Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How we "do" Chicago....

I can't tell you home many emails, FB messages and texts I get asking me about details for Chicago.  So I'm going to put it all down here.  Partially for my own I don't forget these fun weekends and partially for YOUR maybe you can create some of your own fun memories! :)

It always starts with this desire to flee.  This happens to me a lot. :) I love to GO. Spontaneity fuels me. Thank goodness I have Paul...he evens it all out.  So the first thing I do is check train rates at  We absolutely love to take the train.  Why? Lots of reasons.  We get to relax on the way into the city.  We bring a cooler.  Snacks and drinks.  (We literally bought a backpack cooler JUST for our trips to Chicago.  If you'd like your own backpack cooler, might I recommend this one... ) It also saves us on parking.  If you stay in downtown Chicago, you will pay $40/night for parking. NO.JOKE.
It is hard for this small town Iowa girl to justify that.  So we park free at the train station.


  • We leave out of Princeton, IL--it takes 1 hour and THIRTY minutes to get there from Muscatine.  Give yourself time! We had to RUN to catch our train this time.  As in...we opened the car door and heard the train whistle and grabbed our bags and SPRINTED across the tracks as it was pulling up.  The train station lady was furious.  Everyone within a 2 mile radius had to hear her bellow at us "NEXT TIME YOU NEED TO ARRIVE 30 MINUTES BEFORE THE TRAIN ARRIVES!!" right.  30 minutes.  got it. (or not...seriously, you really need to arrive 15 minutes MAX in advance.)
  • The train takes 2 hours.  There are different trains.  We love the double decker that has the observation car on top.  Full of windows.  But when we take the night train into town, that isn't an option.  Plus, it's we don't really need to look at the black cornfields.
  • The train is not fancy.  So don't go expecting luxury. I do not want to mislead you.  There are people who have been riding for days.  They are sleeping.  And snoring. :) You will not be treated like kings or queens.  There are really no rules. (we love that part! ha!)  Just want you to be prepared. 
  • The prices are awesome. We usually get round trip tickets for two for around $60.  (yes...$30/person. total. round trip.) We have paid as little as $48 and as much as $80) It's always a little cheaper out of Princeton over Galesburg or Burlington. AND...if you have AAA, you get 10% off.  Which we have.  Bonus.
(above photo taken from our hotel room window)

  • We always book through We swear by this.  We request at least 3.5 stars. We "name your own price". When you do this you do NOT get to pick your amenities.  And you usually don't get a pool.  So if you are going with kids, keep that in mind.  We never spend much time at the hotel anyway, so it doesn't bother us.
  • Usually we can get the hotel for under $100/night. And they are ALWAYS nice.  This last time we got a 3 star and it was still very very nice and 1 block off Michigan Ave on Ontario.  Location is important to us because we don't have a car and we don't take taxis for the most part.  
  • When you bid on your hotel, you get to pick your location. We always select "Millenium Park, The Loop and Grant Park area" or "North Michigan Ave area". We have never been disappointed in our hotels.  Not once.
  • If we go in the summer, we try to hit a game.  We always get tickets at . We get tickets on this site for ALL of the MLB games we go to.  Usually you can find great prices and decent seats.
  • If you go to Wrigley and want to be able to walk to the game, your choices are SUPER limited.  We have only found ONE hotel that is decent and within walking distance in Wrigleyville.  It is cute and if you are JUST going to hit a game, you may want to stay HERE. It's cute and close.  If you take the train in to downtown, you'll need to get off amtrak and walk to the RED LINE.  You get off at Addison.  We did this with Brigg one time and had a blast.  With Brigg it was nice to be close to the field.  Plus, the boys hit a night game on Friday and a day game again on Saturday, so it was super convenient. 
  • If you want to tear up downtown though, I suggest staying downtown and just taking the RED LINE to the game.
  • This trip we went to a White Sox game and also just took the RED LINE to US Cellular field.  Also got tix at stub hub and had a blast meeting Leah and Jeff there....
  • Because we take the train, we pack light.  Backpacks only.  I really would suggest this for the train.  It's kind of crazy when you get off in downtown Chicago and have a suitcase you are lugging around.  I just bought this bag and LOVE IT!!!!! (Thanks to Leslie Bennett for the suggestion!!) Seriously perfect for our Chicago weekends!
  • There really aren't any rules on the train for luggage that I'm aware of. We always have a big backpack and then the backpack cooler.  On the way home the cooler is empty and we throw anything we bought in there. 

