Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 334.

It's easy to get caught up in everyday violin practicing and have a hard time seeing any progress being made. Really. Hard.

But then I took some video of her (to show her that she was moving her elbow!). I was just uploading everything this evening to my computer when it hit me - she really has come a long way. In only two months she's learned to play the violin! Two months ago she didn't even know which hand was her violin hand and which hand was her bow hand. Now she knows that better than her right and left.

I am grateful for progress.

Sometimes you need a little low quality video to give you a good reality check.

Do you want a pickle, on your ice cream sandwich?
Yes I want a pickle, on my ice cream sandwich!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 333.

I want to be ready for the Christmas season. I want to listen to Christmas music, decorate our house, sing advent songs at church. But something is keeping me from feeling ready. Maybe it's that the fall is flying by. We never even made it to an apple orchard to pick this year, something I'm still regretting. It just seemed to pass by with me hanging on for dear life. And so I feel like I'm still celebrating Halloween when actually I need to be getting out the manger scenes!

I am grateful for "Avent."

Dylan can't seem to get the "d" in Advent. She knows it's there, but it's just one of those words for her. Like "Perftect." Or "Alother."

It was officially the first day of Advent, and from church to decorating at home, listening to about five hours of Comcast Holiday Radio (it's actually pretty good!), I am so ready for this Christmas season to be here. Yay for the holidays! I guess I'm just realizing how fast time flies when you're an adult. I used to feel like the Christmas countdown took FOREVER, and no I'm thinking, "WHAT? We only have three weeks until Christmas?!?!" So, I'm trying to get some perspective. Not wanting it to rush, not wanting it to go slow...just wanting to enjoy it all. Breathe in. Breathe out. And be in the present. The present that is Advent.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 332.

The way TO Iowa on Wednesday night was long. We left at 3:15pm and did not arrive in Kalona until 9:20pm. Just over 6 hours. We did stop for a 45 minute dinner, but really - it should not have taken over five hours. Chalk it up to Thanksgiving traffic and rain I guess.

I am grateful for a short ride home from Iowa.

Today we left at 2:45 and got home at 6:30! 3 hours and 45 minutes for the math challenged. Granted, we did have about a 30 minute head start as we hit up the Hawkeyes basketball game on our way to I-80. But still.

I think I've decided 4 hours is a magic number when it comes to traveling with kids. At 4 hours they lose their minds and think it's cool to cry, whine and ask for things they don't normally get. We just squeaked by this time and they actually wanted to stay IN the car to finish Mary Poppins! Score.

Day 331.

Friday, November 27, 2009.

I am grateful for visits to cousinland.

I remember fond vacations to Las Vegas that revolved around family. That might sound bizarre, unless you know that my mom's two brothers and their kids live in Las Vegas. It has always been a wonderful destination, as it is warm, sunny and the strip is always lively.

Now, my kids have two equally exciting destinations to go and visit their cousins - sunny, mountainous Colorado and the farm-tastic land of Iowa. This Thanksgiving we have been enjoying the farmland, and today the kids even participated in some of the farm fun.

On any property with mature trees, leave pickup is always abundant, so here on grandpa and grandma's farm is no exception. Auntie Mo-Mo got out the tractor and the wagon and the kids climbed in. They rode around the yard to the different piles of previously raked leaves and would get out, eagerly pile the leaves into the wagon and then jump back on top of them to go dump on the burn pile. Then we'd go to the burn pile, throw them out the side of the wagon, and do it all over again.

They were hard workers and even though it was cold, they were so into their work, they never complained. They loved the tractor rides and they got to jump in the leaves whenever they needed a cleanup break. What fun you can have on the farm - and what a world of difference from the city!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 330.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009. What an incredible holiday that now, after this year of gratitude, I have a new appreciation for. But what is the difference between being grateful and being thankful?

I am grateful for gratefulness over thankfulness.

Thankfulness is important too. It's a good think to be thankful for what you have, to thank those who do something for you or give something to you. You are thankful, or say "thank you." But I think gratefulness is not something you even make a conscious decision about. I don't decide if I'm grateful or not - I just am. I might need to recognize it and may voice it with a "thank you." But to me, it doesn't seem to be a choice but a feeling. I guess you can be grateful and thankful for the same things, but one is felt in the heart, while the other is more expressed with your words.

