Monthly Archives: June 2011

Nuts In a Nutshell: What We Do for Fun

I sat at the dining room table with the boys after dinner.

After Matt geeked out with 10-year old Baxter by teaching him to count in binary code during dessert, I remembered the TED Talk I had watched about Khan Academy, a website that is chock full of video tutorials and practice lessons in math, science, and the humanities. I pulled it up for Baxter and he jumped out of his seat when he saw the Introduction to the Atom lesson in the chemistry section. We watched the 20-minute college level intro lesson, Baxter pausing it periodically to fill me in on his extrapolations and theories based on what we were hearing and what he already knew. He was over the moon about the new information he learned. He then begged me to do a search for “coordinate planes” in the math section, one of his favorite topics, and each time filled in the answers a beat ahead of the instructor. When he was talking to Matt afterward, I clearly heard the words, “You know, a theoretical mathematician once said…” come out of his mouth. A moment later he turned to me and said, “I’m going to be a chemist someday.”

So this was going on to the right of me:

Quest for knowledge

Meanwhile, 6-year old Lyle brought me magazine after magazine, looking for permission to cut one to smithereens. In the end he sat to my left, determinedly cutting letters out of a New Yorker magazine to make a ransom note for his brother.

Quest for mischief

He has not quite completed it, but here’s what he’s got so far:

“If you want to see your toy ag–“

He has promised to finish it tomorrow morning; when your big brother is ready to play Wii, duty calls.

And there, in a nutshell, you have it: my boys. I couldn’t possibly love either one of them more.

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Father’s Day in Review

It’s been quite a weekend! Friday was the kids’ last school day hour (thanks, strange CPS schedule) and this was followed by two class picnics at the park and a beach party we host every year for 6 other families who, like us, live on the far northeast side of the city and appreciate a serious NO MORE CARPOOLING celebration. Good times, for sure!

We “relaxed” yesterday by switching our kids’ bedroom (now upstairs) and our guest room (now downstairs), thanks to some major help from Matt’s parents. Nothing like moving huge beds and transferring two people’s clothing to a new room, not to mention the organizing required to make space in the big upstairs closet. Ugh. But now the kids sleep in their own bunk bed in the room next to ours, rather on the big guest room bed together, as they have done for some months, and our guests will have complete privacy downstairs with their own full bath. Plus also, I recycled 3 trash bags of school work that the boys have accumulated over the years. I call that a win-win-win. We took a nice break to enjoy a Father’s Day lunch with Matt’s parents.

Today we gave Matt a combination of lots o’ attention and lots o’ peace and quiet. First, the boys and I made an early pilgrimage to Metropolis Coffee and Flourish Bakery to put together a really nice breakfast in bed for him.

See?

The kids presented him with homemade cards, clay artifacts, and gift certificates for meals they intend to make for him. Soon afterward, I swooped them off to the YMCA camp in Wisconsin that Baxter’s going to attend in August. We enjoyed exploring the camp Open House. Surprisingly, we were one of only 6 families there midday, probably because it’s Father’s Day, yo. This is the trip wherein I discovered that driving your kids 7 hours to Minnesota once a year has the added bonus of turning a 1.5 hour trip into what feels like a trip to the grocery store. “That’s it?” we asked each other incredulously when we arrived. The camp was awesome and Baxter can’t wait to go. It’s possible, however, that he won’t get to go because I might actually impersonate him and go in his place. What? I forgot to take archery when I went to camp.

I love that my kids both politely took off their shoes before trying out the beds.

Baxter spent an inordinate amount of time wondering which cabin will be his.

Running to the waterfront

Exploring the pier. 

Lyle packed a few cookbooks for the drive and decided to make Matt some muffins when we got home. He was determined to make them independently, but allowed me to be nearby to help him reach certain ingredients and move his step stool when he was, say, carrying a bowl of melted butter to the counter. Other than that, he was totally independent. It was pretty cool to see him measuring and following the recipe so well. We do a lot of baking together and he’s obviously been paying attention. At one point he said, “This is troubling.” [Yes, “troubling”.] “Now I see how hard you and Daddy work to make dinner!” But, damn, that kid cracked two eggs without getting one tiny bit of eggshell in the bowl, and took the whole task very seriously. I was proud of myself for not saying anything about his poor mixing skills and, you know, it didn’t really make much difference in the end, anyway. We ate them with dinner and he couldn’t have been prouder. He said many times, “Now Daddy doesn’t have to work so hard to make dinner tonight!” Which might give one the idea that Daddy just about kills himself slaving over a dinner of muffins every night, but since it’s Father’s Day we’ll let that stand because the thought behind it was so. damn. cute.

While we ate dinner we engaged in our usual antics. Baxter suddenly laughed and said, “This is better than a sitcom family ‘cuz I’m actually in it!”

Happy Father’s Day, Matt, from your family. It may not always be like a sitcom, but that’s probably a good thing.

A Moment for Me

Holy moly, the kids have been funny lately. I mean, when they’re little they’re cute and funny and you lie in your bed at night laughing over the hilarious things they’ve said all day. But when they reach middle childhood, there’s a different quality to the humor and, in our experience, it’s even funnier. As you’ve seen from the last few posts here, we’ve had comical drawings, Calvin & Hobbes related secession attempts, and short stories that will make you cry laughing. It’s like living in a Judy Bloom book 24/7, and I always did love those.

Lest my blog make it seem like Lyle is the only funny child in this house, I need to remind readers that a year or two ago I pulled back on what I share publicly about Baxter. Tweens are less forgiving about what is seen in print and I respect his privacy. I will tell you that Baxter wrote an absolutely incredible story this spring called “Killer Zombie Pigs”, complete with fabulous illustrations. It made quite a splash. It’s too long for me to post on the blog. He also makes me laugh heartily with his sardonic wit many times a day. Sometimes he doesn’t even mean to make me laugh, like today when I showed him how I’d finally taken all the winter clothes out of his wardrobe and reorganized it. He said, impressed, “Thanks. It’s simple and efficient.” I mean, really. That’s funny.

But, despite appearances, I am not actually just following the funny children around, posting their witticisms on Facebook all day. Thanks to my iPhone that only takes about 30 seconds to accomplish, which is a very good thing because that is about all I have had free these days.

It occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned what I’m doing lately. In essence, this past year, I’ve been working. Like a crazy person. I took on a lot of direct service with kids again last year and have been seeing clients at schools and at my office all week except for the two afternoons I still pick up the boys from school. I haven’t worked this many hours in 10 years, and it’s the most kids I’ve seen since I started my practice. My business has really taken off and I get many referrals every week. In fact, one of my big challenges has been figuring out how to make time to return those referral phone calls. Yes, this is a good problem to have. No, that doesn’t actually make it go away.

I won’t bore you with details of what it’s like to work intensively with kids and their families through the day without a break, even for lunch, and then go home to give my full attention to my family, make dinner, get the kids to bed, and then start all the paperwork for the day around 9pm. Suffice it to say, I’ve been late getting reports out to families and haven’t gotten quite enough sleep or time for exercise. This all got ramped up a few notches in April when I began a whirlwind couple months in which I turned 40 and celebrated my birthday (3 times), took a family vacation to California for Spring Break, immediately started a major office relocation and set-up without a single day off, and conducted nearly 20 free preschool speech/language screenings that required follow-up and referrals. All in addition to my regular caseload that was already resulting in late nights and work every weekend. Dizzy yet? Me, too.

But finally, in the last two weeks, I have felt things slow down. The office is set up and almost as done as I’d like it to be (photos here!). My associate, who was away this year, will be back in a couple weeks to work for me again. When I need to schedule a phone call I can give people a few options instead of one 15-minute time slot a week out. I’ve had a handful of clients move or be discharged, so there are a few open spaces in my days and I’m leaving some of them open in spite of the waiting list.

I have been able to focus again on the news (for a couple months there I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t even handle listening to NPR on my way home from work, I just needed silence). And I’ve turned some of my focus back toward myself and what I need. I feel calmer. I’ve sat on the couch and read books again. I’ve had time to play games and watch Saturday morning cartoons with the boys. I was able to go to the movies with my family yesterday. I haven’t had a day completely off from work except when we were out of town, but we had a wonderful trip to St. Paul, MN for my college reunion last week. It was fabulous to get away with Matt and the kids and see old friends.

So, yes, things have been out of balance, in many ways. You can see why I’d want to focus on all the million little ways my boys make me smile when we’re together, and perhaps why I’d be writing them down because I fear that, in the busy-ness of this life, those moments could have been too easily forgotten.

And so the summer begins. One more week of school for the boys. Fridays off from treating clients. I wish I could take more than one week off this summer, but my schedule will be lighter and life will be calmer without school. It will be easier.

There, my friends, you have it — a moment for me.

Now back to the funny kids.

Mr. Hot Dog

Lyle, my first grader, brought home a story today from school. I hadn’t heard anything about it until I saw the finished project in all its bound glory, and it made me laugh until I cried. We’re not known for our illustration skills in this family, but I think you will agree that his simple, humorous story telling is something we can all look forward to seeing a lot more of over the years.

Also, it’s oh-so-Lyle.

PS: He’s quite shy about his work, so YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS. Enjoy!