  • This is the first time we hit up a Broadway show and we LOVED IT!!!  Seriously loved it!  SO FUN!!  I'm not sure Paul would have loved just ANY show...but this one was perfect.  The best music ever.  Just the right amount of humor and inappropriateness and music and story line.  Simply awesome.  We would have gone again in a heartbeat.
  • We went to the 4:00 show.  Nobody was super dressed up.  They sold drinks.  $6/drink.  CASH ONLY.  All things I wish I would have known. :)
  • We also went to a show at The Second City. A comedy club that many SLN stars come out of. If you like stand up comedy, you will love this.  I thought it was very funny.  It wasn't Paul's favorite. He looked at me at intermission and said, "I think I'm just spoiled by being surrounded by hilarious people all the time.  I don't think it's that funny!" I laughed. 

  •  We walk EVERYWHERE.  Usually when we get off the train we take a taxi to our hotel.  Usually around $10.  We just like to GET THERE and then get our bearings.  That is the only time we hop in a taxi.  Otherwise, we walk and walk and walk and walk and walk.  I love it.
  • The food is always amazing.  I absolutely LOVE having options.  So many options.  I don't even know where to start.  If you google or FB, you will find ANYTHING you want.  Awesome.
  • Sunday morning nothing is open until noon.  You need to know this.  The city sleeps until noon.  Then it gets nuts.  :) Another little fact to be aware of!
  • Truth is...we just love being together.  The end.   We laugh harder and live lighter when we are together. It helps to have the games and the shows and the bars and the city atmosphere.  But those are just bonus items.  I can't tell you that Chicago is the best place on earth.  I can only tell you that when Paul and I are there together, there is nowhere else we'd rather be.  But I'm thinking I have said this before.  Like when we were in Maine together.  Or St. Louis together.  or Minneapolis together.  Or Colorado together.  Or Florida together. So it appears that the TOGETHER part is the common theme here I won't make promises of the most fun in your whole entire life.  I would just suggest DOING Chicago with someone your love and who makes you laugh and who wants to suck every last bit of life out of every moment with you. :) just sayin....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Looking back....

I just read a blog post of my sister.
She made mention of Tate starting kindergarten and I instantly thought back to that moment on the front step with Brigg as we waited for the bus.
For real.  I feel like it was yesterday.
And now this...
ugh...he heads to his last year of elementary this year.
i'm not kidding....a BLINK.

if you want to reminisce with me, you can check out that blog post from 5 years ago here...
(i have no idea why, but all my pics from my wordpress blog are pixelated.  i hate that.  but my words are all the same.  and it has been 5 YEARS. yikes)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do you know Paul?

If you don't, you should.
I'm not kidding.
You would love him.
Shortly after Paul and I started dating, I was working at Dillards in Waterloo.  This woman came in with a little newborn.  I asked his name.  She said "Paul!"
I thought this was interesting because you don't hear of a lot of babies named Paul.
I asked her if it was a family name or had any meaning and she simply said, "Ya know, when we were coming up with names I told my husband I had never met a Paul I didn't love!"
True story.
And it holds true for my Paul.
As a matter of fact I have been know to say aloud, "Everybody that meets Paul loves him...sometimes it's almost annoying!" (totally kidding, OF COURSE!)
And MY Paul turns 40 today. (what?!?!  is that even possible?? that's OLD! :))
Paul is exceptional.  He is by far the most humble man I have ever known in my life. He never tells you what he's good at. He has a calm, quiet, strong presence about him.  Perfectly suited for me...seeing as I may have the exact OPPOSITE presence about me.
It may take a little while to get to know him.  But when you do, you find that his dry sense of humor and quick wit can may you laugh harder than you have ever laughed in your life.
I love that about him.
He is the absolute perfect role model for our kids.  Especially Brigg. He knows how to take care of and love his family. If Brigg turned out exactly like him, I would be ecstatic.
He is the glue to our family.  Our rock.  Our constant support.  Our strong foundation.
And I love him.
And I really have no idea what I did to deserve him.  But I am thankful.  Thankful that God helped us find eachother and that Paul continues to put up with me after all these years.
Happy 40th, Paul. 
Thank you for being you.
Thank you for supporting us and love us and making our dreams YOUR dreams.
With all that we are, we love you....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Camp Cassie 2012

