Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thank you God for answered prayers

Her grip was tight. It's as if she were saying "Don't worry, Mommy. I'm going to be OK."
This picture was taken about a week ago---when I didn't know what was going to happen to my little girl. I can't begin to describe how painful it is to see your newborn baby girl with breathing tubes in her nose, IVs sticking out of her tiny hands and cords all over her body.
Twelve hours after I gave birth to our Josephine Janice, I finally got to hold our sweet baby girl. I was emotional the first time I saw our other children--Julie and Johnny. But, with Josie, I was completely overwhelmed. To me, she was the most beautiful baby, and I could just feel her sweet and innocent soul. She was perfect.
Josie came home with us yesterday--one week after she was born.
This past week has been the most difficult time--probably in my entire life. I don't think I've ever felt quite so helpless or sad. There's nothing that can compare to leaving your newborn baby at the hospital--not knowing when she might get better.
When we finally brought her home, I felt more thankful and grateful than ever before. Our prayers had been answered. The most amazing Christmas gift.
Life doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Leaving is the Hardest Part...

Our little Josephine "Josie" Janice was born Tuesday at 12:47 p.m.
6 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches.

She's absolutely perfect.

Today I leave the hospital without her and I just don't know how I'm going to do it.

Josie was born three weeks early so her lungs are immature and she's just not ready to come home yet. But, I'm so not ready to leave her.

Scott and I have spent the last four days in the special care nursery staring at our beautiful little girl, sometimes holding her but always praying for her to get better.

 In my last post I worried about how I would handle life with three kids. Now, I just can't imagine life without our youngest little girl. And I just don't know how I'm going to leave her here today.

Yesterday, she laid in my lap and gazed at me for what seemed like forever. She held my hand and I never wanted to let go. Please get better sweet baby.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ready or Not

Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. our baby girl will arrive.

No rushing to the hospital in the middle of the night or wondering whether that pain is a "real" contraction." No water breaking while Christmas shopping or measuring how many centimeters dilated.

It's Dec. 9 at 12:30 p.m. That's it.

(Planned C-section because of placenta preevia.)

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I'm kind of sad it's all planned. Is it possible to actually miss contractions? And I've never been a great "pusher", but I'm oddly disappointed about that not happening either.

When I was in labor with both kids, I distinctly remember wishing for it all to be over so I could just hold my baby. I just wanted to get on with it and fast forward.

Here we are 4 days from my C-section and I'm not feeling it's too I want to wait for the baby to tell me she's ready to come into this world.

Even though I've been nesting like crazy and I like I'm about to burst, there are still three more weeks until my due date. To me, that seems like a long time when it comes to pregnancy. I'm not sleeping, I waddle and I have all kinds of aches and pains, but I just don't feel quite ready yet. Anyone who looks at me these days can't resist saying "You must be ready!!" A cashier at CVS even said "I just want to poke you with a pin and pop you."

I know I'm the size of a pot bellied pig right now, but I really don't mind it, and I completely don't feel mentally ready. I struggle to walk, I can barely bend over, and crossing my legs is out of the question. Still...I wouldn't mind a few more weeks.

Mostly I just want our baby girl to be completely developed and healthy, but I also think I need more than four days to wrap my head around the idea of a third child---a baby---joining our family. We haven't had babies in the house for 5 1/2 years. We sleep past 7 a.m. on the weekends, the kids don't need our constant attention and they're like real people now with independent thoughts and feelings.

What will it be like with our new baby? How will our family change?

I would like to think that we'll go with the flow since we've done this all before.  Maybe the lack of sleep won't get to us too much and there will be plenty of love and attention to go around.

But, let's face it. I'm scared.

I don't want the all-encompassing duties of taking care of a newborn to affect the two kids we have. I want to be there for them in all their special programs and activities and I want to notice when they're sad or need help. I want to  still be able to snuggle with them in the mornings or help them with homework without feeling like I'm falling apart. 

The thing is--I remember feeling like this before Johnny was born. Julie was 3 1/2 and I couldn't imagine how we would be able to manage or how we could love another child as much. We did it and we'll do it again.

The little girl is coming whether we're ready or not.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Perfect Tree

There she is. Our Christmas tree. Slightly leaning. Half the ornaments are homemade and the rest are from the 1980s.

She was decorated (almost) entirely by the kids. And she even fell over once (which of course prompted grumbling from Scott.)

She's not wrapped with burlap garland or fancy vintage bulbs. But, it's our perfect tree. The big old-fashioned colored lights bring back memories of Christmases growing up and every ornament has a story.

There's the penguin made from popsicle sticks by Julie in first grade, and the ornament with
Johnny's preschool picture. There are a half dozen "baby" ornaments and a few other MacKaben family ornaments. There's the snowman I painted in 1986 and the Santa crocheted by my grandma.

Watching Julie and Johnny play with and talk about their ornaments reminded me so much of Christmases long ago.

Growing up we had two Christmas trees. The fancy, snow-flocked tree with blue lights and mirrored ornaments sat upstairs. That was the one we didn't touch.

Then, there was our special live tree downstairs. When Mom brought down the boxes of ornaments Kelly and I got so excited. We loved playing with the ornaments so much, we almost didn't want to put them on the tree. That was the tree we gathered around on Christmas Eve to read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and on Christmas morning to open presents.

