Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our first Passover

These are our dear friends Bridget and Scott. They are Annabel's parents and we live across the street from them now. They have a beautiful home and are both amazing cooks. Seriously amazing.

Scott's family is Jewish and so now he and Bridget cook a beautiful Seder dinner which they invited us to this year.

The table was gorgeous.


We got to see a legitimate Seder plate and learn the meanings of all the different little parts from the shank bone to the bitter herbs. Claire decided she actually liked parsley dipped in salt water.

The glass of wine for Elijah. We also left the back door open to wait for Elijah to come. The kids thought that was fun.

 But the highlight was the Afikomen, which consists of three matza crackers. Part way through the meal the middle cracker is hidden and the kids are supposed to find it.

There were four kids total: Claire, Sam, Annabel, and Annabel's friend Grace.

Scott offered five golden coins to whoever found the hidden matza.

The race was on.

I kept picturing Sammy having a giant breakdown if his sister found the cracker and got all the coins.

But guess who found it?

He was thrilled of course.

You should have seen his face when Scott handed him all the gold coins. Claire gets gold dollars from her tooth fairy, so she has 6 or 7 of them at this point in her piggy bank, whereas Sammy had none until now.  But the real miracle came when he turned immediately around and handed each of the girls one of his coins. I almost cried! I think that's the first generous/non-selfish thing he has done in his life! I was very proud of him.

The dinner was awesome. It was super gourmet from start to finish. Matza ball soup, a homemade version of gefilte fish with shrimp and scallops in a taragon/butter sauce, briskett, haroset, mashed potatoes, green beans...it was incredible!

It was lovely. The whole thing. We read through a lot of the readings and prayers that go with the dinner and the kids sat through it pretty well! It was lots of fun and I ate like I hadn't eaten in a week. Thanks Scott and Bridget! I expect an invitation again next year now that we are neighbors. Sorry that the kids rigged a zipline out of rope and sticks from your front door knob to your gate at the end of the evening! You are very gracious hosts :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

China Town

This little Chinese man is on Spring Break for the week, so my homeschooling work with Claire has had to be a bit modified. We did our Bible story, poems and verses and Sammy stuck with us for that. Then we did some letter sounds and 3-letter words with Sammy while Claire worked on her cursive. Then he colored while I read history with Claire. We are doing ancient China right now, so we thought China Town might be a fun field trip for the afternoon.

So, we jumped into the car and headed to China Town, which is pretty close by to us, and I tried to ask Claire questions about Confucius and Shi Huangdi on the way so that I could justify it as an educational field trip.

The gift shops there are out of control! You can get anything there! Claire and I really wanted to buy these tiny tea sets and regular pretty tea pots and all kinds of little made-in-China doo-dads, but we contained ourselves.

And I'm sorry, I know I'm a Christian girl so I couldn't justify a big happy buddha in my living room, but I kinda wanted one.

They are just so shiny and happy!

Claire and I could have browsed for a long time, and Sammy was enjoying the treasures as well, but you know that saying about a bull in a China shop? Well...with how high the doo-dads were stacked and with how close together the little shelves were, I knew we were going to hear "cleanup on aisle 7" pretty soon if we didn't leave the gift shop. So we did.

And anyway, we needed lunch. Sammy and I specifically were a little on the low-blood-sugar side so we ducked into a little restaurant for food. Don't they look like they love each other?! I think I said: "Sammy, HUG your sister or you're not getting any lunch" and abracadabra: I got this cute picture. I'm really into authenticity here.

Claire loves what they call "Chinese Chicken" which is any of the several varieties of chicken which are fried and then covered in sweet sauce: sesame chicken, orange chicken, etc.

This was Sammy's fortune. It really was! We didn't trade with him or anything. He loved it. If you can's see it very well, it reads: "You are a bundle of energy, always on the go." HA! I think I need to find a teeny-tiny frame for it.

