Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Field Trip: Chicago Botanic Gardens

Right about this time you're probably either totally in the Christmas spirit or overwhelmed by all the holiday whimsy. Maybe all you need is a little Christmas pick-me-up. If so, head to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

After reading about this magical place in Chicago Parent Magazine, we decided to take my parents last Christmas. We really didn't know what to expect...other than some model trains and beautifully festive plants.

We were in for an awesome surprise.

The massive poinsettias and winter arrangements were gorgeous, but the train garden was truly amazing. Laid out exactly like the city of Chicago, the train garden includes all the landmarks and impressive details of the city. Before touring the train garden, we were given pamphlets and we were encouraged to search for the city's landmarks. (This was obviously a hit with the kids...especially Julie as she obsessively tried to check off each landmark.)

And, if you need any more convincing....It snows inside! I'm serious. As we were wandering around the train garden, snow became falling from the ceiling. I have no idea what the mixture was, but it was definitely magical!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's not over just yet....

Last night Scott and I thought it was over.
We were convinced there was no way we could recover.

The Christmas magic had come to an end.

Our cover was blown.
We had just placed our Elf on the Shelf...on the shelf,
and I was busy in the office typing up a letter from our magic Christmas Angel. (Yes. We really love mythical creatures in this house.)

It was midnight, and Julie came creeping down the stairs. I quietly peaked out of the office door, and I watched as Julie spied the elf and the angel, and tiptoed back upstairs...just as she was caught by Scott.

I felt sick to my stomach.

Did she watch as I typed the letter from the angel on the special paper? Was she listening as Scott and I laughed about where to put the silly little elf? Was Julie trying to catch us in the act? Was she trying to figure out what was real? Her teacher did send an email on Friday explaining that one child had "spilled the beans" about Santa. Julie never once mentioned this, but that doesn't mean she wasn't mulling over the possibility of a Santa-less world.

Scott and I whispered nervously about it, wondering whether our days of Santa and tooth fairies and the Easter bunny and elves and leprechauns were over. We just weren't ready for it to end.

The next morning I asked Julie why she was up at midnight.

"Because I wanted to see the Elf and the Angel," she answered.

"You can't do that Julie. What if the elf was flying or he saw you wake up in the middle of the night?" I asked.

"Well, Santa and his elves always know when I'm sleeping or awake. So, he probably knew I was awake which is why he hurried and got up on the shelf," Julie explained.

Enough said.

I think we're pretty safe with at least one more year of Christmas magic.
Thank you! Thank you for our imaginative and gullible daughter.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This year's Christmas list....

Why do my kids always ask for the oddest things for Christmas???

When Julie was 3 all she wanted was cheese for Christmas, so cheese she got. Right beneath her stocking Santa placed a huge block of cheddar.
Last year she wanted "real glasses" though her eyesight was 20/20. But, Santa found her adorable fashion glasses.
Johnny last year requested the "Bean"---Chicago's gigantic mirrored sculpture in Millennium Park. He told us he wanted to put it in the basement so he could play inside of it. Santa gave him an ornament replica of the "Bean."

This year Julie and Johnny are asking for things that are not just simply unusual; They are not even in the realm of possibility.

To them, the sky's the limit. Santa will get it for them...even if their parents have no way of buying, finding, making, or building the requested gift.

On this year's list:

Johnny would like a Candy Cane Machine.
A quick Google search yields results for industrial candy cane machines made in Shanghai for $600,000
That's it. There aren't any cutsie kid versions of a candy cane machine, yet Johnny insists that's at the top of his list and Santa can make it.

Julie would like a "blurf".
What the hell is this, you might ask.
According to Julie, a blurf is a time machine that will transport her back to Biblical times....specifically when Jesus was born and also to the Garden of Eden.
When we asked Julie more about this her response was "You'll see when Santa brings it."

Seriously. What is with my kids?

While I love their imagination and creativity, I sometimes wonder, what goes on in their little heads??

Surprise Thanksgiving

It was supposed to be a quiet Thanksgiving....just the four of us.
Scott was out of vacation days and we didn't feel up to braving the Chicago Thanksgiving traffic.
I admit I wasn't thrilled about our lonely Thanksgiving plans.

Every Thanksgiving of my childhood and adulthood was spent surrounded by family at my grandma's house in Maryland. Last year was the first Thanksgiving I missed in Cumberland, but Scott's family was visiting, so it was still fantastic. It was a little different, but still wonderful to have family at our house.

I couldn't imagine quite picture a Thanksgiving without extended family. Wouldn't it just be like any other dinner we share together every night? Not that I couldn't deal with that possibility, but it definitely made me a little sad thinking about it.

Apparently Julie felt the same. Scott told Julie she could pick any activity she wanted for Thanksgiving weekend since it was just going to be our little family.
"But, I just want to be with family. I want to go visit them or maybe they can come here," Julie told her daddy.
Scott tried to woo her with promises of ice skating or restaurants or movies and popcorn.
Julie wouldn't budge.
"I just want family."

Finally about a week before Thanksgiving, Scott caved and convinced his boss to give him off Wednesday so we could get a start on our 10-hour trip to Maryland. I was ecstatic, and so were the kids when we told them.

Intent on surprising my family, we didn't say a word to my parents or my sister Kelly. I even tried to confuse my mom by asking for recipes and instructions on how to cook a turkey. The best was calling her right before we pulled onto their street, asking her explicit directions on how to thaw a turkey.

As I was talking with my mom on the phone, we rang the doorbell. She opened the door, completely bewildered. When it all registered, there were tears in her eyes, and my dad's too.
That made it worth the trek!

And, then of course, there was my completely ecstatic sister who jumped on me and hugged me for 10 minutes without letting go. "I just knew you would come!!" Kelly shouted bouncing up and down.

I think we might just try and "surprise" our family every year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Life goes on without an iPhone

The first cell phone I ever used was a clunker. Technically it was my parents’ “car phone” that I had borrowed while going out for a night with college friends in Baltimore.

It was awesome.

I remember stuffing the huge phone into my purse, so proud that I actually had a “cell phone”.

I don’t even think I knew the phone number. But, it was pretty much the greatest thing ever that night.

After that I was hooked.

Being able to call anyone anywhere was just the best. After college, I racked up major phone bills…that was obviously before unlimited phone calls and a few years before texting.

Then, of course came the smart phone. I was a little slow to buy one. I remember thinking it was an extravagance I just didn’t need. But, when it came time for an upgrade, the Androids were pretty cheap.

I was hooked again.

Next came the iPhone and I was in love. FaceTime, iMessages, Uploading photos to Facebook automatically. It was all completely wonderful.

Until it died. Last week my iPhone just completely stopped working. No warning. No reason. Just done.

At first I was devastated. How would I text? What if people were trying to call me? I couldn’t upload pictures to Facebook! How would life go on?

It was complete unnerving silence.

Then, it became almost like a vacation---being unreachable was kind of fun. Like an adventure.

I called people on the home phone. I met up with a friend for breakfast by arranging a time and place. No texts or cell phone calls. Somehow she found me at the back of the restaurant.

When waiting in a grocery line, I talked to the kids instead of playing on my phone.  And, I remembered all my assignments and appointments, even though I didn’t have my iPhone calendar or reminders.

I was completely capable without my iPhone.

Two days without a cell phone or smart phone and I survived!

So, I’m not replacing my iPhone (just yet). I reactivated my old, cracked Android. It’s slow, I can’t upload to Facebook, I don’t receive texts from some people and it’s a tad embarrassing because the screen is cracked. But, I’ll live…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The gift of giving

It was her idea.
Julie decided seven years of birthday presents was enough. It was time to give back.
Instead of birthday presents at her 8th birthday party, friends brought donations to our local animal shelter Orphans of the Storm in Riverwoods. Before Chico, we had been thinking about adopting a puppy from the shelter, and those animals really touched our hearts. Of course, after Chico, we really can't adopt another puppy right now, but we would love to give to the no-kill shelter in some way. So, with the help of Julie's awesome friends we delivered cat food, dog food, dog toys and treats, a huge dog bed, and $70.

Julie of course didn't go present-less on her birthday. She had plenty of gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles and a the pretty cool gift of the aquarium penguin encounter from her wonderful parents. But, we were so touched that our little girl decided to forgo potential presents from her friend. I'm sure she got the idea from another birthday party, but what a great form of peer pressure. We obviously didn't make a huge difference yesterday when we brought in our three bags of donations, but it was something.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A letter to my birthday boy

Dear Johnny,
Today you are 4.
This morning you came into my room like every other morning.
A hug around the neck. A kiss on my eyeballs. And the cherished "I wove you Mommy."
I love that you say your "Ls" like "Ws." I want to hold onto that.

When you get hurt, sometimes you say in a little pouty voice "Sing to me in the chair Mommy." And a lot of times you want me to sing "Eidelweiss"--the song I used to sing with my daddy. I want to hold onto that too.

You still like to hold my hand. You hug me no less than 100 times a day and you sometimes hold my face in your little hands and say "You're so cute Mommy!" My heart melts and I want to hold on to that too.

When the garage creaks open every night, you run to the door screaming to your daddy. Then you immediately request "the spinning game." You squeal and giggle until he flings you on the couch and you scamper over and want "Again!" I want to hold onto that.

Just like your sister, you've got quite an imagination. There are some days the two of you will play Legos or super heroes or yes, even Barbies for hours. I'll peak in and both of you are contentedly playing together in an imaginary world all of your own. I want to hold onto that.

You just love to play and get so excited at the littlest things. One of your favorite things is to just run or skip around and sing. When you played soccer you ran around the court after everybody else, sometimes kicking the ball the wrong way, but forever laughing, smiling and often singing. You have such a lighthearted spirit and I hope you hold onto that.

You care about other people's feelings. Your first day of t-ball practice, you threw your hands excitedly in the air and screamed "Good job!" whenever anyone threw the ball. At your birthday party at school the teacher told you to pick anything you wanted from the toy box. What did you pick? A tiny yellow butterfly barrette for Julie.
I hope you hold onto that.

You possess empathy unlike any other little boy I know. One day I got upset with Julie and you were so mad at me. "You hurt Julie's feelings. That's not nice."
When we're playing and Daddy pretends to tackle me, you are always my protector. "Get off of her!" you scream, truly upset. When I was sick, you brought me blankets and read me stories. You care deeply about other people and you need to hold onto that.

I know one day you'll no longer be my little boy. That makes me sad just thinking about it, but I can see glimpses of the man you will become and that makes me proud.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The cut

Julie is sitting perfectly still, staring into the mirror. Then snip. Snip. Snip.

Suddenly, I'm having flashbacks. Terrible traumatizing flashbacks.
My long, blonde, pin-straight hair, lying on the floor of Hair Cuttery.
Strange glances.
Even ruder questions. "Are you a boy or a girl?"
My adorable little sister laughing and pointing "You look like a boy Re-re."

I snap out of my daze only when I hear Johnny proclaim: "Julie...You look like a boy!"

I gulp as I stare at the gobs of Julie's hair on the salon floor.
"No she doesn't," I make myself say. "She looks great."
But, Wow. Her hair is short. Almost to her ear.

Then, I see her smile.
"This is how I wanted it Mommy," Julie grins. "I don't even care if I look like a boy. I'm still me."


Here's Julie, wearing the "glasses" Santa gave her. "Now I look just like Meme."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday Wow

Check out one of my favorite accessories. It's my silver Coach bracelet I scored through Coach's online outlet store for a great price! I love to pair it with a gemstone bracelet a good friend gave to me a few years ago in Altoona. Hope you had a great Wednesday Wow!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tooth troubles

We dubbed it "the tooth that would never fall out." Julie even wrote a story about her stubborn tooth. It began to wiggle around Christmas time, and it refused to exit her mouth until two nights ago.

Even then, the tooth was literally yanked from from Julie's mouth. Let's just say the night Julie's tooth was finally removed wasn't a finer parenting moment for Scott and me.

 It all started with the genius idea to tape a video for America's Funniest Videos. "AFV" is our favorite family show. Every Sunday after dinner we snuggle on the couch and crack up at the nitwits on TV. Attention-cravers like their parents, Julie and Johnny have desperately tried to enact hilarious moments for us to capture and send to AFV, in hopes of winning the big prize--$10,000. Well, we were sure we had the best idea the other night.

