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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Living in Community

Part of the long process of moving overseas has so far involved a lot of moving within the US!  We spent the first three weeks of October living at Keystone, our friends’ building, while we waited for our temporary apartment at headquarters to open up.  We had our own private bedroom, living room, and bathroom but did meals together every night.  Four adults and three kids under four was definitely a recipe for chaos at times (plus four more adults and four more kids on the other floors), but we appreciated the extra and unique time this gave us with our friends.  I think we did manage to avoid all three kids melting down at once but they each had their own moments!  It was a sweet, temporary period to do life together in before life becomes more separate than we would ever want.  Eric and Em were extremely gracious in letting us interrupt their regular schedule for an extended time.

I liked having people to watch Parenthood with, being able to tag along on the many activities that Em plans such as pumpkin patches and apple picking, witnessing life with a 3 and a half year old first hand and spending dinner trying not to laugh out loud at Eleanor’s renditions of what pre-school teachers are like, that Canaan has become better acclimated to lots of people, “strangers”, and loud noises, participating in riveting, opinionated, funny, and intense conversations at house desserts, being invited to play Ticket to Ride with Charlie & Beth, trying Las Cemitas delicious cemitas, having extra people to cook for (and people who really like dessert unlike Nate), having an insider’s perspective as to what some of the negotiations/conversations about having a shared ownership in a building and block look like, watching Katie and Emily’s coupon savvy shopping trips, sharing a babysitter and completing the monumental task of getting enough kids asleep to leave the babysitter with 5 kids 4 and under, Friday play group being so easy because Canaan could nap in his own bed when he needed to, coming home from one night away in Indiana and having Eleanor tell us she missed us at dinner, and more.

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We had a totally relaxing Sunday afternoon out in the backyard with some fun drinks and all of the kids peaceful and playing.  Edie and Canaan are starting to be aware of each other’s existence now.  Can you believe Canaan is three weeks younger with his giant head and long body?

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Dressed for Fall in the Keystone backyard with Em and Katie during a neighborhood pumpkin carving and painting party.

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So far Ella is the only member of her family that likes to cook. She’s quite a champ to have fun making dessert with me … a dessert she knows she cannot eat herself because she has to start eating her vegetables first.

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Sharing life, sharing kids. Em has been irreplaceable in my transition to being a parent.

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Welcome to life on Keystone. It has its moments. We jumped in our car to go get visas one morning only to discover this lovely, spray painted message on our hood.

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Goebbert’s Pumpkin Farm

One benefit of community living comes from the fact that Em is always very motivated to do family activities and get out of the house.  It’s much easier to tag along on these things when we all start from the same place and can check in all morning on what kid is napping when in order to figure out when we will actually leave.  For Columbus Day we went out to Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch, land of pumpkins-o-plenty, camels and ponies to ride, kettle corn, roasted corn, and apple cider donuts, hay bales, tractor rides and more.  Mostly it’s a land full of photo-ops for parents of young kids and our crew was no different!  But it’s always nice to get out in 80 degree weather in October and do something different for a day.

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(Note: Time to put the 3-6 month clothes away because these are some SHORT shorts now.)

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(
Look Dad – Canaan doesn’t always look so serious and worried!)

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Edie & Canaan

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A smile in between attempts to chew on the pumpkin stem

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Ava, Eleanor, Canaan, Edie, Liam

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College Friends

In all of the major events that happened in August (the addition of my first nephew, flying to Oklahoma with Canaan to meet this nephew, moving! from our apartment to Keystone) I forgot to write about the first fun event of September.  Two of my best girlfriends from college came for a short visit.

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Amanda (2nd from the right), known as Commander by us, was visiting her home in Canada during a summer break from classes in Cambridge and decided to “swing by” Chicago. Jeanine (2nd from leftO, who currently lives in Columbus, was urged to join us to make the reunion complete. She was especially motivated to make the trip up because she had a new “person” for us to meet along with her! Lydia (far left) lives in Chicago with her husband Adam. They live in a different community and go to a different church than us but we get to see them a little more frequently. Lydia is currently pregnant with their second child and has been a good resource for me since Canaan was born.

The time together was good as always. It was a little chaotic with Amanda leaving just less than 12 hours after Jeanine arrived but we made it work and had one big brunch altogether. Adam and Lydia are great hosts who are way more mellow and go with the flow than I could ever be. For that I greatly admire them because it makes us all feel really comfortable. I got to spend a day with Jeanine and thru that got to know her boyfriend, Matt. We went to Trader Joe’s (I love anyone who comes to town and is excited to check out TJ’s!), tried out cupcakes at The Cupcake Gallery (I don’t recommend a visit as there are far better cupcakes elsewhere) and went to the Grape Stomp Festival on Wells Street. At night a lovely friend from church babysat so that Jeanine, Matt, Nate, and I could go out to an adult dinner and then over to chocolate fondue with Adam and Lydia once their daughter was asleep. I always appreciate time with Jeanine. One thing I loved about my day with her was just how open both Matt and her were to questions. I feel comfortable throwing any question at her without feeling like things are “off limits” and knowing she’ll really think about her response. Both she and Matt seem to have this quality and endured questions about how the dynamics present with their siblings might play out in their relationship, how they’ve dealt with conflict and where they might foresee the “age gap issue” coming to play. You know, the normal sort of questions one asks over a slice of pizza at Lou Malnati’s …

Any day I spend with these friends is great and I have always appreciated how Amanda and Jeanine have made great efforts to visit Lydia and I regularly.

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I’ve long been a cupcake fanatic.  I know it’s uber-trendy, but I just don’t care.  I’ve loved vanilla on vanilla since I was a little girl.  Something that comes in that flavor combination and is perfectly portioned and decadently decorated was made for me.  While nothing will ever beat a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream, I’m game to try almost any combination (after all, you can always eat two, right?).  My friend Em shares my love of cupcakes (she goes for chocolate) but we have long debated the best cupcake in the city.  Turns out she was having this same never-ending conversation with a few other friends as well and thus an idea was born.

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(Sweet Mandy B’s cupcakes)

The mission? To decide once and for all where the best cupcake in this city can be found when the craving hits. The idea was to spend a night trolling the town for cupcakes. But let’s get real. We each have kiddos at home, finding a date that worked for everyone was hard enough, and finding parking all over the city seemed anti-climatic. So this crawl turned into a cupcake war where each lady was assigned a cupcake shop and asked to pick-out some basics and some specialty cupcakes.

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(MORE cupcakes)

6 Ladies. 6 cupcake lovers.  5 cupcake shops.  4 bottles of wine.  32 cupcakes.

Let me say it again: 6 ladies, 32 cupcakes. The final conclusion? We fought a war on the cupcakes but the cupcakes won.

What were we thinking?? We were thinking we were a lot more pro at heavy-sugar-ingestion than we were.

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(Swirlz Cupcakes)

Despite stomach aches for several and the fact that 12 cupcakes went home without even being tasted I’d say any night is a success where that many cupcakes are consumed.

So here were the final conclusions:
the Salted Caramel Cupcake from Southport Grocery and Cafe (not even a cupcake specialty shop) took top honors. Many also felt it had the best vanilla on chocolate and vanilla on vanilla, though the appearance was slightly underwhelming in comparison.
the lemon cupcake with lemon cream cheese frosting from Sweet Mandy B’s was the surprise of the night, convincing several who would never have picked a citrus cupcake.
Sweet Mandy B’s will always be my top-rated shop for their buttercream frosting, but Molly’s Cupcakes chocolate cake blew Sweet Mandy B’s chalky comparison out of the water.
Swirlz is better known than most, but is definitely outrated and outranked in flavor by many others.
And
More, a downtown hotspot that demonstrated far more friendliness than anticipated, pulls out some astonishingly artistic cakes.  Unfortunately the beauty of the cupcakes far outreach the flavor.

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Labor Day 2010

Labor Day weekend marked a change from the non-stop summer weather. Not that I’m complaining about the sunshine, but it was kind of nice to pull out a pair of jeans instead of the rotation of three shorts I wear as a full-time mom. Each weekend day Nate and I would remark that this was a “Quito” day because of the perfect temperatures with a slight breeze.

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Labor Day 2010 was celebrated like many past, in the Keystone backyard with Eric & Em, Katie & Bill, and Beth & Charlie this year. Because we all have kids now, these events have moved earlier in the day so that we were all home long before 7pm bedtimes. Canaan loved getting his grinchy little fingers in the grass and spending time with his friend Edie. Both Canaan and I experienced Edie’s ability to stare. Eric need not worry about boyfriends-to-come, she’ll be able to intimidate them all on her own! Edie and Canaan also endured a photo shoot in which their parents tried to convince them they were friends. Meanwhile, they were more interested in eating or looking anywhere but the camera. We’ll see if Em got any good shots out of it. Canaan successfully took a 45-minute nap in the basement, giving us hope that might be able to be trotted around a little more often in the future.

