2018 Chicago Trip

The 2018 edition of our annual trip to Chicago returned to Memorial Day Weekend.  The recap follows below:

Saturday, May 26th, 2018:

Alan and I arrived at Hopkins in the early evening, following Alan’s afternoon piano lessons (fortunately baseball practice had been cancelled for the holiday weekend, since we were still a little tired from our late night downtown).

We loved seeing the Cavaliers signage around the airport!

As we waited for our flight to Chicago, Alan passed the time by reading some books he found.  He entertained himself for quite a while.

Before long, we were off to O’Hare.  Once we arrived, Alan requested a quick stop at Target for chips and Hot Wheels cars (otherwise known as life’s necessities).  Then it was time to head to the house and immediately bring out the Lincoln Logs!

Sunday, May 27th, 2018:

As soon as Alan woke up, he picked up where he left off the night before with the Lincoln Logs and cars.  Jill joined him and soon their farm took shape!

Once we left the house, the [obvious] first stop was the Chicago Botanic Garden for the model train display!  It remains the premier destination and highlight of Alan’s trip.  For the first time, we saw the caterpillar train car out on the track!

We took a couple laps around the train display and took many photos, but didn’t stay quite as long as normal due to the unseasonably warm temperatures (mid 90s).

Note:  We made sure to wear our Cavaliers shirts all day in advance of Game 7 vs. the Celtics later that night!  I wore the “Whatever It Takes” shirt that we got at the Q while attending Game 7 vs. Indiana together.

After seeing the trains, we all went to another familiar destination — the Highland Park mini golf course!  When Alan has a favorite go-to spot, he makes sure to enjoy it.

For the first time in several years, no one got a hole-in-one.  While we were golfing, we heard the song “Whatever It Takes” playing on the loudspeakers.  Hearing those lyrics — which double as the Cavaliers’ 2018 playoff slogan — felt like a great omen for the game later that night!  Alan and I love that song now.

After golf, we headed to one of Alan’s universal favorite places — McDonald’s.  Alan got his lunch there and then sat patiently with a word search activity while the adults had their lunch at Rhapsody Café.

After a brief rest at home, the next stop was the Deerfield Public Library.  Alan assembled a very long train and had a great time driving it up and down the ramps he created for it.

While we were there, the Indians rallied to score five runs in the 9th inning vs. the Astros to force extra innings.  The Indians would later win it in 14 innings on a Greg Allen walk-off HR(!) when we were picking up milk at Walgreens and following on our phones.  I also saw that as a good omen for the Cavaliers, since the Indians won an extra inning game the same day the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 in 2016 (Dan Otero even got the win both days).

Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but for dinner I suggested Il Forno Pizzeria.  Why?  Because it’s where we picked up dinner exactly two years ago (5/27/16) before we watched the Cavaliers beat the Raptors to win the Eastern Conference!

And sure enough, we watched the Cavaliers win the Eastern Conference for the 4th straight season in a thriller!  Alan watched the whole thing and pretended to be a coach.  He told the Celtics when to miss — and they listened, scoring just 79 points.  🙂  We knew the Cavaliers couldn’t have done it without Alan!

As we watched the Cavaliers raise up their trophy during the postgame ceremony, I thought back to a prophetic declaration that Alan made earlier in the month (on his own volition) that the Raptors and Celtics couldn’t beat LeBron James.  He was right, and it was a great night that we won’t soon forget!

Monday, May 28th, 2018:

The next morning we braved the heat once again and celebrated Memorial Day back at the Botanic Garden to see the trains.  When we went looking for the butterfly/lady bug/caterpillar train car to see whose turn it was in the rotation, we were surprised to find none of the above.  Instead we found a special patriotic train car!

Once Alan got his fill of trains for the trip, we got takeout (McDonalds’s and Panera, respectively) for lunch, then went on to round 2 of mini-golf.  Again no holes-in-one for any of us, but we had a great time on the course!

After mini-golf, Alan took his annual ride on the train with Jill.  This time they traveled from Deerfield to Glenview, where Robbie and I picked them up.  Alan opted to ride on the second level of the train, which he always chooses.

On our way home, we got take out from Naf Naf Grill.  After eating dinner, we took our annual photos by the famous tree (see beginning of post) and then headed to Maplewood Park for Alan to play.  Alan did a little rock-climbing and also entertained himself by sending some cars he brought with him down the big slide.


Tuesday, May 29th, 2018:

The next morning we took an early flight home so Alan could get back for piano and a baseball game.  Alan found our gate for us at O’Hare.

Thanks to Robbie and Jill for hosting us for another fantastic weekend.  As usual, Alan had a great time.  The trip was a great way to kick-off Alan’s summer!

