Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A New Look

Hey, what do you think about The Wonderwheel's rockin' new look? I had a sudden need to jazz it up a bit - give the blog a look that reflected the spirit of my writing a bit more - so I went to my number one source for creativity: Beegee Tolpa, a wonderful illustrator out in Seattle! Beegee is also the brains and artistry behind my business website (and business cards, letterhead, etc.) - she created the logo, layout, and helped us discover our brand last year. (How corporate for a couple of therapists!) Visit her web site to see her work - it's amazing!

All I can say (once again) is THANK YOU, BEEGEE!

[In light of recent conversations, I will add the following disclaimer: Ms. Tolpa did not ask that I review her work on The Wonderwheel. I am paying her in real American dollars for her work. No marketing bribery applies to this situation. Amen.]

Hey, Look What I Got!

(Or, thanks to the sponsors of our Chicago Moms Blog swag bag!)

Here you will find a post on Chicago Moms Blog - there is a great photo of all the writers...I'm the one in the front row, all the way on the left, with the jumbo-sized wine glass in my hand! It's the closest you'll come to seeing what I wore (a black v-neck cap sleeved top with black skirt with white viney print on it); I'm going to have to leave it up to Becky to show you her ensemble.

But of course the POINT is that it's a big thank you to the donors of our swag bag - a truly amazing bag filled to the brim with cool stuff!

Check it out!

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Took the Damn Shoes

Okay, okay! I have taken the shoes! I'm still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but I was going to have to buy school shoes for the boys anyway. And it was kind of a heady experience to choose $135 worth of free shoes . Thanks for all of your input...I'll let you all know what I think.

And, by the way, the issue about ads that we all discussed here last week was a hot topic at the BlogHer conference. Here is a link to a really interesting PR guy who attended the session on this topic, got up to apologize to Mom bloggers for the cheezy emails we receive and for "PR people being so bad at this", and then wrote this post about what we can do if we want to stop the solicitations. It's worth reading.

So. What Don't YOU Do?

You can't have it all, nor can you do it all.

Lately, I've had a lot of FUN - evenings out with my husband, my cousin Kate, and lots of cool women from the blogosphere. Even a weekend away with Matt! I've been downtown more in the last week than I had in the whole year before that. I've been to the theater, parks, a movie, a museum, and an architecture tour; I've had more dinners out than I can count.

I'm home with the kids part-time. I run my own thriving business, working full-time hours. I go out with my husband regularly, and also make time to go out with friends often enough. I do this crazy blog writing. I get real pedicures when I can. I stay in touch with family and friends near and far. I have a new volunteer position at my church and am the Treasurer of our condo association. I'm trying to decide if I would rather pursue a PhD or adopt/foster another child in the next couple of years.

Whoopee! Look at me: I'm Little Miss Perfect!



I don't do it all. In order to have any sanity in my life, there are things that I have let slide. I think we moms - and adults in general - should talk a lot more about what we don't do, because many of us have expectations of ourselves that are way out of whack. If we just understood that no one does all that she thinks she is supposed to be doing, wouldn't we be better off?

Of course, there are things I don't do that I don't feel good about. Since leaving San Francisco, I never got back into my exercise routine. It was just something that got lost in the transition. I have a solid plan to work it back in this fall, and it's already in my schedule, but for now I feel oh-so-yucky.

But it's the other things - the things you aren't doing that don't really bother you - that I want to hear about.

So, let's drop our expectations right now, shall we? I'll get us started:

1. I don't follow the news. I don't watch news (I HATE television news!!) and although I love NPR, I don't have an opportunity to listen to it uninterrupted. We don't get a newspaper. Until recently, we got the Sunday paper but it sat unread each week until we tossed it in the recycling. We had to admit to ourselves that it was time to cancel. The best I do is get the headlines online and occasionally read parts of The New Yorker. Matt fills me in when something big is going on. I really need to get up to speed on the presidential candidates, and I will. But in a regular week, I live in a news vacuum. I don't even know who Paris Hilton is, or what she did.

And it's okay.

2. I don't make real dinners. We eat healthy meals, but they are simple to the extreme. We might have a platter of fresh veggies with burgers. Or "breakfast burritos": scrambled eggs in a tortilla wrap with some black beans and corn. Those are our fancy meals. Quite often, we laugh and remark that dinner prep would sure be easier if we had three microwaves.

And it's okay.

3. I don't clean my own house. This got to be a real problem before we finally gave in and hired someone to help every other week. With our major allergies and disinclination to clean, there is no money better spent. (And let me tell you: the fact that we're forced to clear the house of clutter every other week is almost as helpful as the actual cleaning.)

And it's okay.

4. I don't ever, ever, ever make my kids' (or anyone else's) birthday cakes. I buy them from our favorite bakery or the grocery store.

And it's okay.

5. I don't make my bed. Or the kids' beds. I thought this was something we all let slide until recently!
And it's okay.

6. I don't volunteer at my son's elementary school. But you've already heard about that one.

And it's okay.

Everyone is letting something major slide. So, come on...'fess up! What's on your list?

(PS: You do NOT have to be raising kids to participate in this - non-parents can have just as many challenges in this department as the rest of us!)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hey, Matt! Look Over There!

At times, I enjoy it when Matt's away on business. Even when he's had a trip every week for many weeks in a row.

Of course, of course, I miss his funny self and his help with the kids gorgeous good looks, but there's something sort of fun about staying up late blogging and eating cupcakes doing whatever I want when he's away.

I'm just saying.


My little guy in pink. He wears it well.

BlogHer Drop-Out

Um, folks?


I have a confession to make.

I never actually made it to BlogHer.

Well, wait, that's not technically true; I seemed to show up at most of the parties associated with BlogHer, it's just the actual sessions I appear to have missed.

