Monday, March 31, 2008

Show Us Your World #3

It’s my turn to show you my world.

It will be hard enough, following these sweet, evocative posts – but what makes it harder is that I’ve always felt pretty rootless. Where is “my” world? I grew up on and around a variety of Army bases, then settled into a little backwoods country town in Georgia for high school. I moved up to north Georgia for college, then to south Florida for my husband’s years in medical school, then to Tennessee for his internship, and now I’m here. In the Midwest.
Cincinnati sign on the Duke Energy Center. It lights up at night.
We live on the south side of the Ohio River – we’re basically in a suburb of Cincinnati, but we have a Kentucky ZIP code.

Four seasons in my new home.
This is a place where we get four beautiful seasons. It’s a place where the weather and the light and the earth itself speak to me of patience, work, rest, the cycle of life. It’s such a contrast from our years in Fort Lauderdale, where the pace was frenetic and I longed for a space with trees nearby.

Crossing the 'Big Mac' bridge into Cincinnati.
This is a place where the highways are cut through hills, where roads bend and curve. A place where bridges span little creeks and mighty rivers.

Me and my son at the Children's Museum.
This is a place where families are important. You can see it in the many parks, attractions, cultural opportunities, clubs, sports, groups, and classes available for kids here. You can see it in the eyes of your servers at restaurants – no condemnation here for bringing your little one out to eat. You can see it in the well-planned, well-prepared spaces for children at our churches. Families play together in the cul-de-sac at the end of our driveway, shouting greetings at others out for an evening stroll.

Cincinnati skyscrapers, Kentucky homes
This is a place where I have the best of both worlds – small town life, with a big city just minutes away. My house has a lovely yard, our neighborhood is quiet and safe. I can walk down the hill to the little market to pick up a few groceries, or drive a few miles to the big, well-stocked, Anything You Need And Usually More Store. The little town newspaper covers local “best friends,” features pictures of schoolkids’ projects like they are hot news items, and sponsors a weekly “where around town did we take this tiny bit of a picture?” contest. Just up the road, Cincinnati offers all the luxuries of city life: theatre, restaurants, museums, major sports teams, concerts, a symphony orchestra.

This place where I live is fascinating. It’s pleasant and happy. But is this place my world? I learned a long time ago that the places I live usually don’t last forever. As much I love this house, this neighborhood, this city, this river and the states that hug its banks, I know I probably won’t live here forever. When Heather first mentioned this project, this is what I thought of:
Fizz Family Portrait
This is my world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is the Doctor In?

Should doctors be required to have a regional specialty? I’m beginning to think that maybe they should. Pediatricians and family doctors who practice in the Midwest must see a spike in calls right now; they must incur an extraordinary demand that’s unique to our locale, one that simply doesn’t exist in the south. Our Midwestern doctors must listen to family after family ask the same question: Will this ever end? How will we make it until then?  And how do these doctors council their families to hang in there, to stay sane, to hold out hope for spring, when we get six inches of snow the night before Easter? I mean, seriously, shouldn’t they receive some extra training for this?

My husband traveled to South Carolina last week for business. He called to report that the grass was green and that pretty white flowers were blossoming on the trees. I hung up on him. I had to get out there and shovel.

My kids, however, think this is great. Woo-hoo. They’re ecstatic about a big snow in March.
“Maybe we’ll have another snow day,” they hope.
“The hundredth this year,” I mutter, to no one in particular.

Our temperatures have warmed enough (high 30s) for the boys to gather in the cul-de-sac and play football, so life is good. Snow does not interfere with their plans. My youngest, at 5, is thrilled that the neighbors have cleared the sidewalks. He takes off on his bike & rides between snow banks, oblivious to my pain.

In my younger years, I lived in places where Easter did indeed mean springtime. There were flowers on trees, and girls wore sundresses (okay, sometimes we were a little chilly) and pretty Easter hats. My boys look at me blankly when I reminisce like this. They simply have no idea what I’m talking about or why I would want things to be any different than they are.

Maybe it’s just me who should get some regional training. Happy spring!

Monday, March 24, 2008


It is all her fault. All my best friend's fault.

She has this (funny) habit of substituting fictional names for people, and most of them start because of a match to a personality trait. For example, she would call you Winona if you were being whiny. She has also been know to call people Fancy when they are acting what you might call "high maintenance". When I want to hit Tim Horton's for a cappuchino, I become a celebrity, and she calls me Britney (as in Spears).

Somehow, once I started having children, I started following in her silly footsteps.

