Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It's funny to look at this picture now after what happened less than five minutes later.
In this picture, we have just finished all the food preparations: our unaromatic turkey (we kept waiting for it to start filling the house with turkey smell as it was cooking, but it never did!), mashed potatoes, rolls, apple stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole, jello salad, peas, and cran-sprite drink. Waimea has decorated our entire wall with Thanksgiving decorations. And we are all starving and wanting to eat.

Then, out of nowhere, Spencer says he doesn't feel well, and needs to throw up. We tell him to get to the bathroom, but he doesn't make it. So we got to start our Thanksgiving feast this year cleaning up throw-up. He ended up having the stomach flu, and didn't get to eat his Thanksgiving dinner until Saturday night.

(Ironically, Erik ended up getting the same bug the night before he was to fly out Wednesday morning. We thought we were in the clear by that point. But Erik missed his flight, and his interview in Seattle, and had to reschedule both. BUT, we got to have him here an extra three days.)

Black Friday was spent glued to the internet, awaiting the fantastic amazon lightning deals that weren't quite as fantastic this year. And dealing with Spencer's stomach flu issues coming from the other end. If you know what I mean.

Luckily Saturday was much more cheerful--we continued with our tradition of buying a fresh tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. The kids had a blast decorating it. And Spencer is getting tall enough now that the ornaments aren't all clustered in the bottom 2 feet of the tree.
It's a great way for Evan and I to celebrate our anniversary of meeting each other (8 years ago that night, at a party of all places).

What a memorable weekend.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Trip into Downtown Chicago


The day before Thanksgiving, Erik and I took the kids into downtown (Evan had school that day, would you believe). Knowing it was going to be busy, and that the kids wouldn't last too long, we only planned on doing three things.

First, we wanted to see the bean. Appropriately named:

It distorts everything, and it's obvious that the biggest tourist appeal to it is seeing what kinds of crazy pictures you can get with it. Waimea quickly took over the camera and took these three shots:
Spencer, however, wasn't that enthralled with it. He only saw before him a marvelous opportunity for teasing the pigeons that were in abundance. I'm surprised we weren't cited for animal cruelty or something.
Next stop: Yelp.com's highest ranking chicago-style pizza in the loop area of downtown Chicago--the Avanti Cafe. It's this little Italian deli, and I would never have thought to stop in without the online recommendation. But I give it high ratings: it wasn't busy, it was clean, it didn't seem to be over-hyped, very reasonably priced, and the food was great! I can't vouch for its authenticity, but it tasted better and more unique than just about any other pizza I've had. Wish I had taken a picture...

Third and final stop: Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower and tallest building in the world until Dubai took over).
I knew I wouldn't be going up to their observatory (on the 103rd floor!) with the kids, but Erik wanted to. So the kids and I wandered the gift shop (location of Waimea's angry birds Chicago Bull incident) while he took these picture for me:
The kids' favorite part of the day: Riding the train and stopping in the Disney store. Go figure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Visit from Grandma and Grandpa

The week before Thanksgiving, Evan's parents came for a visit. Looking back, I realize that I didn't take anywhere near enough pictures of their visit. But we had a great time with them.

Spencer has a great relationship with them from when we lived an hour away from them in Texas. So it's easy for him to latch right on. He came home from school every day and immediately enlisted them in his play.

Waimea is still getting to know them, but she latched on quick, especially with grandma. If grandma ate an apple, Waimea had to eat an apple:
Grandma did so many crafts with her, to the point where the wall shown in the picture above was entirely covered in pictures.

We took a quick trip to see the lake:
They took us to the Museum of Science and Industry (they used to live in southern Illinois, so are quite familiar with Chicago. This museum was one of Evan's and his siblings favorites when they were young). It's a HUGE museum with many hands-on displays and exhibits. The kids had a blast.
They weren't able to stay for Thanksgiving, so we had a pre-Thanksgiving preview dinner, with most of the fixings. Instead of a turkey, though, we bought a rotisserie chicken from Sam's Club. And instead of pie, we had pumpkin cake.

Thanks for the visit, grandma and grandpa! The kids are counting down the days until they get to see you in Utah (only 15!)

Doctoring the Doctor

My brother, Erik, is in his last year of medical school at University of Hawaii. During this last year, the school gives the students a three month break for interviews for their intern year and residency. Erik decided to spend 3 1/2 weeks of this break with us.

He has been here long enough now that I don't know what we'll do without him. It's to the point where, when Waimea draws family pictures, Erik is included. I haven't had to play with my kids for weeks. It's always "Eh-eh, come play with me," or "Eh-eh, do this," or "Eh-eh, sit by me." One more day, and then he's gone.

Sadly, there will be no more of Waimea playing doctor to the doctor:
No more uncle jumping in the leaves and playing with them:
And no more having to delete about 30 variations of this (all taken by Waimea):
You will be missed, Eh-eh. It's a good thing we'll see you in Utah, three weeks from now.
Last week we took a trip into downtown Chicago. While looking through a gift shop, Waimea saw this logo on a backback:




and very excitedly said, "Look! Angry birds!"

Monday, October 31, 2011

Throwing in the Home-Made-Halloween-Costume Towel

Remember these costumes from last year?
I made them extra big so that they could wear them for (at least ) 2 years.

What was I thinking?

No kid wants to wear the same costume two years in a row, even if they say they do. And my kids are so fickle with their costume demands that even when I make a new one, they often don't want to wear it when it comes time. Take Mea, for example. She has a whole arsenal of princess costumes. But she wanted a mermaid costume this year. So I, being the pushover that I am, made her one last month:
She hasn't worn in. Ever. And refused to for Halloween. About a week before Halloween she decided that she was going to be a kitty cat.

And Spencer couldn't decide whether to be Darth Vader or Harry Potter. Either way, I wasn't making the mistake of sewing more costumes.

So here's how it turned out. Here's Mea at the church Trunk or Treat with some friends, sporting her thrift kitty cat costume:
Cost rundown: 99 cent pants from the thrift store, shirt from her drawer, foam mask purchased at Michaels for $1 (with pipe-cleaner whiskers added), and a kitty cat tail made from some old fleece and stuffing that I already had, safety-pinned to her pants. I've never made such a ghetto costume in my life. Did she care? Nope. She pretended to be a cat for days.

And here's what Spencer decided to be at the same event:
Cost rundown: I got really lucky and found the mask at the thrift store for 99 cents, and the rest of the costume at the same thrift store (different day) for $2.

I really am not creative enough to decorate our trunk, so I just threw the few decorations we have in the trunk and called it good:
Luckily, when it came to the day of Halloween, Waimea was still happy to be a kitty cat again:
Here's her tail:
(Just so you know, I found that the best way to make a animal tail flexible, but still shapeable, is to insert the stem of some fake flowers (flowers removed, of course), into the middle of the stuffing.)

Spencer, however, decided to be Harry Potter after all. Luckily I had made him a Griffindor scarf weeks ago, just in case ($4 for yarn). A friend of ours loaned us a cape with the Griffindor emblem sewn on. And I made those lovely construction paper glasses literally minutes before they walked out the door:
Good enough.

Anyone want to buy a girls size 4 mermaid costume?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Happenings

We have an amazing library. Spencer's favorite part is the free Wii game rentals. He recently became obsessed with the Harry Potter Wii game, and wants to play it all the time. So we've had to put restrictions on him, AND make him earn his time. How? By reading to Mea:
I now know why people cut down trees on their property. We've never lived in a place where we had to rake leaves. But we're sure getting our share of it here. This was the first week:
And it is now week four of this, with little sign of letting up. At least Waimea is having fun with it.

This is becoming a nightly occurrence:

And this past weekend we were invited to a pumpkin party. We carved our pumpkins, and they were judged according to age group. Waimea's kitty cat won for ages 4 and under, and Spencer's won for ages 5-7. (Evan and I feel kind of bad because we did most of the carving, but does any kid carve their own pumpkin at age 7 or under? At least they chose their designs, and Waimea did the painting on hers). So here they are, our prize-winning pumpkins:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

And She's Four...

It was Waimea's birthday today. And we celebrated it by going camping. You may think that is cruel, but it is what she requested. She loves to camp.

Illinois is not known for its camping. But we picked a state park surrounding by lakes (appropriately named Chain O'Lakes State Park), and went up Friday after Evan got out of class. We pulled into our site about 8 PM, got camp set up, and immediately went to bed. We woke up to cold, windy weather. So Waimea opened her presents in the tent (we decided to celebrate on Saturday):

An Aurora doll, Prince Phillip doll, Aurora dresses, and three mini fairies from Grandma and Grandpa:
A Belle doll from mom and dad:
A six pack of fairies from Mummi and Pappa:
A doll, some cutely-adorned clothes, and hair clips from Aunt Kristy, Uncle Todd, and cousins:
And, not pictured, a Rapunzel lunch box and book from Spencer, some homemade dresses for her Belle doll from mom and dad, and some braided yarn Rapunzel hair, also from mom and dad. Quite the loot! But we've always told our kids that we'll give them more presents if they don't have a birthday party. (Sadly, I think Waimea thought she was going to have friends come camping and have a birthday party at the campsite. Oops!).

The temps warmed up a bit (not much with all the wind!), so we headed out for some walks to the lakes:
Played on the playground (What is it with campgrounds with playgrounds? I never saw them until we moved out east. Must be compensating for lack of real camping atmosphere):
And then we spent some time in the tent (it was just way too windy outside!):

Spencer and Daddy working on something:
Mommy napping (Do you blame me? Friday was crazy, packing up everything by myself):
Waimea playing with her new loot:
And when we made it back home, Waimea had this easel to open on her actual birthday:
We had a great time! Thanks for wanting to go camping Mea! SOOOO glad you're part of our family!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sleepy Times

The joys of Sunday naps:
Evan came to check on the kids before he went to bed and found them like this:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Preschool Time

By the time we arrived here in Chicago, it was too late to register Waimea for any of the cheap preschools (like the ones offered through the high schools). And since she misses the cut-off date here for Kindergarten next year, it looks like we've got an extra year of preschool, anyway. So we'll just save the real preschool for next fall.

In the interim, I have been having a mini-preschool with her. (Can you believe it?! This is SO not my style!). It came about because Waimea was literally begging to go to school. And being as limited on funds as we are, we can't afford a real preschool. But Waimea has been loving mommy-preschool so far.

We bought a preschool activity book that goes through letters, shapes, and such. We decided to start with the alphabet. There are about 4 pages of "activities" for each letter, so we do a letter per day.
And then we read a book that corresponds with the letter we studied that day. Someone gave us this set our first year in New Jersey, and we almost got rid of it at one point. I'm sure glad we didn't.
Today we do the letter "W." A few more days, and then I have to be creative about what to do next.

I also signed her up for a once-per-week, six-week art class, and a four-week cooking class through the community center. It's about all we can afford, but between these classes and preschool with mom, she seems to be content.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lost Tooth

It has finally happened. Spencer has been waiting for this day for years. Literally. It all started at our last dentist appointment in August. The hygienist was cleaning his teeth and found that the lower right tooth was loose. It has progressively gotten looser and looser, and he has been complaining more and more about not being able to eat. I told him Monday that I'd pull it out for him, but after gripping it, he told me to stop. Last night he didn't eat dinner very well, and I threatened to take it out while he was sleeping (I'm such a great mom, aren't I?).

Turns out I didn't need to. Evan and I were getting ready for bed when we heard one of the kids call out. We thought it was Mea, but then Spencer said, "My tooth fell out!" Sure enough, it did.
The tooth fairy gave him a whopping $1 bill for his exploits. With all his tossing and turning, though, it fell on the ground under the bed and Spencer thought that the tooth fairy forgot about him.

This is the biggest he has smiled for the camera in quite awhile. Usually he's making some ridiculous face. Love this smile:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Job

My employment history is pathetic at best:

Joann Fabric associate--10 months
BYU paint crew--1.5 years
lifeguard and swim instructor--6 months
independent painter--1 year
mom--7 years

I went back to school in 2010 at the local community college to finish out my drafting/autocad certificate that I had started in Washington right after my mission. (My art history bachelor's degree is worthless to me.) But when I finished last December, I wasn't able to seriously look for a job because I knew we were moving in 8 months or less.

And when I got here, I thought for sure no one would hire me, based on my pathetic employment history and huge gap of no employment, even after getting my certificate.

But then there was a craigslist post from a contractor seeking a drafter for some of his projects. I applied, and he responded immediately. We had a phone interview (which, if any of you know about how much I despise talking on the phone to strangers, you can imagine how well that went). He said he probably wouldn't be able to pay me even the minimum of what he posted, and that he'd get back with me the next week when he was back in town.

I got off the phone feeling like absolute crap, and feeling quite sure I'd never hear from him again. The next week passed. I gave up hope about the job. Another week passed. And then this past Monday, I come home to a message from him, asking if I'm still looking for work. I called back, and he told me to come in that day, and he'd start me working.

Here's the great thing about it--he wanted me to work on his computer in his office, but it turns out that his autocad subscription has expired (it's thousands of dollars), but I still have the student version on my computer at home. So I get to work from home, designing in my own time (it's only part time). Which means that Mea gets to be with me all day still. I report back to him daily, and when I complete a project (I finished my first today!), then I have to take the plans into downtown Chicago to the building department to get them approved. And he's paying me more than he said on the phone a few weeks back.

So it all works out beautifully. I don't know how long he'll be able to employ me--he's a licensed contractor, but he also owns a mailing/printing company, which is what he spends most of his time doing. So I just have a few projects lined up right now, but he said it may expand to more. But at least I'm getting real experience and will have something substantial to put on my resume. And maybe we won't have to take out as many student loans to get us through these four years. We'll see.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two Birds With One Stone

Problem A: Spencer is required to practice his reading every night for homework, but doesn't like to do it. He does, however, insist on a bedtime story to be read to him every night.

Problem B: Since school started, Spencer decided that he was too cool to play with his little sister, and has been quite condescending of late.

Solution: In order for Spencer to have a story read to him, he has to read a story to Waimea--one of her choosing, too.

Brilliant! (Evan gets all the credit.)