Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home Cookin'

So, you all know the Runner and I enjoy cooking.  While we were dating we'd regularly make dinner together, typically opening (and finishing!) a bottle of wine by the time we were ready to wash dishes.  When not distracted by the needs of the small people in our house, we both find cooking to be relaxing and even exciting - the Runner will try new combinations of old favorites, often performing a ritual that he is quite proud of: putting as many ingredients (leftovers, veggies that are in danger of going bad, random grains and a little meat) into one meal.  Sometimes (to my occasional horror) into the same pot.  The truth is, however, he understands the chemistry of food quite clearly, which nearly always results in a delicious meal.  My cooking skills are more standard - I grew up with a "meat and three" kind of dinner: grilled chicken breast, broccoli, a baked potato, and some salad or maybe a few slices of bread on a dinner plate. Regardless of our default meal "settings," however, we both love to cook - and we both love stir fry.

The other night we used a new stir-fry pan - one that is featured in a local reward program with one of our grocery stores.  A few weeks ago we were at "the Jewel," as we call it in Chicago, and the staff there was unveiling a new promotion in which shoppers collect stickers (1 sticker for each $10 spent) to earn a new piece of professional cookware.  We have a fold out card to keep our stickers together, and the Talker really likes sticking the stickers in their place and keeping track of how many we have saved so far. I'm working towards a grill pan - which will cost 1 cent and require 90 stickers. The program is unique to Chicago-area stores, too, making it a fun local perk.

So this stir-fry pan....WOW.  We have a wok, which is a slightly different shape than this pan, but it has no lid!  I love that this new pan as a lid, because I have melted a few cutting boards (stupid!) trying to keep the steam inside the pan to cook broccoli, my favorite stir fry veggie.  The other thing that took a bit of getting used to was how it slid so smoothly across my burner.  Our stove is relatively new, and I'm sometimes paranoid about marking the burner covers by sliding pans back and forth to mix ingredients.  But this pan - it was almost slippery!  I'm sure it's designed that way, and I will have to be sure that I only give in to the pan-shaking impulse when using this particular "professional" pan.  Another difference: the pan got REALLY HOT!  I'm assuming the material conducted the heat from the flame especially well, and I'm happy to have to get used to differences like these.

That night (TV-date night = Parenthood on NBC) we made a simple stir fry with tempeh, broccoli, onions, and garlic - over sushi rice, because we'd run out of our typical brown basmati.  It was good - though we used a different brand of tempeh, which wasn't as yummy as our regular variety.  The meal was extremely filling - and for two big eaters, we were struggling after half our usual amount.

And since I am a history nerd, I have to point out the fact that this idea of saving stickers to redeem a reward isn't new to the American family cook. As many Americans recognize the benefits of cooking at home - saving money, healthier meals, and family togetherness - Jewel-Osco is pulling an idea from the archives to promote such wholesome goals while driving up customer loyalty. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, supermarkets regularly provided stamps for customers to collects in saver books, which could then be redeemed for various gifts.  I'm looking forward to saving up for that grill pan.  If it's anything like this stir fry pan, we will be pleased.  Who doesn't love a toasted sandwich with pretty grill marks?  Our winters are looooong here, and you start to miss those grill marks on your meat when it's 12 below and icy outside. So, Chicagoans: save your stickers from the Jewel and get cooking!

*This post was inspired by the complimentary Thomas Professional Stir-fry pan I received through the the Jewel-Osco loyalty rewards program described above.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eating is a Celebration of Life!

Hi All!

So I'm over at my other blog today: Intentional Family, talking about a subject that everyone loves: FOOD.  You might be surprised by how "crunchy" I've really become.  HA!

Hope you all have a terrific start to your weekends!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Army of Women wants YOU.

A few months ago, I joined the Army of Women, a breast cancer research initiative that joins forces with women like you and me to reach their goal of eradicating breast cancer. I received an email from them today explaining a research study in Chicago that incorporates women between the ages of 50-70 who have never been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I am shamelessly using my blog to promote the study tonight - because I love their philosophy of participation. The Army of Women asks women to join in the fight against breast cancer by signing up to be informed of research studies in the regions - and to perhaps participate in one of these studies.

Who knows? You might be able to participate in the research that keeps women alive to snuggle up to their families for the rest of their natural lives. Consider joining the Army.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

NOFO. That's the North Fork to you

Our family vacation this year was just awesome.  We spent 11 days in Mattituck, NY, on the North Fork. We rented kayaks for most of the first week, and the Runner and I took them out every single day, together! Alone!  We did take the Talker on a long kayak excursion (probably a total of 4 miles out and back) to a salt marsh to explore the wildlife there.  So terrific.  The only way it could've been better is if I'd had some chicken necks and string and a bucket for all the blue crabs that would've become an illegal (but delicious) lunch. The Talker's godfather came down for a long weekend, which was a major treat for all of us, especially the Runner.  They went clamming, we ate steamers.  They went out again, we had the BEST clam chowder (Rhode Island style) courtesy of Gramps (and Froggy Gramps, really).

How lucky were we??  Both sets of grandparents took the kids to the Up & Down Horsey in Greenport!  And Miss Rosie found a blueberry bush with enough ripe berries to last her at least a week (and enough to turn her poo bright green. Who knew?!)
There was always a full house, but it made for lots of interesting conversations and late night card games.  and I, of course, got in a ton of knitting with some lovely yarn from Knitche. Very relaxing.We didn't have a single bad beach day, and the Talker took to the water like a slippery, white otter. He even played a bit with his sister. It was a week full to the brim with blessings and family time, and I'm pretty sure it was desperately needed by all of us. We came home renewed and ready for whatever the coming chill holds.  Except maybe for the actual chill part.  At least I would be willing to pass on that. It's possible that these pictures will find their way into a post in January when the snow is six inches deep but the Talker still has school.  Ahhh, sweet home, Chicago.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's been a while...again

I'm not sure what's keeping me from the blog lately.  I think it's a classic case of self-induced pressure + writer's block.  A dear friend of mine reminded me (via her excellent blog, The Traveling Circus) recently that I really shouldn't let perfection be the enemy of good.  I think I fall prey to that logic too often - wallowing in a sometimes-obsessive need for perfection while sitting very still.

If it were New Year's Day, or Lent, I'd have one hell of a resolution.

Perhaps I should just deal with it in real time, though.  Not wait for that golden opportunity to arrive in which I can easily change...I suppose this is because change is likely the toughest challenge we can ever face as individuals.  If you truly want to modify something about the way to face the world - it takes honest-to-God dedication and hard work!  Am I up for that?  If I took the easy way out, I'd wait for Lent.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exploring the Michigan Coast

We are East Coast babies in our house.  I hate to admit that sometimes, because folks from the Midwest are truly so much nicer than we are - and we'd be lucky to be Midwesterners, but we're just not.  Our real problem has always stemmed from a bit of snobbery surrounding access to an ocean.  You know: Saltwater. Seafood. Undertow.

The Runner is not only a snobby East Coaster, he's also a stuck up New Englander. (Sorry, babe!)  I don't mean that he is rude - quite the contrary.  What I mean is that he likes certain things to be a certain way. Roads, for example. They should be windy and have trees that could be growing into your lane. Sugaring sap should run in most of them, too. There is no Spring where he is from, just Mud Season. I, too, have my moments. Mine typically center on access to fresh seafood and not being "land locked."  Ridiculous, I am aware.  But still.  When we first moved to Chicagoland I went to 4 different grocery stores before I could find a tin of Old Bay. (The pride of Maryland!)  I was extremely agitated by this - what kind of place were we living in now?  Clearly we were no where near the Bay, and I wouldn't be organizing large crab feasts in our backyard with tons of newspaper and paper towels and melted butter.  I mean, honestly, Dwyer. What were you expecting?!

Much of this changed, however, over the Fourth of July weekend.  On a whim that was characteristic of our lives before homeownership, we skipped town with zero plan on Saturday morning, just knowing that we were headed to the Michigan Coast to check things out.

WOW.  There were windy roads and farm stands and trees threatening to shove us into oncoming traffic. There was a big sandy beach with Mattituck-like waves. There were even signs alerting swimmers to the dangers of an undertow. An undertow!  In Lake Michigan! (I didn't need to read it, though. I could recite that warning in my sleep.)  The sand was so hot it burned The Runner's feet!  I did miss the salt and seafood, though.  But the perk of no salt is that you don't feel desperate for a shower immediately after leaving the beach.

We started in Holland and had a yummy lunch at the New Holland Brewing Company. Several of The Runner's friends had recommended it (for the beer), but the food was quite good on its own, especially the homemade hummus.  Then we hit Holland State Park where we burned our feet, read the riptide warning, swam, and threw some sand at other small children.  Oh, wait, that was The Talker.

On the 4th we drove into Saugatuck, an artsy little town with a rockin' Fourth of July parade. The Talker scored more candy than he did as a rootin-tootin' cowboy on Halloween.  Rosie cried when the fire trucks came through.  I aquired a coffee table book from the a group fighting to preserve the Saugatuck Dunes. It was a very generous parade. We drove home by way of South Haven, mainly because I needed some ice cream.

The whole coastline was gorgeous.  And everyone we've talked to since said it just gets more pristine and lovely as you drive north. Who knows?  Maybe our next adventure will take us up to Traverse City?  If you can't beat 'em (or organize a crab feast), join 'em.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Our smiley flower turns ONE today!  This year has simply flown by.  Between the exhaustion of a new (and refluxy) baby and a regular school schedule for the Talker, the time just whizzed on past.  I feel a bit sad about that.  She is changing fast - developing a formidable personality to compete with the other three attention grabbers in our house.  Yes, I've included the Runner and myself.  I'm honest, at least.

Here's a little photo retrospective of Rosie's first year!  Enjoy!

So, it's been a while.

WOW.  Two months of no blogging!  That's just too long.  I don't really have many excuses to give for my laziness, though we have been going through a few family adjustments since May.  But seriously, when are we not?!

