Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Robin Eggs, Blogger Issues and Rain Rain Rain

I am so in love with these beautiful blue robin eggs that we found in a nest on our back porch. I had to climb up high on the railing to try to capture this shot when the mother bird was away from her nest.
Back Yard April 26 2011-12

Back Yard April 26 2011-13

I'm feeling rather fed up with Blogger. As I've mentioned before, when I upload pictures directly to my blog (rather than uploading to flickr first and copying the code over), the images often look pixelated and poor quality. My blog header is pixelated, which drives me crazy. And sometimes I get a "server rejected the image" error that doesn't let me upload pics to begin with. I've googled the problem and lots of people are dealing with this but there is no easy answer from blogger. My current fix is uploading to flickr. But that's one more step and definitely not as fast and easy.

My latest issue is that the sidebar on the right is showing up funny for at least one person - can you do me a favor and tell me if you can see the sidebar in its entirety or if the pictures/words on the right side are being cut off? I spent a lot of time last week updating the content in the sidebar, getting rid of the old stuff that was outdated and unnecessary, so it's all cleaned up. But it's aggravating to hear the sidebar is having troubles... boo.

We've now had rain 19 of the 27 days of this month. My house feels perpetually dark because the sun is hiding outside. Eli is oblivious to the fact that it's chilly outside and opted to wear shorts this afternoon after he didn't make it to the bathroom fast enough and had to change his clothes. I didn't fight him on it, the poor guy has been sick so we've mostly stayed inside.

On Sunday night, he was up from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. crying every 30 minutes because his stomach hurt. We had friends visiting from out of town with us for Easter weekend, so I didn't get to bed before 1 a.m. and majorly paid for it when I couldn't fully go to sleep until 5 a.m. I was in a fog the next day and convinced Eli to take a nap with me late in the afternoon - I know he's sick when he actually agrees AND falls asleep because napping for that child is pretty rare. Now his stomach seems fine but he has allergies coming on full throttle... I'm hoping he'll be okay once his meds have been in his system for a little while.

Charlie has been in a great mood all week and has this funny throaty giggle now when he's being silly with his brother - it's deeper and almost mischievous. This gray weather makes me sleepy but also in the mood to get our house organized since we have been so cooped up... this means I've attempted to go through our storage rooms in the basement and get rid of things we're not using, but all at a very slooooow pace. :)

Here is a picture from this morning - occasionally I watch a set of twins early in the morning and then they take the bus to school. I walked them, their friends who are our neighbors and my kids over to the bus stop today in the rain and snapped this picture of the happy crew. My boys had fun stomping around in the rain and watching the older kids get on the bus.
Kids-April 2011-10

Wedding Pictures

I just updated my photography blog with pictures from Heather and Patrick's wedding day a little while ago - here are a few from their photo session (you can view more here). We hadn't met before their wedding as they were from Milwaukee, but I felt like we became friends after a few hours running around downtown Evanston together taking pictures. These two were such a beautiful couple - it was fun capturing their happiness that day.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Boys Playing Together

This is a classic video taken a while back showing the funny interactions between the boys. Eli telling Charlie what to do, Charlie mostly ignoring it and doing what he wants and having fun.

Racing Frogs (April 2011 - Eli and Charlie) from Sarah on Vimeo.

And this is a clip of Eli reading a book to himself early in the morning a few weeks ago (I heard him reading when I came down the stairs and grabbed my camera to quietly capture it). He had gotten up before me, eaten breakfast, played with blocks (and made a big mess), then snuggled under a blanket on the couch and started reading this book out loud to himself.

Eli Reading a Book to Himself Early in the Morning (April 2011) from Sarah on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Snow + 2 Crazy Boys = Enduring Neverending Winter

We woke up to record-breaking snow yesterday. It's been cold and rainy for the last week, and now it snows. Booooo. Six months of winter is rough. I try to be positive about our crazy weather that lingers and lingers and lingers since Ben is usually complaining from about January on and I resist joining in because I'm the main reason we live in this cold place, but now we're both so tired of it.

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I keep dreaming about warm Lake Michigan beach days in our future and how much fun we're going to have this summer just playing outside and enjoying the sunshine. But those dreams were pushed aside by the white stuff on the ground yesterday. Thankfully it melted by the middle of the day so we didn't have to look at it anymore. But it was still freezing outside!! Brrrrr.

