Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello November! It's appropriate to catch up on November today since it felt like Winter again. Oh those lovely two weeks of spring- they have given me enough hope to make it until May *I think*.

More than anything else over the last few months of silence, I feel particularly bad about not sharing any pictures of Eden's 3rd birthday party with family. Sorry grandparents!! In my defense I was newly pregnant (I get morning sickness early around 3 weeks), beginning to plan for simultaneous trips to Texas and Israel, Christmas shopping early for those trips, and married to a student approaching the end of a semester. Oh. And my DSLR camera broke. AGAIN. 5 minutes before the party. I didn't want to look at the quality of the iPhone pictures for a while. My camera was returned to me from the repair shop a mere two weeks ago- so brace yourself for months of lower quality photos!

Eden asked for a Nutcracker party. She became obsessed with the story after we gave her a beautiful picture book for Christmas in 2010. The guest list was a bit awkward as she has one girl friend and was very insistent that everyone coming would come prepared to dance and not act like soldiers or the mouse king. After much deliberation about how to include the boys I took the easy road out and invited all her adult girl friends instead. Admittedly I've since felt a bit guilty about leaving the poor boys out of such fun.

We decorated with a variety of dollar store snowflakes (and some beautiful large paper ones for the window sent from my mom!),  candy (from the land of sweets of course), and nutcrackers borrowed from a friend's collection.

 Eden got to pick out a nutcracker ornament for the Christmas tree and we used it as the cake topper.

 We served hot cocoa with toppings.

 And decorated a blank nutcracker for the birthday girl.

Eden's adult girl friends are a group of wonderful women who we meet with weekly for dinner and prayer as part of our Missional Order- a group of people from our church who all live in Highwood (boys come too :) ).  Eden really loves them all dearly and they surprised me with awesome dedication to making her birthday special. On their own they decided to make and wear tutus to surprise Eden. So we spent a night watching The Fall and crafting. It needs to be pointed out that there was no sneaking into the party and putting tutus on discreetly- these women proudly wore their tutus from their cars, down our street, and into our home. Eden was so excited!!

So we drank cocoa and painted.

And ate yummy cake.

And danced while watching an excerpt from a British ballet company's performance of The Nutcracker. 

 Here Eden is the next morning after her prized Nutcracker had dried:

On her birthday Thomas and I gave her a dollhouse. We had a lot of fun collaborating on a handmade kitchen for her first birthday, so we worked together again to put together a dollhouse kit.

Eden got to pick her favorite papers at Paper Source a month before without knowing that they would become the interior wallpaper. It was interesting figuring out how to use her picks!

Prepare yourselves for a few more bad pics of November, a lot from December, and a possible Israel trip post soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


My parents were able to come and visit recently, which was super awesome! There was some great Chicago weather for their trip and we packed a lot of fun into their 2.5 days here.

My dad had ever been to Chicago so our first objective was to spend some time in the city. We went to Giordano's in Hyde Park for lunch on their first full day. I will not be teasing you with pictures of delicious deep dish, but instead show you some luscious lips :). Eden has been really rocking the facial expressions the last few days!

After stuffing ourselves with pizza we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry. Having never been I didn't quite know what to expect and was surprised at the wide array of large exhibits. We hit up the circus first, then a submarine around which an entire building was constructed to house the exhibit, followed by cloned or genetically altered chickies (I was keeping up with a 3 year old and reading signs was trumped by staring at the cute fury things hatching from eggs), and then the elaborate miniature trains that meandered through open plains and small towns ending up scooting between skyscrapers. Here are the lovely conductor grandparents:

Eden was scared by the weather exhibit so we headed to the ToyMaker where she got to watch a factory set up make her toy- so cool! There was a children's museum-like explorer center with water games and big blocks, an elaborate miniature castle, Farmville with tractors and cows to climb, and a real airplane. Eden was so excited to see what the inside of a plane was and had us all sit down, buckle up, and fly to Israel- and of course do it all again so we wouldn't be stuck in Israel!

The next day we packed a picnic and headed to Wagner Farm which is our favorite "local" free activity, in a suburb about 15 minutes south of ours. It is an old family farm turned park district. They have tons of live animals and maintained vegetable gardens as well as some indoor activities.

Here is Eden checking out the new chickens:

And the cows:

And playing some of the indoor games:

(Pregnant belly alert!!)

Pie and grandpa are both awesome :)

We also played at the tree house in our local mall and walked to the beach near our house. About that time we got a call from Thomas that his tests were over!! He still has two comprehensive exams left to complete in May, but these were the hardest ones and we are both so glad they are over. And not just over, but Thomas feels very positive about his results. So we took him out for dinner to celebrate.

After a nice breakfast at our favorite little diner- the grandparents left, with Eden begging for a trip to Texas at their heals!

