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Archive for the ‘Life’ 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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It started with Nate, Canaan, and I driving to the L to go downtown to get visas

Nate: The hood of our car looks really red.

Kelley:  Yeah, it does.  Maybe the dust on the hood is reflecting the taillights in front of us.

Nate:  I don’t think so.

Ten minutes later …

Nate:  It looks like spray paint or something

Kelley: (Scooches up in her seat to get a better view.)  Oh my gosh it is spray paint and there are letters.  Someone wrote on our  car!

Yes, our car was tagged.  It now has three choice letters on the hood and the headlights have been covered in red.  Super.

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We get to the visa office and I expect to keep our 9am appointment.  In fact, I’m curious to meet the man I made this appointment with because he is the man with whom I had this conversation (in Spanish) in reference to our appointment.

Him: And your last name?

Me: T****

Him: T as in …

Me: T as in …. oh wow I can’t think of any Spanish words with T, hmmm.

Him: T as in, as in tit?  Oh I’m so, so sorry that just popped out.  I apologize.

Me:  Yes, T.

We had a good laugh and moved on to set the appointment.  Of course, when we got there people mostly told us to “wait over there” while they talked to people in an unidentifiable order.  While I waited (4 hours total) an Ecuadorian woman asked me what type of milk I feed our 6 month old.  It turns out she was asking because it’s her opinion that many babies are much too fat, that they are unhealthy and she doesn’t like the way they look.  Apparently, according to her, my baby looks nicely healthy and slim and so she wants to know what type of milk makes a baby this way.

Four hours later, one stressful 15-minute shoulder nap for the baby and we almost home.  But, to our downfall, we risked the urine-ridden elevator at the green line pulaski stop so that Nate wouldn’t have to carry the baby in the stroller down the stairs.  On the tiny, stench-filled elevator was my family and an African American man wearing headphones.  Canaan proceeded to openly stare at this man, as he does with all strangers.  Maybe if he had a friendly stare things would have gone differently, but that stare is dead-on, unblinking, without a hint of a smile until he knows you.  The man pulled half an earphone off and proceeded to address Canaan.

Man (at a volume to be heard over his music):  Oh baby, you’ve got a lot to learn in life, so many new things to learn.

Nate & I: Hehe (awkward half laughs, unsure of ourselves)

Man:  You’re staring at me because I’m a black man.  I look different and that’s why you stare.  You’re are going to learn that they are black people in this world.

Nate & I:  He tends to stare at most new people …

Man:  And it’s okay that you don’t know better than to stare.  You are surrounded by white and all you see is white but you’ll learn.  I was young and I never saw a white person til I was older but I learned.

Elevator doors open, we exit and Nate & I do another half shrug, awkward laugh …

That was my day, which involved many hours of waiting, no visas to make it worth our time, one tired baby, one tagged, embarrassing-to-be-seen-in-car, and a variety of cultural experiences.  Oh and Canaan’s first L ride, may some of them be less eventful in the future.

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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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First 3 Months

I haven’t taken much time to write about how much life has changed since adding Canaan to our family. I’ve mentioned many times how my ability to get stuff done, namely cooking, has taken a nose-dive. But since I’m doing well at this point to keep up with the cooking aspect of this blog, along with Canaan’s blog, I haven’t taken much time to document this transition for myself.

If I’d had an ounce of energy, spare time, or sanity during the first months, I think I’d have some great posts to be able to laugh at later. The transition was far, far from smooth. I wish I would have captured more of those “in the moment” feelings because I sure appreciated reading Anne Lamott’s daily feelings about her transition to motherhood while I was going through it.  Now with Canaan at 4 months of age I’m starting to feel a lot more sane again.

In a nutshell, what I experienced the first three months:

Crying every night (from me, crying from Canaan was far more regular!) while we ate dinner at the coffee table so that I could sit on the comfy couch to eat.
A desperate wish that the weekend really could be a weekend, that we could just give Canaan “back” so that we could have a break then
Never have I ever worried so much about what time I was going to bed at and how I could maximize my sleep time.  We left home group early, I wished people would leave  my house at 9pm so we could sleep
Making myself insane by trying to “guess” if C might take a “long” nap (ie: 40 minutes or more) so that I could take a nap too.  Then getting in bed and reading for 5 minutes to transition, closing the book, sinking down into the covers and closing my eyes only to hear the first squawk from the monitor.  Then keeping my eyes closes, hoping the squawking would magically stop
Possibly many of the most stupid prayers I’ve ever made.  Like, “Please God, just tonight let this baby sleep for 3 whole hours, please.”  Then waking up 40 minutes later, feeding him, rocking him and praying the exact same thing over again – only this time “negotiating” for only two hours.
Some of my favorite times were out with friends.  All of a sudden holding Canaan on my lap or feeding him wasn’t as big of a deal if I had someone adult to talk to
Coming out to my car at Emily’s house to discover a parking ticket.  I couldn’t figure out what the ticket was for because I had placed a one-day permit in my window.  The neighbor having to explain to me that it was May 15, not April 15th and that’s why I got the ticket.  Yes, I missed a month of life
Taking every chance I could do lay down in order to do an activity because even sitting hurt.  Having wishes and fantasies where Canaan was the type of baby who would fall asleep on my chest and stay asleep, but giving up after 10 minutes of him squirming and crying
Allowing my arm to fall dead asleep and not moving it for two hours when Canaan would take a nap.  Lying beside him unable to sleep because he would re-wake himself and move his head every 10 minutes, but staying there two hours anyway.
Highs when Canaan would take a 3-hour nap or sleep for 4 hours at night … and then real lows when this wouldn’t happen again for weeks and he would go back to his 40 minute naps.
Pulling the car off the freeway halfway through a trip or pulling into the  Kohl’s/Best Buy parking lot to get out and feed Canaan because Nate couldn’t take the sound of his cries.
Being frustrated and mad when cars moved to slow and we hit a red light or when cars didn’t accelerate fast enough and we would start to hear stirrings of life from the backseat.
A sincere, desperate desire for my child to sleep all the time just because that meant he wouldn’t be eating.
How this kid could never sleep for more than 40 minutes at home but whenever we would be at an event he would sleep through the whole thing.
Going to the children’s museum with Emily.  On the way home Edie started crying, then Eleanor, and then Canaan all together.  Except we could barely hear Canaan because his cries were quieter and further back in the car.  Just laughing helplessly til we got home.
Getting “stuck” places 40 minutes longer than intended when I didn’t leave before C got hungry and so I had to set everything back down and take 40 minutes to feed him
Being ecstatic when Canaan started being able to be awake for 15 minutes after eating without getting hungry all over again
Conversations with Nate about how he was rocking him to sleep or what method I was using to transfer him from arms to crib.  I think we both thought the other must be the expert because we sure weren’t.
Daily appreciation for great friends who called regularly, told me stories about themselves and their kids that made me feel normal, and who were just as happy to get out of the house as I was
A quote from Emily about a week after Canaan was born that I thought about and used on myself often.  I had asked her about how stressful it was to come to my house with both her kids and she said something like, “Oh, I’m stressed.  I’m totally stressed.  But I figure I can be depressed sitting at home or be stressed and depressed and going out.”  That resonated regularly with me.

It hasn’t all been bad.  Not at all.  I just wrote a post on Canaan’s blog about some of my favorite things so this in balance, I promise.  These are just the crazy-making moments that I remember, living with a little boy who didn’t know how to sleep.

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