30 September 2009

Mama, the television tyrant

As I was putzing around this morning on the computer (how is it that, even before I get dressed, I am on this thing?), I heard a tiny cry from the bedroom.  Mama senses all a-quiver, I rush like a ninja into the bedroom, so as not to wake the other sleeping souls, and to the bed of Olivia, who is crying, fresh from a dream.  Here is a brief transcript of the ensuing conversation:

Me:  What happened, sweetie?

Olivia:  You turned off the T.V.

[crying resumes]

So apparently my three year-old daughter is having nightmares about me turning off the T.V.  This is bad. 

Or is it?  Maybe we are watching too much television in the first place - granted, we limit it to videos that I've deemed "okay" - no violence, well-developed heroines,  and just a little "benign peril" (as my friend Gavin as aptly deemed it).  We watch mostly Hayao Miyazaki's children's movies:  Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro (about sisters), and Panda Go! Panda, and we watch them in Japanese or Chinese (Olivia has been preferring Chinese these days - go figure), as the English versions say weird things (which are probably also in the other versions, only we can't quite understand them).  We also watch Milo & Otis, Winged Migration, and some Little Bill episodes I recorded many years back.  But just reading this list gives me cause for pause.  That's quite a bit.

I've been figuring out little family projects that we can do each week to improve our family life - so maybe one of them can be a "no T.V." week.  Which, honestly, would not be missed if I were up to getting out of the house more.  I'm really a couch potato at heart, and I love T.V. - mostly the mindlessness that is required to keep up with popular shows.  I suppose I could put a bit more energy into planning daily schedules...  But I don't want to over-schedule, either.  We just get bored.

So, dear reader, any ideas?

27 September 2009

They're called Clementines, not Oranges...

Our dear friend, Dena (A.K.A. Doda) recently shared a wealth of clementines with us. Olivia loves them. Earlier this morning, she carried them around the house in a tea cozy. This afternoon, she practiced peeling them.

But don't let me tell you about how she loves them. You can see for yourself!

 I must admit, if I had had such peel-friendly fruit when I was younger, I may like oranges now.

What time is it again?

This has to be one of the more annoying aspects of young family life - I am awake at 4:30 AM.  Not 2 or 3 AM, at which point I could coax myself back to bed and sleep; nor 5 or 6 AM, when I could simply be awake.  No - 4:30, which may be one of the silliest times in existence.

And the weird part is, I can't even figure out why I'm awake.  Sometimes, there's a bit of logic - like I had to nurse Elsie.  But she's asleep, and I'm wide awake.  It could be that the low battery on our smoke detector woke me, but I prefer to adopt a more complex and emotionally satisfying explanation - there must be something wrong with someone.  Someone must be sick or injured or near death's door and my strong intuition has wakened me to worry.  How kind of it.  Or - and here's my current favorite - our house may shortly be attempted to be entered by robbers and I woke up in time to foil their attempt by locking all of the bolts on the rear and front doors.  Aha!  Of course, if someone really wanted to break into our house, I don't think that a bolt would prevent it.  However, I do my part in making sure that it appears as undesirable as possible from the outside.  Like hanging up my skivvies on a makeshift laundry line outside the back door.

I am reminded of Anne Shirley, heroine of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and subsequent books.  I practically devoured these when I was younger, and I could certainly appreciate Anne's flair for the dramatic.  She would romanticize about nursing her best ("bosom") friend, Diana Barry, back to health from the brink of death, and then dying herself in the process.  I wished so much for a bosom friend whom I could nurse back to health... but I wasn't so keen about the dying bit.  I still have too much work to do here to kick the bucket!

And it reminds me of another instance of awakeness - which I'm sure my poor Gramma can recall with perfect clarity... I won't go into it now, but it involved a big hairy spider (which I can't stand), a stupid mourning dove, and a proposed trip to Meijer in the middle of the night.

So I'm going to go change the battery in that smoke detector and get back to sleep.  Good morning!

23 September 2009

Small Victories

I was looking this afternoon, with more than a few twinges of envy, at the profiles of many of my friends on Facebook - those with no spouses or children and the accompanying early nights, early mornings, and "no longer nice" clothes.  Maybe it's a case of "the grass is always greener," because I didn't exactly have a wild lifestyle even sans husband or children, but I couldn't help missing those days - hanging out with dear friends until the wee hours, going out to dinner (because at that point, I could afford it!), wearing pants that fit and being able to brush my hair.  You know, the little things.

And maybe it's because those were the times that I could actually update my profile on Facebook (although I must admit, it didn't exist before I was married - it's been that long!) without interruption, or because I could go out with only a wallet and some keys (and no bag full of assorted yet sometimes necessary knick-knacks), and the only accidents I had to worry about involved cars, and not toddler pants.

It's my friends who have the time who keep the fullest profiles, and I imagine that when they've entered parenthood, they'll be focusing on more important pursuits than changing their status every five minutes or touting their most recent photos with gaggles of well-dressed, neatly-pressed friends (can you tell I'm a bit resentful?).  Of course, these same friends are also quick to post a photo or video of one of my beautiful and brilliant children, and I can't help but feel a swell of pride.  They are wonderful people - I'm just grumpy, I suppose.

Therein, I think, lies an underlying problem - I'm grumpy.  There are no videos of me.  I've become my children's mother.  I am no longer Liz, the witty and brilliant woman, the cute and cool truth-seeker.  No.  I am mama.  Who at this very moment is hiding a cell phone in her bra and edging the computer inch-by-inch away to keep them from the drooley jaws of a ravenously teething 8 month-old.  I know that this is a stage, and that all too quickly, I'll be looking at my daughters' Facebook profiles (or whatever new-fangled fad is around in ten years) and seeing comments from boys.  Good Lord - bring me back!  I understand all of this very logically.  But I still miss the attention.

I was talking with my dear Gramma (hi, Gramma!) - who is almost 90, but is a wonderful gutsy woman, who still lives alone in her wonderful magical house, and writes an email to the family every night - yesterday, and we were talking about music lessons and fulfilling potential and things of that nature, and I realised that it isn't really about being the biggest or the best - it's about being YOUR best.  I was reminded of a quote from Baha'u'llah:

The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him.  Let none, therefore, consider the largeness or smallness of the receptacle.  The portion of some might lie in the palm of a man's hand, the portion of others might fill a cup, and of others even a gallon-measure.

Essentially, it doesn't matter that I'm not the best or most famous.  My work is to make certain that I'm the best at being me.  And of making sure that I fulfill my potential - whatever that is at this time in my life.

So maybe I'm not celebrating the world's most largely-attended party and "going out" means the grocery store, but I'm working at being the best I can be.  So there.

And, just to make sure that I'm still the best at something else, I've got the market cornered for cute photos of my kids.  Here's a little taste of that.  You can even see part of my face.


Stand By Me

Just a reminder that we are all one amazing chorus of humanity.

22 September 2009


If you ask Olivia, she will tell you that the name of this game is "Patty Cake."  Just so you know.

Elsie loves it.  As evidenced below:

Sorry that this is so short, but it's bedtime, and I have an 8 month-old chomping on my leg.  Literally.

20 September 2009

Zoobilee Zoo

Do you remember this show?  For some reason, the theme song to this PBS kid's show is forever etched in my brain.  I can't remember my phone number sometimes, but I can recall this tinny song:

"Zoobilee Zoo, Zoobilee Zoo,
Magic and wonder are waiting for you..."

We actually went to a real zoo yesterday - the Chicago Public Library and neighboring suburban libraries are participating in a Museum Pass program, which allows cardholders to "check out" a free pass for a week to several area museums & parks.  We got two free admissions to the Brookfield Zoo - Elsie was free, so we used the passes for the grown-ups (Nathan and me) and paid only $8 for Olivia.  What a steal!  Right?

Elsie with the goats & later eating pizza with daddy (she washed her hands first, folks).

Olivia the fish & later watching fish.

Unfortunately not.  The zoo, like any other theme park, it would seem, found ways to nickel and dime us.  We spent over $60 (I haven't had the guts to look at the actual receipts) for food ($15 for three hot dogs and 20 fries -  that is, twenty french fries, not twenty orders of french fries - which, by the way, I dropped all over the floor) on two meals, two carousel rides, and admission into the Children's Zoo.  And we didn't see the dolphins or go into the Play Zoo (which is different than the Children's Zoo) or ride the tram or go into the butterfly area or see the dinosaur exhibit.

But, nevertheless, it was fun!  The weather was perfect, we were all together, I was only grumpy once, and Olivia talked to the animals.

17 September 2009

Early to Bed...

So the girls and I have started taking our Fall classes.  This past spring, if you had asked me if Olivia was in preschool (which was, rather to my surprise, one of the first questions asked of Olivia by any grown-up person we met), I would have said, "no!" and thought to myself, in a rather presumptuous and smarmy voice "I am the first educator of my child, thank you very much!"

Now, as preschools are starting up, and Miss Olivia is asking about backpacks and playgrounds and all of that paraphernalia that makes school interesting, I realise that I've got a precocious three year-old and a cold winter coming up, which, in Chicago, means a lot of indoor time.  Together.  Alone.  With a lot of "why" questions...  For months.

Our brief but exciting courtship with a "real" preschool ended up with all parties disappointed.  Fortunately, Olivia didn't know too much of what was going on, and was sweetly excited when we "investigated" a possible school for her to attend.  I went in to inquire as to the availability of space for Olivia and left feeling strangely poor.  I left feeling strangely poor - I can't believe how much preschool costs!!  We ended up playing on the playground as a reward.

Therefore, dear reader, I have constructed a Fall schedule, which not only encompasses Olivia's budding education, but mine and Elsie's as well.  Here is our plan:
  • Mondays - Spanish Day
    • Olivia and I are going to learn The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah in Spanish together, as well as various vocabulary and phrases, and practice throughout the week
    • As a side note (for which, it seems, I am notorious) living in Chicago with dark hair almost immediately puts me in the "she must speak Spanish" category.  To my embarrassment, I don't.  But, no longer!!
    • As another side note, Mondays are also the days that I have a bellydancing class.  But that is another post.
  • Tuesdays - Swim Day
    • Olivia started her first swim class when she was 6 months.  Elsie is starting hers at 8 months.  Get 'em young, I say.  Baby swim class is primarily a bunch of moms and dads holding their sometimes screaming children in the warm water pool at the YMCA and bobbing around and singing little songs like "the Hokey Pokey" and "Ring Around the Rosie," which are paired with special movements designed to get your baby acclimated to water.  Sometimes too acclimated.  Elsie ended up with a snout full of water during her first class, but she bore it well.
  • Wednesdays - Music Day
    • I disliked piano lessons, mostly because they were 30 minutes during which my lack of practice over the previous week was revealed to my long-suffering teacher.  I would often feign sickness, but my mom would send me anyway.  Once, however, I was actually sick and vomited all over my teacher's new second piano.  I can't imagine how one cleans sick off of piano keys.  My poor teacher...  My poo mother...  Poor me...  That being said, Olivia is slated to start her lessons in the next few weeks...  We shall see how this goes.
  • Thursdays - Gymnastics Day
    • The ad said that jumping on the furniture was just one way to know that your child is ready for gymnastics.  My thought is, "will this release that pent-up energy or make more?"  I hope the former, but am prepared for the latter.  Our poor downstairs neighbors... 
  • Fridays - Ecology Day
    • This is actually mostly for me.  With Elsie tied to my back (or front), I will tromp along with Olivia all over the Lighthouse Landing dunes in Evanston every week to learn about plants and animals.  In any weather.  There is a snack involved somewhere there, too, but I am mostly excited about the potential to wear galoshes.  I love galoshes!
  • Other bits
    • These are mostly for me, and include a yoga class, an exercise class and an elliptical machine at the YMCA.  At various points in the week, when I get up early enough or can sneak away in the evenings.  Which leads me to now, 5:30 AM, and a hurried goodbye, so I can wash last night's dishes and don some stretchy pants for a 7 AM power yoga class.  Power yoga?  That's another post!

16 September 2009

Bonita Applebum

Okay, so maybe the song by A Tribe Called Quest isn't the most appropriate reference, but I think of Bonita being a beautiful little girl with apple cheeks - on her face.  Like my babies.

