Friday, February 27, 2009

So What Do You Do?

A few weeks ago, Urban Kid 1 was asking what women can do.

Can women be astronauts?
Of course, women have been in space a while now.

Can women be doctors?
Isn't yours? And so is your dentist.

And so I explain that women can be just about anything today. Aunt Pink Power Ranger is a police officer. My friend Julie is a lawyer, as is Aunt Chris. Best Namma Ever! was in charge of lots of stuff at Boeing and helped open the Chicago HQ. Her godmother is a decorator. Riley's mom is a pilot for UPS. Lucy is a teacher with Urban Dad.

Etc, etc, etc.

Her reponse?

When I grow up, I'm going to do something. I'm not going to be just a mom.

Just a mom?

Just a mom?

Wait a minute, kid! I used to do stuff! I used to direct the morning newscast for the NBC affiliate in Peoria. I used to get up at an unGodly hour to do it, too. Then I packed everything that would fit into a Toyota hatchback and drove to Chicago, knowing little more about the city than I had a job on Monday morning with Great Big Ad Agency. I spent eight years at Great Big Ad Agency. I went to meetings and monitored budgets and hired casting agents and edit houses and traded e-mails with our offices overseas. I decided to bail out of that career and try my hand at teaching high school English -- I decided that when my clients acted like children, it might be nice if they actually were. I did reasonably well at it. And I met this guy who had been all over the world and had traded at the Mercantile Exchange and for himself in Australia and who left it all in order to teach because he was nothing less than called to it and who was also patient enough to wait and wait for me to stop being so freakin' scared of marriage and parenthood being some sort of prison. (and yeah, it's a run-on sentence, but i'm having a moment, so leave me alone)

I did stuff.

Just a mom?

Did time just start the moment she was born? I did exist before she was born, right? I get to keep a few threads of who that person was as I move down this path in life, right?

Just a mom?

She's reading at nearly a fourth-grade level at 5 1/2 years old. Doing first grade math. Art, piano, Spanish, swimming, soccer. Who researches all of that? Plans all of that? Carts her rear-end to it all? As I ask her some days, "who makes all of the good stuff happen? and who can make all of the good stuff go away?"

Just a mom.

I remembered a college prof who said that when his wife was working that people at parties would engage her in interesting conversations. When she became a stay-at-home mom for a while, the conversations became much shorter and involved much smaller words.

All of this ran through my head in about two seconds before I returned to my rational self. And after the kids were in bed, Urban Dad was quite reassuring that our little microcosm is as good as it is because of little-ole-me. (yeah, he says all of that swoony stuff... i think it's a total load of **** sometimes, but would never argue with him. who would?)

And Pink Power Ranger enthusiastically assured me that on behalf of her 900,000 brethren, she was endlessly grateful that I was "just a mom." That if more people could be "just a mom" or "just a dad," that her job would be so much less demanding.

But, wow. For some reason, it caught me where I live. And it gave me pause. Not the kind of pause that makes me panic over a bad decision. It was more like the kind that makes me stop and take inventory of myself and the life I'm living, and all of the balance of this and that that goes along with it.

And I was happy with what I found. I'm not doing anything that I thought that I would be doing when I moved to Chicago 16 years ago. Not one single thing. But you know what? I had no idea who I was back then. And somewhere inside, on a subconscious level, I knew it. As a result, I could never quite get comfortable with myself.

Today, I know who I am.

I'm Just A Mom.

EVERY path may lead you to God, even the weird ones. Most of us on are on a journey. We're looking for something, though we're not sure what it is. The way is foggy much of the time. I suggest you slow down and follow some of the side roads that suddenly appear in the mist.
(from, found on

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy

I can't lie... I totally got this from my cyber-friend Melissa. Gotta give props where they are due.

I loved this. I laughed so hard that I almost hit the floor.

Enjoy! (and thank you, melissa!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Updates; Plus The Devil Made Me Do It, Part 2

Updates on the doings around here:

1. Last Saturday, I spent the a.m. in the chair of Lee the Hair Whisperer, who set about making me the blonde that I was born to be (I swear! I was blonde until my late 20's!). I don't know who those dark roots belonged to, but it wasn't me.

2. I took Urban Kid 1 with me. And the portable DVD player. And headphones. Plus her:
This allowed for two straight hours of dishing, grown-up-chick style. Except for Winter, the U-Kids don't see that much TV, so U-Kid 1 thought this was some kind of delerious treat.

