…the only place in our lives that is neat and tidy. random header image


January 10th, 2010 · No Comments · General

Tons of new photos and videos are posted that I’ve neglected from the last 6 months.  Use the links above or here for videos and over here for photos.


→ No CommentsTags:

13.2 Miles

July 12th, 2009 · No Comments · General

As some of you have undoubtably heard, this is the summer of bikes.  A few months ago Michael took the big leap and learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels.  This was a pretty huge accomplishment and just as we were getting used to the idea of Michael’s newfound mobility his younger brother decided to take his own leap forward.  Jacob at 3 1/2 years old shook off the shackles of the training wheels and set out on his own.  In case you haven’t seen it here’s a video from that first voyage.

The riding came easy, the stopping a little harder.  But by the end of the first day he had the hang of it.  The starting, on the other hand, needed some more practice.  So yesterday we went out to the parking lot at our church just two blocks away and practiced some more.  “Left foot down, strong foot up.  Push off with the left, push down with the strong!”  Three tries and he was racing off around the parking lot with Michael while dad lounged on the grass under the trees.

We now have a very potent combination.  Two boys on bikes and a bike path just three blocks away that stretches out 15 miles in either direction.  So this morning as Erika and Maggie went grocery shopping the boys and I set out to ride the Old Plank Trail and see how far we got.  We were feeling pretty good as we rode 3.4 miles round trip to a park and had peanut butter and tortillas for a snack.  We got home and were working around the house when Michael came in saying that our neighbors were going for a bike ride and he and Jacob wanted to go too.  The Gaiers live across the street and have become good friends in these short few months.  Three of their kids are the same age as our three, but they also have another five.  So their whole family was heading out for a bike ride and we decided to join them.


Three adults and nine kids age 2 to 19, we headed out.  I was worried about Jacob keeping up so the deal we made was if he got tired, he and I would hang back and ride home together while Michael rode on.  It never happened.


We stopped at two parks, assorted water stops and one small crash.  9.77 miles in all for our second bike ride of the day.


As you may suspect, Jacob was asleep in about 15 seconds tonight.  Hardly unexpected given his two bike rides and 13.2 mile total.  The last entry for this excursion comes from my iPhone which provides some fun stats and a GPS map of our route from the second ride of the day.


→ No CommentsTags:

Touch a Truck

June 9th, 2009 · No Comments · New Lenox

The park district sponsored an event with perhaps the best concept ever.  They called it Touch a Truck and invited all the local businesses, fire departments etc. to park trucks in the big parking lot and let kids climb on them for a day.  Here are a few of the fun photos.  Click on the photo for full-size versions.  

→ No CommentsTags:

Photos from Our Trip to Florida

June 7th, 2009 · No Comments · Kids, New Lenox

These are photos from our recent trip to Florida.  It was a jam packed weekend with mother’s day, my mom’s birthday, my sisters graduation with her MSW, my goddaughter’s baptism and a full fledged family party.  Here are a few of the best photos but there are of course a million more here.

→ No CommentsTags:

Bring Your Child to Work Day

May 4th, 2009 · No Comments · General

→ No CommentsTags:

Ounce Video

May 3rd, 2009 · No Comments · Ounce of Prevention Fund

This video was part of the program at the Ounce’s annual luncheon last week.

If you can’t see the embedded video click here to go to the Youtube version.  


→ No CommentsTags:

The Ounce

April 4th, 2009 · No Comments · General

 I feel like every few months I write with news that I’m either changing jobs or we’re having another baby.  Well this e-mail is of the job variety not the baby variety.  My time at ISPCAN was short, but I have moved on to another opportunity that will challenge me and help me to grow while having the greatest impact possible.  On Wednesday I started my new position as a program associate with the Ounce of Prevention Fund. 

The Ounce invests in the healthy development of at-risk infants, toddlers, preschools and their families.  We use an innovative cycle of family-focused programs, research, training, policy analysis and advocacy to help young children succeed in school and throughout life.  The essential theory of change is that early interventions are cheaper and more effective.  Simple interventions like getting parents to read to their children in the first two years of life have a multiplier effect and pay dividends for a lifetime.  

The division I will be working in is called the Bounce Learning Network.  In 2000 the Ounce started a model early education center on the South Side of Chicago.  Since then they’ve researched the heck out of it and developed a research based practice model that is replicable in other places.  The job of the Bounce Learning Network is to work with partners to replicate the model.  There are now 9 centers all over the country (from Miami to Seattle) established through public-private partnerships and the division is expanding rapidly.  My role in all of this is as the Program Associate to the Senior Vice President who leads the division.  I’ll function essentially as a senior aide to her.  Her job is to to do the high-level strategic thinking as she goes from meeting to meeting, while my role is to take the outcomes of those meetings and make sure whatever was decided at those meetings gets implemented.         

There are so many positives about this job that they’re hard to enumerate.  I’ll be working downtown which means I can take the train to work (our house is a 5 minute walk from the commuter rail).  The Ounce is one of the leading agencies in Chicago and well known nationally for it’s work in early childhood intervention.  It’s staffed by smart, driven people in a fast paced environment.  The complexity of the work is amazing and interesting.  It will push me to be the best I can be and I will learn a ton.

I’m sorry to go on and on, but I’m very excited about this opportunity.  I feel very lucky not only to have gotten a job (or several in fact) in this difficult time for the economy, but to have found essentially my dream job at a place that will be a good match for me long term.  In case you haven’t heard enough, here are the websites of the organization where there is even more information about what I’ll be doing: - the main website for the organization - the website for the division where I’ll be working

→ No CommentsTags:

A Knock on the Door

March 25th, 2009 · No Comments · Interesting Things, New Lenox, Tegucigalpa

When we lived in Tegus last year I was at home alone with the kids and someone rang our doorbell.  I went down to answer the door and looking through the gate I could see it was three people with vests, official looking badges and clipboards.  It’s important to note here that when I say I went down to answer “the door” I mean the hefty reinfored gate in the middle of a 15 foot high wall topped with razor wire.  We lived in a big nice house in a very dangerous city and these precautions weren’t just for show.  You don’t just open the door for random visitors.

So I cautiously talked to the people with clipboards through the gate.  They said they were from the Honduran census bureau and were conducting a national census.  I hesitantly agreed to answer their questions, but after a few minutes the questions got too personal with questions like income and work details.  I started to feel uncomfortable so I ended the conversation, apologized and went upstairs into the house.  To this day I have no idea if they really were official census workers (for those of you who know Honduras you know how un-Honduran a census sounds). 

I thought of that experience this morning when I was listening to a report on NPR about the challenges of getting an accurate count in the U.S. census that is about to occur in 2010.  Minorities and immigrants are typcially undercounted while white males are sometimes counted twice or at least counted once accurately.  Homeless, fear of deportation, people living in motels and a general fear of authority are just a few of the variables that lead to the poor and minorities being undercounted.

It’s easy to dismiss this fear and can be difficult to relate to how someone might feel threatened by someone with a clipboard and an official census I.D.  But that day in Honduras I was scared.   I was operating in my second language, couldn’t tell if the badges were real or made at the local equivalent of Kinko’s and was worried they might be casing my house to rob it or worse.  As I listened to the NPR story I could easily put myself in the position of a mentally ill person in a homeless shelter or an immigrant (legal or illegal) from Guatemala who isn’t quite sure why this person is asking all these questions and fearful of their motivations.  

The troubling thing about the undercounting is that the poor, transient and vulnerable who are so difficult to count are also among those most hurt by undercounting.  The census helps planners determine public services from mental health to road and public transportation.  Addressing illegal immigration is a daunting task made more difficult by a lack of accurate data.  The census sounds so straightforward and simple but in practice it is so very difficult and at the same time so very important.  

The NPR report talked about a wide variety of efforts to encourage participation in the census, including the Spanish television station Telemundo working the census into the story lines of their telenovelas (Spanish soap operas).  So for the rest of my drive I daydreamed – imagining myself behind my gate in Tegus in a Honduran soap opera where I thought the census workers were spies for my sister’s lover’s uncle’s psychic who was trying to get more information so he could take over my hacienda through hynposis and superior population data sampling.  In the end though my cousin Betio convinces me that the census is important and I should participate so that city planners can better plan for the future of our ciudad.

→ No CommentsTags:

A Nice Morning

March 20th, 2009 · No Comments · General


→ No CommentsTags:

Free Art

March 16th, 2009 · No Comments · Chicago, Kids, New Lenox

dscf2188One commitment we made when we moved back to Chicago was to take advantage of the millions of activities that are part of the benefit of living near a big city.  It’s nice to talk about the world class museums and summer festivals, but unless you actually get out and go you might as well live in Iowa.   Our new house is about 45 minutes away from downtown, but we’ve been determined to make the effort and enjoy the benefits of being so near Chicago. 

A big help in keeping that commitment has been the museums commitment to having free days and kids activities.  Most of the museums have at least one free day a month.  The Museum of Science and Industry was free the whole month of January and the Art Institute was free in February.  Michael had been learning about Claude Monet in Kindergarten so he and I took the train downtown to see the Impressionist collection and see the real Monets.  What a treat for him to get to stand so close to the Monets that he could see the texture of the paint.  We did a kids’ tour and did a children themed program where you get to draw some of the sculptures.  All free.

dscf21781Surprisingly though, by far the biggest hit has been the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I don’t generally think kid-friendly when I think of modern art, but the MCA puts on such a great program.  One Saturday a month Target sponsors a family day.  Admission is free for families and they set up themed activity stations.  The February day was on Valentine’s Day so there were Valentine’s themed activities.  Yesterday’s activities were based on the artist/futurist Buckminster Fuller so the activities were geometric themed.  And the activities aren’t your typcial color and paint, but are high concept projects like building a geodesic dome, making a map or your heart, or a movement activity that creates dance from shapes and colors.  Every month there’s an art scavenger hunt so the kids get to know the art in the museum.   

It’s so wonderful to visit a museum with hundreds of kids actively engaged, doing art scavenger hunts and loving every minute of it.  They even have a room with snacks (juice boxes and gold fish) for a break.  As we walked out of the MCA yesterday with the portfolios they had made to hold their art, Michael and Jacob wanted to know when the April family day was and wanted to make sure we could go back.  It’s amazing to me that the Museum of Contemporary art has rapidly become one of the favorite places for a 3-year old and a 6-year old.  I’m glad they love it and I have a few more tricks up my sleeve.  Summer is near with weekends filled with the Jazz Fest, Blues Fest and Gospel Music Festival.  All free and a wonderland for children who love music.  dscf2186

The photos in this post are from last month’s Valentine’s Day trip to the MCA.  Click here for a few more museum themed photos.     

→ No CommentsTags: