Sunday, September 30, 2007

Movie Night

I've mentioned that we have re-instituted our traditional Friday Night French Toast dinners here at Chez Wonderwheel, and I think I've even shared that we added a "game night" element with the kids after the French toast. But have I told you that Saturday night is now "Movie Night"? Usually all the kids want to watch is "CARS", but last night I talked them into watching home movies for Movie Night and they fell for it loved the novelty of this idea!

Given the rapid changes in technology, we had one rather large video camera attached to the TV to watch videos of Baxter's babyhood and another somewhat smaller digital video camera hooked up to watch Lyle's early days. Both cameras were substantially larger than the one we use now. Clearly it's time to put these clips on DVDs for easy viewing and safe-keeping.

At any rate, a few things were really striking. For one thing, it became clear that I remember a whole hell of a lot more about Baxter's early years than Lyle's, despite Lyle's being so recent. It makes sense; Lyle is our second child and there was a lot more going on during his first couple of years, what with his big brother running circles around us AND TALKING NON-STOP and all. I loved seeing Lyle as a baby again and remembering what a sweet little guy he was; the way he would light up with those big sparkly eyes if I so much as turned in his direction. I always said that Lyle's just happy to be noticed and it was certainly true in those video clips.

And Baxter - oooh, he was adorable! That big round Charlie Brown head and the super-pudgy body that is now long and thin as a rail! The constant movement - singing, dancing, racing through the house at top speed -- oy. I would never have remembered his 3-year old voice - so much higher than it is now, and constantly nasal due to his Bay Area allergies. (In fact, in every video clip we watched, we were all sick - I'm not even exaggerating - stuffy noses, hacking coughs...we were sick all the time there with things blooming all year 'round. Cripes, that brought back memories.)

But what was most amazing for us to see in these videos was the interaction between the boys and how incredibly sweet and loving they've been with each other since the beginning. Clips of Baxter feeding Lyle, playing with him in the bath tub, and dashing in and out from under his high chair to play peek-a-boo. He had that baby laughing so hard on a regular basis that I thought the child was going to tip over! It really helped me to appreciate how attached the boys have been from the beginning and what a loving big brother Baxter has always been. They are truly a dynamic duo.

It was also a great reminder to keep taking video clips as they get older. The fact that I simply cannot remember what it was like to parent a 4-year old and 4-month old means that I just might not remember the experience of having a 6-year old and 3-year old, either. These blogs will certainly help, but seeing the boys playing together, hearing the sweet lisping voices and giggles, and witnessing the great love between them in action - well, there's just no comparison.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tonight at the Dinner Table...

Matt (overly cheerful): "Honey, Baxter asked a really good question today!"

Me (warily looking from him to Baxter): "What was that?"

Matt: "Well, I thought it was something he should ask you. He was wondering who invented place mats, and it seemed like you would know since it must have been someone in your family!"

My anal-retentive neat freak family members just said a collective, "Ouch."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bumper Love

My husband reported on seeing this bumper sticker yesterday. I love it, and hope he figured out how to get one for our car.

I saw one that I loved as well just yesterday. It read:

"We're making enemies faster than we can kill them."

Sobering, no?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not All that Well, Apparently...

Today, I raced over to Trader Joe's while Lyle was in school - a rare opportunity to go without the kids. I got back home, unloaded the perishables and some of the dry goods, and then realized that if I wanted to check in online I'd better get to it before Lyle would need to be picked up.

You see, I'd been without my trusty laptop for 16 whole hours (imagine!) because I left it behind at Burley's Curriculum Night last night (I'd been without the car all day and so took 3 trains, a bus, and a taxi yesterday to get everywhere I needed to go, lugging my laptop - and three other bags - everywhere I went) after I'd worked at the PTA table for fifteen minutes and then had run up to hear Baxter's teacher speak. The president of the PTA (thank goodness) found it and brought it home with her, and I drove out to meet her where she was playing tennis with a friend to get it before I could even go to Trader Joe's this morning - so I had some email to read and - dear God! - at least, like, 3 important posts to read on Google Reader before any more time passed!

Suddenly I looked up and realized that it was time to get Lyle immediately. I dashed through the kitchen on my way to the car and out of the corner of my eye noticed something rather horrifying. Check out how I'd left my kitchen (annotated version here):

I groaned out loud and then had to giggle as I asked myself (in my best Dr. Phil voice), "So, that whole 'Down with Multitasking''s that working for you?"

On Freedom

Baxter, who has been learning about American symbols at school: "If we have freedom ...well, then why do we have to go to school and do homework?!"

Good question, that.

Natural Beauty in the City

We recently discovered the gorgeous North Park Village Nature Center here on the north side of Chicago. Here are my personal photos from our last excursion there, and here is a post I wrote for Chicago Moms Blog all about it!

Have I mentioned that I love this city?

Yeah, yeah, I know. I have.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's My Time Now

Ever since Lyle was born, Tuesdays and Thursdays have been our days. I've always felt extremely lucky that Baxter was old enough to be in preschool part-time right from our earliest days with Lyle. It has given Lyle and me a lot of special time together, the kind of time his older brother had with me, but many younger siblings never really get. Therefore, when I realized last winter that one of the best nursery school options for Lyle might require me to give him up on our Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I felt a sense of loss. I would have loved for him to go to preschool on the days when I work, but it just didn't work out that way.

And so, here I sit on a Tuesday morning without a child at my side for the first time in about three years. It wasn't my fantasy morning because in the end I had to take the car to the mechanic after dropping Lyle off, and needed to walk home from there, but I made sure that I stopped at a great coffee shop for a latte and a few quiet minutes of reading before I walked the rest of the way home through the warm, humid day.

Lyle marched excitedly into nursery school, just desperate to see what his teachers had in store for him today. With a little CARS vehicle tucked safely into one of his shorts pockets, he played with construction trucks in the sand table and smiled when I gave him a kiss. He was looking forward to staying longer today and getting to have snack and playground time for the first time. He is ready, and this is truly more important for him at this stage than the mornings at home with me.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have an excellent Paul Auster book to get back to.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Map It!

One of the best things I've learned in my profession for dealing with challenging social behaviors is something called behavior mapping. It's a wonderful strategy that we can all implement, whether our children have social-cognitive difficulties or are neurotypical.

Come on over to The Family Room, where I confess that I've had to use it at know, just once or twice...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Remember Recess?

Kids at Baxter's (otherwise wonderful) school receive the least amount of physical activity I've ever heard of.

Come read my rant about it over at Chicago Moms Blog!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Do you ever wonder what life with all these attachment parented children will be like as they grow older? You know, the ones whose parents spend every waking moment with them (often "wearing" them all day), maintain a family bed, allow for very little crying, and respond to every peep?

Well, actually, I can't speak for those kids for sure, because that's not really the way it went down over here. Sure, we used the sling and Baby Bjorn a lot, each of the boys slept in our bed for 4-6 weeks, I breastfed them both until they were a year old (but also supplemented with formula because I was working part-time and couldn't keep up with them using the pump) and, absolutely, we were extremely interactive with our kids from birth on.

So, okay, we weren't reading poetry or playing Mozart for them in the womb - or even afterwards, for that matter - but they have been in a very social and nurturing environment. We have been sitting on the floor playing with them as long as they've been able to do so. I think we've done attachment parenting "lite", but the Drs. Sears would definitely have taken exception at times. [Especially when we let them each cry for hours (yes, hours is what it took, I'm sorry to say) in the middle of the night, feeling unloved and alone in the world, so that we could get some damn sleep (eventually). But I stand by that particular decision; I'd do it all again.]

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, even kids like ours who have not been raised with strict attachment parenting techniques and were left crying in their cribs have been in an extraordinarily nurturing environment and are, well, extremely attached to us.

Okay, truth be told, what I really want to say is this: if they were more attached to me, I'd jump out a 4th story window. Because, could someone PLEASE tell me how, when your children get to be 3 and 6, you might get them to play on their own for a while? Together, without the adult? In. A. Different. Room.

We have a huge play room for the kids. It's full of great, imaginative toys, games and books. They love it! Well, that is, they love it when one of us is down there actively playing with them. This afternoon, I needed time to do some typical household chores. I feel that my kids are at an age where they should be able to go play in another room when I need them to. The boys, apparently, had a different opinion. They actually needed to be right under my feet, wherever I was, playing an extremely loud crash-'em-up game with their cars. There was absolutely no way I could make the phone calls that I needed to make and I felt really and truly stuck. I am grateful that they play together so well these days, and maybe it's because they've gone downstairs without me once in a while recently that I'm so desperate for more - they've proven themselves capable of it. And in fact, when they have a friend over, they go down there and I literally don't hear from them in over an hour. It's just that - the rest of the time - they only want to be with ME.

I tried simply telling them it wasn't a choice: go downstairs now and play while I make dinner. You would not believe the scene - it was atrocious. In the end, they were driving me so freaking nuts that I allowed them to stay near me if they read quietly to themselves so that I could think straight. In other words, I LOST.

I really do know that someday the boys will be downstairs in that room for hours at a time, and it will no longer resemble this playroom in any way; it will probably have a TV, video games, and pool table in it, and reek of teenage boy feet. They will likely grumble when I ask them to come upstairs at all, and I will be cooking five times this amount of food for dinner, just wishing for them to be little and running around the kitchen again.

So maybe it's not worth the battle at all, and I should just embrace the insanity of these years, revel in their attachment to me, and know that soon enough they'll be far too busy to want to play Lightnin' McQueen with their Mommy (beautiful guy that I am).

I do still wonder, though, if we didn't do them a bit of a disservice by being at their sides quite so much in their infancy and toddlerhood, and by not challenging them just a little more to play independently in those years.

Actually, I don't wonder at all. For my kids, I am sure of it.

A Beautiful Guy

When you have only sons, you may be lucky enough to have one of them approach you and lovingly stroke your cheek with his hand, staring into your eyes as if you're the most amazing creature he's ever seen. And then, because he's heard no other words for what he wants to say, he might breathe, "What a beautiful guy."


Today over at Chicago Moms Blog it's "Testosterone Day", the annual "hand the keyboard over to the Dads day". Matt was kind enough to acquiesce, and you can read his post here.

Many of you don't know that Matt - a linguistics and philosophy double-major back in college, and a writer and namer (how cool is that?) by trade - is an excellent writer. Not only does he prove that with today's post, but he also took the opportunity to be kind to me, rather than complain about the evenings I spend blogging rather than watching "Arrested Development" and eating popcorn.