We dearly miss all of our family and covet these brief visits. We will be seeing more of everyone on our trip to Texas in May and are looking forward to drawing out a few more visitors with the promise of a  cute baby just around the corner.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cabin Fever and Toddler Activities

Thank goodness today was gorgeous and warm!! It actually got to 61. I have been suffering from some major cabin fever. Eden played outside at school and after lunch we played at the park across the street from our house for an hour. It was a bit muddy with some 30 mph winds- but who noticed!? Our sleepy little park was crawling with kids. Since it's a toddler park, most kids are usually really close to Eden's age- SO FUN.

The weather definitely *made* the day, but it was pretty perfect otherwise as well. My insomnia is much better, and although not totally gone, I am getting enough consistent sleep that my tremors have returned to normal and I am not tired during the day. Huge answer to prayer!! This has allowed me to return to my schedule of getting up early, hitting the treadmill, getting ready for the day, and fitting in a quiet time. Eden went to school today, and I celebrated getting up early and working out, by not doing anything! I was a total couch (chair) potato- no dishes or laundry, just some time to plan out a few projects and catch up on blogs. Thomas went with me to pick Eden up from school- a rare treat- and joined us for a lunch of soup at our favorite North Shore coffee shop.
After lunch Eden and I hit up Paper Source and found little chicks. Perfect for a fun activity (pics below). Then home for some fun magnet board play and an hour at the park with 2 cute new friends. I celebrated again at quiet time and did NOTHING. When Eden got up we made a home for our chickies. She played with that until we headed over to a good friend's house for our Tuesday night dinner with our Missional Order from church. At bedtime, Eden sang Jesus loves Mommy this I know... SO SWEET :). My evening is ending with blogging and the latest episode of Project Runway All Stars- anyone else addicted to PR??

Back to the cabin fever, Pinterest has been awesome in helping me stretch myself and have fun activities available to keep Eden (and myself) from going crazy indoors the last couple weeks.

First there were the aqua beads. This is a great sensory activity. I do not recommend this for any kids likely to put them in their mouth. I can't see how they would be much of a choking hazzard as they are slippery like jello, but you never know, and they are marble sized. However, they are non-toxic, re-hydratable (no special storage or care required), and super super fun.

I hid little plastic dinosaurs in the bottom and Eden loved digging for them.

This is not a revelation of Pinterest, though I was reminded by a pin how fun "messy" kitchen floor play can be. Eden had a great time exploring which container held more water, etc.

Here's the magnet board mentioned earlier. It's an old toy, but Thomas showed her how to use different shaped magnets from the fridge to create new markings- she is hooked. The below picture is a crocodile eating snow (?).

 And of course there were the little chickies. Here's Eden's picture of them:

And here she is with their new home.

BTW- Thomas' major comps are in 1.5 weeks!! Please pray for him as he prepares for this stressful event. Thanks!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

October 2011: Part 2

The last post got most of the way through October, but it would be wrong of me not to mention the Highwood Pumpkin Festival before I move onto November.

Coming from Nacogdoches, with the Blueberry Festival, Nine Flags, Multi-Cultural, Americana, etc, we feel a little bit more at home living in a quaint neighborhood that has festivals all year long.

During the Pumpkin Festival, which lasts 3 nights, people come downtown to carve pumpkins and place them on scaffolding that lines the streets (several rows high). They are all lit on the last night in hopes of breaking the record for most jack-o-latterns lit at once. 2011 was only the second year of the festival, but they succeeded! Over 32,000 pumpkins. It is quite a remarkable site.

Pumpkins can be bought from street vendors for $3 and everyone carves them while sitting on the sidewalks. Kids wear costumes. Eden was a monarch butterfly ($3 dance dress from goodwill, and pink wings we had painted black):

One view of a side street with scaffolding full of pumpkins:

Our pumpkins:

More scaffolding:

This year they had a lot more festivalish activities then in 2010. Aside from the carousels, fair games, petting zoo, pony rides, and live music they had a few unique things. One was a mini outdoor movie theater-projector screen with hay bails for seating and Halloween Scooby Doo episodes showing. The other was a dance floor (about the size of a small dining room) and DJ for a makeshift kiddie dance floor. Seriously- BEST IDEA EVER. We went two nights in a row and let Eden dance about 20 minutes each time. She would have danced all night. It was too dark to get good pictures, but that girl had some moves :). Black Eyed Peas Gotta Feeling was her favorite!

While sorting through October for festival picks I also ran across this:

Eden likes to make wishes in the mall fountains when we go to play at the indoor tree house. After seeing this ballerina mouse purse at Gymboree, and because of her love for Angelina (thanks Anna and Ryan!), she wished for it every time we went- FOUR TIMES IN A ROW.  So I watched online and when it went on clearance for less than $10 I ordered it. The fifth time we went, she made her wish (still for the mouse purse) and I pulled it out from behind my back. It was more exciting than Christmas :).

Sometimes being a mom feels like all work and discipline. It's really nice every once in a while to do something purely fun and magical.

*Disclaimer- the thank you to Anna and Ryan for Angelina love was NOT sarcastic. Thomas read this and thought it sounded so. We are huge fans at this house!