Still Hangin’…

Hello everyone–friends, fans, visitors. Been a while since I’ve updated. This blog started as a project for class. The kids are growing, and I’d still love to share. Though I must admit other school projects and work has nudged their way in. Hope to get all my ducks in a row with all my various projects in the months ahead.

Thanks!

Spring Break With the Boys

School is out–again! The last time school was out in March, I got the heck outta the city to spend some much needed time somewhere else–and much needed time with my boys in North Carolina. The following is a collection of moments and observations.

An evening outside, sitting around the bonfire,the grown-ups drinking local Aviator beer, the stars out and both Saturn and Venus visible in the sky. For Will, they were even more visible on Uncle David’s iPhone app which traced the their progression in the sky. While under an inner-outer space canopy, the 4-year-old is more into looking down at his gadget, and I hope he snaps out of it someday and learns to look up. But I get it, you tell the boy to look up and “Hey, there’s Venus!” But it’s just this little anticlimactic spot of light. The iPhone has shiny pictures–and look more like what he’s studying in pre-school. With that, I think the official word on Pluto is “dwarf planet” which makes me sad, because it’s Pluto, and that’s the planet that rules us Scorpios. Forever the outsiders…. Anyway.  Again, I hope he–we all–learn/remember to look up and take it all in.

Ben wasn’t quite walking yet when I visited–though he is now! Just getting it started if you held his hands. And instead of real crawling, he’d do this Army crawl, like he was ducking under barbed wire. Nothing cuter than sitting in the living room, and watching him scoot across the entrance to the hallway. Seriously. I saw Ben first shortly after my arrival. When I picked him up, it was like Oof! As Ernie said, he was still a sack of flour. And boy loves to eat! He will pretty much eat anything. Though we did give him a little piece of feta cheese and that didn’t go over too well. Later, when we picked up Will from school, I lifted him up and I said, “I think you weigh less than your brother!” But Will’s had time to stretch out and build some muscle and shed the baby fat. Still, crazy.

Will says “blooding” instead of “bleeding.” Not that there was a lot of blooding going on.

He also says “I can’t” for “I don’t want to.” Will buddy, if this is a preconceived strategy and not just the evolution of your control of the language, it won’t work for long. If it did at all.

That first night in town, I watched Will’s his gymnastics class. 4-year-olds doing gymnastics is hella cute. His teachers were blonde Southern high school girls who pronounced his name like Wheel. His twang is getting more and more pronounced and he’ll even say, “Hi, I’m Wheel!” Get you guys back tot he Midwest, stat! When he pointed me out to the coach dude, he called me Uncle David (who wouldn’t get there for another day or so). Aww, that’s okay. I’d only been in town a few hours and he hadn’t seen me since the previous June. So you know he’s figuring it out and committing us to memory. Still, he called me Uncle David a few times. He eventually got it. So, gymnastics, he wasn’t the most focused of the bunch. He often kinda flopped around doing his own thing, living in his own world. But he still did a good job. And one of the little girls held his hand when he walked the little balance beam. Awww….

After gymnastics class ended, they got little stickers on their hands. You would’ve thought Will was given a new car. He was so excited–and proud of that sticker. Like when I given a plastic spider ring at a grade school Halloween party costume contest–my mouth dropped and I walked in a stunned daze to show my parents. Will showed everyone as we made our way to the car: “Look, I got a sticker!” The adults smiled and nodded and maybe said a “Cool.” But the little African American girl who was maybe around 7 just gave him this cold look of, “So?!” and my heart broke for a second and I was like Uh-oh. Already subjected to the uncaring cruelty of other children. Will Will the dewy eyed innocent always be made fun of by his cruel jaded peers? Or maybe in a few years, he’ll look at a 4-year-old with a sticker and also be like “So?” But I don’t to think of that innocence lost quite yet.

We had fun making pancakes together. I used the recipe from my BHG Junior Cookbook I got for my 8th birthday. I didn’t bring the book, filled with fabulous 70’s kids photos (do little girls still wear yellow yarn in their hair?) but I know the recipe by heart (even though I still pull out the book at home.) Will helped me add ingredients and mix things as he stood on a kitchen chair to reach the counter. If we could collect the footprints from all the chairs stood on by kids as they helped in the kitchen, that would be something special (or gross, not sure….) If Ben will eat anything, Will is our picky eater. I like to add stuff to my pancakes (bananas, apples, blueberries, etc.) but we set aside some plain batter just for him. He even wanted the chocolate chips we offered on the side instead of inside his pancakes. Maybe he’ll learn to live a little. 😛 Ben, of course, gorged on his share of what the rest of us had.

Will loves his little brother, but there of course rough moments. Ben will knock down parts of Will’s wall mounted car race track. Will will be sitting on the couch looking at one of his favorite books–a picture book with individual squares holding its own drawing of a vehicle as well as the name of it. Ben will scoot up to Will to be with his big brother. And Will will say to whoever will listen, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “I want you to move him.” Awesome.

My sister-in-law has taught Will the art of distracting Ben with another toy car when Ben is playing with one that Will does not want him to be playing with.

When Will and I sat together looking at the aforementioned picture book, he would tell me the name of each vehicle, even if what he said didn’t always match the word. After each one, I would say and encouraging, “Yes” to show that I was paying attention. After a while in his same m-o-f tone, he would say, “Stop saying ‘Yes’.” Um, okay. 😛

My first morning, still curled up in the guest bed in Ben’s room (Been slept his folks’ room), trying to drown out Ben’s blood curdling screams (boy’s got lungs), Will knocked on the door, and asked, “Is anybody in there?” (seriously, his voice is so sweet I could pour it on my pancakes). “Maybe,” I answered. He came in and climbed into bed with me, wanting to settle into my already warmed spot on the sheets. He told me that the little light coming from Ben’s baby-cam mounted in his open closet was a monster. We had a lovely discussion about all the monsters that lived in their house (seriously wish I had a voice recorder going.) Mostly I just listened to him, letting his imagination go. A few weeks ago, when I hung out with Morgan, I told her about this conversation. When I told her about this monsters, her eyes widened and she gasped, and I assured her that there weren’t really monsters at Will’s house. They were just “atend” as Morgan says it.

Will has his particularities (and of course I know nothing about that….) And when he would freak out about something, or fuss about Ben being somewhere he didn’t want him to be, or a toy car was out of place or something would mess with his sensory sensitives, my “parental” instincts would kick in and I’d just say, “Will, calm down. It’s not a tragedy.” It sort of seemed to do the trick. Maybe because it came from me, a somewhat objective other older figure who was not Mom and Dad. Though if someone would’ve given me that advice at 4 (or 14 or 34 or…) I’d’ve freaked out even more.  Heh. But that’s my take on these things. At one point, Will’s freak out involved him slapping his face a little with both hands, and I’ll admit to saying, “Will, knock that off. You look special.” Alison jumped into damage control and put the positive spin on “special.” So maybe I crossed a line, but maybe that’s an uncle’s job–to keep it real. Though I’d  never want to scar the boy. I really shouldn’t talk, because I have and do experience physical manifestations of my own emotional frustration, whether bed spread punching or an occasional literal slapping myself out of it.

We taught Will how to play Angry Birds on Alison’s school iPad she brought home. Trouble. His coordination wasn’t quite getting it, yet. And we couldn’t figure out how to turn the volume down. Eventually we had to tell one of those sanity lies–that Angry Birds was broken.

I had my iPod on shuffle much of the time. At one point, Will wanted to go back and listen to “the song about cars and trucks” and we were like What the hell is he talking about? I backspaced through the shuffle until we got to The Killers’ “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” which satisfied him. Maybe it’s that opening bass line. But then Adele came on next and he was happy with that too, so I don’t know what that was all about. Heh. We’ll have to make him a mix of songs that are really about cars and trucks.

We played cars and read stories and ate cupcakes I bought from a bakery in town. We played Candyland where the new board is now utterly garish and all the characters look like the spawn of Kewpie Dolls and Precious Moments figurines, where we did not play the optional child coddling rule that says a kid can take another turn if he has to go backwards (seriously?!)  I held Ben and played fetch with family golden retriever Sadie. We went to the park and rode the carousel. We went out for ice cream. We watched the first two Toy Story movies.

I did not change any diapers.

I had alone time sitting on the porch and reading and taking notes for this and not thinking about school or the city, knowing that the boys would be home soon enough and we could hang, and Ben could pull on my beard and Will could tell me to stop saying “Yes.” That’s all I needed in the world.

“You Get Out Of Here.”

Ernie reads to Morgan from inside her princess fort.

Here’s an overdue story from Christmas.  As you may know, our darling Morgan is 3 1/2.  She wants what she wants and she tells it like it is.  I can’t help but be a little envious of her power.  If only I could vocally express the many inner monologues running through my brain at a given moment (particularly at work.) *Le sigh.*

We went over to her place for Christmas Eve brunch. ‘Twas a full house consisting of her parents, me and Ernie, her other guncles Dave and Tim, Dad and Peggy, and Ernie’s sister Marie.  As kids are, Morgan was way excited for both the company and the attention.  She ran to me, I lifted her up, and she gave me a kiss.  A good start! Beats her screaming her head off as she did once upon a time when we were pretty much strangers to her.

But as the visit commenced, she decided that she was pretty much spending her day exclusively with Ernie.  Hey, what about me…?  When we weren’t sitting around the table eating our monkey bread and double fisting our coffee and mimosas, or handing out presents in the living room, the rest of us were dead to her (okay, pardon the hyperbole but I’m picking at emotional scars here….) At a given moment, Morgan took Ernie to either her bedroom or her off-the-living-room play room a.k.a. her “roo-roo.”  Away from the rest of us. In the roo-roo, Morgan made Ernie read all the stories in her Disney Princess Christmas book (including the story of “the Little Ermaid.”)  At least she tolerated my sitting in and listening along.

But when they hung out in her bedroom, this was serious Morgan-Ernie time, and nothing was going to get in the way.  Not even me.  Ernie, the good sport, crawled inside her pink princess fort castle thing–as illustrated above–for more story time (this time one of her Olivia books.)  Close-ups on just Ernie’s legs remind me of the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet sticking out from underneath Judy–er–Dorthy’s house.  Maybe it’s the socks. Of course I had to be a pest and poke around and take my photos and make sure I had time spent with my goddaughter goshdarnit.

I knelt down at the window to say “Hello,” and Morgan said to me point blank, “You get out of here.”

Crushed.

Absolutely crushed.

I immediately stomped out of her room, grabbed another mimosa from the dining room table, pointed down the hallway to Morgan’s room, and wailed to my entire family, “Morgan likes Ernie better than me…!!!!” 😦

Wait, that was my own inner 3 1/2-year-old.  In reality, I still grabbed a mimosa, and then I inwardly pondered some facts. Children are absolutely fascinated with my husband.  With his being a Theatre for Young Audiences professional who writes and directs for kids and who has taught several youth theatre camps (most recently a production of Cats with 7-12 year-olds), he has a knack for really relating to kids. Ernie also has a lovely capacity for effervescent fun–being a musical theatre major in undergrad maybe has something to do with it.  And finally, I know Morgan still loves me–after all, I’ll always have the “You sit down!” when I tried to end a tea party with her and join the adults during a summer 2010 visit….  Yes, she still loves me.  And I know I can be fun too, even if my fun is often a more mellow variety.

