Sunday, January 31, 2010

January happenings

Well, for starters, I've been making cinnamon rolls this month. It started at about 8pm one evening when I saw the recipe and decided that my baby needed me to eat an entire pan of cinnamon rolls. So, being without butter at the time, I called my friend Brigitte down the street and sent Matt out into the cold to borrow butter. Then, I made the recipe. It's Pioneer Woman's recipe. It took me a few shots to get them just right, but now I'm a pro! The recipe makes 7 pans of rolls, which you think would be too many, but the dough is refrigeratable so you can make some every day! Which...I do.

These girls all graduated from City Garden a year or two ago and now we're getting together with them semi-regularly for craft times. Last time we made glycerin soap, and this time we did a little knitting project. We make it a potluck thing too, so there is always tons of fun food and, if it's in the evening, wine for the mommies. Remember when I used to drink wine???? (boohoo). Oh well. I have cinnamon rolls now.

During our little knitting circle, one of the dads took some of the not-so-into-knitting boys out into the backyard for sword fights. It was Mr. Neil. He's awesome. The people whose house we gathered at live in a neighborhood called Garfield Park in Chicago. And if you knew Garfield Park, you'd know how funny it is that they have a chicken coop in their side yard. Do you see the chickens in the background? Hilarious.

We have the most interesting friends. One of the moms works for some liberating-women-in-Iraq organization, one is a jazz singer, several are various kinds of artists. Makes me seem very boring, but it's fun that I get to know all these people!

This weekend, we also got to see Uncle David perform in the 8th grade play of "Prince and the Pauper". He was King Henry VIII! He did a great job.

Isn't he a cute king? I told Matt that with that beard, David is really starting to look like his dad!

Half way through the play, the King dies, so then David became the Italian ambassador. We were sitting in the 2nd row, so I think he caught my eye while I was taking pictures of him, (embarassing him is my job, I think).

See? He was trying to hold his "poker face" but then he saw me and started to laugh. Then he tried to stop his face from laughing so he made this funny squinched up face. Haha! We love you Uncle David. Sorry I ruin your life with my dorkiness.

The play was really good! I have to say, those North Shore schools sure know how to put on a play. Look at these costumes? For an 8th grade play?! I'm pretty sure we had some kind of costumes made from paper bags for any theater we did in 8th grade.

Here are the Prince and the Pauper (but with their clothes switched). They both did a great job. The funny thing Matt and I noticed, however, was how all the 8th grade girls were so much taller than all the boys. Typical. Of course Uncle David is the exception. He's huge!
My aunt and uncle from Barrington surprised us with another furniture delivery! And just at the perfect time because my white painted table was not holding up well at all. I love this table. It expands to a really huge table if you need it to, and I remember playing play dough on this table with my cousins back in the day.

She also brought Sam and Claire a cute matching game that they immediately got into.

And she brought us this clock! This clock makes me feel extraordinarily grown up because, hey, you can't buy clocks like this at IKEA now can you? Nope.

The table found a new home right away. It actually matches the hutch that they brought us, though, which might make this room look like a big wooden furniture gallery. Any tips? Should I paint the hutch? I know it needs stuff displayed in it, but what? I'm not a good decorator.

Another project that has kept me very busy has been redoing Claire's history curriculum. If you are reading this, you probably know my father, so lets just start with saying that I guess I'm my father's daughter because I really became a crazy perfectionist with this one. I decided that The Story of the World, which is the history program we followed this year, didn't weave very much Bible history into the ancient history curriculum afterall, (like I had heard that it did!). So, I had to do it myself. I spent days researching dates for the entire history of Israel, (the kings, the judges, the prophets, the exile, etc) and worked it back into the stories we had read. Because I was super excited about finding out things like how Joseph came to Egypt during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. And although we read about King Cyrus of Persia, we didn't learn much about the fact that the Israelites got to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple under his authority! And I loved learning where Daniel and Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego fit into the Babylonian empire. So, I made a new timeline for us, found about 100 pictures online that illustrated all the events, cut them out, and had them laminated. Now, we just have to make a giant wall timeline and relearn everything! No problem.

