Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Doin's Here

Hey all! Best Namma Ever! is back from France. After settling in at home for a few days, she jetted up here to catch up with the Urban Kids. And since this blog is my deeeeep, daaaark secret from most real-life people, and because the computer is in the room where she stays, bloggy-time has been rare.

It was good fun, as always. Spanish class had "Bring a Parent Day," which was perfectly timed. BNE!, Urban Kid 2 and I attended. And it is ALWAYS lovely to have another set of hands when trying to attend something with UK2. Of course, UK2 needed to leave the class and wander. Thankfully, 1.) there were empty classrooms to explore and 2.) this still left UK1 with a grown-up to show off.

Also, BNE! attended soccer with us today. This was nice because I FINALLY got to see UK1 play soccer for the first time in eons. Usually, she plays with her class in the gym while I'm out in the hallways entertaining, chasing, feeding and/or changing UK2. I'm usually glancing at my watch for the last 10-15 minutes in a near-OCD fashion. Perhaps if I keep looking, it will make time go faster.... Umm, no. But UK1 loves it, so what the hell. Anywhoooo, with BNE! there, we could switch off.

Urban Dad is swamped lately. For some bizarre reason, he collected essays from all five of his classes at the same time. He has two sections of Advanced Placement kids, and the AP test is coming up, so there's that to concentrate on. Also, he meandered off the beaten path for a while with his freshies. Now he has to consider the departmental final exam that he has to give. So it's time to "teach the test."

And to add to it, he will stop into a visitation on Thursday evening. Sadly, at a school the size of Great Big Urban High School, a student is often lost during the course of the year. Last Friday, one of U-Dad's AP juniors from last year was one of two people killed in a freak accident when a semi slammed into a CTA train station and kept going part-way up the escalator. The young lady -- a straight-A student and cheerleader -- was on the escalator. One of her friends remains in the hospital. The driver, of course, was unharmed. There's more here.

All of this means that it's me and the UK's for the next several evenings. And most of the weekend.

Don't get me wrong. I loooooove the UK's. But boy is it nice when the U-Dad comes 'round, and I get to come up for air. My hat's off to 1.)the single moms and 2.)those with lots of kids.

And yeah, if that's the extent of my problems today, I'm doin' alright!

So that's the world here for now. More interesting developments to come soon.... I'm gettin' me some Bionic Eyes soon!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Tiffany tagged me. So here goes!

Here are the rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What was I doing 10 years ago:
I was working in TV Production at a Great Big Ad Agency in downtown Chicago. I lived in the same apartment building as Urban Dad, and I think that I had just begun night and weekend classes to get my teaching certification.

Five Snacks I enjoy:
1. cheese and crackers
2. a bowl of cereal
3. yogurt
4. tall skim chai
5. granola bars

In the real world:
1. I'm excited about travelling with the kids.
2. I'm completely different from my sister (Pink Power Ranger), but we're still close.
3. I have days when the Urban Kids drive me batty.
4. Urban Dad spoils me rotten.
5. I think this homeschooling thing just might work out!

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Take the Urban Kids everywhere in the world -- and always be where it is NOT winter!
2. Maybe even take the Pink Power Ranger and Best Namma Ever! with us.
3. Have someone to run the household -- handle the groceries, cooking, cleaning, etc.
4. Make sure that PPR and BNE! are set up to be comfortable for life.
5. Start some sort of private school that does not charge tuition. Make the public schools compete!!!

Five jobs that I have had:
1. Associate Producer at previously mentioned agency
2. Asst Director of the 6am news at the NBC affiliate in Peoria
3. Tutor at Huntington Learning Center
4. Cadre (aka: daily sub) at Urban Dad's Great Big Urban High School; I mostly covered maternity leaves, including Urban Dad's!
5. Waitress at a Pizza Hut

Three of my habits:
1. I try to get up earlier than the kids so that I can have a huge cup of tea, a bite to eat and watch a bit of TV before they get up.
2. I tend to leave the last load of laundry in the dryer and forget about it.
3. I fidget a lot.

Five place I have lived:
1. North County of St. Louis
2. Peoria
3. shiny high-rise in downtown Chicago
4. 1920's 6-floor apt building in Lincoln Park, Chicago
5. 2-flat in Lakeview (aka: Boys' Town), Chicago

What do you want others to get from your blog:
I think I hope to show that we city-slickers are homeschooling too, that it is now a mainstream, perhaps even "critical mass" choice that people are making. But it isn't just about homeschooling -- it's also about getting a glimpse into a variety of people's lives and perhaps sharing a bit in return.

Okay that is it! Wasn't that fun?

Now I have to tag 5 of you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My TV Boyfriend

I'd like to introduce you to my TV Boyfriend. We get together every week, usually on Wednesday evenings, but if I'm busy, he patiently waits in my DVR until I have time for him. He's ever-so-smart, outwitting terrorists nearly every week and saving zillions of lives. He's also charming, sophisticated and is utterly devourable when kicking the hell out of bad guys.

Lest you be too shocked by my torrid TV affair, rest assured that Urban Dad is understanding and has allowed for this "arrangement." Being a modern gal, I even offered to allow him a TV Girlfriend and promised to not be the slightest bit jealous. Ever gallant, he declined. He's happy to see me happy.

If you'd like to meet my TV Boyfriend yourself, check out "MI-5" on Wednesdays on BBC America (in the UK, the show is called "Spooks"). He used to be on A&E, but they foolishly dropped him for some reason. Before A&E dropped the show, TVB's wife tragically died in the line of duty. BBC America is currently showing episodes from before this, so I'm patiently waiting to catch up.

Ooooo, so now he's brooding. It's more than I can stand! Poor thing probably needs comforting, don't you think?

And you know what's so great about Urban Dad? There's the fact that he has similarly dreamy blue eyes. And although perhaps a mite shorter than TVB, he has a similarly yummy build. But what's great is when I look over at him during the show and ask, "can you muster up an English accent?," he smiles a little when he says "no." And when I look over at him again and ask, "can we put some highlights in your hair?," he smiles a little bigger when he says, "no." And it's the kind of smile a guy gets when he knows that he's about to get....

........Hey wait, I think I know why UD is okay with this.............

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Show and Tell Tuesday

It's that time again!

Recently, Urban Kid 1 learned about Paul Cezanne at Art class. The specific piece they looked at was Still Life With Apples.
They then took orange and apples halves and used them as stamps for their own creations:

Then they had a snack....


Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekend Update

We visited some friends this morning, Friend Couple A from previous posts, who we haven't seen in way-too-long. The Mom and I giggled like little kids at Christmas as we sat on their porch watching Urban Kid 2 play. "Can you believe that Spring is here? Can you believe that Winter is finally OVER!?" UK2 kept bringing us little gifts, a pebble from here, a leaf from there, then she would go out of the gate, wander the sidewalk a bit, then come back in the gate. Over and over and over again. Soak up that sunshine and fresh air, my babylove!

UK2 is soundly zonked out right now. Urban Dad took Urban Kid 1 out on her bicycle for a bit. I'm running some long-overdue scans of the computer. Hum Drum.

UK1 has a busy week this week. The goal from this point forward is to make the schedule lighter. But swimming kicks in this week. However, piano wraps up, and we're taking the summer off of that. In a few weeks, Spanish wraps up. We'll take the summer off of that, as well (we bought Rosetta Stone recently; to make up for some of that expense, we're not doing Spanish classes over the summer). We might do Art until Urban Dad is finished at Great Big Urban High School for the summer. Our only summertime activity will be Soccer, which is outdoors at Waveland Park, right on the Lake.
We're kicking around travel plans for the Summer. This is the part where it's especially good to be married to a teacher.

Blissfully content today. Hope you are too!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reunited and It Feels So...... Whatever

When the Urban Kids and I were in St. Louis a few weeks ago, I was directed by a friend to a high school alumni website. Seems that this page is like MySpace, but just for folks who graduated from our school. So I clicked over and found some familiar faces.

As with any new cyber-experience, it turned into a giant time-suck. Seriously, I wasted way too much time! But it WAS interesting! It was like a cyber-reunion, which was just my speed. I posted my own info and traded a few pleasant notes. Seems that several of us are doing well, happy and healthy, and a bunch are even in the Chicago and Chicagoland area. One is in Germany, another in Puerto Rico, several out West, others down South... so several of us also blew the cocoon of North St. Louis County and went on to other things. Guess I wasn't the only one needing a new scene!

And one of us is a grandparent already. UGH! That one smarted.

And now I know that I don't need to attend the 20-year reunion this year. (yes, i just gave away my age!) I didn't go to the 10-year either. I was a busy kid in high school -- captain of two varsity teams, NHS member, an editor of the paper and yearbook. And while I was the kid who was friendly with just about all of the various groups, I was underwhelmed with the high school experience. I just outgrew it all really fast. I also had a lot of personal baggage at that time in life. If I could go back, I would choose the adults in my life more carefully. I would be less needy and nervous. Less angry too. It's a hard age -- you learn some of the tougher realities of adulthood and that sometimes right does not overcome wrong.

So why go back? Those that I wanted to maintain contact with... I have. But when the time came to head off to college, I went to one where NO ONE from my class went. There was one person on the entire campus that went to my high school. I liked it that way. I had been with essentially the same group of people since the first grade. I figured we could all wish each other well and head into the world to find our ways.

I guess I just don't understand the reunion thing. Especially in an internet-connected world. Until now, I rarely even thought about these people. Not because I wish anyone any ill feelings. I'm genuinely happy that they're happy. But I'm SUCH a different person than I was then. Why go back and re-visit that scene for too long?

So as you might tell, I spent a bunch of time on the site thinking, "ooo, this is interesting." Then when I was finished, I thought, "why the heck did I spend so much time on THAT?" It was ultimately pretty anti-climactic and deflating.

Kind of like high school itself.........

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Show and Tell Tuesday on Wednesday

Ok, so maybe that doesn't make much sense. But hey, it's my blog. I don't have to make perfect sense all of the time, right?

Urban Kid 1's last trip to art class had her studying Monet. Considering the lovely collection of Monet's at The Art Institute, it makes sense that Chicago kids should be very familiar with him. They used Water Lillies as their example:

Urban Kid 1's take on it:

The Paintbrush is getting a write-up in Crain's Chicago Business; I'm so psyched for them!

Happy Wednesday to all!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Update

So much to share this weekend!

First, an MIL update. Grrrrrrrrrrr..... At about 10pm on Friday night, the phone rang. Urban Dad wondered aloud who the heck was calling us. He answered. Then I heard, "(Urban Kid 1) got out of bed, so she's back putting her back in bed." So it was somene who he knew that I would not want to talk to. When he hang up, I asked What Gives?

"It was my mom. Lying." Do tell.

"She says that you insisted on inviting about twelve more people, and she wanted to ask about who to invite." I insisted? I INSISTED? I didn't INSIST ANYTHING! She suggested Friend Couple A and asked if there was anyone else. I said I Dunno, maybe Friend Couple B. That's it. I didn't INSIST on --

"I know that. Don't even think about getting mad about this stuff. If you waste another minute of energy on this, I'll be mad at at you." But I didn't say that. She's lying!

"Didn't I say that that was my mom? Lying? No more energy on her." muttermuttermutter, grumblegrumblegrumble

"No more energy on her." (Long pause)......................................mutter, grumble......................

But on to brighter things!
On Saturday, Urban Dad gave me a day off from the Urban Kids. He watched them, while I took off to -- a spa? No, not quite. I did a Target run and a quick grocery run. But it was without kids. Alone. Hey, anyone else go into Target planning to spend $50 and come out $150 later?

Then it was on to find warm-weather clothes for Urban Kid 1. Urban Kid 2 has piles of hand-me-downs, so UK1 was the priority.

Hey, did you catch that?? Warm-weather clothes. As in, she will actually need them!

So it was off to Carter's and Children's Place. Should have started with Children's Place. TONS of cute things. And you can't beat the price. Oh well. I'll just put the word in Best Namma Ever!'s ear.

Once I got home, we tried on Urban Kid 1's clothes. She was swimming in some of the pants, so it was back to Carter's and Children's Place for exchanges. Oh wah. More time alone.

Once I got home again, Urban Dad suggested I go get a massage or something. Nah. I'd love a manicure though.

Why don't you go get one then? Ummmmmm.......(sound of front door closing and my feet rapidly fluttering down the steps)

I got home with my pretty nails in time for Urban Dad to bail out for a few hours to go do some schoolwork at Caribou Coffee. So it was the Urban Kids and me for dinner and a bath for UK1.

And, of course, once UK1 finally went to sleep (she has a habit of popping back out for a visit or two before finally staying in bed), Urban Dad wanted, errrr, payback. Oh, what the heck -- he earned it.

Other fronts:
We're one full week into Best Namma Ever!'s two week trip to France. I figure that no news is good news, but I kinda miss her. Pink Power Ranger has gone to the nightshift, so I can't call and bug her during the day.

Today, my half-brothers and Pink Power Ranger are gathering to celebrate Not The Best Namma Ever's 97th birthday. As you may recall, I went with UK2 to see her on the actual birthday. I'm curious to know if she remembers. As her years get longer, her memory gets shorter. She asks the same questions over and over again. That's ok, I tend to tell the same stories over and over again.

Hey, did I tell you about my MIL calling on Friday night?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Flippin' Birthday, Urban Dad!

Must not...... do another post..... like the last....... Must not...... make this..... the "bash Val's relatives blog"..... Mustn't........

Ok, I'll try to get through this with minimal editorial comment. But I'm white-knuckling it here!

Urban Dad turns 50 at the end of May. That's one of those birthdays that can't slip by unnoticed, as UD usually likes to do. He's a private guy. Give him a Sara Lee Banana Cake and a quiet night as home, and he's delighted. He's not boring, mind you. Just easy to please and laid-back.

A few weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to two couples that we're friends with. Urban Dad has been friends with the two husbands from way back in his trading days. We gather now and then when our schedules allow to have a leisurely evening of good friends and good wine.

I sent the e-mail suggesting that we gather for a small surprise birthday dinner. I figured that's about as crazy as UD would want to get -- a leisurely evening of good friends and good wine. We traded notes til we found a night that would work and agreed to hold the evening.

Then last night the MIL called.

How to describe the MIL? Let's put it this way. Some of her personality overlaps with Not The Best Namma Ever. Except that she's an alcoholic. A pill-popping, four-times-married alcoholic. With money. I have to borrow a description used by a friend when explaining her own MIL: "she makes (the BritCom) Absolutely Fabulous look like The Cosby Show." I think her MIL and mine should go get a three-martini lunch together.

Her ring-tone on my cell phone is the theme from The Exorcist. Urban Dad knows it and approves. (not an editorial comment, just a fact!)

She wants to bring everyone to Chicago for UD's birthday. The same weekend as the surprise dinner gathering.

Last time his brothers and mom got together, I was 8-mos preggers with Urban Kid 2. Thanksgiving in Colorado. It was a disaster! We were the only married couple that didn't have a claws-out fight. MIL stayed at a hotel the last night when UD couldn't hold his tongue any longer after a weekend of psycho BS. We saw his completely undisciplined niece and nephew more often than his brother and (now ex-) SIL, since we were somehow seen as the fill-in babysitters. The other BIL had to blow into a breathalyzer to start his car. There's so much more, but that's another post. But we packed fast on our last morning and drove like the wind back to Denver Int'l Airport.

Oh yeah, this'll be great. (does that count as editorial comment?)

She wants Urban Dad's Dad to come too. (a sweet wonderful man who lives in NM, remarried after UD's mom and raised four kids)

She wants Best Namma Ever! and Her Husband to come too. I'm not big on Her Husband coming. But I would love BNE! to be there. Pink Power Ranger would love it too. We could have our own three-martini lunch the next day to talk about it all.......

And she suggested our two couple-friends.

Urban Dad put the kabosh on that as soon as we hung up. We're already enclosing ourselves in a cage-fight of people on any possible combination of Oxycontin, Prozac, Xanax, vodka, etc. Add generations of raging dysfunction, two of her three sons jockeying for their inheritance, and a lack of social filters that would shock Borat. We need to subject people we consider friends to an evening of this?

BNE! and PPR don't count. Family that we like gets free abuse points. Besides, this would be their idea of a spectator sport. They'd keep a scorecard under the table. Maybe PPR will bring her Taser if I ask nicely.

So I immediately called our two couple-friends and called off the surprise. Being UD's friends from waaaaay back, they know my MIL and completely understood. I think they were relieved to be asked to have an excuse ready in case she calls them directly.

*SIGH* So much for a leisurely, quiet evening of good friends and good wine.

Besides this development, life really is good right now. Seriously, the only thing that I can complain about won't happen for another month and a half! How good is our life?

Hey, did I mention what UD did while we were in St. Louis last weekend? He scrubbed the apartment from top to bottom. Then he bought flowers and put them all over the place. For the last several days, the smell of lillies has filled the living room. I brush my teeth while looking at daffodils. There are tulips in the UKids' room. Crazy cool, huh?

A diamond in the rough, that Urban Dad.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not the Best Namma Ever

Tiffany over at Blessed Existence recently asked if any of her readers have, odd... relatives. Man, where to start?

Since we just did a weekend trip that involved the birthdays of the two, colorful... people currently on my side of the family, we'll start there.

My now 97-year-old paternal Grandma. And understand that I dropped her son out of my life twenty years ago. Her one and only, perfect, saintly son. Who my mother divorced and chose to live paycheck-to-paycheck with two kids rather than remained married to. So, Best Namma Ever!'s former terror of a mother-in-law.

I suppose I can understand some of the craziness. She was widowed young with an 8-year-old and limited career options. She worked her hiney off raising him. But she always had a problem with everyone. Everyone.

When we were kids, Best Namma Ever! continued to bring us to her house in some god-forsaken teeny tiny town in Southern Illinois for a week each summer. And why not? There was a ton to do for kids our age, plus the weather was great! (in case you missed it, that's sarcasm there) But BNE! had the "but she's their grandmother" mentality. Too nice for her own good, that BNE!. But that's another post.

So the highlights of Grandma's house.

*Blaring TV at all hours

*Her blaming every one of her problems on everyone else.

*A Himalayan cat named Minnew. And the cat before was named Minnew. And the cat after this one would be named Minnew. (All Himlayans.) Seems that "minnew" is how the Belgians say "meow." Guess what we are.*Minnew brought in fleas. Pink Power Ranger and I would end up with bites all over our feet and calves. You could see the little buggers on our white socks. Well, we could. Grandma couldn't. And she never got bitten either.

*We were awakened at 6am every day to "run the carpet sweeper." When we objected, our mom was informed that we refused to help out with even the tiniest chore. But we were not objecting to helping out. We were objecting to helping out at 6am. Seriously, what's the hurry? She's gotta be somewhere?

*She would send us to buy milk at the grocery store. No big deal. We got to get away for a few minutes. But we were strangers in this god-forsaken town, so we were followed every step, every time.

*Picture a 7-year-old helping a morbidly obese woman out of the bathtub.

*She shared her shock and displeasure with us over our mother leaving her son. We were already hearing all about it from her son. Being her captive audience for a week really helped the coping process!

*There was a cherry tree in her back yard. And that was ok for me. It was a good climbing tree, and she made tasty cherry preserves. I'll give her that. But she made Pink Power Ranger climb it too. Made her. And PPR got a rash every. single. time.

*Up Side -- her son never visited us at her house.

*Can I share a story of my half-brother's? When he was a kid, she would take a nap on the couch holding onto his wrist so that he couldn't wander off. Guess how often my nephew sees his Great-Grandma?

PPR and I now playfully torment BNE! with stories of Grandma's house. How we perched at the window like puppies starting at about Tuesday and watched longingly for her car to pull up. How we wondered if we had done something terribly wrong and were being punished. BNE! always says, "but when I asked her, she always said that you never once asked about me!"

As we became adolescents and eventually adults and could choose to see Grandma or not, BNE! made us go. "I never want you to have one single doubt about whether you did the right thing or not." BNE! has more grace and class in her pinky finger than I'll ever have in my entire body.

This last visit to the nursing home, I opted to not take Urban Kid 1. She's old enough now to be uncomfortable there. I took UK2, which made for ooooo's and ahhhhh's and a conversation piece. She also made for a handy excuse to leave.

Another thing to understand about Grandma is that she seems to be immortal. Keep in mind that she was never one to eat well and didn't like to get off the couch (hence, the obesity). She was angry and bitter. She got every pneumonia and took every fall. But she's still here. PPR and I have to wonder if she'll be in the room down the hall from us when we someday go to the nursing home ourselves......... Personally, I think she's just trying to outlive her son. The sickness of their relationship is that he just wants her gone. And so she just keeps hanging on.

So in the grand scheme of life, I figure that Grandma has a role. Yes, it's that of a warning. And it's one that I sometimes have to remind myself of when I get too riled about disagreeing with someone.

But I take from her -- and ultimately, from BNE! -- to let go of the past, to laugh about it and to just move on already. Clear out the anger about the past and make room for good things. And that you have to make the good things, that sitting on the couch won't bring them to you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Road Food

The Urban Kids and I had a successful trip to St. Louis for the weekend! We managed to spend six hours in the car together each way without any permanent damage done. Urban Kid 1 will make it clear every time that she can NOT understand why we don't FLY like she gets to do when Best Namma Ever! comes to collect her. However, for her, the one highlight of driving to StL is eating at one of her favorite places. You see, she's found Culinary Nirvana at:

They can be found in the suburbs of Chicago, but not in the city. And they're all over Illinois and St. Louis. She lives for the grilled cheese sandwich. Poor kid. When she's with Best Namma Ever!, she gets to have fries too. Her evil rotten Urban Mom makes her get the apple slices and grapes. (this keeps evil rotten UM from eating the fries!) Up side? Eat most of her lunch and she scores a shake (junior-sized with evil rotten UM).

But we all probably have some kind of road food that we like. On any trip to StL, I make sure to get an Orange Freeze at Steak n Shake. They were a favorite of mine as a kid, so they're a treat now.

Also, who lives near a


I LOVE these roast beef sandwiches. And I can only find them in St. Louis, so far. Slather some Barbeque Sauce on them, and I've found my own Culinary Nirvana. In Chicago, I can't find a roast beef chain. Seriously, I would limp along on Arby's between trips to StL, if I could. But no luck, so when I go home, I go all carnivore and head to the drive-thru.

But honestly, we did a few other things besides eat on this trip! I'll fill you in over the next few days. In the meantime, Best Namma Ever! and Her Husband are off to France tomorrow for two weeks. I hope that they are too, too busy to e-mail or call, so it'll be a virtual "radio silence" for a while. But she comes up to visit a few days after returning to the States.

I'd venture a request that she bring along some sandwiches and an orange freeze, but I think we'd just get some wrappers and an empty cup. And who could blame her?

Geez, now I'm hungry......

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Have a Great Weekend

Off to St. Louis tomorrow, bright and early. Ok, bright and mid-morning-ish. Going to over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house. Ok, going over a few rivers and across a lot of soybean and corn fields to Grandmother's house. It's my first time going solo with the two Urban Kids, so send prayers and happy thoughts out to I-55 today!

Nobody in StL knows that I have this humble blog, and "stealth blogging" seems out of the question. So Happy Weekend to you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Show and Tell Tuesday

Geez, I'm behind today. Tuesday is nearly 1/2 over! Should I even share that I'm still in my robe? So embarrassing... But the munchkins are dressed, fed and Urban Kid 1 has had school. We got the new Rosetta Stone Spanish Homeschool Version yesterday, so we gave that a try. So far, so good! Urban Kid 2 is napping, so UK1 needs to find something to do while I grab a shower and GET DRESSED ALREADY!

In the meantime......

UK1's most recent visit to The Paintbrush exposed her to Hans Hoffman. Their "inspiration" piece was Golden Wall:
This was UK1's take on it:

We framed this one and will hang it in her room. She's pretty proud.
Happy Tuesday (what's left of it) to ya!