Since I last wrote I've completed the Naperville Women's Triathlon, we've enjoyed our local swim and tennis club (still enjoying!), witnessed my father being ordained a Roman Catholic deacon (SO AWESOME.), and explored part of the Michigan coastline (gorgeous, sans salt).  It's been a busy two months.  We've got lots and lots of pictures to come - with stories to compliment them.  Or captions at least. 

And I'd been writing for the Chicago Moms Blog for the last several months, but their organization suddenly decided to close shop, so I've been avoiding blogging while I try to figure out whether or not I want to join up with a new Chicago mommy blogging community.  I'm still on the fence.  The thing is, I don't consider myself much of a self-marketer trying to "create my brand."  Frankly, I'm not sure if that's even real.  I'm interested in writing, of course, but I was running out of clever things to say to all of Chicago's moms on "the big blog."  For now I think I'm going to play it close to the vest and just write here for a while. And while I can't promise an all-kids-all-the-time theme, it does seem to be the one I like best.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sensitive Rosie

Ever since we met that July day in the hospital, I tend to get emotional thinking about my daughter's future. I frequently imagine her as a little girl, then as a preteen, as an older teenager, and finally a young woman. My eyes mist the most when I imagine her as a mother. This is all ridiculous, I realize, because she may never be a mom - either by choice or by circumstance. But she will grow up, and that will happen faster than I am willing to admit.

Truth be told, Miss Rosie is a sensitive one - she cries hysterically when I turn on the garbage disposal and screeches when we run the blender. I try so hard to prepare her for the noises, but no amount of preparation will take the edge off of being startled into tears.  It's hard, watching and hearing her cry so hard.

And I know that this sensitivity isn't going anywhere. That's okay; I lean to the sensitive side myself. I can relate to those see-saw feelings when life is out of balance. It almost as if I can see my baby girl as a someday-teenager, struggling to develop her identity and understand her changing body. I can feel her teetering on the see-saw of balance, desperately trying to understand all the pieces that beautifully make up her whole essence. And I know that I have to prepare myself now to be open to her questions, her curiosities, and her tears. She deserves that from her mother.

*I was motivated to write this post by The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You, by Jennifer Ashton, MD, OB/Gyn. I received a complimentary copy of the book as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group bookclub.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mother's Day on Chicago Moms Blog

I forgot to post this last weekend, but I wrote a (slightly emotional) post for Chicago Moms Blog that happened to go live on Mother's Day.  It was just a little reflection on where I "was" about a year ago - and making challenging choices about childbirth.  It was good for me to write it, if nothing else.  Enjoy if you so choose!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Meanwhile, We Actually Have a Good Vocabulary

The Talker is using two new words in his up-to-the-minute lingo: actually and meanwhile.

The scary thing?  He worked meanwhile into a sentence today - correctly.

I don't use meanwhile, like, EVER.  I do use actually.  I'm wondering where meanwhile came from.  For a four year old, meanwhile is a 10-cent word!  I think actually is worth at least 8 cents.  Perhaps they show up in Charlotte's Web, The Talker's favorite rainy day book.  (Who am I kidding? He reads it on sunny, warm days, too, when he should be hankering to go outside!)

On our way home from school I told him, "You have quite a vocabulary, young man."

"What's a vocabulary, Mom?"

"Hmmm...a vocabulary is all the words that you know and use when you talk or write."

"Oh. Actually, I knew that already."

Okay, maybe he didn't say that last bit, but I often feel pretty humbled by this boy's facility with language and his enjoyment of storing and classifying large quantities of information. Actually, humbled is way too generous.  I need to start doing more crossword puzzles in my "free time."  Maybe Nana could help me out with this one.  The Talker's vocabulary is getting a little too big for my comfort zone!  But of course we can't stifle this - it's a sign of good things to come, right?

But this varied and expansive vocabulary is not without its 2-cent words.Yesterday he stepped out on to our front steps with his awesome firetruck rain slicker on and announced, "Oh, crap! It's raining out here!"  The Runner informed me that The Talker sounded just like his sweet mommy.

Oh, crap. 

I suppose it's better than the alternative, right?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Running Investments

It has begun.  Today is Day 3 of Marathon Training. Is it bad that according to my training plan I was supposed to run 5 miles on Wednesday (ran 2.5 - then lifted), 2 miles on Thursday (ran 0!!) and another 5 today (actually made it to the Y and ran 6.2 - that's something at least)?  Clearly I will be FINE - but I am marveling at the differences in my attitude towards training as compared to 7 years ago. Oh, dear, has it really been that long since I've trained for a marathon??  I was once precise and focused, now I am frazzled and into approximations.  Hmmmm...probably no PR in my immediate future.

So - assuming all goes somewhat according to plan, I will be running the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco in October 2010.

Thank goodness for our new double stroller. There is absolutely no way I would manage to train without it.  The truth is that I no longer have an excuse NOT to run - now that I can put both kids in it and GO, I am pretty much obligated to do just that.  
About a month ago, we picked up the double BOB Ironman stroller from the Naperville Running Company.  It is AWESOME.  We happen to be connected in the world of running, but if you're not and you're a runner, it is so worth saving your money for.  I thought it would be tough to turn - let alone push - with two very different sized children riding in it.  On the contrary, it is suprisingly easy to maneuver around corners and over bumps.  We are oh-so happy with it, and so are the kids!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sleep Training: Confessions in the Night

Hi Family! Hi Friends! 

