May 31, 2014

Breathing room

It's no secret that I have not been a big fan of the younger years with my kids. I certainly enjoyed many aspects of my kids as babies and toddlers. But mostly I've had to force myself to see the good points while looking forward to later years.

At the end of April, S turned 4 and we had "an orange dinosaur cake" for him. He knows what he likes!

He also finished his first year of Cubbies, and got his first ribbon for his accomplishments. He really was glad, despite his face.

K turned 8 on Sunday. He will be done with 1st grade in 7 more days, after a truly wonderful year in a school that he loves more than I even hoped.

He loves fishing, reading, Pokemon, drawing, games and is amazingly empathetic for a kid. We are so proud of him and the boy he's becoming.

And now I finally feel like I have room to breathe in life. No more diapers, very few middle of the night encounters. K is almost done with his booster seat and S is out of the big, bulky 5-point harness car seat. They can walk to and from the car themselves and help me carry things too. We can have discussions about life, behavior, chores, expectations, concerns, interests.

We've decided that S will do a two day, couple of hour pre-school program in the neighborhood starting in the fall. It's mostly play based, so it is a good way for him to have some time with other kids. The rest of the time, I still get to have him home and help guide him and teach him the way we have been. This year was a bit tough for him with K at school and branching out with his own friendships, apart from S. So I think he will really enjoy having something of his own to do and new kids to play with.

I'm so pleased with this phase of life. I feel like I have some more control, even if I don't yet have much free time. :) I love seeing who my boys are becoming. Watching them develop and deepen their interests and personalities is wonderful. In the younger years, I often got to helpless moments, feeling like nothing would change and that possibly nothing we were doing had any real effect on them. As they grow, there is evidence that all the love, planning and attention we've given really do help. That is such a blessing.

Along with this new phase comes the understanding that older parents starting giving us pretty much as soon as they knew we were going to have a baby: to enjoy "these years, they go so quickly".  That advice REALLY doesn't help when you have a baby who never sleeps or is colicky or won't move more than four feet from you for weeks at a time. But with some distance, literal and figurative, I can finally understand and genuinely feel the meaning behind the advice. 

Ten years from now, K will be getting ready to go to college. S will be starting high school. We won't be seeing them quite as much, they won't be jumping into bed to cuddle with us, we might not even get many meals together by then. So, I think I am in a place to really start embracing the now more and more. Not perfectly of course, but in a different way than I was able to before. 

My favorite times are the silly ones:
K wearing some "armor" rings at Anthropologie.

And posing with a statue downtown.

S decided to dress in my winter gear for dinner.

But a close second are our cuddle times on the couch, or before bed:

Thankful for these days.

May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

This is a great day to remember the mothers who have born us, shaped us, taught us, protected us, prayed us through life, and loved us with all they have.

I'm so thankful for my mom and all she has done and continues to do for our family. I got my eyes, hair, honesty, stoicism, love of sports and love of the outdoors from her. I also got most of the good things about my parenting from her.

She has always been great about sharing whatever she knows with us, encouraging us to think for ourselves so we can make informed decisions. And at the same time, she's always been right there in the wings, ready to help if needed. Because of her sacrifice and vigilance, I have always felt secure and supported, equipped to do what I need to do because I'm not by myself in life.

I definitely reached a new level of understanding and appreciation once I had kids. My mom was there hours after K was born, to support me, Jim and K. Those first difficult weeks of motherhood were made so much more bearable with her help. And I got to contemplate during those moments how many of the same moments I must have put her through!

Now I get to see her as a grandmother. Delighting in the antics and diverse personalities of her three grandsons. They are so much the better in life because she is in their corner the same way she's always been in mine.

Similarly, I had two wonderful grandmothers in my life that inspire and encourage me:

My mom's mom. holding me as a baby. I'm so thankful that she is still around to be a prayer warrior and that we have had so much time with her.

My dad's mom holding me as a baby. She died in 1999 and I still miss her and think of her just about every day. 

I'm so thankful for these women and every ounce of themselves that they poured into their families to bring us to where we are. I'm thankful for their hopes and dreams and prayers that I know have sustained us. I'm so thankful to be one of the fortunate ones that gets to have a mom and grandmothers who were willing and capable and here with me for my life so far.

Happy Mother's Day!

January 11, 2014

A funny thing happened on the way home from the Market

This year we kept up the tradition of heading to downtown Chicago for the holidays. My family has done that for years and whenever we've been in the area, Jim and I and the kids have continued to do it. This year we went the first weekend of December.

We took the Metra down so we wouldn't have to pay for gas and parking. And since Jim gets Metra passes through work as a part of his benefits, we didn't have to pay for the transportation at all! It was very cold and supposed to snow, but since it was just the four of us, we knew we could handle it.

Everything is green from the windows of a Metra train. This is passing by the former Comisky (U.S. Cellular Field).
It was crazy cold when we got there. But we took a few seconds for pictures in the courtyard of the Mercantile Exchange. They had such pretty lights and decorations around.

We walked for a while, but had to stop at Argo Tea for a warm up. While we were there the snow started. For me, nothing feels as perfect in just about any season as being downtown. The snow and the buildings outside were amazing. And we had fun drinking tea and hot chocolate and telling stories inside.

After the break, we headed to Daley Plaza for the Christkindlmarket. This is the second year in a row that we've attended the German market. Last year it was a sixty degree day and there were millions of people and we could barely walk. It was still super busy this year, but we got there when it opened and it was colder so there were slightly fewer people. It was snowing really good by then!

We made a quick decision to take the kids to see Santa right when we got there. The line wasn't too long and they had never been to see Santa so we decided to just do it. We waited about 45 minutes, only about half of it outside. Simon's sense of wonder and fun is awesome, and he jumped right into Santa's lap and was so happy. Kiah enjoyed it too as he just recently asked if he could go. It was a really cute little Santa house set up too.

We explored the rest of the Market, had non-alcoholic gluhwein (me) and beer (Jim), ate some yummy German food and looked at a few of the vendors. By then we were freezing and tired of the crowds, so we headed over to the shopping areas nearby. We went into a little mall a couple blocks over so the kids could play at The Disney Store and I got to fill my Anthropologie love at a TWO STORY store.

Then we took a look at the Macy's windows on State Street. To be honest, the windows haven't been interesting in years. But we still look. 

Then we headed up to the seventh floor to see the Christmas Tree at the Walnut Room. It's always beautiful. The old Marshall Fields building is really in bad shape. It's too bad Macy's isn't taking care of it. I hope that they can restore it sometime soon and it doesn't just keep deteriorating. We usually take a picture by the tree as a family, but...
The kids were so worn out from all the walking and cold that they  both napped on the furniture near the tree and then were ready to go home.

Now the funny story. At The Disney Store, we saw some Monsters University toys on super sale. My grandma had given me money to buy a toy for each of the kids for her since it's hard for her to get out shopping. So we decided to stop back by the store on our way to the train. Jim took the kids and I bought three toys, one from us for Simon and two from my grandma.

The toys were pretty big, so there was no real hiding them. They were in bags at least, so they wouldn't know specifically what the toys were. As I checked out, one of the toys started talking. The toys make sounds and can communicate with each other. The employee told me that sometimes the toys just keep making sounds when the batteries are dying. I didn't expect it to be right then, however.

When I got outside, the toy kept yelling. Very obviously. Like, it was a busy street with traffic and people and I could still hear it. So, when the boys came back with me and we were walking, the toy kept yelling from the bag!! I tried to push on it to turn it off, but it was still in the box and nothing was working. I pulled off to the side of the sidewalk to figure out the buttons but couldn't. It just kept saying "Hey! Hey!". The kids could hear it and Kiah kept asking questions about what it was, trying to figure it out.

We stopped at Argo again for warm drinks to help us get back to the train. I had to run to the upstairs to deal with this rogue toy away from little prying ears and eyes. I pulled it out of the bag, all the while feeling terrible for the people hanging out reading or doing work up there, while my toy kept yelling!

I had to pull it out of all that ridiculous packaging they use to protect toys to find the switch. But the switch didn't turn off! Only changed modes. So, I took out my pocket knife (thank God I had it in my purse) and had to unscrew the battery door to rip out a battery. But it kept going! It finally shut up when I pulled out all three batteries. Sheesh!

Then we were finally able to leave and got to the train about seven minutes before it left. It was such a fun, beautiful, exactly-the-type-of-day we wanted. Good start to the holiday season, even with a possessed toy trying to ruin stuff.