Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hungry Heart

I've been needing to take a little more interest in nutrition lately.  One could chalk it up to accepting the reality of my own mortality.  Or at least to the desire to put off that reality for as long as possible.  Y'see, I'm spoiled.  Blessed, even.  I have a body that, for the most part, works the way I ask it to.  I've been a runner since I was about ten years old, grew up in a household headed by a woman who was ahead of her time as far as healthy cooking, ran cross-country and track (not terribly well, but consistently enough), and continued with good habits into adulthood (if you don't count the phase where I drank like it was an Olympic sport in which I was determined to medal).  I rode my bike to my corporate job, ran during lunch, rode my bike home, ordered steamed veggies and tofu, all that stuff. 

So here I am scheduling a HeartScan.  And learning a lot about what I didn't know along the way.

Here's the kicker:  my bad cholesterol is golden.  Not surprising, I suppose.  I don't like to cook (there! I admit it!), and when I do... well, let's just say that when Urban Dad and I go out, I make it a point to not order chicken.

But the good cholesterol?  The one that's supposed to be at least 50 in women?  Preferably higher?  Mine is 33.  And that's an improvement over the last few years.  My doctor is now filling me in on heart disease in women and imploring me to get a (not-likely-covered-by-insurance) HeartScan to make sure that my lack of protective cholesterol isn't leading to plaque in my ticker.

Best Namma Ever! was completely and immediately concerned.  "Schedule it!  Schedule it now!  I'll pay for the damn thing if you want!" 

The conversation with Urban Dad went a little differently:
Me:  "My doctor wants me to find the money to do a Heart Scan."
Him:  "Pffffft!  That's stupid!  You're nowhere near overweight, you don't eat heavily, you've exercised your whole life."
Me:  "That's not the point.  In fact, I should be exercising more."
Him:  "Pfffffft!  That's stupid!  You exercise plenty.  Hell, just chasing the kids is exercise, let alone when you go to the gym."
Me:  "My dad had bypass surgery and cholesterol problems run in my mom's side."
Him:  "Pffffft!  That's stupid!  How old was your dad when he had surgery?  And he's not exactly an exercise fiend, right?"
Me:  "My numbers are not improving.  My doctor is concerned and just wants to know.  Heart disease is a huge thing in women.  For example, my girlfriend Diane has been on Plavix since she was 32 because of plaque in her heart."
Him:  "Pfffffft!  That's stupid!  There's nothing wrong with you.  You're fine."
Him:  *****silence*****

Lest you think less of Urban Dad, understand that this is how he works.  He reacts all arrogantly sure of himself, but then the idea sinks in after a while.  You can tell as he asks questions over the next several days.  For example, a few days later, as we were dozing off, out of nowhere, it was, "So where do you go for a HeartScan?"  The next day it was, "How much is the test? It doesn't matter, of course, but I'm just curious."  The day after that it was, "Do you want to get one? Have you scheduled it yet?"  He turns it over in his mind and works his way to a paradigm shift.  And as this process happens, I do my bits of research so that I can drag him along cheerfully share what I've learned.  It's a process, but it happens.  Eventually.  In fact, when I let the scheduling slide down my To-Do List, Urban Dad actually badgered me to finally schedule it already.

(over Spring Break, thanks, so that he can take the Urban Kids -- babysitters are $15/hr, y'know!)

In the meantime, I went to a nutrition seminar in order to learn more about foods that will help raise that 33.  When I asked my specific question, I got a lot of "oh, don't get wrapped up in numbers" in the response from a couple of overly-groovy trainers.  Ummmm.... and your medical degree is from.......where, exactly?

God bless my doctor and the internet.  As I type, I have salmon marinating.  (yes! i'm going to try to cook something!)  I have fish oil capsules in the cabinet.  And, of course, a glass of red wine by the computer.  I can't get away to the gym more often than on Saturdays and Sundays, but that will hopefully change soon.  In the meantime, when I do an errand, I just try to walkthereasfastasIcan!

Here's to spending $395 and a morning at UIC to find out that everything is clear as a bell! (*clink*)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who Exactly Are You Testing Here, Urban Mom?

What can I tell you?  I'm in a weird place.  It's a dusty, tail-bone-bruised, grit-in-my-teeth kind of place that one lands after falling off of a high horse. 

