and if that isn't a metaphor for life I don't know what it.  There was an Eloise corner of the shops and we peeked in reminiscing about Thing 3 who was enamored with her.  A birthday card was bought and we were on our way.  There were carriages and pedi cabs waiting and vying for business on every corner.  School children on field trips and musicians filling the air with their songs.  And us, we held hands and walked the paths.  Lost in our own piece of mind.  An emerald forest in the middle of a concrete jungle.  Breathtaking.  Winding paths and a juxtaposition like I've never seen before.  City skyscrapers towering above. 

One of my favorites.

The lawns dotted with blankets and babies, lovers and dreamers.  Soaking in the sunshine and painting the beauty surrounding.  An experience I hadn't had before.  The business types unpacking their lunches and runners on a mission.  Tourists cycling in lanes unseen and us, eyes lifted and necks craned not wanting to miss anything. 

One of many bridges and archways throughout the park.

In front of the Bethesda Fountain. 

The sun caught us and we chased it all the way back to Chelsea where we explored the newly constructed High- Line and viewed the old tracks now covered with herbs and foliage.  Yet another representation of the dichotomy this city holds.  And what became my favorite boro in NYC.  We sat at a Mexican cafe and people watched, kicked our feet up and reveled in the fact that this trip actually happened.  I was out of words.  With swollen, achy feet due to my poor choice in shoes for the day we limped to the subway to ready ourselves for our last night in the city that never sleeps.  A late dinner at Babbo, a restaurant owned by chef Mario Batalli and a trip 102 floors up the Empire State Building.  Dinner was an event.  The restaurant was tucked away in a historic house in the Chelsea boro, once again.  The formage table was center stage and it was there we watched the sommelier choose wines and pour delicately, other staff de-boned fish and still others ran circles around the table waiting on their guests and ensuring everything was just right.  Only missing piece for the experience was music.  It ventured into the '90's and my heart raced.  Not a common choice for dinner music.  Nevertheless the food was indescribable and dessert that much better.  Thinking we were taking the city for all it had to offer this night we left rather impressed with ourselves and the fact that we were awake past 11pm.  Off to the Empire State building and to conquer my fear of heights. 

First stop, 102nd floor.  You would never know it was midnight when we entered, the line wove around like a ride at Disneyland, and by the time we left it was almost 1am.  To say the skyline was magical would be an understatement.  So far removed from the madness and chaos that ensues my first observation was quiet.  No horns to be heard or sirens.  Just city lights reflecting on the water and my love beside me.  Time for a selfie.  Yes we did.  Only thing was that 102 floors up with glass surrounding left us black shadows with a city somewhere behind us.  That was the end of our last night in the Big Apple.  Thank you NYC for the memories and moments made. 

NYC In Three Parts...Part Two

Journal entry from day two in NYC:
Today's agenda: Wall and Broad.  Another subway ride to Battery Park and the Financial district.  I thought there wouldn't be as many tourists, I was wrong.  Maybe there were more.  In an interesting mix of locals and us others.  We walked through the streets with our necks craned gawking at the architectural design of each and every building.  They were so intricate and all so different.  When we came to Battery Park I was astonished at how much damage Sandy had done to the area.  So much roped off, still under construction and still cleaning up.  And then I laid eyes on her.  Lady Liberty.  Standing tall and proud in the distance.  We dared not take a ferry ride, although the island was open.  We stared from the shore line and took a selfie with her instead. 
Can you see her?  There squint your eyes a bit. 
There it is.  And from there we walked some more.  This time ditching our rain jackets for a welcome dose of sunshine.  Over to Wall and Broad, a quick gaze at The Bull.  Did you know it has it's own police officer?  Maybe making sure no one climbs on it or defaces it.  Not sure but he was taking notes on a piece of paper and in my mind I made up the story that he was probably writing a  book about all the silly tourists he watches day in and day out.  I would totally buy that book.  Take note any NYC PD that read this blog.  Ha!  It was then that we came across Tiffany's.  A distinct blue flag waving and I just couldn't help myself.  I stopped.  Right in the middle of the street.  Yes I did.  Because I am a fan.  Not of the jewelry per se, but the iconic nature of the establishment.  We walked past the Federal Memorial Hall, the place where President George Washington took his oath of office.  There is even a bronze plaque outside that shows him kneeling at Valley Forge and an even larger than life statue of him on the steps of the building.  Come to find out just a day was before the 225th anniversary of his swearing in was celebrated here. 
NY Stock Exchange
In what can only be described as a gaping hole we saw where the Towers once stood.  World Trade Center, building 7, is almost complete.  And my oh my is it breathtaking.  Being there, seeing the devastation, the chaos and visitors center that stands now was just eery.  I had chill bumps.  There are no words.  Really.  I couldn't even bring myself to take any photos.  Tears fell and we had to leave.
So we did.  Right into Ohara's Pub with the local lunch crowd for a pint.  We toasted and gazed at all the fire department and police department badges that had been pinned around the bar.  All from places that came to assist after 9/11.  Moving. 
And then another subway ride to Chelsea.  Or otherwise known to me as Foodie heaven.  The Chelsea market is indoors and packed with restaurants and boutique bakeries and shops.  Each offering their unique fare.  Not to mention the Food Network studios are right above it.  Yes they are.  We lunched.  We shopped.  We bought dessert for later and then we walked along the Hudson river and through the Chelsea boro back to our hotel.  What a walk.  There were schools with fenced in black top playgrounds.  Local cafes beneath the tree lined streets.  Flats and sidewalks filled to the brim with garbage bags. 
Chelsea Market
This grocery, oh my.  This is where I would shop everyday if I lived in Chelsea.

