Saturday, November 29, 2008

Well, Matt took off work on Friday, and while I was thinking "lets lay around and do nothing" he was thinking "hey, lets kick off the holiday season with going out to every holiday attraction available". So, since it ended up being 3 against 1 once we factored in the little people, we went. We took the blue line to Daley Plaza where the Christkindle Market was going on, complete with all kinds of handmade German crafts/ornaments/gifts, German food, and, of course, Santa. It was packed.
In fact, it was soooooooooo packed that we decided not to wait in line to see Santa. We'll see him on the train later anyway...

But we peeked into his little house and before the security could shoo us away, he caught our eye and winked. He even laughed and waved. He was a pretty good Santa I thought. Much better than the drunk one with the beard half-falling-off that we got a picture with last year on the blue line train.

That's the giant tree-shaped Christmas tree cone thing that stands in the middle next to Santa's little house. We had planned to buy the kids fun German foods and maybe a special ornament, but the lines were looooooooooong and the ornaments would have cost as much as our Christmas tree, so we ran into a little hot dog place instead. This made me feel like my father. He was big on taking us to cool stuff, but not wasting money on the junk. For the most part that's cool, but every once in a while, you want the junk that is supposed to go with the experience. I wonder when my kids will ask for the junk. So far, they seem okay with just the experience.

Next we headed a block over to the old Marshall Fields which is now Macy's. They do these pretty horns out front every year ( dad remembers them from growing up here) as well as these great windows with little live scenes going on inside them all around the building.

Like this one. Claire was fascinated with the windows. She wanted to stand in front of each one forever. Luckily, there were some street performers out doing this drum performance on overturned buckets, so Sammy was distracted while Claire got her "window time".
Most people love Chicago best in the summer, and I'll agree that outside cafes and beaches and all that are great. But I've always told Matt that if we ever moved from the city, he'd have to bring me back every year for a night in December because I love Christmas in the city. Did I mention Garrett's popcorn shop? Oh my...the whole city smells like carmel popcorn right now.
By the way: we did let the kids pick out an ornament later that night at World Market. Buy one get one free! They may not have been hand-whittled, but they're hanging on a $50 artificial tree for Pete's sake!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey day

We had Thanksgiving with Matt's parents in Glenview again this year. Matt's mother can cook a turkey, I'll tell ya'. I'm not even huge into turkey, because I just like the sides so much, but I swear this woman can take a 25 lb bird and stuff it full of breadcrumbs and it comes out of the oven like a magic fabulous think 7 hours later! It's not dry...but yet it's definitely cooked all the way through (something I envy since I seem to undercook poultry which would make anyone gag) and it also has that beautiful shiny brown skin.

I always take a picture of it for inspiration. Don't you just want to tear that drumstick off and eat it all by yourself?

Claire made placecards for everyone. We painted the paper, let it dry overnight, and then cut it up into little rectangles so that she could write everyone's name and and put stickers on. It became somewhat emotional because once in a while she would mess up, and since you can't really erase colored pencils, she'd be devastated. We just put extra stickers on those and started over. She's my precious little perfectionist.

I call this picture: "how many chubby guys can sit on one couch?" The best part about this picture is that my husband was sitting in the middle of a couch directly across from these men all by himself. What was going on there? I am not related to anyone here. On the right is my sister-in-laws boyfriend, the middle couple are neighbors, and on the left is boyfriend's dad. He is going senial, bless his heart, and we were all very understanding of the fact that he asked us our names 10 times and all that. But I had to try to be extra understanding of the mentally challenged when he kissed me on the mouth at the end of the night. Wow...didn't see that one coming.

This is four generations of Harris ladies: my daughter Claire, Matt's sister (Sarah), Matt's grandma (Grandma Evelyn) and Matt's mom (Debbie). Grandma Evie is, like, 85 years old! Doesn't she look awesome? I'm not going to look like that when I'm 85...I guarantee it.

Here was the spread. There were 15 people, total, I think. I can't imagine hosting a Thanksgiving dinner...when will I ever feel old enough to do regular grown up woman things? Who knows. Right now I'm too concerned about the fact that my roots are showing and my husband's 10 year reunion is tomorrow. I borrowed at least 5 shirts from Matt's sister, Sarah, so we'll see what comes of all that. Don't worry...I'll reign it in. It's an open bar, but Matt says he's just going to keep ordering me "gin and tonics...hold the gin". Fun!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Young love

So, as I'm walking up to the yard where I pick up my kids on the days that they have school, a chorus of young 3 and 4 year old girls met me at the fence, as they usually do, to tattle-tale on Sammy for the day. It's usually something like "um.....Sammy's mom....Sammy hit Chloe today" or something of the sort. This offense may have happened 3 hours ago, but don't think that this group of girls is going to let me have my dignity and EVER walk into this school without having to apologize for my son.

