Monday, April 30, 2007

Brotherly Love

There was something about the way Baxter behaved tonight that seemed just a little off-kilter. The strange energy at the table, the inability to quiet himself when asked repeatedly, until Matt actually gave the child's dinner roll a time out for flying across the table multiple times. At least that got us all laughing. I knew that either a) he needed to use the bathroom desperately; or b) something had gone wrong today.

Having observed no race to the bathroom after dinner, I suggested we have a little cuddle time downstairs after he brushed his teeth. Sure enough, the tears were soon flowing; a dam had burst.

The long and the short of it was that a friend who was supposed to be on the "good team" with him at recess must have switched to the "bad team" without telling him, because out of the blue he "sucked all of [Baxter's] powers away". I know my son, and I could tell by the sobbing that this had frightened him. He felt betrayed, and as I think about it now, I realize this may be his first time being aware of that particular sensation. He cried for a long time.

After a while, seeing how tired the boy was, I suggested he try to get into bed. "I want to sleep with Lyle," he said, sniffling. I sent him in to ask Lyle if that was okay. "Sure!" replied the little one, who promptly moved over to let his big brother into the bunk. In a heartbreakingly sweet role reversal, Baxter, still crying, snuggled in under the covers with Lyle, and Lyle held him close. "I rub your back, Baxter. Then you feel better." He rubbed his back and petted his hair, and his shuddering big brother settled down. A while later I heard him ask, "Are you feeling better, Baxter? Are you not cyin' anymoah?" and Baxter replied, "Yeah, I'm okay now."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Afternoon at Lake Michigan

Sun, warmth, beach

Blue lake, little boys, white sand

Pail, shovel, watering can, shovel again, where's that football?

Three boys whirling, twirling, I'm a helicopter! ing

Exploring the sandbar island like diminutive pirates in search of crab leg treasure

Unknown small ones wander in, are welcome

Is the big one so tall already in those swim trunks?

And yet more sand

Crunching on the towels, the crevices of my ears, in my drink

The front porch, the long hallway, the bathtub

In their hair, between their toes, gritty on their little legs

Pink noses, rosy cheeks, smelling of sunscreen

Running back before dinner to catch just a few more minutes

Sleeping fast, sleeping sound, the sleep of a beach day

Friday, April 27, 2007

Potty Party!

What seemed to elude Lyle yesterday had apparently taken hold by today. He successfully used the potty four times this morning! What I am most happy about is that twice he stopped in the midst of playing with his babysitter to run in and go; that's what I was starting to doubt he was capable of yesterday, but it's the key to readiness. There are a few more photos here.

I am trying not to daydream about a life here without diapers and just appreciate the baby steps, but we're all feeling proud of our little one.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Today's Special Index

I like to think that each and every day is special. But some days, you know? They're just more "special" than others. Like when I gave up 4 hours of my life to wait for Salvation Army to blow me off. That was special. See what I mean?

So here's a little index about today, just because I rather enjoy writing in index form. It shakes things up. And shaking things up? Now that's special!

35: The number of colorful M&M's I put in a clear container way up high in the bathroom for Lyle to admire as he sat on the potty.

120: The number of minutes spent sitting on the cold bathroom floor over the course of the day reading "Froggy's First Kiss" (what a bizarre choice for a 2-year old to make), two large Richard Scarry books, and "Eight Silly Monkeys" over and over while said 2-year old attempts to produce something in his potty. Mostly because he wants one of those M&M's.

2: The number of tears that welled up in my eyes when my little dog figurine asked Lyle how old he was: "I'm two and a half. And Baxter's six!" he added. "Oh, who's Baxter?" asked the dog. He thought about it and finally said, "My friend."

10: The number of seconds that Lyle laid in his bed at nap time before hopping up, declaring, "We better open dat door, get some fresh air in here," and then made a break for it into the playroom.

45: The length of time - in minutes - of Lyle's nap before I had to wake him up to go pick up his brother from school.

45: The length of time - in minutes - that he cried about being woken up too early. (Perhaps if he hadn't been so worried about FRESH AIR he would have gotten more sleep. Ahem.)

3: The number of plays of the Sesame Street CD that I had to endure. We had to be in the car waaay too much today.

140: Minutes in the car logged.

80: Percentage of that time spent on lovely Ashland Avenue. Ugh.

