Friday, February 29, 2008

I Was Tagged (or Where Did February Go?)

Oh, my. The lovely Mari tagged me all the way from Australia, lo these many weeks ago! Sorry, Mari - here you go, and thanks for the tag!

The rules:
A. The rules are posted at the beginning
B. Answer the questions about yourself
C. Tag 5 people, let them know in a comment on their blogs that they have been tagged.

What were you doing 10 yrs ago?
Hmm. In the winter of 1998 I had been living in San Francisco for about 6 months. Downtown, on the top floor of a modern building with a view of the Bay. (Which sure beat the mouse- and roach-infested place we'd been in when I was in grad school in Boston!) I was finishing my Clinical Fellowship Year at a private practice in Palo Alto, on the Stanford campus, and planning my getaway from that job the moment I completed my requisite 10 months there. Matt and I didn't really know many people and were living a fairly reclusive, quiet life together despite the tumultuous El Nino year weather. You couldn't exactly say we were taking advantage of the city. In truth, I did not fall in love with San Francisco until we'd been there about a year.

Snacks I enjoy:
1. Chocolate
2. Kashi Go-Lean bars
3. Apples
4. Pretzels
5. Chocolate

Five things on my to-do list today:
Wait. For today? I'm a little scared of my to do list right now, frankly. But I'll buck up and face the facts here.

1. Pay bills, for God's sake! (Turns out bills didn't stop coming just because I took two trips last week)
2. Call the Northwestern intern who will be working with me next quarter (whoo hoo!)
3. Write up my notes from the SCERTS workshop in order to share them with a colleague and perhaps with you, dear Wonderwheel readers!
4. Clean up this total mess of a house.
5. Figure out when we're going to take the car in for repair. Or delegate this job to Matt. Either one.

Things I would do if I became a billionaire:
The thing is, I've thought this over and I don't think I'd actually change my life all that much if I were a billionaire. Now, Matt might feel differently and so maybe I'd find myself living on a tropical island or in a flat with maid service in Paris. But if it were up to me, here's what I'd do:

1. Not charge my clients - ever! (Take that, insurance companies!)
2. Pay off our condo
3. Buy a new car (something smallish and hybrid)
4. Buy really good health insurance for my family and extended family
5. Make sure our parents and grandparents live as comfortably as they want
6. Travel everywhere!
7. Pay our nanny what she's worth
8. Donate to our church
9. Hang out at Benefit more often
10. Give the rest to Barack's campaign

3 bad habits:
1. Not enough flossing
2. Stress-eating
3. Reading all of your blogs on my iPhone when sitting in traffic or at a red light

5 places I have lived:
1. Middletown, Connecticut
2. St. Paul, Minnesota
3. Boston, Massachusetts
4. San Francisco, California
5. Chicago, Illinois

Jobs I have had:
1. Babysitter (from age 13 to age 25)
2. Cashier at Lyman's Orchard (with a broken collarbone in a sling)
3. Nanny (for one miserable summer outside of Boston)
4. Deli girl at RC Dick's on Grand Ave. in St. Paul (for a total of 3 weeks)
5. Preschool/Toddler teacher (ran my own class of 12 toddlers - picture that one!)
6. Speech-Language Pathologist (aaah, sweet relief!)

Things people don't know about me:
Hmmm, what haven't I told you? Not much...

1. I am an amazing sleeper. I turn off my light, close my eyes, and - that's it. Until the kids wake us up in the morning. Matt doesn't usually bother asking how I slept anymore because it's a ridiculous question.

2. I have a brother who is 14 months younger than me. We've had a very rocky relationship and have been completely estranged from each other for more than a year and a half. You don't have to tell me how terrible that is, it's not my preference, believe me.

3. I get stuck in a rut with music. I can listen to one single CD in my car for, oh, maybe 7 or 8 months straight without tiring of it. I'm just starting to come down from a "Once" soundtrack high that definitely lasted at least 7 months. Before that it was a mix I made for my friends after a weekend together last year, and prior to that it was a Norah Jones CD. I'm pretty sure it was Allison Krauss before that. (As an aside, just yesterday someone did a Google search of "what make up colors does allison krauss wear" and ended up at this blog. Endlessly fascinating.)

4. I have never once colored my hair more permanently than doing a henna treatment or two in college. No highlights, no dye. Not as a teenager, nor as an adult. I am not opposed to doing so when the day comes that I deem it to be necessary, but thus far I appear to be taking after my father who went grey rather late.

I am going to honor those who bravely came forth during my delurker week or are brand new readers this week by tagging them:

Wishful Mommy
KAL at Autism Twins
Cindy at We All Fall Down
Kristen at What Grows Around

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let There be Cupcakes!

I reached for the cupcakes at Whole Foods this morning - vanilla, Lyle's favorite, with coconut sprinkled generously across the top - and paused, thinking to myself, It's his half-birthday, you dork. He doesn't need cupcakes! This is a fake occasion, right up there with celebrating the 100th day of school! Just tell him he's three and a half and move on!

And then I reached for the cupcakes and determinedly placed them in my shopping cart, sending a text message to the babysitter: "Tell Lyle it's his half birthday and we'll celebrate tonight!"

At the dinner table, he could barely contain himself. He stood on his chair because from that vantage point he was able to take in the glorious dinner I'd given him (Trader Joe's 3-cheese pizza, chopped pineapples, and veggie chips - his favorites!) and the cupcakes back on the kitchen counter. "This is gonna be quite a party!" he crowed.

On a whim I set the iPod to Lyle's 3rd Birthday Mix, a selection I put together for his birthday last August, and while we ate we jammed to some of his faves, such as a couple of hits from Mary Poppins, Justin Roberts, Dan Zanes, and the local Wiggleworms music class CD.

After our fantabulous dinner and cupcakes, I declared it Dance Party Time. The three of us were on fire, I tell you, on fire. Lyle danced in circles around us, yelling, "I'm having a great time with you guys!" over and over. (He later took me by the hand and declared solemnly, "You are my best friend.")

Suddenly, Dan Zanes' Wonderwheel came on and there I was, dancing with my little guys in my kitchen on Lyle's half birthday, thinking about how blessed I am to have this family and house and a husband on his way back from a business trip and this blog and all of you friends out there from all over the world to share the highs and lows of my life with, and I was just overcome with gratitude. Truth be told, today I am exhausted, sick, and in possession of a work to do list with 21 undone items remaining, but all of that vanished in one big happy moment and has left me glowing all evening.

Just like us, our children are facing lots of challenges and have hard times ahead of them. No matter who they are or how they came into this world, no matter how well cared for, fed, educated, and played with, nothing is guaranteed for any of us. Nothing.

So, by god, if we've got a chance to eat cupcakes and dance like crazy people and celebrate "fake" occasions together, let's do it. Because it is what will get them - and us - through the harder moments in life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Monumental Day

Today, ladies and gentlemen, something absolutely monumental took place at Chez Wonderwheel!

As you may know, my little guy has been having all sorts of separation issues lately, and you'll recall that I gave him the lovely glass heart to hang onto when I'm at work.

Words cannot do justice to the difference that heart has made. He separates in the morning without tears, he brings it to preschool and hides it in his cubby. He sleeps with it under his pillow. At night, when each of the boys picks a song "theme" for me to sing to them (I improvise a song based on their theme of choice to the same tune every night), he has been asking me to sing a song about "heart". (Baxter? "Pokemon.")

The heart seemed to set the stage for his successful participation in Advanced Separation 301, allowing me an unheard of transition in and out of our home when I went to both Minneapolis and San Francisco last week. Truly, it was a breeze - Lyle was perfectly happy while I was away both times and did not even make me pay for my absence upon my return! This is nothing short of miraculous.

But all of that - all of it - was a drop in the bucket compared to today. Because this boy, this child who has been completely unable to take a nap on the days we're home together (Tues/Thurs) for many months now - despite the fact that he'll nap 2-3 hours for everyone else - declared during lunch that he was tired and ready to nap as if it were the most natural thing in the world. As if separating from me by slipping into unconsciousness for a couple of hours wasn't a horrifying thought all of a sudden!

Furthermore, he willingly napped even when I explained that, due to the late start of this unexpected nap, I would have to leave the house soon to pick up his brother at school. This meant that I was going to have to leave the child monitor with our (very familiar) neighbor across the hall. He was cool with this. I showed him how, when he woke up, if I didn't come down when he called, he was to talk into the monitor and tell the neighbor he was awake because it meant I wasn't home yet. And still - he remained unfazed. He thought this was peachy keen, and hoped he'd get to go play with her daughter and maybe pet the cats.


So wait - not only would he separate from me and take a nap, but it was actually okay with him if I left the house during his nap and left him in the care of a neighbor, knowing that I may or may not be here when he woke up?!

Oh. my. God.

I tucked him in with the monitor close by and heart no. 55 resting in his sweet little hand, and walked carefully upstairs, sitting stock still on the couch for 10 minutes and steeling myself for the sound of his feet pounding upstairs after me, realizing he wanted to come with me to get his brother, or that he would miss me too much, didn't want a nap after all.

But he did it. He fell asleep. A deep sleep that lasted until I came home with Baxter, whose pounding feet woke him. But I didn't care. Because he slept for TWO HOURS! On my watch!

There's something to be said for a child's positive experience of being without mama for a few days and realizing that everything is still okay. She calls, she brings presents, and she always comes back.

I'm going out of town more often. That's all there is to it.

