Sunday, November 30, 2008

Busy November


Christmas has a habit of just sneaking up on one in the States. In Australia, we always seemed to be fully aware that it was imminent with store decorations and Christmas merchandise becoming apparent in October (or even September!) In the States, we are somewhat distracted. First there is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, with Nic’s birthday in between for us. Christmas decorations do not come out until after Thanksgiving - so it has always been a shock for us with so little apparent lead-up to Christmas. 

After Halloween, we had to find time to sneak in a 3rd birthday party for Nicolas before Thanksgiving arrived. Nic was adamant that all he wanted for his birthday was a ‘Batman cake’. This was obviously a response to Luc’s ‘Superman cake’ for his party. We again arranged for a party to be held at Jump Ahead Academy - a place where the boys expend some energy during the cold winter months. Paul organised for a Batman cake to be made at Sweet Mandy B’s - a favourite bakery. As is often the case with excited birthday kids, Nic cried for a large portion of his party: he only wanted to open presents and get his hands on his Batman cake. Other than that, it was another (mostly) stress-free birthday party - thank you to Eme and Katy for all the cleaning up! 

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year at home again. I have flatly refused to cook a turkey and I think Paul took this up as a personal challenge, arriving home from the Supermarket with a small turkey and Thanksgiving provisions. Paul then spent the larger part of Thanksgiving morning preparing and roasting a turkey and making Thanksgiving ‘sides’ (mashed potato, green beans and honeyed sweet potato). Not to mention the preparation he did the night before to ‘brine the bird’. I felt so guilty seeing him go to such great effort without my support, so Luc and I made reparations by whipping up a quick apple pie (so much easier with a pre-prepared pastry case!) We had our dinner as a late afternoon meal (halfway between lunch and dinner). Next year I promise to make more effort and support Paul’s turkey ambitions. Thanksgiving really is a wonderful holiday and I am beginning to appreciate it more and more. It would be so nice to celebrate with family, with no need for presents or any hoo-ha - just time to spend together as a family. I can see why it is THE most popular time for travel throughout the year. 

We are currently becoming very nervous about our impending trip down-under, but otherwise are well. Paul took the boys to the circus yesterday with our neighbour Greg and his daughter Meredith. The boys came home wide-eyed and sugar-fueled. Luc is currently the first to see or hear anything. (e.g. “I hear Mietta crying” with Luc’s response “Oh yes. I heard her first” or “Oh look at the snowman!” with Luc’s “Yes. But I saw it before anyone else”). Nic is going through a superhero phase that requires him to remove his pants - a la the Superhero undies-over-tights-look. Mietta is a happy little baby and a super-strong little girl. She has been able to hold her head up since birth and is now doing push-ups from her tummy, lifting her shoulders off the bed. She has rolled to her side, but has not done a full roll over as yet. She loves responding to smiles with a smile, and she chats away (and can be very noisy at times - trying to get our attention). Mietta LOVES having her nappy changed and will stop crying immediately if she is put down on the changing mat! I explained to Luc this evening that Mietta is always learning - and for example, if he were to speak to her, she would start to learn language. Luc immediately grabbed two small balls (i.e. Earth and the Sun) and began explaining to her how the earth rotates on its axis, and the difference between night and day!  

Photo: Nic, looking a little dejected after his candles have been extinguished

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloweeeeeeeeeen!


Last night was Halloween. This is a really BIG event in the States - one that children eagerly anticipate from November 1st each year. It is bigger than Christmas, or any other ‘holiday’ and seems to last a long time. Halloween and Fall festivals, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, markets, parties and performances fill many weekends prior to Halloween Eve. It is really fun to participate in and children are so excited at the prospect of dressing up - for the big trick or treat night, and other organised events. 

Nicolas mentioned that he wanted to dress up as a pumpkin. Luc couldn’t decide between a ghost or a vampire. I thought these were excellent choices, in the spirit of  Halloween and kind of cute. Imagine my disappointment then, when Paul returned from a quick visit to the costume shop, obstensibly to purchase said pumpkin/ghost/vampire suits, with two Transformer-clad (albeit, extremely excited) boys. I realised that Halloween was not going to be all-about-me! Costumes are readily available and there are many seasonal stores set up purely to merchandise Halloween paraphernalia. To not dress up would be a sin! Older children (or their parents) take the time to design and make their own costumes - which can be really funny / elaborate / well-thought-out but sometimes really cumbersome and a little too unwieldy for younger children. (Case in point: the big plate of spaghetti and meatballs and the kitchen I saw walking around trick-or-treating!) 

Luc was desperate to buy a pumpkin to carve into a Jack-o’-lantern. We have learned from experience that carving a pumpkin too early results in a less-than-stellar Jack-o’-lantern. We left it a little late this year and our pumpkin selection was very limited. We settled upon a nice shaped, although lopsided pumpkin. Luc designed the face and I set about carving it. Luc’s enthusiasm for ideas is high, but his enthusiasm for ‘technical involvement’ is very low. He became very squeamish at the thought of scraping out the insides of a pumpkin - and left Mummy to do the dirty work. Great! I remember trying in vain to carve a Jack-o’-lantern from a Queensland Blue pumpkin as a child. I didn’t know then, that there are special varieties of pumpkins grown specifically for carving, that have soft skins and very little flesh. Pumpkin carving is very popular and there are some brilliant examples on display on front steps and porches. A set of pumpkin carving tools we bought for our first Halloween have proven to be invaluable. 

Luc and Nic’s friends, James and William, came to our home for a quick pre-trick-or-treat party. Gabrielle and I intended to fill the boys with some food to ward of the need to imbibe on candy treats. We made some pizzas, and I made some ghoulish coloured beetroot dip and a hummus served with bright red cranberry juice drink (unfortunately I had served a very tart unsweetened version!) and spiced apple cider, all consumed with Halloween cookies that Luc and I had made. (Note: I am still dirty on Paul for ‘discovering’ a set of Halloween cookie cutters and mentioning to Luc that “perhaps Mummy could help you make some cookies”). I had thought the bright red coloured food might have a devilish ‘blood’ connotation - but declined to mention this to the sensitive 2, 3 and 4 year olds! 

We went out trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood. A particular block of a local street, Burling Street, is very popular for trick-or-treaters, with the majority of residents participating in the event and going to great lengths to decorate their houses. The local alderman’s office is on this block, and the street is closed to traffic to cope with the hoards of children that descend on the area. Although exciting and really fun, the popularity of this location has escalated over the years and last night, we found it all a little too stressful, with two, then three parents trying to maintain and control five children in a dark and crowded environment with hyper kids running amok. We called it quits after visiting the houses on one side of the block and concluded that it might be better to go even earlier next year, or stick to some of the less popular streets. 

Photo: some of the Halloween spoils I was coerced into making. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to ER we go...


Paul must be getting to know the staff at the Children’s Memorial Hospital by now, having visited twice in as many days. The reason was to attend to a rather injured middle child: aka Nicolas. I had taken Nic to his gym on Friday morning for a jumping session. We adjourned to the local Cosi cafe for a coffee / bite to eat with my friend Polly and her son Finn. Nic and Finn were racing around like.... boys! Polly went to supervise as I needed to feed Mietta. As a dodge tactic, Nic decided to take on a wall instead of Polly. The result: a deep gash down the middle of his forehead and a copious amount of blood. Polly felt a little cursed as she had been through the exact same scenario with her son Callan only weeks earlier. I thought it a blessing as she was totally calm and knew exactly what to do - and applied compression to Nic’s wound.  I called Paul, gave him our location, a brief recap of the situation and requested his help - PRONTO! 

Luc was having a day off school, so he too came with Paul. We all loaded into the car and I dropped Paul and Nic off at the Emergency entrance to the Childrens Memorial Hospital. I then took Luc and Mietta home and waited anxiously for Paul to call with details. My experience of the Emergency Department was that things could take a very looooong time to happen. Thankfully, Nic was examined and treated quickly. 

Paul was given the option for Nic to have plastic surgery. Given the location of Nic’s wound (prominent on his face), and Callan’s recent awful experience (where the stitches had popped-open and needed to be followed by plastic surgery), Paul chose plastic surgery in the first instance. Nic was super-brave throughout the whole experience, and even reassured Paul by telling him, “I wont die”. 

Being a children's hospital, the staff are very adept at treating children, with specialist facilities to make it easier. To prepare Nic for his stitches, he was ‘swaddled’ like a baby, with arms bound by his side. To secure him even further, he was put in a straight-jacket-like velcro restraint, with a staff member holding his head. It was decided that given Nic’s endurance, he would receive a local anesthetic for the procedure rather than be sedated (requiring a fasting period). Paul’s description of countless injections inside the wound were enough to make me really happy I wasn’t there (as if the blood wasn’t enough).  The gash required a number of internal stitches to repair the lower skin layers, with a very tidy seam externally. Paul was super impressed at the neatness of the whole job. When Nicolas sat up after being released from his ‘straight jacket’, Paul was so proud when he shook the doctor’s hand and said “Thank you Doctor Mike”. The doctors were pretty astounded themselves!  

Saturday night, and we were due to go out to a ‘pot-luck’ party with other parents of Luc’s school mates. Nic came down with a high fever. This was one of the go-to-hospital scenarios following a head injury. Cate arrived to babysit the boys and we made our way to the party while Paul tried to contact our pediatrician. We arrived at the party and Paul finally spoke to Nic’s doctor who recommended taking Nic back to hospital to be checked out. So... Paul caught a cab home, roused Nic out of be and walked him to hospital. Nic’s dressing was removed and it looked fine. His fever was put down to some other random illness not related to his injury. Paul then took Nic home, caught a cab back to the party, to arrive in time to see the majority of the other guests leaving! Our hosts Todd and Christine were lovely and made Paul feel very welcome while feeding him leftovers. 

Photo: A bandaged Nic with newly acquired scar-to-be. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mietta’s first month


Mietta turned five weeks old today. We had her one-month-check-up last week and all was well. Mietta is growing at a brilliant rate. She has excellent neck strength and head control for such a young baby and is smiling away - much to our content (and to Nanma’s who was able to witness some smiles and baby chats before she departed for Australia last Friday). Mietta is also ‘playing’ - reaching for and batting toys while lying under the baby gym. We have been astounded at her reaching these milestones already. At a birthday party on Sunday morning, some other parents were amazed to see her tracking with her eyes and reaching towards some bubbles being blown. Perhaps she is aiming high considering the possibility that she might have been born much earlier?!?

The boys continue to adore their little sister, although Luc did ask Nanma why she “always had to cuddle the baby” - so perhaps the novelty is beginning to wane for him. Nic is still so adoring and asks me whenever he sees me without the baby “Where is Metta?” On a couple of occasions where he has been a little too loving and has unwittingly hurt the baby, Nic has given himself an immediate ‘time out’ and disappears to his corner. 

Today Luc gave me a demonstration of his latest creation - a ‘transformer’ made from his beloved ‘stickle bricks’ - that actually really did transform. I was very impressed and told him “I love that you have such a wonderful imagination”, to which he replied “No. I don’t”. I said “Yes you do!” Luc said “Robots do not have imaginations” “Oh. So you are a robot then?” “Half robot.”  I looked at him quizzically “Half robot. Half alien” he explained. 

Photo: Nanma (Grandma as Nic calls her) with Mietta and Nicolas

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

3 weeks old


Three weeks has flown and Mietta is doing really well - although we could all do with a little more sleep ;-)  We did have a few scares early on as Mietta’s white blood cell count measured high when we were still in hospital. This was of some concern to the doctors, as Mietta may have picked up an infection - due to the fast labour and administered penicillin was not in my system for the requisite four hour period needed to ward off a potential Strep B infection. We reached the first week milestone without a hitch (the next critical period).  Now we need to keep a watch for any elevated temperatures during Mietta’s first three months. 