It all came about as we were trying to think of ways to pull out Julie's tooth. It seemed to be hanging by a skin thread at that point, but it just wouldn't come out. Julie decided we should tie a string to her tooth, and tie the other end of the string to a remote control car. Then, as the car raced away, her tooth was sure to fall out. This all sounded like wonderful idea and a shoo-in for AFV.

 Unfortunately it was much more traumatic for Julie than we counted on. After the first few runs of the remote control car, Julie became frantic and wanted the string and car off her tooth. By this point, the string was wound so tight around her tooth it was unable to come off. Hilarity and drama then ensued, as we chased Julie around the house trying to pull the string off her tooth, and hopefully the tooth out of her mouth. She whined. She howled. She screamed. She paced.

Of course we could have simply cut the string from the car, but Julie was absolutely convinced we were also going to cut out her tooth. This in and of itself was hilarious, so Scott taped Julie freaking out about the possibility of someone cutting out her tooth with scissors.

Eventually, she let Scott cut the string from the car, and somehow Scott yanked the string off her tooth with her tooth still remaining intact in her mouth.

Finally, an hour or so later, as Scott read Julie "Charlotte's Web" while gently rocking her tooth back and forth---it came out.

What a dramatic tooth debacle. At least you can look out for us on AFV.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Wow

I'm staying true to my personal vow to Wednesday wow. Today I took Johnny and my father-in-law who is visiting from Nevada to Lego Land. Obviously it was not a fancy affair, but I did myself up right, curled my hair, slapped on some lip gloss and rocked the Wednesday Wow. I love this cream lace shirt I scored from Express. The pink-hued baubles around my neck I bought a couple years ago from Charlotte Russe. And, my personal favorite bling are my new earrings from Charming Charlie--my new favorite store. It's all about the costume jewelry to make you feel like a diva.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The best decision

The summer going into 5th grade, I spent most of the unbearably sticky, hot Baltimore days inside--reading books, writing and watching TV. It's not that I didn't want to play outside. It's just that I was painfully shy, and couldn't bear the awkward situation of trying to make new neighborhood pals. My two real friends had recently moved away, and I wasn't up for making new friends. Besides, I was completely comfortable spending my summer days as a recluse. I loved to read and write, and the air-conditioning felt darn good.

My parents felt sorry for me I guess, and felt I should try and "be a kid". So, they thrust me into a friendship with a girl who had just moved in with her father, stepmother and two stepbrothers across the street. Kelly was a year older in school, but about 10 years old in terms of experience.

Kelly easily befriended me, kind of relishing having a younger kid to boss around. Before long, I was thrown into her troubled life. She had come to live with her father, after years of physical and mental abuse from her mother. I won't retell her stories. That's for her to do.

It was painfully obvious (even to me at the time) that her actions and personality were a result of the abuse. As an immature soon-to-be fifth grader, I just kind of went along with whatever she wanted, even though a lot of it shocked me. Up until this point, I had been the epitome of a perfect daughter with excellent grades and a goodie two shoes personality. Around this time, I was kind of fed up with being such a good little girl for some reason. I even recall writing in my diary that I wanted to rebel. I guess meeting Kelly was fate. She offered that bad girl life I craved.

My parents didn't have much of a clue about the trouble we got ourselves into, but when I started not coming home for curfew on multiple occasions, they put a stop to it. About two years into our "best friendship," my parents told me I could no longer hang out with Kelly. I was crushed, but also strangely relieved.

After I was forbidden to be friends with Kelly, I withdrew into myself again, but then gradually made other friends. Eventually Kelly moved away--I think around freshman year in high school. That was fine with me.

I don't think my parents or I foresaw the importance of this decision. I didn't truly realize this until three days ago when she friended me on Facebook. She has two children---17 and 10, and she was recently released from prison.

"I'm ready for a fresh start. It's never too late to start over," Kelly wrote on her Facebook wall.

I agree and I truly hope my troubled friend finds her way and experiences happiness. I feel sad that she has obviously led such a tough life, but I also feel selfishly fortunate to have drifted away from her as a young girl. Of course I have my parents to thank for that. It takes wise and loving parents to make such difficult decisions.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Corn dogs and cupcakes

I think I mentioned that I was a portly kid.
Thanks to my parents brainwashing me about my "beauty", my chubbiness didn't really bother me...until other people started pointing it out. The most scarring incident was when my pediatarician, Dr. Hernandez grabbed my belly roll and squeezed it. "I'm going to call this 'the Hernandez Handle'," he proclaimed. Obviously a doctor wouldn't get away with that kind of nonsense these days, but back then you basically listened to whatever the doctor said. I was completely mortified, and I think my mother was scared into cutting back on my lunch snacks. Before then, my lunch usually consisted of bologna and cheese sandwiches on white bread, a bag of Doritos, two cookies and a Capri Sun. To my mom's credit, our dinners were always fairly healthy. We had a salad with dinner every night and we always had to drink our entire glass of milk. For some reason, our lunches left much to be desired in the way of nutrition. After the debacle at the doctor's office, however, I remember Mom including fruit in my lunchbox, and the Doritos weren't so common. Over the years, I somehow found my way in terms of eating right. I went through a phase of practically starving myself in high school. Then, in college I refused to eat any fat, though I often loaded up on carbs. In recent years I finally seem to be getting it right by feeding the family more whole foods. Teaching Julie and Johnny to eat healthy is extremely important to Scott and me. So far it seems to have worked (at least with Julie.) Johnny has this insatiable sweet tooth. But, Julie seems to really get it. We truly believe she's the world's best child eater. She literally eats whatever we serve her, and she usually tries everything....from sushi and seafood to every vegetable and fruit imaginable. She likes treats just like any other kid, but she seems to truly understand the importance of a healthy diet. Her restraint is amazing. I rarely let Julie buy school lunch, but yesterday her bookbag was laden down with books, extra shoes and projects. So, I told her to buy lunch. The poor girl came home, saying she only ate carrots and pineapple chunks because "there was nothing healthy." Yesterday's school lunch  menu consisted of corn dogs and nachos. We never told Julie what or what not to eat at school. She made that decision, which made me completely proud. Too bad she had to forgo lunch, but it's pretty amazing that she wants to make healthy eating decisions. You can't say that for every 7 year old.
Seven-year-old Kristy wouldn't have hesitated to scarf down a corn dog, and wash it down with a cupcake.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday Wow

If there is one thing I wasn't born with--it's a sense of style. I probably have my parents to thank for that.

As a kid I didn't put up much of a fuss about clothes. Unlike my sister, I didn't throw a tantrum because I wanted to wear pink frilly dresses every day. When I did finally start caring about my appearance in middle school, I didn't have a clue about fashion. I kind of just followed the crowd to figure out what to wear--which apparently meant pleather jeans and large t-shirts with Maggie Simpson on the front. I didn't improve much in high school when I recall wearing tapered jeans and sports t-shirts or flannels pretty much every day.

Even in college when I tried really hard to look pretty every day just in case I happened to pass by a cute boy or two on the way to class, I was fashion impaired. I usually ended up in a velour top and too baggy jeans, or a pair of cargo shorts and a ribbed t-shirt. Luckily, my trendy roommates often came to the rescue with fashion advice.

In recent, years however, I feel like I have finally found my way in the world of style. I'm still not completely fabulous in that department, but I feel comfortably classy these days when I actually make an effort.

I may have somewhat found my fashion voice, but I find myself wearing gym clothes on most days...mainly because I spend a lot of time at the gym, but also because sweats are comfy.

So, I have made a conscious effort to dress up at least once a week---nice outfit with jewelry, makeup, hair styled and all. I'm calling it the Wednesday Wow.

Here's a sneak peak at some cute bangles I wore today. (Scored them at Target.) Try Wednesday Wow with me!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The best sister I know

Scott and I made these silly t-shirts for Kelly's party. On the front: "Haters gonna Hate." On the back was a picture of Kelly's teenage heartthrob Mario Lopez with the caption "Slater's Gonna Slate."

I'm the first born.
Naturally I covered a lot of ground before my little sister Kelly was born five years later.
By the time she came around I was reading, writing and I had captured my parents' hearts. (And I was obviously quite full of myself.)

I wanted a little sister pretty badly. But once she actually came to live with us, I wasn't a fan of this screaming little least at first.

For five years, I had my parents all to myself and there didn't seem to be a problem with that. I was obviously a little spoiled and self-centered, but I was a "perfect angel". (Those are my dad's words, not mine.)

All of the sudden my peaceful little world was turned upside down. There were times when my mom's bedroom door was closed while she nursed baby Kelly. I remember just sitting outside that closed door and feeling completely sorry for myself. I wanted to play a game with Mommy darn it. Why didn't she want to play with me anymore?

The worst of it came when Kelly was a toddler and preschooler and little girl. Because she was absolutely the most adorable little girl EVER. And, I hated that. She had the biggest blue eyes with the longest eyelashes. Don't get me started on her adorable little dimple. Everyone noticed.
Around the same time I had the misfortune of getting the worst haircut ever and people constantly mistook me for a boy. So whenever we were out as a family, it was "the beautiful little girl and her nice older brother." That was the worst let me tell you.

And Kelly was a little ham too. She was so friendly and outgoing. Meanwhile, there was me, looking like a chubby boy, who was scared to death to raise her hand in school, let alone say hello to a stranger.

Those years were rough. Even though I was insanely jealous of my adorable little sister, I couldn't help but love her. Because she was crazy about me. She followed me around, constantly wanting me to play with her and do the same things that I did. She called me "Re-Re".

I can't describe what it felt like for someone to look up to me so blindly. Kelly seemed to love me unconditionally, and she forgave and forgot like no one I have ever known.

Over the years, of course we fought, but I'm sure the  phases where I just plain ignored her hurt the most. All through middle school and high school, I didn't want much to do with my younger sister. And in college, I could have invited her to spend the weekend, but I was too selfish and immersed in college life. Kelly could have held all this against me, or at least been a little distant to me. But, that's not her way.

After college, when I finally decided family was most important, she wanted nothing more than to have me by her side. She invited me to her dorm room to hang out with her friends freshman year, and on her 21st birthday she was excited for me to come and go out with her. She has been my cheerleader all the years after--excited by every milestone. She was my maid of honor, my first-born's Godmother, and she was the first to seem truly happy for us about our move to Chicago.

I truly do not deserve such a selfless, caring sister.

So, this weekend I threw her a surprise 30th birthday party. Fifty people--family and friends--came to the party.

Kelly was shocked. And, when she saw me she started crying.

"I can't believe all these people came for me," Kelly whispered in my ear in disbelief.

She would never think that. That's just Kelly.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


I spend a lot of time documenting the amazing lives of other people. I'm constantly writing about incredible people and their awesome experiences and remarkable talents. I so envy them. They all have a niche.

That's something I'm lacking.

I have so many friends who have a niche.

 My close college friend, Kyle, loves fashion and interior design. She blogs about fashion of course, and was recently the featured blogger on Style Spies, a unique website about fashion and style. (

Melinda, my sister-in-law loves party planning and decorating, and her blog is about just that. (

One of my very best high school buddies Heather is an adventurist. She's a world traveler and was commissioned to write a series of hiking books.

And, one of my newest friends, Lindsey, here in Chicagoland came about her niche just this year. After her daughter had a rough start in kindergarten and first grade, she decided to completely change her family's diet. The end result was a miraculous improvement in her daughter's school performance. Lindsey is now a food ambassador for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and was a guest on a Food Revolution webcast yesterday. (

I'm so happy for my friends and how they are so passionate. They have truly found their voices.

Maybe they'll help me find mine.

It's not that I don't have interests or passions or talents. There are a lot of things I love to do. The problem is I don't excel at one particular thing. I'm just adequate at a lot of things. I'm a runner, though my last major race was almost two years ago. I love the outdoors, but sometimes I'd rather snuggle up with a book than leave the house. I like to cook, but I'm pretty much a recipe kind of girl. I love my kids, but sometimes I'd rather do laundry than play a game with them. Of course I like to write, but I'm not Pulitzer material.

I guess I'm jack-of-some trades, master of none. Maybe just maybe that's OK. Because maybe that's just my niche.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The world's best nurse

My mom is the world's best nurse. Not in the literal, professional sense. She never made her living that way, but she should have considered that line of work. Although my mom isn't overly compassionate or affectionate, when someone is sick she shines.

She's just really good at taking care of people. Somehow it's second nature to her. It's almost as if she enjoys it. Mom was never the hug-gy type when we were little, but when were sick-- in her bed is where we'd be. She knew exactly what to do to make us feel better. Whatever we wanted or needed she did for us without complaint. When her parents and my dad's great aunt and mother were dying, she was the one who spent countless hours in nursing homes and hospitals---talking to them, feeding them, caring for them. She has the magic touch.

I wish I had an ounce of Mom's mystical abilities. Julie has been pretty sick this week. While I try to do everything for her, I can't help but think Mom would have done so much better. It's not that I don't know how to take care of my sick kids, but my mom just has a natural instinct, and seemingly endless patience when it comes to sick people. I, on the other hand, tend to get slightly annoyed with a sick patient who seems to be milking it.

I know this will sound completely heartless, but while my mom is the world's best nurse, my daugther is the world's worst patient. She's whiny. She's dramatic. She's irrational. And, sometimes it seems as if nothing can make her feel better. Since she was a tiny baby, her illnesses have been blown way out of proportion---though we didn't really realize this until we had our second child.

So, this latest affliction--basically a cold with a high fever has been no different. Yesterday Julie was hysterical because everything smelled bad. At first she blamed it on Johnny. I didn't think he smelled, but I gave both kids baths just in case. Then, she blamed it on the house. And the sofa. And the blankets. When she blamed it on me, that was it. I called Mom. "Did you smell her breath?" my mom asked. I briefly wondered where she was going with this. "She probably has strep throat. Sometimes your breath can smell really bad when you have it. That might be what she was smelling."
She was right. Her breath was awful. I had her brush her teeth and she seemed to forgot about the smell for the while. By that time, unfortunately, it was too late to go to the doctor, but that's where we'll go today.

My mom---pure genius.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The White Stuff

Snow was a big deal in Baltimore. The anticipation was everything. Local news stations aired what they deemed "The Snow Show"--constant coverage of the impending storms. Families performed snow dances. Schools canceled at the mere threat of a couple inches. And those snow days off from school were incredible. My parents were just as excited as my sister and me. It meant no work for Mom because she was a gym teacher, and a much shorter, calmer day for Dad, who was a principal. Yup. Snow days were the absolute best. The days were spent sledding, building snowmen and drinking hot chocolate. If it was still snowing at dinner time, the four of us walked to our local Pizza Hut to devour a few slices of pizza and root beer. Snow in Baltimore was always an event, and I guess that's what made snow days so special. Snow in Chicago is a completely different experience. It's no big deal to the locals who are  hardened to fierce winters. The streets are plowed and scraped clean before you even wake up in the morning and the entire neighborhood snow blows sidewalks and driveways in less than an hour. Most disheartening of all-- schools never call off for snow. I think the last time the kids had off school here was a few years ago when three feet of snow dumped on the area. When we woke up yesteday morning, about three inches of snow covered the ground. The kids got dressed early and made a snow castle and threw a couple snowballs. Then, it was off to the bus stop. School was on time. I felt a tinge of sadness realizing that Julie's day would be spent at school instead of frolicing in the white stuff. I guess we better get used to it. We're Chicagoans now.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Here we are.

Scott and I on our very first visit to Chicago
I never imagined I would be living in Chicago. Truly, I never pictured  myself anywhere but good ole' Bawlmer. As a senior in high school, my parents informed me that they would pay for any college I desired, as long as it was less than an hour from home. So, off to University of Delaware I went. The 45-minute drive pleased my parents, and I was ecstatic to attend one of the top party schools.

After graduation, I watched in awe as many of my college friends moved into tiny studio apartments in Manhattan. It seemed unfathomable to me. The reliable, loyal and predictable daughter that I am, I moved back in with my parents until I got hitched to my Scott two years later. When we moved into a little townhouse resembling the one I grew up in, I just figured that was the way life was going to be for us. We were happy.

