Thursday, January 27, 2011

Little Bits of Thursday Happiness

5 Reasons that make today great:

1) Acquiring license plates for my now registered (and altogether awesome) vehicle. I like being legal.

2) After driving in snowy conditions to the DMV (twice, since I had to come back home to get Eric's signature on something), getting lost on the way home, and writing checks for exorbitant amounts in order to drive around the lovely state of Illinois legally, I came home noticeably crabby. And then Luc, who just got back from a trip to India last week, jumped up from the couch and made me a steaming mug of the most delicious, creamy and flavorful Chai tea that I have ever had. It totally made my day.

3) Today, I have finally started to recycle! Chicago doesn't make it very easy for apartment dwellers to recycle, so if you want to do the world that little favor, you have to bring your recycling to a recycling collection area. This used to be impossible for us to take part in without the means to transport our cans and paper and glass, but now that we have a car, we can! I have also realized that while we did perfectly fine not having a car for the past 5 years, having one really opens up a lot of opportunities that weren't there before. I am so thankful.

4) The word: pulchritudinous. Makes me smile every time.

5) A sleeping baby combined with the smell of the bread that is baking in the oven. Nothing like a quiet afternoon to share with a companionable book with a thick slice of warm bread to look forward to.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Closets: Black Holes of Fear

A word on closets: Convenient, as their contents are invisible to the visitor's eye, but also deadly. Deadly in the sense that they can manipulate themselves into a Black hole of sorts where all those familiar maternity clothes and everything else that you don't-know-what-to-do-with-but-can't-get-rid-of ends up. To combat this unhealthy danger zone in our tiny, 2 closet and no other storage space apartment, I do an epic seasonal cleaning about 4 times a year. Basically every season I go through the bedroom closet, the dressers, and the back room (which also doubles as Lexi's little "bedroom" although there definitely isn't enough room for a bed...), put everything that isn't serving any purpose (and that Eric approves for removal) into bags and boxes, and then donate it all to one of our many local thrift stores.

You would think that since I do this 4 times a year, there wouldn't be much left to go through, right? Wrong. I accumulate stuff I don't need like cheese accumulates mold. I'm not even a pack rat. Ok, well maybe when it comes to art stuff, but that's totally different, since I use it actively and on a weekly, if not daily, basis. But since I already had a big box of things ready to go to that one lucky thrift store, I decided to go ahead and go through my clothes one more time as well. Two giant Kohls bags later (and if you have ever shopped extensively at Kohls, you know how enormous these bags are!), our closet is still stuffed, our dressers our still overflowing, and I am done sorting. Ugh. It doesn't help the situation that many of the clothes I am pulling out of the closet to get rid of I have had since high school and STILL have kind of an emotional time parting with. But the old pants are much too big now and the ragged shirts too tight (a rather strange anomaly, I know), so to the give away pile they go. I did have a harder time with the pants. After all, what if I get fat again? One day I might eat too many cookies and **BAM!**I will be wishing I still had those big ol' pants! Shirts are easily replaced. Pants I fall in love with tend to be a little harder to find.

The point is that while we are outgrowing this cozy little place we call home (our baby has SO MUCH STUFF!!!!!!!! And we have SO much less than the average American parent does...and when I say that, I really mean it. She doesn't even have any shoes.), I kind of dread the thought of moving simply because of the amount of sorting I have to do. I mean, I think I need all this stuff now, but when I am packing to move it all to a new place I have a feeling I am not going to want most of it. It doesn't even help that I have moved a gazillion times in my short life and know very well how the whole process works.

