Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Smile

Chloe & friend

Today was school picture day and the one day this year the kids get to wear something other than their uniform. Chloe picked out her favorite dress and chose to wear a headband. I brushed and brushed her hair to get out all the tangles (typically I hide them in a ponytail) and tried to spray down the unruly strands. When I pulled out a few bobby pins to keep the bangs in place she protested. I pleaded with her first, "please, it will look nice."

"No, Mom."

Then I demanded, "Just wear them."

"No."

Then I became the six-year-old...

"Chloe, if you don't let me fix your hair, I'm not going to pay for the pictures."

And she became the Mom...

"Mom, will my hair mess up my smile?"

Gulp.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sleepy Time


I have been trying to limit snuggle time with Chloe in the evenings to just a few minutes with no avail. In the past, I’ve thrown that child sleep regimen advice to the wind for me to indulge in those few moments of quiet time just before sleep. I scoff at Dr. Weissbluth and his zealous followers of sleep police. My daughter loves this special time and so do I. We end story time, turn out the lights and snuggle together on her tiny twin bed.

This is that precious time that she’ll tell me about her day. It is the time with no power struggles, no saucy attitude. Usually when grilled at the dinner table about her day she won’t give us any good stories. But at night, relaxed, in bed, she’ll tell me about the girl who had a tantrum in class, or the boy she’d like to marry except he pushed her on the playground that day. She’ll tell me how well she did on the spelling quiz and she’ll even admit to losing a point in class because she wasn’t being “respectful or courteous” to her teacher. Sometimes she falls asleep with her head in the crook of my neck. Sometimes I leave her with a few books to browse because her active mind isn’t ready for rest.

She is now six years old and in first grade. I wonder if she isn’t a little too old to snuggle with mamma so long before sleep, so I’ve tried to cut it down to just a few minutes. Last night she exclaimed, “Mom, I can’t breathe. You’re breath smells funny.”

“Oh dear, I must go brush my teeth.” I say in a funny voice.

She giggles but holds my arm. “No, don’t go. Not yet.”

“But Chloe, I really must go brush my teeth. No one will want to kiss me with funny smelling breath. Certainly Daddy won’t want to kiss me good night unless I go at once to brush.”

Still giggling she kissed me. “Mommy, I still like to kiss you even if you have bad breath.”

That is love unconditional.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Family

Whew. It's been a fun and crazy few weeks. I've had about twenty some odd people stay at my home on different nights for a wedding we hosted recently. At the time, I didn't think I could pull it off. But each guest, even the littlest ones, were so tremendously helpful that I barely had to lift a finger.

When I told a friend that at the most, seventeen people spent the night in my home, she exclaimed, "that's about fifteen too many!" But really, I had my room to myself so I slept well, and the meals practically made themselves (okay, we did order out once). Typically when visiting family, we've always stayed in hotel rooms to be more comfortable. However, through this experience, I can appreciate putting that luxury aside for the pleasure of enjoying being closer to my family.



In the photo above, the look of concern is from one uncle telling the story of another's near death escape from the Navajo "Mafia" and the brother who saved him. We should have been around a campfire telling these stories, but the weather was not kind to us. Instead, we stayed up late each night playing cards, spoons and poker.

Isn't it said that rain on a wedding day brings good luck? Kind of like stepping in doggie doo, right? Each time we had to leave for a scheduled event, and there were several, black clouds darkened the skies and a storm would dump a ton of rain on us all. For the bachelor/bachelorette party, there was even a tornado that drove right through the city of Chicago into Lake Michigan. I didn't think they struck urban centers. Yet, when the marriage was over and the bride and groom drove off with cans bouncing along the street behind them, blue skies prevailed. I take that as a blessing for what is to come in their marriage, I hope.

With everyone gone, and Chloe at school, my home seems a just little more empty.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Day of School

Here she is walking to school. Walking instead of sitting on the congested Eisenhower bored, staring out the window, waiting to get to school. She loved walking to school. I did, too.
This is what happens to her face when told to smile.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Definition

Self-defeatism: Telling daughter to go play with her dolls so I can clean the house.

(This room sparkled only moments ago.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

water wheel


water wheel
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
Yesterday was a rainy day so it seemed appropriate that we spent most of our day wearing slickers in the water room at the Children's Museum. We had nothing planned for the day so I let Chloe take the lead. We were at the museum for nearly four hours as she worked her way deliberately through each room. Luckily I had a new knitting project with me.

As she became lost in her imaginative play, I noticed many parents pushing their kids through the exhibits. The poor kids frantically touched, pushed, pulled, played at a hectic pace to meet whatever expectations the adults had for them - as though there were a conveyor belt under their feet processing them through childhood. No wonder there are so many kids misdiagnosed with hyperactivity disorders. They must be desperate to get it all in before their parents catapult them to adulthood.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What are these girls doing indoors on a beautiful summer day?


campout
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
Chloe's best friend on the planet is visiting us at the farm. It is among the last few carefree days of summer. The skies are clear, the air is warm and not a drop of humidity. We should be at the beach.

Instead, all sorts of random objects around the house have been assembled to form a miniature city at the center of my small living room. The chairs have been moved and a quilt (machine made I'm embarrassed to report) has completed their tent city. How could I break this up?

tent


tent
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
There's a tent in the middle of my living room. So why would I ever spend the big bucks for this when my child can experience the great pleasure of imagining and building and playing in this?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pointy Hat


hat
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
A better view. I haven't woven the ends in, yet. Sometimes it never gets done. I thought Chloe looks like a little flower fairy in this so I might add a few soft green leaves around the edges, or even leaf ear flaps. Maybe that's too much.

Pointy Hat


hat
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
My sister-in-law was in town last weekend to plan her wedding (to be held at the farm - hurray). She gave me a gift of a few skeins of hand spun, hand dyed yarn. Here's one of them after I turned it into a hat. Would have taken me about a half hour because of the bulk, but I had a few shaping challenges so it took about an hour.

So here is how I think I did it:

Materials: One skein chunky, irregular yarn and size P/11.5mm (I think) hook.

Ch 3. Join with sl st to form ring.
rnd 1: ch 1, work 5 in ring, join w/sl st (use a marker at end of round - I use a large safety pin as I lack many of the nifty notions people have come up with.
rnd 2: ch 1, *sc twice in 1st st, sc in next st*, and repeat from *.
rnd 3: ch 1, *sc twice in 1st st, sc in next two stitches* and repeat from *.
rnd 4: ch 1, *sc twice in 1st st, sc in next 3 stitches* and repeat from *.

Do you see the pattern? Each of the following rows you add another stitch before the 2-in-1 stitch. Stop when it's big enough, but still tight enough to hold your head, then do a few rows of all single crochet without any increases.

Chloe's got a 6-year-old kid sized head so I did 11 rows of increasing rows and 5 rows of the same size. I also try to space out where I put the 2-in-1 stitches when I increase so I don't ever increase above a double stitch from the previous row.

I know, this isn't a very exact pattern, but a few people have asked how I do this, so this is the best I can do. One of these days I'll have a notebook by my side and record each row exactly - although I can't imagine that would actually work because with nearly every project that I do, I rip out just about as many stitches as I complete. It's part of my process.

And believe it or not, I started this hat from a pattern (pg 42 from One Skein by Leigh Radford) determined to stick to the point for once - that lasted for three rows before I backtracked. Only the first five chains remained from the original pattern :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Splash


Splash
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
My friend betrayed me a couple of years ago by leaving downtown to buy a 1 1/2 acre lot out in subdivision hell in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She's been begging me to come for a visit this summer, tantalizing us with their new blowup waterslide.

Well, finally, FINALLY we made it for a day trip. And what a day it had been. I now completely forgive her for moving on. Her home is as lovely as she is. Her garden is abundant with the most incredible, edible delights, and the kids went mad over this waterslide. Everything about yesterday was perfect, except for leaving. Chloe threw a temper tantrum remiscent of her terrible-two days. But it passed quickly, and we both slept very well last night.

This will become a monthly routine (Missy, be warned).

PS: I so love my new lenses. I took this with the telephoto - safely from the shade of Melissa's deck several hundred feet away from the water. Click on the photo to see more in the set. Kids and water always make me smile.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ahhhh


I'm a little drunk on mojitos and beignets and the power of the new outfits my camera gets to wear. George really made up nicely.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday. Shhhh, don't say anything.

I'm pretty sure my husband has forgotten as he got up, showered, kissed me goodbye and went to the gym. His forgetfulness has ceased to bother me many years ago. It's not that he doesn't care, he just is a little flighty about relationship things. Now, if I were 8-bit code, or a financial instrument, or naked, he'd be all over me :) When he realizes that he forgot, he'll really make it up to me. So I'm going to see how far I can take this.

We have dinner tonight with friends, I could really embarrass him and let them be the first to wish me happy birthday today. Or I could spill the beans and drag him to the camera store to buy me a really good telephoto lens. I have a Canon EOS 20D. Any recommendations or testimonials for a good lens?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dead Snake


dead snake
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
My mother was reminiscing about picking blackberries when she was a little girl in Louisianna. She was terrified of the snakes - poisonous ones that could kill you. I ran inside to change into pants to protect my legs from the thorns when my uncle called.

