Saturday, March 24, 2007

The challenge of children

Yesterday, Luc had asked me to build a ‘Sears Tower’ out of stickle bricks. This was quite a challenge, but I managed to build one that was accepted by Luc the construction manager. I went to the kitchen and in the meantime, Godzilla Nic wreaked his own form of havoc on our construction. This caused no end of frustration for Luc who screamed abuse at the departing monster. Paul came to placate Luc, and helped in the reconstruction efforts. Apparently, he didn’t get things ‘quite right’ as Luc screamed at him “No, not Hancock Tower! I want Sears Tower!!!” Really Paul, do you not know the finer points of Chicago architecture and antennae?! 

Nicolas has the sweetest disposition – but has a keen eye for finding danger – and has octopus arms that seek out danger or dirt, no matter how much you seem to watch him or hold him. There are many times where we have pulled him out of the toilet (where he loves to splash his hands) and while we attempt to wash his hands, he has grabbed a toothbrush, emptied the trash and pulled all the towels off the rail. Paul believes that Nic plans all his attacks with precision, anticipating how we will deal any misdemeanour and staying one step ahead of us. I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Nicolas has worked out how to use his high chair as a ladder to climb onto the dining table or to reach things on the shelves. He loves climbing onto his and Luc’s small table to play and to climb up on the (low) windowsill to look out the window and watch the action in the street. He is a born adventurer and seems to want to conquer every ‘peak’ in our home. We have had to move our stools away from the kitchen bench (into another room) as Nic uses these to climb on the kitchen bench. One day, after pulling Nic out of the bathroom sink, I had to rescue him from the kitchen bench before he reached the knives. He is a very bright little boy and often moves furniture or toys around to climb upon to reach his goal. We have a recurring thought of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t when it comes to Nic: if we lock the dishwasher, Nic turns it on, running a program. If we don’t lock the dishwasher, then Nic opens it and tries to climb inside or grabs anything of interest – generally the nice shiny knives of course. AHHHH!

Photo: The boys under ‘Cloud Gate’, affectionately called ‘the Bean’ at Millennium Park, on Thursday. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The ‘f’ word

Well it arrived without too much angst at all. The ‘f’ word being the big ‘forty’ (thanks for the card Mum and Dad!) I was speaking to a friend in Australia recently about my impending significant birthday. She mentioned to me how she and a friend (both approaching 38) had compiled a list of 40 things to do before turning 40. My first thought was “oh gosh,  I only have two weeks to do something significant!” I then thought about it a little more and realised that I didn’t want to treat the impending birthday as a life sentence – with an ‘end’. I recognised that my aim was to treat it as an opportunity for a new start – a time to explore new ideas. Besides, our last two years have involved enough excitement and change worthy of a decade or so! Gabrielle suggested I could have 40 drinks before turning 40 - I didn’t even have time to do that!

I realised that I have achieved several life goals: I have lived for a while in several continents, have worked overseas, completed my Masters, had a couple of children, travelled fairly extensively, am now happily married… all without giving it too much thought. The next start is a new business. But more about that later… 

Paul, my beautiful and big sweetie of a husband (and typically very reluctant party organiser) organised a birthday party for me. He planned this to take place in an independent local owner-operated coffee shop – Lincoln Perk - where we have come to know the owners and where they were happy to cater a private event. 

This was a lovely venue and the owners did some great catering with some classic and very delicious home Italian cooking. We had the largest cake from the Austrian Bakery – yum and made everyone left at the party at the end of the night take some home (including our baby-sitter Lisa). The boys have been enjoying  the left-overs (a little too much perhaps). 

Rowan (Paul’s brother) took the time to fly from Houston for the event – this was great and very much appreciated. It was a shock – although in hindsight, should have been expected, to see several guests leave the party well before 10pm (to feed a newborn, relieve baby sitters, check on sick children, attend school functions, travel back to the suburbs…). Ours is not really a demographic of party animals. True to form, it was the antipodean guests who had the most staying power ;-)

One of our guests, Rina, made it along although she was facing major surgery on Monday. Well done Rina – you rock! We have now found out that Rina does not have the suspected cancer in her cyst and tumor-ridden uterus and ovaries. She is on the road to a really good recovery. In Rina’s words, “It's so easy to get caught up in our busy lives and ignore potentially serious symptoms, or to go to this comfy place I've spent far too much time in; it's called 'denial.' So please, go to your doctors regularly, and go prepared with a list of anything that's been chronic or troubling.”  

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Last week I had left the boys in the family room while I went to the bathroom… when I came out, I heard a strange sound coming from the boy’s room. It sounded vaguely ceramic. When I went to investigate, the situation shown in the photo (above), was what greeted me. The strange sound was the boys knocking the cot (crib) uprights together. It was one of those moments that either sends a parent into either hysterical crying or laughter. I raced to get the camera! 

Luc has been going around singing a full rendition of “Happy Birthday to Mummy”, presenting me with a shoe box containing a ‘surprise’ – whatever the toy-of-the-day is. I think he should have it perfected by Friday (my birthday). 

Luc is usually very keen to learn the correct word or pronunciation for words… but there are several instances where he says thing his own way - and there is no means of persuading him otherwise. Luc loves singing the alphabet at the moment. When he reaches the end, he sings “Now I know your ABC’s…” we correct him “Now I know my ABC’s…” and he sings back to us “Now I know your ABC’s…” I guess it makes some sense. 

Luc counts to ten in French. When he reaches the end, he says “huit, neuf, GEESE!” No extent of explaining that geese are birds and not numbers seems to work. I heard Luc counting to four in Spanish the other day… I was quite amazed. I guess we have to thank Go Diego Go for that. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Politic... tick... ticks

We find the whole United States election process very entertaining, as it is so different from that in Australia. Elections are held on a Tuesday (rather than on Saturday like Australia) – with little evident fanfare given to the actual voting process despite all the electioneering that goes on: the bumper bars, yard signs, phone canvassing, media hype, paraphernalia within peoples windows, canvassers in the street, etc.

Last week, elections were held for the office of Mayor for the City of Chicago. After the event, there was so little coverage it was blatantly apparent! I think Australian politics seem to be far more subject to the election post mortem. 

People in the US are very much Republican or Democrat – in much the same way as Australians are Ford or Holden!  Although people are willing to express allegiance to a particular party, this does not always translate into a vote – as voting is not compulsory. People appear to be more vociferous about stating their allegiance to a particular party as opposed to Australians who largely keep their voting practices to themselves. I guess Australians, on the whole, are more likely to ‘swing’ dependent upon policy, who might be standing, potential effect upon their own particular circumstances, susceptibility to scare mongering, etc.  

As voting is not compulsory, it is difficult to determine whether the population is made up of swinging voters or perhaps, which part of the population or party members might be more motivated to vote in a particular election. A great deal of electioneering that goes on is to motivate certain sections of the population to vote: young people, minority groups, the poor, etc. 

Even though the next Presidential elections are not held until November 4th 2008, a whole heap of electioneering is currently taking place for party preselection. The Democrats have several possible contenders with Hillary Rodham Clinton (Bill’s wife, formerly or Illinois, current New York senator), Barack Obama (from Illinois, African American, senator for Illinois, anti-Iraq war), and John Edwards (former senator and nominee for vice-president with John Kerry in 2004) all formally announcing that they wish to be a candidate for President. The big question is whether or not Al Gore (former vice-president, ‘former next-president’ and champion of a green world) will announce his candidature. 

On the Republican front, John McCain (current senator for Arizona, lost out to George W in 2000, supporter of Iraq war), Rudy Giuliani (former very popular mayor of New York City), and Mitt Romney (former Massachusetts Governor) seem to be at the forefront and are running around the country seeking support.

Support for a candidate at this early stage is very much to do with raising money. A candidate needs a huge wad of money to run their political machine. This is why wild cards, including billionaire Ross Perot, have a chance – political nous and experience is not as key as having MONEY. It is expected that each nominee will need to raise $100 million this year in order to contest the primaries for the 2008 presidential election. 

This is quite a departure from elections in Australia where independents (who are not obscenely wealthy) are still able to run (even though they have no chance of being Prime Minister in Australia’s two party preferred system). 

The mood, as an outsider and at this early stage, appears to be positive. The apparent strength and popularity of the Democrat forerunners is palpable. I’m not sure if this is because both Clinton and Obama hail from Illinois (as were past presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan), but it can only be making the Republicans very nervous. 

Photo: some of the architecture found in Lincoln Park (named after the very popular Abe). Illinois’s state slogan is the “Land of Lincoln”