Three Stories from the Streets of Bloomington

Walking down the street, heading to Carl's for some ice cream. Nate stays home, putting the boys to bed. I'm wearing mom-jeans, my make-up has worn off, revealing my incredibly dark under eyes. My hair is pulled into an unassuming pony-tail. I'm not feeling remotely alluring, especially because this is my second trip for a large chunky shake in as many days. For these reasons, the following scene catches me by surprise.

I'm on the sidewalk, passing by a house with three or four young men sitting on the stoop. I see one of them give me the up-down, I guess he is about 18, Latino. With less than 10 feet separating us, he commences with his cat-call. The close proximity makes it one of the most awkward cat-calls I've endured; the phrases he employs makes it one of the most humorous: "Hey, mama. Where you goin'? Don't hurt nobody. Don't hurt nobody."

We pull into the parking lot of Kroger. It's hot. Our windows are down. Nate gets out, ice cream and lemonade on his mind. I stay in the car with the boys. Exactly as he gets out of the car, an African American woman pulls her cart up to the van next to us. She's talking in a friendly voice to a friend? spouse? in the front seat. Instantly, her voice changes and she begins harshly admonishing a child who has, apparently, unbuckled his seat belt.

"If you don't get back in that seat belt right now these white people are gonna call the police on me."

I follow her logic, but her son misses it. "Why?" he queries.
"Because I'm gonna beat the hell outta you, that's why."

I don't appreciate being used as part of her threat, but somehow I admire her candor.

Taking an early morning walk with the boys. Theo is in the stroller, Simon walks alongside. We walk past a plaza that contains a laundry mat and a convenience store. In front of the laundry mat, a man stands outside of a car, a woman stands by the passenger side door. He starts to shout at me. I can't understand one word he's saying. Typically I would ignore someone shouting at me, especially a male. But something about the scene, maybe the woman standing right there makes me think, "Maybe they need help." So I look a little harder, a little longer than I normally would.

But, no, after a few seconds I can tell by the inflection of his voice that he is trying to work some kind of pick-up magic, with a woman who could be his wife or mother for all I know standing right there. I turn my head back to the path before me, ignoring his calls. He persists in shouting at me. I still can't understand what he's saying, but I can imagine. For the first time in my cat-call history, I decide to break silence.

"Hey, man," I say disapprovingly, "I'm with my kids here."

He answers and for the first time I can make out his words. "I LOVE KIDS!" he says.

This response leaves me speechless. I keep walking.


Blogging CSA --- Week 1 Menu

Here is what we picked up from Farmer Henry tonight: garlic, beets, spinach, radishes, lettuce, bok choi, cilantro, and rhubarb. We also got a CSA cookbook with many ideas on how to eat all this bounty.

After pouring over cookbooks and online recipe sites, here is how I plan to use it all:

Wednesday: Linguini with arugula, pine nuts, and Parmesan (we didn't get arugula from our CSA, but I have some from the supermarket that I need to use up). Recipe from the CSA cookbook.

Thursday: Tofu and Bok Choi stir-fried in peanut oil, served with rice. From CSA cookbook.

Friday: Cilantro-Lime Soup served with tostadas. From CSA cookbook. Also, make Rhubarb Stir-Cake Friday night. From allrecipes.com

Saturday: We're going to Nate's folks' house for dinner. I'll take the Rhubarb cake to share.

Sunday: Leftovers. I rarely cook on Sundays.

Monday: Beet soup with Three Legumes. From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Tuesday: Grilling out. Marinated chicken breasts and sliced radishes, in a foil pack with garlic, salt, and pepper. Both from allrecipes.com. I'll need to be on the ball and have dinner ready early, so we can head over and pick up our next batch of veggies! Pick-up is 6:30 - 7:30 pm.

I hope to use the garlic and lettuce throughout the week, in salads and other dishes. I don't have specific plans for them, so hopefully they get used up and don't go to waste.

These are all new recipes. If any of them are winners, you'll probably see them in the next Christmas cookbook.

Animal Funnies and PSA

These are two sites featuring animals that I find amusing.

First, disapproving rabbits. I don't understand it, but I like it. Click on the numbers at the bottom of the page for more pictures and disapproval. Cassie, if you are reading this, please note that this strange page is nestled within a birding blog.

Next, this weirdness. I understand this even less. Most of the captions are in a sort of lingo that was unfamiliar to me. Nate told me they are in leet speak, which from my understanding is a formal term for internet jargon. You all may know about it already, I had to have it explained by my nerdy husband and am still a little fuzzy on it. Mysterious. But funny.

Finally, dear readers, many of you will be receiving invitations to Theo's birthday party in the mail. I want to make it clear that these invitations do not come with an expectation of attendance, especially if you reside in Chicago. Think of it more as a goodwill gesture, a wish. This invitation says we love you and wish we saw more of you. It does not say our friendship will suffer if you choose not to travel three hours just to have lunch with us. Okay? Okay. At the same time, if you do want to come, we'd be thrilled. Since there aren't any games or themed decorations to focus on, I can put all my energy toward the food. The lunch promises to be ridiculous (if you were at Simon's first b-day party, you know what I mean), and hopefully delicious. So you might want to take that fact into consideration.