That being said, we are not moving anytime soon, and take my advice and clean out your closets periodically. It's good for you. And no, there aren't any monsters in there (not unless you include the monstrosity of dust and cat hair and junk in the equation, that is...).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Ice and Vitamin D (or lack thereof)

I don't know what the Holiday Makers were thinking when they gluttonously stuffed THREE holidays into December and left January (for the American population anyway) holiday free. Seriously, December is such an awesome month! Everyone is excited about winter because it's so new and the snow is so fresh and beautiful and everyone is merry and anticipating good food and parties and cookies and presents and just general good cheer. Also, there is Christmas music. The one and only genre of music that we are only given licence to listen to for the duration of December 1st through 25th. After that, it is strictly forbidden (unless you want to get your stereo smashed by some "Christmas-is-OVER!" fanatic). But during our small allowance period, the music colors the world with warm tones and tinkling jingle bells and fleeting thoughts of a old fat man named Santa. All is calm, all is quiet.

And then January comes along.

Frigid, sunless, cheerless January. Known for unsuccessful weight loss attempts, slipping on black ice, record breaking temperatures in the negatives, frozen car engines, a severe case of color blindness (reduced to only seeing in black, grey and white), lack of vitamin D, snotty noses, and the urgent desire to stay inside bundled up in a blanket until April.
Not so appealing if you ask me.

Unfortunately, living through January in Chicago always affects me in the same way. Mild (undiagnosed) seasonal depression (mostly due to said lack of vitamin D from warm sunshine rays) that manifests itself in lingering longings to move to California (or ANYWHERE where there is sunshine and warmth!), listlessness, lack of motivation, and the strong desire to spend hours standing in a steaming hot shower (no, we don't pay for our water). As my brother so perfectly phrased it, in January, I "feel droopy."

So to combat my general sense of overall despair, I resolved (and you will see in a moment why me making resolutions is an absolutely absurd and generally horrible idea)....ahem....I resolved to go for a walk every day that the sun decided to come out and grace me with her presence. No matter what. I would walk in the sunlight and force that vitamin D and all those other damaging UV rays into my skin no matter what the circumstances (namely freezing temperatures and fear of falling on our perfectly iced sidewalks - seriously, I think the city paid someone to walk on every sidewalk in our neighborhood with a running hose...). I felt pretty good about my new resolve. It even put a little pep in my step for the rest of that gray day.

Yesterday, I wake up to sunshine! It was thrilling. Clear blue skies, and a warm inviting sun. Also, yesterday's high was -12 degrees F. At least that is what my phone said. It has been known to be wrong before, but even if it was 12 degrees F ABOVE zero, it really wouldn't have made much of a difference. It was absolutely ARCTIC outside. Sun or no sun, I did not go on my walk (resolutions obviously don't hold much water for me...).

I DID drive to the grocery store, however, with little girl in tow (she cried when I took her out in the cold. I know. WHY do we LIVE here????). I HAD to go to the grocery store because I was having my two favorite girls over for dinner and a fun girls' night and didn't have any dinner or fun girls' night ingredients. Also, I really had to get my dutch oven pot from Jewel that I paid ONE PENNY for. That's right. ONE PENNY. I spent months collecting stickers (even forcing them off some apathetic collectors and coercing my friends to buy groceries at Jewel, tell the cashier they were collecting stickers, and then hand them over to me). I REALLY wanted this dutch oven pot (as you can see)! Last week when Eric and I were shopping and went over to get the pot and turn in my beat up sticker book, it was the only piece of cookware that was out of stock. Go figure. So I had to go yesterday before all the last minute shoppers came to collect on the last day of the event. And buy it I did. For one tiny cent. It is beautiful. And while I know that Jewel already sports ridiculous inflated prices (precisely why I only go there for items that Aldi doesn't carry, like organic yogurt and tahini), it was incredibly rewarding to get at least a little something back from that money sucking hole of a grocery store. It was like a prize. And I am still smiling about it.

Ok, so anyway, despite my bunny trails of epic proportions, I still hate January, and would like to skip February altogether (despite the fact that it's the month of Hallmark hearts and love as well as my birthday month). That being said, I am really looking forward to March. The funny thing about March is that it is really no different than February in terms of weather. But something about it just always feels different. Perhaps because Spring and warm rain and the hope of sunshine and the end to our seasonally monochromatic world is so tantalizingly close. March also tends to sport random days of unseasonal warmth, which I love, and the increasing ability to push a stroller on non-iced sidewalks. It smells of a thawing earth and fresh emerging plant life. And the birds start singing again. I love that.

