Monthly Archives: June 2009


We have a saying in Chicago and it contains more than a kernel of truth:  “There are two seasons here – Winter and Construction”.  Even my kids say it.  These days, if I am not silently cursing the road I am on for all the heavy machinery blocking my way, I am cursing the fact that they are not there as I try unsuccessfully to navigate the potholes and cracks that our harsh winter left behind.

I realized recently that summer is also the time when I slow down enough to take care of the construction jobs in my life.

There are the little things: the corners, desks, and cabinets that need me to have some space in my life in order to be reorganized.  The moments when both boys are in camp when I can sort through some of their toys to give away or take to work.  And the home improvement projects we can start, such as dealing with the leak in our sun room and putting a new screen door in the sliding door to the deck.

But it’s also when the really big jobs – the renovations – take place.  It’s when I suddenly realize that a certain service provider has been doing a lousy job for me all year long, and finally pay enough attention to pull out the heavy machinery and switch to someone more capable.  And that an organization my family has been trying to maintain involvement with and is supporting financially actually ceased to meet our needs in any real way quite some time ago, and we have to make a change there, too.

Summer, that blissfully warm, seemingly more relaxing time of year, creates the space needed for all kinds of change.

Yes, it’s true.  The season of construction is upon us.


Stories from the Land of the Oblivious

“Daddy, my camp counselor asked if anyone had nuts in their lunch today,” Baxter brought up at dinner time. “I wonder if we’re supposed to bring nut-free lunches like at Lyle’s school.”

“….and…?” Matt looked at him.  “Did you tell her you had a peanut butter sandwich?”

“No, not really,” he replied.


“Wow, Lyle, I heard from Carmen that your school bus only came back from the Nature Center field trip at pick-up time!  That must’ve been a long field trip!”

“Was it uncomfortable in the heat, or were you okay?”

“Who did you sit with on the bus?”

“Did you take a long hike this time?”

His responses to my questions were agreeable in general, but in retrospect brief and non-committal.

I heard later in the evening that his camp’s school bus had, in actuality, overheated, gone up in smoke and had to be evacuated, and the kids had sat out on the lawn of a retirement center on Pulaski listening to stories for the majority of the camp day.  The actual field trip?  A quick 45-minute walk around the shortest trail.

The child didn’t think to mention any of this to me or the babysitter.


We arrive at camp on the second day.  Baxter looks at his peers as they walk past him.  They have green, blue, purple hair, sticking up in otherworldly directions.  Some are in funny hats, others are in wigs.

“It must be crazy hair day or something,” he muses.  I agree.

The camp director looks at him, eyebrows raised.

“Baxter, you didn’t hear about that yesterday?” I ask, suddenly suspicious.

“No, I guess not,” he says.

The director mentions good-naturedly that they reminded his group about it countless times the day before.  She was kind enough to say that he, like her, could just act crazy since they hadn’t dressed up.

Some days I’m pretty sure we ain’t acting crazy at all.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Something


Dear Baxter,

Today you finished third grade and you insist upon telling me that you’re now a – gulp –  fourth grader.

Fourth grader?  I hope you realize that this is actually impossible, given the fact that you were a cute little toddler mere hours ago.

At any rate, that kind of crazy talk is on your report card, too, along with the fact that you’re “a joy to have in the classroom” and that you’ve been assigned the same teacher as many of your best friends next year.  What a relief not to have to deal with that kind of disappointment all summer.

You continue to be a bright ray of sunshine in my life, and I’m so proud of both your many great accomplishments and your relaxed approach to school.  You have helped me to remember that no one is an expert at everything and that despite your high achievement in most areas, you are going to struggle in some things, just like everyone else.  The fact that this does not trouble you is a true strength, sweet boy.  We could all do with a little more of your relaxed attitude.

We celebrated with a special trip to the Art Institute yesterday morning, where I followed your lead to explore whatever your heart desired for a couple hours.  (Okay, I’ll admit I did lead us through the new Modern Wing just to take a peek, but you didn’t seem to mind at all.)  I told you that one of the best parts of this trip for me was that you found rooms in that museum that I’d never seen before, and we discovered all kinds of amazing things together for the first time: the Miniature Rooms, the children’s book art, and the little corner of the cafeteria where we looked out on the grey, rainy courtyard and you mused, “You know, Mommy?  I think things look even more beautiful in the rain.”

And I think that’s what parenting is all about.  If I let you take the lead and show me around this world, my boy, I’ll discover beauty and wonder that didn’t exist for me before.  Even in the rain.

Happy Summer Vacation.  You’ve earned it, sweetheart.



Bye-Bye, Preschool…


Dear Lyle,

You graduated from preschool last week.  It was a very low-key ceremony (thank you, co-op!) followed by an ice cream social.  (A term that I’d never heard in real life until moving to Chicago, so it still seems downright quaint and small-town to me.)

My sweet little guy, you have changed so dramatically in the past year and I’m very proud of you.  You have become so confident and sure of yourself that sometimes I hardly recognize you.  Not so long ago, you were still clinging to me, refusing to go in a friend’s car or to someone’s house without me.  By comparison, just two days ago you happily ran off with Baxter in the morning to join in the carpool down to the big kids’ school, chatting all the way with the dad who was driving, and then once there were handed off to another friend’s mom who took you home to play with her son for the next four hours so that I could attend a meeting.  Furthermore, you went with that mom to a little backyard party at the home of one of your school friends, and when I met you there about 20 minutes into it, you were so happily engaged with your friends that you merely glanced at me with a little grin and kept playing.  I had to go get you to say hello and demand a kiss about 15 minutes after I arrived!

You are so ready for kindergarten.  You were recently described by another mom as being “so calm and centered”.  “We could all be a little more like Lyle,” she told me.  You’ve become quite popular with your peers lately and have two girls who are reportedly “in love” with you.  You are very matter-of-fact on this last point.  I happen to think they have very good taste.

You’re reading quite fluently and asking a million interesting questions a day.  Your teachers will be lucky to have you, sweetie.  As you like to tell me every day, you are no longer a “little” kid, but rather  a “little big kid”.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful summer with you before you head off to kindergarten!  Congratulations.



Mandated Reporting: Please Read

I have a new post up tonight on the Communication Therapy Blog that I’d like everyone to take a look at.  It’s called Mandated Reporting and the Special Needs Child, and is packed with information related to suspected child abuse and neglect that really ought to be common knowledge but does not seem to be discussed nearly often enough.  Please note that this law applies to all families, not just those with a child with special needs.

Thank you for taking a minute to read it and then passing it along to other parents.

What Didn’t Happen Yesterday

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry when Baxter woke up feverish, shaking with chills, and complaining of a sore throat. And again when, just a couple hours later, the doctor on call during our pediatrician’s Sunday walk-in hours looked at me gravely and said, “This is not a typical situation,” before leaving the room to check the strep test.  And once again when we walked my son over to the hospital for a throat x-ray and a blood draw in order to determine exactly what was wrong with his tonsil – and the rest of him.

I wanted to cry when the vomiting started and we were told that if he couldn’t hold down the strong antibiotic he’d have to be admitted to the hospital to receive it intravenously, and then again when my husband and younger son left to run to Walgreens to pick up the prescription while we were getting the tests done, leaving me to push my exhausted, weak son around the quiet hospital in the wheelchair that he’d requested.

I wanted to cry, not because I was so worried for my sick son.  No, although I felt awful for him, I knew he was taken care of and was probably going to be just fine, no matter what this miserable infection was.

Instead, I wanted to cry for all those without health insurance across this country, those who also woke up that day to find their sons and daughters feverish and clearly very ill but had nowhere decent to turn for care. How did that feel?

Where did they go?  Who cared for them? What kind of care did they receive?

If an abscess on their tonsil was suspected, were they sent to a high quality hospital right across the street for an immediate x-ray?  Did they have easy access to that Walgreens for the antibiotic, the one with the pharmacist who could recommend the grape flavor because it would best mask its horrible taste?  The one that gives out green alligator measuring spoons for the kids?  Was the order put in for a follow-up with the best ENT in the area the next day, with a nurse calling the ENT’s office on their behalf – in advance – to let the office know they’d be calling and that the doctor needed to fit this child in?  Did the nurse call again today to make sure they got an appointment?

All over this country, that’s not what happened yesterday.  But it should have.

I love my kids more than words can say, but their health is no more important than anyone else’s children’s health.  They don’t inherently deserve better care than any other child who woke up with a fever and infected throat. All I kept thinking through this ordeal was, “How could we be so fortunate?”

I’d gladly give up some of our medical perks and a portion of our income to see another child cared for.  Wouldn’t you?