Hudson River
So excited after this full day to be meeting Cousin Tucker for dinner.  He met us at the hotel and from there we caught the subway to Little Italy for pizza at the birthplace of classic NY pizza.  Or at least that's how the story goes.  Very well could be too, the oven dates back to 1905.  And the pizza, the best we've ever had!  For real.  Thanks Lombardi's!
Best. Pizza. Ever

Tucker and Me
Tucker showed us an area by the name of St. Marks that he and his Friends visit every now and again.  We walked around Tribeca and Soho and took in the sights.  My take (on St. Mark's): liberal, punk, goth, hookah bars, a late night crowd sort of place, adventurous.  Funky hang outs and a hip scene.  Husband Jared and I felt old.  Very old.  Warning:  Here's where the journaling gets a little sappy.  We raced to the train station with Tucker and hugged him goodbye, hoping he would make his train so he wouldn't miss the shuttle back to the Hofstra campus.  When I did and Husband Jared gave him money for his train ticket it was almost surreal.  I mean.  I changed this boy's diapers.  Babysat him.  Stood up in church the day he was dedicated.  And here he was.  All grown up and man like.  Filling us in on college life and future plans and all these experiences that have shaped him.  So incredibly grateful.  Ahh.  And I made him text me when he made it back to the dorm.  Because I am that cousin.  Whatever. 
We left Tucker and continued walking.  Rockefeller Center, NBC studios, MOMA, The Photography Museum (all of which were closed for the night) and finally Grand Central Station for a pit stop, because it was open.  Of course.  Again, the architecture of the station struck me.  Ceiling mural of the astrology signs complete with lights, celebrating it's centennial and the original clock gracing the information desk.  I do wish I had taken a video clip of the sounds.  I stood at the top of the steps and listened.  People buzzing.  Conversations happening.  Phones making all manner of noises.  Footsteps.  And clicking and loud speakers and and and.  City music is what I call it.  You can hear it on the streets too and underground and in buildings and elevators and restaurants.  It's unique and every city has their own heartbeat.  I like New York's. 
Oh the lights, magical.

Bustling station, at all hours, day and night. 

Selfie, again.  But the clock, we had to capture the clock. 
Good night New York!

NYC in Three Parts...Part One

I decided that for our NY trip I would simply share my notes from my journal for each of the days, along with some photos of course.  At the end of each day or sometimes in the middle, if the mood struck me, I would jot down observations or descriptions of whatever it was that we were doing.  Little bits I wanted to remember throughout the day of our time together.  So here is part one.
I arrived on the Wednesday.  Grey skies and rain pelting the yellow cabbies every which way.  The traffic reminded me of Turkey.  Honking was a the music score to this experience. And impoliteness the welcome.  After checking in and dropping my luggage in the room I was far too anxious to sit and wait for Husband Jared so off I went.  The NYC Central Library and Bryant Park were just a few city blocks away and I was determined to be there. 
Balconies of books, love.

Lights and murals.

Lions, between the lions.  Iconic. 
Journal entry:
people bustling about, not quiet like your typical library, many rooms, metal shelving for books, old card catalogs still in use, author meeting in the foyer, Astor room, marble floor in the McGraw Rotunda with story of time murals, from Moses to the Gutenberg printing press, Gutenberg Bible, one of only 48 known in the world here on display, printed in 1455, first book ever printed on the press was the Bible, magical place, could get lost here for hours, electric candelabras, raining outside, need to find a place to duck into for lunch, superb people watching, so much activity, surrounding, a slew of umbrellas walking on the streets, mostly black ones, professionals, my purple polka dotted one sticks out like a sore thumb, eclectic and cultural, reminds me a bit of Turkey, little shops, ethnic corner restaurants, city divided by districts, garment district, etc., fancy shopping on 5th Avenue, trees blooming, finest architect designed libraries, 54 of the original 67 still operating as libraries today, waiting for Husband Jared at the  hotel, drying off, first subway ride in NYC to dinner at Akdeniz, Turkish restaurant, most authentic we've had since leaving, even served Efes,
 score one for us.  

Thing 3's Birthday Week

A true Hanson style birthday was enjoyed by Thing 3, a week-long party that began with a girls night at our house.  Since it was her year for a party Thing 3 decided to have a slumber party, with a twist.  The girls would be making 150 sandwiches for The Sandwich Project.  The Sandwich Project is a local ministry here in the Twin Cities that delivers food to homeless shelters.  All you have to do is be willing to put some meat and cheese between two pieces of bread.  Easy enough.  So they did.  Actually, they made over 150 sandwiches.  What a way to celebrate and what generous hearts these girls have. 
Icing her cupcakes

The girlies
They also enjoyed a little Chick Fil A, red velvet cupcakes made by yours truly and decorated by Thing 3, movies and giggles and hopefully a little sleep too.  Maybe slumber parties should be called "wake-overs" because in my experience there never seems to be too much sleeping.  Anyhow, that was her friend party, we still had our family party waiting. 
For her family party all the girl requested was some bbq chicken.  Creature of habit.  I've said it before and it still rings true.  Every year, same menu.  Different cake this year but I have no doubt that had something to do with Thing 2 working at Cold Stone Creamery now. 
 We celebrated the girl all day long on the 4th.  Birthday breakfast before church, an afternoon of family movie watching and napping, birthday dinner, Amazing Race and cake and ice-cream and presents.  All of her favorites! 
Dinner: Bbq chicken, homemade mac and cheese with bacon and artichokes

Birthday candles, ice cream cake made by Thing 3, chocolate cake with sweet cream ice-cream with lots of yummy add ins! 
Such a treat to be celebrating this Thing and the gift she is to our family!

Easter Celebrating

As I was downloading photos from our recent NY trip I realized I still had Easter photos yet to be moved.  How did that happen?  Easter was almost three weeks ago and there had been no post, no photo sharing and no story telling.  I suppose life happened and all the stuff in between.  Things like continuing the tradition of Nana's Easter cookies and coloring eggs.  It really was a beautiful day.  An early service with our church, all six of us together.  A beautiful message worth celebrating because it was the third day. 
The Six of us
Eggs and Easter cookies

The Golden Egg, not very golden this year, but that smile sure is!
We came home to prepare for friends that were joining us for brunch.  Food was cooked, the spread laid out and then we waited.  And they came.  We feasted, the kids played.  There was a reprieve and then they joined us once again for dinner.  The weather was beyond perfect, sun shining and bright blue skies graced our day.  Things walked to the local coffee shop, played outside, drew with sidewalk chalk and went on bike rides.  Glorious.  All while the Dads went for a run around the lakes and the Moms chatted on the balcony, soaking in the Sonshine.  Yes, that was intentional and corny and so very true.  Thing 1 found the golden egg, after only a year of not she reestablished her winning streak.  We thanked God for the day He gave us and the gift of His son.  And not to be forgotten the blessing of having people to share it with. 
Easter brunch on the balcony with friends

Fourteen Now

Happiest of birthdays to you today Thing 3.  I feel like it's been said all before but I must say it again.  So you know to the depths of your soul just how much you are truly loved.  Without you, there would be no Gilly-Bean and what a sad place the world would be. 
Where to begin?  How about with the latest and greatest from this year.  You have come to be known as the baker of the family.  From cookies to cupcakes the skill with which you operate in the kitchen is unmatched in this house.  And with such joy.  An overflow from your heart, your pure servant's heart.  We have watched your generous and patient spirit develop into a true gift.  There have also been moments of courage.  Where fear has crept in, only to be conquered.  You taught me so very much as I watched you grapple with the realities of life.  Smiling on the other side of the experience and learning more about yourself in the process.  The creative nature of your being has flourished and your sense of self is being shared with the world around you.  Thank you.  Thank you for sharing and being brave and creating memories.  Thank you for making a difference and serving and loving.  Mostly for loving.  That is so powerful.  I appreciate your eye for detail.  The care with which you operate, even in the smallest and most mundane of tasks.  Your work ethic is something be desired.  Diligence and planning are strengths and procrastination is not even in your vocabulary.  Horses are a passion and not a day goes by where  you are not asking for your very own.  Keep dreaming sister!  Bigger and bolder, don't ever stop.  You have embraced the piano.  Teaching yourself Ce-Lo and Adele, purely by ear.  Whoa.  I love hearing your music.  Sweet, sweet music. 
As always I pray the year ahead is full to overflow with joy and discovery.  Pressing in to the Creator who designed you uniquely, who knows the number of hairs on your head and who gives you purpose.  I love you Gilly Bean, around the world and again.  Happy 14th birthday!