Sunday, November 23, 2014

A New Mold-A-Rama, and Quinn Turns Eight

Quinn is eight.

I've been thinking about the difference between Quinn turning eight compared to when Aden turned eight.

Aden was my first baby.  In some ways she'll always be a baby to me.  But as the oldest she's always ahead, and always the first to arrive at certain milestones.  It was with Aden that we had to learn how to let her form her own life outside of us at school, and to walk to the store alone, and to take on new and more complex responsibilities.  Next to her siblings her most notable feature is always that she is older.

Aden at eight
So when Aden turned eight she seemed old to me.  She was the oldest kid I'd ever had at that point and eight was shockingly grown up all of a sudden.  (I'm not even sure how to describe how she seems at almost thirteen, standing eye to eye with me and able to borrow my clothes and look better in them than I do.  And looking back at her on the day she turned eight I wonder how I ever thought she looked big at all.)

Quinn, however, was my last baby, and not responsible for trailblazing in the milestone department.  He never expects to be the first at doing anything because it looks like it's all been done.  He's content to follow in his sisters' footsteps most of the time.  He's always the littlest.  So at eight, Quinn still seems really young to me.  He's still my baby in a way that Aden was not at eight.

All that said, I must acknowledge that Quinn is definitely no baby.  In some ways he never was, able to identify all the countries of Africa and Asia at age two, speaking very early in careful and complete sentences, generally reserved and polite.  But I like that he still wants to curl up in my lap as small as he can, even though he barely fits there anymore.  I like that he'll still go with me anywhere.

Quinn at one, post cupcake.
Quinn always liked the story that on his first birthday we needed to make a run to IKEA for something.  He thinks of that as his birthday place.  We went there last year on his birthday, too.

Last year we also went to the Willis Tower to pick up some Mold-A-Ramas for our collection, and the day took a traumatic turn.  Quinn decided this year should be a sort of do-over.

So we bundled up for the cold weather, headed for Chicago, and went first to the Willis Tower to get their new mold.  They recently switched out the standing Lincoln for this skyline mold.  We didn't go all the way up to the Skydeck again because that takes forever and is expensive, but to simply get Mold-A-Ramas you go through the line as far as the security check, and then you can cut through straight to the gift shop.

After the Willis Tower we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  It's a pretty place, made extra pretty that day by large snowflakes falling slowly.  We met some friends there to wander with us for a while and that was great, but Quinn's main goal was to get his own piggy bank Mold-A-Rama from the farm area.  He really regretted not getting one of those for his personal collection last time we were there, so it seemed like a good birthday trip.
I think my favorite thing we stumbled across at the Lincoln Park Zoo this time was this cool drinking fountain.  (The real animals were amazing too, though!  And we always like squirrels.)

After bidding our friends goodbye at the zoo we went to IKEA.  We ate lunch/dinner (they actually make a really good smoked salmon) then found a new bookcase for Quinn.  Ian's mother got the kids a subscription to National Geographic, and they are piling up, so I told Quinn if he had a taller bookcase we could have a whole shelf just for collecting those and he loved the idea.  (Don't know when we'll have time to put that together, but the box has been fun to look at in the hallway ever since.)

We then explored possibilities for a different couch for our family room.  We needed something that pulls out into a bed, but the one we have doesn't work for us anymore for movie nights now that the kids are so big.  We have to leave it pulled out as a bed all the time for five of us to fit together, and it just looks weird to me.  IKEA had three possible couch things that would be better.  One I liked a lot, and would be what I would get if I weren't convinced the kids would stain and destroy it.  Another was simpler and came in good colors and the kids liked it best, but again, they would stain and destroy it.  So we're going with the third thing which is just like the second thing, but in a black fake leather that should hold up to spills and crumbs and the dog, etc.  Ian said in ten years we'll need to shop again anyway and I can get whatever I actually like then.  I'm not usually a fan of planned obsolescence, but I suppose that's something to look forward to.

The kids were really good about wandering around IKEA in circles as their dad and I kept pondering what would work in our house and how we might plan to get it home in the future.  They are patient, and they liked pretending to live in the different displays.  We told Quinn he could pick out a stuffed toy for a present, and he chose a big shark which made him happy.

On the drive home I read to the kids from "My Family and Other Animals" (which is not quite Harry Potter but entertaining nonetheless and made the trip to and from Chicago feel much shorter).