Utter Nonsense

The boys have had more and more periods of delightful interaction lately. Last night Lyle pulled out this Blokus game and started to use the tiles to configure letters of the alphabet (accurately, which I found somewhat shocking). This drew attention from his big brother, and the two of them lay companionably on the rug, head to head, putting tiles into the board and talking complete and utter nonsense to each other. I paused in my dinner-making activities to take a minute-long video of the brotherly bonding.

Anyone who has spent more than about 15 minutes with me in my life will recognize that these random dudes could only be my children:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Materialistic Monday: TomTom

Okay, I know. If you've been following Cindy (as you should be), you've heard about this recently. In fact, I had a few ideas for this week's post that you might not have read about in the past two point five minutes.


My Tom Tom GPS saved my ass so many times in California this past week that now I cannot NOT write about it.

You see, in the weeks before Christmas, I was asked by Baxter to explain what a GPS system is because we were giving one to Matt's Dad for Christmas. I had never thought of one for myself, had never even been in a vehicle with one, at the time. But partway through my description of what it does, I flashed to all the Google Maps I constantly print out for myself and carry around with me, and I recall saying vaguely, "Actually, I could probably use one of those myself!" And the rest was history.

According to Matt, there was no getting him off the topic. No attempts of "How about some earrings?" or "Mommy would love a massage..." would move the child. "No. Mommy wants a GPS," he told Matt with determination. He wouldn't even budge for the old tangerines and beer fall back gift, which he insisted on giving to each of his parents the year he was 3.

No, it was to be a GPS. So my guys bought one for me.

And, let me tell you, it rocks! As Cindy mentioned, I keep mine set to a British man's voice, "Tim", who instructs me to "stay on the left lane" and "keep on the motorway", which is about the only thing that could make Hwy 101 interesting.

But beyond Tim's fantastic voice, I do enjoy that he tells me how to actually get places. Quickly! He remembers all of my destinations, which is handy, and has all sorts of options such as showing all parking garages in the vicinity, which was extremely helpful a couple times last week.

I also love the "Do you need to be there by a certain time?" feature. For example, last week when I had to be at the SCERTS training by 8:30 am in the suburbs of San Francisco, I plugged in the address the night before and it told me what time I had to leave in order to arrive by 8:30, thereby making sure I allowed enough time. Furthermore, it continually re-calculates my time as I'm driving, so when I hit bad traffic I could see the "new and not-so-improved" time of arrival getting updated and was able to send a text message to say I was going to arrive late and by how long (it's handy when the presenter is a personal friend!).

On another occasion in the past week, I left the conference one night and drove off towards my aunt's house for dinner. I knew the way so I didn't use my Tom Tom, of course (because it's not the first week anymore, sillies!). However, I accidentally went north instead of south on the highway (proving once again that it's been a while since I've actually lived out there) and when I got off the exit realized I had chosen poorly and couldn't just get right back on. Oops. Did I mention that this was in the middle of a major rainstorm? I didn't have her address with me but remembered the cross streets and that was enough. I stopped, programmed the intersection into my Tom Tom, and my courteous friend Tim got me there.

I am All. Over. It.

Thanks, Bax.

I'm Distracting You - Oooh, Shiny!

I know, I know. Materialistic Monday is coming. I swear! Soon. Like, within the hour!

But for now, kill a few minutes in the most hilarious way: visit someecards.


And then send me one because I could always use a laugh of that nature.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Little Bit Here and There

I've written before, specifically here and here, about what it's like to come back to San Francisco now after being gone for a year and a half.

At Christmas, as the four of us visited with my family and lots of friends we've known for years, it was the place where we became parents. We revisited favorite places with the boys and spent lots of time with their old friends, walking down the streets of our history as a family.

This particular trip has brought back the San Francisco in which I began my career. I am an independent agent here for four days, tooling around in my little rental car from lunch with a colleague to a client's house and then to my favorite hairdresser. I go out with colleagues (always some of my favorite people to hang out with) and laugh and talk for over three hours without noticing the time. I go out for a great dinner with my cousin, who's letting me crash in her beautiful apartment.

As I looked around the smallish room where I sat for the first day of my SCERTS training today, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, seeing people I hadn't seen in ages even when I did live here. One woman looked at me like I was a ghost, and said she'd heard I'd moved somewhere and so couldn't quite believe it was me. I wanted to say, "Neither can I." I had lunch with a woman I worked very closely with my first year out of grad school but haven't seen since I left the job 10 years ago.

I am acutely aware of my great good fortune. Grateful to have the life in which I am happier than I'd ever imagined I could be, back in my new city of Chicago. But on occasion, I stop myself while I'm here, living a life that feels an awful lot like my old life here - and where I am quite comfortable and have so many connections - and dare to ask myself cautiously, "Would you rather still be living here?", a little bit afraid to hear my own answer. But somehow the answer is always, "No," even when I'm surrounded by people I love.

I feel a little like I'm neither here nor there tonight, confused about where my real life is after a few days of this cognitive dissonance.

