Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Winter Wonderland from Alabama to Wisconsin

27th December 2010

From a snowy white Christmas in Alabama all the way to a winter wonderland in Shell Lake, Wisconsin

Josiah holds up his sled on the back porch

Analise and Kristine take a self-portrait while skiing

We are having a blast up here in Wisconsin. It was a long drive, but the kids have already gone sledding and skiing! See the pictures and video above.

We made it out of Alabama just in time – staying to have a nice relaxing white snowy Christmas morning with family followed by a drive up to Nashville to hang out with our cousins before finishing the rest of the drive up to Wisconsin to spend a week with Kristine’s parents in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. We heard that the roads in Alabama Saturday night and Sunday were treacherous. The roads must have literally been freezing behind us as we headed north.

As soon as we left our house and climbed up to the top of Vestavia Hills, there was quite a bit of snow coming down, much more than we had expected. There was maybe a half inch to an inch accumulating on the grass and even a little bit on the roads (Vestavia Drive / Shades Crest Rd). The snow died down a bit as we headed north on I-65, but the snow that had fallen earlier was amazing (see the picture and video below).

Wisconsin or Alabama? Actually, it’s Alabama on I-65 just north of Cullman!

We had a great time visiting our cousins in Franklin, TN just outside of Nashville. The kids were happy to play inside with all their new toys while we chatted over some yummy snack foods. Kristine and I tried Boiled Custard for the first time, and it was delicious!

Analise and Lily put on a fashion show for us. This was the Christmas line-up.

All the kids in front of the Christmas tree (Left to Right: Josiah, Analise, Lily, Levi, and Luke)

It snowed the entire time we were in Franklin, and this is the view outside our cousin’s back porch.

It snowed the entire time we were in Nahville, and the roads were very slick. We saw several accidents on I-65 including one car that swerved from the southbound lanes all the way across the median and then across the northbound lanes immediately in front of us finally coming to a rest just off the shoulder of the road pointing in our direction. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been for them.

As soon as we crossed into Kentucky, the slick roads simply became a little less slick because of all the salt on the roads. Then by the time we made it to Indiana, everything was dry and we were able to make up time all the way to Chicago. Josiah woke up as we made it into town, so he got to see several trains, several subways “L trains” and the tall skyscrapers including the Sears Tower. Once we made it through downtown and out towards the O’Hare airport, we got caught up in quite a Lake Effect snowstorm. This is us driving on I-90 near the O’Hare airport and Elk Grove Village.

Lake Effect snow in Chicago – approaching the tollbooth

As soon as we made it out of the snowstorm, it was pretty uneventful all the way to the Wisconsin Dells which we made it to by 5:45AM. We slept for a few minutes in the parking lot outside McDonalds and then went in at 6AM for a breakfast.

Wisconsin cheese – mmmm, mmmm good!

As the sun rose and we left for the final 3 hour stretch, we were greeted with snow everywhere AND cold, cold, cold temps. Check out the temperature sequence on our car thermometer as we went descending down into one of the lower valleys.

Finally, it wouldn’t have been a 20 hour drive w/o capping it off with a 60 mile bike ride. Read all about it on my cycling blog soon.

Heading out to go biking (me) and sledding (Papa Dale and the kids)

Opening presents at Grandma Sandy and Papa Dale’s house!

Posted in Adventure, News, Travel | No Comments »

An awesome wedding weekend

4th October 2009

Update 10/2 – I was typing up this post during my trip a couple weeks ago to New York.

I am in New York City this weekend for Radu and Clare’s wedding. What an awesome experience!

Saturday traditional Eastern Orthodox wedding

I arrived really early at the Union Theological Seminary not sure of how smoothly public transport would be — but it couldn’t have been any easier with a single bus going directly from the airport to a stop only a block away. I was so early in fact that I wandered around the area and along the Hudson snapping a few pictures of the huge towering cathedral at Columbia University. I met and chatted with Clare’s mom and sister in the courtyard while we waited for other family and guests to arrive. Once we were all assembled inside the entryway just outside the Lampman Chapel, we each took a lighted candle to hold for the duration of the ceremony. Violet was feeling sick so Radu and Clare took turns holding her. The priest began the first part of the ceremony where rings are exchanged praying in Romanian and then in English many blessings and directions for Radu and Clare as they enter into marriage. Then we moved into the chapel for the crowning where both Radu and Clare each received a crown of flowers representing the crown of glory that God bestows on his faithful children.