So, today on Thanksgiving - what am I grateful/thankful for?

- A warm, inviting home to be invited to (thanks Mo!)
- A wonderful family of in-laws who I feel perfectly at home with
- A delicious spread of food, complete with all my favorites (cornbread stuffing, cranberry relish and gravy!)
- Gluten-free, dairy-free food, and family that is willing to make it for me
- Two beautiful children that drove me wild last night when I tried to put them to sleep (they wouldn't settle down until 11:00)...but I still love you both and yes Dylan, I'll always come back to you
- My Breeze family in Champaign and Colorado - I miss you dearly today and have so many fond memories of Thanksgivings past

Day 329.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009.

13 years ago today my grandpa Joe passed away. And 13 years ago today I lost an incredible mentor, a dear friend, and a second father. He was a man of great integrity, and someone I desperately wish my family could have met. I think the worst part of losing him so early is that he didn't get to see me as an adult. He didn't get to see me in college, graduate or do Americorps. He wasn't at my wedding, and my husband has not met him. But most sad of all for me is that my children will never know him.

I am grateful for Grandpa Joe.

Grandpa was kind, gentle, but firm, and they would have snuggled up in his lap and loved listening to his stories. They would have loved playing games with him. They would have loved going out to his workshop in the garage with him. They would have loved feeling special with him. That was one of his greatest gifts - he would single you out and make you feel incredibly special at certain times. You deeply felt his dedication to you in that moment when nothing else was as important to him.

Grandpa Joe, I know we'll see you again in heaven, and I take comfort knowing that Dylan, Noah and Jason will meet you there. In the meantime, each day of my life is a part of your legacy - I hope I am doing you proud.

Day 328.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009.

I am grateful for confident prayer.

I often don't know how to pray or what to pray for exactly. All I know is that when I do pray, in whatever form, I feel a sense of peace. So, while I sometimes fumble through my prayers, I still go back to them, because I know they are crucial to my relationship with God.

I have been feeling a huge weight on my shoulders to decide about kindergarten. Nevermind that Dylan just started preschool two months ago. In Chicago, you think about kindergarten now, or you have no options come next fall. So today as I showered and prepared for a school interview, I prayed. I prayed for peace, for direction, for an open mind. I prayed for help on this journey, so I didn't feel like I was going it alone.

I can whole-heartedly say a huge weight has been lifted off my chest. No, I don't know for sure what we're doing about school next year, but that's OK. I no longer feel like I have to figure it out right now. I have time, and I have help along the way, and I'm not worried about tomorrow anymore.

Day 327.

Monday, November 23, 2009.

This is the week of gratitude throughout the nation. It's funny to hear and read everyone focusing on thankfulness and gratitude all of a sudden when I feel like I've been in this gratitude mode for eleven months. It feels like a secret I've been keeping that has now gone public.

I recently was asked to write an article in my church newsletter on gratitude, related to my blog, and just in time for this holiday of thankfulness.

I am grateful for public outlets to share my thoughts on gratitude.

I'll post the article here to share (although I'm not sure if it's technically been published yet!).

Being Accountable for Gratitude

I have never been very good at spiritual disciplines. I do about two weeks of a devotional book before I fall off the cart. I buy a new Bible thinking it will inspire me to set aside a daily time to read…then I fall short of my expectations. I have always longed to grow closer to God through these disciplines…I just could never implement them.

On January 1st, 2009, One Mom’s Year of Gratitude was born. I committed myself to gratitude for the whole year, and I embarked on my journey. It started without a lot of thought and to be honest, it had nothing to do with spiritual discipline. I wasn’t really sure why I did it. At the time I think it had more to do about parenting, trying to stay in the present and not worrying about tomorrow. But now that only about 40 days of gratitude are left in 2009, I am in awe of what this blog has become, both for me, and others.

This past year at church has been really hard for me. Being on the Ministry Team in a time of such conflict and decision-making has pushed me way beyond my comfort zone. But I also have seen this year as one of deep growth. I have spent the year focusing on gratitude when there were many days I felt like I had nothing to be grateful for. The ritual of sitting at my computer every single night and having to find something to blog about every single night has been transformative.