I think, though, that perhaps the truth is I'm always going to have these opportunities to be a little bit here and there; and in that, I have it all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Did it!!

It's short! And I took your advice - it's shorter in back. I love it!


I always love the view from my cousin's kitchen window in the Mission District. Colorful buildings almost come together, leaving just enough space for a glimpse of Sutro Tower, a San Francisco classic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Delurker Week on The Wonderwheel

Hey, gang at Cheers, I'm out of town for the rest of the week. Maybe I'll have time to post, but if not I'll be thinking of you and saving up plenty of random thoughts to write about while I'm away, so don't you worry your pretty little heads about it.

So here's what I'm thinking - how's about, since you all stopped by here anyway, maybe you take a moment to say "hi" to me this week? Leave me a little hello comment on this post to cheer me when I'm missing my family. Especially those of you - and you know who you are! - who frequent my little corner of the blogosphere but haven't said hello yet! I know there are lots of you out on the west coast, and you down south - oh, and especially you reading from the town next door to where I grew up (do you even know that? that i used to buy my cosby sweaters at bob's surplus on main street and then go to ruby's for a dr. brown's cream soda before my oddfellows playhouse rehearsals?).

Don't worry, lurkers are always welcome and you don't have to say hi. You truly don't have to contribute to enjoy my little song and dance here, I'm just glad you're here. But if you've been thinking of speaking up with a little "Ahem, I'm out here!" this would be a great week to do it. 'Cuz, honestly, there might not be too much else happening here. (Unless you want to watch my Twitter badge there in the sidebar. I'm sure I'll be tweeting from my iPhone like a freaking magpie on drugs while I'm away.)

That's all I'm saying. Just my own private Delurker Week. I sorta missed the official one last month.

Whaddya say?

Hat Nap

Things to Check Out Today

This is a picture that made me very happy today in a wanting-to-see-McCain's-demise sort of way, and you too can enjoy it right here at The Wonderwheel! (And then head on over to Cindy's blog where I first saw it, because her blog is great. You won't be sorry.) Can you stand four years of our new president slow-dancing with Dubya?

Fired up! Ready to go!


I had seen the Free Rice web site discussed elsewhere on The Internets over the past few months, but shied away from it because I'd heard it's so addictive, and you know, who has time for more addictions, even though the UN World Food Program donates 20 grains of rice to help end hunger every time you correctly define a word? But when Susan instructed me to head on over, assuring me that I'd love it, I listened. (Because you just listen to Susan, don't you?) And, hoo boy, it's cool. And addictive.

But I decided that it's okay because then you've donated so many grains of rice, which just has to make up for being a white middle class American with the luxury to waste time online in the middle of a week day. Right? Anyway, if you like words and language, go check it out. It's been a while since I've been this grateful for my three years of high school Latin instruction.

And, on a far less cheery note, there is an online letter you too can sign that demands an apology from the CBS network, which aired a clip on its already idiotic "Big Brother" show last week in which one Neanderthal referred to children with autism as "retards". Way to go, CBS. Jeebus.

Tell 'em what you think here. Please!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Big Fancy Brother

We tried to go out to play today. Really, we did. Matt was able to take a little holiday time off this morning and we all bundled up to get some fresh air and attempted to go to the neighborhood playground for some exercise. However, once out in the below-zero wind chill, Lyle didn't make it further than the corner ATM. To Matt and Baxter's credit, they spent about 15 minutes at the playground, and had a rousing game of catch with an ice ball. (Don't you just love hearing about life in the midwest, those of you who live elsewhere?!)

Once both boys were back at the house, they made up this fantastic game which served the dual purposes of a) burning off some energy and b) making their mother very happy to see them getting along so well. Believe me, not every interaction between my sons looks like this; if it did, I would not have pulled out the video camera. But they're able to play together well more and more often these days, and they remind me of a couple of energetic little puppies.

The fun continued when they were called upstairs to lunch and Baxter agreed to help Lyle wash his hands (often a bone of contention). As I passed by the bathroom door I heard Lyle declare happily, "Baxter? You are my big, fancy brother!!"

Here are the two fancy brothers having a great time together in the play room (adult supervision highly recommended):

Materialistic Monday: You're Kidding, Right?

Don't be ridiculous! I have cute boys to play with today! And hot cocoa to drink!

But don't worry. I'll pick up on Materialistic Monday again next week.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Roam if You Want to

A weekend away. With friends.

Need I say more? Probably not, but I will anyway.

As I wrote about after our first annual weekend together last February, these are three college friends of mine, all former roommates at one time or another, so we have a history that goes back a rather frightening 19 years now. Last year's gathering was a catching-up time, a time to reconnect after quite a few years, for some of us. A great deal of growing up had taken place in the intervening years, and a lot of hard stuff was going on for some of us. Last year's weekend was, well, cathartic, I'd say. This year we were all on terra firma, more or less. That's not to say that we've got it all figured out (whatever that would look like) but we've made strides; let's put it that way.

We were able to just hang out. Went shopping, ate great meals. (I mean, really great.) Took a walk down memory lane by visiting our alma mater (which has become quite the yuppified institution since we attended it in the early 90s, let me tell you, although I should say that some things haven't changed), and stopped in on some of our favorite haunts nearby. I bought myself a cozy college sweatshirt. Enjoyed "Definitely, Maybe" quite a bit. Celebrated the little girl due in just 10 weeks, the eighth child among us. We drank a lot of coffee and I slept until 8:30 each morning. And best of all, we talked and talked and talked. It was less than a 48-hour visit for a variety of reasons, but that was okay. Next year we're committed to gathering for all three days again, but this was enough for now. Really.

I have an unusual amount of travel ahead of me in the coming months. Leaving home for a weekend is not completely easy with such young children at home, and having reasons to do so four months in a row feels rather excessive. But my family was fine without me. Better than fine, really. They all had a wonderful weekend. And the good it does me to get away a bit, find some space to breathe and be with friends, and drink coffee and talk? Well, it's a world of good.

During the cab ride home from the airport, the B52s song "Roam" came on the radio. An old favorite. As we drove up Lake Shore Drive with the dark, icy outline of Lake Michigan to the east and the gorgeous, twinkling skyline of Chicago lit up to the west, I celebrated these opportunities I have to roam a bit. And I decided that - as long as it's done thoughtfully and involves a great deal of joy about returning home - roaming is just what this Mama needs to do sometimes.

{Photo taken with my iPhone on Friday night's flight to Minnesota. Apologies to Cara for never managing to get a shot that included both of her eyes.}

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Photos

Family of Valentines

For my little guys, Valentine's Day is about a few different things. It's about waking up to some candy and a couple of new books on the breakfast table, and then handing out some of the yummy cookies they made for our friends and neighbors. For Baxter it's about bringing Scooby Doo Valentines to school and giving them to everyone during the class party in the afternoon. For Lyle it's about wearing pajamas to preschool and getting to watch "Harold and the Purple Crayon" on DVD. (I mean, seriously, a movie at preschool? Unimaginable excitement.)

For my big guy, Valentine's Day will probably mean fighting his way through another day with a bad head cold, and eating the Red Vines I've given him. Oh, and maybe sneaking a few of those yummy cookies when no one's looking. Those oughta take the edge off that cold.

But for me? My Valentine's Day highlight this year is about giving Baxter one of these lovely hearts that he's been pining for ever since I gave one to Lyle last week. Okay, and it's about giving one to Matt, too, because I also want him to have something to hold onto when he misses me.

You see, I'll be leaving on a jet plane after work tomorrow night for my Second Annual Unbelievably Fabulous Girls' Weekend, this time in Minneapolis because the friend who lives there is quite pregnant and not up for travel. I wrote about last year's amazing weekend here, and have been looking forward to doing it again all year; as in, I was excited in August that we were already halfway to the next one. That kind of excited. I have no doubt that I will have a wonderful time again this year. However, it is somewhat unfortunate that this weekend with friends and my trip to California are only going to be separated by two days; days which I will spend with the boys in their entirety, but which are still only two days bookended by time spent away from them.

And so we're going to need these hearts, all of us. My guys with their beautiful flecked glass hearts and me with the colorful Lego heart creation that Lyle made for me, the one that the boys fill with hugs, kisses, and love every time I leave the house. (Truly, every morning there's a huddle by the door as hearts are filled with smooches and "squeeeeeezy, squeeeezy hugs!". It would melt the heart of even the grinchiest Grinch.)

We'll hang on tight to these hearts, my sweet family of Valentines, over the next 10 days as we separate, come back together, and then separate once again, holding the love close until we are all under one roof and life returns to normal around here.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Shopping for a New Do

Were I to win the lottery (which would entail me actually playing the lottery, so this is a stretch, but bear with me here) and then told that the only condition for getting the money was that I had to commit to one single brand for all my clothing and accessory needs, I would have no problem deciding.

"Hand over the big bucks," I would exclaim, "and take me to the nearest Garnet Hill catalog!"

I could drool over Garnet Hill all day. The clothes, the shoes, the accessories. Aahhhh, the accessories. Trouble is, Garnet Hill is pricey. (Of course it is. Why would I be in love with an affordable line of clothing?) And so I own but a couple of random and beloved items - a flannel night shirt here, a spring trench coat there - from this company.

But am I the only one out there who also shops for hair styles in her favorite clothing catalogs? You see, next week - and I know we haven't discussed this yet - I am going to go to San Francisco for four days on a work trip. I have a few hours here and there in the first couple of days when I don't have things scheduled - and am about 4 weeks late on getting my hair cut - and so I contacted my fabulous hair stylist - the one who cut my hair for almost all of the 9 years I lived in the Bay Area - and made an appointment.


