29 November 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like.....Suburbanites!

Okay, so officially I’ve lived in the suburbs for a year and a half and perhaps up until now I’ve been in denial. I mean Tony and I made an effort to stay connected to our beloved city, that’s been like an old dear friend to us. We made the trek every so often to the non- touristy neighborhood restaurants, the off the path music venues, and festivals the great city of Chicago has to offer. Maybe our visits weren’t as frequent as I would have liked but it was enough to keep me from truly accepting that I do indeed live in the suburbs. I took comfort knowing that our trips to the city were far different from the typical suburban family as we steered clear of Millennium Park and Navy Pier. We scoffed at neighbors who refered to ALL of Chicago as downtown and who believe Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville to be the only neighborhoods that ever existed in the city. Although geographically I lived in the suburbs I considered myself a Chicagoan at heart. That is until a trip to The Lincoln Park Zoo this past weekend catapulted a new reality my way. I’m not sure when it hit me. Was it when we packed up the bags and stroller into the mini suv for the hour long car ride? Was it when I pulled the camera out to take a picture of The Lincoln Park Zoo sign? Was it when we paid the equivalent of a mortgage payment for parking? Was it the sharing of “remember when” stories as we drove threw the old neighborhoods? Somewhere between the lion house and Chicago style hotdogs did the realization set in. I was no longer a city girl and our family was no different from the other countless families that drove in from the burbs that night. As we drove home that evening with the bright city lights behind us I thought of the expression “You can take the girl out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the girl.” As we create new family traditions, the coming years may take us to city places like the zoo, Wrigley Field and yes we may even take the train to Navy Pier one day. However it’s my hope that we also visit the ethnic restaurants, different neighborhoods, and various cultural centers, and stay true to the Chicago that we know and love….the Chicago that remains in us despite where we live!
15 November 2008

Swimming Days and Lightning Bug Nights

I wish I could take credit for this whimsical saying, I read it somewhere long ago where the author used it to describe her childhood summers. I liked it so much I never forgot it and felt it was a fairly accurate description of my own childhood summers. Even as an adult I like to think of summers this way. Although I might not be riding my bike to the beach everyday and spending hours catching fireflies like I did in my past, I like to think of my adult summers as providing me with my own versions of those simple good old days. Sitting on the lawn sipping fine wine at Ravinia serves as an adult version of the lightning bug nights and hitting even one Chicago street fest in the summer provides the same spirited care free day as spending days in the sand used to. This past Friday Mallory and I spent the day at Old Orchard Mall with my good friend Paula. We walked the streets of the outside mall amidst the new Christmas Lights, all bundled up in our latest winter gear with the crisp cold air hitting our faces. With the last of our “Indian Summer” days behind us, it really hit home that summer is indeed over and the bitter cold winter days are soon to arrive. Before I resign myself to runny noses, dry skin, sky rocketing heating bills, and the many other miserable characteristics winter brings I’ll take a moment to be grateful for the sunny days we had and know that at the end of every long Chicago winter is another summer filled with swimming days and lightning bug nights...or street fest days and Ravinia nights. Either way it makes surviving the impending storm that much sweeter.
Mallory's First Trip to Old Orchard Mall

A Town With Clean Water

As I enter into this new stage of my life called parenthood, inevitably I cross paths with more and more new parents and young families. Along with a million other decisions that come with being a new parent is the decision of where to ultimately reside and raise a family. Time and time again I hear “Oh we just want a town with good school districts”. For as many times as I’ve heard this the absurdity of this statement really sets in. I mean doesn’t everyone want that? Doesn’t the single mom living in the inner city want that for her kids? Doesn’t the working class family living off a truck driver’s income want that? It’s like saying “We just want a town with clean water.” As if this were some unique criteria specific to their family. Wanting a good school district is a wish I believe every parent has for their children. Although it’s a bit premature Tony and I will one day think about schools for our daughter. We as public school teachers have no grand illusions about education in our country. We consider ourselves good teachers yet have taught in schools that many families would consider not “good enough” for their kids. We are aware of the unfair barometer used to measure what constitutes a good school district. For example, schools that have numerous bilingual students typically don’t have good test scores due to the racially biased nature of standardized tests. Therefore many of these schools fail to make AYP (Adequate yearly progress) a term the elite administrators throw out when boasting about the greatness of their district. Since we are or have been teachers in these schools that don’t measure up does that mean we aren’t good teachers? Heck I was the same pre-k teacher in the prestigious private school as I was in the inner city public school. Minus a few technological perks the kids received much of the same experiences. For the parents who dished out 16 grand to send their kid to the “better” preschool, it’s probably not what they would want to hear. Having said that, I’m well aware that the opportunities for both groups of children will be very different as the educational injustices unfold in their respective school lives. Even with good teachers the inner city children may have to overcome the challenges of learning in an environment with over sized classrooms, no text books, rundown buildings, dated technology, etc. Don’t both of these groups of children deserve the greatest advantages, the best opportunities? Of course I understand wanting better for our children but shouldn’t we want better for all children? I will try to remember with every decision we make for our daughters education (public or private, this neighborhood that neighborhood) there’s a family out there that doesn’t have the luxury of decisions when it comes to their child’s education. We live in a society where the unfortunate reality is that the quality of a child’s education is directly related to the paycheck mom and dads bring home. So I don’t worry so much about what type of school she’ll go to as I do about what type of world it’ll be for her when she grows up. My hope is she will one day live in a country where all schools are created equal. And where the saying “We just want to live in a town with good school districts” will sound just as outlandish as saying “We just want a town with clean water.”!

