October 30, 2008

Autumnal stuff

After a hiatus of about a month, we're back in the picture-taking business. It's really fall now. We've got haybales, snuggly robes, apple-picking, apple pies, butternut squash soup, apple cider donuts, and some Mario Kart Wii: these are the things of autumn.

DSC_0166.JPG IMG_3599.JPG IMG_3617.JPG IMG_3608.JPG Sarah up a tree B on a bridge

Sarah is busy, busy every night til bedtime, with her books and papers, job applications, letters, writing samples, second writing samples, and marked-up drafts of all of these, in a revolving cycle of edits. What with that, student papers to grade, Elliot trying to climb on the counter to get to the blender, and an election to win, Sarah is totally booked. Good thing there's a set of grandparents on the way in less than 24 hours.

Elliot is booked, but in a different way. He has a new jones for reading books. In bed. Alone. It's the darnedest thing.

He simply informs us sometimes, out of the blue, that he wants to get in bed and read books. (Seems to have cooked this idea up on his own at some point.) So we obligingly drop him into the crib, and he points out the books he wants, and we slip them through the bars of the crib. Then he asks us to leave, so we leave. He reads silently for sometimes as much as half an hour. Meanwhile, Sarah and I tiptoe away and open the champagne.

Our burning glee is tempered by the nagging idea that he will try to climb out, unassisted, and that it will go poorly. It would definitely go poorly. Maybe he needs an actual bed now?

October 23, 2008

Famous Plum

UPDATE: Here's the official press release. Note my weird blinky photograph eyes. Elliot is definitely the star around here.

UPDATED AGAIN!: Okay, here's our 2 minutes of fame, and never say I don't tell all. Things to note: Elliot being totally overwhelmed and exhausted; Brandon being confused because he was not, originally, supposed to be on air and thus hadn't showered; Alexi being super suave; and me being all shiny (I don't really own much make-up? so just put on extra tinted moisturizer, which I sometimes use instead of foundation? but which apparently, under bright lights, makes you look like a greased pig?); and especially me being all, um, what's your question? when clearly the question was supposed to be totally vague so I could give whatever canned sound bite I was evidently supposed to have ready.

I will tell you that immediately upon leaving the studio, Elliot really perked up and was all, "I was on tv!!!" And this morning he said, "I on tv? again?" So apparently he felt that it was, overall, a positive experience.


OK, so. . . . the State of Illinois runs a college-savings program, called a 529 plan. To promote the program and encourage people to save for college, they held a contest. Our friend works for the state treasurer, and she prompted us to submit something. So we submitted a classic Elliot video, which was shot about 6 months ago with a beat-up little pocket camera. (We had blogged it here:

The next thing we know, #1 sweet-potato-smearing son is going to be part of a statewide marketing campaign. He also won $1000 for his 529 account (to be contributed post-crash -- whew!). (Barring further crashes.) (Try not to think about it.)

I don't have the footage of us on the local news today (except on our Tivo). But we do have the TV commercial spot which they created around our home video. It's at


October 22, 2008

Request from the commercial universe

[Note: this post was all small and tidy, and then I started adding pictures and it got all big and complicated. Ah! Irony!]

So, Whitney just posted a NYT story about the number of families who are choosing to live, with their children, in small, dense spaces. The story is particularly about people who choose to stay in Manhattan, but I like to think there's a larger trend (maybe not much larger, but still) of people who are realizing that having a huge huge house is not necessary for family happiness. One of the things I like about my life is that it doesn't involve a lot of suburban sprawl: there are lots of reasons why I've made that choice.

But what I now need is some toy companies to understand this.

We just got a toy catalog in the mail yesterday--back to basic toys. It's a perfectly fine catalog, successfully walking the line between practical and affordable (it's not all hand carved wood or something) and aesthetically reasonable (it's not all battery-powered elmo toys). Most of the toys seem designed to ellicit activity and imagination. So, good, right?

But what I need is a "back to basic" toys that is filtered down for small spaces.

As I see it, small spaces need toys that have at least two qualities:
1: even if they get big, they can be stored in small containers
2: getting the toy out of the small container and putting it together is PART of the fun, and something kids can do themselves.

So, for instance, Elliot's wooden train stuff. This is not ours, but you get the idea:

Elliot has a mix of Thomas, Brio, and Ikea railroad tracks and trains, but they all fit together and they're BRILLIANT. When he's playing with them it is a BIG IMPRESSIVE TOY--they cover the floor of his whole room--but they store really compactly. He can put them together in any number of ways, and no one way is wrong or right, and then when he's done he loves to throw them in a box--they're basically indestructable.

Also, here's one that Nana got Elliot for Christmas last year, which has been a hit. It is BIG and exciting:

But it folds up really small! Really small. and then when you untie it, it pops out all excitingly. Great.

Compare to this:

Which I'm sure Elliot would love. But it's huge! And it's always huge. It is one big huge thing, always the same big huge thing. There's no stowing it away and bringing it out later when you need something new and exciting. It's just always sitting there, all huge, in my living room.

Anyway, perhaps there are already a number of "cool toys for small spaces" catalogs out there, and if there are, I wish someone would let me know. Because Elliot loves toys and I love to buy them for him, but I'm not willing to move to accomodate them.

October 21, 2008

"I go see it"

A couple things Elliot doesn't quite understand:

A hissing, steaming radiator.  He knows that it's a hot thing, and hot things are dangerous.  Because they cause ouch.  He knows that he's being "carefully", as he puts it, by not touching.  His deference and respect are a little bit comical.  But it's the noise that bewitches him, the rumblings, hissings, and poppings.  He says, "What's that sound make?"  He knows something powerful is happening, and he's not convinced that where he is is where the action is.  "I go see it."

The moon.  We all four trundled downstairs into the street to see the (full?) moon rising over the lake a few nights ago, just after I got home from work.  Ada was all stirred up and dashing around -- we never just stand in the middle of the street like that.  She was acting like it was fire drill day at school and she'd just eaten a whole box of Nerds.  Elliot was placid in my arms.  We talked in circles about how the moon was coming up and the sun had gone down -- a familiar theme for us, these days, because little boys go to sleep when the moon is up, and they play with trains when the sun is up.  He liked the enormous yellow moon, but were we there yet?  "I go see it."

October 16, 2008

It's fall

It really is: today was so chill and sideways-lit. The afternoon was lovely, but there was a lot of bluster and I wished I'd had a scarf.

Which makes it hard to remember that just last Sunday we were doing this:

Because it was SO SO WARM. Everyone was out sun-bathing by the lake. And me, because I am the daughter of one Barbara Mesle, which means that I am hard core, did this:

I enjoyed my swim, though maybe not as much as enjoyed the idea of my swim. It was cold out there.

Chicago weather has a terrible reputation, but it always sort of irritates me to hear people complain about it. There are always these great warm days interspersed through things, and I love the fickleness of that, just like I love cold days in summer.

Anyway, this second video is unrelated to weather or swimming, but I suppose it does have a tenuous beach connection. Here's Elliot's current version of "row, row, row your boat." In it's own way, it too is rather hard core. I love the idea that it's sort of pump-up football music.

October 03, 2008

Art Appreciation for Toddlers

Well, because we are our demographic (and because it's good) the Fleet Foxes album is getting a lot of play around here this fall. It's really excellent kitchen music, and I recommend it.

But this album has a special bonus for us, because Elliot is fascinated by the cover. I had never thought about it, but it makes sense that he'd love Pieter the Elder--big crazy scenes, so much going on, animals and interactions of all kinds.

Things he likes best about this picture:
The man who spilled his soup

His favorite thing is clearly:

Thing most confusing:
The saint. How to explain this one? Difficult.

Things he has not yet noticed and thus we have not yet had to explain:
What the man is doing on that ball?
The pig butchering (which I think we will fold into the catgory of "sheep getting a haircut" for a while yet)