Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Urban Christmas Tree

I wish I could come close to recreating the scene at our house on Saturday morning, as I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time!

Here's the back story: We decided we'd like to get rid of the blue spruce in our front yard but that it was too big to be our Christmas tree. We were prepared to just cut it down in the spring, but, in the spirit of sharing (and reusing), thought we'd post it on Craigslist. Afterall, it would be a beautiful Christmas tree in a mansion.

Sure enough, Rye received great interest from one family in particular. Not only did they think the tree was nice, but the dad was very excited because he and his son could save a trip to Michigan, where they'd planned to venture in search of a tree.

Here's their urban tree adventure, captured in pics from my interior vantage point (between my rolling laughter) -
Oh, dad, I think this is the one! Mom, please snap my picture in front of the tree (not the pink flamingos). NOTE: Mom is really snapping pic.

After much sawing effort from Dad, son, and that nice man from the tree farm (Rye), down comes the tree. Mom is snapping pictures.

And thanks to Dad and that tree farm guy, over the hedges it goes. Mom is wondering what she's gotten into.

Our car's just the right size... now we just have to make sure the tree's very secure. Mom is airing the tires.

All the people passing through the neighborhood stop to make sure it's secure, too (and maybe laugh). Mom is hiding in passenger seat.

And off we go...

The tree farm guy cleans up.


Here are a few outtakes from last night's family photo shoot.

Isn't E's dress great? Thanks GG Jean!

A little Christmas princess...

Snuggles in for some mama kisses...

And shows daddy some dancin' attitude.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thanksgiving in MN highlights

Unfortunately, I didn't take many pics during our visit to Minnesota. You know, sometimes it's just more relaxing to not wear the photographer hat. But in hindsight, I wish I would have captured more of our fun times. In particular, Elynor playing with Rye's cousin, Alicia, on Thanksgiving day (this meant running almost nonstop for hours) - thank you, Alicia, can I hire you to come to Chicago? Learning to go down the stairs with Aunties Katy & Tracy and Grandma Sue. And eating lots of new foods (mostly chocolate concoctions) courtesy of Rye's Aunt Sally.

At any rate, here are some mementos from a great trip.

Enjoying cookies & milk with Grandpa Lyle.

Another fabulous holiday with Great Grandmas Siira & Westrom (who Elynor shares the same middle name, Aline, with).

It's best to bring your sense of humor when attempting a good group shot with a 1 year old.

Aunt Tracy assists with burning off some energy before a long car ride.

And Uncle Dan sends Elynor off with her fave sound effects/faces.

A sampling of Elynor's waking car hours. Praise God, she slept most of both trips!


Sunday night marked Elynor's first solo piano concert. She's had several previous opportunities to accompany others and has had a few drum, maraca, and kazoo performances... but they all paled in comparison to this event. While visiting the May's for church/dinner/Bear's game (hence the inappropriate concert attire) she booted the hostess from the bench and took over. As you can see, she started with an easy piece.

Wow - single hand while turning the music!

A dramatic finale.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10,351 steps

I haven't posted much lately because I've been running around... somewhat literally.

Yea, yea.... I've notched up my paid work hours a bit, I'm managing (and living in) a home remodeling project, and do a fair amount of chasing an active 14 month old... but I'm also taking part in a 10,000 strides challenge.

Here's the deal... between now and January 4, the challenge is to take 10,000 strides (steps) a day. The official challenge has been cast by Stroller Strides. I've been teamed up with 2 other fit mamas (our team name is Love n' Strides) and our goal is to take more collective steps than all the other mama teams we're competing against to win some fun prizes.

Of course, the motivation to keep moving over the often-sedentary holidays was personally motivating. But so, too, was the curiosity about just how many steps I take each day. I was already surprised by yesterday's 10,351 total (a little under 5 miles). I didn't start counting until noon and I only went for a short jog (just under 2 miles). This means over 1/2 was from my standard errand running and walking around the house! I guess this is one reason to give thanks for the multilevels in the new place. I'm working today and driving to MN tomorrow, so the counts are sure to be lower. But isn't it awesome to be made more aware of your activity levels?

So here's to a holiday season filled with friends, family, yummy food, and 10,000+ strides.
Why don't you strap on a pedometer and join me?

Another random experience

So most of you know I spend a fair amount of time at my 'office' - otherwise known as Panera. It's generally a great place for me to get work done while also enjoying a comfy seat, warm or cold drink, and an appropriate amount of distractions.

So I'm sitting here right now during a fairly busy period. There are lots of people looking for tables. I've often seen people ask strangers to sit with them during similar times, but have never personally had the experience... until today. I saw the guy spot me and start making his way over. I tried to look down, but once you make eye contact, that's really just impossible. Of course I tell him to take a seat, even if inside I'm wondering, 'why me?!'. And down he sits...

And spreads his tray and bagel bag and coffee WAY past the 1/2 way point (when you were kids did any of your parents have to mark the 1/2 way point in the backseat to separate you & your siblings?). All of a sudden this square table seems really small. He seems so close to me. Wow. This is really awkward. I want to spread out my legs, but fearing a more awkward footsie moment keep them curled up under my chair. He's a middle aged man... kinda scraggly. And I can't lift my eyes up from my computer b/c I just feel he's staring at me. He's probably not, yea... but it feels that way when the table's so small and you can hear him chomping his food and see his mouth going up & down out of your peripheral vision. Ewww... he is a really loud chip chomper. I think they're called Krunchers brand chips, and now I know why. I wonder if people in the restaurant think we're here together... another awkward thought. Wow. I never thought just giving the poor guy a seat could be so strange.

Okay, and enough about me... I wonder how he feels. I wonder if he thinks I'm documenting his lunch today... live... just inches from his chomp, chomp, chomping.

I guess I could strike up a conversation. Maybe ask him if those Krunchers are good.

Professional Protocol

I've got a piece of advice for many of the males who have been in my home doing work over the past several weeks (no, not you, Rye & Dad) - please put down the toilet seat after you've used it! I love that you feel at home and all while working in my house... and I know there's some debate about if an up or down seat is more 'correct'.... but please just leave it as you found it. I guess I assumed incorrectly that this would be part of a standard plumber, tile, or other general laborer's house-call training.

On a related note... let me just say how awkward it is for a woman to, ahem, do her business, with a home filled with workers. Yesterday I just had to give in and ask one of them to vacate the 2nd bathroom for a minute. I couldn't hold it any longer!

Okay, how's that for a random vent after a long time of silence?

There's more to come shortly... including some pics of lots of house progress!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Breakfast, anyone?

Elynor found some good stuff on this morning's exploratory mission. Evidently she likes bittersweet baker's chocolate. Maybe because it's Ghirardelli.

Evidently she also knew it was raining this morning. She insisted on wearing her stuffed duck's jacket.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Where, Oh Where?

Is our camera battery charger?!

I'm confident the past week was the most undocumented of Elynor's life. You see, the night before Halloween, after seeing that blinking "charge battery pack" message on our camera, we realized we've got no clue where the stinkin' blue charger is! Of all the things to misplace in our crazy nomadic life... and of all times... Ahhhhh! After searching high & low and literally tearing the house apart (well, tearing it more apart than it already was) we think it's a casualty. And so is the documentation of the past week's events. And a big week it was - Halloween, Obama's election night rally, the install of our kitchen counters.

Good thing we had good friends to snap a few shots here & there. I'll share some of them soon. In the meantime, I think we'll have to look into purchasing a replacement charger. Surely we aren't the only ones to experience such a casualty.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sale Bin

This weekend we made the obligatory "just moved to a new house" stop at Ikea. This place makes me crazy when I'm well fed and rested... so I knew we were taking a huge risk going after Elynor's bedtime following a crazy day of visiting friends.

Then enter the Ikea beany baby bin. Don't ask me how we (or Ryan) got the brilliant idea to put Elynor into the bin, but it was a decision that proved genius. I think this is the only time she's ever enjoyed being confined to a limited space. The unending supply of toys made it nice, but I think even nicer was peeking out at all the people walking by and pointing (at her, not her crazy parents).

Maybe Ikea should sell these bins for installation in the home. Really, if I had one of these my house would surely be unpacked!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The City that Works


If our experience is any indication, it's no accident that Chicago's motto is simply, "The City that Works." Period - with no promises of timeliness, attitude, or quality. This afternoon a van from the Department of Signs and Markings pulled up (going the wrong way on a 1-way) and finally took down the handicapped parking signs used by our home's former resident. This, only 4.5 months after the request was submitted to our alderman's office. Wow. How long will it take after they make the proposed budget cuts?

I applaud our city's setting the bar high. It must be pretty difficult to live up to the promise "to work". Then again, I guess I shouldn't complain. At least I don't live in "The City that Doesn't Work".

Move-in Weekend

One of the highlights of our recent adventure has been experiencing the outpourings of love from various friends & family. Really, I find it often takes crazy circumstances to experience the physical manifestations of love. Why is that? In any case, we were yet again the grateful recipients over our move-in weekend.

First it was Saturday when 6 friends pitched in a day of labor (and many of their wives & children loaned them out). It was so cool to walk through the house and see friends cutting, sanding, and painting trim, and patching drywall, among other things.

Then my parents arrived on Sunday to pitch in a few days of labor. By Tuesday evening (with some additional help from my Uncles Danny & Carey & Aunt Mary on Monday) we were lightyears ahead of where we were on Friday with such projects as insulation, mudding Elynor's closet, and LOTS of cleaning - to name a few!

It's already a thrill to look at the finished products and think about the people who poured themselves into them - and us. Thank you, again! Here are some highlights (sorry, all, I didn't take many pics):
Tim, our spackling man!

Reid, our woodworking expert and provider of the cool tools!

Grandpa Kev & Grandma V provide some great entertainment for a curious little girl.

Helping Grandma V move some pictures.*

Helping Mama give the grand tour to Aunt Mary.*

Grandpa Kev making Elynor's closet beautiful.*

Daddy takes a well-earned break!*
Special props to Rye who became a construction laborer from sunup to sundown for multiple weekends in order to make this place move-in ready.

Special thanks to our awesome photog., Uncle Danny!

What's Happening?

Let's have a little guessing game in honor of my return to the blogging world (our internet was just installed at the new place). Answers to come soon...

1. What are those guys doing in the street outside our dining room window?

2. What's captured Rye's intense gaze on the 2nd night in the new place?

New Friend

Elynor made a new best friend at our last stop on the nomadic journey. It was a love/hate relationship at first, but after a few days Wrigley was her best bud. I think it was her feeding him every other bite at mealtime that made the difference. Unfortunately, she now thinks every dog wants to be friends and fearlessly (and quickly) approaches them at the park, on the street, you name it! No, this does not mean we'll be getting another dog anytime soon - just continuing to make frequent stops at the May house for Wrigley playdates.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Out of Storage

What was supposed to be one month of storage turned into almost two... but I'm happy to share that our unit is now EMPTY! So long Public Storage. Hopefully we won't be seeing each other again for some time.

This means that the majority of our possessions are now in our home. I say the majority because the suitcases we've been traveling with are still at our current borrowed home and random stuff like our bikes and some framed art is in another friend's garage. Oh yea, and our mobile storage unit (aka, our car) is pretty full. But in the big sceme of things, most of our stuff is there. In addition to our stuff, our home is also still littered with more construction supplies than I'd like (most of which Rye & I have no clue what to do with) as well as construction debris. Hopefully by the end of this weekend (or at least next week) we'll have found new homes for the construction junk (or at least organized it all) and seemingly organized places for our stuff... at least until the remaining closets, etc. are finished up.

Please pray for a few incredibly productive days - and stop on by if you're looking for any painting, sanding, or moving gigs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

1 week

and counting...

It seems as if the end of our nomadic journey is near. The cleaning crew's coming on Thursday and the movers will deliver our stuff on Friday. The house is not in 100% finished condition, but it will be livable (thanks especially to the sweat equity Rye put in this weekend).

Oh, how thrilled we'll be to have our OWN space... and to start extending welcomes like we've received.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A few weeks back several of our friends joined together to throw Elynor a surprise birthday party! I don't think she really got it then, but one day she'll be excited to know she was possibly the youngest surprise party recipient ever. This generous expression of love is yet another example of how God is taking care of us during this interim time through dear friends.

Here are a few highlights from the party and TONS more awesome pics of Elynor and other revelers (courtesy of our dear friend and awesome babysitter, Natalie - let me know if you'd like her to do a photoshoot for you) are posted on Picasa. Also, please note that the party was on a weekday, hence, no dads.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making Progress

For those wondering, our little cottage in the city is coming along nicely. It's feeling more & more like a place we could actually live every time we visit. We're not holding our breath, but hopefully we'll be doing just that in the next few weeks. Here are a few sneak peeks of what's unfolding. A complete album of current pics can be viewed on Picasa. And to refresh your memory, these pics show how far we've come.

No more paneling or dark carpet in the living/dining room!

The kitchen is free from tile and wallpaper and opens to the dining room!

The upstairs bath has been transformed from Barbie pink (though some remnants still decorate the window frame) to classy Carrera marble.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Intro to Zoo

Due to constant downpours we missed visiting the zoo on Elynor's birthday... but since we were temporarily living just two blocks away, we made an inaugural visit later in the week. Though we had a great time, in all honesty, I think we could have been at any location with open paths for walking and people to watch and "meet". Elynor paid little attention to any animals... unless you count every other child who she could walk up to. Hey, I guess it's good that she can discern her own species. And since the zoo is free, I'm confident we'll have many future opportunities for her to discover the zoo animals! Here are some highlights from her fave area, the "Farm in the Zoo" (I guess she is truly a Westrom) -

Only food could lure this girl away from the cab of the giant tractor.

The little chick peeks out before returning to a rousing game of hide & seek.

Prepping for future MN visits with a stop in the dairy barn (cows were behind us).

Lawn Girl

Elynor insisted on helping us mow the lawn today. Do I see a future summer job?

Sunday, September 14, 2008


"This time last year..." has peppered our conversation throughout the weekend. It still blows our minds that at this time last year we were less than 48 hours into our new world as parents... just getting to know our little (though at the time, on the big side:) Elynor. Each hour of each day seemed filled with newness. Questions, concerns, hopes and delight filled us as we focused on the present and the future.

Now one year later we're still getting to know our little (though growing) Elynor and discovering our ever-expanding role as parents. Questions, concerns, hopes and delight still fill us and each day still seems to hold something new.

It's this dynamism that seems to mark the journey. And our ability (or inability) to embrace it that marks our experience.

This weekend we celebrated the dynamic 365 days that have been - for us and for Elynor. We continue to thank God for her - the little girl she is becoming and her role in growing us. We also thank God for the amazing friends and family who have loved us on this journey.

Here are a few highlights from our intimate, somewhat limited by the 24/7 rainstorm, celebration (a larger party may follow once we're in our new home... or we may just have a blow-out 2nd birthday) and all the pics are on Picasa.

The Pink Birthday Princess arrives with her Knight in Shining Armor (thank you for loaning the first b'day wardrobe, Campins' & Mouse's).

I'll have one of those, and one of those... I am the princess, right?

I guess I'll share with my entourage.

Swingin' on a sugar high!

Sorry to rush but I gotta get home before the clock strikes 12.
Until next year, it's been fun!