And last but not least, here is Sammy's picture of our baby girl in my tummy. She's getting pretty big, I'd say. Or maybe she's just stuffed with cinnamon rolls. I think I'm about 23 weeks. I'm not going to start complaining too much yet, but lets just say that I already can't breathe. Only 17 weeks to go!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I love Jim Bob

I'm sorry, because I know I haven't posted for a long time and I know this shouldn't really count as a catch-up post, but I love Jim Bob. Watch the Duggars Tuesday night. They're the best.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nesting or...just spending money we don't have

When Claire was born, we lived in a loft condo downtown that had all wood floors. When we were first married they seemed beautiful, but when Claire came along they seemed hard and cold. In fact, she wouldn't crawl at all until we moved into this suburban townhome that had a big carpeted living room, (we move too much is the lesson of this paragraph). Anyway, that has me thinking about our new home and it's hard cold (beautiful) hardwood floors and all I want to do right now is cover them all with thick rugs.

So last weekend we got this "Jennifer" rug for our living room. I realize that the couch is not centered on this rug, but a rug small enough to sit directly in front of the couch (which has to be centered on the windows to look right) would be awfully small and would leave a large chunk of the living room uncovered. We have hardly used our living room since we moved in.

But the second Matt had it layed out, Claire and her buddy had a whole house set up for their animals and they played there for hours! I'm really excited about it. I'm laughing though, because I once had grand colorful dreams for this home (splashes of turquoise! Remember?) in which I would not make the whole thing earth tones of reds and greens and tans. But I can't help myself. I'm sorry. That's what I like and it's warm and cozy so I'm sticking with it.

I think it works. Granted, I have dreams for a nice large leather chair/ottoman where those two wicker chairs are now sitting, but that's really spending the bucks. Please don't notice that our fireplace is STILL incomplete and in shambels.

In other nesting news, we got Claire a really big queen bed so that her room can double as a guest room. Actually, Mr. Tommy gave us the queen bed from an extra he had at his house. It takes up a bit of the playing area, but I think she really likes it for reading in and it will be nice to have extra room for company.

We put her twin bed underneath Sammy's loft bed so that he has bunkbeds now. That way Claire can sleep in there if she needs to give up her room.

Across from her bed we set up a table and chair for her to have a place for her crafts and some extra books. It's just a folding table with a tablecloth on it, but it's working for now.

The bed set is a Simply Shabby Chic comforter from Target. I got the whole bed-in-a-bag for around $75 on sale.

On the other side of the room is the little corner where we'll be putting her new baby sister some day. Of course, she'll be in our room for a while, but we're hoping that this chandelier will be hanging over her little crib at some point.

I'm considering getting a slightly smaller crib this time around so that it won't take up too much space. (We gave our baby stuff away after Sammy since we thought we were done.) This white one is from Ikea and it's pretty cheap.

This brown one from Ikea isn't too bad either. I think they both convert into little toddler beds or something because they have all those extra holes on the bottoms. We'll need to do some kind of changing table or something, I guess, so I'm thinking a bigger dresser that has a changing pad on top or something. I don't know exactly where that will go. I hardly changed my kids on a changing table, though, so maybe I won't bother.

 Our own bedroom needs a little TLC as well. It's a lot of wasted space, so maybe we can put a changing table in there or something. And we need new bedding in our room as well. I kept getting tangled up in our duvet cover every night until I finally got sick of it all and took it off. I think I'm done with duvets, but finding a good comforter is hard! Anyway, these are my nesting issues right now. Any advice/tips would be welcome!

It's a GIRL

We are all excited. Sammy is pretending that he wanted it to be a boy, but he actually likes every girl baby in the world more than he even likes boy babies, so I think he'll bounce back. Claire is excited to share her room with her baby sister. I wonder how long that will last. :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Keeping us going

It's cold here, (well, actually, for Chicago it isn't so bad).  But it's been a long week. There are things I'd like to do, like work on the house a little. And there are things that I need to do. And right now, it seems like I better just stick to the things I need to do, because that's about all that's getting done around here. School, breakfast, lunch, dinner, cleaning, fixing some things, etc. Beyond that I have no time! Until the kids go to bed, I'm in full swing. All the time. Here are the very small things that are keeping me going in the day-in-day-out.

This picture of Sam from this time last year. So precious. His little cheeks look just a little more baby-ish than they do now. He's basically a big kid now.

