Saturday, July 30, 2005

It seemed like a good idea . . .

Way back in early June, we were at a charity silent auction. Big D bid on and "won" a sailing charter for six on Lake Michigan. At the time, we figured it would be a great thing to do with his cousin (C) and her husband (T) who are here visiting this weekend. The Chicago skyline is beautiful from the lake and we thought we could bring some nice food and wine. If the weather cooperated, it would be a really nice night. We even negotiated for an extra hour - four hours boating on the lake. It would be great!

At the beginning of the week, the weather sucked. It was hot and humid and just generally sucky. But Thursday came around, the heat wave broke and Friday, the day of our sailing trip, was a gorgeous day.

Big D and T went to Whole Foods and got some yummy treats. We packed a cooler and went to the boat at 5 p.m. The boat was beautiful. I don't know much about sailing or boats or anything but this was pretty nice. It had two bedrooms and bathrooms, a teeny kitchen, a table and a small desk. The benches were covered in a creamy, soft leather.

As we moved out of the harbor, we all went on deck to feel the cool breeze. It started out great. M-Girl asked for some food so we broke out the shrimp. She, A-Girl and Big D ate a few. I was worried I might get queasy so I held off on the food which turned out to be the best choice. As soon as we got out of the harbor, we hit the choppy waves. Apparently, the Northeast wind brings cool breezes but also makes the lake near Chicago quite wavy. (As I write this, I'm feeling the sensation of the boat moving with the waves!). After about five minutes, I looked over at T and could tell he wasn't feeling very well. He made his way to the front deck and not long after that, my husband went to the side of the boat. You can guess what happened to both of them eventually.

After an hour, my husband asked the captain to turn around and head back. In the meantime, M-Girl fell asleep on my lap. A-Girl and C were the only ones doing well. I was ok as long as I kept looking at the horizon. If I looked down at all, the queasiness started and I had to look up again. I couldn't even look in a camera lens long enough to take a picture (although I did manage to get two pictures of M-Girl helping to pilot the boat after she woke up).

When we were getting fairly close to the harbor, M-Girl had to go to the bathroom which was below deck. Big D and I looked at each other in a panic, knowing that neither of us could go below without throwing up and he said "Can't you hold it?" She, of course, said she couldn't. One of the crew members was a wonderful woman and she took M-Girl to the bathroom but as soon as M-Girl got back up, she joined her father at the side of the boat and promptly threw up what little dinner she ate. Here I am, staring at the horizon watching my little one toss her cookies out of the corner of my eye while a virtual stranger holds on to her and brushes her hair off of her face. Yet another great moment in parenting!

A-Girl was ok until near the end when she made the mistake of covering her face with her sweater. Within minutes she joined M-Girl and her dad at the side of the boat.

What I feel the worst about is that we put our guests through that experience! T's a surfer, I guess we figured he'd like being on the water. Now I know that being a surfer doesn't make one immune to sea sickness. Unfortunately for T, I had to learn that at his expense.

I would hate for our experience to reflect poorly on the charter company. They were fabulous and our problems were a result of our own weak constitutions! For anyone who is into sailing, it's a really nice boat and Joe and Daneen (the captain and crew) were wonderful. If you're ever in Chicago and want to try it out, I would recommend it. Go to Windy City Sailing for more information.

Friday, July 29, 2005

I'm overwhelmed. And tired. I need a break but don't really have time. I'm slacking off at work because I'm so tired I can barely concentrate. My office is a mess. I should be cleaning it but I don't want to. I should be doing a lot of things that I just don't want to do. If I was saying this out loud, I'd sound like a four-year old - (imagine, if you can stand it, an irritating whine) "But I don't wanna do it!"

Here's what I want to do. Go home. Take one or more of the several books I am reading and go out on my balcony. With a beer. And sit. Until the sun goes down. Then I want to get in bed, put on some CSI re-run and knit. Then sleep. And sleep. And sleep. Until I wake up on my own - without an alarm and without a child waking me up. Then I want to go to Starbucks with my laptop, have a latte and write and read. For the whole day. Without interruption. And then I'd go to a movie. And then I'd sleep, a lot.

Unfortunately, I can't do that. I can't do anything even close to that. We have houseguests again and we're taking them on some charter sailboat which under other circumstances would be really fun. But today - I'm not sure. At least the weather is very nice, finally. Hopefully I won't get seasick!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The green eyed monster

Technically, I have no time to post. But I just had to share the reason I'm an green with envy at my husband. I really am ok with the fact that he gets to take A-Girl to Asia. (No, really, I am. And for those of you who haven't read my archives - my daughter is in the Asian tour of The Sound of Music this fall as Marta.) It was the best decision for all involved but I do have some level of jealousy at the fact that he gets to travel around Asia watching our baby perform in a really big shooow. And he'll get to see all kinds of cool things without me. I was used to that level of jealousy and just starting to get over it.

But now - now I am really jealous. Here's why: they get to attend the grand opening of Disneyland Hong Kong. I know, how disgustingly touristy and American of me but, seriously - how cool is that going to be. And given that the kids are going to get to sing at the Miss Hong Kong Pageant and do all kinds of other neato promotional stuff, there's a good chance that they'll be special guests of some kind at Disney. They might not have to wait in line for the good rides!

Well, now that I'm done whining, I have to go home to get ready for the "cast party" my husband planned this evening. A-Girl is in rehearsals all week with all of the other kids in the cast and she's the only one from Chicago. So, Big D invited everyone over for a pool and Chicago-style pizza party at our apartment. I'm excited to meet the people they'll be travelling with so that's good but I've been in Board meetings for two days straight and I'm sort of in the mood to knit and watch hours of CSI. But that will have to wait!

Friday, July 22, 2005

An ode to caffeine

I don't fall asleep in meetings. Well, ok - when I was still nursing at all hours of the night, I was known to nod off during the day now and again. But now that I'm back on the sauce (coffee), I don't fall asleep anymore - until this morning. For the first time in forever, I didn't have time to get coffee on my way to work this morning. I had an audit committee meeting to attend and I didn't want to be late so I came in without my java. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to hear that audit committee meetings are generally boring. Very, very boring.

I managed to make it through the first part of the meeting ok but after an hour, I just couldn't take it anymore and had to close my eyes. Hopefully I was covering it well. I use a Tablet PC to take notes and I usually have it on my lap because it's more comfortable that way. So I was looking down with the "pen" in my right hand and my head in my left hand (to prevent the head bob thing). Don't know if I succeeded in looking more like a serious note-taker than someone struggling to stay awake. On a good note - I did learn that I can take notes with my eyes closed! And they're almost legible!

Monday, July 18, 2005

To struggle is to learn

I watch as M-Girl struggles to keep her head above water. I want her to wear her water wings but she really doesn't want to. She can't quite swim - she can tread water and she manages to move small distances. She generally stays near the wall or the lane markers so there's always something to grab onto. But I wish she would wear the water wings until she's a stronger swimmer. Then I realize that she won't become a stronger swimmer wearing water wings. She'll only become stronger through the struggle.

I've always had a hard time watching my children struggle. When A-Girl was first learning how to put on her pajamas she'd always put both legs in one pant leg. It drove me crazy to watch so I'd help her. Then it dawned on me - the reason I'm able to put my pants on correctly is because I've had many, many years of practice. I had to learn to allow A-Girl to struggle to do it on her own and she's been a pro at putting on her own clothes for a few years now. I didn't actually get comfortable with watching the struggle. I just learned to leave the room whenever I had an overpowering urge to help when I shouldn't.

I imagine the same policy applies to all kinds of things. It's natural to want to help our children avoid mistakes that we've made. It's important to provide guideance and advice. But to do it too much robs them of experience that's important to their development. We have to let them struggle sometimes so that they can grow.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ranting about Goody Bags

CityMama had this to say about goody bags today. I was going to comment on her post but realized that I have a lot to say about goody bags so I thought I'd do my own post. I also have lots of rants on kids' birthday parties generally but that will have to wait until another day. So many complaints, so little time . . .

First of all, I agree with her dislike of goody bags - or at least the types of goody bags that are given out at parties here in Chicago. In my experience, there are three types of goody bags: 1) just plain junk including any type of sugar and choking-hazard plastic toys; 2) the way-over-the-top party favor that includes gifts more expensive than the gift you got the birthday kid and 3) the just-right party favor that's not junk, not candy and not too extravagant. As you can imagine, I strive for the third type.

We have a rule - we will not give candy in goody bags. We allow our kids to have a reasonable amount of sugar - we don't deny it completely - but moderation is a good thing. Kids generally get more than enough junk food and they ALWAYS get cake at a party. There's no reason to give them more sugar after the party.

At A-Girl's fifth birthday party we gave Hello Kitty notepads, erasers and pencils. We actually spent a lot of time thinking of something that would work for both boys and girls (the boys got a notepad featuring one of HK's male character friends). We made sure we had matching bags and twist tied each one. After I handed a bag to one of A-Girl's classmates, she immediately looked inside and said "Where's the candy!? There's no candy!" My mouth fell open. I looked at the child's mother who was standing.right.there. She said nothing. Nothing! I would have been mortified if my kid did something like that (and as you can tell from yesterday's post, I would have corrected her immediately and had her apologize).

M-Girl was at a party for a classmate who was turning four. All nineteen kids in the class plus other friends, plus lots of parents, were there. The goody bags were actually shoebox-size pirate chests filled with candy, plastic rings, a fairly large action figure toy and a pirate costume (hat, bandana and eye patch). The kids got Crayola umbrellas at one party and 200 piece Crayola crayon/market sets at another (same crazy mom who happens to be a good friend). Recently, they each got really nice books on Rainforest animals that have a puzzle on every page.

I don't judge what other people do. I realize how easy it is to go to the party store, pick up a bunch of plastic do-dads and toss them in plastic bags just so that you have something to give away. I also realize how easy it is to throw some candy in there to appease the savages. I also know the urge to do something different that perhaps gets a bit out of hand and ends up on the pricey end of things. Pretty much everyone gives goody bags or party favors so it would feel chintzy to me not to give something. Plus the kids like brainstorming about what to give and helping to put the bags together.

This topic reminds me that M-Girl's birthday party is a little more than a week away and I have no idea what to do for goody bags. Given how crazy things are these days, that junk aisle at the party store is looking pretty good right now.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Philosophy of parenting

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”-Goethe

I saw this quote today and it sums up our parenting philosophy so well I just had to share it.

It makes me want to scream when I hear parents say "Boys will be boys!" while watching their little hellion run roughshod over other children at the playground. I shudder when I hear parents say "Oh, she's shy," while their daughter refuses to reply to someone who's asked her name.

The fact is, if you believe that boys cannot control their impulses you won't teach them. If you don't teach them, how are they going to learn to do it? If you don't start teaching them when they're toddlers that it's wrong to cut in front of another child at the slide, when exactly are they going to learn? Do you think they'll arrive at kindergarten all ready to stand in line and sit in a circle? Not if you haven't taught them that they need to do it and, more importantly, that they are capable of doing it.

If you don't tell your child that it's rude to ignore someone who's speaking to them, how are they going to learn to respond politely? If your child hears you say that she's shy, she'll believe it and continue to act shy.

(This one is a particular pet peeve of mine. When our youngest had hearing problems, she would often not respond because she couldn't hear the question. However, people so quickly jumped to the conclusion that she was shy and would say that to her as if it's ok, or even good, to be shy! The day we heard her older sister use that as an excuse for M-Girl, we put a stop to it. We repeatedly told M-Girl (nicely) that it was rude not to respond when someone speaks to her. If someone said "Oh, she's shy," we immediately said "No, she's not" and we'd press M-Girl to respond. She didn't always respond but we kept reinforcing the lesson. One day, she said "hello" to someone before they even spoke to her. She looked at me, beaming, and said "Mommy! I said hello to that man!" She was so proud of herself. She's not as verbal as her older sister - few people are - but she's friendly and much more outgoing than she used to be because she learned to be. But I digress.)

As long as your expectations are reasonable, your children will strive to live up to them. I'm not suggesting that you should expect your one-year-old to be able to stand in line. But just because she's not ready to do it doesn't mean you shouldn't correct her when she cuts in front of another child. If she hears the lesson consistently, she'll be able to comply by the time she's two or three. If you wait until she's three to start teaching the lesson, she'll have two years of bad habits to overcome and she's a lot more likely to fight you on it.

We do our children (and ourselves) a disservice by not teaching them how to behave from an early age. It's important that, as they grow up - and even once they're grown - we see them and treat them as their "best" selves, even though they won't always act that way. That doesn't mean being blind to their faults and praising them even when they don't deserve it. It means teaching them that they are capable of being polite and respectful while having fun. It means showing them the value of hard work and perseverance.

Ok. I'm off my soapbox. We now return you to our regularly scheduled navel gazing . . .

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


*This post is my first entry into the Blogging for Books contest*

Write about a pivotal point in your life as a parent, OR write about a pivotal point in your relationship with one of your parents.

The quarters were disappearing.

We kept them on my dresser in the "wedding box" - a small, cheesy jewelry box decorated with shells, glitter paint and a plastic wedding cake couple. They were for the giant washing machine in the laundry room that we thankfully didn't need to use much. We also tossed a few in the car now and again for toll-booth encounters during our bi-annual trips to Wisconsin.

I never checked the box and I never knew from one day to the next how many coins were in there. It's not my thing. My husband is the money person in our family (and the math person - I'm the one who writes the thank you notes). He noticed one day that the level of quarters seemed a bit low since he had just put a handful in the box a few days earlier. He asked if I had done any laundry in the laundry room lately, but alas, I hadn't had much time to wash the comforters since our three-year old daughter was born. And with a new baby in the house . . . well, washing a comforter wasn't real high on my list of things to do at the time.

My husband suggested that perhaps the nanny was taking the quarters, which was highly unlikely since our nanny's family back in Mexico had more money than God and she was only doing this job for "fun" (and to get away from her rich family for awhile). Not that rich people don't swipe other people's quarters, she just wasn't the type. And I didn't want to contemplate the possibility that we were leaving our children with someone who could have even such minor criminal inclinations.

I promised to keep my eye on the wedding box for awhile to see if I could figure out where the quarters were going.

One night, I was folding laundry in my bedroom with my three-year old running back and forth between my room and hers. After one particularly quick round trip, she jumped up on my bed and giggled. My child laughed often but she wasn't much of a giggler and this particular giggle sounded mighty suspicious.

I gave her my serious mommy look, "What are you doing?"
*giggle* "Nothin'" *giggle* *smirk*
Narrowing my eyes and leaning closer, "Ok. What's up? What were you doing in your room?"
*giggle* "Putting moneys in my piggy bank." *giggle*
Hmmm. "What money?" Click - lightbulb. "Are you taking quarters out of the wedding box?"
"Uh huh!" Full out laughter now.
I started to laugh with her.

And then it hit me. She was stealing. Granted, it was small and in the scheme of things, it wasn't a big deal. And she was young. But the responsibility for teaching her right from wrong falls to me and her dad and we believe that children are never too young to start learning important lessons. And as much as I wanted to laugh with her and be her friend, I knew deep down that although I am and will be many things to her throughout the rest of my life, I cannot be her friend. I am her teacher, her mentor, her shoulder to cry on. I am her rock, her role model and her coach. At that moment, I realized how much responsibility it is to be a parent.

So, I lectured her on the evils of stealing, sent her to a time out and took her favorite doll away. Then I went back into my room, closed the door and laughed my ass off.

Friday, July 01, 2005

War of the Worlds

I saw it. I liked it. Ok, it scared the bajeepers out of me but I still liked it. I feel the urge to stock up on bottled water and canned goods. And also build a bomb shelter in my basement. But I live in a high rise so that probably wouldn't work. Maybe we could use our storage lockers, though.

My favorite line (that no one else laughed at - go figure):

Son: What's happening Dad?!?
Tom Cruise: We're being attacked!
Son: By who? Terrorists?
TC: No, they come from a . . . different place.
Son: What, like Europe?
TC: NO! Not Europe!

I thought that was hilarious.

Although the movie has its amusing moments it is definitely not for children. We took our kids to Star Wars but the scary parts of that movie are relatively easy to explain. And I covered their eyes when I didn't want them to see something. But this movie is different - in the beginning, it looks and feels like every day life and that's what makes it so scary. Not that I think aliens are going to attack. But movies like this remind me how fragile life is and how much we take for granted. You'd think I would get that from the daily news but (a) I don't watch the news because it's depressing and (b) there's nothing like a giant screen full of people getting vaporized by aliens in surround sound to bring home the point.

Seriously though, I think War of the Worlds scared me because A-Girl and Big D are going to Asia and M-Girl and I will be here without them. Life will feel less safe and secure when our little family isn't together. Big D and I talk on the phone at least four or five times during the average work day. What if there's an emergency here or in China? What if Big D and I can't communicate for some length of time? Even when things are fine, we probably won't be able to talk every day but if there's a problem and we can't touch base, I'm not sure how I'll be able to handle it. Hopefully I won't stand around in my high heels screaming ineffectively and waiting for the hero to come save me. That would really suck.

The devil is in the details

Do not accuse me of being detail oriented. Really, don't. Because I have proved yet again that I am not so good with the details.

M-Girl's 5th birthday is coming up and we're planning a party. She has asked me everyday for the last week "When are we going to do my birthday cards?" (translation: cards=invitations). Last night when she walked in the door there was no "Hi, Mom!", "I love you, Mom!" or "What's for dinner?" It was "Mom! Did you buy the things for my birthday?!?!?" (translation: things=invitations). Luckily for me I had and after dinner we set out to fill in the blanks. Big D and I decided to start the party at 10:30 am because that would give the kids time to swim before we eat lunch around noon and then the party would end at 1:00pm.

M-Girl and I managed to finish 16 of the 20 invitations before she was falling asleep at the table, gel pen in hand. Big D and I addressed, sealed and stamped the completed invitations. M-Girl woke at the crack of dawn asking to finish her invitations. (Yes, this is the same child who can't get out of bed most mornings without much coaxing, cajoling and general coddling.) So we finished the last four and she proudly showed one to her sister who furrowed her brow and said "Mom, why does the invitation say 11:30? I thought you guys decided on 10:30?"

You guessed it, on every single one of the invitations, I wrote 11:30am as the start time instead of 10:30am. I can just see us now, sitting in the party room for an hour wondering where the hell everyone is! And having everyone wonder why M-Girl's party was only an hour and a half instead of the traditional (and reasonable) two to three hours.

I tried to steam the envelopes open but I burned my fingers and ruined the invitation on the first one so that wasn't going to work. I ended up opening every invitation with a letter opener, changing the time and taping the envelopes shut. So instead of wondering why M-Girl is having a short birthday party, everyone will wonder which of their neighbors opened their kid's mail! Nice.

Thank goodness A-Girl has a fabulous memory and is far more detail oriented than I am. Big D is very detail-oriented but I apparently have far too much faith in my ability to get the details right and I didn't ask him to check even one of the invitations to make sure I got it right. I'd love to say that I've learned my lesson but we all know this will happen again. I just hope that someone like A-Girl or Big D is looking over my shoulder!