Celebratory Photo Essay, Rehashed

Five years ago today, Nate and I were joined in Holy Matrimony.

Here is what I looked like on the outside.

And here is what was happening on the inside.

Due to the circumstances, some of my relatives were none too pleased.

And, if I'm being honest, I'll admit that I was scared as hell. How could I know whether I was making a good decision? That day, I went through the motions, hoping against hope that my family was wrong.

And they were. I couldn't have believed, then, how fantastically happy my life is now.
Thank you for that. I love you.

I'm re-publishing this post from 05. I wish I could post it over at the main blog, because, to me, it is hilarious and sweet. But I don't want to offend my family... That's my brother in-law frowning in one of the pictures. And while I think posting the picture of him on the blog my family reads would be in poor taste, I still believe he disapproves of my marriage and of me in general. But whatever. After 5 years, it's hard to give a shit.

Also, let's pretend that last picture has our whole family in it... I'm too lazy to find a current one right now.


Little Bit o' Crazy

Hey, dudes. Don't know if anyone is still checking in over here, but I found this slide show of the Creation Museum. It is amazing, in a very unamazing way. If you know what I mean.

My favorites were the signs about dinosaurs, above, but there were some other choice bits about sin and suffering, including a picture of a woman in labor. (!!!) Love it.

Could not pay me enough to set foot in this building with my children. By myself, you could maybe pay me $100,000. But with my kids, no, never.

That is all.
Now must blog at MaiasauraMade.


The Onion

The Onion comes through with the best Pitchfork Media spoof ever.

Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8


Didn't Quite Pass the Grandma Test

If you've heard R. Kelly's song Same Girl, you'll enjoy this variation on the theme.

So funny.


Well, I'm back. Sooner than I expected, actually.

The day after my last post, things improved greatly. Something amazing and strange happened on Friday. We didn't leave the house, yet we spend most of the day apart. I didn't plan it that way, it just sort of happened. First, Simon was listening to a cd of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories (do you all know how much we love the audio books in this house? love them!) and I went upstairs with Theo to pick up some messes.
An hour or so later, Simon came upstairs, naked and with some poop on his butt. I told him to get into the bathtub, just as a way to contain the mess, and he asked to take a bubble bath. So he spent the next hour playing in the tub while Theo and I had lunch downstairs. I was nervous about the poop situation I would discover, but it was nothing... glorified skid marks. Phew with a capital P-H.
I think our time apart helped us, but, honestly, I woke up on Friday feeling so much better. Maybe simply writing about it helped. I knew there was a reason I kept this blog around.

We had a great weekend. Some time with friends, some time with family, lots of time relaxing at home.

Because he's a sweetie who thinks of me even when I'm in my own world, Nate borrowed some Harry Potter movies from his sister. I've been listening to the audio books as I craft and do housework, so it was fun to see the film versions. Our verdicts were the same as all that we read online: Chamber of Secrets (#2) was terrible. Everything was over explained and boring. Prisoner of Azkaban (#3), on the other hand, was fantastic. Much more cinematic, attractive, and well-crafted.

I think tonight we'll watch the fourth, The Goblet of Fire. Normally we can't do movies on a week night, but Simon is gone today, spending the night with my mom. That gives us an excuse to watch tv and lounge all night. Theo will be here, of course, but it's easy to forget about setting examples when the little one can't talk. He's a silent witness, the safest kind.

Here's another example of that: in the past, when Simon has been gone, I have gone on huge eating binges. I have bought ice cream, cookies, chips, fries, frosties, etc. and eaten whole packages at once. With Simon gone, there was nobody to see me, no one to set a bad example for or to share with. Well, Theo could see me, but he couldn't say anything later. He couldn't tell Nate to check out the garbage can to see all the treats he missed out on.

Four weeks ago I decided to start going to Weight Watchers meetings, instead of just doing the program online. And I have been a very good girl. No more secret binging, with or without Simon around. I should've done it long ago.

Theo's asleep and Simon's gone, so what am I doing sitting here? I've got stuff to do! Bye bye!


Off of Cornel West's new album, feat. Talib Kweli.


It's been a hard week, or two weeks, or three weeks, I can't remember. Simon and I have been butting heads. I'm almost being literal. We are really having a rough go of it. He has presented a challenge, and I'll admit right here that I haven't risen to the call. I am floundering. It's like there are two children interacting, rather than an adult and a 4 year old.

In times past, when I've felt more in control of myself, when my parenting has been more measured and intentional, I have woken each morning with a fresh supply of patience and love. Lately I wake up with a low supply and by day's end I'm on empty.

When we struggle like this, I can't help but wonder how royally am I fucking up, exactly how badly am I screwing up this kid? From that ugly thought it's a slippery slope to feeling crappy about other areas in my life. Before long my head is filled with the loud noise of self-loathing. I convince myself that I'm a terribly mother, wife, friend, and housekeeper. And then I ponder my failure all day long. I only take a break to wonder what it will take to get out of this dark place. But I come up with nothing. Then I slip into it again.

I'd like to be a cartoon, drawn with a thought bubble full of all my self-doubt and fear of failure. The next frame would show me tipping my head to the side, banging on my ear, and letting all my nasty thoughts just fall to the ground. Next frame = smiling me.

But maybe I make things too hard. Maybe it's just that simple in real life, too. Hold on, let me try that.

Okay, no. Didn't work. And now my ear hurts too.

Wanted to check in, but won't be back until the fog clears and the funk passes. You can still find my superficial/happy/crafty self at the other blog, though.