We sat around a table in the backyard, huddled under two sun umbrellas while Charlie checked his i-phone rain radar every time we felt a drop. I will note, his information did not fail and it was worth sticking out the few rain clouds that came through. We talked TV shows, tried to catch flying plates caught by the wind, and parents took turns monitoring the older kids. I was told I have ADHD for my lack of ability to stay in only one conversation and I realized I’m exactly like my mother when I tried to coach everyone in the proper way to say “Manchego” (as in cheese). Oh and we all sat out in the sun – finally! – at the end and ate some cupcakes … a new, cinnamon-filled cupcake recipe I’ll have to leave you hanging for until I get it photographed properly.

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Part of the cooking frenzy from a few weeks ago was due to the fact that my very first sister-in-law, Laura, is getting married!  I was happy to help her celebrate bachelorette style by making some appetizers for everyone to enjoy.  Laura has been a great sister and I wouldn’t miss being able to support her in this way.  And now in just about a week we’ll have a new marriage and a new addition to the family in Garenne.

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Some of the fun! Gorgonzola, pear, and apricot tarts, brie and raspberry cups with chives, salami and gorgonzola biscuits with raspberry preserves, thai chicken lettuce wraps, and a blue cheese and strawberry salad. Later Loretta brought out dozens of mini cupcakes from Sugar Bliss in flavors like fuzzy navel and red velvet.

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10 years!  It’s been 10 years since Nate & I left Ecuador, 10 years since we graduated from high school.  That meant that this summer was reunion time.  Our class reunion was in Costa Mesa, California where the reunion planner lives.  People flew from all over the US, including Maine, Texas, Colorado, etc.  We had people come down from Canada and up from Ecuador for the event.  Just over half of our class was able to make it.  And wish us we brought new spouses and a pile of kids.

The reunion was pretty low-key planning wise.  It was three days of time to hang out.  We all stayed in the same hotel and had a conference room for our group that we could come and go from whenever.  World Cup games were watched together in that room.  Our first night we had a picnic in the park.  The next day people did what they wanted.  Some people went to Disney Land, some to Cristal Cathedral, the pool, or the beach.  Nate, Canaan, and I spent time with our friends Jeff, Mackenzie, and Jayden Rollins at Downtown Disney where we ate some spicy Cajun food and looked at the shops.  Canaan needs a few more years on him til that place becomes fun.  At night we had a campfire on the beach with hotdogs and s’mores.  The plan was to have a sing-along once it got dark but since it doesn’t get dark til after 9pm all of the kids were melting down long before that and we had to move the party back to the hotel!

The next day was another chill day and I spent time with my friends Rachel, Darryl, and Ellie as well as Sara, Matt & Bella.  At night we had our main reunion event.  We had catered South American food.  They played the video from our Senior Trip and a slideshow of many, funny old pictures.  There was one child who exclaimed at seeing his mom with a boy other than “daddy.”  Greg Collord was able to attend this night and he read our Senior Story that included everyone’s first and last names.  The group moved up to the conference room afterward and stayed up way past our post-baby bedtime talking and watching old videos of vocal concerts.

On Sunday we had a little mini-service and then watched the World Cup final together.  After that people started departing.  Nate and I had made plans to stay an extra day so we could see some friends from the Redlands/Yucaipa area so we did that Sunday afternoon.  Then we headed back to the hotel for dinner and afterward I was able to spend on last out with Sara, Sara, Erin, Rachel, and Jess.  I’m really glad I had that extra night and had fun exploring our thoughts on parenting, how our own experiences have impacted us, and what we might do different with our kids.

It was fun to see everyone’s spouses, kiddos and different parenting styles.  There were many kiddie meltdowns and lots of kids being passed from one person to the next.  Bonus for Nate & I was that the conference room was right across from our hotel room so we could let Canaan nap with the monitor on and be relatively free.  Other bonus was Jayne Lee, who loved holding Canaan and took him off of our hands often.  I enjoyed connecting with some people that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with in Ecuador too.  I also enjoyed watching how people’s lives have turned out.  I’m amazed at some of my friends and where they were at along the way and where they are now.

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