Each of our children has nicknames, but Ava's nickname came from Holly's strange habit. Ava was such a grouchy, high maintenance baby. One day, I said I should call her Fifi ~ which reminded me of a little fancy pampered princess. I then added a last name for my fancy Fifi, and she became Fifi Magnolia. I felt that it did not get much more ridiculous than a little picky girl named Fifi Magnolia :)

Over time, her nickname became a mouthful, and it has started to get shorter & shorter. Ava's nickname has now become...(this is embarrassing for both her & I)...Feefer Mags!

I've realized now, I no longer just use her nickname when she is acting like a Fifi, but more & more all the time. My poor baby. She has such a beautiful given name, yet I call her (oh so lovingly) my little Feefer Mags.

Do you have strange nicknames for your kids too? Humor me & post them here, would you? Make me feel as if I am not a complete weirdo when it comes to the names we use here in our house.

Just in case you were wondering, all of the kids do have other names too. Some are not near as strange as Ava's, but everyone here has at least one nickname:

Kaden ~ Bubba (used to be baby Buddha)

Ellie ~ Sis, sissy-boo, fancy

Zander ~ cooper or coopy, booverton or booverty, boopy (but is getting VERY particular about being called ZANDER COLE JONES!!!)

Ava ~ feefer mags, fifi maggie, mags, Avers, Aves or Aver-boo

*please forgive the spelling problems, I can not seem to get it to save my changes. Bear with me while I learn to use blogger :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Show Us Your World! #2

The insightful Heather chose this month's Midwest Parent's theme as Show Us Your World, for many of our premiere blog post.

When we chose our current house, the ability to walk to school, library and parks was critical. We found a neighborhood that delivered, along with an awesome school, within a two-block walking distance to our house.
Our chosen suburb consists of older homes, where my Father rightly says "the houses are just too close together." But let me say that again... my kids walk to school; there are no buses for anyone in our neighborhood that attends this school. The Middle School is in the next block, still within walking distance, and is also the location of our city outdoor pool.

This is our backyard, complete with "boy" activities, which I can see plainly from my kitchen windows.
Admittedly, there are times when I would just rather not know what they're doing.

Down the street a bit is a beautiful water fountain, which is great for the kids, yet awful for the city, whenever someone fills this fountain with soap.
This setting is gorgeous in the Spring. The street is lined with Bradford Pears that bloom in white, all at the same time. Doing this post has prompted me to take a picture of the spectacle this year.

Driving a little further away from home, you can see that, like all Midwestern Towns, we also have our share of corn sculptures.
In the summer, when school is done, we'll load the car for the second year and head to our lakehouse, just 3 hours away. There, we have the big yard that's missing in the suburbs.

Now, I invite you to jump in the car with us, as we make out trip to the lake.

Show Us Your World! #1

We're starting a new feature here at Midwest Parents! We're going to show you ours, then we'd like to see yours too. Er, your world that is. Post pictures on your blog of your world. Interpret the theme however you want to. Focus on your city, your state, your home, your favorite things...whatever you want. Then come back here and leave us a comment with the link to your post. We'll publish a list and link to every post that we know about on the second friday after our post here. (So the first linky list will be published here on Friday, March 28.) You'll have plenty of time to get out and get those photos!

So here's my (Heather's) first look at my world. I went with the city route for my first installment.

Anyone who has been to Rochester knows this:

If you haven't been here, those are two of the building that comprise the Mayo Medical Center. (Or, the Mayo Clinic.)

And this:

What? You don't have a giant ear of corn in your city? That's a water tower located at the Libby's plant in downtown Rochester.

This is a mural that I saw every day at lunch when I worked downtown. In fact, I was able to watch them paint it. It's on the back of one of the radio stations. Hence, the radio. Makes sense, n'est-ce pas?
And...the local convent. I'm not sure how many nuns are still around, but we still have a rather large convent on a hill in the middle of the city.
And last, Silver Lake. Or, goose poop central. Home of many, many wintering Canada Geese.

So, that's my city. I showed you let's see yours.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Maybe Seems to be the Hardest Word

In my former life, I worked a lot with talent agents. I booked the school's bands, comedians, and lecturers. I'd like to think I had a good relationship with most of these folks-- which is challenging at best when one member of a friendship is always trying to sell the other something. (This is why I hate it when my friends start selling Mary Kay.)

As someone who had a reputation for having a healthy, positive relationship with agents, I often presented at regional and local conferences on how to engender this kind of rapport. I asked all of my agent friends what they would say to student activities folks if they could be perfectly open and frank. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that what they hated most of all, even more than being told "no" when they were pushing an act, was "maybe."

