Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Circumcision: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

You never know where the breakfast conversation is going to go around here.

One minute you're sleepily making coffee for yourself (always a priority) and some raisin toast for the kids, mmmm-hmmmming your way through a conversation about the new "fighting game" the 1st graders are currently playing at recess. You know, who has which super power, will H. be mad if we want to add a new power today (that of turning into a turkey vulture when under attack), and that sort of thing. Then, just as you're pouring a little bit of milk into your coffee, the topic seems to have taken a dramatic turn for the, well, serious, because you realize you have just been asked,

"Why does my penis look different from all the other boys' penises?" with a complete graphic description of certain boys' members.

And - wham-o! - it's time to discuss circumcision. The pros, the cons, religious reasons, and why Daddy and I chose not to do that with our boys. He had to list each male member (pun completely intended) of my family: are they or aren't they? Thankfully, I couldn't always answer. I don't know what made me think this wouldn't "come up" until the boys had to change clothes in an open locker room...apparently, when you get enough first grade boys in a bathroom together...

All this left me thinking that perhaps Matt won't be allowed to shower while I serve breakfast anymore.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Yesterday we got a taste of life after the move. There was a period of time for each of us when we actually laid down on the couch and read for a while. During Lyle's nap, Baxter and I stretched out, feet to feet, sharing a blanket, each reading our own mystery novel. We got up for a few rousing rounds of Chutes and Ladders and some popcorn, and then resumed reading. It was blissful, even when Baxter interrupted my every paragraph to tell a new joke from the monster joke book he got at the library. Today, Matt got the last load of boxes from our old house, which is reason enough to celebrate even without the spring weather.

It was 75 and sunny here today. We took advantage of the beach and just generally enjoyed being out and about. Although I know how fickle a midwestern spring can be, and that we may well get another snowstorm between now and "real", lasting warmth, I'm going to enjoy these gorgeous days.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Already in Heaven

The boys and I were enjoying some late afternoon playtime at the beach today when a friendly middle aged woman stopped to watch us. She was highly amused by their antics - and, I suspect, Lyle's sunglasses. After a while, she asked, "You have two boys?" and when I confirmed this, she added with a knowing smirk, "There is a special place in heaven for moms like you."

I told her what I tell all of the well-meaning people who say such things in front of my children as if they were hard of hearing: "I feel very lucky to have two boys. They're wonderful. We have a lot of fun together!" And, yes, of course I am careful to say this because they are listening, waiting to hear what their mother will say, but it is also completely true. Since the day I became the mother of two boys, I have never for a moment wished I had a daughter. I'm sure I needn't spell out here that, obviously, if I had a daughter I'd love her to the moon and back, too; it's just that I don't. I have boys, and I don't need anything more.

What this nice woman - who doesn't have children but is a self-described "aficionado" of them - won't ever know is that spending an hour playing on the beach with my two boys leaves me wanting to say, "Heaven? You mean it gets better than this?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nursery School? Check!

Lyle's name, miraculously, came up in the lottery at Families Together Cooperative Nursery School - the one we visited a while back and loved! We'd been entertaining two quite distinct options for him for next year, and this pretty much clinches the deal. (Particularly as the other good option, Loyola University Preschool, has him just about last on its waiting list.) But Families Together is what I have come to think of as the "kinder, gentler option" for Lyle's next year. It involves him going on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-11:30 AM to a "Young 3's" class. He will indeed be a young 3, having just turned three at the end of August. There will be 16 kids with 4 adults because each day they have parent volunteers working in the classroom; Matt or I will go in for a morning once a month. It's a lovely place and Lyle was very happy playing there when we visited. It's also the place where we have loads of connections - many of Baxter's favorite friends at Burley Elementary went there for nursery school, and one of the teachers sends her son to Burley as well. It's close by our new house and the parents have told me that it's a really nice way to meet lots of great parents in our community, especially since we'll be volunteering with them in the classroom and on committees.

