Sunday, May 31, 2009

Graue Mill with the Cowens

Last year I found this fun spot for the kids called the Graue Mill in Oakbrook, IL. It's about 25 minutes from our house, and it is this great old grain mill museum that is located right along a river that goes through a forest preserve area. So, in one stop, you get to run along the river, walk around in trees, and watch the miller make flour! Actually, this one only grinds corn, which is delicious. We always buy a 5 lb bag.

We took Claire's teacher and family along for the ride too. Actually, I should say, they took OUR kids along for the ride because the kids all rode in the teacher's car on the way out to the mill from the city. Poor her. I offered to take them in my car, but she insisted. I'm sure Sammy delighted them with potty talk on the drive. Sorry Mary!

The wheel at the mill actually turns still, so the kids get to see it in action. However, it doesn't actually turn the mechanism inside which turns the milling stones. That's all automated now. Anyway, the kids don't know the difference. They are awed by the experience every time.

The whole mill is run by volunteers, so there are always nice grandpa-types there letting the kids pretend to grind grain on the hand-held grinders. Sammy, in his baby strength always manages to get a little flour out of the little manual grinder. Here he's grinding corn grist into corn meal.

Here's the big daddy grinder. The stones weigh 2,000 lbs, I believe. The kids get to dump in the corn grist and they get to turn on the machine which starts the grinding of the stones. The things makes about 10 lbs of flour in a few seconds if you're not careful. Of course, we are always yelling "Sammy, that's enough! Turn it off now!" and then we nicely buy 10 lbs of corn meal instead of the original 5 to make up for it. Thanks nice miller man!

Cecilia had birthday money with her and it was burning a hole in her pocket the whole time. She couldn't stop talking about what she was going to buy at the gift shop. Her mother, always the Waldorf teacher, kept saying "I'm never giving her money again...look at the greed!" But Cecilia wasn't so greedy after all because she offered to buy my kids some candy with her money as well. Fun times were had by all. We even ended up in Oak Park at our favorite toy store and my favorite Thai food restaurant. Not bad for a Saturday. Of course, we had to have corn cakes with syrup for dinner...and for breakfast this morning. 10 lbs is a lot of cornmeal!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Winding down the marriage counseling

Well, we went to counseling this morning, and I could feel it coming. The crying. I was just on my way there thinking that everything was perfectly fine with us right now, and that, actually, we've come a long way in a few areas that needed work. But I could feel it. Maybe it was the weather, which is atrociously gray and horrible today. I kept telling myself that I was happy to "report" to our therapist that we've actually made some strides and that this man sitting next to me is a great man that I love very much. So...why did I know it was coming?

We got to our counseling place. We sat in the waiting room and I made myself a cup of the disgusting instant coffee that they have there on the little table. Matt asked me why I always get it since I think it's gross and I said "because I like to have something in my hands while we talk to her". It helps me feel calm. But, by the end of it, I always have to pee. There is something about instant coffee that does weird things to me. It also makes me a little twitchy. I think I make it too strong.
So, I digress. We reported that I feel like I'm doing better at accepting Matt's way of showing love to me. Or, rather, I should say I'm learning to recognize it as such. I tell him the stresses of my life and I want him to talk to me about them for hours and hours or I want him to bring them up the next day and tell me how he's thinking about me and blah, blah, blah. But, instead...

...he just gets up with the kids and makes them breakfast and plays with Sammy so that I can get ready slowly one morning. Stuff like that. He's a service oriented person...a "doer"...not as much of a talker, (although he has that in him...he just doesn't talk for the sake of talking). Anyway, I'm starting to relax my expectations that we'll have these giant ongoing discussions all the time about everything, and instead learningto realize that his acts of service ARE his side of the discussion. He's "saying" that he thinks I need a break...some time to myself...when he helps me with the kids the next day. And, goodness knows, I don't really want a husband that blabs on all the time but won't ever HELP!