To be fair, I wasn't planning to go on Friday anyway because I was working. But I fully intended to go on Saturday. I swear, I did! But there was the little problem of Matt being sick...and then both boys going straight into Full Meltdown Mode when I mentioned that I'd be gone for most of the day (remember the part about them being exhausted and cranky on Saturday?). I was out a lot more than usual last week and they were feeling it.

So I looked around at my sick, tired, and cranky guys, acknowledged the fact that I too was feeling very tired, and finally said, "Well, guys, how about if I stay home today?" Needless to say, they were happy. Very happy. Even through their tears, I could tell. (The boys, that is. Matt gets full credit for encouraging me to go even though I'm sure he felt like a truck was repeatedly running over his head.)

I wouldn't have skipped out on a professional conference related to my work, but this nagging voice in the back of my head kept asking, "You'll leave them in this condition? For a blogging conference?? One you didn't even pay anything for?? Really???"

Happily, after all of my guys took long afternoon naps, they were cheerful and refreshed. When I suggested I would go meet some people downtown for dinner, there were no wails. No tears. So, yes, in the end, I just showed up for the party. Again. Only this time I borrowed a very cute necklace from Becky. Because we all know by now that her taste is just a wee bit better than mine.

I got to hang out with Susan Etlinger of The Family Room fame which was a lot of fun - a rather fuzzy photo of us is posted above - and we went to a great Japanese restaurant with a group of Chicago Mom and Silicon Valley Mom bloggers. It was another enjoyable event with smart and funny "womena".

But, um, no, I can't tell you anything about the actual conference. For that, you'll have to look here and here. And there's lots more here.

That's How Bad it Was

Yesterday found the four of us in our kitchen together at lunchtime, Matt and I just barely squeaking by.

The boys were exhausted because we let them stay up late to watch Star Wars (yes! we let them watch Star Wars! aren't we loosening up nicely?!)...Baxter was cranky and hyper at the same time, and Lyle was just a mess of tears and whining.

It was really horrendous.

Matt looked at me with a hopeful expression and asked cheerfully, "Do you know what would be really fun right now?"

"What?" (I knew anything would be better than what we were doing.)

"Poking our eyes out with sticks."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BlogHer: Party Night Review

Wow. I am home from my big blogger parties, and boy am I a litle drunk! (I've just decided to leave all inebriation typos in for your entertainment tonight.)

Okay, so first, I was running late so I ended up taking a taxi downtown to Viand restauarant where I got to meet quite a few of my fellow Chiccago and Silicon Valleu Moms. I really, truly enjoyed meeting them, and had some very nice conversations with so many cool womena. ("Womena"! That's what we call blogging woemen, of course. ) Oh, dear, this post is just getting worse and worse!!

But it's cracking me up, so I'll continue.

Because, as you know, making myself laugh is really what this blog is all about.

So, yes, I met some groovy "womena" from Chicago and Silicon Valley, and ended up having hte "Why did you move from San Franfcisco to Chicago?" and "How did the trnasition go?" conversations a great many times, but evenetually learned to finesse the answer so that the Silicon Valley Moms didn'mt inch away from me due to total insult.

I discovered that I live under a rock because I didnm't realize that I was supposed to bring some kind of hip-looking business card or sticker with my URL on it to hand out, in order to bring in more readers. I was just about the only loser who failed to do so. However, judging from the current post alone, why WOULD anyoner ead this blog?! (And I'm guessing that last sentence alone just lost me my last few readers.)

I would sum upt the dinner by noting that I should've visited the food table more than once. They just kept bringing drinks to us (thanks, Uncle Yahoo!) but we had to actually GO to the food table. And the plate was small. So small. The wine glass was a lot bigger. I'm sure of it.

All of a sudden, I realized it was almost 8:30 and I was supposed to meet my friend Becky at the W Hotel at 8:30 for Party #2! Clutching my ludicrously huge swag bag, I ran out, caught a cab, and stumbled into the W on Lake Shore Drive, where I was met by very flashy decor and loud ass mucis. (That's music, not mucous.) I tried to deal with the nanny calling in sick while I was in the lobby, butg ended up turning it over to Matt, who was admirably holding down the fort back home.

Now, Becky and I - being super-cool bloging woemen - had an instant messaging conversation earlier today in which she mentioned maybe going shopping for something to ewear to this party tonight. I recommended the great sale at Ann Talylor Loft, and off she went. Much to our amusement (and Becky's horror, although I wasn't upset at all), our outfits TOTALLY coordinated. We looked like corny sisters at a blogging event, being of very simialr stature and all. Someone even asked us, "Do you two blog tgogether?" Except they actually said "together", not "tgogether". So that was sepcial. Or, perhaps, special.

But the reason I'm telling yout his is because BECKY got at least THREE compliments on her ensemble - and me? NONE!!! She even got a major compliment from Susan Wagner from Friday Style!! If I remember correctly, this actually prompted me to slap my good friend and holler, "YOU TOTALLY SUCK!!!!" while doubled over laughing, so no one knew what the hell I had seaid. I'm sure they were all quite uncomfoftable, though. Apparently, I totally picked the wrong outfit from this coordinated pair. Sigh.

It was loud and dark at this hipster party, but we managed to have some conversations with woeman we'd never heard of. I collected a great many more blogger cards and will be very curious to read the blogs of the people I met. People are =here from all over - we talkeed to women from St. Lous, Seattle, NY, Atlanta, and Oklahoma. I was very happy to get to meet and chat with both Jess from Oh, the Joys and Susan from Friday Playdate and Friday Style. Each of them was just as I'd imagiend them: charming and lovely. But it was somewhat surreal - at one point I somewhat-drunkenly suggested to Becky that it was like seeing their photos come to life. Well, I guess that's what it would be like to meet someone you've only seen in pictures, now wouldn't it? Duh. (That would'bve been a good time for her to smack me and tell ME that I totally suck, actually.)