One drawback of this option is that it doesn't do anything about Lyle's actual child care! Those are the days I'm home with him, which is nice in that it allows me to participate in the co-op but I still work the other days. So it looks like we'll need to hire a nanny for just one more year for Lyle. We were hoping to avoid the expense, but it's also nice for Lyle to have another year of the individual attention and for us to have someone here with a car who can provide back-up on Baxter's sick days and random half-days and days off from school (and you wouldn't believe how many of these there are!). It certainly simplifies a lot of things for us. And maybe next year he'd get into Loyola Preschool, which would cover my work days. And of course, the drawback of any preschool whatsoever is that we are going to have to get Lyle potty trained this summer!! Yikes!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wake up Call

Baxter, age 6, hopped into our bed this morning, snuggled in with me under the blankets and said in an awed tone, "Wow, my dreams are becoming so literal these days!"

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Leprechaun in the House

This hat! Oh, this hat! Baxter wore it all through dinner last night, proud as could be, which only made it funnier. I love when you can tell that a child cut out his hat by himself. I couldn't help but wonder, "What happened to the rest of the brim??" This hat lent everything he did an air of comedic genius, resulting in gales of muffled laughter and, finally, me running (not very subtly, I might add) from the table so as not to fall on the floor laughing, and likely wetting myself, in front of my lovely, earnest child.

This was topped only by him pounding upstairs and into our room today at 5:50 AM, heart racing. He was, reportedly, awoken by two leprechauns (not just one, mind you), calling his name to wake him up. If only they hadn't woken Lyle, too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Raising them Right

Sometimes as a parent you feel like you're just blundering your way through, and then there are those moments when you realize you've done something right. (Kind of like the night when the boys pretended to run away from Blockbuster Video.)

This afternoon I had one of those moments. We were driving up Ashland Avenue (as we do oh-so-often now) and Baxter pointed out two small shops across the street from each other: "Mufflers 4 Les$" and "Brakes 4 Les$". After an amusing comment or two about the use of "4" in place of "for" and the dollar sign in the word "Les$", Baxter struggled to explain something that was troubling him about this advertisement-within-a-name. "It's hard to explain," he started, "but let's say, for instance, that you needed new brakes." This was not hard for me to imagine, since we just replaced our brakes, say, for instance, two weeks ago. "You would walk in there and they'd give you the price - say it's 50 cents [snort!]. And you think that sounds good but how do you know that's the best price... really?? You would have to go to some other brake stores and find out their prices to know if this one really is less than the others, right?" I can't believe it! My first grader is already appropriately cynical about advertising!

Donate Now!

Matt, the boys and I will be participating in the Cure Autism Now WALK NOW event here in Chicago on May 20. We will be part of a team of up to 200 people who last year were the biggest team of walkers for this event nationally and raised $35,000 towards funding autism research. If you are able to make a donation of any amount, please support us by checking out my page on the CAN web site.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Musings from the New Neighborhood

Here in the new house, I am happily surprised by my own awareness of the proximity of the lake in the early morning. When I awake to the perfect blue sky, feel the sun streaming in, and hear the gulls, I am immediately transported back to our last apartment in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. I am startled by what a familiar, comforting feeling this is.


Lyle and I head down the block to the beach in the morning, and, among other adventures, sit in the soft sand playing with a couple of small trucks for a while. I am struck by the sounds of the beach intermingled with the sounds of the city: loud gulls squawking happily, probably thrilled that the ice has finally melted on the lake and they can leave the fast food dumpsters and return for some real food; a crow in a nearby tree caw-cawing her way through the morning; a lovely church bell chiming the hour, slowly and melodically, for us. With every new sound, Lyle turns, surprised. "I hear the dolphins!" he declares each time the seagulls become louder.


We find a playground just two blocks away that sits alongside the beach. We are early enough that no one else is there for quite a while, and we pretend to be Teletubbies and school bus drivers looking for the right key to our bus. While we eat a snack, I give Lyle a big hug and say, "I love you." He hugs me back and says, "You love me, too!" Oh, well, I think I knew what he meant.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Thrice Blessed

A two and a half year old comes pounding down the stairs after a shower calling, "Mommy! Mommy! I have a diaper on! And pajamas on! Mommy, where are yoooouuu?" And then, because this coming downstairs in his pajamas and finding me in the kitchen so closely mirrors today's early morning experience, he smirks and says, "I want my break-ist! What's for break-ist? Ceam cheese?"