Things Currently Stressing Me Out
-Theo's refusal to nap lately.
-Having to keep the recycling bin and the garbage can on the already-too-small counter, because Theo won't stay out of them.
-Laundry in the hamper, laundry in the dryer, folded laundry waiting to be put away.
-My sister and her family just took a trip to The Creation Museum. She has told me several times how we have to go, Simon would love it, it's so cool, etc. I'm just waiting for the day when I'll have to tell her that I secretly love science and believe in Evolution (I accepted Evolution even when I was a firm Christian; to me there is no inherent conflict between the two. When you take the Bible literally, though, there is conflict indeed). This revalation will not be taken lightly. There will be discussions and accusations. Ugly.

Things Currently Making Me Sad
-My dad had a driving test last week and failed. He needs to be doing a lot more work to be making progress in this area, but he is not motivated. It is hard, because loss of motivation is a direct result of the stroke, but if he isn't pushed to push himself, he'll never drive (or work) again. My mom was especially bummed by all this.
-Not celebrating Theo's first birthday in the place where he was born.

Things Currently Making Me Happy
-Watching Bleak House with my hubby. Not a particularly happy story, but it's always nice to find something new that we enjoy watching together.
-Air conditioning.
-A new walkman for listening to Harry Potter audiobooks from the library.
-Successes in the shop.


letting go

This week Simon is going to a Vacation Bible School at my sister's church. Every morning, for about 3 hours. This is happening because my brother, who lives here in Bloomington (well, Normal, actually) is going to help out at the VBS, and offered to take Simon and bring him back. I accepted the offer because five days of free mornings was too tempting to pass up, and also because I didn't feel like having a conversation about religion with my sister.

This morning as he left, Nate and I were both feeling very nervous, questioning our decision. I know that getting Simon 'saved' is mission critical for my family, and I can imagine the alter calls that will happen during this week of VBS, having been to similar programs myself all throughout my childhood.

Still, I let him go. It was my decision... I guess I'm starting to face the reality that my family are evangelical Christians and that Simon will be exposed to their worldview throughout his life. So why try to keep him away from it now? It's just scary, in a way, to send him out into the world and not be in control of what other people want to teach him.

We might be fielding a lot of interesting questions this week. We'll see.

We had a great day in Chicago on Saturday. For those of you who came out to see us, thank you. For those of you we missed, sorry. We'll catch you next time.

This won't come as a surprise, but, for me, it was still heartbreaking to visit the city but not be a resident. It was especially emotional to spend the afternoon in Palmer Square, eating lunch where Simon spent hundreds of hours running, looking at bugs, drawing on the sidewalks. Those same sidewalks were the ones I walked to get my labor going when I was ready for Theo to arrive. Such memories almost made me cry into the picnic blanket, but being surrounded by old friends kept my spirits up.

It was a nice day, all in all. We need to get up there more. And maybe someday we'll get up there for good.


Hey, guys, did I lose everyone? Has anyone followed me over to the new blog? I know a few people have seen it, but it seems like most everyone else got lost in the shuffle. One last reminder: New blog, created to support my crafting/etsy efforts, is here. Later, dudes.


Another Reason to Ignore the Laundry

Here's the deal, readers. I am packing up and moving this operation to a new location. That's right, it's time for a new blog. Why, you ask? Why would I do such a thing? I'll tell you.

This weekend I accomplished the long-time goal of putting up a shop on Etsy.com. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a great site, a place where people sell their handmade goods. I'll be selling various things in my shop. So far I've got eight items for sale there. Lots of people have looked, no one has yet bought. It's okay, though. It's like Christmas every morning when I go down to the computer to see how many people have looked at my stuff, to see if anyone has called my shop a favorite. It is very fun. I am obsessed. Nate is none too pleased, as I'm always on the computer now. He did help me a lot, though, by making the banner and avatar for the shop and new blog. Thank you, babe. I love them.

Oh, yeah. New blog. Here it is: MaiasauraMade. Let me explain, though, that WuKids is not dead. I will still post here from time to time. MaiasauraMade is for all things crafty, creative, innocuous, safe. I'll use the Grandma test, even though my Grandma doesn't have a computer and will never see either of these blogs. If I want to post about something that I might share with my Grandma, it will go on MaiasauraMade. If I wouldn't want her to read it, it will be posted to WuKids.

The new blog is totally about publicity and marketing. If I can get noticed in the craft blog community, it will undoubtedly spell success for my etsy shop, assuming people don't hate my stuff (I don't think they will). I've been lurking around the craft blogs long enough to understand how it works. If you can get your little internet nose into the circle, people will buy your stuff. So that's why I'm starting the new blog.

Like I said, I want the content to be totally safe... nonthreatening for anyone who might stumble by. So you might notice me adopting a slightly different persona over there... hopefully I won't sound so flaky that you guys need to gag.

One more thing. I won't be linking to friends' blogs on the new blog..... I want to keep the personal separate from the crafting enterprise. Mostly to make it a little harder for my family to stumble across this blog. Most of them still don't know about WuKids, and I'd be happy to keep it that way. So please don't be hurt when I don't post a link to your blog. I still love ya.

Sorry for the super choppy post. This is the fastest post I've ever written. I've been working on etsy stuff all morning, and Simon is begging me to play a game. I am officially scatterbrained. I'll try to make posts on the new blog a little more coherent and thought out. Hop on over there, guys, and tell me what you think.


Three Stories from the Streets of Bloomington

Walking down the street, heading to Carl's for some ice cream. Nate stays home, putting the boys to bed. I'm wearing mom-jeans, my make-up has worn off, revealing my incredibly dark under eyes. My hair is pulled into an unassuming pony-tail. I'm not feeling remotely alluring, especially because this is my second trip for a large chunky shake in as many days. For these reasons, the following scene catches me by surprise.

I'm on the sidewalk, passing by a house with three or four young men sitting on the stoop. I see one of them give me the up-down, I guess he is about 18, Latino. With less than 10 feet separating us, he commences with his cat-call. The close proximity makes it one of the most awkward cat-calls I've endured; the phrases he employs makes it one of the most humorous: "Hey, mama. Where you goin'? Don't hurt nobody. Don't hurt nobody."

We pull into the parking lot of Kroger. It's hot. Our windows are down. Nate gets out, ice cream and lemonade on his mind. I stay in the car with the boys. Exactly as he gets out of the car, an African American woman pulls her cart up to the van next to us. She's talking in a friendly voice to a friend? spouse? in the front seat. Instantly, her voice changes and she begins harshly admonishing a child who has, apparently, unbuckled his seat belt.

"If you don't get back in that seat belt right now these white people are gonna call the police on me."

I follow her logic, but her son misses it. "Why?" he queries.
"Because I'm gonna beat the hell outta you, that's why."

I don't appreciate being used as part of her threat, but somehow I admire her candor.

Taking an early morning walk with the boys. Theo is in the stroller, Simon walks alongside. We walk past a plaza that contains a laundry mat and a convenience store. In front of the laundry mat, a man stands outside of a car, a woman stands by the passenger side door. He starts to shout at me. I can't understand one word he's saying. Typically I would ignore someone shouting at me, especially a male. But something about the scene, maybe the woman standing right there makes me think, "Maybe they need help." So I look a little harder, a little longer than I normally would.

But, no, after a few seconds I can tell by the inflection of his voice that he is trying to work some kind of pick-up magic, with a woman who could be his wife or mother for all I know standing right there. I turn my head back to the path before me, ignoring his calls. He persists in shouting at me. I still can't understand what he's saying, but I can imagine. For the first time in my cat-call history, I decide to break silence.

"Hey, man," I say disapprovingly, "I'm with my kids here."

He answers and for the first time I can make out his words. "I LOVE KIDS!" he says.

This response leaves me speechless. I keep walking.


Blogging CSA --- Week 1 Menu

Here is what we picked up from Farmer Henry tonight: garlic, beets, spinach, radishes, lettuce, bok choi, cilantro, and rhubarb. We also got a CSA cookbook with many ideas on how to eat all this bounty.

After pouring over cookbooks and online recipe sites, here is how I plan to use it all:

Wednesday: Linguini with arugula, pine nuts, and Parmesan (we didn't get arugula from our CSA, but I have some from the supermarket that I need to use up). Recipe from the CSA cookbook.

Thursday: Tofu and Bok Choi stir-fried in peanut oil, served with rice. From CSA cookbook.

Friday: Cilantro-Lime Soup served with tostadas. From CSA cookbook. Also, make Rhubarb Stir-Cake Friday night. From allrecipes.com

Saturday: We're going to Nate's folks' house for dinner. I'll take the Rhubarb cake to share.

Sunday: Leftovers. I rarely cook on Sundays.

Monday: Beet soup with Three Legumes. From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Tuesday: Grilling out. Marinated chicken breasts and sliced radishes, in a foil pack with garlic, salt, and pepper. Both from allrecipes.com. I'll need to be on the ball and have dinner ready early, so we can head over and pick up our next batch of veggies! Pick-up is 6:30 - 7:30 pm.

I hope to use the garlic and lettuce throughout the week, in salads and other dishes. I don't have specific plans for them, so hopefully they get used up and don't go to waste.

These are all new recipes. If any of them are winners, you'll probably see them in the next Christmas cookbook.

Animal Funnies and PSA

These are two sites featuring animals that I find amusing.

First, disapproving rabbits. I don't understand it, but I like it. Click on the numbers at the bottom of the page for more pictures and disapproval. Cassie, if you are reading this, please note that this strange page is nestled within a birding blog.

Next, this weirdness. I understand this even less. Most of the captions are in a sort of lingo that was unfamiliar to me. Nate told me they are in leet speak, which from my understanding is a formal term for internet jargon. You all may know about it already, I had to have it explained by my nerdy husband and am still a little fuzzy on it. Mysterious. But funny.

Finally, dear readers, many of you will be receiving invitations to Theo's birthday party in the mail. I want to make it clear that these invitations do not come with an expectation of attendance, especially if you reside in Chicago. Think of it more as a goodwill gesture, a wish. This invitation says we love you and wish we saw more of you. It does not say our friendship will suffer if you choose not to travel three hours just to have lunch with us. Okay? Okay. At the same time, if you do want to come, we'd be thrilled. Since there aren't any games or themed decorations to focus on, I can put all my energy toward the food. The lunch promises to be ridiculous (if you were at Simon's first b-day party, you know what I mean), and hopefully delicious. So you might want to take that fact into consideration.

Weekend Update

Yesterday we had pictures taken with my side of the family. This is a yearly tradition, driven by my mother's insistence that each new addition to the clan must be professionally documented, elsewise they don't count. In years past, we have always gone to JC Penny, Sears, Portrait Innovations, or some equally terrible establishment to have these pictures taken, and always around Thanksgiving. This year, at my urging, we waited until Spring to do the annual pictures. My reasoning for postponing the pictures involved my weight, as I hoped I would be thinner in May. I am not thinner now than I was in November, but, alas, the picture plan proceeded. Along with the seasonal change, we convinced my mom to switch photographers. Instead of the ubiquitous grey canvas background, we went with something more creative, more modern. A family friend has started a photography business, and we hired her for the frightful task of making five little children smile at the same time, or at least look in the same general direction.

The photo session started off well, but quickly deteriorated into chaos, with four little ones in various states of refusal to cooperate. Theo was the only one who didn't resist, but only because he didn't know he was supposed to.

When it was time for our immediate family portrait, I held Theo and Nate held Simon. Simon was burying his head in Nate's shoulder, hiding his face and thereby effectively preventing any pictures from being taken. A host of helpers stood behind the photographer, trying to get Simon to look at them. They pulled out all the stops, jumping, clapping, engaging in dinosaur-related discussions. Nothing worked. Finally, when the crowd had run out of ideas, Nate quietly said, "Simon, remember that show we watched when the bird cleaned up his area and then did a little dance?" Instantly, the face came out of hiding, grinning and telling everyone about the silly bird he saw. Brilliant daddy. Later, Nate told me that the bird idea had been in reserve for a while, he had just been waiting for everyone to shut up.


The bird who cleaned up his mating-display area in the rain forest was introduced to us by a program called Planet Earth. I've heard that Oprah gave big props to this show, so we are probably the only ones who haven't seen it already. We finally saw the first episode this weekend, and it was amazing. Our favorite part was the cleaning/dancing bird. There is also a scene in which a herd of elephants, having finally found water after a long, dry trip, swim jubilantly. Beautiful.


Today is the first pick-up for the CSA we signed up for months ago. From Henry's Farm we will get a bounty of fresh, organic vegetables. Delish. I'm excited about getting our veggies, but also a little nervous about finding ways to use everything. It would be sad to waste what I expect to be perfectly marvelous produce, and I know it will take some planning to avoid throwing away even one sprig of parsley.


As I mentioned earlier, I am no thinner now than I was in November. This standstill has occurred despite my best efforts, a combination of exercise and Weight Watchers. I don't mind exercise. It's hard to find time for it, but I don't mind it. I rather enjoy it. My big struggle is with the food. I love food, and I have a hard time telling myself no.

In the last few months I have been discouraged. I have seriously contemplated giving up, accepting my bigger size, and shopping for some clothes that fit my new, larger body.

But then I think, no, I really don't want to be this size right now. I can be this size when I'm 45, but now? Now I want to get those boxes down from the attic. I want to be a cute and healthy mama. So currently I am engaged in a last-ditch, all-out effort to get this weight off. Nate and I have agreed that as soon as I lose 20 pounds (or fit comfortably into my old clothes, whichever comes first),I can get a new tattoo. Even with this incredibly desirable inky incentive dangling before me, I can't seem to keep spoonfuls of ice cream from finding their way into my mouth.

Since I can't control my eating, my strategy is simply to spend enough calories to override my food intake. Here is the summer schedule: get up around 5:30, pack up the stroller, then snatch Theo out of bed. (He's usually awake anyway). Theo and I walk from 6 am to 7 am, returning just in time for Nate to leave for work. Then the boys and I go to the basement where I do a short (30 minutes) aerobic tape, usually with a weight-training focus. Later in the day, after dinner, I try to expend some more calories, with a walk, bike ride, or workout tape. All I can say is, this regimen had better work fast, as I can see serious burn-out just over the horizon.

My biggest fantasy these days is to go on The Biggest Loser ranch. They've been showing reruns of that show on the Style channel, and it taunts me. I know I'm not nearly big enough to qualify for that show, but it would be awesome to spend a month on the ranch, where losing 5 pounds in 7 days is considered a bad week. Personal trainers and a controlled food environment would make it so much easier, I think. Two or three weeks there, and this whole year-long battle would be over. If only I had a rich benefactor who could send me away to fat camp, all my woes would end. Sigh... a girl can dream, can't she?


In Theoville, we have toothage. He was a bit slow with the teeth-growing, I have to say. But he finally has one popping out on the top. It is very cute, and was dutifully noted in the baby book.

Here is a picture of Theo crawling into the play kitchen. He removed the box of toys that was in the bottom compartment, then removed the plastic sink, then crawled in and stuck his head through. Once he was up there, he promptly pulled the pictures off the wall. Pretty humorous, and a perfect example of the kind of hijinks this kid pulls on an hourly basis. He is nuts.


We've been struggling with Simon for the past few weeks. There are a couple issues rearing their heads: First, he loves to pester his brother. There is constant, endless pushing, prodding, pinching, squeezing, and toy-snatching. It drives me up a wall, and lately the two words that most often leave my mouth (accompanied by an angry to annoyed tone of voice) are, "Simon, don't...." At the same time, we have had a lot of asserting wishes and voicing opposition. We are not opposed to these two things on their own merits, but when they take the form of a shrieked, "NO! I DON'T WANT TO!!!!!!!" well, then we are opposed. We are both opposed and offended. Something needed to be done.

What we are trying can be called "Good Choice / Bad Choice." We have two bowls, each with ten stones in them. One has a sticker with a happy face (representing a good choice), and one has a sticker with a sad face (representing a bad choice). The stones move from bowl to bowl as good and bad choices are recognized. When all the stones are in the good choice bowl, there will be a reward of a one-on-one outing with mom or dad. So far it is a great tool. It forces us to look for moments of goodness from our firstborn, which, let's face it, can get completely lost amid baby-pummelling and voice-raising. It also gives a solid consequence to bad choices, which is better than relying on our disapproving [read: angry] words only.

Here is a picture of the bowls. It is poor. Forgive me.


Also forgive this very long post.

I'll try to balance it with a shorter post later today.


strawberry boys.

Theo really enjoyed his first taste of strawberry. He had three or four more after this one.

Simon never actually tasted his strawberry. This is an act for the camera. As you've already learned, he's saving such pleasures for when he is ten.
Have a great long weekend, everyone.


As promised...

... pictures. I am a woman of my word.