Starbucks in the heart of Harlem

After the wedding, I called Kristine and she helped navigate me to a Starbucks just past the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Just around the corner from where the wedding was, the atmosphere here is different with a nearly constant stream of people passing by the window from all races, all walks of life. Across 125th street is a series of  street-level shops that form an outdoor mall. The store directly across from me is called Home Boy Jewelry. Some stores  have one or more workers outside handing out pamphlets and chanting slogans for the store. Street vendors have booths set up all along the sidewalk, too. Just down the street is the metro station where I’ll catch the subway down to Chelsea Piers in Midtown, Manhattan for the main event tonight!

Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan

I took the subway from the 125th st station down to the stop closest to Chelsea Pier. On the way I decided to check out the Museum of Natural History on 81st street hoping that it would be free, but the entrance had a long line and a cashier so I assumed it wasn’t free and decided to cross the street to Central Park instead. I wandered over and found a “year-round” marionette puppet theater. I think Analise and Josiah would really like that the next time we visit as a family. After a brief stroll through the park, I returned to the 79th steet entrance to the subway and continued the rest of the way down to 23rd street. As soon as I exited the stairs to 23rd street, what should I see — another Starbucks.  I hadn’t had lunch yet so I dropped in grabbed a bite to eat,  and now I have  two more hours of wireless internet.

Wedding on the Hudson River

We boarded the Mariner III at about 5:30 for a sunset cruise and wedding ceremony. We cruised down the Hudson and drifted to a location right next to Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop for the exchanging of vows – which was a beautiful setting for a beautiful ceremony. After an hour of cocktails and mingling and chatting, we headed back upstairs for a dinner under the dusk and night sky as we cruised on the East River under the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and almost all the way to Queensborough bridge before turning around to head back to the Hudson side. After dinner it was time for some wild dancing including a traditional Romanian circle dance where one person dances in the middle and then selects somebody of the opposite sex to take their place in the middle by looping a rolled pillow suitcase around their neck and pulling them towards the middle. This process repeats until the song ends and just about everybody has made it into the middle. It was a fun end to a very special day. 

Subway adventures and an expensive cab ride

We had left a bit late so we stayed out on the river later than expected. I was hurrying to make it back to the subway and ended up getting into the wrong station. Once I realized my mistake and made it to the correct station two blocks away, it was past midnight and I wasn’t sure if there would still be bus service to Laguardia. So when the next subway train came, and it wasn’t even the one I was looking for – I decided my best bet was to head back to the street and hail a cab. $30 later, I made it back to the hotel at the airport.

No luggage allowed

I walked over to the airport and grabbed the M60 bus to Manhattan, transferred to a subway on Lexington exiting at the 86th street station, walked over to Central Park to take a picture of the Central Park Reservoir, realized that my batteries were dead on my camera, found and purchased 4 double-a batteries at a deli for $6.50.  I headed back to Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and tried to enter but was barred by security saying that I couldn’t bring any large bags into the museum so that neither my backback nor my rollbehind small carryon would be allowed. I explained that I was there for an informal post-wedding gettogether in the roof garden, but they said it didn’t matter and that I would need to find a place for my stuff. I asked one of the guards if he had any suggestions, and he recommended bribing one of the street vendors to watch my luggage. I couldn’t bring myself to risk it since I would have to leave my laptop with them. So I wandered off in search of an electric outlet to plug in my computer and a wireless internet connection but without any success until now.

Back to Laguardia and home

I am about to leave to head back to the airport to catch my flight back home. Kristine has a meeting at church so I’ll be hanging out at the airport in Birmingham until she gets done.

Update – 10/2 – There was an African American pride parade on 125th in Harlem so the buses were running about 30 minutes behind schedule. By the time I made it to the airport, it was only 45 minutes before my plane was supposed to take off. Fortunately, I didn’t have any bags to check so I was able to use the self check-in kiosk and avoid the quite lengthy check-in line at the Delta counter, make it through security a few minutes later, and shortly after that board the plane for home!

Posted in Adventure, News, Travel | No Comments »

Analise’s 1st day of school

12th August 2009

Analise on the street ready for her first day of school

Analise and me walking down the street to school

Today is the big day for Analise — her first day of school. I just got back from dropping her off. Everything went smoothly, and she was excited when she saw her teacher and ran over to sit with the other kids who had already arrived.

Posted in News, Parenting | No Comments »

An early Christmas wrap-up

25th December 2008

Analise and her Santa cookies

What a difference a year makes!  Last year, we were writing Santa a letter asking him to please just leave the gifts on the porch because Analise was scared of him coming in.  This year, Analise was more than happy to decorate a plate and pick out cookies for him.

Our Santa plate, 2008

I’ve had several posts written in my head, and I’d been wanting to post some things all day, but now that I’m all Santa-ed out, I just want to share a glimpse of our Christmas Eve.

One of Josiah's favorite gifts, his Thomas plate and bowl
One of Josiah’s favorite gifts, his Thomas plate and bowl

Analise and her Ariel paint-by-number
Analise and her Ariel paint-by-number

Her favorite gift, a princess wedding gown and crown-veil (from Josiah)
Her favorite gift, a princess wedding gown and crown-veil (from Josiah)

My little sweeties looked so good!
My little sweeties looked so good!

My new favorite photo
My new favorite photo

Christmas Eve 2008
Christmas Eve 2008

a rare moment of sibling giggling in the Nica rocking chair

A few Christmas memories… Again, Santa came by the house on a fire truck.  Very exciting.  And loud.  Analise was hesitant with the sirens so she stayed on the porch, but Josiah and I went out and waved at him up close.   At church, Josiah blew my candle out, and asked the usher, “I need anover one.”  He proceeded to blow it out 3 more times during ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’ while Brian tried to keep Analise from tipping her hair into the flame.  The service ended with the kids worship team leading the singing of ‘Joy to the World’ and both kids wanted to go up front and dance.  They were so cute.  And both of them were singing ‘Joy to the World’ all evening, even Josiah with the 2 lines he (sort-of) knew, and he mumbled through humming the rest of the song.

It’s been a bit of a disjointed Christmas for me.  I’ve been really busy getting us prepared for our trip to Nicaragua.  I have had lots of Tastefully Simple business going on.  I feel like I wasn’t ready after all the traveling of Thanksgiving, and I’ve been coughing and kind of sick all month.  We haven’t done all the traditions I would have liked, but I remind myself the kids don’t know all the things I think we *have* to do.  They love everything we do.  We made cookies, wrapped presents, shopped for others, listened to Christmas music, looked at lights, went on a hayride an live nativity, saw Santa at the airport, had a birthday party for Jesus.  And this post on one of my blogs says exactly how I feel.  But tonight is the Holy Night.  Our Savior has come… and we can celebrate him all year long.   Glory to God for that!

Posted in News | 2 Comments »

My rowdy little Christmas sweethearts

19th December 2008

Another photo treat for those faithful enough to still be checking in with us!  The kids have matching PJs for the first time (though oddly, Analise is nearly too big for her 4/5T size!)  I, of course, wanted a cute PJ Christmas picture, and this is what we got.

attempt 1

Never a quiet moment on our couch with these two…


Analise has learned the only way to hug her squirmy brother is a head lock.





This is as good as it gets!  Even though they are all off-kilter and Analise’s belly is showing, getting 2 smiles faces towards the camera is good enough for me!

Posted in News | 1 Comment »

A Christmas hello from the Toones

17th December 2008

A reward for those still checking our lonely blog!

The Toones - Christmas 2008 - after Matthew's Christmas concert

Posted in News | 4 Comments »

Round and round…

20th August 2008

That’s what this week has felt like to me at least that’s what it’s felt like in my head.  Sorry I’ve not been on here!   Feels like not much to write about, although I have lots that I still INTEND to post about… notably more about my parents’ visit with pictures.

Brian raced this past weekend in Mississippi (more details on his blog), and we had Kim, Lauren and Anna over for lunch and playtime after church on Sunday.  Always fun to hang out with them!  I snuck out Sunday evening to the coffee shop for a meeting… which got canceled at the last minute, but I still stayed and relaxed with my book.

Monday we had a quiet day at home while Brian was busy at school getting ready for classes to start next week.  We enjoyed a new sandbox on our back porch, which I had been looking forward to for a long time.  Yes, the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.  They buried each other, dug, sifted, molded and tossed sand everywhere.  For all the fun they had, I sure got grumpy trying to get them to keep it in the sandbox and not get sand in each other’s eyes.  And then when they were done, I pretty much didn’t want to let them inside.  We ended up having to take baths at 11am, and sand got tracked everywhere.  Was this supposed to be fun??  I’m learning, slowly, that trying to be the over-controlling-clean mom only really hampers the fun for everyone.  I’ve got to find a balance.  One tip, though… baby powder really works well to brush the sand off!!

Monday evening I got to go to a faculty dinner with Brian, which was fun.  The other professors and their spouses in his department are great company, and I always look forward to these events.

Tuesday we had friends over to play, and we made edible peanutty play-doh.  To top it off, I gave the kids each a package of M&Ms, which was more exciting than the play-doh.  I had also invited Brian’s parents over for dinner, and while I was getting the table ready, Josiah fell off the couch and cracked his lip open.  Poor little hard-luck guy.  He bled all over me, but a popsicle finally soothed him.  And of course, Analise had to have one too, even though it was before dinner.  Thankfully, they were Pure Fruit pops 🙂

Today started out with Josiah and I at Children’s Hospital for his yearly tests to follow up on his vesico-urethral reflux issues (VUR).  I was pretty worried about it, because back in April it took 3 tries to get a catheter in for a urine sample, and he had pain for several days.  The test today (a VCUG) involved a catheter, but it went as smoothly as could be expected.  Still painful, tears on both our parts, but he did well.  I’m so proud of my little guy.

Tonight was back to our weekly Wednesday Life Group routine.  Brian’s parents are now taking both kids to church with them for dinner and their Missions Friends and choir programs.  We arranged to have my invaluable babysitter, Abigail, here when they got home at 8 to put them to bed, while we’re at our Life Group for dinner and discussion.  It went smoothly tonight, and Analise was even asleep when we got home, which has NEVER happened on a Wednesday!!

Tomorrow we may get some haircuts (everyone but me needs one!!), and get ready for a weekend of fun and racing in Chattanooga.  The season is winding down…

Posted in Daily Grind, News, Parenting | No Comments »

Brian’s Birthday Wrap-up!

14th August 2008

Brian’s 32nd birthday was this past Sunday.  I invited his family over for dinner on Saturday, so we had a big crowd… Brian, I & the kids, my parents, his parents and Matthew.  We had delicious Spicy Sour Cream Chicken tacos with all the fixins, cheesy Rotel dip and chips, and cake.  I mentioned that I had high hopes for the cake… a yummy peanut butter cup and fudge frosting chocolate cake.  Well.  It looked like a flop.  It wasn’t completely cooked, so when it was cooling, it sagged through the rack.  I was so disappointed, but I decided to make it into a hot fudge cake.

I made a decadent hot fudge sauce, and we topped it all off with homemade vanilla ice cream.  YUM.  It wasn’t pretty, but man, it was delicious.  And we have a nice big container of hot fudge to continue to enjoy.

Birthday celebration moments…

Sunday Brian got to ride to Mount Cheaha to meet us up there.  He had a big steak dinner at the beautiful restaurant on top of the mountain.  We had a fun time swimming, exploring, hiking, climbing, enjoying my parents, and staying in our great cabin.  It was a great birthday!!

The view of the Alabama hills from the restaurant.

The restaurant overlook.

The view from Pulpit Rock, a 1 mile hike (round trip) that we did with the kids on Monday morning.
Josiah was so cute… “I climin’ a mountin!” he kept saying.

Josiah and I at the overlook on a boardwalk trail we did on Sunday evening.

We played in Cheaha lake on Sunday afternoon, and it was so warm and very shallow for the kids.
This is the pool at the Cheaha lodge, and it was deep and COLD, but with a fantastic view.

Analise, my little mountain goat.  Everywhere she climbed, Josiah wanted toclimb, too.

Posted in News, Travel | 3 Comments »

My mom’s big project…

14th August 2008

Mom and I got a lot of things done this week, but this was the biggest…

We made a headboard for my bed.  It was so simple!  We used a 4’x5′ piece of plywood (the hardest part of the whole project was fitting it into the car!), covered it with batting and a beautiful fabric, and stapled it all around the back.  It turned out so beautifully!  It’s like a bed makeover for me!  We also got a new pillow, and I got a bedskirt which makes the whole bed look so much neater.  Thanks, Mom!!

Posted in News | 2 Comments »

My Saturday baking…

9th August 2008

Tomorrow is Brian’s birthday!!  So I’m on a mission today to put together a yummy family dinner and bday cake.  The menu is Sour Cream Chicken Tacos with all the toppings and a variation of this delicious cake (except without the peanut butter mousse… just the fudge icing and pb cup pieces in between the layers.  Brian would love the pb mousse, but since he’s on racing-season diet, he’ll only eat a small bit, and I need to please the majority who’d rather not have pb)!

Super fun day at the Space & Rocket Center yesterday in Huntsville.  Loads more to tell, but the cakes need to come out!

Posted in News | 1 Comment »