On the way out, I saw a few of my old Chicago and SV Moms friends, heading to the elevator to go up. I oh-so-helfpully tole them that the party was on the 33rd floor. As if they didn't know where they were going. Nice. I'll bet they were super grateful.

Anyway, now I'm home trying to drink a lot of water before bed. It's a work night, after all. And I can't get this damn necklace off. Can anyone help me get this necklase off?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wanted: Mary Poppins

Now don't worry. I'm not going to go on and on again about watching Mary Poppins with my kids. (Although my babbling did actually spark a bit of a revival around the country last time...)

No, right now I just need to say that I am feeling really burned out on searching for a new nanny. I hesitate to even post this because I can just see some of you rolling your eyes and thinking this is some privileged rant, right up there with, "Oh, my! I simply can't decide between the Land Rover and the BMW!" or, "I'm having a hell of a time deciding whether to take the cruise or the ski trip this winter!"

Well, of course I do know that in the scheme of things, having a dual income and a nice condo in a big city, and a car, and being able to afford any child care at all is a privilege in this crazy country. But, this is no "nanny diaries" scenario; a nanny has a basic child care provider role in our household. It's just that, well, no one calls them "babysitters" when they work for you long-term. And it doesn't mean we're raking in the big bucks, either; no, we actually - when it comes down to it - can't afford a nanny.

So why do we do it? The prestige? Um, no, not our style. After all, have I even mentioned here that we have a nanny? Is it because we turn up our noses at the other more affordable options, believing that any other type of child care is sub-par for our darling angels? I'm gonna have to say "no" here, too. (Oh, and "Barf.")

Quite the contrary. In fact, we've tried it all, including a home day care, a small child care center, a large child care center, a couple of nannies who brought their own children, a nanny-share with another family, and our own nanny. Each option had its pros, for sure, and there are days when the nanny calls in sick or "dead uncle" and I daydream about a child care center that's always open when it's supposed to be.

I should say here, too, that the other option we tried was me just staying home, because when I worked for a school part-time, my salary pretty much covered child care and not much else. But none of these child care options made me less happy than being at home full-time. It's simply not for me. And you know what they say: if Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy. After six months at home, I started my private practice, which was the perfect solution for me and my happiness. It still didn't make child care easy, however.

Because here's the problem for our family - when your small child gets sick (which mine have been - with their chronic allergies and asthma - a LOT), you just can't bring him to a center or a home day care, because of course he'll get everyone else sick. (And he'll get sicker, just by being there!) So, when you own your own business, as I do, and your child gets sick, you are totally stuck. I am not on a salary; I get paid by my clients for the hours I spend providing therapy to their children; when I stay home for a day or two, we take a significant hit. Matt and I have taken turns, but sometimes he has a business trip or big conference call, and can't stay home. So, in the end, a center is more expensive for us, because of how much money we lose when a child can't go. With a nanny, we have coverage if one of the kids gets a cold, or a low- grade fever, or has some mild asthma. I can still go to work.

Also - and this may scare the pants off of working parents with small children - those big kids in their free public schools? You know, the ones you're looking forward to NOT paying child care for anymore? Well, we have been really stunned by how many frigging days OFF they have ALL THE TIME! I'm not even just talking about the 10 weeks in the summer, 2 weeks over the holidays, and a week for spring break...it's the random, seemingly-constant full- and half-days off that will drive you bananas! And if you're both at work all day, who's with your child? Who the heck is free to pick him up at 12:25 at least a couple times a month?? So, we have been very grateful to have a nanny with Lyle who can also provide all that back-up care for Baxter at no extra fee.

All in all, it makes the most sense for us right now, even though I cringe when I write those checks every Friday and an accountant would surely insist we find a cheaper option.

But the point is, the process of hiring someone new is heinous. The ads, the emails, the phone interviews to screen them, calling their referrals, meeting them, negotiating. We can't pay top dollar, so we meet lots of wonderful nannies who we end up unable to hire. This is depressing. We always find someone eventually, but it's so much work. I knew our current nanny would be taking a teaching job this fall and that we only had her for a year; I hope this next hire will get us through until kindergarten. It's almost exhausting enough this time to make me want to go through an agency, but when I think about spending so much money for a middle-man, I figure we can do it ourselves just one more time.

Please, let it be just one more time.

Friday Night Rules

First, you take the kids out to dinner at the Heartland Cafe. You load 'em up on good food and really sugary desserts, like this:

and this:

Then you let 'em loose on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, and sit on the bleachers to watch the show. If you're really lucky, it'll look something like this:

and this (I like to call it "The Muppet"):

And then the Little One might get involved with some Hot Summer Night Rain Boot Stompin':

Perhaps you'll get a deep bow when the show's finally over:

Finally, start walking back home. You really oughtta get these crazy monkeys off to bed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taking Shoes=Selling Out?

Corporate America is officially sitting up and taking notice of Mom Bloggers. I've seen reviews of everything from restaurants all the way up to a car one Mom was given to drive her family around in for a week.

As you know, I agreed to review the labels because I do love labels and it was fun. But I do not actually disagree with Matt that there's a sell-out factor here. I whole-heartedly agree that advertisers are imprinting their names on far too many places in America, and that part of me wants to say, "Get your grimy hands off of my blog!!!" This is why I haven't allowed ads on this blog.

But. Today I was offered some free, high-end name-brand leather shoes for the boys (we're talking fall shoes that would be in the $50-65 range, whichever ones I wanted) if I'll review them here. The company made it very clear that they want me to post my true opinion, negative or positive, which gives it a focus-group feel. I've always sort of enjoyed focus groups - except then I have to give them a couple hours of my time and the pay-off is actually less than the value of these shoes. However, maybe it's a slippery slope, and before you know it, I am boring the hell out of my readers with product reviews for cool free stuff I didn't want to turn away!

So here's the question I am grappling with today: do I just take some nice shoes for the boys and then tell you how we liked them later...or say "Screw You!" to The Man?

To be honest, I'm leaning towards taking the fancy shoes and running with it, but I really want to hear what you think about it. Really.

Chicago: A Virtual Tour

Selfmademom has already provided our readers with many excellent suggestions about what to do in Chicago. I am now prepared to supplement that information with a virtual tour of a weekend downtown!

My husband and I stayed in the Loop this weekend as a treat for ourselves because we haven't had a night out of the house together since before our almost-3-year-old was born as a public service to you all who are coming to Chicago for BlogHer this week! My husband magically turned some air miles into a reservation for a suite at the lovely Renaissance Chicago Hotel [I knew there just had to be a silver lining to all that business travel he does] and my in-laws wanted to take the kids for the weekend, so we hopped onto Lake Shore Drive and in a mere 20 minutes became eager tourists in our own new city.

[To continue reading this post, please come on over to Chicago Moms Blog...]

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend Report

Matt and I had a fantastic weekend downtown. I am working on a detailed account of all that we did for the Chicago Moms Blog, but for now I'll just say that it was jam-packed full of fun. It's amazing what two adults can find time for when there are no children in tow! (And by that I meant cultural events, folks - this is a family show...)

Fun was the name of the game - we had a lot of laughs and really had a great time together. Just as an example, we spent an entire taxi ride between our hotel and the theater last night taking ridiculous pictures of each other and ourselves with our camera phones. This won't surprise those who know us but may frighten the rest of you!

It's so important for us to get away as a couple and feel that freedom again to do whatever we want and just relax. We hadn't done it in about 4 years, which is truly a shame. We won't let that happen again, believe me!! Happily, Matt's parents had a great time with the boys and are going to take them again in just a few weeks for our anniversary weekend. We're already looking forward to it!

Architecture Cruise

Here are the photos I took yesterday on our riverboat tour! We are having a fabulous weekend being tourists in our own city - more photos will be up later on.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

We're Outta Here!

I am tired. So tired. I haven't gotten nearly enough sleep this week and I'm behind on my work.

The boys are bickering, sitting on each other, and fighting over an alligator. One of them pooped in his pants again last night. We won't say who.

Lyle has unloaded at least 4 full laundry baskets of folded clothes on the floor this week, laughing. He has also thrown shoes all over the shoe store, and chucked an art project of Baxter's into the front seat of the car, causing no end of insanity.

This is why it is the perfect weekend for Matt and me to embark on our Overnight Adventure! Yes, the cheerful, un-burned-out grandparents arrive this very morning to enjoy our beautiful, well-behaved children (ahem) for the weekend!

Matt and I are heading downtown to stay in a nice hotel and hit the city! I'll be reporting in on what we end up doing, but whatever it is, it won't be with the kids.

And right now, that's really all that I'm looking for.

Dora's Death Star Adventure

Only when your kids are two and six could Darth Vader have a charming conversation with Dora the Explorer on the kitchen floor.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Growing Pains

Lyle, having said good-bye to diapers this month, revels in his big boy status. He shouts it from the rooftop every time he sits on the potty, puffing out his miniature chest with pride. This little guy likes to take care of business on his own - he flushes, washes and dries his hands by himself, and is working on getting his clothes back on independently. He looks forward to turning 3 next month and can't wait to start nursery school in the fall.

And yet it is no coincidence that he is simultaneously pretending to be a baby for the first time; crawling down the hall, calling "Mimi", his baby name for me, as he searches for me. He wants to be held in my arms when I'm sitting on the floor, and rocked.

I assure him that - even as he's growing to be so big - he's still my baby, my sweet little boy, and always will be.


Baxter goes off to day camp at the YMCA like a trooper. He's there with a big group of kids, most of them unfamiliar - swimming, playing at parks, doing crafts, walking to the library for story hour, going on field trips in big yellow school buses outside the city. He has mastered the monkey bars and is sporting his first blister. This big guy is working hard at learning to tie his shoes and is nearly there. He reads chapter books by himself for hours a day, happy as can be.

And it is no accident that he is firmly staking his claim on his early childhood as well; he peeks over his Junie B. Jones books, tuning in to his favorite preschool stories. When he overhears us discussing the possibility of me starting a PhD program in a couple years, Matt teasingly trying out the sound of "Dr. Sadler", he tears up with a trembling lip. "But if you're a doctor," he starts to wail, "you'll never be around anymore to take care of Lyle and me- you'll always be helping sick people!" [And wow - where did he get that from?!] Baxter cries at bedtime this summer if he hasn't had enough cuddling, even if I've been under the blanket on the floor with him for half an hour. It's never enough. He curls up next to me exactly as he has done since he was a baby. If there's anything on his mind, this is when it comes out, although it often takes some prodding to get through the tears to the words.

I assure him that - even as he's growing to be so big - he too is still my baby, my sweet little boy, and always will be.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Apres Bath

Thanks for the robes, Nana and Papa!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Going to BlogHer!

I was feeling rather ambivalent about attending BlogHer, which takes place down at Navy Pier July 27-28. My relative disinterest seemed silly because, after all, it's here in Chicago; it's not like I'd have to travel for it, as so many others are doing. Many of my favorite bloggers will be there. I'm not entirely sure of my reasons, but in some ways I appreciate the anonymity of the blogosphere and am not positive that I want to meet the women whose writing I so enjoy reading, no matter how much I think I will like them. I guess I sort of like things the way they are, if that makes sense.

