Category Archives: Family

It never. stops. snowing.

I tweeted this the other day, but I seriously feel like I am the only person in the northern half of the US who isn’t sick to death of snow by now.  We got another 4″  or so overnight, and with today’s shoveling the drifts are officially higher than our car.  I’d take a picture but I haven’t been outside yet (Jeff missed the bus and drove himself to work).  I think Simes and I are going to take Roxie on a walk later, though, because despite the snow it’s actually not super cold.

Let’s see…it’s been over a week since I posted.  What’s been going on?

I finished an AWESOME project and am dying to show it off but I have to keep it under wraps for a while yet (the recipient checks in here every now and again).  I’m also trucking along on Jeff’s mansocks (yawwwwnnnnnn) and when I finish those I’m going to reward myself by FINALLY casting on for Catkin.  I’ll only be, like, the last person on earth to knit it.  I have some yummy Dyeabolical Tenacious Tencel fingering weight set aside for it.  It’ll be the first thing I’ve knit for myself since, well, those stripey knee socks (which are now hibernating) that I cast on right before we moved to Ohio.  SOMEONE (a pointed look in Simon’s direction) has severely curtailed my knitting time, what with his need for “food” and “diapers” and “stories” and “playing” and “interaction”.  Jeez.

We managed to get our act together and hit storytime on Thursday.  These storytimes are SO much better than the one we went to in LA.  More chaotic, but more fun.  Also, there are at least 4 other pregnant moms in the toddler group (plus the teacher/librarian, too).  I’d try to make friends if I weren’t so damn shy.  And of course the kids are still a little too young to really play with each other, so there’s not even really the whole “hey your kid and my kid like to play together! Want to come to our house for a playdate?” opening.  Ah well.  Moving in 6 months anyway; I’ll just try harder to make more friends in our next city.

Simon was LOVING the tunnels during the free play time:

After storytime was over we weren’t quite ready to go home but didn’t have any errands to do, so I called Jeff and asked if we could take him to lunch (one of the benefits of living 5 minutes down the road from his work!).  We also seized the opportunity to get official “helping Daddy at work” pictures for this office:

Simon is terribly helpful, you see.

Because Jeff and I are boring and old, we didn’t make any plans for Valentine’s Day.  But then it turned out that Sarah was free, and there was a showing of the Lego Movie that ended before Simon’s bedtime, and when the stars align so perfectly you can’t just not take advantage of it.  So we ditched the baby and went on a romantic date to see a kid’s movie (lol).  AND IT WAS AWESOME.  It’s one of those movies that really truly isn’t just a kid’s movie or a grownup movie.  I really can’t remember the last time I liked a movie so well.  Can’t wait to get it on Blu-Ray and share it with Simes when he’s a bit older 🙂

On Saturday we decided to head up to Cleveland and visit the children’s museum, since our last couple of family adventures have been more grownup oriented (the Akron art museum doesn’t really hold a lot of entertainment value for the under-2 set ;-)).  It was a little bit expensive for the three of us to get in ($8/person, even though there wasn’t really anything even remotely interesting for grownups), but Simon LOVED the whole thing so I guess he got $24 worth of fun out of it for all of us.  (Seriously though – since kids get reduced/free admission to a lot of grownup events, doesn’t it seem like grownups should get it for kid events?  It’s not like Jeff and I were personally enriched by the fake grocery store or fire truck setups).

Here is where I spam you, big time.  Sorry (not sorry).

We spent the first half hour or so in a play area that was done up like a farm, for the really young crowd:

Simon spent most of his efforts repeatedly mowing the carpet, but he also took a turn on the tumbling/crawling mats and played with the silo/crops activity.  At one point when we’d just been there for a few minutes, Jeff and I were watching him play and Jeff said to me:  “See how he’s over playing all alone?  I wish he’d play with the other kids.”  I told Jeff, “What do you think we’re doing?”  We looked around and sure enough, across the room was a cluster of other parents all socializing, while we were off in the opposite corner with our arms crossed.

 

At least we know where he gets it 😛

Also, one of the moms in the room was wearing a “flags of the confederacy” t-shirt with camo pants and combat boots.  I’m not sure they would’ve been our type, anyway.

More than the farm area, though, Simes loved the suspension bridge that was in the “city” (bank/grocery store/doctor’s office area):

After a few hesitant steps, he was trotting back and forth across it like a pro.

But the best thing of ALL was the water activity.  This thing was so cool, even as a grownup.  (Maybe I did get my $8 worth after all)

They had rain jackets in every size and step stools for the little ones, and Simon immediately cozied up to the table and set to work.

For a while, his primary occupation consisted of holding his arm over a spout and sending water jetting up his sleeve (so much for the cute little rain jacket).

Explaining his master plan to Daddy:

They had a bunch of bath and pool toys, magnetic fishing poles and random floaties:

 

Further upstream (we were at the downstream end) there were more complicated things set into the table – mechanical water wheels, locks, etc. – but those were arranged at a higher level (apparently for older kids and, you know, gravity) so we didn’t mess with them too much.  Not gonna lie, I sort of wanted to go play, but Jeff wouldn’t let me shove 6-year-olds out of the way.

Once the little dude was thoroughly waterlogged and getting cranky, we headed home (after a full wardrobe change in the car, of course).  He conked out before we even made it onto the highway.  Success!

Sunday was quiet – Jeff judged a mock trial thing and we ran out for haircuts and FroYo – and that was our weekend!  Just right 🙂

We’ve officially reached the stage where I adore sleepy Simon pictures more than ever, as they belie the sheer chaos that encircles his every waking moment.  I look at pictures like this and he’s just so quiet and peaceful and I love it.  But then he wakes up and we go spin in circles and play fetch with the dog and build  massive block towers just to kick them down, and that’s even more fun.

Isn’t he just utterly kissable?

This afternoon we’re making 12-grain sandwich bread:

I use this recipe and Bob’s Red Mill 12-grain cereal, which makes the whole thing so easy that most of the time it’s honestly more convenient than going to the store.  And it tastes like a gazillion times better too, because DUH.  (Also I add 2T each of vital wheat gluten and soy lecithin, because I can.  It also helps the dough have a little more resilience, while still being soft and tender.  Come to think of it, I could use some vital wheat gluten and soy lecithin for myself. :-P)

And now I need to go tend to my dough and build some of those aforementioned block towers.  Hi-YA!

We met them in St. Louis. Then we took a nap.

Warning: I’m a little cranky today. 😛

 

A lot of it has to do with sleep deprivation, I think.  Jeff and I always joke that we co-sleep not for the developmental/breastfeeding benefits, but because we are both absolute assholes when we’re sleep deprived.  Which is true.

 

He was in Cincinnati all day yesterday and today for work, and neither Simon or I ever sleep well when he’s gone.  This was my first time staying alone in the new house, too, so of course every creaky noise was magnified and I’m sure there were legions of prowlers outside.  (If only I had an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!)  Simon, for his part, tossed and turned all night.  I think he was cold on his Daddy side, since there was just a surly cat occupying the usual spot 😛

 

So today he and I have been Clingy and Pissy, respectively (aka, two of the rejected 7 dwarves).  All I did this morning was dishes and random kitchen work, a couple loads of laundry (including our handknits and a quilt, which I hung out on the clothesline that I’ll never ever get tired of), and I raked the leaves and helicopters up to the curb.  Since we finally dragged ourselves out of bed so late, he skipped his morning nap in favor of screwing around on my back and yanking on my hair (thanks, Baby).

 

After lunch we ran up to Target for a gazillion different things, including some storage solutions we desperately needed (the age of a house is inversely proportional to its number of closets, you know).  So now I’m all set to unpack my crafting stuff and our office – just need the sewing table that Mom is bringing with her in a couple weeks, and I’ve got my eye on a 6-foot folding table to set up my self-healing mat and swift/ballwinder on.  I still need Jeff to find a desk or something, too.  Currently the guest room/office is the only place not unpacked, and it’s driving me nuts.  I want to sew!  And file papers! (More the former than the latter)

 

This is totally not chronological, but our weekend in St. Louis was a lot of fun 🙂  We left Akron at about 4:15 on Friday afternoon, and got to StL at about 1:30.  Not bad time, considering how frequently we needed to stop for Mr. Crankybritches.  We had a few hours Saturday morning before the wedding, so we got to run a couple errands, go to Fozzie’s (!!!) and wander the Loop.

 

My handsome guys, ready to go:

 

The ceremony was very nice (or so I heard – I got to spend its entirety in the hallway with someone who thought it would be more fun to flap his lips than sit quietly.  JEFF.)  Katie looked *gorgeous*, and it was really fun to finally attend a wedding in that Presbyterian church at Forsyth and Big Bend.  Every time I drove past it for the whole four years we lived in StL, I always thought “I’d love to go to a wedding there sometime!”  And all I had to do was move away to make it happen ;).

 

There was a two hour break between the ceremony and reception, so we decided to revisit some old stomping grounds:

(That’s in the entrance to AB Hall, on campus.  I had a bigger picture that actually showed that, but Jeff and Simon both looked really derpy.)

 

Unfortunately the place was pretty sparsely populated on a Saturday evening, but it’s just as well.  It started spitting rain before very long, so we headed back to the car and drove around Forest Park while Simon napped.

 

The reception was in the Missouri History Museum, which turned out to be OMG SO AWESOME (I mean, I’d been to the museum before.  But never a wedding there!).  Katie and Adam really did a great job with their theme (“Meet me in St. Louis”), and the whole thing was a perfect mix of elegance and fun.

 

All the tables were named for famous Missourians:

 

I thought I grabbed a picture of the centerpieces, but I guess not.  Each table’s was different: an eclectic collection of flowers in vintage vases, sitting on stacks of antique books.  So cool!

 

It was also wonderful to catch up with Jeff’s family, some of whom we haven’t seen in years.  Simon was thoroughly enchanted by Jeff’s aunt’s beau, who sports a most Santa-like beard and was happy to indulge the little guy in a very competitive table-tapping contest during the salad course.

 

SOMEONE was displeased to be eating cheese stick instead of wedding cake:

 

The band was RIDICULOUSLY awesome. They played a lot of old favorites (“Twist and Shout”), and some unexpected stuff (Adele).  I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun dancing at a wedding! (Besides my own, of course :-P)

 

Simon even snagged a dance with the bride:

(I *think* one of Katie’s photographers got an awesome picture of him clapping along with her – I’ll post it later if I’m right :))

 

All that fun got to Simon eventually, though:

He barely even woke up for his change and jams.  If only I could wear him out so thoroughly every day!