Tribe Game No. 1 of 2018

It took three tries, but tonight Alan and I finally made it to our first Indians game of the season.  The Indians were rained out during our first attempt on April 15th.  Then the Cavaliers Game 7 vs Indiana changed our plans a couple week later on April 29th.  But the third time was a charm — and the Cavaliers were still a big part of the night.

The first Indians game of the year is usually exciting for Alan because he’s interested to see the changes made to the Kids Clubhouse and the Family Deck.  This year he was thrilled to see the return of the train table after a 1-year hiatus!  He ended up playing there all game long and made several new friends.  I told him he was the manager of the train table, as he made sure everyone had a turn and got along.

Fortunately for us, Game 6 of the Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference Finals matchup vs the Celtics was on a TV right next to the train table, so neither of us had to move….except of course when I got Alan his big box of popcorn and he took a break to go down the slide!

As luck would have it, at the same time the Cavaliers game ended (with a Cavaliers win!), the Indians fireworks show began.  Alan watched the fireworks from a great vantage point inside the Kids Clubhouse — really making it a one-stop shop for us on this night.

After the fireworks show, we walked through the party on the plaza and then through East 4th Street so Alan could see what a Cavaliers victory party looks like downtown.  When LeBron scores 46 points in 46 minutes to force a Game 7, bedtime is no longer a priority.  😉

Following tonight’s excitement, Alan’s end-of-1st-Grade blowout weekend will continue with a trip to Chicago tomorrow!

1st Grade Memories

Alan’s first grade year at Millridge is now complete.  We had a lot of fun together along the way, highlighted by the three classroom parties, Alan’s family day during his week as the featured student, and of course the memorable Field Trip to Progressive Field!

In addition to those special events, these are some other memories that will stay with me for a while:

Special Memories

-The hug Alan gave me when we took a photo together after presenting his “All About Me” poster rivaled the one I wrote about in the Kindergarten Memories post one year ago.  Same kind of feel.

-I loved our hang-out time at McDonald’s — where we went after almost every Millridge event together.  We loved going there and reminiscing about the funny things that happened at school.  Even yesterday, Alan was laughing about the time during the Progressive Field Trip and Mrs. Russo jokingly told me that Alan was a troublemaker.

Praise for Alan

-During Alan’s Parent-Teacher conference in October, Mrs. Russo said she specifically requested Alan in her class because of his reputation from Kindergarten as a great student.

-In a May email, Mrs. Russo thanked Veronica and I for “raising such a wonderful boy.”  The next day she thanked me again at Progressive Field Day.

-That being said, it was not a surprise Alan was 1) the first Student of the Month honored in his class and 2) the “WOW” award winner for this class.

Challenges Overcome

-We survived a few different challenges this year, including a stretch from Oct. 13 – 19 in which I prepared all of Alan’s meals and was responsible for him getting to school.  It wasn’t easy to keep him fed when he relies on his grandma’s cooking, but, with a rice cooker, we found a way to get by.  I loved having the chance to write him notes and leave them in his lunch bag though.  And I loved driving him to school every day.

-Alan also struggled through three bouts with strep that contributed to 16 absences this year.  Fortunately none of the absences ever came on event days, though we had some close calls.

-Going into the year my biggest concern was how Alan would respond with his core group of friends from Kindergarten – Grady, Noah, Brady, and Xavier – split up into different first grade classrooms.  But he made new friends within his first grade class pretty quickly and the rest was history.  I think inviting his whole first grade class to his bowling party early in the school year ended up being beneficial in that regard.

Overall, it was a rewarding year for both Alan and I.  Now it’s onto summer break and gearing up for second grade!

Last Day of 1st Grade

This morning I continued the tradition of taking a photo of Alan at the bus stop on the last day of the school year.  And Alan continued the tradition of not finishing chewing his breakfast in time. 🙂

At school, the kids had an all-grades awards assembly in the morning.  Alan received the “WOW” (What an Oustanding Worker) award for his class, which went to the student that “best demonstrates a positive work ethic in the classroom and always gives 110%.”  Alan’s name was called during the assembly and he came to the front of the gym.  There he took a photo with the other first grade recipients.

From 11am-12, the school had an outdoor picnic for the kids featuring hot dogs and chips.  Parents were invited, so I was there too.  Alan ate his lunch with me on the playground equipment that he named the “speed rover” (shown in the Spring Book Fair post).  De’Onta, Ella, and Brooklyn later came over to join us.

When Alan was eating a popsicle on the swings, Ella — who has tended to make her way into my photos of Alan this year — invited Alan to play with her.  Alan described it as “nice, but also annoying” that she wanted to play with Alan the whole time and didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

After the picnic I went home, but then met Alan at the bus stop.  I waited for him while he finished building the Lego fire station that he bought with a $140 piano scholarship that he just received at the Music Settlement.