Still, there are jealousies surrounding being “second” favorite: She’s my blood niece and she’s my goddaughter.  But that’s not family–that’s selfishness.  Kids are drawn to who they’re drawn to–whether their peers or their elders. They find the most entertaining adults, and the ones they can best relate to.  Lord knows I was all over my Aunt Alison, still in high school when I was born, when I was Morgan’s age.  I bet I too dismissed the rest of my family at some point back then.  We used to joke that Uncle Tim was Morgan’s favorite because he’s closer to her age than the rest of us. But maybe mine and Ernie’s recent dance party at the Gap last fall switched her allegiances.

As usual, I was one of the last to exit the party as we all made our way to other holiday goings on.  Morgan could see Ernie outside through the windows of her roo-roo.  She pointed and looked at me with the saddest face I’ve seen since her cousin Will tried to stand between her and her Elmo back when they were about a year and a half.  I was all like I know, honey, but we have to go.  We come in and lavish you with attention (whether you want it or not) and then we without apparent warning just pick up and leave you.  So cruel of us.  You’re on the brink of understanding, but you’re not there yet.  In those final moments of our family visit, it was just me and her, and I swear I didn’t plan it that way.  I gave her all the hugs and kisses I had left to spare. Next time I see her, I’m sure she’ll once again run to me and return a few of those favors. If she doesn’t, I promise you’ll hear all about it.

I look forward to seeing how Morgan’s relationship develops with each of us individually as she grows older and finds herself.  There may not be room for all of us to be in her princess fort at the same time, but we’ll all have our turn somehow–literally or figuratively speaking.

Update: Our Rosie Show Air Date is….

Rosanne and Rosie

UPDATE!  Our Rosie Show episode airs this Friday the 13th (ooh, scary!) on OWN TV.  Check your local time and cable channel line up.

Set your DVR’s and see us in the audience!  I’m sure there will be plenty of brilliant close-ups of our fabulous selves. 😉

 

On The Rosie Show

Plan a Chicago outing with your tween & up nieces & nephews. Enter to be an audience member of The Rosie Show at http://www.oprah.com/oprah_tickets.html.

The excitable early 40’s-ish blonde woman a smidge behind us outside Harpo Studios (from now on referred to as Blondie) wanted the entire line to know that She Had Been Here Before.  From what I gathered, she’d been to a Rosie Show taping at least twice before and was therefore practically Jesus.  She and her apostles were decked in Christmas sweaters—as was a solid portion of our line mates—even though we would learn our show wouldn’t air until sometime in the New Year.  I began to feel like Blondie’s friends, along with the rest of us, were going to be thrust onto Rosie’s stage and tattooed with permanent lipstick “V’s.”  Blondie walked up and down the line asking if anyone knew who the guest would be.  Nobody did.  They don’t tell you these things.  Oprah didn’t, so why should Rosie?  We could’ve known, but didn’t.  Ernie and I were in line not because we went through the traditional online ticket registration, but because we’re friends with an associate producer.  Ernie was supposed to participate in a game show segment, but that fell through (which is okay since otherwise he would have been sequestered in a green room somewhere in Oprah’s lair and I would’ve been left all alone, which wouldn’t have been as fun.) I liked not knowing the guest—I wanted to be surprised along with everyone else.  This woman was starting to spoil Christmas.

When the audience wranglers filed us in, we headed upstairs to a holding room.  Upon entering  we got cupcakes.  Awesome!  Double chocolate for me, natch.  We were directed to our seats with cupcake, bottle of water, and image release form in hand.  Rosie trivia played on the screens throughout the room.  Since they were so close to us in line, Blondie, her poor friends, and their sweaters sat face to face across from us in our audience corral.  When another wrangler made an announcement, our side of the room couldn’t hear. Blondie was on her feet determined to find out what vital information we had missed.   Turns out, the woman told the other side of the room to not take pictures.  Calm down, lady.  She was nice enough, though, and asked us if we’d been there before, ready to show us The Way.  “No, this is our first time.”  Please keep your lipstick away from me.

