Sunday, November 29, 2009


I am intrigued by patterns in behavior and personality. I want to understand the root of those patterns, not to change them or shape them or blame them, but just to understand humans for their humanness. Maybe it is my way of righting the nature versus nuture debate, settling my degrees in genetics and psychology once and for all. Every mother thinks their children a prime subject of study, but I have to say my little Noni-poo-poo's tendencies toward symmetry and the appreciation of backwards thought are hard to ignore.

If you smash Aidan's name nice and snug against Nadia's name then you have a palindrome. I have often said that Aidan and Nadia are opposites in more than name but now I am starting to wonder if by naming Nadia Aidan's name backwards we may have inadvertently planted some sort of backwards seed in her. If not backward then some sort of need for isometric clarity.

She has always danced to her own tune. She revels in the wonder of the world around her, even if it is the completely obvious, but it is the reversal of writing and the mirror imaging of her thought process that make me question how this came to be. She has this way of holding her hands in mirror of each other like she is holding a precious parentheses. She will define her ideas in the air with these hands, first to the left and always mirror her ideas on the right. It is like she is holding them there in space, little bookmarks in time that are teetering in equilibrium. If she has two, then one is always gifted to her brother. Her conference report shared that while she struggled a little with explaining basic addition, she rocked the story problems that required her to think algebraically. She writes from left to right and then from right to left. Nothing to worry about her teacher assures us. I too love symmetry, evenness.
Maybe it is symmetry?
Maybe it is the result of a backward name?
Maybe it is fairness?
Maybe it is the truths of a global mind?
Maybe it is her way of striking balance in the world?
Maybe it is just Nadia.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

handy man

Anyone who knows Tony knows he is one handy man. His to-do list is forever long, split into a multitude of columns and organized by room of the house and area of the yard. Having me as a wife, one who dreams big and is quite convincing, does not help stave the growth of his list.

Here are his latest two projects. For the record, neither of these were my idea. The cat house is to diminish my worry about our squatter cat, or to placate my worry enough that I don't bring him inside to keep him warm, take your pick. Either way, I am lucky to have a husband who validates my concerns for furry little friends, especially when the results are super stinkin cute.

This feat, the Christmas lights, is all Tony. I am in favor of throwing the lights into the yard to give a sparkle-snow effect, the appeal of easy clean up only enhances the sparkle, don't you think? I am also in favor of my 3-ft Christmas tree to be celebrated for all of our lives, but I lost that one too.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I have a terrible memory. A terrible auditory memory anyway. I have a fantastic memory of faces. I rock at the 'what-other-movie-did-that-guy-play-in' game...sort of. I can tell you the other movie or show's story line, the personalities, the co-stars, the setting even, but if the rule states that I have to recall either the actor's name or the movie name then I stink. I can remember the who and the where of my experiences, but not the 'what was said'. To be truthful, sometimes the what happened is a little fuzzy too.

But there are times when I have what I can only describe as a burst in my mind that says remember every single second of this, remember every sequence of events, remember every whisper. My first kiss with Tony was that way. This surge told me that this was a moment to remember. I remember exactly where we were, what I was wearing and even the movie line he quoted and my lame-o response. Everything.

But there are so many times where I am not present in the moment enough to realize that this is a memory I need to tuck away for safe keeping. One that I need to preserve for all time. Lately we have revived the nightly lullaby, our own take on Hush Little Baby that Tony and I began out of necessity at the coinciding birth of Aidan and his insomnia. Tony and I take turns ending each verse with a word that the other has to pick up a rhyme to. Verses are often laced with precious trinkets of childhood and sadly our maturity level just as often brings about descriptions gifting our child with some animal's dung or tellings of rotten cotton. As I watched him, eyes pressed closed, mouth smiling or contorting in indignation as he responded to each verse, that burst told me that I needed this memory. This memory and Nadia's reaction. She too enjoys hearing her own edition, but being the natural poet that she is, she chimes in when she has a better, more appropriate verse. I know that these times are not going to last and I hope that my mind is able to protect these images from the fading of time. I hope I can recreate these moments through story so Nadia and Aidan are able to glimpse back into the faces of their childhood.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I am thankful for
the time and the gumption to do projects with my family,
kids who still want to play along,
a husband who actually enjoyed making a thankful turkey,
and having more reasons to be thankful than my turkey had tail-feathers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

board cert and a great hair day

Two reasons that made me smile yesterday.

