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 weather.com 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.