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Home_April 2011 Pictures-3

This week Charlie is like a new little guy (remember the screaming tantrum from a little bit ago??) He still throws tantrums, but they aren't as often and he's sleeping better through the night. I am totally blaming those difficult weeks on his molars coming in. He's still two years old and has plenty of fight in him, but I'm continually learning what he wants and needs or thinks he needs. I think it's hilarious to hear him tell me he wants a "grown-up spoon" with his breakfast. No kids utensils for Charlie.

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He has had a word explosion and says all kinds of hilarious stuff. I love hearing my sweet little boy talk and interact with people, especially when it's with Eli. He really looks up to his big brother and he is always very concerned if someone gets hurt. Today Eli kept poking me in the back with his elbow and I was saying, "Ouch!!" and Charlie looked over with big blue eyes and asked quietly, "You okay Mama?"

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Eli continues to seem so old to me lately. He was the reverence child at the beginning of primary on Sunday and it was so fun to watch him up there. He stood up in front of the chaotic, full junior primary with his arms folded and a shy smile on his face. He quietly looked around the room, then glanced back at me standing in the back. I kept giving him big smiles and thought it was so cute that he took it seriously and was being so reverent. After we came home from church, we walked into the family room... it was pretty messy from the morning and Eli commented on how he had dumped his bucket of army guys out when he was frustrated with something Charlie did.

"It was a mistake, right?" he said very seriously.

I told him yes, it was a mistake to act like that and there are other ways we can express our frustration, rather than throwing or dumping toys out...

"Did you know Heavenly Father and Jesus still love us even when we make mistakes?" Eli asked.

I'm so grateful for the teachers at church who help my 3-year-old understand basic but important aspects of the gospel. I'm guessing they talked about mistakes and repentance at church and he recognized how it applied to him that day.

Sure love those cute little guys.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Something Tangible to do for Japan

We've donated to the Red Cross and our church's humanitarian fund for Japan's relief efforts, but sometimes it's nice to feel like you are doing something really hands-on for people in need. Now here's your chance.

A blogger (who I have no personal connection with) has been in contact with a school teacher in Ishinomaki, Japan, that was hit hard by the earthquake. She has expressed the kids and adults in that community are in need of various items, many of which are in our own homes already and would be easy to share.

I learned about this opportunity from my sister-in-law Emily - check out this link for more info and to contact Nicole for the address of where to send a box, which will go to a Buddhist monk there in the village who will distribute the items coming in these boxes. So far the site shows that 379 boxes have been shipped so far.

I'm pasting some excerpts of her blog post below so you can see what they are looking for -

"I’m calling out to you, my readers, to send one box.  That is all.  One box filled with most of the things you already have sitting in your cupboards.
What Sachiko says the children need:
erasers/ pencils/crayons
paper and supplies
special things like candy, something fun that brings a smile
shippable foods
Besides what is on the list, I confirmed that things that are gently used, like children’s clothing, dried fruit, granola bars, and such would be wonderful as well."
and later in the post:
"If you are serious about sending a box, email me personally in the contact me section on my blog and I will email you right back with the address.  Her parents are presently housing 15 adults who have lost their homes.
Their needs are:
paper products (toilet paper, paper towels)
feminine products (pads, tampons)
baby wipes (currently used for bathing there, if they have them)
antibacterial gel (there is a sickness like the flu passing through rapidly)
food (plain noodles, dried fruit, other things that ship easily)
gently used clothes, socks, shoes
disposable gloves and lotion–for sorting through the rubble
If your family chooses to get involved and send one package, have your children help by creating cards for the children.  Sachiko says the children need some happiness.  I can’t even imagine their feelings, longings for familiarity, and sorrows.  Put some fun things in their box, too.
Let’s do this together, please.  If you can commit one box to Japan, share it with us in the comments.   My goal is that this blog, through you generous people, can send 
 400 boxes to Ishinomaki, Japan.  This town has been devastated.  We have a real, hands-on way to give of our bounty.  Please.  Pass this on as well- through Facebook, friends, etc.  Can you imagine the out pouring of boxes to this school, to this generous Buddhist monk and the people he’s caring for?"
I think it's such a great idea - I've contacted Nicole for the address and am planning to send a box in the next few days.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Charlie's Behavior and More Gems

Here's a random list of thoughts from this week:

1. Charlie has been really difficult lately. Throwing CRAZY fits that almost put me in tears because it is so sad and extreme for such a normally sweet little guy. Here's a clip of what he is like when he goes into these monster tantrums. It's a little hard for me to watch because he's so upset, but it shows his stamina with how worked up he can be and how long he goes for (often he screams for 20 to 30 minutes - now we put him in his crib when he goes berserk to keep him more safe--we tell him we'll come back when he stops screaming). I think in the video, he was mad about us changing his poopy diaper and starting to get him ready for bed. He kept grabbing the new diaper and trying to rip it off (please excuse my messy bedroom and laundry that needed to be put away... and I don't know why the video is formatted so weird, it was taken with Ben's phone):

Screaming 2-year-old Charlie from Sarah on Vimeo.

