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?


Potential New Theme Song

Da Backwudz-"Makin Money Counting Hundreds"


Happy Birthday, Dinosaur!

We had a beautiful day on Saturday for the dinosaur party. I was so happy with how everything came together; I think it was the best party I have thrown to date.

I spent a lot of time on the decorations. I cut out sixteen of these big dinosaurs silhouettes and then made hats for them. I really love how they turned out. At 1 am Saturday morning, it seemed crazy to be twisting streamers instead of going to bed. But on party day, after a few hours of rest, I was glad I stayed up. Spending a lot of time on decorations might seem silly to some... after all, there are so many other things to do: clean the house, make food, prepare activities. But I willingly invest time in decorating because it pleases me enormously to see the party space looking bright and festive.

Here the birthday boy sneaks some popcorn before the party starts.
This year was the first time I planned a game for the kids, and it was a blast. About a week before the party, I cooked up a batch of homemade play dough. Then I formed eggs around some teeny plastic dinosaurs. I left the eggs sitting on a desk all week, turning them on occasion, so the play dough could dry out. At the party, the kids hunted for the eggs, then took them into the kitchen to the special archaeological exploration corner. There were little hammers and brushes to crack the eggs and clean off the discoveries. The kids loved it. I was excited that it worked so well.

My brother brought this old Halloween mask, and it was a big hit. Click over to Janna's blog and check out the amazing pictures she posted featuring the cutest little dinosaur head ever.

During the week before the party I talked to Simon several times about saying "Thank you" for each gift he received. I'm probably hyper-concerned about this because in my own childhood, on at least two occasions, I remember my mom expressing great disappointment in my level of gratefulness at a party. Anyway, after a few conversations and a quick reminder on party morning, I still imagined Simon would be a crazed gift-opening beast, tearing through each package, tossing it aside, and yelling, "Next!" I was so wrong. He only needed a few nudges to remember to say Thanks, and, more impressive, he let his friends help him unwrap his presents. He didn't have an ounce of "gimme, gimme" or "it's mine" in him. I was incredibly pleased and proud.

Here was the cake, not homemade, but delicious. We forgot to do candles on the cake, so this morning we had some birthday pancakes, candles, and a quick song.

I'm about to mist over now, thinking about my little baby, growing up. Saturday was a great day, and so was today, his actual birthday. And of course days like these make me think of a day four years ago, when the Chicago sky was grey and crying rain, and I was exhausted in a hospital room. Only four years ago, but I was a different person then. Young, scared, and unsure in the midst of transition. In a way I grew up while Simon grew. He began to crawl; I crawled away from a faith that wasn't working for me. He started to take steps that were small but confident; I developed self-awareness and confidence like I'd never had before, not to mention becoming a confident Chicago driver. All this blather to say something simple and completely unoriginal: my life changed the day that baby boy was born. The places he has taken me were ones I never imagined possible. Imagining where he will go in the future is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Future Simon, if you are reading this, I love you, kiddo, more than I can say, and I'll never love you less. Only more and more. Happy birthday dinosaur.


Funk, Be Gone!

The last several weeks have been long and rather dark. A nasty cold made its way through our house, starting with Theo, moving on to Nate and Simon, and finally finding me. As I said, it was a heinous cold, and it led to our boys having their first ear infections. That's right --- two ear infections at the same time. Those were a couple of exhausting days. Thankfully, everyone is healthy now. And it's spring!!!

I could not be more happy about the seasons changing. I've been in a bad place lately, in a bit of a funk. I know it's been eight months since the move, and you all have listened to me complain about leaving Chicago many, many times. But, for unknown reasons, I have been pining for the city lately. I miss the boulevards, the parks, the air, the light. I feel incredibly painful nostalgia for our old routines... walking to the store, the park, or the library, letting Simon run free in Palmer Square, stopping by Miko's for a sweet treat, driving down Fullerton.

Along with this nostalgia comes some guilt, because, of course, all of these activities involved only one child. I love Theo. Yet I long for the time before he was born. How can I reconcile those feelings? What I miss, I think, is the carefree nature of the days before two children. And, despite loving the heck out of this new little boy, we haven't figured out how to recapture that easygoing rhythm to our days. Instead of walks and frolicking sessions, the days seem to fill up with meals, naps, diaper changes, etc.

There is no doubt that caring for two children is considerably harder than caring for one. But I think part of my problem is that I am not very flexible. Admittedly, I am obsessed with proper naps for the little one. And keeping the boys out past their 7 pm bedtime will put my stomach in knots. But sticking to such a strict schedule doesn't leave a lot of room for the spontaneous family activities I yearn for. I think I'm either going to have to schedule things like family walks, or I'm going to have to loosen my grip on the structure of our days. Or maybe I'll do some of both.

Today I knew we had to get outside. The sun was shining and I think it was 60 degrees or maybe warmer. I rushed around to get everybody ready to go out immediately after Theo woke from his morning nap. I had to pack quite a load of goods... it was 12 noon by the time we left, so I had to pack snacks and drinks for everybody. But all the hassle was WELL WORTH IT. We had an amazing walk. If I'd had a time-lapse camera set on Simon, I think I would've captured him growing a few centimeters, blooming in the sunshine after months of being cooped up. Theo sat up in the stroller for the first time, and babbled happily as long as his chariot was in motion. I felt relieved, elevated, invigorated.

During the funk of the past few weeks, Nate and I talked through my feelings, as is our way. He kept suggesting that maybe it wasn't so much pining for our lost city as it was a nasty case of cabin fever. After our walk today I think he may have been onto something.

Next up: Dinosaur Party! Saturday is the big 4th Birthday celebration. I'll report back, with loads of pictures, for sure.