Then we hung out at McDonald’s and talked about his last day of school.  He told me about the 5th grade “clap out” ceremony and commented that it’s always a little sad when school ends.  He’d probably be fine going to school year-round if that was possible.

ABC Countdown – Week 6

“ABC Countdown” recap from the past week:

Monday was “Walk Day.”  Alan and his class walked laps around the outside of the school.

Tuesday was “eXchange Autographs Day.”  Alan’s class brought in white shirts and the kids took turns signing them for each other (pictured above).

Other notes about Tuesday:  In the morning, the first graders had their field day outside (despite the AM rain).  Then in the afternoon, the kids visited each of the second grade classrooms to prepare for next school year. 

Wednesday was “Year-End Clean Up Day.”  Alan packed up his desk belongings and took home a heavy backpack.  He wore his baseball shirt to class, which he was very proud of.

Thursday was “Zip Up and Zoom Home Day.”  It was an eventful Last Day of 1st Grade!  Alan brought home the last remaining item from his desk – his pencil box.  He loves his pencils (all themes and colors), so I bought him an electric pencil sharpener for home use this summer and beyond.

Opening Week

The Mayfield Mighty Mites baseball season is officially underway!  Alan’s team — the Yankees — played through a rain-soaked and shortened opener on 5/12/18.  Then they were rained out completely on 5/14/18.  So today’s game (5/21/18) felt more like the true kick-off to the season.

Updates and stats will be shared here all season long.  Here’s the breakdown so far:

On 5/12/18, Alan put two balls in play but was retired on great plays by fielders.  In the field, he played RF and pitcher’s helper, as the coach likes his ability to field ground balls.  The result of the game was a loss to the Giants.

Today, 5/21/18, Alan went 2-for-3 with two singles and a fielder’s choice ground-out.  He was excited to run the bases three times, and even scored from 2nd on a single for his first run scored of the season.  I coached third and waved him home!  In the field, he played RF and LF and got the ball into the infield quickly on a couple hits.  The result of the game was a loss to the Red Sox.

Note: Alan is wearing #2 for the Yankees this year, which he wanted because it’s his second year playing in an organized baseball league.  He wore #1 last year.

Alan’s Favorite Activities

First grade – Part IV – edition of the Top 10:

-Visiting playgrounds and parks – especially now that the weather is warm!

-Doubling up on batting practice and playground time on Friday nights at the Mayfield Community Park.

-Tracking results of the NBA playoffs on a bracket print-out.  Alan watched some of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals from Grandma Debbie’s on Saturday, including when LeBron made a three to put the Cavs up by 20 on the Celtics.

-Championship races!

-Making forts with Tyler and Carleigh at Grandma Debbie’s!

-Learning baseball team logos using a set of mini batting helmets and the following map:

-Thinking about cars he’d like to buy when he’s older.  Alan currently wants to own a blue Subaru, a red Chevy, and a gray Kia.  He’d also like to buy Grandma Debbie a black Porsche.

-Playing badminton – Alan’s latest new sport

-ABC Countdown at school!  Alan’s really looked forward to each daily activity over the past month.

-Making race tracks on Grandma Debbie’s coffee table every weekend!

ABC Countdown – Week 5

“ABC Countdown” recap from the past week:

Monday was “Rock Star Day.”  Mrs. Russo was absent, so this activity actually got moved to Tuesday.  Alan’s class listened to their favorite Kidz Bop songs!

Tuesday was “Show and Tell Day.”  Alan brought in his newest Lego – a coast guard rescue boat and jeep – which he just bought last Friday night (pictured above).

Wednesday was “Take a Break Day.”  Alan said his class took more study breaks than usual during the day.  During one break, the kids painted with their art docent (pictured below).

Thursday was “Unhealthy Snack Day.”  Alan brought in Cool Ranch-flavored Doritos.

Friday was “Video Day.”  Alan’s class watched Finding Dory and ate donuts that Mrs. Russo brought in for the class (the kids voted on a donut party for their latest class reward).  Alan ate a glazed donut.

One other note about Friday:  Alan delivered a card to Mrs. Russo that he made for her (pictured below).  He’s enjoyed first grade so much!

ABC Countdown – Week 4

“ABC Countdown” recap from the past week:

Monday was “Mismatch Day.”  Alan wore one long black sock that he normally wears for ice skating, along with one of his regular white socks.  That was his choice.

Tuesday was “Necklaces and Neckties Day.”  Alan wore his new green and blue tie (pictured above).

Wednesday was “Outside Day.”  Alan and his class read outside in the courtyard during normal classroom time.

Thursday was “Popcorn Day.”  Alan and his class went to Progressive Field for a tour and then to Squire’s Castle for lunch!  After the field trip they ran out of time in the school day, so the class had to eat their popcorn the next day.