3. Urban Kid 2 has discovered her new best friend.
She keeps asking for "Dah!" Specifically, "Blue Dah!"

So if I'm trying to get U-Kid 1 to practice her piano or wrap her mind around math, I sometimes relent. I massage my guilt by setting the language to Spanish.

The only books U-Kid 2 wants are "Dah!" too. There are plenty left from when U-Kid 1 went through this phase.

When we went to Blockbuster in search of Mary Poppins, U-Kid 2 had... an episode. We came around the corner and there it was......... and entire rack, chock-full of..........her.
Imagine a two-year-old in a pink winter coat, jeans and black Merrills. Completely flipping out. Feet pumping up and down in unfiltered joy. And screaming as loudly as only a 2-year-old with no social filters can,


For a moment, I expected nothing less than spontaneous combustion!

4. And finally, in the "here we go again" news:

Edward's back.

I saw my friend who comments here as "SMook" on Sunday. And she lent me the next three Twilight books. Lord help my children until I finally get these things finished and out of my system!

I have finished #2, New Moon. Tonight, I finished #3, Eclipse.

And, of course, I have a few thoughts. God forbid I leave any of them unexpressed.

Bella, honey, again with you. As a mother, I should be refreshed by Edward's restraint. But seriously, sweetheart. You have a dirty old man for a boyfriend who lives forever inside of a 17-year-old guy's body. Your dad has no idea that he spends the night in your room every night.
And you can't persuade him to start The Launch Sequence??? Are you kidding me?

C'mere, Bella. I have a few tips for you.

On second thought, get out of the way. I'll do it myself.

On the other hand, you have managed to be involved with two guys at the same time. No, not just two "guys." Two total Alpha Males. And The Deed never becomes part of the picture with either hormone-soaked dude? That are straight? And they know about each other, and even actually know each other? And they each wait ever so gallantly for you to make a decision? Yikes. You must have something going on.

Never mind, Bella. Maybe I need tips from you. 'Cause for anyone else, this would be a setup for a particulary bad reality tv show.

I'm off to read Breaking Dawn, the last and largest book. Seems that Stephenie Meyer has J.K. Rowling Syndrome... sold a bunch of books and now her editors can't reign her in. Luckily, I've been warned by a few friends that there are some twists that had them saying, "Really, Stephenie? Really? I was going along for the ride 'til now..., but REALLY?????"

Be prepared for our next brunch, SMook. We will analyze the life out of every ridiculous detail of these books. And at this pace, it will be sooner rather than later.
So all of that said................ how long til the DVD comes out?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

B-days, Botox, iPods & Jamal (aka: Meandering Thoughts)

Ok, here's the deal. Tuesday was my birthday. And I'm not one of those people who feels the need to make my birthday some sort of national holiday. Sometime over the last few years, I started downplaying the day, and now I'm just sort of trying to ignore it altogether and and pretend that it isn't happening. What can I say? I'm vapid and vain and do not plan to cope well with getting older at all. Rather, I intend to become a human pincushion of Botox.
And in an effort to be as fair as possible to Urban Dad, I've given him plenty of warning to save up because I plan to lose. my. mind. What can I say? I know who I am, and I own it.

Oh, and June Cleaver ASP... I looooooooved my birthday gift . You do know how to make a girl feel special. Yeah, that's the word for it.... "special." (hand fluttering at flushed face as i try to catch my breath)

Now, all that said about birthdays, I did score this from Best Namma Ever!, because she knew that I would never go out and just get myself one (I know...I want to inject botulism around my newly-lasered eyes, but won't treat myself to this):
Because with this blog, Facebook & Netflix, I don't have enough to spend way too much time on when on the computer, right? (hee hee) Urban Dad asked what he should get me for my birthday -- I told him to just plan to see a few charges on the Discover from iTunes! It's the smallest iPod -- 1GB, about 250 songs. Honestly, I accepted my un-cool-ness a loooong time ago. I'm good with this humble iPod.

So far, I've loaded a whopping seven songs. (time is an issue you see, in addition to my un-cool-ness) I'm looking just for songs that will keep me going in a workout. And people are SO nice when it comes to sharing the iPod love.... the iLove? The Pink Power Ranger has something like 1500 songs on her (much bigger because she's much cooler) iPod. She's offered to burn a disc for me of things that she thinks that I might like. And a Facebook friend saw my statement that I had "loaded a whopping seven songs" and offered to share a disc that a friend had made for her last year. "You can't just have seven songs on your iPod! That's pitiful!" is what she said.

Well, duh! I'm figuring out iTunes and synching. (can anyone tip me off on how to synch podcasts? anyone? Bueller?) I don't plan to limit myself to seven songs. I just wanted to see it work before I blew out the Discover card $0.99 at a time.

Here's where I started:

Two songs from this group (Clocks & Viva la Vida):

And five songs from this:
I knew while sitting entranced with this movie that I wanted this music. I defy you to listen to Jai Ho and not feel like you can do a four-minute-mile.

What? You haven't seen the movie yet? Get a move on! I loved this movie, everything about it.
And may every girl find her very own Jamal!!
(because we know how I feel about Edward)

Feel free to leave any workout-worthy tune suggestions!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back to the Real World

It was a great trip to St. Louis. It's always good to return to the Mothership. And after the January we had here, it was especially good to get out of my own four walls for a while. And really, just to get out for a while.

I may have taken slightly too much advantage of having Best Namma Ever! for childcare. Just slightly. But ooooooh, it was needed. And I'm lucky that she's sympathetic. She agrees that the hardest, most maddening years can be when the kids are little (apparently she's done a complete mind-block of PPR's and my adolescent years). Factor in that we're not doing preschool, plus a ridiculously cold winter and one gets a bad, bad case of I'm Gonna Lose It If I Don't Get Out Of Here.

So this trip included lunch and an afternoon ride-along with the Pink Power Ranger (I could not do her job), an evening of having PPR over for dinner then chocolate martinis and The Soup, a four-hour catch-up with an long-time friend, getting together with PPR to nab a friend's 14yo daughter (remember my DF and the DF-ettes from my Bad Mojo post?) and take her to the mall for lunch and "He's Just Not That Into You," etc.

Yeah, lots of time out. With adults. And alone in the car sometimes, even (one has to drive to everything when at the Mothership)! Listening to whatever I wanted on the radio! But then PPR finally said, "Seriously, Val, how much has Mom had them?" And BNE! is far too important to our operation here to tick off in any way.

So while it wasn't a weekend away with Urban Dad, it definitely was a mini-vacation of sorts. And I'm not ashamed to admit enjoying it. U-Dad was off today for President's Day, so I'm back at it full-time tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hittin' the Road

It's 60-degrees today (YES! 60! can you BELIEVE it????). And what better way to spend the day than in a car?

Actually, it's not a bad idea. I'd planned on taking the U-Kids to the Mothership in St. Louis for the long weekend. But tomorrow it'll pour rain and Thursday may not be much better. So today.

The last time we did this drive, it was for Christmas. And it snowed and iced for just over half of the drive. So really, driving on a 60-degree day isn't all bad.

Best Namma Ever! has plans this evening, so we'll be leisurely about getting out of here. I've yet to pack anyone, even. So a leisurely morning, then hitting the road for a long afternoon drive.

As you may recall, Best Namma Ever! doesn't know of my humble blog, so it may be a bit before I get to post again.

Details of our adventures soon, I hope!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Decorative Winter

Urban Dad & I try hard to be conscientious about what and how much TV the Urban Kids consume. It's all but impossible to raise kids today without plugging into the Massive Marketing Machine of Life. But we try to be careful about how far we get pulled in and in what direction. And with it being wintertime, and this past December and January being particularly snowy and sub-zero, we've resigned ourselves to using the Electronic Babysitter a bit more often.

For example, not a day goes by without this crew:

And we cross paths with this crew several times a week, too:

And even this guy pops into our living room now and then, although the episode about "The Hounds of Baskerville" creeped out U-Kid 1, thus stalling her desire for more: (personally, I love the retro hair and clothes)
You see, while I can't stand Winter and carefully watch for signs of Spring, U-Dad is great about the cold weather. He's the dad that bundles up the kids and throws them outside, taking them out to help shovel the sidewalk, build a snowman, walk to the coffee shop for a chocolate chip cookie and milk.....

But this winter has been different, what with his (stupid) knee situation. So more indoor time. More football watching. And what else can one watch with the kids on a long Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon?

Never let someone tell you that TV doesn't affect children..........

U-Kid 1 now recognizes her


and her

and him.

And she will argue passionately when watching this,

making statement such as, "oh, those floors are awful! they're too orange! don't choose that house!"

She now is determined that she will be a decorator and has assured her parents and grandmother that she when she grows up she will gladly decorate our homes for the whoppingly bargain price of $1.00.

She re-arranges blankets and pictures and toys and books in her room, draping necklaces here and there and creating all-important "storage." Then she'll excitedly come get the nearest adult to come in for The Big Reveal, where she will carefully explain each change and how it's an improvement for said snagged adult.

Oh, and she wants a sidetable for her birthday (which isn't until September).

Luckily, her Godmother is a licensed decorator. And licensed decorators are allowed to enter and shop in The Merchandise Mart.
So we figure that we'll go with this Winter of HGTV and see if perhaps U-Kid 1 can tag along for a shopping trip "playdate" sometime in the near future. We're pretty sure that it'll blow her sweet little mind.
Maybe she'll pick up a sidetable, too?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Date Night & Girls' Night, Back-to-Back

A day late, a dollar short... that' s how I roll sometimes.

Last weekend, the Pink Power Ranger had a few days off and decided to drive up to see her sister, BIL & nieces. Ok, mainly the nieces. Best Namma Ever! had nuthin' doin' for a few days and opted to tag along. Which I consider a "yay me!" bonus, because BNE! is good with changing diapers. And I love my mom, of course.

First, PPR always makes incredible time driving from St. Louis to Chicago. One of the bennies of choosing a career involving dealing with knuckleheads all day or night... no fear of speeding tickets with her poe-poe i.d. tucked in her jacket.
They showed up Thursday afternoon. Thankfully, neither had an issue with U-Dad & I taking a much needed evening out. Seriously, our schedule lately has reduced us to a few murmurs as we doze off. And for a while there, we were so involved in our respective worlds that we pretty much just snipped at each other. Ok. I snipped. He responded accordingly.

So Thursday night we bailed out, leaving our offspring with the best possible (& free!) childcare. Of course, we had to get all p*ssed off at each other as we went out the door, but ... well... whatever already, can we just go?

So yeah, the walk out the door & to our destination was silent. And cold. And the weather was freezing, too.

By the way, I looked amazing. Thanks for saying something.

We went to a relatively new place called The Counter, where you fill out a form to choose your own burger toppings, thus creating your own burger. U-Dad & I were both had a serious carniverous jones going, so we thought this would be perfect. Sadly, we should have read the review first. For heaven's sake, people! It's a burger! And an overpriced one at that. How can you mess that up?

Ok, now U-Dad is going on and on and on about having a bummer meal. And on about it. The entire walk to the movie theater is about this.

And by the way, I looked great. Thank you for noticing.

Then we went into the movie theater. And as movie theaters often are (is this just in the city or everywhere?), it was messy. Popcorn all over the floor, etc. So U-Dad needed to go on about that, too. I had pretty much stopped talking altogether. It's not like I had much to contribute. Seriously, if this was our first date, I'd be texting a friend from the ladies' room to call me with some sort of terrible tragedy that demanded that I excuse myself right then and there and meet her for a DVD & pizza at her place.

But I digress. As usual.

I look great doing it, though, don't I? Awwww thanks for noticing!

We sat in the back row, where I took off my coat, threw it over myself and snuggled down into the seat. Then some chick sat down in front of me. So I had to scootch my bum back up. Less snuggly viewing.

Thank God the movie was amazing.

You've seen this movie, right? Right? I'm not one to join Hollywood bandwagon hype -- especially when people start throwing piles of awards at something. But wow. This one actually and truly and completely deserves it. I loved everything about this movie. There are some difficult scenes involving children -- I closed my eyes & ears a few times -- but it's integral to the story and not gratuitous. And the end.... oh the end!!!! Trust me... you have to see this movie. I even want the soundtrack to listen to while running.

Luckily, the fantastic movie lightened the walk home and saved the date.

The next day, PPR, BNE!, the U-Kids & I went out for breakfast.

We're at the stage now where dining with a 2yo is a bit, erm, not relaxing. But all in all, it was fun and easy and easier than me making breakfast for all of us.

Then we went to Pump It Up!, where PPR had more fun than any us, I think. We ran the girls around until they were ready to drop, then loaded them up and headed home.

The girls weren't the only ones ready to drop. I left U-Kid 2, BNE! & PPR at home all hoping for naps while U-Kid 1 & I went to her piano lesson. Wow! I got around really fast doing errands while U-Kid 1 was in class. And I could think complete thoughts in my head. One after another.

That night, BNE!, PPR & U-Kid 1 went out to dinner. There was just no way that I was going to take a 2yo to a restaurant in Lincoln Park on a Friday night. PPR craves a soup that this place serves, so off they all went. They told me later that U-Kid 1 was the only child in a dining room full of happening adults. And that she was absolutely perfect.

After U-Dad was safely stashed in front of the TV, we opened a bottle of wine, got out the cards and played Death Uno. U-Kid 1 joined us for a while, but proved too shockingly deadly at such a tender age. So we sent her to bed.

Once we were good n tipsy, it was time for The Soup, my favorite half hour of the week (ooops, sorry U-Dad -- my second favorite half hour of the week). And Joel McHale cracked a joke involving Uno that had us laughing to the point of pain. It was definitely one of those "you had to be there" moments, which of course only made it that much better.

Sadly, BNE! & PPR had to leave on Saturday morning. They both had plans on Sunday -- BNE! with church and PPR wanted to go see her (ok, our) sick father (if you're new, details on that situation here). So off they went. Making incredible time, of course.

Happily, the U-Kids & I are heading down there next weekend. And PPR is off, too!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monkey See, Monkey Do

One of my Happy Places is the gym. I looooove my gym. I used to belong to a different one of the same local Happy Gym Company and would happily drive past about three other perfectly nice places in order to get to it. The reason? Phenomenal child care -- two blissful hours of it. This Happy Gym Company is great about being family-oriented and offering it's own building for child care, plus fun classes that the kids can take in order to massage Mom's guilt at doing a happy dance out the door, etc. Add to that the swimming lessons and summer camps... they've found quite a niche and have become very good at it.

One of the greatest joys that I've had in the last year is that my Happy Gym Company finally opened a long-delayed and much-anticipated gym just two short blocks from the Urban Family's front door.

Ok. My point. Finally.

All of these gyms feature a climbing wall; ours is an indoor wall. I've watched people climbing it and wondered about how people get started learning about this, but shied away from inquiring.

Urban Kid 1, however, is not shy about pursuing her interests. Our gym opened when she was four, and she has been consistently and repeatedly been asking about getting on the wall -- thus forcing her mom out of her shell. But they don't allow the kiddies to take a class until they are five.

For her fifth birthday, Best Namma Ever! popped for the class. But I held off on signing up for it because our schedule was already hammered with activities, none of which U-Kid 1 was keen to let go of.

So I made an executive decision -- one of the perks of being the Director of Curriculum & Implementation at the "Urban Family" Country Day Academy: we would skip swimming during the Deep Freeze and try climbing instead. This got me out of having to completely blow-dry a squirmy little one, plus avoid the New Year's Resolution Crowd in the locker room.

Here are a few shots of my little Monkey Girl from tonight's class. (those of you who might be new around of the rules is no pictures of the Urbans, due to U-Dad's security concerns, thus the reason you can't see U-Kid 1's face)

Now in order to keep up with U-Kid 1, in January, I took advantage of a class that the gym has been offering every 4-6 weeks called Climb Like A Girl. About 30 of us chicks all got a relaxed and casual introduction to climbing, plus wine. (and a cool t-shirt!) And a glass of wine certainly helps get one brave enough to try the wall in front of anyone and everyone who might pass by outside.

My first try, I didn't get too far. I sort of attacked the wall and clutched onto it clumsily with too much emphasis on the upper body.

My second try, I took an easier route, relaxed (I mentioned the wine, right?) and managed to shimmy my way up to the top. An enthusiastic shout of, "hey Val, you climb LIKE A MUTHA!" from my friend Julie at the bottom had me laughing so hard I almost lost my groove completely, but no harm done. What a feeling! Especially for someone who is afraid of heights!

Now I try to stop by the wall during Supervised Climb, when they have someone who knows how to belay just waiting to cheerfully help you out. Despite the psychological struggle to convince myself that I will not plummet to my death if I let go, it's a nice strength exercise without having to lift weights. Just my own butt. And I tell myself that I'm keeping up with and staying involved with my five-year-old.

God help me if she takes up cage fighting.