A really good day, with time enough when we got home to enjoy peacock cake, and for me to bake gluten free zucchini apple muffins for Quinn to take to his class the next morning.

He also woke up to a couple of presents on his actual birthday day.  He got a Swiss Army knife with his name on it from Ian's mom, which is really cool. 
And I made him a bunny to replace the lost Hopster.  I had him pick out furry fabric when we were shopping for Halloween costume material, and he got to decide all the details, such as having it stand  upright and giving it blue beads for eyes.  Since he watched it being made I decided the night before to make a tiny scarf for it so some element would still be a surprise.  (I used the same yarn from when I made his own scarf a couple of years ago so they could match.)

So Quinn's birthday was good for the Mold-A-Rama collection and good for the family.  He was happy with everything.  He usually is. 

I can't believe my baby is eight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Peacock Cake

Quinn requested a peacock cake for his birthday.  Took a bit of work, but I think it came out nice.
Actually, he originally requested a pigeon birthday cake and a peacock Halloween costume, but remembering back to his grey and black Roomba cake when he was two I told him a peacock cake might be more appetizing and definitely tastier.  He agreed and switched the requests.  (And his pigeon costume came out cute, so I'm glad he did.)

(Here's the Roomba cake if you're curious.  Quinn loved our Roomba and that was his first real word after "Mama.")

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bike Trip to the Fabric Store

It seemed like a good idea.  It really did.

But before I get into that story I feel the need to share some pictures of leaves because this Fall has been particularly beautiful.  (These are from right outside my front door and from the park nearby.  Don't let anyone ever tell you Milwaukee's not beautiful.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Heart of Life

I was recently asked to submit a quote for an article on a site called  They were working on a piece for Veteran's Day about music and military families.  It's a nice article, and there is a cute picture of me and Ian there so you should go look!

They only used a couple of parts of the piece I wrote (at the very beginning and again at the end), so I'm putting the whole original thing here.  (And in case you don't know the song I'm referring to, I'll post a clip at the end.)

Heart of Life, by Korinthia Klein

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Off Switch Eating

I've lost about 30 pounds since the beginning of June.  That's enough weight that people notice, and many ask what it is I'm doing.

I know what people want to hear is that it's something that doesn't involve much sacrifice.  Unfortunately that's not the way it works.  For me, anyway.  Everyone's bodies and goals are different, so I can only say what works for me and people can take from it what they will.

For various reasons my weight has been up and down and all over the map.  I know at this point what my body responds to, how exercise and food affects it, and where most of my limits are.  My 30s were all spent in and out of pregnancies and breast feeding, and dealing with the stress of small children, starting a business, and my husband's deployments.  But now my last baby is about to turn eight, Ian returned from Iraq four years ago, and I've finally arrived at a place where I have no excuses for getting control over my own body and my health and my habits.

I've learned that exercise has almost no impact on my weight.  I swim a mile almost every day.  That was true 30 pounds ago and it's true now.  Exercise is important, and I'm glad it's something I've added to my routine, but I think weight loss has to do with what you eat, not how you move.  Exercise does affect the shape I'm in.  I think if I'd lost 30 pounds rapidly and without exercise I would look very different.  For instance, my arms are not flabby anymore, but only because my muscle tone is good and my skin has had time to adjust to the change.  So I'm not saying exercise isn't helping, but it does not affect the numbers on the scale.

What has brought my weight down is eating less.  I know, shocking.  But I'm not someone who wants to track every bite I put into my mouth.  I don't want to think that hard.

So I've come up with a system for myself that I'm calling "Off Switch Eating."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Voting Day

I just got back from voting.

When we used to live directly across the street our polling place was the nearby school.  Since we moved to this side of the street we go vote at a DMV near Chuck E Cheese.  Just a short walk on this wet and windy day.

The kids are off from school so Quinn came along.  The girls didn't see the appeal in watching us stand in line, get a sticker, and come home.  But Quinn will still happily go wherever I go.  He holds my hand and hops along in an un-rhythmic manner that would send me off balance if he were much bigger.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Zombie Hill! (And Other Halloween Fun)

Bay View does a lot of Halloween decorations in October, but hands down the best display every year is Zombie Hill on Kinnickinnic near my kids' school.  (And I never get tired of the word "Kinnickinnic.")
How awesome is that?  The first few zombies appear on the hill on the first of the month, then more, and sometimes they get moved around (usually closer and closer to the sidewalk as the month progresses).