"What'er'y'all doing? Where's yer Mom?"

"Picking blackberries."

"Better watch out for those snakes. They like the rodents that eat the berries."

"Yeah - Mom just said (like two seconds ago). I don't think we have any here."

I guess we do.

Volley Ball Camp


Set
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
Chloe went from having never touched a volleyball and barely being able to catching and throwing, to actually bumping, setting, and not-quite-spiking in all of four days.

It was a humid, but fun week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

red jug


red jug
Originally uploaded by Dominique Alyce.
I haven't had many words, lately. Part of being at the farm and having a child at home, full-time again. Chloe was in time-out nearly fifty times yesterday. It was a day to cause me to seriously rethink homeschooling.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Have Fun, Gals

It's that time of year when all the cool bloggers get to go to BlogHer and all the dorks, I mean newbies, or geeks - oh wait, we're all kind'of geeks aren't we? get to go to say, Indiana.

But my groovin' sister is going, so I expect to find out everything, about everybody, and she's generally sober, so if you're not, beware. High School rules. Oh - I mean BlogHer.

(I'm just jealous.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Blue

I know I'm depressed when I promise my daughter that I'd take her to the American Girl Place (aka: The-Whore-Of-All-The-Earth) and super-strong, Starbucks puts me to sleep.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Senses

Your sense of smell can be altered by psychological factors. I uploaded this today, and although I was fresh out of the shower, I smelled bad BO.

This was taken at the end of a long day at the farm that began with rescuing chickens from my rogue cat, Edwin. The robins ratted him out so he was found in a head-high thicket. Fowl of the farm UNITE! The pole beans had to be weeded in order to reach the pole. And Chloe and I picked wild blackberries in the woods, fields, and marsh.

When I first came to the farm a few years ago, I read the story, Blueberries for Sal, frequently to Chloe. I remembered yearning for hills with wild blueberries to feed on. I lamented the over development of my environment. Yeah, we have plenty of U-pick farms nearby to keep us stocked with fresh strawberries, blueberries, peaches and apples, but that just isn't the same. It lacks spontaneity.

This year I had the surprise of being at the farm on the weekend when the blackberries were blossoming. Aha. The wild exists. Now I knew where to find the loot. They were probably cultivated at one time, but now they grow wild in thorny, thickets among tall grasses. More went into our mouths than into the basket, so scratched and stained, we dropped our drawers for a dip in the swimming (mud) hole.

Finally, before leaving for home, we dined at an outdoor restaurant where we played volleyball, badminton and threw bean bags while waiting for our dinner to be served. We all slept well that night.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Next Project: Yo-Yo's


outTAKE1
Originally uploaded by raymilauren.
I've recently knit a tank top out of some sale yarn - well, ribbon - bought at Meijers. Not really the best place for fiber, but I was at the farm and having just finished the green tank, I was desperate for a new project. I saw this image over at Raymi's and was won over by the yo-yo skirt so I bought $100 of silk remnants in various shades of blue. I realize that such a busy skirt may not be very flattering for my rather large bottom, but, well, if it doesn't work, the yo-yo's can make an excellent cloak, or vest, or dramatic throw. Or hey, I'm still trying to come up with a really groovey room divider, only blues aren't in my color scheme. Or like my brother-in-law remarked once, hot pads. What would you do with a bunch of silk yo-yo's?


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

This is why I care...

This is Chloe presenting her "Great Work" project for Kindergarten Graduation. She prepared a map of the United States complete with the state capitals written in Japanese. Her teacher would select a state, and Chloe would read off the capital.

I know this doesn't prove brilliance, I just think that it's cool that my daughter knows more about geography than I did in 12th grade.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Project Journal - Crochet Tank Top

This was another reason why I had neglected my blog for awhile. I made and took apart this top three times before I got it right. The first attempt, I was determined to follow a pattern I found in "The Happy Hooker" vebatim. It turned out having a lumpy middle, enormous top and tiny trunk. Perhaps it would have been suitable for a stripper with 38 double D silicone breasts and a lipo'd waist. Regardless, I ripped it apart and made my own pattern up as I went along. The 2nd attempt almost worked but the armholes were too big. I could have worked around it, but after establishing a perfectionist approach, I ripped it out again. The 3rd attempt was almost exact, but I had to redo the bodice a few times. Not as bad as starting from scratch. Finally, wa-la! Complete. I wore it to the Taste of Chicago and got soaking wet on one of the rides. I wondered why I received an extra amount of gazes throughout the remainder of the day until I realized that the water stretched the whole thing out. It barely covered my nipples. Back in the dryer, it shrunk up okay.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

For the Love of a Country



It was this post of Lisa's that inspired some of my thoughts here:

I’ve been disenchanted with my country for some time. When I first moved to Chicago five years ago, I lived in a temporary apartment in the Gold Coast area. Never had I lived among such wealth. I felt terribly intimidated if I were to leave my home without having my nails done, hair done and clothes polished. Me, in my stretchy pants and t-shirt had to push my stroller past the outdoor cafes on Rush Street filled with rich, beautiful people as they dined for lunch. Then I’d return from the park and they were still there, having no place they had to be, I guess. Along the way I’d pass several stores that sold nothing for less than $100 and nothing larger than a size 10. As if being rich kept one immune from calories. I often wondered if I would ever grow wealthy enough to not care about a price tag and have nothing to do but be seen drinking chardonnay all afternoon.

I admit that I am a cynic. I used to think that what our country needs is a serious war – one that would limit our resources and people would actually have to give up a few things. Or we needed an economic depression. Our Grandparents had both war and depression. They knew the value of frugal living, of reusing materials, of saving instead of spending. Perhaps it would improve our spirit as a nation to actually have to sacrifice a little, to go without.

Then terrorists drove planes into the World Trade Center. I didn’t wish for that. My thoughts grew darker, more melancholy. Bush told us to get out, shop, go on vacation. By God, we’ve got to keep the economy moving. I didn’t get the sense that too many people had to sacrifice much. Of course there were those people who lost loved ones, jobs tightened, fear gripped us. Soldiers were sent to Afghanistan, then later to Iraq. Yes, there were people who had to sacrifice much. But to the majority, I don’t think we felt it.

The Iraq war began, and for every small protest or peace vigil, there were throngs of flag-waving, Bush zealots chanting U S A, U S A. I grew to despise the flag. It came to represent mob-mentality, the ugly-American.

In time I have mellowed. I generally feel so powerless and alienated over the politics of my country, I hardly feel I am a citizen. Instead, I just live here, enjoying the good life I have, raising a beautiful daughter and loving my family.

One day in May, I came upon this march as I was headed to the L-train. United States flags floated enmasse through the streets, held by proud, peaceful immigrants, demonstrating their passion for our country. Their numbers only reminded me of the many people seeking citizenship who have touched my life, directly and indirectly. Having mostly lived in a major city, how could you live without the benefit of their work ethic, familial strength, art and music, friendship, and food?

I held back my tears as the American flag had never looked so beautiful to me. It is when I see our nation through the eyes of people who dream of becoming a part of it, that I see it for all the beauty that it is.

Happy birthday, America.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Seed Has Been Planted

When my inlaws came to town, they asked if they could take my daughter to church with them. I was unsure. Chloe adores her Grandparents and they wield heavy influence over her. Her grandparents love the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mormons) and can’t contain themselves when given an opportunity to proselytize. I tolerate their rantings because I, too, adore them and I am comfortably secure in my agnostic cocoon. Chloe, on the other hand, will follow them to the end of the world if given a chance. Most six-year-olds do not hold the power of critical thinking.

I gave in. Sure, go ahead (maybe I’ll get laid this morning). Instead I gardened and George slept blissfully, unaware of what terror we were to face that day and for many days later.

In a matter of three hours, my delightful child had been brainwashed. Doubtful that the kindly primary teacher could wield such power, I was convinced that throughout Sacrament meeting, Primary opening exercises and the rides to and from Church, her grandparents were giving Chloe a crash course on the Gospel. She came home bouncing off the walls from the sugar she’d been consuming and a newfound knowledge of Christ.

“Mom, Mom,” she breathlessly declared, “I know about God and they talked about Jesus and look at this picture I drew… it says Jesus loves me backwards and if I put my face in this hole and look at the mirror it’s talking about me and I need some scriptures because I’m supposed to have scriptures at church and LOOK, I got this HUGE bag of CANDY.” Whew.

Okay kid, accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and have some candy.

George tried to balance her overzealousness on a level that she could understand. “Chloe, do you know how you like to play with your disappear friends (that’s how Chloe refers to anything make believe)? Jesus is Grandpa and Grandma’s special disappear friend. In fact, he’s many people’s special disappear friend.”

“Oh.” She exclaimed as she thoughtfully nodded her head.

Now eat your candy.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm Glad There Is Somebody Else Out There Who Hates These Things

I have a secret confession to make and in doing so, I’m afraid of the repercussions. But since many people have the compulsive urge to share their dirty laundry on the Internet, I will give in for a moment and do the same.

I read Dooce.

There, I said it. Whew, got that one off my shoulders.