Theo has picked up this goofy little smile lately. There's really nothing little about it. As smiles go, it's totally over the top.

I love this picture. Nate thinks it's weird that his eyes aren't showing. He doesn't understand my artistic vision.

Here is Simon at his recital. His efforts shifted between singing the songs along with his class and policing the various sources of noise around him. The boy standing next to him was making Spiderman sound-effects and Simon reminded him of what he was supposed to be singing. At one point, Simon looked at me, sitting in the front row, and I silently mouthed to him, "Good job." Even though I didn't make any actual noise, I was shushed by my son.

He had fun. I think he felt very proud.

Theo is enjoying a lot of finger foods lately. He is messy.

Simon has taken up coloring. He used to be utterly bored by this activity, so it's interesting to me that's he's really taken to it now. Always evolving, these crazy kids...


Today is Simon's last day of school. So it's the last time I can watch mediocre movies on TBS while he's in class and Theo is napping. Today's feature is Up Close and Personal. I'm looking forward to Simon's summer break, even though we don't have any special plans. Summer vacation means less structure to our week, and that's not a bad thing.

Last night I took my first solo bike ride with Simon in the trailer. We went to the library, maybe 2 miles away. I felt okay. I was a little nervous, and there was a hill that absolutely kicked my ass. I moved up that hill at a snail's pace. I seriously think that, given proper knee protection, Theo could have crawled up that hill faster than I rode my bike. Still, I did it. I don't know if I can make the bike my main vehicle, but I am going to try to use it more and more.

Later, gators.


Simon is a very picky eater. We try to keep it light. We don't wage war over food. Once in a while we'll tell him that we didn't like ________ (tomatoes, beans, etc.) when we were his age, either. Maybe he'll like _______ (strawberries, watermelon, on and on) when he's older, we'll say. As he watched me eat some grapes tonight, we had this exchange.

-Mom, when I'm ten, I will love strawberries and grapes.

-Okay, great. But, you know, if you want, you can love them now.


He's Strong, He's Fast, He's Everywhere...

He's Theo.

We got an email this morning urging us to blog more often. As I read it, I was trying to figure out what had kept me from writing for the last few weeks. And after some thought, I've decided to blame it on my baby.

Theo has become a serious contender for attention in this house. He still has an extremely pleasant nature, but I don't think I would call him an "easy" baby any more. He climbs too damn much. Mere months ago, I could trust him to go about his baby business as I went about mine. Now he requires nearly constant supervision. Thus, the blog suffers.

Here are a few highlights from the last few weeks, in a convenient list:

- Taking occasional bike rides after dinner, trying to get up the nerve to use my bike as transportation. It's scary, though, since nobody expects bikes on the road around here, and they all drive like bats out of hell. Bad combo. But I still want to try.

-Experimenting with a small grill our neighbors let us borrow. I've made a point of learning to do it myself, instead of relying on Nate. We already fill our quota of traditional gender roles. I didn't want to add the ritual of manly grilling to the list. But we still make some manner of grunting joke every time he goes out to check on the grill.

-Attended Simon's spring program last week. He sang with his class for about 10 minutes, and he did a great job. Moments like that are a perk of motherhood that I didn't anticipate... the overwhelming, face-beaming, heart-singing pride that naturally accompanies such an event. Lovely.

-Nate likes his job. When he gets home at 5, he is awake and happy to see us --- an enormous change from the grumpy, groggy hellos we used to say in the afternoon.

So, a short list. I'll try to be here more often. And maybe some pictures soon. Adios for now.


Last Night with the Boogey Man

Tonight will be Nate's last time to work the graveyard shift.

After this one last night alone, I'll finally have another adult in the house with me all night. I couldn't be happier.

I am a scaredy-cat. I am afraid to be by myself at night, and I have gone to asleep afraid every weeknight for the past 8 months. Maybe it's because I have never lived by myself, or maybe my parents let me watch too much violence on TV as a youngster, but I can imagine the most horrifying things happening when I am in bed, alone in this big house. Of course, the boys are here, but they don't count. They can't protect me; on the contrary, it is my charge to protect them, and their tragic, grisly demise is always part of my morbid fantasies.

What am I afraid of, exactly? Anything. Everything. Mostly scenarios in which crazed lunatics break down the door with the sole intention of inflicting violence on whoever is inside. I know this is fucked up. I know I should try to get over it. But right now I am fighting mental battles on so many fronts --- trying to lose weight, trying to be a patient and fair mother, trying to be a good person in general --- I just don't have the energy to devote to quelling these ridiculous fears. Instead, I've been waiting it out. I knew Nate wouldn't be on third shift forever. And now I have one more night to be freaked out by every odd shadow, every creaky floorboard. One more night. Tomorrow morning I'll be a very happy woman.

We drove our new car home yesterday. A Chevy Malibu Maxx. (It's actually a 2006, for anyone who cares). Nate did all the research and shopping; I just picked out the color. It's white, in honor of a white Toyota I used to have and drove to death.

Tonight my brother and sister-in-law are babysitting so we can make another foray into the strange world of work clothes. Nate wanted me to come with him so we can pool our fashion knowledge. Even though he'll soon be just another midwestern man in the office, he doesn't want to dress like one. He wants to look sharp, and I say Amen to that.

So, after we buy some more work attire, we'll be ready for this change. We're excited.

Well, we're mostly excited. Nate is nervous about controlling his swearing as he transitions to the office. In the warehouse, workers are free to let fly any colorful expression they can dream up. But Nate suspects the expectations the office will be different. He's probably right. But I know he'll be fine. He can keep it in check in front of our parents and (usually) the kids. So all he needs to do is keep a tight lip for the first couple of weeks, feel it out, and then let loose, with or without swearing as the situation dictates. I predict there will be a fair amount of cussing even in this more glossy environment. If watching The Wire has taught me anything, it's that drug dealers and councilmen alike enjoy a good "shiiiiiiiiiiiiit," now and again.

For my part, I am dreading the extra hour or two of solitary childcare a day. Right now Nate gets up at 4 pm. He's not really awake for another hour, but if I pester him enough, he can help out. But when he starts his new job, he probably won't be home until 5:30 or 6:00 pm. Sometimes later. This fills me with anchor-in-the-gut-dread, as dinner is, bar none, the most hectic part of the day. I'm going to have to get more organized, maybe do some dinner prep during afternoon nap. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but here we go: In order to get the boys to bed at the time I want, I'm going to have to have dinner on the table when Nate gets home. Oh my god, I'm really a housewife now. Just give me some pumps and an apron, and I'll be good to go. We'll see how it all works out... I might have to use the TV a little more than I'd like to get through these additional hours alone.

Third shift wasn't all that bad. We got used to it. I think we adjusted well. There are even a couple things I will miss about it. For example, when it was time to take Simon to school but it was also time for Theo's nap, I could leave him because, technically, someone was in the house (even if that someone was asleep). Now Theo will have to come to and from school with us every time, even though it will cut his nap short and I absolutely hate that.

Also, I have to say it was nice to have someone else in the house all day, who could be woken up in case of emergency. I can only remember one time that I had to wake Nate up. It was the time I discovered piles of shit all over Simon's room. Shit smeared on the floors and walls, shit caked on toys. All of this, but an inexplicably clean little boy. "Simon, what happened?" I asked, simultaneously feeling the urge to vomit, cry, and punch a door frame. "My animals were taking a mud bath." What, I never told you that story? I guess it was because I was trying so hard to BLOCK IT OUT. Anyway, at that moment in time, it was nice to be able to storm into the bedroom and say, "Get up. I'm about to explode. I need help." And, groggily, he came to the rescue.

It probably goes without saying that the benefits of this new normal-hours job will far outweigh any advantages of the third shift job. We are very ready.

It will be great to go to bed without a knot of terror in my stomach. Oh, and spooning with my guy as we fall asleep together. That will be nice too.

Retreat Review

Thanks for the jokes and suggestions, everybody. I had myself some good chuckles. For the retreat, I decided to stick with the Harper's list of malapropisms, because I wasn't confident in my ability to tell a joke. It turned out that many women at the retreat shared my insecurity. At least half of the thirty attendees echoed some variation of "Well, I just have this list of botched church bulletin announcements because I'm not very good at telling jokes." (Seriously, I love the church bulletin humor. These can make me laugh until I hurt. Is it just me?)

There was one woman, though, who had no trouble telling a joke. Her name is Gwen, and I would guess her at 70. She told us that, for more than twenty years, at 9 am every Saturday morning, she and her mother would exchange jokes over the phone. She had a huge notebook full of them! I absolutely love that a mother and daughter would do that. Love it.

I had a great retreat weekend. Laughed until my face was aching, karaokied to "We Built This City," and "Bust a Move," and kayaked on Lake Springfield.

I'm really glad I went. It's amazing to be surrounded by women of all ages who are all so wonderful, so witty and vibrant. Despite my ambivalence about God, the opportunity to meet such a group of women is reason enough to continue going to church. That's what I learned this weekend. Also, I learned that my boys' childhood will be incomplete if we don't buy a couple of kayaks. They are so fun!


Make Laura Laugh Challenge

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send me a joke or short story that is both funny and appropriate to take to a church retreat. Granted, this is a pretty progressive church, but I still have to read this aloud to older, church ladies. So let's keep it appropriate, shall we?

Friday evening I leave for a women's retreat with ladies from church. When we moved down here, I sincerely intended to keep attending the retreats of our old church (in Chicago) as a way to stay in touch. And while I think that idea was nice in its way, I'm realizing that I need to make connections here if I'm ever going to get over leaving Chicago. I hope I can make some friends from our new church and also have a relaxing weekend.

The theme for the retreat is "She Who Laughs, Lasts." We're supposed to bring a "joke or very short story" to share with the group. The all-A student in me wants to bring something really great, that will have everybody rolling in the aisles. I have a list of funny school-work mistakes from Harper's, but I'm open to something better. If you have some time to kill, search the ol' ninnernet and find me something funny! Thanks.

Buying Power and Will Power

One way in which third shift kind of worked toward our advantage was that Nate could use the car to get to work at night, and then it would be at home with me during the day. But when Nate starts his new job on May 1, I will be stranded. I do want to start using a bike to get around some, but in Central Illinois, you just can't get everywhere on a bike. In Chicago, yes, but Bloomington is simply not a bike-friendly town. Plus, I still go to my folks' at least once a week to keep my dad company, and I definitely need to drive there in a motor vehicle. Thus, at long last, we'll become a two car family.

Nate is obsessively researching cars for me. Generally speaking, I don't have strong opinions on cars, though Nate might disagree with me on that count. It seems like whenever he sets his mind on the best car, I find some reason to veto it (it's not on purpose, honey, I swear). We've finally narrowed it down to three choices. Sometime soon we'll go look at them in person and then we'll be signing away a good bit of our newly earned income. I want a wagon. Not a van. I will never succumb to the pressure to be a minivan mom. That is probably the only strong feeling I have about the kind of car I want. Not a van. And not an SUV. Okay, I guess maybe I do have some opinions.

Yesterday I bought the couch. I absolutely love the frame, but I'm incredibly nervous about the fabric I picked. I could go on and on about the decision process, but I know that's not interesting to anyone but me. Suffice it to say, I agonized over the choice. In the end I went with my first instinct, the one I liked more than all the others, simply on its own merits as a fabric. Now I am nervous about how it will look in the room, and am frantically shopping for rug and curtains that will compliment the couch but not look too matchy-matchy (a process complicated by the fact that my budget for these items is cheap to very cheap, and there's just not a lot of fabulousness to be had in that price range). Basically, I have no idea what I'm doing. Hopefully it will all come together in a way that I like. There's no way Nate will let me buy a third set of curtains in as many months if the ones I pick now end up looking wrong. I'll have to live with the wrongness for a long, long time. Anyway, all decorating concerns aside, we'll have a new couch in 8 weeks. None too soon.

Today my shoulders and back muscles are sore, thanks to two consecutive early-morning Tae Bo sessions. I'm back on the wagon, eating well and exercising, but trying to listen to my body and be more balanced in both areas. I'm also trying not to watch TV. I got some audio books at the library, and I want to listen to those in my downtime instead of turning on the TV. I still plan to watch all of our weekly favorites (Lost, The Office, 30 Rock, etc). But I'm trying to cut out the mindless TV watching --- aimlessly channel surfing, switching between The Search for the Next Doll and Style channel reruns. I have so much I want to do, and TV really eats up my time and energy for getting things done. So far, so good.

Next task for my willpower to conquer is my terrible nail biting. I don't know if I'm strong enough for that one, though. Might have to make a hypnosis appointment. (Funny thing: Nate was staunchly against hypnosis for purposes of weight loss, but for nail biting he thought it was worth a shot. He really hates when I bite my nails.)


Look for me in the self-help section.

I know I've written before about how much I love a good parenting book. I am unabashed in my reliance on said books, because Lord knows I don't want to parent my kids based on my instincts alone (since my instinct is often to strangle somebody).

Now I am reading a different kind of book, in the hopes of developing a healthy relationship with food. I've been trying to do Weight Watchers since September, and I've lost 25 pounds. That's pretty good. I worked hard, I did it, yea me and all that. The problem is that I gained 50 pounds during my pregnancy, so I still have at least 20 to go if I ever want to unpack those famous boxes in the attic. But I'm stuck. I've been losing and gaining the same 5 pounds for months now. I have a nasty habit of eating really carefully for a few days, a week, or whatever, then going nuts on a carton of ice cream or slamming down a whole pan of brownies. It's incredibly frustrating to realize, week after week, that I have sabotaged myself once again.

I tried to talk Nate into letting me undergo hypnosis to override my binging tendencies. Since he wouldn't go for it, I went to the library to look for some books to help me. I admit I felt slightly embarrassed checking out titles like The Rules of Normal Eating, Why Can't I Stop Eating, and When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. I just felt like such a typical fat American woman. But maybe, if I can master the ideas in these books, I can stop obsessing about food and just eat in a healthy, moderate way. And maybe I could actually like my body, whatever the scale reads. That would really be turning a new leaf. Healthy, confident, beautiful new leaf.

It's amazing how babies change so fast. I had to laugh when I read my last post... not because Theo isn't a good baby anymore; he is, of course. But he's no longer such an easy baby. Probably two days after I wrote that glowing review, he became a climber. And I mean a serious climber, not just playing around on the first step. Suddenly he can climb all the way up the stairs in the blink of an eye. We've had to start keeping the door to the stairwell closed, and this does not please our little mountain climber. We've heard more whining and fussing about the inaccessible stairs than we've heard in the previous 8 months of his life combined.
He's also trying to pull up on anything taller than him. As a result, he's having his fair share of accidents. He tries to pull up on drawers and they pinch his fingers. He tries to pull up on chairs and pulls them down, pinning himself to the floor. Basically, that happy baby who we used to forget was in the room now requires close supervision. Not a bad thing, just a change. One last thing: I mentioned that he was easy to get to sleep, remember? Now he is so in love with pulling up to standing in his crib that he can't get to sleep. Even after he's deliriously tired, he can't stop pulling up. The boy fiends for that vertical high.
So we're learning to live with a climber. He's still the best baby I know.
Tomorrow we are going to buy a new couch! Here's a picture. Cute, huh? We are very excited. Our current couch is the pits. Sitting on it does not so much resemble sitting as it does some kind of ancient mind-over-pain meditation practice. And sleeping? Forget about it. We'll be grateful to have some soft cushions supporting our rumps again.


Blog as Baby Book

I've noticed that Theo nary gets a mention on this here blog. I think he gets overlooked because he's so easy-going. If he kept me up all night and was inconsolable by day, I'd probably complain about it here. As things are, he kind of stays under my "blog-worthy moments" radar.

But this baby is fantastic. Really, he is. He's quick with a smile or a giggle, he's easy to comfort, easy to put to sleep. Basically, anything you could want in a baby, he's got it times ten. Even though I can't properly convey his sweet spirit through this medium, I can at least chronicle some of his latest endeavors.

He is always crossing his feet, whether he's sitting in a chair or relaxing on his tummy. I don't know why, but I find his feet-crossing so utterly adorable; it makes me want to eat him up.

Since around his fifth month, he's been so active, such an explorer. He doesn't do a traditional crawl; he prefers the "army crawl." His tummy stays on the ground, and he pulls with his arms and pushes off the floor with his toes. He can drag his 18 lbs across a room with surprising speed.

Lately he has been pulling up on anything he can reach. Yesterday he pulled up straight as a pin using the dishwasher door for support.

The past few days, if I don't know where he's wandered off to, the first spot I check is the bottom of the stairs. He spends a lot of time there, pulling up on the stairs, carefully getting down, then pulling up again. He's like an athlete in training.

Not surprisingly, since Theo has taken up residence in this nook, his big brother can often be found there as well. Simon doles out an equal amount of pestering and loving. I tend to only take pictures of the latter.

He is a great little boy, with such a winning personality already. I can't wait to see what he's like at 2, 3, 4, etc. It saddens me to think that so few of our friends are experiencing his babyhood. Many of you knew Simon at this age, and yet Theo is a stranger to you (even Celeste, who witnessed his entrance into the world). So I guess I should try to post more about him, to give you a glimpse of his wonderfulness.

Also, visits would solve this problem. Visits, people, visits!

When the third-shift factor is eliminated, in about 3 weeks, it should be easier for us to make weekend trips up to Chi-town. But, seriously, if you aren't already planning on it (see you soon, Seeleys!), you should consider a trip down here. Visiting Bloomington will up your chances of seeing Theo at his best, as babies always perform better on their home turf.


Documenting the Daily Battle

As a mother (especially as a mother of two), I have always struggled to balance the demands on my time. At countless moments throughout any given day, I am trying to decide how best to spend my time.
Should I play with my boys?

(love the way they're both crossing their toes)

Should I devote time to housework?

(when the dishes in the dishwasher haven't been put away, dirty dishes have nowhere to go)

Can I rightfully spend some time on myself?

(new workout dvd's, which I requested instead of candy in my Easter basket; latest embroidery project)

From reading I've done and conversations I've had, I believe many mothers put themselves last on the list. Not me. For me, the house comes last. The housework is always there, and somehow it gets done eventually, only to start piling up again. Even though it drives me crazy to have a disheveled house, I'll gladly use my free time (the boys' afternoon rest time, for instance) to do some crafting instead of tackling the growing piles of laundry. Is it laziness or self-preservation? I don't know.

Anyway, this morning, even though the kitchen looked like this...

(witness, every last inch of counter space covered in things that need to be cleaned or put away)

...and the laundry looked like this...


(clean, but not put away)

... the winner of the constant battle for my time was Simon and this new toy, a gift for Easter. I had a marble maze toy when I was young, and Nate did too. What about you?
What a great toy. Watching Simon race his marbles with bated breath was far more gratifying than a clean kitchen could ever be.

There will always be dirty dishes. Four year old boys enthralled by physics? I think not.


Hell yeah.

On Monday, Nate had an interview for an office job at Cat. We went shopping for something for him to wear, because his wardrobe is sorely lacking in appropriate office attire. It took us several hours; the world of suit pants and shirts with collar measurements is completely foreign to us. He felt good about the interview, and we thought we'd have to wait at least a week to find out whether he got the job.

We were wrong about that, though. The call came on Friday. He's in!

This job is going to change our lives, and that's no joke. First of all, we're done with third shift, probably forever. More importantly, the salary for this job will double our income. DOUBLE.

The possibility of a job like this is the reason we moved down here. I still miss Chicago like hell, but seeing Nate so happy after that phone call made me think that maybe we're in the right place. We'll finally be able to get off the dole, which has been generously administered by Nate's parents since we were married. They have been the most amazing people to take money from... completely unconditional in their giving, never any strings or judgement, only assistance. They are fantastic, for many reasons. We're going to take them out to dinner soon to thank them for everything.

On his new job, Nate would like to add this:

"I really make cake, you can call me Duncan Hines"
Maybe he'll have to change his moniker from Dow Jones to Duncan Hines.
Send him some congratulations, ya'll.


I haven't been spending much time in front of the computer lately. We've been stationed on the front porch. We absolutely adore our swing.
And here is some porch furniture we picked out of somebody's garbage. At all times in Bloomington, there is an inordinate amount of furniture set out on the curb. It's weird.

I thought free was the perfect price for porch furniture. This way I don't have to worry if it gets damaged or snatched. We're going to try to eat out here as much as possible.

I FINALLY finished this piece of embroidery for my friend Bonnie. It's only 3 months late.

It was really hard to get a good picture of this. It's a bit brighter than it looks here. The main design (the text and the Luckenbooth) didn't take that long. I decided to add a background design in white, for extra texture and prettiness, and that is what I worked on for the past few months. It took many, many hours. You can see it better in the second picture. Can you see it here? I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, but I don't expect to ever tackle such a big project again. From here on out I'm all about smaller projects and faster gratification.

The next step with this piece is to wash, iron, and mount it onto some matte board I had cut to the correct size. Then I'll take it somewhere to be framed. I am terrified at the prospect of these next tasks. I've never done them before, and I can think of about a thousand ways that the process could go awry. And if I ruin this, it will be a sad, sad day in our house.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Here are a few pics of the boys, just for kicks. Here is Theo climbing into the bottom of his bouncy saucer and getting stuck. You can see on his face that he's just realized he can't move, and he doesn't much care for it. That was a few weeks ago. Now he can crawl through the bottom of that thing like it's as level as the rest of the floor.

Here we have the classic messy baby in highchair photo, though he doesn't look as messy as I remember him looking at the time.
One other thing of note here is the food on his tray. Cheerios, chopped up raisins, avocado, and pineapple. Basically whatever I could find in the kitchen and make into small enough pieces, I gave to him. I would've never done that with Simon. With Simon, I had a very narrow idea of what babies could eat, namely anything that came in a jar or box that said "Baby Food." With Theo, we are trying to expand that notion, with the hopes that letting him try a wider variety of foods from this tender age will influence him to be less picky than his big brother.

And, finally, here is Simon. We had this big red dinosaur blown up and tied to the porch on the day of his party. A few days later, as it deflated, he took to using it as a recliner. Looks comfy, doesn't it?