Thing is, since I get to go there so rarely now I can't see just getting a trim. I mean, that's not making the most of his talents at all, is it? And so, although I'm enjoying having long hair most of the time, it's starting to drag me down a bit and certainly doesn't feel very spring-y. (And with temps in the 60s, it will even feel the littlest bit spring-y in California...) Must be time for a new do, right? Thus, the Garnet Hill catalog. Today I shopped for a new do. And I found this model whose hair seems fairly similar to mine, all over the catalog, adorable hair done in all kinds of different lovely ways that would work for me. (It does occur to me all of a sudden that I could've shopped for a new do on my own blog - this hair cut looks an awful lot like that happy chick up there on the wonderwheel, does it not?)

So what do you think? Should I go for it? Or just keep it long since it now fits into a ponytail? (And we've all seen how attractive that is by the end of the day!)

Now if only I could afford her clothes, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Materialistic Monday: Nissan Stainless Travel Mug

In the past 8 years, have you ever worked with me? Been at an IEP with me, met me for an observation at your child's school, or stopped to chat with me at my desk? Driven in the car with me? Have you met me at the park on a Saturday, seen me at a child's birthday party, or been in a music class with me and one of my kids? Have you ever seen me in church or been at a family gathering with me?

If you can answer "yes" to any one of the above, then you've already seen this coffee mug.

I don't think we've discussed my obsession with coffee, but that will have to wait.

Because today it's all about the travel mug.

I know, I know. It's not a sexy topic like cosmetics, or a cute way to please Al Gore, but Materialistic Monday is simply about Things I Love. And I love this travel mug.

You see, I don't drink my coffee at home and then stick the mug in the sink dishwasher and head out the door. Most days, I fill this baby with some really hot, freshly ground, dark roast coffee early in the morning, and drink it all day. And I do mean all day. Far too often I'm still working on my morning coffee on my drive home at 5:00 - although, to be fair, some days I do refill it from a thermos at work. But even when it's the same coffee I poured at 8 AM, it is still plenty warm at 5 PM. Yes, it's true! 9 hours later! I can even leave it in the car on a very cold day for an hour or so and it's warm when I return.

(And tangentially, I haven't even mentioned to you all how cold it's been here lately...most of yesterday it was below zero (and with a wind chill of -20 degrees, my friends). You will only find this interesting if you don't live in Minnesota or Alaska. Or Canada. Any readers out there in Canada? Because I spent 6 years living in Minnesota, I have a hard time thinking of -20 as that cold, but it actually is. I mean, we still go about our business and all, but it takes a lot of bundling up and the wind can be painful. That coffee needs to stay warm, people.)

It also has the perfect snap top and fits into any car's drink holders. I don't care how many bags I'm carrying to work, you will always - always! - see me balancing this coffee mug in my hand as I struggle to hold onto the less important stuff (you know, like my laptop).

Eight years old, it's missing a bit of its gleam. It recently lost its black gripper. The musical note sticker that Baxter affixed to it when he was 4 years old threatens to peel off, and I had to put a new name label on it this year (because MY GOD, what if I lost it?!).

But like a child's favorite stuffed animal that becomes shabbier with love and use, it only gets better.

Keep On Pluggin', Obama!

I think it would be difficult to read this segment from this morning's New York Times article
"Obama Gets Convincing Win in Three States" and not get a little goose-bumpy. He was expected to win those states, yes, but not by these margins. People are votin'!

"With the fight for the nomination extending beyond the 22 contests last Tuesday, voters in a fresh batch of states have suddenly found themselves in the thick of the most competitive primary in a generation. In past years they tended to cast their votes well after the nominee was effectively chosen.

On Saturday, with the contest so close, excitement ran high, as did turnout.

In Nebraska, The Omaha World-Herald reported that organizers at two caucus sites had been so overrun by crowds that they abandoned traditional caucusing and asked voters to drop makeshift scrap-paper ballots into a box instead. In Sarpy County, in suburban Omaha, traffic backed up on Highway 370 when thousands of voters showed up at a precinct where organizers had planned for hundreds.

In Washington, the Democratic party reported record-breaking numbers of caucusgoers, with early totals suggesting turnout would be nearly be nearly double what it was in 2004 — itself a record year — when 100,000 Democrats caucused."

I'm going to have to say: a lot of Americans appear to be Fired up and Ready to go!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Speaking of Love...

This week, Lyle wasn't the only one to receive a heart! Mine was in the form of this spiffy award - The Spreader of Love Award - which we are told by Tulip Mom is for bloggers "whose daily/weekly posts spread love, laughs, and insight to all of us". For those of you who don't know her, Tulip Mom is a lovely and talented blogger I have recently discovered, and I am enjoying getting to know her very much - and so should you! So, thank you, Tulip Mom, for sending me a heart of my very own; I am flattered and will display it proudly!