He truly deserves the title "beautiful guy".

(And I'm not just saying that because he took the boys to the Ice Cream Social at school and let me stay home tonight.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baby Carmen Goes to School

Tonight when we were playing before bed, Lyle handed me his little Baby Carmen doll (so named after his new nanny - adorable).

"You need to go to school now, Baby Carmen," he explained.

Knowing that my son has some mild nervousness about being dropped off (for a whole hour!) at nursery school for the first time tomorrow morning, I made Baby Carmen squeak, in perfect imitation of Lyle himself, "But, Daddy! I'm nervous about school!"

He looked at her for a moment, and then took her from me and cradled her in his arms, kissing her on the top of her newborn head. "I will carry you there. You'll be fine. The teachers there are...good."

"But...where will you be?" asked Baby Carmen.

"I have to go to work, and you will be fine. You'll be safe with the teachers. And I will always pick you up after the Good-bye Song and take you home," he told her with great assurance.

"What will I do there?" asked his Baby, still sounding nervous.

"Oh! You will play with blocks, and the babies in the water table, and even the chef! There's so many toys there!" he told her, big brown eyes lighting up more with each item he named.

"But what if I miss you?" she asked.

He thought about this for a moment. "Mmm, maybe you should bring a teddy bear, like Wemberly brought Petal to school?"

Brilliant suggestion! (Any idea that can lead to reading a Kevin Henkes book is automatically brilliant, as far as I'm concerned.)

He picked out a teddy bear for Baby Carmen that was literally twice as big as she was, declared it Petal, and she held it tight.

Lyle brought the baby to "school" across the room, gave her "a big hug and a big kiss" and then gently deposited her on a chair and went off to work.

I think we're gonna be okay.


In case you were wondering what this crazy crew was doing a year ago...

And how about two years ago?

What fun to be able to go back and get such a clear picture of it all.

All Their Babies Are Gone Now

I can hardly stand it. I have observed on my Sitemeter in the past couple of weeks a notable spike in people arriving at The Wonderwheel after Googling "anna quindlin all my babies are gone now". I saw this spike around Mother's Day and now here it is again.

When it occurred to me that this can only be due to the fact that a huge number of mothers just sent their last child out into the world this fall - for college or wherever they went - it made my heart hurt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Because We're in Chicago, After All

Closed Captioning strikes again. This morning I almost fell off the treadmill laughing when I read the following "translation" of a local news report:

"Authorities say that the car reportedly popped a tire, rolled over the side of the road, and landed in a deep dish."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Down with Multitasking!

All this pesky concern about Baxter's lack of attention at school has, naturally, heightened my awareness of the way all of us pay attention. I find myself frequently irritable about the lack of attention span in our society to begin with: the mom on her cell phone while "playing" with kids at the playground, the dad with eyes glued to his Blackberry at the school function, the family with a TV and/or stereo blaring in the background of every other interaction. You know what I mean, and the list goes on and on.

We, of course, are not immune to this. I try to be conscious of it, but I check email on my laptop sometimes in the midst of making dinner for no particular reason, and all too often I recall something very important in the middle of a game with the kids and jump up to take care of it while I'm thinking of it. It's like we're an entire society with an attention deficit disorder. No wonder we're scattered, over-tired, and not satisfied with our interpersonal lives. I know I'm not the first to point this out, but it's something I think about a lot.

I'm trying to make more of an effort in this domain. When Baxter was painstakingly writing out all of the sentences for his "Me Poster" yesterday, and I had nothing to do but sit there in silence, I sat there in silence. It was difficult not to hop up and get a drink, sort the mail, fill out the school forms, or empty the dishwasher. Not to check email on my iPhone, which was just over there at the other end of the table. Not to engage him in conversation. Just to sit there and wait for him to be finished so that I could help him move on.

How do we expect our kids to sustain attention to a half hour lesson in school when we can't even sit and wait for them to write for five minutes without multitasking at home? What are we modeling for them?

I'm relieved to share the good news of the day - Baxter received a written comment in his homework book from his teacher today: "Awesome worker today!"

If he can improve, so can I.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Damn These Glasses

Have you ever had an experience that caused you to see your child in a new, significantly altered light? Sometimes this is triggered by something unique he has done, or maybe a surprising comment from someone else?

I know parents of children diagnosed with special needs talk about this sensation, and I often work with them to remember that the child sitting in front of them is the same child they had before the diagnosis - that the diagnosis hasn't actually changed their child, even though it feels that way for a while.

I had one of those experiences last Thursday and I've been too confused and upset to know how to write about it, but I'm going to try. I apologize in advance for the length.

When I picked Baxter up from school, he came running to me and said, "Mommy, Ms. C-- wants to talk to you," and promptly buried his head in my hip and began to cry. ("Oh crap!" I thought, "has he broken classroom crayons again?!") I walked around the fence with both Baxter and his carpool buddy in tow, and approached his new teacher, who declared in a very loud voice (she's known for this) and in front of a large group of parents waiting for their kids, "Baxter is having a very, very, very, very, very, very [she really did say it at least this many times] hard time paying attention at school." Oh. Gulp.

I got through the remainder of this conversation somehow, and later in the afternoon had collected myself enough to call the teacher to talk further about it and try to understand better what she meant exactly. And I don't know how I feel about it.

A big part of me is irritated with my son. He's so busy talking to his friends and watching what they're doing that quite often he's not even turned towards the teacher when she's teaching - and this is after she's seated him at the very front of the group. [Ouch.]

I suddenly have flashes: Baxter at home, blowing us off when we ask him to do something - Baxter at soccer sitting in the grass looking into the distance while the coach is teaching them something - and so on. I never thought it was particularly noticeable in a group of kids; I mean, it always seemed like they all did this stuff sometimes. But now I am told that he's having a far harder time with it all of a sudden. This makes me furious at him for not being respectful and for not understanding the importance of listening to adults. Which only leads to anger at myself for perhaps not instilling these values in him strongly enough yet.

A heartbeat later I'm worried instead - does he actually have an attention problem? Or a problem processing language that I never saw before (which would be incredibly ironic, given my work)? Is there fluid in his ears again? What's wrong?

It also, frankly, leaves me feeling irritated with the teacher for expecting so much of my 6-year old on day 8 of school, and at our nation's public schools for increasing the expectations so greatly that second graders are now expected to do the work that was previously expected of third graders.

I mean, come on - second graders are still really young!! [Or, asks that taunting inner voice, is it just your second grader who is really young?] Baxter started school in California, where the kindergarten cut-off date is in December, and so he is quite a bit younger than his classmates here and would have been in first grade this year by Illinois standards. Since he's tall, social, articulate and bright, his teachers have never known this until we've shocked them with it, or his birthday rolled around, whichever came first. But this begs the question: is it becoming a problem now?

On Saturday I pulled from his folder a math test that had one problem out of three completed. At the top it read "30 minutes. 1 problem. 2/6=33% Please sign here x_____." and I was so incredibly frustrated with my child. When I sat down with him to complete it together, it turns out that he didn't understand a critical line in the directions - which I'm sure his teacher explained and he...wasn't listening.

And suddenly, in my mind, Baxter was having all sorts of problems at school, and I didn't know how to solve them because I didn't understand why. There were just so many possibilities.

Yesterday was a very difficult day around here.

However, Matt had all sorts of useful insight into the potential root of this problem, which really helped me to understand it better. And Baxter focused all weekend at home, at soccer, at church, and on a big project for school that we spent 5-6 hours on this weekend. This morning I opened up his homework folder again and discovered - as if they'd suddenly been placed there by divine intervention - three other math sheets he'd done in class last week that had 100% and smiley faces scrawled at the top! Wait a minute here! Do you mean he's perfectly capable of completing his work - and correctly, to boot?

And not only that, but my son demonstrated in so many different ways this weekend what an exceptional child he is: loving, compassionate, funny, smart, and athletic. I started to be able to see the Baxter I know and love again.

It troubles me that I could only see that Other Baxter for a few days - the new one I met on Thursday who doesn't (can't?) pay attention, who's being disrespectful, who is unable to complete class work, who will perhaps really struggle through this school year.

A good friend said this morning that these situations are like "being given a new pair of glasses" with which to see your child, and that's exactly it. I saw him through those new glasses, borrowed from the teacher, and was extremely unhappy with the view; when I took them off, there was my child again, the fabulous kid he'd always been.

I told my friend that I'd like to break those glasses and throw them away. I do know, however, that this would be unwise. There is undoubtedly reality worth seeing in both views of my child, and it is important for me to see him clearly in order to help him be his best self.

I just need to remember not to leave the glasses on too long, because we would both become vastly unhappy very quickly and, really, there is no need for that.

Friday, September 14, 2007

She's Just Doing It

You may recall that we had quite a scare back in August when we found ourselves on an isolated beach at the bottom of a cliff when that big hurricane-like storm came flying in over Lake Michigan. And you may further remember that I was a little hard on myself for not being able to single-handedly carry my almost-three-year old up a huge flight of muddy wooden stairs to safety.

I know, it's true - that would not have been an easy task for anyone - but I also know that if I were as fit as I should be, I would have made it further before handing the child over to my husband. The truth is, I didn't feel strong to begin with and that episode was simply a harsh reminder of my current limitations. And if there's one thing I am not overly fond of, it's my limitations. Because, you know, I'm human.

And so, because I have felt the need to be more fit all year but have not seemed to be able to get my groove on for more than an hour at a time, I used this as inspiration to get my ass back in gear. So I joined a gym. And, well, after two amazing weeks, the gym closed down rather dramatically. Undaunted, I found a new gym the very next day. To me, this was a better indication of my motivation than anything else so far.

It's not easy to work fitness into my life, believe me. But what I've always found when I begin this journey anew is that when I'm motivated, I make the time; I create it out of thin air.

I started to see a window of opportunity when I realized that Lyle would be going to nursery school for 2.5 hours twice a week (my days off!) this year. Aha! Gym time! So, I went ahead and joined the aforementioned gym. Since it will be a couple more weeks before he's actually at the school without me and I was motivated to start working out, I instituted a stop gap measure of going on those mornings - earlier than planned - just to get into the habit. I also go once or twice a weekend and - voila! - I'm set.

Before long, it became obvious to me that my family was able to survive the hours of 6-8 am without me twice a week. (Who knew?) This lead to the truly exciting realization that when nursery school starts, I can still go early in the morning and - get this one, folks! - have those blessed 2.5 hours twice a!

Now, I am not totally unrealistic about those 5 hours. I do know that I will do grocery shopping, Target runs, meetings, and paperwork for my practice during those hours. But, still - I'll be alone. Alone, do you hear me? And if Matt's out of town and I can't go early in the morning, as happened yesterday, I can still work out during those nursery school hours, if need be. (For the record, however, I'm determined that, at least the first day of nursery school, I'll sit in a coffee shop and read a book. For fun. Or maybe read all your blogs. Either

For me, scheduling exercise is the only way it's going to happen. Even on our weekends, which tend to be really busy, I have to stake out my two hours in advance and stick to them even if I don't feel like getting out of the house. And the pay-off begins immediately, which keeps me going back. I wouldn't be able to make this happen without a supportive husband who is willing and able to get the kids breakfasted and dressed, and makes the school lunch while I'm gone early in the morning.

So I'm on a roll, and intend to stay on it. All encouragement is welcome!


If you would like to write about how you make fitness work in your life, pop on over to Parent Bloggers Network. You'll be entered in a contest to win some great-looking workout stuff from Ryka. All you need to do is link to Parent Bloggers Network and Ryka in your post, and then email with the link.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Age Three, I Eat My Words

Okay, okay, so I gave three-year olds a bad rap. Let's put it this way: when they're going through a tough spell, they'll give you a run for your money that - in my opinion - beats the 2-year old version.

But it's like the old poem my mom used to recite to me all the time when I was a kid: "There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead; and when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid!" (And, hey! Now that I think about it, thanks a lot, Mom!)

We're back into a phase of "very, very good" and I'm so grateful. No fusses about naps or bedtime, no potty accidents, adjusting to the new nanny and nursery school beautifully. Lyle thanks me for each and every meal I give him ("Thanks for this peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Mommy! I yove it!"). He's happy and confident and all about being a Big Boy.

And now that we're in this stage of the game, I am not only remembering 3-year old Baxter throwing books at me and making me cry in frustration. No, now I am also remembering how difficult it was for Matt and me to decide if we wanted another baby when Baxter was this age - because of how much easier parenting had gotten. I can suddenly recall wondering why we'd want to start all over again with a newborn just when things were getting so much better. Boy am I glad we did.

My little big boy and I took a walk through the neighborhood to nursery school this morning. It was a beautiful morning. I've posted a photo set here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Closed Captioned for the Typing Impaired

Can anyone out there help me understand how it is - in this technologically savvy age of such things as iPhones and TiVo - that no one has come up with a way to do Closed Captioning properly?

It's all I can do not to snort out loud while I'm working out at the gym and watching the news on the big screen in front of me - of course, because there's also music playing and not everyone is watching TV, the sound is off and so those ridiculous, non-sensical words are flashing along the bottom of the screen.

Yesterday, the parents of "Missing Maddy" were described on the local news channel as well-spoken and "photo Jennic". But - though bizarre - that was minor. They later declared it the "6th 95 of September 11th". 95?! Umm, did they mean "anniversary"?

My favorite, though, was the report on the weather, in which someone had obviously attempted to write some of it in advance. The writer was supposed to fill in "Chicago" after the updated temperature, but it went up as "IT IS CURRENTLY 62 DEGREES IN NOWHERE". Perhaps they ought to just leave a blank rather than writing "nowhere"?? There were actually a couple of those.

Come on! I don't do it for a living, but I can type text messages more accurately - and faster - than that person was typing the news. How about word prediction? There just has to be a way to update that technology.

Please, on behalf of our deaf communities - and moms who only get to watch the news at the gym, for God's sake! - may someone get a handle on that soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lyle's First Day

Lyle refused any traditional first day of school pictures this morning, so I had to sneak one from behind as he trooped into school. He was very excited to be going to his own school "Because I am such a big boy now!" and although he was shy with the teachers, he tried all sorts of activities and can't wait to go back on Thursday. Thankfully, the staff reminded us a few times not to send the kids in nice clothes because they'll get really messy; in fact, Lyle came home wet from the water table and covered with paint - two signs of a great time. For these first couple of weeks, we just go for short visits and I'll be with him for the first three of these. It's perfect for him. (Of course I'll be celebrating my first day of freedom when it comes - perhaps not in the exact manner as this man, but it will be the same in spirit.)

When we got home and all nervousness had passed, Lyle actually asked me to take a series of photos of him making faces with his CARS toys. This one's my favorite.

That's my boy!

When the SAHD Sends the Kids to Preschool

Oh, my, the Interwebs have been full of laughs for me this week. First the panflute, then this. Looky, Daddy! a totally hilarious stay-at-home Dad of three girls has sent his twin daughters off to preschool today. Here's how he spent his first hours of freedom, but beware: my face still hurts from laughing.

A Day in the Life (Fall Edition)

There are certain days that make me wonder how I stay sane, and certain posts that I write primarily to help myself remember those days down the line when I look back on these years and think to myself, "Now, come on, what was so hard about that?" as I often do now about the newborn months. I mean, I know they were difficult, I just can't remember the details. Which is why I did it twice. But have no fear, I will not be tricked into it again. Oh, no, I will not.

This was one of those days and this is one of those posts.

So here's the day I just had:

6 am - Wake up realizing I've overslept because I apparently couldn't tear myself away from a seemingly hours-long stress-filled dream in which I was to compose a 20-page (minimum) research paper on the Spider Monkey (turns out they're real!) in a single day. I had apparently forgotten all about it, and suddenly it was due and was a Critical Assignment. I was to go to the library, research said Spider Monkey, and write the paper, while taking care of Lyle all day. There was also some other project due that same day which I hadn't started, but my memory of that part is hazier. And, to top it all off, I was switching back and forth between being myself and being Baxter. I woke up thinking it wasn't such a good idea after all to start a PhD program in a couple of years. Either way, if you're ever looking for a way to wake up feeling not-so-rested, I strongly recommend this dream.

6:15-8 am - At the gym, literally working my ass off. It's a big job, but somebody's got to do it.

8:15 am - Take Baxter out front to wait for the carpool. Rush back in and fight Matt for the shower.

8:40 am - Drive Lyle to his first nursery school visit, which was successful and adorable. Play at the playground across the street afterwards, and get to know some of the other parents over there. Meet a mom whose 4-year old daughter "was killed" last year and nearly expire with the effort of fighting back the tears because it's clear that if I lose it so will she, and I don't even remember her name so I'm not ready to cry with her. (Perhaps next week.)

11:00 am - Lunch, endless session of CARS pretend play ("Hi, Yightnin' MaKeen, what are you doin'?" "Oh, I'm just drivin' awound, what are you doin', Tow Mater?" "I was just towin' Sally. Do YOU need a tow?" "Oh! Yes I do! Thank you!" "You're welcome, Yightnin' MaKeen from da movie CARS!").

12:45 pm - Nap (for both of us, turns out).

1:15 pm - Wake with a start, remembering that I have a weekly scheduled phone call regarding church council business in 15 minutes and haven't done everything I was supposed to do before this call. Do that stuff.

2:10 pm - Wrap up call, wake Lyle, and drive down to school to get Baxter and his friend J, with whom we carpool. Drive, drive, drive, and then drive some more.

3:30 pm - Drop off J at home (right around the corner from our house), then leave the neighborhood (aaaaahhhh! noooooo!) to drive yet again, this time to get the kids a haircut. (They look extremely handsome.)

5 pm - Arrive home from haircuts, throw dinner in the oven, oversee homework, and eat a speedy dinner.

5:40 pm - Get back in the car with the boys and drive more, this time to soccer practice. Lyle has to come along because Matt happens to have a mandatory meeting at Lyle's nursery school. Thankfully, he can bike there.

7:15 pm - Head home, give the kids showers, do bedtime routine and pack 'em off to bed around 8 pm. Crack open the wine bottle and contemplate the day.

Somewhere around 11pm I'll fall back into bed and pray that I won't be dreaming of the Spider Monkey assignment again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Notes from an Evening at Home

Lyle speeds to the bathroom as fast as he can and jumps with both feet into the room. "Mommy!" he shouts exuberantly, "Peepees, poopies, and BUTT!!!"

Then he zooms back out to play.

Apparently, he took me seriously when I explained that those are "bathroom words" that we only use when we're in the bathroom!

"Bax, have you done all this homework?" I ask, looking at the list he's written in his agenda notebook.

"Well, it's weird, Mommy," he begins, "she said we have to do some math, but I don't know if she ever gave us a worksheet."

Being a Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Mommy, I assume he's lost it. "I guess you can ask Ms. C--- for a new one tomorrow," I comment, probably in a less than friendly manner.

Baxter thinks about it a moment. "Wait! Mommy! What time is it? If it's before 7, Ms. C--- said we can call her with homework questions!"

The shy student in me comes out and I cringe at the idea of having to call the teacher about my son's missing homework. I try to figure out how to get out of this.

Turns out I have nothing to worry about.

Before I know it, he has the phone and is dialing her number. "Hello, Ms. C---? It's Baxter. I can't find my math worksheet. Did you give us one today?"

I stand before him, dumbfounded. Did I mention that he's six?

"Okay. Thanks! Bye!" he says cheerfully, closing the conversation. Turning to me, he says, "It's fine, she forgot to give them to us."

Parenthood is nothing if not humbling.

I Have One!!

You won't believe this, folks, but it turns out that I already have a pan flute!!! How timely is this video?

All I can say is, the world is a very funny place.

Pumpkin Heads

The boys at the Urban Pumpkin Patch Evanston Farmer's Market:

Tree-Hugging Soccer Dude

So does this automatically make me a Soccer Mom?

Or do I have to drive an SUV and actually go to the games and holler from a lawn chair to meet that criteria?

(I think he liked it, don't you?)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Conversations Go Around Here

Baxter (from the back seat): "Mommy, does Superman have all the super-powers?"

Me: "No, honey, none of the Superheroes can have all the super-powers."

Baxter: "No, Mommy...SUPERMAN, I'm talking about."

[Oh, well then, I guess I gave the wrong answer. Again.]


Lyle: "Mommy, why did the rubber chicken cross the road?"

Me: "Hmmm, I don't know..."

Lyle: "To get to the apple pie!"


Baxter: "I want to wear my cape with the "B" on it for Halloween. Then I can be Earth Boy and use all my new super powers!"

Me: "Oooh, that sounds great! And Lyle, you said you want to be a pumpkin, right?"

Lyle: "Noooo...I want to be a baby instead."

[Insert visual of Lyle in a big onesie with a pacifier in his mouth, carrying a bottle, and saying (as he did for me tonight) "Trick or treat, pell my feet, give me somefin' good to eat!"]

Friday, September 7, 2007

Do YOU Need a Panflute?

Susan asked a while back, "What's making you smile?" and posted an amusing and heartfelt list of things that were making her happy. I've been meaning to respond to this question, but I've decided to do it piecemeal rather than creating an all-inclusive list.

First, this flowchart is making me smile. It came to me via our friend Julie in Seattle, thanks to her hilarious dude, Ben, who found it out on Ye Great Interwebs recently. I can't help but smile when I look at it and it is therefore posted over my desk. Here it is, for your enjoyment. I can't stop loving its random snarkiness, nor can I stop laughing about it:

One Week Down

Well, folks, it's Friday night and we're all doing fine. Matt and I are happily surprised, but we've made it through this first week back and I'm not even totally exhausted.

We could feel the difference made by all of my organizing, for sure. But a few other things also helped. For one, Baxter's teacher has organizational skillz herself. She made up a chart for the fridge with every bit of important information on it that I could think of (I made one myself last year)...her phone numbers (she gave us her cell number!), email, school hours, and even the schedule for their specials (gym, music, Spanish, art, etc.). This is huge! For another thing, our new nanny has been fabulous so far! Lyle takes off with her to the playroom the minute she arrives and is happy all day, just as he was with our previous sitter. She also does an amazing job around the house, so when we get home from work the laundry's been put through, dishes cleaned up, and toys put away.

Can you hear my sigh of relief from there?

Despite the blip during the week of my new gym closing down (grrr...), I was able to find another great gym the very next day, which is also close to our house (3 minutes), is a little cheaper, and even has a pool that the kids can come to anytime for free! So in the end, I think I am actually going to be happier with this one.

Tonight we reinstated a family tradition that we started last fall but let slip at some point last year...Friday Night French Toast! The kids love this! Now that Lyle's old enough, we added a Game Night to the agenda, so after our delicious candlelit French Toast dinner (complete with the "Secret Ingredients" that we'll never reveal!), the boys took a quick bath and then we reconvened to play Candyland Bingo, a very simple game that Baxter still enjoys and Lyle is capable of playing. It was a lot of fun.

I know I made a lot of fun of myself for all the organizing I did before school and work started back up, and yes, I still think it's funny. However, it has had the desired effect this week; that is, I am not so inundated with details from five different "to do" lists and 3 different calendars across the house that I can't relax and have fun with my family and on my own.

Matt and I have come to realize that last fall, everything was new. Brand new. Confusingly new. We were unsettled in every way last September. So when work and school added lots of due dates, paperwork, and details, it just felt out of control. Now, at least when things get complicated - as they already have this week, for sure - we aren't left feeling anxious or overwhelmed. And somehow, miraculously, the end of the week found us sitting around a table eating French Toast by candlelight and laughing over a board game.

I think, by all measures, this was as good a start to the new year as we could have asked for.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

We Have a Pet!

Yes, it's true. We have a pet.

What kind of pet, you might well ask, would be found at the home of a family allergic to fur and feathers, whose only lizards ate each other's eyeballs (for reals), and who kills fish the second they enter the house?

Well, I'll tell you. He flew into the house one afternoon when I had the screen door to the deck open for a few minutes. Once he had explored for a while, he settled onto a counter top until dinnertime. During dinner, he introduced himself to us personally, buzzing around our food and attempting to land on the tastiest morsels.

The boys shooed at him, poor little fella, and he came flying right at the adults on the other side of the table. So naturally, SHOO! - and back he went to the kids. We had a great dinner game with our new pet as we laughed hysterically and sent him sailing back and forth to each other, over our food.

"Let's call him Ping Pong!" I suggested. "He'll be our new pet!"

The kids love it. Now, instead of screams of, "There's a fly in the kitchen!!" I hear, "Look, there's our pet, Ping Pong!" (or "PimPom" as the case may be).

I've decided that this is my new standard for being a fun-loving family: the day we can't make a good time out of having a house fly at the dinner table is the day we have forgotten how to have fun.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

Remember that gym? You know, the one I just joined a couple weeks ago and have been loving? I mean, really loving? As in, not minding getting up at 5:30 AM to go? Mmm hmmm, that one.

It closed today. Yep, closed. They ushered my friend Becky out after her workout, right out a side door, and the parking lot was blocked off. I had to hear about the closure not from the gym itself but from a friend who read it on Chicagoist, where you can read the very bizarre letter from the owner. He claims it was employee fraud, but how do you really know in these matters? The rumor on Chicagoist is that he's a total nut, so who do you believe?

And in the end, who cares? Because no matter who ran the place into the ground, I still had to cover my ass by canceling my debit card (do I even know the problems this may cause?), stopping payment on their recurring payments (which was such a ridiculous process at Bank of America that I was ready to jump ship to the old fashioned Broadway Bank, where - as Matt put it - they'd be helicoptering me a new debit card in the time it took me to get off hold at B of A), and putting fraud alerts out on all three major credit bureaus.