I don't normally just buy my kids a random gift for no purpose, but this was too good to pass up. Every time Claire goes with me to one of our favorite fancy toy stores to browse, we see these beautiful Chinese costumes and she always wants one. I almost got one for her birthday, but the one we liked was $65 and that seemed so high to me. But this one was $20!

So, our little Janey-Jane cousin may be getting one for her 5th birthday next month as well. And maybe her big sister will need one too. Fun day. At least I can say I've done one "field trip" as a homeschooling mom this year. Well, somewhere besides going to Home Depot every day like we did in the fall.

The dungeon I should not be showing the public

This is the part of our house we don't speak of. This is what you see when you open our basement door.

There are a ton of little creepy rooms throughout the basement since it was divided up into, believe it or not, a separate apartment that some young guys lived in when we moved into this house.

Mr Tommy cleared it out for us...a few built-in shelving units and such that were rotted and nasty were ripped out and carried to the trash. But there are some residual moldy spots and lots of general filth. At the end of the construction on our upstairs, the guys were using the basement for their workshop to cut wood and stuff, so the dust was left behind.

We sorta swept a path through it all when we moved in, but since we were in such a hurry to move in pre-Thanksgiving, we didn't exactly do a detailed cleaning job. And, as we rearranged things upstairs, the left-over stuff: small furniture, storage stuff, books, and bikes, have all been stored throughout this main room in the basement.

Luckily, as you can see, there are doors leading off of this larger room into smaller rooms which COULD be used for storage if we took the time to store stuff properly. Then, at the very least, this larger room could be a play room of sorts. Don't laugh! You just wait...it could be good.

As you can tell from one of the first pictures, there is one benefit of this basement which is that it is a walk-out basement, so it could have plenty of light and fresh air if we took the nasty blinds off of the windows. And the floors, at the very least, which are a tile, could be cleaned and covered with rugs.

There are some definite structural issues. This exposed pipe should have been screwed into a beam, but was instead simply screwed into the plaster ceiling, which caused it to pull down parts of the plaster over time. It needs to be screwed in properly and the ceiling, of course, needs to be patched.

And, since the basement was unfinished at one point and then partially finished when they turned it into an "apartment", the walls are a hodge-podge of materials: some exposed brick (not the pretty kind), some dry-wall, and some plaster, (mainly plaster).
You have to walk through this main room to get to the laundry room, which is also in the basement. You don't even want to see that room yet. But in my pre-baby nesting frenzy, I'm hoping to make this big room something slightly cleaner, slightly more functional, slightly less creepy. I'm thinking paint, patching walls, cleaning floors, and some indoor-outdoor rugs. Nothing fancy. Our good friend, John Scott, who does lots of stuff like this to the rental homes he buys gave me these ideas.
I've been calling around to the Home Depots and Lowes stores looking for gallons of "oops" paint. Have you heard of this? They sell paint that was mixed slightly wrong for a huge discount, (like maybe $5/gal). So, we'll see. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Home from the hospital

Guess who is home from the hospital?
It's Josephina!

She was all better with her arm reattached, the stuffing around her neck pushed back in, and her eyes opening and shutting properly!

We also loved that she came complete with a cute little hospital gown, wrist band...

...and certificate of good health. And how fun is getting a package in the mail delivered to you with your doll in it! Thanks UPS guy...you made our morning.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weekend update: projects and practicing for 3 kids!

I got this dresser on craigslist after searching and searching for a short squatty dresser that could double as a changing table.

The lady sold it to me for $25 and I spent another $20 or so on supplies for repainting it. I bought Behr's paint from home depot which comes with a primer in it. I gave it two coats and put a layer of polyurethane on it which was leftover from when our cabinets were painted.

I left the same hardware because I kinda liked it. We nailed a piece of crown molding to the bottom because it was missing a bottom piece, (as you can see from the original picture of it). Now it sits in my bedroom which will be baby-grand-central-station for a while before we move her into her big sister's room. I wanted a dresser rather than a changing table because I liked the idea of storage. I still kinda can't believe that I will be storing things such as diapers and onesies in my house again. This is so weird.

Claire and Sam got a little practice being a big brother and sister to a baby this weekend since we babysat for my friend Julia's baby Sam. He's one and we just love him to pieces. Feeding him his babyfood was a huge highlight....everyone wanted a part of it. I think we maybe overfed him in our excitement.

After an hour or so he missed his mommy a little so I sat with him on my lap (or what is left of my lap) on our big chair. But, of course, everyone else wanted to be with him at the same time so I ended up with 3 munchkins on my lap. This did not last long as I stopped being able to breathe in that position, but you get the point: my kids loved baby Sammy. I hope they understand that babies don't start out eatting baby food and playing ball...I think they're going to think our new baby is pretty boring for a while.
This little Sammy has two big brothers, Josh and Peter, who were not there this day, but when his mom and dad came to get him they showed us that he likes to sword fight with his big brothers. Now that is MY Sam's kind of baby!

The Big Guy turns 30...last week

So, Matt's birthday usually gets a little overshadowed by Claire's. But one thing he does have going for him is that his big day is also St Patrick's day, and since Chicago loves St Patrick's day, we can just pretend like the whole city is celebrating Matt's big day.

 In our little family, we have a tradition of eatting green pancakes on St Pat's.

This year, we added green milk. That was questionable because the dye went to the bottom of the drink and at the end of your milk you had to decide whether or not you wanted a big swig of food coloring. But it was the thought that counted. We were all trying to be very "green" for Matt's birthday. Sammy brought out his camouflage hat which he lives in anyway, and which he believed was going to keep him safe from the pinching gnomes who evidently live at his school on St Patty's day.

We dropped Matt off at work. We do that a lot anyway, but since it was his birthday we kicked it up a notch and made sure he was on time. We're good like that. He does not work at Starbucks, by the way. But there is one in his building.
The weekend before his birthday we celebrated with his family. We usually celebrate all the birthdays that occur in a month together with his family, so March was Claire and Matt's combined birthday dinner. Matt picked key lime pie over birthday cake, and Claire agreed, so they each got a pie for their day.

Aunt Sarah was there and she brought Claire fun spring clothes.

So was Aunt Rebecca and she brought Claire a beautiful carved butterfly treasure box from Ten Thousand Villages, which is a very cool place.

Uncle David was there, although he wouldn't take off his sunglasses. That's okay. Just having his coolness in our presence was good enough for us.  

And Matt's dad, "grandpa", was there, although after lunch he had to get a little shut eye.

We made orange and blue cupcakes for Grandpa to celebrate the fact that he just recently became an offensive line coach at Wheaton College, where Matt and I graduated. We're very excited for him about that!

Matt's mom, Grandma, was there although we didn't really get a picture with her...just this one of her sitting next to Rebecca. She was the star of the show though because she brought a big bag of gifts for Claire and Matt to go through together. They had to open all the gifts together and figure out who each present was for.

For instance, they each got a pair of sandals, which they apparently decided should be modeled with socks.

Poor the Big Guy is sick with a terrible sinus infection that even an antibiotic can't seem to kick, but we still managed to run out to a quick dinner at Carnivale last week so that we could have a little adult celebration for his big 3-0.  This place is really good.

We got ceviche and I got a rare tuna thing (that's okay in pregnancy right? Maybe not) and he got a steak. Granted we went at 5 o'clock when no one else was there, but we're dorks like that and that's when my friend could watch the kids so who cares. I think that's the first out-of-the-house date we've had in the last year, so we were not complaining.  I couldn't think of a great 30 year old gift, so I kinda dropped the ball there, but Matt's favorite thing is for me to NOT spend money, so maybe that was a gift in itself! Maybe. ;)