And now, what better way to kick off Valentine's Day week than to pass this award along to a few others? This was challenging because most of the blogs I love best are of the "love spreading" variety and you all deserve this, but here's my short list for today:

1. kristen, talented novelist, incredible mother, and friend extraordinaire at from here to there and back

2. kyra of the beautiful writing, brilliant son, and cute pigtails at This Mom

3. drama mama whose faaaabulousness knows no bounds

4. vicki forman who blogs about her writing, talented children and professorial life through her special needs mama columns and speak softly.

5. niksmom who shares all the joys of parenting the Nik the Wonder Boy at maternal instincts

6. jessica, who can go from a dazzling piece on civil rights to a scattalogical post that makes you want to burp out loud at work, all in the course of a single day, at Oh, the Joys

Thank you for spreading love, laughs, and insight - to all of us!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Welcome to My World

If a certain Senator from Illinois were to have delegates automatically added to his roster every time a local man hollered like a drill sargeant, "FIRED UP!" from Point A in the house in order for his wife to respond as loudly as she can, "READY TO GO!" from Point B (without waking the children), then we would be responsible for a fairly substantial increase in Obama delegates this week.

I'm just sayin'.

The Morning After

Okay, so if this is what you normally see when you look in the mirror during the day:

(I mean, you know, a few hairs out of place and all - no emphasis on perfection here! - but generally clean, well-groomed enough, healthy color, and rested...)

And then one night you suddenly see this (look everyone, I'm going to post this scary picture AGAIN! You can't escape it!):

How could you help but be horrified and wonder if you really know what you ever actually look like during the course of a day?!

But, seriously - today I worship the Goddesses of Aveda, Bumble & Bumble, Benefit, and Sleep.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bad Face Day

Oh. My. God.

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, catching up with blogs on my laptop in my dark dining room, when all of a sudden a new window opened on my screen that I did not recognize. I stared at it, scowling (apparently) as I tried to figure out what the hell I was looking at, when suddenly it occurred to me that instead of clicking on an arrow at the side of my window to scroll down, I'd clicked on the "Photo Booth" icon and was looking at an absolutely horrendous screen shot of myself, ready to be photographed: unwashed hair dragged into a deranged-looking pony tail, tired face without make-up pulled into a nasty scowl. (It is suddenly clear where those frown lines are coming from.)

I was so mesmerized by the fact that this horror show of a woman could be me, that I had to press the shutter and capture it. It is a testament to how much I love you all that I would share this photo: the worst of me. It's so bad that I actually find humor in it. I laughed out loud.

I took a lot of photos I am proud of today - this is NOT one of them:

Winter Photos

I was "supposed to" go to the gym today while Lyle was at nursery school. And yet when I left the house this morning, the neighborhood looked so magical. All I could think was, "I need my camera."

And so, when drop-off took a long time (had to get him into his snow pants so that they could go outside and play in the snow first thing!) and then I couldn't find parking anywhere near the gym, I did what I really wanted to do anyway, and headed back home for my camera. Sometimes aesthetics supersedes athletics.

Here is a photo set
of my photography walk this morning. All of these photos were taken on the stretch of my block between my house and Lake Michigan, and then down on the beach.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Heart Full of Mama Love

My little one, my Lyle, he's been struggling lately with big, challenging emotions that he doesn't always know how to express, despite his many words. It's easy to be loud, he's discovered, loud and bossy and angry; not so easy to say, "Mommy, I miss you. I'm sad when you to go to work. Please stay home and play with me."

I chatted with my wonderful friend Kristen about this sad subject a few nights ago, and she (as you'd expect if you know her) was full of fantastic ideas, many of which I know I've heard before (and even suggested to others!) but needed to hear again myself at this very moment in time, about this very child. I'm so grateful that she took the time to help me with this when I needed it.

And so along came this morning. Lyle has been reading Dinofours books like they're going out of style (which is technically the case - they're out of print but you can still buy them used for really cheap on amazon!) and is subsequently finding the language to share his sad feelings with me far more readily than he has with any other strategy I've tried. So today he approached me, took me by the hand and bravely said, "Mommy, don't go to work yet. I want to play with you some more." And cried.

Now, to many of you, this probably seems heart-breaking. To me, it's just a little bit heart-warming, but only because I've been waiting for him to open up and say what's in his little heart, rather than showing me through unpleasant behaviors that only left me guessing.

I immediately employed two new strategies. First, I asked him if he'd like to call me on the phone after lunch so that we could talk to each other. His little eyes lit right up through his tears and he said, "Yes!" So I arranged this with the babysitter.

But then I suggested that I could also give him something special of mine to hold today when he's missing me. Now this idea he LOVED. "What is it?" he asked, following me to my bedroom as I searched the top of my dresser (didn't I used to have some shells or special rocks up there?). "Oh, it's really, really special," I replied with excitement, as I came up empty-handed and tried to hide my worry.

