Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sleep and Sunlight

I woke up this morning after a decent night's sleep to the sun streaming through the windows. It seems like that hasn't happened in months, maybe longer. Both the sun and the sleep. After feeling so good (finally!), and enjoying the morning without a clenched jaw, I believe I need to order extra of both of those things for the remainder of the year. Anyone care to purchase some with me in bulk?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back Home and Home Again

I'm afraid the following will be a jumble of disjunct pictures and half-finished thoughts about our two-week retreat to Grandma's, aka, home. Always home. It was partially emotional, partially exhausting, and partially therapeutic, and I'm satisfied having spent much more than a weekend there. We visited some dear, old friends and some dear, old places. I wish I was back on the porch with time to record more than just "we did this" or "we saw them", but that's all I have time for right now. I wish I had taken pictures of every moment and every meeting, but I just wasn't that organized. We're back home now, Chicago home, and embarking on a new adventure as resident heads, and for me, a full-time stay-at-home momship (with a little piano teaching on the side...)

Okay, here goes. Two weeks in a walnut shell.

We arrived Saturday night, July 25th, and took off for mom's beach at South Haven on Sunday. We did the same the following Sunday, but went to the public beach where I used to hang out with my friends while skipping school when the weather was nice.

Half of our little half-pint, Avi.

It was warm enough to swim, and cold enough to wear a sweater. Nourit screamed with delight (or fear, or both) when I took her with me into the huge waves that day.

Back at home, doing a little weeding. We picked wildflowers from the field and made Grandma Queen of the Green.

Her crown is too big for Her Highness, Nourit.

On Monday, Mike and I walked down the road to the Cinzori's farm for some fresh, organic produce that we ate heartily for the next week. (Hey Chicagoans, look in the produce section at Whole Foods next time you are there and you'll find their homegrown veggies!)

This is what we saw along the way, times about 10.

And some beautiful sandhill cranes.

A trip home wouldn't be complete without a trip to the mall. Oh, the memories of 8 hour shopping sprees and modeling on Fashion Panel. And oh, how my priorities have changed!

I think is a true depiction of Nourit's personality. Her shirt aptly says, "Lucky to Be Me!" Oh, yes, she is.

Nourit and I also had a "date" at Full Blast, a new waterpark downtown, and then I took her to Rice's Shoestore nearby where I used to get my feet measured for shoes when I was probably her age. We spent a morning at the Mullen's farm, swimming and visiting with my childhood friend and her sisters and the new generation of kids. Baron is now Ace, and Buckshot is no longer around, but it still felt so familiar. We had a whirlwind visit with Michelle and Izzie (whose picture is too cute for words, but I want to be a little sensitive about posting her picture online since not everyone is comfortable having their life out there for the world to see.) Then, we made the inevitable trip to Binder Park Zoo. We stayed for four hours, our record!

Nourit on the 'Swamp Adventure', where she walked the entire mile, and really thought it was an adventure.
The day and the spot couldn't have been more beautiful.

More nature.

Nourit on the train.

Avital on the carousel. She screamed with delight most of the way around.

We had a good visit with our friends, the Harters, much to Nourit's delight! And on my birthday, we visited the Jones' up in Eaton Crapids (Amy's name for it, not mine. I thought it was beautiful!) for a wonderful visit, complete with dinner and a play involving Laura Ingalls, a dog, and a zebra, and a latent appearance by a fairy princess. Unfortunately, no pictures of that one! I also had time to catch up with my old friend Randy, and am thankful for that after so many years.

Here is the sweet picture.

Here is the scary one.

Hard to see, but there were about 15-20 wild turkeys walking across the backyard. Oh, I wish I had had a gun because they would have gone rather well with the green beans and zucchini we brought home from the Jones' garden.

So two weeks, gone by in a flash, and now we're back home in Chicago. I'm finishing up my work in the Psych Dept this week, and we attended a (very interesting) meeting tonight with members from the Woodlawn community and the University community about development and safety on the Southside. Monday, we move!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Commander Librarian

Nourit, after getting in trouble too many times today for insubordination, (and finding herself toy-less after I took them away for not cleaning up), decided to play library for the first time. She told me (after stumbling over the word a few times before getting it just right) that she was a librarian. This was a game my sister and I played endlessly, as evidenced by our books containing construction paper envelopes in the front flaps. We haven't played that game with Nourit yet. In fact, we rarely visit the library (for reasons I've posted about before), so I was duly impressed that she came up with this herself.

After putting some post-it tags in a few of her books, she told me again that she had become a librarian, and wasn't it a special thing? It had just - happened! "Like magic?" I asked. "No," she said, like I was stupid. (Oops, I'm not allowed to use that word!) "No," she sighed, "it just happened to happen." And now she's a librarian just like Grandma.

Nourit disappeared for a few moments while I gave Avi her bath. After I told Avi in my sternest voice no, not to dump the water out of the tub, (and after Avi gave me her biggest, award-winning smile), Nourit marched into the bathroom right up to Avi and said, "When mommy tells you to stop, you stop!" Hmmm...where did she learn that? It was quite convincing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I heart greenheart

On a furtive gelato run last Sunday to Wicker Park's Cafe Gelato while our 3 year old was at her first drop-off party, we discovered the store greenheart. I'm in love! The store (in its own words)
"is Chicago’s premier eco-fair trade non-profit shop, carrying both fair trade and eco friendly products. Greenheart carries a variety of goods including recycled accessories and handbags, home goods, gourmet treats, cookbooks, glassware, jewelry, toys, personal care, organic cotton t-shirts and more. Greenheart believes consumers have the power to affect positive World change by supporting sustainable and fair business practices in their purchasing choices."

I didn't know all that walking in - what got me right off the bat were the beautiful hand sewn dresses, and the adorable children's clothes and toys, and the beautiful green water pitcher and glasses, and the...

Avi was fussing so I didn't get to try on everything I wanted, but we did walk out of the store with a floor rug made out of recycled something-or-other, that will take the place of the utilitarian plastic dropsheet I was planning to put under the girls' easel to keep the paint off our new carpet. It's completely washable, and very cool.

We made another gelato run tonight, this time with our neighbors. (About 2/3's of the way there - 45 minutes into the trip from Hyde Park to Wicker Park at 3pm on a Thursday - we started to question the rationale of dragging our friends all that way just for gelato.) But it was yummy! We followed it by another trip to greenheart, who was having their grand opening fiesta (amazing food by Zebda, great sangria, warm welcome), and walked out with more treasures.

a little green
porcelain piggy bank for Nourit's first lesson in saving $$, (you have to invest money to make money, don't you?)

a new book by the creators of 'Mama, Do you love me?' - one of my favorite books - called 'Papa, do you love me?' Halfway through the book it reads, "Papa, what would you do if I was hot?" "We'd rest under a Greenheart tree."

a beautiful beaded bracelet that I chose for my sister, who doesn't read my blog, so won't know if I end up keeping it for myself

My friend walked out with a fantastic two-toned, woven purse. I could have added about 10 more things to my shopping basket, as well. Unfortunately, all the clothes in my size had disappeared off the racks, so we will have to make the trek back to Wicker Park in a couple weeks to get mama a new dress. And some gelato, too, of course.

Friday, July 17, 2009

To do, or not to do - that is the question

Last night I realized that today I would have an entire, unscheduled day ahead of me, with no work, no play-dates planned, no outside obligations - rien, nichts, nada. (I'm just double checking my Google calendar to make sure I didn't forget about something...) What a glorious prospect! Then, worry set in. (This is one of my character traits that drives my husband batty - the ability to turn every good and simple thing into a cause for worry.) What do I do with this precious commodity? I don't want to waste it. Do I take the girls and go to one of the myriad venues on my mental list of places to go when I have a full day off work? Suddenly, I can't think of anywhere I want to go alone with two little ones all day. By myself. With no backup. Hmmm...Our next door neighbors and built-in-playmates are all on vacation. Do I set up a playdate with one of the many people that I've been wanting to see, and just haven't had the time until now? (You know, the friend 5 blocks away who had her second baby a year ago, and I've already unwrapped the gift I bought for her to use for my own kid because I still haven't made it over and she's outgrown it?) I love playdates - sometimes for the simple reason that my children are occupied and I get to visit with a friend. At the same time, it means I'm not really spending time with my girls. Or do I stay home - STAY HOME! - and putter, try to make those kale chips I've been thinking about, wander to the garden and pick the remaining peas, hang out with my girls in the backyard - with not even a side-trip to the playground? Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner, folks!

The problem with this, though, (and here is where my husband is walking away from me and the conversation), is when I'm home, I see a mess. I see all the things that need to be fixed. Try as I might, I can't seem to ignore what needs to be done in the interest of just hanging out with the girls on the floor for uninterrupted hours of play. Even if I split my time, play a little - clean a little, the little ones seem to undo faster than I do, so it's basically a lost cause. (I'll have to figure this balance out, though, as I will soon be home full-time and responsible for both the cleanliness of our home, and the daily mental and emotional stimulation of our children.) There's something inside of me that feels the need to accomplish something tangible to justify my existence. (Not on a large scale, though, like committing to a career or anything. More along the lines of seeing that the dishes are done, or the floor is vacuumed.)

The other problem with staying home is my fear of missing out. I think that has to do with living in this wonderful city called Chicago, this city that has a crazy amount of fun things to do in the summer. I could visit Millenium Park regularly, drive to Garfield Park Conservatory, or the Chicago Botanic Gardens, or spend the day at any of the beaches along Lake Michigan. There are a half a dozen museums to visit, all within a 15 minute walk or drive. There are music, dance, soccer, art, you-name-it, classes for every age child. There is the lure of shopping downtown (even though the sales tax is insane), and going to Ghiradelli. There are at least two zoos within 20 miles. There are family friendly farmer's markets on any given day. There are so many playgrounds to try, unique neighborhoods to visit, and on and on. It's a far cry from what was available to us out in the small town where I grew up. I'm sure my mom wasn't worrying about whether to go to Binder Park Zoo or the Turkey Farm every day, because that's basically all there was for the entire year. And of course, those places were reserved for special visitors on special occasions. So we stayed home most days, and we weren't missing anything. But here, in Chicago, there's so much choice!

And therein lies my quandry. I'm not good with choices. I want it all. I want balance. I want to stay home with my kids and enjoy a long, drawn-out summer day, with no schedule, no train to catch, no laundry that must be done - with no worry that I'm not do-ing enough.

Not to do. That is the answer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Collector's Pieces

Nourit came home after her dance class two weeks ago, ate a few mouthfuls of dinner, and promptly started to draw. She hates to color with crayons, and I've never seen her do anything except scribble on a piece of paper with pen, describing to me all the elaborate things she was drawing that looked nothing like, well, anything. But here she was, drawing a head, eyes, nose and mouth, legs and arms. (Okay, so the arms are where the ears would normally go, but they were still pretty good for starters!) On one or two, she actually drew two sections to each leg, very carefully keeping her lines straight. I had never seen her do this before, and neither had her dad. Maybe one of her babysitters taught her? I don't know, and it surprised me!

This was the first picture - see the burning eyes - very profound.

Since Michael is known to have drawn elaborate pictures of fire engines when he was 3, I was afraid she was inheriting my (lack of) artistic talent, but she may have a future in the artists' studio yet!

Grandparents, grandparents, and more grandparents!

While Mike was busy in Orkney rubbing elbows with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and writing music feverishly, (or maybe writing feverish music?), we stayed put and had our own fun. First, Nanny and Papa crossed the bridge into the U.S. to come help me with the girls for a week. We were treated to live folk music in the livingroom and hot meals on the table every night. While I slaved away at work, the girls got to accompany Nanny and Papa to Starbucks every morning for yummy snacks. Unfortunately, we sent Papa home with pneumonia, which landed him in the hospital for an evening, and bed for a few more.

Two full, wonderful days alone with my girls (all play, no work!), and I was ready for Grandma to visit. She arrived armed with new dvd's and orange cake, and then took the girls to the park, to the museum, and out for walks so I could nap. On the hottest day, she convinced me to go buy a sprinkler, which was a hit in the backyard. All the neighbors came out to play when they heard Nourit and Avi shrieking in the water, which led to the inflation of the Bennett's HUGE pool, and another hour of fun for 7 kids in the backyard. Going back inside, I found Grandma just finishing a two-hour cleaning frenzy. God bless Grandparents!

We waved goodbye to grandma, and a few hours later met Mike at the airport. Nourit wanted to wear her special flowered dress, cupcake shoes, and butterfly ring to meet him. I think she has a crush on her daddy! (About those cupcake shoes...I was horrified when she latched onto them at Target, and I tried to talk her out of them. Now, I can see how special she feels when she wears them. They're not so horrible to me anymore...) The next morning, we piled into the car and drove to Kentucky for the first time to see Grandpa. We received a warm welcome, and had fun touring the area, splashing in the pool Grandpa bought just for the girls, and playing ball with the neighbor and his dog. Nourit asked if we could stay for five more weeks, and was sad to leave. It's good to have Grandparents!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nourit's Second Dance Class

Normal parents keep track of children's 'firsts'. I'm too late for that. Here is a picture of Nourit before her second dance class, at the Hyde Park School of Dance. After trying two other dance classes that were a little too old for her, or had too little music, I think we finally found the right fit. The first day was almost our last, though. After waking Nourit from a nap to go, she screamed and cried, unwilling to go happily. But when we arrived, the excitement of her friend Zara rubbed off on her cute little leotarded and slippered self, and she was soon moving around the rehearsal hall with the teacher and about 15 other pink-clad preschoolers, to music played by a flesh and blood pianist.

I haven't seen anything as cute as that first day of creative movement class, with little girls all very seriously pretending to be animals and flowers and ballerinas. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the teacher!), the parents are now banned to the adjoining room, while the little 3 and 4 year olds leap and twirl autonomously for 30 minutes a week.

When asked what she did during her second class, Nourit replied dismissively, "Oh, I don't remember."

Us: "Did you dance like animals?"
Her: "No."
Us: "Did you spin and jump and twirl?"
Her: "No."
Us: "Was the teacher nice, and was everyone having fun?"
Her: "No."
Us: "Was the teacher horribly mean?"
Her: "Yes!" (with a grin.)
Us: "Were the kids all crying and everyone wanted to go home?"
Her: "Yes!" (more grinning.)
Us: "Did the piano player push over the piano, and did everyone stomp around?"
Her: "Yes!"

And so, I think it was a success, and that she will return willingly for the next few weeks. However, and yet again, I am just not ready for this little independent streak showing up before she is an actual teenager. She's not ready for a secret life, yet! (Or, at least I'm not ready...)

Post Script - Week Three
Now weeks one, two AND three have successfully passed, and I told Nourit that next Tuesday would be her last dance class. "UNLESS, you want me to sign you up for next session," I said hopefully. "No," she said. "I'd rather stay home."

Well, I guess that means home is a nice place to be, right? Let's hope she still says that when she's 16!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Timing is Everything

Why do we continually get nervous about our lives and our futures? We keep experiencing God's provision for us, and yet there is still a feeling of uncertainty whenever things are about to change. I sort of think that's because God waits until the last possible moment to let us know how the next chapter in our life will begin. Time and again, we've waited for the answer, it doesn't come in time for me to be comfortable, but we step out in faith and voila, He answers and the stars align. (Figuratively, of course!)

His timing, though, is right on, not only for our life, but for everyone who intersects with us, it seems. Just when we needed a good babysitter (or two!), Jessica came into our lives, needing job. When our lives got crazy, her schedule lightened up, and she was there to help us the many last-minute times we needed an extra 'parent' this year. Now, she is leaving (sniff), graduating from college and heading out into an exciting new career. Amy (our other wonderful sitter) is leaving this week, too. What are we going to do for daycare? NOTHING! Because, in God's unique timing, we were hired as Resident Heads, and I will be able to stay home with the girls full-time. What about my job? It's coming to a natural end, with funding running out since the grant I manage was not renewed. Things are falling into place.

Another intersection, even though it seems small, just concluded seamlessly. We desperately needed help cleaning in the middle of the year, and one young woman needed to work while waiting for a real job in the architecture world. Just as we are getting to the point we can manage it on our own, she gets two job offers. Noone loses, everyone wins! (But this means I will be cleaning the toilet again. Okay, I guess I lose a little bit...)

So, slowly, or quickly, or however you want to look at it, we are checking some of the 'unknowns' off our list, moving them into the 'known' category.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Shitty Monday Evening

I try not to swear too often, and usually reserve the 'S' word for stubbing my toe, or particularly bad news. But here I mean it in the literal sense - we had a very shitty evening last night.

I need to preface this by saying we have had a long, arduous journey getting our now 3 year old to poop regularly. As early as 6 months, she would wait 3 weeks to poop, but the doctor said she was fine. After a couple years, a lot of tears, and a few posts about it, we're finally at the point where she goes semi-regularly, sans suppository. We're not neglectful parents. We feed her so much fiber, and so little animal, that I cannot understand why it's turned out this way. She starts the day with ground-up flaxseed in her yogurt, we force her to chug prune juice, and we are a die-hard dried fruit eating family. It doesn't add up.

Anyway, last night around dinner time (of black beans and sweet potato, no less), I noticed she was acting funny, doing her little dance, and saying her tummy hurt. No amount of cajoling would get her to sit on the potty. That's when I had to put her there by force. Meanwhile, Avi (who has nooooo problem pooping 2-3 times a day), is stuck in her highchair, screaming like a banshee, and emptying the contents of her bowl on her head. Screams are coming from Nourit as I force a suppository up her bum (oh, the joys of motherhood), and from Avi as I'm neglecting her. Finally, Nourit poops, we flush and wash, and she assumes the couch potato position while I put in an opera for her to watch. (Yes, we bribe our kids with opera dvds.)

Back to Avi, to wash off all the bean crud from her hands and head, then back to Nourit who is still looking like she's in pain (and it's not from the Queen of the Night's high notes.) Back to the potty, tears streaming down her little 3 year old face (and nearly on mine.) Another HUGE poop, which, incidentally, is too big to flush down and comes back up. I flush a second time.

At this point, I decide to dunk these children in a warm, calming bubble bath, which seems to do the trick. Halfway through, Avi looks like she could do her duty, so I carry her, dripping, over to Nourit's potty seat. We are definitely not potty training her at this age, but I know she has fun when she gets to walk in Nourit's shoes (or sit in Nourit's potty seat!) She makes some fake grunting noises and faces, then motions back to the tub, so back she goes. Then, Nourit is ready to come out first, so I get her into pajamas and brush her teeth while Avi continues to splash and make little tooting noises. But wait, those aren't toots. SHE POOPED IN THE BATHTUB! My freshly scrubbed bathtub! (The cleaning lady had left only hours before.) Yuck! Not only that, the tub is having trouble draining, and the plumber hadn't come to fix it yet. Double yuck!

Somehow, I get both children, clean and warm, into bed and to sleep. I wash the tub as best I can, and dump half a bottle of rubbing alcohol in the bottom. Mike comes home from his meeting, we quickly swap stories, and I sit down to work on my lesson plan for Music Together. I say to Mike that our house still smells faintly of poop, thinking it's just a holdover from the evening's activities. I go in Nourit's room to kiss her goodnight, and realize she pooped in her pajamas while she slept. We drag her out of bed to clean her up, and as I flush that final nugget down the toilet, it overflows. Right onto the freshly mopped floor.

Epilogue: I put a huge load of towels and poopy underpants in the washer with double detergent, and re-mop the bathroom floor. Finally, my pajamas are on, my contacts are out, and my teeth are brushed (but I can't use the toilet because Mike hasn't plunged it yet.) I stumble out of the bathroom to make that request, only to stub my toe on the toy car that's in the middle of the hallway. "Wheeeee, let's go for a ride!" a warped woman's voice screeches as I dive for the Off button. Shit!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In the Company of Wise and Wonderful Women

As I drove up the highway today, Lake Michigan on my right, and the city straight in front of me, I smiled to myself and thought, " How nice to receive an invitation to a party!" I think there is still this wonder of being included that has hung over from my high school days, when I would feel so special to be invited out with the "cool girls" from time to time. Anyway, I left the party today so grateful for this fortuitous chance to meet and mingle with such talented and thoughtful women. All of them are moms. All of them write about their experiences borne out of motherhood. And yet, they are so much more than that. Just listening to the readings today, ones that made my heart ache and my mouth laugh simultaneously, I really felt that I was in the company of women with such depth and creativity. From a comparison of the first day of high school to a Seraut painting, to the description of a moon that sipped on the sun and overflowed into startlight, to the minivan as staging area for an induction into crone-hood, I am inspired by these writers to dig deeper into myself, to nurture my creative spirit as I nurture my own children.

I love parties, but I always feel a little "buzzy" when I leave, (and that has nothing to do with the mimosas!) It seems to me a little like speed dating (although I think I was married long before that became popular.) There are all these people that I want to meet, want to talk to, hear their stories, and connect with, all within a 2-3 hour span. It's amazing how you can really come to care about another person, just from reading their prose over a year, whether you have met them once, twice, or not at all. We need to have a mommy blogger camp. One week of writing and conversation, out in the wilderness somewhere. (And definitely invite Virginia along. What a fantastic massage!)

In addition to the conversation blitzes, there is also food. Yummy food. And I am not one who is afraid to eat at a party. (I once worked for a very elegant woman who refused to eat at our donor parties. She was afraid of getting spinach stuck in her teeth, I guess.) I wanted to try everything - the cheese, crackers and nuts from Pastoral, the jam from the Jane Addams Hull House, and of course, the cheesecake from Eli's. The problem is, I really couldn't focus on my food as much as my foodie husband would have liked. I heard him whispering in my conscience, "Think about the food while you are tasting it. What flavors are present?" I just know the cheese was delicious, and that I need to make an exclusive trip to Pastoral and the Hull House to try more of what they offer. That is on my summer list of to-do's. Now, back to the party-goers.

The craziest part of the day? Walking in and meeting a woman I went to high-school with, 17 some years ago. I have horrible face-memory. (Recently, Mike and I went to a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and some other guy. I leaned over to Mike and whispered, too loudly, "Who is that guy??" I got a glare and a quiet answer, "That's Joaquin Phoenix, Liz.") Of course! It felt the same as I was introduced to Melanie, and I smiled, no idea that she already knew who I was. But as soon as Melanie started talking, the years dropped away and I recognized the girl I had spent 3 years of high school with. Now, I can't wait to get to know her as an adult. Crazy, small world!

Driving home, I realized how strange it felt to be out without my girls. They are such a part of me, and are usually with me, almost like two extra appendages. It was good to get away, to celebrate woman-hood and not just mommy-hood. But it also felt wonderful walking in the door to a chorus of "Mama! Did you miss us?"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nourit's First Haircut

I finally decided to end the battle for barrettes and have Nourit's hair cut. Just a little bit. In the front.

Before, sitting in the barber's chair (aka, Amber's kitchen stool.)

After, with the same expression. That didn't go away with the chopped locks.

I Love Hyde Park (and Paris) in the Springtime

There is an abundance of things to do in Hyde Park once Spring arrives. This weekend seemed like the unofficial beginning of Spring here. Not only did the sun come out after the deluge we received on Friday, but all the green events seemed to take place as well. We attended the Hyde Park Plant Sale for the first time in 6 years of living here, welcomed the opening of the 61st Street Market, chatted with our gardening neighbors at our community garden party, and grabbed a cup of tea at Backstory in the middle of it all.

The thing I love most is running into friends and neighbors at these events. While milling around the market, we ran into our neighbors and one of Nourit's best little friends. We then made an impromptu trip with them to campus to attend a carnival - stuffing ourselves with free hotdogs, ice-cream, pretzels and cotton candy, before letting the children loose in the jumping castle. (Note: this is immediately after reveling in the organic-y, local goodness of Backstory and the farmer's market!) Later, we all hung out with a bunch of neighbors and friends in the backyard and grilled together - a perfect ending to a perfect weekend day.

In spite of the random shootings, I really do love 61st Street!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I'm Sorry, I'm Repeating Myself

I'm realizing that as a mom, I seem to repeat myself an awful lot. Even to the point of hearing myself telling the same old sorry story to the same friends, day in, day out. Lately, it's the Nourit vs. the Nap story (Once upon a time, Nourit didn't take a nap in the afternoon. She was horrible, but went to bed on time. Once upon the next time, Nourit took a long nap in the afternoon, and didn't go to sleep that night until midnight, at which point she promptly turned into a pumpkin and we made her into soup the next day.) Last fall it was the Avi vs. Sleeping More Than Two Hours story. The same goes for our life. We have so many changes on the horizon, and yet, as of today, nothing's changed. So I give the same answers, make the same conjectures, and feel as if I am a broken record.

I just can't stop, though. I hear myself talking and think, "Eek! They've heard this before! You're boring!" But in the interest of conversation, connection, whatever, I continue. So if you are wondering why my blogging has seemed to slow down a bit, it's because there is nothing new to say lately. Just re-read the past few months, and it'll be like having an actual conversation with me these days...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Candy Idolatry

In church, we talk about idols a lot. Money and self are two biggies. But candy? I'm pretty sure there aren't any temples dedicated to the Sugar God that archeologists are digging up. For 3-year old Nourit, though, her Sugar Temple is iced with butter cream, and coated with sprinkles. It boasts candy-coated chocolate eggs, and bright little chewy bunnies. The path leading up to the shrine is lined with chocolate chips and M&M's. Daily offerings of cake and ice-cream make their appearance on the shrine. Her first word of each day is 'candy', and the last words of each day are, "Tomorrow, after breakfast, can I have...."

When did we go wrong? This child, who barely had any sugar or salt before she was 2 is, at 3, a sugar fiend. Is it all the result of poop incentives? Or is it something more insidious, like idolatry?

I know it sounds laughable. A 3 year old, with idols? She is beginning to know right from wrong, though, and perhaps with that cognizance comes the ability to erect idols in place of the authority of God. If you sat in on her prayers, you'd hear copious amounts of gratitude for the candy in her life. She tries to wheel and deal. "If I poop three times, can I have 3 M&M's?" She needs to have it close. "I'm just going to sit next to the candy in my basket for awhile." She tries out a variety of scenarios. "After breakfast, I'll eat the chocolate egg, and then after lunch I'll eat the chewy bunny." Then 3 minutes later, "After breakfast, I'll eat the chewy bunny and Daddy can eat the chocolate egg, then after lunch I'll eat the rest of the chocolate eggs and Daddy can have a chewy bunny." Good thing she doesn't know how to count quite yet. She'd have noticed that about 2/3rds of her Easter candy disappeared mysteriously during naptime yesterday.

Of course, we're the parents. We can determine what she eats and what she doesn't, and normally, we're pretty balanced. Since Christmas, though, there has been a string of birthday parties, dinners out, holidays (Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day and now, Easter), and generous neighbors, all bringing irresistable treats with them. (And since mama has a huge sweet tooth, it's hard to tell the offspring that she can't have a crumb from the piece of cake I'm shoving into my mouth as fast as possible.) I know how good it feels to eat something sweet. I also know how rotten someone can turn when they don't have their "fix." So, time to crack down (no pun intended) and stop this sugar train in it's tracks.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Dying and Dyeing

With Easter just around the corner, the topics of death and resurrection have peppered our conversations with Nourit more and more. She seems to be at an age to talk about death and killing, both because certain storybooks talk about it (Frog & Toad, for example, has a line that reads, "Help! My best friend in trying to kill me!" as Frog puts Toad into his winter clothing against his will. That happens to be one of Nourit's favorite phrases this week...), and because she picks things up from older kids who might be play-killing. Not to mention the fact that to really explain Easter, you have to talk about death, (which is probably why the Easter Bunny was invented. It's much easier to talk about Easter in terms of a fluffy creature in Spring bringing candy while you are sleeping, than to discuss sin, killing and death with a 3 year old.) The wonderful thing about believing the way we do, though, is that we have the hope that when we die, we will come back to life again - to a much better one, at that.

I'm still not certain what she really grasps, though. For instance, she and her friend were playing with Dodo - taking turns "die-ing" Dodo, to be exact. (I didn't correct her verb usage - I really would prefer the word "killing" to stay out of her regular vocabulary for just a little longer.) And just last week at the Art Institute, we were looking at a Munch painting, 'Gologotha', where the artist portrays himself as Christ on the cross. Obviously, I skipped the symbolism and went straight for the explanation of Christ being put on a cross to die for our sins, and then left that very quickly to remind her of the resurrection at the tomb three days later. I believe that was the first time she saw the image so starkly (even though it wasn't a realistic portrayal.) Her children's Bible just has a blurry picture of 3 crosses off on a distant hill. Even so, I'm basically avoiding talking about the actual intent to kill. When is a child ready to learn about that??

On a lighter Easter note, I've been intent on naturally dyeing eggs this year. Last year, Nourit and I joined our good friend Danielle at her place of employment, the Green Grocer, where they held a natural egg dyeing workshop - just for us! It took a little time for me to get used to the muted colors, but now I'll never go back to Paas again. Nature is just that much more beautiful!

The eggs we decorated last year at the workshop.

So with a week or so before the Bunny arrives, I've started experimenting with my own dyes. Here are the results of my fun science project, conducted over the past coupld of days:

The colors that were the most vibrant were the Turmeric (the bright yellow eggs), and the beet juice (the dark pink eggs.) The blueberry made a beautiful grey over the one brown egg I used, and the carrot made a light, mottled orange. The wine (leftover Sangre de Toro, to be precise) came out a light grey-purple, and the light, light peach are from red onion leave. I was trying to get a lovely green, but they didn't perform for me this year, and so, peach. I used the wine and the beet juice cold, but the rest I boiled with the eggs (and added vinegar to each.) The finishing touches include some beautiful little tree berries we found on our walk today, some rubber bands and/or wax applied before dipping, some ribbon, and of course, the Bull.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pseudo Spring Break, Chicago Style

We wanted to take a real break for once and leave town, but that just seemed like too much work, so we have been taking a few days this week to do some fun things we normally don't fit in during the schoolyear. Monday, we welcomed Spring by heading up to Gethsemane Garden Center to buy some seeds to start our garden, about 3 months ahead of last year! We bought flowers, snap peas, kale and spinach, to begin with. We headed home, picked up the rake and shovel, and headed to our little plot in the community garden. Mike and I broke up the soil, while Nourit picked up as many worms as possible with her bare hands. Perhaps we have a future biologist on our hands?

I went to the office Tuesday and Wednesday, but we still worked in a trip to Bixler Playlot, a trip to Huckleberry Playlot, a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, followed by gelato (thanks, Melissa!), and some almost-nude body painting (the girls, not Mike and me.)

We also fit in our first trip together to our local library. I'm a little sheepish that it's taken me so long to borrow children's books from the library that's only 3 blocks away, but it's more complicated than it sounds. First of all, I tried to check out books a year ago from Blackstone, but left the library empty-handed. (Well, not actually empty-handed. I had an infant and a 2 year old, which are very hard to handle at the same time.) See, I didn't have the cash to pay my 60 cent overdue fine so I wasn't allowed to take out all the children's books I had carefully chosen. And Blackstone is a drive away (read, buckling-two- children-into-their-carseats-twice drive away), so it's not my first choice of things to do. Since then, I've been buying all their books, which isn't so sustainable.

We have a library 3 blocks away (Bessie Coleman), but those are the same three blocks that contain some of the worst housing projects in Chicago, have broken glass on the sidewalks, often have people smoking pot, crack, what have you, in little groups as we walk by, and frequently have random shootings. This is the same reason why we don't take the Green Line as often as we might. Two of my neighbors regularly walk that way so I finally decided to. It's not that I'm scared - I just don't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That, and Mike doesn't want me to go. I'm not sure whether it's a good idea or not, but it was so nice getting out some new books and a free museum pass, and being home within 10 minutes. It's my neighborhood, but not the side that makes me most comfortable.

Today, we played tourists at Navy Pier, and let the girls run around at the Chicago Children's Museum for a couple hours. Talk about ADD land! Nourit barely stayed on one exhibit/task for longer than 30 seconds. They had fun, though, and I love that there are so many hands-on activities for them there. If only it were under Grant Park...

We had some lunch, and got on the Ferris Wheel, where, to my utter amazement, I quietly freaked out and had to stop myself from imagining the worst for the 7 minutes we were up in the air. I did nurse Avi the entire time, so add that to my list of interesting places to breastfeed.

Coffee at Fox & Obel, a brisk walk down Michigan Avenue, and we got in our car and drove home. Tomorrow, we are off to the Art Museum, and Saturday, a dance workshop with the Hubbard Street dancers. Ah, we're doing our best to take advantage of this great city!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Questions and Answers

We have many things up in the air right now, but slowly the answers are trickling in. We still have a long way to go, though, until everything is answered and we know what our summer and fall will look like.

1st Question: Will Nourit be accepted into the Lycee?

Answer: We just found out "oui", but an answer to the next question will reveal the reality of her attending in the fall.

2nd Question: What kind of financial help will we be eligible for from the Lycee?

Answer: TBD

3rd Question: Now that the grant I manage is almost finished, what becomes of my flexible, part-time, benefits eligible job?

Answer: TBD. Hopefully this afternoon after my boss has a meeting with the Division.

4th Question: Will Mike and I be chosen as RH's for next year?

Answer: TBD. We made it through Round 1 and 2 interviews, and will find out next week if we'll continue. It's a longshot, so we'll see...

5th Question: What will we have for dinner tonight?

Answer: That's easy. Leftovers, of course.

There are other questions hovering, too, and depending on the outcome of #'s 3 & 4, I'm sure that other questions will immediately rise. Stay tuned for the answers!

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Have We Been Up To?

When I began keeping this blog last summer, I think I was keeping track of our daily, or at least weekly, activities. Now the weeks go by and I keep putting things in a mental list to blog about at some point in the future. The list is getting rather long! Here are some highlights of the last month...(warning: it's overloaded with pictures and video.)

February 20 (?): Finally celebrated Avi's 1st birthday almost a month late. We corralled the usual suspects (our wonderful neighbors!) and enticed them downstairs and across the backyard with the promise of one of Mike's yummy cakes. Avi certainly liked her first slice of real cake - I turned around for a minute and she had devoured it!

Scarlett, who is too cute for words (so here's a picture!)

Avi's first birthday cake - loaded with fruit and almonds.

Three little girls in their usual places, enjoying cake before running back to play.

Champagne and sippy cups - what a wonderful life!

And finally, the Birthday (plus a month) Girl

February 24-March 1: We took a trip across the border to attend the Windsor New Music Festival where Mike's piece, A Presence Close as Breath, was featured. (He dedicated it to me, by the way!) We also had a nice time visiting Nanny and Papa, and were thrilled that Muffy drove down with Sammy and Joey for a day. Nourit loves her cousins! (And so do we, of course.)

*Notice Pink Poodle

We spent some time visiting our old favorite places in Windsor (Wah Court and the pizza place that was down the street from our apartment.) We took Nourit ice-skating (or should I say, ice dancing!) near the court house, and ate at Tim Horton's one too many times.

Nourit petting the goats at Colosanti's (*notice Pink Poodle)

Nourit on her first amusement park ride at Colosanti's. (They have everything there...)

First, Nourit wouldn't allow me to let go of her hands.

Enter new 4 year old friend, and she's hands-free, dancing like she was born in the '80's.

On our way back home, we stopped in Detroit's Greek Town, ate at a diner that still allows smoking (!) and doesn't have fresh fruit on the menu (again, !), and picked up some yummy things at our old favorite bakery, Astoria Pastry Shop. Then, in Battle Creek, we stopped to see my mom at the library for a quick hour while the girls got to play and get some energy out. Willard Library really is the best library, hands down.

Since we've been back, the pace hasn't let up too much, but Spring is definitely in the air. We've been playing with our neighbors, going to Thursday Bible Study, and going to Music Together. (Today was the last day until the new session starts. We really have a great class, and love Irene.)

People also tend to look a little crazy in MT pictures... (*notice Pink Poodle)

Oh, and last Sunday we started something that we hope will become a regular thing with us - Jazz Showcase Sunday Matinee. Our friends Lisa and Claire met us for the 4pm show (Bobby Watson and friends,) and we had a great time listening to music and watching the girls dance. We felt so welcomed there, and love the new space (in the Printer's Row Dearborn Station.) Ooh, I just noticed the Benny Green Trio is coming. Maybe I can convince Mike to go back to see him. If my sister is reading (which is doubtful), do you remember seeing him at the Blue Note ages ago, and the crazy lady in the white pantsuit sitting at our table??

Next on the roster, some birthday parties (these kids just keep getting older!), museum visits, and hopefully, very soon, a trek to the garden to plant some hearty greens!

This last picture just seems to capture the essence of a day in our tiny part of the universe (*notice Pink Poodle)

*Notice Pink Poodle is now Nourit's constant dance partner, confidante, friend, and yes, sadly, sometimes whipping post. Dodo was LEFT BEHIND on Nourit's command for our trip to Canada - yesterday's breakfast, I suppose. I guess the loss of Dodo's second eye was the clincher. She loved him/her through the loss of one eye, repeated neck surgery, and the complete matting of his/her purple hair. But once he/she lost his/her remaining eye, she said "Sayonara, Dodo. You can stay home while I go out with my fancy Pink Poodle."