Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Old Friends

When in the basement cleaning up Martin came across Jen's old "yoga map" that she was going to discard. Martin would have none of it and immediately commandeered it.

Martin Does Yoga

He then showed us a number of yoga poses that Aunt Lauren had taught him including the popular move, "down dog."

Martin Teaching Jane Yoga

When Auntie Caolan, Uncle Paul, and Jane came to visit, Martin wasted no time opening his studio and giving Jane a quick crash course.

At the Library with Jane

We also took a trip downtown to the library, river walk, and eventually had lunch before returning home to nap.

First Fire of the Year and Watching Elf

We have a pretty strict practice of not starting Christmas music, movies, or decorating until after Thanksgiving. However, this year was special with friends visiting and a sudden cold snap. We decided to have our first fire of the season and play Elf for the kids. Even though it was a little premature it was nice to spend a portion of the forced holiday with old friends.

Storytime with Uncle Paul

Uncle Paul entertained with many read books which all the kids enjoyed immensely.

Paul Laying Down Some Bass Tracks

When the kids were napping Paul finally got around to putting down a bass track to a song we initially recorded in 1998. Our band, Spruce Avenue Jam was known as "the earliest band in rock" because the only studio time we could get was at 6:00 AM. However, our struggle to complete this album has taken the better part of twenty years. Now we are one step closer to getting this one in the bag.

Look for it available for free download sometime in 2020.

45 Minute Wait at Doctor's Office

Martin and Elliott were both battling ear infections leading up to the visit. Elliott had mostly kicked his and had almost finished his antibiotics before Martin developed a fever and screamed himself to sleep one night. We took him to the doctor where we had to wait 45 minutes alone in the room waiting for the doctor. The boys could not have been better behaved. Martin played with toys and Elliott read a book the entire time. I think they dealt with the wait more maturely than Jen and I did.

Uncle Paul and Josie

After a few days off Caolan, Paul, and Jane returned and Josie had a reprise of some sweet Uncle Paul snuggles which she really enjoyed during the visit.

Caolan with Josie

We took the kids to the newly reopened children's museum where they had a blast and Caolan played with Josie in the baby area. We took turns trying to manage three easily-distracted toddlers throughout the establishment.

Saying Goodbye to Good Friends

Sadly, after and on-and-off week, it had to come to an end and we had to say goodbye. While we used to see each other all the time our visits these days are few and far between. Usually they are also short so it was great to be able to spend numerous days with some great friends. We're really looking forward to the next time we can do this again.

Bed Lights

The boys have been agitating for more reading time at night so Jen cleverly rigged up these Christmas lights on their beds so they could read by them. This has bought us a little more sanity at night for bedtime and you cannot put a cost on that.

Josie's First Carrots (Part 1)

Josephine continues to try new foods. The other day she tried her first carrots.

Josie's First Carrots (Part 2)

She did not like them.

Josie's First Carrots (Part 3)

After her first bite she began to search out an exit route.

Martin Christmas Shopping for Josie and Elliott

The other day I took Martin Christmas shopping for Elliott and Josephine, a concept that was sort of lost on him. It was his first time in a toy store and he handled it better than I'd expected, but still ended up just giving the mask he'd picked out for Elliott as soon as he got home.

Jen had better luck with Elliott but he still blurted out what he'd gotten Martin for Christmas the second he walked in the door.

Construction Workers Helping with Christmas Lights

The boys agreed to help me, once again, hang the Christmas lights. With the biggest November snowstorm to hit Chicago in 120 years we had to act fast. I foolishly hung lights across the top of the house and set up Santa and Frosty which Elliott alternately hugged and proclaimed his love for and dismembered.

Toddlers have a tough time expressing love.

Jen's Dumplings

Jen made a huge batch of dumplings. Martin talked a lot about how they were just meatballs in a wrapper as his toddler brain tried to process what this new food was.

Christmas Photo Shoot (2015)

During the messy snowstorm we took the kids to the mall for a harrowing photo shoot. We were reminded why we haven't done this in a while. The kids were great and well behaved but they reached their limit quickly and the photo shoot lasted far longer than we'd hoped so we ended up racing home to try to have a late dinner with three children who were at the end of their rope and one baby who didn't really care either way.

Each year the photo shoot gets easier. This year we had two 3-year-olds, a 2-year-old, and a 7-month-old. Next year it will be two 4-year-olds, a 3-year-old, an 18-month-old, and a 11-month-old.

It doesn't sound it but that should be easier.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Halloween Wrap Up

Jen left town for a couple of days to visit family in Canada. I was left alone with the boys and, I feel guilty saying I got the best sleep I've gotten since Josie was born. The first morning they were gone I woke up at 6:00 AM feeling better than I've felt since I was a teenager.

Construction Workers

While I missed Josie and her sweet smiles, it was incredible how easy it was only taking care of the two boys. I got them some construction worker costumes to wear while they play construction. Construction usually just consists of them dragging all the spare lumber out of the garage and piling it up in the driveway. They told the neighborhood girls that they were building a house for children that didn't have one. That sounds nice until you see the quality of house they build. Shoddy craftsmanship.

Painting Shields

When Jen got back she worked at painting their shields for their Halloween costume.

Josie's 6 Month Birthday Cupcakes

Josephine turned six months old so we had some cupcakes to celebrate. The boys were delighted, Josephine was as annoyed as she is every time we eat something in front of her that she would like to partake in. This girl is ready for some cupcakes.

Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat was a bit of a bust this year. It ended very early, about five minutes after I arrived. I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of my trunk but I did take this picture of Martin and Elliott in Auntie Lauren's trunk before getting in my car and driving home.

Nana Feeding Josephine

Josephine has now had butternut squash, sweet potato, applesauce, avocado, banana, and rice cereal. Applesauce and banana are probably the two favorites thus far.

"Playing" Outside

We have wrapped up October and begun November with some incredible weather. Even on some of the cooler days we've played outside. Grandpa worked for hours on the frustrating task of getting the boys dressed to play in the yard. In the end they just wanted him to read them a book outside.

Martin Passed Out on Couch

Later Martin fell asleep on Nana while she was reading to him. This is completely out of character. Then he slept on the couch and no amount of shaking or movement could wake him.

There is no precedent for this. This kid never wants to sleep.

Evelyn Helping Scoop the Pumpkin

I tried to get the boys involved in carving the pumpkin but they had exactly zero interest in doing this. In the end Evelyn ended up helping me scoop and was the only child with any sort of interest at all in making a jack-o'-lantern. This undoubtedly foreshadows future Halloweens when the boys are just a little too old and I'm still trying to push holiday traditions on them.

At least I got a taste of the rejection early so I know how it will feel.

Family Halloween Pic

We went to Grandma and Grandad's to trick or treat for a bit before heading back to our neighborhood.

Spooky Halloween Spider

There was a house on our street with a giant animatronic spider that would jump out at trick or treaters as they approached. The boys were startled by this. For Evelyn it was the end of her Halloween and we had to meet her back at home after finishing up the block with just the boys.

Then Elliott gave a dramatic retelling of what happened to my father. In the retelling he downplayed his own fright at the spider.

Cousins Trick or Treating

Halloween Candy Haul

The weather was lousy, cold, and rainy but it was far better than last year where it took everything we had to make it through three houses.

Daddy's Birthday Cake

The following night we had a nice birthday celebration for me complete with cake and pumpkin pie.

Sick Boy Recovery Couch

Immediately following this everyone started getting sick. First Elliott, then Josephine, then me and Jen. Martin was the last hold out but he too gave in to coughs, fever, and general lethargy.

Upcoming we have our first visit in Illinois from Caolan, Paul, and Jane and everyone is looking forward to it. The doctor says the boys aren't contagious any longer as we all just recover to get over the lingering cough.

Now we're just hoping we don't spread the joy of this virus to the rest of the world.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sleep Deprivation

October has greeted us with lots of joy and practically no sleep. Apparently we had suppressed the memory of the five month sleep regression and were blissfully unprepared for it on the second time around. That's when Josephine decided she would only sleep for one hour blocks in the night and that most nights would begin not see us getting to sleep until midnight after Jen took her into the other room to rock her to sleep.

Mornings would begin around 4:00 AM with me bringing the baby downstairs to push her around our downstairs in her stroller. Luckily we are not in our New York apartment or those trips in the stroller would have been considerably shorter.

Making Spaghetti Squash

We got some spaghetti squash from the farm and the boys warmed up to the concept more quickly than I would have thought.

Josephine Watching Brian Regan Live

In a miracle I was able to watch Brian Regan's live show with Josephine after getting the boys to settle down to bed about ninety seconds before it started. She didn't laugh as much as I would have thought but she did seem captivated throughout the special.

Carrot Harvest

The boys helped Jen harvest from the garden. We now have huge bags of dirty multicolored carrots filling our fridge.

Stuffed Pumpkin

Jen made a stuffed pumpkin on one of the last days of September so the boys were able to enjoy a little taste of the fall early on.

Pumpkin Sausage Tortellini with Cream Sauce

I turned the leftover pumpkin into a creamy pasta sauce for some tortellini which also went over well.

At the Brookfield Zoo: Touching a Snake

We were able to take our third trip to the Brookfield Zoo since getting our membership, thus making the membership pay off financially.

At the Brookfield Zoo: Elliott Phone Call

We spend the entire time at the children's play zoo where, among other things, Elliott was able to call the zoo director from a phone.

At the Brookfield Zoo: Zoo Director Martin

Martin got to be the zoo director which was a very popular activity.

At the Brookfield Zoo: Lemurs

They also got to put on lemur costumes and crawl around. They also were able to use their tails as swords and sword fight in the way that is common to the North American lemur.

