Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obvious Observation

I am in the kids' shoe aisle in Target. As I try to get Cameron to stop talking and wiggling and talking and just put his foot in the shoe, Matthew takes off down the aisle. He comes to a quick stop when a woman comes around the corner. He gazes up at her. "Hi!" she says. She scans the aisle and sees only Cameron and me.

"Matthew," I call, serving to alert her that this child is not alone but is in fact with me.

"He's sooo cute!" she says.


She looks at a few shoes, then heads down another aisle, only to loop back around. She points at Cameron. "I should have said that they're both cute!"

"Thanks!" I repeat.

Then she does squinty-eyed head tilt, as if examining something. She points to Cameron again. "And he looks a little bit more like you," she observes.

That Cameron looks more like me than Matthew does is so far beyond obvious that I have no idea how to even respond. As I search for a reasonable response, since "No duh" seems a bit juvenille, she continues. "I think it's the eyes. His eyes look more like yours."

The eyes? You really think that's it, lady? For lack of a better response, I again say, "Thanks."

I'm still entirely perplexed. People respond to our family in many different ways, some of which are entirely offensive (even if well-intentioned). I wasn't offended by this woman, just confused!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning to Ride a Bike, Minus Skinned Knees

I learned to ride a two-wheeler when I was about six years old. As I recall, my dad ran up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, holding onto the seat of my bike. Every so often, he'd let go, I'd wobble a few feet and then wipe out. Many scrapes and tears later, I was riding.

Cameron recently told me that he wanted to learn to ride a two-wheeler. He can speed around with his training wheels and I'd noticed that many kids even younger than Cameron can ride two-wheelers. Yet, I cringed at the thought of beautiful spring evenings spent running up and down the block, as well as bandaging knees and elbows.

Being who I am, I began to research options on the internet. To my amazement, there seems to have been an advance in two-wheel instruction since my childhood: the balance bike. The balance bike is basically a small, two-wheel bike with no gears, chains or pedals. It's powered by foot and, as the child picks up speed, he can lift his feet off the ground, thus learning to balance. This technique earned rave reviews and when I found a balance bike on Amazon at 60% off retail plus free shipping, I was sold.

The balance bike arrived today and Cameron couldn't stop smiling. He hopped on,gave a few tentative pushes, and was soon experimenting with lifting his feet off the ground.And when he tipped to one side, he simply put his foot down -- no blood involved!"Whoa!" he cried. "Did you see me? I was going so fast! And my feet OFF the ground!" I'm pretty confident that he'll be pedaling his two-wheeler with confidence soon and Matthew is desperate for his own shot at the balance bike!

A Boy Named Nancy

We began listening to a Nancy Drew book on CD today. Ahhh, memories! Cameron listened with rapt attention, frequently interrupting. "What's a will? What's a housekeeper?" but one question in particular caught my attention. We were listening to chapter two and Nancy is referred to as Carson Drew's daughter. "Wait!" said Cameron. "What? Nancy is a girl?!?!" I guess you don't hear the name "Nancy" much in the preschool crowd, but it had never occurred to me that Cameron might think "Nancy" was a boy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Officially Not a Baby

Today, we went to lunch a local coffee shop we frequent. As always, I pulled a highchair over to the table and started to wipe it down. Matthew toddled over to a small kid-sized tabled, pulled out a chair, plopped down, looked up at me and said, "Big boy now." I guess there is no clearer indication that you no longer have a baby, you have a little boy. He proudly ate lunch at the table and I'm fairly sure there is no going back.

This may have been the result of a visit from my parents. My mom, who usually visits at least once a month, hasn't seen the kids since January. She was amazed at how they've grown -- Cameron can read! Matthew never stops talking! They're so tall! Matthew has so much hair! -- and I think Matthew heard a lot of "You're such a big boy now!" He took it to heart.

Here are the boys with my folks in October:
and now:It was a gorgeous, gorgeous weekend and while the boys entertained my parents, David and I walked up to a nearby Mexican restaurant and sipped margaritas on the patio. It was pretty nearly heaven.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I love when, instead of asking for video games or TV, the boys keep busy by playing outside or doing something creative. Building, drawing, imagining -- no batteries required. I first saw a Bilibo years ago, although I didn't know what it was called. It looked like something you'd get at Ikea, so the next time we were there I took a look around with no luck. Then, a few weeks ago, someone mentioned Bilibos, I googled it and -- voila! -- there was the toy I saw so long ago!
The boys each have their own Bilibo now and have had hours of fun with them. They sit in them, they spin in them, they shuffle around in Bilibo "shoes," they hula in a Bilibo, they peek at each other and Matthew can even put his head in a Bilibo turtle shell.