 

There was a brunch the next day at a family friend’s house.  Simon’s chief occupation there consisted of scooting around on the shiny wood floors (often backwards, on his belly), and grinning at cousin Paul and Charity 🙂

 

We had to head back to Akron straight after the brunch, and the drive home did not go quite as smoothly as the drive out.  Simon was still keyed up from the weekend’s festivities, so he didn’t nap very steadily.  There was also driving rain AND road construction, just for funsies.  We were all glad to get out of the car when we pulled into the driveway at 10:00 that night!

 

We had so much fun at this wedding that I’m just sad we won’t be able to make it to *my* cousin’s wedding in Oklahoma next month.  I’d love to see Simon and Jett dance (err…toddler hop? :-P) together.  But we’ve seriously blown through our travel budget for 2013 with all the trips to Kansas City from LA.  Alas.

 

Time to go grab my laundry off the line and throw together an apple crisp for Jeff tonight.  Game 5 of the NLDS!  Go Cards!

I could be stitching

But I’m taking the time instead to tell y’all all about the past few days in the Hoops household.  YOU’RE WELCOME. 😛

 

The funnest (shaddup) thing was on Friday night:  I’d seen signs stuck on various lawns and curbs advertising a Greek festival, and there is literally nothing in the world I love more than eating baklava and watching children dance in ethnic garb, so that evening we loaded up and swung by the courthouse and retrieved Jeff.  I plied him with gyros and spanikopita, yes I did.

 

We used to go to one in Kansas City every year when I was little, and I always loved it.  Jeff had never been before, so I was excited to share the experience with him too 🙂

 

This one was PACKED.  Definitely not a secret among Akronites.

 

We waited in line to sit out in the tent, and Jeff got his gyro and I got my spanikopita (NOM) and we split an order of calimari (meh).

 

And then there was dancing!  Wee little kiddies dancing in traditional clothing!  My favorite!

See the tiny girl at the end of the chain?  She was so cute I could hardly stand it.

 

But then something miraculous happened:

That unassuming triangular pastry, my friends, is the most delicious baklava to have ever existed.  EVER.  Something about it…the honey?  The nuts that were finely ground but not paste-like?  The tiny hint of clove?  PERFECTION.  And I should know, I’ve eaten my fair share of baklava.

 

It has set me on a mission:  I must replicate this baklava!

 

BTW, here’s how you know that Jeff has become of secondary import in my life:

Sorry, Love. But the baby was being cute! 😛

 

After the dancing and baklava eating and such, we browsed inside at the silent auction and tag sale, and then I found a little cardboard art print of a girl babywearing ($1!) so that came home with me.

 

It was an awesome time.  OPA!

 

On Saturday we just ran some errands.  It was rainy so Simon and I wandered around the mall for a bit while Jeff got his hair cut (I found Simon the cutest little footy pajamas on clearance at The Children’s Place – they have castles and baby dragons!).  Nothing too exciting.  Then on Sunday Jeff and I went on (duh duh DUNNNNNNNNNNN!)…

 

A date!!!

 

All by ourselves! Like two grownups!  For the first time since about MAY 2012.  That, in case you’re curious, is about 16 dateless months.  Think on that.

 

Lucy and her daughter Sarah came over to watch Simes and Roxie (mostly Roxie), and we went to see The World’s End – the new Simon Pegg movie, the final part of the Cornetto trilogy.  The movie was OK (not as good as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead), but it was SO NICE to have a grownup conversation with Jeff, eat popcorn and Red Vines, and just not be “Mama” for a couple hours.

 

When we got home, Simon told us in great detail about all the fun he had with his babysitters:  they gave him cheese!  And played with blocks and the pushwalker and wagon!  He definitely had a good time, and I think Jeff and I will be able to leave him and go on another date before a further 16 months have passed 😉

 

This week so far has been pretty uneventful:  now that we’re mostly unpacked (everything but the office) we’ve really been ale to settle into a routine.  I need to take pretty pictures of the house to share with you, but I’m sort of procrastinating because I’d like to paint the front porch and buy some furniture for the office first.  And I desperately NEED to get the big ol’ baby gate partition thing installed around the staircase and TV.  Simon has gotten too dang fast at scrambling up and down those stairs.

 

Yesterday afternoon I decided that we needed some sort of cute seasonal decoration for the front door, so Simon and I headed out to Michaels and JoAnn.  I got a couple autumn leaf garlands and some cinnamon pinecones for the mantle.  Nothing called to me for the front door, though:  it was all either insipid, tacky, expensive, or some combination thereof.  Then while I was browsing the pre-made wreaths in JoAnn (and giving Simon a detailed explanation of why each one was lacking in some vital way) I saw this picture on a display:

 

Cute, right?  Simple and classy and not all froofy.  No droopy-eyed scarecrows or inexplicably glittery apples.

 

I wasn’t madly in love with the color scheme though, or the way the raffia was obviously wrapped around an angled foam wreath form – it reads a little “beach wedding in 2006” to me.  So I got a round straw form and some raffia in more autumnal colors, and a a super helpful associate told me how to replicate it.

 

Suffice it to say that my little project didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned (do they ever?).  Dinner plans went out the window as I wrestled the glue gun, and Simon spent a good chunk of the late afternoon in his high chair munching on cinnamon apple sticks and watching me curse under my breath.

 

THREE FUCKING HOURS LATER, covered in innumerable hot glue burns and ankle deep in raffia scraps, I had this:

And there it is, on our front door.  I sort of love it.  I’m glad it turned out well, but I need to remember that this kind of “product” crafting is no fun for anybody, and I should have just bought a damn wreath.  But hey, it was only $20 (including glue sticks), so not a bad way to kill an evening.  If anybody’s madly in love with it I can share some tricks for making your own, but I’ll spare the tutorial if no one cares 😉

 

Do me a favor?  Next time you even SUSPECT that I might be contemplating a fun fall craft, just shoot me OK?  My family will thank you.

 

I love ending posts with Simon pics, so here you go.  Playing with his kitty:

(box-filled office in the background, of course).

 

Macbeth is SO happy in this new house! He has resumed all former scampering activities, including “crazy cat hour” (something he hasn’t done since Othello died).  He’s even started playing with his toys and hopping around like a madcat on the furniture.  His appetite has picked up, too.  I didn’t realize how unhappy he was in that tiny LA apartment, until we noticed the marked difference here :(.

 

Last one!

It’s kind of ridiculous how much I love him.  That dimple!

Hrmph.

I’m going to try taking a page from Jessica’s book and am going to write a more diary-ish blog post.  We’ll see if this helps me get my mojo back.

The most exciting thing from the past couple days is that this morning when I was pulling out of the Trader Joe’s lot, some woman backed her car into me.  She and her husband both hopped out of their car and started yelling at me, screaming and carrying on and really raising a fuss, right there in the middle of the lot.  And I was standing there with Simon telling her to calm down, trying to call the police to come do a report, etc.  She was making SUCH a scene, and being really nasty about it too.  Called me a bad mother and said I was distracted by my baby. (Which is interesting since *she* backed into *me*, lol, but whatever.  Insurance will sort it out.)  Eventually some TJ’s employees came out and told her to hush up and stop making a scene, and a couple really nice women stopped and offered to help me with Simon or whatever I needed during the wait.  And the whole time I was telling this couple to just calm the fuck down (erm, not in so many words).  I eventually said, “I understand that you’re upset, but I’m not going to engage you any further.  I am waiting for the police to come help me get your insurance information.” and then just let the woman and her husband keep screaming at me.  Simes had the most “WTF?!” look on his face the whole time, lol.  The police came and got their insurance info for me (and mine for them), and the TJ’s employees got my groceries out of their cooler for me (they even switched out my ice cream since it had started to melt during the brouhaha), and gave Simon some stickers, and said how impressed they were that I stayed calm despite this crazy screaming lady.  And then I drove home and cried and made my Geico claim.  Bitches be crazy!

Let’s see…that’s about it on my plate for today.  Simon has *finally* gotten to where he can nap apart from me, for about 20-30 minutes at a go.  So I set up a Skype call between Jeff’s laptop and my iPhone, then sneak away and close the bedroom door.  As soon as he starts to stir I run in, boob him back down, then sneak away again.  On a good day I can get an hour of sweet, blessed FREEDOM!!!  On a day like today…15 minutes.  But that’s still enough to wolf down a tofu dog and catch up on Facebook.  We’ll try for another nap in just a minute here.

I should try to put him on my back so I can do dishes and laundry and the floors while he sleeps, but I’m not feelin’ it.  I LOVE wearing him.  It’s my most favorite thing in the world (except when he pulls my hair).  But today I just need to decompress.  Maybe I’ll make some bran muffins for Jeff’s next round of breakfasts.

We are officially 19 days until the move.  Jeff is going to Akron on Friday to find a place for us.  The realtor we’ve been working with is super nice (thanks Alissa for the KW recommendation!), but I’m still worried.  I wish it were more feasible to sign a lease like 4 months before a move rather than having to wait until TWO WEEKS BEFORE JFC.  But we’ll survive.

I started packing on Friday, and have been going at it in bits and pieces all weekend.  I have the “blue room” (in our old place it was painted blue, so forever more the craft room/office/guest room will be dubbed the blue room, heh) all packed up, and am going to try and get the living room started today.  We have SO DAMN MANY BOOKS.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  I’m not the one who has to truck them all up and down two flights of stairs to get them out of here 😀

I also need to go through the kitchen and my clothes/shoes to see what I can send to Goodwill.  We did a pretty good job winnowing down our possessions before last year’s move, so I don’t think there’s much, but I am prepared to be ruthless.  Well, about everything except books and yarn.  😛  I always feel like we don’t have much stuff, but then when it’s all packed up I think “OMG I’M A HOARDER.” LOL.  In reality, it’s just that we have too much stuff *for a 700 square foot shoebox apartment*.  I told Jeff this weekend that this apartment is fine if you’re a single person who just needs a place to sleep and screw, but not for a family with a kid and two pets.  I hope we can have a real house, or maybe a townhome, in Akron.

