Rhett Butler

Bits & Bobs

I don’t like olives. In fact, I detest olives. I want to like olives because every word ever used to describe them is typically right up my alley (salty, briney, pungent) food-wise, but alas. I can tell when an errant olive made it into my slice of pizza, once I remove the offesnive bit I can still taste its essence in the bite and I am struck by how thoroughly vile they are. It makes me sad because I’d love to order a martini with blue cheese olives, the drink seems so very me, and yet, I don’t like martinis and I don’t like olives. It is a complicated disappointment to be sure.

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Gracie is really into “helping” these days and it is a little bit astounding what she is capable of. She helps me unload the dishwasher (I take the sharp stuff out before she meanders in, and I work on the breakables) by carrying silverware over to the general vicinity of the silverware drawer before carefully pushing each piece onto the counter while standing on her tip toes, she carries the cutting boards to the cupboard they go in and sets them on the floor. She helps me unload groceries, and if you turn your head away for just a moment you’ll find her carefully carrying a 28 oz can of tomato sauce over to where the food cupboard is (pantries are a pipe dream in the city) and you’ll worry she’ll drop it and crush her toes, but she doesn’t. She found a jar of applesauce in the bag on Sunday and carried it to the open fridge and placed it in the door, right where it goes. She helps vaccuum and dust and generally wants to “hap” at all turns. I realize she needs some actual chores so for now I think I’m going to ask her to put her dirty laundry in the basket and carry her empty milk cup to the kitchen sink. And for Christmas? She is totally getting a kids Dyson.

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For years I was terrible about folding and putting away clean clothes. We perpetually had a pile of clean laundry at the foot of our bed and then it would build up into this monster that took us 40 minutes to put away. For no real reason I suddenly became tired of the huge clean laundry pile and have put considerable effort into putting clean clothes away by the end of the day. I can’t tell you how much happier it makes me- the clean foot of the bed, the refilled closet. I’m hoping this new habit sticks around. I’m also working on moving empty clothing hangers to the front of my closet so when I need an empty one I don’t have to start out with the five minute search for the empties squished among my clothes.

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Dinner with Gracie has become a bit of a battle. I try not to worry too much, she eats well at daycare (organic food! hot lunch! lots of fruits and veggies!) and I had some old standbys (soup, all the soup) I could lean on when I felt like she just wanted to subsist on crackers. Lately though my standbys have been fails and I’m at a loss as to what to feed her that she will actually eat. Applesauce, coconut chips and crackers are the only sure choices, past favorites like bananas, berries and soup are now met with a “no” and a clenched jaw. Sometimes she’ll eat macaroni and cheese, sometimes she’ll eat grapes, sometimes she’ll eat smoked salmon or yogurt. Peanut butter sandwiches are now for playing, meat is generally rejected unless it is sausage and even then it is 50-50. Veggies at home are a total joke. I thought she liked yogurt covered raisins until I realized she was just chewing off the yogurt coating before spitting them back out. Food battles: ugh.

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I went to my first Pure Barre class last night (thanks ClassPass!) and I think I liked it? Some parts were so absurdly difficult I wanted to laugh and I can feel it in every muscle today. Interestingly, my typically stiff lower back was a lot more loose after class and today I feel like I have a little better range of motion. I also can’t sneeze without it hurting, so you win some you lose some. Later this week I’m taking an early morning yoga class and on Sunday I have a spin class. So far so good….

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Rhett Butler had been worrying us a little bit lately, he’d gotten stiff and sore and seemed to be moving more slowly. After last weekend (we visited friends in Michigan) playing with another dog for two days he seems to have returned to Chicago with his usual level of energy and range of motion. I can’t tell you how happy this makes us, although we plan on chatting with our vet about his senior status at his next yearly check up.

