November 16th, 2008


Chicago Babysitting

Tuesday morning I had my second knee injection. Sadly this has not yet produced any miraculous cures or better-feeling-ness in my knee, but hopefully that will come with time. Then I hit the road to Chicago! My brother had some child-care issues come up, and he used it as an excuse to lure me to his place for a visit and some nephew-niece bonding time.

I was aiming to arrive before 3pm, so I'd be able to watch my brother's children when he went to work. I made excellent time, even with the ottoman-hitting-incident, and made it just a little after 2:00. This meant I got to hang out with Bro for awhile, which was very nice. We chatted and caught up, then the kids arrived and he had to get going.

My nephew Will, who is in kindergarten this year (almost six years old), is hugely into art and crafts. It's a little weird how much he loves doing them! Like I'll say, "You have thirty minutes until you have to leave for school. What do you want to do?" And he'll shrug and say hopefully, "An art project?"

So tuesday when he got home from the movies, we talked about the various art projects he's been doing. He made turkeys in school recently, so he decided to show me how. We got out markers, construction paper, and scissors, and he traced his hand to do make a child's classic turkey project. "But you don't draw the face on the thumb," he told me very sternly. This surprised me, because that's how I've always done it. Obviously he could tell that's what I wanted to do. But he taped a cylinder of paper together and put it in the palm area, making more of a three-dimensional head. He then cut out triangles for the beak to stick out, and we made legs, and multi-colored features. Going with the 3D theme, I fixed a little stand on its back so it could sit upright. It was quite a handsome turkey when we were through.

Unfortunately this only took an hour or so, then we needed another art project to work on. "What other Thanksgiving projects are there?," he asked me. I suggested pilgrims, and it turned out he didn't know what those were. So I explained a little bit, then looked up a story on the internet to read to him about the First Thanksgiving. Then we made him a pilgrim hat to wear. It was very nice, despite being covered in tape. Tape is his preferred medium, because glue takes too long to dry. My nephew is not a very patient person.

The kids' mom came home from work around 6pm, and we all had dinner together. Then there were some stories and games, then we put the kids to bed and my sister-in-law and I hung out together for the evening.

I slept in my niece Tilly's room, and even though both kids slept in Will's room, wednesday dawned bright and early with children jumping on my bed. After breakfast Tilly went to day care, and Will and I went downtown to the Museum of Science and Industry. We had a free pass from his school, so it was a nice inexpensive way to spend the day.

The museum was fun. He is so fascinated by everything right now! Even things that he couldn't possibly understand, he still wants to look at and ask questions about and play with. It was funny because I was trying to slowly herd him toward the exhibits made for littler kids, or the ones that had things I knew he'd like. But even the stuff that meant nothing to him, he still wanted to stop and stare at it. He would go running from exhibit to exhibit, "What's that? Oooh, what's this do? Hey look at that!"

I let him look at whatever he wanted to of course, but I gradually lured him toward exhibits that he'd get more out of. We saw airplanes, trains, a German submarine, a coal mine, and all kinds of other stuff. He just loved the Idea Factory once I got him there, which is a very hands-on discovery place for kids. He didn't even want to stop for lunch or anything, he was just too busy playing and learning and having fun.

Finally around 1:30 I convinced him we needed to stop and eat. I was starving! He had chicken strips, and he said they were the best he'd ever had. I suggested that maybe it was because he was really hungry and had spent the day running around, but he disagreed. No problem, at least we were eating.

After a little bit more fun at the museum, we were picked up by my sister. She took some vacation time and drove down from Milwaukee to join us for family time -- but she was thoughtful to let me have some one-on-one Auntie bonding time for awhile first. Sis drove us back to my brother's house. I left her to play with our nephew for awhile, and I walked a few blocks to pick up our niece from daycare.

It was misting a little bit, not great weather, but tolerable. Tilly was just waking up from her nap when I arrived, so she was pretty tired and groggy. She walked part of the way, but really wanted to be carried. However at almost three years old, while she's still quite liftable, she gets heavy fast! We stopped at the dollar store on the way back, because I had forgotten my toothbrush. Then I carried her a few blocks more.... the dollar store was not particularly out of the way, but the trip back felt waaaay longer than the trip there!

Since the weather was icky, and we were all a little tired, we just spent the rest of the afternoon indoors playing, reading books, and doing art projects. Sis was working with Will on a pilgrim puppet made from a paper bag, and I read Tilly a bunch of stories. We watched a little bit of PBS, which the kids liked, but I was pleased to see that they are just as happy to do art and be read to. (Of course, as my brother pointed out, reading stories out loud gets really tiresome for the adults after awhile! Fortunately we were fresh and able to manage quite a lot of them.)

We ordered pizza for dinner, cleaned the kids up, got them into jammies, and after great struggle got them into bed. They were very hyper and riled up, probably just from the big change in their routine. By the time they were asleep, it was still only 8:30pm or so, but I was exhausted!

Thursday dawned bright and early yet again, with children climbing around on my bed. Will had school to go to, and Sis and I were going to watch Tilly for the day. After getting everyone fed and dressed, I walked Will to school. I then realized that I had forgotten to ask where I was supposed to actually take him, and how it worked. I thought Will would know, but he wasn't very helpful. Eventually I found people who recognized him and told me he was in the right place, so I headed back home.

Tilly had a cute little shirt that read, "It's a hot cocoa day!" Since it was once again kind of rainy and cold, we decided that her shirt was correct. We bundled up and walked to Dunkin Donuts for cocoa, coffee, and treats. While we were there, my brother joined us. He had worked the midnight shift, so he had only just woken up. He decided to put off law school homework for a day and spend the day with us. It was a good day! The sun came out briefly, so we went for a walk to the park. We played on the playground quite a bit, then walked back, and Bro made everyone tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.

After lunch we put Tilly down for a nap and had some sibling conversation time, which was really a pleasure - it's rare that we three siblings are able to spend time with just each other these days. Eventually Bro went to work, and I went to the school to pick up Will.

After school, there was another Thanksgiving-related art project of some sort. I think this one was a paper turkey with real feathers glued in its tail. Then we piled the kids into Sis's car and drove to the movie theater to watch the cinematic masterpiece, Beverly Hills Chihuahua! It was a silly kids movie, but very cute. For what it was, it was decently done, and I enjoyed it. I think the kids did too. "We are tiny, but mighty!"

After the movie we all came home, and my sister-in-law was just getting home as well. We left the kids with her, and Sis and I went to our parents house to have dinner with them. It was nice to have a quiet and relaxed meal with adult conversation. We had an excellent pot roast, some wine, and even apple pie for dessert.

Eventually it was time to call it a night. I drove back to Bro's house, dropped Sis off at her car, and she drove back to Milwaukee. I spent one more night in Chicago, so I got to enjoy one more early-morning wakeup. This one was particularly painful, because when I'd gotten home the previous night I got caught up in a DVD my sister-in-law had just finished watching, The Fall. It was captivating, and I ended up staying up to watch the whole thing after she'd gone to bed. (I recommend this movie!)

We started working on a cornucopia art project, I walked Will to school (this time doing it correctly), watched Tilly until my brother could take her, then it was time for me to drive home myself. It was an icky drive, rainy and tense but uneventful, and after five hours or so I was back at home being greeted by my cats. A pretty exhausting week! But it was great -- I had an opportunity to catch up with each of my family members, and I got to know both kids better. It was good to spend such close time with them. I'm glad I went -- even though I am also very glad I don't have to do that every day!
chaotic, spin

Busy Weekend!

Friday I drove home from Chicago just in time to start my weekend. I had about two hours to clean up and dress up, then I went to a fun Prom For Adults evening! Actually it was a charity gala to which I'd been invited by a friend of mine, at the Motor City Casino. He generously bought an entire table, and invited a group of friends to join him. The evening was really neat, very posh and elaborate.

When you walk into the reception area, there were people dressed in tuxes, on tall stilts, greeting the guests. There were champagne glasses hanging from the ceiling on ribbons. The giraffe person would cut down a glass for you, then another roving person would fill it with champagne. They had a Santa there you could have your picture with, and a fun little photo booth. SGW and I did the photo booth, but then I accidentally left our photo in my program book.... which was then discarded when our table was cleaned at the end of the evening. Darn it! But it was fun doing it anyway.

After champagne and hors d'oeuvres, we went into the ballroom to find our table. Then began a lovely evening of wine, conversation, and yummy dinner. It started out that all the couples were sitting together, but sometime in the middle of dinner we arranged ourselves so that all the girls were on one side of the table, and all the boys on the other. Kind of like middle school, but it made the conversation entertaining.

At one point there was a conversation on my right and one on my left. I was listening to the one on my right, but then I leaned left to see what they were saying. The girls on my left asked me, "What are you talking about there?"

"AIDS. What are you talking about?"

"L's new date."

"Oh, that sounds much better! I'm switching."

After dinner, there was an auction. My $8 bid was quickly overpowered, so I just sat back and watched. Then there was a Motown-type band, who was pretty good. People had gotten up and were mingling about, and we did a bit of dancing-in-place by the table. Eventually they turned all the lights up, and we realized we were being kicked out.

Fortunately our intrepid leader had discovered that we could get into a fancy bar upstairs for free! We all went up to the top floor, and danced the night away for awhile. Well, the four girls danced. The two guys just hung out and smoked cigars and stuff. A pretty fun evening!

Saturday morning I slept in a bit, which was nice -- especially after my exhausting kid-watching week. Then I worked on organizing the rest of my day. It came together very last minute, but surprisingly well. I picked up DH and we met up with friends at Pronto for a very late lunch. In fact it was so late that G had already had First Lunch, and was working on Seconds. Then she had to leave early, because she is so popular.

After eating, three of us went to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the Monet to Dali exhibit. The art was good, and I enjoyed seeing it -- but the exhibit itself didn't have a cohesive theme or anything. DH decided its theme was, "We're doing renovations in Cleveland so we're sending some of our nicer stuff to Detroit." They attempted to group things in some manner and present an audio tour, but it was a little random. Still a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and it's always good to get some culture in.

The museum is a beautiful building, and in the big entry area they had (along with suits of armor) a stunning display of sparkles hanging in the air above. I honestly don't even know how to describe it, it was like snow falling, or stars twinkling, or as if the entire hall was full of fairy dust. I was enchanted. The picture is nowhere near as impressive as the reality.

After I dropped everyone off, I visited my house for a bit. Not too long though, because I still had one social event left to attend.... DS's birthday party! It was great to see him, and there were a bunch of other friends there as well. Not to mention lots of yummy food. Altogether a delightful day!

Today, Sunday, has been much more low-key. I slept in again, then I spent a cozy morning in bed, cuddling my cat, messing around on my babylaptop. Eventually I got myself out of bed and into the basement, where I got a decent workout in. Then I met up with MS for lunch (which turned into linner because we were both moving pretty slowly). We talked shop for awhile, him ranting about troubles his team is having with scrum, me describing my various options and thoughts in the job-hunting world. Then we went to Best Buy where I looked at laptops and we talked tech for awhile. I didn't buy anything; I mostly wanted an opportunity to look at some, type on them, and get a feel for size/heft.