In May, I took Foster to Houston for his birthday, and my dad met us there to stay in a hotel and go to a Cubs game. Foster has just recently started getting into sports in general and the Cubs in particular. I bought him some Cubs baseball cards over Spring break and I was using them like flash cards to help him remember the names of the players. We arrived into Houston, went to the hotel, had a quick swim on the top-floor (though indoor) pool, then went to the game at Minute Maid Park, just down the street from the hotel (picture below taken from our hotel room).
We got there early, and the gates hadn't even opened yet. When we got inside we went towards the Cubs dugout along with quite a few other Cubs fans (we're everywhere). I was really hoping we could get Foster a ball, but everyone wanted a ball, so I knew the chances weren't good. Here are some pictures I took, my favorite Cub Reed Johnson, Aramis Ramirez chatting with Lou one day before separating his shoulder, and a good one of Soriano.
Then Joey Gathright ran over and grabbed a ball that was sitting not far from us (in fact, you can see the ball sitting on the grass behind us in the picture below).
I wanted to yell to him, but didn't. But it was like I was communicating telepathically because he looked over at us as if to say: "Someone want this?" I said: "Right here!" And even though I called for it, there were still plenty of people who could have snagged it. Sure enough, the ball came right to me, I reached above the smaller young woman standing in front of me, and caught it. "Here you go, buddy. Happy birthday." At that moment, I thought: whether we win or lose, or this is the worst game ever, our trip has been a success. (Note: it was Joey's last great play as a Cub as he was traded to the Orioles the very next day). We were sitting behind home plate (incredible seats) next to another Cubs fan, but there were mostly Astros fans around us, view from our seats below. There were 2 particularly obnoxious Astros fans sitting in front of us who thankfully left after the 3rd inning. The game didn't start well with our pitcher giving up a two-run home run in the bottom of the 1st inning but we came back, Soriano hit a home run (remember when he did that?), and we were leading for most of the game. Lo and behold, the obnoxious fans returned in the top of the 9th and decided it was time to start heckling the Cubs. Soriano came up and they started yelling, "Soriano! Have you even been on base tonight?" Then it was quiet, so I said, "He actually hit a home-run earlier, guys. So technically, no, he wasn't on base. But he was on them all briefly." They felt a little embarrassed, but were undeterred. They continued to razz him, and I was thinking: "Please hit a home run. Please hit a home run." And right on cue, Soriano drilled another one. I went crazy and might have gotten myself in a fight but chilled out. We then spent a day in Galveston with my mom and stepdad. Foster and I bonded, we had some quality time with the grandparents, the Cubs won, he got a ball...what a weekend! And Foster has the ball to prove it.
If you are over the age of 30, it is likely you played on a merry-go-round at a park similar to the one pictured above. If you're under 30, it is likely you did not. They aren't around anymore, and I'm certain it's because kids got hurt on them, their parents sued park districts, and so they took them out. How do I know this? Well, this law firm's webpage not only talks about the requirements for any current merry-go-round, but also has a handy form to fill out if your "child was severely injured from playing on a merry go round." You "may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering." They'll get back to you within 24 hours.
Anyway, there's a camp we visited in Wisconsin last fall that still has them and so our kids got to play on one. Just look at the joy on their faces. Unbridled joy. There was nothing like running as fast as you could, then jumping on and spinning and spinning and spinning. If you know of a playground that hasn't yet had theirs removed, enjoy it. And tell me where it is, so my kids can play there.
I was supposed to go out for my birthday with Heidi last night but they rescheduled Kaila’s 5th grade band concert because of last week’s cold weather. So instead of a nice dinner and a movie, I got to hear a bunch of 5th graders who just started playing their instruments 4 months ago play Three Dog Night's Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog), among other masterpieces. Another highlight of the evening: Kum Ba Yah as interpreted by the trumpet section. Breathtaking. When the full band played their first song, Foster (my six year old) put his hands over his ears. Classy. And then Heidi actually told me she'd pay me 5 bucks to stand up and dance during Jeremiah. I declined, though upon further reflection I definitely should have taken the money and done it.
To be honest, I was pretty impressed with Kaila and her flute section-- their "solo" song was very nice. And it was a very memorable evening with the family. I wouldn't have traded it!
A snow day for thousands of Chicagoland children the day before Christmas break! Other than the last day of school before summer, that's the best day of the year. Christmas parties, movies in class, exchanging presents...one of my kids even cried when she found out school was canceled. She's over it now. Outside playing in the blizzard...
A few weeks ago, Heidi was reading a book entitled Easter Surprise to Grace, who will be four in a month. It's a children's book that explains the Easter story to kids. At the conclusion, Heidi said to Grace: "Isn't Jesus good?", a semi-rhetorical response. Grace's response: "I don't like Jesus." Why? "Because he made spiders and bees." What? Why is she questioning this? I feel like I was probably 18 before I put together the connection between the existence of evil and how it affects the concept of the goodness of God. Anyway, after a brief pause to collect herself, Heidi tried to convince her that God was indeed good.
Fast forward to yesterday in the car. Heidi was bringing Grace home from her first day at preschool, and it sounds like something that happened there brought on the same refrain from before: "God isn't good," she said as they were talking. "He made spiders and bees." She really doesn't like spiders and bees. So Heidi again tried to assure Grace that God is indeed good. "But he made you and me, and we're good. And when things go wrong, he heals us." "He PEELS US?!?!?!" she replied in horror. "WHY DOES HE PEEL US?!!!!!!" Heidi quickly reassured her that God does not peel us. "He takes care of us when things are difficult," she said.
Apparently, that worked. When Heidi got home and got her out of the car, Grace had a big smile on her face and said confidently: "Mommy, Jesus is TAGILLION good." (Tagillion being her made up word for "very.")
Today, I was in the car and Heidi asked Grace if she remembered that Jesus was tagillion good. Grace said: "Yeah, remember when I thought God would rip our skin off?"
I can only imagine the image in her little head of God holding us up like a banana and peeling our skin off of us. Hopefully these deep theological struggles won't haunt her her whole life. Maybe she can work through a few of them at three, and take care of it early, you know?
And my daughter is selling them for the first time. (I sold them once for my sister when I was five...put on her Girl Scout sash and went door-to-door in our apartment complex, but that's a story for another time). So let us be your supplier. You'll make yourself fatter and happier, and you'll get her closer to one of those cheap plastic toys they use as incentives that breaks the moment you take it out of the bag...I mean, everyone wins here! We've got all the favorites: Thin Mints, Caramel DeLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread, and a few new ones. Just let me know. If you feel uncomfortable ordering, I understand. And someone has written an essay for McSweeney's that captures that uncomfortable feeling well. Read below: I CANNOT POSSIBLY BUY GIRL SCOUT COOKIES FROM YOUR DAUGHTER AT THIS TIME
by Charlie Nadler
- - - -
So, remember this morning how
you were telling everyone that you were taking orders for your
daughter's Girl Scout cookie sale? I have been thinking this over all
day, and I want to let you know that I have arrived at a decision. No,
I cannot possibly buy Girl Scout cookies from your daughter at this
First of all, I have
never even met your daughter. That on its own is probably a
deal-breaker for me. Had she come here personally and solicited me
herself, I almost certainly would have purchased cookies. In fact, I
definitely would have ordered more than the perfunctory three or four
boxes I saw everyone else from the office marked down for. However, the
fact that she has employed you, her mother, in the execution of her
sales reflects a lazy, manipulative approach to what could have been a
valuable learning experience and community-building exercise. The loss
of revenue resultant from her failure to close the deal with me is the
least of her problems.
displaying the order form openly at the reception desk was beyond
sleazy; it was socially irresponsible. By making the record of orders
public, you generated a volatile atmosphere of concentrated anxieties
and clashing egos, and part of me believes this was not done by
accident. Do you fully appreciate the colossal amount of pressure you
and your daughter have put on everyone here? A scarlet letter for him
who orders the fewest cookies, and consummate disgrace for those who
order none at all!
weight was nearly enough to bully me into a purchase. (You can see on
the form that I did at one point enter an order but later crossed it
out.) In my better judgment I have decided to take a stand. Today, I
refuse to be coerced. I only hope that my actions will help assuage any
obligation felt by those who may not be in a place financially to
afford to be squandering precious income on cookies. I do realize that,
myself not included, everyone in the office has already placed orders,
but I am also speaking of any morally bankrupt business ventures your
daughter may decide to impose on this office in the future.
I will thank you to
relay as much to your daughter. Also, if you can let her know that, in
the case that there is a surplus of Caramel deLites, and she is unable
to sell them all, I may be interested in taking some of those off her
hands at a substantially discounted price.
So I got a glimpse of what it was like to be my mom back in the day, as I took my two girls to an audition for a national Quaker Chewy Granola Bar commercial tonight. I had gotten an e-mail about the audition looking for kids 6-9 years old who eat granola bars and are environmentally conscious. How environmentally conscious can a 6 year old be? "Mom? I was recently watching An Inconvenient Truth again and I'm disturbed by our family's immense carbon footprint. Maybe we should eat more Quaker Chewy Granola Bars." Maybe they're trying to tie in the whole "granola" thing, I don't know.
Regardless, I was told to bring pictures of our kids helping the environment (thus the picture at left of the kids composting) and I took Kaila and Ellie down to the Irish American Heritage Center where the audition was and we were all videoed for about 10 minutes, asking questions about what we like to do and how we help the environment and so on. At one point, I was reprimanded for trying to help Ellie answer a question and REALLY felt like a stage mom.
I'm pretty sure we're not going to get chosen as we're a little too boring and white bread for national television. But we got a few free Granola Bars out of the deal, and had a good time eating out at Chili's in Skokie afterwards (the very place I took their mom on our first date 13 Novembers ago!) So when you see a Quaker commercial in Jan 2008, think of us. And recycle. And buy granola bars.
Those of you outside of the Chicagoland area might be unaware that the 17-year cycle of cicadas (known as Brood XIII) are set to make their long-awaited reemergence from the homes in the ground they made for themselves back in 1990. The whole area has been bracing themselves for this exciting event, and one prominent scientist predicted that "C-Day", the day they would all come out, would be Tuesday (it's supposed to be when the ground temp reaches 65 degrees). Tuesday came and went without a cicada deluge. Our across-the-street neighbor was talking with Heidi last week and mentioned that there were some that had come out in Deerfield, but not here. So he brought us a couple yesterday. As you can see, Ellie
has taken to them quite nicely (click on pics to get closer views). They're creepy little boogers with their beady little red eyes. And one of them making their mating noise is supposed to be as loud as a lawn mower. There can be as many as one million per square acre. So we wait for more.
Here is Ellie's descriptive illustration of a cicada: