Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life on the North Side

I'm not sure I can succinctly sum up the journey from our home of 6 years on 61st Street to here, our little enclave in South Lakeview, via an intense detour that lasted about 9 months. (And yes, at times that detour was more painful than giving birth.)

So...I won't. I'll just skip ahead to NOW. 4 months into living on the North Side and here is a peek at our comings and goings and attempts at routine.

Every day, Mike puts helmets on the girls, loads them into the Burley, and makes the 15 minute bikeride to drop Nourit at the Lycée, where she attends full-days (except for Wednesday, which is une demi-journée.) I get a *blissful* 25 minutes of alone-time before he comes back with the Av-Monster. I mean, Meister.

Which I need after the flurry of getting everyone out the door, all accomplished to the tune of the girls fighting, Avi running on tippytoes back and forth on our wood floors, and the young, single, childless resident in the garden apartment below us pounding on her ceiling and cursing loud enough for us to hear. GOOD morning, city living!

4 out of 7 mornings, I put my guitar on my back and get on my bike, feeling oh, so cool, because nobody knows just from looking at me that I can only play 3 chords. To the outside world, I'm a bohemian mama, riding my bike and playing my songs. Oh, and I only ride on the side streets. (Not so brave - or crazy - to ride on the main ones.) I lead my families toward a brighter, musical future, and collect hugs from adorable 1 year olds at the end of each class. Then, I head home to my own adorable 2 year old who tells me daily that she's almost 3. Which is true if you think 4 months away is 'almost'.

Our life on the North Side also consists of Michael and I visiting Hyde Park to teach for a combined total of...5 out of 7 days. And we moved - why? Oh, yes! Because we are in walking distance from Nourit's school. Actually, a 45 minute walk - which I make every Tuesday to pick up Nourit from school. It's lovely, actually, and I'm enjoying watching her play with her French classmates at the nearby playground once or twice a week during these amazing summer/October days. Pretty soon, I'll be studying the bus routes, but until then, I'm getting my exercise in.

Speaking of playgrounds, we have one a hop-skip-and-a-walk-along-all-the-raised-flower-beds away, and are finally sorting out the nannies from the grandparents from the parents. The park association throws wonderful events, and we attended the block party in September, and we have even had a few impromptu front porch conversations this month with our new neighbors. Right now, the girls are wondering why we are the only family on the block that hasn't turned their front porch into a spider web.

We have sold or donated as much of our 'stuff' as possible, limited our Fritz Bakery visits to once or twice weekly, and have worked hard to create routine for our girls again. We've instituted home cooked dinners where we sit and function as a family (although, the girls still miss their wild and crazy days in the dininghall. Not me!) We have become more insulated, sure, and haven't enjoyed the myriad playdates that used to happen spontaneously at our last two funhouses. But we are enjoying our family movie nights, and our family pizza nights, and a less frantic pace. We are trying to refocus on what we have to do to get Mike through school and raise our girls to be loving, interested, respectful humans. It's been a hard transition. And things are still changing and will continue to change over the next few years. For now, though, we can walk 2 blocks in any direction and have a drink, drop off our drycleaning, get a pedicure, get a haircut, get a bikini wax, get an oil change, get change for a dollar, work out, climb a wall, listen to an indie band, see a movie, see a play, eat a hot dog, buy a dog, buy our recently purchased dog an organic, vegetarian hot dog, eat some tapas, eat French, Italian, Mexican, or Turkish, buy groceries, or just buy an oriental rug at 80% off.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Drink Wine Because They Whine

Really. I do. I have suddenly begun to enjoy cooking because it means I'm in the kitchen at 5 o'clock, and can start to sip a glass of Rosé, or open up a beer, and it's still within the realm of appearing civilized. Breastfeeding be damned. (And damn it, I'm still breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year old and am just too chicken, or tired, or something, to wean her.) I used to think when your child was old enough to ask for it, they were too old to be imbibing. That -and many other notions I had - was B.C.

I love my kids. I think I loved them more before they could talk, though. When I had babies, I felt like I was born to be a mother. A natural mother. Their crying was legitimate and I could always fix it. Now that they are 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, I am naturally and legitimately annoyed 90% of the day. It starts at 5:43 in the morning with thump, thump, thump, thump thump..."Mama, can I sleep with you?" Then the pawing and kicking begins. If I attempt to exit the bed to get some work done on the computer, the alarm goes off. The screaming child alarm. "Don't leeeaaaave meeeee!" Two hours later, when Little Sister deems it appropriate for Big Sister to join the functionally-awake family, it really gets going. Hisses, screams, cries, doors slamming. "You're not being nice to me!" Hissssss. "I'm gonna pinch you and eat you up." Hissssss. "Stop iiiiiiittttttt!" Hissss. And no, we don't have a reptile living with us. Those are the sounds of our beautiful, well-behaved, quiet little girls. The ones I planned to have - B.C.

Don't get me wrong. There are moments of beauty when they are playing side-by-side, immersed in a project at the dining room table or baking mud pies in the sandbox. I have picture-perfect images in my head of Big Sister holding out her hand to a shy Little Sister, inviting her to come into Children's Church with her and Little Sister taking it without a look back at mom and dad. There are sometimes shared giggles...but those are mostly at my expense when they gang up to stick their fingers between my toes.

I know I need to be more patient. After all, we've put them through two moves in one year, and so many other huge transitions. Saying we're having a hard time with it ourselves would be an understatement. Regardless, I just didn't expect a teenager at 4 1/2. Or a banshee at 2 1/2. Mike and I are so calm, so quiet. Shouldn't our kids be, too?

We feed them - really good food, actually. I don't know many other kids under five who eat croissant and crepes for breakfast every weekend, or who enjoy Tuscan-style lunches 5 days a week, and internationally themed, organic dinners each night. So why do they start begging to be fed the moment we clear the breakfast table? They don't stop. Even during meals Avi is reaching across the table for more of what she already has on her plate.

I admit, I am uncertain how to discipline anymore. Spanking, duct tape, and leaving them by the side of the road are out. We've always used 'natural consequences.' But some things don't have one of those. What's a natural consequence to Stink Face? Hitting them on the back so it sticks that way? That'll teach 'em. How do I get Avi to sit still for half a second without squashing her...natural exuberance? And seriously, how does one give natural consequences when you are in the car? There are only so many hours you can promise the "time-out when we get home in three days". After the first 5 minutes they know you can't do a darn thing and they get a sick sense of fun out of making their sibling cry. Then laugh. Then cry again.

So there it is. Maybe I should replace my nightly glass of wine with some yoga and see if that does the trick. If I'm more zen-like, will that make my kids behave? Or maybe I'll just be able to tune out the whining by chanting "OMMMMMMMMMM. Nah, Nah, Nah, I can't heeeeaaar you!!!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When a 4 year old goes to the office, clothing is optional

My girls love to get naked. Avi is happiest running through the house in her diaper screaming, "Naked, naked, naked!" Today, Nourit instigated the nakedness and soon both girls were down to their skivvies, Avi in an unbleached 7th Generation dipe and Nourit in some flowered undies, busily setting up an "office." The office consisted of three barstools, two diningroom chairs, and a stepstool. And of course, Nourit's laptop.

Even though Nourit mentioned a few times during the holidays she wanted a computer like Kyla's (a pink, princess-y electronic thing), we demurred. So this week, she took it upon herself to make her own - out of cardboard, and complete with a wireless mouse. She installed games and a word document all by herself. Already, she's way more tech savvy than her mama.

With Nourit at the computer and Avi in the cubicle behind her "eating clothes" according to Nourit, Nourit informed me the office was a hotel for kids to work in. Hmmm....is that legal? Soon, she was ready to go to a meeting, pipsqueak markers in hand. But first she needed me to three-hole punch her construction paper and put it into a binder. That done, she was ready for the meeting.

"Aren't you going to put on clothes for your meeting?" I asked?

"No, they don't really want us to wear clothes to meetings," was her reply.

"Where do you work?" I asked incredulously.

"I work at the university," she answered in all seriousness. "You work there too, don't you?" she continued.

I promise, I have always gone to work with my clothes on.