Weekend Update

Yesterday we had pictures taken with my side of the family. This is a yearly tradition, driven by my mother's insistence that each new addition to the clan must be professionally documented, elsewise they don't count. In years past, we have always gone to JC Penny, Sears, Portrait Innovations, or some equally terrible establishment to have these pictures taken, and always around Thanksgiving. This year, at my urging, we waited until Spring to do the annual pictures. My reasoning for postponing the pictures involved my weight, as I hoped I would be thinner in May. I am not thinner now than I was in November, but, alas, the picture plan proceeded. Along with the seasonal change, we convinced my mom to switch photographers. Instead of the ubiquitous grey canvas background, we went with something more creative, more modern. A family friend has started a photography business, and we hired her for the frightful task of making five little children smile at the same time, or at least look in the same general direction.

The photo session started off well, but quickly deteriorated into chaos, with four little ones in various states of refusal to cooperate. Theo was the only one who didn't resist, but only because he didn't know he was supposed to.

When it was time for our immediate family portrait, I held Theo and Nate held Simon. Simon was burying his head in Nate's shoulder, hiding his face and thereby effectively preventing any pictures from being taken. A host of helpers stood behind the photographer, trying to get Simon to look at them. They pulled out all the stops, jumping, clapping, engaging in dinosaur-related discussions. Nothing worked. Finally, when the crowd had run out of ideas, Nate quietly said, "Simon, remember that show we watched when the bird cleaned up his area and then did a little dance?" Instantly, the face came out of hiding, grinning and telling everyone about the silly bird he saw. Brilliant daddy. Later, Nate told me that the bird idea had been in reserve for a while, he had just been waiting for everyone to shut up.


The bird who cleaned up his mating-display area in the rain forest was introduced to us by a program called Planet Earth. I've heard that Oprah gave big props to this show, so we are probably the only ones who haven't seen it already. We finally saw the first episode this weekend, and it was amazing. Our favorite part was the cleaning/dancing bird. There is also a scene in which a herd of elephants, having finally found water after a long, dry trip, swim jubilantly. Beautiful.


Today is the first pick-up for the CSA we signed up for months ago. From Henry's Farm we will get a bounty of fresh, organic vegetables. Delish. I'm excited about getting our veggies, but also a little nervous about finding ways to use everything. It would be sad to waste what I expect to be perfectly marvelous produce, and I know it will take some planning to avoid throwing away even one sprig of parsley.


As I mentioned earlier, I am no thinner now than I was in November. This standstill has occurred despite my best efforts, a combination of exercise and Weight Watchers. I don't mind exercise. It's hard to find time for it, but I don't mind it. I rather enjoy it. My big struggle is with the food. I love food, and I have a hard time telling myself no.

In the last few months I have been discouraged. I have seriously contemplated giving up, accepting my bigger size, and shopping for some clothes that fit my new, larger body.

But then I think, no, I really don't want to be this size right now. I can be this size when I'm 45, but now? Now I want to get those boxes down from the attic. I want to be a cute and healthy mama. So currently I am engaged in a last-ditch, all-out effort to get this weight off. Nate and I have agreed that as soon as I lose 20 pounds (or fit comfortably into my old clothes, whichever comes first),I can get a new tattoo. Even with this incredibly desirable inky incentive dangling before me, I can't seem to keep spoonfuls of ice cream from finding their way into my mouth.

Since I can't control my eating, my strategy is simply to spend enough calories to override my food intake. Here is the summer schedule: get up around 5:30, pack up the stroller, then snatch Theo out of bed. (He's usually awake anyway). Theo and I walk from 6 am to 7 am, returning just in time for Nate to leave for work. Then the boys and I go to the basement where I do a short (30 minutes) aerobic tape, usually with a weight-training focus. Later in the day, after dinner, I try to expend some more calories, with a walk, bike ride, or workout tape. All I can say is, this regimen had better work fast, as I can see serious burn-out just over the horizon.

My biggest fantasy these days is to go on The Biggest Loser ranch. They've been showing reruns of that show on the Style channel, and it taunts me. I know I'm not nearly big enough to qualify for that show, but it would be awesome to spend a month on the ranch, where losing 5 pounds in 7 days is considered a bad week. Personal trainers and a controlled food environment would make it so much easier, I think. Two or three weeks there, and this whole year-long battle would be over. If only I had a rich benefactor who could send me away to fat camp, all my woes would end. Sigh... a girl can dream, can't she?


In Theoville, we have toothage. He was a bit slow with the teeth-growing, I have to say. But he finally has one popping out on the top. It is very cute, and was dutifully noted in the baby book.

Here is a picture of Theo crawling into the play kitchen. He removed the box of toys that was in the bottom compartment, then removed the plastic sink, then crawled in and stuck his head through. Once he was up there, he promptly pulled the pictures off the wall. Pretty humorous, and a perfect example of the kind of hijinks this kid pulls on an hourly basis. He is nuts.


