Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Party to Remember

Lyle’s 5th birthday party felt, at times, like a hilarious parody of a little kid’s birthday party.

First of all, you’ve got the birthday boy himself.  One of his quirks is that he gets anxious about having a lot of attention on himself.  He insisted on a small party at home, with just a very small group of kids he knows extra-well.  I was so ready to invite more of his friends, but in the end the birthday boy won.  Also this year, he has an aversion to people singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  Oh, he’ll happily sing to you on your birthday, but just try singing it to him and you’ll get the look of death and probably some yelling.  He didn’t even let our family sing it to him on his actual birthday.  You’re supposed to just walk in quietly with the cake, say NOTHING, and then let him make a wish and blow out the candle. This may sound easy, but after nearly 4 decades of singing the damn song when someone is given cake it’s just not. I’m sure the other children found it unusual, but what the hell.  I say “Own your quirks, kid…you might as well get comfortable with them now.” [One friend suggested that if that’s the worst quirk Lyle has to worry about, he’s doing great. I assured him it isn’t.]

Then we have the small problem of his complete lack of ability to wait for gifts.  He’s always been this way; last year’s party was nearly ruined for me because while his friends sang and danced with our beloved music teacher, he clung to me and yell-whispered into my ear: WHEN CAN I OPEN THE PRESENTS??  And so I let him open them between the pizza and cake tonight, rather than at the end of the party.  However. He cannot even focus on one opened gift until he has them all open.  So he goes tear-assing through them and will not rest (or really notice what he’s opened) until they’re all unwrapped.  It’s special, really special.

So that’s the birthday boy. Who, by the way, tripped on the sidewalk in our front yard while waiting for guests to arrive and got a big gash on his knee.  As we cleaned it up and put a huge band-aid on it inside, he sobbed, “I didn’t think that would happen right before my birthday party!”  How sad is that?  So I had to carry him around for a while because it hurt him to move, which meant he was that much closer to my ear to ask when he could open those presents.  Over and over again.

Within about 10 minutes of the knee injury, one of my best friends in the whole world had to rush into our house carrying her older son who was feeling a bit carsick and then spent the next half hour cleaning the bathroom, herself and her child, and handing me purple-stained laundry, because the poor child barfed some kind of purple smoothie all over the bathroom just after his arrival.  (And we do publicly bow down to the Oxy-Clean gods, by the way…not a trace of purple remained!)  He spent the entire party curled up asleep on our bed.

Laundry humming along, I had just gotten back down to the play area and was happy to see that Lyle was finally settling in and playing with his friends, when suddenly Lyle’s 3-year old friend from across the hall came flying down our entire flight of stairs, only to land with a bounce on the landing at the bottom.  Incredibly, she did this almost silently; honest to god, it sounded like there was a stuffed animal being lobbed down the stairs, and we were all shocked to see an actual person land there.  I jumped up from the floor, picked her up, and ran with her to her parents across the hall, hoping that when the silent scream broke we’d have made it to her house.  Once she recovered from the shock she rejoined the party; thankfully she wasn’t hurt at all (especially since if she had been, picking her up and running with her probably wouldn’t have seemed like such a great choice).

Seriously, around this time I came across my husband and a friend in the hallway, placing bets on who would be next.  “My family’s been completely untouched!” the friend said gleefully.  At that point I went downstairs and made the kids stop jumping on the bed.  It just seemed a bit too risky at this particular party.

There were only a couple of other minor incidents but no one else got hurt – or even vomited in technicolor! – so I think we can call the party a success.  And, truly, it was.  We had a great time with some of our favorite friends and once Lyle had made it to the other side of the cake and gift-opening he relaxed and really enjoyed himself.

But there’s nothing like a sequence of events like that to remind yourself that you’re still in the parenting trenches.  Something tells me we’ll be laughing about this party for a long time to come.


Yes, My Baby IS Turning Five!

IMG_1881To my sweet little boy —

This will not be one of those “I can’t believe my baby is 5 today” letters because, well, I can believe you’re 5.

You are tall, confident, and fiercely independent, a real “do it yourselfer”, as you and I like to say.  Honey, you talk to me all day long, barely pausing to take a breath as you dance around me.  You are words + action at all times.  Usually it’s about Pokemon these days, but you’ve always got something to say, whatever the topic.  You ask questions all day long and want to figure out everything you can about the entire world – all at once.  Today it was, “How did the air get here in the first place?”

It was a hard day; you were impatient and cranky much of the time.  I suggested that perhaps the day before a birthday is one of the hardest days of the year and you conceded that this was the trouble.  It’s hard to wait.  You complained all afternoon that it wasn’t bedtime yet: “How many hours now ’til bedtime?  Is it still morning or can I go to bed now?” you asked at 4pm.

When a neighbor invited you to have a slice of freshly made banana bread at their house this morning you declined and headed home, saying to her, “Weelll, I think I won’t have any, because, you know, tomorrow.  [Insert signature shoulder shrug.] I’ll be havin’ a lot of treats.”

Earlier this summer, you didn’t want to be five; rather, you declared that you wanted to go back to being a baby.  I knew this was about your fear of the big unknown: kindergarten.  I am beyond thrilled that you are embracing this birthday with your vast stores of enthusiasm – you are ready to move on now.

At bedtime tonight, I held your darling little face between my hands saying, “I need to take a good, long look at you tonight because the next time I see you you’ll be a five-year old.”  You grinned a huge grin, stood up on your bed puffing out your chest in your Batman pajamas, and looked down at yourself.  “It’s a good thing I’ll be five tomorrow because I am just about outgrowing this 4-year old body,” you said proudly.

And then you threw me out.  “Mommy!  Stop talking to Baxter, go out the door, and close it!” you insisted.

Morning can’t come soon enough for either of us.  Happy 5th Birthday, Sweetheart.

Pointless Babble? Who Decides?

Can someone explain this to me?

How is it that the very same people who loudly proclaim that Twitter is a “waste of time” and that much of what people Tweet about is “pointless babble” (thanks to some researchers who somehow think they found a way to objectively measure pointlessness in other people’s lives – it’s 40%, by the way) can walk into the office on a Monday morning and discuss the weekend weather – which we all experienced and wasn’t particularly unusual – for ten minutes straight?

Is it made pointful just by virtue of the fact that we are face-to-face? Because honestly, it’s a whole lot easier to skim right past Tweets that are less-than-interesting than it is to pretend I care about someone’s face-to-face monologue about the weather.

I’ve said this before and I might just say it again because it is so so obvious and yet appears to be completely overlooked: think about what you talk about with your best friend over lunch, with your mom on the phone, with your partner at the dinner table.  Think about what the teenagers next to you on the bus were talking about today, and what you and your neighbor said when you were out walking your dogs or taking the kids to the park.  Now tell me that at least 40% of it wouldn’t be categorized as “pointless babble”, at least by number crunchers.

Twitter is simply a different medium.  If your “pointless babble” quotient goes higher than my tolerance level, I will stop following you – just like I’d stop going out to lunch with you if I knew you in real life.

In my experience, it is no more pointless than any other communication mode, and quite often brings more information and insight than face-to-face conversations due to the 140 character limitation. For another opinion, read this great post called “Why Twitter isn’t Pointless Babble” by Chris Matyszczyk at Technically Incorrect.

And, Wonderfriends?  The very notion that someone thinks they can measure pointlessness in someone else’s life and conversations strikes me as the very worst kind of snobbery.


“This Lovely Life” Book Giveaway!

thislovelylife I am thrilled to announce that I have procured a signed copy of Vicki Forman’s amazing, award-winning memoir “This Lovely Life” and am giving it away over on my Communication Therapy blog!

Come on over and enter – the drawing will be September 1.

(And good luck!)

In Which I am Full of Shit

I am so full of shit.  Really, I am.

What was all that about reading books on the beach and lots of blogging this weekend?  Do I not know myself AT ALL??

Because now in my kitchen there are 7 huge black trash bags full of stuff I’m bringing to Goodwill tomorrow.  It looks like this:

Goodwill bags

Attractive, no?

The reason there are all these bags in my kitchen (and 4-5 bags of trash in the Dumpster outside) is because I spent a total of 9 hours this weekend clearing out and organizing the lower level of our house.  See, our condo is a “duplex down”, meaning we have a downstairs at garden level.  The lower level consists of the boys’ bedroom, a large play room/guest room, a bathroom, and two gigantic storage closets (in addition to the closets in their room and bathroom).  Due to the generous storage capacity and the fact that I’m not hanging out down there all the time, it gets rather out of control very easily.

Oh, that and maybe the fact that when we have a bunch of people coming over, one or both of the adults around here does a “sweep” in which we throw a lot of detritus into bags and stuff them in closets, not bothering to go back and unload them. Ever. That might also be a wee part of the problem.

Sadly, I didn’t get to everything.  There’s a cabinet down there that needs an overhaul, and one storage closet I didn’t get to, but I did work on that one last fall when we had our big fundraiser garage sale to raise money for the Obama campaign so that one wasn’t an emergency.  And we have other problem areas around here, namely the home office.  I had truly hoped to find my desk this weekend but that’s going to have to wait.

However, the majority of clothing, toys, and books that I didn’t want the boys to see me pack up is out of there (thus the black bags that they won’t be able to see through when they get home tonight).  I probably spent 2.5 hours just sitting on the floor with huge piles of tiny toys, putting Legos in the Lego bag and Playmobil guys in the new Playmobil bin, and throwing out or giving away as much as I could get away with.  Tomorrow I’ll need to sit down in front of all of their games and put away all the little pieces that somehow travelled into the nether-regions of the house.  Better yet, I think they’ll do that job.

And so, outside of a few great meals with really good friends, this is how I spent my weekend alone.  I have about 2 hours before Matt and the boys return home, and I will now take myself to the couch, put my feet up with a glass of wine, and relax. But at least I won’t feel my insides constrict every time I open one of those doors or help the kids look for something down there.  And anyway, two hours of relaxation is more than usual, right?

Here’s What Came Next…

When I asked the question, “What’s next?” in my last post, it was a legitimate question about my professional life.  Looking at it this evening, however, I have to laugh, because what came next was a complete and utter whirlwind.  A happy, social, whirlwind filled to the brim with people I love, to be sure, but not exactly a couple weeks of introspection.  Where are those blog posts I promised?  The ones about how I’m heading in new directions?  Perhaps those will come in the next few weeks.  Or maybe when the boys go to school in September and I (theoretically) have time to think.

Truth is, each day of these past two weeks has deserved its own blog post, Wonderfriends.  I had all of one normal day at home with the boys after I finished work in July before I flew out to San Francisco for 4 days.  While there, I had not only the joy of spending time with some wonderful members of my family and old friends from our years in California, but I timed my trip to attend Vicki Forman‘s reading from “This Lovely Life” in Corte Madera last Thursday night and Shannon Rosa‘s party celebrating the book the following night.  I therefore had the privilege of hanging out with Vicki and her fabulous daughter (yay, Josie!) and delightful husband Cliff, Shannon‘s incredible posse (so happy to meet Leelo and his rockin’ sisters), Susan and her awesome guys (one of whom impressed me with his mad Wii skills), Christa, Chris, and Ben (I met Ben! Adorable Ben! And he kissed me on the lips!), the fabulous Drama Mama and her beauteous daughters, Gwendomama (with that tow-headed sweetheart of a son), and Jennifer and her hilarious husband.  Imagine my good fortune!  Imagine the laughs and food and conversation!  And seeing those wonderful kids I’ve followed on their mothers’ blogs for years, all swimming and playing — together.  It was fantastic.

So there was that trip.  The boys were at a previously scheduled 4-day session of Camp OmaPops in Libertyville, where they partied with their cousins and chose to sleep in sleeping bags on the floors while their parents took advantage of Daddy’s stint at the Clift Hotel (hello, fancy!) for work.  The children didn’t even notice we were gone.  In fact, they were too busy to talk to me each time I called and so I didn’t actually speak to them from Tuesday morning until Sunday.  Go figure, they’re getting older. (Cue the happy dance.)

I flew back from San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, mere hours after my parents had arrived here in Chicago to visit us from California.  And so what followed were 4 fun-filled days with my parents and the boys here at home.  (My jet setting husband left on a business trip again as soon as I had been home 24 hours.)  Although we had one big outing to the Field Museum, we spent lots of time just relaxing here at our house, playing “Pokemon battle” (my parents tried very hard to get into this – they get a lot of credit), hanging out at the beach down the street, and chatting.  There were walks to the park and Chipotle with Papa, stories and sand castles with Nana, and the best “pre-birthday” party two boys could ask for.  The long faces on the last day were very impressive.  Lyle asked them to stay for a year, but Baxter glumly noted that if they stayed a year, we’d be so used to them being around by that point that it would be even harder to say good-bye.  So we had to let them go, despite our sadness.

That was yesterday.  Last night the four of us had dinner together for the first time in 10 days, which we celebrated by not cooking; Matt brought home burgers and we had a picnic at the beach.

And so what did I do to relax and unwind today?  Good question!  I’ll tell you: I hosted Beach Day ’09, our 3rd annual summer beach party with Matt’s whole family!  (Sad to say, Matt had to be at work.)  Yes, there were 16 of us here at the beach today – all 8 cousins together, having the time of their lives.  I had pizzas delivered to the beach and an ugly-ass Ice Age cake back at the house to celebrate a bunch of the kids’ birthdays.  It was a perfectly perfect day – 85 degrees and sunny, no humidity.  A blast all around.

If you’re exhausted just reading this, don’t be.  It might be appropriate for you to have concerns about my sanity, but I’ve loved every minute of it.  I’m heading in to work tomorrow to see a few clients and then I get a well-deserved quiet weekend.  Matt is road-tripping with the boys to St. Paul, MN tomorrow to spend a long weekend with some great friends of ours (members of the Libertyville Four).  I personally would not choose to drive our darlings  7 hours by myself twice in one weekend, but if it’s all about a positive attitude, he’ll be fine. I know they’ll have a fantastic time there and I’m hopeful the boys will get to see the college where their parents met.

As for me, you’ll find me here unearthing my home office, throwing out crappy toys when the kids aren’t here to see, reading on the couch, reading at the beach, reading in bed, seeing some friends, and maybe even blogging some more.  All in all, a damn fine weekend ahead.

And when the kids return, things will be a lot quieter.  No more overnight guests, no road trips, no jet-setting.  Just a few weeks of normal summer life at home with the kids before school starts.  Tonight, that sounds just about right.