Asking each other if it will be a "boy baby" or a "girl baby" as my 20 week-appointment approaches this Monday. Obviously, this is not my stomach. Lets not even say the reasons why. However, to my credit, I have gone to the gym 3 times this week! First time in 6 months, however.

Watching Mad Men. I say this with a tear in my eye because we were watching them "on demand" and the first 6 episodes are on there but now there are no more. I'm not sure where to find them except that I guess we could join Netflix or something. However, though I look forward to watching it, it actually kinda depresses me. It makes the roll of the housewife so trivial and sad, which always makes me question myself. I hope I'm not trivial and sad. But then again, if I was as beautiful as January Jones, maybe being a trivial, petty 1950's housewife wouldn't be so bad.

Speaking of housewife things, another thing that is making thing better in our completely messy mud room are these great industrial-ish floor mats that I got at Home Depot. They are practically our wall-to-wall carpeting right now, and with all the snow and salt that we track in, I'm so glad to have them. And I'm so glad to not be living in our old condo where we had no place to put all this crap.

I would like to say that baking is getting me through the long cold days as well. And it is: technically. We made these whole wheat dinner rolls (which have to rise 3 times!) today and that took a big chunk of the afternoon for Claire and I. But actually, the cooking/baking thing is good and bad. It's good in that we are having nice sit-down family dinners. It is bad because it's exhausting me between the cooking and the clean-up. Tonight at dinner I could barely eat I was so tired. And this is the time of day that I could have some alone time, (since Matt would be home) but instead I'm too tired for anything productive and can only bring myself to watch trashy television (hence Mad Men). I need a break from cooking this weekend.

Making stuff. What to do in Chicago when you know that winter is only beginning? Start making stuff. I don't know what our next projects are, but today we spent part of the afternoon making Sammy this robin hood hat and quiver for his arrows. He and Matt played Robin Hood and Sheriff after dinner for quite a long time. Matt asked me if he should keep his Sheriff badge on "for later". Haha. ;) Sorry big guy. If only I'd ordered pizza tonight instead. I'm beat. And dirty.

So anyway, that's us right now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting back to normal

So Christmas is over and I'm ready to get back to normal. Between hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas, and doing the myriad of other holiday activities between, I became a bit of a disorganized mess. I let us get pretty lazy with Claire's school stuff and dinners were more than a few times a mess. I don't want ALL the fun to be over, by any means, but I'm trying to get a bit more "together" in the New Year. For one, I've been planning about 5 meals a week and getting them on the table for the most part. This is a picture of a pie I made from PW's "Key lime pie sorta" recipe that was very good, but I've been making a lot of her recipes for dinner these last few weeks as well. Her ceasar salad took a while but was very good. The stir fry was good and tonight I'm making her cajun meatloaf.

A fun thing we've thrown in is making ice cream with the new ice cream maker that my mom and dad gave us for Christmas. It's one of them fancy kinds war you don't need no ice or salt or nettin'. (Please excuse me. I've been reading Lois Lensky's Strawberry Girl with Claire and I want to talk like that all the time now). Claire was helping cut up peaches to put in the creation we made last night.

It works really well (and quickly) and I even managed to find a non-dairy recipe for me and Sammy-Sam so that we don't have to eat it and then run directly to the nearest bathroom. The one I found online was 2 cups coconut milk, 1 cup almond milk, 1 c sugar, and some vanilla. We added about a cup of peaches at the end.

The nights are still dark early, so cooking has been a decent way to pass the bewitching hours between 4 and 7. But another thing we've been doing a lot during that time has been reading a lot of library books.

I need to incorporate a really regular time of going to the library every few weeks because the kids LOVE getting a big pile of new books and even some kid videos which I can pop in while I make dinner. And if the videos are those kinds where they basically read you a book while showing the pictures, I don't feel as bad as if I was letting them sit around in front of a bunch of cartoons.

Another thing that has been helpful has been my attempts at getting us better organized for Claire's school lessons. I went through all her books and figured out how much we needed to do each week in order to get through everything by the end of May. Then I made up these little weekly charts for her with stickers so that she can be more independent in getting her work done.