I set the date months ago.
Because honestly, we all lead busy lives.  And it's so easy to get caught up in life and pass over these kinds of things.  I know it would have turned out to be "shoot! we just don't have time to fit it in!" if we didn't plan in months in advance.
And trust me...I don't want to miss this weekend.
I'm not gonna's not simple.  It's not about just ME or MY kids.  It's a group thing.  Lots of personalities.  Lots of potential problems. Lots of planning and preparation.
And lots and lots of fun! :)
9 kids ranging in age from 2-11.
COMPLETELY impossible without my MIL, Donna and my hubby.  And this year, my babysitter, Molli.

This year is declared a success!
Seriously.  As perfect as it could have been with this many young kids.
I plan the crap out of things.  EVERY SINGLE MINUTE planned.
But I am also super flexible.  I don't think for a second that we will get through everything.  But I want to have plans so we don't have TIME to run into conflicts.  and works.  When they are busy they don't have time to drive each other nuts.

We get together as families a lot.  I love my family and my inlaws.  So much that when I am with them, I just want to be WITH them.  We kind of leave the kids to enjoy each other and we do the same.  And it works.  We always have fun.  But usually when we go our own ways, I feel like I haven't gotten any time with my nieces and nephews.  So this is a different kind of weekend.  It is ALL about the kids.  Every single second.  Impossible to do every time we gather, but fun to do once a year. :)

As Donna and Paul can attest, it is madness.  Seriously.  It takes buckets of energy. From the adults mostly. We don't have time to chat and catch up.  We don't lounge around and have drinks and laugh at stories.  We do activities.  One after another.  And I take photos.  And hopefully we create tons of memories.  Looking back at the photos today, I can see that fun was had. And the feeling in my heart is awesome.  I love them all more today that I did Friday afternoon, if that's possible.

So I'll leave you with one photo for now. Timer. Wild Cat Den. Hiking. Picnic. The ONLY photo of everyone.  I love it.  More fun stories to come.
But for now....YAY for Camp Cassie 2012.
(now i'm going to go nap...)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Brigg. Now 11.

i say it every.single.year.
"this is my favorite age"!
i swear i have felt that from day 1 with this child.
i'm beginning to think it's just the child. and his nature. and the ease of parenting him. :)
i've been pretty reflective the past couple weeks on the relationship i have with brigg and why.
he's my only special.
his exudes excitement for life...i love that.
he loves people and chaos and laughter and do i.
he possesses the perfect blend of light-heartedness, passion, wit, silliness, intensity, and joy.
i simply adore him.
ADORE him.
and today he is 11.
i could almost cry.
i'm not sure if they would be tears of sadness because he is growing up right before my very eyes or tears of happiness because of the young man he is becoming.
i wish i could push the pause button and just soak this time up with him.  i know the day is coming where he finds me annoying and embarrassing.  but today.  right now in this's the perfect age in my book.
he still loves me.
and tells me.
and hugs me.
and likes to be with me.
and laughs with me.
he hugs me and throws me the "i love you" sign at least once a day.
he knows when i'm frustrated and he'll grab my hand and squeeze it.
he seems to know just the right thing to say to me when my own intensity and passion rises to the surface and then overflows.
like i said "this is my favorite age".
and i mean it.
Brigg Thomas,
From the deepest parts of our hearts, we love you.  Your laugh is infectious, your intensity pairs perfectly with your love of life.  From that first moment we saw your face and heard your small cry, we were smitten.  Big brother, first born, only wear each hat gracefully and perfectly.  As the years pass and we see you growing into this mini-adult, our prayer for you grows as well. That you heart is filled with God...the one who created you and loves you more than your dad and I can even fathom. That in your presence, those around you can feel His love through you.  That you take the gifts HE has given you and use them to the fullest for His glory.  That you hold none of it back...just like you give it all on the baseball field or the basketball court, we pray that you freely hand out all that love, compassion, and joy for life to everyone you meet.  That you grow completely into the man of God that we know you have the potential to be.
Big prayers and dreams for a 65 pound boy with a giant heart.
We have no doubt you will fulfill them all.
With everything that we are...we love you.
Happy birthday.
Happy happy birthday.