What a first day back at work!

But, the biggest problem is: I now have no gym again. Time to start the search over again from the beginning.

All the Circa notebooks and Google Calendar alerts can't help me with this one.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to School - and the Beach

Baxter's first day of second grade went just fine. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," was his generous after-school review. I concur.

I was saddened these past few days to realize how much he dreaded the end of summer and the start of school. "A whole year of school? Again?" he repeated glumly each day. But last night I admitted to myself that I too was dreading it.

It's been a delightful summer. I took more time off than I ever have since starting my career over 10 years ago. We are finally in a home of our own, and this year we are more familiar with this new city and have loads of friends; so many that we didn't even see some of them at all this summer because we didn't have enough time. Living by the beach afforded us a lot of long stretches of swimming in the lake and playing in the sand, but also many quick runs down there when we just had half an hour to be idle together. We discovered numerous beautiful parks, a great public pool, and even an amazing nature center that allowed us to forget we were in the big city for a couple hours as we watched deer munching on leaves mere feet from us. In short, it was heavenly. Who would want it all to end?

Labor Day has come and gone. We were happily distracted all weekend by various guests in and out of our house, giving the weekend the feel of one long end-of-the-summer house party with a revolving door. Dancing to 80s tunes with the kids and our college friends, eating burgers, dinner on our deck, putting fresh basil from the Farmer's Market on everything I could get my hands on. Corn on the cob. Late nights and gin and tonics. But by this morning, as we made Baxter's lunch and got him ready for school, I couldn't help but feel that summer was about to go sneaking out that revolving door right along with our friends as they left to go home to Seattle this afternoon.

And yet Baxter came bursting through the door after school: "Mommy! Are the lifeguards gone?? Can we take our floaties to the beach?!" Sure enough, the lifeguards here pack up their orange vests and rowboats - even dismantle their tall white chairs - on Labor Day and call it a year, at which point the real beach fun can begin! Having been apprised of this phenomenon last week by a friend, the boys and I picked up a few excellent clearance-rack floaties at Target right away, so we were prepared today. We raced to the beach and I blew up these fabulous toys, heretofore not allowed.

"This is the best beach day of the whole year!!" hollered Baxter as he raced into the water. The boys floated on a large plastic crab-shaped raft and a "lifeguard boat" raft, and we soaked up the warm sun for a couple of hours. Our friends arrived and the five of us frolicked on the sand bar ("The second sand bar," Baxter would be sure to correct me), playing all sorts of loud and hilarious games.

The sun started to drop down over the end of our street, light filtering through the trees and leaving that golden glint that I love the most on the children's wet hair and sandy legs, and I felt grateful for this reminder that summer fun doesn't entirely end just because school has begun. And furthermore, when the days arrive that are too chilly to drag our floaties and towels down to the beach after school, thrilled that the lifeguards are no longer here making the rules, there will be other fun. A different kind of fun, but fun just the same. And if we are somehow unable to appreciate fall, winter, and spring fun quite as much as we appreciated summer fun this year, well then, more's the pity but it'll be back again next year.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Awww, So Nice!

We have a family joke about using the descriptor "nice". Growing up, my brother was once making merciless fun of a girl I knew and my comeback was, "Oh, come on! She's...nice!" His baneful reply: "Nice is the worst thing you can say about someone. It means you can't think of anything better to say!" Even though I wanted to kill him (okay, that was true most of the time), he had a point, and I've made an effort to use better descriptors ever since.

But now, things have come full circle because today I was included in the Oh, the Joys list of recipients for the "Nice Matters Award". Thanks, Jess! The description is here:

“This award is for those bloggers who are cool people and awesome blog friends - those who bring tingly feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded, please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.”

Now, isn't that nice? I'll take it!

Here are my nominees - and I know some of you bloggers have recently received this, but I'm sorry. You have to be nominated again because you're that nice.

1. Kristen at From Here to There and Back
2. Susan at The Family Room
3. Susan at Friday Playdate, Friday Style, etc.
4. Elise at Snarky Squab
5. Shannon at Mama in Wonderland
6. Mrs. Chicken at Chicken and Cheese
7. Amy at Kvetch Blog

Recipients can choose between the blue button above and this pink one which is too frou-frou for my taste but might work for you:

What I'm Wearing

I've gotten all brave and decided to join The Working Closet Flickr pool, in which everyday women are posting photos of what they're wearing for the month of September. I was hooked when I read this from Susan Wagner who is running this gig: "Seeing what other working moms are doing with that black skirt from five years ago and the ubiquitous jean jacket can actually be far more useful." (She was comparing its usefulness to reading fashion magazines. Not that I have ever done that even once, no, not even in the hair salon - but still.)

I won't be doing it every day by any means (and not only because then you'd all see that I only wear about 4 outfits total), but it's making me think more about what I put on in the morning, and it's really helpful to read Susan Wagner's (and others') comments and suggestions. Plus, I'll have a whole lot of "before" photos to show what I looked like before I got back into shape! (Always a silver lining. Always.)

Here's Susan's explanation, and here is the link if you are interested. Join me!!