Our sincerest thanks for ALL the well wishes, presents (including those for the boys!), clothing items, toys, food, groceries, home-made items, flowers, cookies, chocolate truffles, home-baked lasagne, and offers to cook dinner. I am SO sorry I have been slack on the email / returning phone calls / blogging / twittering / facebook front. I have just found it a little difficult to forego sleep at any opportunity I have! Trust that I am not ignoring you at all - just finding it a little overwhelming to tackle my HUGE inbox. We have been SUPER grateful, inspired and heartened by all your wonderful offerings, congratulations and best wishes. 

The boys are LOVING their new sister. Luc absolutely adores her. Nic loves his sister too - although I am a little worried that Nic’s adoration might have the potential to turn sour if things do not go so well for him. So far so good - but I daren’t leave Nic alone with Mietta for a moment. Both boys want to hold or ‘carry’ Mietta at every opportunity. I am beginning to think Mietta must be one of the most cuddled little sisters in history! 

Mietta, like her brothers, has an extremely strong neck for a newborn. She constantly lifts her head to look at things - holding it up for the longest time just taking in the world (and has from day one!) I put this down to Paul’s ‘wrestling genes’. We are still counting ‘wind’ as smiling and her ‘cooing’ as words. 

The major differences I have noted between the boys and Mietta thus far include: 
no penis - this is a bizarre sight when we change Mietta’s nappy - although we have become a little more accustomed to it now. Luc has commented several times on Mietta’s lack of a penis - and has wondered if she could wee at all.  

the ‘sneaky wee’ - without the apparatus to create a ‘fountain effect’, I have been caught out a couple of times with wet clothes and change mat - the result of a sneaky wee that I failed to notice happen. 

arms that do not separate from the torso - I have found it extremely difficult to dress Mietta. It only occurred to me today why: both Luc and Nic were born at hot times of the year and were only ever dressed in singlets or very light suits as newborns. The change in weather here has meant more clothes for Mietta - including long sleeves that are a nightmare to put on when one is in a hurry! 

big voice - I don’t know if the steroids I was given during premature labour had anything to do with it (?!), but Mietta definitely has the loudest voice of all three kids - she does NOT like being ignored!

My mother Hazel is still here and has been doing a stellar job looking after the boys, soothing a crying / wet / uncomfortable baby and making sure lunches, snacks and playtime are attended too. Luc is loving having an adoring Nanma to play with him constantly. Thanks mum! 

Photo: Nicolas ‘carrying the baby’ 

Monday, September 15, 2008

What’s in a name?


Luc always wanted another brother “Just like Nic” to play with. About a month or so ago, he said “it would be OK to have a sister” - this arrived after my propaganda campaign presenting the joys of having BOTH a brother AND a sister (just like Mummy and Daddy have) - to ward off any ill-feeling if we did in fact have a little girl. It is with great relief therefore, to see Luc so smitten with Mietta.  Luc is finding it hard to leave her alone and wants to show Mietta everything. Last night (with Nanma’s help), Luc gave Mietta a house tour - showing her every room and explaining to her what each room’s purpose was “Mietta, this is your mummy and daddy’s bathroom. Here is the toilet, here is the bath and here are two places to wash your hands...” Luc can’t wait to play with Mietta and is showing her lots of toys and his favourite things. It is hard to explain to young children that babies cannot yet see very well - and that blurry outlines are the best they can manage at such a young age. Nic loves to come into our room to visit ‘Metta’. He likes to explain his knowledge of how the “baby was in mummy’s tummy”, but now she is out and she cries because “baby’s sad”. 

Prior to the birth, Luc was pondering several name choices: in particular, ‘Han Solo’ if the baby were a boy, or ‘Princess Leia’ if the baby were a girl - he was also willing to go with a simple ‘Leia’ (and drop the Princess title). Just before Mietta was born, Luc added the girl’s name ‘Martha’ - a favourite book character, from the Martha Speaks range of books. 

Speaking of inventive names, the boys had turned their play barn on its side and this presented whole new possibilities for a new imaginary character. All of a sudden, the barn became an eating monster (a la Monster House) - consuming all manner of small toys. Luc called it “Doctor Devour”. We have no idea where this name came from, but we were super-impressed at its inventiveness! 

Photo: Mietta in hospital... will have to get the camera out again!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It’s a girl!


Woohoo! The new object of our affection, Mietta Hazel Gearon entered this world this morning at 7:54am (Chicago / Central time). Vital statistics of our little darling included:         
    weight -  7lb 14oz (3.57 kg); 
    length -  20” (50.8 cm); 
    natural delivery - facing the wrong way round / posterior
Mietta must have decided she didn’t need to be induced (scheduled for 10:30am the same morning) - perhaps she wanted to help her mummy out!

I was woken with contractions sometime after 4am. I tried to ignore these and go back to sleep, but thought perhaps I should time the intervals. 4:32am... 4:37am.... 4:41am... UH OH, less than 5 mins apart! I woke Paul and we madly got things together, rang the doctor on duty and made a faster-than-normal drive to the Prentice Hospital, arriving sometime around 5am. Thank goodness we were not trying this in peak hour! We visited Triage, where I was gowned-up and the contractions and baby were monitored and assessed. We were then accompanied to the Labor ward and I was given an IV drip to load me up with penicillin to  try and ward off any evils associated with the Strep B bug from getting to the baby during delivery. Ideally, antibiotics should be in the system for four hours prior to delivery of the baby. 

It had been suggested that I have an epidural so I wouldn’t feel the urge to push and could therefore let the antibiotics spend more time in my body. I chose to wait until my Obstetrician arrived before I made the call. Mia, my Obstetrician came on duty some time after 7am and was very excited that she had picked the ‘correct birthday’ (for the scheduled induction). Of course, by this stage it was too late for an epidural and it wasn’t until the pushing stage that we all realised Mietta was actually “sunny-side-up”. This made for a less-than-pleasant final stage of labor (read BIG OUCH!). Paul and a midwife each took one of my legs and helped me push as hard as I possibly could. 

Change of shift meant that we had an extra midwife (Katie, who had been attending and chose to stay to meet the baby), Merita (the OB on call overnight), and a student midwife - in addition to my OB and attending midwife. Paul made the observation of how the whole room full of women just worked in unison with one another - making for a very calm and harmonious delivery - as it should be and has been done for centuries (prior to relatively recent medical intervention). 

Just before 8am, I was handed a screaming bundle of limbs, hair and pinkness with a trailing umbilical cord while the room pronounced “IT’S A GIRL!” (everyone had been dying to find out!). That first scream is the most pleasant and reassuring sound a parent can ever hear. I met our new daughter with an emotional cocktail of exhaustion, relief, joy, love and surprise (what - no penis?!) Paul cut the cord, the stump was clamped and then the vital stats were measured. 

Paul and I looked at each other and said, “she’s Mietta!” It took us over a day to name each of the boys, as the names we had chosen didn’t quite seem to suit the bundles we had been handed. Mietta is the first name Paul and I agreed on when we had been discussing baby names five years ago (when waiting on Luc). Mietta is of French derivation, meaning ‘little sweet one’. My sister Jenni tells me it means ‘bread crumbs’ in colloquial French. Of course, Mietta is a name familiar to Melburnians due to the late Mietta O’Donnell, her well-respected restaurants and restaurant guide

Following on from our family tradition of using family names for middle names, Mietta’s middle name Hazel is after my mother. Hazel has been used for names in my mothers family for a couple of generations. From Old English, meaning Hazel tree or light brown colour. We now wait to see if Mietta will have hazel-coloured eyes. 

Photo: our sweet little Mietta, just minutes old, being weighed. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

40 weeks!


We made it! We have reached full-term. 40 weeks today. WOOHOO. Of course, 4 hospital visits during the course of this pregnancy has made me somewhat nervous about making it this far! 

The insurance industry being what it is over here, has mandated that pregnancies over 41 weeks will not be covered by insurance. This, my Obstetrician’s schedule, the likelihood that labor will be fairly rapid and the fact that I have picked up some bug called ‘Strep B’ along the way (and will need to have a course of antibiotics to stop the baby getting sick, prior to delivery)... have all resulted in the decision to induce this baby. I have not been very happy with the idea of this as I found that labor with Nicolas (an induced birth) was more painful than a natural delivery.  I am now resigned to this happening - tomorrow! So... if baby doesn’t decide to arrive this evening, we will likely have a new baby arrive sometime tomorrow. I figure that a 09/09 birthday will be easy for me to remember (don’t have to remember to reverse the month / day). I am still remaining open-minded about having an epidural... perhaps I will succumb this time?

My mother Hazel arrived last Thursday night and is recovering from jet-lag as rapidly as she can. At least Mum has had an opportunity to rest a little, prior to taking charge of the boys. Sebastien, my sister’s partner is in Chicago attending a conference. We caught up with Sebastien after he arrived on Saturday night. Hopefully he will find some time to come and see the new baby before he leaves. 

Luc told me last week “I don’t think you have a baby in there. Every time I put my hand on your tummy, I don’t feel anything. I think your tummy is big because you eat too many treats!” Yes, that is probably true... but I figure it is the last time in my life that I can truly indulge myself guilt-free. ;-)

Photo: The final bump days. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How does Luc twist my arm so?


Although milder than the last two, we have not been disappointed by Chicago’s Summer season. It really is the best! It is great dressing in t-shirts, shorts and sandals each day without having to worry about the weather turning cold. As my energy has returned, we have been getting to the park every day. The boys love this. 

We have taken advantage of the Green City Markets, stocking up on fresh, fresh organic and local produce at affordable prices on Wednesday mornings. The boys love buying croissants and sitting on our picnic blanket to eat these before running around, buying obligatory ‘hot cheese’ (a baked cheese not unlike haloumi) and partaking in fruit smoothies. 

We have found a new favourite breakfast haunt in Nookies Too. A cafe that is open 24 hours during the weekends, copes with kids admirably, is without a wait at around 8am and provides a good breakfast to boot. We took the boys here this morning, stacked them full of  energy-pancakes before embarking on a bike visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, to see a butterfly release. On the way there, we saw a ‘real-life’ beaver lodge constructed by some local city-type beavers in North Pond

Last weekend we were subjected to myriad aircraft buzzing around overhead with the Chicago Air and Water Show. Luc’s latest future occupation has been ‘fighter pilot’ after witnessing the Navy’s Blue Angels flying in formation... fast! The planes seemed to be flying really low and would set off car alarms in the street each time they flew by. The crowd at the lakefront was just too large to be enjoyable (I attempted on a Friday afternoon) so we saw most of the action from the parks around home and our rooftop deck. 

The boys are now the very proud owners of a bunk bed. We made a special trip to IKEA to choose one, then had it delivered several days later. There was so much excitement revolving around this, that Nic soon forgot all about his small bed (that had been his cot) being dismantled and taken away. He is now the proud occupant of a ‘big boys bed’. 

Not quite too sure how Luc managed it, but he talked me into letting him host another party for his friends. This time it was a pajama party - partly fueled by the bunk bed acquisition, and partly by an episode of Max and Ruby (this show has a lot to answer for... filling a young lad’s head full of party ideas!!). Luc asked that everyone wear pajamas. I mentioned to him that it might be difficult for the mummies if they had to walk along the street or drive a car, to wear pajamas. He conceded. Luc helped again to work out the menu (vanilla cake, fruit kebabs, hummus and lemonade). Luc had to help produce all these items - which he did with some enthusiasm but with more reluctance. I was determined to impress upon him, that a party does require planning and preparation: it is not just up to Mummy to do everything. I do love those little language misunderstandings: Luc uses ‘Rapunzel Beans’ to make hummus (chick peas are known as garbanzo beans in the States). 

Picture: Luc’s invitation to his Pajama Party. I am the tall one in the centre, Luc is wearing his robot pajamas (the one with the spiky hair). 

Friday, August 8, 2008

08/08/08


What an auspicious date. The Olympics are underway. Due date is now one month away. Baby is still hanging in there and moving about like crazy (this one is a kicker!) I had an inkling that if baby did not arrive by today, we should be going the full distance... hopefully this will happen. 

I have just started ‘nesting’. This has involved some fairly ruthless ‘throwing out’ of ‘stuff’ that seems to have accumulated in our 2+ years here. I have a long way to go, but am pretty proud of my ability to purge thus far. I bought some newborn clothes for the baby and these are now washed and ready to wear. We found ourselves with no new-baby clothes after passing these along the kid-wear chain. Hopefully, the new clothes will fit. Sizing works rather differently over here. Rather than 0000 / 000 / 00 sizes, baby clothes come in ‘newborn’, ‘0-3 months’, ‘6-9 months’, etc. I naturally bought ‘newborn’ size only to later discover these were for babies ‘up to 8 pounds’. Both boys were larger than this... so hopefully, our ‘plus-sized’ baby will be able to squeeze into the few outfits I bought. 

We had a horrific storm on Monday evening. Apparently, tornados can occur in a city. Thankfully, our neighbourhood was spared the tornado, but we had some very scary lighting and extremely strong winds to contend with. Paul took our car to the gym to park it undercover to escape the forecast hail. Thankfully the hail didn’t eventuate, but Paul managed to mention the word ‘tornado’ to Luc before he left. I could see Luc’s head swimming with visions of the twister in ‘Wizard of Oz’ and some footage we had seen recently of a tornado ripping apart a pig farm in Oklahoma. He was terrified. I explained to him that we would be safe as we lived in a ‘brick house’, and as he should remember, brick houses were the strongest and could even survive the ravages of a Bad Wolf’s huffing and puffing. Luc wanted to know if farms were built from sticks and straw (given his memory of the farm being sucked up)... I mentioned that, yes, they were.... so not to worry. This appeased him enough to sleep through the raging storm. I however, was scared! I closed all our blinds, turned off the computers and switched on the TV on to watch for the broadcast storm warnings whilst waiting for the storm to pass.  Now I really hope that there are no storms when we visit Grandpa & Nanna’s farm at Christmas! 

Photo: boys working together to conquer a slide. Photo taken on Paul’s iPhone while I was in hospital. I haven’t brought my camera out much recently... so am struggling to find some recent photos! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Better get in before July finishes!


Surgery, summer and slackness have all contributed to a lack of blogginess on my part. I have realised that July is almost over, and I have nary a photograph or blog entry to prove we were actually in existence. June was all over the place. Thankfully we had ‘Naomi the Wonderful’ to help us out in what otherwise would have been a disastrous situation. Thank you so much to Naomi for putting up with a couple of exuberant lads with such grace and fortitude. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow us to give Naomi the full Chicago treatment afforded her siblings... but hopefully she will return sometime in the future. 

Nic is speaking less ‘Nicolese’ and more English at the moment. This is improving his friendship with Luc out of sight. Luc is Nic’s first port of call for any new discovery or ‘show and tell’ opportunity. Nic refers to himself as ‘Nicky’ and Luc as ‘Lukie’... but calls Paul and I ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. Good to see he is continuing the Australian tradition of shortening long names and lengthening short ones!  A friend accused us of putting Nic on a rack - he seems to have stretched this summer. People can’t get over how tall the boys are - apparently much taller than the average 4 and 2½ year old. 

The challenges of raising two ebullient children continue. We spend a lot of time with friends James and William (approximately the same age). This is a wonderful opportunity to socialise, but Gabrielle and I tear our hair out at the ‘pack mentality’ that comes to the fore when boys get together. Why some poor innocent child is chosen to be the ‘bad guy’ at each park is beyond us, as is the need to hit sticks, collect rocks and get as dirty as is humanly possible. I rub my expanding tummy in these sometimes mortifying situations with a “please be a girl, please be a girl” mantra. Testosterone can be so tiresome. We wonder if the other mums and carers in the park think all Australian children are so poorly behaved?!  Nic continues to be a ‘challenge’... but wins us over repeatedly with his animated displays of affection, sense of humour and totally forgiving demeanor. It is equally testing and rewarding having a child with such a ‘big personality’. 

Curiosity is growing along with the boys’ size. Luc hits us up with some serious questions at bedtime to elicit a little more ‘awake’ and ‘parent time’ from us: ‘Why is air invisible?’, ‘Why did they kill Jesus?’, ‘How do we breathe?’, ‘Why do cars use gas?’, ‘Why is gas expensive?’ Oh for a question requiring a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response! Luc’s life ambition at the moment is to be “the first astronaut on Mars” - a somewhat lofty goal! 

Summer is Chicago’s most magnificent season - although my ‘condition’ means that we are not taking full advantage of it. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our planned road-trip via Niagra Falls to upstate New York - due to doctor’s instructions and a want to be close to a hospital! We have been to a couple of Street festivals and the boys have been to the beach... but we are all still feeling a little city-bound. Hopefully, our trip to Australia over Christmas will allow us some real ‘vacation’ time. 

Photo: Boys at Pump it Up for friend Callan’s birthday party... back in June!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Apendix-less, pained, drowsy... but relieved


What a couple of weeks we have had. Actually, that is a bit of an understatement.... what a disaster!  Last Monday (9th June) morning I woke up with a nasty case of diarrhea and vomiting that left me wasted and bed-bound. We had to cancel our playdate with Luc’s schoolmate Henry. I was feeling a little better Tuesday - managed a park visit with the boys - but was pretty much confined to eating toast. Tuesday evening and I started to feel horrible. No sleep Tuesday night, a call to my obstetrician and then constant vomiting - meaning that I could not even keep ice down. I spoke to my doctor’s assistant who asked that I go directly to the Prentice Women’s Hospital to be rehydrated. 

I got myself to hospital, was hooked up to an IV and then the diagnoses began. I was having severe pain and cramping that I thought might have been contractions.... but didn’t feel quite right. A lot of prodding, a couple of potential diagnoses, a bedside and then an indepth ultrasound, a scary CT scan and finally the culprit was determined - a nasty appendix. The doctors were reluctant to go in without knowing the real cause for pain (as they did not want to upset the uterus any more than necessary)... I happened to be of the same opinion! 

The doctors operated straight away - at around 4am Thursday morning. Around 24 hours without food or liquid made this an opportune time for a general anesthetic. I had some magnificent midwives to keep me company whilst in the labour and delivery suite, and to accompany me to the Northern Memorial Hospital across (or under) the road for my surgery. My surgeon had some experience with appendicitis in pregnant women - coincidently, performing an appendectomy on one the previous morning. I was sent back to the Prentice to recover and for the baby and myself to be monitored. 

Scarily, I had dilated slightly since being admitted and contractions were felt. I was given a course of medication to stop the contractions. When the contractions continued, a neonatal specialist came to speak to me about problems and concerns associated with pre-term delivery (as I was just over 27 weeks pregnant). The baby was given a course of steroids to increase lung capacity ‘just in case’. I was kept in hospital for the next couple of days under observation. The care was great and I had a magnificent view over Lake Michigan from my room. I was discharged on Saturday evening and came home. 

Paul has done a magnificent job of keeping the household going and the boys amused. Poor thing hasn’t had a moment to himself as I am in a word, ‘useless’. I had forgotten that one of the consequences of surgery would be pain. I find it difficult to sleep as I can only sleep on one side, and walking is limited to a hobble. I am not allowed to lift anything and standing for any period makes me woozy. 

Late on Wednesday night, I began to have another series of contractions. I spoke to the obstetrician on call who asked me to monitor these. They were coming more frequently than 10 minutes apart... so again, I went back to hospital to be ‘evaluated’. I was hooked up all night to monitors to check baby and progression of contractions. Thankfully the contractions went nowhere and are most likely due to my body witnessing some trauma and reacting to it. My obstetrician feels there is a very good likelihood of me carrying to full term (phew!) 

Thankfully, we welcomed the arrival of Paul’s sister Naomi last night. Naomi flew out from Australia and will be staying with us for about three weeks to look after the boys and ensure they have a good summer. Hopefully Naomi will be able to see a bit of Chicago while she is here. 

Picture: Luc’s rendering of Mummy on a hospital bed, attached to a drip. Daddy stands in the background with his ‘regrowth’ (Paul shaved his head a couple of weeks ago). Luc and Nicolas stand in front and drink some apple juice on a table (brought to them by lovely nurse Kate). 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tea for two (plus another 10!)


Luc requested a tea party for some of his friends a few weeks ago. I was a little bemused at the vision of several boys sitting down to sip tea and daintily eat cucumber sandwiches.... like that would ever happen! I put Luc up to the challenge - he had to design an invitation and devise a menu. The menu was a cinch - lemonade (with real lemons) and chocolate cake (but “a big cake, no cupcakes!”)  

I searched for a while to find a ‘real’ tea set that was not too ‘girly’. There is a real dearth of products of a domestic nature that are not pink, nor covered in flowers or butterflies. I know many a mother who has searched high and low for a kitchen set, doll stroller or the like, that is not pink or full-on girly. Little boys, it so happens, spend some time with their mothers... and do (shock horror) see them as a role model. Anyway, I finally found a tea set at Land of Nod. Luc was rapt as it included pieces in his favourite colours: blue and green. 

The day of the tea party finally arrived and Luc acted as a most gracious host - resplendent in a chocolate-covered shirt (that he had allowed Nic to lick) - a result of his decorating his cake. Callan brought along some cupcakes he had made and decorated, and insisted that he needed to bring. I managed to sneak some fruit and sandwiches into the menu, and of course some obligatory scones and iced tea. Luc and the big boys sat at the dining table, while the little brothers sat at a small table with plastic tea set (thank you Nanna). This of course upset the status quo - Nic wanted to sit in his seat at the big table. 

The ability for 3 and 4 year olds to sit and remain focussed on ‘taking tea’ was limited to how much cake, lemonade and strawberry jam they were able to imbibe... and before the sugar started to take effect. The time-frame was somewhat less for the 1 and 2 year olds. It was in a word, mayhem. Luc adored his role as host and was already planning his next tea party (complete with “vanilla cake”) before his guests had even left the house! 

Image: Luc’s invitation for his tea party

Monday, May 5, 2008

My brother, my canvas


Luc is a prolific drawer - as of the last month or so. He is obsessed with drawing robots, scenes from favourite movies, babies in-utero, etc. Iron Giant has been a recent obsession - partly fuelled, I think, by the lead character Hogarth idly drawing while in the classroom. Luc has amazed us with his drawings and his ability to recall and recreate scenes from a movie - with quite some detail. He obviously has some talent in this area. 

Paul showed the boys a preview for the Iron Man movie on the weekend. This, of course, has become the latest obsession and subject matter for drawings. Luc is constantly asking us for more paper as he completes his drawings. We obviously don’t always provide him with paper in a timely manner... as he has started using Nic as his canvas. Nic obliges given his obsession with Iron Man. The photo above demonstrates Luc rendering Nic with an Iron Man suit (the Mark 3 suit - that happens to be gold and red - of course). 

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bump over the Hump


We are halfway on the way to welcoming Number 3 to the world. Our 20 week ultrasound scan yesterday went well: everything normal, bigger than average baby, all looking good. All sounded a bit familiar - but still a relief. Nic came along to watch - not particularly interested. The sonography took forever - far longer than my previous two (20 week scans) in Australia. Must say we were getting pretty bored by it all towards the end: the flip-side, I guess, was that it was extremely thorough and looked at all organs, bloodflow, etc. in great detail. 

Again, as per my request, baby’s gender is and will be a surprise. Most people here seem to be perplexed that we do not want want to know (of course, Paul really wants to know!) It seems much more common to find out in the States... or perhaps that is just Chicago. With the mothers groups I belonged to in Brisbane, and amongst my circle of friends, the to-be-parents who found out a baby’s gender were definitely in the minority.  

I am of the opinion that it  is the most wonderful surprise. Of course, we didn’t go into baby-making with any real preference - nor are we going to abandon a child on the steps of an orphanage if it happens to be the wrong ‘flavour’! On each occasion giving birth, I was much more worried about the baby’s well-being and desperate to hear that cry before even thinking to ask what we had spawned... and of course, concentrating on that feeling of well-being that comes along with a cessation of pain! 

It may sound harsh, but I really do lose interest in a pregnancy once the ‘conclusion’ is known. It is a real let-down for me - as it kind of evaporates all the mystery and intrigue for a really special and once-in-a-lifetime occasion. I prefer to meet a child after it comes into the world, rather than have a preconceived notion of what it might be. It makes no real difference what gender the baby is to prepare for a newborn anyway. A new baby doesn’t care what it wears, sleeps in or looks at (apart from nipples of course). 

Photo: Baby No 3. See if you can tell what it is?!? You have a 50/50 chance of getting it right. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boys will be dogs


The simple, straightforward sense of humour of children really catches me out sometimes, and makes me fall about... with both laughter and embarrassment. 

Yesterday, after putting some music on for the boys to dance to, an Elvis song, Hound Dog, came on. Luc did his best Elvis impression - how it was so accurate, I’m really not sure. I can only think back to videos (perhaps) shown at Graceland last year - I really don’t know. I commented on how well he impersonated Elvis. Luc then explained “And now this is Elvis... Dead”, throwing himself onto the floor, on his back, with arms and legs stiff in the air ‘à la hound dog’. It was brilliant! 

We visited one of our local coffee shops today. One of the regular customers, Gina, walked in with her very cute and adorable Jack Russell Terrier, Miles. Gina is very obliging and happily lets the boys play with Miles for a bit (as does Miles). She indulged Nic by letting him feed Miles some dog treats. Miles gave Nic some dog kisses - which of course, Nic loved. 

A couple of ladies walked into the coffee shop, took one look at Miles and exclaimed “Isn’t he cute!” Not to be outdone, Nic, sitting up on his haunches, panted at the women. They both laughed. Given the reaction, Nic barked and went over to them to rub against their legs... or so I thought. It wasn’t until it was a little too late that I realised that Nic actually went over to lick them! I apologised for my puppy’s behaviour. They just laughed and noted how impressed they were at the lengths he took his role-play to! 

Photo: Gearon boys at the Adler Planetarium. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The trees have it


It is officially Spring. The trees say so as they finally unfurl their new leaves. Luc likened the clumps of new leaves to broccoli (his favourite vegetable!) Every warm day we have had recently, so far, ...and no leaves. The trees know better. We should know by our third Spring that the trees will in no way unleash their green until there is absolutely NO chance of snow or sub-zero temperature. I just looked at the weather forecast. No days anywhere close to 0℃ in the foreseeable future. YEEHHAAAA! 

This winter has been particularly brutal - even by Chigagoan standards. It started in October, and has just now finished, in April. I thought people were joking when they said Winter could be (a minimum) six months long in Chicago. It makes me wonder why anyone would choose to live here.... and then Spring happens in an instant and Summer is just SO lovely. OH NO... we don’t have any summer clothes! 

Photo: The trees unfurling their... broccoli! 

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Snow Bunnies


It is now officially Spring. Not that we would know it given yesterday’s very snowy day. Today we took the boys to an Easter Egg hunt at the local Sunshine Park. As last year (when it was very cold and there was even a snow flurry), the number of children attending was small and eggs bountiful. We spoke to one parent who had mentioned a park that was so popular for egg hunts, that the children had to queue and were given a time limit! 

The boys met Easter Bunny and then had some fun trudging through the snow to collect their stash. It was a beautiful day to spend in the snow: snow was fresh and deep, sun was out, and no chilly wind. We eventually had to leave after Luc was pummeled by a snow ball thrown by Paul and Nic was almost in tears because his hands were so cold. 

I was impressed that this year the plastic eggs did not contain candy - but instead, small trinkets, stickers and toys. 

Photo: Luc and Nicolas collect as many eggs as they can carry. 

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How many Gearon boys can one girl handle?


Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by all the ‘boyness’ in our household: the obsession with space, wrestling, super heroes / super-villains, dirt, and vehicles of any sort. I grew up a ‘tomboy’ and ended up studying in a profession where girls were the exception (i.e. industrial design). I felt I could handle ‘boy pursuits’ and all the testosterone well-enough at the time... but recent events have left me wondering - could I handle another boy? 

Paul’s brother Arthur arrived today in a mix of exhaustion, hunger and uber enthusiasm - things I have come to expect from the males in our household. It is great to see Arthur and we are looking forward to introducing him to Chicago. The boys welcomed him easily (as they tend to do with males in our family). It is a great experience for Luc and Nicolas to become accustomed to more forgotten family. Even more boys in the household? It could be possible… of course it is most definitely likely… as Paul and I are expecting baby number 3! 

Having always wanted three children (and flatly refusing Paul’s desire for 5 children), it is all still a wee bit surprising given we hadn’t actually finished the conversation we were having about the timing / eventuality of a third child. We guess that conversation has been finished for us! We now play the growing game. I now have to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of more testosterone in our small abode. People may see me back in Australia by the end of the year if it all gets too much for me! September the 8th has been determined to be the ‘revealing day’ – we will all know then. 

On the other hand, the prospect of three boys is quite exciting - and a little less daunting - as we have already had experience in the boy-arena and pretty much think we have this sussed now. GIven the closeness and rapport of Luc and Nic (who appear to be chalk and cheese), it will no doubt be a lot of fun - and the boys should be friends for life. Paul is also quite excited at the prospect of using “My three Sons...” as an introduction.   

Luc is excited at the idea of another baby. He and Nic accompanied us to our first scan (at 7 weeks). We were pretty confident that Luc wouldn’t cotton on to what was happening during the ‘doctor visit’… but then he wanted to know what the machine ‘found in Mummy’ and his curiosity piqued when the scanner lady mentioned the word ‘heartbeat’. He referred to the ‘heartbeat’ as an object – as in ‘there is a heartbeat in Mummy’. Paul asked him what might have a heartbeat – trying to draw Luc away from the exciting prospects of a robot or alien. After much questioning, Luc finally worked out that there was a ‘baby inside Mummy’.  

Luc is convinced that the baby will be a boy. He has mentioned several times that he wants another ‘baby Nic’ as he is fearing that Nic is growing up and losing the ‘baby’ qualities that Luc finds so endearing. 

I asked Luc what his name choice would be for a baby, thinking he might mention a name of a friend or some super hero. He replied that he thought we should name the baby Magafying Glass Packy Bacon. I mentioned to him that this was quite an unusual name for a baby. He retorted “Well in Chicago, yes. But not other places”. 

My tummy is expanding a little faster this pregnancy. I was rubbing it, Luc joined me and wanted to know if it was the baby he could feel. I told him that the baby would be very tiny at this stage, and there was a lot of other stuff there that the baby needed to help it grow. I added that the baby had a lot of growing to do before it would be ready to come out. “Will it get as big as Nic?” I looked at him aghast as I told him that “I certainly hope not!” Next logical question. “How will it get out?” I pointed in the appropriate direction and said “Out that way” “Will it come out of your bottom?”… then later “How did it get there?”  My answers were as honest and as vague as an almost-four-year-old needed.   

Photo: The Gearon boys sit (mostly) still enough for me to grab a photo before Arthur departs. 

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Super Luc


Luc hosted his 4th birthday party at Jump Ahead Academy yesterday afternoon. This was a great success. The children arrived at 3pm - had an hours worth of jumping, rolling, hanging, leaping, climbing, falling and bouncing on all the gymnastic equipment, then retired to a party room for cake and pizza! 

This was definitely the easiest and least stressful birthday party ever! We ordered a massive cake (in requisite chocolate - filled with strawberries) from our favourite local bakery, the Austrian Bakery, and some really wonderful pizzas from Marcellos on North Ave. We provided fruit and fruit juice as a healthy contrast (!). 

All the children were so well behaved and all had a great time messing about. The adults enjoyed the fact that the children could not escape and couldn’t break anything. Luc was a charming host and really enjoyed this role. 

Our only regret is that poor old Nicolas was not able to make it along. Nic had a raging fever the day before and threw up the morning of the party. We were hoping he might recover enough to make it along for cake at the end of the party - but alas, not enough. Wonderful Ashley came to our rescue to babysit at short notice. Thank you Ashley. Thank you Eme and Megan (from Jump Ahead) for making the party so successful (and doing all the cleaning up!). Thank you to Anahera, Max, James, William, Callan, Finn, Emily, Rachel, Hannah, Joshua, Joseph, David and all the mums and dads for making Luc’s day so wonderful. 

Photo: Luc only had eyes for his friend Anahera - serious crush going on here a number concluded! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bad guy


As a typical young boy, attending preschool, and with a young brother, Luc is displaying far more aggression and interest in explosions and weapons than I ever thought would be possible or indeed, acceptable. Apparently this is inherent in boys.  As I grew up a girl, I was never aware of the primal need to want to destroy things, have an identifiable ‘bad guy’ nor see the humour in wrestling others to the ground using brute force. 

I think I may have goofed the other day when Luc asked me the question “Is there a bad guy on Earth?” I responded “Yes.” Luc asked “What is his name?” “George Bush” I replied without giving it any great thought. I didn’t think too much more of this until Luc was playing a game and was about to ‘blow up George Bush’. I saw the potential problems associated with this, in this day and age of extreme paranoia and told him he shouldn’t do that, but instead should give him a good ‘talking to’ and demand that George ‘Look after Planet Earth’.  

I am not too sure how successful this was as a couple of days later, Luc was flying spaceships around, hot in pursuit of George Bush. To allay the want to blow up Bush, I pushed the ‘softer’ environmental angle. A couple of days on, and Luc asked me out of the blue “Why does George Bush waste so much water so there is none left for the fish?” Obviously, this is the worst environmental catastrophe that a bad guy could perpetrate. I am thinking that we will have to find another ‘bad guy’ pretty soon! 

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Luc


It was Luc’s birthday today. He turned a grand 4 years old. Wow, has time flown! 

Paul, Nic and I attended a small ceremony the school does for birthday children. This involved a candle (signifying the sun) with the months of the year circling it. Standing on their birth month, the birthday child holds a globe of earth and orbits the sun whilst the other children sing “… and then he turns one”. The child stops on the birth month and then subsequent rounds are sung until the child reaches their current age. Once finished, Luc was to blow out the candle. He had a bit of trouble doing this – and one child yelled out helpfully “Spit on it to make it go out”.

All willing children were then asked if they wanted to give Luc a birthday wish, which they did in turn, whispering in Luc’s ear. This was such a nice way to signify a birthday. The ceremony was followed by a quick game and then some free play time in the ‘motor room’ (basically running around like mad things - for the boys and some quite drawing for the girls).  

We stayed for lunch, witnessing the ‘mess hall’ environment that constitutes a preschoolers lunch.  After lunch, Luc and I handed out cupcakes to all the children and teachers. A lovely cake shop, Molly’s Cupcakes has opened around the corner from our home. They make a very good ‘mini-cupcake’ (carrot, chocolate, vanilla, red velvet… all covered with a cream cheese frosting), just the right size for eating after lunch and not too large to make kids too hyper. 

Luc wanted us to stay at school. He has been desperate for us to visit him. We left a couple of ‘Australian’ books (by favourite authors Alison Lester and Mem Fox), as Luc’s birthday present to the school. We had a quick look at the hermit crabs Luc had wanted to show us and then had to depart before the kids took their naps / quiet time. 

Luc was able to choose his birthday dinner, and chose chicken nuggets and pizza. Paul found some great nuggets at Wholefoods that contained spinach and other vegetables – we all win! 

Photo: Luc at the breakfast table with his birthday spoils.