With my blog, I knew people were checking it (even if it was only my mom and sister the first month!) I knew I had made a public commitment to gratitude, and I did not want to fail. I guess that’s the kind of spiritual discipline I need – one that holds you accountable and walks alongside you.

What have I learned from focusing this year on gratitude? I could write much more than I have room for here. But I think if I sum up what I have learned with one word it has to be about “grace.” To have daily gratitude you have to understand grace. Grace given to you by a postal employee, your own children, and even yourself. Grace coming from God, but manifested in other people…even myself.

2 Corinthians 4:15:
“It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 326.

It gets dark SO. EARLY. I hate daylight savings time. Every day when Noah wakes up from his nap, I want to take the kids outside. It's the perfect time to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. Except, it's DARK.

I am grateful for our bike ride in the dark.

Daylight savings time - you won't get me down. Noah woke up at 4:30 and I was determined to still get some outdoor fun in. We have streetlights, no? So, we all put on our vests (LOVE that we're not wearing coats the week of Thanksgiving!) and went outside. What a peaceful night in the city. 50 degrees out, sun just set, lots of people out on a Sunday evening. The kids rode their bikes around the block and Jason and I strolled. I love these simple moments. This is when I want time to stand still and I'd rather be nowhere else on earth. We gotta do that again.

Day 325.

Saturday, November 21, 2009.

A beautiful fall day today, and a great day for a holiday sale. The fam went out to Wheaton this afternoon to shop and support the Ten Thousand Villages annual international craft and rug sale. It always amazes me to see what a well-run machine this sale is!

I am grateful for Ten Thousand Villages.

This is the mission of Ten Thousand Villages, taken from their website:

"Ten Thousand Villages provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. This income helps pay for food, education, health care and housing."

How can you not get behind an organization like that? I am so happy our church supports this company and has this amazing sale every year. I only wish I lived closer so I could help out more regularly at the store. Did I mention that the store runs on volunteers?

I remember volunteering at the store in Champaign growing up as a kid. My family would always volunteer there around Christmastime as a family and it was a real highlight. I especially loved bagging things and using the cash register. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 324.

Once again in my quest to be the perfect mom (not really my quest...just making fun of myself a little here), I'm going to contradict something I posted about a few days ago. I was giving myself a hard time, in a round-about way, for thinking too much about cleaning, cooking and other things I end up filling my time with besides "mommying." I think I need to explain.

Yesterday we spent a great day with friends (as mentioned in my post from that day), and there was a big lightbulb that happened for me in my conversation with the other mom. I think I was mentioning my guilt over turning them down for play and getting things done. She remarked, "I never play with my kids." Now when she says that, it does NOT mean she's not spending time with her kids - quite the contrary. She's a fabulous homeschooling mama with kids who are very secure and adore it's not like she hasn't bonded with her kids...far from it. That's what was so great about it. I thought about it more after they left, and thought, gosh, did my parents really "play" with us like I feel guilt for not doing enough of? I remember them reading to us, playing games with us and just being with us a lot, but not this stuff. The kind of play my kids want me to engage in on an hourly basis is hard core pretend play with a lot of imagination and creativity...and to be honest, I just end up feeling old and boring when I do this. Give me a book to read, a game to play or a craft to do anytime and I am THERE.

So, I am cutting myself some slack. I'm not a bad mom when I cook and clean or tell them to "go play." In fact, I think I'm a better mom because of it.

I am grateful for letting go of guilt.

I'm letting go of guilt that I feel when I don't spend hours of my day pretending with them. Yes, I'll still do it with them because they love it and I love them and it makes them happy. But, it's also cool when I ignore them and they end up playing beautifully and creatively together. I'm OK with not being the fun mom all the time...that's not my purpose.

I also think I realized where this guilt comes from. I spent most of my 11-18 year old life babysitting. I was obsessed with babysitting. I loved kids. I loved the responsibility. I loved the money I got. I loved being the fun babysitter that brought over a "kid kit" (any Babysitter's Club fans out there?) and made up cool obstacle courses. I loved being in demand and people booking me months in advance for New Years Eve. I was the fun babysitter. And so when I eventually had my own kids (only about 8 years after that 7 year run was over)...I couldn't separate fun babysitter from mom. I molded that into one entity and tried to be a mom who played with their kids all the time.

