Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter from Scary Bunny

I was semi-tempted to "forget" about visiting the Easter Bunny this year. Really, how can you keep the faith alive with an Easter Bunny that looks like this??

He literally looks like a oversized version of a ratty stuffed animal every kid has somewhere lying in their closet. Yet, his hands are creepily very human.

Sorry. It's Easter today. I shouldn't be such a Debbie Downer. But, I just cringed at this visit to the Easter Bunny. Our 7-year-old is teetering on the brink of believing in everything magical, and I just don't want to blow it.

The oxymoron is I love the kids believing in all these fantasy characters, but I can't help but feel completely awful for lying to them. How crushed our kids will be when they discover their whole world of holidays is a lie (at least the secular parts).

"Of course Santa is real! "Oh look where that silly Easter Bunny hid your eggs."
"Oh wow. The tooth fairy sure thinks you're special."

Lie. Lie. Lie.

One day they will figure it all out and maybe hate us for it, or at least be a little pissed.
The only solace I can take from this is Julie and Johnny will know how much we love them. We did all this for them out of love.

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!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Self-confidence Booster

I'm convinced self-confidence is inherent.

Somewhere around third grade I decided it was better to not try if there was a remote possibility of failing. My parents did everything right--showering me with praise, encouraging me to do my best, but not pushing me too hard. They rarely showed any disappointment in me, though I'm sure they must have felt let down on more than one occasion. Looking back, I wonder if they were troubled by my so-obvious insecurity.

When I tried out for the community play, I mumbled my lines and sang so softly the directors could barely hear. I got a part in the play, but not the one I really wanted.
I didn't dare run for student council in middle school or high school, though I desperately wanted to be on the leadership team. I couldn't face the humiliation of running for office and possibly not being elected.
Too intimidated by the older players, I didn't give it my all when I tried out for the volleyball team, so I was cut twice.
Much to my parents' dismay, I didn't apply for any scholarships, fearing I would be turned away.
In college, I didn't go after the journalism degree I really wanted because I was convinced I would fail college level calculus.

There have been so many times in my life I should have just gone for it and tried my best, but I held back--terrified of failure. It's as if I was afraid to show my vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I think Julie suffers from this same lack of self-confidence and fear of failure.  As soon as she struggles with something, she gives up.
When she sensed the other girls in soccer were beyond her talent-wise, she decided she would run away from the ball. "I don't want to get a goal!" Julie yelled on the field. Later she told us she didn't want to try to get a goal because she was convinced the goalie would block it. She felt the same way about running, gymnastics, dance, horseback riding and most recently even swimming. Julie is an outstanding swimmer for a seven-year-old, but recently she has become discouraged because she hasn't moved out of her current swimming level. Instead of pushing harder, determined to pass to the next level, she decided she's not good enough.

Today was a perfect example of this attitude. Julie was invited to an ice skating party for a friend's birthday. She was unsure whether she wanted to go because she's "terrible" at ice skating. I finally convinced her to go, she had a great time and by the end of the night she was skating on her own and so completely proud of herself.

"I did it Mommy and it was fun," Julie said, smiling as we walked to the car at the end of the night.

Times like these Scott and I know we need to push Julie through the struggle or plateau or bad attitude, and make her realize she truly can do anything she sets her mind to.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A seven-year-old's spiritual journey

It all started with a school journal entry.

"My favorite book is the Bible. I love the Bible because you learn about Jesus and God," Julie wrote last week.

This pretty much shocked me.

We never just pick up and read the Bible to Julie and Johnny. We try to go to church as much as possible, we pray at dinner and bedtime and we talk about God. Reading Bible passages together; however, doesn't happen very often. I guess I thought the Bible was over their head. Honestly, sometimes I feel like it's over my head.

I couldn't really tell you where our Bible was in our house, until Julie came bounding downstairs hugging it to her chest the other day. I seriously have no idea where she found it.

"I just love this book," Julie proclaimed, grinning from ear to ear.

I smiled too, kind of in disbelief at her newfound spirituality.

Somehow God has become an important part of her life and that makes us happy. It also encourages us to make faith a more important part of our family.

Today I found a crumpled piece of paper beneath her piano. As I read it, I realized it was a song about Jesus. "We all need to put our heart in Jesus," Julie wrote in the song.

How right she is.

Julie reading a children's book about the story of Jesus rising on Easter

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Johnny and the Purple Crayon

What is it with my kids and purple crayons?

Julie was a few months younger than Johnny when she decided to artisticly cover her bedroom in purple. It was supposed to be naptime, even though actual sleep rarely happened at that point. By 3 1/2 Julie had decided she had no need for naptime, though I insisted on making her rest quietly in her room. That day Julie seemed particularly quiet, so much so, that I optimistically assumed she had actually fallen asleep.

Of course I discovered the real reason for the silence when I opened the door and saw a purple smurf sitting on the floor admiring her purple masterpiece of a bedroom. My Julie had scribbled purple all over the walls, the floor, the bed, the dresser, her dolls, her clothes...pretty much anything in sight.

I barely said a word. Just stared at my purple daughter in shock.

She looked up, buried her face in her purple hands and began to cry.

Here we are four years later, and my Johnny finds use for a purple crayon---on the tile floor in the office. Johnny's artwork was much more subtle---just a couple tile squares scribbled with purple crayon. But, it was still there. And the handiwork was undeniably his.

The difference? When I questioned Johnny, he told me, straight-faced:  "The Easter Bunny did it."

The truth eventually came out. And the tears of regret quickly followed, then of course came the cleanup session.
A remorseful Johnny cleaning up his mess. Thank goodness for Mr. Clean erasers!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday Wow

There's a lot to love about this Wednesday Wow.

Leopard print plus a red bubble necklace=super fun outfit.
I bought this little getup before our trip to New Orleans, and I enjoy wearing it for restaurant nights or in this case Wednesday Wow.

The shirt was $10 at Charlotte Russe, the blazer was $20 at H&M and the necklace was $15 at Charming Charlie. Can't beat those prices to make you feel all gussied up for a day.

Julie took the pic! Not bad, huh?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brag time

There are times you just can't help but brag about your offspring. Julie's amazing report card is one of those times when I refuse to keep my mouth shut.

WARNING: If you're not one of Julie's grandparents or aunts and uncles, you might want to skip this schmultzy blog post.

Julie's report card literally brought tears to my eyes. It's not that I didn't know she was capable of a "perfect" report card. She's a smart kid, and when she tries hard she is capable of anything. It was, however, the teacher's written comments that made my eyes well.

Her teacher, Mrs. Johnson captured Julie's personality, kindness, strengths and accomplishments, all in a couple paragraphs.

"Julie seems like she has lived in Lake Zurich forever. She is well liked by her peers, helpful in class and continues to do well in all areas of first grade. She is a veracious reader with highly developed vocabulary and reading skills. Her printing has gotten so good it looks like a computer font. She has a knack of shining as an incredible writer. I have guided many children in their development of writing; however every now and then some children have that special touch."

(My heart melted when I read all the notes about Julie's wonderful writing. Obviously that hits home!)

Mrs. Johnson wrote much more, but that was the gist of it.

Scott and I know how amazing Julie is and we think the world of her. Of course she's awesome---she's ours! To see it written on paper; however, was a gift. Mrs. Johnson truly appreciates Julie for who she is, and she really likes her as a person. How comforting to know we are placing our child into loving hands every day---someone who cares for Julie and wants more than anything to prepare her not just for second grade but for the world beyond elementary, middle and high school.

Sometimes it just feels darn good when other people think your child is extraordinary.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Patrick's Day in the big city? Check.

This is how I imagined today's St. Patrick's Day Festivities in downtown Chicago:

Julie and Johnny amazed as they watched the Chicago River magically change to emerald green. The kids dancing as they watched the many floats pass by on Columbus Drive for the huge St. Patrick's Day parade. All of us hugging as one big Chi-rish family.

This is the reality of our fun-filled St. Patrick's Day adventure in the big city:

A drunk teenager throwing up in the seat in front of us on our first family train ride into the city. The puke slowly trickled towards our feet, so Julie and I hopped across the aisle.
Whining as the river took "FOREVER" to turn from dirty green to bright green, and "Why isn't the whole river turning green?"
I also got "I'm cold." "I'm hungry." "I'm tired." "When is the parade going to start?" "This is too much walking." "I want to go home."

The realization that there was no way in heck we were going to actually SEE the parade as we were behind crowds upon crowds of people.
 Heading back to the train station after 15 minutes of kind-of parade watching, and of course being unable to find the Blue Line to take us home.

The brightest spot of the day? Julie and Johnny giggling as they chased pigeons in Millenium Park.

At least we tried braving the city for the big celebration and now we know to never go back....unless we're there to drink green beer (without kids of course.)

I love St. Patrick's Day? Why is no one else with me on this one??

Friday, March 15, 2013

With the fairies

Want to know where leprechauns get their magic? From the Irish fairies of course. Typically leprechauns are shoe-makers, but around St. Patrick's Day they cause mischief and often leave treats for little kids. This is all made possible by the Irish fairies who sprinkle their pixie dust on the leprechauns March 1 before they leave on their magical adventures.

This a shortened version of Julie's explanation of leprechaun magic.
Julie's imagination is immense and she has absolute belief in everything fantasy. Scott and I are positive we won't have to answer any questions about Santa Claus for another five years. She just believes unconditionally.

She has always been that way- completely fascinated by worlds that are unreal to most of the rest of us. One of her preschool teachers once told us, "Julie has her head with the fairies."
Even this year in first grade, Julie often zones out during class, and we think she's just caught up in her imaginary worlds.

I will take the blame for some of this obsession with fantasy. Since she was a toddler, there have been imaginary beings visiting Julie. From our Christmas Angel who bestows small gifts for 12 nights leading up to Christmas and our Elf on the Shelf to our little leprechaun who visits us a week or so before St. Patrick's Day, trashing the house and leaving small treats---our family has its fair share of mystical beings.

Julie's latest obsession is the tooth fairy. Since the tooth fairy left her a special tooth box this week, Julie has become completely enamored with her.

Last night she left this note for the Tooth Fairy written on little pink paper with bright pink pen:

Dear Tooth Fairy,
Thank you so much for everything. I think you are fantastic. I believe in you so much!
Love, Julie
Age 7 :)

I wish I could just bottle up her innocence or freeze her in time.

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.