My only disappointment is that when David tried to sit in a Bilibo he . . . well, he didn't fit. "I'm much smaller than David," I thought, and hurried to try out a spin on the Bilibo. Aaaanndd . . . I may be small, but not small enough for a Bilibo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Reason for the Trip

Our trip to Chicago was motivated, in large part, by Cameron's fervent desire to go to Legoland. He loves Legos and came home from school a few months ago reporting that his friend had gone to a fantasy land of Legos called Legoland. Shortly after, another friend went. And then another. With each friend's trip, Cameron's dreams of Legoland grew more vivid, his need to see huge models made of tiny plastic pieces more pressing. So when we learned that there is a Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago, we couldn't pass it up.
It didn't disappoint. Cameron could hardly sleep the night before and kept saying, "Hey guys, want to talk about Legoland?" When we arrived at the doors at last (the MINUTE they opened), Cameron's smile filled his whole face. The first room we entered was the city of Chicago, recreated in Legos. It was so convincing that when I looked through our photos after our trip, I thought for one moment, "Wow, did David take this one? What a great view of the city!" before realizing, "Ohhhh, those are Legos!"

Then it was on to Jungle Trails, filled with Lego hippos and monkeys and snakes and tarantulas. And jaundiced jungle explorers, of course.In the Hall of Fame, the boys posed with Star Wars characters,Harry Potter characters,

and flexed their muscles with Batman.

Yes, Matthew is flexing his muscles. And dancing at the same time.

I even got to pose with my favorite Legoman.

Then Cameron and David rode a medieval-themed ride with dragons and skeletons and monks who apparently spit "wine" at unwitting riders. (Slightly perturbed by this . . . alcohol swilling religious figures on a children's ride?)

On a Lego "factory tour," we saw how Legos are made and Cameron and Matthew each got a souvenir Lego. Cameron thought the factory tour was fantastic, although we grown-ups found it a little disappointing. I suppose our previous tours of breweries and such had left us with higher expectations than a man dressed as a crazy scientists, a single room and cartoonish machines that made sounds like "Zoop!" and "Plop!" I somehow imagine that the actual Lego factory looks and sounds a good bit different, although possibly not as child-friendly.

We spent ages in a room where you could build and test your own Lego creations on huge ramps and jumps. When, after several failed attempts, Cameron and David built a bumper on their car and it sailed down the ramp and over a pit, Cameron was bursting with pride.

The final stop was a 4-D Bob the Builder Lego movie. Cameron was adamant. He did NOT want to go. No amount of encouragement was effective in swaying him and the reason for his resistance was unclear. "I JUST don't WANNA go!" he said over and over. Finally, we broke for lunch and after a little talk about how we had driven hours to come to Legoland and he wouldn't have another chance to see a Lego movie, he gave in. And . . . he LOVED it. He and David came rushing out of the theater, laughing about how the beam Bob had been holding almost hit them in the head and how Bob had sprayed his water bottle at them. Cameron now says that the movie was his favorite part of Legoland.

Well, maybe his second favorite. The best part of Legoland, without a doubt, was the visit to the bathroom. It was every little boy's dream bathroom. No need to worry about embarassing bathroom noises here -- they provide a soundtrack of embarassing bathroom noises sure to get any preschooler laughing.

So, today, Cameron was able to go to school and tell his friends that he, too, has now been to Legoland. And now we can have a new discussion. "Hey guys? Want to talk about Legoland?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Starring My Kids

Scene 1: I am in the kitchen. The boys are playing together in the next room.

Cameron: Hey Matthew! Can I pick you up by your feet and hang you upside down?
Matthew: Yeah!
Mommy: NO!

Scene 2: Driving to Chicago. Cameron is selecting a DVD to watch.

Cameron: What should we watch Matthew?
Matthew: Signing Time!
Cameron: Awww, I don't want to watch Signing Time! How about Inspector Gadget?
Matthew: Signing Time! Alex and Leah!
Cameron: Can't we choose something else?
Matthew: Smufs?
Cameron: OK, Smurfs.

Scene 3: I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that on the drive to Chicago, we were forced to stop at a fast food restaurant in which I can never show my face again. Dozens of wipes, a new outfit and a clean diaper were required.

Matthew: Soo-paa! Soo-paa poopy! Soo-paa doo-pa poo-pa!