And it's a worried place.  Am I doing this right?  Am I messing up this whole homeschooling thing?  I mean, one of the reasons that we're doing this is because we think that we can do it better than the system.  But here I am.... worrying....  I tell people that we'll do this for as long as it works, for as long as it's the best way to serve the Urban Kids. 

I've been given a statistical kick in the hiney this week.

The backstory:
Chicago Public Schools has a nearly impossible to navigate network of magnet or selective enrollment schools.  You have to apply to go to these extra-special places.  And you have to test in (ok, admission is based on the score plus additional census factors all combined into an algorithm that would confuse stephen hawking).  The type of test that your kid takes depends on the type of school you want her to attend.  When the results/acceptance letters go out from CPS, word spreads like wildfire amongst parents.  Mail carriers fear rabid parents waiting at their doors as they frantically grapple for these letters.

For the last three years, I've "applied" Urban Kid 1 to these schools.  We're in the luxurious position of getting a free test (our tax dollars at work, right?) without having to actually have any angst about this letter holding my child's future within its text.

Applying for Kindergarten:  (one test)  Urban Kid 1 scored in the 99.7th percentile.  Urban Dad's genetic influence was clearly manifesting itself.

Applying for First Grade:  (two tests)  On test #1, U-Kid 1 scored in the 99th percentile in reading and in the 97th percentile in math.  On test #2, she pulled a score of 123 out of maybe 130, landing her in the 94th percentile.  I figured that was pretty sweet, that our little arrangment here was working, and even ventured to pat myself on the back a bit.
I got the results this week for "applying" to Second Grade

Test #1:  96th percentile in reading and 77th percentile in math.
Test #2: 106 points

Which had me reacting like this:

I was crushed.  Not by the scores, mind you.  She's a happy, playful, friendly, socially adept and curious kid, and yes, those things are the most important things.  Please don't leave me grumpy comments about the scores themselves.  I'm massively concerned about the drop, about the sudden change.  I figured that when I was starting to get in over my head that the scores would sliiiiide down over a period of time.  So it was this potential evidence about whether I am utterly bombing as my daughters' teacher that had me sitting catatonically with the letter and with tears welling up in my eyes.

Urban Dad, who already spends the majority of his days running around tending to things and people, had to talk me down.

"She had a bad day; so what!"
"Give me a break, she knows math!"  (this from a former trader the the Mercantile Exchange)
"They screwed up the test, obviously."
"Even if the test is right, math is the easiest thing to fix -- it's just practice."
"Will you stop?  You're doing a great job!  She's getting a great education because of you.  Forget about this!"
"You remember Vimal?"  (i do... brilliant former student of u-dad's... several years later, he went into finance, and u-dad and i gave him money to invest; we also attended his wedding)  "Vimal failed the AP test for my class because he accidentally filled in the blanks on the computer form wrong.  Do you hear me?  Vimal got a failing score."  (i hadn't known this before)  "So STOP, you haven't done anything wrong!"

When Urban Kid 1 was in the room later -- no, we haven't shared this with her -- he casually asked her a few math questions, a la how homeschool kids are often drilled by strangers.  Without looking up, she popped off correct answers.  And she recalled the tests as easy (so perhaps she was too cavalier?)

Now if I want to play the My Baby Is Perfect It's You That's The Problem Game, I can do that as well as any other parent.  At the first test, there was a blizzard bad enough to make me opt for the El rather than driving.  By the time we trained down there, walked to the facility, took the test, and trained back, the test was an aaaaallllllll daaaayyyy event.  So yeah, there ya go.... it was the weather!  For the second test, we drove there, easily found our way to the facility, and walked in to find the facility's thermometer cranking.  While we were dressed for Chicago in December, it felt like

Urban Kid 1 and her fellow test-takers came out dragging and with bright pink cheeks.  I asked if the test administers didn't open a window... she replied, "they weren't allowed to."  (i left a snarky note on my parent survey)

ahem, no, I can't remember which test was given on which day.

My gut tells me that Urban Kid 1 is fine.  When we work together every day, she picks up the concepts and runs with them.  But I'm a numbers-wound kind of person in my head, and I need to lose this nagging doubt, so I called these folks for help settling my internal dispute.

I told them what I've shared with you here, they're quite familiar with Saxon Math, and they have a nice, thorough diagnostic that will let me vicariously crawl into Urban Kid 1's brain and have a look around.  (instrusive much, val?)  They didn't even give me the hard sell about their pricey programs.  U-Dad is ok with us spending the money because 1.) I promised that this would be the only test; that I won't go around looking for a test that tells me what I want to hear rather than what is true and 2.) he thinks it'll get him a reassured wife.  And as we all know...


Monday, March 14, 2011

Urban WHO????

Ok, ok, ok, it's been a while.  I mean, is there a time limit here?  Like after so many months, can you even really call yourself a blogger anymore?

Time to get back at it.

It's late... I'm staying up in order to register the Urban Kids for the next round of Piano classes.  Y'see, there are only five kids per class, and I NEED them to be back-to-back.  And I want a certain couple of teachers.  And a certain day.  So I stay up so that when registration starts on March 14th, I'm right-there-at-12:01am.

So a few CliffNotes:

Pink Power Ranger lost the pregnancy.  It was gruesome and painful and dramatic and awful and made Best Namma Ever cry (hatehatehatethat).  But they've given it another go, and are about eight weeks along again and due in October.  Frankly, PPR is hoping for 11/11/11 for a birthday.  Because of having to publicly go through all of the pain of the miscarriage, she's not telling any of her colleagues or superiors until she's at 12 weeks.  This is making her husband a bit crazy, as having a cop-wife is already worrisome for him.  Having a pregnant cop-wife who is still on the road may age him a few years.  For those of you who also know me on Facebook....shhhhhhhh.  Not public info yet.

Urban Kid 2 turned four.  This has been the preschooler version of turning 21.  She can do all sorts of things now... take Big Kid Piano class, go into the computer room at the gym, transfer up to a booster seat.  Yep, she proudly reminds us, "But I can help... I'm a Big Kid now!"  Right now, she's in Level I swimming, but all she talks about is getting to Junior Swim Team like her sister.  However, she needs to get through Levels II and III first.  But yep, that kid is out of the gate!

We had a bit of snowfall here in Chicago this winter.

Oh, and my in-laws are pretty much insane.  Certifiably so (not kidding on that!).  Well, two of them.  The rest are really quite nice.  And they don't talk to the crazy two.  Urban Dad is involved in a bit of a legal thang with Crazy and Crazier, but we hope to be resolved soon.  And then we'll change our telephone number.

Ok, the flipping website for registering for piano is not letting me in.  Getting the "only continuing students may register."  HELLO????  WHAT HAVE WE BEEN FOR THE LAST EIGHT MONTHS???  This happened last time too.  So much for, "We'll let our tech guys know."  *sigh*  Two seats already gone for U-Kid 1's class.

Such are my troubles.

More soon.  Thanks for letting me warm up a bit tonight!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My, That Pendulum Can Swing Both Ways

After yesterday's Raving Lunatic Mom rant, I am overjoyed to report that the Behavior Pendulum has come back my way.

Today, Urban Kid 2 was beeeeyond excited to help me put together dinner.  We did it this afternoon, -- one of those Campbell's Cream of Whatever-chicken-noodle-veggie casserole things -- covered it in foil and stashed it in the fridge, all the while with her beaming with pride and feeling ever so grown up beyond her sweet 3 1/2 years.

Later came (insert dum-dum-dum-ddduuuuuuuuuuuuummmmm music here)..... The Dental Appointment.  I reminded her repeatedly of how yesterday's Doctor Awesome appointment went, of how the rest of Urban Kid 2's day went as a result of it, of how she was going to tell Urban Dad how her day went today, etc.

And at The Dental Appointment, after a skittish start in the waiting room, she was all Love And Sunshine.  I had to lay in the chair with her as something of an extra layer for her to stretch out on, but she opened as wide as she could and all but thrust her face up at the doctor.  She cheerfully and politely answered the dentist's questions.  Finally, I told the hygienist that she could have Urban Dad's next paycheck if she managed to both clean Urban Kid 2's teeth and get the fluoride treatment done.

Urban Kid 2 obediently kept that mouth open, occasionally clutching my hand along the way.  And no, I'm still not sure about how I'm going to explain things to Urban Dad.....

Six months ago, the dentist barely got the quickest of glances into Urban Kid 2's mouth, acknowledged that we could forget about even trying for a cleaning and didn't even bother charging for the appointment.  

Perhaps the dentist will come with me to the next pediatrician appointment?  If she's especially brave, perhaps the grocery store even?

PS:  Pink Power Ranger is preggers -- due in early May!  Best Namma Ever! is going to be a Namma again!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mother of the Flippin' Year

Today, I was that mom.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The one publicly upset with her seemingly impossible children.  The one that makes people snicker thoughts about how it's no wonder that the kids are like that, given the crazy woman who is their mother.

Yeah, today I was that mom.

Urban Kid 1 turned seven (SEVEN!!????) on Friday.  And so, she had a pediatrician appointment today in order to clarify that, indeed, she continues to be the picture of health and beauty.

Here's the thing about Urban Kid 1:  however she may be in private, she's always "on" in public.  She can be counted on to be polite, upbeat and interested in what's being said.

Urban Kid 2 is the Wild Card.  Especially if Urban Kid 1 is doing her spotlight thing.

So today, the (late) doctor (finally) comes into the exam room.  I like this doctor.  I've thought the world of this woman from the moment she took my cranky three-day-old Urban Kid 1 from my exhausted, exasperated arms and swayed her into a long, peaceful nap while asking me questions and offering suggestions in a way that stayed on this side of gentle without crossing into that side of condescending.

And there she was, Doctor Awesome, chatting away with Urban Kid 1.

You can fill in the blanks on Urban Kid 2's reaction????  She kicked and fussed and refused to be still.  She yelped and pouted and said, "NO!  I WON'T be quiet!," making my efforts to quell her seem, well....., impotent.  And Doctor Awesome took the lead and warned her that she needed to quiet down because Doctor Awesome could not hear to do her exam of Urban Kid 1.  And Urban Kid 2 continued to pout and kick, nearly kicking Doctor Awesome, who was crouched down to chat with and look at Urban Kid 1.

And then it happened.

Doctor Awesome's voice took a stern tone that I'd never heard before and told Urban Kid 2 that she had to go into the hallway, now.

And I gratefully took the opening in the situation that Doctor Awesome offered, scooped up Urban Kid 2 and sat her down in a timeout outside of the exam room's closed door.  I gave her an earful, too.  And yeah, I was hoping that Doctor Awesome was hearing some of my diatribe.

Finally, Doctor Awesome asked me to come back in for the rest of the exam, since a parent needs to be in there for certain parts of it.  And Urban Kid 2 had cooled her jets a bit.

Later, as I was checking out at the receptionist's desk, Urban Kid 2 asked if she could have a sticker.  I bent down low to her, nose-to-nose and said in a nearly murderous voice, "did Doctor Awesome have to boot you out of the exam room because you couldn't behave?  Yes?  The no, you may not have a sticker."  I then stood up to face the receptionist, smiled pleasantly and sweetly said, "I'm sorry, how much do I owe you?"  God bless her, she gave me a genuine smile and said, "Don't worry about it -- I have two of my own at home!"

From there, it was off to the grocery store, where both kids turned on each other and on me like little cats.  It was on the cart, off the cart, she's on my side of the cart, you're too big to ride on the cart anyway, stop whining at your sister, quit tattling on your sister, do not run out of this aisle, etc etc. 

At last, I became that mom.  The one that you can hear in the next aisle chewing out her ferrel children.  The one who stares at them for a beat as they stare back, takes her hands off the cart, says "forget it, we're not getting food today; you two can tell daddy why" and walks away from the cart and them.

Yeah, that was me.  A shining moment.

But my Urban Kids were smart enough to have an "oh sh*t, what if she's serious" moment and chase me down the aisle, pleading to go back to shopping.  Heck, maybe they were just too clear on how very little food we actually had at home!

I don't know what Urban Dad did when he (finally) got home, but he knew the story coming in the door.  And the next thing I knew, a sobbing and repentant Urban Kid 2 was in the kitchen sniffling about how sorry she was and how she loved me and how she promises to be better tomorrow.

Me too, Urban Kids.  Me too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Summer Day

Urban Dad & I had slightly different mornings.  Feel free to vote for the one you would prefer:

1.) Get ready to go, wait for a few extra minutes as Urban Kid 1 frantically yells, "WAAAIITTTT!" because she wants to go with.  (such a chicago phrase that i've fully adopted... "go with."  next i'll be hitting my a's super-haaaaard and putting an "s" at the end of things; e.g. "nordstroms")

2.)  Roll eyes slightly as Urban Kid 1 comes out dressed for the prom.  Who am I kidding?  I'm just jealous that she can dress herself better at 6yo than I can at 40yo.

3.)  Walk to dry cleaners.  Drop off the three dresses that the Urban Kids insist on wearing every waking minute of every single day that we are not out on the playground.

4.)  Walk to Ulta. 
I'm sick of wearing Warmth even though Warmth (snickering tone here) is supposed to look so amazing on everyone.  Everyone except me.  So I rub Warmth (snickering tone whenever I say the word) on the back of one hand and Faux Tan on the back of the other.  Ask Urban Kid 1 which one she likes better.  "Faux Tan, Mom.  It doesn't have as much red in it."  Just tosses off the observation -- a fully correct one -- and looks at something else.  I decide to buy Faux Tan and give Warmth (guess my tone?) to Best Namma Ever! because she's one of the everyone-but-me that it looks amazing on.

5.)  Check out at Ulta.  Manager-type asks, "Where's the little one?"  I smile and explain that she's at home with Urban Dad, that we're going to take a break from bringing her into Ulta for a while.  (between you and me, it's impossible to look at anything, what with the shortest Urban thinking that the sample bar eyeshadows are fingerpaints and then launching her sunglasses when told they are not)  The manager-type smiles and looks sympathetic, which I consider pretty kind.

6.) Walk to library.  Hang out for a looooooong time because it's nice and cool.  Watch with pride as Urban Kid 1 takes book after book, reads them to herself, go gets a few more books, reads them to herself.  Hmmmmm.... who do ya suppose taught her to read?

7.)  Watch as Urban Kid 1 takes her library card out of her purse -- the only thing in her purse -- and checks out a pile of books, beaming with pride because she has her very own library card in her very own purse.

8.)  Walk past local school playground on our way home, lugging a bag full of books and hearing her complain (correctly) that it is entirely too hot.  See her friend S. there, who she hasn't seen all summer long.  It doesn't seem so hot all of a sudden.

9.)  Feel bad for her when she goes down a slide, but her dress goes up enough that her bare skin skids really fast on the searing hot plastic.  Perhaps dressing for the prom wasn't such a good idea.  S. has to go to karate, so U-Kid 1 decides she wants to go put an ice-pack on her tush.  Urban Dad calls her SkiddyTush once or twice, which makes her giggle.

Phone Call #1:  From his mom.  She's mad because Urban Dad put the ka-bosh on her 11yo standard chocolate poodle coming to live with her in the small, immaculate, luxurious, smell-free home.  Says that he's betrayed her, that it's as if he's taken away one of her children, that he's a bad bad man.

Phone Call #2:  From the Salvation Army rehab place where BIL #1 is now residing rather than go to jail (hey Lindsay Lohan! you're an amateur!!).  It's a six-month program.  BIL #1 has been there four days.  SA-Dude says that BIL #1 is saying in group chit-chat that his mother is worth $10 billion and that he used to play for the NBA.  Plants seed in U-Dad's head that BIL #1 may have burned out enough wires that SA may not be the place for him.

All of this said, the Blue Angels were practicing today for the Air Show and all four of us went for our almost-daily hit of Italian ice at the IcyBox. We walked the U-Kids over there, stopping several times to gawk at the F/A-18's roaring overhead while the girls cooed, "coooooool!" over and over.  And there was a fresh batch of chocolate-chocolate-chip waiting for us when we got there.

And that's the kind of stuff that makes everything feel better, right?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

She's Baaaaaack

{Puff, puff, puff}  Is this thing on?  {tap, tap, tap}  Anyone out there?

Y'know how you think that summer has finally come along?  And that you're so excited to have a "manny" for the summer?  And how that is going to open up bags and bags of time for you to ponder your little blog and do regular posts like you keep saying that you're going to do? 

Yeah, I thought so, too.  But as you can see, not so much, right?

Here are a few Cliff Notes of the summer so far.  I'll try to fill in some details as the summer wraps up.

1.) We did the annual Urban Family Road Trip.  The trip included couch-surfing at Best Namma Ever!'s house in St. Louis, inviting all kinds of people over on the 4th to watch Urban Dad blow up BNE!'s front yard (that man looooves July 4th),

saw a movie or two, took advantage of free child care, got Urban Kid 2's half-birthday pictures taken (her birthday is December 31, so it's silly to do it then -- she just looks like the Christmas card all over again), etc etc.

2.) We hit to road to Albuquerque, where Urban Dad's dad and stepmom live.

 We had a lovely visit with them and even had a just-the-two-of-us day trip to Santa Fe while the Urban Kids got some hang time with Grandpa and Grandma. 

breakfast in santa fe

Now, the last time Urban Dad & I had a just-the-two-of-us day trip to Santa Fe, we came back with Urban Kid 2.  I don't see that quite happening again, but if you ever wonder what that turquoise ring is on my right hand, well, Urban Dad gave that to me the next year so we can look at it and giggle (and ironically enough, it's Urban Kid 2's birthstone).

3.)  We went on to San Diego, the Big Goal of the road trip.  I had never been, and I loved San Diego, traffic and all.  We threw the Urban Kids into the Pacific Ocean, their first time in any ocean, and they absolutely loved it.  We also did Sea World, which was lots of good fun.  Then another day in the ocean.  We may fly back out there some time and just hang on the beach for several days.  It looks like the Urban Kids would dig a beach vacation.

4.)  We did a quick toodle up to northern CA, zipped across the Golden Gate Bridge and quickly bailed out of SanFran.  Keep in mind that we are Chicagoans, we live near Wrigley Field, we know traffic, but the traffic in SanFran freaked out even our hardy souls.  Yep, SanFran is its own animal.  We'll tackle that one separately in a future trip.

5.)  We headed to Colorado to check in on other in-laws and to meet folks that we've spent hours and hours (esp Urban Dad) with on the phone for the last several months, namely MIL's doctor and the CPA that is her Financial Power of Attorney.

 ***** side note:  did i mention that MIL was diagnosed with degenerative dementia and that BIL #2 found her a lovely place in Boulder in which to reside and that U-Dad is Medical Power of Attorney and that BIL #1 is a drunken, freeloading, wife-beating loser who was refusing to leave MIL's residence in Swanky Resort Town, CO and that U-Dad and Financial Power of Attorney need to put MIL's residence up for sale???  ******

6.)  We went to Swanky Resort Town, where Urban Dad had his drunken, freeloading, wife-beating loser brother arrested and thrown into jail -- where he'd just gotten out a few weeks prior, mind you.  He and Financial Power of Attorney then started assessing just what needed to be done to repair an otherwise reasonably nice place that had been turned into something resembling public housing (a sight...and smell...that I won't soon forget).  He and FPofA also started plans to start packing BIL #1's and his always-leaving-and-returning wife's stuff and getting it shipped the hell out of there.

7.) More details on #'s 5 & 6 to come later

8.) Listened to U-Dad lose.his.mind on always-leaving-and-returning SIL when she had the nerve to call him and ask why Urban Dad was being so "mean."  The Urban Kids may have learned a few new words.

9.) Headed to Boulder to see MIL's new place.  Urban Dad & I plan to save our money carefully so that we can end up in someplace as lovely!  BIL #2 did a truly wonderful job of finding a place for their mom.

10.)  Dinner in Boulder with MIL, BIL #2, his Groovy Kids and our Urban Kids.  Ate Chinese food on the deck and watched the kids jump and play on the trampoline while ignoring the elephant in the room that was "your son put your other son in jail."  The eldest Groovy Kid -- a boy who has worked my last nerve since his toddlerhood -- impressed me with his attention, kindness and patience that he showed Urban Kid 2.  Maybe he and I are both growing up a bit.

11.) Back to St. Louis and to the ever-loving arms of BNE!.  The Urban Kids then stayed at Grandma Camp for a few extra days while Urban Dad and I returned to Chicago to get our wits about us.

So how's your summer been?