Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thoughts on my bday

Day 90.

Sometimes I get mistaken for a high school student. Or, if I am with my kids, I often get..."So, are you nanny or mom?" (with an emphasis on nanny, and a questioning look on mom as in, "Good God, you couldn't be their teen-mom!)

I guess that's what I should be grateful for...that I look so vibrant and youthful, right? Hmmm...maybe when I'm 40, I'll wish I looked 12 years younger - but not now. I turned 29 today, and truth be told, I'm glad I'm closer to 30. Yes, someday I might get to be a young, chipper grandmother because I had kids early. But right now, I feel 30. Heck, I feel at least 35. So, if I don't feel in my 20's...I might as well not be in them. The 30's are the new 20's anyhow...right?

I am grateful to be another year older!

And, special just for my birthday...a second round of gratitude:

I am grateful to my mom for birthing me 29 years ago tonight.

I know how hard that is now, twice over...and I salute you for bringing me into this world. Thanks mom.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sick and comfy

Day 89.

I'm sick of missing out on things. Dylan got some fever/flu on Friday, and so she missed the Suzuki Passport to Music this past Saturday, where I really wanted her to experience Suzuki more first-hand so she could have a chance to see if she was interested. Then we missed going out with friends that night since Dylan was sick and we couldn't take our feverish daughter to Jason's parents so they could babysit! So, we stayed home. Then we stayed home from church (where Dylan was going to do creative movement up front). Then today, we stayed home from the library. We stayed home from ballet - and Visiting Day - the only day all semester where parents are allowed to come in and watch - we missed it. Now currently, I'm missing book club.

First it was because of Dylan, and so it was easy for me (feeling good) to be annoyed at all we were missing out on. Afterall, I'm someone who really looks forward to things - even little things. So, when I have a weekend with all this great stuff planned, and it all gets trashed, I get bummed.

But then today...I woke up sick. And when you feel like crap, and you don't want to go anywhere...

I am grateful to stay home, lay on my couch, and not have anything I have to do.

It's amazing how your perspective changes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

3-bed, 2-bath

Day 88.

Part of my accomplishing the past week has been to clean out the back room and make it functional as an office space and guest bedroom (if anyone knows of a twin bed that anyone wants to get rid of - we're trying to acquire one). I'm excited about this possibility of having a real bed for guests to sleep on, instead of the couch (comfy, but still...a couch).

Afterall, when we only had two bedrooms, I used to think how great it would be to have a third bedroom. And then somehow my guest space turned into a dumping grounds and storage area.

I am grateful for my second bathroom.

Included in this guest suite (don't be fooled by that luxurious word - there is not one ounce of luxury in this visitor's space...) is a bathroom, which has been unusable for some time now. First, the toilet was broken for more than a year. Second, the shower head shoots water up on the wall instead of down on your body...and has warped the paint/wall pretty badly. And because it wasn't functional for a year - the only people to use it were repairmen and drunk guys over for poker night (when I wasn't home to shoo anyone away from the notion of even stepping foot in there!). We have yet to fix the shower...BUT, the toilet is working...and after today the whole bathroom is cleaner than it's ever been.

Come one, come all, my friends and family and feel free to use the back bathroom. I always wanted two bathrooms, and now I finally have them. Two functional bathrooms that I'm not ashamed for people to use (just don't try to take a shower).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Day 87.

My relationship with Hyde Park is love/hate. Some days I'm madly in love with this little "island" neighborhood and how much there is to offer, how I feel I belong, and the culture that seems to ooze out in unexpected places.

Then there are other days where I count the hours that I have until I can move away. Those times, it seems, there is nothing to do, everyone is mean and everything is too expensive.

I am grateful for Hyde Park.

Today was the Passport to Music at the Hyde Park Suzuki Institute. How wonderful this organization is. I was thrilled to learn more about the possibility of Dylan taking violin (or cello - depends on the day which she's more interested in). Dylan was still sick with the fever I mentioned yesterday (which evolved into more of a full-blown thing today)...so I sadly couldn't bring her. So, I packed up Noah after soccer and groceries and we enjoyed some great music!

The whole event gave me such warm fuzzies about Hyde Park. Maybe it was the tiny 2-feet tall cellos with the 3-feet tall students playing them. Maybe it was remembrance of my own Suzuki violin days and various conservatory recitals just like this one. I didn't know such a Suzuki culture existed in HP. Yes, I knew of the Institute, but had no idea how involved the whole thing was. The teachers seemed great. The students were happy and motivated. And a good slice of the community was there to take part.