2. Today Charlie continued his naughty streak by throwing a fit toward the end of Sacrament Meeting in church. We have church at 1 p.m., which is a horrible time for a 2-year-old who still naps. He was worn out and getting restless and wanted nothing to do with the snacks or activities that I had brought for him. Instead, he opted to roll around under our bench, fussing and kicking the woman sitting next to us. I didn't have an easy escape route because I was in the middle of the long middle row and instead I was crouching down (in my skirt), trying to quietly get Charlie to get him off of the floor or at least move Charlie's legs in a different direction... but every time I did this, he would promptly move them back and kick her some more.

Of course this person's kids are grown and she was there at church by herself, minding her own business, trying to listen to the meeting. And my stinker child was kicking her ankles. Afterward I apologized about 10 times and she told me it's okay, her 2 1/2-year-old grandson is quite the pill right now too. Wonderful. Yes Charlie, you were being a total pill. But I did feel a little victorious that we got Charlie to wear his nicer clothes to church (nicer as in khaki pants and a polo shirt). So I'd say the score was even today.

3. On a more positive note, I've noticed my boys getting along better, especially when we're out of the house (at home they fight a LOT). When we're at a friend's house or playgroup, they tend to stick near each other and Eli can be really protective of his little brother. At the park this weekend, they were being really cute, running around the playground and playing little games. There is a bridge at a park that we like, and they took turns pretending to be the troll in the Three Billy Goats Gruff story. Eli and Charlie have some great troll voices.

But that's only sometimes. They have real troubles when we're in the gym after church and Eli is chasing Charlie trying to grab the bottom of his shirt and pull him down, which of course makes Charlie upset. I know, it's probably not optimal that we let our kids run in the gym after church. I honestly don't care anymore. They are so wiggly after three hours of church that I don't blame them for needing to move their legs a little. Today Ben was busy after church counting tithing, so I was on my own and had no desire to rush home and deal with their tired little emotional selves there. Ben got home two hours after church was over. Sundays are MUCH easier now that we have two cars.

4. It was 85 degrees here today. Yesterday it was cold outside. Today it was humid and stiflingly hot inside our house. Right now my thermostat inside says it's 79 degrees and it's midnight. I can't bring myself to turn on the a/c in April!! We're supposed to drop back down to 55 tomorrow, so it's short-lived. Phew. I'm excited for summer, but a little in-between spring weather is always nice.

5. I had dental x-rays yesterday because I haven't had them done in forever and had some pain with one tooth. Of course it turned out I had a cavity - the x-ray showed a small crack toward the bottom of a lower molar. I had to get THREE shots of novacaine to not be in major pain as the dentist was drilling. I was miserable for the rest of the day and Ben said I looked totally wiped out. In his words, I looked like I "needed a Red Bull." I don't drink Red Bull, but I definitely was hurting and low on energy on Saturday afternoon/evening. It took a long time for the anesthetic to wear off, and my jaw was pretty sore. Dental work is the WORST and that was my second cavity. So sad - I was happy to just have one problem tooth, now I have two.

6. I love the blog, Miss Minimalist. I am by no means a minimalist, but I am trying to be a little more streamlined in my life. I loved her very comprehensive post on where to donate your stuff  and 100 ways to simplify your life. Amen to all of that. And when I'm not being a minimalist, I loved Cardigan Empire's list of store markdown schedules. You know I love a good deal. :)

7. My kids used to be awesome sleepers, but aren't so much right now. I don't know what is going on, but Charlie wakes up crying almost every night now, often just a few hours after he goes to bed. It's really hard to know what to do - sometimes we let him cry it out, other times he is up there just screaming and screaming for a long time (30 minutes) and doesn't calm down until we go in. I'm pretty sure he's getting some molars, but who knows. Eli isn't much better - for example, he just came downstairs and said he couldn't find the spider in his bed that had pincers. I went upstairs, checked his bed, proclaimed it clear of spiders and put him back to bed. I have no idea why he is waking up randomly in the night too.