And then it hit me: the heart. My Heart is Hot heart! Didn't I say I felt it was almost time to pass it along to someone, but I didn't know who it was for?

It was for Lyle. Of course it was.

Child of my heart.

Child who wants to be with me every moment of every day and night, who carries around a sadness under the surface so much of the time because I'm either not going to be with him later, or wasn't home earlier in the day, or might not show up in his dreams that night.

I gave Lyle my heart.

I filled it with hugs and kisses and all my Mama love, and then handed it to him before I left with instructions to hold onto it when he was missing me.

For the first time in a few weeks, there were no tears when I left the house. He held the pretty glass heart all day long. It sat next to him at every meal, and was under his pillow as he napped. It was in his hands when I came home from work early due to a snowstorm, and he continued to hold onto it as we read books and played cars together all afternoon. "I love my heart," he told me before bed, "it's so pretty. And it has even more than your hugs and kisses in it. It has all these little red things!", noting the flecks of color inside.

"That's all my love, sweetie. That part is the love."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fired Up! Ready to go!

As Matt is fond of saying (in his "Obama is my Homeboy" shirt) Barack the Vote!

Whomever you support today, be sure you get out there and vote!

(But I'll love you more if it's Barack. There. I've said it.)

(Photos courtesy of Matt's Voting Adventures)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Materialistic Monday: Envirosax bags

Oh, have I got a treat for you! This week's treasure is, well, actually five treasures.

Out in my car is a very small nylon sack. In that sack are five tiny rolled-up bags that snap closed.

When I hit the grocery store, Target, Benefit, whatever, I grab the sack out of my glove compartment and throw it into my purse, where it sits until check-out time.

And that, my friends, is where the Envirosax party begins! Out comes the sack and with a little flick of the wrist and a shwoop! I open each of the five bags and hand them over to the bagger, who stares in utter disbelief at how big and sturdy these bags are. Each one holds the equivalent of two environmentally-unfriendly and wimpy plastic grocery bags.

But have I mentioned how cool they look? I happen to have gotten the Retro Graphic set for Christmas (placed on our family's online giftlist by my very own self) and I love them! I gave my mom the 50s-looking Kitchen Graphic set and those are pretty darn cute, too. Every cashier at our local grocery store loves these bags and stops to write down the web site. And since the sack of bags lives in my car all the time, I am no longer getting to the store and realizing that I left my huge pile of bulky canvas bags at home.

Do not pass Go.

Do not stop to collect $200.

Get thee to the Envirosax web site.

The Superbowl: How to Ruin a Child's Perfectly Good Life

Did you hear it? All the way at your house?

The wailing. The howling. The sobbing.

Oh, the dramatic near-hyperventilation of a totally wrung-out, exhausted and extremely disappointed 7-year old at the end of the Superbowl.

Not only did his Packers lose, but now the Patriots have let him down as well.

What could be worse?

Not even the glorious big snowflakes that started to fall outside our window during the game, blanketing the whole world with another beautiful layer of snow, could distract him.

But, wow, what a change in his interest level and understanding of the game since last year; remember this post? It's one of my favorites. No, this year he was riveted to the entire game and was extremely psyched to be watching Real Commercials, even cheering for each one in the first quarter.

(And if you are one of those people who has truly been hanging out with me here in Blogland for the past year, thank you. There's surely a special place in heaven for you.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Snowy Saturday

We woke up to a lot of snow yesterday! Although every school district around us - and all private schools in the city - were closed, Chicago Public Schools was open. I'm told this is not so much the heartless move it feels like to us as it is consideration for the families who have no other option for their children on a day when school is suddenly closed - someone explained that the city's services would effectively shut down if there were a snow day. I also know it's financial; the district can't afford to pay teachers for a day when they aren't working. Either way, on a personal level it feels ridiculous, so we gave Baxter the gift of an unauthorized Snow Day yesterday.

And yet I had to go to work, slip-sliding my way down unplowed side streets to find parking near the clinic, and then getting soaked up to my knees as I walked down the middle of the street in a car tread since nothing was plowed or shoveled yet. I had stayed home with my sick kids the previous Friday and felt I couldn't cancel on my Friday families again this week, so in I went. About half of them kept their appointments so it was worth the trip in.

But today! Today was my Snow Day! Baxter and I went down to the beach at the end of our block and took in the magnificence of a frozen Lake Michigan. Lyle missed out due to some - shall we say - poor listening during the getting-ready process and we are - shall we say - having to be serious hard asses right now. Anyway, we discovered the upstairs neighbor's son down there at the beach in a great snow igloo he'd just built, so the boys romped in the snow and we all had a fabulous if chilly time: snowshoeing (we all have these and they are awesome!), snowball fights, snow angels, and of course hot cocoa at home afterwards. It was the morning I'd been waiting for all winter. I tucked my little camera into my coat pocket, so here are a few shots to share with you all...