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

believe it. live it.

simply stated.
pretty much my life goal.
love it.

and now some photos to go along with the words in the previous post

so we are teaching our kids to be misfits.
it's our hope and dream for each of them.
shouldn't be a huge stretch for a couple of them...but one..we are really going to have to push it! ;)
 and remember that land i have been dreaming about.
it looks like this.
minus the cows.
i'm not ready for cows.
but the trees...yes please.
and the creek...absolutely.
no cows though...
 brigg played in the state baseball tournament last week.
he looked like this on the way home.
always leaves it all on the field.
love him...
with my co-worker, cheryl.
math is our focus.
hard work...but so exciting.
i love this stuff.
i have officially found my sweet spot.
 oh my.
dance mom?
but man...she is adorable!
 we can often be found at the vineyard near our house on the weekend.
sunday a jazz band was there.
and the so were the burbacks.
baseball, wine and jazz.
perfect combo...
 after we got home from the state baseball tournament, we did this....
i swear...the kids is the energizer bunny.
never stops.
we have been feeding him protein shakes.
trying to "bulk him up".
wish us luck with that.

and there you have it.
our life in pictures.
and thank goodness for instagram.
i have barely touched my camera this summer.
but instagram has captured all those fun moments for me.
love it.
my favorite app for sure.
if you want to follow me, my user name is cassicab


so much going on.  i'm just going to start typing.
we have been traveling like crazy this summer.  obviously.  our time at home is precious to us though.  we get so much use out of our community pool.  when we are home we try to hit it at least once a day.  oftentimes 3 times a day. :) our favorite are night swims...when it's just US.  in the dark.  somehow i think the kids get along better when they can't really SEE eachother's faces. :)

ayla has started dance.  she loves it.  like seriously loves it.  she is such a good listener there.  the other day her shoe had come undone and she wouldn't take her hands off her hips to fix it because the teacher had told her to keep her hands on her hips.  too cute. i'm the worst dance mom on the planet, but i am always willing to suck it up and forge ahead when it involves my kids loving something.  we'll see if she misses it after summer.  i'm going to try to get away with JUST summer dance this year.  we'll see.

paul turns 40 on july 31.  seriously.  old man. :) i begged him to do something fun.
like go on a trip.
(my favorite thing to do!!)
but i remembered that we weren't actually celebrating MY birthday and i let him decide.
all he wants is to stay home.
how did we end up together??? :)
so we are having a pool party.
just family.
a little golf in the morning.
food and swimming in the afternoon.
nothing fancy.
darn it!

brigg turns 11 on friday. (yes...friday the 13th.  and actually he was BORN on friday the 13th.  fun!)
we are going to just do cake and celebrate his and my nephew bode's birthdays on friday.
then saturday we are packing up and heading to minneapolis. (he's his mother's son!)
we are going with 2 other families and going to a Twin's game on saturday night.
sunday morning we will get up and head to the color run!!!
SO PUMPED about this!!!
watch the video and you will be, too!

if you are interested in running your own color run, check out the website here!

lani is just lani.  goes with the flow.  LOVES swimming.  hasn't been doing too much horseback riding this summer.  just relaxing.  so sweet.  such a blessing to our family.

and i am working quite a bit.  i'm on a couple committees.  getting anxious for the upcoming school year.  going to do things SO DIFFERENT this year!  i'm PUMPED! lots of planning and prepping for it this summer, but i will be ready for the school year to begin in august!!

still dreaming and dreaming and dreaming about buying a big piece of land and building a tiny house in the middle of it.   you can check out all of my ideas and dreams bouncing around in my head on my pinterest board HERE.

that's all for now.  i need to go pick up willow from the groomer and my car from it's oil change. 
happy halfway through summer!! :)
i'll try to be back soon!

Friday, June 29, 2012

While mom is away...