Some of my favorite students from Lowell Elementary School in Chicago!
09 November 2008

...To The Moon and Back

We began establishing a bedtime routine for Mallory this week. Previously our bedtime ritual consisted of Mallory falling asleep in her bouncy or swing at any given time between 5:00pm-8:00pm and Tony or myself bringing her up to her room, either attempting to change her into her PJ's without waking her or forgoing the attempt altogether and placing her in bed with her clothes on. After reading several articles, parent internet sites and baby books I knew the importance of establishing a bedtime routine and knew at 3 1/2 months it was a bit over due. On one particular parent website I read as parents described giving their infants nightly massages, bathing, singing, reading, and praying as all part of their nightly routine. At this stage, Tony and I felt successful if she went to bed with her pajamas on. I guess we have a lot more work to do before we qualify for any "Parent of the Year Awards".

So the bedtime routine has been established. It includes a 7:00pm start time, bath (if needed), pajamas, bottle, and story. Lights out between 7:30 and 8:00. It's been about the fourth night in and just as the books predicted, it's going great!
On this night as we lay her down in the same crib below the same words written on her wall "Sweet Dreams, Love You to The Moon And Back", I can't help but to think about the countless bedtime stories we will read to her through the years. And as we settle into this new routine; changing into snuggly warm pajamas, feeding her last nightly bottle, and choosing our favorite goodnight books, I think about how someday these moments will be all too fleeting. I look at my baby daughter as those words echo in my head, I can only hope this is the beginning of endless sweet dreams and I love you's....to the moon and back and all!

Old Writings

On Turning 30....
I’m well into the first month of being 30 and all in all I feel pretty great. There are a couple of things I decided I wouldn’t do upon turning thirty. The first one is that I’m not going to be the girl sitting at the bar on her 30th birthday, crying after her third shot because she has no immediate male prospects in her life and therefore no chance in the near future that she will be married with kids. Matrimony and giving birth: two qualities many people use to measure the success of a 30 year old woman. So I vowed not to be that girl, and I kept that promise to myself. I spent my 30th birthday celebrating with my family and friends at a local Chicago bar. There was a lot of drinking and laughing. No tears and no feeling sorry for myself! In fact it was quite the opposite. On the night of my 30th birthday, the Sunday night after the party I was celebrating with my twin sister and the girls at Cullens. Cullens was a great Sunday night bar with a very talented cute musician playing there that night. That’s where I made the the “Turning 30” speech. Turning 30 isn’t about what I haven’t done yet, it’s about what I get to do now! My 20’s were about moving to a big city, renting crappy apartments, gaining teaching experience and career confidence, dating, dating, dating, seeing incredible concerts, creating memories with old friends and meeting new friends. It was about finding a part of me that I wouldn’t have found had I married young. If I’m being honest it was about reading lots of self help literature inspiring me to not only be okay with being single but embracing it, yet at times feeling so lonely it hurt and longing for a partner and man who loved me. So when I think about my twenties I think about the friendships, the boys, the music, teaching, learning guitar, and yes at times the loves I never had, the places I never visited etc.. But then I realize that’s what my 30’s are for. My life by no means has been mapped out and that in of itself is so exciting. So as I look at 30 in terms of what I get to do now, I know I have so much to look forward to; falling in love, traveling to foreign countries, becoming a wife and having a family. And as I look to the next decade of my life I know that I’ll embrace these experiences with a sense of dignity and a spirit of wisdom that can only come with age. Lastly, there will be a fond appreciation as the great things enter my life because I’ll know that none of it came easy. And truly, the best is yet to come!

Behind The Blog

I recently had the privilege of reading my good friend Naomi's blog and after being hit with a wave of inspiration I decided to try this out for myself. Having recently had a baby, archiving baby photos and writing in baby books left little time for writing/journaling, a former favorite past time. That is until it occurred to me a blog could serve as a means to provide several of these creative outlets. As I chronicle my mundane family events, post old and new writings and upload the 600th photo of my daughter the narcissistic nature of such a blog is not lost on me. However I've always written with the idea that no one else would read my work but me and have never taken it too seriously. It is with that same spirit that "Scribbles From Tricia" was created, a place where I can reflect, celebrate, write, and go back to doing what I loved since I was 10 years old.
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