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Gracie starts swim lessons and gymanstics classes soon and I’m really excited. Both are once a week and are “Mommy and Me” type classes. The gymanstics class is a bit of a whim but I’m hoping as the weather turns cooler it is a nice outlet for energy in a big indoor space. I don’t anticipate Gracie being a future Olympian but I think she is going to have a blast playing with ribbons and walking on a mini-balance bean. I might even get in an arm workout or two as I help her. The class is titled “Moms, Pops, and Tots” so I keep telling B his leotard is in the mail. He seems unenthusiastic. (Most likely he won’t be able to attend most of the classes due to work obligations, but we knew that from the get-go)




Just the Girls

As I begin many a Monday morning post in the summer, B was out of town this weekend sailing. He sails lots of smaller Chicago area events over the course of the year, but July brings the big guns- the two races to Mackinac and a regatta in Harbor Springs, Michigan. As for the Mackinac races, one starts in Chicago, one starts in Port Huron and they both end up at the island. The Chicago one is the “oldest annual freshwater distance race” (I know you thought it must be The Other Race You Were Just Reading About). The one from Port Huron is one of the longest freshwater races in the world. Both are very storied in tradition and they are run back to back weekends, with the cities switching which one goes first and which one goes second every year.

This is my way of telling you this out of town weekend is old news for me. ‘Been doing it since dinosaur times. Most years the races are marked by all sorts of things going terribly wrong while B is gone, but this one was pretty good. And, bonus, my favorite part of the race is all the boats have transponders so you get to track them like a real creepy creeper in love wife. Anyway. Gracie and I kicked off the weekend Friday with daycare pickup + dinner out. I found a restaurant that is convienently on the way home from daycare and is run by the same people as another restaurant I like and- here is the key information- kids eat free between 4:00 and 6:00 (Crosby’s Kitchen on Southport). Sold. I had a fancy salad and ice water, Gracie had chicken tenders and french fries (what? It is Friday!) and I paid 17 bones for the experience, including a nice tip. WORTH IT. Gracie had a good time coloring & eating but was dismayed when she accidentally (how? I do not know) dropped a ketchupy french fry down the back of her dress.

Saturday morning we got up and rather than the usual zoo-farmer’s market process we hung around, played, sent “good luck” photos to B in which the two of us were actually smiling and then knocked out the Costco run and grocery shopping. It was pouring cats and dogs and I harbored a (false) illusion that the deluge would mean thet traffic on Lake Shore Drive would be better (big food festival in Grant Park). I was wrong, womp womp. Regardless we hit up sample Saturday at “the club”, grabbed all of our groceries and made it home for naps and more rain. In the evening hours we went over to grill out with some friends, and had an awesome evening of kids playing and steak eating. Adult time is always nice but particularly when you’ve been solo parenting, no matter how short of a time. We had a break in weather for a little while and let the kids run around barefoot outside (summer!) and sat on the porch. More bad weather moved in so we put G to sleep in a pack n play and the adults waited for a lull in the storm with more adult conversation not interrupted by wee ones. Oh and I brought a key lime pie, which was made possible by this divine elixir:


Get yourself some and make the recipe on the back.

Sunday morning G and I met my two best girlfrinds from law school for brunch, where Gracie got her coloring on (again! she is a machine!) and politely helped me eat all of my chicken and biscuit (Carriage House in Wicker Park, SO GOOD)  before we came home for playing, naps and a round of splashing in the neighbor’s wading pool. It turns out neither my dog nor my baby care much for wading pools. FINE. WHATEVER. I’M GLAD WE PUT SUNSCREEN ON FOR THAT FIVE MINUTE ENDEAVOR.

Anyway, thats about all she wrote, for the most part, not really, look, more words. I impressed myself Sunday by making Gracie and I a real dinner on the grill with a side of her new favorite, Annie’s mac & cheese and we read a lot of stories and played with all of the toys, including more than one joyful round of dumping all of the blocks out of the bag and spreading them around the living room. I did laundry but didn’t fold it (my usual nemisis) and we generally enjoyed ourselves despite the weather. Exccept the beagle, who protested the weather by spending much of the weekend under my side of the bed, coming out for walks and food.

Now we look forward to B coming home before the next round of sailing (with family vacation plans in the very near future, woohoo). Oh and at some point this week a blast of artic air that should drop our overnight temps into the 40’s and 50’s. GOOD TIMES.


You know when you find yourself in the midst of your only break in the calendar for the foreseeable future and so you insist (perhaps overly so) you are just going to ENJOY IT DAMNIT? That is how we spent the long weekened. We scrapped plans to travel, we didn’t make plans with others and we just….marinated. In our house. One dog, one toddler, two adults. I don’t mean to imply we were hermits (and we did have friends over for dinner, but it was for taco night which is by law as relaxed as it gets) but we just…enjoyed each other. We made it to the zoo (twice!), the farmer’s market, the grocery store and the playground. The baby had her first ice cream cone, followed by a free cookie and a balloon, so the grocery store will forever be a let down after that special trip.

We grilled out and made sandwiches and rented movies On Demand and caught up on some Netflix offerings. We read books (of the grown up chapter variety as well as repeated renditions of Baby Beep Beep) and I tried my best not to look at my work email. We had Sonic milkshakes for lunch one day and I took two naps on the couch.

If you ask Gracie her name she points to herself and yells “ME!” which is pretty much awesome. She also learned the words “up” (please put her in your lap now) and “help” (please put the hat back on her Baby) and to “sssss” like a snake. She spent a good portion of a dinner at a local hamburger joint clutching her grilled cheese sandwich exclaiming “MINE CHEESE!” but not before coloring a masterpiece on the kiddie menu.

I think this qualifies as a dang good weekend.

PS, Rhett Butler still hates fireworks. Baby remains in the dark (literally!) as her mean parents decided fireworks happen way too late for her 7:30 bedtime. Next year my darling!


The Move from a Nanny Share to Daycare

Whew. As I briefly mentioned in my one year letter to Gracie, after a lot of thought and discussion, B and I made the choice to enroll Gracie in daycare. She starts in March, and we had the terrible task of breaking the news to our nanny and our nanny share family. This was really hard, because we genuinely like everyone and the arrangement was (for the most part) working well for us. So why the switch? For us it was about flexibility and finances. They are not glamorous reasons, but they are ours and we own them.

First and foremost, our student loan payments are set to go up by a lot in the next two months. A painful, painful amount that has caused serious re-evaluation of where all of our money is going. And when childcare is the most expensive monthly line item outside of your housing it means you have to take a good long look at it to make sure you are spending wisely. We love our nanny, and she has done nothing short of an amazing job with Gracie. That said (and here is the flexibility+finances part)  we pay by the hour, and any time we needed her to come early or stay a little late, it adds up. And because those are not “shared” hours with the other family, we  pay the full hourly rate ourselves. So if twice a month B has court a few counties away and has to leave early and then my train is late once or twice (inevitably) it definitely changes the bottom line. Not to mention, when you are late and have a nanny you are directly impacting someone who might have other plans directly after work. We ultimately decided to look into daycare to see if better options existed.

We didn’t have a lot of hope looking into daycare- in the city you can easily spend well more than “nanny prices” on daycare and many of the recommended facilities have extensive waitlists. Like, sign up before you conceive extensive. We somehow lucked out that a facility we had been interested in was opening a new location, and we were able to get a spot there. For now the cost is on par with our nanny share but when she moves to the toddler room in a few months, the savings are substantial. A huge upside for us is that the daycare has much longer hours, and while we don’t expect to need them often, it is nice to not spend an entire train ride home stressing that you are ten minutes behind schedule. It will also be helpful for me- working from home with flex time has meant I’ve done a lot of work at night, after Gracie goes to bed. This new arrangement should allow me to get a little more time during the daytime hours. Some other perks for us: the daycare serves all organic food, has a nice system for a discount if you miss a certain number of days due to illness (unheard of!) and will give Gracie a dedicated crib that we can “decorate” with things from home if we want. They have outdoor time, an indoor playground and the teachers seem really sweet.  There will be a group of one year olds starting in her room around the same time, so I’m glad she’ll have friends to move up to the toddler room with later this spring. We hope that the savings we have will give us a little more wiggle room for a few date nights here and there so our current nanny can come back and babysit- we can’t imagine not having her in our lives!

Of course, all of these things are great but daycare has its downfalls as well. We are nervous about the transition, and about the germs (currently accepting any and all tricks to mitigate daycare germs). We are going to move her bedtime routine around so Gracie’s bath comes directly after daycare (clean hands, fresh clothes) and we are starting her on probiotics as well. This means that every afternoon I have to pick her up, rather than seamlessly transitioning from “working in the other room” to joining her in the living room to play and read books. We will be using public transportation to get home (yay one car family….) which has its own ups and downs. It also means  that Rhett Butler won’t have people around every day, which is something he really likes and has helped his anxiety. Gotta think about the dog too! Ultimately though we hope that the good outweighs the bad and this is another positive experience for us.

Changing childcare is as stressful as changing jobs. B and I both did a lot of “is the grass really greener?” hand wringing and we had a lot of late night talks about what the best option for our family is. It is scary, leaving something good for something unknown, but we are making the plunge. Fingers crossed!


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