Category Archives: Chicago

Each Snowflake

The past four years of the bird’s life have been full of learning experiences.  Maybe that is part of being in your thirties.  It might just be life, no matter your age.  But the bird hasn’t been so in tune with it until now, until these years.  She is keenly aware that time passes whether or not you respect it.  That is motherhood, probably.

Watching your child grow forces you to acknowledge those four seasons going by over and over again.  The tiny lines appearing on your forehead and neck are a subtle reminder that you wont actually be ‘forever young’.

God chooses interesting moments to express his power.  The bird is not in control of all things.  The timing in this Universe isn’t up to any individual.  If the Parakeet could have programmed her life at this point – it might look a little different and a lot the same.  She loves her family.  She loves their urban life.  She loves their community of friends.  She loves working for herself and the varied routines of each day.  She would have had another child.  She’d be performing more. Maybe she’d take a few more fabulous vacations and decorate her house in a more stylish manner.  Some things people can change. Others they can’t. Or they shouldn’t.

Like her son, though, the Parakeet is growing up.  She is speaking her mind more each year, each month even.  She is asking for what she needs and saying no to things that don’t feed her.  She walked away from an obligation today and it felt great.  She is writing.  She is singing.  She is making plans.  She is appreciating small moments.  She’ll walk to school and pick up Little O today.  This way he can walk back in the fresh-fallen snow he’s been waiting for so long.  So long in his four-year-old world.  She’ll bring him snow pants and he’ll make a snow angel.  Her Florida-raised self will attempt to help him with a snowman.  They will be cold.  They will shiver.  They will laugh.  She will take pictures.  She will notice the moments.

Snow-flakes are important.  They mark the time as much as any clock. Maybe more so.  Lord, let the days be productive, but let no one miss the moments.



This Day.
It’s only 2:30.  Little O woke up at 6AM.  He is standing next to his mother’s bed and remembering two promises, “It’s a play-mommy day, right?”
The Parakeet nods half-asleep.
“We’re making cupcakes and going to the playground, right?”
The Parakeet smiles, “That’s right bud.Good Memory!”  She high-fives him and rolls out of bed.
The huz says good-bye to them both and heads to the shop.  The bird and the O eat a quick breakfast and are making cupcakes by 7:15.  There isn’t enough sugar, and with a little convincing, the O walks with the Parakeet to a local convenience store that happens to be open before 8 to buy a bag of sugar.  They have to walk to a second one two blocks past the first.
When Little O tries to protest, “How could that store not be open?” The Parakeet quiets him with a “Well, most people are trying to sleep”
They return home and finish their chocolate cupcakes before 9:00.  As they bake O fills the sink to play with dishes and the Keet talks to her own mother on the phone.
After that it’s a bike ride to a lesser-visited playground, a chance run-in with a little girl from his pre-school.  They play together for an hour just fabulously.  They meet O’s old babysitter and the bird’s dear friend for more conversation and walking and playground-climbing.
Little O and the Parakeet make ham sandwiches and eat them in the backyard.
They make pink frosting and their chocolate cupcakes are ready for tomorrow’s baby shower.  Little O eats ‘just one’ and covers his in sprinkles left from Christmas.
He plays quietly by himself while she calls the Huz to check-in and reads one chapter of a book to herself.
She reads him a Dr. Suess favorite and he settles in for a nap.
It’s just 2PM and the day has been so full.  She cleans the baking dishes and sweeps the kitchen floor with a calm feeling that’s hard to explain.  As she tosses the crumbs into the trash, she realizes she is so happy, so grateful.  What a Saturday.  And only half-way done.

9. WOW.

The Parakeet is fairly certain she has done an anniversary post for the last 5ish years.
So – even though blogging is sporadic lately – there has to be an Anniversary post.  It’s starting to be that the Bird doesn’t want to say her age anymore – when does that happen? Apparently when you’ve been married nine years and you have a three-year old and it’s 2011 and you just sit down some days and go “What is happening? Slow down!”
Last year’s anniversary found them sailing the carribean and indulging in the most luxurious of ways.  This year, they walked themselves over to a local BYOB and had the most delicious French-Mexican cuisine.  Maybe the fact that those two types of food are so hard to imagine together is the reason they are so great.
By a strange twist of fate (well more like a missed Amtrak) the Huz’ sister was in town so she got babysitter duty and they called off their generous neighbor.  It was very rainy after a strange string of really warm October days.  They walked through Winnemac Park and commented again on how grateful they were to have it just one block from home – such a lovely respite in the city – little trails and trees of changing colors – they talked and held hands and chose a wine carefully.  It was simple and romantic.
If the Parakeet had to describe the past year of their marriage, she might go to those two words.  The Huz and the Parakeet have done a lot of growing recently.  After a few years of stress beginning businesses and parenthood, the past year was one of rekindled love and gratitude.  They are making more time for each other, listening harder, complimenting more, sacrificing more – growing up.
Getting married early doesn’t make you any more mature.  It just means you have someone with whom you are sharing those early pains of adulthood.  They talked a lot last night about what it meant to go through most of their twenties married.  It meant for the experimenting, the searching, the playing, and the failing – they had partners. For the scrapes and the starting over and the dreaming and the planning, they have had each other.  Nine years later, it is like a big welcoming hug to know they have accepted each others growth, even encouraged it and ideally become better people.  This isn’t the last ‘nine year cycle’ to be sure, but it was the first and it’s an accomplishment.

Happy Anniversary, kids! You’re not so young anymore.

(and yes, this picture had to be scanned)

Free – the Second Half

Little O remembers clearly the Truck Cake from his second birthday.  In fact, on GB’s birthday this year – he suggested we make her a truck cake.  While the Parakeet wasn’t even sure she could do that again – she was very certain she could not MAIL a ‘truck’ cake to Florida. So instead they sent her a nice video text.
Anyway, this year Little O was very clear he would like a “train” cake and he wanted it to have “lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of cars”.  Well, the Parakeet became a bit fixated on making sure this happened for him.  In fact, she googled ‘train cake’ and wouldn’t you know that Betty Crocker has a nice little video on just how to make one?  Since the Parakeet had specific instructions that there be “lots and lots and lots of cars” – she went the cupcake route with a cake engine.
The night before “THOMAS!!!” the Parakeet made a LOT of cake batter.  She filled a loaf pan (or two) and two cupcake tins.  She planned to send the “cars” to playgroup with O on Monday for his bday celebration there.  When the cakes were finally done near 10PM or something ridiculous – she let them cool a bit and wrapped the little guys’ presents sent from far-away relatives.  About 10:45 or so, she went to the kitchen ready to assemble the most beautiful cake engine.  She tipped out the loaf cake only for half of it to remain stuck to the pan! She was crushed and frustrated.  When would there be time to make another cake??!
She crawled into bed with the Huz (who has passed out much earlier after a long week) and bemoaned the birthday celebration, “I just want him to have such a good time and love it all”.  The Huz mumbled something along the lines of “He’s three. Of course he’ll love it. Get some sleep.”

SO…..It was after the Thomas outing while the O-ster napped when the Keet got back to the Cake business.  She salvaged what she could and made a smaller engine.  She frosted the cup cakes with different colors and threw candy all over that thing.  It looked like a Sugar Explosion on rails.
Then she put all his presents on the table.  The Huz napped too – because he was in a bad mood from Thomas rain and traffic.  When he got up, he got Little O’s bike from the basement and put it in the living room covered with a beach towel.
The O woke up from his nap and discovered “Cake! Presents! A bike!” He was totally beside himself.  His godmother B and her friend C both came over to join in on the Birthday dinner and present mania.
Little O opened each present as if he had never seen anything more amazing in his life! He kept saying ” I wonder what it could be….” as he pulled the wrapping paper.  He got LOTS of pieces for his train set – that was just too much.  It was all quite adorable.
The ‘grown-ups’ had fajitas and cake and beer and smiled at the O.  The O had cake and tortillas and maybe a couple pieces of cheese and talked a mile a minute playing with everything at once.  A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, INDEED.

Freeee! – Part One

This post is really about three and not free, but Little O pronounces it much closer to freee – so that’s the title.  August 20th was the big day.  It is so hard for the Parakeet to process that three years ago she was wheeled out of the OR and handed a screaming, wiry infant that instantly clung to her breast, quite literally, for life.  Just three short years ago.  How much has changed!

The birthday celebration was two-part for the O.  The first part was a trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine in Union, IL.  The second part was “cake and presents”.  Little O has known about part two for a while now, but part one was a SURPRISE until Thursday night.  The Keet and the Huz wanted Little O to be able to look forward to the trip, so they told him over dinner that on his birthday they would be driving out to take a ride on Thomas the Train.
HUGE SMILES. Endless questions, lots of talking….

In fact, he woke up at 4:30 on Friday morning asking if it could be morning, could it be his Birthday, is Thomas here? Oh.My.  They were able to get him to sleep a little longer and wait

On Saturday morning, Little O watched Thomas while he ate breakfast.  He fingered the brochure that came in the mail with his tickets.  He pointed at pictures and referred to his ‘map’.  The family loaded into the car, coffee cups full to drive out to Union – the Huz expected it to take just over an hour.

There wasn’t much traffic.  They moved along at a clip.  As they were about to exit the highway, the sky changed.  It was quick and thick and gray.  Little O asked from his carseat, “Why is the sky dark, dad?”   Well, it appears there is a major storm coming.  Neither parent checked the weather.  Why wouldn’t it be sunny and perfect on the Saturday morning of the third birthday of non-refundable Thomas the Train tickets?

It POURED.  The radio handed out flash flood warnings.  The Huz followed the winding signs through detoured and construction-laden roads to the Illinois Railway Museum.  They parked in the flooded out field and watched it pour.  The Keet knew there was no option but to go for it.  There was an old box in the back of the car.  The Huz unfolded it and used it to cover he and O’s head while she RAN.

They made the most of the morning and got matching blue ponchos for everyone.  The company was nice enough to be selling those at half-price.  Little O skipped a lot of the tents and they made sure to take the Thomas ride.  He was super agreeable and they were grateful for his happy personality watching MAJOR TODDLER meltdowns from so many other children in the park.  The Huz and Keet were definitely crankier than the Kiddo.  He was a superstar.

They drove home with a fun stop at Steak ‘N Shake where Little O was very excited to order a “grilled cheese please”.   He was just non-stop chatter and happiness.  It made the Huz and the Keet sooo happy to see him this way.  It seemed like he knew this was a very special day and he was a very special kid. soaked?
riding Thomas…through the corn…O found the whistle a little loud
so so happy!

so dark at 10:30AM, but still so crowded

Oh, Thomas…


Yearbook 2011

Little O started going to a co-op preschool playgroup daycare type thing just a few short weeks ago.  It was so exciting for him and his mom.  He has taken to it really well.  He is there two full days a week while the Parakeet works.  He is with other children ages 2-4.  His teachers are lovely – one in fact has been a dear friend of the family for about twelve years.  The other parents have been so welcoming. The whole thing has just been a blessing from the start.  As a family, the Russells are thankful about how it is all working.

Little O transitioned into his two full days, first attending song-time with his mom, then staying through lunch, then staying through nap, and finally a full day.  This four day process made the whole thing go very smoothly.  Obviously, the coordinators have been at this for a few years.

After about his second full week, some of the older kids were “graduating”.  The teachers created ‘yearbooks’ for all of the enrolled students.  Little O was included in this special tradition.  The Parakeet now has his hand and foot-prints forever in posterity – which feels very fitting on the eve of his third birthday.  The graduation was really informal and sweet and pot-luck and outside and all things that seem like preschool and family.  It was lovely.

Little O also got to bring home a yearbook.  The Parakeet has decided to share the list of “favorites” he gave his teacher at the time of putting the book together.

favorite toy – train tracks (not a surprise – he is playing with them when he is dropped off and picked up)
favorite song – where is thumbkin (the keet and huz have not gotten to hear this one yet)
favorite food – bananas (not sure where that came from – he now tells the Huz it is waffles)
favorite book – digger truck book (also not a surprise)
favorite playgroup activity – playing play-doh
favorite costume – ” i dont have a costume” (he has since decided robot)
the most important thing in my cubby is – all my sleeping stuff (oh man, not sure he’ll ever not use that ‘cozy’ blanket or his pac)
my favorite playgroup room is – the kitchen
my favorite outside activity is – driving the big car (surprised? anyone???)

that’s all for now.  Cant wait to see how next year’s answers compare

also of note was a picture that Little O drew of playgroup.  there are lots of colors and scribbles on the page and at the bottom one of his teachers wrote, ‘this is not playgroup. this is a zig-zag hat’.   It seems Little O had a different interpretation 🙂


As a parent, the parakeet does want O to be a free spirit – no need for rules for rules’ sake?  So this morning, when he thought it would be fun to wear one red shoe and one blue shoe – she  saw no good reason to say “No”.  They were getting ready to meet a few friends at the beach where he would take them off anyway.  No big deal.
Little O had a barefoot blast on the beach and so did his Mama. Who wouldn’t? it – it was 82 degrees at MOST.  There was sun and breeze.  Just perfect.  She had a little trouble wrangling the nearly three-year old when it was time to go.  He has a not-fun habit of running very far and very fast when he doesn’t want to leave.  This time he also had a large dump truck.  She scooped him under one arm, the dump truck in the other and threw all of their stuff in the ginormous red wagon.  Little O pulled it himself all the way back to the car.  He was sandy from head to toe.  Surely – he would go straight to the shower.   The Parakeet got some resistance on that front as well and the nap.  When he was finally clean and sleeping, she felt accomplished and worn out.  She picked up her cell phone to see a text message from her friend, “I have O’s shoes”
OH.MAN.  Now, he is essentially out two pairs of shoes – it could be a weekend of one red and one blue.  But he will have a bonus play-date in the near future.