I even saw some friendly faces there - some neighbors, some families from Bible Study, one family from Art School. Makes you feel like you live in a small town when you have that kind of familiarity in events you attend.

Ahhh, Hyde Park. Today, I love you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Writing things down, checking them off

Day 86.

Dylan had a mild fever today and was more loungy than I've seen her maybe ever? She wasn't that sick I don't think - but she seriously acted like a sick teenager. All she wanted to do was lay on the couch/her bed and watch TV, whine and complain about how hot or cold she was.

While I hate to see my kids sick, I have to admit there is some relief in this less-energetic Dylan. While I'm still exhausted from all the whining and neediness, I got a lot more done today around the house than is normal.

I am grateful for checking things off my to-do list.

Maybe it was the almost 2 straight hours of TV I let them watch (where Noah proceeded to fall asleep on the couch while watching for a good 45 min)...this was unheard of...but I just kept thinking of my sick days at home as a kid and how nice it was to just veg out and watch USA game shows. So, I let some of the normal rules slide. I think my dear friend Megan once told me TV was MADE for sick days - whether that be your own or the kids. Maybe you didn't say that, Megan, but I am going to pretend you did and justify my actions.

I made numerous annoying phone calls (you know the ones: insurance companies, doctor's offices, amazon.com return department, etc.), caught back up on dishes after being out of town, cleaned out my coat closet, and assembled a coat tree from Ikea!

Check. Check. Check. Check.

Dylan, I'm so sorry you're sick. But, I'm enjoying this productive day. Off to assemble a mud bench for the foyer...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Home safe and sound

Day 85.

Thursday, March 26, 2009.

Everytime I travel somewhere of significant distance (more than 2 hours by car), on a plane, a train, etc. I think of traveling merices...and how grateful I am to travel safely. Maybe I remember when I drove back to college each time and had to make sure I called my mom to tell her I made it safely. I'm definitely asking my kids to do that someday.

Today we drove the 2.25 hours (that turned into 2.75 hours because I HAD to take a detour to Steak and Shake for a diet caffeine-free vanilla coke and skinny fries) back from Champaign.

I am grateful for safe travel.

We made it home by 5:00 and I had to teach my Bradley class in our living room two hours later. Something about having extra precious cargo sleeping in the back seat that makes me slow down and really watch the road carefully. I used to be a signifcant speeder...not so much anymore with my kids in tow.

Little Boy Blue on my plate

Day 84.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009.

When I moved away from home and went to Goshen College 11 years ago, some family friends consistently had me (and my older sister, a junior then at the same college) over for dinner to their house. It was a comforting ritual that really made me feel more at home at college - knowing I could come over for a home-cooked meal at their house every once in awhile. Thanks Meyer-Reimers.

And what did we eat?

I am grateful for haystacks.

I don't know if the nostalgia of having these trumps the flavor or vice-versa, but I love haystacks. To me, they are the perfect meal - easy to prepare, everyone gets exactly what they like, and it's delicious!

Never had a haystack before?
Put out a bunch of bowls and fill them with: rice, taco meat, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions (green onions are my fave) olives, sour cream (or plain yogurt), beans (canned - we usually do black and kidney), salsa and lettuce. Then crush up some tortilla chips on top and pour western dressing on it (this is of course optional, as everything else is, but this is my FAVE part).
Eat happily and then get seconds.

We had haystacks tonight at my parent's house. And yum.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anya and Dylan

Day 83.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009.

I came down to Champaign last night visit with family - my sister flew in from Colorado and is at my mom and dad's for 9 days before coming to stay with us in Chicago for a few days next week. So, the kids and I headed down to join the party.

I am grateful for cousins.

Anya and Dylan are so cute together.
They spend so much time hugging, telling each other they love each other, and just enjoying each other's company. It's hard not to want to listen in to everything they are saying and doing - but it's also important to give them time to themselves, to develop their relationship.

I remember fondly my childhood spent with cousins, on both sides of our family. These memories are some of my fondest and strongest...time with extended family is so special. I never had cousins who lived close by, and unfortunately, neither do my kids. Well, that's not entirely true - they do have their wonderful cousin CJ who now lives in the city and comes over every week. But, he's not really a cousin to them being 20 years older - more of a fun uncle. :) So, time with cousins on both sides of the Rhodes/Breeze families is precious and unfortunately rare.

It's sad to know they have only these few days at a time and then have to go months in between not seeing each other at all. I long for us to live closer and be able to spend these fun days together on a regular basis.

Watching Dylan and Anya together only solidifies my feelings...Lara, Steve, Anya, Evan: please oh please, move back to the midwest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Freecycle!

Day 82.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I spent the day organizing and decluttering our back bedroom (it's a storage room right now). I desperately want it to function as a guest space and be a real room and not a walk-in closet. So, I went all Peter Walsh on myself, and did a pretty good, quick job of purging, putting away and giving away.

I am grateful for Freecycling.

What a freaking amazing invention that was. As I cleaned out my room, I started posting, and by the end of the day I had two pickups and a computer desk, a lamp, an office chair (that I ended up getting $25 for) a mp3 dock and some workout videos gone! It was so freeing! The people were genuinely grateful, and I was grateful for them! They took my junk and saved it from a landfill, and I got more space in my house! What a win-win for everyone.

I'm a regular craigslister, but I think I'll now freecycle more than I will post on craigslist. It just was easier (I had like 50 responses for the mp3 dock within 20 min!) and the gratitude of the people receiving was worth a lot more than the token 20 bucks here and there you might get by selling the stuff.

Sorry to my husband who has to look at all the crap I took OUT of the room... and then ran out of time! I left town for a few days with the kids - while he gets to swim through office supplies in the kitchen. I promise I'll still be on my organization kick when I return. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

History Lesson

Day 81.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tonight I put some pictures in frames that I got from a former Bradley student who works at the Chicago History Museum. She sent them in part of a bartering system we worked out to pay for part of the childbirth class.

And they are so cool.

I am grateful for historic Chicago.

One of the pictures she gave us is the Museum of Science and Industry from 1921, which is two blocks from our home. We take the kids there all the time, and to have it now framed is really neat. I love that the building is the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World's Fair). Devil in the White City anyone? The building didn't become the MSI until 1933.

Chicago is such a wonderful place to explore history. I've never been so into the distant past before. It seemed too removed from me, and uninteresting as a child. But I find myself enjoying history and history museums, and just finding general information about historic Chicago fascinating. It's fun to live in a place with a magnificent past.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oven Barbecued Chicken

Day 80.

Growing up as a Mennonite, you learn about the More with Less cookbook, and how to cook with it often to save money and the earth's resources. I got my own copy at my wedding shower, and many women marked their favorite recipes along with tips they had for me. Today, I use the cookbook often and love making the recipes marked especially for me to check out.

The modern Mennonite cookbook is Simply in Season. I use it a lot, especially this past summer when I had many crazy veggies in my CSA box that I didn't know what to do with. The cookbook is divided into seasons, and as you might expect, uses seasonal produce in the recipes so you are saving money and saving the earth's resources...in the same light of More with Less.

I am grateful for the Simply in Season cookbook.

Tonight I made the Oven Barbecued Chicken, and although it doesn't have seasonal produce in it...it is still a great recipe, and is almost as great as BBQ chicken on the grill - in fact it's way more moist.

Friday, March 20, 2009

KAM Isaiah Israel

Day 79.

I am grateful to have found a preschool for Dylan.

We still have to apply and get "accepted." But, I feel really great about KAM Isaiah Israel, which we visited this morning. Dylan loved it (and that's an understatement).

She entered into the class almost effortlessly, and I even sat outside the room for a bit, and she was completely and wonderfully comfortable. I feel so grateful to have a place in my neighborhood (and literally RIGHT across the street from Obama's house! - police are EVERYWHERE!) that I feel so great about. It's the cheapest option in the area, and while cheap still means expensive on our family's terms, we have to do this. I just feel like it's the one.

Dylan had a wonderful time playing there for two hours this morning. The only troublesome moment was during snack time - right before we left. Dylan didn't know the rules of pouring juice (they each had their own little plastic pitcher of juice at their tables), and she poured too much and spilled all over the floor. All the kids laughed, and I was heartbroken.

For Dylan, I'm not sure how it was. I plan to "playfully parent" this one and try the same scenario with some dollhouse people later this week. But, she handled it mostly in silence.

