Sunday, April 29, 2007

it's a blogworld afterall

Remember me telling you about my artist friend Mary? She is the gifted lady behind a few special pieces in my home...this, this, and (oh how could you ever forget!) this.

See that piece up there? Sorry about the blurry picture. That's my dry sink, which used to belong to my grandparents. I wish I had taken a picture of what it used to look like inside. There was a record player & radio built right in, all you had to do was open the doors. 2 large speakers were built into the sides. I had those taken out last year, and then Mary painted the doors and trim for me.

As you have come to expect, she did gorgeous work, and the piece has gone from ugly duckling to room stealer. Modeled (of course!) after my beloved MacKenzie-Childs pottery (Mary likes it, too.)

Here are a few close-up photos so you can see her attention to detail...

She even painted the inside of the doors, too. Can you imagine being able to paint this way yourself?

Her sweet style reflects her personality. She is just that - sweet. I know that word is used a lot, but when you are talking about Mary, no other word is quite as fitting. She is also very humble about her talent.

It was her idea to add the black & white trim to the top of the piece. She also decorated the lampshade on the lamp that I had here, and added the checked trim to its top. I'm not sure if you can see it clearly, but she painted the lamp finial to look like an artichoke.

So, why am I bringing this up right now? Tonight?

I found out over the weekend that Mary, who is my friend in "real" life, is also a friend here in blogland. That's right! She stumbled upon my blog when reading Kim's blog the other day (another thanks to you, Kim. I'm not sure if Mary and I would have found each other out here without your fun blog!)

Anyway, I'm delighted to tell you that Mary is out here in blogland, keeping her own blog that showcases her (and her daughter's) delightful, beautiful work. That's right! I'm thrilled that you can go and explore Mary's world and see for yourself her unique, remarkable talents.

Please stop by and see my friend Mary! You can tell her that you've been an admirer of hers for awhile now...

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Look what was waiting for me when my youngest son and I got back from our walk this morning: a package from a blog buddy!

Don't you love the cute little pink checked ribbon? Can you see the stationery a little bit on her enclosed note? Darling!

Yes, sharp shopper Ms. A sent me a prize for winning her drawing the other day. What you see below is an eternal fortune cookie, one that keeps on doling out smart advice and answers, whenever you give it a little shake (the answer screen is on the bottom). Also included was this cute little key fob from Toe Goz.

Thank you very much, Princess! I will be consulting my cookie regularly. And looking forward to my next martini...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

just another shopper

Look at this scene. New groceries on my kitchen floor, ready to be put away. Pretty unremarkable, hmm? Well, no, actually.

Right now my 2 sons are out. One is at preschool, the other at his half-day program (his "preschool".) And I am here by myself.

Wednesday mornings I have 1.75 hours by myself. Each week it's a little different, how I choose to spend my time. I have been known to go to the library and leaf through back issues of People and US magazine, for a little escape. I have been known to hang out at Caribou Coffee, blogging as I sip a latte. More often than not, I head to the gym. Today I took myself to Target.

We have a very nice Target near our house. It's been open...what...about 4 years now? It's a Super! Target, where you can find a wide variety of grocery items. They don't have everything there, just the basics. But you notice a dramatic difference in your receipt when you shop for your basics there v. at the regular grocery store. Plus, they have a nice selection of Bob the Builder toys. The importance of that cannot be understated.

As I was pushing my cart around, choosing a bunch of bananas in the produce aisle, picking up canned tuna in the "canned meat" aisle, maneuvering around the checkout line with (mostly) moms and kids, it occurred to me that my being alone gave me a whole new identity at the store. Usually I am the mom, with one child in the cart, one tagging behind. Or sometimes, 2 in the cart (the kind with double seating), trying to break up fights as quickly and quietly as possible.

Today I could have been anyone. Anyone! Well, almost anyone. I did have my wedding rings on, so people could see that I am married. But the rest of it was sort of open-ended without my usual identity in place. Without my little guys around. I let my mind wander...

Maybe I was a newlywed, shopping for her new husband and new home? Maybe I was the mom of high schoolers. Maybe I couldn't have kids? Maybe I had chosen to not have kids. I saw a mom in front of me in line who was worn out, exhausted. She had a newborn baby boy and a toddler daughter with her. Our eyes met briefly as she stacked her groceries on the belt. And I wonder who she thought I was. I wonder if she thought, that lady looks rested and has no idea what it feels like to be me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

happy feet

1 sunny, warm day.

2 little people, excited to finally wear their flip-flops.

20 happy toes.