So, we're doing well. We're growing as people, but then we started talking about Claire's schooling for next year and how I'm a little paranoid about actually homeschooling her next year through the long Chicago winters...alone. Just her and me. I think I assumed I would be homeschooling more kids or something. Back in the day I'd had all these ideas to start a little home school where we would have more kids here throughout the day, but that hasn't exactly panned out. I've tried other things (like the tutoring, or helping with Sunday School, volunteering at a preschool) but it's all come to not much.
I've put myself out there and said "hey, maybe I could figure out a good little program for this or that" but nothing has really stuck. So, even though my therapist lady and Matt say that I can definitely continue to have hobbies next year and "outlets" of things I do "outside the family", I'm thinking that my outlets probably won't come to much. Because no one really wants someone who is only there once a week or so to help figure out their program. I can be a warm body who helps out a little, but I'm not going to be really using my gifts so much.

So...I feel stuck. And I feel...I don't know. I feel guilty for wanting something else, and I feel mad that I don't have something else all at the same time.

And that's when it happened. The crying. It happened when the therapist lady said "that must be SO frustrating for you to feel like you have offered your help or your ideas in several meaningful ways and it's like you're waving you hand saying 'hey...I'm here'. "

I hate when you start crying but you are supposed to say something to answer someone and instead of having ANY diginity whatsoever you have to try to say it in this high pitched crying voice that only dogs can here.

I said, through my tears, " amongst yourselves," but no one laughed, because apparently neither Matt nor the therapist watched enough Saturday Night Live 10 years ago.

So, then, I just started regular crying where you try to stick a kleenex in your face to make it stop. And it did...pretty much. I don't even know why it poured out so suddenly. I felt ridiculous.

And then I looked up and realized my THERAPIST was teared up. She even had to do a quick wipe of the corner of her eye before she said anything else.

So, anyway....that made me love her a little bit. It may not have been particularly professional. I don't know what the rules are on crying with clients. But it made me feel better to not be the only one crying in the room!

Well, all of that to say that this summer is going to be very busy so after next week we're going to take a little break. But I think it has been good. It's a place to talk in that high pitched squeaky voice and then you can just leave it all there and go back to life.

It's good. You should go. You should all go.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Last mornings alone and Anthropolgie

I usually tutor kids in reading on Wednesday mornings, but it got called off today because the reading specialist's nanny didn't show up so she couldn't come in. Well, I had already taken a shower, (major event for me) done my hair, and gotten dressed when I found out the news, so I was all dressed up with no place to go this morning! (Hate it when that happens) I wanted to do something responsible...really I did...but we had a "house showing" last night, so my house was already clean, and I had gone to the grocery store for the week already, so what's a girl to do???

Well, I felt really guilty for a little bit and tried to think up something productive I could do, but I just couldn't, so I decided to go for it: I went to Anthropologie and walked around for a LONG time. I figured that, heck, my kids are going to be out of school for the summer in a few weeks, and after that Claire will be officially homeschooling (I think) so I may never have an alone morning again in my life! So, I wandered. And I tried on dresses that looked ridiculous on me, and then I resigned myself to only looking at the home stuff instead of the clothes.

I love that store. I love every piece of clothing and accessory and shoe and home stuff. I love the little matreshka looking measuring cups, the flouncy aprons to cook in, the dishes, and...the bedding. Which, by the way, happened to be on a huge sale.

So, I did it: I bought a whole set for the new house that we may or may not ever move into. I want my next house to be more whymsical...not so pottery barn or stuffy. Right now I walk this fine line between pseudo-Pottery Barn and a little of what my grandma had left when she moved out of her house. But now I want whimsy.

I think that is especially appropriate for a house that will be a work-in-progress for a long time. I think it's easier to pull off a sort of bohemian mis-matchy look in a house that needs work than something too classical. So, I bought this set. It's called "Flowering Quince" and I think it's amazing. It has these little ruffles and ribbons and it's so fun! But then, I got it home and had a realization that I don't think I'm cool enough to pull it off afterall. Am I? Claire said: "well, I like it...but it's kinda wild." She's only used to seeing beige around here.

So, I don't know. I might return it. I might not. Maybe I'll work on getting cooler in the meantime and maybe I'll get whymsical enough for it. But, regardless of what I do with the duvet, I will not, absolutely ever, return the beautiful shower curtain I found there. Isn't it fabulous and scalloped and fun? I think I can pull it off. I think. What do you think?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Sammy's birthday was Saturday and a trip to Matt's family's house was Sunday, so when the Big Guy rolled over and asked me "what do you want to do today?" this morning, I yawned and slowly came to the realization that it was a government holiday; meaning, he would be home today. " would be good," I said. Shoot. I think he meant that he wanted there to be some sort of activity today. All I could think was "I'm so tired!" What I said was: "I hate mornings! I hate getting up! I hate talking before I've had coffee! I hate thinking before 10am! I hate children asking me for food in the morning!" He laughed.

We decided that he would take the kids to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the morning
(did you notice Sammy's zoo-keeper outfit?) so that I could do the things I had planned to do for the morning. Meaning: cleaning. I cleaned like a maniac. I cleaned out cabinets and drawers in the bathrooms. I put stuff in bags to take to the Salvation Army, (Goodbye crappy toys! Goodbye random stuff in my closet that I've been stubbing my toe on for a year!). I was a cleaning machine.

It didn't hurt that I had my new toy to give me some energy. Yes...I bought a record player.

I've been wanting one for some time now. I've been having these flashbacks of dancing with my sister to the Supremes on my dad's record player for a while now, (I'm not going to lie: we sang into egg beaters, wore matching flower girl dresses, and danced on the coffee tables) so I couldn't help myself when I found this one at a garage sale yesterday in the 'burbs. And Matt LOVED the chance to carry another piece of heavy junk into our already-cramped house.

I don't have a huge collection of vinyl yet, but this morning as I cleaned the potty, I listened to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and Steve Miller Band mixed with a little Chicago, Eagles, and Rod Stewart. I love the whole experience. The scratchy sound of the needle hitting the record, the static sound that happens during the quiet parts of's all so old school and seems so much closer to you than CD's do. Sammy says he won't be happy until we have Beach Boys though. I'm workin' on it. I'm workin' on it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I finally had Sam's party

Kid parties make me nervous. Something about inviting a whole bunch of kids over that are all the same age and trying to keep them happy while also chatting with the parents. I don't know; it just makes me nervous. Sam's birthday was a month ago, and I had put off the party and put it off, but Saturday I finally gave him the party with his friends that he wanted.

He wanted a baseball party and we decided we would have it at the park near our house. That is part of why we waited so long. The weekends kept being cold or rainy, and I sure wasn't having an INDOOR 4-year-old-boy party. That would be insane! I swallowed all my perfectionist pride (alright...I don't have too much of that) and just let it be a very casual party. I wanted Sammy to wear his Cubs shirt and hat while Claire wore her Sox shirt and hat, but he thought his cubs shirt was too big and wanted to wear his old baseball shirt from a year ago. Whatever. I had to keep saying this to myself: whatever!

Here are some of the cast of characters: Liam, Ben, and Alexander. Ben is his buddy from school and the brothers on the outside of Ben live near our park. They are all very Sammy-ish boys and the red wiffle bats I bought for everyone soon turned into swords instead of bats, (surprise).
We brought a giant bucket full of water balloons and the Big Guy let the kids attack him with them. We also brought all the different kinds of sports stuff a little boy could ever play with: soccer/baseball/football. But the big hit was this stomp rocket that Ben got for Sammy. You stomp on a little pump thing and the foam rocket shoots up into the sky. They did that for half the time! Thanks Ben!

Sammy got the stomp rocket, a rocket ship from the planetarium, a paper-airplaine-designing book, a horn for his bike, (from his love, Cecilia) and a cd of kids music. But his favorite part of all was when everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him. I had to go across the street to this nice Italian man's house to borrow a lighter for his candles, but it was totally worth it because he loved the singing so much.