You can find me over at Chicago Moms Blog today, stressing over sleep training Miss Rosie. Last night she was up at 4am, same as the night before! Her sweet Daddy took care of her so I could rest before my big triathlon workout this morning: all three disciplines - and with a friend, too!  If you have tips on how to keep her asleep until at least the six o'clock hour, I am ALL ears.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


So, The Talker and Miss Rosie are playing together.  It. Is. Awesome.

The Talker calls out to her and tries to get her to crawl his way.  She obliges him because she thinks he is the absolute-coolest-person-she-knows.  And he is, I might add.  Her daddy is a close second.  They giggle and squeal, and the Talker scootches away - just out of reach.  She does her lopsided crawl to catch up, and the giggling begins again.  By the end of it all they are pretty much wrestling. 

I have to hold back a little bit.  My protective tendancies are tempting me to repeat endlessly, "Be gentle!  Oh!  Careful, don't hurt her!"  But I really (for the most part) need to keep my mouth shut.  The Talker is a wonderful brother - and the only time he ever goes after Miss Rosie is when he is ticked at me.  (How sophisticated!)

So, here they are.  The siblings that wrestle together, stay together. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicago Moms Blog - Navigating Social Media

Last weekend I had the pleasure to join other mommy bloggers at an event sponsored by SVMoms Group, the organization behind Chicago Moms Blog, and Chevy. We enjoyed an afternoon and evening at the Hard Rock Hotel (complimentary valet, too!), discussing the intersection of blogging and branding - and then enjoyed some good food, wine, great conversation, and yes, some swag.

I'm still new to this blogging thing - and I felt like I was a bit out of my element at our roundtable discussion.  Our lovely organizers and moderators, Jill Asher and Linsey Krolik, guided the conversation to flesh out ways that brands and bloggers can work together using social media outlets.  I guess I was surprised/amazed at the role social media is playing in marketing and branding these days.  I mean, I am a fan of our local park district on Facebook and everything, but it somehow never occurred to me that a company might want to use a mommy blogger to connect with the "real world."

Call me naive, I guess.

But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  It makes sense the way teaching your kids makes sense - moms are the first point of contact between their children (future customers!) and life outside the nest.  From the beginning, parents are the ones to choose what to expose their children to and what to withhold.   And besides, moms talk.  Seriously, when I was a kid I couldn't figure out why moms did that all the time. Talk, talk, talk.  At the time, playing seemed waaaay better (sometimes it still does!), but still, my mom and her mom friends would just, well, talk.  The truth?  I'm one of them now.

And I'm picky.  For example, I don't have time for companies that shamelessly use inappropriate images to sell clothing to teenagers. (I'm looking at YOU, Abercrombie & Fitch.)  Well, truthfully, I don't have time to shop at all. It takes a ton of effort to shop (successfully) with two kids, and I only go places with them when I really need to get something.  And I've learned that the power that crouches in my wallet is possibly the most vocal of all.  We're trying to put our money where our beliefs are - or at least consciously keep our money out of places that we don't agree with.  That's a big reason why we joined a CSA for our meat.  And you know what?  I'm proud of those decisions.  I feel like I'm standing up for something valuable.

But back to last Sunday - the companies that took the time to come talk with us were terrific.  A big thank you to all of them, especially Chevy - our main sponsor - for spending the evening with us!  I'd like to share a few of my faves, but this post is getting a bit long.  A separate post with more info to come!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Sunday 2010

Easter Sunday morning came early.  Our two little cherubs don't like to sleep late now that the birds have begun their springtime chirping again in northern Illinois.  The Easter Bunny was good to everyone, hiding copious amounts of chocolate (and peanut butter!) around the living room.  Miss Rosie crawled around on the floor to find her first Easter eggs, and The Talker skittered, near-crazed with excitement, from egg to egg, collecting anything he could get his hands on.

Funny, though: he found a peanut butter egg today when he took the chair cushion off to make a mini-fort.  He was very proud of himself.  Luckily he put it on the kitchen table and walked away for a moment, so I was able to sneak that Reeses-crack up into his Easter basket.  For safe-keeping, you know.  (Or until The Runner or I get a craving...those things are dangerous!)
Another dangerous fact: The Talker can read.  Most of you know this already, but here he is, looking like he's 17, leaning on the table, reading the note from E. Bunny.  Mr. Bunny has whirly handwriting, too, which I think is hard to read, but The Talker doesn't think so.  And Rosie, well, she pretty much thinks anything The Talker does is hilarious and fun.  Even when he's sitting on her.  More on that next time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Loving the Neighborhood

Hi, friends!

You can find me at today, singing the praises of our neighborhood.
Then go enjoy yours!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thinking about food over here....

Hi everyone!

You can find me at the Chicago Moms Blog today - read over there if you like!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Home Depot

Our Big Talker sometimes has trouble closing his mouth and getting himself ready to go somewhere.  For anyone who knows our family, this sounds familiar, doesn't it?  We are genetically hardwired as talkers.  Poor Big T is also saddled with a significant amount of Irish blood, which consequently puts him on "Irish Time."  Irish Time is a danger to all things punctual.  And believe me, the Talker and I both struggle with punctual.

Getting ready for school the other day, I decided that urging him with sound bytes rather than full on directions was the way to go.  He needed to get his shoes on so we could make it to school on time, but he couldn't do the shoes AND tell me about the diet of a gigantosaurus at the same time.  (Geez, Mom!)  I was getting flustered trying to twart Irish Time for the 483rd time that week.  It was only Tuesday.

The short conversation went like this:

"Less talking, more DOING, buddy."
"More doing, Mom. That's the power of the Home Depot."

Irish Time be damned; unintentional preschooler humor wins again!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Signs of Her Times

A few days from now, our Rosie will be a whopping eight months old.  How this happened, I am not so sure.  She presented quite a challenge early on - not sleeping well and acting generally uncomfortable for several months.  Turns out she has acid reflux, and though I don't love giving her Zantac twice a day, it certainly does help.  The Runner (aka Daddy) remarked how he felt like he just didn't know her - which he attributed (at first) to his crazy work and travel schedule.  I assured him that we were all still getting to know each other - she was still brand new! 

But the truth was that I felt like I couldn't get to know her either.  She cried so much - and my heart broke over and over because it was clear she was hurting.  Add that to some long, lonely nights as the only adult in the house trying to console an inconsolable baby, and I didn't have a lot of energy left over for socializing with my new baby girl.  Despite all this, I still felt like she wanted to communicate with me.  From the moment she arrived, I've felt like she's about to open her mouth to say, "hey Mom! I have stuff to tell you!"  There's just this look on her expressive, when it wasn't twisted up in a grunt or a sob.

Within a few days of starting the Zantac, however, things started looking up.  Miss Rosie slept for longer stretches and smiled a lot more.  She puked less (note that I am not referring to spit up here) and wanted to socialize and explore more, too.  Now I'm emerging from a sleeplessness fog and counting the months...and we're up to eight!

She is feeding herself Cheerios, bananas, avocadoes, and pizza crust!  She even drank some children's herbal tea yesterday from a sippy cup.  She's one knee short of full-on crawling, and we have no gates!  Between all of these developments and her lovely, silly personality, this girl has completely blindsided us.  It's time, I realize, to start signing with her, to give her will to communicate a "voice."

She sits in her high chair with her Gerber puffs or her Cheerios, and I ask her over and over, "More? Do you want more?" while tapping my fingertips together in the sign for more. "More to eat?"  Fingertips together, fingertips to mouth.  The Talker is in on the game, too.  His welcome-to-the-world gift to his sister was a baby book about signing.  He remembers most of the signs he learned - still signing "please" when he's especially tired.  If I need to tell him something at a playdate, I can surreptitiously sign it on the DL, and he responds immediately.  This does not always happen when I speak to him.  In fact, his MO is to ignore me most of the time!

Looking back, I'll admit that I don't really remember when he said his first word.  Could that be because it was "Daddy"?  Perhaps.  I'm not ruling that out.  But I definitely remember his first sign.  He was about nine and a half months old, and he made the sign for "more" while sitting in his high chair.  It was awesome.  There is something especially intimate about signing with your kids - you really need to be paying attention to each other to understand what is being communicated.  Especially if you want to catch that first sign.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Givin' it up: for Lent

Last week we marked the beginning of Lent (literally) by attending an Ash Wednesday service.  Miss Rosie wiggled and fussed while RT flopped on the floor of the narthex. I attempted to focus on the priest's words while sweating profusely after administering a timeout near a potted plant RT for said flopping.

Ahhh, Church.  Anyone with small children knows how unholy it can make you feel.  Trying to get the kids out the door on time, coaxing them to behave "properly" during the service, and making game-time decisions about how much noise from your 7 month old is too much noise, even though she IS a baptized member of the congregation are all part of the worshipping process.

Mercifully, this wasn't a Mass, so it was considerably shorter for the kids.  I'd explained to RT about the ashes - and he understood where they came from.  (Thank you NBC5 Chicago for showing the ceremony of burning the palms at the cathedral on afternoon news!)  I thought for sure that he would want to participate in the wearing of ashes this year; he showed all the signs of readiness: asking questions, understanding that the ashes don't hurt your forehead...

So we get in line to receive our ashes, and RT starts the wet noodle trick - also known as "going boneless."  Holding Miss Rosie securely on my right hip, I attempt to guide him into the ashes line, and his arms slips from my (firm but gentle!) grasp, and he slides to the floor.  I start sweating again.  With an attempt at saintly patience, I redouble my efforts ,and we make it to the front of the line, just in time for RT to clamp his chubby hands over his forehead.  Ashes denied!

The woman dispensing the ashes also tries to coax him to receive them.  At this point I don't care whether or not he wears them, I just want to go hide in my car.  To show him that the ashes don't hurt, she anoints Rosie with them (yikes! she's only 7 months!), and then sneaks her hand near his hairline and slips him the goods.  He immediately starts rubbing his head saying (loudly), "But I don't want these ashes! They are yucky!"

By now I have soaked through my button down, and my fleece jacket is starting to feel damp.  We make it to the car, RT rubbing his forehead the entire way.  Looking around me, I am relieved to note that I am not the only parent who struggled in her attempt at sainthood today.  All that sweat starts to cool me off, and I start feeling like I can speak kindly again.

On the way home, I explain how people give things up for Lent - things that they enjoy.  They don't eat certain favorite foods or do a favorite activity, from now until Easter.  I told him that I'm giving up ice cream this year and Daddy's giving up beer. (BEER!!)  RT annouces, "Mom, I would like to give up computer games for Lent."

WHOA, hold the presses.  COMPUTER GAMES?!

Maybe my boy will become a saint someday.

One can only hope.  Until then, I think I'll be washing some more sweaty laundry.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Summer Days, Driftin' Away

We awoke this morning to snow silently falling...beautiful, to be sure, but definitely commonplace by this point in the season.  February tends to be a cold, wet month around here, and tomorrow will prove that point.  Our forcast is calling for 10" of snow.  This is NOTHING compared to the sufferings of our families back East, but it IS a "shoveling event," as they call it in Chicagoland.  With these things in mind, I needed a shot of summer! 

The Boys Of Summer
(is it obvious that I'm ready for the seasons to change?)

Summer 2007 - Katie & Kevin's backyard
(note the length of RT's swim trunks!)

Summer 2008 - WATERFIGHT!        Summer 2009 - Uncle R's visit

Speaking of summer - we've been taking RT swimming at our Y at least once a week. Having spent all my summers at the beloved 'Brook teaching tons of kids to swim, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to swim lessons. The good people at the Y are obviously concerned about safety, and they attempt to force a pock-marked, styrofoam floatation device on our child every time we enter the pool area.  Nevermind that the strap that wraps around RT's body gives him a rash - or better yet - that he DOES NOT NEED IT, because I will be swimming beside him the entire time.  But thank you for the offer.

Score: bare-bellied swimming - 1; gross styrofoam floaties - 0.

Now, I'm not going to begrudge parents wanting to use floaties on their kids. I get that. If you have a bunch of kids to watch at once, you're going to need a floatation device of some kind for the ones who can't swim. But if it's just you and your kid, no floaties please. 

On a recent pool trip, RT & I spent most of our time in the deep end, diving.  Yes, folks, he can dive.  Actually, let me correct that: 50% of the time he dives, 50% of the time he belly flops.  The belly flops are funnier, but the diving makes me feel really proud!  He informed me two summers ago (during the 2008 Summer Olympics) that he wanted to grow up to be Michael Phelps.  Right now he's at least on target to join our summer swim team in a year or two.  That's good enough for us.  Whether or not it is good enough for him remains to be seen!

The day he learned to move through the water on his own was terrific.  Labor Day Weekend, 2008.  The Summer Olympics had just concluded, and the two of us were at the pool.  Of course it was jammed with people, being the final weekend of the summer.  We were in the "big pool," where RT couldn't stand.  Tons of kids, RT included,were bopping around on the staircase meant for people uninterested in jumping right in.  He was a few months shy of 3 years, so I wasn't about to let go of him in the water.  Plus, it was really crowded.  He stood on the stairs and said, "Mom! Stand back."  He did he characterisitic "go-away-now" wave to further his point.  Clearly I am curious about what he is about to do.  So, I took a step back.  Not far enough for him.  He waved again, this time more exasperated because I was not complying to his simple request.

He went underwater.  I freaked out a little, because my baby boy is completely submerged and not moving.  But I checked myself and left him alone.  He found his chubby footing, pushed off the step, and came wiggling toward me - with his belly parallel to the bottom of the pool.  (Add a floatie and that never happens!)  I started laughing - that joyful, totally goofy laugh you get when you are surprised by how proud and emotional you are - and then he was back in my arms, slippery and glowing with pride.  He wanted to do it again and again and again.  Of course I let him.  And I let myself give in, blissfully, to the feeling that my kid is really cool and talented and brave.

Score: bare-bellied swimming - 2; gross styrofoam floaties - 0.

This feeling (shared by P, too) has set the stage for a lot of fun in the water.  RT is extremely comfortable in the pool, to the chagrin of the YMCA lifeguards.  They are, however, beginning to see that he does better without one of those styrofoam floaties.  Just last weekend the pool director was walking by the deep end as Tommy was getting ready to jump in (P was right there).  She grew agitated, and marched over to the lifeguard, presumably to tell him that such a small kid should absolutely not be in the deep end.  Dad overheard the lifeguard tell her, "No. The kid can swim.  Let it go."

Score: bare-bellied swimming - 3; gross styrofoam floaties - 0.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Over Christmas we were "home" in Ktown for a nice visit, during which we had Miss Rosie baptized at HR.  The trip was a total whirlwind, and of course we didn't get to see everyone that we'd wanted to, but I supposed we've grown used to that a bit by now.

The baptism was scheduled for 1pm on the 27th, and we planned to have a small gathering afterwards - just a few friends and neighbors.  After much deliberation, my mother decided on a dessert-and-coffee kind of spread - which was a-okay by me.  By 12N, the gigantic coffee urn was perking on the dining room table (this thing could caffinate the entire parish in a single brew) and we'd sweetly arranged various desserts around it.  I was hustling to get M cleaned up & into her christening gown, which I wanted to be extra careful with since my late Nana made it for my baptism 31 years ago.  Since we all operate on Irish time (except for my punctual hubby), we were just kicking it into high gear to get out the door ASAP.

In the rush to get everything organized, my oh-so self-reliant 21 year-old brother (and MR's godfather) floats into the kitchen and asks, "Hey Mom, what's for lunch?"  My mom - barely skipping a beat - looks at him and says, " Geez, I don't know.  There's all kinds of stuff on the dining room table.  Help yourself."

The Godfather meaneders into the dining room, probably hoping to find a ham sandwich and some chips.  Seeing the sugary spread, he returns to the kitchen and deadpans: "Um, Mom, I wanted lunch. Not diabetes."


Cut to our kitchen, this afternoon.  RT has just scored a bag of V-day candy from the neighbors, who are super generous and tons of fun. We love them.  The Talker is tearing through the bag, checking everything out and settling on a lollipop (yes, this is his third one in 6 hours, not counting the small bag of M&Ms he snuck by me).  He doesn't ask for permission.  He just digs in.  I start wondering out loud - "I wonder if there is diabetes in there with your candy?"  The Talker, whose middle name is Persistant, is now following me around the house saying, "hey Mom, where are the diabetes?  Did I get any in my Valentine's Day candy from school?  I want diabetes!"

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Sending you love and diabetes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

WHAT?! Mario & Sonic are NOT at the Olympic Winter Games?

Chicago winters are so long and cold that we "invested" in a Wii.  Yes, we did convince ourselves that it was something that we "needed" - and something that would create more playtime for us as a family.  We were right on one count, anyway.  Clearly no one needs video games - no matter how many commercials and ads make it seem that way.  But we definitely play it as a group, which seriously rocks.

One of our best Christmas gifts this year was "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games." (See, even Santa is investing in our family fun!)  P thought it would be good to play in preparation for watching the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  No, seriously, he did.

Well...turns out he was right. Although RT cares most about shopping in the Wii Olympic Village with the points he's saved up from coming in last in every single event, he does recognize the various events: figure skating, downhill skiing - even curling!  One problem: until last night, he couldn't understand why he wasn't going to see Mario or Sonic competing during the real Olympics.  In his defense, the game begins with the Vancouver Olympics logo. My concrete thinker is clearly trying to work out the relationship between the Wii Olympics and the real Olympics.  This mirrors the mental exercises he does all the time - what is real? what is pretend? And my favorite: can pretend things (monsters - or worse: the blue Avatar people) ever become real?

After building it up all day, we watched the Opening Ceremonies last night as a family (sans bebe). P set up a pallet on the floor for RT to lay down while watching, and we had fun identifying the different nations and their flags during the procession. I'm sad to say (sort of) that he fell asleep long before the exciting part of the show really began, and he missed the torch lighting completely.  I suggested to P that we wake him up, but he gently reminded me that "that is what YouTube is for."  So he slept on, oblivious as The Great One jogged around Vancouver carrying the Olympic flame.  And we didn't have to field any questions about the locations of Mario and Sonic - nor did we have to get into the ins and outs of what is real and what is pretend.  A few question-free hours?  Bliss.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Diaper Duty

I did it.  I can't believe it, but I did it.  Three days ago I ordered 12 cloth diapers online.  They are likely to arrive this afternoon.  The truth is, I'm feeling pretty apprehensive about the change from disposable to cloth. (What if they leak? What if I hate them? Ohmygosh I'm going to have to do more laundry - a chore I'm not all that good at anyway. Wait - what if they leak?!?!)

I am excited, too, though.  M.R. has pretty sensitive skin, and her little booty never seems to dry out.  My kick-butt-and-take-names sister has been using them for at least a year now, and her kids never get rashes anymore.  And besides, I've even washed and folded her diaper stash, so I assume dealing with ours will be no different.

There is a long train of thought that brought me to the decision to switch to cloth diapers. It is, perhaps, a twisting, turning train, but that seems to be the way my mind works best. I'm not going to lie - it had equal parts personal and environmental motivation.  Saving money is always a big motivator.  And honestly, living in the suburbs of a huge city often makes me feel highly disconnected from the natural world. The P-I-A of doing more laundry will be, at its best moments, an "offering up" of extra work in service of Earthly stewardship. That sounded really fancy!  I guess it's just so easy to feel powerless in our culture.  Cloth diapering feels counter-cultural -- a departure from convenience -- and perhaps that is my mommy-way of sticking it to the man. 

Wait, I think I see the UPS driver pullling up... Here. We. Go.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It won't be long before we'll all be there with *S*N*O*W*

It wasn't long ago that I would obessively check for the threat of white stuff.  The promise of a snow day (and a day "off" of work - aka: a grading/planning day) was enough to tempt me to gather the class around my laptop to track the latest movements of a storm.

Nowadays I go to bed without bothering to watch the weather - mainly because nothing seems to faze the strong stock of Chicagoans.  Despite what I would consider dangerous driving conditions (and my definition has changed over the past 7 years), people still dutifully get up, dig out, and put their kids on the bus (!!) as it threatens to slide from lane to lane down Main Street.  Good thing we drive our kid to school - and later he will walk!

We're getting the northern edge of the storm that is set to dump another 10"-20" of snow on K-town and 4"-8" on Bolton.  Looks like we'll get a foot or so - no big deal for Mr. T & Dad, who have become quite the shoveling duo.

While they discussed the ins and outs of shoveling technique, My Rosie and I watched from the playroom with a hot cup of tea (mine, of course).

She is getting close to crawling - and I'm not exactly sure how we're going to manage that.  We'll need to put up gates, of course, but then RT is sure to attempt to scale them.  Maybe I should rethink my plans to put him in a Rock Monkeys class at the Y?  For now, we're just grateful that she is learning to PLAY on her own a bit.  She continues to find most things and people absolutely hilarious - especially her goofy big brother.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bye, Bye Bedtime Story

Like so many families, part of our bedtime routine involves reading a few stories. For the last four years we have read Mr. T some terrific books - and loved every minute of it. Lately, though, he's gotten into dinosaurs and mammals, and he's more interested in reading reference guides on the topics than listening to stories. This is somewhat annoying for my husband & I, mainly because reading a dinosaur encyclopedia out loud can be embarassing. When your child can pronounce the names of the creatures flawlessly - and corrects you every few sentences - the reading roles have officially reversed!

To our advantage - most of the time - our little guy can already read. Okay, okay, you're thinking: Yeah, right! But seriously, the kid can read. Proficiently. Other than read to him - and talk about sounds here and there - we did absolutely nothing out of the ordinary to encourage this habit. He just figured it out, and gets better at it every day. We have mixed feelings about this - it's certainly impressive that he can read already, and it's also great to know that he won't struggle with the process of learning in school. also means we can't sneak much by him. The age-old parental tactic of spelling is worthless. We've discussed becoming a bilingual parental team (pig latin or gibberish: I am fluent!), but it hasn't caught on just yet.

Last night's bedtime was a shocker. He jumped right into bed, rolled over on his tummy, and whipped out his Atlas of the World book. With his characteristic I-can-do-it-myself face, he put up his little hand as if to wave me off and said, "I can read to myself tonight, Mom."

I wanted to cry! I did not expect my little fella to want to read alone before bed until he turned 12! (Okay, maybe 10?) That snuggle time at the end of the day is important to my husband and I - it erases all the frustrations and power struggles that come with parenting a four year old boy in the dead of winter in Chicago. I stubbornly told Mr. T that he could read alone for 10 minutes, but that I was going to read him a short story after that.

Stubborn and selfish? Maybe. But I don't care. I have to believe that he needs that little cuddle before bed, too. Even if he doesn't know it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ne pas parle Creole

Inspired years ago by my dear friend K's high school Easter break trip to Honduras, I visited Haiti. It was 13 years ago, but I can recall so much of the trip with a vividness that must be attributed to the vibrancy of Haitian culture. I was one of three white women in our group of 12 college students. At the time, it was very good for me to feel so out of place, at least physically, at least at first. But only at first. The beauty of the Haitian people was (and is!) striking - their high cheekbones and wide smiles, their proud, long necks. I admit I was surprised by the physical pull they had on me.

The details of the trip are shocking now - how my parents must have privately groaned with terror as I described the third (or maybe it was the fourth) time I thought we would be killed using Haiti's "public transportation system." That is, if you can call sitting on the edge of a upturned tire while holding someone else's infant (so they can keep their rooster calm and inside the empty feedbag they're using to transport the animal to market) in the back of a dump truck with at least 100 others part of a system. Did I mention we were rollicking our way down the side of a mountain on our way from La Valle to Jacmel? It was good to have that sweet baby to concetrate on - it kept me from looking out the sides of the truck. We stayed in Port-au-Prince for most of the trip, at a guest house run by the St.Joseph's Home for Boys. Though news from Haiti is very bad, a minor miracle occurred at St. Joseph's: everyone in their community is accounted for. Only 2 needed medical attention. The rest, and there are many in the St. Joseph family, are coping together and managing, for now.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New year, new plans, new - blog?

Sometimes we just need that push - that moment of confidence - to feel just cocky enough to start expressing ourselves again. For real - even though no one may be listening. (or perhaps for that very reason?) So a new year has started - our THIRD frigid winter underway in Chicago - and I find myself aching for a more authentic connection with the world outside my home. Well, maybe more honestly, what I'm hoping for is a connection inward.

I could probably wring every ounce of cheese from this whole Idea of Connectedness - and get all philosophical on you, but there isn't really time for that. Between my Raucous Talker (4) and My Rose (6 mos), a part-time writing job, a oft-traveling, talented, and oh-so handsome hubby - it's a wonder I notice the outside world at all.

But of course there are some news stories you don't miss - like psunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Events that change (or destroy) people's lives thousands of miles away tend to nip at you like cold waves as the tide gradually comes in. You could move your blanket further up the beach - or let yourself be carried away with the undertow. Or you could do what many of us do - take notice of the water, hesitate...and then move our blankets.