8. I need to get back on the exercising bandwagon. I've been a bum for a few months now and it's time to get ready for summer clothes after hibernating all winter. That means I should go to bed earlier so I have more energy, but going to bed on time is an ongoing struggle and one of my New Year's resolutions that I've totally failed at. Lame. I can do better.

9. We've watched a range of Netflix movies this weekend. I liked 127 Hours, even though it was a little hard to watch at various parts and had too much swearing (we usually don't watch rated R movies, but make exceptions sometimes). I thought James Franco was great and the movie was written in a way that didn't make the 127 hours feel like forever. We also watched Ping Pong Playa and I wouldn't say that it's a must-see, but definitely funny at times and more interesting to Ben since his office has a ping pong table and they play just about every day after the market closes.

10. I'm still addicted to peanut m&ms, despite that I have acid reflux and should avoid chocolate and that I'm trying to eat more healthy foods. Yet another New Year's resolution that I have totally failed at. My new resolution is to make more realistic resolutions next year. :)

PHEW. I'll post less word and fun pictures next time!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Garfield Park Conservatory

On Tuesday we went to the Garfield Park Conservatory with friends. It was such a beautiful place to let the kids roam and run and to take in the abundant plants and vibrant flowers, especially when we are dying for nicer weather that is taking its sweet time to arrive. This was a great pick-me-up and fun outing for spring break. I was surprised that it wasn't more crowded - we often had rooms to ourselves, which was pretty nice.

After a few hours inside, our kids got super sweaty from running around - it was pretty warm in some of the rooms and were sporting bright red cheeks, with the exception of little Anderson who was just cozy in his car seat.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Botanic Gardens

On Sunday we were a little stir crazy from being inside all weekend long... so in between conference sessions we went out for a quick escape to the Botanic Gardens. The boys had fun stretching their legs, visiting the ducks, geese and swans at the pond, and Charlie refused to wear his coat or red hoodie. Who knows how this child can handle the cold weather when he only weighs 22 pounds and is such a skinny little guy. I personally think he's freezing but just likes to exert his 2-year-old independence. :)

We ran into some friends from the ward there at the gardens who took a picture for us in one of the greenhouses - 
 And for some fun news, we bought a second car last week! (yes, in the middle of my sickness and miscarrying... it was quite the week. Ben basically took care of it all) We have wanted to get a second car for a long time, but kept putting it off because it wasn't absolutely necessary and we wanted to save money as long as we could before taking the plunge.

We finally planned to buy a minivan in June before we drive to Idaho for a family reunion later this summer, but got nervous after the earthquake in Japan - there were news stories that new cars may be in shorter supply in a few months because the factories in Japan that make the car parts have been closed, which is messing up the supply chain so stock may be more limited this summer... one thing led to another and it was the last day of the month, end of the first quarter of the year, and Al, our Russian car dealer with the extremely thick accent gave us a fabulous deal on our beautiful new minivan :) I love having so much space and the kids call it their pirate ship. Eli loves having the back folded partially down and has fun "walking the plank." 
Here are a few other pictures of Eli having fun with the van after I unloaded groceries from Costco this week -  

I know some people aren't huge fans of minivans, but this is glorious!! I am loving it. Eli does too :)

Thanks for so many kind, caring comments on my blog post earlier this week. I'm doing okay - physically still pretty worn out (I think having that stomach bug and then the miscarriage did a number on me) and emotionally mostly fine, though I've realized I've been less patient and more irritable than my usual self this week. It's easy to get to a grumpy place, to be frustrated with all of the dumb things that have no significance but can easily get you down. For example, we brought the minivan home last weekend and realized that while it fits in our ancient garage (we had measured ahead of time to be sure), the ceiling at the opening of the garage is too short to open the trunk without needing to be really careful not to bang it on the garage door. Boooo.

Next week I'll just do my best to be grateful we even have a garage. And a car to go inside it. I really do love it.

More Conference Weekend

Please excuse the messy family room, there were toys everywhere and we were folding the millions of loads of laundry during conference. Eli was busy working on his core muscles while coloring :) In the last few months he's been really funny about doing little exercises that he learned in gymnastics or physical therapy.
We have cable that doesn't come with the BYU channel, so we improvised and connected Ben's laptop to the tv. It works fairly well and Eli thought it was entertaining to see conference on two different screens. The kids liked watching when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was singing and called the women "the singing mamas" and the men "the daddy's." It was pretty funny.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Gram's 86th Birthday Lunch

We got together for my Gram's 86th Birthday a few weeks ago (and I'm catching up). I think she looks pretty fabulous for 86 years of age. She and my dad spent a lot of time reading to the boys while Ben, my mom and I finished getting the birthday lunch ready.
Eli had fun helping Gram blow out the candles on her coconut cupcake and open presents.
After dessert, Ben, my dad and Eli spent a lot of time studying Ben's Michigan Gazeteer. We're taking a weekend trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula soon and Ben has been studying the streams and lakes with hopes of finding optimal fishing. He is so excited for our outdoor adventures and Eli is too. Eli had fun looking at the symbols on the map - images like a figure hiking, or a tent to indicate a campground, etc. My dad loves maps too and was teaching Eli about the various places on there.
Love you Gram! Happy Birthday :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Dealing with Loss and Moving On

I've debated all weekend about whether I wanted to share this on my blog or not because it is so personal and painful, but it is such a common experience and I know many of you can relate to what I just went through. 

Last week was the start of two weeks of preschool spring break for my boys. I was originally planning to drive with my friend Stephanie and our five collective kids to visit our friend Wendy and the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. We would have driven about 13 hours each way and it was going to be a really fun road trip. But a few weeks ago, Steph realized it wasn't going to work for her to go, so that was the end of that. I am SO glad we didn't end up going because last week would have been even harder if I had been out of town.

The week began with a horrible stomach bug that lasted for a few days. I thought I was going to die on Tuesday - not really, but that is how it felt. I had a fever of 102, nausea, throwing up, chills, the works. I  barely carried Charlie up the stairs when it was time to put him down for his nap that day. I was so dizzy and weak and could barely function.

On Wednesday, I was still feeling lousy from the stomach problems, but started bleeding unexpectedly, which was very stressful because I was pregnant and not very far along. I went in for an ultrasound, which showed the baby's heart was beating, but it was positioned low in the uterus, which wasn't a good sign. Two days later, I miscarried at home at my 7 weeks mark. Eli was still sleeping when it happened, but Charlie was running in and out of the bathroom singing "Jingle Bells" of all songs in his happy way, totally oblivious to what was going on. After it happened, I stood there with tears streaming down my face, trying to gather the courage to flush the toilet. I called Ben at work and cried and cried.

I went back in to the doctor's office for another ultrasound, which confirmed the baby was out and my body was being very efficient with the whole process. I am so grateful for my kind OB (Dr. Jeremy Miller) who knew exactly what to say and made me feel better about everything that had transpired.

My dad came over one day to help with the boys, and on other days friends watched my kids, brought meals and cheery flowers that brightened the sad days. Eli was such a trooper (in the pictures above he's wearing this silly bird hat that he made in his library class and was pretending to be a bird to make me laugh). Charlie was his usual sweet self with some very aggravating moments mixed in. He wore the same clothes/pjs shown in the pictures above for two days in a row because I couldn't for the life of me get him to change his clothes without him heading into a MAJOR tantrum (I have a video of one of his tantrums tonight that is completely out of control - I'll share it soon). I just didn't have energy to deal with his 2-year-old craziness. 

Today I started feeling like myself again. Last week I didn't eat more than a few crackers or almonds from about Monday afternoon until Friday afternoon because I was so sick. I'm happy to have my appetite back. We didn't do laundry for a week or go grocery shopping and the mail piled up, so now we're catching up. We spent the weekend mainly at home, watching our church's bi-annual General Conference, feeling strengthened and buoyed up by the inspired words of our prophet and other church leaders. 

Overall I'm doing okay, obviously still a little up and down. I go from crying to being absolutely fine. Ben is okay, just concerned for me and glad I'm not so deathly ill like I was before. I know he felt a little helpless at times when I was in so much physical pain that I was hunched over or lying on the ground, trying to get comfortable and make the pain go away.

There is no mistaking that miscarriage is a lonely, disappointing, and difficult thing to experience. It's so strange to be pregnant one day, excited for a November baby, then bleeding and threatening miscarriage the next. But I feel surrounded by supportive, caring people who have been there for me in different ways, and tonight I feel peace and hope for whatever is in our future. I have a caring husband and two adorable boys that bring me so much happiness. I am lucky to have them and I know everything will be okay.