Friday, February 28, 2014

Violin!

So yesterday I told you that I play the violin, right?

Well, Nikolai's grandpa Dave knew that already, so when Nikolai was born, he bought him a teeny tiny violin (he did similar things for the other grandbabies).  We were so pleased for the present at the time but put it aside until Nikolai would be big enough to play it.  Well, the other day I started thinking about it again, wondering what size it was and if Nikolai was big enough for it yet. So I pulled it down from the shelf in Niko's closet, thinking it was probably going to still be too big, when lo and behold, it was the perfect size! 

Of course, I brought it down for Nikolai to play. He was SO EXCITED!


His violin 1/16th size, so it's TEENY (I really should post a picture of it next to my full size--it's really cute :D) but it was the perfect size for him.


Oh boy, did he get a kick out of running the bow back and forth over the strings!


I tried to show him how to hold the violin up properly, but he only held it this way for a minute (with my hand propping his up!) before he got squirmy and wanted to put it back on the table for him to play.  It's cool though--I recognize that bringing your arm up in that position doesn't feel like the most natural thing in the world--we'll keep working on it :)



After a while, our ventures devolved into him playing the violin on his lap and getting curious about the tuning pegs, (which is not something I want him getting interested in for about six years) so I brought the music lesson to a halt for the day.


You guys, I can't tell you how awesome it was to share the experience of playing the violin with Nikolai. He doesn't really get what it's all about yet, but he was excited, and that excitement reminded me how much I love playing.  If nothing else, I'm so excited to introduce him to music and get him interested in being musical, though I'm secretly hoping he'll latch on to the violin and play for years :) (I can dream, right?) 

I know I said this when you gave it to us, Dave, but thank you again for the kind and thoughtful present. This is a really cool thing and we're hoping it'll continue to be a really cool thing for the years ahead :)



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Orchestra!

Something my readers might not know (well, I'm assuming anyone except my immediate family reads this...that might be a stretch) is that I play the violin!  I played in middle school and high school and dabbled in it in college, but it was hard to make time for it so after a few semesters I mostly let it go. I've been feeling conflicted about it for some time because it used to be a big part of my life, and for a long time I hadn't played at all. 

I must have mentioned my longing to play again to Jesse because last year, for my birthday, he did some research and found out that there is a community orchestra nearby that I could possibly join! It's a volunteer orchestra, meaning I wouldn't have to audition--great first of all because I haven't played in a long time and would be extremely rusty, and second, because I really just hate auditioning (I get so nervous!).  I was so excited to hear about this opportunity but I didn't feel brave enough to do it right away.  Instead, I put it off, thinking I'd probably try and start in January, when I had had time to practice some and get a little un-rusty. 

In the meantime, I mentioned my plan to my good friend Michelle, who also grew up playing violin.  She expressed a similar sentiment to me--that she missed playing, and hoped to start again--so I casually invited her to join the orchestra with me.  She got very excited at the prospect and decided to do it as well!  

So in January, when they started rehearsing again, we joined them! It was hard at first, getting back in to the swing of things, but we've gotten better.  I have admit to you though--Michelle has been a major factor in me staying the course and continuing on with this endeavor. I'm often shy in new situations, and I'm sure I would have stopped in the first few weeks if I didn't know that Michelle would be there with me, carpooling across town every week and bravely making friends with our section mates.  On the weeks when I hadn't practiced much and was feeling bad about my skills, I would have almost certainly talked myself out of going to rehearsal, but the peer pressure and Michelle's kindness kept me going :).  

A few days ago, we had our concert, and it was so fun!


We played three pieces, which unfortunately weren't recorded, so I'll post the youtube versions in case you'd like to listen to them (disclaimer: we are a community orchestra, and are not as good as the versions I'm posting. But  you'll get the gist :D)

First we played the Sandman Suite from Hansel and Gretel, by Englebert Humperdinck (yes, in cause you're wondering: every week I did turn to Michelle and say "Humperdinck Humperdinck Humperdinck!" ala Princess Bride):


(also, no, we didn't have anyone singing with us--if I recall, the harp took over that part).

Next, we played Schelomo: Hebraique Rhapsody by Ernest Bloch:


Our normal conductor was the cello soloist (he's a cello Professor at the Univsersity here) and he was AWESOME. So good. 