The kids will still play.
Or not.
Brigg us filling in on the 10u tribe this weekend at state. He has been GIDDY for over a week.
So anxious to play with canon again.
They got there today and games r postponed. Apparently a killer storm is passing thru.
I wouldn't know.
I'm in Dallas.
Possibly laid over for eternity. :)
And it is HOT here.
I prefer the pacific nw weather over this ANY DAY!
Anxious to get home and watch these boys tear it up at state....
(Seriously...they r adorable!)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Decided Saturday that a last minute trip to Seattle was needed.
Booked a flight for Tuesday.
This how it works with 2 busy friends who live a million miles apart, see eachother once a year and have lots and lots of busy children between the 2 of them.
I left Iowa at 7 pm and arrived in Seattle about midnight (seattle that means 2 am on my internal clock).
The airport was insane and Jody lives quite a distance from the airport.
She pulled up to the curb between the mess of cars and a jumped in.
Conversation went a bit like this
Jody: HI!
Me: HI!
Jody: The airport is a MADHOUSE for midnight on a Tuesday.
Me: Seriously...this is like another country.  It appears you can only fly in once or twice a day.  Midnight is very popular. I cannot believe I haven't seen you in a year.
Jody (looking at me): You look exactly the same.
Me: do you.
Typical conversation.
We got to her house and climbed into bed at 2 am Seattle time.  Yes...4 am on my internal clock
We were on her dock sometime the next morning...
 Looking at this amazing view and paddle boarding and rafting.
We felt like we were 10 years old.
Lots of giggles.
Lots of catching up.
 Suddenly someone yelled from her house, "MOM! We need to go to basketball!"
I looked at Jody and said, "Seriously, you need to get in there.  WHO IS IN YOUR HOUSE? There is a MAN yelling from your window."
Or Dawson.
Apparently 13 year old boys DO change in a year's time.

We got the kids where they needed to be a decided to "hike" The Dungeness Spit.
We started here...
 Came across several of these along the way...
 Stopped for a couple timed photos, none of which turned out fabulous...
 My favorite part of this area is all the landscapes in one place.
Mountains, ocean, beach, evergreens.
I absolutely love it...

 And how can you not love this gorgeous drive on a sunny day?!?
Amazing views everywhere.
I was in awe all day long.
We found a super cute bistro on our way home.
We sat in a garden and giggled some more.
I drank organic beer.
And Jody tried to capture a bumble bee on camera for me.
Fun times.
Never to be replicated.
Remembered forever.
Love being in this amazing place with this amazing person.

We are "doing" Seattle today.
And I leave in the morning.
A year is much much to long....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 4 - Kayaking at Burback Family Beach

it was decided that today would be a day of kayaking/relax on the burback family beach day.
whoever decided this was GENIUS.
we simply plopped down in lounge chairs in our back"yard" and chilled.

 we had all the kayaks out and ready to go.
different people would go at different times. flower child. :)
 wow...that is a lot of kayaks.
 at one point becky said "hey cas...what time is it? i'm guessing 3:00."
we hadn't even considered supper.
so we cleaned out the fridge.
paul started a fire and we roasted the rest of the hot dogs.
so relaxing.
great conversation.
laughter galore.
everyone just gelling perfectly.
i wouldn't change a thing about today.
and i'm going to avoid mentioning that tomorrow is our last full day.
we are renting a pontoon tomorrow.
stay tuned.
could get interesting in the U.P.

Day 3 - Au Sable lighthouse

we found our way to a closer path to the light house and took off.
we are quite the crew on these hikes.
too funny...
 it was still very cold...but gorgeous.
the lake seriously could have been confused with the ocean.
look at those WAVES...
 the hike was 1.6 miles in.
when the light house came into sight, the kids started sprinting towards it.
the blue skies and green trees were almost too much...
 and then we saw the light house.
we thought we were going to get to tour.
um...nope. they weren't open.

 i had to post this photo.
lani did this and yelled "hey mom! does it look like i'm holding up the light house?"
ha! no...not so much, lani.  but i LOVE you!
 the kids were pretty bummed about the light house tour kabosh.
so we continued on the path a little ways and decided, once again, it is best to blaze your own trail.
 and thank goodness we did.
because we found the most beautiful beach in michigan.
i am CERTAIN of it.
 this beach called for another family photo session.
and more of my favorite pics from this trip.

 we stayed there for quite some time...until the baby informed us it was time to GO.
on our way back to the car, i saw this sign...
would have been nice to know a couple days ago.
but thanks.

we decided it had been a long, chilly day and we all needed a night at home to relax.
and that we did. 
we set up shop in our back yard...forever known as the Burback Family Beach.
paul and i sat there and listened to the kids playing and laughing for hours.
we ate supper outside.
soaked it all up.
because heaven knows reality is going to set in SOON.
day 3 was another great day.
i can't tell you the feel this vacation has.
so thankful.
feeling so refreshed.