1: The number of text messages I sent to Matt in desperation that read: "I NEED A MINIVAN!!!" after trying to squeeze three children in the back of our station wagon (with each in a car seat or booster). I had to jam them in their seats closer and closer together until each of us had either scratched or pinched a finger. No joke. I love our Subaru but let me tell you: there is really no solution to our carpooling situation that does not start with the word "mini" and end in the word "van". And yes, this is from the woman who once bet friends back in 2000 that if she ever bought a minivan she'd pay them $100,000. Thanks to that bet, it's going to be one pricey vehicle for us, but worth every penny. (Note to the Smalls: the Talls are going to have to write you a BIG check soon.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Potty Time

I am often amused by the data on my site feed. The real gems are the Google searches. For example, today someone Googled the phrase "modesty in the bathroom" and got a post on my blog.

That rules.

I am all about the bathroom.

Salvation Army Sucks!! (A Rant Vent)

I just need to take a moment here to vent about my morning.

Some background: we are still officially renting our old house on Fletcher St. because we're in a lease and that piece of junk house hasn't sold yet. (I can call it a piece of junk now that we live in our lovely new home.) I like to think of it as our second home, except usually that would be the one at the beach, so it doesn't totally work. Anyway. Because we don't have to be out of there until the end of June, we have been in no hurry to get it completely empty and clean. We left a few items that either need to be sold or given to charity. Honestly, there's been enough to do in the new house to keep us more than busy.

Matt went to the old house the other day and discovered the owners had refinished the floors and repainted the place. Would've been nice if they'd told us this was going on - we are still renting it, after all - but whatever. Anything that gets it sold faster could help us. And I love that those dorks have tried to beautify the interior and yet the front stairs are lined with planters. Planters filled with dead leaves and cigarette butts. Now that's attractive to a buyer, wouldn't you say? Is it any wonder that place has been on the market since last July? But I digress.

So I decided last week that I have an urgent need to have that place empty. I want to be done with it. I don't want to drive by and see our floor lamp in the window anymore.

I called the Salvation Army pick-up truck service yesterday and they set up a pick-up for today. Perfect! I would be available all morning or Matt could be there in the afternoon. They told me to call at 9 AM to find out if we were a morning pick-up or afternoon. So far, so good. I couldn't wait to get that old stuff out of there!

So, I dutifully called them at 9 and found out that our time was 9-12; I explained (as I had yesterday) that we were 20 minutes away and that I'd been told the driver could call me half an hour before so I could be there. Oh, no, I hadn't been told that at all, according to today's charmer. I'd apparently lost my chance for that. Okay, so I flew down there with Lyle and got there at 9:30 with no way of knowing if I'd already missed the guy. (Mr. Phone couldn't contact Mr. Truck, I was told. I'm. so. sure.)

Okay, but we were fine. It was a gorgeous day, I had brought Lyle's tricycle so we motored up and down the block (I had to stay within view of the house of course), he got more driving practice, and we explored the old house and remembered what it used to be like. We were fine, that is, until 12:00 approached and Lyle was getting tired and hungry and we'd blown through the snacks. And the truck hadn't arrived. I called Salvation Army back, thinking that maybe our window extended until 1:00 and I'd misunderstood.

"It's 1-4," said Mr. Phone.
"Oh, no, it's definitely not," I told him. "I called at 9 and was told I had the morning window. I just wasn't sure if it ends now or at 1. I don't know how much longer my son and I need to stay."
"Fletcher St.? 60657? Yeah, you're 1-4."
"The guy left out late. Now you're 1-4."
"He left an HOUR late??"
"No," he explained like I was some kind of idiot. "He left OUT late."

I thought my head was going to explode. No one bothered to call me? Who on earth can spend an entire day waiting for a stupid freaking Salvation Army pick-up? It's worse than waiting for the infamous cable guy! Even at their own house it's ridiculous to expect someone to be available for 8 hours, but when you're hanging out trying to make the best of things with a toddler at a vacant home for 4 hours?

I gave him a piece of my mind. You all would've been proud of me.

And then I marched off with my sobbing, exhausted child who was totally confused about the lack of truck and his mad mama, and grieving about leaving his old house again. And mad as hell that I wasn't letting him actually drive home. (Yikes.)

Which means that all the old stuff is still there.

This would be a particularly good time for that flexibility to kick in.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


You already know that I'm a big proponent of "thoughtful" parenting. But have we discussed flexibility? It's inherent in being a thoughtful person, not just a parent, because if you are thinking about things - mindful of what you are doing day to day - you are more than likely well-schooled in flexibility. As in, "Hmmm, this doesn't seem to be working, maybe we ought to try that," or "I don't want to do that just because everyone else is, so I will do this instead".