But, life always has surprises. A couple years later Scott was  transferred to a little town in Central Pennsylvania, not too far from Western Maryland. Pay was good, cost of living was cheap, and I got to stay home with my very new baby girl Julie. We tearfully said goodbye to friends and family and set off on our little adventure in the mountains. At the time that was probably my bravest accomplishment. As an uncertain new mother I moved to a new town in the middle of nowhere with no family or friends nearby. It was certainly an adjustment for a city girl like myself. We gradually made friends and became a part of the community. The seven years we spent in the little town called Altoona shaped us as a family, and of course our family literally grew too, when  we had our baby boy Johnny. Deep down we knew we wouldn't stay in Altoona forever. We made great friends and my parents only lived an hour away in Western Maryland, but the town and our family weren't a perfect match.

 My dream was that we would eventually head back to Baltimore. Once again, the unexpected happened when Scott was offered a promotion in Chicago. "CHICAGO?!" was my immediate petrified reaction. I had never officially visited the windy city. My only encounter was the night we spent in the terrible airport when our plane was delayed for 12 hours. Chicago was not my first choice or second or third for that matter. It seemed so far away. So cold. So unknown. The offer, however, was too good to refuse, so we at least had to give it a shot. Chicago had me at the first visit. It was bustling. It wasn't (too) cold. It was exciting. And, it was absolutely beautiful. We were sold.

So here we are, and I have to admit Chicago has yet to disappoint. We are loving being tourists in our own town, the food is amazing and the people are too. I can't say with certainty that we are here to stay. For now, we're happy to be here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm not a bad Mommy

How can I not love these little guys?
Have you noticed how many "bad Mommy" blogs are out there these days? Apparently it's super cool now to trash talk your kids. It's not just blogs either. Moms everywhere (on Facebook, Twitter, at the park, at the bus stop) love to talk about their terrible kids and their rotten parenting skills. We just love to share our miseries with other moms. I'm definitely not above whining about my children. They're not perfect and I don't want them to be, and sometimes I just want other moms to sympathize with my plight, but I don't want this blog to be all about that. Of course some days I might want to talk about how my almost-four-year-old son refuses to poop for days on end, or how my 7 year-old daughter is a complete and utter drama queen. But, there's so much more to life with kids than woe-is-me. We chose to have these little darlings so why don't we make the best of it?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

When you have kids, don't you secretly hope they turn out just like you? I mean isn't that the whole idea behind having offspring? We all want little mini-mes, right? So, I couldn't have been happier when Julie wrote a little love poem to her teacher. Sure. She spelled a word wrong and forgot a period. But, overall, it was pretty darn good for a first grader. It rhymed (ABAB) and it was from the heart. This is totally something I would have written for my teacher. Maybe not for my first grade teacher.(She was the worst.) But, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Anthony definitely would have received a little love note from me.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Read me!

Here we are on the day we moved to Chicago. Aren't we cute in our matching Chicago tees?
Hi out there. I know there are way too many Mommy blogs. Well, here's one more to read...or not read. It doesn't matter too much to me. I'm just doing this to document my oh-so-exciting life. I have always been a diary writer...well since the age of 7 anyway. My family and friends always tease me because in all of my childhood memories I am 7. But, I have the diaries to prove it! I really started writing in my diary when I was 7. That was the year I became convinced I was going to some day become a famous poet or novelist or children's book author. My teachers and parents fed me one too many compliments I guess. Anyway, none of that has come to fruition; however, I do write for a living. Well, I can't really say "living" since I don't make quite enough to support a family of four...or even a family of one for that matter. Luckily, I was fortuitous enough to marry a super smart and ambitious guy who is making enough mula so that I can stay home with our two children---the best kids ever (on most days...on other days I just pretend they aren't mine.) On my "spare" time, as in naptime or bedtime or kids watching way too much TV time, I'm a freelance writer for a handful of parenting publications. I don't claim to be the best writer or journalist in the world. Heck, I don't even try to do that. But, mommy issues interest me and I'm always looking for a story. This blog is a way to tell "our" family story, but also explore some of my story ideas, and post a few of my very best writing masterpieces. If you catch any mistakes in my blogs, just ignore them.