Monthly Archives: December 2007

From Where I Sit

From where I sit in the early morning, huddled under an aging green fleece blanket by the large, drafty, front window of my friend’s apartment on 21st Avenue, I hear the gulls screeching their way down Judah. They seem to follow the streetcar out to the Pacific like so many screaming, swirling children. If I glance over my shoulder, I take in a long line of row houses in various shades of yellow, pink, blue, and beige. Thick coils of unattractive power lines criss-cross from one enormous street light to the other and then dart over to the houses themselves, bringing the power required to light the Christmas trees and yellowish front porch lights, clouded with spider webs. There is no grass in this view, only city sidewalks. The more attractive homes boast shrubbery or unusual small trees out front. There are no large, leafy deciduous trees, other than what can be seen of the beautiful foliage in Golden Gate Park, peeking over the rooftops, located just two blocks south.

I distinctly remember seeing this neighborhood for the first time when Matt and I moved to San Francisco in 1997; I found it aesthetically displeasing to say the least. A friend of mine likened it to some strange world in a Dr. Seuss book – and she had spent her life in Berkeley, just across the Bay. Ironically named the Sunset neighborhood – being the foggiest piece of land of San Francisco – it did boast more affordable rentals, proximity to the park, and an impressive business district around 9th Avenue and Irving Street filled with fantastic cuisine, excellent coffee, and wonderful independent shops. So when Baxter was a little over a year old and we realized that raising a child in Marin County (where I was working) did not suit us, we found a relatively (for San Francisco) affordable 2-bedroom here in the Sunset. And this is the neighborhood we happily called home until moving to Chicago eighteen months ago.

This window I sit by, it could easily be overlooking the last street we lived on in this neighborhood, which is 5 blocks directly east. It’s even located in the same spot on the west side of the street. We have had the mind-blowing good fortune of staying here – rather than a hotel – while my friend is on a ski trip with her husband; they are allowing us to use their flat as a home base for the San Francisco portion of our California vacation.

And so we walk by the school where Baxter went to kindergarten on our way to a favorite restaurant or to visit friends who still live just a couple of blocks away. Matt sees the school’s garden, completed, and marvels over all that has been created around some large rocks he once volunteered to haul over to that part of the playground, where visionaries planned a garden that didn’t yet exist. Until now.

With the kids back down at my parents’ for a couple of days without us, Matt and I walk down Irving St. and express delight over tiny shops that are somehow still in business, and shock over old favorites that no longer exist. Quietly, we take in new awnings and business logos. We eat dinner in a fabulous new restaurant that just months ago was a favorite cafe, sitting now at a table that has a familiar view of the park but has been completely transformed. Looking out at the same intersection of 9th and Lincoln while eating beautifully prepared fresh fish instead of a scone and a latte.

And so, as I sit under this green blanket and listen to the familiar N-Judah roar by, seagulls screeching in its wake, I am acutely aware of what San Francisco is to me now. It’s a beautiful city full of friends, family, and memories. But also a place where I now have an almost constant inner struggle: how can I take in all that is new – and simultaneously appreciate all that is old?

If I were a person who was purely fueled by nostalgia, I would have refused to go into that fish restaurant last night; there was a part of me that resented the café for closing down, for not warning me in Chicago that this was going to happen, and somehow blamed the restaurant for my loss. It’s easy to resent the sense of surprise we feel about the changes that occur in a beloved city that we only visit once or twice a year. But we’d heard that it’s a great new restaurant – friends in the neighborhood are excited about it – and when I stopped to think about it, I realized that at the end of the day, I would prefer to grow and change right along with San Francisco.

Even from afar.


Foggy Morning in San Francisco

See the full set here.

We Made it! (Or: Guess Who Got a New Camera?!)

We’re here! We’re all healthy, the 4-hour flight was unbelievably easy with the kids, and it’s a sunny and 60 degrees here. It was a rocky night’s sleep due to jet lag and excitement, but both boys have been napping for over two hours this afternoon, so tonight ought to be much better.

Matt surprised me with a Nikon digital SLR and then surprised me further by telling me that it was not my Christmas gift (huh?) – turns out, he sold an old Mac iBook we don’t use anymore and was able to buy a wonderful camera for us with the proceeds. (Thank you, Mac products, for retaining your value.) So here are our first shots with the new camera – the blog photos will be much prettier from here on out! (Oh, and I did bring my laptop – Matt’s work laptop hard drive melted down just before our trip.)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

We’re Outta Here!

Okay, now I think we’re leaving soon. Tomorrow morning at 5:30 am, in fact.

Wish us luck!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

What I anticipated today to be like:

Matt would take the boys out to the suburbs to visit with his grandmother in the nursing home. They would then have lunch with Matt’s good childhood friend and his family, who are in town for Christmas from Brooklyn. My guys would return around 2 or 3 pm. I, back at home, would have completed some work at my desk and gotten the bulk of the packing completed in delicious solitude.

What today has been like:

I have washed load after load of laundry and cleaned the food out of the fridge, all the while trying to appease the very loud and insistent three-year old who is following me around, talking non-stop. “One…two…three…five…six…” he counts, choosing some of the 30-some Christmas cards lining the chair rail in the hallway. “Twelve! Just twelve days till Cissmas!” he shrieks. In the other room, I hear the sounds of my 7-year old, retching yet again, with my husband calling for another cool washcloth to clean him up.

Not a single item has been packed.

If we can’t leave early tomorrow morning it won’t be the end of the world, I’m sure. If we don’t get to California by Cissmas (where Santa has already sent all of his gifts), we’re screwed.

Baxter will be okay by morning, right? And no one else will get sick? Promise me.


Do you hear the whoops and hollers coming from the snowy, cold flatlands of Chicago?

That would be us.

