Sunday, November 28, 2010

Article clipping 2010 style: Is it email antimatter to your kids?

I sent my son Kyle an email last week with a link to a CNN article about the scientists at CERN laboratory in Switzerland who had created antimatter. (Here's the link:CNNWorld-Scientists Capture Antimatter Atoms ) I knew he'd be interested in seeing it, because for the last year or so he's said he wants to work for CERN as a nuclear engineer when he grows up.  Yeah, I know.  But he's never been the kid who aspired to be an astronaut or cowboy. 

Kyle's interest in antimatter is our fault, I'm afraid. The downside of parents who forced their children to sit through far too many episodes of Star Trek. The original series, The Next Generation, the series that came after that but which wasn't as good, all the movies. I supposed we should just be grateful he isn't trying to apply to Starfleet Academy. And Dan Brown needs to take his share of the blame, too, since Kyle read his antimatter-involved novel, "Angels and Demons," about forty times.

About halfway through typing out my email to Kyle--and here's where I get to my point, finally--it occurred to me what I was doing is the 2010 version of clipping an article and mailing it to and/or saving it for my child.

I had become my mother. Again.

Already, my son only thirteen years old, and I was sending him articles.  How long before I slid completely down this slippery slope? How long before I would be emailing him links about some girl he grew up with that he no longer remembered but whom had just placed fourth in some beauty contest?  About a neighbor he never met who was running for Alderman? Oh, I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd be sending him articles about the company he worked for that I'd pulled from our local paper, full of factual inaccuracies and information he'd already known months before!

"Just thought you'd like to see this, dear," my email subject line would say.

I fought off the urge to send him a link to a good therapist.

Of course I asked him later if he received my email. Did you read the link?

Oh, here we go again, I thought. But Kyle was gracious, probably more so than I've often been with my mother on this front. He thanked me and said he hadn't heard the antimatter news.  He thought it was cool and certainly hoped the CERN scientists didn't accidentally obliterate this side of our galaxy by turning it into a big black hole.

Umm, yeah.

It wouldn't matter, I suppose, to have a majority of my "article" emails end up in the black hole of the adult Kyle's spam folder, because at least he'll know I'm thinking about him and I'm interested in his life and that I wish he and his awful wife would come visit once in a while.  And if he ever does appreciate anything I manage to send him, well then, that would be just like antimatter icing on my dilithium crystal cake.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Supper Club

Supper Club has been an ongoing tradition with a group of our friends for nearly twelve years now. It consists of six couples (and children) who get together every other month or so for a Sunday dinner.  Each couple takes turns hosting and therefore cooking the main dish. Everyone else brings something--a side or appetizer or dessert.  Old friends, good food. The recipe really couldn't be more simple.

We’ve grown considerably over the years. We added a couple. Every couple’s been adding children.  We currently have 27 card-carrying members.  (That’s right, Dave. There’s a card. Maybe you missed that meeting!)  We joke (see previous sentence) about our stringent rules and by-laws, but we don’t have any. We don’t even actually have a card. (At least that’s what we tell Dave.)

Whenever a couple hosts, they pick a theme. It can be the type of food, like Italian or Cajun, but we’ve also branched out into more elaborate ideas.  We’ve had, for example: “Food you hated as a kid but like now”; “All-American dishes” (for a July Fourth get-together); “The food of your ancestors” and “Apple, the secret ingredient.”

This year, since we were hosting the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I really wanted to do “Food on a Stick,” because it’s ridiculous and because who was going to be eating any food on a stick on Thanksgiving?  The spirit of the season prevailed and instead I decided to make the theme “Food You’re Thankful For.”

And we ordered pizza for the main dish.

Because I am thankful that—when life gets too busy or too exhausting or you’re throwing a party three days before you host Thanksgiving dinner because it seemed like a good idea at the time but a few days beforehand you wonder what the hell you were thinking—I can pick up the phone and have some nice young man bring a hot pizza right to my door. 

Everyone emailed what they would bring, but when my friend Rick said they’d bring salad, it caused no end of ribbing from the group, because after all, how many people are truly thankful for salad?  Rick wrote a very nice rebuttal about why he is thankful for salad and honestly, when you think about it, we really couldn’t have had all the men bringing beer.

