Category Archives: parenting

“Save for Retirement”

No other adage rings as true. At least that is now that I know someone facing the harsh reality of growing old.

DSCN0805Having my parents live with us has been quite a learning experience. I really had no idea what was in store for us last October when my husband and his two brothers packed up all my mom and dad’s earthy possessions and drove the u haul truck across country.

For one thing, I have learned what it is like to navigate through the endless paperwork and phone calls to establish social services. It has been my mom who has taken on that enormous (and ongoing) job. And we have been shown great kindness.

For instance, a dapper gentleman who reminds me of Jimmy Stewart volunteers every Thursday to stay with my dad so my mom can get out of the house for a few hours.

Sometimes we go to doctor’s appointments or other random errands. But  usually we end up at the local Goodwill store. Fortunately, even when we go crazy on a “spending spree” it only sets us back about twenty bucks (I love that place!).  Or we go to Baker’s Square and share a piece of pie. My mom tells me stories of the past. Stories I have never heard before of a time when she was younger than me.

Or we talk about my Dad.

“Do you think that he is worse?” she asks me over triple chocolate threat. His confusion and anxiety fluctuates each day. Some days he has a hard time figuring out where to sit to eat or gargling mouth wash six times in a day because he seemed to have forgotten he just did it.

The care giving is taking its toll on my mom. Yet, at the same time it has kept her strong, not succumbing to the Parkinson’s or Diabetes.

We have looked into a few nursing homes in the neighborhood for my dad. It would cost close to $6000 a month for him to get 24 hour care. He would have to be put in the Alzheimer wing because of his dementia and memory loss. My parents can’t afford anything close to that on their fixed income of mostly social security.

I know that I can’t take over for my mom in care giving for my dad. The time constraints of working and mothering a four-year-old would make it impossible. Besides that, I just don’t think I could do it emotionally. My dad and I have bumped heads. Really, we don’t talk that much. I don’t think my dad has ever had an adult conversation with me. I guess he still sees me as his little girl.

I’ve always resented my dad for the way he has treated my mom, always expecting her to wait on him hand and foot, never taking her to a show or a museum.

Don’t get me wrong my dad is a good man with a big heart but he is also stubborn and selfish. He is human. He would always take over projects from me thinking I couldn’t do it myself. This of course gave me quite a complex. Well anyways, I just don’t think I could care for him like my mom.

And now through a generous grant from the organization Transition another home care aid is coming twice a week to help my parents. She will do household jobs and stay with my dad if my mom needs to go out (even if it is just to the backyard). The woman is very sweet and my mom calls her a “godsend.”

I can’t afford to take my mom out three times a week, but I’m hoping she will take an art class or at least use the travel easel we got outside in the garden to paint pictures.

And hopefully this spring/summer I can take her to downtown Chicago to see the sites. Time is such a valuable commodity, I hope we use it to the fullest.

I Love You

So I got five “I love you’s” from my little boy all before I let him out of the car at school. I usually don’t keep track but I was thinking about how amazing those three little words are. How do we learn to say them and what do they really mean?

I would say it all the time when he was a little baby and toddler. I would call his name and he would look at me or when he was old enough ask “what?” and I would reply “I love you”. Now he does the exact same thing to me 80% of the time when he calls Mom or Mama it is to tell me that he loves me.

I have to wonder when that sweet and sensitive side will be drowned out by the rough and tough side of boyhood. I know that it is important to fit in with friends and there are things that your friends just won’t allow…and someday that will probably be saying I love you to your mom. The other day at the park I was walking ahead about 5 or 6 yards and he yelled loudly MOM I LOVE YOU. It makes my heart melt. It makes all those hours of trying to get him to clean up his toys or to get ready for bed worth it.

Last weekend at a friend’s party he was playing t-ball with some other kids he hit a little boy in the head with one of the waffle balls. When we came running over both of them were crying. Max felt so bad for hurting him even though it was an accident. But will that kind of empathy be tolerated as he gets older.

How do kids become bullies? I really don’t want him to be a bully and I don’t want him to be the victim of bullying.

I just hope that he will always tell me that he loves me.

An Open Letter to the Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse in Hammond

To everyone at the Montessori Children’s Schoolhouse in Hammond,

I remember the day I called the MCS. I was in a bit of a panic. I knew that we must find a preschool for our son who was going to be turning three.

My husband works at the University of Chicago and we had recently toured the U of C’s Laboratory School. The “Lab School” is a very prestigious prep school starting with preschool and ending with High School. This is the school that the Obamas sent their daughters. Because my husband works at the university we were entitled to half price tuition. Of course even at half price we would be living beyond our means. But it doesn’t hurt to look. Boy with the gothic ivy covered buildings and beautiful classrooms I was entranced. It was like going to the Hogwarts Academy sans witches and warlocks. Although the Lab school was a magical place it was apparent that we would be finding another place to send our son.

We were also in the process of looking for a house in Northwest Indiana (about 13 miles from Hyde Park in Chicago). The main reason we had decided to try and relocate was the fact that my parents were going to move out here after their house in Payson, Arizona sold (still not sold…. darn housing market) and the houses were affordable. We looked forward to getting a house and a nice yard where we could make a garden. We picked Munster, IN as our destination because the public schools were highly rated. However, in the mean time as we looked at places we had to find a preschool between Hyde Park and Munster. Since he was about two our son went to stay at a neighbor’s house. Mrs. Robinson is an amazing woman; she and her granddaughters watch many of the neighborhood children. But, it was clear that he was outgrowing this arrangement best suited for the infants and young toddlers.

I had always liked the Montessori way of teaching. I knew the children were encouraged to be independent and explore their world with all their senses. So when I saw that there was a Montessori school in Hammond, IN I thought I would check it out. I drove to the school thinking that the commute would be awful if we indeed stayed in Hyde Park.

I was impressed even before I went inside. The school is housed in a 1926 Northern States Life Insurance building with very beautiful stained glass and impressive grand columns. Mrs. Hill, the school principle, greeted me and immediately took me on a tour. She seemed like she was in a bit of a hurry but now that I know her this is just her nature, always on the go. The classrooms were buzzing with young children all doing different activities. I got a warm feeling right away. Like so many times in life you go with your gut feeling and my gut liked MCS.

We had not sold our Hyde Park condo by the registration deadline. Mrs. Hill graciously held a spot for us and let us “wait and see” if we did indeed move to the area by the fall.

The last two years that our son has attended MCS has been a great experience. His teacher Mrs. Renwick has such grace. I know that I would not always be as cool and collected with a room of 3, 4 and 5-year-olds as she is. She has been teaching at MCS for more than 30 years I believe. She has taught us all so much. And my son has blossomed.

MCS's Fun Fair

Learning his sounds, his numbers and how to add, but most importantly, how to be a friend. A skill I can say he has excelled at. This week he brought home his first book he read himself. I really can’t say in words what that means to me. MCS has become a second home for us.

We had planned to keep him at MCS for kindergarten. To complete the circle from coming in as a small 3-year-old and leaving as a “lunch buncher” ready to enter first grade. Unfortunately, since I have cut back on my work-load (meaning I bring home less money) and we have added expenses we are going to put out son in our neighborhood public school. We have heard great things about Eads Elementary and it is in walking distance from our house. We were going to put him in as a first grader so the transition was inevitable, but now it will come sooner.

I just want to thank everyone that works at MCS, an amazing group of people. You have given my son a great start. And we will be back for the Fun Fair next fall.

It pays real money at least

The alarm clock rudely wakes me at 3:15 a.m. I lay catatonic for at least ten more minutes before I stumble through the dark trying to be as quiet as I can. I grab the crumbled t-shirt off my dresser.

I can hear my dad in the bathroom so I rush down to the basement to avoid a loud conversation with him (see One Day at a Time).

I really don’t know what I was thinking getting a job that starts at 4 in the morning. Four or five months ago it seemed like a luxury after getting up at 2 in the morning to deliver newspapers. But, now it just seems crazy.

I work in the backroom of a popular department store several blocks from my house. I won’t tell which store except that it is not the evil Walmart. I was excited when I first got the job. “Hey I love shopping there it should be fun to work there. And I’m sure I’ll get an awesome discount.” I told my husband.

Well, it is as far from fun as a stroll through the Sahara Desert…barefoot. It is definitely not the cool job I had in college working in the stockroom of the campus bookstore.

Now that I’m starring down 40 years old this year, working in the backroom stocking toothbrushes and baby bottles is just not a great reality.  And the discount is only a measly 10 percent and that is if you pay with cash (like that ever happens) or you charge your purchase on their high interest store card.

I really can’t complain. I’m off early enough to do some writing before I go get my son from preschool. And it is a real job that pays real money.  Unlike the play money I get paid when my son and I play store or the check for a freelance project I finished months ago that I just know has to be in the mail.

Winnie the Pooh is gone

My son broke his Winnie the Pooh bowl today. He wasn’t sad about it, but I was.

The days of Winnie the Pooh dishware, brightly-colored plastic spoons and Sesame Street seem to be over. I beg him to watch Word World or Wow Wow Wubzy but he insists on Iron Man and Spider Man (which includes the countless ads for AirHogs and Bendaroos). I know it is clique to write about, but really, where has the last four and a half years gone?

I look through pictures and short movies of him on my computer. God, he was such a cutie.


I used to hold him while he napped. I insisted that that is the only way he would sleep and if I put him in his crib he would wake up immediately. I really don’t know if that is true because I never tried. I knew that nap time would be over soon and he was just so precious.

Last week was momentous for my son and for myself. He slept through the night in his own bed. The WHOLE night! This is big, really BIG. For his entire life he has come into our bed. Sometimes it would be 5 in the morning, but usually it was 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. He and I would share a pillow and needless to say I didn’t get the greatest shut eye.

But we enacted a star reward system, tied to exciting prizes and he has been staying in his room! I used to lay down with him and then sneak out after he went to sleep. Now I sit  on his bed for ten minutes and then go out. It is truly amazing.

And it is hard. Hard to walk out and know that he is getting bigger and bigger. And the driver’s permit is just around the corner.

Just like holding on to him (literally) when he was a baby sleeping,  I realize that each stage needs to be treasured. Everyday he makes me laugh. Whether it is him acting out a scene from Kung Fu Panda or if it is a long thesis about the origins of Optimus Prime. And he is becoming a real person concerned about others. The other day he said he wanted to give some of his money to people who were hungry. (I couldn’t resist a little bragging…sorry.)

I guess I’m okay with throwing out his Winnie the Pooh dish. And honestly, I don’t think he ever really liked it. However, neither him nor I are ready to give away the extra small Spiderman underroo shirt though.