I’ve been a Rosie O’Donnell fan since her early days as a VJ and stand up comedy show host on VH1 back when the “VH” stood for “video hits,” a fact that a whole generation or two is clueless about.  Rosie was this sassy big haired laugh riot for me, sitting in the basement of our Detroit house when the city finally got cable in 1988.  When her first talk show debuted in 1996, I was home for the summer from college working my first waiter job.  She was a balm for sore lunch shift muscles, a glorious distraction from reality between shifts on a double, or a high note to end my afternoon before a dinner shift.  When Mom and I went to New York in 1997, we toured Rockefeller Center.  Her show wasn’t taping that day, so were allowed to see her studio, even if from behind glass.  We could see that her studio butted up against Saturday Night Live’s musical guest & monologue sets.  An SNL show was using Rosie’s studio for set storage that day.  In between Rosie’s VJ days and her show was of course A League of Their Own, one of my all time faves.  We don’t much watch the new show, airing on OWN from Oprah’s studio at 6:00 Chicago time.  Not that we don’t enjoy it when we catch it, but it doesn’t exactly fit with our schedules and we have to work to keep up with Top Chef and the rest of our DVR queue as it is.  Still, we had a way cool time.

The announcer from downstairs gave a pep talk over the PA system–and then started to call for individual parties who would not be joining the masses in the cattle call back downstairs.  We were not called in the first group.  Okay, whatever.  But when Ernie’s name was called, we leaped up to claim our VIP status.  Ernie said Blondie made quite the face of surprise.  Ha ha!   Our seats were a solid 2nd row, stage right as it curved to the side.  There should be plenty of audience shot footage as us, especially as it seems that Rose took a shine to Ernie, particularly during some between segment banter regarding The Biggest Loser. It pays to have friends in high-ish places!  Though everyone has a chance of getting a seat on their own.  The website will tell you all about it!  Meanwhile, we kept a lookout for Blondie.  She was let in  kinda toward the end, and sat all the way on the edge of stage left, up at the top in the nosebleeds—or what would be considered the nosebleeds in a looks-bigger-on-TV-studio.   Still, not prime camera pan positioning.

So there we were in Oprah’s old studio.  Not that I was a huge Oprah guru, but I’ve seen my share of episodes and clips and knew the deal like everyone else.  My mom was a huge Oprah fan (but what moms aren’t, really?)  She had mentioned on occasion wanting to write to Oprah about her own story, though I don’t know if she ever did (to clarify to my readers, Mom passed away in 2002.) Just being there was a connection to something larger than life.  Seeing the crew–and our friend–running around and doing their thing, seeing how it was all set up and done was pretty nifty too.

Our episode’s guest was Rosanne Cash, daughter of the amazing Johnny Cash.  Exciting enough, though I guess I have more of a connection to Johnny, which started when he appeared on Sesame Street and Oscar called him Johnny Trash.  She talked about her life and her family and her album, The List.  We all got copies in our swag bag of course.  The interview was interesting, though at times it bordered on Lifetime or rather we knew we were on Oprah’s cable network.  By the way, I’m relieved we were not stuck on a planned future episode with Suzanne Somers and a menopause therapy discussion.  While an important topic for her audience, not our bag, right.  Anyway, Rosanne sang a track from the album–twice even as there were technical difficulties with an amp.  TV Land is a process!  There were also a couple human interest segments.  One featured a girl with Cystic Fibrosis who Rosie had met when she was on The View.  The final segment was about an 84 year old woman who plays basketball in a senior league in Oklahoma.  She was a riot.

In between segment taping while the crew was setting up, Rosie took questions from the audience, possibly recorded for web site content.  We didn’t have anything to ask or add, though I guess I could’ve just taken the time to tell her she was awesome.  An extra from A League of Their Own said Hello, and we learned that the day before, she taped an episode with Penny Marshall and various folks from the movie.  THAT would’ve been way rad.  So I’m keeping an eye out for that one along with our episode.  We learned more about her Twitter quarrel with Donald Trump.  The 13-year-old girl in front of us got shy and didn’t want to sing her Godspell audition song with Rosie and the woman next to me kept saying “This is your one chance!” Alas, the girl blew it. I hope she doesn’t live with regret the rest of her life.  We also learned that Rosie gets grumpy with her crew sometimes as during her interview, we could hear the output of the crew’s headphones (aka “cans”) behind us.  We also learned that she’s not afraid of dropping a few F-bombs and other niceties, both on and off camera, especially regarding Donald Trump. The youngest audience member that I could tell was an 11-year-old girl.  While the language didn’t bother me, Guncles take note that the proceedings are at least a solid PG.  One question regarded the existence of Santa, which may have been borderline for said 11-year-old.  Hopefully she’s not scarred either.

A quick cell phone snap from my seat.

Kids 18 and under were the only ones allowed onstage afterward to take a photo with her for security and safety reasons.  And I think an accompanying adult.  So, Guncles take note!  I snapped a couple cell phone pix which we were allowed to do afterward.  Yay.  Before heading out, we lined up in front of the single men’s room with its single toilet, flanked by two spacious women’s rooms.  Supply and demand, I guess.  90 % women, 9% gay men and 1% straight guys, thereabouts.  We fought the rain as we ran to our car, I clutching all our swag in hand.  There were Snuggies under our seats to fend the cold which we could keep.  The AC to offset the stage lights in the studio was pretty intense and I’m glad I wore my cute blue cardigan.  Ernie had untied his Snuggie to use as a blanket during a segment break.  I fought with it to not drag in the West Loop puddles.  Our Rosie Show lunch sacks included the Rosanne Cash CD, snacks, and some Oil of Olay pads which we gave to Ernie’s mom over Christmas as payback for all the toilet paper she’s given us over the years. Wasn’t Oprah all about paying it forward?

Go for the fun, the surprises, the cupcakes, the history, the behind-the-scenes view, maybe for a date should you be single and lucky enough to be sitting next to hottie in Rosie T-shirt or Christmas sweater.  Take your star-struck young charges and just hope the whole show isn’t about menopause.

An Answer for Charlie Brown

Of all the non-Charlie Browns in the world, I'm probably the most Charlie Browniest.

On Thanksgiving, my brother Mark posted on Facebook that Will said he was thankful for “treats, cookies & milk, and Santa Claus.” Not his parents or his little brother–those are given constants, I guess.  And Morgan knows that Santa is the one that brings her “lots of presents.”  They both squealed when Santa showed up on the Michigan Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit.  Morgan watched it locally on TV.  Will watched the internet stream from North Carolina.  At 3 1/2, they know what’s up.  We’re in trouble.  But damn that’s cute. It definitely upswings my self-diagnosed “Holiday Bipolar Disorder.”

In general, I get grumpy when Christmas decorations and wares first appear–because it’s often before Halloween (don’t mess with my October!)  One minute I hate the holidays and can’t be bothered.  The next I’m basking in the warm glow of nostalgia, our Christmas tree (always put up Thanksgiving weekend in our house), family, friends. And on the music front all I really need is the first Johnny Mathis Christmas album, Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Barbra Streisand’s “Jingle Bells,” and of course the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.  Usually I maintain a healthy equilibrium, erring on the side of positive. I’m in tune with my holiday cheer threshold and keep myself in check, genuinely enjoying the season overall despite my funks.  