After everyone left and the house went quiet, as if contemplating it’s own state of disarray: stacks of pizza boxes on the back porch, a sink full of dishes, two pink socks (and a quarter!) stuffed down the toilet downstairs, it occurred to me what I was truly thankful for. And it isn’t the fact that those three toddlers will not be invited back to play in our toilet anymore.

I realized I’m thankful for my friends and our Supper Club. Simply that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Race Against "The Day"

My sons and I went running together over the weekend, just down to the lake and back.  We've run together before over the years, though never quite this far.  I keep telling them that before long, there will come the day when I won't be able to keep up with them. They're thirteen now, very soon to be fourteen, and already they tower over me. After a season of cross-country, their endurance and speed have improved remarkably.  It won't be long now, I know, before a run with mom will be reserved for one of their "easy" training days.

I love the looks we get as the three of us (sometimes four, when we bring the dog) come barreling down the sidewalk.  It's not every day you see a mother out running with her sons, much less her identical twin sons. Who tower over her. From some of the stares, I gather we're quite a spectacle.  My favorite thing is to catch the eye of a woman I can only assume is another mother.  We share a smile and I feel like some sort of maternal rock star. Yeah, that's right. Out running with my handsome sons.

My husband was the track star in high school, smoking through 800 meter and cross country races. I spent the better part of high school just smoking.  Watching my husband run is a thing of beauty. He has perfect form. Not to mention his running gait isn't bad either.  I kind of lumber along, a sort of un-gazelle.  Initially, I'd feared my sons had inherited my unfortunate gait but after they put a few miles under their belts I watched their form improve, even out, become more and more like my husband's. Thank goodness. (They did, however, inherit his complete inability to turn off a light switch.)

Every time I run by the lake, I stop at some point, to take a moment.  I do this on days when I feel so good I don't ever want to stop and on days when I can't wait for the break.  I like to just look out over the water, at our beautiful city, and give thanks for everything I have.  A silent meditation. The first time my boys and I made it to the lake, I introduced them to the concept.  Although getting the silence part was tricky, it's become somewhat of a tradition.

When the day comes, I don't care how fast they eventually are or how far they can go, I will endeavor to find a way to force my sons to slow down and lumber down to the lake with their mother, so I can have my moment.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Get DOWN with your kids' Lingo

I have a requestion: If you're looking for a fun time, want to try taking this Good Housekeeping Quiz? Test Your Teen Slang - Good Housekeeping As everyone knows, Good Housekeeping is my go to place for everything hip and cool, which are words that are no longer hip and cool, so I'm told. They're "sick" Or actually not sick. Regardless, I got "coolest mom ever" on the quiz. (See what I mean about the whole GH thing?) But I still can't wait to tell my kids! Gotta bounce.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paris Needs A City Mom!

The Champs de Mars is a beautiful place to run and when I'm in Paris, I take advantage of the opportunity by doing so. It's a little more than a mile to make one loop around the park, and, terrific view of the Eiffel Tower notwithstanding, I have to admit my favorite part about the jogging path there is it's close to my hotel. No matter where I fall over, it's a short crawl back.

I was running the Champs de Mars earlier this week when I saw some guy driving an antique car down the gravel path and through a large group of people. At first I thought he'd made a wrong turn, somehow involved in a bad French traffic-circle snafu. Until I saw several women wearing 1940's era hairstyles and dresses, and men in WWII army uniforms. I also saw a few guys carrying large video cameras and it didn't take long for acitymom's sharp mind to realize they were making a movie.

Well now, this doesn't happen every day. How exciting!  I couldn't wait to tell--well, anybody.  On my next pass, another antique car had joined the set and I adjusted my path to remain clear. Not because I didn't want to be in the background of a WWII movie, but because I was wearing a bright, lime-green running jacket and, as everyone knows, lime-green wasn't even on the color wheel until, like, 1967.
I was halfway around the other side of the park when I heard the gunfire. Now, as we all know, we're supposed to remain vigilant in Europe these days and I, for one, have been doing my part.  In Chicago, when the sirens stop wailing long enough for us to hear the gunfire, we know it's time for us to dive into the bathtub.
In France, however, it seems they haven't received the memo.  They walk toward the gunfire.  Now, I'm no expert, but this doesn't seem very bright to me.  Especially considering it was machine gun fire and there actually are real gendarmes on patrol all through the park, carrying real machine guns.  For all anyone knew, it could have been actual gunfire.
Now, maybe they don't have acitymom in France, someone to explain to their children why we don't walk toward gunfire or wear red hoodies in bad neighborhoods, but I watched several groups of people turn with a concerned look, then walk toward the rat-a-tat-tats.  From where we were, you couldn't see it was a movie being filmed over there.  This did not seem terribly bright to me.  (Same goes for another woman jogger--who kept passing me by the way, which is no reason for me to not like her in the first place, I'm just saying--who kept running through the middle of the set of the movie being filmed. It made me secretly happy when one of the crew finally called her out for it.)

When the gunfire erupted once again, I saw another couple turn toward the sound with a concerned look.
etower.jpg"Ils font un film," I said in my lame French as I ran by. Acitymom just trying to do her good deed for the day, calming the nerves of nervous tourists from within the safety of her lime-green running jacket. But the look of concern didn't disappear from their faces.  

Of course not. I'm certain my horrible French accent mortified them.  I didn't look back to see if they walked toward the gunfire and the movie set or not.  I was just happy for the opportunity to tell somebody.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day!

Thank you to all of our awesome veterans. But a special thanks to my dad, Platoon Sergeant Richard R. Strickland, WWII 88th Infantry Blue Devils
(If you follow the link, you can read about one of the battles my father fought on Mt. Battaglia, Italy.) I'm really proud of you, Daddy!

                   Platoon Sergeant Richard R. Strickland, WWII 88th Infantry Blue Devils

Saturday, November 06, 2010

It gets dark so early now.

Don't forget to set your clocks back tonight.  And do we dare try to guess who will be the first person to utter the title sentence to us as if it's news?  Enjoy the extra hour of sleep. Now, if someone could just explain this process to my dog.

Friday, November 05, 2010


A City Mom is now a part of the ChicagoNow family of bloggers, which means you can also find it at

All the dry humor you've come to expect at the same low price.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Yeah, No

Yeah, no.

No, yeah.

It seems, these days, no one can make up their mind. Have you heard this new colloquialism? I’ve been hearing it more and more often lately. I’ve even found myself saying it.

“Did you have a good time at the Cubs game?”

“Yeah. No, it was great.”

“I’ll bet traffic was terrible.”

“No. Yeah, it wasn’t too bad.”

How weird is this? What does it mean? In an age when we’re trying to Bring Back the Sanity and Drink Tea and Restore Fear, I think it doesn’t portend very well for our futures. We can’t even decide if we want to say yes or no! How are we supposed to decide what we want for lunch, or our birthday, much less on election day?

I’m a great believer in the philosophy found in the book, “Your Word is Your Wand,” which predates The Secret by almost eighty years. It was written in 1928 by Florence Scovel Shinn and is all about the power of your words. As I tell my kids, the fool that wrote the little poem, “Sticks and Stones,” had no idea what he was talking about. Every bruise from my childhood has healed, but I still hear the mean things people said.

Francis believed, and I do too, that words have power. (Of course I do, I’m a writer for crying out loud.) She says words carry a vibratory quality that resonates and helps create the world we live in, our realities, if you will. And if you don’t believe this, try this the next time someone asks you, “How are you?”

Answer, “GREAT!” or “SWELL!” or “FANTASTIC!” instead of just, “fine.”

I used to joke with the cashiers who would remark they hadn’t met anyone else that day who was “SPLENDID!” by saying, “They tell me if I keep saying it, eventually it will come true.” And you know what? It did. I am splendid now. Okay, maybe not SPLENDID, at least not every day. But I’m certainly better than fine. (On most days, anyway.)

So, it’s especially disconcerting to me to hear people say, “Yeah, no.” And I hear it every day. All over the country! It’s a virtual bad colloquialism epidemic (much worse, I think, than, “My bad,” or “It is what it is,” or "I'm just saying." I hereby declare I'm going to start a campaign to stomp out, “Yeah, no.”

Are you with me?