We still do history and read-aloud books together, (she's reading the Grandma's Attic series to me, and I'm reading Strawberry Girl to her) but she's doing well having a few things she does on her own.

All in all, things are feeling pretty normal again around here and this house is starting to feel a tiny bit more like home.  It's amazing how even giving a little more structure to some activities like cooking and school give us so much more sanity, (don't ask me when I've scheduled cleaning the house, however. That's a lost cause.). Eatting our dinners together as a family has helped me have some sanity about food as well. Since I'm not being a short-order cook for the kids, they either have to eat what is in front of them or nothing. Sammy was getting WAY to used to telling me what he liked/didn't like and what substitutions he'd prefer.  I guess most moms already know that structure/rythm is best, but I'm just figuring this all out. I'm sure by this next child I'll be a totally on-the-ball mom. Maybe.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Years in Kansas

On December 29th, which happened to be our 8th wedding anniversary, Matt and the kids and I left for Wichita for the week. Here we are on the bus, which took us to the el, which took us to the airplane, which took us to Wichita.

The kids were so happy to be there that they could hardly stand it. The first day there they suited up and went sledding with Matt, their cousins (Jane and Ellie), Uncle Ben, and Grandad. We love these guys!

Despite the lower-than-normal-for-Wichita temperatures, the kids still managed to have plenty of fun outdoors in Grammy and Grandad's back yard.

They even rode the zipline across the backyard. I was so cold I would hardly walk out of the house to take this picture, but the kids were troopers.

We had a little Christmas present time while sitting around the tree and my parent's great fireplace.

The kids had a hard time baring with the pictures while waiting for the presents to be passed out.

Here is Aunt Katie with our Janey-Jane cousin.

And the kids with their finger flash lights.

My dad taught us this game called Farkel, but we didn't start the game until almost midnight on New Years Eve, so most of us got too tired to stay up learning the rules. Matt and Katie got into it, and the next day Claire joined the group as well.

My sister, Laura, and I took the kids to the Build-a-Bear store for our present to each other's kids.

Claire picked out a very cute bunny to stuff and a sweet pink sweater/scarf/hat outfit. Laura and I enjoyed it as much as the kids did I think.

Claire's favorite part was designing her bunny's birth certificate on the Build-a-Bear computer. She loves computers.

Here we are together. Probably the only time I've appeared in a photo with my kids this year. I had just had my roots done and my hair cut by my little sister's awesome hair lady, so I even took off my hat for the occasion.

The girl cousins: Claire, Ellie, Jane.

Sammy was offered the chance to make a bear as well. They had tons of cute outfits for boys to put on their bears: army outfits, pilot outfits, sports outfits, etc. But he didn't want to do it at all. He just kept saying that he wished one of the bear army outfits would fit HIM. So, we went in search of an army outfit for Sam and stumbled upon this hat. It made him VERY happy and he wears it every day.

See? Here we were bowling at the Alley the day our cousins left to go back to Ohio. The kids were very bummed about them leaving, so we did a little family outting with Aunt Katie.

Here he is throwing the first bowling ball of his life....

....and wiping out.

Claire enjoyed it too, but didn't do as well as the LAST time she went bowling, so she pouted for some of the time. She and Matt are very competitive and don't like losing.

Here Aunt Katie snapped a little profile of my 19 week pregnancy belly. It seemed to grow a lot on this trip. Maybe it was the Felipe's and the massive amounts of good food my mom made every day.

The kids discovered that the Alley had go-carts as well, so we did that next.

Sammy had a head start so he won, but Claire did give him a run for his money.

They were very excited to drive for the first time.

Katie and Sammy rode the motorcycles in the arcade room. Look at him with his camoflage hat and his motorcycle: what a Wichita boy. He just needs a hunting rifle and a pick-up truck.

Grammy and Claire put on a Little Red Riding Hood puppet show on one of our last days there.

And then Claire and sam put on a little "Tortoise and the Hare" show as well.

But all good things have to come to an end, so yesterday morning we packed up, got back on the plane, and headed back to Chicago. Here is Claire holding her nose on the "stinky" train ride back into the city.

Coming home is always a little anti-climactic, (look how depressed these guys look!) but we made it. Sammy already tells us about every 5 minutes how much he misses Grandad. We miss you Wichita family! Thanks for the great week.