Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nora's 5th Birthday

Nora has been waiting for her birthday party since last June, and the day finally arrived. Her first ever friend party at McDonald's, complete with Hello Kitty invitations and a new pair of pink metallic shoes. She was excited, to be sure, but I think her excitement had kept her from a good night's sleep, so she was also a bit touchy.

We got to the restaurant a minute or two late, so everyone else was already there. (We had forgotten Nora's present at home, so we had to turn back to retrieve it). Nora seemed a bit overwhelmed; everywhere she turned she saw someone she knew. The party hostesses there to help us suggested we let the kids run off some steam in the Playland, which we did. Excellent suggestion.

From the kid's point of view, the party was awesome. That was my intention; I did it all for them. Nora had a great time running around with Ivan, Illiana, Isabella, and Keiyona from school. Her best friend Miles and cousin Layla also joined in for the fun. The kids got along great, except for the fact that Ivan was not too pleased to learn that Nora's best-friend was a boy. When I tried to introduce Ivan to Miles, Ivan dryly informed me, "Nora already told me about HIM". They ran, they got painted tattoos, they ate a lot of chicken nuggets and fries, they played pin the potato. There was an awful lot of energy and yelling and all-around merriment from the kids. Nora did, however, pout when she was told she had to wait to open presents.

The grown-ups must have been pretty bored waiting for the ice-cream and cake portion of the party, but they were good sports, sitting amid the mayhem. We sang to her, and she seemed a bit dazed, then she and Illiana blew out the candles. The cake was delicious, its too bad so much of it ended up on the floor! Thanks goodness it wasn't my dining room floor. And then came the presents.

Watching Nora open her presents was like watching a tornado destroy a small town. There was just a flurry of wrappings and envelopes and presents going everywhere. At her prior parties, I have always asked her to say thank you and hug the giver of each present after she opened it to instill a sense of gratitude, but there was no way that could have happened. There was a partition wall separating the adults from the kids, we were all very crowded, and her friends kept asking, "What did you get???" and urging her to "Open another! Open more!". It took 2 minutes to open up a mountain of gifts. The only things I think she even noticed were the new mermaid costume and a big Princess colorform book. Then, just a quickly as it had started, her McDonald's party was over.

Since so many family members had driven out for the party, I invited them back to the house for party part deux. Nora, Emily, Miles, and Layla ran around. I picked up some pizza, we had some beer on tap, and the adults relaxed as much as you can when kids are running off a sugar buzz. Its too bad everyone left when they did; we lit a fire in the fireplace after the kids went to bed and it was really really cozy to sit between the Christmas tree and the fire, sipping on an Imperial Stout.

To see more photos from Nora's party, click this link:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Sing Thing

It has been crazy around here the past few days. I've barely had a chance to breathe, let alone think! Daisy meetings, Christmas programs, birthday parties, colds. This combined with lots of snow and the regular hub-bub of the season has left us all breathless. The poor coffee pot has been in overdrive since last Thursday. After school, Nora had her second Daisy's meeting. After Daisy's, we had a delicious dinner at McDonald's followed by the McIndigestion. Ugh. I wish I could eat something other than Fillet o'Fish!

We then headed back to Nora's school for the fourth time in one day to watch Nora sing in her Christmas program. I asked her, "Is it a program? A pageant? A play?" She had no idea what it was called, so we began calling it the sing thing. It seemed appropriate; she has been singing Frosty the Snowman for a month now. The number of songs she learned amazed me. I was certain that she must have been practicing some of the older kid portions. (I was wrong; they are all just brilliant kids).

Rachel met us at the school. To say it was crowded is an understatement. I am surprised the fire commissioner himself didn't turn us out. We managed to get seats...little tiny seats designed for preschoolers...but that was actually part of the charm! It is fun to sit at those little tables too. Anyways, Emily started freaking out even before the program started, so Ryan and Emily ended up watching from the rear of the room. Rachel and I had great seats. The older children went first, bowling over the room with their cuteness. Even their stage fright was adorable.

Speaking of stage fright, Nora got a really bad case! I was shocked, as were the teachers, that the loudest singer didn't want to do the program. She kept running out of the room they were waiting in, looking for me. She wanted me to hold her hand the entire time! Luckily, Miss Iris gave her a pep talk and a hug that seemed to do the trick.

Her grade performed in the second half of the program. They sang Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, and Here Comes Santa Claus. Nora sang, although she looked slightly nervous. During Jingle Bells, she was chosen to jingle actual bells, and she seemed pleased. Sadly, her friend Illiana, who was standing next to her, did not get a bell and so she ran to her mom and cried during that portion of the show! I felt really bad for her, she was truly disappointed. During the Jingle Bell Rock Nora said something to the teacher, than ran off from the performance. Rachel and I exchanged glances---what the heck? I wove my way through about a hundred people and made it to the back. Nora emerged a minute later from the bathroom, breathlessly telling me, "I had to pee!!" She ran back up and finished the song. After that she really got into the performance, obviously feeling better. It never occurred to me that being nervous would make her need to go! Ah well, you live you learn. Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our first meet and greet with the Speech Therapist...

...and the social worker and the state employee coordinator and the behavioral therapist who recommended a meeting with an occupational therapist. Whoa! What is going on? For the first time in a while, I feel really overwhelmed.

Let's go back to the beginning. Over the past few months, Emily has developed the terrifying habit of slamming her head into the floor and walls when she doesn't get what she wants. Sometimes she only hits herself enough to make a bang noise, sometimes she leaves red marks. Needless to say, this habit is very upsetting for me to watch. This, combined with her unwillingness or inability to speak at an appropriate level for her age compelled Emily's doctor to recommend intervention services. These are provided by the State of Illinois.

In order to determine what kind of services Emily would benefit from, they sent all of the aforementioned people here to interview me and observe Emily. They were all very nice, very professional, and very helpful. Although, I must admit, it was really embarrassing for me to let her have her tantrums in front of an audience of strangers. When the series of interviews had finished on Tuesday, they made preliminary reports, and came back on Wednesday to tell me their results.

I was pretty surprised at what they'd determined. Emily's "quirks" are a little more complicated than that. I am trying to take a pragmatic approach; there is a problem and so let's fix it. But that is so hard when its your BABY. My baby, that is. The good news is that her motor skills are spot on; she can climb and jump with the best of them. Her cognitive skills are only slightly behind. She can sort colors and count to five, which makes me so proud! They determined that she should be pretend playing now, and she's not, so that is one thing that needs to be worked on. The biggest problem though, was her speech. Emily is only communicating at the level of a 14 to 19 month old. That is over a 50 percent delay. I was really sad to find this out. We need to start right away.

Team Therapy agreed, and so in January Emily will begin a very busy, but hopefully very helpful, routine. She is going to have speech therapy at a clinic just east of here. In addition, she'll have weekly group therapy with a bunch of kids her age to help her work on her social skills and also become more imaginative. We also begin the process of getting her into preschool at our school district. Since Emily is going to go to the local elementary school for that, it is very likely that we will pull Nora from the Montessori so they are at school together. (Not the last I will say on this; I hate to take Nora away from that environment. But we only have one vehicle).

So that's where we are at the moment. Very hopeful to get Emily on track, feeling guilty like I'm admitting I'm a parenting failure, but doing it all out of love. If it works wonderful! If it doesn't, its not like we will stop loving her. Because in my eyes she is perfect.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nora's First Trip to the Movies

Do you remember the first time you went to the movies? I remember my first two movies actually; the first time I went to the theater my mom and dad took me to see the Muppet Movie. That was released in 1979 (I think; that's what Dr. Who said), which would have made me two. I remember being in awe of the big screen, I also remember getting reprimanded to stay in my seat!