I can relate to her even though I’m not clinical because a) She’s a Mom, B) She’s not afraid to write about the sometimes horrible feelings of motherhood, and C) She’s an ex-Mormon who has a totally irreverent sense of humor about the Church.

Today I feel compelled to refer to her because it is summertime in Chicago and a strange, hideous obsession has taken over my fair city - Crocs. Ewe.

Each year a new ugly shoe fad rears its frumpy head. More recently it was Ugg boots. Doesn’t the name explain it all? Ugg is supposed to be a warning – she who wears this will be met by the expression of Ugg! Because they are ugly. See, it’s even in the name.

Then it was Keen sandals (I made the gross error in buying a pair because they look so cute on all the kids at school). Not only did they inflame my plantar fasciitis beyond control, they are ugly and they make my already size 11 feet appear larger than a clown’s. Now, what exactly do I need to protect my big toe from? I ask.

Now the trend is a plastic looking garden clog. What was at first slightly amusing on little girls, has taken over and offends the eye at every corner. I try to pretend that these are all just tourists invading my urban pleasure ground, but the numbers are too great.

That is why I share with you my dirty little secret today, because I am delighted that Heather has the same sentiments and has taken this to guerilla warfare. (I know, I’m a little behind on my reading, this is old news for anyone else who reads Dooce.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ice

After seeing the Field Museum’s Pompeii exhibit, Chloe’s become very concerned about volcanoes. Whenever we travel, she is quick to ensure that there are no volcanoes where we are going.

This last weekend we took a road trip to Minnesota. We're on the road crossing into Wisconsin and Chloe asks, "Mom, are there volcanoes in Wisconsin?"

“No. No mountains, no volcanoes.”

"But Mom, there's a mountain. There, there." she points to a small hill. There are a lot of small hills - beautiful, lush, green, gently rolling hills.

“Chloe, those are just small hills. They just seem big because there are no mountains behind them to show how small they really are.” I look back to see the furrow in her brow deepen, so I try again.

“Once a long, long time ago, this entire area was covered in a great sheet of ice. All these hills are leftover debris from when the glaciers moved over the land and receded North.”

Her furrow only deepened further.

“Chloe, these hills were made by the ice-age.”

“Ohhhh.” The light went on and a look of sheer delight crossed her face. “Ice age.” She mused while nodding her head.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chloe’s thumbing through the little, brown notebooks on my desk. “How come you have two of these and I only have one?” She asks.

“Uhhh, because I write a lot.”

“I think you should become a writist.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Airborne


She ran up, threw her body against my raised feet and squealed with laughter as she rose to the sky. Hair flying, grass in my ears, the sun in my eyes, my soul was filled with her joy. "Again, again, again!" she shouted the words on my tongue.

Wet

There are so many good reasons to hate Milennium Park, but I love this fountain.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Contest

Today was the deadline to submit photos for the South Loop Neighbors Living History photo contest. I had won this contest two years ago, the first time I participated. At that time I thought of myself as an accidental photographer. The image was one of those taken because I was at the right place at the right time with a camera. It was unintentional.

Now, I suffer from a level of seriousness that inhibits me tremendously. I think I enjoyed taking photos better when I didn't want to be a good photographer. Instead of submitting mediocrity, I was going to skip out on the contest this year. But yesterday Roy, our friendly bank manager, shouted at us from his car for me to get my photos in.

Okay, so playing doesn't always have to be to win, right? Here goes... This is what I submitted:


I burnt out this image while playing with the levels and accidentally overwrote the original - oops.

The photos should document life in this neighborhood, and it's a plus if they can include any historic buildings or elements. Both include a fountain in the area that we play around frequently. I take many photos of this fountain, hoping that over time I will have a series that include seasonal changes, changes in the neighborhood (hopefully not too many), and changes as my daughter ages.

Self Critique

These are the photos that I didn't submit:

This was taken at a pet adoption event. I love that the girls are pressed to the window looking at the kitten and the kitten looking back at them. It is the emotion of longing of both the child and the animal that I wanted to portray, but I'm not sure that without an explanation, just anyone would pick that up.

I like the juxtaposition of the playgound equipment with the historic clocktower but the image quality was poor and looked grainy when printed. Also the image of the child was unremarkable (except that she is my own) and playing with the highlights and shadows just further reduced the image quality.

A fun image, but doesn't show any of the children's faces. That's good in one way because none of them are recognizable and so no parent can really protest. But on the other hand, without facial expressions, much of the delight is absent.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pedaling

I returned home the other night, stuffed from movie theatre popcorn, dinner, drinks and dessert. I urged my family to go on a walk with me to relieve my gluttonous guilt and so they did. Chloe was anxious to get out her bike. She wanted to show George that she could now pedal on gravel – something never before attempted until earlier that day. The outfit she wore was a strange composition of floral pants, yellow frog rubbers, a polka dot slicker, and a pink cloth napkin draped over her head - held in place by a sparkling tiara. This was not at all unusual to her parents as her creative combinations amuse us daily. I had run into the house to drop off my stuff, so the two of them got a head start. Walking towards her, I was greeted by a neighbor whom I had never met. The woman was laughing as she approached, “Your daughter has made my day.” she repeated several times enthusiastically.

Huh?

I met another couple and they too were chuckling and remarked on Chloe. Wondering what all the fuss was about, I looked to find her at the end of the gravel drive, pedaling with a mighty force as her back wheel spun out beneath her. Her training wheels caused her to be stuck. She was determined to be unstuck. Hunched down over her handlebars, her elaborate headdress flapping in the breeze, she pedaled, pedaled and pedaled. But alas, she did not budge. In her determination to impress her father, she wasn't about to give up. A slight push from George, and she sped gaily on her way.

Because I am her mom, this is daily fare. To see how delightful she is through others eyes I am overcome with gratitude. Childhood is incredible.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Don't

This is the "if you take one more photo of me I'm gonna kick sand at your Canon 20D so it won't be covered by the warranty when you take it in for servicing yet again" look.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stop

The other day I emerged from my garage to a street scene filled with fire trucks, police cars, and emergency vehicles combined with barricades from the gas company and several trucks from an environmental management company. Someone with good sense might take all that in and retreat back into the reinforced concrete security of the parking garage. No, I saw enough of a crowd to venture forward. I wanted to know what was going on. The local bank manager, normally a jovial guy, was in the midst of it all. I asked, “Did something explode?” He looked confused so I pointed to the utility trucks.

“Oh that. No.” He was very somber. “That’s not related,” he said gesturing to the other part of the scene. We watched a young woman being hoisted onto a nearby stretcher. “Someone got run over by a car.”


When new to Chicago, I was surprised to find that at the end of my block, so close to the downtown financial district, only a stop sign managed the traffic. In addition to the converted lofts that make up much of my neighborhood, there are townhomes and single family homes. For being in the shadow of the Sears tower, it has a suburbian feel to it, yet the traffic reminds us where we really live. Through this intersection, folks coming from the 'burbs race to work. They gun the lights and often slam to a stop in the middle of the crosswalk.

My daughter had just turned one when we moved here from Brooklyn five years ago. I spent my days pushing her in a stroller, walking the city, learning it with my feet - discovering playgrounds, parks, music and art. If I crossed the intersection at the end of my block and a car passed the line, I would explode into hand jestures and curses – practiced from 15 years as a pedestrian through the streets of New York. Drivers would drop their jaw, not really sure what to make of my insults. People on the street would stop and stare. Not at the careless motorists, but at the crazy, cursing lady pushing a stroller. They were staring at me.

It wasn’t peer pressure from these polite Midwesterners that encouraged me to change my behavior. It was the day when I looked down to see my sweet little girl shaking her fist furiously at a car, ranting and cursing in her baby talk translation that I realized I ought to stop. My street survival tendencies weren’t welcome in this nice part of the world. It was unseemly, unattractive, and now my kid was doing it, too.

I changed. Instead of curses, I gave curt smiles. I taught my daughter to treat strangers with respect and courtesy – learning this myself as I tried to be a stellar example. This was my neighborhood and I wanted to be accepted as a friend, not fiend.

Eventually the stop sign was replaced by a traffic light. It was supposed to be temporary while nearby construction would divert the extra traffic through the area. After two years, the light remains. Traffic speeds by, racing the light. Neighbors with their dogs, their strollers, their briefcases, cower on the curb as they await permission to cross. We are terrorized by reckless drivers. Our Alderman has asked the community whether the light should stay or go.


Today, after watching the unfortunate pedestrian being taken away, I turned to walk home. How small my city neighborhood feels – when people on the streets are saddened when a stranger is hurt. I pressed the walk button, the light changed and I stepped off the curb. A taxi screeched to a halt, stopping in the middle of the crosswalk. I shook my fist and fired off a few curses, “Hey! This is a crosswalk, ASSHOLE.”

The driver laughed as he rolled down his window to blow me kisses. “Come on, honey, I just wanted to give you some love.” He inched his car forward to tease. I gave him the finger and cursed some more while he laughed behind me. Safe on the curb, I looked around me to find stares – not at the crazy cabbie, but at me, the crazy lady shaking her fists in the streets.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday

I joined some friends at the Shedd Aquarium and while the girls were totally engaged with each other, my friend and I played with our cameras. I came home and to find that all the manual functions (that worked just fine only hours before) have ceased to work. Arrgh. I think I have a lemon. Damn you Canon.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Blustery Easter Morn


This image was produced after I spot-healed the smears of chocolate and dried snot from her face - I like that tool. However, the original tells the real story of how much fun it was to hunt for eggs, eating the contents of each before moving on to the next.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cookies

Tonight I am baking the worst batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, ever. I thought I had this recipe perfected. It is so simple, only bad butter could make it go bad. But it is bad.

Usually I don't bother with baking because my ass really needn't get any fatter. However, I was attempting a little civic duty, or kindness. Last Friday evening, as we were about to take Chloe to Ice Age 2, we were stopped in the hall by a loud alarm and strange smell. My building is almost all timber, and very old timber, so these kinds of things scare me.

The fire panel was clear, but I wasn't about to abandon my cats or my computer in such an uncertain predicament. I called 911.

Blaring firetrucks are so common on my block. The sirens are largely ignored until they stop - which usually means an alarm was mistakenly tripped nearby. (In fact, I hear one coming as I write - hmmm, sounds like it turned on Harrison, maybe.) Occasionally someone will step to the windows to check it out - then we know they are new around here. Or that someone is me because I always go to the window.

The truck arrived. The firefighters boldly marched in, bypassing me (even though I'm the one who called) to talk with my husband, the MAN. We found it was the CO alarm in the basement - and boy was it hot down there. After taking a quick reading, they returned in full gear and gas masks. Yikes.

Now, I know that I have truly grown as a person when I could tear myself away from a group of hunky firemen and some good drama. It was simple, really. Daughter? or Firemen? "Come on, Chloe, let's go get a cookie."

A few moments later, my neighbor walked into the coffee shop with his kid and cat. "Mom, what about Lucy and Edwin?????" So I went back to get the cats. By that time, they were just opening up windows and asking us to stay out until the air cleared and the gas man showed up.

No problem. Dinner and a movie.

So why am I attempting this batch of cookies? Because deep down inside, I can't let go of this opportunity to swing by my local firehouse with some neighborly lov'in. That, and I have this thing for firemen. Not that I would actually want to touch one, but, you know, they are the image of heroic in their big boots and all that clunky gear. When I used to go jogging in Prospect Park, it would make my day (my week, month) when I timed it right with the neighborhood fire department. They would jog in a pack, trailing behind the truck. Pant, pant, pant. It was total entertainment to get stuck behind them in line at the local grocer. George's uncle, the fire captain, once led us on a tour of his station. He took out a ladder truck and raised us nearly 100 feet above Mesa. I was in my thirties, but felt like an eight-year-old all wide-eyed with excitement.

Chloe has to come with me to deliver the cookies - to complete the picture. She asks, "Mom, can't you do this when I'm at school?" No. You have to come and see the firetrucks. You'll love it. Maybe they'll even give you a red helmut.

I might have to pick up something at Whole Foods, though. I'm no June Cleaver.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Self Portrait Tuesday

This month's Self Portrait Tuesday theme is along the lines of April Fool's Day.

Let me introduce you to my very lovely sister-in-law, Janna. I was in New York on vacation - which seems a little of an oxymoron for me... New York - Vacation. Sounds strange when said together when for over fifteen years I was just another slave of New York dreaming of those very few vacation days when I could plan my escape. Living there wasn't always that rough, it was just a long adrenaline rush. Moving to Chicago was kind of like going into rehab - not really realizing how bad the coke habit was until it wasn't there anymore.

Janna planned an evening out that included dinner and an off-broadway show that was worth a few laughs (thanks for the tickets, sweetie). The joke is, I took this photo while we stood in the street, trying to get Times Square in the background. For the life of me, I would avoid that area like the plague when I lived there. Here, I am a tourist, trying to photograph myself in front of one of the nation's ugliest landmarks, and I couldn't even get the framing right.

As the photo shows, the best part of the evening was time spent with Janna. It was just her and I and we could have been anywhere.

Disclaimer: I would still move back in a second if the opportunity was right.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reading


I don’t read much – I generally prefer naval-gazing and entertain myself with my kid, cats, and self. I’d like to be considered a well-read person, but frankly, I lack the focus and the discipline. Magazines are my preferred medium – I like the pictures. Chicago Public Radio comes in a close second. I like to see images, hear voices, and catch the subtle meaning only a face or voice can betray. Occasionally, though, I indulge in text. This morning, while consuming my daily brew, I read yesterday’s New York Times.

I’ve been in Chicago for nearly five years and I still subscribe to the Times. I tried the Chicago Tribune for a few months while my husband protested much. Then NY was struck by disaster and I couldn’t stand my dependency on the networks to bring me the information I craved. I switched back, never fully immersing myself in local news, issues, politics or culture. It struck me during this last local election what a loss it is not to read Chicago. All the delicious popularity wars I missed out on – I was a clueless bystander.