We sit on the floor and play together, but all I want to do is hug him. This little guy stands up on a step stool, about to jump, but then pauses for a moment, distracted by his own freshly bathed sweetness. He plucks at his pajama shirt with dimpled hands, saying shyly to me, "I all nice now! I all shiny!" and then jumps down into my arms.


"I'll make another run when the boys are in bed tonight," emails Matt this afternoon. He does. After working all day, surviving a particularly mind-bending dinner period, commandeering the boys into the shower (the novelty does it), getting them in their jammies, trimming their fingernails, and then rolling his eyes at me over an episode of Caillou while we're all snuggled together on the couch, Matt puts them to bed. I don't know how he manages not to fall asleep in there, but he emerges, wide awake if not energetic, and without a word of complaint, goes to get the car and packs it to the gills with boxes and bins, just to get another load up to the new house before Saturday's move. Matt has moved countless boxes up there already (as has his father - thank you, Pops!) and he's made it look easy. For this move, our division of labor has been that I pack the stuff and Matt moves it. I am sure that I have the easy end of this deal. At Baxter's first birthday party, Matt presented me with an award for being the "Mommy who never complained". I truly believe that a good attitude makes a big difference in this life, but it can only be maintained if it is recognized, not taken for granted. And so I hereby return the favor, awarding him the "Husband who never complained" gold medal. And yes, Matt, I will fire up the Netflix DVD of Arrested Development for us (shall I call the watching of this show an evening ritual or an obsession?), and grab you a beer from the fridge, so that we can relax together as soon as you get home.


A gangly-limbed 6 year old sits in the back of my car (how did he get there, anyway?) with his tassel hat at a funny angle and big wet boots propped against the passenger seat in front of him, and starts a conversation cheerfully with the words, "You know, Mommy? Something really weird about me is..." and I hardly concentrate on the next words, so happy am I that he embraces his own weirdness, which is, in actuality, his own differentness, or self. A few minutes later he confesses that his memory isn't all that it used to be. "For instance," he begins (a phrase he's using frequently right now), "if you asked me if we had our vitamins this morning, I wouldn't be able to tell you if we did or not! That's strange." And so we talk about how, the more complex one's life is, the easier it is to forget things. How when you're small, your world tends to be relatively small, too, and you sure do remember everything (he did, anyway) but as you grow older and are exposed to more of the world, there is a lot to think about. Especially when your life is changing again as ours is right now. We talk about how Daddy and I are forgetting things more right now, too, and saying things wrong in silly ways because we're tired and distracted.

And it's true. There is change happening. Nearly every cabinet here on Fletcher St. is empty, most of the boys' books and toys are packed and sitting in boxes in the new house, and life as we know it is going to shift yet again. So I am forgetting little things. And losing my temper more easily. And having trouble dealing with the boys' extra meltdowns and hyperactivity. And this is why it's so important, in the midst of it all, for me to stop and remember the boy so pleased to be nice and shiny, the man who makes those arduous trips to the new house seem effortless, and the child who doesn't mind being weird. I am thrice blessed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

On Modesty

When it comes to modesty, I think I am a moderate prude. Not totally prudish, but not an exhibitionist. I don't go in a private space to get changed at the gym, or worry about who sees me in the shower area, for example, but neither do I go scampering around without a towel, just for kicks. When Baxter was a toddler and preschooler, he regularly sat in when I got dressed; sometimes he commented or asked questions, and I answered them without a problem. But when he got to a certain age (what was it? maybe between 4 and 5 years old?), I started to seek privacy in these moments. In part this had to do with him getting older and in part it had to do with being the mother of two little boys who was always looking for a teeny tiny bit of privacy. Getting dressed alone seemed like a great place to start; you know, a small step for womankind.