Therefore, when some plans arose for that weekend, I didn't mind putting them on the calendar. Except then those plans were rescheduled...and I won a free pass to the conference as a contributing writer for Chicago Moms Blog, courtesy of Yahoo!...so it looks like I'm going to go, after all. Yahoo! seems to be a fan of the Chicago Moms Blog, because they are also hosting a fancy dinner downtown for us the night before the conference. And today I was invited by Jessica at Oh, the Joys to a fun party in a swank bar at the W Hotel that will take place after the dinner. [Added note: It has just come to my attention that "libations" at this soiree are complimentary! Thanks, Parents Magazine and Goodyblog!]

So, wow! I really am going to BlogHer, apparently!

I'll be sure to let you know who I meet and how it goes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Labels of Love

I'm a sucker for all things office. Just ask my family of origin. Growing up, I loved my Trapper Keeper like nobody's business. (Oooh, all those dividers!) I'd buy pens, paper clips, and pink gum erasers at Bradlees, just because.

And my true confession, that some of my friends won't believe I'm telling you? In fifth grade I asked for a filing cabinet for Christmas.

I did! And I got it. [Thanks, Santa.]

It's the filing cabinet I still use today.

(Gee, I should've thought of this when I wrote my 8 random facts yesterday.)

But, I especially love labels. Not to the extreme that my mother loves labels - no, I haven't gone that far, labeling my guests' towel racks for them. But I do own a label-maker and I sure do love to label me some file folders!

So, my fair readers, you decide: am I a sell-out, or simply geeked-out about labels?

You see, I agreed to try out some personalized Mabel's Labels for free. Free, did you hear me? Free! Labels! And I don't have to tell you about them; I mean, I didn't promise or sign my name in blood or anything. But I said I would if I liked them. You know, I offered. Because I'm nice. You hear that, Matt?

And, well, anyway, the point is that I know my labels. And me likey the Mabel's Labels. I immediately slapped some on my forehead the kids' water bottles, sippy cups, and the Tupperware containers that were heading for camp. Not only are they very cute with nice little sailboat and firetruck images on them that were immediately popular with the little 'uns, but they are really high quality. They have been through a lot of dishwasher cycles already and haven't faded or started to peel.

So there you have it. Perhaps, as some would have you believe, I am a big ole sell-out. But, hell, that's okay - Mama has some new labels.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm It!

I was tagged by Kristin to come up with eight random facts about myself. Here are the rules, as copied verbatim from Kristin's blog:

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

So, without further ado (drumroll, please...) -

1. Since I left my parents' home for college in 1989, I have moved 16 times. Yes, that's right: 16 times in 18 years. You can see why I am so happy to finally live in my very own home, and why we intend to stay here FOREVER.

2. Matt and I have the same birthday. I had my first son on my aunt's 50th birthday and my second son on my grandfather's 85th birthday.

3. Until I was in 2nd grade and moved to a more racially balanced community, I was the only white child among a sea of African American and Hispanic peers. I'll post my kindergarten class picture when I can get it scanned for you. I am most comfortable in diverse settings, and this has always been a major factor in how we choose where we live and where the kids will go to school.

4. I have the uncanny ability to guess the correct time (within a few minutes) when I haven't seen a clock in hours. Matt tested me on this throughout much of our honeymoon. Similarly, I can estimate the time I will arrive somewhere within 1-2 minutes, about 95% of the time. When I call home, for example, I can tell Matt, "I'll be home in 17 minutes" and I'm usually right, even with traffic. He often sets the kitchen timer to see how close I am.

5. I can't wink. I only blink when I try. This has been a source of endless amusement to my husband for, oh, about 13 years now.

6. When I was 4 and my brother was almost 3, we wandered away from our front yard, got into our car to go to McDonald's, released the emergency brake, and put the car in neutral. We rolled down a very steep hill in Hartford, CT, and totalled both a Volvo sedan and a neighbor's brand new Cadillac. We walked away unscathed, but I'm not sure our parents ever recovered.

7. I once got fired by my own mother. (It was deserved.)

8. Growing up, I knew 6 young people, ages 2-22, who had been orphaned (by AIDS, a car accident, and other illnesses) and became part of our extended family. One such little boy lived with my family for half a year. I believe this fact explains my drive to take and organize family photographs, write birthday letters for the boys, complete baby books, write this blog, and have plenty of video footage. It's all for my kids to have down the road. Because you just never know.

Okay! Now, many of the regular bloggers on my reader list have already done this little game, so I am going to tag some friends and family who may blog less often but certainly have no less to say. Please do it!

1. Becky at Go Team Spanson!
2. Cara at MiCaDaNo (yes, folks, Cara has a secret blog - oops! I outed her!)
3. Cassie at Cute and Evil
4. Matt at eyepop
5. Dana at Kaffee, Nicht Kanguruhs
6. Crissy at Random Thoughts
7. Julie at JEBM
8. Ben at The Penny Ante

Nerds Do McDonalds

You've already heard what happens when high-minded liberal arts nerds try to expose their children to the Super Bowl. But have you ever seen a crunchy mom try to take her kids to McDonalds for the first time?

It goes something like this...

Mom (thinking): Hmmm...there's a McDonalds and it's past lunch time...we were reading that Little Critter book last night and the boys didn't know what a drive thru was...that's a shame, isn't it? I have great memories of the McDonald's drive thru! Like the drive to Plymouth, MA, when my brother and I leaned into the front seat on Christmas Day and hollered into the microphone, "Merry Christmas!!" to the cashier and my Dad bellowed, "SHUT UP!!!" - also into the microphone. Or my grandfather trying to order us some Chicken McNuggets and calling them "Chicken McScroogits". Really...what's a childhood without the McDonald's drive thru? [Sometimes you have to throw your values to the wind for a moment and pretend you didn't see "SuperSize Me".]

You should have seen their faces. When I placed the order, Baxter's eyes were big as saucers and his hands were actually clapped over his mouth.

But I wasn't very good at it.

Me: "We'd like two Happy Meals...yes...uh, boys' Happy Meals (at what point did Happy Meals become gender-specific? that is so lame)...one with a plain cheeseburger and the other with McNuggets [I wished I'd had the nerve to say McScroogits, just for old time's sake]...does that come with fries?...okay, and also some apple dippers...and white milk...okay..."

And I couldn't quite bring myself to order my own lunch at this place.

As we waited for our turn at the window, Lyle, the last preschooler in America not to have seen Ronald McDonald, asked, "Mommy! Who is that guy waving to me with the big yellow hand?" I figured Baxter would answer that for me.

But he didn't know, either.

I clearly have a ways to go with their education, don't I?

I was disappointed to learn that a) when I ordered apples, it replaced the fries I'd made sure were included (damn!) and b) they forgot the caramel dip for the apples (double damn!!). As Matt put it when we got home, "McDonalds? Not always such a sharp crew over there, honey."

But a highlight for me was when we got home and the boys went running in to tell Daddy that they had brought home lunch from McDonalds - Baxter raced in, shouting, "Daddy! Daddy! We got..." and here he faltered a bit, "...Happy Lunches!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pajama Walk

Inspired today by this post which I could really relate to (as in, "Oh my God, why are they fighting now??" and "Why isn't today a camp day again?!"), I remembered the importance of relaxing and letting the good times roll this summer (my favorite line from the above post: "...I get so worn out by the daily grind that I forget that when you're almost five, the best part of summer is playing board games in your underwear").

So tonight, when it was still only 7 PM and the boys were arguing again and Matt was somehow still away on his business trip, the cool summer night beckoned.

First, I took them out in their jammies. Yep, we threw on some sandals and went down the block to the lake. Just because. I didn't want them to actually go into the lake in their pj's at that hour - it was chilly, after all - so they pretended to swim along the sidewalk. I kid you not. I'd have one of America's Funniest Home Videos if I'd had the foresight to grab the video camera. Foiled again.

Then I suggested popsicles on the front porch. Yeah, so what if it was already past their bedtime and they'd both need a new clean pair of jammies for bed? It's summer!

Baxter looked at me like I had three heads. "But -- we already had dessert!" I countered with, "Well, so, is Double Dessert Night such a bad idea?" He quickly agreed that, indeed, it was not, and suggested in an awed tone that this night was sort of like having Oma and Pops babysit.

I noted that, sometimes, parents like to break all the rules, too. He was happily surprised.

I think we both were.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the Mouths of Babes

Lyle's bedtime summary of the Condo Association Potluck tonight [hosted by us with one hour's notice due to rain and without Matt]:

Me: "Good night, Lyle. I'm sorry that dinner meeting was so hard for us tonight."

Lyle: "Yeah, me too. I said, 'Mommy! You. read. this. book. right. now!!!!' and you said, 'No, Lyle, I can't read it until after the meeting!' and I said, 'No!!!! Read! It! Now!!' and you said [grim voice], 'Just look at the pictures until we're all done here, please' and I shouted at you! I said, 'No!!!! Read it now!!!' and then I went in the sun room and jumped on Baxter and threw his book and hit him!"

Me: "Yes, honey, that's exactly how it happened."

I am a Muppet

Tell me, dear readers, am I the only one around here who watches "Sesame Street" and can relate to a Muppet?

I do love "Sesame Street", I still think it's one of the best things on television, and that's a very short list for me. (The only other thing I can think of right now, besides serious PBS stuff, is "The Simpsons". Of course, I don't get cable, nor do I even watch TV, so don't listen to me.) I don't get to watch it much, though. It's probably been 6 months since I last saw an episode. Today, however, the planets were in alignment and Lyle and I were home without much going on at the appointed hour, so I invited him to watch it with me.

Somehow, every time I see Bert and Ernie from an adult vantage point, I get the giggles. I can't help it; they remind me of Matt and me. I am Ernie to his Bert.

Now, don't get me wrong - Matt's not that cranky! But those of you who know him when he's tired know that you do not mess with him. (And, like Bert, he would totally be Doin' The Pigeon if asked.) [If you're short on time, just watch the second half of that Pigeon video - you won't be disappointed.] Furthermore, he's tall and thin and has his quirks - he may not collect bottle caps, sure, but he's got his little oddities. And me? Unabashedly Ernie. My poor Bert might be all tuckered out, trying to settle down for the night, and here I come with the trumpets. Or Dingers. Or my Rubber Duckie song, reggae version. And he's there hiding his head under his pillow, whining at me to stop and I'm just having too much fun - I can't! And then, like my crazy "Sesame Street" alter ego, I drop into bed and have the audacity to fall asleep within seconds...literally. Meanwhile, he's still buzzing from my onslaught and lies awake for a loooong time.

Yup. Ernie and Bert. Right here in our very home.

And when my Bert's away - as he is right now - things just aren't the same.

So tell me, do you see yourself/partner/mother/child/neighbor/president in a Muppet?

Please...tell me you do.

June Just Post Award!

Hey, cool!

I submitted my post entitled "Reaching Out" to the June Just Post awards and just saw that I'm one of the recipients!

These are for posts that "have to do with community building, social justice, and the raising of awareness".

There are a lot of us, so go check out the complete list of recipients at Oh, The Joys! (Also in this linked post are instructions about how to nominate one of your own posts or someone else's to these monthly round tables.)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Museum Passports? What's Next!

Here's something else that's great in excess: the library!

Did you know that the Chicago Public Library has a program called Great Kids Museum Passport? This enables us to check out a "Passport", which is a free general admission pass for four, to any of the excellent museums here in the city for free! Wow! Do other cities have this? I've never heard of it anywhere I've lived.

You get what you get - in other words, you look at the chart that shows which passes are in on any given day. Baxter was sad that the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium were all checked out today, but I was pretty psyched about the one I got for The Art Institute. It's ours for a week. Of course, I was remembering our schedule incorrectly when I picked one up, and we may not actually get there this week, but I like knowing that if we do, all four of us can get in for free!

So What Should We Have?

I'm still thinking about excess today - forgive me. But as I worked out - hard! - at the Y for the first time in months thanks to some cancellations this morning, I thought, "This is what I need in excess!", which got me thinking about what we should have in excess.

In addition to exercise, I added to my list:

Uninterrupted sleep
Quiet, alone time
Uninterrupted play time with the kids
Time to talk to my husband
Time to help other people more
Coffee (without the jitters)

Oooh, look at that. It's about sleep, more time, and coffee. In that order.

I'll keep working on it.

So let me channel my inner liberal arts college grad -- therapist -- Unitarian Universalist -- softie self and ask you:

What would you really like to have in excess? (And if it's shoes - *cough* *Cara!* - go ahead and say it!)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Oh, and Clutter? You Be Gone, Too.

Matt started hitting me with facts from the Unclutterer web site this afternoon. You know, things like "American homes are 80% bigger now than they were in 1970 and yet there is a storage crisis - no one has room for their belongings." Egads!

I cannot tell you how very much facts like these make my ass twitch. It's hard to get me too tweaked out about things, but the extreme excesses of this nation of ours really gets me going. It is everywhere: our houses, the size of our cars, the number of cars we feel we need, the TV watching, the number of TVs in our homes, the clothing and shoes in our closets, the food we consume, the size of an entree in restaurants, and the amount of stuff we need to have around us. You know, just to name the first few that come to mind.

Matt and I have shocked more than a few people when we told them that we didn't put a bid on another home because it was just too big. It was on our very block, a few houses closer to the lake even, and gorgeous. I mean, absolutely beautiful arts and craft details that were perfectly preserved. It was slightly more expensive than ours, but still within our range. And we both walked out of there, and said wistfully, "It's too bad - it's just too big for us." The condo we bought feels palatial to us; we never did find out how many square feet exactly, but somewhere between 2,000 and 2500. Plenty big; certainly big enough to have too much clutter already.

So when Matt started rattling off these facts today and said that he was ready to make a concerted effort to declutter the house, I was on fire. Within seconds - no joke - we had emptied out a boxful of dishes and glasses from among our everyday things in the kitchen cupboards, right where we were standing, bound for donation.

The four of us were playing down in the playroom a little while later, and I was drawn by a strong magnetic force to the two large storage rooms adjacent to that area. Before anyone realized what was going on - myself included - I had started pulling everything out of both closets: reorganizing, unpacking boxes we hadn't opened since the move, and chucking crap left and right. I was trapped back there for the better part of an hour, handing large boxes of give-aways to Matt over towering stacks of bins and boxes. Those closets have a whole lot more space in them than they used to.

We now have 8 large cardboard boxes stacked up in our kitchen to give away.

And, people, that is only the beginning.

Diapers Be Gone!

As if by magic: no more diapers.

We started with Lyle on Tuesday, and by now he has proven to be capable of leaving the house in underwear. He uses the potty in public restrooms from coffee shops to church, and stays dry in between. It has taken some extra effort to help him learn to get Numero Dos in there, but when I took him to the Starbucks across the street yesterday (after a particularly gruesome clean-up) and we picked out the world's biggest chocolate chunk cookie as a reward (okay, he only got a piece of it!), the child was desperate to get it all in there, if you know what I mean.

I am not a big fan of forcing potty training. I would never have done this if Lyle's new nursery school didn't require it. With Baxter, we did it on his timetable. So what if he was 3 and a half? That's okay - there were really no accidents to speak of, and he was night trained at the same time. Pretty damn easy.

But I'm here to tell you, if I have to push it, I am a big fan of going cold turkey. (As for the M & M rewards...this Floortimer is not above using behavioral food rewards for this particular job!) None of this wearing Pull-Ups during the day as a transition, because I'm sorry: those just feel like diapers to a toddler. So what if we had a couple of tough days? No biggie in the long run. We do the Pull-Ups at nap and night, mostly so we can make a big deal about No More Diapers, and indeed we have given the diapers away to younger children of Lyle's choosing.

I'm sure it'll be a bit rocky for a while, but we've had 0-1 accident(s) per day for the past few days so we're doing great over here.

Guess I can go back to work tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

True Fireworks

When you have a small child, it is very possible that your Fourth of July will not consist of picnics, barbecues, and fireworks. At least, not in the traditional way.

It is altogether possible, instead, that you will spend the hours from 8 am to noon "picnicking" on the cold marble of your bathroom floor, awaiting the "fireworks" of successful potty use.

You may sit there for nearly half an hour, reading book after book after book to the young innocent perched on his potty seat on the toilet with no success, only to go back into the kitchen and within 3 minutes hear the words, "Mommy, I just pee-peed in my underwear!" You are then required to patiently say, "Okay, let's clean you up and go pick out some dry ones."

While your husband, older son, and friends from out of town drink coffee, play games and chat in the kitchen, you will only stop in for brief periods before the timer goes off and you gather up the good will to say, "Okay, our 10 minutes are up! Time to go try again!" in a cheerful enough voice that the child will join you. It is quite possible that you will begin to seriously doubt the child's readiness and wonder if this holiday spent on the bathroom floor will be in vain.

