Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What's With The Pictures?

My wonderful and wonderfully talented friend, Vivian, created these illustrations to go with this. But, alas, I am having a hard time posting one of them to my profile. Either the file is too large or, if I lower the resolution, too fuzzy. If you enlarge the profile image to the right you will see it looks quite nice.

purple days

yellow days

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Forget the Art Fairs, We Should've Gone Here!

Art Cars so close to home and we missed them. Check this out.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Virtual Art Fair

Although they'd pretty much always prefer to be running wild in the park, at six and eight years-old, the boys are starting to take some interest in art fairs. And Smartypants has figured out a way to appreciate them on the cheap. Rather than make purchases, he simply collects the artists' business cards.

After much greedy card-grabbing we made a rule that the boys must ask the artist about their work and engage in at least a bit of a conversation rather than running from tent to tent collecting cards.

Here's a rundown of their favorite artists (favorite being anyone kind enough to hand over a card). Think of it as the Hormone-colored Days Virtual Art Fair

From the Jewish Folk Arts Festival: (a family favorite) (click on the display onthe right side that explains crystal kinetic art)

From Evanston's Fountain Square Art Fair: (not so artsy, but fun ginormous hula hoops that really work!) (After he explained the raku process to us we bought...a raku card holder!)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Millennium Park: I'm Lovin' It

It's great being just a skip and a hop from Chicago. We've made several trips to the city since school let out in early June. Mr. Smartypants and I recently spent the morning at Chicago's Millennium Park. Some say this new park is a multimillion dollar debacle but we are lovin' it.

Smartypants and I made it to the Pritzker Pavilion in time for a free, early morning Latin dance class. Neither of us are what you might term dancers, but we had a great time following along with the hundred and fifty or so other uncoordinated participants. The ever-image-conscious McDonald's is sponsoring weekend yoga, Pilates and dance classes on the Great Lawn. The man who introduced the dance instructors made liberal mention of McD's promised decade-long sponsorship the park's exercise classes and free bike valet service.

Ironically, just as I'm stating my public, but tentative, appreciation of the golden arches, I have an essay, "You call this a Happy Meal?" that is slated for publication in the August issue of Chicago Parent. Perhaps they can be a force of good, not purveyors of artery-clogging highly processed gunk? When we stopped at McDonald's on our way home from Wisconsin last week, Smartypants shocked us all by ordering a Caesar Salad. "It seems like a healthy choice," he said. And he and Splinter are enjoying the McDonald's handy slide calorie counter we got after the dance class. Sweaty from dancing, we picked up our free M water bottle and made a quick stop at The Bean (technically Cloud Gate). This is one of the coolest public art displays ever. It's not only interesting to view from every angle, but it's fascinating to watch people interact with it.

Then we headed to the Crown Fountain to cool off. On our way to the parking garage (we live a bit far to take advantage of the bike valet), we were stopped in our tracks by the very unsiren-like cacophony of Chicago's premiere (and perhaps the world's only) circus punk marching band. Mucca-Pazza consists of a motley crew of marchers wearing mismatched, thrift store uniforms accompanied by a guy playing electric guitar wearing a Bickford Schmeckler helmet. An equally mismatched duo of cheerleaders wearing army boots waving poms made of shredded plastic bags added to the festive, but somewhat disturbing atmosphere.

I truly am lovin' the early morning exercise deal on the Great Lawn and I'm going to sponsor another Hormone-colored Days Happening once I check on some calendar details.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Melon Balls

I've previously commented on my delight when high-tech children with loads of toys take interest in the simple, low-tech, and seemingly mundane aspects of life.

The other day my boys had a matching set of brothers over for a playdate. After their mom left, I stood staring at the ½ cut watermelon on my countertop imaging how lazy and embarrassed I'd feel if it was still there when she arrived to pick them up. So I got out my melon-baller and before I could even take the first scoop, I was surrounded by extremely eager little boys. Actually, Smartypants stayed in his room and read, but the other boys had a blast helping me scoop out the melon. The fun lasted a good 15 minutes, which, with young boys is like hours.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Friday, June 16, 2006

Fudd-yuckers and Other Potty Tales

We are in the Wisconsin Dells, home of the world's most dense concentration of oversized and outrageous waterparks. We are with my extended family and everyone is having an insanely good time even though we've not yet dipped so much as a toe in the water.

On the drive up we stopped for lunch at Fuddrucker's, a hamburger chain. After ordering, DH hit the bathrooms and returned to our table with a report that a staff member had been in there with him and the guy was going to leave the washroom without washing! DH commented to the employee how inappropriate and disgusting the guy's actions were. The minimum wage burger-flipper then washed his hands and returned to the kitchen and spit on our food. (This is only a guess, of course, and I think he turned out to be more of a busboy, anyway.)

Later, when an employee who was making the rounds checked in on us, I asked to speak with the manager. Just a moment later this 12 year-old kid comes over and introduces himself as the guy in charge. It's likely he was just a very young-looking 20something, but hardly the picture of authority. (Or am I just getting old?) He promised us that he will raise the issue at future staff meetings. "It's not just about good hygiene; it's the law!"