So I thought it was interesting a few weeks ago when I was about to dash into the shower and Baxter suddenly rushed the bathroom, needing an emergency trip. "I guess I have never seen you naked before," he said thoughtfully from the potty as I quickly stepped into the water. This really surprised me, that he had no recollection of all those discussions we delved into during his early years, that he thinks I've always gotten dressed privately. This from the boy who yesterday recalled once feeding his uncle's fish two years ago.

This morning I got up early to take my shower before the boys got up. However, they arose early and found their way into the bathroom (inward groan), each with a cheerful, "Hi, Mommy!", just sure I'd be thrilled to see them, and Baxter proceeded to do what he needed to do. A few minutes later I realized that he was peering in at me with a big mischievous grin.

"You look CRAZY!!!!" he said.

And this, my friends, is all the reason I need to move into a house on Saturday that has a master bathroom. I'm gonna have to get a lock on that door.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Hiring Therapists?

I've got a new post up today at The Family Room. If you or anyone you know is in the position of hiring pediatric therapists for a child, it may be useful.

(And as a follow-up, it's getting some attention out there in the blogosphere! Cool!)

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Early Sign of Spring

Yes, it's true. I'm sure it's spring somewhere, just not here. And weather wise, there's very little sign of it. However, we can imagine spring - and even summer - now that our favorite neighborhood ice cream frozen custard shop has reopened! Yes, we have waited droolingly patiently a long time for our beloved Scooters to open its doors again. It's funny how far away that seemed back when they closed on December 1. So, counterintuitive as it seemed on Friday night, we went hooting and hollering out into the snowy night to chill ourselves right down to the bone. And as we sat there dreaming aloud about flying kites and playing on the beach this summer, we were able to forget about Old Man Winter for just a little while. Until we went back out and had a good snowball fight all the way home, that is.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Too Good to Put Down

When I was in 7th grade, a very sweet and serious - not to mention extremely introverted - friend came to my birthday party. She spent the entirety of the party seated on a stool, completely immersed in a book she had brought from home. To my well-read but not-so-bookish family, this was an oddity, and worth discussing for years to come. Without a doubt, it would be the first thing my mother would bring up if this girl's name were mentioned today.

Flash forward 23 years and here is a photo of my son, so desperate to finish Harriet the Spy that he chooses to read the ending rather than talk to the girls he invited over to play after school. He's been talking about this play date for days, very excited. He came bursting through the door after school with more energy than an untrained puppy, ready to play. But when they sat down for snack, he couldn't quite help himself: he ran to get the book. I suggested that he might wait until after the play date, but the sisters - who are unerringly charming in addition to being hilariously funny - quickly said it was just fine while they finished their snack. They proceeded to say that they are listening to the same book on tape during their carpool rides (brilliant idea!) and then went on to chat with me about the books they are writing at home, just for fun.

All of this helped me to realize that it's okay. It's okay to want to read so desperately that you spend a few minutes finishing a story in front of your friends. That is, it's okay if your friends are similarly social, extroverted bookworms who totally get it. The kids went on to have a rollicking good time for the next two hours, building enormous forts out of blankets in the boys' bedroom and using their rich imaginations to create a story for themselves. I guess that's the difference - he is able to leave the book behind and use his love of stories as a springboard for a great play time.

The Ride

Back in the old days (like, yesterday) when I wrote on Show Me Another City (what, that old thing?), I wrote a piece about how quickly time seemed to be passing. I suggested that, difficult as it is sometimes to accept the changes, I wouldn't wish for things to stay the same. I love the ride. At the end, I quoted one of my all-time favorite songs, which happens to be written and performed by Dan Zanes; it's called "Wonderwheel" and I find it an excellent metaphor for life.

Matt and I have created two blogs, each capturing different periods in our life. The first, Baxtergarten, chronicled our adventures in sending Baxter off to school for the first time. The next, Show Me Another City, was where we shared our thoughts about leaving our beloved San Francisco for a new life in Chicago.

Now we're just living our day-to-day life here but what I realized is that I still have a lot to say. I have discovered that when I take the time to write about things I am experiencing, seeing, and feeling - well, I experience, see, and feel more.

And so, I bring you a new blog. Welcome!