"Yes" was their favorite response, obviously. "No," while unfortunate, allowed them to move on to their next prey and not waste their time. But "maybe" just dragged out forever, took up countless hours and endless energy, and often resulted in "no" in the end anyway. (And advisors always wonder why agents are so pushy about a timeline for responding to an offer-- that's why!) Agents make their money by selling talent. The more time they have to hold your hand, the less time they have to sell that talent to someone else, and make more money.

I digress. Moving on.

I have developed a unique perspective on this idea since we started talking about Imaginary Baby #3 over a year ago. Obviously, when Hubs and I discuss bringing another beautiful fruit of our loins into this world, I want the answer to be yes. I wouldn't keep beating him about the head with it if I didn't. Right now, the answer is "maybe." To be entirely truthful, right now the answer is more no than yes. I think at last poll, he was 60/40 against having another child. (This is how we gauge readiness to make a decision in our household-- percentage of surety about the issue. Don't judge. It works for us.) That's progress over the 99/1 against Baby #3 that he was even six months ago, but still. The campaign is tiresome. And we remain at "maybe."

"Maybe" is so, so hard. I have no way of knowing if it's harder than no-- because we have not made the decision yet-- but it is very hard. It is hard trying not to hope that we will have another baby, and keep my self respect when discussing the matter. It is hard to finally come to terms with the fact that we are not going to have another baby, and then have Hubs get all misty and wistful when I mention selling the baby stuff. (And also when I mention the inevitable vasectomy that will accompany our decision to stop having babies.) Maybe keeps me up at night, imagining what our future would look like either way. Trying each one on for size.

Part of me just wants to say, "Enough! Let's just make a decision and move on!" But another, larger part of me (maybe my muffin top?) doesn't want to push at all, because I might not like the decision that's made. Even though this is a joint decision, I really feel that unless both parties are on board, it's not even a discussion. And since he's not on board... Anyway. Even if he changed his mind right now I wouldn't necessarily rush over to get my IUD yanked... I want to hear yes. Boy, do I. But I have to make sure that it's the right yes, for the right reasons. Imaginary Baby #3 deserves no less.

But in the meantime, "maybe" is wearing me down.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Sisterhood of Motherhood

I got my first taste of what "blizzard conditions" really means this past weekend. And really, here in the Cincinnati area, things weren't too bad. The authorities asked everyone to suspend non-essential travel (which means that my hubby still had to go in to work. Apparently surgery residents --along with other healthcare workers, EMTs, police officers, firefighters--- are considered essential) and people basically cooperated, so we didn't have crazy happenings out on the roads. Gruff said that the few vehicles he saw were going slowly, carefully, even through the Cut-In-The-Hill.

So for most of the weekend, I cuddled with my toddler in my warm house, just gazing out at the eddies and drifts of snow piling up like magic around us. We stayed busy with indoor activities - painting, Play-Doh, pretend play with the little wooden kitchen, a VeggieTales movie, lots of books - and I made a big pot of Turkey Chili in the crockpot. When Gruff finally made it home after rounds at the hospital, we savored our steaming bowls of chili and romped around the house before bedtime. After the little guy's bedtime, we ordered up a movie from our cable service and got cozy (me with a heating pad at my back and a rice sock at my feet, Gruff with a big old sweatshirt; aren't we romantic?).

It was a nice, calm, quiet couple of days - punctuated by a little bit of snow shoveling and a few rounds of play in the fluffy white outdoors. But I started thinking: what on earth were people thinking, 220 years ago? The settlers who first came to this area didn't have lovely gas heat, videos On Demand, or crockpots. A blizzard, for them, must have been a serious problem.

Remember when Ma Ingalls had to tie a rope to her waist, so she wouldn't get lost between the house and the barn during a blizzard? That was in my mind this weekend, too. How scary it must have been for pioneer mothers throughout the Midwest -- back when this was the frontier, this was as far west as any quote-unquote civilized Easterners had ever tried to live. And yet, they kept going, winter after winter - watching their babies grow up, teaching them the solid values that continue to be a hallmark of this part of our country. I'm sure it wasn't as easy for them to stay in touch with their friends - no Blogger to click to, no cellphone to dial - but I'm sure that their sisterhood helped them through those snowy, isolating months.

I'm thankful, this Monday morning, that our blizzard is over. I'm also thankful that so many Midwestern Mothers throughout the generations have found each other, for laughter, for advice, for support, for friendship. I'm thankful for you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wordy wordy wordy

Words are funny things. Either there are several words that mean pretty much the same thing, or there are several meanings for a word or phrase. Or sometimes there isn’t just the right word or phrase to convey what we want to say.

That’s part of the allure for writers I suppose.

For my mom, a couch or sofa will always be a davenport no matter how often I tease her about it.

In the South, a carbonated beverage will always be a Coke, regardless of the flavor or brand that is being offered. In the East, the same beverage is a soda. In the Midwest, it is a pop (and you will get strange looks if you call it a soda).

I once got into an argument with a boyfriend over the correct pronunciation of the word “cement.” He was from southern Illinois, and had a Southern accent, which I found interesting since Illinois isn’t really Southern to me. He insisted that it was pronounced “see-ment” with a long e. I assured him that it was pronounced, well, cement. You know, “sa-ment.” Why this was worth arguing over, I’ll never know, but of course I had to be right.

The fickle nature of words that appeals to the writer has less appeal for parents.

If my nephews ask to do something and get the answer “we’ll see” they will respond dejectedly “that means no.” If my kids get the same response they will say “yay!” because they will usually get what they asked for.

My kids also choose to make "no" mean something more like "maybe" or "you can do it if your mom doesn't see you." Is that just my kids that do that? I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re not alone in this.

When they were toddlers I remember joking with my brother that our kids thought that the word “no” meant, “just do it faster.”

“Stop,” to my kids, means, “stop in a few minutes when mom starts yelling.”

I’m not sure where that word filter comes from, but I suspect, as usual, that it started with my actions. I’m wishy-washy when I should be firm and consistent. Or I over-react when I could be wishy-washy. I’m confused by what I mean half the time myself.

Is it just me?

Hey! We have 2 new bloggers joining us! Susie and Angi...take a gander at their bios over there on the sidebar and visit their blogs!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Nature of Nurture

Hubs and I are dorks. Big dorks. When we make the decision that we're going to be travelling somewhere, the research begins. We get books on our destination, and, if we're driving, information on points of interest en route. We spend hours on the internet researching public transportation options, restaurants, and attractions. We are cheap with our hotels so we can be spendy with our fun. We pack granola bars so that we don't have to pay for all of our meals (oh, the pre-child days of travel!)

Once there, we don't have an itinerary per se, but we've already discussed the must do's and the would like to do's, and the only if we have the time's. We travel well together. Because we know that planning and researching allows us to enjoy our vacation, with the knowledge that we aren't missing something great out of ignorance or poor planning. It might sound like your version of vacation hell, but it works for us.

And apparently it works for Noise as well.
Hey! Look at the elephants! The ELEPHANTS!
Noise! Put down the map and look at the humungous elephants!

I took Noise and Funk to the zoo this weekend, and the picture above is pretty much Noise's experience there. He got his map ten feet from the entrance. And that is pretty much all he can tell you about the St. Louis Zoo. He only put down his map to see the penguins, and the chimpanzees. "I have to know where we're going, Mommy. I have to check my map!"

This is pretty much exactly what Hubs and I looked like last year in Disneyworld. While the rest of my family wandered around, just sort of milling about the Land of Mouse. Granted, we saw all kinds of "hidden gems" of Disney because of our research, but it was maddening for my family, who are very "let's just GO" kind of people. We're don't "just go" anywhere in the Land of GAP.

Like us, Noise wants so badly to make sure he is well educated, and well-prepared about the fun he's going to have, that he sometimes misses out on the fun itself in the moment it occurs. And I can't help but feel that maybe this little trait is going to leave him missing out. Hubs and I have a hard time making decisions, for example, because we want to make sure we know everything about a subject before we decide. As a result, we often miss out on the spur-of-the-moment opportunities that arrive because we can't just jump. (This is part of why there's no Number Three yet, because all the unknowns can't be made known to us from a book!) On the flip side, we are always comfortable with our choices because we have researched every angle, and if there's money involved, you can bet your bottom dollar that we got the best price that could be had. You know, if we manage to decide before it's too late.

My mother calls this "paralysis by analysis." She also has a saying about doing something on the pot or getting off of it, but this is a clean blog.
Dude. There's a monkey flinging poo ten feet away!
Step away from the map!

How do I make sure that Noise doesn't miss out on life because he's too busy planning life? (Funk will not have this problem. She'll be the one we have to teach to look before she leaps.) How do we show him the joy of sometimes just saying "what the heck!" and going for it? Because for all of my planning, the best things that have happened for me happened in that moment that I knew I couldn't know the outcome of a decision-- and I leaped anyway. Moving to Oregon. Marrying Noise's dad. Bringing Noise into the world. How do we teach him to research his options and then choose with his head and his heart? Especially when we are such poor role models of this skill?

I just don't want him to miss out.