Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Little Bit of Magic

Something magical has been happening around our house, in our little family.  The departure of the neediness, exhaustion and sheer need for survival that accompanies the wee ones in a household has left room for more imagination, creativity and wonder than I ever dreamed possible.

At first I was surprised at how HARD it was for me to join in their imaginative play.  I recall so vividly telling Ainsley about Santa Claus for the first time, how even though I so steadfastly believed as a young girl, I suddenly found it so odd to be "lying" to my own.  As an adult truth and fact are all we know.  When we drive past yet another newly closed store and Ainsley asks why it's out of business it takes a lot for me to not ramble on about the horrible economy, to hide my own despair and sugar coat the world for her, for them both.   But this sugar of youth is so sweet and it's flavor fades all too soon.  I've made it my new goal to keep those two little ones of mine as cocooned in I can in their safe magical worlds, for as long as I can.

So on to the magic.

First, there's missing Lamby.  While the first two days and nights without her best bud went surprisingly well Lamby Lamb is still far from forgotten and cried out for at least a few times a day.  Last night after yet another trying nap hour Ian and I decided to set a plan in action.  I sat down with Ainsley and dictated a letter to Lamby.  Tears welled up as I heard my girl's desperate sweet words to her sweet friend.  When it got to the part where we needed to send the letter we were all a bit stumped.

Then our new favorite movie, Mary Poppins, popped into my head.  So we talked about Lamby sitting up in the clouds.  How she must have gotten caught up in a great gust of wind and landed on the softest one.  How she's eating cotton candy and sipping lemonade just waiting for the wind to change to come back home.

Before bedtime the girls and I sat quiet in front of our fireplace.  We closed our eyes and made a wish forLamby to come home while I ripped the letter into 6 even pieces and tossed them in.  In the morning the letter was gone and in it's place a letter from Lamby.

Lamby should be home in 3-5 business days with Ainsley's letter in tact.  We can hardly wait.


Fresh Homemade Bread Magic. 
(Add a jar of the best jam I've ever tasted and Ian better cross his fingers there's some left for dessert)

Impossibly Small Carrot Magic
(thinning out the rows for the big boys to come)

Beans and Tomatoes and Pumpkins and Swiss Chard and Raspberry Magic.
(well at least sprouting magic, I know not to get ahead of myself when it comes to harvesting)

Abundance of Basil (FINALLY!) Magic.
(I couldn't find basil for weeks, now we're flush)

Mystery "What Did I Plant There?" Flower Magic.
we'll find out soon enough


And then there's always fairy magic.  

So we had a fairy tea party yesterday complete with dress up and the real GOOD tea set, lemon water and leftover berry pound cake.  It was pretty delightful.

Then, inspired by a friend and her fairy house she's making in a park tree with her toddler, I suggested a fairy house.  While Louise sipped, nibbled and dug in the sand Ainsley worked her tiny tail off creating the perfect space for our fairy guest.  I spun a tale about the fairies who come at night searching for pretty places to rest.  How all the butterflies and bumblebees in our garden this year are the fairy's friends and if we make a home for her she'll come to stay.

Ainsley hung flowers from branches, made a rug of soft leaves, found rocks to make chairs and a kitchen with an oven so the fairy could bake.

She then laid corn cobs down for more seating and sprinkled the whole thing with "special fairy sand." I think that was a nice touch too Ainsley.

Ahh.  Magic.  We're loving you these days.  You're presence in our lives is a wondrous reminder of the innocence and fragility of my children, of the malleability and creativity of their sweet little imaginations.  We look forward to a lot more time with you.  I openly hope you never fully leave them.  In fact, I'm happy to say that through all this magic with my girls, I've discovered there's a bit left in me too.  Now time to go check on those fairies...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day

Memorial Days growing up were never a big deal.  Of course we delighted in that extra day off from school, scratching one more Monday off the waning list of Mondays left in the school year.  I'm sure we grilled something, mentioned my veteran grandfather in conversation, but for the most part, it was kind of a normal weekend.

Since moving just west of Chicago we haven't done much more to celebrate.  We live too far to enjoy a cabin for the weekend (11 hours from here!) and sadly Ian has always had to work that Monday (no break for scientists I guess). 