The teachers really love him though, and are very good natured about his "naughtiness". In the Waldorf tradition, of course, this is thought of as pretty healthy and normal and something to grow out of while playing on the Alps in Switzerland amongst goats and while running through the fields. Of course, we have no such space, so instead Sammy takes out his extra aggression on tire swings and by digging in the garden at school and by running around with the "big boys" waving sticks in the air. Of course, someone always gets hurt, and I always hear about it.

But on this particular day, my little boy made a monumental step in his baby manhood. He fell in love. There are two classes at this school, and the daughter of one of the teachers is in Sammy's class. Her name is Cecilia and she's very gental and small (but a year older than Sam). Well, apparently today, he played "house" with her all morning, and then, during snack time....he leaned over and kissed her. Then he did it again!!! Cecilia said "well....I guess THAT was a surprise!" and all the kids loved it and laughed. Now, apparently, Sammy has also pushed Cecilia down before, but I guess you hurt the ones you love. So, I had to ask him about the whole event tonight. I guess my day as the love of his life is over.

So many posts, so little time

I'll start with the kids' last gymnastics class.

The room at our park district gymnastics center is pretty sweet, in my opinion. And this is surprising since most things very close to us are not sweet. This park is in Pilsen, which is a predominantly hispanic neighborhood, and the teacher is also hispanic. He has a thick accent, so I'm not 100% sure what his name is, but I think maybe he said it's "Mario". My kids call him "teacher" though because we aren't sure.

He's pretty strict, and doesn't allow goofing off, so of course this means Sammy is just barely allowed in the class. I have to peek my head into the class about 5 times in the hour and yell "SAMMY....get out of the chalk and go obey your teacher" or "SAAAAAAAAMMMY....get off the vault and go do the headstands with the class!" Now, we've lucked out and somehow there are only 4 kids in this particular time slot, so Sammy doesn't have to wait very long between turns.

Which is good because he doesn't wait for things. He vaults. Now, the upside is that he's pretty darn good at the stunts he's doing when he's disobeying the teacher, but obviously the obedience is more important, right? Sometimes I wonder if, instead of a class, though, they might allow me to just rent out the gym for an hour and let Sammy just go wild and do what he wants. I have a feeling he'd be a lot tamer at home after we let him do about 30 vaults...maybe 50. He did actually request a vault for Christmas.

Here he is on the rings. We actually bought a set of rings from IKEA and mounted them to the ceiling in the hallway downstairs. We don't have room for a vault unfortunately, but the rings do get a good workout most days.

Here they are after class. This is always the time when I hear a drumroll playing in my ears because this is when Mr Mario/Teacher decides whether or not Sammy deserves a stamp or not. If he hasn't "listened" well enough, NO STAMP. He doesn't seem to really care if he doesn't get one, but I always feel a little broken hearted about it. It will make you happy to know, though, if you have developed any affinity for this cute/naughty boy, that he did get a stamp on this last day of gymnastics for the year. They start up again this January.

This was Monday. Now, Claire, who is not normally particularly coordinated or daring, surprised us tonight by kicking herself up into a headstand before bed and holding it for quite a while. I was on the fence about whether or not to do it next semester, but after that (she was SOOOOO proud of herself) I decided we should keep going. Maybe she'll find her inner Harris competitiveness afterall.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas shopping, the unreigned-in version

So, being a fan of the Waldorf and Montessori-inspired toys myself, I have become addicted to several of the toy catalogs that we've received in the mail for Christmas. Nova and Magic Cabin are favorites and Claire and I look through them going "oooohhhh....look at that sweet doll stroller" or "ooooohhh, Sammy would love that bow and arrow!" (I know, I know...why would I buy him a weapon, right?).

But then I found even another toy-related thing to be addicted to: Gepetto's Toy Box in Oak Park. So many Waldorf toys and such that you see in a catalog can only be found via mail order or online, and I so rarely get to see them in person. So, when I walked into the toy store, I was in love with it. I kept telling the sales guy "oh, I've HEARD of these beeswax crayons but I've never actually seen them!"

All the toys are ridiculously expensive since most of them were hand-crafted by little gnomes in the mountains of switzerland, but I had to get a few things there for Christmas. I also had to feel like a snob for one second and buy something at a toystore that wraps your gifts for you...they don't do that for me at Walmart. Well, anyway, I didn't buy much, but I got some stocking stuffer stuff and a few real things.

This toy was the one I really went for. You may be able to buy it anywhere for all I know, but I think Sammy will really get into it. It has these little 1/2" nails and you can hammer down the shapes to make pictures. According to the nice lady over at My Montessori Journey, this is a favorite in her Montessori classroom. I'm really trying to buy the kids stuff that they will use rather than stuff that's going just sit around. I also really want toys where the kid has to put some effort into it, because otherwise Sammy just walks past it.

While I was there, I picked up a little fairy music box and big book of mazes for Claire, beeswax crayons, a little flute/recorder thing, a die cast convertible car, and a rake for Sam.

At Michael's, the other day, I bought Claire a little spool knitting thing, and then these laptrays that they can use to either eat on when they are sitting in my bed watching Curious George in the morning, or color on when sitting in the car. We are always big on things you can use in the car to avoid Sammy just staring out the window asking 10,000 questions

I also have an apron for Claire from IKEA.

Anyway, that's all I've done so far, but on the wish lists are also...

American Girl clothes for Claire...

and I'd love to get Sammy this fun Plasma Car...

and maybe the bow and arrow he has been begging for lately, (and which he has currently fashioned out of a plastic hanger).

The problem is that I seem to be able to come up with 1,000 things for boys right now, but not for girls. Or maybe it's that the girl stuff seems really dumb to me, like how Claire wants a bathtub for her American Girl doll, (which she never plays with). I can't seem to find as much Waldorfy inspired gifts for a 5 year old girl. Lots of craft stuff is all I can think of.

Anyway, what are you getting your kids?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breathing into a bag

So, this is a few days late, but I thought I'd document a typical Monday at the Harris household. This actually might make me look like I'm trying to look good because I did a lot of projects with them, but that is not my intent (to make myself look good, that is). The intent is to describe the sheer level of activity that has to go on around here for my two children to NOT kill each other. Wednesday and Thursdays the kids go to school for the morning, but on the days they are home, we have to do a lot.
We eat breakfast (Matt usually feeds Sammy when he wakes up and then I crawl out a little bit later to look blindly for the coffee pot). We eat, kiss daddy goodbye, and then I clean up the dishes and unload the dishwasher while they....

watch Curious George. I love this picture because it shows Claire with her mouth kinda hanging open in that "tv watching look" that she gets within 30 seconds of turning on a show. You'll notice also that they are sitting peacefully next to each other which would never happen if a show wasn't on.

On my "bad mommy days" we watch more than one show. But Sid the Science Kid never killed anyone, right? However, immediately upon me saying "shows are over...come on upstairs" Sammy launches into a world-class tantrum that is not soothed by any discipline technique, except perhaps the promise of a "funner" activity to come.

So, sometimes we do something like baking or cooking. They peeled potatoes and giant carrots for this soup and then, while it was cooking (since Sammy's rage was over by that time) they actually played nicely together for a short bit. Thirty minutes of playing peacefully is HUGE around here...I mean HUGE...and this particular morning had TWO of those blessed 20-30 minute peaceful playing sessions, so I felt very blessed.

But of course, once it's over, it's over. Now, here is my biggest dilemma. My daughter would like to never walk out of the house. She doesn't like wind or chilliness or excercise (like walking, for instance) so even though this is a perfect time to get everyone out of the house, Claire protests...especially if it's very cold. So, on this morning, we made an obstacle course in the basement. It started in the back hallway and came out to the couch. However, the peace was over at this point and there was much arguing over how to set the course up. Then, once it was completed, they spent about 30 seconds playing with it and then they were arguing again. So, we came up for making snowflakes. Claire has made about 475 snowflakes this week, so this kept them happy for about another 3.5 minutes. That's three and a half...not 35, mind you.
Next was lunch, and then, as I was about to put everyone down for a nap, Claire said "Mom...we have GYMNASTICS...didn't you remember?" Now, for some reason this happens every Monday. I have "remembering" issues. So, on we went to gymnastics (after lunch of course).

Afterwards, and three mental breakdowns by Sammy later (who is really too tired to go to gymnastics in the afternoon) he slept. Peace. Nice peaceful peace. Of course, I had to wake him up so that he didn't sleep too long (which would mean that he would never go to bed at night) so he was a big grouchy bear all night on Monday.
Of course, during this nap is when I cleaned up the soup remains (piles and piles of potatoe and carrot peels everywhere) the obstacle course, the breakfast (and lunch) dishes, and got dinner ready.
Now, I know that there are moms out there who do this without breathing into a brown bag, but for me...not so much. I feel like a chicken with my head cut off! I feel like something is I should be better at this....or like I shouldn't have signed up for gymnastics...or like I should somehow have a second to breath in the middle of this. I get sick of listening to my own voice (disciplining Samuel usually) and I just want this all to be easier.
I know it's selfish. But some days this just seems so exhausting. And I know that someday I'm going to look back and miss how they were little and cute and loved me. But I really think that my time as a mother is yet to come. I think I'm going to be a good mom to big kids. But this tantrum-throwing, constantly disciplining, one-second-attention-span time period is too much sometimes.
But I love them. I really do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

House hunting in the 'hood

So, we've been looking for houses, kinda. The problems with our own home are 4-fold:

a) No yard

b) the kids bedrooms are not on the same level as ours which has always bothered me

c) no basement=no storage

d) we are the lower unit so we can hear every move the guys upstairs make. We hear them come in, we hear them play them playing video games, we hear them stomping around, etc.

So, since we want to stay in the city, we have been looking further into the ghetto which is the far west side of Chicago. I shouldn't say ghetto...that's a pretty derogatory term, but what I mean by that is a slightly "scarier" neighborhood than the one we live in, which is basically not so scary.

And here was my favorite one. It's so awesome inside. And by awesome, I mean HUGE! It has three levels of hugeness and old hardwood floors and cool molding. But it also has some mold, and the copper pipes have been stolen, and some of the wiring. It was originally a three-unit building, so it has the plumbing for three kitchens, but actually has zero kitchens installed right now.

But I'm a sucker for a project...especially a HUGE project. Especially a huge project which means I'd end up with a huge home. And I could open a school there! A classical/waldorfy/christian school for the neighborhood kids. I just love old stuff...but old stuff has a lot of problems.

Like this bathroom, which is definitely a problem. But bathrooms are fixable. I mean, how much can a toilet cost, right? Or...pipes? Or...electricity?

Matt is not exactly jumping in with both feet yet, but he's warming up to the idea. Come one, help me out here'd buy this house right? We could probably get it for about $75K, and we have tons of friends in the neighborhood: church friends, school friends, etc. We could finish the house for $150K I long as we don't want anything fancy. But the space...the space! It would be so nice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Marriage counseling part 2

So, I promised a few of you that I'd tell you what marriage counseling is like as Matt and I go through it. I was always so curious about what a counselor really did for people, so I was planning on trying to explain what it's like to those who are considering it or who just wonder what it's like. I have always wondered what going to counseling with Matt would be like. Is it like the psychologist in Sopranos? Is it stuff you "already know"? Is it embarassing? Is it possible to accurately portray yourselves to someone who doesn't know you? And most importantly: does it help?

I won't give the details for the sake of all involved (I promise babe...I'll reign it in!). But if you're basically curious about what goes down, I'll spill. So far: an analysis of sorts. We filled out gobs of paperwork detailing any prior health problems, any prior mental health problems (if she only knew!) and any other symptoms we have. "Check any and all things you have struggled with in the past few months from the list below: fatigue, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sleeplessness, feelings of worthlessness" etc. Of course, as we sat in the waiting room, we had to giggle about the options listed ("should we check 'sexual dysfunction'? you check it. No you check it. haha." We're dorks) and add a few of our own (Matt wanted to write in things like "fear of spouse trying to pop your zits in public" etc).

Then, we went in. She had a desk in a corner with a swivel chair and then there were these two armchairs facing each other in the middle (it was a tiny office though, so she was only a few feet away). Then she asked a few things and wanted us each to give individual responses. Like, why are you here? Why now? What made you finally get counseling? Then she asked us to give an example of a common argument we have and what it looks like at the begining, middle, and end. I fumbled on this because our arguments are always so hard to pin down on what actually started the problem, so I all of a sudden couldn't think of any great examples. We ended up giving an example that I thought was not the most "typical" of our fights. It was a little different than our normal ones, and I forgot some details. That was frustrating. I told Matt he got a "freeby" that time because I came out looking kinda crazy in that example. Oh well, right?

She asked how we usually end fights and we talked about how we each react to the typical disagreement. She asked about the families we grew up in and how we think they affected us. Then she wanted the opposite person to comment on what we thought of the other person's family.

At the end she said that we'd each meet with her individually once and then we'd come back together in a few weeks. I think Matt wanted to throw up on his shoes because the idea of having to talk to her alone for an entire session made him nervous. I, of course, could jabber on forever, so this is not a problem (surprised?).

Downfalls? Well, I was nervous, and when I'm nervous I make jokes and just generally laugh a lot, so I think I might have come across as not taking the whole thing very seriously. Imagine Chandler from Friends in a counselor's office. Also, in an attempt to make sure that she helps me figure out my problems (I really want to take responsibility for my side of our struggles) I think I poured out every bad trait I have a little too quickly. By the end, she might have been thinking "poor guy...this chick's crazy!"

Afterwards, Matt had a little bit of time left before he had to go back to work, so we went to lunch (the kids were at school). This should have felt like a luxurious date for us because we are so rarely alone when we are out of the house, but instead I was so left-over nervous from the hour at the counselor's that I ordered this giant buffalo chicken sandwich and downed it really fast. My stomach still hurts.

Anyway, week one is over. We'll see!

Baby pictures and marriage counseling

Growing up is hard. It's hard when you are a kid, because you just want to do what you want to do without anyone else controlling you, but you can't. And it's hard when you're a grown up for the same reason.
I've been thinking about growing up lately, what with my birthday having just past. My mom sent me this card onto which she taped pictures of my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birthdays. It's always funny to look back at childhood pictures...especially when you have kids that are about the same age as the pictures. Claire and Sammy are 5 and 3, so it makes me think of what I was like as a kid and what they are like at the same age.

And, of course, I've been thinking about how I thought I'd be so much more "grown up" by this age than I am. I thought I'd have more self-discipline. I thought I'd be a better Christian. I thought I wouldn't feel so insecure. I thought I'd know intuitively how to be a good parent. I thought sacrificing what I want for my family's sake wouldn't bother me so much.

But sometimes I realize that I haven't really changed one tiny bit since these pictures were taken! I literally worry about the same things, like the same things, (well....I like Pretty Ponies less now but I have the same general tastes for things) get frustrated about the same things (Give me more attention! I wanted the piece of cake with the jelly bean on it! Let me have my closet light on when it's bedtime!) etc. Alright, I have a few different worries now, but for the most part, I just haven't changed that much.

And then I wonder if any of us really change THAT much. After sitting in chairs facing each other in a marriage counselor's office with my husband this morning, I realized I don't think we do. He's still kinda the same as he was at 4 years old and so am I. I mean, of course, we've "grown up" in many ways, (and I don't have bangs anymore) but really we are what we are for the most part. So, I guess it was at this counselor's office this morning that I started to realize: she's not going to change us. She's not going to change anything about either of us. She may give us communication techniques. She may help us figure out WHY we are the way we are, (she asked a lot about our "families of origin") but I have a feeling that it's not going to change our tendencies that much. We're still going to be wired to be the way we are.

But sometimes when I'm "schooling" my kids on how to be nice to each other, I realize that Matt and I need the same "schooling". I tell my kids "even if he hurt you, you can't hurt him can tell mommy what happened but you can't hurt back." Hmmmm....does that apply to daddy and mommy too? I tell them "well, we listened to your song last time....let's listen to her song now...we need to take turns doing what other people like doing." Again...lesson for the adults? Sometimes, when Claire and Sam have had a really bad fight, I sit with them and pray that God would help them be kind to each other. Do Matt and I pray the same thing for our marriage when we're not getting along?

Sometimes I feel like a big, awkward 4 year old pretending to be a mom and a wife. Growing up is hard.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"If you're cool, you're cool, and that's cool...

but don't be a fool. 'Cuz coolness on this earth, really isn't the King". Haha. That song is stuck in my head from Claire's little Bible club meeting on Wednesday night (it's actually Awana if you know anything about Awana).

Isn't it funny how little kid songs sometimes have these messages that make you think even though they are totally dorky? Well, you may not understand that unless you are a mom of young children forced to listen to children's music in the car all the time. But such is my lot in life.

So today we listened over and over to Claire's new favorite Awana song:

Even the cool guys
Even the groovy girls
Need Jesus...

If you're cool, then you're cool, and that's cool
But don't be a fool
'Cuz coolness on this earth
Really isn't worth the King....

It's true that in the end
You need a famous friend
'Cuz even the cool guys
Even the groovy girls
Need Jesus

(And you have to do a little dance on the word "cool" and "groovy"...the kids love it).

Well, anyway, it just made me think for one moment about how much my image probably still means to me. Even though I'm way past (wait, am I?) trying to be a "groovy girl" like I wanted to be in junior high or high school...sometimes you gotta just remember for a moment who you're doing everything for, and make sure that the answer to that isn't "so other people like me". Because I'm a people pleaser, so that's probably the answer a good portion of the time.

Speaking of Awana, I bumped into an old friend when taking Claire and her buddies to Awana last night (usually Matt drives them and I stay home but it was me last night). Keyonda is her name and she is just a fabulous inspiration of a person. We talked and talked and I just wanted her to tell me how to be more like her last night. Then we decided we might think about collaborating on homeschooling next year (our girls are the same age). She is about as A-type and driven and busy as you can get as a person, and I think she would inspire me to get off my butt and be more goal-oriented with the whole thing. I was just about to throw in the towel with homeschooling about a month ago, because I was so worried that we wouldn't have enough of a community if I did, but now it seems like people are coming out of the woodwork!

Then, this morning, I got to hang out with my new friend Ramona and her cute daughter. We got to talk about 1,000 things finally because this is my morning that both Claire and Sam are in school. It was so great! And Ramona is an incredible mom and so intentional about everything she does. I think she's going to teach me to actually figure out why I do things rather than just barelling ahead and doing things all the time without really analyzing my intentions. And every time we get together, we find out we have something else in our birthdays are only a few weeks away from each other and we're both 29! My husband calls her "my new best friend" because I keep being like "Matt, she also likes farms!" or "She also likes Waldorf stuff" or "Guess what....she lives down the street from that coffee shop I like" or "we talked and she said she also hates it when people always move away" (ok...maybe that's universal, but still). Anyway, Ramona, you are definitely a "groovy girl." Thanks for letting me sit on your couch for 3 hours this morning.

God is definitely putting people around me right now....maybe I'm not supposed to move to a farm afterall!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Marack Omama..

That's what Sammy has been calling the new President. I think he just likes the way the word sounds when he says it. Of course, I made the HUGE mistake of buying him this little cap gun at the Salvation Army the other day, so he's also walking around the house saying "I'm gonna shoot bears. I'm gonna shoot bad guys. I'm gonna shoot Marack Omama." Oh sweet child. Please don't say that. You have no idea what you are talking about, I know, but just please son.

Last night I went to visit some old friends on the even further west side of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood. Grandma Goldie (which is what we called her when she lived two houses down from us) and Tariana and Laquan (her great grandchildren whom she is raising) were watching the election coverage when I arrived. Goldie and I caught up on things and I brought Laquan a belated 11 y/o birthday gift. OK, that's not true. I just gave him what cash I had in my purse but it made him happy.

These kids are very dear to me because when Goldie lived by us for a year, they were at our house daily. Sammy calls him "Matwan" instead of "Laquan", but he was very sad the day his big buddy moved out of the neighborhood. Tariana is this cute funny girl who, like Claire, draws about 100 pictures a day.

Goldie isn't in great health, as she has diabetes and smokes about 2 packs of cigarettes a day. But, after raising about 11 of her own children alone, as well as at least 6 or 7 of her granchildren and great grandchildren, can you blame her? The woman is tired at 74 years old...but still asks me when we're going to go out to the clubs again. Someday Goldie, but I can't keep up with you. The woman wants to stay out all night!

Well, anyway, as we were sitting there, the election was announced and suddenly the Austin neighborhood lit up. I heard a few gunshots going up in the air (I hope) and everyone rushed out into the streets. I left, thinking I'd better get going before it got too crazy, but I tried to film some of the chaos as I drove. It's a really bad video, since I was driving and dodging people, but you'll get the idea.

I have to admit, that although I have my reservations about Barack, it was very hard to not get swept up in the emotion of the whole thing! I'm not kidding you...children were out in the streets singing and dancing and old people were crying and hugging each other. Horns were blaring and everyone was smiling and I even heard an old guy, who was pushing a shopping cart down the street, singing Amazing Grace. No reigning it in going on at all!

And sweet Tariana handed me this picture as I left her house which is her standing next to the White House. She says it's because she's going to be the first black GIRL to be the President. More power to you Tariana.

Well, since I'm living with Mr. Libertarian/Consitutional Party Man , we weren't neccessarily throwing an Obama party at our house, but I told the kids about the election this morning, and Claire said "Yeah, that's who I thought was going to win..." Haha. What? She didn't even know the names of candidates until yesterday, but with all the signs in our neighborhood, she must have just guessed that he was favored, around here at least. Well, let's see what happens!

What I really wish I could have gotten a video of was me trying to vote. Matt thought it would be educational to bring the children with us, but what that meant was that Claire really wanted to help me connect the lines on my ballot, so I'm standing there trying to help her mark my ballot, while Sammy is laying underneath our desk on his back, kicking the underneath of it while I'm trying to vote. Lovely. Of course Matt is over there by himself enjoying participating in this civic duty, while I'm mumbling: "Matthew...can you get your son?!" Now that would have been a good video, don't you think?

Don't worry about us...marriage counseling starts next week. Haha. But more about that later.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Showers of blessings

So, today I'm trying to keep myself "on the horse" so to speak by keeping us on a little bit of a schedule/rythm of the day. Now, we didn't keep it perfectly, but after our huge weekend, I thought it went ok. As soon as the kids came up from watching Curious George (ok, they watched Sid the Science kid too...shoot) we baked these blueberry muffins together.

We don't need anything else sweet in the house, but I wasn't up for the entire morning of work that bread requires, so I went for something quick. It was relatively painless and the kids seemed to enjoy it. They are not nourishing or nutritious by any stretch of the imagination, but the kids got to dump all the ingredients in and then the house smelled cinnamon-y.

We moved right along to watercolor painting. Sammy's is the swirly top one, and Claire's is the slightly disturbing bottom one that she said was "sad babies crying in a nursery". Hmmmm....seems like working through repressed memories to me, but okay, moving right along.

Claire worked on her math book by herself, with me just peering over her shoulder occassionally to make sure her 5's and 2's weren't flipped around backwards. She is still a bit sensitive to correction, but she's getting a little better and I'm trying to make sure I "ooh" and "aah" over her correct answers before just pointing out the incorrect ones.
While Claire did her math, I handed Sammy the bucket of beans and rice again, which went ALMOST as well as the last time except at the end it turned into rubbing them on his head a bit so we decided we were all done with that.

But hurray! The great part of the day was just ahead. We met a fun new friend who commented on a few of my posts before telling me that she lives in my same area of Chicago! You don't know how huge it is to find a mother with similar views on life and raising children in the city. We met at a park near the library (with our children of course) and tried to cram in our life stories and feelings on everything from schools to church to parenting as well as our lives pre-motherhood. Of course, it was near lunch time by then, and my kids were both getting tired, so it was a little hard to talk as much as we wanted to, but I expect it will be a conversation much continued!!! Here's hoping we'll have a Near West homeschool group around here someday afterall!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The big 2-9 is my birthday. I am 29. That means next year I'll be 30. And in December I'll have been married for 7 years. And I have a 5 and a half and a 3 and a half year old. I'd be lying if I didn't say I am proud of those facts. It's a lot to have done in my twenties. Some would say I was a child bride and a ridiculously young mom who missed her young years of discovery. But I think it's been for the best. It's been hard sometimes, but for the best. And good. Man, I wouldn't trade anything I have for having had a more "wild and free" twenties. Now, I'm not going to lie; there are days that Matt and I want to grab our passports and leave the world behind with all of our responsibilities. There are days we wish we didn't have to worry about life insurance or retirement or mortgages or any of that. But we have each other, and Sammy the knight, and Claire the flower fairy, and I don't wish I'd done it any different. But sometimes you need a "grown up night" and my birthday was just one of those....

My husband booked a room at Hotel 71. I think that's what it was called. We took the kids up to his parent's house in the northwest suburbs and then drove back down to the city for a late lunch on Saturday. Keep in mind that this was the day after Halloween, so our kids had been up late the night before and were still coming down from their sugar highs. Poor grandma. But the hotel was very fancy. It also had a rain shower in the bathroom, which is just a very big shower head that makes the water come down like a big waterfall all over you. I love that! I wanted to get one once, but then we realized that with how much water you'd use with those, we'd be out of hot water in about 3 minutes at our house.