That has to be the hardest thing that you deal with as you enter your kids into the real world after having them at home with you for some time. Dealing with other kids, and watching them hurt. I don't want to project my own sensitivities upon her...acting like she should have been embarassed, when maybe she wasn't at all. But I also desperately don't want her to feel alone. I'm such a sensitive person myself, it's hard to detach my kids from those emotions and not assume they feel every last thing that I do.

It can't have been to traumatic for her, because I asked her later about the whole experience, and she had nothing but good things to say. She really really really wanted to go to school there...like tomorrow. So, I guess we've made our decision. I'm relieved, happy and most of all, grateful.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cookie Monster

Day 78.

I had to run to Target today to pick up some $11 speakers for my computer so I could show a DVD in my Bradley class tonight. It was a simple task, and I only added about five other things to my Target list (unheard of to leave there spending less than $100!). So, it was a short trip.

But it was 1:00 - right after lunch and the kids were antsy, tired and cranky.

I am grateful for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Thanks, Aunt Jeanie. I saved the secret weapon for just the right moment and whipped them out: not as bribery exactly, just buying time. And it worked perfectly.

I convinced them to stay in the cart, munching happily while I grabbed the speakers and checked out. It was a moment of mommy success made possible only by the delicacy of sugar.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

School days approachin'

Day 77.

We went to visit a preschool today. Now that we'll be in Chicago next year, I need to find Dylan a part-time preschool. I'm looking for 3 days/week, only half day. It is SO hard to find a good, reasonably priced school that isn't far away (that has the part-time option)!! I am shocked there aren't more church schools with preschool programs in the city (i.e. lutheran schools?). It's frustrating, because there aren't many parent co-ops either. So, that leaves city pre-k (half days, but five days a week) or expensive private part-time options. Grrrr...

Convenience is big to me, considering half-day programs are only 2.5-3 hours, and I refuse to drive 30-40 min somewhere and not be able to go home during preschool because it's a waste of time. I want close.

So, even though I'm not Jewish, I'm turning to the two Jewish preschools in the neighborhood - which offer just what I'm looking for - minus the cheap price tag. Granted, they are the cheapest option in the neighborhood - so I guess it's all relative.

I am grateful that Dylan is mega-excited about school.

I was much more ambivalent about her attending, and feel good about my decision not to do 3-year old preschool. But, she is so ready now. She is soooo excited to be in a school setting. She longs for a teacher, school friends, recess, class projects, etc. Yes, she goes to art school and ballet and sunday school, but it's just not the same consistency as seeing the same students and teacher three times a week.

If she wasn't gung-ho, it would be easy to convince myself not to "waste" the money on preschool. It is way too expensive and just makes me mad that you have to pay so much for your kid to get a good quality experience in PRE-K!! But, she's into it, and it's easy to catch her enthusiasm. So, I'm frantically trying to get her into a place where she feels comfortable, and that feels right for our family.

Wish us luck on Friday when we visit probably our best option...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Polygamy

Day 76.

I am grateful for the minds of three year olds.

Dylan: Noah is going to be the daddy of my children.
Me: Well, that doesn't really work. You can't marry your brother.
Dylan: Ok, I'm going to marry YOU, mommy.
Me: Actually, you can't marry family at all.
Dylan: No, I'm going to marry daddy.
Me: Again, family.
Dylan: Ok, my children's daddy is going to be named Joe.
Me: That's interesting. Maybe you can just wait and find out who you want to marry later.
Dylan: No, but I want to marry Grandma Cindy.
(again with the family members! I gave up on that aspect...)
Me: Usually girls marry boys.
Dylan: Ok, I want to marry Grandpa Clark.
Me: He already has a wife.
Dylan (really excited - like she totally figured it out!): Maybe I can be another wife!! I can be part of their family!

I just dropped it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Yum. Yum. Extra yum.

Day 75.

It was sunny all day, and although it never felt like more than 50 degrees...we milked the sun for all it was worth. We spent most of the day outside, walking to the park, playing at the park, walking from the park to the grocery store, then walking home. Walking to ballet, walking to a friend's house to drop off a book, and then walking home. Lots of walking - my legs feel it and they feel good!

I am grateful for Istria's gelato.

Cafe Istria is the cafe attached to the Hyde Park Art Center, so I'm in love with them for all the wonderful Wednesdays Noah and I spend together there. But they also have a location on 57th street under the metra tracks (the original one in HP). And it was there that we stopped on the way home this afternoon for a delicious dish of passion fruit gelato.

It's especially exciting for me, because it is as (or more) delicious than about any ice cream you can find - but all of their fruit flavors are made with water - not cream, so us dairy-free-igans out there can splurge as well.

Bliss...

We about froze our fingers and innards off as we huddled around the dish and filled our stomachs with icey creamy goodness...but it was oh so worth it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thou shalt not covet...

Day 74.

Coming home.

We weren't gone long - only 48 hours in the suburbs. But this time I came home with new perspective.

Jason and I have been trying to figure out our life next year - whether we should stay in the city or go to the burbs. Todd (one of our pastors) gave an amazing sermon today on The Ten Commandments, and focused part of it on the last one - You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor's House. And in a way, I've really been coveting the suburbs. Thinking that when I have a backyard, when I have a garage (or even just a parking spot!), when I have a good public school for my kids lined up, when I don't have downstairs neighbors...that life will be better. That all my problems suddenly go away and I become infinitely happy.

But what happens when/if we do make that move? Yes, some of my problems may be solved...but won't there be new ones to replace them? We have a yard, but we also have yard work that comes with it. We might have no neighbors to share a building with, but what happens when the roof needs repair (or any other equally expensive undertaking) and we no longer split our building expenses six ways? I may find that a house is calling my name, but what else might call my name once I have that?

What will be the next thing I need to look forward to in order to feel fulfilled? What will I find myself longing for? What will I covet then?

The only true wisdom and fulfillment in life is through God.

When I walked through this door this afternoon, I saw my home in a new light.

I am grateful for my home.

And I'm grateful to live in an amazing city. I'm grateful to have amazing friends here. I'm grateful for Jason having a good job and a grad school program he loves. I'm grateful to be able to enjoy the city for as long as we can.

Maybe these feelings are happening at a very obvious time - it's easier to be happy with life in the city when it is sunny and above freezing. But, I do feel it's more than that. We can do this, and in fact, I think we're meant to be here...for now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Right on the Fox River...

Day 73.

What a gorgeous day today! It probably never broke 50 - at least not on my car thermometer. But, there was not a cloud in the sky, and the kids and I had a blast exploring the western suburbs, mainly Geneva.

I am grateful for Geneva.

Who knows when we'll take the plunge and move out of the city, but when we do, Geneva is an amazing option. I have driven through there many times to go see friends, but never have browsed or walked the downtown shops. What a wonderful, adorable area! It helped a lot that we didn't need our coats, but I had so much fun just walking with the kids around, hitting THE BEST second hand kids store I've ever been to (it was so organized!) - Good Cents, and even getting a delicious italian sausage from a local family-owned meat place. Something about patronizing shops that still are family owned/run. When I was in there, the guy helping me yelled to an older guy - "You done on the register dad?" How charming! This place grills their own meat outside their restaurant all summer long for lunch - how yummy and fun is that?! Apparently, this was summer enough - cause they had the grill going and the kids and I were in heaven. (And we even brought Jason back a delicious steak sandwich with cheese and onions). Mouth watering yet?

Top off the day with great gluten-free finds at Soup to Nuts, and I felt so content! It's nice to know you don't have to be in the city to find neighborhoods that have unique shopping, dining, and WAY friendlier people. :)

My little treat tonight

Day 72.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This will be a short one. I got home at 11:30pm from Scrapbooking with a friend at Archiver's. And I'm really tired.

I am grateful for scrapbooks.

After spending six hours working on my book (I'm ashamedly still on 2007), I am just so in love with doing it all over again. I rarely work on it, and get more and more behind each month. But, when I do it, I have so much fun and really am proud of getting pictures in a place that is accessible and easy for others to enjoy. I'm not a real "scrappy" person with all the elaborate layouts and 3D embellishments, but my style of layout and decoration is just enough for me, and just enough for me not to spend hours doing one page.

Now, I'm so motivated to do more! Anyone want to come over for a scrapbook/photo album night?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our Father...

Day 71.

Routines. Traditions. Practices. Call it what you want, but praying before bed together with my children is hands down my favorite part of the day.

Thanks to my friend, Amy (from Bible Study), who told us about her daily prayer/bible time with her twin 3.5 year old boys. I started saying the Lord's Prayer with my kids right before bed a couple of weeks ago. Dylan, especially, immediately took to it, and began requesting it every night (even though we were going to do it anyway). I started off having them (her) repeat after me a couple of words at a time, then it went into repeating phrases, and now the past few nights she has been able to do it with me in sync. I am jealous of her speedy memorization skills.

I am grateful for The Lord's Prayer.

Here is a clip from lunch today - on her own Dylan decided she was going to teach Noah how to say it - and Noah was a pretty enthusiastic student. She would say phrases and and he would repeat them (with her gentle encouragement). But then once I grabbed the camera she started getting frustrated with him. So then they just started over and said it in unison. Pretty cool that this is only after about two weeks of saying it once a day. I'm going to start having her memorize classics.

video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Relaxing Apparel

Day 70.

Most days I look forward to getting dressed - wearing good jeans, a flattering shirt, and caring about what shoes I put on. Actually, lucky for my husband, I do feel like this most days. I usually care about my appearance.

But Wednesday nights, 7:30pm: Jason is gone, my kids are in bed and I cannot get my comfy clothes on fast enough.

I am grateful for my Sunday pants.

I started calling comfortable drawstring lounge (pajama-like) pants "Sunday Pants" when I was in high school. It was really the only time I put on these pants when it wasn't bed time - I would come home from church on sunday and wear these comfortable pants for the rest of the day...ahhhh...

But, as I entered the work force after college, and dressed up on a daily basis, I found myself wearing my sunday pants every night - as soon as I could strip off the dress clothes post dinner. Fast forward seven years and I'm still doing this - although the line could easily be blurred. In fact, who's to say I don't wear Sunday pants all day long as a stay at home mom?

That's where I am trying to keep both my marriage spark (honestly, who wants to see their significant other in sweats every day) and my personal spark (somehow I become lazier when I wear them). So when I do put them on - especially wednesday nights, when I have no reason to be cute for my date with the couch, computer or laundry - I feel good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Page turning

Day 69.

Tonight I had a meeting and so I needed to leave about 6:30. Jason had an important Kenwood Bball game to attend, so he also wanted to leave by 7-ish. My nephew CJ was going to "watch" the kids while we were gone - but we needed to get them in bed first (I'm grateful for you too CJ!). So, for this to happen, Noah needed to nap early, so he was ready for bed by then.

No need to go into details, but he didn't nap. With the time change still screwing us up, 12:15 was entirely too early for him to shut his eyes - even with a bad cold/cough. Dylan was happily having quiet time, but when I finally got Noah out of bed, I was exhausted and had not rested.

I am grateful my kids are growing up.

Don't read this the wrong way. I am not grateful they are so grown up that they didn't take a nap. But, I am extremely grateful that when we were done with naps/quiet time for the day and it was ONLY 1:14..... (just shoot me) - we all went into the playroom/front living room and I laid on the couch and read a book. They played in the same room contentedly for a good hour and only asked me to play with them once. They are old enough to be self-sufficient for awhile.

Did you catch that? I READ A BOOK in the middle of the day. Yes, I was still on call, still being needed for nose-wipes, acknowledgement of "what a cool playground you made for your people!" and keeping Noah from injuring himself with the heavy laundry basket of toys. But, I still was reading.

I kept waffling back and forth between gratitude for this time and guilt for reading instead of doing the laundry, dishes, organizing the closets, etc. But, eventually I just let it go and enjoyed myself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Instrument of Thought

Day 68.

Today wasn't a particularly wonderful day. We went to get some groceries and a few other things at Target and ended up spending about an hour too long there. Picture two sad, frustrated, tired children trying to wriggle their way out of the beautifully-designed mom of two (or three) children shopping carts. Then Noah (who has a cough/cold and is extra in need of sleep) only sleeps for 20 minutes on the way home, and doesn't take his usual 2-hour nap.

But sometime yesterday I promised myself something. In my constant journey to becoming mindful and present in my parenting, I thought how much easier it would be to do this if I had a focus. Like a mantra to keep me centered in the moment, enjoying my children JUST as they are - beautiful and angelic and happy - or red-faced, crying and angry. To notice more, enjoy more and just BE more.

I am grateful for mantras.

It worked! As I said, it wasn't a particularly special day, and I ended the afternoon feeling like I was coming down with Noah's sickness...but I felt like my mindfulness took a brand new step in a really great direction.

Every time I was playing with the kids, talking to the kids, or just listening to someone's (seemingly) continuous commentary, I paid attention, gave them eye contact, and really did notice in each of these moments what special little people they are.

What was my mantra?
Be present in this moment.

I hope it works again tomorrow. Maybe I'll put up little post-its for myself or make myself a bracelet that reminds me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ballet

Day 67.

This afternoon, for a mommy/daughter outing, Dylan and I went to see Alice in Wonderland & Carnival of the Animals, a ballet put on by her dance school - The Hyde Park School of Dance. It was incredible to watch Dylan in that grown-up of a setting. I thought she would really like it, but wow, she loved it even more than I imagined.

I am grateful for a child's eyes filled awe and inspiration.

As we waited for the show to begin, we got to talk about why the lights go dim five minutes before they turn them off for good. We read the program together (saying out loud every child's name in the performance!), we looked around for other Hyde Parkers we recognized, and we just anticipated.

She asked me maybe 23 times when the lights were going to dim for good and the show would then start. And when it did, it did not disappoint either of us. They put on a wonderful show, complete with really great costumes and terrific choreography. It was quite professional for a student show!

On the way out, we talked about what we liked best. Dylan said "everything." But then she said, "Do you know what was the worst part? That I didn't get to go up on stage."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

the hub-ster

Day 66.

We just got back from 36 hours in Champaign - a very fun, jam-packed 36 hours - leaving me and the kids exhausted and both kids with runny noses, cruddy coughs and whiney cries. But we're home, in all it's bliss and sadness (I miss my parents too much to live in Chicago!!).

The best part about being home: the wonderful man sitting across the room from me right now.
I can't believe I've waited 66 days to mention my incredibly better half.

I am grateful for my husband.

Jason Adam Rhodes, I am even more in love with you than 5.5 years ago when I became the wifey. You are the most incredible father any mom could ever want for her children, and the perfect teammate to ride this parenthood journey with. You show me what unconditional love is. You challenge me, support me, crack me up, and still give me butterflies.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rub me down

Day 65.

For Christmas my mom and dad gave me a gift certificate to the best massage therapist. She is in Champaign and I am lucky enough to go visit her once in awhile when I'm down visiting my parents. Her name is Laura and she works at Kane & Co. for anyone who needs to be transformed...

I am grateful for massage.

As a mother of young children you are constantly dealing with bodies. Bodily functions, bodies with rashes, bodies with fevers, feeding bodies, cleaning bodies, kissing their little bodies. It's a mixed blessing for sure. So, what a freaking treat to have someone focus on MY body for one full hour.

I spend 1/3 of my massage anticipating how amazing this will be. When she's doing the head, I'm thinking about how I can't wait until she does the ARMS! When she's doing the neck, I'm looking forward to the back. Then, by the time she gets to the arms...I've already resigned myself that it's 1/3 of the way over. I'm mourning that this feeling doesn't last forever. And then I somewhat forgo the enjoyment of the moment.

I'm not a glass-half-empty kind of person. But, with something I LOVE and ENJOY so immensely as this, it's almost too overwhelming in the midst of it - I just can't think of anything but how it doesn't last forever.

Nonetheless, I am still grateful. And believe me, I'll never turn down an opportunity for a massage, even if I do spend more time lamenting than rejoicing. In a way, I'm like this about my parenting sometimes. I look forward to spending time with my kids, plan for it, think about it, revel in it, and then freak out when I realize (when they are THREE) that they won't be home forever...that they are basically going to college tomorrow.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mr. Golden Sun

Day 64.

It was gorgeous out today. I mean...gorgeous. Sunny, low 60's (and ok, it was windy, but I tried not to focus on that). We walked to bible study. We walked to the library. And on the way home - the kids RAN. They RAN and RAN and RAN some more (much to the chagrin of my worry-meter which was in high gear as they raced down the busiest street in our neighborhood - why can't I stop my mind from imagining them hurling themselves into oncoming traffic?).

They were so happy. They were chasing each other - encouraging each other. And just being so nice to each other. They stopped running at one point and just walked side by side...Dylan even put her arm around Noah's shoulder and said, "Hey mom, look at this." Okay, if you're going to gloat about it, it's not quite as cute. Then they held both hands and Dylan walked backwards while Noah walked forwards. They giggled, the wind blew their golden curls and we were all happy.

The day went down from there and I ended up in a bad mood. I'm not even sure why. But, still,

I am grateful for exercise for the whole family.

We needed that walk/run. We needed to take off our coats and feel the breeze on our necks. And you, we really needed you, sunshine.

If I could only bottle that happiness and then pour some on me when I feel like crap later in the day. But I guess that's what this blog is doing for me. When I remember these special moments, I get a little taste of the real thing again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Throwing lessons

Day 63.

I changed Noah's diaper this evening before bed and threw the diaper out into the hallway so I remembered to throw this stinky one away (and not let it rot as I often do on the floor next to their sleeping heads...so kind).

Noah looks at me and says, "Mommy, we throw balls, not throw diapers."

I am grateful for the wisdom of a 2-year old.

Noah, this is what we call an exception.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

5:00 Sip

Day 62.

It's 4:55 in the late afternoon...let's call it early evening. And I'm sitting down with a nice glass of wine (by nice I mean 2-buck-chuck) and blogging. What is it about a glass of wine at this time of day (really 5:00 is usually the time I don't aim to beat)? It's more enjoyable than any other, especially while cooking. I was just doing that (made a big pot of chili - then overcooked some cornbread by about 30 minutes).

I am grateful for early evening glasses of wine.

It's not that I'm a lush. I'm sure my mom is reading this now and thinking, "oh who have I raised?" But mom, it's so much more than the alcohol.

It's the significance of this glass of wine -
It reads relaxation.
It reads Welcome home Jason, MY turn to not think about children for 10 minutes.
It reads I am an adult, you children are not, and I'm drinking this now.
It reads I'm enjoying a hobby of mine: cooking, while also nourishing my family.
It reads my mind is wandering away from puzzles, stuffed animals and art projects.

Then, I get snapped back to reality with a tug on the shirt and poop exploding out of a diaper, or somebody snatching a toy and hysteria following. But that's OK. Because I'm just a little more relaxed, just a little more adult, just a little more ready for the next part of chaos.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Backstory

Day 61.

We wanted to get out of Jason's hair today - it was Casimir Pulaski's birthday - which means no school in Illinois (he's a Polish war hero if you want to know more). Jason had a lot of work to get done for school (both Kenwood and grad studies). So, we headed to Backstory Cafe, a local cafe/coffeeshop for their "Neighborhood Playgroup" on Monday mornings.

I loved this place. I had never been before, and I'm just sad I've missed the first year of their existence! It is wonderful, laid back, they play great music, and is the best place to take your children. They have a train table, a bin of toys, shelves of games and books, and the best - huge chalkboards covering the walls that the kids can chill out by and draw draw draw!!

I am grateful for small businesses.

In an economy of failing small companies, this is precisely the place our neighborhood cannot afford to lose. As I found it's tattered green metal door, plenty of street parking, and wondered what I was in for. What a beautiful, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate center this place has.

They are amazing. They brew their coffee by slow-filter (apparently it's great - I wish I had some today), they have a small used book store inside (as they say, they carry "provocative texts recommended by area activists and scholars of diverse social and political persuasion"), and the interior was designed and constructed using local re-purposed materials. And did you remember by now that's it uber kid-friendly? They are so cool.

Check it out, give them business (if you are any where near hyde park), and let me know if you want to meet there for coffee, or tea, or an organic vegan lunch. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Under the weather

Day 60.

I can remember a time in my life when being sick with a cold/cough/sore throat (something relatively mild) was a blessing. It meant I got to stay home all day and watch USA gameshows (namely Press Your Luck). But even better, I got to spend all day with my mom. I had her all to myself, and she would make me a cozy bed on the couch - taking off the back cushions and putting twin sheets on the couch like a real bed. We'd bring my pillow down from my bed, get some cozy covers and I would relax. Yes, I would be recovering from illness, but I deeply enjoyed this time, and these days are some of my favorite childhood memories.

As a mom, when your children are sick, of course your heart goes out to them. You'd rather be sick for them - you just don't like to see them suffer in any way. When kids are sick, they are needy (actually who isn't needy when sick?), and that could be a negative thing, but unless they are throwing up all over me every hour, I see it as blissfully positive.

I am grateful to be needed.

Dylan has a cough and low-grade fever tonight. She cuddled, she sunk it my arms, and she was full of pro-mommy language. As she gets older, she cuddles less and less. And so for these sacred moments, I revel in this love. And, when she's sick, it is an opportunity to return the favor, in a way. I can be the very caregiver that I cherised twenty-five years ago.