But this year just felt different. In addition to the fact that I'm grown and understand the great significance of this "holiday", we kind of needed one.

Weekends have been hard for us lately.  Getting into this outdoor springtime need to get lots done but still wanting to have fun groove has been tricky.  This weekend Ian and I just kind of clicked, the girls followed suit.  We had an absolute blast.

Saturday morning found us at the Farmer's Market, donuts and potted plants in hand.  I kept to my strict $20 budget (which was HARD, let me tell you) and we enjoyed fresh ciabatta and strawberries for lunch.  I was able to get a good run in before the heat struck and Ian mowed the lawn while the girls each planted their own pot of flowers for our front stoop.  We then went on our inaugural trip to the big pool up the street.  It was a really good day.

learning the cookie dunk

rekindling smoothie popsicle snack love

Then Sunday came and with it an early heat wave.  Rather than let the to dos take over we let the day take us.  We explored a "new" park up north and fell absolutely in love.

climbing rocks galore, big open spaces to run, the perfect climbing gym for my big monkey love.

We left hot and tired and happy and spent the rest of the morning in the backyard pool.  We then packed up again and headed out for some Indian food, the perfect accompanyment to a hot early summer day.  Mmmm.

Of course the afternoon was spent in the backyard pool on that 90+ degree afternoon.  The girls and Ian went at it with splashing and running and spraying and laughing.  I happily documented it all, clutching our nice camera in between takes to secure my dryness.

it never gets old seeing my boy as a dad, it's magic.

The heat continued strong on Monday and Ian left for work.  The girls and I did our regular grocery run, but this time with a cooler and ice packs in tow to keep our cold things cold while we checked out the River Forest Memorial Day Parade.

I wasn't sure quite what to expect, hoping for something worthwhile, not holding my breath, I was BLOWN away.

After getting there a bit early we'd waited for nearly a half hour by the time those first engine sirens wailed.  Louise clutched to my side, nervous about the goings on.  Ainsley and I comforted her, doused her fear with excitement and cheers and we settled in to the fun.  

Apparently this parade it a big deal.  Families gather like it's the 4th of July, lining this quaint River Forest street with ready bags and festive wear.  Marching bands played, bedazzled cars cruised, candy was thrown.  It struck me in the midst of the merriment that this is the first holiday we've spent in our new home, celebrating WITH our new home.  As I was handed pamphlets and coupns from local business, waved at from firmiliar faces in the crowd, and enjoying the sheer pride in the dramatic march of the high school bands it sure felt like home.  Celebrating this place where we live and our uniqueness.  Hearing other fancy River Forest mama's complain about the lack of yard space while complimenting Ainsley on her tiny Vera Bradley purse (a $5 sale purchase!!!! i wanted to ensure them).

Still, it is OUR place.  A place so different from the home I grew up in, but a place I've grown to love very very much.  It was wonderful to celebrate in our place with my girls (and later my boy when he came home early).  We ended our great weekend with grilled porkchops and marinated veggies, then punctuated it with Molly's berry pound cake and whipped cream.  The whole weekend felt celebratory and good.  I feel thankful for my family, and for our freedoms.  Thankful for a holiday weekend to excuse indulgence and fun, to be reminded of how lucky we are to have this all.

We;re now enjoying the repercussions of a busy happy weekend, finding our new summer groove slowly moving away from planned structured days to free and fun ones.  It's feeling good.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Losing Lamby Lamb

Lamby is lost.  In case you need a reminder of who Lamby is and what he meant to my little girl, let me refresh your memory.

The first memory I have of lamby was shortly after Louise's 1st birthday.  We'd given her Lamby because she had yet to receive a delightful stuffed friend all her own.  Ainsley loved her tiny jellycat bunny so we upgraded to the medium sized lamby for Louise.  Louise was fond.  Ainsley was smitten.  She made her first real trade for lamby.  "Here Yaweez.  You want to trade for my tiny bunny?  He's a baby bunny.  Good.  There.  See?  You like him.  he's a baby.  You're a baby.  Good.  Oh I LOVE you lamby!" and that was that.

We let the trade happen (even though it was horrifically unfair) because Ainsley had clearly formed a quick strong attachment to Lamby and Louise, well, she was one.  What did she know?  She was happy as a clam with her tiny bunny impostor.

At first Lamby was the sweetest companion imaginable. Lamby came with us on walks, took the starring roles in Ainsley's first REAL amazing imaginative games and play.  Then, as most lovies do, Lamby became a big old problem in our family.  Just last week I joked to a mom friend at playschool that Lamby's become the third child I never wanted.  Seriously. It had gotten out of control.

It had become a battle just to get out the door.  Lamby needs a dress, no not that dress, THAT dress, why won't that dress fit Lamby?  oh because it's a size 3T and Lamby is the size of a 4 pound baby, oh but I really want THIS dress for Lamby.  I REALLY WANT IT!!!!  And Lamby had to come with us EVERYWHERE, which really, I wouldn't mind in itself, but Ainsley, ooh though I love her, can't keep track of Lamby to save her life.  I have to search frantically for that lovely Lamb at LEAST 5 times a day.  It had slowly become my lot in life, and I was through.

This past Friday I opted to take the girls on a jogging stroller run to get Louise's new pool pass (oh my, worthy of a whole post in and of girl's first official ID!)  Ainsley was DESPERATE to bring Lamby with (of course) and despite nearly leaving her at the park the previous day I caved.  "Ok, but you need to keep track of him!!"  I mean what harm could come to sweet Lamby Lamb in the double stroller on a three mile jog anyways?

Cue 14 minutes later at the mile and a half pitstop of our run.  "Oh mommy? Where's Lamby?" Ainsley calmly asked.   "I don't know Ainsley." My eyes frantically darting here and there and everywhere.  WHAT?!??! Where could that lamb have gone!?!?!

Long story short.  Lamby was gone.  Lamby wasn't in the stroller, Lamby wasn't UNDER the stroller.  Lamby wasn't next to the stroller, in the surrounding bushes on ANY sidewalk along our route or patiently waiting on a curbside for us to claim.  Lamby was gone.  I know.  I've checked that route 3 times.

I called Ian when I got back from the run, frantic.  WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? NO WAY CAN SHE SLEEP WITHOUT/BREATHE! WITHOUT LAMBY?!?!?! 

We decided to not look any more for Lamby.  We've warned her countless times about the consequences of taking her out and losing her, that it's HER responsibility to keep track of her, not ours.  

I'll be honest.  I cried a little.  But when I composed myself and went in to explain it all to Ainsley her calm and simple reply? "But mommy, I still have nankers!"

And so it's been.  My girl hasn't made a peep about Lamby at all.  This stuffed mass produced toy that I was sure had captured her heart.  Truth be told I am clearly more heartbroken than her.  You see Lamby was my girl's first true love.  In that tiny stuffed toy holds her first secrets, her first brilliant pretend plays, her first displays of true compassion and caregiving and unconditional love.

Today when I went out for my run I looped back around to jog that mile and a half one more time.  No Lamby Lamb.  No where in sight.

I am happy that it wasn't such the ordeal that I thought it would be, and desperately sad all at once. It's one more indication that my girl is growing up, that she's shedding these baby layers that she's held so tightly for three and a half years.

People keep asking what I'm going to do with myself  for that hour and a half next fall while Ainsley's in all morning preschool and Louise is in morning playschool two days a week...I think at first I might just cry.

Growing up hurts.  

Goodbye Lamby Lamb. 

(And thank you Mo Willems, for writing your amazing Knuffle Bunny books to help children deal with the loss of a favorite toy friend.  Ainsley keeps talking about how another little boy or girl is enjoying and loving her Lamby and I think it's all you Mo, it's all you.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Little Diddy

I have always been an extremely anxious person.

For example, as a child I used to have a very real crippling fear of going out to eat.  We went out so rarely that it was a real treat when we did and I fear I ruined it for our family every time.  I recall clutching my mom heaving crying begging her not to make me go, then her calmly letting me know that they were going and if it was too much for me they'd get me a babysitter.  Apparently that was even more terrifying than eating out, so I'd go and it'd be ok.  But the worries, oh the worries.