Scene 4: The boys are cooking in the play kitchen. I am a customer at the diner.

Cameron: Would you like hashbrowns and bacon?
Mommy: Yes, that sounds delicious!
Cameron (shaking a can): Oink. Sounds like a good pig!

Scene 5: Matthew is eating a pear, which he drops on the ground.

Mommy: Oh, don't eat that Matthew. It's dirty now.
Matthew: No sanks. I eat it. (Takes a bite.)
Mommy: Eww!
Matthew (reassuringly): It's good!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Museum of Science and Industry

On the drive back from Madison, we stopped at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. As we walked in, the ticket taker said, "Oh, you were here this morning, weren't you?" Perhaps this doesn't seem like a relevant detail, but this happens to me ALL the time. Well, not me, really, but me and Matthew. It was kind of nice to have this happen with David along so I could say, "See what I mean?!?!" I can only figure that another multiracial family had visited the museum that morning.
We watched a guy lay on a bed of nails and learned about surface tension and its inverse relationship with pressure, while I whispered in Cameron's ear, "I don't care what they say, don't you dare try to lay on nails!"
We went on a coal mine tour and road in a coal car while Matthew screamed in terror.
We projected our faces onto a mannequin, and I concluded that I do not look good without hair. (Hence, I am only posting the children's photos here.)
We saw baby chicks, both hatching, newly hatched and recently hatched.
Cameron climbed a wall and posed theatrically. "Take a photo NOW, Mommy!" he called, as he widened his eyes and bent his knee.
We posed for a family photo.
We visited a submarine exhibit that was really, really cool. Matthew loudly sang, "We all live in a purple submarine." Yes, he's a Beatles fan but he's no conformist.
And finally, I spent most of my time at this confounding exhibit. "Generic counselor? What's a generic counselor? Ohhhh, GENETIC counselor! Soooo . . . what's that?" I clicked on a few buttons -- 'Assess Family Tree' and 'Consult Expert' -- saw a bunch of big words -- 'allele' and 'retinoblastoma' and 'mutation' -- and quickly concluded that you'd have to be crazy to want to be a genetic counselor.* *Not sure why this is funny? It's because I AM a genetic counselor.


I'm going to be blogging about our vacation in random order, as half of my photos are on the camera and half are on David's computer. So, starting in the middle . . . we drove up to Madison for a night, to visit David's extended family. They hadn't even met Matthew yet, so the visit was long overdue!

At great grandma and great grandpa's place, Matthew spent most of his time saying "Press the button," then pressing a button on a cardinal figurine which made it sing and turn its head side to side. (You can see it on the left side of the photo, in front of the yellow flowers.) Then Matthew would screech with delight and dance. When the cardinal stopped, it was "press the button" all over again. Cameron had a fantastic time playing with his second cousin, Jakob, seen in the photo below. When we left, Cameron said, "When we first met each other, we were both quiet and didn't talk to each other. But then we started talking, and then I liked him a lot and then we were talking and talking like we were never going to stop!"
We also went to the park with David's aunt and uncle, Karen and Tim. The boys wasted no time in engaging Tim in child's play. Here, Matthew schools Tim on soccer.

And here Tim launches Cameron skyward.
It was a fantastic visit that left us wishing that Madison were a shorter drive so we could visit more often!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Overheard on the Chicago El Red Line:

A 20-something girl leans her head on the shoulder of a 20-something boy. "People totally get the wrong idea when they see us. Like, they see us and they think, like, 'They're so in love. They must have been together like 3 months.' Because, you know, you're only like really in love for like the first 3 months usually. But they are SO wrong about us. Like, they'd never imagine that we're so in love and we've been together 8 months!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh by gosh

We drove out to Chicago for Easter and, upon reaching the condo (Thanks Ellen and Stacy!), we rode the elevator up, up, up to the 51st floor. And discovered that Matthew is TERRIFIED of elevators. When we entered the condo and Matthew stopped screaming and crying, we looked out the windows. "Oh. By. Gosh." said Matthew.

This morning, after eating some "jumpy beans" and sampling a chocolate bunny, we headed to church where Matthew entertained/irritated those around us by singing "Jingle Bells" and "Ring Around the Rosie," complete with falling down.

In the afternoon, a good time was had by all at the Children's Museum, aside from the torturous elevator rides involved.

Lament of the Easter Bunny

E.B. here. So, last night I lurked about for hours waiting for Cameron to go to sleep. This particularly family had already been a real pain in my tail -- a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from the mother. "Dear Easter Bunny," she wrote. "Please be aware that we will be visiting Chicago on Easter. All candy and gifts should be delivered there. Also, Matthew has multiple food allergies. We respectfully request that you provide only dairy, egg and nut-free candies." I had to special order allergy-safe jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, which are NOT cheap, let me tell you. So, by Easter's Eve, I was already a bit irritated with this family.
So, there I am, waiting to hide the eggs and Cameron is wide awake. The whole household is asleep, EXCEPT Cameron. And I'm a little tired! Finally, the kid conks out and I hop about, secreting eggs in tricky spots for Cameron and fairly obvious spots for Matthew. I traded in all those dry beans that Cameron earned for jelly beans -- I'm going to be eating chili for months. I hid a wizard costume for Cameron and a crown and sword for Matthew. Finally, my work was done! Last of all, I wrote a note explaining that the blue and green egss were for Matthew to find and the pink, orange and yellow were for Cameron. I'm telling you, I am one awesome Easter Bunny. I covered EVERY base. This family was guaranteed an amazing Easter morning, thanks to ME!
Now I'll hand the story off to Sharon, the irritating "I'll sue you, E.B., if you give my kid peanut-contaminated jelly beans" mama.
Sharon here! After a late night, I was awoken at 6:30am by Cameron. "Mommy," he whispered, "it's light outside! It's morning!"
I peered at him blearily. "Did the Easter Bunny come?"
"Yes!" answered Cameron.
"Did you see if he left anything?"
"Yes, I already found it ALL!"
"What? What do you mean you found it all?"
"Well, I don't know what time I got up. It was still dark outside. Nobody was up. I went out to the living room and I saw some eggs! So I started searching and I think I found it all!"
Out to the living room we all trooped, where we discovered that Cameron had indeed found every egg and present -- both his and Matthew's -- that the Easter Bunny had so carefully placed for the appropriate boy. They were carefully lined up and opened on the kitchen counter.Fortunately, Matthew was unconcerned, happy just to wear his crown and eat his first "jumpy bean."
E.B. again. I quit.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Grand Visit

Cameron's school has a Grandparents' Visiting Day and this year he was lucky enought to bring THREE of his grandparents along! He had a great time showing them his classroom and they enjoyed seeing all the amazing work he does there.

After school, we had a soccer match in the backyard. After two injuries, Matthew was sidelined and moved on to quieter play with grandma in the sandbox.We had more grandparents than beds, so Grandpa Frank camped out on an inflatable mattress. The boys thought this was endlessly funny, and jumped on it for quite some time before settling down.

As the grandparents departed the next morning, each asked for a hug and a kiss. Cameron was happy to oblige and then was off to play. Matthew gave hugs and then sweetly presented his own cheek for a kiss from each!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wake Up Call

"Ohhhh no. Mama! Oh no, mama, look. Look, mama. Ohhhh no." It is 6 am and Matthew is alerting me that his diaper has leaked and there is a wet spot on his sheets.

"I sorry Mama." Matthew is unfailingly polite, which is odd as I have not made a huge attempt to teach him manners. I can only conclude that he has picked up on these niceties thanks to Cameron, his role model.

"It's okay, Matthew."

"I sorry. Ohhhh no."

"Don't worry, Matthew. I'll clean it up."

"Oh. OK. Good. Thank you mama."

I change the sheets. "Good job mama!"

I have no idea how I got so lucky that I have a 1-1/2 year old who says please and thank you, and acknowledges a job well done! Who ever said that motherhood was a thankless job?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why I Always Carry Wipes

Yesterday, Cameron had his first outdoor soccer practice. He couldn't wait to get out on the field with his new green ball and his soccer cleats. He was completely unfazed by the threatening clouds overhead or the soggy field.
Matthew was also excited. He loves soccer and had to be restrained from joining the team on the field. Fortunately, David had thought to bring a soccer ball along for Matthew to play with and he was soon running along the sidelines, kicking his ball and shouting, "SOCC-A BAWL! I KICK IT!" Sadly, we had not equipped Matthew with cleats and his Robeez shoes were no match for the wet earth. Within minutes, he had slipped and fallen on his knees and hands in the mud. David pulled him up and he stood, frozen with muddy hands outstretched. I quickly wiped him off as best I could. When I was done, he gazed up at me and said regretfully, "Ohhhhh no. Poo-poo hands."
"No, no, Matthew! That was just mud!"
"Ohhhhh!" he said with apparent relief. "Mud!" And off he went to kick the soccer ball some more.