At my worst, the holidays make me hate humanity. Our “Black Friday” adventures found us at the Michigan Avenue Best Buy looking to upgrade our 1990’s monstrosity of a TV.  Hot and exhausted, I completely shut down thinking about (like I do) how much stuff we’re glutting the earth with and how our economic stability relies so much on said stuff and how kids shouldn’t expect and demand so much and how they should realize that their families work hard to get all those damn gifts under the tree–yes I was even hating on Santa. And I found myself shouting along with Charlie Brown, Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?  On one hand I’m not so much religious these days. On the other I shun the consumerist beast, neither asking for much if anything nor going too crazy with my own shopping. I find myself cozy in the middle as a kind of secular magical-realism traditionalist where each gift I do buy means something.

At my other worst, the holidays make me–frustrated with my immediate family.  Because family isn’t always easy.  Too often, the holidays are when a year’s worth of drama and disagreements comes to a head.  When we have to deal with each other–or choose not to.  While respectfully declining to get into details, I’ll say we have our share.  It’s not violent or drunken or anti-gay, but it’s ours and it makes me sad.  It doesn’t help that my love-hate relationship with the holidays began when my Mom died in August of 2002, less than a year into being with Ernie.  That Christmas, I made sure it was the Best Christmas EVER for everyone, going balls out.  The next year, all I wanted to do was order pizza and drink several bottles of Chardonnay. It’s been a challenging climb up the icy slope since–both for me and for Ernie.  But before you fill the comments section with your shrinks’ cell phone numbers, I am pretty okay, even though Christmas is when I miss Mom most.

Keepin' it real with the basics of life.

Since becoming a guncle, my answer for Charlie Brown would be that Christmas is really about the kids, even if Ernie and I are only going to see them for a little bit or not until the new year. It’s about watching their brains work when you ask them what they’re thankful for. It’s about milk and cookies and warm fires (even if you live in North Carolina), about lights, magic, safety, home, and fun, and making work what you have.  And I wouldn’t deny them for one second their surprises under the tree or in the mail.  Christmas for the kids is about giving them a solid bedrock for their future adult Christmases.  Now, adult Christmases can be just as magical and fun with or without little ones in our lives, but I daresay they are directly connected to our very first memories. Christmas is about evolving traditions, whether that’s a candle lit midnight Mass or a passed down decoration.  My mom had a clip-on felt cardinal ornament that only she could put on the tree.  If any of us dared do it, she would remove it and put it back on herself.  When Ernie and I had our first tree together, I bought a slightly more “fabulous” version of her cardinal–with glass, glitter, and feathers–and it’s lived at the top of our tree ever since.

Sometimes I look at our tree–or at Ernie’s folks’ tree–and all the decorations in sight, and I’m like We do this.  Isn’t it kind of weird, all of this?  Aren’t humans funny?  Someone has to ask these questions.  As much as I’d also love to ask the world to just take a year off now and again, what makes the holidays bright for me from day to day throughout, is watching Ernie get excited over the first appearance of decorations in the store, the look in his eyes when we walk through Chicago’s downtown Christ Kindl Market  (which we affectionately call the “Oompa Loompa Market” and which is also a solid place to take the kiddies), and his vocal exclamations as we unwrap each ornament.  It’s good stuff.  It’s almost like having a 3 1/2 year old myself. 🙂

Question Time: What’s your answer for Charlie Brown?  How have the holidays changed for you since you’re a grown up now?  Any traditions you want to make sure the kiddies hold onto?

Happy Holidays–next post to feature a favorite local store that’s awesome for Christmas–and all year.  Cheers!


Meltdown at The Gap

Not Morgan of course, but a pretty adorable photo.

During Morgan’s recent visit, Ernie and I saw the best side of her in our time together.  Mostly. She was smiles and laughter at the Emerald City show (with a couple of  fusses and “No’s!” tossed in as is normal for a 3 1/2 year old.)  I got to see her run, climb, and pretend at the Children’s Museum on Navy Pier (a place to revisit here and with the kids down the road….)  I will say Morgan did not like being contradicted by another slightly older girl when she declared that one of the rooms in the museum was “her house.” She was also very good at dinner afterward, drawing with Ernie and even trying the grilled artichoke.

Later at the hotel, after a full day of fun, we danced to one of her kid-friendly pop songs (which I’m totally blanking on right now, like I do–Ernie’s really the kid-friendly pop song keeper).  We drew some more together, and she did a little more treasure hunting.  She’d taken over the ice bucket and filled it with various odds and ends–and kept it in the narrow space between the couch and the window, high up, overlooking a tiny Michigan Avenue.

In between, however, was a trip to The Gap.  And even that was pretty much drama free. While we did hit the men’s section upstairs (where I wasn’t really inspired this time round), most of our time was spent in the less-traveled kids’ section.  Ernie had already taught Morgan the “Cute-Not Cute” game when we were back home in August, thereby swiftly moving her along the road of little diva shopper. She already knows what she likes and what goes with what (I think at that age, I maybe had the choice between red, blue, or green Tough Skins, though my own fashion diva would kick in soon enough….)  She loved the dresses and the softball sized pink bouncy ball which she flung into the air without much thought (and thankfully with no damage) and declared, “I want to take this back to the hotel.”  (I’ve used the verb declare twice with her–I guess cos that’s what kids that age do.)  So of course Uncle Michael bought her the ball.

Morgan's diva shoe selection.

Her favorite section, though, was the shoes.  So many options in so many colors–and with or without bows. She tried them on, wanting to walk in them while still conjoined by their little plastic strip.  Once she decided on which one she wanted, she put them on and we had a little dance party in front of the tri-fold mirror to the B’52’s “Rock Lobster.”  Ernie was like “Kids love this song.” And really, what’s the point of having guncles if you can’t have an impromptu dance party at The Gap?

At one point, Morgan and her mom (Kimberly) headed upstairs to the first floor, while Ernie, my brother, and I were still downstairs.  When we made it upstairs ourselves, Morgan was in full blown meltdown mode, complete with stroller struggle.  While I didn’t quite get the full play-by-play, apparently Morgan had made a dash for the front revolving door that leads out to Michigan Ave.  And that’s no good.  So, Kimberly gave her a time out in her stroller, strapping her in.  But Morgan is growing fast, and while the stroller is great for walking around the big city (she can’t always sit on her daddy’s lap, riding his wheelchair), it can’t really contain her properly.  I mean, I’m sorry, but the image of her walking with the stroller strapped to her like some sort of pink sagging turtle shell is kind of hilarious, bless her heart.

When kids learn to talk back....

My niece has some powerful lungs–and everyone in the store (perhaps on all 3 floors) got to learn this themselves.  Her mantra of “Get me out of here!” was mostly directed at us.  Her uncles! (Though even mostly to Uncle Ernie–if I’m the fun uncle, he’s the really fun uncle).  We were the ones who could save her from the stroller and from Mommy.  We were the good cops!  We were these adult figures who were weirdly child like somehow sometimes ourselves to whom she could turn for help.  Whoa.

We all gathered around to calm her down, speaking in dulcet tones to not add to her cacophony of one.  I realized this was our first real public meltdown with one of the kids. Before unclehood, if I witnessed this craziness, I would’ve been like Ugh, how annoying, shut that kid up.  But now I’m like (or at least I was in the moment) Step off, we got this, kids cry, get over it.  I can’t say that my sympathies and tolerance have done a complete about face (oh no they have not), but they’ve been good and challenged.  Kids gotta learn (and so do uncles and parents), and we all have to do our best to make sure they do–and to fix any hurt feelings so they don’t hate us.  Right?  It’s all a part of my ongoing goal to improve my interaction abilities with kids. Of course, Morgan rebounded as kids do and was her fabulous pixie-happy self soon enough.

Question Time: How did your sympathies and tolerance of public meltdowns or bad behavior change as a parent, aunt, or uncle?  Was there a difference between how your folks and aunts-uncles dealt with you when you behaved badly?  Comment below!