So, it's not a terrible thing to try to be fun and entertaining, but what ends up happening is when I actually do have stuff to do, I carry that guilt - did I play with them enough today?

I'm over it...for today at least (I'll go back and read this post tomorrow).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 323.

I am grateful for shared laughter with my kids.

Today was a great day. Great friends, great fellowship, great food. I loved this rainy day at home. I have to say my day is always good when I have an opportunity to laugh with my children. Something about letting loose and laughing together brings us so much closer together. I guess that's true with anyone.

Here's an exchange from dinnertime that made me laugh:

Me: We don't have any more milk because we drank it all for lunch. We'll have water for dinner.
Noah: Why don't we have any more milk?
Me: We shared it with our friends who were over for lunch. It's good to share things with our friends. It's good to share what we have with everyone.
Dylan: Why?
Me: It's the right thing to do. A long time ago when Jesus lived in our world, he helped other people get what they needed.
Dylan: Was he the President one time?
Me (holding back giggles): No, Jesus wasn't the President.
Noah: Santa was the President.

I couldn't hold back the laughter at that point. Seriously, you can't make that stuff up!

Note: I don't make a lesson out of everything we talk about, honestly. But when I do, it always seems to backfire.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 322.

Nothing cures a rainy day like homemade playdough. Thanks, Lara, for the great recipe. It's softer than store bought playdough, which for little kids is great and easier to mush around. Now we just have to make more!

I am grateful for playdough.

½ c. salt
1 c. flour
1 T. canola oil
1 T. alum (find in spice aisle of grocery store)
1 c. boiling water
food coloring

Boil the water and stir food coloring in water. Add colored boiling water to the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Keep airtight in the refrigerator and it lasts for months.


Day 321.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009.

Violin is going well. Dylan loves it, I love that she loves it. And we have some great bonding moments practicing together. Tuesday is group class which is my favorite thing about Suzuki. Group class brings it all together, gives the learning a fun twist, and gives us parents more ideas to use at home in our practice sessions. But what I really will miss is the parent class that we've been having the last 10 weeks...and tonight was the last one.

I am grateful for the Suzuki parent class.

It seemed ridiculous when we first signed up. After all, I know how to play the violin so why would I need a parent class? Turns out, it had nothing to do with me knowing or not knowing how to play the violin. Instead it had everything to do with learning how to practice with your child and how to implement and believe in the Suzuki philosophy. I left this last class tonight a little sad. This class has been the perfect setting for all of our questions and the class has really been helpful in my focus. It has made these violin lessons so much more than they would have been if I just showed up to her lesson each week with no framework.

Day 320.

Monday, November 16, 2009.

I think as a stay-at-home mom life sometimes get confusing. I am busy doing life...doing dishes, doing the laundry, doing the cleaning, doing the insurance calls, doing the appointment scheduling, doing the drive to preschool. And I forget what my real job title is.

I am grateful to realize my present purpose.

My job description right now does include those things mentioned earlier. But it's not my title. I'm not stay-at-home cleaning lady. Or stay-at-home cook. I'm a stay-at-home MOM. So, I need to stop freaking out about the other things when what I'd really rather do is play with my kids.

Day 319.

Sunday, November 15, 2009.

Today was a long day at church full of meetings and work from an outside facilitator to help in our recent church conflict. It was long, but it wasn't draining. In fact, it was, in a strange way, uplifting. It felt like a huge relief and what happened in those meetings allowed me to reclaim part of myself again.

I am grateful for integrity.

I have always considered myself a person of integrity and an honest person to the core. I haven't had many moments where I felt that was challenged, until this year. In my leadership role at church this year, I felt like my integrity had been unfairly ripped out from under me and I was left with no foundation. That feeling was awful and it wasn't any one person or thing that made me feel like that. It happened slowly...gradually erupting into a complete mess that had me feeling ashamed...and confused why I felt that way.

So, it's a pretty huge step when I feel like some light was shed on things to make a whole picture - to the point where I can now reclaim my integrity. I guess it was never lost...just hidden.

Day 318.

Saturday, November 14, 2009.

It was an amazing day and it will be hard to pick just one thing to be grateful for today. It was a day full of friends and family, love and joy. Really, I feel so blessed.

I am grateful for love.

1 Corinthians 13:13. "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." There's a reason that love trumps everything.

Jason and I celebrated a wonderful wedding of two dear friends and it was pure joy to be a part of the evening. We danced our hearts out, ate incredible food, wore nice outfits, held hands. But most importantly, we saw incredible love start a marriage and I felt that commitment all over again with my own husband. A beautiful thing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 317.

Friday, November 13, 2009.

Today we started a whirlwind weekend of fun, celebrating two very dear friends getting married. My parents arrived in town last night for a work event my dad had downtown. And so today, we spent the day together. It was wonderful, and again reminded me why we need to live closer to them.

Part of our morning involved visiting a school option for Dylan for next year and my mom went with us. It was great to have her perspective and another person looking out for red flags (or lack thereof).

I am grateful for a positive school option.

I don't know if Dylan will go there next year...I hope so because I loved it. But the money is a big deal breaker. We'll hope that someone doing the financial aid takes pity on us and decides we need a big break.

I have no energy to go into why I liked it so much, but I remember looking at my mom and us just being like...Whoa...this is good. And I commented afterward - I kind of wish we wouldn't have gone there because now I can't see her going anywhere else. Here's hoping for acceptance and financial aid!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 316.

Have you seen Mad Men? If not, go directly to your Netflix Queue and move it to the top. Now.

This show is my new favorite, and I am just amazed how good it actually is. Afterall - it's on AMC. Apparently that is the new place for well-done TV shows. It's so cool to see what it was like in the early 60's (well, it is a TV show, not real life but sometimes I forget!). I often think of my mom and dad, growing up during this time period and it's so hard for me to believe - things have changed so much since then and simple things folks used to do, like drinking during pregnancy, are so taboo now! I also think - wow - will my kids see a show made about growing up in the 80's or 90's and think that what we did was so crazy and ancient? Strange to think about.

I am grateful for Mad Men.

That's all I can say right now, cause we have the season finale to watch - so I have to stop blogging and start watching. Yay!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 315.

Wow, I really only have 50 days of gratitude left. Seriously, 50 DAYS?! That seems hard to believe considering that means I've been doing it for 315 days. Yeah, I know that I type that in every day - Day ____. But really stoping to think about it - that I've been grateful for 315 things - is pretty amazing.

I am grateful for my readers.

I haven't wanted to quit ever, but I have gotten in a few valleys - mostly times when I leave two or three or six days without posting and have to sit and do them all at once...that sucked. But, I'm back on track and plan to finish strong. Who do I have to thank?

You my dear readers. Yes, I did this for myself, but you have kept me going. I still find it hard to believe that you all think I'm interesting enough to keep reading on a daily know, more than my husband, sister and mother.

Day 314.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009.

I vaguely remember my high school and college days when money was a little more abstract, and going to the mall was the best way to pass my time. I wasn't buying designer jeans, just enjoyed perusing Old Navy, so while my purchases were cheap, they were plentiful. Fast forward to today, and the only shopping I do these days is in three categories:

1. for my children - they are the way I make a fashion statement - and lately that means hand me downs and whatever is on the $4.00 table at Target.
2. for gifts - Christmas or birthday or wedding shopping is still VERY fun for me.
3. for myself on impulse, usually less than $20 and with a huge mega-dose of guilt on the side.

So, to shop (mostly) guilt-free for myself is divine. I occasionally long to be the cute, hip mom in skinny jeans and tall boots with dangly earrings and a fun top. Usually I am the mom in the 5-year old Old Navy sweater that has shrunk because I've dried it out of laziness too many times, paired with designer jeans (because that's the only thing I do spend time and money on these days related to fashion).

I am grateful for shopping!!

My aunt Jeanie here to help with the kids, I stole away for 2 hours and rushed downtown. I hit five stores in an hour and a half and tried on about 30 things. I walked out of there with a complete outfit: skinny jeans, fun dressy top, dangly earings, cute bracelet. Now all I need are the boots, and I'm hoping to secure those tomorrow.

So, my credit card bill will be moaning for awhile...but me...for now (until I read the credit card bill) I'll be stylin'.