So here's to 5 1/2 weeks until March. And may January end gracefully. Until then, I will be concocting recipes in my new dutch oven pot and looking forward to cheerful notes from all of you! ;-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Smart husbands sleep in flannel

After several years (2 and a half to be exact) of arguing with Eric about flannel sheets in the winter (him being for the sheets, and me being against), I caved in and with a loud, obnoxious sigh, put them on his Christmas list for his parents to take note of. I mean, I was nice enough to put them on his list, but I certainly wasn't going to be the one to buy them! So Christmas comes along and of course he gets them and I smile and say thank you with him while imagining myself for the next 3 months soaked in sweat every night during a disturbed fitful sleep where the damned flannel sheets are completely to blame for my zombie-like composure the next day and my trailer-park style of mothering.

Nonetheless, I packed them up in the car, we drove home, and then they sat on the floor in their package for two weeks while I gave myself pep talks and such while trying to convince myself that sleeping on the lumpy futon in the living room wouldn't be that bad... And then maybe Lexi would finally learn to sleep through the night since I wouldn't be in the bedroom to hear her whenever she wakes up.

So I put it off day after day until finally our sheets really needed to be changed (due to a certain sneezing, snotty-nosed baby that somehow shows up in our bed early every morning) and so I bit the bullet and just did it. Eric came in the bedroom as I was finishing putting the cute brown and blue plaid fitted sheet on the mattress and cheerfully (a bit too cheerfully I might add) pitched in and helped me with the rest. When it came time to climb into bed last night, I lifted the blankets on our bed in our chilly room and, fully expecting to be accosted by the icy cold blast of freezing 100% cotton sheets (as I experience every night with a certain nostalgic relish), I quickly slid my body underneath them.

It was crazy. I was already warm! There was no cold blast of sheets that usually takes about 5 minutes of shivering to fully warm up! And then I woke up 8 hours later. NOT sweaty. In fact, I slept better than I have in a while.

So we can keep the flannel sheets. Because let's face it: they're awesome. Also, they're clean.
Now I'm thinking about the last two freezing winters we have had and wishing that I was born with just a little more common sense like my wise and smart husband, Eric.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Resolutions

I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions this year.
I'm not going to attempt to lose weight (I like my current wardrobe), probably not going to work out until the weather gets warmer again (I have a passionate dislike for working out indoors), I already eat healthy (minus all the chocolate), my marriage doesn't need fixing (Eric's a pretty awesome guy), I'm not going to resolve to be a better mom (better let that one just grow with some time), I'm not going to make a resolution to read my Bible more (guilt does not equal true spirituality) and I'm not going to stop watching Glee (because WHY would I do that???!!!).

You may think that I am lazy and non-committal, but really, just because it's a new year doesn't make it any easier to change or be someone different that who you are. I am definitely not saying that people shouldn't make goals and exercise more and better ourselves throughout our lives (God knows America is a fat lard who never needed to know the existence of donuts). What I am saying is that these life altering changes should come from the heart - from a true desire to change - not just because all of the sudden it's the first of the New Year and you need to make some Resolutions because all your friends made some (and very few will even hold out through the end of the month anyway).

Maybe I'm just cynical because my Resolutions in the past have never held out longer than 3 hours. Or maybe I'm like Calvin in Calvin & Hobbes and just think about it too hard. Because really, values are completely relative.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Slippery Bananas and Head Concussions

As I write this, Lexi is sitting in her high chair trying to eat slices of banana that I placed on her tray. If you know anything about babies and bananas, you will already know that the odds of her getting a piece of banana into her mouth are pretty much slim to none. First she chases the slice around and around on the tray as it slips and slides continuously out of reach. Then, the moment her clumsy fingers finally wrap themselves around the banana slice, she brings her hand to her mouth and POP! Out pops the banana back onto the tray, onto the floor, or onto her bib where she just can't reach it. In an attempt to prevent too much frustration, I end up putting the banana in her mouth after she tries and re-tries again and again to no avail. (You would think they would make bananas with grips on them by now...) And so it goes until the entire 2 inches of banana are gone. Keep in mind that this takes no fewer than about 20 minutes, not including clean up. Talk about determination! This is no lazy baby!