Monday, April 23, 2007

making strides

We spent the weekend outside. It was sunny and warm with a cloudless sky. *happy sigh* It was absolutely beautiful. Hello shorts, t-shirts & sandals! What a happy reunion I had with you!

You may remember me mentioning my back porch project last summer (yes, last summer!) On Saturday I got back to it: cleaned it out, cleaned it up, and started painting the walls again.

I also painted all of the porch furniture. The wicker above, and the iron table and chairs below. It took me 12 cans of spray paint to complete the job. I ended up with a nose full of white paint, but it was worth it.

My husband worked hard preparing our new garden beds. He spent time out front outlining where the new beds will be. Then he cleared out this area next to the garage that had been full of overgrown and mangy brush/plants/who knows what from yesteryear. As you can see, he got some help from his trusty sidekick.

We had lunches and dinners outside on our picnic table. The kids were ready for a bath and thoroughly worn out at the end of both days. Strangely, I found working hard outside rather relaxing and fun. Now that it's Monday I miss that we're not out there, all together. But the forecast looks good for next weekend. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

small houses

In her comment the other day, Kellie said she wondered why there is such need for space these days - as in, people choosing bigger houses over smaller ones. Then, Homedaisy asked us to show her our words.

Well, these words aren't mine, but I thought of both of you gals when I saw them.

This sign hangs on a small house that is a few blocks away from me. Across the street from the house there is construction on a new house, the old home that was there was torn down. When I saw the sign, I knew it wasn't a coincidence that the owners of it had decided to hang it so prominently by their front entrance. It is as if they are trying to tell the world that they don't like big houses, either.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

spring thaw

So, what happens to the young bear, after a long winter hibernation? I'll tell you what happens to him.

He (and his younger brother) don jean jackets and leather slippers and head out to the trampoline. The slippers are to protect their feet - um, er - paws, from those pesky pine needles that fall from the tree above. The jackets are to protect their bodies, in case they end up in a ball, intertwined and rolling across the mat. (Actually, it's not in case this's for when it happens.) You've probably seen a ball like that. Maybe you've seen one in your own home? Little bear cubs, giggling as they hurl each other about and wrestle around (does this happen with girl cubs too?)

Good thing Mom can step in as referee. Sometimes when they really get going the ball becomes a blur, and she can't see where one ends and the other begins. On days like this she wonders, where does this energy go, when the bears are cooped up indoors?

Oh well, no need to think about that again for a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

thinking outloud

Cindy at My Romantic Home was nice to give me an award last week...the thinking blogger award. I got distracted last week and didn't get back to my blog after the big house tour (guess that wore me out), and then when I did get back into the swing of things, I started reading everyone else's blog first. I'll tell you what, reading about your lives is what makes me a thinking blogger. And I think it makes you one, too.

It's so much fun to read your funny stories. So delightful to see beautiful pictures of your home, your inspirational home, your work in progress home. Great fun to check in on what you're wearing, what you ordered, who you ordered from. Such a treat to see what you baked, how you grilled, what you served up on the dinner plate last night. I live vicariously through you when you tell me about your trip abroad as well as your night out on the town. It's true - my home, my wardrobe, my cooking, my (attempt at) crafting, my traveling plans...all influenced (and truthfully, made better) because of you.

But, the real benefit of the blogging world, for me anyway, is sharing all parts of life through you. The good, the average, the not so good, even the downright awful. You saw my story the other day, but we all have stories of our own. And, it's the "comments" section at the bottom of each post that makes it a shared experience. I learn from you, you learn from me. I support you, you support me. Who says we aren't friends, for this is what you do in a friendship...right? You celebrate the good and muddle through the bad. Together.

So, as I sit here and digest the news of yesterday, I am grateful that my thoughts are out there, with you to read them. I'm grateful that yours are out there so I can read them. I'm happy that we can talk and think and comment on life together. And somehow make sense of it all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

walk with me

Special day here, folks: it's my 150th post. How about that!

balloons falling, noise makers, horns, confetti

I saw that this was coming up and thought I should mark the occasion with an extra good post. So, yesterday my youngest son and I headed out for a walk, and we grabbed the camera on our way out the door. I thought you might like to go on a little tour of the neighborhood. See what's what, who's who, and how the surroundings of the Little Cottage appear each day. Sound good? OK! Let's get started!

To begin, here's my house. You can see by the Halloween decor that this is an old picture. I forgot to take one yesterday. But really, not much has changed since we took this picture last fall. However, soon there will be changes. Remember the visit from the landscape designer? We'll be planting our new plants and bushes soon.