We've been struggling with Simon for the past few weeks. There are a couple issues rearing their heads: First, he loves to pester his brother. There is constant, endless pushing, prodding, pinching, squeezing, and toy-snatching. It drives me up a wall, and lately the two words that most often leave my mouth (accompanied by an angry to annoyed tone of voice) are, "Simon, don't...." At the same time, we have had a lot of asserting wishes and voicing opposition. We are not opposed to these two things on their own merits, but when they take the form of a shrieked, "NO! I DON'T WANT TO!!!!!!!" well, then we are opposed. We are both opposed and offended. Something needed to be done.

What we are trying can be called "Good Choice / Bad Choice." We have two bowls, each with ten stones in them. One has a sticker with a happy face (representing a good choice), and one has a sticker with a sad face (representing a bad choice). The stones move from bowl to bowl as good and bad choices are recognized. When all the stones are in the good choice bowl, there will be a reward of a one-on-one outing with mom or dad. So far it is a great tool. It forces us to look for moments of goodness from our firstborn, which, let's face it, can get completely lost amid baby-pummelling and voice-raising. It also gives a solid consequence to bad choices, which is better than relying on our disapproving [read: angry] words only.

Here is a picture of the bowls. It is poor. Forgive me.


Also forgive this very long post.

I'll try to balance it with a shorter post later today.


strawberry boys.

Theo really enjoyed his first taste of strawberry. He had three or four more after this one.

Simon never actually tasted his strawberry. This is an act for the camera. As you've already learned, he's saving such pleasures for when he is ten.
Have a great long weekend, everyone.


As promised...

... pictures. I am a woman of my word.

Theo has picked up this goofy little smile lately. There's really nothing little about it. As smiles go, it's totally over the top.

I love this picture. Nate thinks it's weird that his eyes aren't showing. He doesn't understand my artistic vision.

Here is Simon at his recital. His efforts shifted between singing the songs along with his class and policing the various sources of noise around him. The boy standing next to him was making Spiderman sound-effects and Simon reminded him of what he was supposed to be singing. At one point, Simon looked at me, sitting in the front row, and I silently mouthed to him, "Good job." Even though I didn't make any actual noise, I was shushed by my son.

He had fun. I think he felt very proud.

Theo is enjoying a lot of finger foods lately. He is messy.

Simon has taken up coloring. He used to be utterly bored by this activity, so it's interesting to me that's he's really taken to it now. Always evolving, these crazy kids...


Today is Simon's last day of school. So it's the last time I can watch mediocre movies on TBS while he's in class and Theo is napping. Today's feature is Up Close and Personal. I'm looking forward to Simon's summer break, even though we don't have any special plans. Summer vacation means less structure to our week, and that's not a bad thing.

Last night I took my first solo bike ride with Simon in the trailer. We went to the library, maybe 2 miles away. I felt okay. I was a little nervous, and there was a hill that absolutely kicked my ass. I moved up that hill at a snail's pace. I seriously think that, given proper knee protection, Theo could have crawled up that hill faster than I rode my bike. Still, I did it. I don't know if I can make the bike my main vehicle, but I am going to try to use it more and more.

Later, gators.


Simon is a very picky eater. We try to keep it light. We don't wage war over food. Once in a while we'll tell him that we didn't like ________ (tomatoes, beans, etc.) when we were his age, either. Maybe he'll like _______ (strawberries, watermelon, on and on) when he's older, we'll say. As he watched me eat some grapes tonight, we had this exchange.

-Mom, when I'm ten, I will love strawberries and grapes.

-Okay, great. But, you know, if you want, you can love them now.


He's Strong, He's Fast, He's Everywhere...

He's Theo.

We got an email this morning urging us to blog more often. As I read it, I was trying to figure out what had kept me from writing for the last few weeks. And after some thought, I've decided to blame it on my baby.

Theo has become a serious contender for attention in this house. He still has an extremely pleasant nature, but I don't think I would call him an "easy" baby any more. He climbs too damn much. Mere months ago, I could trust him to go about his baby business as I went about mine. Now he requires nearly constant supervision. Thus, the blog suffers.

Here are a few highlights from the last few weeks, in a convenient list:

- Taking occasional bike rides after dinner, trying to get up the nerve to use my bike as transportation. It's scary, though, since nobody expects bikes on the road around here, and they all drive like bats out of hell. Bad combo. But I still want to try.

-Experimenting with a small grill our neighbors let us borrow. I've made a point of learning to do it myself, instead of relying on Nate. We already fill our quota of traditional gender roles. I didn't want to add the ritual of manly grilling to the list. But we still make some manner of grunting joke every time he goes out to check on the grill.

-Attended Simon's spring program last week. He sang with his class for about 10 minutes, and he did a great job. Moments like that are a perk of motherhood that I didn't anticipate... the overwhelming, face-beaming, heart-singing pride that naturally accompanies such an event. Lovely.

-Nate likes his job. When he gets home at 5, he is awake and happy to see us --- an enormous change from the grumpy, groggy hellos we used to say in the afternoon.

So, a short list. I'll try to be here more often. And maybe some pictures soon. Adios for now.