Monthly Archives: April 2009

Overheard at Breakfast

Baxter, excitedly:  “Daddy, do you know where the Swiss Army knife is?”

Matt, sleepy: “No.”

Baxter: “How about some fish hooks?”

Matt, a little more awake now: “No, we don’t have any of those.”

Baxter: “Well, because all I need is a Swiss Army knife, fish hooks, a box of matches, a magnifying glass,  a paper and pencil, and a needle and thread to have everything on the Essential Gear list in my book.”

Note to self: buy Baxter more paper and pencils.


Sleeping with Flip-Flops

On this wild and crazy warm-afternoon-turned-freezing-cold-evening, I discovered upon lying down next to Lyle that he was cuddled up in his bed with his new flip-flops for the third night in a row.  Pulling them out from under me (because ouch!), I asked laughing, “Oh, Lyle, why do you keep sleeping with these?”

He gave me the sweetest little four year old grin and answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world: “They’re my kitty paw-prints, Mommy.”

Say what you want about age four but when it’s cute, it’s adorable.

Handing Your Kid the F-Bomb

bush_finger_flipBaxter’s moving on to what I think of as “big kid” topics lately.

For one thing, the third graders have spring fever and love is certainly in the air.  I hear the kids talking about who they like in the car pool and watch them flirt like crazy on the playground after school.  The boys capture the girls, they spy on each other, and generally show off, making crazy fools of themselves.  I have heard of at least three girls who have crushes on my bespectacled boy, but he’s not spilling the beans yet on himself.

Tonight he discovered a section on “girl advice” in his Dangerous Book for Boys.  He pointed this out to Matt gleefully, but hasn’t cracked that chapter open yet; he’s too busy reading the section on how to train your dog, because I guess he figures that maybe he’ll get to do that next year and the girl stuff is a little farther off.  Or maybe he’s anal retentive and has to read the book in order.  That’s actually more likely.

When I laid down next to him at bedtime tonight, he said with a grin, “I wonder if there’s ‘boy advice’ in the Daring Book for Girls?”  I reminded him that I was once a girl, so he has a live one he can ask if he has any questions, and of course Matt had just said the same thing upstairs, save the part about having been a girl.  He wasn’t, you know.  Really, I swear.  My husband was not a girl.  Not that it would be a problem for me if he was, you know.  Dammit, this is how rumors get started. I can’t believe you’re keeping after me like this.

Apparently, telling him that his father was once a girl I’d answer any questions about anything at all opened the door once again for him to ask, “What’s the f-word?”


Those of you unlucky enough to follow my random insanity on Facebook and/or Twitter know that Baxter brought this up a few weeks ago and I put him off until a time when his little brother wasn’t around; he seemed to forget and I did a little whirling, twirling dance of relief.  But, no.  This time he was more persistent.  He also wants to know what the “a-word” and the “h-word” is (and what is the h-word?  hell? ho? someone help me out here), and insists that he’s the only one in his class who doesn’t know how to cuss like a sailor and that he essentially looks like a blithering idiot when kids refer to them and he finds himself saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and then looks around and thinks he’s the only one who doesn’t get it.  Which cannot possibly be true, but I do feel his pain, having been a dork myself.  (Like how I slipped in the past tense there?)  I can’t trick him on this, he’s too old and he knows they are words not already in his vocabulary.

Matt is insistent that one’s education about these words ought not come from one’s parents.  But quite honestly, I struggle with this because weren’t we the ones who just said he could ask us anything at all?  At the same time, I’m not all that keen on sitting him down and rattling off words I don’t want him using.  I’m considering writing them down for him; somehow I think I can handle that.  I think when it comes down to it, he’s such a good kid that he’ll know better than to use foul language like his mother does – he does seem to get the point that it’s pretty out-of-bounds.

So, okay, Interwebs, here’s the thing: I told him we’d think about it and get back to him tomorrow.  And by “we”, I meant you all.  Discuss!

And They Weren’t Even Cute

The kids and I killed 20 minutes at Starbucks in Andersonville this afternoon while we waited for a new lens to be fitted to Baxter’s glasses.  I got a coffee and let them split a piece of coffee cake as a treat.  They started to beg for expensive apple juice, chocolate milk, and Odwalla smoothies, and I kindly told them that they could get a cup of water with a lid if they were thirsty.

You’d have thought the world was coming to an end.

“But the water here tastes like the ground!  It tastes like poop!” whined Lyle, not two minutes after yelling at Baxter for saying they’d ever been there before.

I suggested that if they didn’t like the Starbucks tap water they could wait and have the rest of their water bottles from the carpool bin when we got back to the car, which was awfully nice of me, don’t you think?

“Well, then, fine!  I’m going to starve to death right here!!” Baxter insisted, glaring at me. If he wasn’t acting so obnoxious, this would’ve been funny, given the fact that he’d just scarfed down half of a piece of coffee cake.

This went on and on.  And on. And on some more, until if one more person said the word “apple juice” to me, whether I knew them or not, I’d have knocked them senseless.  (I mean, seriously.  Click on those pictures up there to see how bad it was.)  When we took our cranky glum whining selves back to the eyeglass store, an older mom smiled ruefully at me and said, “Ah, motherhood with little kids.  I remember those days really well and they were a lot like that.”  “Is there anything you miss about these days?” I asked, hopefully.  She thought about it way too long and then said, “Well, they were cute when they were little, they had that going for them.”


Dinner with the Wonderfamily


At the dinner table tonight, after making one lame joke too many…

Matt, laughing: “I’m a real dork, aren’t I, Baxter?”

Baxter, nearly snarfing his milk through his nose over the first use of this word he’s heard from a parent, looks at me over the edge of his cup and grins in conspiratorial agreement.

Matt, cheerfully: “But at least I’m a dork with an iPhone!”

This Much Kindness Can Be Complicated

I try to explain to people what my community of parents is like here in Chicago, but somehow I can never explain it properly.  It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else.  Perhaps an example will help, although it may be so convoluted that you’ll give up halfway through.  I want to remember this, however, so I’m going to try.

On a warm spring day last week, I was to bring Baxter and two other 3rd graders from his elementary school in Lake View up to meet their parents at their younger siblings’ preschool in our neighborhood as I do twice a week on a regular basis.  However, on this day we had invited a friend over after school and so I had one more child than space in the back seat (thus the discussions about which 6-seater to buy this summer).  The complicated arrangements that ensued for the next hour and a half were worthy of some kind of chart, which I would attempt if I had any idea how to do it.  But it went something like this:

I asked a good friend – we’ll call her Mom A – if she could drive one of my charges in her minivan.  She agreed, and said that in fact she’d bring the child and all three of her own girls to the park by the preschool to play with us.  We met there 20 minutes later with my 3 boys and her 4 girls, about 10 minutes before preschool got out.

One of my charges’ mothers – Mom B – called me all of a sudden from around the corner, to say that her youngest child had fallen asleep in the van and asked if I could get her daughter from preschool when I went in to get Lyle so that she didn’t have to wake up the little guy.  Of course I said yes and started to take the 4 big kids with me.  Mom A offered to keep them all at the park with her, and so I went to get the 2 preschoolers and left Mom A to watch 7 elementary school kids at the park.

I went in and got the two preschoolers and ran into Mom C who was getting her preschooler, and let her know that her daughter had driven home with Mom A and was across the street at the park.  I delivered Mom B’s preschooler to her van and went to the park with Lyle.  Mom C showed up with her son as well to collect her daughter from me and join in the fun.

When I arrived back at the park I found that all 7 of the older kids were holding ice cream bars or popsicles from the omnipresent ice cream man, thanks to Mom A.  Suddenly all the preschoolers were flocked around them, with 3 kids taking bites from Baxter’s ice cream bar at once (he’s an awfully nice kid).  Before I knew it, yet another parent who had arrived, Mom D, had bought ice creams for the preschoolers when she saw her son engaged in the attack on Baxter’s ice cream.

By the end of the first half hour, I was surrounded by at least 6 or 7 of my favorite parents and about 12 kids eating ice cream and racing all over the packed playground.  If it sounds like it might’ve been hard to keep track of whose kids were where that afternoon, you’re right.  Quite often I stopped chatting to count kids and had to really think hard about which kids exactly I was responsible for.

However, when it comes down to it, the point simply is that we were all responsible for each other’s kids at one time or another that afternoon, and every 5 minutes someone was offering to do something generous for someone else and their kids. Eventually we headed home, my two boys and the friend we’d invited over, and did homework until the boy’s family came over to join us for a pizza dinner; with five boys around our table, the day continued to be wild, crazy, and a whole lot of fun.

And that’s exactly what I mean when I say that we are a part of a fantastic community of parents.  It might be hard to follow but sometimes kindness is complicated.

Roots and Wings


On my 38th birthday, I drove a rented dark blue mini-van through rainy New England.  The van carried four generations of my family: my boys, my mother, my maternal grandparents, myself.  From western Massachusetts to southern Connecticut, my mother and I shifted our attention constantly from the youngest child, still in need of a great deal of attention, to my elderly grandparents who were quieter about their needs but also required much consideration.  As we listened to the gleeful joke-telling in the second and third rows, I watched my grandfather, nearly 90 years old, attempt to drink from a Starbucks cup for the first time.  At first quite taken with the small lid opening, he soon tired of the learning curve that prevented him from sipping his hot cocoa successfully.  I handed him tissues and wet wipes constantly as I drove through the dense woods and over reservoirs, trying in vain to protect his trench coat from complete ruin without driving off the winding roads.

There is so much to say about the short but very sweet trip we took earlier this week.

I’d like to write about seeing my kids with my own grandparents, and all that the boys learned from spending a few days with a much older generation.  Things like slowing down and being patient, and the value of some of the attention being placed on other people – ones who are neither fast nor physically strong anymore but who continue to be vibrant, funny, curious and loving, and how much those things count.  About meeting my cousin’s new baby and giving my grandparents a chance to be in a room with all five of their great-grandchildren at the same time.  About my mom reading bedtime stories to my boys in a big hotel bed and then laughing ourselves silly in our own adjoining room until nearly midnight, once the boys were asleep.  Visiting with my wonderful, timeless uncles and my cousin’s family, and being out in the country in homes that boasted acreage and vegetable gardens, chickens and goats and sheep and a horse.  Watching my city boys cluck and flap happily among the free range chickens, collect a dozen eggs from the hen house, and ride their cousins’ horse out in the yard.

There is so much to say about it all.  And yet this evening, after a couple of days back at home, I lay next to Baxter while he drifted off to sleep holding my arm tightly around himself as if he would never let me go, and what I was really left wanting to say was how marvelous it is that we can have a truly miserable day together like we did today, full of back-talk and short fuses and attitude, and yet we can still lie down together at the end of it all, warm and snuggled and loving, and I can smile into his hair, letting it all go, and say, “We’ll try again tomorrow, okay?” and mean it.

And in my heart, I know it is all part of the same story, and it’s about roots and wings.  Where I was earlier this week?  Those were my roots, and by extension also my children’s, and without those roots we wouldn’t be who we are. Not by a long-shot.  Forgiving each other after a lousy day at home, my mom and my grandparents and the boys and me all together on my birthday, uncles and aunts we don’t see often, being back among the familiar hills and trees of the place where I grew up, second cousins playing together, a new baby passed from lap to lap, and Baxter on that horse waving to his nearly blind great-grandmother who was nevertheless watching from the window, so as not to miss a moment of his ride, waving and cheering him on.  It’s all connected.

All of it.

New England Trip in Pictures

The full set can be viewed here.

Spring Break ’09 Kick-Off

I haven’t posted here in a while, although that’s not for any lack of things to say.  Life has been busy and productive and good and I’m getting more sleep rather than staying up too late writing blog posts.  Unfortunately, I’m also sleeping as late as I possibly can every day, which means I’m well-rested but not necessarily working out early in the morning too often right now.

Unfortunately, whoever said you can’t have it all was absolutely right.

All this is to say that I’m thinking about blogging more often; I miss it.

And also, I’m leaving with the boys at the ass-crack of dawn tomorrow to start our mini-pilgrimage to Springfield, Massachusetts to see my awesome grandparents (these grandparents). My mother is there already, having flown in from California, and so there will be four generations of us together for a couple days, including my 38th birthday on Monday. How fun is that, to spend a birthday with my kids, my mom, and my grandparents?  The eldest two in the crowd will be hollering because one never has his hearing aid turned up enough and the other just put hers down the garbage disposal with some french fries  yesterday, and the youngest two will be hollering because, well, that’s how they roll.  My mom and I will either join in with the hollering as a matter of survival or be found hiding under beds at any given moment, depending on how we have fared at the Marriott and whether our ears are bleeding after listening to the boys talk about Pokemon for hours on end.  There will be a trip up the mountain to my uncle’s house, and a journey to my home state of Connecticut to visit one of my cousins and his family.  Both households have chickens and one also has goats and a horse and three cousins, so we’re bound to have fun. Wish me luck and drop Matt a note so he doesn’t get too lonely without all that hollering while we’re gone, will ya?

And so begins Spring Break ’09.