It amazes me how much determination babies have this young. I guess if they didn't have it, they would never learn to wiggle, lift up their heads and look around, smile, laugh, play with toys, sit up, eat, pee during every diaper change, crawl, and walk (among many MANY other things) all in their first year of life.

And that, I suppose, is a perfect explanation as to why Lexi absolutely REFUSES to stop doing dangerous things... such as using the furniture to pull herself up into a standing position and then letting go, which always results in falling backwards and smacking the back of her head on the wood floor every single time. And yet she keeps doing it again and again and again. Either she is determined to walk before understanding her own center of gravity or she is going to suffer a major concussion. It's one or the other. I can't say that I am much looking forward to either, although if she could walk, then she could come find me faster whenever I leave the room and she is suddenly consumed with the completely irrational fear that I am never coming back. Silly baby with underdeveloped frontal brain lobes! Mama will always come back!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Home from the Holidays

Alexandria had a fantastic Christmas.

We spent just over a week in Mexico City to spend Christmas with my family. It was sunny, warm, and beautiful. We ate lots of tacos, had tons of fun, and spent lots of time just sitting in the warm sun surrounded by the blooming flora in my parents' backyard.

Then we flew to Nebraska to spend just under a week with Eric's family. Talk about a weather shock! It was freezing!!! We had planned to go sledding too (since I can do that this year), but lo and behold, there was ZERO snow. Bummer. On the upside, we had a great time with Eric's family, were spoiled to near death, and ate enough cookies sustain us for the next year.

Our vacation definitely had some big highlights, though, apart from spending time with our families. Such as the following:
It was the morning that we celebrated Christmas with Eric's family. We had just finished opening all the presents and were starting to clean up all the tattered wrappings that kept ending up inside Lexi's mouth. Brian, Eric's older brother, looked around and said, "Well, shall we head out to the garage now?"

Now it is important for you to understand that Brian does woodworking as his hobby and his shop is located in the garage of his parent's house. Because of this, when Brian said he had something in the garage for us to see, I simply thought that he had made something for someone for Christmas. So, scooping up Alexandria in my arms, we all headed to the garage, where they made me enter first. I walked in the door, and looked around for Brian's so-called creation. The only problem was, everything looked normal. Workbenches, cabinets, wood piles, a car with a bow on it, refrigerator, sawdust, shelves, more wood, WAIT! The car has a bow on it. The CAR has a BOW on it! THE CAR HAS A BOW ON IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the CAR that has a BOW on it is a SUBARU OUTBACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Which could only mean one thing, really, since I have been vocally eyeballing that car for about a year now]

I turned to Eric, complete shock and genuine surprise written across my face. He smiled, and handed me the keys. Seriously, this guy is amazing.

Talk about the best Christmas present EVER. EVER. EVER!!!!!!!

We drove home on Wednesday, only stopping once in 9 hours for gas. Lexi was a fantastic traveler! Since this is the first car that Eric and I have ever had (seriously, we have lived in Chicago for over 5 years without a vehicle, and neither of us ever had one prior to that), we are now adjusting to Chicago traffic and parallel parking. Eric is making me drive everywhere in order to build my confidence (which is getting better!) and soon I will be a pro.

It is kind of amazing how having our own vehicle has erased my dread of the freezing winter months. I now know with confidence that we can go grocery shopping whenever we need to as well as drive our dirty clothes to the laundromat every two weeks! It is truly a great feeling.

So here's a big huge thank you to Eric and to everyone else who is involved (you know who you are!)! And here's to the start of a great new year!

Peace and Joy.