Aug 25, 2011

Air and Water Show 2011

Last weekend was the Chicago Air and Water show. Like usual, they do their show on North Beach but fly north and south to turn around. And they turn around right over our house. We've really enjoyed it these past fiew years, and this year we were afraid there wasn't going to be a show. It poured on saturday, right in the middle of the show. We stared at the water coming down in sheets, chanting 'rain, rain, go away, come again another day.'

Fortunately, it did. And DH got some great pictures, like always. Enjoy!

Aug 17, 2011

Cubs Birthday Cake

I made a birthday cake over the weekend for a good friends' son. It's kind of become tradition, since I've been doing this for the past four years. :) Anyway, this year he wanted something with the Chicago Cubs on it, so this is what I came up with.

He loved it, which is what's important. :) Though Youngest took one look at it and said "That doesn't look like a real baseball."

*sigh* He's already a critic...

Aug 9, 2011

Blue Belt Test

Back in April, I joined a dojo in my neighborhood. I've always wanted to learn a martial art, ever since I was a kid. But it never worked out, and as I got older it was easy to shrug it off.

Then I had to have knee surgery. That scared the crap out of me, mostly because my body has never given out on me before and there's still lots I want to do. I realized that if I never tried to learn a martial art, I would seriously regret it. So, I signed up to learn karate as soon as my doctor and physical therapist gave me the go-ahead. This was back in April.

A few weeks ago, my teachers asked me to test for my blue belt! I was so excited, and I felt ready, so I agreed. And I passed! Here are some pictures.

May 25, 2011

Blue Belts!

My kids got their blue belts in karate last Saturday!

They are so happy. Their test was quite the challenge, but not because of the material--all the kids knew their stuff. If they didn't, then they wouldn't have been invited to test. The challenge was that there were so many kids there! I'm guessing around fifty, all between the ages of five and eight. There were four different ranks, and the groups of kids got smaller as the ranks got higher. The two largest groups were the two lowest ranks, which is where my kids were.

The teachers did a great job of managing all of them, but, really, it was like herding cats. They had a mind to go in all different directions, and keeping them on the same track took a lot of effort. If I'd been running this event, I'd have needed a nap immediately afterward. :)

Out of the twenty or so in my kids' group, I'm guessing there's only two who've truly been bitten by the karate bug. They're the ones who will continue on to the higher ranked belts. They're always so focused on the teachers, doing exactly what they've been told, and trying as hard as they absolutely can to get their technique right. There isn't an ounce of laziness or tiredness in their training.

Oldest is one of those kids, and a six-year-old girl is the other. Youngest tries hard, listens, and trains to the best of his ability, but he doesn't have the focus that Oldest and this other girl have. I wouldn't be surprised if he lost interest down the road. Then again, he's surprised me with much bigger things, so maybe this will be another one. :)

In the mean time, though, they're thrilled about getting their blue belts. They even slept with the actual belt Saturday night. :)

May 11, 2011

How Old Is Too Old?

Oldest still believes in the Easter Bunny. And the Tooth Fairy. And Santa. When he was younger, he used to believe that everything he read in books was real, too: fairies, leprechans, dragons, talking and thinking robots, talking trains, etc. Which, of course, is perfectly natural.

He doesn't believe everything in books anymore because I've explained that they're just stories. Someone made all those things up and then wrote them down--like I do. He knows I'm a writer and that I make up stories, so he made the connection pretty quickly.

But then there's these other characters that are in every day life, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. He fervently believes in those, draws pictures for them and writes letters and everything. And I've been contributing to this belief. Of course I have. It's what parents do, because it's fun to have gifts appear from some magical source, and I have fun getting creative about it every year.

But he's almost eight years old now. I know that at least one of his friends figured out the Tooth Fairy, but I'm not sure about Santa or the Easter Bunny. I can't remember how old I was when I found out my mom was behind it all, and I have no clue how it was all revealed. So I can't use this as a gauge for my own kids. I'm a tiny bit worried that my profession as a story teller is working a little too well in perpetuating the belief in these fictional characters, and I have no idea what to do about it.

How old were you when you found out about Santa et al? How old were your kids? Am I being silly to worry about this? :)

May 4, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

The most awesome Kelly Hashway has given me yet another award, and a gorgeous one at that. Thank you, Kelly!!

So, now, I have to share seven things about myself...hmmm.

1. I love changing seasons, so much that I can't really pick a favorite. The current season is always my favorite, and by the time the next one rolls around, I'm ready for it. Like now--I'm SO ready for spring, but it seems to be avoiding Chicago right now. :(

2. I've never been to Canada. Or Mexico. But I've been to ten other countries around the world, some of them third world (I know, it makes no sense).

3. I've never been to Vegas, but I've been to a zillion other places around the country.

4. I can't stand running. Seriously. I hate it. And yet I love playing soccer with my kids, which is all running. Go figure. :)

5. I love pedicures.

6. I'm anxiously awaiting the day that my kids can throw and catch a baseball so that we can go outside and play catch. I'm hoping Oldest will be willing to try it out this summer...

7. I have wanted to learn a martial art since I was a teenager, and I finally joined a karate dojo last month. Took me long enough... But, hey, better late than never. :)

Now's the best part! I get to pass this award on to other stylish bloggers. :)

If you haven't visited any of these blogs, you should. They are made of awesome! Thanks again, Kelly!!

Apr 27, 2011

Basket of Grapes Cake

On monday night, my kids school put on a Teacher Appreciation Dinner. They do this every year, and the dinner is prepared and served by parents. I always decorate two cakes (different flavors), but this year I did something different. I made one huge cake--three 8" round layers, combined with a sheet cake cut into thirds. I alternated layers of chocolate and spice cake. Then I assembled it all and decorated it to look like a basket of grapes.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I didn't account for the hugeness of the cake, and it was a little unstable when I went to move it (I've never made anything this big before). Plus, I used real grapes instead of making fondant grapes, and the juice mixed with the frosting a little too much, causing it to ooze a bit. But it held up, and I got it to the dinner in one piece. :)

Apr 19, 2011

Jingle Bells in April?

Yesterday, we woke up to a half inch of snow on the ground. Yeah, not exactly spring weather... It didn't help that I wasn't feeling all that great, because I kept waking up cold the night before.

So, I went downstairs to get breakfast for the kids, and Youngest ran to the window.

Youngest: It snowed! Look, Mommy!
Me: (not looking) Yeah, I noticed.
Youngest: (singing) Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way!
Me: No no no! No Jingle Bells, sweetie. Okay?
Youngest: (confused) But, Jingle Bells is a winter song.
Me: Exactly. It's not winter, it's spring.
Youngest: (looks outside, then looks back at me) But there's snow outside. How can it be spring if there's snow outside?

My thoughts exactly, kid. :) I'm filing a complaint with Mother Nature.

To make matters worse, Jingle Bells was stuck in my head all day long...

Apr 13, 2011

My Little Rule-Follower

Yesterday, Youngest had a friend over to play after school. These two are best buds, and they play really well together. They get really energized and run around all over the place, but hey, they're boys. It's what they do.

Over the years, we've made certain rules in the house because Youngest isn't the most coordinated child, and he sometimes gets hurt while trying to do something that's completely beyond his ability. So, we have your basic safety rules. Don't run on the stairs. Don't play in the kitchen. Don't jump off the top bunk bed. Don't play with Mommy's free weights. Etc. We've spent quite a bit of time drilling these rules into Youngest's head so he knows not to do these things.

Oldest doesn't have the same problem since he was born with good coordination, as does the boy who came over. The boy didn't go so far as jumping off the top bunk, but he's definitely coordinated enough to do other things. Youngest was having a great time, but as they were playing I kept hearing his little voice reminding the other boy of the rules. They'd be in the middle of something, and then Youngest would yell "No running on the stairs!" or "No playing with the weights!" or something. He'd never stop playing, he'd just yell out the rule. The other boy would listen and then move on to something else, so it was kind of like a dance. They'd play and play until Youngest steered them in a different direction by citing a rule, then they'd play and play again until another rule came up. It was so funny. And I was proud of him for remembering these rules even though he was so involved in playing with his friend.

Of course, the biggest rule-followers often turn into the biggest rule-breakers once they hit the teen years, so I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for that, starting now... :)

Apr 6, 2011

The Mayor of the United States

Yesterday, Mayor Daley came to my kids' school for a visit. This is a big deal, of course, and just before he left the whole school came outside to get a picture with him. I hoped to get a picture, but my phone chose that moment to freeze up. I had to pull out the battery and everything. By the time it was all fine and working, Mayor Daley had left. Oh well...

Anyway, when I picked up Youngest, he was very excited.

Youngest: Mommy! The mayor of the United States came to my school!
Me: (chuckling) There is no mayor of the whole country, sweetie. He's the mayor of Chicago.
Youngest: But that's the United States!
Me: Yes, but it's just a small part of the country.

Youngest leaned back in his chair and looked pensive for the next several minutes, like he was trying to work it all out. Poor kid, I think he thought he had met the president and I went and ruined it for him! :)

Mar 29, 2011

But I Don't Want To!!

Both the boys started karate last month, and it was quite the convoluted beginning.

When I asked them if they wanted to try karate, Youngest said no. But then he heard Oldest say yes, and he changed his mind. "Mommy, I'll just try it. Okay? I'll try."

I said okay, and signed them both up for a trial class. That way, if one or both of them didn't like it, we could walk away and not worry about losing any money. Well, when the trial day came, we walked into the dojo and Youngest started pulling on my arm and wailing. "Mommy, I don't want to do karate! I don't wanna!" I told him he didn't have to, but for some reason he didn't hear me and kept wailing over and over again that he didn't want to do this. I finally had to take him to a corner, get down on my knees, and put my face a few inches from his.

Me: Hey, sweetie, look at me! No one is going to make you do karate. If you want to do it, you can. But you don't have to. Okay?
Youngest: (surprise all over his face) Oh. Okay.

We went to the classroom, and I fully expected Youngest to be sitting next to me the whole time. But then the teacher led the kids in a few laps around the room to warm up, and the next thing I knew Youngest was running right there with him. He passed by me, smiling and waving, and kept going. When the teacher lined up the kids to start training, he lined up, too, and went through all the kicks, punches, and blocks just like everyone else.

When class was over, he ran up to me practically yelling "Karate is the best thing in the whole world! Can we do it again right now?"
I just stared at him. I mean, seriously?? We went through that whole tantrum, in public, for this?
The teacher heard him and chuckled, then explained the karate was over for the day but that he could sign up and come back another day. So Youngest turned to me and asked "Can we sign up right now and come back tomorrow?"
He asked me that at least five more times, even though I answered each time with a 'yes, of course we can.' :)

I signed them both up that same day, and it's something they look forward to each week. But it's funny how kids will dig in their heels when they think they're being forced into something, isn't it?

Mar 22, 2011

You're All Better, Right?

Last tuesday was my first day of physical therapy. It went well, and, as most everyone knows, it was just the first step in a long road to recovery.

My kids don't know that, though. :)

Earlier this year, they discovered karate. There is an amazing dojo in our neighborhood that also has a kids' program. Well, a friend of mine goes there, and we watched her test for her brown belt in January. She'd gone through some major physical difficulties the year before, so my heart swelled with pride watching her complete her test and recieve her brown belt. I still get all warm and gooey inside just thinking about it--watching her was truely inspiring.

I took the kids with me to watch her test, mostly because I didn't have a sitter, and wild horses weren't going to keep me from supporting my friend. :) As it turned out, though, they were interested. Youngest was watching the white belts and trying to mimic their arm movements, and Oldest was studying everyone with an amazing intensity. One of the teachers from the kids' program noticed their interest and came over to say hello. She invited us to come and watch the kids' class to see if it's something they wanted to do for themselves. So, the following week, that's what we did.

After the kids' class was over, I asked the boys if this was something they wanted to try. Oldest said yes, but that he wasn't going to because he'd have to start as a white belt. He wanted to be a black belt. (!) I bit back a laugh, and told him that everyone has to start as a white belt.

Karate is something I've always wanted to try, ever since I was a kid, but I  never had the money or the opportunity. Then my knee gave out. My body has never given out on me before, so this has been difficult to deal with. I don't like it, at all. But as I watched my friend get her brown belt, a new feeling came over me. What she went through makes my torn meniscus look like a scratch, and look at where she is now! It made me realize that if I never got the chance to study a martial art in my lifetime, I would truly regret it. So, I told Oldest that I was going to sign up for karate, and that I'd have to start as a white belt.

His eyes widened at that. "You're going to be a white belt?" he said.
I nodded. "If this is something you think you want to try, then we can be white belts together as soon as my knee is all better. But, even if you decide not to, I'm going to do this."
He thought for a moment, then decided he wanted to try. But he didn't need to wait around for my knee to get better. :) That was last month.

Last Tuesday when I got home from physical therapy, the first thing Oldest asked me was how physical therapy had gone. I said it went well, and he got all excited. "Does that mean you get to do karate with me?" I laughed and said it would still be a while before I could do karate. "Oh," he said. "Well, can you do a front snap kick? Like this?" He demonstrated, and it was so cute that I couldn't tell him no. I did one to the best of my ability (i.e. not very well) then he took me through all the kicks, punches, and blocks that he knows. When he was done, and could see exactly how much I couldn't do yet, he told me I should keep doing physical therapy and that he hoped I could start karate soon.

I hugged him. What a little sweetheart!

Mar 15, 2011

Knee Update

So, two weeks ago, I went in for arthroscopic surgery on my knee. I'm happy to report that I'm recovering extremely well. I have my full flexibility back, and now I'm working on regaining my strength. I start physical therapy today, too, so I'll get a set of exercises that I'm sure I'll have to do every day.

I saw my doctor last week so she could check up on how I'm healing and write me a prescription for physical therapy. She's happy with how quickly I was up and on my feet, and with how few pain pills I needed to take (one. seriously, that's it). She also had color photos from the surgery, so I got to see the actual tear in my meniscus. It was bad!! The torn tissue had flipped under itself, forming a hard ball. She said it was kind of amazing that I'd been walking around for so long on that, because it would feel like I had a little rock stuck inside my knee. And, yeah, that's kind of how it felt. :) So I'm very glad I went ahead and got the surgery before that tissue had a chance to mess up my cartilage.

I'm planning to take it slow and not push myself too hard (which isn't easy for me; I tend to push myself beyond my limits), while trying to maintain a steady improvement. It's nice to be able to sit on the floor with my kids again, and now that it's starting to warm up I'm hoping to be able to play soccer with them once the grass comes up.

Mar 8, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

Look! It's another gorgeous award! This one came from the lovely Kelly Hashway. She's got great stuff on her blog, so if you haven't checked it out, you should.

Here are the rules for this award:
  • Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and their blog link.
  • Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.
  • Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

15 blogs!!??!?! Well, I don't get out much in the cyberworld since I have limited computer time, but I'll do my best. Disclaimer: some of these blogs I have rediscovered after not having the time to visit regularly over the past several months. And it was just as enjoyable as the first time I found them. :)

The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment (Matthew, I realize this blog award is rather girly, but I figure that if you can post a picture of yourself with pink hair, you've got enough confidence to accept this award) :)
Simply Put
Chocolate for Inspiration
Texas Sweethearts
Logan E. Turner
Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind

If you haven't visited these blogs, you shoud. They are fabulous. :)

Mar 1, 2011

Beautiful Blogger Award

Isn't this award gorgeous! Sheri from Writer's Alley gave this to me last week, and it's my first award for this blog. Thank you, Sheri!!

When she passed on this award, Sheri included seven random pet peeves, which were fabulous, so I think I'll do the same.

  1. Drivers who cannot stop at a stop sign, or can't wait their turn. Maybe it's my mom-gene kicking in here, but come on! Wait your turn already. It's really not that hard.
  2. Drivers who use right-hand-turn lanes/parking lanes/teeny tiny spaces between lanes to try to cut in front of a line of traffic, and then get mad at me for not letting them in. Seriously???
  3. Blonde jokes, especially when the teller of the joke can see the color of my hair. And that person is saying blondes are dumb???
  4. The word irregardless. What master-of-overstating-the-obvious came up with that?
  5. People who talk on the phone or text while driving. (can you tell I practically live in my car?) :)
  6. The FDA's claim that the rBGH growth hormone is safe and has no side effects. Ummm...based on personal experience, I beg to differ. Thanks to these morons, I can't eat anything unless I pay a small fortune for organic everything. And eating out is a nightmare, because hardly anything is organic. I miss my cheeseburgers... :(
  7. Oldest and DH leave their socks all over the house. I'm thinking of recording myself saying "can you PLEASE pick up your socks?" because I swear they don't hear me. Maybe if I play it back on constant repeat, it'll eventually sink in.

Now here's the fun part. I get to pass this award on to some beautiful bloggers. In no particular order, here they are:

Janet from Tuttle Tattle
Danielle from Myth Takes
Marcia from Marcia Hoehne
Sherrie from Write About Now

Big thanks to all of these bloggers for the great stuff they post each week!

Feb 22, 2011


So, remember last December when my knee gave out? While I was in another country? Well, after multiple visits to the doctor's office, an x-ray, and an MRI, it turns out that physical therapy isn't going to cut it. There is a layer of soft tissue between the cartilage, called meniscus, and mine is torn.

According to my doctor, I have two choices: I can get surgery to fix it, or I can leave it as-is.

If I get surgery, I will be laid up for two weeks, unable to drive and in some pretty good pain for a while. I'll also be in physical therapy for two months. The surgery itself is arthoscopic so I won't go under a knife, but I will still be severely limited.

If I don't get surgery, I can still get around fine. And that's pretty much all I'll be able to do. I will have to be careful not to bend my knee too far, and, if I do, then the pain can be managed with ibuprofin and possible cortizone shots to reduce swelling. But the pain won't be over the top and I'd be able to function okay.

So, my choice is basically this: do I go through a lot of pain for a short amount of time, or do I live with a constant, dull pain for the rest of my life?

Well, for me, the choice was obvious from the start. I'm an involved mom. I like to play with my kids, whether it's sitting on the floor putting legos together, playing board games, cards, putting puzzles together, etc. Or, playing soccer or baseball in the yard, building a snowman, going sledding, giving my kids piggy-back rides, etc. That doesn't even include the things I want to do for me, like hiking, camping, climbing, and who knows what else.

If I chose to do nothing and manage the pain for the rest of my life, then I would be putting a thin layer of hesitation between me and the rest of the world. Between me and my kids. And that's something I can't do. So, next monday I go in for surgery. Hopefully it will go well, and I'll be back to my normal life in no time.

Feb 15, 2011

Penny-Pinching Tooth Fairy

Oldest has been losing teeth like crazy for the past year. He didn't lose any for the longest time, and was upset that he was the only kid in class with all his baby teeth. Then they started falling out all at once and he happily showed everyone his jack-o-lantern smile, especially the photographer taking school photos. :)

Last week, he lost another tooth. We put it a pouch under his pillow, and the tooth fairy came and left him a dollar. When he woke up the next morning, he excitedly opened it up.

Oldest: I hope there's more than one dollar here! (opens the pouch and smile disappears) Aww, there's only one.
Me: The tooth fairy has always left you one dollar. Why did you expect more?
Oldest: The other kids at school all get more.
Me: Huh? What do they get?
Oldest: One kid got 25 dollars the last time he lost a tooth.
Me: (laughing) I don't think he was telling the truth.
Oldest: He did! And another kid gets toys!
Me: How does a toy fit under his pillow?
Oldest: It doesn't. The tooth fairy leaves it in the middle of the room.
Me: Well, our tooth fairy doesn't leave toys, or 25 dollars. Ours leaves a dollar.
Oldest: (grumbling as he walks away) Why do we have to have this tooth fairy?

I hate to see what happens when he wants a raise in his allowance. :)

Feb 8, 2011

Chicago Blizzard, 2011

So, last week we had a pretty historic blizzard. Over twenty inches of snow and wind gusts of up to seventy miles per hour. Pretty scary at times!! 
An hour of snow.

It started late tuesday afternoon, right before pickup time at the kids' school. I got there really early because the roads were already bad and the wind was ridiculous, and I was contemplating pulling Oldest out early. Well, the second I got out of the car, the wind nearly knocked me over. That was enough to convince me that it was time to go home, like NOW.

Youngest is in school half-day, so I'd already picked him up at lunchtime. So this poor kid was trying to walk down the sidewalk with seriously strong wind gusts blowing at his back. I had to hold on to him pretty tight to keep him from being blown over.

I got Oldest, and when we got back outside to walk to the car, the wind had picked up. Or maybe it just seemed that way because we had to walk into the wind. The kids couldn't see anything because there was so much snow being blown into their faces, so I told them to hang on to me and each other, and then walk behind me. I felt like a mama duck leading her ducklings down the sidewalk. :) We made it to the car okay, but the wind was so strong it was hard to keep the car doors open so the kids could get inside.

The next morning.
We went home and stayed home after that, watching the snow come down and listening to the wind blow. It was crazy. I haven't seen snow like this since I was a kid, and it still wasn't this bad. The kids thought it was great, of course, now that they weren't out in the gusting wind anymore. :)

3 ft drift by our front steps.

The wind blew all night, and we could hear debris hitting the windows at times. Either that or it was icy snow. Not sure which. The next morning, we had about a foot and a half of snow on the ground. Snow had drifted against the back door about two feet high, and it was interesting trying to get out there to clear off the back steps. It wasn't too cold, so we let the kids go out to play for a bit while DH shoveled. I couldn't help because of my knee, which I was actually bummed about. I love snow, even shoveling it. I'm sure Oldest gets that from me, because the kid can't wait to get out and shovel even if there's only an inch of snow on the ground. :)

So, after the first round of shoveling was done, the heavens opened and we got another six inches of snow in two hours. So, DH and the kids went back out to shovel when that was done. Also, while we'd been inside sipping hot cocoa, a plow had gone through our alley. Which sounds kind of nice, right? Well, instead of angling his plow so the snow went to the side without garage doors, he just went straight through and dumped snow in front of our garage, and all our neighbors'. DH spent two hours digging that out, even with the neighbors helping and hiring someone to come by with an industrial strength snow blower. Poor guy was about to collapse when he came back in.

Digging himself out.
 The streets were pretty much impassable, which at least one car discovered. The drifts were about three feet tall on the street in front of our house, even before the second round of snow. One car decided he could make it through if he just went fast enough...  Yeah, you can probably guess what happened. He got himself stuck, but good! He'd forced his way into the snow so fast that he had snow packed underneath his car. He spent thirty minutes digging that out, then some helpful neighbors went out and helped him push his car back out of the drift. There was no where for him to go, so he dug himself out a parking spot and parked his car. It stayed there for the rest of the week. :) I guess he learned his lesson.

After the second round of snow.

School was closed both wednesday and thursday, so I didn't bother trying to get the car out. Friday morning, though, I had to take the kids to school. And, even with all the shoveling DH did, I still got stuck pulling out of my garage. We even have a four-wheel-drive vehicle! And I grew up driving in snow, so this is really saying something. There just wasn't room to maneuver, and I had to shovel some more and do a three-point turn just to get out. Same thing when I had to turn onto the street from our alley. There is so much snow piled up on the corners that you can't see around them, and there isn't really clearance to get around without going back and forth a few times. Crazy!

The worst part is that the temperature has dropped so low that it's going to be forever before this stuff begins to melt. Looks like we're going to be buried until March...

Feb 1, 2011

Mommy, What's That?

Here's a funny Youngest story for you...

While we were in India, we didn't encounter Indian-style toilets for the most part. Everywhere we went, there was a nice, western-style toilet bowl with a clean seat to sit on. There wasn't always toilet paper, but I always think ahead so it wasn't an issue.

My boys have never seen the Indian-style toilet, which is basically a hole in the ground with two footholds on either side (you stand on the footholds and squat--it's like peeing outdoors, except you're indoors). Sometimes they're clean, and sometimes they're...well...not.

Anyway, when we went to the theme park type place that had displays of various cultures across India, Youngest had to go to the bathroom. There were public restrooms there, but this place isn't there to cater to foriegn tourists, so you can probably guess what style bathrooms they had. :)

I took Youngest to the bathroom and opened a stall. A porcelain hole was in the floor, with two porcelain footholds on either side, and a handle sticking out of the pipes so you can flush when you're done. It was very clean, and the lack of toilet paper wasn't an issue for Youngest because he just had to pee. But he'd never seen a toilet like this before, and just stood there staring at it.

Him: Mommy, what's that?
Me: That's the potty. It's how a lot of them are in India.
Him: (cocking his head to the side) How do you use it?
Me: You go pee-pee in the hole there, then flush here.
Him: Oh, okay. (he looks at the toilet again, then at me, then back at the toilet). Mommy, how are you going to use that?

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing! I told him I'd do just fine, and that he should go potty. Which he did. :)

Jan 25, 2011

London and India, 2010

Last December, my family and I went on a fabulous vacation. All my in-laws live in India, and it had been quite some time since we'd last been there. So, we scheduled a trip over Christmas break and decided to stop over in London for a few days on the way.

Oldest has been to London twice, but he was only a year old (both times). DH was traveling there for work, so Oldest and I tagged along a couple times to see the sites and visit with friends. Oldest doesn't remember any of it, though (since he was, you know, a year and a half). This time, though, he'll remember it. In fact, he knew exactly what he wanted to see.

Once again, the Magic Treehouse series has given him the desire to travel and see various parts of the world. Book #25, Stage Fright On A Summer Night, is where Jack and Annie meet William Shakespeare and act in one of his plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream, I think). Before we'd even started packing, he asked if we could see the Globe Theater. So we did. :) Our kids were the only kids in the tour, but Oldest was just as fascinated and paid as close attention as all the adults. Then he turned to DH and asked a question.

Oldest: Will we get to meet William Shakespeare?
DH: (confused look) Um, no. That's not really possible.
Oldest: Why?
DH: Well... He died a long time ago.
Oldest: (shocked and horrified) He died?
DH: I'm afraid so. Hundreds of years ago, actually.
Oldest: (looking like he's going to burst into tears) But I wanted to meet him.
Me: I'm sorry, sweetie. He lived a long time ago. But, you know what? There's a Shakespeare Theater in Chicago. It's not The Globe, but we can go see one of his plays there. Would you like that?
Oldest: Yeah. (perking up slightly) Can we see the same play that Jack and Annie were in?
Me: I'll do my best.

He was much happier after that and was able to absorb all the details of the theater. He thought it was pretty cool that there was no roof, and that the huge space in front of the stage was a place for people to stand and watch the play.

Both boys wanted to see the ravens at the Tower, plus the Tower bridge (they kept calling it London bridge, and it took a while to set that straight). We also went for a ride in the London Eye ferris wheel, which I'd never done before. It was pretty cool, and had great views of the city. It was cold, but we had a great time. The only damper was the night before we were supposed to leave for India...

I was packing up our suitcases, walking from one side of our hotel room to the other, and my knee gave out on me. One second I was standing, and the next I wasn't. And, wow, it hurt. It felt like my knee had slipped out of the socket. I was able to limp around the room and finish packing (I was almost done anyway), but, the next morning, I couldn't put any weight on it. At all. The hotel was great and brought me an elasticized sort of bandage, which helped a lot, and then they found us a pharmacy that was on the way to the airport. DH got me a knee brace, more bandages, ice packs, and ibuprofin. When we got to the airport, the wonderful lady at the check-in counter took one look at me and set up wheelchair services to get me to the gate, as well as for after we landed. I am incredibly grateful for that, because our plane wasn't at a vestibule. We took a bus to the plane and everyone walked up about two flights of stairs to get inside it. There was no way I was making it up so many steps. Fortuntely, I didn't have to. They put me (and about five other people in their seventies) on an enclosed lift and raised us up to the plane. I did have to walk back to my seat, which was painful and difficult, and a saint of a flight attendant helped me the whole way.

The flight to India from London is about ten hours, and, fortunately, my knee started feeling better. By the time we landed, I could limp along okay without hurting myself. But I was incredibly slow, and I couldn't carry or pull any suitcases, so, again, I was grateful for the wheelchair. We had a connecting domestic flight, and by the time that plane landed, I was hobbling along at a pretty quick pace. I'd even figured out how to do stairs--again, I was slow, but I could do it. Which is a good thing because my in-laws' house is a two-story walk up. :)

After about a week, I was walking normally. Still slow, but normal. And, by the end of the trip, I was getting along fine. It still ached, but I didn't need the wheelchair on the way home and I was able to pull along a suitcase. I went to the doctor last week (it was the soonest she could get me in) and it looks like my problem can be fixed with physical therapy, followed by regular exercises. So, that'll start soon (the sooner, the better, because this cold weather is making it ache like a !@#$!).

Anyway, even with my knee injury, we had a great time in India. We visited family, and I got to hold a baby--which is kind of a miracle. My in-laws live in a town that doesn't have many tourists, so I'm something of an attraction because I'm blonde and pale. Everyone stares, and at least one guy yelled "Hey! White girl" as I went by. The kids usually stare at me like I'm from another planet (which, to them, I kind of am), and a two-year-old girl actually rubbed her hand on my arm and then looked at her fingers. I guess she wanted to see if my skin color rubbed off. :) Anyway, the kids don't usually let me hold them, so I was thrilled when this baby decided I was okay. :)

We also went to a theme park type place that displays the various cultures and ways of life across the different states in India. It was really cool to see, and the kids enjoyed it. There was also a woman doing mehendi, which is a henna paste that she draws on your skin. After it dries, it leaves a temporary tattoo that'll stay on for at least a week, possibly more. My niece and I both got our hands done.

Our trip home was uneventful, and we were lucky enough to avoid the crazy weather that diverted planes and closed down airports, including London. The boys had a great time, and Oldest told me he wants to learn his dad's native language so he can understand what everyone is saying. I told him I'd learn it with him, which made him even more excited. So I'm looking into finding a teacher here in Chicago. Maybe by our next trip we'll all be able to communicate pretty well. :)

Jan 11, 2011

A Writer's Retreat

Last weekend, I participated in a writing retreat. That is, I checked into a retreat center and wrote all day long for two whole days. It was, in a word, amazing.

Normally, I only get a couple hours of writing time per day because Youngest is in school half-day. He comes home before lunch, and then I drive him all over the city for things like baseball, gynmastics, soccer, etc. It's not really possible to get anything done once he gets home.

So, to be able to sit and write with no possibility for interruptions was just heavenly. I wrote almost thirty pages in two days, worked through a really difficult transition in my story's plot, and figured out the rest of my outline. Even though I worked my butt off and my brain was exhausted at the end of each day, I left that weekend feeling so refreshed and relaxed. It felt SO GOOD to write.  Guess I'm a writer through and through. :)

I'm going to keep this momentum I have going as best I can, even with the two hours per day. It'll keep that smile on my face. :)

Jan 4, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

Hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday!!  We were in London and India for much of December, and also went to Florida over Thanksgiving. Too much traveling over too short a time span! Live and learn, I guess.  :)

We're pretty used to traveling, though, and we take our kids with us. In fact, I've been to India four times now (all my in-laws are there), Oldest has been there three times, and Youngest has been there twice. It takes two days to get to India, so we're all accustomed to long plane rides. In fact, Youngest asked a hilarious question just before Thanksgiving...

Me: Guess what? We're going to see Grandpa in Florida over Thanksgiving! Does that sound fun?
Youngest: (squeals) Yes!! Who else is going to be there?
Me: Well, Great-Grandpa and Grandma, and there will be a couple kids to play with, too, who are your age.
Youngest: (more squeals, then he stopped and looked very thoughtful) Mommy, how many days will it take to get to Florida?
Me: (stifling laughter) It's only 2 and a half hours.
Youngest: (aghast) Two and a half days? That's really long!
Me: (laughing now) No, sweetie, two and a half hours. You could watch a movie on the plane, and when it's over we'd probably be landing.
Youngest: Oh! Okay. (he grins) That's really short.

I guess it's all in your perspective.  :)