But we all know this about me, it's nothing new.  My own family now surely endures so much from my neurosis.  Ian having to plan any excursion around my phobia of the trains (it's gotten so much better but my, for the first few years I could hardly step foot on them), the girls already learning to shush and listen with their crazy mama to find the source of an odd sound in the house (usually a loud bike going by or the washer emptying of water).  I remember panicking the first time I saw signs that Ainsley was like me, nervous to leave the house, my side, her cozy shelter of home.

But now I see the real beauty of parenting in this way.  The ability to show them what I want them to see, all the while knowing they see the whole me anyways.  To teach them the best way for them, the ways to cope with their own quirks and tricks.

This is all to say that lately I've been worrying lots.  About our house, our inevitable move in a few years, our desire for more children and our nerves at being able to support them in the way we want, about Ian's final PhD months, the excitement and great change that the end of this era will bring, about my race coming up, the first since my junior year of college and my body's ability to not just do it, but win it for myself, because at this moment in my life I so need that boost.

This is also to say that it's gotten so much better.  That as I drove Ian to work last week with the girls in tow I could hardly recall the early morning panics of our newly wedded carpool that used to grip me so hard that I couldn't make it the 5 miles without a rest stop to breathe.  That I've come so far and feel stronger today in a body and mind that have been so stretched and worn by motherhood and time that I hardly recognize myself somedays.  That I love this.  That I actually love my new little eyelines circling my lids, my strong running body that weighs what it did in college, yet looks quite different. That I've stopped worrying about appearing to be so young for what I do because really I'm not anymore.  Heck, I'm the mom with all the snacks and extra wipes at the park, the one with the mary poppins bag of tricks.

But that's not what's important, what is is that I've learned.  Learned to make the best decisions I can in each moment.  Learned to ride the waves rather than fight against the current.  Learned to relax, just enough, to slow down and quiet.

Learned that I'm lucky, quirks and all, and that what we have is something to be cherished.  So I'm cherishing and reveling and hoping you all the same on this glorious end of spring day.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


This last week was...interesting.  

I recall looking at the weather forecast last Sunday, ecstatic about all the sunny days and warm temps.  YES!  I thought.  Full mornings outside!  Hard long afternoon naps!  Time to get things done! Good running weather!  Perfection!

Then my girls decided not to nap.  AT ALL.  And it was hard.  I really struggled towards the end of the week, to not just get angry that I had no break (or to feel resentful that my "breaks" were my runs, my long HOT runs).  On Friday when I called Ian and sweetly (well, pointedly) asked him to please bring home a bottle of Smoking Loon Cabernet or forget about fancy dinner my man! I laughed a bit inside.  

I recalled the distress I felt mother's day, tapped into that part of me that already aches for my grown up girls to want me more.  I hung up the phone and stared into Ainsley's mischeivious eyes and as tired and grouchy as I felt about the 4 hours ahead before daddy came home I mostly just felt glad.  Glad because next year my girl will be in preschool.  4 morning a week preschool and even just typing it now a wave of sadness and dread sweeps over me. From that moment on life for the two of us will change forever.  This sweet little bug that I grew and birthed and raised on my hip will be off into the world, spending whole mornings away from me and my love and care and my heart already aches for the change.  

It's interesting.  The moments that are the hardest, that stretch me the most, are the moments where I most certainly find the most joy, the most purpose and happiness.  Much like how our terrible mother's day brought so much clarity, this week brought me perspective.  I will never have this time with them again.  Soak it up, live in it now.  You can rest when Ian gets home (or when they go off to college).

But back to this no nap thing.  What's up with that huh?  You'd think a morning running around in the hot sun at the arboretum with a cute friend would do it, right? Nope.

Friday morning at the Arboretum with sweet Lily

Louise was down to her wet yellow onesie by the end of the morning, 
just as it should be on a hot late spring day


Oh the water...and not a towel or dry shirt in sight.

Who me?  I never nap! NEVER!!!

Then Saturday came with the opening of the local farmer's market, which to me is akin to Christmas morning.  Ainsley of COURSE tested the waters big time with yet another what to wear battle and dampened my spirits.  But we persevered and ate our donuts and when Ainsley had to pee Ian drove the girls home and I stayed on to sample herb vinegars, find the perfect basil plant and fill my market tote to the brim.  I walked the mile and a half back home in the most unsupportive pair of shoes I own, genius (#blistersthreeweeksbeforeragnar).  Then Ian and I sipped on coffee and talked while the girls played in their pool.  I ignored all the work to be done for once and just enjoyed my family.  After lunch Ian tried his luck with nap time (double successes!  if I weren't so thankful for the hope this gave me I'd be REALLY annoyed) and I went to get some groceries and stumbled across some garage sales on the way home.  I do believe I'll have to set a budget for myself for garage sales this summer.  If the loot is anything like I found yesterday, I'm in big trouble.

I've vowed to be very practical in my thrifty searches, only purchasing things that we truly need, or that I have a plan for within the next few months.  Even so, I made out like a bandit.

Woodsco toddler chair/stepstool, you can never have too many tiny chairs with little ones around, I don't even mind that it's a new source for MY TURN! fighting, definitely worth it.

in stepstool mode

three unembroidered cloth panels, complete with color instructions on the sides

I'd been searching for a. an embroidery project and b. cafe curtains to hand from our kitchen window, how perfect!  I'm not sure I'll actually embroider them though, I kind of like the blue, and the color matches out kitchen perfectly.

And Nana thought that corn would be for squirrels...

Just waiting to be washed and sewn!

I also found two new quart lidded pitchers for lemonades and teas, yard upon yards on vintage eyelet lace, 4 long sleeved shirts for the girls for next winter and a pair of authentic real live pink ballet tights for Ainsley.  She has not taken them off since I gave them to her. Ah, garage sale bliss.

And speaking of spendthrift ways...I've found yet another use for all those old sheets I can't seem to get enough of, sundresses for the girls!

One of the good things that came out of all those LONG afternoons this week was lots of planning and sewing with my biggest girl (while my little one catnapped or had quiet time with books in her crib).  Ainsley is over the moon for her new sundress, particularly smitten that it matches her jammie pants I made for Easter (all from the same sheet people, a 25 cent sheet).  This pattern is the flower girl dress from Weekend Sewing.  I will bet that in one years time I've made every pattern in that book.  It's that good.

Louise has a new dress too, sharing a sheet with Auntie Sonya's new pj pants

Making these dresses and all those pj bottoms has just continued to show me how much I LOVE sewing. With the last of my amazon birthday money I ordered these two sewing books.  One, a completely selfish indulgence (as it only has patterns for me) the other a delightful mish mash of children's and adult clothing, toys and household patterns.  I can't wait to delve in.

most excited to try out some shirring, I have my elastic bobbin all wound!

I know I know, I don't NEED another skirt, but a drop waist wrap tie skirt?  Ah, I might just have to.

My last indulgence, a new cookbook.  You may recall that mere months ago I purged my collection and whittled it down to six, yet here I am adding another behemoth to the stash.  I saw this on a booklist of one of my favorite bloggers and ordered it from the library to take a closer look.  After earmarking 23 recipes, trying out the lemonade recipe and the strawberry rhubarb crumble (which we had for dessert last night...yum!) I decided I simply had to own it.

The photos are lovely, the recipes scrumptious and easy.  I can see the girls and I muddying up these pages in no time.

Gooseberry Crumble.  I made Strawberry Rhubarb instead.

In fact, while propping this book up to take some photos Louise promptly scooted on over to join me, flipping through to find her favorites.

Homemade Lemonade

Food must make her sleepy.  But look at those curls!, I bury my face in them at least 10 times a day.

So this week I've learned something.  I'm not jumping up and down about the daily sunshine forecasts and big full days.  I'm not planning on free time or naps at all in fact.  I am focusing on this great weekend we've had as a family, on the hope of cooler temps tomorrow to shut off the ac and get a good long run in (because oh my Ragnar is in less than 3 weeks!!!) I'm relishing in the last week of full spring activities before the reality of even longer hotter unstructured summer days sets in.  Even then? I'm thankful to be here with my girls while they still need me so, because as hard and tiring and LONG as that feels sometimes, it mostly just feels really really good.

Hope you've all had a great weekend!