Because it’s VACATION!! You hear?! Christmas. Vacation.

Today I worked my arse off for hours getting paperwork done at the clinic so that I can truly leave work behind for two weeks – did you hear that? Me! Not working for two weeks!

We were invited to the home of neighbors-who-are-becoming-friends for dinner tonight (they are conveniently located across the hall) and friends-who-happen-to-be-neighbors tomorrow night (located across the alley). There is so much that is great about this, not the least of which is not having to cook on these nights before our big trip. But do you know what I decided might possibly be the actual best part about these dinners? The fact that I can wear YOGA PANTS to both of these gatherings. Ahhhh, the comfort of yoga pants and a big warm sweater in wintertime.

I am so happy right now.

(Can you tell that I already had some celebratory wine? And we haven’t even gone a-visitin’ yet!)

This Sunday we’ll be taking off for California at 7:30 am and we’ll be in sunny, 60 degree weather by 10 am Pacific Time. We’ll stay with my parents in Pacific Grove (about 2.5 hours south of San Francisco) at the beginning and end of our 10-day stay; we were offered lodging at my friend’s apartment in our old neighborhood in San Francisco for a few days in the middle. Matt and I are filled with nostalgia as we plan a few days with the kids back in our old stomping ground. We are completely booked with time to be spent with old friends – these visits are well-organized around meals at our favorite restaurants. Then my parents will take the boys back down to Pacific Grove for two nights, and Matt and I will spend that time on our own in the beautiful city where we lived together for almost 10 years. We can hardly believe our luck.

At the moment we’re consumed with which favorite French restaurant we should call for New Year’s Eve reservations.

So I’ll be trying to hide my shiny new Chicago accent (that’s another post!), “brushing the sauerkraut out of [my] hair” as Matt hilariously suggested this week, and heading back to California. In an unheard-of nod towards relaxation, I am leaving my laptop at home. If I need to read blogs or post something, I can always use someone else’s computer.

I have no idea if you’ll hear from me every day or not at all over the next couple of weeks. But wish us luck traveling in the winter and over the holidays with these young boys – and pray for me that it might feel more like a vacation than it did last year.

I really need it.

All Done

It’s over. The Ransom Notes campaign – which last week was still slated to hit three more cities – has been pulled.

Here’s the skinny from always-on-it Kristina Chew, PhD over at autismvox. Let her tell the story.

Props to the special needs bloggers. That’s all I can say.

Today’s Sitemeter

It’s been a busy day here on my Sitemeter – a little feature that I find endlessly amusing. Here are a few of today’s searches that have brought people to The Wonderwheel:

1. warm sexy robe – Good luck, sister. If you find one, come on back and tell me all about it.

2. Santa’s elves are watching – Yes, they are. I’m pretty sure they’re at your window right now. (You wouldn’t believe how many times a week this one shows up – what exactly is there to learn about this? I’m starting to suspect it’s porn-related. Maybe I’m just cynical.)

3. should i go to work with bronchitis – I had no idea that I was providing such a public service when I wrote that post. Apparently bronchitis is going around, and everyone‘s wondering if they should go to work. (I thought this was really strange until Matt just told me that he quite nearly Googled “can i drink coke with strep throat” the other day. So I’m not sure what that proves, but there you go.)

4. child over attached to mom – Boy, if I didn’t think I was on to something with that post to begin with, now that I’ve seen how many people actually Google those words every day, I am a believer.

Blogging with Neighbors

The other day as I was unsuccessfully hurrying out the door for work, I was also trying to tell Matt that many people in our condo building were interested in making a group donation in honor of a neighbor who died last week. (I’m organizing the donation.) Given my frazzled state, I was having a bit of a word retrieval issue.

Me: “Sounds like most of our neighbors are interested in doing a…” (and here I faltered, so a long pause ensued)

Baxter (filling in the blank from the breakfast table): “…blog?”

Not only was this funny because, well, it’s just hilarious to hear the word “blog” from a child’s mouth (although it was even funnier when my 86-year old grandmother referred to it as my “blob” today on the phone), but because the very idea of our condo neighbors writing a collective blog just killed us.

Think about it: if your closest neighbors were to start a group blog, what would it be like? Do tell.


One year ago, my friend Cara showed up at our apartment with a plateful of delicious Christmas cookies. They were from her church’s bake sale. Cara excitedly shared with us that she and her husband had recently found this fantastic Unitarian Universalist church that happened to be close to where we were living. As she described it to me, I felt that flash of recognition: this is something we need.

We visited Second Unitarian Church the following Sunday; as I’ve written about before here and here, we found it to be the missing piece. I watched as the Children’s Choir walked up to the chancel in their dark pants and white shirts to sing, wishing that my kids were among them.

Today I walked into Second Unitarian Church with a bagful of Christmas cookies that the boys and I had baked yesterday for the bake sale, and I watched with delight as Baxter walked up to the chancel in his new black pants and white shirt to sing with the Children’s Choir.


A year ago this week, Matt and I went out for the first time ever with a realtor to look at condos here in Chicago. On our first day out, we pulled up in front of a beautiful brick 1920s building in Rogers Park, right on Lake Michigan. “This is my first choice for you guys,” said our realtor. I looked out the window of his car and took in the wrought iron gate, the stained glass windows, large seasonal planters, and the beautiful fresh greenery and white lights that tastefully adorned the front door. I held my breath. A week later, on Christmas Eve, our offer on that unit had been accepted and we were celebrating.

This weekend I have spent hours in the kitchen of that home, listening to George Winston’s December, drinking Celestial Seasonings Gingerbread tea (yum!), and baking Christmas cookies. Cookies that will be given to, among other people, the neighbors who put so much effort into the fresh greenery, white lights, and seasonal planters that have been placed anew out on the front porch of this grand place we call home.