Note: for those of you that are reading this and might see me in this new outfit this weekend, please be kind...I'm making it sound like it's transformative or's just an outfit. So, lower your expectations now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 313.

Monday, November 9, 2009.

I am grateful for the Secret Clubhouse.

Dylan has been wanting her own Secret Clubhouse for several months now. She wanted to build one - with wood. Yeah...not so much happening in our condo or in our shared urban backyard. So, I convinced her that a big huge cardboard box would suffice. I told her we could still paint it and she could decorate it however she wanted. I called an appliance store and asked for them to save me a huge box, and we went and picked it up! So easy!

Here is our beautiful creation. It's only partially done (we were going to paint the roof, make curtains, put a door knob on, paint shutters...), but I have a feeling this is maybe how it will stay. Just because it's functional, they play in it all the time, and so any further aesthetic is probably for my benefit only. It's hard to get motivated to finish something that is functioning, well, perfectly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 312.

I've mentioned my tendencies to worry incessantly on this blog. Mostly about my kids, but often about, well, anything. It's who I am.

Enter the best book I've ever read. Ok, so I say that about a lot of things. My husband makes fun of me because I'm always speaking in superlatives. "This is the best sushi I've ever eaten!" or "That was the best movie I've ever seen!" or "This is the best thai restaurant we've ever been to!" I'm just a passionate person, what can I say? When I love something, I LOVE IT. (He should be thrilled right? Afterall, I LOVE him!) Anyways, it might not be THE BEST book I've ever read, but it's the most timely and might turn out to be the most important book I've ever read. As my friend Megan (who thankfully recommended the book to me) put it: In reading this book, "I feel like I've been hit over the head with a brick. In a good way."

That totally sums up this book for me too. I love it on so many levels, even though most of what she's saying is common sense. It reveals this common sense in a humorous, insightful way that makes you redefine how you parent. Yikes...not another book to help me redefine who I am as a parent!! But stick with me - it's not in an overwhelming "I have to say this and do that or my kid is going to be totally screwed up" kind of way. It's a "trust your kids, let your kids walk to school, throw out all your other parenting books and just RELAX" kind of way.

I am grateful for Free Range Kids.

Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, by Lenore Skenazy.

This morning, as my kids watched Backyardigans, I read this book and drank tea (that's a good sign too, when I choose READING over internet time in the morning with my tea). I was in the chapter "Get Braver: Quit Trying to Control Everything. It Doesn't Work Anyway." And I just started tearing up. I was so grateful for what I was reading.

It's funny - Lenore isn't a parenting expert (in fact she's been criticized by many), but she's written one of the best parenting books I've ever read. She's a columnist and humorist, but because she let her 10 year old son ride the New York City Subway and got dubbed "America's Worst Mom" by the media, she wrote a book that gives me great hope. For less worry and for more living!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 311.

I am grateful for some self time.

Thanks to Jason for encouraging me to go out and do something just for me today. It was so great to get out of our messy house for a few hours! I started my day at a Make Your Own Toys workshop which was incredibly fun. We learned wool felting techniques and I was shocked how much I loved it. It was extremely fun and I am really excited about the possibilities. I really want to try and make some more toys soon! Then I went to my fave Hyde Park lunch spot, Z & H Market Cafe for lunch - the ducky salad is DIVINE there. Yum. Then off to do a bit of shopping up on North Ave. I got Jason two shirt/tie options for an upcoming wedding. I bought a wedding gift at Crate and Barrel, and I just enjoyed being in a store by myself. :)

I do admit I was ready to hug my kiddos by the time I got home six hours later. But those six hours were very special. Thanks, Jason! Let's make this a habit.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 310.

The kids and I ate at Panang on Chicago for lunch today, with a dear college friend, Allison. She was in Chicago for a few days helping to chaperone an art trip, so it was so fun to reconnect with her! The kids were great, letting us gab on for most of the time, inserting funny faces or comments here and there. Of course it helped that they were stuffing their faces with Pad Thai Tofu and loving every bite (oh yeah, and mangoes and sticky rice! my fave!).

I am grateful for an outside perspective.

Alison commented a couple of times when one kid did something cute or funny..."How do you just not smile at them all day long? I'm like constantly smiling!" It was so kind for her to say, and such a good reminder...that even though there are timeouts and tantrums and diarrhea and backtalk...there is so much to be thankful for. These two beautiful children give me daily joy, and while it is so stressful at times and all I'm doing is trying to find a way to escape...I always come back to their two faces staring back at me in love. How can I really get that mad?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 309.

I did a workout video this morning: The 30 Day Shred. It's my favorite to do when I don't have more than 30 minutes to devote to exercising. Guess who joined me?

I am grateful that Dylan did the workout with me.

She lasted through the whole thing. I was amazed. She often starts the thing with me and moves onto something else by halfway through. Today she did it all, only taking a couple of breaks to lay on the couch for a few moments ("Phew! I'm tired!"). The last two minutes of hard cardio, we were doing jumping jacks, butt kicks, punches and jumping rope and we motivated each other. I just kept yelling, "You can do it! Keep going - we're almost there. It's almost time for the cool down! (she loves the cool down)" and she stayed up. It was awesome.

After the video Dylan said, "I'm sweaty from being shredded."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 308.

We went to the park after preschool today, to have a picnic and play. It turned out to be quite the gorgeous day, weather-wise. It had said 40's and cloudy, but when we got to the park it was sunny and 50's. Beautiful. So, we basically didn't eat and played our hearts out - for about 20 minutes, when Dylan suddenly announced in the pirate ship that "I have to go poopies!"

I am grateful to have made it to the bathroom.

This feat is not to be taken lightly. We were in a very large park, and I panicked, not knowing where we would go to make this happen. Usually when Dylan finally accepts that she needs to go to the bathroom and tells me, we don't have much time. So, I threw everything in the stroller (including Noah - Dylan needed to walk to help "hold it") and we rushed to the park's bathroom - a good several hundred feet away. Well, we got there and LOCKED! Ugghhh. She would start walking faster and it would make her have to go more, so we had to find this balance of quick walking without going too fast to make her go right there in the middle of the park. In a split decision, I decided we'd take our chances with the Jewish Community Center, knowing it was locked, but hoping they would take pity on us (What would I say, I wondered - my daughter is going to poop her pants...PLEASE?!?!?!?). Lucky for us, they quickly buzzed us in and didn't even ask why we were there. We MADE IT! And we even got to sit there for 10 minutes (that's about how long the process takes with Dylan because you have to tell stories) in an immaculately clean bathroom, as opposed to a park district hell hole.

So for all those who think this is a ridiculous thing to be grateful for, you must have never cleaned up a 4 year old's poop-filled underpants...and you surely have never made them walk 5 blocks home in them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 307.

I know I've talked about this at some point this year, but I guess life has been so busy, when it slows down, you notice. This week, not much is going on. My mom was in town yesterday, but besides that, life is simple this week. Besides our normal routine of preschool, soccer and violin, we have nothing going on. It is divine.

I am grateful for a week at home.

We tooled around this morning, took a mid-morning bath and played until they requested to get out - no me pushing them to "play for 5 more minutes" so we can wash up and get out. I played with them and then I actually went through the bathroom cabinets to toss and organize what was in there. Stuff like that doesn't get done if you go on too many field trips or playdates! So, we reveled in our simpleness, went to the grocery store and hardware store on foot, and hung out this afternoon, playing people and stringing beads for Dylan and Mommy time. It felt good to live in our own lives, and not rush through it.

Day 306.

Monday, November 2, 2009.

Had Dylan's first parent-teacher conference today. It's so funny to go and talk about your child with people that see her for several times a day without you there. I was so curious what they would say! Was she herself at school? (yes!) Was she shy? (no!) Was she making friends? (yes!)

I am grateful that Dylan is thriving in preschool.

I am also grateful for the great school that she is at - KAM has been a wonderful place for her so far, and I am so happy we are there. It is so focused on play, and has no "standards" to which the students should be at. It just knows that they are preschoolers, learning to interact with one another and have fun together and need to play, play, play! When I mentioned that Dylan had told me a story about her stepping on a classmate's hand on accident and how she was too shy to say "sorry," the teachers quickly assured me that was OK. They said, "Some kids can say sorry very easily and it's very hard for others. They say sorry with their eyes, and so we tell the other kids that they are sorry, and we move on." A good reminder for me too, when sometimes I feel the need for my kids to "say sorry like you mean it."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 305.

Remember my Toy Story post not even a month ago? Remember the innocence I wanted to keep in my children - not pushing them to grow up too soon, especially because of media that I chose for them? too. NOW I do.

I checked out Pinocchio from the library and thought it was a good family movie night choice. From my memory of the movie, it was pretty tame. I took them to a children's theater production of Pinocchio a few years ago, and it wasn't scary. So, we sat down with popcorn, grapes, cheese and turkey roll-ups to enjoy it together this evening.

Then, I got this feeling I should check out I usually do (with fuller feature-length stuff, which they've hardly watched any of), and didn't know why I hadn't done it before for Pinocchio. Here's what I read:

"Some scenes and themes may be intense for younger or sensitive viewers, such as when Pinocchio is kidnapped and caged, threatened with destruction, can't find his father, and/or nearly drowns. They should also be aware that Pinocchio's friend Lampwick introduces him to cigar smoking, but is punished for it. Kids may be disturbed by Pleasure Island, where "bad boys" are turned into donkeys and sent to work in salt mines."

Ummm...yeah. Then I read parent reviews:

"this is the most inapropreate G movie i have ever scene!!!!!! and for these ressons: there is underage drinking and smoking, some vilonce and peril, and language like "jackass". I think they should have rated it PG-13. Or at least a PG because having it G rated with all that stuff in it is wrong!"

Ok, get over the fact that she can't spell inappropriate or reasons or violence. And it's just one parent (there were other negative reviews on there). But that was enough to make me frown. I passed the laptop to Jason to read, as Jiminy Cricket was finishing "When You Wish Upon a Star." We did some parent sign language and lip reading to agree this was not a good idea.

I am grateful for white lies.

I am not a fan of lying to my children. Most often, I would rather tell them the truth and have something difficult to explain than to lie to them. But I also felt like an idiot. I checked this movie out for them - they didn't pick it, and they didn't even care about watching it. I wanted to watch it with them, and Jason and I are always looking for fun things to watch with them for our occasional movie nights. I didn't feel like explaining why I didn't look at the reviews ahead of time or why it wasn't appropriate. I just felt like turning it off and watching Pooh...or something equally as harmless. These are our babies, and by golly, what is the rush to expose them to "jackass" and kidnapping. I don't feel like I'm sheltering them, but rather just not pushing them over the media cliff too soon.

So, Jason gave me the go ahead and I pushed stop. We both did a really bad job (but sufficient for this age bracket) of acting...and we easily convinced them the DVD wasn't working. They didn't care one bit, and we chose a Backyardigans episode that we all thoroughly enjoyed.

Day 304.

Saturday, October 31, 2009.

Halloween on Harper Ave. in Hyde Park is a blast. We haven't gone over there in a few years (thought it might be too crazy/scary for the kids), but now that they are a little older, we braved it.

I am grateful for the Harper Ave. residents who put on quite the Halloween spectacle!

People that live on this street go through hundreds of dollars of candy each year (that's PER house). One person said her friend who lives there gave away over 2000 pieces last year. Wait, WHAT?!?! Two-thousand?! After being there at 4:30pm and seeing the madness (and know it continues and even gets busier up until 8pm), I believe it! No one there even goes inside - all the homeowners participating just sit on their front porch or steps and have HUGE pots or cauldrons full of candy. You have to wait in line to get to the front of the house. It's just one big traffic jam.

The kids had SO much fun, but it was funny how timid they were to go to the doors and say trick or treat. I finally gave up saying "Say Trick-or-Treat!"

Some of the fun of trick-or-treating is actually ringing the doorbell and waiting for someone to answer. And there is no time for homeowners to stop and admire anyone's costume - they are just working like machines to throw candy into pumpkins and get on to the next kid. So, some of that part is lost. But they make up for it with their elaborate decorations and even their own adult costumes. They go ALL OUT, and we hyde parkers appreciate it. It has to be pretty overwhelming to live on those two blocks for Halloween. I think you'd have to either participate or go out of town. Thanks Harper residents!