I guess he really likes attention. Who knew? Happy Birthday party day Sammy-Sam.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Waldorf schooling

I am super pumped about all the cool things I want to teach Claire through home schooling. Like I said in my post about homeschooling catalogs, I want to make school interesting for my kids and all the cool stuff you can find to do with them is very exciting to me.

But. But. But. When I watch the video above, I want to cry watching the kids do all that beautiful stuff together! I'll never be able to recreate that! I'm starting to think that if I was going to homeschool that maybe I should have had 6 kids so we could have a group!

And will I ever do as much cool stuff with her as she'd get to do at the Waldorf school that is starting up around here?

If only I agreed with the whole thing. A few of their ideas are weird to me, and if I was going to go Waldorf all the way through, I probably shouldn't have taught Claire how to read at 4 years old! (They don't do it until 7 years old)

It makes me so sad to think of not homeschooling, but, then again, I'm afraid I'm depriving her of this fabulous artistic social experience.

If I am going to homeschool (I think I am. I think I am.) then I need to seriously step up the artistic fabulousness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Break In

Today I walked out of the school where I tutor on Wednesday mornings and I was all pumped up to do some kind of reading program for the kids in my neighborhood. I was thinking maybe I'd volunteer at the school near my house (rather than the one by my church) so that I'd be working with kids that I see on a regular basis. I so enjoy the process of teaching reading that I just get on a high when I'm done tutoring because I'm having all these ideas on how to teach kids better. Kids with actual disabilities, kids with behavior issues, kids who are visual, kids who aren't, kids who have spent years sitting in classes where the reading assignments were WAY over their heads and they are trying to hide their shame/embarassment from their classmates.

Well, I was so lost in thoughts of education that it was almost a block down the street before I realized that my back car window was bashed in and my purse was stolen. Nothing of major value was in my purse, and the purse itself was on its last limb, but of course, every identification I have was in there, along with my credit card, etc. And, worst of all, my back window was shattered RIGHT into Claire's booster car seat, so I had to sweep out as much glass as I could before picking her up from school. Then, I just gave up on it and put her in the front seat because it seemed so dangerous otherwise.

You do remember that I was hit by another car a few weeks ago right? Is it a little odd that we literally JUST finished paying off this dumb car? So frustrating. But I'm trying to keep it in perspective. We're healthy. We have the money to deal with all of this. No one was hurt in either incident. And I think it may be God's way of just reminding me and Matt that none of this is in our control anyway. So...we may as well start praying about it and just trusting that God's going to figure this all out one way or another.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Netti pots and home dates...

Claire was sick yesterday, and was feeling "really ever so not well" so, of course, it was back to the doctor for a second time this weekend to find out that she has strep throat as well. In fact, they want her to probably have her tonsils out too, poor dear, but that has less to do with the strep and more to do with her ongoing sinus issues.

She's been using this netty pot thing for months and months now. You put this salt mixture into a little tea pot filled with warm water and then pour it into one of your nostrils. It drains out the other side with all the nasty stuff that has been clogging up your sinus passages. Personally, I love watching it. I have a weird obsession now with seeing how much grose stuff comes out of her nose. But the doctor says that what's probably going on is that her swollen tonsils and adenoids are blocking her sinuses from draining properly, so they need to come out. Matt is very upset about the idea of his baby girl having a surgery. So, we'll see.

In terms of the marriage, this week has been a little rough. We've spent most of our time either away from each other juggling dr visits and activities, or together dealing with sick children and other various responsibilities. We're a little stressed about various things like the house we may move to, various relationships, etc, so we've been a bit weird with each other lately. So, last night, we ordered sushi delivered...

...had a little bit of this...

...and touched feet. That's about as far as it got. We had planned to have some "talks" about all our various issues, but instead we just chilled. It was nice. And needed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Homeschool porn

Seriously...all of my homeschooling curriculum catalogs came in the mail at once this week and I was so excited. I'm such a dork. I know you can look at all of their things online, but I love catalogs. Shiny new catalogs that come with plastic around them.

I'm like Critter. Have you read the "When I get Bigger" story about Critter? He says all the things he'll do when he gets bigger, and my favorite one is the page that says "When I get bigger...I'll order something from a catalog, and it will come in the mail." I love it when stuff comes in the mail. Especially books.

Look at them all spread out there on the table. It's a big conglomeration of curriculums that aren't supposed to go together neccessarily, but yet...they do.

Look at Montessori with it's actual human body x-rays. Fabulous. I look at this and I think science just might be interesting afterall.

A Beka, which has this obsession with way too many textbooks/readers/worksheets, does a few things very well. And phonics is one of them. Don't mess with A Beka phonics flashcards. I have taken these babies everywhere. I've taught Claire to read with them, a neighbor girl, and the kids at the school where I tutor. A Beka has a workbook for everything, a shiny chart for everything, and I love them for that. I'd never use their entire curriculum because we'd drown in readers and worksheets, but we use their phonics stuff, and, so far...the math workbook. Because that is the way Claire rolls.

But do not forget Veritas Press and their beautiful illustrative history cards. I don't even own these yet because I tiptoed into ancient history with Well-Trained Mind's Story of the World history books, but we may be ordering the cards from VP this year, because they are so beautiful and because I am now obsessed with history.
Seriously...I can't wait to order something. All of it. And I haven't even received my waldorf catalogs yet. Art supplies! Tiny gnomes! I have goosebumps.

Here comes the sun

We got an unexpectedly nice day today. The Awana club that Claire goes to had a "Grand Prix" today so she painted her race car in preparation for it. She wanted pink and blue and silver with racing stripes that were purple. We were afraid it was going to be cold and rainy with the looks of the sky this morning, but it turned out beautiful for the afternoon.

We had to take our little guy into the doctor who confirmed that he has strep throat. Poor baby.
But he and I headed up to the Chicago Waldorf School on the north side for their May Fair, complete with may pole dancing, jazz band, and puppet show. It was gorgeous weather. Sammy wasn't his normal wild self (being sick and all) but we just walked around slowly while he ate a snow cone.

We picked up Claire and Matt from their Awana event and headed home. Claire won a participation ribbon (woman after her mother's ways) and was totally happy about it. Everyone's napping now, but we'll probably head over to the plant nursery (aka Home Depot) later to get some flowers for the yard. This is the time of year that we all love to go hang out in our 8 foot by 8 foot yard and pretend that we have a garden or something. Claire likes to use the new push mower, and Sammy will happily water the two hanging plants that we always get to put out front. Woohoo! We're practically farmers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rainy days and sick boys...

Today Sammy is sick. We think it's strep throat. He watched a lot of Tom and Jerry today.
Claire had school this morning, but when she got home she played "doctor" and "baby" with her little bro, and he liked that. But between the rain and the sickness, we are definitely having a "blah" day.

This is on my drive to Claire's school this afternoon (hence the blurriness).

Here is out my front window and looking down our street.
Also on the way to school....
Claire thought it was hilarious that they had a tiny umbrella covering 2 of the watermellons.

So, that's my neighborhood on a rainy day. What's yours like? I'm sure those in the country have much more scenic views than this. But we have a rainy day watermellon truck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Regular Days

Looking at my last few posts, I laugh at how much fun it seems I'm having right now. And, don't get me wrong: all the things I posted (trips, family visits, dinner parties) have been fun, but they are also only the half of it. My actual day-to-day life is the rest of it, and right now it's kinda killing me. But, before I explain that, I have one more fun family day to post.

These pictures are from another great day we had in the last few weeks. It was a Saturday and we got to spend it at 31st street beach. It was still a tiny bit chilly but it was so sunny and clear that we had to get out and enjoy it.
We hit the playground...
and the beach...

...which is a great place to take the kids to build sandcastles, although the water is about 1000 degrees below zero still.