Then we walked down Michigan Avenue for a while before going to lunch. We spotted these cuties getting their picture taken after their wedding in the middle of the street! You can't tell from the picture but a big Saks Fifth Avenue sign is over the building behind them, which just makes it even cuter. They were very cute. And seeing a wedding when you are out with your husband does make you reminisce about being a young bride a little, which is always a good thing.

But despite all my good intentions to make it a "grown up" night, I had to duck into American Girl (which has relocated to the Water Tower Plaza for anyone in Chicago who cares) to see what I could get for Claire for Christmas. She has a Josefina doll thanks to her Aunt Rebecca who handed her down, and now I really like collecting the little outfits for her. We're even having tea there around Christmas time with Annabel and her mom. Anyway, there were so many people in the store that I had to leave. I felt completely claustrophobic.

That is one thing that has majorly changed about me, I've realized. I used to LOVE the hustle and bustle of city life, and I still do, but in my "old age" I've realized that I HATE crowds. Even in the stores I like to go to like Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 (nicknamed by my baby sister "The 10 slutty shirts for $10" store) I couldn't handle the crowds. Matt was laughing because all I ever used to love was having time to myself to shop, but now I am like this old lady who doesn't want to bother! I did, however, duck into Marshalls (the cheap TJMaxx like store) and pick up a pair of jeans and a shirt for $30. Happy Birthday to me! But there were no crowds there. I can see myself becoming one of those old ladies who will only order from catalogs. I'll be 75 and I'll be saying to Matt "Honey, have you seen my Lands End catalog? I need to order my yearly corduroy skirt! Honey?"

And then I made Matt take pictures with me in the hotel bed because I found a place to prop my camera tripod-like. He was very annoyed and trying to watch a football game at the time, so if one of his eyes seems to be going suspiciously to the right, it's because he's watching the game. There were about 100 outtakes and he looks the same in every one of them, but all my smiles look STUPID! Why do men get to look the same in every picture? If blogger would allow me more than five photos, I'd show you the outtakes because I look so different in every one. It's ridiculous.
Anyway, the next morning, we woke up, went to Uncle Mike's for breakfast (in Bucktown on the way to church) and then strode into church all bushy-tailed and childless. I felt weird and people kept asking where my kids were. Then I had to teach my kids' Sunday School class which made me miss them (they were at Grandma's church).
So, after that, we went to grandma's.
She gave me a very nice birthday dinner and everyone gave me gifts. It was a sweet day, and now I get to top it off by watching Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters. Yay!
Goodnight all.

The token trick-or-treat post

Well, Halloween has come and gone and I'm sure all the good bloggers of the world had their kids' pictures up within hours of the big event, but I'm a little slow on the draw. But here they are nonetheless.

Sammy the brave knight. He stood outside to protect the family from all the "scary guys". We usually go over to my friend Brigitte's house (her daughter Annabel is Claire's best buddy) where the moms pass out candy and the dads take the kids around. More on Brigitte's house later. It's my dream house...

Here is my flower fairy, complete with striped tights and self-decorated wings.

Claire, the fairy, Annabel, the Dorothy (of Oz) and Sammy, the grumpy Knight. He wanted me to let him stab the "bad guy" that appears over his left soldier. I wouldn't let him so he wouldn't cooperate and smile.

Here are Claire and Annabel with Ben, one of their friends from school and Sammy's idol...a much cooler 5 year-old boy. When Sam found out that Ben was going to be a knight too, he was so excited.

After trick-or-treating, Ben's mom and dad had everyone over for grilled cheese and chili. The kids tore Ben's room apart in their sugar rages, and the parents had a few beers and chatted. This is another friend from school's mom, who came with her son Simon, a pumpkin, and her husband, her "roaring 20's" counterpart. Here she is telling us the details about being on Oprah. She got to be an audience member who asked a question! Very cool, but I missed most of the details because I heard Sammy being crazy upstairs.

Matt loves how the kids (and I) keep sticking our noses into the candy buckets and saying "smell this! I love the smell of so much candy together!" I actually said that to him this morning and he laughed and told me that the kids kept saying that to him the other night. Like mother, like children, right?