The second movie I saw was Cinderella. I must have been about 4, so I recall that experience more clearly. I held my Grandma Esther's hand as we walked on the sidewalk towards the theater and I kept asking her, "What is the movie called again?" Cinderella was such a long hard word. I remember sitting in the theater in disbelief as the evil stepsisters tore up Cinderella's dress. My little mind couldn't wrap itself around the concept that anyone could be so mean. I think I even cried. But then the fairy godmother came! And I loved the song, and the dress! Oh I knew Cinderella's name after that. When we got home I borrowed one of my mom's white heels and hid it around the living room, pretending that I was Cinderella. My ball gown was a lovely blanket tied around my waist. I was sold on Disney after that.

So you can imagine how excited I was to take Nora to see a brand new Disney Princess movie, the Princess and the Frog. I was definitely anticipating this more than she was, in part because she had partied too much at Grandma Geier's house the day before. She was excited though, because she got dressed up and wore some of Grandma's lipstick. We got to the theater and I splurged on a popcorn and Icee for Nora. She could barely hold her food and her blanket as we walked into the theater. She looked around in awe; it must have seemed really huge to her. We sat down and her little legs just dangled off of the edge of her chair. It was so cute.

The previews started, and Nora told me and her aunties to stop talking (those are the rules, after all). Then the movie started. I watched Nora as much as I watched the screen. (Spoiler alert!) She lit up when Tiana sang, she hid when the bad guy sang his voodoo song, she was just as surprised as I was when Tiana also got turned into a frog. Seriously, I didn't see that coming. And we cried when Ray the fire fly died, and we cried more when Tiana thought the Prince didn't love her, and finished crying over the happy ending. Oh my God, it was such a great movie. Disney at its best. It was beautiful to look at, the music was outstanding, and there were good jokes for the kids and grown-ups. I want to see it again.

When it was over, I asked Nora if she liked the movie. She said yes, but not much more than that. Maybe she was overwhelmed? I'm not sure. I couldn't stop humming "I'm Almost There". But this morning when I woke up, I heard Nora playing movie theater, so I'm thinking she liked the movie after all. I guess if I see her kissing Ryan's old toy frog I'll know for sure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Momma's Day Off

I hardly know where to begin. Christmas came early for everyone. Yesterday my mother-in-law took the girls for the day so Ryan and I could go downtown. It was wonderful!!

The girls had a great time with their grandparents, making glitter crafts (and a glitter dog too...poor Lacey sparkles like a vampire). They ate all their favorite foods, made cookies with their aunt Jessie, and avoided napping at all costs. Emily fell asleep during dinner and slept straight through the night. They woke up to strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast by the way. Yum.

Ryan and I went to Chicago for the day. We took the train in so we didn't need to fight traffic. The walk to the Art Insitute was actually pleasant, something I wasn't expecting on a 28 degree day. The sun was shining, and we were bundled up so there wasn't anything not to enjoy. It was the first time we used my AIC membership, and we took the opportunity to go into the areas of the museum I usually don't see. We stopped in the reading room and peeked around, and spent a good deal of time in the new south Asian corridor. We also visited the Arts and Crafts temporary exhibit. It was fantasic, but of course it made us want to redecorate our 80 year old house.

Ryan had never been to the Christkindlmart in front of the Daily Center, so that was our next stop. It was really getting cold by that time, but we had so much fun it didn't matter. There were little booths set up just like in a market in Germany or Austria, with vendors from Eastern Europe selling Christmas ornaments and other decorations. The air smelled of pretzles and roasted nuts...delicious. We had a few boots of gluwein in the beer tent to help warm our fingers, and we listened to a lone guy on the street corner play Christmas tunes on his sax. (Oompha music would have been more appropriate but that's ok).

We ended the evening at the Berghof, one of those places Ryan and I have always wanted to visit but just haven't yet. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Chicago; it is known for its delicious Berghof beer. The Berghof brewery closed a while back, so we didn't know if the beer was going to be as good as it used to be. We didn't have ANYTHING to worry about! The seasonal was very fine, but after the gluwein I could only have one because I still had to get home on the train. We did make it home on the last express, and spent an enjoyable evening with the in-laws chit chatting over cups of tea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Halloween in Photos...beter late than never!

I am happy to recall that Halloween this year was one of the most fun we've had in a while. Last year, Emily fell asleep and never made it to the trick-or-treat portion of the evening. This year, since Halloween was on Saturday, we got to go trick-or-treating twice! And it was even more fun because my mom (aka Nonnie), my dad (aka Poppa) and Grandma Esther joined us. In the afternoon Ryan and I dressed up, and took Nora to the businesses in downtown D-town for their annual candy give-a-way. After dinner, Ryan and I changed so we could chase Emily as we went around the block. Both trips resulted in a fair amount of chocolate goodies for everyone. That evening, Nora hung out with her best friend and boyfriend, Miles. The candy must have gone to their heads; they got in trouble for kissing on the lips later that evening. I know I should be upset but its kinda cute.

We Killed our TV!!!

I know I have always been the odd-ball in my family (well, my husband is an odd-ball too, but we're a pair and we go together). We're the only Buddhists, the only vegetarians, the only ones who relish living in an old house with crooked walls because they have character. But this time, I am even surprised at how radical Ryan and I can be.

We killed our TV.

Most of you probably are probably sitting there going, huh?? Killed the TV? you can get a newer one! A bigger one! One of those fancy flat ones!


The TV is currently in the basement, and I don't have any plans of ever using it again. We put it down there a week ago for a number of reasons, most of which are outlined at this website:

Now, this blog is meant to be about the kids, so I won't go into the political and social stuff outlined in this link. Feel free to read it if you're interested in the reasons we chose to kill the boob tube, skip it if its not up your alley.

Ryan and I decided to say goodbye to the box during the kids nap last Sunday. While they were sleeping (a rare event in and of itself might I add), we took it out of the big cabinet and hid it in the basement. The DVD's went into the office with the computer. We felt we shouldn't take the movies and Blue's Clues DVD's away from the kids, but they would no longer function as my free babysitting service. Rather, the kids would do chores to earn show time.

When the kids woke up, they had a snack and we explained what happened. Nora thought it was a big joke, until I walked over to the cabinet, opened it, and displayed its empty contents. She did a double take, probably the first of her life, and demanded to know where the TV had gone. Emily, bless her heart, also did a double take. She does this little knee-bend thing when she wants a better look at something. Knee-bend, knee-bend, knee-bend! She turned around, cocked her head, and looked at us. "OH NO! OH NO! OH NO! Where did it go?" Ryan and I laughed till we cried with joy...Emily's first sentence!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My girls and I return to the blogosphere

Well wasn't I surprised to realize I haven't posted since September, and its now DECEMBER!!! So much for keeping a blog to track our memories! In my defense, at the beginning of September, I was offered the chance to create an online art appreciation course for college freshman, and well, guess what I've been doing in my free time? Not blogging, because blogging doesn't really pay. The class is complete, the check is in the mail, and I'm ready to get back to writing about something that is important.

I guess this post is about catching up with the good things that have occurred over the past months (because unfortunately a lot of bad things happened too that also kept me from writing).

Miss Nora Grace is thriving in school. She loves Miss Iris, her lessons, and her classmates. She has made very good friends with Keiyona (her little friend from an earlier post), Makiera, Illiana, and Hailey. She loves math, and can count to some unheard of number like 2500. (How many 4 year olds come to the realization that numbers never end?) She sings, she dances, she reads some words although, like her dad, she has a hard time with phonics. Its easier for her to memorize words. Needless to say, she loves school and is the teacher's pet.

Miss Emily Dianne is adjusting to life at home with mom. We sorta have a routine, but she still isn't talking so I have a hard time trying to understand what she thinks and what she wants. I discovered Emily is my best friend when it comes to the outdoors. She is happy as can be in the yard and taking walks. Inside its harder, in part because she has tantrums to go out. But its December, and its just too cold to be out all day. She has discovered a love of puzzles, and we play with the wooden Thomas trains every day. She loves to derail them and yell, "OH NO! OH NO! OH NOOOO!!!!"

So that's a summary of October and November. I will post some Halloween pics and you all can probably fill in the details. We missed Thanksgiving because we were all sick. Some of the other changes around here are ongoing, and will be featured in the posts to come. So you can all look forward to hearing about Emily's speech therapy when it starts, our Christmas tree, and the biggest change of all--the death of the TV. Love and hugs to my three readers---its good to be back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The First Two Weeks of School Part II: The Bad and the Ugly

Emily is lost without Nora.

Emily does not know what to do with herself.

I am at my wits end.

It did not occur to me that Emily would not be thrilled to be at home alone with her mom. I just assumed that we would have a grand ol' time, just the two of us. After all, she has been sharing me with Nora since the day she was born. DUH! She has been around Nora since the day she was born, and now Nora is gone for five hours a day, five prime time playing hours of the day. As far as Emily is concerned, things have changed, and not for the better.

To make things even worse, I had all these new plans for our mornings. Working on her language skills. Teaching her to pick-up her toys. Potty training. This would be in addition to the normal walks around the block, swinging in the backyard, and reading stories. Well, I've tried these things, but they aren't exactly working. No, let's be honest, they are crashing and burning. Case in point: the walk around the block. This is something the three of us used to do every day it wasn't raining. We had it down to a science; once a neighbor even told me he was amazed at my ability to "herd cats". Now, she won't walk. She runs into the road, she sits on the sidewalk and refuses to move, she attempts to pick flowers out of everyone's landscaping. But walk?? No way. You can just imagine how much luck I've had with the "new" activities. She will be in diapers till she's 10!

What's even worse is that Emily is amusing herself by being totally naughty. She loves to flush the toilet repeatedly. She loves to flush entire rolls of TP. She loves to take all of the cans out of the lazy susan and stack them on the kitchen table. She likes to dump all of Nora's toys on the floor. She has stopped napping. She has continued to take off her diapers, so I am cleaning up at least one mess a day off the wood floors. Every time I turn around, she is doing something she isn't supposed to. I can't even shower anymore unless Ryan is home to keep an eye on her. (That's the ugly portion of the title; me in old PJ's with yesterday's mascara under my eyes). Oh my god, I need something stronger than coffee to keep up with this child!

So its back to the drawing board. Its like having a new baby!!! This week I started putting her in the kitchen instead of the dining room for her morning snack, so she can watch me cook and clean while she eats instead of leaving her in the dining room while I run back and forth. She seemed a little happier. I also brought the stroller back out; today's walk went surprisingly well. Plus she will, eventually, get used to Nora's absence. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we can try some new/old things and see if we can craft some special time together before Emily needs to go off to school.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The First Two Weeks of School Part I: The Good

Nora has been in school for two weeks now, and I must say it has been a life changing experience for all of us. I was proud of myself for not getting really emotional about Nora going to school; no tears were shed by either one of us that first day. If anything, I was so happy to see her off to an environment with her peers, an environment in which she could thrive.

And she has. As far as the schooling has gone from Nora's point of view, it has all been good, if not excellent. The first positive change I have noticed from last year is the HUGE difference an extra 45 minutes of sleep makes. Rather than attempting (and failing) at getting her to class at 7:15 am, she arrives at 8:00 am (give-or-take five minutes). Both Nora and Momma are able to function at this hour; no sleeping walking through breakfast anymore! Going five days a week is also beneficial, since it has really become a part of our routine. Even as late as April last year, I would forget that Nora had school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and would make plans we couldn't keep. Probably because I was sleep deprived from bringing her to school in the first place!

Her teacher, Miss Iris, is pleased with how much Nora has progressed since last year. She has made huge strides in her writing and vocabulary skills, and I can't wait for her to begin math. Her social skills are also great, in part, because she is showing compassion for her fellow friends. During the first week, a three year old little girl (cutest thing you ever saw with pom-pom pig tails) was crying and crying for her mom! They had never really been apart. Nora went and got her "B" and handed it to her friend, stating, "Here, hug this. When I'm sad I hug it and I feel better". Awww. Sharing a security blanket is a pretty big deal! Nora got a compliment from her teacher for being such a good friend (a compliment is a piece of candy the kids get for doing something extra special). When I picked Nora up at 1:00, she was holding her friend's hand. She watched out for her the whole day!

I love the fact that Nora goes to such a wonderful school! She is happy, and that makes me happy. Emily, on the other hand, has a different take on Nora and school, which will be examined in Part II: The Bad and the Ugly. Yup; its not all sunshine and roses around here :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nora's First Day of School 2009

How we made it to school on time is anybody's guess. The fact that Nora arrived looking stylish is simply a miracle. I'm glad to see that my girls have inherited their mom's ability to fly by the seat of their pants.

Nora started her second year enrolled at a local Montessori Academy. The first day of class was the day after Labor Day, several weeks following the start of the local public schools. One would think we would have had time to spare prior to the start of the semester. Except of course Ryan and I decided to celebrate his 30th birthday on Mackinac Island, and we got stuck in horrible traffic on the way back and had to drive the girls back to D-town 2 hours before Nora's school started. Oops.

We loaded the girls in the van at 6am, got them some McDonald's hash browns and Cherry juice for the road, and got Nora home and in her new Princess outfit with the polkadot pants. We combed her hair, and within five minutes you couldn't tell she'd been up for hours. She laughed and told me to hurry up; we were late. Without unpacking the van or even changing my clothes (I was in the same outfit from the day before), we headed to "my new school". She was very excited.

"My new school" is the name Nora has for the Montessori. Last year, the school was located in the local church a few blocks from home. They have since expanded, having moved to a new location the next town over. The classrooms are just beautiful; shiny new furniture and a lot of great graphics on the walls. Its the "new" school because of the new building and Steve the Bunny, but many aspects from the "old" school remain including the teachers (she has Miss Iris), the books, the toys, and the big potted tree. School has also changed in a big way for Miss Nora; she now attends five days a week.

She enjoyed the first day. I'm not surprised, considering how excited she was after the meet and greet. Any and all fears about "my new school" had been extinguished. She met her new classmates and (shocking) even ate lunch. She was a little surprised to find out she had to go back the next day, but hopefully her enthusiasm will last through the month.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Goodbye Summer 'Cation

Summer vacation. Sleeping in, playing in the yard, bike rides, trips to Grandma and Nonni's house, Ollie's custard, endless hours of TV. What is not to love?

Last May, I worried that Nora was going to be upset about summer vacation. She loved her school and her teachers, so I made sure to gently remind her that school would stop for a while but she would return in the fall. In typical Nora fashion, she ignored me until pick-up time on the last day. She became a little confused that we took stuff home that was supposed to stay at school, and again I explained that she wouldn't be going to school because she was on summer vacation. As she peddled her little Princess bike home she stopped, turned to me and asked, "What is summer 'cation?". I explained (again), "Summer vacation means you stay at home. There's no school until September". Her eyes got REALLY big. "So I don't have to get up early and get dressed?" "Nope". "So I can stay at home with you and Emmy?" "Yep". "I LOVE SUMMER 'CATION!"

I had absolutely nothing to worry about. In fact, for the first few days of 'cation, Nora was walking on air. I got to relive that initial rush of freedom, the joy of having nothing in particular to do, the laziness of just watching one day roll into the next. We did a lot of the things I used to do on summer vacation, including going to the park and playing on the swings. We ate a lot of PB&J. Everyday we went for a walk and learned the names of the flowers in our neighborhood. Nora and Emily both learned how to work in the garden, picking berries, pulling weeds. Once in a while we got ice-cream and other treats. Getting dressed (for the girls) was for the most part optional. Luckily the weather was cool, so there wasn't a single dog day of heat and sweat. Just sweet breezes, lots of rain, and rainy day movies.

Well, September is here. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. The Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans are beginning to brown, and there's even a tinge of red on some of the leaves of the local Sugar Maples. 'Cation is coming to an end. I hope Nora enjoyed it. A first summer vacation is a pretty special thing. While I don't know how much she will remember, I'm glad that I had chance to share this time with her. She is still young enough to want to spend time with her mom, and it was time well spent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Miracle of Life

Over dessert last Thanksgiving, my sister announced she was pregnant with her second child. Of course I knew she was pregnant the minute I walked in the door; she had that puffy preggie look. And she was MAD (!!!) when she thought I was gonna spill the beans...but anyways, that's a different story. From that time forward we knew it was likely that she would have a repeat c-section, and then it was time to wait out the nine months.

Fast forward to July. Time to make plans, because that C-section seemed more and more like a reality. It was Renee's wish that I be in the hospital when the baby was born, and dammit, I was going to do that for her, even at the expense of my own sanity! The week finally arrived, and unfortunatley for me, I was working on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The surgery was scheduled for Wednesday in the a.m. After a lot of thought and planning, at the last minute I decided to get up at 4 am, shower and get pretty for the pictures. Then I'd wake the kids up, put them in the van and drive to my in-laws house. They would babysit the girls while I was at the hospital. The perfect plan.

The morning arrived, the alarm went off, and I was out of bed in a flash. Honestly, I wasn't sleeping so great anyways. I did everything I needed to, got the girls up and in the van. Perfecto! What this crazy morning needed was a little Starbucks Carmel Latte. As I headed over to Bucks, Nora pipped up in the backseat. " know, sometimes when I wake up in the morning I have to go pee".

Huh?? What the...oh. My perfect plan had a major flaw. I asked, "Nora, do you have to go potty now?". Need I tell you the answer? Thank goodness the Starbucks lobby is open at 5:45 am, because that's about the time we busted through the front door, Nora in her jammies, clinging to her "B". Sue, the manager, looked at us and said, "My aren't we up early!" As we made a beeline for the restrooms, I called over my shoulder, "I have another kid sleeping in the car. I'll order my coffee in the drive thru!" Because that is where I left Emmy, in her car seat, half asleep half awake. Nora needed to be fast before the cops saw her out there all by herself, screaming.

Nora was not fast. In fact, Nora got stage fright. I had to sit down and demonstrate, and this wasn't easy since I hadn't had my coffee yet! After what seemed like an eternity, Nora finally peed. I washed her hands and we flew back to the van, to find a grumpy and fully awake Emily. Well, it could have been worse. Went through the drive, got my delicious drink, and headed down I-88 towards the city. The sun was shining bright as it peaked over the horizon. Just stunning. And what a sunrise! I remembered watching the sun rise on the morning Nora was born as Ryan drove me to the hospital in my old Ford Escort, and my eyes welled up with tears. A new baby! Baby Cousin! Who wouldn't be stunned by the miracle that is life on this planet?

As I got all emotional, I heard a complaint from the backseat. "Mom?? Hey mom, the sun is in my eyes. Can you move it?" Nora completely stunned me out of my musing. "Nora, did you just ask me to move the sun?" "Yes Mom". Well, I guess I wasn't the only one with miracles on the brain! I laughed, but not enough to hurt her feelings, and explained that actually the sun stays in one spot and it can't be moved. Eventually we would move out of its way. She didn't like that answer, so I told her to put the "B" on her head. She complied. She grumped a little. I kept driving. Had to get the hospital to see the next miracle!

I made it to my in-laws by 7 am, dropped the kids off, and headed to the hospital. I stood by the doors of the O.R. waiting for my brother in law Brian to hold up the pink or the blue sign. He appeared with the blue post-it note announcing a bouncing baby boy. Welcome Alexander Ryan Bridgeman!!! Xander is named for my father, Michael Alexander, and Brian's best friend Ryan Palesh (also known as the person I sat next to in geometry class back in sophomore year). God and Buddha bless you little Xander. And please excuse Nora, who upon finding out her new baby cousin was a boy, stated, "A boy! I didn't want a boy!! I like girls!".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nora is a SORE loser

The title of this one explains it all. Nora is a sore loser extraordinare. I've never seen anything like it, and believe me, I was a pretty sore loser as a kid. Even my parents admit that upon losing, the fury unleashed by Eleanor Grace is of a greater magnitude than I ever exhibited. It makes me want to hide High Ho Cherry-o and replace it with a jigsaw puzzle.

The biggest and baddest meltdown Nora has had of late was at Emily's Blue's Clues Birthday Party. I'll have to find the pics, because they are classic. Screaming, crying, foot stomping, and handy-dandy notebook throwing commenced when Miles found the last clue. Oh I wish we had video, because her future husband needs to see what he's getting into. But that experience, I fear, has led Nora to begin experimenting with cheating. Obviously this is not a good development. The last two or three times we have played Princess Memory, the first row of cards in front of her "magically" has two or even three sets of matches placed next to each other. "I gotta match Mom! Isn't this great?" Nora calls out excitedly. I ask her if she cheated, and she denies it. I started watching her more carefully so she wouldn't have the opportunity to cheat, in the hopes that she would stop.

Unfortunately this didn't drive the lesson home. One rainy afternoon, we were playing Candyland. I was way ahead of Nora, who wasn't too pleased. She kept telling me she wanted to win. "The point of the game is to spend time together and have fun, not win" I repeated repeatedly. I didn't think anything of getting up and answering the phone in the middle of the game. I took the call, and came back a few minutes later. It was my turn. The next card I pulled was the pink Candy Cane card. For those of you not familiar with Candyland, this is basically the same thing as having to start all the way back at the beginning. Normally I wouldn't care if I won or lost, but the thing is, Nora had already pulled the Candy Cane card and it should still have been in the discard pile. Funny enough, Nora took her turn and pulled Princess Frosty's Ice Cream card, which puts the player very close to the end of the game and thus the win. Oh yeah, and that card had already been played as well.

"Nora" I asked, trying not to be totally angry. "Did you go through the cards and move them so you would win and I would lose?". "No mommy," Nora said, without looking at my face. I asked her to look into my eyes and tell me that again, but she couldn't. My heart sank. "Mommy knows you are lying, and I don't play games with little girls who lie and cheat".

The meltdown was total, utter, and complete. It woke Emily up from her nap. It shook the house. It scared the dog. But I refused to play Candyland again. I wish I could say I wasn't playing because she needed a moral lesson, but part of the reason was I was really disappointed she would stoop so low, and I really just didn't want to play anymore. Where had she learned that kind of behavior anyways? Did I teach her to be so sneaky? Is this a portent of things to come? Crap. Now what do I do?

Well, I made myself a nice cup of tea (because I really do need to watch my coffee consumption) and sat down to chill out. Eventually Nora stopped screaming and I asked her what was going on in her head. The poor thing started crying and she admitted to the card switching, adding, "I wanted to win!". She really truly meant it. She said "I wanted to win" in the same voice other kids use to ask for a puppy. Oh man. I felt really bad for her. We reached a compromise. We would play Candyland, but because of the cheating, we had to start over. We did, and I still won. She was just about to unleash hell when I suggested playing Chutes and Ladders. She could spin first, because she had lost Candyland after all, and after many trips up ladders and down slides Nora was victorious. She had her win, but really I hope we all won.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Silly Pic of the Week


Look Mom! I helped myself, and I didn't even make any dirty dishes!
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fun and Shun at the Pool

First I want to say hello! It's nice to be back after several hectic weeks. I've been keeping a list of everything I want to write about, but until now I've had no time to actually sit down and compose my thoughts. Since the last post, my sister Renee gave birth to a son, the first boy in our immediate family since our dad was born in '53. Congratulations Renee, Brian, and Layla! And welcome to the world Alexander Ryan Bridgeman. Your auntie loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

To keep this is chronological order, I'm gonna go back about three weeks (good God can I recall that far back???) to write about the wonderful Saturday afternoon Nora and I spent at the Hopkins Park Pool. For those of you who know me, you may be surprised to read that Momma Ivy, who knows not how to swim despite many years of lessons, went to a swimming pool willing. I did. And I even had fun, IN THE WATER!!! The plan was that after Ryan's morning bike ride, the family would go to the pool and spend some time together. This summer has been so busy with me teaching at night, and of course the rainiest, coldest July on record wasn't helping us in our efforts to enjoy the outdoors. This was the perfect opportunity.

Nora and I put on our bathing suits instead of clothes, and then we waited for Ryan to come home. She ran around the yard while I weeded. Emily "napped" while her Dad was out, and by napping I mean rubbed her eyes, pouted, and refused to sleep. By the time Ryan got home, I knew we would have to craft a new plan. Emily was in no mood to go anywhere, and Ryan was completely pooped from riding 50 miles. Nora and I decided to head out for a girl's afternoon. I joked with her that she would have to teach me to swim! She thought that was hilarious. She doesn't realize its funny because its true...

We got to the pool, and it was just a blissful afternoon. Just the right amount of sun, the water was the perfect temperature, Nora looked adorable in her new suit. I scored a chair under an umbrella and watched as she made friends, went down the slide, and had the time of her life. I pretended to read a magazine, but of course I kept my eyes on her the whole time. During the mandatory breaks, we drank root beer and ate popcorn and chocolate bars. Awesome. We were there for hours. This should be the end of the post. But two things happened that turned the day from lovely but unmemorable to "Oh geez!!"

First, I saw one of Nora's "friends", a girl named Katie. She is the daughter of one of Ryan's co-workers, and she has always been a wonderful older-sister type friend. I'm not sure how old Katie is now; but I'd imagine she is 11 or 12. She was at the pool with her girlfriends, all of whom were wearing bikinis and had their hair fixed up nice. They were acting like typical teenage girls, and I saw that Katie recognized Nora. I could also see she necessarily didn't want Nora to recognize her back. Every time we went for a snack, I made sure to put Nora's back towards the gaggle of girls. God, being a teenager is so hard, and I didn't want Katie to be embarrassed that she was friends with a baby (or whatever those girls might think). On the other hand, I felt kinda bad for not saying hello. So Katie, if you ever see this, I just want to let you know that you looked very cute, and that I wasn't shunning you or trying to be rude.

Second, I may not have stressed the sheer amount of junk that Nora and I ate. She was running around so much, and didn't her want to dehydrate or get low blood sugar. Plus, I never give her junk and I wanted to spoil her on the perfect afternoon! After popcorn, Nora and I headed back into the pool. I was in the water with her when she lost her balance and took in a big mouthful of water. Her eyes got really big, and just as the panic began to well up in my chest, she turned her head and threw up all over the concrete next to the pool. Oh no!!! Oh no, no you didn't...oh yes you just spewed popcorn everywhere. Talk about embarrassed, poor Nora was mortified. I got her out of the water and quickly got the life guard. She radioed for her manager, and then we stood watch over the puddle until the cleaning supplies arrived.

And the manager did arrive, the blond, bronzed, muscular, Olympian-god like life guard manager. Thank you mister for cleaning up my kids vomit. I just about died. But I did manage to snap a quick pic before we slinked away! As he swabbed the deck, I told a tearful Nora it was time to go. Mentally she wanted to stay, but physically she was finished. I promised her McDonald's ice-cream on the way home to keep her from hysterics, and of course I figured all the kaolin in the "ice-cream" would settle her tummy. It did. And you know what? We had a good time anyways.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Momma = Meanie

Sometimes being a parent isn't so much fun. It's not all trips to the zoo and ice-cream cones and presents on Christmas morning. That's the fun stuff you take pictures of and, I suppose, reminisce about when you get old. But what about all the little things in-between? Its those little things that, when added together, play a role in determining what kind of values your adult child will hold near and dear. Yikes!!! I can tell you in all honesty I was not thinking this whole thing through when I approached Ryan with the idea of having a baby. My head was filled with images of happy mommies and daddies piped into my home via TLC's Baby Story.

What this is leading up to is a confession: I have not entirely enjoyed being mommy these past two weeks, because I feel like a big jerk. Here are just a few examples of the life lessons occurring at number 615 this July:

Last week, Nora did not finish all of her chores on Chore Chart 2.0. She was three chores shy of completion. I wanted her to earn a book so very badly, but after some discussion with Ryan, we decided that she really hadn't done her part. Teaching her to do half the work for all the reward wasn't a very good lesson in helping out family. I was the one that had to tell her why it would be another week until she could earn a book. At first she thought it was a joke; she smiled and said, "But Mom, I want a new Jack and Annie!" Nonetheless I cleared the board. The look of devastation on her face was just the worst, and I was the bad guy. The whole time I was thinking, "Is she old enough to understand what is going on?? Can't I just give her the book, because this sucks".

Nora also got a lesson in "faking" i.e. lying today. Nora has taken to the habit of telling fibs, a habit I worry about because Mr. Karma isn't kind those who are less than truthful. Unfortunatley, she thinks its nothing more than a joke. Today I asked her if she wanted the uneaten portion of her sandwich. She said no, and I asked again, and again, because my plan was to make it my lunch. I was hungry, and it looked good! So I ate it. After I had eaten about half, Nora saw what I was doing and screamed, "I'M HUNGRY!!!! MOOOMMMMYYY!!! I want my sandwich! I was just FAKING!". I knew I had two choices: One, give her the rest of the sandwich. This would teach her it is ok to lie, it is ok to scream, and that it is ok to avoid the words please and thank-you. Two, explain that faking is not cool, and finish my sandwich. I went with two, and ate that bad boy up. In the process I unleashed the unholy forces of a Nora tantrum, complete with spit and thrown furniture. Time out time. Momma for sure needs another cup of coffee.

These are the moments that don't feel warm and fuzzy. They hurt. Yet, in spite of it all, I know that I've done the right thing. I love these girls so much, and I'll do anything to help them grow and mature into loving, kind, and truthful women. It seems mean now, it probably sounds abusive to the neighbors, but if it takes an argument here and a tantrum there to set them on the proper path, then I'll do it. Plus, not 10 minutes after I finished that sandwich, we were cuddled up on the couch watching the Care Bears with Emily. TLC, that's "fake" happy. This is the real thing. When I'm not being mean, that is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Silly Pic of the Week

Nora subtly hints that she wants to go to the water park by wearing her new bathing suit, water wings, and...her snow boots???

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Diaper Bandit Strikes Again

Someone keeps stealing Emily's diapers. We put her in a diaper and lay her down for a nap or for bedtime, and she wakes up naked. The bandit tends to hide the diaper under the bed or in the sink of Emily's play kitchen. The first time this happened it was funny, because the sheets were dry. Then she would hid her head under the pillow, thinking she couldn't see us, and her naked butt was hanging out, making for a rather comical scene. Other times, Emily has been found in her room running around in circles yelling "Whee!!!! Whee!!!! Woo...Wheeeee!!!" because running around in circles is more fun when there's a breeze. Unfortunately for Mom and Dad, the funny factor has run out, yet the diaper bandit continues to strike.

It seems like a perfect opportunity to start teaching the lessons of potty training. We have a book that "flushes", and the training potty has been sitting out for months. Everyday I take Emily into the bathroom with me, point to the toilet and explain that's where the pee pees and poo poos go. She just stares, and then proceeds to put her foot in the training potty. I am simply not getting across to this kid. She won't wear dirty diapers, so she has an understanding that dirty diapers are yucky, yet she is not ready yet to pursue an alternative path. Honestly, I don't know what to do. So we've resorted to keeping her in a onesie at all times because she has a hard time unsnapping the buttons and disposing of the diaper. Plan B: Operation Onesie has been working for a few months now. But now her nimble fingers have figured out the snaps...

Ryan took a vacation day on Friday to watch the girls while I went to Navy Pier with my Grandma Esther. I had a great day of Italian coffee, food, and wine. He did not. A big part of his problem was Emily not keeping her clothes or diaper on. He put her to bed at the normal time, she fell asleep, then he and Nora played outside. Apparently Emily woke up, and finding no one to stop her, pushed a container next to her play kitchen to fashion a very effective stair system. She climbed up into the kitchen, and then stepped into the top drawer of her dresser drawers (which thank goodness isn't too high). Ryan is not sure at which point she dumped the diaper into the sink, but she managed to get completely naked. I imagine she did a little Emily jig once she realized success. However, at some point she couldn't get down, and got completely scared. She screamed and Ryan ran to the rescue. She had peed inside of the dresser drawer (obviously she was really scared). Ryan was furious, and I will probably not have the opportunity to go to Chicago anytime soon. But, I said, at least she had thrown all her clean clothes on the floor before the accident. There's always a silver lining.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ode to Bunny

Several weeks ago, I came to conclusion that Emily's little pink bunny blankie was gone. Bunny has been an integral part of Em's bedtime routine for over a year now, and the realization that we would never see it again was surprisingly sad for me. Bunny was there for her first tooth, Bunny always rode in the car for long trips, and no one could make a boo-boo feel better than Bunny. She loved it like it was part of the family. But I figured these things happen. Binkies and blankies get lost, get ruined, or kids simply grow up and toss their babyish things. Besides, nothing lasts forever. And to be honest, Emily's world didn't come to an end, although she hasn't been sleeping as soundly as normal. The noise of the coffee maker now wakes her up. Of course this does not stop Ryan from brewing my morning coffee...

Ryan and I decided not to speak of Bunny's disappearance with the children, in the hopes that it would eventually be forgotten. While the situation provided a good lesson on impermanence, Emily's language skills bar us from having any kind of meaningful conversation. Best leave Buddhist philosophy for another day and just let them be kids. It is not the last time they will lose something, and we will do our best to help them when that time comes.

You can imagine my surprise when I decided to look through some hand wash laundry items, and I found Bunny stuffed into Emily's birthday dress! I shook it to listen to the rattle; same old same old...Bunny, you're not gone! I have never been so happy to see a ratty, chewed up piece of pink fabric. Thank goodness we didn't have the big deep talk, because Bunny is back! I immediately put Bunny in the wash. It was finished just around the time Emily was ready to lay down for her afternoon rest. I hid Bunny under my shirt and put Emily to bed. Then, with a little help from Nora (who was absolutely dying to see what I was hiding) I pulled a rabbit out of my hat. The look of recognition was instant, followed by a smile, a grab for her pink buddy, and then she proceeded to start chewing on Bunny's ears. Oh Bunny, its so good to have you back!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Silly Pic of the Week

Future Olympic Gold Medalist Emily Dally practices the pole-vault in an attempt to gain access to the kitchen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chore Chart 2.0

According to the experts, children as young as two are ready to begin household chores. Do I believe the experts? NO. Nonetheless, I want to believe the experts as badly as Agent Mulder wanted Scully to believe in aliens. Most of the time, this house is anything but clean, and any help in any shape or form is very much appreciated. Not to mention the fact that I'd like to teach my kids about cleaning so they don't have to live in a pig-sty when they grow-up.

Chore chart 1.0 has been around for about a year now. Version 1.0 started out with a lot of excitement and fanfare, but the fun has since worn out. I created a little template on Word with six chores listed for Monday through Saturday. When Nora completed one of her chores for the day, for example making the bed, she would choose a Princess sticker for the box. If she completed all of her chores for the week, she would get to choose a prize from the box on Saturday night. Most prizes came from the dollar store, others were clearance toys from Toys R Us. She earned Strawberry Shortcake dolls, puzzles, stuffed animals, Play-doh, and paints. She loved her prizes, and I only felt a little guilty that she was working for third-world wages.

Unfortunately, Chore chart 1.0 did not last very long. A big part of the problem was me; I would forget that I had assigned a chore and did the work myself. I also assigned chores that didn’t always need to be done, for example, watering the flowers on a rainy day. She would do some chores, but not all of the chores, and felt cheated about not getting her prize. Eventually Nora and I fell out of the habit of doing chores.

Enter Chore Chart 2.0, an awesome Melissa and Doug product. Ryan and Nora came home from Barnes and Noble with a magnetic chore chart for the fridge. I mean an awesome chore chart. There were a ton of tasks to pick from and smiley face rewards. No more buying sheets of stickers. Plus, this chore chart provides several things 1.0 did not. First, it provides variety, since it’s easy to change up the chores completed each week. Second, the nature of the chores are probably more age appropriate than the chores I had chosen. Brushing teeth and saying please are rewarded. These tasks are easy for kids to do, and it instills great habits. Finally, the instructions say give a prize at the end of the week for a certain percentage of chores being completed rather than filling up the whole chart. There are 49 tasks for the week. We give her a prize for completing 30 things. The 30 smiley faces are up on the fridge, so she knows how many more chores she has to complete. Finally, I loaded the prize box up with books! Nora loves the Magic Tree House series, and now she has the opportunity to own the first 40 volumes. (I got a deal. She’s still working for slave wages).

So far it’s been a rockin’ success. Nora dances around when brushing her teeth, makes her bed with pride, and asks if there’s anything else she can do! The awarding of the smiley face is always accompanied by jumping up and down and loud yays!!! I’m jumping up and down with her, because everything about kids doing chores is wonderful!!! And we’ve had fun reading the Sunset of the Saber tooth. I hope she picks Midnight on the Moon next.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fourth of July

(I do apologize for the untimely nature of this post. It's been a bit hectic around here lately...)

Ryan and I have always made a point of making the fourth of July "our holiday". It hasn't always worked, but we've always tried to stay here and celebrate it together. Maybe that's because I always find fireworks to be both romantic and a little bit scary, or maybe its just because we love the old-fashioned way DeKalb does the fourth. Before we had kids, we talked about how fun it would be once we were parents. And it has been. Its funny though, because even though we think of the fourth now as "our family's holiday", we always celebrate with our best friends from college, Tim and Rachel. I guess that makes them part of the family.

This year, the girls and I had to leave town for the night of the fourth, so we decided to have a bonfire and camp-out in the backyard on the third. It had all of the barefoot fun and late-night appeal of the usual fourth of July celebration without the crowds of people. We set the tent up early in the morning, and Nora and Emily had a blast playing in it all day long. While they amused themselves by hiding under their blankets in the tent, Ryan and I took turns in the hammock. After dinner, Tim and Rachel came over for the bonfire portion of the evening. I decided to put Emily to bed inside, in part because I was worried about her safety, and in part I don't think she's old enough to be able to sleep well in the tent. She really likes her bed, and I didn't want to push my luck and ruin everyone's evening.