Finally, we played Symphony No. 2 in D major by Johannes Brahms:



Side note: anytime I hear "Johannes Brahms," this is what I think of:



Anyways, we had a really great time!

A picture of us musicians:


Also, I was going to say "oh, here's a bad picture of us" cause you know, whatever, but no. It's not a bad picture, because we worked hard and we're talented and we're happy and that's what this picture shows! So there it is, and I'm glad for it. 

Thanks again for joining with me, Michelle, and I'm so glad to continue playing in the orchestra with you!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mancino's!

Last week, a good friend of mine mentioned she had found a restaurant in town that was so good it was making her break her budget, and that their calzones were AMAZING.  I've been dying for a good calzone lately, and when we found out that on Saturday's they're only $5, I knew we had to try it out. 
So last Saturday, we headed over!


The place was surprisingly empty (it was 5:30 so maybe we pre-empted their dinner rush?) so Niko had the run of the place. He loved playing the with gumball machines (and begging me for the "balls" inside. I just told him they didn't come out. ;D) and running around while we waited for our food. 


Then...they arrived.
*BUM BUM BUUUUUUM!*


We got the sausage ricotta and the spinach artichoke and YOU GUYS, these things were no joke. 



Mmmm.  Oh man, the problem with writing this post is I'm remembering how good they were and trying to convince myself that I don't need to go get another one this week....

Nikolai enjoyed his too, though it's hard to tell in this photo. 



We are so glad to have tried this place and will definitely be back. Yay for yummy food!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Silly Mingo, er, Niko

We have been trying to teach our tot to say his name.  

video

The result? Mostly he calls himself, Mingo, or Nino, both of which are adorable but not actually his name. Oh well! At least it's cute :D

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snow!

Last week the temperature FINALLY got above freezing (36 degrees! So warm!) so one day we took advantage of the warmth and went outside to play in the snow. 

I grabbed Nikolai's sand box shovels and he had a blast wandering around scooping up snow. 


While he scooped, I packed some of the abundant snow in our courtyard and recreated our little family in snow.


After a while I wanted to go in but Nikolai, who hasn't been outside in 2 months (ack!), wanted to continue playing, so we wandered around some more. 

We scooped some more snow, played on this bench...


video


Finally, after an hour, I noticed that Niko's pants were totally soaked (how on earth did I not remember that he has snow pants?!) so I tried to coax him inside. 

At this point he realized we were heading in towards the apartment and froze, not wanting to go in. The jig was up!


Luckily, I managed to make it some sort of game so he followed me. 
(I think I probably said, "One, two, three..GO!" and made him run with me on go. My favorite part of that game is when he initiates it himself--he'll stand in a corner and say to himself "two, twee, two, twee...GO!" and just start running. ADORABLE. But I digress).


Anyways, it was lovely to get outside and soak up some Vitamin D. Hopefully it warms up again soon so we can play some more!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Valentine's!

Yes, this post is late. The last few weeks have been buuuuuusy!  

We had a lovely Valentine's Day a few weeks ago. In the morning, Nikolai and I used our hand and finger prints to paint some hearts, which I then cut out and strung up all across  the ceiling.  It made a really pretty effect (in fact, we've still got them up cause we like it so much!) and it was fun to do for the holiday. 


We had yummy cheap-o pizza for dinner and then, while Jesse put Niko to bed, I sneakily whipped up some baked double chocolate doughnuts (recipe from Joy the Baker: here).  


Jesse was really excited when he saw what I was making, and for good reason--these things turned out AWESOME. 


We spent the rest of the evening watching Austenland and laughing our guts out. 


Seriously guys, if you haven't seen this movie and you like Jane Austen and/or silliness at ALL, you must see this movie.  I doubled over in laughter a dozen times even though I'd seen it once before (in fact, it might have been funnier the second time, cause I was anticipating all the hilarity to come).  If you live nearby, I'll be happy to loan you my copy! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

bubbles!

The other morning I had changed Nikolai's diaper but not yet put his clothes when I went to wash my hands. I used the last of the soap in the pump and refilled it, thereby emptying the larger refill bottle of soap. I began to rinse it so I could recycle it, and to Nikolai's glee a horde of bubbles filled the bathroom sink. He quickly climbed onto the toilet (located right next to the sink) to play in the bubbles.  Lucky for him, he was undressed, or else I think I might have not let him play--instead, he spent the next few minutes gleefully playing in the voluminous bubbles. 







I think one of Nikolai's dreams came true that morning! ;)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cute Nikolai

I really love our little boy.


Sure, he throws fits sometimes.  Sometimes he wakes up grumpy, or is teething (curse you, two year old molars!), or stubborn, and sometimes we have fights. 

But he's also a really sweet kid. He likes helping, and points to our faces and says "happy!" and gives hugs and kisses almost on demand.


It never ceases to amaze me as I watch him grow and evolve in different ways every single day. Thanks for letting me hang around you as you grow, little boy. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Experimentation and fun

Last week, Niko and his best bud Hyrum got together to play. Hyrum's mom Michelle is awesome (have I mentioned that before? I hope so!) and she had the awesome idea to let the boys play with bowls of water and food coloring! We both agreed this was never something we'd do on our own, but having two boys to play and two adults to tackle the mess made it worth it :D So we spread out a tarp, got out bowls, cups, pipettes, whisks and food coloring and let the boys go at it!

Oh, and we removed their pants, so those at least would be dry afterwards :)





They had so much fun! After these pictures were taken, they had an awesome time mixing the different colors and seeing what they made.  Thanks for such a fun idea, Michelle!!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I fixed the car!

Ok, well, I fixed something really minor on the car...but I'm still REALLY excited about it.

So! Story time!

Sometime late last year, the outer door handle on the driver's side rear door (aka the door we always put Niko in and out of) just up and stopped working.  In trying to figure out what was wrong with it, we inadvertently flipped the child lock, so then that door was inaccessible from the outside or inside, which was a major bummer. So, we just started putting him in the other door.

But then, what should happen, but lo and behold a month later that outer door handle stopped working! Booo, hiss. 

So then we could only get Nikolai in and out of the car by reaching in from the front passenger side and pulling the inside door handle to open the door. That was majorly inconvenient but we did it anyways until...

(I know, you're thinking, "Can this get any worse?" The answer, my friends, is yes. Oh yes.)

The inside door handle stopped working. 

...

So now we could only get Nikolai in by climbing in the passenger side with a 30 pound toddler, reclining the seat, and hoisting him into his carseat in the back seat. 

Needless to say, this was severely aggravating, and my abs got super strong from all the hoisting. 

Anways, we knew this situation couldn't last (I mean, the kid is only going to get bigger and eventually we'll have another one, right? What will we do then?!), but we're students, and live on loans, so we're basically broke and have no money to pay a mechanic to pull our door apart. 

So, being the stubborn person that I am, I started researching online to figure out if I could do this myself! (After all, it had nothing to do with any of the integral workings of the car--if I destroyed the door, the car would still run the same)  After tons of putzing online, I found the operating manual for the car, which showed me (albeit vaguely) how to fix the door handle.

At this point, I got really excited, hoping I could really do this myself! I got on amazon, ordered new door handles, along with a tool to remove the door panel (it's attached with little clips and it's hard to remove it with another tool without damaging them).  Give or take $25 later, I was set. 

A few mondays ago, the weather was as close to freezing as it was going to get and Jesse was off school, so I left him inside with le sleeping toddler while I went to work. I got the inside door handle and the door panel off just fine, and got to the door handle and then spent hours trying to remove it.  One bolt on it was super easy to reach--the other, however, was buried in a tiny corner behind the locking mechanism--impossible to reach by hand, and at an awkward angle for a socket wrench. After tons and tons of maneuvering, I finally got the bolt off and removed the old handle. 


I was happy to see that it was indeed broken (so that my labors weren't in vain!)--the lever that connects to the locking mechanism to open the latch had snapped!



I put the new handle in the spot but then was face with a new problem--getting the new bolt into that terrible, tiny little spot. I needed Jesse's help at this point, to put some pressure on the handle from the outside so I could get some grip, but Nikolai had woken up, so we dropped him off at the neighbor's so we could take "10 minutes" to pop the bolt in really quick. 

Well, 10 minutes turned into an hour as we discovered that bolt did NOT want to go in! Whatever we did, we couldn't get the bolt to catch, and we couldn't get our hands in there to help it along. On top of that, it had gotten colder, so our feet and hands were freezing, making it hard to work. 

After an hour, we admitted defeat. We went inside, thinking we'd have to just cave in and take it to a mechanic, and I'll admit, feeling like I had failed made me really frustrated. 

Unfortunately/fortunately, it was hard to find time to take it to a mechanic, so we put it off for awhile--but in the meantime, Jesse got the idea that if we could maybe just use someone's warm garage where our hands weren't freezing off, there was a chance we could still get the bolt in on our own. 

Finally, last Saturday, we asked our kind friends Michelle and Greg if they'd let us use their garage (and watch Niko while we worked!) so we could give it one more go. They graciously accepted (and actually thanked us for asking and fed us lunch afterwards? They are so good and kind!!!) and we got to work.  The first part of the hour was really frustrating, and we really thought we wouldn't be able to do it, but somewhere in the middle I decided that maybe I could plunge my hand into that tiny little space and contort it around to get the screw in.  The first few attempts just failed miserably and hurt my hand, but with a little more contortion I finally got the bolt to catch! 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You guys, I was so happy I almost cried (I guess saving money means a lot to me? Or, more likely, accomplishing something I set my mind to).  With the bolt finally in, we quickly put the rest of the door back together and replaced the inner door handle.  With a cheer, we opened and shut the door from the inside and outside.  I still nearly cheer every time I'm able to open the door to put Nikolai in the car. :)

So, a few closing thoughts:

1) I'm super proud of myself. Like, really, ridiculously proud.

2) HOW ON EARTH do mechanics do this?? They must have some special tool because there ain't no way their hands would fit in there! 

3) We are most definitely going to fix the other door handle ourselves...but we are more definitely going to wait until spring :D

Hip hip hooray! 
Hip hip hooray! 
Hip hip hooray! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Silly Niko

Our boy is silly. 

He tries to blow the wax paper "chandelier" (for lack of a better term. Maybe ceiling decor?).

video

He also removes his shoes and socks in the car when it is 16 degrees outside. 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow, snow, endless snow

Did you know it's been super cold and snowy here lately? I think I can count the days in the past 3 weeks that have been above freezing on one hand, and I don't think we've got more coming for about a week. Added to that, Ann Arbor had a record snowfall in January: almost 38 inches, over twice the normal monthly average. 

Driving anywhere has been a chore lately, with either needing to bundle up tons or shoveling myself out of a snowy/frozen parking space (which I'm getting really good at, by the way). 

So anyways, last Saturday when the heavens dumped 4 or 5 more inches of "moisture" on the roads and I needed to go to the grocery store, I made Jesse drive (he's much better at driving in the snow).


Above is Nikolai, tromping through the snow outside of our apartment on the way to the car. Nothing like a picture of a cute little lumberjack to end a post, right?  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Worker on break

Nikolai saw me wearing an apron the other day and wanted to wear one too.  I don't have a toddler apron (though I might make one soon) so he got to wear one of my old Jamba ones, folded over with the strings tied around and around his waist.  Midway through helping me make dinner he got hungry, so Jesse gave him a little dish of dried cranberries and Niko took them to his little table to munch. 

He looked so cute, like a little food service worker on his lunch break (though any well-trained food service worker knows you're supposed to remove your apron before eating anything...#foodhandlerspermit) so I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures. Hey, cutie! 




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Jesse!

Well, Jesse's birthday was a week ago today but I am just now posting about it. What can I say, February has been a sleepy month! 

For Jesse's birthday this year we kept it simple (the way he likes it).  Nikolai and I baked his cake in the morning (he loved helping!) and then Niko spent the rest of the day asking for cake. 

video

Then I surprised Jesse by picking him up for a dinner date sans toddler! We went to a delicious Mediterranean restaurant called La Marsa and had the best hummus ever (also, some really delicious meatballs, and lentil soup. Mmmm). When we got home, Nikolai and I sang happy birthday to Jesse and enjoyed our cake. 


Once Niko was in bed, we got to enjoy Jesse's presents: an expansion pack for one of his favorite board games (Smallworld). 


We had fun! 

Happy birthday, Jesse, and may you have many many many many many more! :D



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Silly Niko

Yesterday I looked up during dinner and found Nikolai giving me this sly wink. 


Now it's captured for posterity! 

Silly Niko :)