Next up, this sweet little 2 bedroom green and white cottage. It's about 5 doors down, same side of the street. Currently a rental but sadly, slated for demolition in the next year or two. I think this would be the perfect vacation home for my parents. They could come and stay on the weekends or in the summer, and spend as much time with the grandkids as they wish. However, I don't think they are interested in a fixer upper vacation house. Too bad.

Just checking in, here's my walking companion. Yep, he's warm enough under the blanket.

Ok, a typical scene around here. This is the next block down, across the street. I think the house on the corner is going down sometime this week, if the weather cooperates. The 2 houses to its left sit on a lot that used to be occupied by one house. The old one was a brick Georgian. Beautiful on the outside, but from what I understand it was quite cramped on the inside. See the yellow digger? That's the real reason my son wanted to go on a walk. Notice he's holding one as well. He was hoping to see the big one in action yesterday.
A little sad - and incredulous - that the big "Scoop" is on a break today.
A look back towards the top of the street. Our house is the little white blip, top right. I think you can see the chimney.
One street over, one block down. Two new houses. I love the one on the left. It's supposed to be mine, they are saving it for me. I just need to figure out the financing on it and we'll be all set.

Another view. I wonder what I'll put in the big picture window? hmm. Still have some time to decide.
Same street, same block, a little further down. The blue house is going down soon. This house has not been occupied for some time. It has had that neglected look about it for awhile. Do you recognize the middle house? I think everyone around here is excited for spring to really get going, just so they can see the beautiful gardens again. The new house on the far left was completed in the fall and is looking for new owners. If you move here I will introduce you around. That's a promise!
Another street over, one block down. More contrast between old and new. It really is something to see these changes happen so quickly. The neighborhood is in a constant state of flux and we wonder when it will settle down.
This is a friend's house. She lives across the steet from the 2 houses above. Her house was a little cupcake like mine is now, but a few years ago she and her husband did a complete renovation - new kitchen, added a new master bed & bath, and also a new family room. You can't see the changes in the front, they just bumped it backward a bit. You would love the inside of this house. Her kitchen is to die for!
Another view of my friend's can see she is right next door to an older house, one that probably won't be here beyond its current owners. The house 2 doors down on the left was built last summer.
Ok, down one more block, same street. This is where the neighborhood ends and the park begins. You can see the metra train in the background. That takes commuters into the city. I love this house. It reminds me of my grandparents' house. Can you see the big window on the left side, facing the park? That is their dining room. My husband and I think their house would be perfect for Thanksgiving. Big meal in the dining room, and then everyone out to the park for the turkey bowl afterwards.
Here we are at the park, facing the train station in the distance. You can see the train platform.
If I turn to my right I can see the baseball diamond.
When the kids swing, they like to face the train tracks so they can catch a glimpse of the trains going by. My sons don't realize how lucky they are...they like trains, and they actually live near trains.

Looking for the train.
Here it comes...
Speeding by!
On our way back home now. This house is around the corner from the park. It is another house that I love. It's an oldie but goodie, and I hope it stays on...forever.
A new house. Don't you love the dormers and the big front porch! So friendly and welcoming. We're back on my street now, 2 blocks down.
These houses are to the immediate left of the new cape above. The white sign on the lawn is a builder's that means that the little blue house is going down.
One more stop before home. This is a little further up the block from the grouping above. Such a cute little bungalow. A nice couple lives here. The wife inherited the house from her grandfather. It was one of the first houses on the street. You can see the new green house that I like behind it.
* * * *

Back at home now. I hope you enjoyed the walk! It was fun to walk around and think of things to show you. Thanks for helping me celebrate my big 1-5-0!


It's still quite chilly outside - definitely not time for sandals yet - but I'm not concerned. These pink beauties arrived in the mail a few days ago to carry me through the cold spring days and nights. Do you recognize them? If you are a clog fanatic like I am, then you know they are by Dansko. Circa 2006. I should have bought them when they first came out last year, but I hemmed and hawed and waited too long. Thank goodness for ebay.

Me and pink, pink and me. We seem to be enjoying quite a bit of each other these days. I told my mom that I was going through a "pink phase". That was 2 years ago. Clearly, it's not over yet. Who knew? Not me. I don't remember being a "pink" person when I was a little girl. Quite the opposite now that I'm all grown up and sharing a house with a group of boys. Could it be that my new love of all things pink is an(other) attempt to reinforce my feminine side, now that I'm surrounded by trucks and trains, tractors and race cars, baseballs and footballs? I'm sure stranger things have happened.

Monday, April 09, 2007

with thanks

It's been a wonderful weekend, in no small part because of all of the lovely and sincere comments I received on my last post. I want to thank you for those. Thank you for taking the time to send an encouraging thought, or to offer advice, or to just tell me that you read my story. Hearing back from you has meant so much to me, I didn't realize how much it would. Thank very much.

I hope you all had a nice Easter. Ours was COLD! but lovely. The egg hunt at the neighborhood park on Saturday was complete with hot chocolate, red noses, and shivering bodies. The Easter bunny brought new Bob the Builder books and toys Sunday morning (along with a heavy dose of chocolate...I just love the Easter bunny). And yesterday morning I headed out in my new suit. Yes I did! With my new open-toe shoes. I felt great. Happy to be wearing something cheerful and pink. And I wasn't cold at all.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

our story

Today's Oprah is about autism. Maybe you will have a chance to watch it. I heard recently that the show was looking for Chicago area families to participate by sharing their story about living with autism. We didn't make it on to the show, but I would like to share my application with you. I think this explains a lot about me, my family, and "life in a much loved 1950s cape". It's been something that I have wanted to share with you for awhile now, but I didn't know how to. This seemed like the best way to do it.

* * * *

Dear Oprah,

My husband and I have a 5 yr-old son who was diagnosed with autism shortly after his 3rd birthday. He is our oldest child. We also have a 2 1/2 yr-old son who is a typically developing boy.

Bobby is our son with autism. He is a beautiful, fun-loving, sweet child, who was the perfect baby. From the time he was born until well into his toddler hood, we thought his quiet attention to details and his preference for listening and observing were personality characteristics consistent with being a first born child. It was not until the middle of my second pregnancy that my husband Rob and I started to notice that Bobby was not interested in things that other children his age seemed to be: communicating with peers, potty training, and extensive communication with his parents. He was a friendly baby who would smile at us, liked to be hugged and touched, loved to listen to music, look at number and letter puzzles, and run...yet he did not spend much time interacting with us. When he spoke he repeated what we said more than anything. It was as if he enjoyed us from a distance. Our pediatrician at the time told us that Bobby was just shy and needed to be around children more.

After our second son was born, we felt that we needed to pursue our continuing doubts about Bobby's development. Fortunately, we found a pediatrician who guided us down an aggressive path of having Bobby's development evaluated by professionals. We signed him up for an evaluation with the local school district as well as with a private center in town. The process of having Bobby evaluated by both sources lasted for a few months. By the end we had read a lot about developmental delay. Still, it was heart breaking to hear our fears confirmed when a doctor told us that Bobby had autism and that he needed extensive therapy.

Ever since that day, we have devoted our lives to treating and conquering Bobby's autism. We are fortunate to live near the Little Friends Center for Autism, where we have found tremendous resources and support. We are also fortunate to live in a school district that recognizes and provides for children on the autism spectrum. More than anything, we are fortunate for the love and support that we give each other, and for the love and support that we receive from our parents and families.

Overcoming the challenges that autism presents is not an easy task for Bobby. While other children his age are busy playing, Bobby is working. For the past 2 years, Bobby has attended a preschool class through the public school system 5 days a week, where professionals provide speech, occupational therapy, and social skills therapy. He receives ABA therapy 5-6 days a week at home, for 2-3 hours each session. He attends an extra hour of both speech and OT during the week away from home as well. From the moment he wakes up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, we are constantly working with him on learning something: how to dress himself, how to feed himself, how to perform other self-care tasks that other children know intuitively, how to speak to his brother, how to ask for something using the right words, how to express his needs verbally by using the correct pronouns, how to play with a friend, how to figure out the world. Learning the ins and outs of potty training took about 2 years of constant practice, and has been his biggest accomplishment to date. It is not an exaggeration to say that Bobby’s schedule as a 5 yr-old is busier, more rigorous, and more demanding than some adults we know.

And yet, we press on and challenge him because we see progress every day. Every day we see his potential increasing. His progress is slow, but it’s steady. Bobby has made obvious strides in all the areas that he works in, because he’s got will and determination, love and support around him, and the tools within reach to do it. He can construct full sentences now. He can sit and attend to a teacher at a table and perform multiple tasks when asked. He can draw a circle, square, and sign his name. He can take turns (albeit, sometimes reluctantly) with his younger brother when they both want the same toy. The tasks are not easy, but they become more familiar and routine the more he performs them. In the area of academics, such as (pre)reading and (pre) math skills, Bobby is performing at a level that is superior to other children his age. His biggest challenge, perhaps the area that is his biggest deficit, is maneuvering social situations with a group of people. Next year after kindergarten he will attend a half day social sills program to improve his peer to peer relations. We are confident that Bobby will make the strides in this area that he has in the other areas.

Living with autism is not easy. My husband and I are lucky, because we are on the “same page” when it comes to seeing Bobby’s strengths and weaknesses. Neither one of us is in denial about his condition and the challenges he faces. We get strength from that because we have the same hopes and dreams for him. But from time to time, we still struggle to come to terms with the realities that autism presents. We wish that he could talk to us beyond telling us his wants and needs and observations of what he sees around us. We wish that he could tell us how he feels, what he wonders, what he believes. We know there is a little boy inside that body who has hopes and dreams of his own. We know he probably feels different from other children when he’s around them, and he probably doesn’t know why he is different. We know he has a vivid imagination where he spends most of his time visiting the characters he has met in books or movies. We wish that he could spend more of his time visiting us.

Treating Bobby’s autism has completely changed our lives in terms of how we live on a day-to-day basis. I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, but given Bobby’s schedule and his needs, I could not return to work full-time even if I wanted to, because I need to manage his constantly changing and intricate schedule. Meeting other moms during the day is almost impossible because we generally do not have time for play dates or other kid/mom activities. When I am around other moms who have typically developing children, I sometimes find it hard to relate to their daily talk and discussion of what life in their households is like. It can be isolating to experience something that you think no one really understands. I have met a nice group of women who also have children with autism, but I do not see them often, probably once every 2-3 months. In order to combat the loneliness I was feeling during my days, I started a bunco group in my neighborhood. Connecting with women at night – and without kids – has been the best way for me to encourage a network of friendships with moms close by.

Treating autism has also meant staggering medical bills for us. From the evaluation process, we have been consistently fighting to pay the medical expenses generated by treating autism. Most of these expenses are not covered by insurance. It is maddening.

Another maddening aspect of autism is the mystery surrounding it. The great divide of beliefs within the autism world in terms of its origin is confusing and upsetting. No one knows where it comes from and why the number of kids being diagnosed is on the rise. Some people say it’s the vaccinations. Some people say it’s not. Also, what does a diagnosis really mean for a child like Bobby? What will his life be like? All of the professionals we work with are carefully trained to not speculate. We are optimistic but uncertain about the opportunities that Bobby will have when he is an adult. For that matter, we are uncertain about what his life will be like as he grows more into his boyhood. Will he have friends? Will he be able to converse with us, in a true back and forth manner? Will he be able to work, go to college, live on his own? While it’s true that no one knows what life brings for any one of us, it is maddening as a parent of a child with autism to not know any parameters. Every child with autism seems to be different, so it’s impossible to say how each of these children will function as an adult.

With the clock now ticking past midnight, I should not write any longer. But I am happy to share our story with you and your viewers, especially if hearing about our experience helps another family and another child in the same situation. The one thing I want to be sure you understand is that our story is one of hope. Our little boy has great challenges and is in the fight of his life to secure a “normal” life for himself in this big world. But he is on his way. Despite the struggles and battles, this is not a sad story, Oprah. Bobby is on his way, and he is going to get the best of autism and live the fullest life imaginable. We imagine great things for him.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

what lies beneath

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday doing a thorough cleaning around here...yes, spring cleaning! Always dreaded but much celebrated afterwards. If only you could see how clean my house is - but then I'd have to show you a "before" picture and that's just out of the question.

Last item on the task list is taking down all my window valances and this cord cover, and getting them cleaned and pressed. The cord cover's been in place now for almost 4 years, never been touched. Or vaccumed. You think it's about time for a cleaning? This is just the kind of incidental thing that starts to bother me when I wake up in the middle of the night. But with my valances and cover cleaned, what can possibly keep me awake now?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

april showers

We arrived home Sunday night to cool temps and the promise of rain...and maybe even snow (shudder!) later this week. April showers arrived this morning (oh, and that's the view of my street through my front door...see the school bus pulling away at the curb? My little guy had just boarded.) That's Ok. I know what I saw last week: sunny days, shorts, the sweaty heads of my kids from running around outside. That kind of spring will come back. In the meantime, however, I have a new pink suit to wear for Easter. If it's really 40 degrees on Sunday, can I possibly go out in it (with my new open-toe shoes)? If things get ugly I might have to stick to black wool pants. hmph.