Monday, April 28, 2008

The Sleepwalker, Night Owl, Tick and Our Brush with Fame

What a week! This last one was a blur of busyness for me. Here’s a recap….

Logan has taken to sleep walking. Twice this week, she has shown up downstairs, an hour or so after bedtime, sleepily looking me in the eyes and talking mumbo jumbo. She looks and acts as if she should make sense, but doesn’t. I just walk her back to bed and she’s out like a light. It’s scary to think of her doing it in the middle of the night. I hope it’s just a passing trend like the night terrors that she experienced as a toddler – I’m sure glad that’s over!

While Logan is out of bed of no fault of her own, Riley is out and about to all hours on purpose. She has been turning into more and more of a night owl this spring. One school night last week, she woke me up at 10:45 to tell me that she still couldn’t sleep. She basically requires little to no sleep – I should have known she’d be like this after giving up naps before two. Again, I hope this is a passing phase – I can’t tell you how much Mike and I need that downtime from 8:30 to 10:00 pm (if we’re able to stay awake!)

During what I thought would be a respite of relaxation giving Finn a bath alone while Mike took the girls for ice cream, I realized that I was sadly mistaken. At the first dump of water to wet his blonde curls, I saw it – a tick! Hunkered down and not coming out for nothin’ was that disgusting little creature (and I like bugs!) I ended up having to call a neighbor to hold him down and then, after it exploded and still held tight, another neighbor finally got the little sucker. Poor thing, a huge chunk of skin and hair came right out with it. In lieu of me relaxing, everyone was up an hour after bedtime and Mike and I were exhausted. Since then, three more neighbors have had them – what’s going on? I mean, we have one tree around here!

We spent our Saturday soccer-a-fied and even in the tornado-style winds and cold temps, I think watching the girls’ games have been some of my most joyous moments. I will do a whole post on this soon – there has been nothing like the outdoors – humor – cheering – feeling proud of your kid combination of these games. I love it! Taking Finn along is another story entirely.

Lastly, I have to mention our recent brush with celebrity. While writing a chef profile for a local magazine, I described it as – for me – the equivalent of interviewing Tom Hanks. The whole food and cooking thing does it for me big-time and I just find it all so enjoyable. Saturday night, Mike and I had the chance to go downtown for a night and ate with our close friend Matt and his girlfriend. We went to Frontera Grill and the foodie groupie in me was smitten with celebrity chef / owner Rick Bayless as he darted here and there through the restaurant. The food was crazy good and was only topped by Mike’s announcement upon his return from the bathroom that one of my favorite chefs – Bobby Flay and his wife, Stephanie March (from my all-time top TV show Law and Order) were sitting in the bar having dinner.

I summoned up the courage to say “Hi” and thank them for all the great entertainment, but chickened out at the last minute when Rick Bayless joined them. All three was too much for me to interrupt…. I mean, I didn’t want to come off as the crazy fan that I am!!! I did make eye contact though - and at least we exchanged smiles!!

How fun was that? All in all, it was a great week – big thanks to my mom for sleeping over and watching the front in our absence – we couldn’t have done it without her!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ode to Harley Girl

There is a member of our family that hardly ever gets any hype and hoopla. She was one of the first “babies” that came into our lives (eleven years ago) and she is such a wonderful calming force. Our rottweiler-German Shepard mix, Harley, joined this world under a used car, with a junk yard rotty as her father and a nine-month old softy as her mom. Mike and I even discussed keeping her mom before she became pregnant; she had such a great demeanor. When Harley’s mom abandoned the litter of nine pups, we took her home at maybe only five or six weeks old. Our friends took another four that day – it was so great!

This was not good news for Maggie, our then five year old Cocker Spaniel. She was furious with us for the invasion and wouldn’t even acknowledge Harley’s presence. For the ten years that they spent together, I have no doubt that Harley believed with all her heart and soul that Maggie was her mother. After a few weeks of perseverance on Harley’s part, Maggie could no longer resist and accepted Harley and all her puppy-ness, lock, stock and barrel.

As she grays and stiffens and celebrates her eleventh birthday, I am so grateful for Mike having found her under that car. I am so grateful that she is the one we tried to put our mark on with the tiniest collar imaginable and who we visited weekly until we could take her home. From the moment we brought her into our lives, she was meant to be there. When we became pregnant, people asked, “What will you do with the dogs?”

“Keep them!” was of course our answer.

The lessons Harley continues to teach our kids are precious. In some cases, before they would hug and kiss us, they felt that unconditional love and security from Harley’s presence and you’d find them curled up with her on her bed. They scamper to be the first to the food bowl to feed her and love to help with walks. They watch as we trim her nails, give her arthritis medicine and dive in to her baths. They say good night and good morning and for sure, consider her a part of our family. She has been here for their forevers and they know nothing else. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I look at her watching over the kids while they play, sitting patiently as she becomes a race track or an active participant in a Barbie session or game of school, I wonder what she’s thinking. Does she mind when she’s wearing sunglasses, having her eyes and ears examined and poked, wrapped in a blanket, donning socks or being ridden like a horse? If so, you’d never know. Her job has its perks; a constant flowing river of drops and spills at her disposal, petting and hugs galore and lots of big, old, wet kisses on the mouth.

There’s a picture from when Logan was born that I just love. Logan is clamoring around the floor and Harley is just looking at me like, “What is actually going on here? Is this thing sticking around?” Little did she know that Logan was just the first in the trio to come. By the time that Finn came home from the hospital, I think she sniffed, cocked an eyebrow and knew she just had another somebody to love.
Our good ole girl is getting up there and I can’t imagine our lives without her. We recently contemplated getting her a playmate, but decided against it for now. (I say "for now" because Mike continually brings home tales of every dog in Illinois that needs rescuing!) But between Harley's achy joints and new knee, she deserves whatever kind of relaxation she can find in the chaos of our lives. She is truly a gentle soul, a giant, loving force in our lives. How lucky we were to find her.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sign of the Times

While doing my nightly clean up the other evening after bedtime, I came across a typical pile of ripped out journal pages all filled by Logan and her adorable little handwriting. What used to be sheet after sheet of "I love you's" is morphing into elaborate ideas and sentences, all really telling about what is going on in that intuitive mind of hers.

The one right in front of me on the desk says, "I love Riley and Mom to, but I love my dog the most and I love evrybuty. Love, Logan" There are notes like this everywhere, that talk about all kinds of things and I just love reading them and figuring her out. So often, what I read reminds me of myself and I remember what it was like to be a little journalist, writing all sorts of things down. But the other night I caught some documentation that truly is a sign of the times; something that I would have never known to write in my wildest dreams. Here's a picture:

What do you think she imagined for her site? Is it all about her, her friends, her writing, her elaborate songs and stories? I wish I had asked her when I first found it, I feel like I would have gotten a more complete answer. I'll still do it though, I'm dying to know.

It amazes me all the time that both Logan and Riley are completely comfortable and efficient in their computer use, already able to remember usernames and passwords for a variety of kid-sites and games. I can't believe how quickly they pick up short-cuts and ways to do things in virtual worlds like Webkinz. For a grown-up who really only used a computer begining near the end of high school for word processing, it is pretty shocking to see a 4-year old navigate the Internet with ease.

I've always had some forethought about monitoring their usage and putting protective software out there, but never thought the time would come so soon. The other day, Mike watched as Logan just googled what she wanted and it came right up. Luckily, the site she clicked on was a safe one, but you just know that there are smart bad guys out there that have figured out what our little ones are looking for and have used those search words in twisted ways. Yep, I think the time has come to tighten it up a bit.

And I'll have to investigate the site plan for "". As a former analyst for web-based systems, I can certainly help her develop the requirements for her site, although I don't think she'll have any use for my web copy. She's got that covered!

Monday, April 14, 2008

From the Mouth of Our Babe

We survived a rainy, cold, sometimes snowy and in my opinion - ridiculous - mid-April Chicago weekend. We hung out and did all the normal stuff, but had a good deal of down time too, which allowed for things like this video to be filmed. I'm sure that there is nothing better than the sound of your own child laughing, but hearing someone else's is pretty darn good, too. Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Glorious Spring

Staring at the face of another cold and possibly snowy spring Saturday and Sunday, I must give props to Mother Nature for throwing us a bone last weekend. We experienced two glorious days of weather in the 60’s that allowed for all kinds of airing out and outdoor fun. We spent ALL weekend outside, riding bikes, doing yard work, getting things out of storage and finally installing the storm door that has been propped up against a wall in the garage since last September. I can’t tell you how happy I am about that!

The biggest news of the weekend was that Logan is successfully free-wheeling her way through life now. After a few minutes of practice, she ditched the training wheels and is now perfecting her craft. I was thrilled that it was easy for her and it’s possible that you heard my cheers and screams of excitement wherever you live. It was one of “those” moments to treasure forever. Of course the whole experience left my back and legs aching. Thank God I maxed out at five feet tall; it could have been a lot worse! It did occur to me that there may have been benefits to starting a family several years earlier; by the time Finn is learning, Mike and I should be in great shape.

Riley is on her way, too – and if you’ve ever experienced her unbelievable determination, then you know it’s just a matter of time. We were so proud of both of them and they were feeling it too, it was obvious.

The kids filled those two days just being kids, playing with everyone in everyone’s yard, riding each bike and scooter they could find, decorating our world with elaborate chalk designs and exploring the ravines that run along our streets. Logan and Riley ended up completely sunburned – I felt awful. We lathered them up for Sunday and they were fine.

Finn was in his hay day too, blonde curls blowing in the wind as he rode his motorized hand-me-down Harley Davidson, graciously donated by a neighbor. He tried to climb into window wells and up trees, collected a pocketful of rocks and soaked it all in. It is a whole new world to him and he couldn’t have enjoyed it any more.

Even the dog reveled in it, passed out on the front lawn for hours – so long that her black fur was boiling hot. It must have felt great.

Mike and I ended the day by bringing out two kites that I have had forever, but never used. There were about 25 kids within a six house vicinity and most came running when the kites easily took flight in our wind tunnel corner of the world. Everyone wanted a turn, but their attention spans quickly petered out and they moved on to other things. In the end, Mike and I flew our kites for about 45 minutes and I can’t think of anything more relaxing or enjoyable that I have done in a really long time. I looked around, feeling the strong pull of the kite above, seeing the gazillion kids around me and was truly grateful. As much as I don’t want the forecast for this weekend, I know I can endure it with the promise of another like the last.

Of course on Monday afternoon when retrieving the mail, I opened my front door and walked straight through the darn storm door that I had been begging for all these months! Guess I got what I asked for!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

First Cut

Yesterday was one of those days. After starting out good – I have been waking up in the “4’s” to try and do yoga before getting some writing done and the troops waking up, the whole day just crumbled, bit by bit. I felt like I was standing in front of a steam engine and no matter how I tried to get off the track, I just couldn’t, nor could I will that train to stop bearing down. The fact that I was throwing bad vibes all over the place didn’t help either. I rarely have days like this and I’m sure today will be better. I won’t even relive it all, but have to tell you about the funniest part, the little man’s first hair cut!

Mike and I said that we would wait until the last second to cut his hair. His curls were so cute and we just didn’t want to fall victim to the threats of strangers who predicted they’d never come back. So we decided that Mike would tell me when it was time, when Finn started to look a little girly. The funny thing was we both brought it up the same day this week. It was just time.
We headed to Cookie Cutters (just Finn and me) for the big event. After fighting with the DVD player attached to the Lightning McQueen car, we had to give up and move him to the airplane. He seemed fine with all this, which is amazing because several people have forewarned that his typical uncooperative state would make this hair cutting thing a nightmare. I actually think he was in shock, muttering the occasional soft-spoken “Mommy?” and sitting unbelievably still and just moving his eyes from side to side. I wish I could have been inside his head to know what he was thinking, I can’t even imagine!

So, three inches and ton of layers later, we had his new do. It was still long, not a total little boy cut, but perfect for his curls, which bounced right back with a little help from the scissors. We said our "thank yous", accepted Finn’s lollipop and balloon and were on our way. (At this point the day has not gone south.) Fast forward to nap time. It has become evident over the last two weeks that this child is apparently done napping. I am dying about this, primarily because I am just too old, tired and busy to be responsible for him and his path of destruction for even three more hours of my day. He is full speed all the time and I’m now anxiety-ridden over this. I hope beyond hope that it is some weird phase and the naps kick back in. Finn also refuses to go to the bathroom in a diaper, and is not having success on the toilet either, so I know that I must begin training him hardcore. He is ready in every sense except that he isn’t doing it, so I don’t know what that means. The girls were a snap – once again, new territory for mom. Anyway, I bring up the nap because even though he didn’t take one, I left him in his crib so I could take a shower. I came in later after hearing a HUGE crash. I found him naked, with nothing in his crib but the potty all over the waterproof mattress and the giant framed picture of Eeyore from his wall – he had pried it off, pulling the child safety latch it was mounted on right out of the plaster. Oh yeah, the nails were in his crib, too.

Ok, so you get the idea. This is nothing new. Here’s the kicker. I took the kids, a key lime torte, some cheese and sour cream to school for a Mexican-themed teacher conference day; I’m on a committee that provides food for the staff for special occasions. As soon as we entered, me balancing my cake in one arm while trying to wrangle Finn with the other, Finn went no-nap nuts. He was all over everything, climbing on tables and screaming anytime I came near him. All the other moms were laughing at him and began telling me how cute “she” was, how they were sure “she” just needed to get out in the fresh air, and how “she” looks just like their babies when they were young.

I couldn’t believe it! After almost two years and hair down his back, I finally cut three inches off and everyone thinks he’s a girl. I have to mention that he was wearing the outfit in the first picture, duck boots and all! Even Logan and Riley got their danders up, telling everyone, “He’s a boy!” When Mike got home later, he said, “I guess I need to see it tomorrow after you wash it.”

“Why? Do you think it looks girly, too?” I replied.

“Kind of, but maybe it’s just the way they styled it,” he said.

This boy stuff just never gets any easier for me! Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Forces at Work

It’s not that I ever doubted that there were greater forces at work, but sometimes in life there are just these HUGE coincidences that are undeniably connected to something bigger. I had the coolest experience this week and it just makes you wonder!

On Monday morning, I woke to find an email from an old high school classmate who had come to read my blog through a mutual friend. Her lovely note was so appreciated – it made me feel great that she had enjoyed what she found here. She also let me in on all the happenings of her own life and mentioned that it seemed we had a lot in common. She was right! After no contact in over 19 years, somehow we had a ton of coincidences in our lives, from family stuff, to pet stuff, to North Carolina where she currently lives and more. It was pretty neat.

I had book club on Monday night, so I was busy and didn’t have time to answer her that day. After an odd day filled with strange neighbor experiences in our new ‘hood, I welcomed the chance to just go and discuss my book choice, Eat, Pray, Love with the group that meets at our clubhouse. I packed food and wine and headed out. It was such a fun time and a good book to discuss; lots of questions, lots of places for differing opinions. The best part was that we spent a good extra hour just chatting and eating and getting to know each other.

At one point, one of the women and I figured out that we both graduated the same year. While I went to Hinsdale Central, she attended Hinsdale South. We immediately began sharing maiden names and trying to find people in common. Unbelievably, one of the first names that she threw my way was the same gal who had just emailed me the night before about the blog! I swear I almost fell off the couch! They had played soccer together on a traveling team. I have to say it again – it had been 19 years since my former classmate and I had spoken – and not only did each of us come up in each other’s lives, but in big ways!

I was so excited to return her email and let her in on what had happened. Isn’t it funny how things come together sometimes? I plan on forwarding the contact information for both girls to each other so they can catch up, too. There is such an unbelievable domino effect in life. I mean, my old classmate probably debated as to whether to contact me or not and for whatever reason, decided to do so. Next, we find some pretty strong parallels in our lives and within hours, I stumble across another old connection for her. There is something magical about the fact that things like that are happening all around us, everyday. It kind of takes the pressure off for perfection, and just makes you feel more than ever, that some things are just meant to be.

I have an amazing friend that is going through a horrible, unimaginable time right now. I am struggling with what to say and do to help her. In a recent email, I wrote that I think I’m learning as an adult to hope and pray for what is right, for what is meant to be, instead of what I think I want. For her, I hope the two coincide, but how freeing it has been in my own life to just let things happen and feel secure about the fact that they are the right things for me. Not that I can’t guide my life, choose my path – we have so many options. But being aware of connections and ideas and people planted in your life, of those other forces at work, well, you just don’t know where it can lead you!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wedding Girls

The excitement is brewing and we still have 6 months to go! Last week, Mike’s cousin, Laura, called and asked Logan and Riley to be flower girls in her wedding. She’ll be getting married in North Carolina this September, and the girls are thrilled. They got off the phone with her and danced and jumped and cheered with anticipation. They had lots of questions and flower girl professional, Logan, doled out her sage advice to newcomer, Riley.

I am excited, too! Their ages are perfect; at almost five and almost seven, I think they’ll do great and have fun in their little corner of the spotlight. It’s sounding like it will be the most beautiful Southern wedding, with breakfasts and brunches and a big wedding party. We just can’t wait. Their grandmom, Mary, will most likely make their simple dresses and we’ll have to stockpile lots of other cute outfits for all the various events.

Finn will possibly throw a wrench into our excitement – closing in on two and a half at that point, there’s no telling what we can expect. If the wedding were today, I assure you he would not be making the trip. But six months from now will hopefully be a different story. I’d prefer to have our whole family there together, so maybe grace will rain down upon us and give Finn the fortitude to survive all these important events without doing too much damage!

I can’t wait to see the girls in action. We’re so grateful to Mike’s cousin and her fiancĂ© for thinking of them. I am so glad that Logan has the opportunity to do this again, now that she’s older. She was incredible at three and a half for our good friends’ wedding, but she’ll really remember this experience, I think. And I couldn’t be happier about Riley getting an opportunity to do this as well – I wondered if she ever would. She’d never complain about it, but I KNOW this is a really big deal for her – for both of them. They’ve informed their teachers, class mates, friends, ballet instructors, old gymnastics coaches and even the cashier at Target. The world knows – the Anderson girls will be flower girls!

Or “wedding girls” as Riley puts it. (And pronounces it “giiiils”.) It’s going to be FUN!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dinner 911

I wonder if the “bewitching hour” means the same thing to every family. Is that hour between 4 and 5 pm really this crazy at other people’s homes?

If you were to zoom in on our little world right around dinner time, this is what you might see: Mike and I running around the kitchen, trying to keep Finn from breaking things as we manage the various pieces and parts of what we’ll eat, and finally, forcefully buckling him into his chair so that we can get the last few things together. Even though I don’t like to do it, I inevitably put some form of food in front of him before anyone else sits down and an imaginary clock somewhere begins ticking down the 3-5 minutes that he will sit at the table. Every night I race to get it all ready so that we have those same glorious 3-5 minutes to sit and relax and God forbid – talk, but each night I sabotage my plans and give in.

Meanwhile, for some reason I will never understand, my girls shift to hyper performance mode. They are impatiently dancing around the kitchen, bumping into us repeatedly, asking for our attention to hear the latest Hannah Montana number performed. We continually shoo them out of our way, focused on the task at hand - dinner. When I am as close as possible to having everything dished up and ready to go, I ask them to sit. They do, and we field at least 5 more change requests while trying to serve ourselves and get seated.

The second – I mean the very second – that I put the first forkful in my mouth; Finn will endure no more of this dining nonsense and wants out. He takes everything off his tray and teeters bowls and cups on the edge of the table – sometimes they stay, sometimes they fall (much to the dog’s happiness!) He then pulls his tray off and throws it to the floor. Next, he removes the back of his toddler chair and ditches that as well. The entire short while he is doing this, he is emitting his "all done" sounds. I can’t begin to imitate them, but they're not actually pleasing to the ears. And he knows how to say “all done”; he just refuses to do so at dinner time.

Throughout all this, Logan and Riley are still trying to sing and dance, right from their seats. They refuse to sit on their actual butts, barely balancing, squatted on their toes and rocking all over the place. They repeatedly drop things, bump into each other and argue about it, all because they just plain refuse to sit down. We attempt to manage this situation and teach good manners, but the same issues arrise each day. We are getting ready to remove their chairs from the table.

Mike and I ridiculously make small attempts to talk during this circus, but give up quickly and shove our food down our throats fast, knowing that one of us will have to clean up the potted plant Finn just dumped or get him away from the toilet or the latest attraction, the computer. The vegetable-milk battle begins yet again with Logan and Riley and they leave the table “too full” only to return to our sides within 30 minutes telling us how hungry they are.

Last night my mom was over and bought us Portillo’s for dinner. I didn’t want it, I’ve really been trying hard to eat healthy, but after a day of struggle-filled doctor visits with Riley (ugh – foreign body in her eye - scratched cornea), I had a raging headache and welcomed the comfort food. I was so thankful for the extra hand getting everyone settled in for their 3-5 minutes, that I devoured (with a capital “D”) my beef sandwich and fries. Nice. As my mom sat there amid this regular weeknight chaos that she hasn’t had the joy of witnessing lately, she leaned over and whispered, “Do you and Mike ever talk?”

“Nope.” I responded. Not these days!

The plan… some form of date night this weekend…. No matter what.