So you may recall that I referred to the Pokemon craze that has hit first grade; you know, that weird fad my son knew nothing about and that caused him a little bit of ridicule? If this rings a bell, then you remember that I fished around to find out if he felt left out and it was clear that day that he didn't care. Well, not surprisingly, when the Scholastic Book Fair was held at his school the next week, Baxter's wish list included - you guessed it! - a Pokemon book. I have to say that I am generally in favor of books as a means to learn about the TV shows and movies other kids are watching without having to see junk - especially scary junk.

So, I bought it for him.

And it had a poster inside.

And I helped him tape it to the kitchen wall where we can refer to it at least, oh, a hundred times a day, and choose which characters we are going to "be", because he has a great imagination. He hasn't asked for any of the playing cards (yet) and has been perfectly satisfied with pretending to be Pikachu all day.

I get to be "Ditto", whose claim to fame involves being able to turn into any Pokemon character he wants when he's under attack.

Now that's flexibility!

Autism Speaks Video

The following is from an email that was sent to me today. If you can take a moment to view this video, it would be appreciated:

Autism Speaks created a music video of the Five for Fighting song, "World", which features images of autistic children and their families. It is a truly moving video and was the work of Bill Shea.

The band is generously donating $0.49 to Autism Speaks for each time the video is viewed - the funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure. When you have a moment, please visit the link below to watch the video and pass it along to your friends and family. They are aiming for 10,000 hits, but hopefully we can help them to surpass this goal.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baby You Can Drive My Car, Pt. II

This driving the car thing, it's getting to be a fun ritual after music class on Thursdays. This time I was prepared to capture me some cuteness. More can be found here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Cocoon

At what point do we let our small children in on the secret that the sweet, safe little cocoon of their lives isn't simply a microcosm of society at large? This is close to the heart of the topic I wrote about last week, of limiting a child's exposure to media in order to, well, provide him with our idealized notion of a good childhood, whatever that means to each of us. For me, it's an innocent time of life for our children to learn and develop with a loving foundation beneath them - and free of anxiety to the extent that it's possible. We all create that foundation from our own values and life philosophy as we see fit, and within the parameters we're given.

We have sheltered our elder child from tragedies thus far. He was only 10 months old, nursing in my arms in fact, when I saw the first footage of the news on September 11th. We have yet to tell him about it, although I think of it often as I watch the boys build ever-larger towers, calling out to each other, "Knock this one down!" As it should, it will become part of the American history these boys learn and we will be right there to delve deeply into the issues with them when the time comes. But a 6-year old has no way to make sense of such an event.

So today, the day after the horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech, was the first time I realized that I had to say something to him. No, he can't really make sense of this event either, but he is going off to spend the day with a group of children who will know. And they'll be talking about it. Probably in grim detail. How awful it would be for him to hear of such a thing from 7-year olds and not from us.

I sat down with Baxter a bit before school, interrupting him as he self-taught Morse Code from an old Charlie Brown book. I explained in outline form what I knew of what had happened. Of course, I couldn't answer that most basic question, "Why??", other than to say that someone was deeply, deeply unhappy and made a tremendous mistake. He asked if the man was in jail and I hesitated but did tell him that the man had committed suicide; again, he was going to hear it from someone less tactful soon enough. This became the focus of the conversation after that, as Baxter had never heard of or imagined such a thing as someone taking his own life. In the moment, he was mainly concerned with the logistics of suicide rather than the emotional ramifications, i.e., how would that man have to hold the gun to do that? I startled him when I suggested that a great many people are feeling very sad today, and watched his face change as this dawned on him.

And I guess that's what I mean about our young children truly not being prepared to deal with such an event. The level at which they understand something so inhumane is probably that basic level about how it was carried out; this is, after all, what they later act out on the playground when they "shoot" at each other and die, or put each other in jail. It's no coincidence that they believe in super powers, too, is it? (And yes, they really do believe in super powers - after all, they believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, so why couldn't someone have those powers?) I suppose it's what they use to protect themselves from this information that begins to seep into their sweet little worlds: if they can suddenly turn into a hawk and fly away - if they can shoot lasers from their eyeballs against enemies - then they're still safe in a world that's scarier than they thought, right? I'm glad they have a way to feel powerful and strong as they are learning more about the world.

So I think the best we can do is to bring some real emotion into tragedy for them. Don't let it simply be about how that man held the gun to take his life; let it be about how horribly sad and lonely that man was, how scared the students were, how bereft the families and friends are. We don't need to overdo it because that can also be traumatic, but it's incredibly important to attach some emotion to this for our big kids, no matter how desperately we want to hide them away from any such information.

They surely can't live in their cocoons forever, but at least we can support them by holding the fragile, cracking shell in our hands as they begin to peek out.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Toto, We're Not in Frisco Anymore

I was in a great mood today! There was no doubt that my attitude about life in general was affected by the weather. It was gorgeous today. I had fun at work with all the kids and - due in no small part to my mood - I had a series of excellent sessions.

I drove home with the windows down, music cranked up, singing along. As I got closer to home I noticed the gulls swooping overhead and wondered to myself whether I'd have time to get to the beach tonight.

It was 57 degrees.

Guess I'm not in California anymore.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Not Getting Old -- Right?

Back when I was in college, lo those many years ago, I worked in a great preschool as an assistant teacher for a couple of years. When I graduated from Macalester I taught my own toddler class there until Matt and I left for Boston in 1995. I used to babysit for some of the kids from the preschool on the side, and always enjoyed it.

One particular child was always a favorite of mine, from the time she was 3 years old. Her name was Libby and I used to have a great time with her - going for a walk around the block with her dressed up like a witch, making her laugh so hard she peed on the couch (whoops!). She used to sit on my lap out on the playground at the end of the day when she was at school, waiting for her mom to pick her up. I remember these things like they were yesterday.

I've had the good fortune of staying in touch with Libby and her mom over the years and even seeing them from time to time. I saw them just last year in San Francisco before I moved to Chicago. And yet I was shocked to receive an email from them two weeks ago, asking if Libby could stay with me when she comes out to visit Northwestern University, to which she has been accepted.




I told this story to my friend Cara today and Cara happily remembered her aunt, a woman in her 30s who lived near Macalester and was there to host holidays, have her over to dinner, and offer her a place to do free laundry, all the things I'd love to do for Libby, should she end up at Northwestern. Cara remembered that this aunt had small children at the time, children who are now going to college themselves.

She looked at me suddenly and said in shock, "I thought she seemed so -- old."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My Greatest Hope

My greatest hope is that one day, when a friend asks one of my kids what he does instead of watching TV all the time, he will say, "Mostly we just play with my mom's make-up."

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Day in the Life

Like most of my work days, it was a busy day. A little tougher than most, though, because Matt is out of town on business which added an extra element of responsibility. I was zipping through my morning, keeping all of the balls in the air for once, when I suddenly saw my life as if from the outside. It made me laugh in horror, and I wondered if there were a way to convey it adequately in writing. While not the long version of my day's story, here are some highlights that may give you the idea.

5:55 AM - I am in the shower, having to do so ahead of the boys' wake-up since Matt's away. I am aware of the fact that I've woken up exhausted; I was up too late working last night and for some reason Lyle woke twice in the night, calling me. When the alarm went off, I laughed out loud in my sleep, my subconscious apparently assuming this was a joke.

8:27 AM - I am leaving the house with the boys. I glance back in just before I lock the back door, pleased with the fact that the kitchen is clean, there are two fresh bunches of tulips in sight, the dishwasher and washing machine are running, and the house is uncluttered. It will be delightful to return home to this place tonight. This week I have prioritized keeping it clean so that we can enjoy ourselves this weekend when we're all together here. It's certainly not always like this. I ponder why I am so much more organized when Matt is away; I guess doing it all on my own forces me to stay focused.

8:56 AM - I have dropped off the boys with the nanny. Baxter has no school today which helped my case somewhat this morning (no lunch to make, no homework to pack). I am wiped out - and just think, my "work day" hasn't even started yet! - but shocked that I have accomplished the following:

a) remembered to send Lyle's treasured Baby in his backpack;
b) filled Baxter's backpack with all of the library books that are due tomorrow and asked the nanny and boys to return them when they walk by on their way to tumbling class;
c) reminded Baxter to pack a book to read during the toddlers' tumbling class;
d) packed a note about where the nanny and I will meet at 4pm;
e) packed the nanny's check for the week - this involved calculating her hours (which is often complicated since it's a nanny share), writing a check from my business account because we still haven't found our personal check refills since moving, and then transferring money online from our personal account to the business account. I did this in the span of a few minutes, with the kids racing around the home office vying for my attention.

9:13 AM - I arrive at my first appointment. I was to see one of my clients in conjunction with her OT, at the OT's clinic. The child never shows up. When I call her mother and discover that she completely spaced our appointment I feel nothing but relief that I am not the only one with too much to keep track of. The OT and I have a productive hour-long consult without the child.

10:20 AM - I am driving over to my clinic. I realize that I am simultaneously mentally preparing for my first two therapy sessions and keeping an eye out for a market where I can buy the four medium onions I need to pick up today for the frittata I'm making later tonight for brunch with my sister-in-law's family tomorrow.

11:10-3:30 PM - I work with four adorable and clinically challenging boys back-to-back at my office, enjoying them immensely. They are making terrific progress; I love my work! I keep my phone in my pocket on vibrate in case the nanny needs to reach me. She doesn't, but I am distracted by many work calls that I am unable to answer until Monday.

3:59 PM - I meet the boys at Scooter's so that we can celebrate our little friend Anya's 2nd birthday with her and her mom, Becky. This was the most relaxing and yummy part of my day! And that Anya - oh. so. cute!

4:57 PM - The boys and I are running around the Jewel, picking up the four medium onions, some eggs, and orange juice for the morning. Lyle is "talking" to Papa on the new toy cell phone his buddy brought him back from Disneyworld. Baxter is running in front of the cart as often as possible, causing me to crash into him at least twice. He insists on helping me run my debit card through the scanner even as Lyle is crying because he is "too far away" from me, sitting in the cart while they put the bags in for me. He's about 12 inches from me.

5:09 PM - I am on the phone in the car ordering up a Giordano's pizza for the three of us. I have to pull over to give them my debit card number. I can't face making a meal at this point; I decide it would be better to make the frittata in the morning.

5:45 PM - I'm at the dining room table draining the last of my glass of red wine as the boys watch an episode of Caillou out in the living room. Matt's plane from San Francisco will land tonight at midnight and, as I do every weekend, I am looking forward to a couple days of rest - or at least, not working - together.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thinking Blogger Awards

As I wrote about here, I have the pleasure of passing along the Thinking Blogger Award to 5 bloggers who "make me think". There are so many of you out there, but I have narrowed it down to the five I read regularly that make me think.

1. My father, Bob Sadler, is writing an excellent blog entitled Challenging Time about his experience with cancer. His ability to be frank, candid and personal about what he is going through has been an inspiration to many of us. His blog certainly makes me think. Here is a post that I particularly appreciated. You will undoubtedly notice my father's beautiful photographs when you visit his blog. There is more information about his photography here.

2. Our friend Christopher Tassava writes regularly and well at Blowing & Drifting. I love his thoughtful and humorous tidbits about life in Northfield, working at Carleton College, and raising his two lovely daughters. And his hour-by-hour photos of a Playmobil skier out on his back patio getting pummeled by a snowstorm? Well, all those made me think was that this is one funny dude. But still: I was thinking, wasn't I?

3. The inimitable Mrs. Chicken over at Chicken and Cheese is consistently one of my very favorite reads. I have no doubt that she has received this award many times over by now, as she has a very wide readership, but if she makes so many of us think, well, then she deserves it time and time again! Thanks for making me think (and often laugh), Mrs. Chicken! I'll look forward to meeting you and the little one in Chicago this summer. You can all read one of my recent favorites here.

4. Vicki Forman writes a wonderful column at Literary Mama called Special Needs Mama. Vicki also deserves this award many times over, and this actually brings the award full-circle as she tagged the blogger who tagged me. Her open and sometimes raw writing about mothering a child with multiple special needs is beautiful. She provides insight to those of us not in her shoes and, I would imagine, a sense of comfort and solidarity to those of us who are.

5. Dana Mecuz is writing at Kaffee, Nicht Kanguruhs about his experience as an American in Vienna, Austria. Dana is another excellent writer who gives me much to think about through his writing on the culture he has become immersed in. Check out the photographs he has taken in his travels all over the world as well. He's very talented. Oh, and he happens to be my cousin. Lucky me! You can read one of my favorite recent posts here.

Recipients: thank you for your wonderful writing! And remember, you've been tagged - pass the award along to five bloggers who make you think! For more info - and to get your copy of the fancy award - go here.

Springing into Winter

Let's get something straight here. I love winter. Adore the snow, the ice, and even the cold is fine. No, really, I don't mind it.

the winter.

On April 11th I have something else entirely in mind. And that does not involve temps in the 30s and slush falling from the sky all day.



Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Limited Media

Exposing one's child to less media than his peer group can have unexpected and challenging outcomes as he gets older. This was driven home to me twice today.

First, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law, Julie. Julie and her husband are raising two delightfully smart and funny children and their parenting style is quite similar to ours. We were discussing Julie's four-year old son today, who, it seems, is suddenly expressing a lot of fears. Four is an age of fears, without a doubt. But my nephew is scared about the way his peers are playing at preschool. Their play is frightening to him: pirates who chase and capture others, alligators who might "get" you. This little guy is uncomfortable with it and disassociates himself with it - which is fine, but of course no one wants him to be feeling scared and isolated from his friends. This is very normal play for children their age, and there is nothing wrong with it. But it is something that we came up against as well - Baxter was petrified by the way kids were playing when he was in preschool. Kids who haven't watched much television or movies at this age often have no experience with such play themes and can be extremely sensitive to pretend play that depicts aggression or danger. Baxter was scared out of his pants over segments of Sesame Street until he was at least 5 years old. I kid you not. It was one reason we began showing him some mainstream movies around ages 4-5, but we did this at home where we could pause it and talk about what's happening and fast forward through some of the worst parts. I also realize in hindsight that maybe introducing some books with scarier themes would have been useful at that age so we could have talked more to him and could've acted them out to demystify the fears a bit.

Not two hours later, I overheard a conversation between Baxter and a school peer. I listened, heart in my throat, as the boy barraged him with questions: "You don't watch Pokeman??" "You don't even know about Yu-gi-oh?" To say that he was shocked would be an understatement. "Don't you have HBO Family? Loony Toons?" And finally, "Well, what kids' channels do you have?" This last was directed at me. A school friend was recently overheard to say to our son, sighing with complete disgust, "I suppose you don't know about Star Wars, either." I generally do a good job of not stepping in and saving my kids from normal social situations, but even I couldn't take it after a while. "We don't really watch TV much at our house," I offered. "Huh?" said the friend, surprised. "Yeah! We play!" chirped Baxter, catering to the party line. "Yeah, we usually play, or read books...go outside. We do different kinds of things." I did my best to sound casual and not defensive, but wanted to remind Baxter of what he could say in response to such an onslaught. And you know, the boy said to me rather sadly, "We mostly stay in. We don't get to go to the playground too much at all, even in the summer."

I don't question the way we've chosen to limit our kids' exposure to the media (TV, radio, videos, video games, computer games) but I'm learning that it does require a child to have a strong sense of self to get through some of these social interactions with his friends. It's really important to explain to children the reasons why we don't do those "typical" things so that they understand it. After we said good-bye to the friend, we headed to the playground.

Wanting to see what my son was thinking about that conversation, I mentioned that his friend sure liked those card games and TV shows. "Yeah, he does!" said Baxter. "Does it bother you at all that you don't know about all that stuff?" I asked, thinking that maybe some Pokemon exposure was due. "Nope," he said, jumping off a ladder and racing his brother across the playground. Seems like he's doing okay with it so far, but it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the coming years.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Lyle wants to be four years old and he wants to drive.

Today after running a few errands together he asked if he could "drive". When we got home I let him clamber into the front seat and do his thing.

I took advantage of this time to clear out some trash from the back seat. When I looked up, the windshield wipers were going full-speed. His eyes were huge. "Dey wipin'! Dey wipin' all da food away!" When asked how food got on our windshield, he thought about it for a moment and then named the boy we carpool to school with. Tricky fella, that one. I'll have to watch him more closely.

I taught him how to use the CD player and radio buttons, which he seemed to understand with startling speed. He landed on a station playing Red Rain by Peter Gabriel and we jammed for a while, Lyle standing on the seat to boogie. He then changed the station to one that was playing a loud, annoying cell phone ad. He sat down slowly, listening with his head cocked to one side and said, "I yike dis one. It's boo-tiful!"

On the way into the house, proudly carrying his very own (empty) Target bag, he declared, "I a grown-up." Indeed.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Morning

We had a lovely early morning egg hunt here. I have written in the past about Baxter's generosity towards his little brother; it is surprising to us every day. On a day like Easter, however, of which I have vivid memories that involve unforgiving siblings with flying elbows trying to get at the same little candy eggs, I can only watch the kindness and generosity of our boys with something akin to awe.

I have finally put together a new video for my faraway family and it's posted on YouTube for the entertainment of anyone who has a spare 8 minutes to observe some Easter fun at our house. I suppose I should explain the clip that involves some, uh, unusual background music. Matt received an XM (satellite) radio for his birthday (am I nice, or what??) and we are totally loving it. Today while we made lunch we had it on a 40s music station and it was fabulous. (Last night's tunes from the 70s were also extremely enjoyable - think "Rainy Days and Mondays" by the Carpenters! - and I know Matt is happy to listen to the Giants on the radio again - all I appreciate about that is hearing all the old familiar ads from San Francisco; who knew I'd ever hear a Shane & Co. ad in Chicago?) This is what I mean about fun!


Saturday, April 7, 2007

Feeling Honored

What a great surprise to discover today that Susan Etlinger over at The Family Room has tagged me for a "Thinking Blogger Award"! I have enjoyed watching Susan's blog take off and am grateful that she is interested in what I have to say over here. She is a terrific writer with a lot of important things to say, and therefore I take this as a huge compliment. Part of my responsibility now is to "tag" five other bloggers who make me think...there are so many of you! How will I ever choose? I'll post the recipients soon.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Birthday Fun

I have been marveling this evening about just why this birthday has stood out as being one of my best ever and it's hard to pinpoint; there seem to be many reasons.

For those of you who don't know us, my husband Matt and I share a birthday. Our first date was actually on our birthday, when we went out with college friends to take advantage of a "free birthday dinner" promotion at Denny's 14 years ago. I recall the exact shade of green in Matt's face after he ate an enormous dinner despite the fact that he'd already had a fair amount of cake in his dorm room earlier. He actually had to go outside for fresh air. I can't say that I was impressed by this per se, but then again he was only 20. Such things are to be expected during those years, particularly when free food is on offer. I gladly went out with him again but we steered clear of Denny's - which, for some reason, discontinued that promotion. Wonder why.


Part of what was remarkable to me today was that all these years later, there was a strong emphasis on fun. Our gifts were media-related and very much humor-related. For example, we have recently gotten hooked on the show "Arrested Development" and are tearing our way through each season on Netflix. Thanks to Matt, I now own the complete series on DVD - there are very few things I could watch over and over but this is one of them. We also now own both seasons of "The Ali G Show" and - get this! - a 14-hour audio collection of David Sedaris reading from *all* of his books, thanks to my in-laws. I could just die and go to heaven right now. The strange part is, Matt and I have absolutely no history of watching TV. For most of our years together, the TV has either been off or in a closet. We still don't have cable and don't intend to get it. But something about this cold winter in a new city has brought us to the couch with a big warm blanket in the evenings, and we've had such great times laughing together over these shows, and find ourselves giggling about them at odd times during the day, too. So it's very unexpected but a whole lot of fun to have this influx of comedy all of a sudden. And it's a good reminder to stay open to change.


I got so much birthday love from every direction today. Of course, it started with Matt and the kids (who get very excited about the double birthday fun), but it seemed to go on all day. I got so many lovely phone calls (including two from good friends who actually sang to me) from all over the US and even Vienna. I had the pleasure of talking to my mom, my aunt, and my cousin, all of whom are in the Bay Area, during the course of the day. I was tracked down by a family I used to babysit for back when I was in high school - they never miss my birthday, and I haven't seen them in almost 20 years. Cards, emails and text messages came from all directions. Our friends (and now neighbors) Becky, Aaron, and little Anya brought over homemade cake so we could have a little party, and then Becky came back when the boys were in bed and babysat so that we could go out for a late dinner at Reza's. Yum.


While there was silly fun and lots of love and good wishes, what perhaps accounted for an equal third of my joy was the time I spent on my own today. What's that? A whole day on my own? After spending my spring "break" (a term I used very loosely last week) "hoeing out" closets, going to meetings (yes, work meetings), staying up past midnight getting taxes and other business work done, and unpacking boxes at home, I was feeling like I'd really cheated myself out of a break. So yes, time for me: A haircut. A pedicure. Okay, and a manicure too because when I saw the red toenails I was suddenly inspired to have fingernails that color, despite the fact that it's tremendously impractical and even a little scary-looking. I debated for a while and decided that if you can't have impractical fingernails on your birthday, when can you? And then with the new short haircut and red fingernails I suddenly felt my outfit had become quite frumpy and decided to go buy some pants. I even lingered over lunch on my own and read a junky novel just for fun.

It was heavenly, that's all I can say.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Irvington Index

While at my grandparents' home in Springfield, Massachusetts for the past three days, I found so much to ponder. I realized after a little while that numbers played a significant role in the goings-on, and began to catalog them in my head. I will share many of them for you here in a manner that will be familiar to some readers.

172: The combined age of my maternal grandparents.
63: The number of years they have been married.
50: The number of years they have lived in their large, beautiful home.
9: The number of months they are likely to have left there before relocating to a small senior housing apartment.
2: The number of blind eyes between them.
0: The number of good ears between them.
0: The number of them who is allowed to drive.
1: The number who does drive.
7: The number of times their simultaneous, mixed up, and shouted directions nearly caused my cousin to drive us off the road
2: The hours it takes me to fly there.
2.5: The hours it takes 2 grown women to make an extremely simple dinner with my grandmother (spaghetti, sauce prepared before our arrival, with a garden salad and bread).
2.5: The hours it takes 2 grown women to clear and reorganize my grandparents' medicine closet.
1989: The expiration date of one medication found in the medicine closet we were cleaning out (or, as my grandmother says, "hoeing out")
1,285: The number of band-aids "hoed out" from said medicine closet.
22: The number of times my cousin and I collapsed with laughter about the phrase "hoeing it out" - we felt we'd been remiss in not wearing some kind of ho-bag outfits to our grandparents' house.
11: The number of priceless video clips I gathered for posterity.
1985 : The date of the oldest magazine found in the magazine rack that sits right next to my grandmother's easy chair in the den.
5: The number of trash bags filled with the old newspapers and magazines between those easy chairs.
874: The times my cousin sneezed from the dust raised by our, um, "hoeing".
40: The minimum age, in years, of the mattress I slept on for the past 3 nights.
8: The number of sweet, bright elderly women we met at my grandmother's bridge club meeting. I wanted to hang out with them all afternoon, but they understood that when there's hoeing to be done, ladies can't stick around playing bridge.
52: The number of times my grandmother looked at something old and heinous that she forgot she ever owned to begin with, and completed the sentence, "Well, then I suppose I ought to ____" with the words, "hang onto it!" when we fully anticipated, "throw that one out."
7: The number of king size sheet sets that remained in the closet after 2 hours of haggling over them. She felt she'd really, well, "hoed that out".
2: The number of large black trash bags full of crap that we tried to sneak out to Goodwill before realizing that our blind grandmother could remember exactly what used to be in that particular drawer, and had to sneak back out to the car trunk to retrieve. Oops.
36: The number that sat on my birthday cake last night as my grandparents sang in silly voices and danced around the kitchen in a scene that closely resembled the memorable craziness they pulled on my 18th birthday - half my lifetime ago. The angel food cake that was kindly baked by my uncle's wife, made with fresh egg whites from their own hens, and dripping with delicious blueberry sauce.
562: The minimum number of combined tears that were shed by my cousin and me, starting on Sunday night when my grandmother described what she could see of us as we sat 2 and 4 feet away from her in the den (hint: this did not include our facial features), and then continued as she went on to say that as long as she and my grandfather were together, they'd be fine. This on the heels of cardiac issues for them both, dizzy spells, a recent middle of the night fall, and the advisement that, really, neither of them should be operating a motor vehicle. They are truly living on borrowed time.

Bedtime for Bonzo

More often than not, bedtime with Lyle is nearly insufferable. He's not really ready to sleep when we put him to bed, but his big brother is (you know, the one who no longer naps but took a nap regularly until he was almost 6 - because we finally cut him off). And you just can't get a 1st grader to bed if his 2-year old brother is still running around the house. So we deal with the insanity of Lyle. But tonight was extra-special. Now, I have no idea if this new stuff has been going on a while or if it's just for my benefit because I came home today after being in MA for 3 days - and I won't know tonight because Matt left for a business trip a couple hours after I arrived home - but it's priceless.

First, there was the "singing chair". When I started to sing my usual songs to them, Lyle had a new agenda. "I sit in dis chair," he said, pulling it over. "Umm, okay," I said, and then tried to start the song again. "No! Not dat song! I sing one!" and he broke into a rousing rendition of the ABCs that clearly had the word "Elmo" in place of LMNO. He barely tolerated my singing of the song Baxter chose; before I got the final line out he said impatiently, "Dat was good singin'. Now it's my turn again" and he was off and running with "Tinkle, Tinkle, Wittle Tar".

Once he was finally in bed for a while and I was out here on the couch outside their bedroom, laptop open, catching up on all the blogs I hadn't read over the past few days, he called out that he had to go potty. Huh?? Again, was he simply vying for my attention or did this have something to do with the new Sesame Street "Potty Time" book that came in the mail today? What's a mom to do? So in we went. I sat in front of him and he stared into my eyes in loving wonderment, detailing the colors, startled to see himself, and asking to touch my eyeball. He sang me another song or two. Okay, the same song or two. Baxter heard all the excitement and before I knew it we were all cavorting in the bathroom. Which was nice and all. Except that they were supposed to be in bed.

After another round with the singing chair and another unproductive trip to the potty, he has finally settled down.

It's good to be home.