As for the hair, it was a long time a-coming. I have been under a great deal of stress lately because the left side of my hair has been just a little too poofy and the right side looks like someone put ticky-tack under my strands to stick them to the side of my head. The back of my hair was having it's own internal tug of war trying to choose a flip out or flip under look. Don't even get me started on the gray versus blond controversy going on at the part of my bangs. All of this action going on atop one person's crown was enough to drive anyone into the depths of an anxiety-ridden, sleepless, over committed hair depression. Tony has expressed concern over and over again about the copious glob of hair left behind after each shampoo. Aidan has been so concerned that he asked if he can collect said glob so he can stitch together a wig for his poor balding mother. I was completely out of balance. I had support from my awesome hairstylist Crystal. She gave advice, expressed concern for my hair's inclination to take on too many styles all at once and provided moral support. My friends and family offered suggestions on how to tame the chaos. My children patiently waited each morning as I tried to coax the mass into some semblance of a hair-do. I exhausted my arsenal of coif products, trying to use each to its full potential, trying in vain to strike some sort of balance. I woke each morning with the determination to take each snarl on with patience and focus. I asked for the strength to find peace in the outcome and grace to cope with the constructive criticism and optimism of those around me as they rallied for the good hair day that no one could predict would come today, tomorrow or even if I would have to wait a whole year.

And then I woke up yesterday, with my stomach in the same knot it has come to know for the past year and a half. I breathed deeply trying to calm my racing heart with anticipation of what the day would bring.
Would my hair let me down?
Would this stressful, twisted, all-encompassing trial end today?

Then it happened. I washed, I rinsed, I added root boost and blew it dry. I willed myself the strength to look at the results. Every strand fell into place, the left was not too poofy and the right had just the right amount of spunk. The back did this alternating cute-kind-of-messy-out-then-in thing that resulted in a score that was good even if it wasn't perfect. The gray vs. blond battle concealed itself by parting at just the right angle. There was still a lot of lost hairs not unlike the lost sleep and precious moments that lead up to this but every hair that remained was healthy and shiny. My reflection said I was ready to take on the day and for the first time since the stress began I felt free enough to agree.

The hair-saga was not unlike the work, disappointment, sacrifice, anxiety and stomach-wrenching, exhaustion that went into completing my national board certification. It too turned out OK. I had support and encouragement from more people than I could appreciate at the time. I worked hard, but these people made it possible. Tony deserves some sort of award for the tireless work he put in for me and our family.

I passed. I didn't suck like a rotten egg on the assessment center as I had predicted. I did great on my entries, but it wasn't perfect.
And we are all still here, we are all still healthy and we are all shiny.

me, sassy and serious, but deliriously relieved,
holding the print off that says,
you should thank all of the people around you that put up with you
while you became Nationally Board Certified.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

mmmmm and ooooooo

I have been mulling over just how to document our trip to Sycamore. I want Aidan and Nadia to remember the terrific times we had with their cousins, how welcomed we felt by my sister and David and of course the wonderment of the sights we experienced at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Midwest Museum of Natural History but all I can think about is the food! Experience after experience was laced with the guttural memory of every bite.

The savory warmth of homemade beef stew piled on a puff of mashed potatoes built the homey atmosphere we came to know the entire time we visited. Andria is a stew-genius and a wonderful hostess.

Every family should relish in the goodness of Portillo's. I watched my loved ones scarf some serious hot dogs, if you can call them that. They are more like hot dog works of art. Unfortunately, I was relegated to chicken noodle soup as just two days prior I had horrendous, tear-inducing, panic-stricken gum surgery and needed to go gently into that good bite. The spunky atmosphere and movie-inspired decor sparked family conversation, which with Tony, David and Andria as company always proves to be a good time.

As we walked into Shedd Aquarium I was overwhelmed with the architectural beauty and while the diversity of life is cemented into my memory it is slightly overshadowed by the late and lazy lunch that followed. Our fancy, gadgetty GPS lead us on a brisk walk to the Firehouse of Chicago where I thought my tongue had died and gone to heaven. When people say roast beef melted in their mounth I always thought they were blowing smoke up my wahoozie, but I am here to tell you that the horseraddish slathered delicate slices of roast beef melted on my tongue, and that wasn't even my order! I savored the cheesy goodness that is French Onion Soup and Nadia had the cheesiest real macaroni and cheese I have ever laid eyes on.

My stomach's memory moves from these delectable meals to what I can only describe as a fete of Greek delights. Ok, so that may not be the only way I could describe it, but it is the last of 22 attempts. Picture eight Greek-pristine, Field Museum weary, traffic law-bending family members gathered around a table awaiting delicious dishes that I can't begin to pronounce let alone spell and me, marveling at the petite half pint Diet Pepsi seated in front of me. There was warm, crusty bread with tzatziki dip and salmon dip, gyro, flaming cheese, Greek salad topped with smooth feta cheese and ripe red tomatoes, spinach pie, baked herb chicken, roasted potatoes, seasoned rice and leg of lamb (which my childhood memories of raising these stupid but adorable animals prevented me from eating...that and the fact that my sister repeatedly remarked that it tasted like a ram in rut). The meal was complete all on it own and then they brought the very best coffee that has ever passed these lips accompanied by the flakiest loveliness that is real baklava.

Our last day visiting my sister and her family included another walk, this time in the biting cold, to a candy shop reminiscent of the 1950's. Papa gave Tony the $20.00 handshake to treat his grand kids to the sugary-goodness. Each child filled their bags with their own stockpile of jellie bellies, chocolates and giant golden coins. Dealing with the sugar high was worth knowing that Papa would be smiling back home at his long-distance spoiling.

We came home with satiated bellies, happy hearts and anticipation for the Christmas holiday when we will see each other again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

home again home again jiggity jig jig

We went to a little town called Sycamore about an hour outside Chicago to visit my dear sister and her family.

We visited.
We laughed.
We explored.
We learned.
We walked.
We planned.
We bent the law.
We delighted in native and foreign delicacies
(more to come on this later).
We appreciated urban nature.

We had a wonderful and relaxing time. We miss them already.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I smell like a charter bus

That is what I said to Tony when I got home at 10:00, my little man in tow. That cloaking smell of velvety rubber with a hint of metallic was infused into my clothes and had seeped into my son's hair.

He asked me how it went, with his head cocked to the side expecting the worst.

I paused for a moment while my brain quickly reflected on the day we spent at the Pacific Science Center. I found several memories amassed in my mind. There was the immediate realization, as the bus moved down the road, that this would be a trip filled with nausea. There was the severe winds that added to the bob and weave of the bus. There was the repetitive thought that somehow the unthinkable would happen and I would have robbed Tony of a son and missed my daughter's life unfold because I selfishly wanted a piece of my family on this trip. There was the onslaught of carbs and the fact that I seem to be in a bubble that repels Diet Pepsi because none could be found. There was the disappointment that the facility cancelled part of the exhibit because of a memorial service. There was the fact that they moved our lunch to a cramped, untidy staff room. There was the ever-present fear that one of my 38 precious teen charges may turn up missing, injured or on some graffiti artist most wanted list (we are dealing with un-developed frontal lobes here). There was the chill still in my bones from waiting with a very respectful and thoughtful student whose parents just happen to be an hour late. Oh and there was the before mentioned permeating soft stench of the bus.

But then I felt the squeeze of Aidan's arm around my middle as he is want to do lately. I remembered how after holding the door open for him as we entered the house he looked at me and said, "Thank you Mom. Thank you for taking me on this trip."

"It was wonderful." was my reply.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

my main man

They say there is nothing like your first love. They are right. They forgot to mention that there is nothing like the love of your first born. Nothing.

I love this boy fiercely.
I love every fiber of his being, including the goofey smile fibers, the nerdy joke fibers and the fibers that teach me again and again how to love every creature on earth.

He loves me.
He loves me even as I try to write the pages of the parenting manual. You know the one, the one that should have come with him. The one he deserved so there wouldn't be so much trial and error. The one that his sister has benefited from time and time again. The one that would have saved us both some tears along the way. The one that would have given explicit directions on how to laugh off the struggles.

I will be on the road for 8 hours on Friday. I am going to tuck my main man away in my carry on for entertainment. I am going to pay special attention to his unique vantage point of the world and learn what I can. I am going to love every minute of it.
I can hardly wait.