After the meal, when I made a quick stop to the ladies room I was taken aback by how clean and tasteful the room was. I almost wished I had a baby to breastfeed so I'd have an excuse to hang out in the comfy chairs by the fake fireplace. I found another excuse to linger, though. As I was about to leave an employee walked in and I felt compelled to stick around to see if she washed her hands. Thankfully, she did without any obvious glares or comments from me.

We'll likely return to Fudd-yuckers, but only because DH bought this gift card that came with a $5 bonus card that we now feel compelled to use. Plus, I have to see if all Fudd-yuckers have bathrooms that are equally fancy.

DH taught the boys not to touch things in public restrooms. Splinter has perfected this to such an art that he is able to pee hands-free and flush with his elbow. Of course, then he insists he has no need to wash his hands because he has not touched anything.

One of this blog's odder tales of using public restrooms is here.

Headed to the Dairy State!

As we were leaving the house for a weekend trip to Wisconsin, six year-old Splinter called out with great urgency, "You better take more of those lactose intolerance things; we're going to the Dairy State!"

He has asked me to point out that the Scrambled States of America game calls Wisconsin the Badger State. Also, he recommends both the game and the silly, colorful book on which it's based.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Blog of Dead Birds

I'm no forensic ornithologist, but I'm pretty sure something weird is happening because I just found my third dead bird of spring.

DH has a few ideas on the topic of dead birds. Maybe our crotchety old neighbor is filling his birdbath with toxic chemicals. He suggests I take on the hobby of dead-bird-watching. I sort of am doing this, by default.

I called the village Animal Control thinking they would want to test the bird for West Nile or, yikes, Bird Flu. How great would that be- the first known case of avian flu in the USA, right outside my front door. Hello--that's sarcasm! Can you imagine what being the epicenter for bird flu would do to property values?! Animal Control did not want to test it, but they were willing to "collect" and "deposit" our former feathery friend.

Once, when Smartypants was three, we encountered a lifeless bird that had tried to fly into a garage window (there's natural selection for ya). We (okay, I) decided we should say a prayer for it, so God would know that someone recognized the life of this poor creature. I thought I had it on my computer, but, I can’t find it. However, I did find the eulogy he wrote for his great grandma when he was five and one for our pet fish that he dictated when he was almost seven. That pitiful fish committed suicide, right in front of my eyes, but that's a story for another day.

Eulogy for Great Grandma Moldofsky:
It’s sad when people die. It’s like when birds and beautiful animals die.
It’s sad. Every week on Shabbat we called her on the phone and said the prayers on the phone for her. I sometimes repeated words for her; like when she says I love you, I say I love you too. One time I watched a kid show on TV in her apartment and I went pee there. And I drank orange juice there. One time we ate out at a restaurant with her. She was special.

For the No-Name, the fish:
Dear God, Our Creator,
Thank you for letting us afford things like pets and letting us be rich in love.
And for letting our animals and pets live long enough for them to be a memory to us.

I can't end this post without a link to the website of Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds (much deeper and meaningful than my meandering thoughts).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Another Acrostic

In the name of equal airtime (bandwidth?) I am posting an acrostic that Smartypants created for Mother's Day 2005, when he was in first grade.

Monitor for your life

One who gives permission

The one who loves you most

Has safe directions

Exciting activities

Running sometimes

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Splinter's Poem

Sorting through Splinter's 8-inch high stack of school papers, worksheets, and projects (all of which as I mentioned, are very special to him), I came across this delightful acrostic. I've manintained the original spelling; he's only in kindergarten for goodness sake.










Friday, June 09, 2006

End-of-year Nostalgia, Part II

Yesterday was not a ten-hanky day, but it did have its share of poignant moments. Splinter's kindergarten class had an adorable presentation for the parents. At the end the teacher gave out all sorts of awards. Call me a curmudgeon, but it irks me the way today's kids get trophies just for tying their shoes. Oops, bad example, after so many years of Velcro-closure shoes my boys could actually use the incentive of a trophy to brush up on their shoe-tying. Okay how about this: trophies are so ubiquitous these days it's like they get one every time they use the potty correctly. Dang, another bad example (if you have boys you know what I mean. I think I would call my memoir of my boys' preschool years Sitting in Boy Pee). If you are a parent in the U.S. with children under the age of 15, you probably know what I mean about the trophy thing.

But this award ceremony was different. It was different because it was meaningful, not just to the parents, but to the children. Almost every award she gave out was delivered with very specific verbal praise for the recipient. As she addressed the children, I got this sense that I was watching them get imprinted for life. Mrs. P. has touched them deeply.

I attended the beautiful evening graduation ceremony. Given that there were only 11 graduates (the largest class ever!) I was a bit surprised that it took two hours, but there were honors and awards given out as well as several choral interludes. Each graduate made a short speech- graduate gratitudes- they call them. I know that graduates are even more prone to end-of-year nostalgia than I am, and I'm sure they all received some coaching on their speeches, but it seemed that much of their gratitude was genuine.

Here are a few thoughts that grabbed me:

"Some crackpot shrink said I was mentally disabled, but, thankfully, my parents didn't listen to that and sent me here." (Here being a private school for gifted children)

"I wish I had learned about this school sooner and could have attended longer."

"Gifted education is not about teaching smart kids, it's about figuring out how kids are smart and helping them learn to their style…. I didn't just learn things here, I leaned about things."

"I'd like to thank my parents who worked second jobs and drove me 8.9 miles to school every day, so I could be a student at this school." (Note: if the drive doesn't sound too bad, consider that in our major metropolitan area one typically can get virtually all of her needs met within about a 3 miles).

"When I first visited the school, I thought it was going to be filled with kids with thick glasses, ginormous braces and pocket protectors. Instead, I found people who 'spoke my language.'"

The keynote speaker read Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, a book I've always disliked. Why does that foolish tree give away everything to make this boy happy when he does nothing in return for her? Take, take, and then take some more; that's all he does. Even as a child, long before I'd ever heard the word co-dependent, I knew something was not right about that relationship between the boy and the tree.

The speaker, however, used the story to illustrate the joy in sharing ones gifts; the benefits of reaching out and helping others (as long as the others don’t destroy you, she might have added, but this would have changed the tone a bit). I will keep her words in mind next time I encounter that story.

I admit that I choke up when the tuition bill arrives and not in a sweet or nostalgic way, but I am so pleased that we transferred the boys to this school. In this one year, it's clear that they've grown socially and emotionally, not to mention academically. Smartypants is already counting down the days until summer school starts!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

End-of-school-year Nostalgia, Part I

It was just one year ago that we decided to give up on public education. After a very frustrating first grade year in our public school we decided to send Mr. Smartypants and his little brother to a private school for gifted children. You can read a bit about it here.

When I asked Smartypants to rate his school year on a scale from 1-10, with ten being the best, he said he'd give it a nine, no, make that ten. He told me he was glad that his first grade experience was so bad, because that is what got him to his new school. And he really loves his new school.

And as for six year-old Splinter. Well, his kindergarten teacher has the appearance of a friendly grandma, but the energy of a toddler. I don't know how she does it. She is a lifelong learner and is always asking questions that get her students thinking. She once told me that every year she worries that she sets her expectations too high, but every year her students exceed them. (Low expectations are a big problem in many public schools…can you say No Child Left Behind?)

Splinter's full-day kindergarten program was so much richer, fuller, and more academically advanced than even Smartypants' first grade experience. Unlike Smartypants, a self-taught reader around age 4, Splinter went to school ready to read, but reluctant to do so. This boy, who was not even willing to sound out words last August, recently requested that we check out the entire Magic Tree House series on our last trip to the library, and is rapdily working his way through them.

I have tremendous gratitude for everything the boys have been given this year. Today is Smartypants' class picnic, Splinters' end-of-year ceremony, and 8th grade graduation. I think I'll have to carry a big wad of Kleenex with me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Joy of Crap Home Week

Like families around the globe we are celebrating Crap Home Week. It's that special time of year when children return home with all their school crap, er, stuff. Backpacks and bag after bag after bag of stuff. Except that if your children are like mine, every single worksheet, art project, broken crayon and each and every crumpled scrap of paper are all deemed very special. Therefore, throwing out or recycling these important items will make the children feel very unspecial. Can't you practically hear their sympathetic therapists-of-the-future blaming me for their esteem, attachment, and trust issues?

Six year-old Splinter just made a reference to a road trip we took two to three, or possibly four years ago (his memory is apparently better than mine). So, knowing my boys, I can easily see a major tantrum in 2009 because I recycled this year's hand-illustrated land forms worksheet or tossed the cotton ball bunny.

What's a mom to do? Hmmm. I hear the King Tut exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum is drawing the crowds. Anyone up for a tour of the Early Elementary Years exhibit at the Moldofsky Museum? The tickets are cheaper, the lines are shorter, and everyone leaves with a free souvenir.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Site Meter Fun

My site meter reveals all sort of interesting information. Interesting to me, anyway. It tells me where in the world the visitor's internet service provider is located, how many pages a visitor viewed and how long she stayed at my blog. It also tells me how a given reader got to my page. Did said reader bookmark my blog? Did she find a link to my blog elsewhere on the Web? Did she Google me (always an oddly disturbing revelation- who? why?).

Just this afternoon I was telling someone how very often people wind up at my blog due to searching this:

Search Engine
Search Words hickey with a vacuum

Visit Entry Page

Monday, June 05, 2006

Another Monday Moment

I'm sitting in my cube typing away when a man comes up and asks, "Are you N.?"

"No, I'm just filling in for her."

"Right, of course you're not N. She's tall and thin...and, uh, blond...." He was stammering a bit at the end because he was choking on his foot.

I suppose this is funnier (or perhaps more painful) if you know that I'm five feet tall with brown hair. And, as my mother said when I proudly squeezed my almost 40 year-old body into my 8th grade cheerleading (cheerleeading?!) uniform, "Then again, you were a little on the chubby side."