I still miss our home in St. Louis.  It was so perfect for our needs!

Anyway.  Simon has this new trick where he gives “kisses” (here’s a picture from Twitter the other day).

He pretty much just opens his mouth and sticks his tongue out and presses it against whatever.  He will be SO EMBARRASSED in 15 years that I showed this.  He currently loves kissing Jeff’s nose, my knees, and the dog’s leg.  Weird kid.  I love him. 😀

Yesterday we went to this place that one of my fellow Weddingbee alumni mentioned that’s here in LA, in Griffith Park (near the Zoo and Observatory and stuff).  It’s called Travel Town, and is pretty much just a few old train cars on display, a little museum with a couple antique cars/firetrucks/whatever, and a dinky little ride-on train.  Simon had so much fun riding the trolley at The Grove a few months ago, that Jeff and I thought he’d get a kick out of this.

Here’s what happened:

He thought the train ride was pretty neat until (in true toddler fashion), suddenly it wasn’t.  He was grinning and sway-dancing to the train’s whistle (it doesn’t take much to get him going, lol), but then just after we turned the camera off he was sick of the whole thing and started arching his back and fussing and acting rotten, so we finished the train ride with him eating a boob and Jeff waving at the kids and stuff by himself.  Whee!  Then he went back on Jeff in the Ergo and we walked around a little bit and left.

Last night was game night at Jeff’s co-clerk’s house.  We played Balderdash, which was different than usual – in the past, the’ve always played complex strategy games and we’ve just been “Team Hoops” (which means that Jeff plays while I push food on people, make wisecracks and keep Simon entertained).  But Balderdash is right up my alley, so I actually played this time.  It was super fun!  My favorite fake definitions were “a woman’s final menstrual period before the onset of menopause” and “a garish suit worn by Honduran rodeo clowns”.  God I love that game.

Oh!  Speaking of!  Jeff and I were talking, and since we’ve had so much fun at Greg’s Sunday board game nights, I think we’re going to keep them up in Akron.  Alissa, mark your calendar(err…once we figure out dates. :-P)  Aliya, Kathy, if you feel like making a drive then you’re invited too!  And we’ll have Jeff’s co-clerks and any neighbors who seem cool, too.  I’m excited.

I always made a savory thing and a sweet thing for Greg’s parties.  Yesterday I made a hot crab dip that was OMG SO GOOD.  I also made peanut butter cookies, but I forgot (like always, every 3 years when I think “hrm. I should make peanut butter cookies!”) that the recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook isn’t very good – the cookies are way too thin and crunchy.  So I left those at home and Jeff and I are self-sacrificing enough to eat them all ourselves.  😛  And since I always forget that that recipe sucks, this time I wrote in the cookbook’s margin: “No good.  Do not use!”  I wish I could figure out what recipe my mom used back in the day; hers were always so good.  Just the right amount of chewyness.  I printed this version and am going to take another crack at them tonight.  We’ll see.

I think I’ve killed as much time as I can, plying Simes with Joe-O’s.  Time to go be a mother. 😀

PS>When he wasn’t snacking, this is what Simon was up to while I wrote:

Is this OK?  Want me to keep writing like this?

I’d almost forgotten what snow looked like…

Subtitle: The Monson/Hoops Family Secular Holiday Extravaganza (TMHFSHE for short.  Pronounced “tem-fishy”)

~~~

As far as I’m concerned, Christmas doesn’t exist in sunny Southern California.  I mean sure, we went to see Santa one Saturday at The Americana at Brand:

And yes, there were even ::shudder:: palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights.  But since Simon and I ran away to Missouri on 12/21, and Jeff followed after work on 12/24, well, I’m happy to take the “we didn’t see it so it doesn’t exist” stance. Our goal for the tem-fishy was simple:  see as much family as possible.  Best give Simon an early introduction to what he’s up against (poor little dude). First of all, I’ve gotta say that he was *awesome* on our two red-eye flights.  He snuggled into the wrap and slept on me the whole way from LAX to DFW, then was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (shit. I’ve gotta make the appointment to get that removed.) from DFW to KCI.  I mean, look how happy he was to get his diaper changed at gate D23! That was at 4am.  Seriously. Other highlights of the first trip included a surprisingly chipper TSA agent at LAX who made the whole security theater a tolerably fun experience (really!), and a spectacularly horrible egg bagel from Au Bon Pain in Dallas.  Whee! When we landed and collected our bag and met with Mom and Dad (who were kind enough to come pick us up even though there was thick ice on all the highways.  And there I was all ready to hitchhike to Gladstone…), Mom fairly sprinted to grab Simon from me.  I’ve never seen her move that fast, even that time when Ryan tried to run into traffic in the Wal-Mart parking lot when I was like 6.  I guess I underestimated the power of The Grandbaby. Simon was happy to get some boob and conk out when we got to their house, enjoying his new favorite napping spot: (little did he remember it was also one of his old favorite napping spots) After I had the chance to eat lunch and unwind a little bit, we loaded up the wee little jetlagged boy and headed to Grandma’s nursing home to say hi.  (It’s so nice that she’s just a couple miles from my parents and my aunt now.) She hadn’t seen Simon since August either, and seemed impressed with how he’s grown 🙂 He thought she was pretty cool, too 🙂 (Simon is Grandma’s 9th great-grandchild, if I’m counting correctly.) The next day Mom and I ran a couple errands and Simon spent plenty of time cuddling with her and Dad.  Jeff got to stay in LA and work (talk about getting the short end of the stick) That night, Dad read him some stories… …while Mom launched an impromptu pillow fight: (She made me promise not to post that picture. Oops.) Also? Notice how my child isn’t wearing socks in any of these pictures? That’s because Little Mr. Bigfoot decided that it would be a good time to have a MASSIVE foot growth spurt.  So until we went to Kohl’s and bought *12-24 month socks*, his old ones wouldn’t stay on his stinkin’ feet.  12-24 months.  Seriously.  I have no idea where he gets it. Proof: Also, evidence of how delicious Grammy’s arm apparently is.

We spent the evening of the 23rd working on a SUPER SEEKRIT sewing project.    That’s when I learned that a “super easy 1-hour pattern” is LIES LIES LIES.  So then Mom got to spend the afternoon of the 24th working on it, too.  I also learned that I’d bit off a bit more than I could chew, so I’m glad that I had an expert sewist to do all the tricky bits.

On Christmas eve we went to visit my other set of grandparents at their retirement home.  Granddad’s made nearly a full recovery from his illness this summer, and Grandmother’s having the time of her life making friends with everybody in her “neighborhood” (aka wing of the building :-D).  Aunt Linda and Uncle Jeremy came up from Sedalia to meet Simon, and then we all had lunch with Grandmother in the dining room so she could show the little dude off to all her friends.  I think she dragged us to just about every table in the place! 😀  It was pretty awesome – I just wish Jeff could’ve been there!

(The last time they met, in August)

Simon played on the floor of Grandmother’s apartment, and even busted out a laugh or two.  I’m proud of my little performer!

(“What’ve you been up to, Great-Granddad?”  “Getting well.  What about you?”  “Growin’.”)

He also gave his Great-Granddad a real, proper kiss on the cheek!  No one seemed to mind that it was a bit slobbery 😀

Simon’s obsessed with cups and glasses and watching people drink.  But he also loved cuddling with his Great-Aunt Linda 🙂

After lunch we headed home, then went to pick up Jeff at the airport.  This was our Christmas Eve evening:

No one read “The Night Before Christmas”, but we did put some cozy new jams (curtesy of Aunt Julie) on the Littlest Christmas Elf, and told him that after making a good sleep, Santa would come.

He was rather incredulous.  Good little skeptic! 🙂

Santa butt!

Proof that I was there too:

Simon decided to sleep in on his very first Christmas morning.  Merry Christmas to us! 😀  But when he woke up, there were presents!  Like a wooden teether from Grammy Granddad:

And books!

Santa even brought me something:

Simon’s gift to Grammy and Granddad:

Mom and Dad were much more excited to receive Simon’s clay handprint than mine and Jeff’s.  I suppose they don’t care how little our hands are.  Psh.

Jeff’s Christmas Socks this year are Malabrigo, in “Onyx”.  Plain stockinette.  BECAUSE THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE HIM.

Mansocks.  ::snore::

I gave Mom some handspun:

Just proving that you’re never too old to give your mom crappy homemade presents. 😀  (Said handspun is currently being knitted up into a snuggly little shawlette that I wish I could keep for myself.  Alas.)

Oh, and remember that super secret sewing project? It was these:

Man-sized Star Wars pyjama pants, to match Simon’s!  Either Jeff really likes him, or he’s good at faking elation.  Either way, awwwwwww.

 

I didn’t take any pictures of Christmas dinner, but Dad cooked a feast for the five of us.  And it was delicious.  NOM.

 

We spent the last few days in Kansas City seeing more relatives (and some of the same ones for a second time):

Olivia is his closest cousin in age, on my mom’s side (on my dad’s side there’s little Jett, who turns 3 this month).

We all had so much fun hanging out at Aunt Judy’s, eating leftover Christmas cookies and receiving (apparently) much-needed advice.  (Love ya, guys! :-P)

(My mom captioned that one “a meeting of the Kansas City chapter of the Simon Hoops fan club”)

 

The next day, Mom and Dad took us to a Brazilian restaurant where waitstaff walk around with giant spears of meat:

Needless to say, this experience was more fun for Jeff than for me, but I did get a good sangria and a nice salad bar 😀

 

Storytime with Daddy and Granddad:

(I think Jeff was learning as much as Simon!  “Ohh…chicks are YELLOW!”.)

 

Jeff flew home on 12/30, and I followed the next day with Little Dude (who, against my mom’s protests, I did insist upon bringing along).  This was his fifth flight!

 

As soon as we got to LA, it was back to our old routine:

 

Then a couple weeks later we were on the move again…but that’ll be another post! 🙂

 

PS>It has taken me two freaking weeks to write this post.  Simon has discovered the fun of banging on keyboards, rending nursing time useless for blogging.  I hope you appreciate it 😀

Best birthday ever

Simon is such a thoughtful little guy.  Look what I received the other day as a belated birthday gift! (my birthday was September 14th, but little dude doesn’t have a calendar yet)

 

That’s his wee little thumbprint in sterling silver (a baby hand has been added for scale).  Isn’t it adorable and perfect?

 

Jeff insists that he helped, but I think he’s just embarrassed that he didn’t think of anything so clever on his own.

 

Love my guys.  So far, 27 is pretty sweet 🙂

 

PS> Jeff gave me a gorgeous bouquet, and Mom and Dad gave me a vase full of the most beautiful lilies ever:

A July of strife and awe: Part I

So before I tell you the story of Simon’s arrival and the adventures of subsequent weeks, I have to tell you about the days and weeks leading up to it.  But first I need to make two disclaimers:

1)I PROMISE I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP.  Any of it.  At all.  I totally realize that it sounds too implausible to be true, but I promise that every single word below is honest truth.  Ask our friends and family if you don’t believe me.

2)I have been assured by umpteen medical professionals that none of the below activity could have possibly brought on Simon’s early birth.  100%, absolutely sure, didn’t happen.  So hold your tongue on that, k?

Now.  July.

It all started at the beginning of the month, with car troubles (capital C, capital T).  If you follow me on Twitter, you may recall me mentioning how much I hated Jeff’s car:  it was a 2003 Grand Am, and in the 5-ish years that we had it it cost us umpteen-thousands of dollars in repairs: each repair just expensive enough to make me clench up, but never expensive enough to justify selling the thing.  Worst car that’s ever existed.  Ever.

So when the engine shook itself apart (no, really – three of the six cylinders liberated themselves of their housing, to the tune of an estimated $2,500 repair cost), Jeff and I put our collective feet down:  that damned car had pushed us just a bit too far (or, more often than not, we literally pushed it).  In short, the Grand Am was dead, and we had no further goodwill to offer it.  We decided not to have the repair done, and we’d get around St. Louis using Ahura the Mazda (my non-air-conditioned-but-reliable 1995 Protege, which I’ve had since high school) then buy a non-shitty car once we got to LA.

Good riddance to the Grand Am, even if there would be resultant logistical challenges.  Huzzah!

Then, Jeff flew to LA to find us a place to live.  We’d spent the months of May and June searching for places, but everywhere we called told us that they wouldn’t even *think* about leasing for August until July.  So even though we were dying to have it resolved much earlier, we duly waited until July to make firm inquiries.  And since neither of us are familiar with the city, we decided that he really needed to see these homes in person before signing a lease.  So a quick, low-cost trip was in order.

He flew out on 7/5 and spent the next two days looking at apartments that we’d found together using Craigslist and Padmapper.  He rented a Prius and stayed in a cheap-but-clean hotel and got to drive all over Silverlake, South Pasadena, and Eagle Rock.

And he found us an apartment.  A very, very nice place, in South Pasadena.  It’s in a small building, it’s within easy walking distance of a sushi restaurant, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and a yarn shop (!!!), and it has plenty of space for a baby/large yellow dog/surly orange cat/thousands of books/yarn stash/canning supplies.

He put in the application, we were approved, made a deposit, and everything is awesome:  it was a huge load off both our minds!

Meanwhile, though…

I was coming up on my last couple of weeks at work.  My replacement (hi, Bethany!) had started at the end of May, and I’d been training her and working on the transition for much of June.  Since Bethany proved frighteningly competent at my confusing-ass job-of-many-hats, I had the end of June and beginning of July free to focus on wrapping up a couple of my own projects at work.  While I was technically redundant by that point, it was pretty nice that there were two of us doing the job for a time:  a multitude of boring (and irrelevant to this story) work issues had cropped up which meant that two CERL Coordinators were a good thing to have.

But then…

My granddad has been in poor health for about a year now, and while Jeff was in LA Granddad became quite ill.  Mom advised me that it would be good for me to come to Kansas City post-haste.  So I left St. Louis early in the morning on Friday 7/6 driving the aforementioned beloved Protege, taking Roxie with me and plying my friend Morgan with some homemade apple pie filling in exchange for Macbeth-sitting services.

But because the universe apparently hates me, this happened:

Just 15 minutes from my parents’ house on that hot Friday morning (it was 108* at 11am), her check engine light went on.  Then the light started flashing.  So I pulled off the highway and begged Mom to come pick me up (lucky it was in KC and not, like, Boonville), called Jeff to whine and bawl about having “another fucking problem”, then called the Mazda dealership to ask how ominous, exactly, a flashing check engine light on a 1995 Protege was.

Turns out, that’s pretty damned ominous.  So Ahura got towed to Northtowne Mazda for diagnostics, and Roxie and I got a ride home in the air-conditioned bliss of Mom’s minivan.

(Oh, and my nose stud fell out while I was sobbing there in the QuikTrip parking lot.  So we got to detour to a local tattoo shop first, before my piercing had the chance to close up.)

Most of our family (on my dad’s side) was in town that weekend, and I spent the next day or two either at the hospital with them, or at my parents’ house making sandwiches (that’s what I’m good for: smearing mustard on whole wheat).

If you’re keeping up, though, you might think “but where was Jeff?”

Excellent question.

Jeff was in LA.  Then Jeff flew home from LA.  Then Jeff took the MetroLink back to our neighborhood, and walked the last mile and a half home at 11:00 at night, with a suitcase, in still-100* temps.  Then Jeff slept for six hours, walked back to the MetroLink, took it to the Amtrak station, hopped on a train, and began the journey to Kansas City.  (Because the Grand Am was dead, remember?)

But even this was fraught with difficulty.  Because someone in mid-Missouri was having an even worse day than us:  just west of Sedalia, a car had gotten stuck on the tracks and was struck by a train, resulting in a giant mess and an “indefinite delay” on the Amtrak journey: Jeff’s train was stuck in the Sedalia station.

Here’s something sorta cool though (call it a silver lining?): my aunt and uncle live in Sedalia, and were just about to leave for Kansas City to see Granddad in the hospital.  I called them and begged a favor just as they were literally driving past the Amtrak station.  Jeff was able to hop off the train and into their car, catching a ride to Kansas City while causing no one any inconvenience, delay, or expense whatsoever (hooray!).  Clearly the universe only hates us 99%, not 100%.

While those logistics were being sorted out, I got a call back from the friendly Mazda service desk.  Ahura had a mis-firing cylinder, which wasn’t such a big problem, but a safety check also revealed that one of the axles was about to die, the clutch’s master/slave cylinder had an ever-worsening leak, and oh yeah: the AC still didn’t work.  To get my little car totally up to snuff (a car valued on my insurance at about $300, mind you), it would cost $2,000.

Ahura, too, was dead.  So long, old friend.

And just like that, both of our cars had died in one week, leaving us effectively stranded in Kansas City.  And my granddad was still sick.  And I was still EIGHT FLIPPIN’ MONTHS PREGNANT.

Oh, and did I mention the bar?  Like thousands of other recent law grads, Jeff was busy prepping for the single biggest test of his life:  watching Barbri videos, making arrangements to fly to Virginia for the test (the firm he’ll be working for prefers their associates to take the Virginia bar), staying up all night reviewing notes.

Yeah, all things that are really conducive to study:  travel, sick family and now car shopping.

The good news about the car thing is that we had a secret weapon: my dad.  Dad is somewhat legendary for his negotiation and no-bullshit-tolerance skills.  So here was yet another silver lining:  by car shopping in Kansas City, we’d have the opportunity to get some tips from him and even check with him as needed during the negotiation process.

Here’s Dad and Jeff, sitting in Granddad’s hospital room, as Dad regaled us with the story of that time he actually made a car salesman cry:

Jeff and I stayed up late that night researching makes, models and years, and narrowed our search down to a few cars.  Then Mom lent us her minivan the next day, and we went car shopping.

Long story short (too late)*, we were successful:

Under extreme duress, we bought our first ever non-crappy, made-this-decade, non-hand-me-down car!

Jeff with his new BFF, our 2011 Hyundai Elantra:

We also learned that together, Jeff and I are a negotiating powerhouse.  We were on FIRE, man.  We traded off playing good cop/bad cop, we stood up and walked away a few times, and I even got to look important and point at a piece of paper and say, “I am willing to buy this car, but I will not sign this agreement as written, because [blah blah blah]”.  It was pretty damned sexy, let me tell you.

And yes, we did step outside once or twice and call my dad for a pep talk, but each time he just verified that we were on the right track with our negotiations.  We weren’t screwing up!

Just after securing the car, we got another bit of good news: Granddad’s health was improving, albeit slightly, and that situation was no longer dire.

So the next day we went to the hospital one last time to say goodbye to the family, then drove our new Hyundai back to St. Louis.  Due to the family emergency and the car stuff I’d missed three of my last five days of work while in KC, and had to compromise the integrity of those projects (that is, to say, I wasn’t able to finish them before leaving).

Back in St. Louis I had my last two days of work (was given a lovely going-away party that involved a to-die-for key lime cheesecake and ceremonial presentation of my work-issued iPad), and spent that Wednesday and  Thursday evening (July 11 and 12) cooking and baking.

Oh yeah:  because we also had our annual family gathering the following weekend in Kansas City.  And with Granddad’s health in question, it was more important than ever not to miss it.  In 2011 my grandmother had passed the food-preparation torch to me, and that year I fixed a big Friday-night dinner for the whole extended family.  My plan had been to do that again this year, but when the gathering took on a different tone due to Granddad’s illness, Dad persuaded me to just make snacks instead.  So that’s just what I did.  (I also made a cake, to go with Saturday’s Jack Stack barbeque).

(To the Monsons reading this:  I promise, next year I’ll cook a proper meal again).

On Friday morning (we’re up to July 13th by this point) Jeff dropped Roxie at the kennel and we loaded up the car with all those baked goods and snacks, and headed back to Kansas City.

In another happy turn, we found out that Granddad was deemed well enough to return to his room in the retirement home’s assisted living facility, so we spent the rest of the weekend eating barbeque and cinnamon rolls and snickerdoodles and visiting with him and the rest of the family in Grandmother’s apartment.

On Sunday afternoon (7/15) we headed back to St. Louis and just a few hours later, things got *really* crazy…

Call me a liar if you want, but that is all the absolute truth.  And just wait ’till you hear what happens next!

PS:  Spoiler alert!  This is the position from which I wrote the entire post above:

Aww…

~~~

*Thanks, Linda! 😀