This past weekend, we had an AMAZING trip to Michigan, where we visited a FANTASTIC ORGANIC FARM (which I will write more about later), and also stopped by to pick apples at a little organic orchard, called Tower Hill Orchard, owned by a couple from Chicago who are moving out to the country.

(our hostess driving away on her John Deere)

While Olivia slept, Elsie played, and Nathan relaxed, I picked six (6) pecks of apples.

(this is a Jonagold)

I think Nathan especially enjoyed the peace.

(can you see his legs?)

And my littlest one ate her first baby apple.

(that's what teeth are for)

She's been rolling in them ever since.  Her newest favorite game is to crawl over to wherever I've moved the bags of apples to get them away from her, sit on her bottom, and peer inside one of the bags. 

Then, she spies an apple she wants, picks it up with her fat little hand, and tries to chew on it.  Regardless of the success of this exercise, the apple almost always ends up rolling away from her.  She crawls after it, and rolls it some more until she tires of this game and crawls away somewhere else.  I've got apples all over the house now!

But how can I complain?!?

12 September 2009

Little By Little

Our dear friend, Laura Harley, is an AMAZING life coach and musician who lives in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  She came to Chicago earlier this summer to do a little workshop on spiritual growth, in which she shared some of her music.  One of the songs, called "Little By Little," Olivia really took to, as it had hand motions that accompanied it (Olivia loves hand motions) (and so do I!).  In fact, when I was singing it (out of the blue) this morning, Olivia remembered those same motions, which I myself had forgotten!!

Kismet, I suppose, as this evening I checked my email and found a free download of this same song from Laura.  I was able to download the song to our computer and play it for the girls as we ate dinner - Olivia, a grilled cheese sandwich & grapes, and Elsie, bread & 1/2 a grape.  Delicious!

Here's a clip of our little music video, complete with the hand motions.  Enjoy!

07 September 2009

Step In Time

As a combo birthday present (our birthdays are just shy of a month apart), Olivia and I went on a date to see Mary Poppins at the beautiful Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago this past Spring. Daddy got to watch Elsie, and Mommy & Olivia were treated to great seats and a good show. It was really fun, although I must admit I'm not sure how much Olivia actually understood.

One thing I'm sure she got was the song "Step In Time." In the Disney movie, I wasn't too keen on this one, but in the show, it was really amazing. Mostly because I could see the real talent & hard work that was required for it to look good. Live theatre really brings out the magic that is lost in film.

This song was the most memorable, and it wasn't long before we had incorporated it into our daily litany. Most often to encourage Olivia to move. She moves at her own pace, which is much slower than mine, and instead of repeating "come on, Olivia" we discovered that "Olivia Carmel, step in time" was much more effective at inducing her to move it. It was more fun, too, for everyone.

Once we had Olivia Carmel stepping in time, we moved onto other friends and family: Elsie Shirazih, Kilam Hassani & Nasir Amir (Olivia's two older cousins), Mommy mommy & Daddy daddy (apparently we don't have middle names?). We also switched out the verb (to step) with other exciting ones, like "clap" or "stomp." We were really excited to sing "Elsie Shirazih, crawl in time!"

Like all new fads, our "Step in Time" routine slowly faded out. Olivia learned to run (hooray!) and Elsie has been pulling up on the couch and our bed - we've been teasing her that she'll be walking soon. In fact, I hadn't thought about stepping in time until the other day when I overheard Olivia playing with her sister. Most politely, she asked her sister in a sweet sing-song voice:

"Elsie Shirazih, will you please step in time?"

03 September 2009

Catching Water

When Elsie was tinier than she is now (I almost typed "When Elsie was little..."), she did not like water. It was a rather strange phenomenon that she could, very simply, do without.

Hooray, no longer! This past weekend (or was it last weekend? I forget!), while at the 50th Annual Green Lake Bahá'í Conference in Wisconsin, we had some down time while Olivia was playing with cousins. I was cleaning the kitchen of our cabin, and Elsie was patiently waiting for me to attend to her. As I was doing dishes, and she seemed interested, I simply plopped her into the empty sink next to mine.

She loved it, as evidenced below. Particularly interesting was the game of trying to catch the water as it came out of the faucet: