Sunday, August 30, 2015

Zany Niko

Guys, 3 1/2 is both an incredibly fun and incredibly challenging age. Discipline is a real thing these days and we're sort of floundering in figuring out how to get this sweet, energetic boy to control his behavior. On the flip side, we can have so much fun with him now (legos and wrestling and telling jokes, oh my!), and his surprise hugs and kisses still make our world go round. 

Oh man, that zany smile up there--it kills me!

Mmmmm, parenting. It's the best and the worst and the best, you know?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Miriam: 6 months

6 months has just flown by! 

We had Miriam's 6 month checkup yesterday and it looks like she's growing like a weed, which we're always pleased to hear.

Height: 26.5 inches (76%, up from 44% at 4 months)
Weight: 14 lbs 2 oz (26%, up from 17% at 4 months)
Head: 16.5 inches (42%, down from 43% at 4 months)

Sleeping Patterns: She's still waking up lots at night, but I think in a few days here we're going to move her to a separate room at night, in the hopes that we can all get some better rest ;)

Eating habits: Breastmilk every 2-4 hours, but this past month we started Miriam on "solid" foods and she loves them! We haven't yet found a baby food she won't eat :)

New discoveries she made: Sometimes Nikolai can be a little rough, but if she shouts mom comes and rescues her from being squashed or poked ;) We're still working on making their relationship a balanced one!

Accomplishments: She just started army crawling this week! We suddenly have a determined little girl who sees things she wants to investigate and can get to them :)

Places she went: Everywhere! Belle Isle, the Zoo, camping, the beach, and parks and museums too numerous to count. This girl is incredibly patient and transportable, so she's made it easy for us to go lots of fun places!

Special memories: Anytime Miriam catches a glimpse of one of us when she hasn't seen us in awhile, she treats us to the biggest, most exuberant baby smile ever. Her sweet personality brings us such joy!

Also, in case you're wondering why Miriam is crawling around in the dirt in all of these pictures:
She was determined to NOT stay on the blanket I laid out for her and instead joined her brother in the dirt. Silly baby!

We love you Miri dearie! Thanks for being our baby for 6 whole months now :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Om nom nom

For the first 5 months of her life, Miriam usually just rolled around on the floor while we ate dinner (because let's be real, eating while holding a baby is doable but difficult). After a while, though, she started to get mad that we were all hanging out at the table without her and started to protest vocally. So then we started holding her while we ate--but very quickly she realized that we were sitting there putting stuff in our mouths, and she didn't get any! The injustice! Sweet Miriam was infuriated. She would watch us eat jealously, occasionally trying to grab some food from our plates (with her limited hand eye coordination) and crying when we wouldn't let her have it.

Finally, we gave in and bought her some baby food. And OH MAN, guys, there is not a baby food that this lass won't eat with gusto, and in great quantities. She started eating people food and hasn't looked back! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Toledo Zoo and Museum of Art

In part 97* of our summer adventures, let me tell you about our trip to the Toledo Zoo and Art Museum!

At the Museum (which was free, by the way--how cool is that?!), we made sure to take a few minutes to ponder the excellence of the Dutch Masters (Rembrandt, I'm looking at you!)

*Not an accurate count

but our main reason for visiting was to see an exhibit called Playtime that had lots of interactive, kid-friendly exhibits. 

The piece de resistance of the collection was a piece called Harmonic Motion which was, get this, a gigantic hand-crocheted web that you could CLIMB ON!

(Pardon the terrible pictures!)

I wasn't sure if Nikolai would want to do it (he sometimes gets nervous about new experiences) but after only a moment of coaxing he climbed right in!

A view from up top:

You climb in through a series of layers punctuated by 2 foot holes. The first time it felt incredibly claustrophobic, but I quickly got used to it.

It was incredibly fun and actually surprisingly beautiful--the colorful layers overlapped each other in interesting ways and shifted as people climbed on it.  I was really glad we decided to stop in and try it!

After the museum we headed over to the zoo (what we had originally planned to do before we heard about the exhibit at the museum). We did all the usual stuff that I won't bore you with, but here's a few pictures of my silly and awesome family that I don't want to forget:

It was Nikolai's idea to take a picture in this, but once in it he didn't want to look at the camera!

In the aquarium, the light from the giant tank made rainbows on Miriam's face. It's hard to see here, but it made for a really lovely moment.

We rode the train around the Africa exhibit for the first time this visit, which was fun.

The best part was this sign though.

It's small, so here's what it said:

"Esteemed Safari Guests
You are entering a reserve of natural wildlife. 
Please do not throw or drop anything from the train
as the animals might eat of it."
(emphasis mine)

Sorry, but that linguistic strangeness really made my day.

And finally, here's a video of sweet Nikolai licking chip yumminess off his fingers while slowly falling asleep in the car on the way home:


Monday, August 24, 2015


I was sitting around the other day when I noticed a sudden summer rainstorm outside. Memories of playing in the rain growing up flooding my mind and I stepped outside to inhale the lovely aroma of summer rain. 

One step outside the door, the urge to run and play in the rain like I did as a kid was overwhelming. Nikolai, who had followed me inquisitively, looked at me like I was a lunatic as I ran and stomped in puddles. I tried to persuade him to come play with me, and on the third or fourth try he gave in ;)

We ran, skipped, hopped and jumped to our hearts content, not stopping until after the rain did. 

It was a good chance to spend some one-on-one time with Niko, something that has been in short supply since sweet Miri joined our family. It was also a great chance to remind myself to be silly once in awhile (and that it's ok if my hair gets wet in the name of fun)!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blogging for Books Review: The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley

A month or two ago, I heard from a friend about Blogging for Books, a website that will send you a free book in exchange for an honest review. "Free books??" I thought, "Sign me up!"

I chose The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism by Mark Crilley as my first book. In it, Crilley teaches you to take an object and reproduce it exactly using pencil and water color, with 30 projects that increase in difficulty. 

For those of you who don't know, for the last year or two I've been dabbling in teaching myself to draw, with moderate success. Prior to reading this book I had decided that I perhaps had some artistic talent, but I had a long way to go before I had much to show for it.

Crilley starts out the book with a handy introduction on the materials you'll want to use, which I really appreciated. As an untrained amateur artist, I wouldn't have known where to start otherwise!

Among his recommendations were: A pencil, smooth surface Bristol paper, a set of watercolors, good colored pencils, one tiny and one medium paintbrush, and white gouache (an opaque white paint used to add highlights to objects).

The best thing about this book is that Crilley starts out incredibly slowly: the first two projects are torn paper and folded paper, wherein you focus only on reproducing the exact size and dimensions of the object (he recommends tracing!) and the shadows. He works through each project in 6 steps, showing you how to reproduce your version of the item.

My attempt at folded paper:

After familiarizing yourself with black and white objects, Crilley has the reader move on to simple objects with just a touch of color, while still focusing primarily on recreating the size and shadow. 

My popcorn:

From there, he moves you slowly into objects that have more color and complexity.

A view of my work in progress:

You wouldn't think a scrap of cardboard would be at all interesting or difficult to reproduce, but the longer you look at it, the more you realize the interesting variations in color and texture. The entire process becomes quite meditative, as you carefully examine every minute aspect of the object, in an attempt to honestly and accurately render it on paper.

I've only made it through 6 projects in the book (so far!), but I've really appreciated how carefully Crilley selects projects that build upon skills the reader has acquired. When I began, I looked at later projects and thought, "I'll never be able to do that!" But as I've spent time working through projects, my skill and ability to see and reproduce details have increased.

Some seashells:

(Not going to lie, I'm really proud of those up there!!!)

I think this book would be great for anyone with minimal drawing experience, as Crilley carefully and unobtrusively guides the reader in learning to see and reproduce details. 

Overall, this has been an excellent opportunity to practice my artistic skills, and I greatly look forward to doing more exercises (next up: a cookie!). 

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Silly Miri

Guys, Miriam is the sweetest, silliest baby.

Lately, she has started making silly noises with her mouth, and we just can't get enough of it:


Hey silly baby! We love you!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Belle Isle, in summer this time

Despite the fact that we've been to Belle Isle twice already, we've never managed to go in the summer (just fall and winter so far--weird, huh?), so last week we headed over to spend the day.

We started off the day at a gigantic playground, where Nikolai made friends with older kids and seemed content to play for hours (though I forgot to photograph any of it!).

The Belle Isle Nature Zoo was lovely, as always:

This time, Nikolai got to feed a deer (though doesn't it look more like a goat?!):


Also new to us was the fountain, which we had never seen on before:

And finally, our old favorite: the Conservatory (though this time we got to see the Koi outside in the pond!):

 We have been completely spoiled by having Jesse home with us all the time (school doesn't start for 2 weeks!). It has been awesome to have so many adventures together!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I'd swim across Lake Michigan

Last Wednesday, some friends invited us to help them celebrate their son's 3rd birthday by going to Silver Beach, on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was awesome!

And by awesome I mean the water was somewhere in the ballpark of 55 degrees but the view was beautiful and the company was perfect :)

Miriam was not a huge fan of being surrounded by sand, but she adapted pretty well and even managed to take a nap or two.

There were 18 of us there--8 adults and 10 kids. It was so exciting!

We really have the awesomest friends :)

Stroller traffic jam!

After spending hours on the beach (and getting sunburned, though we didn't discover that until later) we walked out on the pier to dry off before getting dressed and heading home.

Standing out there on the pier, you could see forever! It was so tranquil to stand out there on the edge of everything. On the way home, Jesse expressed the desire to drop all our plans for the future and move there. I totally understood--it was lovely!

Thanks for inviting us, Jamie! We had a lovely time!