Friday was “Quiet Read-in Day.”  Alan brought in Ten Tiny Dinosaurs, which he got at the Spring Book Fair after school on Wednesday.  He read inside the classroom on the reading carpet.  And ate popcorn!

One other note about Friday:  While unrelated to ABC Countdown, Alan performed on the piano during Music class.  He proudly played “Clair de Lune” for the whole class!

Progressive Field Day

Alan’s end-of-year field trip was to a familiar place:  Progressive Field!  Alan, along with the entire first grade, took a school bus to the ballpark this morning for a tour.  Luckily, parents got to join too!

After dodging some early rain drops, the kids started their tour under mostly sunny skies.  The first stop for Alan’s group was the Home Plate Club – a spot Alan had never been inside before.  Then it was onto the elevators and up to the press box, where Alan had a bird’s-eye view of the grounds crew preparing the field for the Indians’ upcoming homestand.

After seeing the Infinity Club and the dining room for the all-you-can-eat club seats, it was back down the elevators to the lowest level of the ballpark.  While waiting for everyone to get downstairs, the kids got a little restless.  So one parent kept them occupied by encouraging them to do wall push-ups. 🙂

Before long,  the kids entered the playing surface from behind home plate.  It was Alan’s first time in that spot since he was in the Kids Starting Lineup last year.  Then it was off to sit in the Indians dugout!  He had walked past the dugout many times but had never been able to go inside previously.  Just as the kids were getting up, there was an Andrew Miller sighting!


The final stop on the tour was at the batting cages in between the clubhouses.  It reminded Alan of the batting cages at the Wildcat Fitness Center — only larger.

After the tour concluded, Alan’s class took a group photo and then lined up to board the buses.  Meanwhile I picked up some pencils and pens for Alan at the Team Shop.

But fortunately that wasn’t the end of the field trip!  For lunch, the first graders got to visit Square’s Castle in the Metroparks, where they had a picnic.  The kids ate their lunches on blankets and then played afterwards.  Alan and I played with a kickball for a bit before he went to join a zombie-chasing game at the castle with Grady, Colin, and Brady.

After fun time was over, Alan took the bus back to school.  I picked him up there and drove him to McDonald’s — our customary stop after sharing time together at school.  🙂

Spring Book Fair

This evening Alan and I went to the spring book fair at Millridge.  Alan wanted to get a book where he could practice telling time, so he picked out PJ Masks: It’s Time to Save the Day!  He also chose Ten Tiny Dinosaurs – another book in the counting series that he enjoyed from the previous book fair!

Afterwards, since the weather was so nice, Alan played out on the playground.  He showed me his “speed vehicle” that he pretend-drives with Xavier during recess (below, left) and went down the highest slide (below, right).


Sun and Baseball

This weekend was the first weekend of spring with warm weather and no rain, and Alan took full advantage.  He practiced hitting at the community park on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, with a Saturday morning team practice mixed in between.  After practicing hitting, Alan played at the nearby playground – one of this favorites – each time.

Also, on Saturday night, Alan played outside by Grandma Debbie’s pond with Tyler and Carleigh.  Alan’s favorite part was throwing rocks into the pond.  Alan found it funny when one of Tyler’s throws didn’t go far enough and splashed them both with mud.

It won’t be long until Alan will get to play outside every weekend!

Bank Shot

Last night LeBron James hit a walk-off, game winner in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to put the Cavs up 3-0 on the Raptors.  If it looked familiar, that’s because someone else banked in an angled shot from a similar spot on the court earlier this season.

Who shot it better – Alan or LeBron?

Alan was asleep at the time LeBron made his shot, but he watched part of the first quarter at Grandma Debbie’s house.  Now that Alan understands how an NBA champion is determined, he’s been excited to update his NBA playoffs bracket as teams advance.  He can’t wait to move the Cavaliers forward again!

ABC Countdown – Week 3

“ABC Countdown” recap from the past week:

Monday was “Hat Day.”  Alan wore his navy blue Indians hat with a red block C.  It’s his go-to hat for school occasions.

Tuesday was “Icy Treat Day.”  It was a nice weather day, so Alan ate an orange popsicle (his favorite flavor) outside with his class while writing in his journal.  He said he wrote about his favorite recess activities.

Wednesday was “Jammie Day.”  Alan wore his Brutus Buckeye pants and a shirt with a motorcycle on it.

Thursday was “Kindness Day.”  Alan said his class did something special for the teachers at school.  He said that included making crowns for them.

Friday was “Laughter & Lemonade Day.”  It was another nice weather day, so the first grade classes went back outside (pictured above).  Alan said he tried lemonade, and he told the following clever joke to his friends:

Q:  Why did the cookie go to the doctor?

A:  Because he felt crumby!