Elliott's Choice on the Carousel

We were also able to return to the carousel for the ride I promised them earlier in the summer before their meltdowns on our first trip of the year. Martin gleefully picked the elephant.

Elliott's Choice on the Carousel

Elliott, on the other hand, picked the bench seat.

They have been regularly playing "Wesley" and rolling down the hill on our way home from daycare. Martin usually rolls down the hill and loses his mask. Then Elliott runs, leaps in the air, and lands on Martin's ribs with his knees. Surprisingly Martin finds this just as funny as Elliott does.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Every morning opportunity I wake up the boys around 7:00 AM, after being awake with Josephine for at least two or three hours, and we very quietly go downstairs and watch Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Snack in the Woods

After one such morning we went for a hike in the woods with Auntie Lauren, Uncle Doug, and Evelyn.

Josephine with Lynn's Quilt

Josephine got a beautiful quilt in the mail from our other Canadian extended family in Toronto. Lynn made her this beautiful quilt. The boys received approximately thirty five quilts so this is one of only two personalized quilts that Josephine has. Josephine doesn't mind but Jen and I are particularly happy about it.

Cousins Rolling Down Hill on Walk Home From School

Then, of course, another stomach virus ravaged our family. We suspect it to be a mutated version of what we had earlier since Jen and I were spared. When Evelyn recovered Lauren and Doug were knocked down and we watched Evelyn for the evening before bed so they could recover.

Josephine Watching the Cubs Win Wild Card Game

Josephine, while not sleeping, also got a chance to watch the Cubs clinch their playoff spot. This has been a highlight of her life so far. She's super jazzed about the Cubs.

Doing "Construction"

The boys have enjoyed doing "construction" a lot lately. Construction consists of them dragging all the loose wood and boards out of the garage and putting it into a giant pile in the driveway. It's hard to be too upset about it because Martin informed me that they were building a house for all the children that didn't have houses.

Some girls that live in the neighborhood rode over and observed this humanitarian project in action. Martin was more than happy to tell them about it, talking a mile a minute, while Elliott continued to pile the wood higher and higher. Then Elliott came over and told them that their bike helmets were very beautiful.

The boys have game.

Uncle Adam Reading to Elliott and Martin

Josie with Auntie Lisa

Auntie Lisa and Uncle Adam came over for Canadian Thanksgiving. The boys hadn't seen Adam since Christmas and were really impressed with how cool he was. They enjoyed watching baseball with him and, of course, sword fighting.

Mummy and Josephine

Canadian Thanksgiving took a different approach this year, focusing on a nearly vegan meal. Everything was vegan . . .

Roasted Parsnips

Pureed Butternut Squash

Beets with Roasted Fennel, Onion, Walnut, and Tarragon

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Toasted Cashews, Apples, and Cider Vinaigrette

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Toasted Cashews, Apples, and Cider Vinaigrette

Braised Cabbage


Sweet and Sour Peppers

Standing Rib Roast

. . . except for the standing rib roast.

Josphine's First solid Food: Butternut Squash

We fed Josephine some of the mashed butternut as her first solid food. It went over pretty well. She's been eyeballing our food intently for the last six weeks so I think she was wondering what took us so long. She was probably also wondering why she wasn't getting a taste of the prime rib.

Martin and Uncle Adam Watching the Cubs

If the boys had started watching baseball at any other point in the last 107 years they would not be witnessing the Cubs winning. What a great time for them to discover the sport. That way they don't have to experience the pain their father did watching the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series and potentially killing their love of the sport.

Of course we don't know how this will end, despite the Nostradamus like predictions of Back to the Future II.

Sports Fans

So we have a couple of sports fans on our hands at the moment. Martin is still a little vague on the concept of baseball but he does have a makeshift diamond in the backyard using flower pots as bases. Though I'm pretty sure the Cardinals made more of an impression on him than the Cubs. He still brings them up daily despite their elimination.

Josephine has almost officially graduated from the bath in the sink. Some would argue that she became to big for it a month ago but I just can't give up the simplicity of the sink bath.

Elliott Making Puzzle

Elliott continues to have a huge passion for puzzles and sometimes does between two or three daily, sometimes just disassembling and reassembling the same puzzle in one sitting.

The Confrontation

Their Halloween costumes are coming together and they even stumbled upon the knight helmets that we ordered and have been using them regularly.

Jen left for Canada with Josephine yesterday morning. Elliott has not been happy about this the past two bedtimes but they have been fine throughout the day. Elliott misses Mummy a lot and tells me nightly that he is going to dream about her. Martin tells me that he is going to dream of "only Daddy" because he's kind of a jerk. With this split in the family we all somehow got our best sleep in a month last night. I can't remember a time I woke up feeling so well rested since the boys were born.

Elliott woke up sick a couple of nights ago. After giving him a bath and changing his sheets (then doing it again) he stayed home from school and spent most of the day on the couch. However, when Martin returned from school he was able to summon some extra strength to have one knight confrontation.

There is not a sickness in existence that can keep them from sword fighting.