Newspapers, especially the Times, seem to present the world’s greatest contrasts. Inequalities. In the same Sunday magazine that I read about the genocide in Darfur, I read whether childcare is work or leisure (for me, both, the hardest work I’ve ever done, yet easily the most enjoyable), and how pomegranate juice may save my life. I can peruse ads for some of the world’s most expensive apartments, vacations and jeans that at $950 a pair, are called denim trousers. Finally, I realized that I had passed hours and hadn’t paid any bills, washed any clothes, dishes, floors, nor myself. Indulgence, indeed.

PS: Barbie is really a brunette.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sit. Stay. Play.

On his last day in town, my Dad took us all out to brunch. We left one crowded joint for another with a shorter wait. The only table available was small and just a little too close to the wall, so I made Chloe sit on the wall side.

"But Mom, I don't want to sit there," she protested.

"Yes Chloe, you're the smallest one. Please sit there."

"I am NOT small. I am as tall as your boobs." She shouted in that tiny, crowded restaurant.

Hmmm. At least she didn't say she's as tall as my tits.

Yes my darling, well-spoken offspring. "You are tall enough to reach my CHEST. But you're still the smallest one here. So please, sit and stay."

"And Play?" She asked.

Yes. Good dog.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Reminder

Staten Island is cleaning up their waterfront. While walking to the ferry terminal, I stumbled upon this sobering, yet beautiful, image. These are the names and profiles of Staten Island residents that died during the September 11th attacks. So many from Cantor Fitzgerald [exhale]. Rest in peace, friends.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My Vacation is Awesome

Nothing like a new baby to refresh your perspective on the world.

This is really why we came to New York.

Cousins and Twister made up for a rainy afternoon.

And the next day was sunny and warm. So what if we're in a concrete jungle when there are friends about.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Road Trip


It's spring break and we're heading to New York. WaHoo.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Submerged


I am in a funk. Why? I don't know, it's unidentifiable. All I know is that I came home today and saw the same mess in my house that I left the day before and went straight to bed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Puddles on the Playground

Chloe and I went out to the farm last weekend to enjoy a little mother nature and an extra day off of school. When we arrived, we went to the school playground across the street hoping to meet some of the local kids. Once again, as always, the playground was empty.

In Chicago, on almost any day, the local school playground is buzzing with kids and their families. It is has been central to our community experience. We have had pizza delivered to the playground for those impromptu gatherings when the weather is good, the kids are playing nice, and we just don't want to go home and cook supper. A kind, anonymous donor supports an annual Easter Egg hunt. My kid knows little of Easter, but what the heck, it's a community event - a chance to see friends who've been cooped up behind closed doors all winter. Even if no one from our immediate circle will be there, a trip to the playground is always a chance to meet new friends.

Not so in the country. When school is out, the kids are gone. Where? To their homes to play in their big backyards with their own private playground?

There is nothing so lonely as an empty playground. "Will you be my friend, Mom? Will you play with me?"

I choked back tears of regret. "Sure, honey. I'd love to play."

We went from swings to the slide to the monkey bars. We stirred up the puddles with damp sticks, making bubbles from the muddy water. "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..." We became witches, casting spells on the local population. We threw in a few for Daddy. "When these bubbles pop, you'll suddenly want to do the dishes, cook dinner, fold some clothes and stay up all night playing Uno. I made her laugh so hard she almost peed her pants. It didn't matter, because before we left we were mostly covered in mud, giggling all the way home.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Street Light


It is a cold and blustery day today in Chicago. The StreetWise vendor confirmed it, the wind simply blew it down.

And this morning it was as high as 65 degrees.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thirst

My cats don't drink out of their water dish - ever. I clean it. I change the water twice a day, but they still won't touch it. Instead they lurk about the sink waiting to catch a drip from the faucet. Any glass half full left about is theirs, even if it means carrying it on their head because they've got stuck inside. Or it seems that no matter where they might be hiding in my home, when the toilet flushes, they appear.  People who have been long-time cat lovers may be already familiar with these bizarre idiosyncrasies, but for me, it is all new news.

I've found a happy solution. I recently purchased some cat grass. The bright, green blades looked so hopeful on a gray, winter day. I would water and trim it and fantasize about what life might be like in the suburbs. As soon as the water poured, the cats came running. They popped out from the hole they made from inside my couch, bounded over toys and table and onto the window sill. Crowding each other out they fought for the precious, grassy, dirt filtered water.


Ahhh - refreshing.