The fire started up nicely, and we pulled our chairs around. Nora was overly excited to be hanging out with the grown-ups, and she stayed up way too late. But isn't that what the fourth of July is about? We made s'mores and ate cupcakes and the grown-ups enjoyed some grown-up beverages. Nora helped make the s'mores, but decided she didn't want to eat any because the marshmallows were toasted. She slept in the tent next to the fire, only peeking her head out occasionally to complain that we were making too much noise. What a stinker! But is was a great evening. I really wanted to sleep in the tent with her, but the weatherman called for rain, so a little after eleven we brought her inside and put her to bed. We tucked our little sleepy-head in, gave her kisses, and I made a little promise to her that we would have another backyard camp-out, and soon.

Uncle Tim, Aunt Rachel, and Nora

Dad getting the fire started.

Nora and I by the flowers.

Nora getting ready for bed...yeah right!

Friday, July 3, 2009

La Cucina Americana

Several years ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the art history of the Roman Empire in its formerly glorious and still vibrant capital city. Bella Roma, oh how you changed me! The art was jaw-dropping, Michelangelo paintings and life-size marble nudes and the such, but I think my favorite part of the five-plus weeks was the food. Scratch that, I KNOW my favorite part was the food. In that short span of time, it was like my mind and taste buds and stomach were completely reborn; like I had been stuck in Plato's proverbial cave and suddenly I was in the light for the first time, tasting food the way God and the angels above meant food to be. I ate everything and everything in sight, savoring the simplicity of the dishes and the freshness of the ingredients. We lingered at sidewalk tables hour after hour after hour over the multiple courses and bottles of wine. I can hear the Vespas buzzing past now....

(Shaking myself out of a reverie, just a moment please....)

I really want to have that kind of food experience here, at home. We are surrounded by farm country, and the girls and I even have our own garden. So why is it then, after having the experience of food ecstasy, that I find our family eating (brace yourself foodies) peanut butter and jelly on generic Wonder Bread, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Aldi cardboard cheese pizzas, and mozzarella cheese sticks aka string cheese? I have fallen so far. God, why have you forsaken me? Forsaken us? Why have I been given fussy children who can't appreciate the flavor of food without a bunch of synthetic additives? Sweet zucchini and succulent eggplant, lovingly tossed in fine olive oil and roasted to perfection, receives a chorus of yucks ends up on the floor. Pasta pretending to be spaghetti smothered in tasteless jar sauce accompanied by overly salted garlic bread wins me the mom of the year award. There has to be a solution, a compromise, a place where the food contains nutrients!

I have to figure out a way to combine the freshness of the Italian kitchen with the prepared items at the American grocery story. They need to be juxtaposed in a way that isn't anathema to the kids. I have to realize that Nora and Emily are growing up in the States, don't know anything else, and can't be blamed for their penchant for eating crap. After all, I am the one that introduced the Mac and Cheese. I started this mess, and I need to end it now. This week I started with the pizza. It wasn't pizza rustica de Napoli, but it wasn't you're Tombstone either. I took

1 Aldi cheese pizza
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, cut into slices
3 large basil leaves (from the garden), torn into tiny bits
Grated asiago to taste
Grated parmigiano-reggiano to taste
Lots of love

I covered the top of the cheese pizza with these ingredients and baked it for 17 minutes at 450 degrees. Not too bad, Ryan and I actually enjoyed it. (It was the love the overpowered the cardboard crust). And Nora only complained a little bit about the 'matos. She doesn't like 'matos. Fresh ones that is; the 'matoes in the jar of Ragu are "delicious". Chef Mom of la cucina americana has a lot of work ahead.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Em" is for Mischief

Around here, we affectionately refer to Emily as "Em" or "Emmy". I'm starting to think that Miss Mischief might be a more appropriate nickname. Of course you probably are thinking, "Well duh, she's two! Its supposed to be terrible". But its not terrible, not really. Nora was terrible. At the age of two, Nora would throw tantrums that belonged in the Guinness Book of World Records. She would vomit and break furniture and kick me because I turned the Teletubbies off. It is a miracle that she is not an only child. Emily is totally chill in comparison.

Emily's tantrums, if you even want to call them that, are pretty lame. Yes she'll yell, sometimes even kick, and throw herself dramatically to the floor. Then I say something like, "Does Emmy need a hug?" and its over. She clings to me, sucks her thumb, problem forgotten. Its not Emily's tantrums that have made her an interesting two-year old. Its the silly, mischievous, and naughty things she does, and the obvious delight she takes in getting caught.

Case in point. In the last forty-eight hours, Emily has done all of the following: danced on the kitchen table, taken a scoop and used it to empty the dog's water bowl onto the floor, tried on all of Nora's clean clothes located her bottom dresser drawers, emptied all of the bath toys into the tub and sat amongst them while trying to turn the water on, smeared pizza on top of her head, turned the X-Box on and off while I was looking so I would turn red and yell, and stripped naked and boogied in front of the box fan. My reaction to all of these events is pretty predictable. "Emmmiiiilllleeeee what are you doing??? NO! NO! Honey, no!!!" Her response is always the same. Her eyes sparkle, like she has never been more alive than at that moment, and then she grins. A big, cheesy, you-know-what eating grin. Oh boy! Mom caught me again! Awesome. Oooohhh, and she's so mad! That's even better.

Making me crazy, albeit amused, seems to be the driving force in her life. Good God, what am I going to do when this girl is thirteen?

Sunday, June 28, 2009


This weekend has been unusual, since I've been without my kids for the most-part. I am more than willing to admit its been nice to sing off-key in the van and drink my coffee uninterrupted. On Friday, I actually went out to dinner with my husband. Its been awhile since we've been able to talk for more than 30 seconds without getting interrupted, and it was just lovely. Its nice to remember that I married him because I enjoy his wit, and there are other things in the world for us to discuss besides Emily's latest tooth. We even went for a twilight walk around the lagoon, the first place on campus that Ryan ever took me. We walked, holding hands, and watched the college-aged couples feed the geese. They were promptly chased, dare I say attacked, by the birds when the bread ran out. We laughed; the girls used it as an excuse to be nudge a little closer to their dates in order to be "saved". Young love is sweet.

I spent yesterday at an art fair in Evanston looking for inspiration as I toy with the idea of becoming a jewelry artist. I find it ironic that my favorite pieces were not jewelry, but fabulous oil paintings inspired by the likes of Monet and Turner. I can honestly say the only other place where I've seen such skilled brushwork is the Art Institute of Chicago. I'm saving my pennies to purchase an original, prices starting at $650, a steal in my opinion. Did I mention this guy lives less than a mile from me?***

Its also ironic that the "inspiring" part of the day happened after the two hour drive back to DeKalb. I burned up every last ounce of energy on my trip, and was too tired to put Nora to bed. We opted instead to watch a thunderstorm roll in. We have a great little stoop that leads up to the front door, and the roof overhangs it enough to provide protection from the rain. We watched as the sky grew dark, and counted the "fire-fighter flies" until the rain started. The storm did come, although it wasn't as threatening as predicted. Indeed, it was odd to watch as the whole world took on an orange hue. There was lightening and thunder, but very little rain. The top of the sky was orange, the bottom was gray, and the two halves were linked by a giant rainbow. We sat out there together, as quiet as this family can be, until the sunset.

***You can check out Gerard Erley's art at his website The images online are somewhat different from what he had at the show; the works in Evanston were more ethereal in my opinion.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good morning

Many spiritual traditions teach that morning is the most important part of the day, and that great effort should be expended in order to it set it right. The theory goes like this: a serene and peaceful morning results in a serene and peaceful day. Ok, I'm on board. Serenity now. The problem is, I have a hard time getting out of bed. Sure, I wish I could say I was one of those people that wakes up with the sun, bright eyed and ready to greet the day with enthusiasm, but I'm not. I really wish I could say I'm one of those yogis who sit in meditation as the world begins to wake, bringing a sense of peace not only to themselves but all those around them, but I'm not. Hell, I would gladly sacrifice the idea of a spiritual morning if I could end up with a Leave it to Beaver morning. Or any cheesy 1960's sitcom for that matter, just so long as I'm all made-up wearing an apron and perhaps even pearls, hair coiffed, the children washed and dressed, dad looking handsome in shirt and tie.

This is not the start of my day. Rather, it goes like this. At some point way to early for my liking, I become aware that Ryan is no longer lying next to me. I know my time under the covers will soon end, and I am not pleased. Sometime shortly thereafter, I hear the stomp stomp stomp, pardon me, cute pitter-patter, of feet above my head. The noise (regardless of it being an annoying stomp or heartwarming patter) is usually accompanied by shrieks, all out screams, and the thuds created as Emily throws her toys onto the floor. She has gotten a good 12 hours and is ready to go, isn't the rest of the house?

Eventually someone is brave enough to come and get me. Some mornings its Ryan, but sometimes he sends Nora into the dragon's lair. Suddenly there is a face 1/2 inch next to mine. "Mommy, Daddy says you need to get out of bed! Come on, the sun is up!" She may poke at me, but is learning that is not very wise. She leaves. I don't move. Someone comes back a few minutes later. "Mommy, Daddy said you have to get up now!! Mom!". I realize Ryan is probably leaving for work, and if I want to see him at all before noon, I have to get out of bed. I emerge with tousled hair, black make-up circles under my eyes, and mismatched pj's because God knows money is tight, why spend it on pj's that no one sees except for the kids?

Every morning I make it upstairs, and every morning Emily is the first to greet me. She smiles her big cheesy grin and says, "Hi! Hi! Hi!" while she waves. And of course I melt, because she doesn't speak much, but she speaks to me every morning. Aww kid, I love you so much. Warm fuzzy. Then, before the warm fuzzy has an opportunity to wear off, Ryan hands me a cup of coffee. Sometimes its a silent transaction, sometimes he will warn me its hot. But there is never an exchange of pleasantries, because Ryan is not an idiot. Momma needs that first cup of coffee.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Right here, Right now...

Its days like today that make me realize that I've never really ever felt like I fit in (no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing), yet deep down inside I honestly, probably, maybe, surely don't care. Case in point. Ryan asked me, "What did you do today?", and I'm happy to say I did not answer go to work, complain about the heat, shop at Target in the hopes of purchasing a piece of color-coordinated happiness, or any other thing a "normal" person might do on Wednesday afternoon. It was a do nothing kinda day, or if you prefer, the kids and I were unbusy. And I loved it.

The weatherman said it was going to be hot, so my mother-in-law invited us over for the day. We left pretty early since we didn't have anything else to do. I drove in my mom van down I-88 going about 88 mph singing Bon Jovi with the kids. I left my i-pod at home, so we also listened to some Phil Collins and George Michaels on B-95, and I wondered at one point if there had been a glitch in the Matrix. The musical selection of the afternoon indicated that I should have been in the back arguing with Renee while my mom chauffeured us in the Dodge Shadow. (Seriously, we even heard an ad for a New Kids on the Block concert!!! Is it 2009 or 1989??) But anyways, we made it to Chuck and Dianne's, and they treated us to an afternoon of air conditioning, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and old photo albums. The kids got to see what their dad was like as a kid, Dianne got to reminisce about having young kids, and I had the opportunity to just enjoy the moment. We went outside, despite the heat, to pick Mulberries from the big tree in the back next to the creek. They were almost black, and so saturated with sweet sugary juice they were falling from the tree. We ate them till our lips and finger-tips were purple and we couldn't reach them anymore. During dinner Emily passed out, her mouth hanging open slightly, and everyone had a good-spirited yet hearty laugh. This is why I had kids.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Me (the mom), a cup of coffee, and a blank screen

For all of you who said I should write a book about my children and their antics, here it is. Well, ok, its not a book, but close enough.

So, how does one proceed with beginning a blog anyways? Do I need an introduction to the topic at hand, or should I just get started assuming my audience already knows the key players? Since my readers will be limited to my mom, mother-in-law, and two best friends, I guess I can safely assume you all know that I'm Ivy, a slightly confused (yet paradoxically over educated) mother of two daughters that has a hang-up for coffee. I live in a small town on a small budget, but I have an overactive imagination to keep me amused in my down time. But enough about me...

The antics of my children. The reason why I don't necessarily sleep well at night, thus necessitating another cup of coffee. Yesterday was Emily's Second Birthday. Yesterday happened to be a Monday, so her birthday party was over, yet we wanted to do something special despite the unseasonable heat. Dad (Ryan), a bike enthusiast, opted for the family to go on the annual Custard Cruise, a three mile bike-trip for parents and tots. Riders start at the park, ride through the forest preserve to the Ollie's, pig-out on calorie and fat laden delicious custard packed into crisp waffle cones, and ride back. The plan was laid with the idea that Nora, who is now officially four 1/2, would ride her own bike and I would tow Emily in the carriage.

This plan did not suit Nora Grace. "I want to ride in the back with Emmy!" Ok, ok, its probably too hot for her to ride that far anyways. Never mind I haven't ridden my bike in a year, my leg muscles are about as firm as that custard I'm looking forward to devouring, and the carriage with two kids weighs about 70 pounds. Oh yeah, and we're gonna ride to the park, so its way longer than 3 miles. And its still 90 degrees. Great Idea! See the smiles on our faces! I even put on lipstick for the pics...

My pasty-white legs are wobbly by the time we get to the park. All these other fit, lean, and tan riders show up. Oh my god, I'm twelve years old and back in gym class. I can see it already, I'm gonna be waaaayy behind everyone else. I'm so gonna get picked last if we decide to play kickball after the ride. Six-thirty arrives and the ride begins, and as predicted I'm behind the pack two minutes into our trek. But, I made it. Actually, a mile and a half wasn't too bad, except for the fact I couldn't stand straight between my weak legs and sore butt. Totally worth the free Ollie's, and I got to finish Emily's portion. Excellent.

After the kids ran off most of their sugar, we headed back to the park. Emily and Nora love the slide park, so we decided to bear the heat and let them run around. We weren't there for five minutes when Ryan comes running over to Nora and I, cradling Emily like a baby. "Is Em ok?" I asked. No--she was dehydrated. She must not have been drinking the water from the squirt bottles. I just about panicked; I say "just about" because full-out panic mode doesn't help anyone. Inside: AAHHHHH!!!!!!! Outside: Get water in her! I poured water into her mouth, which seemed to stop the shaking pretty quick. We got her back into the carriage/tow-behind, and she had enough energy to scream and protest leaving the park unceremoniously. I peddled as quick as I could, which wasn't very quick at all, but we made it home.

I considered taking her to the hospital despite the fact she was smiling and in better spirits. I decided to wait a minute or two more before making any decisions, there would be a sign, I was sure, to tell me what to do. We put her to bed, and as always, she got back up. I went in there to lay her back down, yelling out (as I'm prone to do) when I realized she had taken off her diaper and she was buck naked. Oh Emily!! Can't you keep your diaper on for anything? I popped it back on and decided it was a onesie night, dehydration or no dehydration. As I got her dressed, Ryan stopped in the door and said, "Oh God! No wonder you were yelling like that". Huh? Its just her diaper...what the...

In my haste to check on her, I failed to notice she launched some bombs out of the diaper by the door. Apparently I had stepped in them, squishing them into poop pancakes. Well, that's a sign if I ever saw one. Kid is ok. Situation normal here....