But by lunchtime, you may notice the world's tiniest drop of urine on the edge of the potty seat as your child gets up. You will be so desperate by this time that you make a really big deal of that microscopic droplet and give him the coveted M&M. This could just prompt him to realize that there is a lot more where that droplet came from. The young innocent will shout out that it's time to sit on the potty, and might really do it, begging for his next injection of baby crack M&M. It's altogether possible that this will go on for the next 20 minutes, turning what for most of us would be one quick trip to the bathroom into 6 different trips, each one earning another treat.

Should this happen to you, I can guarantee that you will feel such a rush of pride in your little one - and in yourself for having enough patience and faith in him to keep going - that it will be worth the cold, hard floor picnic of the past 4 hours. You won't even mind missing an outing to see Ratatouille or the trip out with friends for the evening's holiday festivities.

Because these are the fireworks that life is made of.

Happy 4th of July!

Sweet Dreams

Baxter woke up and found his way to my air mattress on the living room floor (we've got friends staying with us). He snuggled in with me, as he does every morning, and proceeded to be even cuter than usual.

"I dreamt all night about my iPhone," I admitted sheepishly to Matt and Baxter.

"I had a dream, too!" Baxter said, "I dreamed that I was in the cafeteria at school and" - here his eyes widened with excitement - "they served us peanut butter and honey sandwiches!!"

We cracked up. This is his favorite lunch.

"And..." he continued with his characteristic enthusiasm, "there was a package of Oreos! Ten little Oreo cookies!"

He looked at me and added conspiratorially, "I only ate half. I saved the other half for after dinner." (cue Mother's heart melting)

But it gets better.

"I shared them with Lyle after dinner. But 5 is an odd number, so I gave him 2." He looked at me nervously to see if that was alright. It was better than alright; it was hard not to cry tears of happiness over his generosity right then and there.

A while later, Lyle woke up. I said, "Lyle, you won't believe it! Baxter had a dream that he had some chocolate cookies...and he shared two of them with you!"

Lyle, in a hilarious mood because he'd slept so late, threw back his head and guffawed in delight and disbelief. "But, Mommy..." he exclaimed, "Baxter should only give me one cookie!"

(Yes, this is a true story. Every word.)

"Why is that, Lyle?"

"Because I'm still yittle! One cookie is plenty!"

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bodily Malfunctions

Potty training boot camp started in earnest this morning and is off to an inauspicious start. As you may remember, I started early with Lyle last week and he did okay (floor: 3, potty: 4) but then he had an outing to the zoo planned with his babysitter followed by a few days of, um, stomach distress, and there was no way we were potty training with that going on.

I'm off work now until next Monday, so we're doing it right now. (I do love the way I spend my time off from work - it never fails to be super glamorous.)

Our first experience this morning was too gruesome to describe. Suffice it to say, I actually threw out his favorite Elmo soccer underwear.

My saving grace is that Matt has just walked into the Apple store on Michigan Ave. after waiting in a relatively short line, and has two tickets in hand for iPhones.

(Yes, we're doing it. We decided yesterday that it was better to just get 'em than to keep talking about it and have Matt so insanely distracted.)

Given that, I am sure I can withstand any bodily malfunctions today. But wish me luck anyway.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Spotted in My Kitchen

As Seen in Rogers Park

1. Out to lunch at the Heartland Cafe (mmmm!) with my friend Cara yesterday, a middle aged couple showed up on the sidewalk next to our table. They had a small baby stroller and took turns making googley eyes at the little one inside. Mummy took baby for a walk up and down the sidewalk while we finished off our lattes and I wondered idly if they were parents who were starting later in life, or maybe the grandparents.

"Oh my God!" whispered Cara suddenly.


"I - I think that's a dog in there!"

I couldn't look. You already know how I feel about the babyfication of dogs.

"It is. I think it is!!" she said. They were about 5 feet from us.

"Just please tell me this animal is not well - or injured: two broken legs?"

"Umm, no. I really don't think so," she replied.

When I finally gathered the strength to turn and look, this dog was walking quite normally around on the sidewalk.

"I'm speechless," was all I could come up with.

Cara acknowledged that neither my speechlessness nor seeing a dog in a stroller happens every day.

2. I'm sitting in the home office this morning when a kind citizen roller blades through the alley, hollering in a food-hawker-at-the-Cubs-game voice, "Street cleaning! Move your cars! Save some money! Street cleaning!"

Now that's a public service I'd pay for.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Speech Therapist's Child Not Immune to Challenges

A speech therapist describes her struggle to understand her own child's speech in this post over at The Family Room!

A Tribute to Ravinia

Snuggling on a quilt under huge green maple trees, listening to Lyle Lovett and kd lang, watching the fireflies come out

Bellies full of olive bread, salami, goat cheese, tomatoes, strawberries, potato chips, and even sushi

(and teasing Matt about all that celery)

Sipping a gin & tonic in the excellent company of friends

Drinking red wine from Becky and Aaron's Springfest cups

A warm June day shifting to a cool June night

Riding the Metra back through all the fancy North Shore towns to our own well-loved - and far more gritty - Chicago

Feeling like summer might just last forever


Craftmobile Gets My Vote

Hats off to the Chicago Park District. I mean, really. I know they don't get everything right - they are, after all, a large urban organization. I heard yesterday about a public pool that was closed prematurely due to inadequate staffing, much to the chagrin of the parents present. But when my friend and I showed up at Senn Playlot Park in Edgewater this morning, there were a couple of long tables set up with necklace-making and paper bag puppet projects, staffed by relatively cheery women. Our two-year olds sat there studiously gluing pom-pons on brown lunch bags and trying desperately to grasp a bead just right to pull that string through. This, after playing on the fabulous new structures, jumping on the sproingy surface, pretending to put out fires on the big fire truck, and romping in the water sprinkler!

Many thanks to the Park District's Craftmobile, which will visit Senn Park (among others) once a week for 6 weeks this summer.

(Originally posted at the Chicago Moms Blog.)