We ate giant chicken parmesian sandwiches at Freddies on the way home, and then, as we drove down Taylor street we realized that the Mario's was open for the season! Marios has the best Italian ice in the whole world, and a little one is only $1, so we each get whatever we want and then taste all of each other's flavors. Sam gets strawberry, Claire gets blue raspberry, and Matt and I get lemon, which is the best. So, all-in-all, it was a great day.

But, on the weekdays, when I'm not traveling or having house guests or what-not, I'm kinda struggling. My back is a disaster (I'm a chiropractic junky, but it's not really helping so far) and my 4 year old is a total and complete disaster. I discipline this child all day long every day it seems and Claire's life seems to be watching me/listening to me discipline Sam. I keep thinking that each day will be a new day and that somehow we'll make it better, but he seems to be getting worse! It's like he's just looking for trouble all the time right now, (but man do I love that kid).

Matt and I are so tired of the stress that we are at each other's throats pretty often, and then we feel bad for our breakdowns. Marriage counseling is usually just us apologizing for how we've talked rudely to each other, but it all stems from our individual/mutual frustrations with the constant discipline issues right now.

I continue to struggle with these doubts that I'm going to be able to pull this mothering/homeschooling thing off. I feel like I'm really struggling with our regular, around-the-house parts of life. I have these lofty aspirations for our time together, but then, when I can't live up to them in some way or another, I get so discouraged and anxious.

But then I keep being convicted about how seldom I truly pray about all of this. So, maybe that is where I need to focus my efforts. I've been reading a book called The God who Answers by Fire, (June Volk) and wow...that lady gets some answers to prayer. Maybe I should try that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kristin's weekend

Well, it's been a whirlwind of a week. My sister and father spent a few days with us after the last time I posted, but I forgot my camera, so I have to get pictures from my little sister before I can post them. However, you don't want to see pictures of what we did Monday afternoon because it was us getting into a car wreck! It wasn't my fault, and no one was hurt, but my car doesn't look great. Then, they left on Tuesday morning and I started preparing to fly to Wichita for the weekend for my friend Kristin's shower/bachelorette party weekend. I got there on Friday and had to run around all afternoon to pick up the stuff for the Saturday night dinner that was hosted at my mom's house. But after spending Friday running around and doing the prep work, I had the pleasure on Saturday of attending Kristin's beautiful wedding shower!

She was a vision, as usual, in her beautiful purple dress with her long fabulous hair. You should have seen us when we were high schoolers: her always trying to straighten her thick curly always trying to poof up my thin straight hair. Haha. Nothing has changed. She has promised, however, that she's going to wear her hair big and curly for the wedding and I think that's perfect because I love her hair that way!

Gloriana is her brother's wife and she gets the vote for cutest pregnant lady ever. I couldn't get over her fabulous outfits and that girl walked around in cute boots and tall high heels all weekend! Wow.

Gloriana also ordered these beautiful flowers from Kristn's florist to put around the room at her shower. They were gorgeous and fit perfect with Kristin's purple/vintagey/butterfly theme.

After the shower, we took a short break and then the bridesmaids (and Kristin's mom) headed over to my parent's house for a little dinner, wine, and lingerie party. Kristin can pull off the most beautiful, bright, glamorous shirts. I think it's the tall dark prettiness that helps.
Here we were before going out on the town after the lingerie part of the night. My little sister, Katie, (not pictured here) went with us, and a fun time was had by all. Kristin's fiance, Jon, met up with us near the middle of the evening and then we all went to a little diner called the Breakfast Club before heading home at 3:30am!!! I can not remember the last time I stayed up that late, but it was totally worth it. I think. I mean, the details got fuzzy around 1am, to me, but I remember general craziness, Kristin playing the band's drums, Katie and I dancing, and then eatting a giant chicken fried steak and eggs. Mmmmm...good times.
Thanks to my dear husband who took such great care of the kiddos while I was away partying it up all weekend....I missed you guys.