That's the tree I want for our kids. One that's full of love and memories. Even if it doesn't look quite Facebook-worthy, it's the best.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Enter the Stressing Phase

Less than three weeks and our baby girl arrives. Most pregnant women nest at this phase. I stress. Sure. I'm cleaning and prettying the nursery and buying cute little baby things on Etsy. But, mostly I'm worrying and freaking out.

With all three of my pregnancies, I have completely worried about everything little thing that could possibly go wrong. With Julie I was convinced she was a "mermaid". Every time we had a sonogram, her legs were crossed, so I was certain she would come out with conjoined legs. I'm not sure what I stressed about with Johnny, but I'm sure there was something.

 Even though I have delivered two healthy and beautiful babies, I am most worried about this baby girl. Here's why. I'm 36. In other words I'm over 35---that magic number when birth defects and other issues increase. (I'm hoping maybe the odds are in my favor since technically I was 35 when I got pregnant.) I already have an unexpected issue: placenta previa. Because of this I have to deliver the baby 3 weeks early. This means the baby is at greater risk of problems---like difficulty breathing or other immature bodily functions.

I know it's important to remain positive, but it's hard. I feel like I'm inundated with stories of babies born with problems or lasting challenges. Just last week, our former pastor in Chicago welcomed a beautiful 9-pound baby girl into the world--3 weeks early. She's still in the NICU because of breathing issues. Then, there are the stories of the babies who don't make it, or the moms who die at childbirth, or the babies who showed no signs of complications en utero but are born with lifelong health defects.

Obviously we will love our baby girl no matter what, but I just can't help but worry. Here are my goals for these next 2 1/2 weeks:
1. Pray for the best.
2. Think positively.
3. Focus on the beautiful family we have.
4. Dream about our new baby girl.
5. Enjoy these last couple weeks! (Christmas shopping, pedicures and de-caff pumpkin spice lattes.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Miss Independent

Julie didn't shower or brush her teeth all weekend, and for breakfast she ate cocoa puffs, chocolate muffins and hot chocolate. But, I couldn't be more proud of our exhausted, dirt-caked girl after her first weekend away at Girl Scout camp.

Julie has spent plenty of time away from us---either with grandparents or at friend sleepovers. But, this was her first big weekend trip. I wasn't too worried about her feeling sad or scared, but I wondered whether she would have fun or get along with the other girls. And I was sure she'd be a grumpy mess when I picked her up today.

I was in for a surprise.

Julie greeted me with smiles and plenty of stories about hikes and horses and a little Brownie fairy named "Sparkles." There were ghost stories and s'mores. Bugs and dirt. And little songs and jokes they made up on the trip.

And her Brownie leader told me she was amazed at Julie's self-sufficiency. "She did everything herself and didn't ask for help!" she told me.

I couldn't be more proud of my little Brownie.

The first night at camp. Julie's on the far right in the hot pink.

Horse back riding adventures. Julie is on the far right.

Julie and her little friend Rose getting ready to head off to camp.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Five more weeks with my pumpkin

That's me and my pumpkin on Halloween---about 32 weeks prego.

My sister Kelly says it looks like I'm holding a yoga ball.

I probably should be offended, but I absolutely love my big old pumpkin. The bigger and rounder my baby bump becomes, the happier I feel.

I have a few Facebook friends who constantly complain about being pregnant. They feel fat. Their feet ache. They miss drinking wine. They hate when people touch their bellies and they are furious when someone comments about their size.

I guess I can understand all that. There are plenty of unpleasant aspects about being pregnant. But, overall, I think it's something to be proud of and enjoy. The time you carry another human being is fleeting---40 weeks (or in my case 37). And the time you are able to carry another human being is also fleeting---(At 36 years old I know this too well.) It's a blip on the timeline of your life.

And this is our last baby, so I plan to cherish these remaining 5 weeks. I want to stop and feel my baby's moves and kicks and stretches. I want to dream about what she will look like and be like. I want to eat ice cream, and show off my bump to the world.

 Touch my belly. Ask me whether I'm having twins and look surprised when I say "no."  Or exclaim "You must be due any day now!" in amazement.

I will just smile, puff out my belly and proudly waddle away.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Field Trip: Chattahoochee Nature Center

When we moved to Chicago two years ago, I was so starved for culture and adventure, that I dragged the kids on little trips and outings every chance I got. I traveled hours just to experience all that great city and metro area had to offer.

Since moving to Georgia, we haven't been as adventurous. I think, maybe, I don't expect to find anything that could measure up to Chicagoland. We moved here three months ago, and we still haven't ventured into Atlanta yet. Scott and I both believe it will be hard to live up to the Windy City.

Even so, we have found a few interesting spots in Georgia. In Atlanta's outskirts, there are a lot of nature preserves and opportunities for outdoor activities. One of the first spots the kids and I explored was the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell which sits on the Chattahoochee River, not too far from where we live. It's a great little spot with plenty of paved walking trails and a plethora of animals to observe. While we were there we caught a little show by a wildlife expert and we delighted in "catching" butterflies in the butterfly tent.

In the summer, the nature center hosts summer camps and also kayaking and canoeing trips on the river.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Munch: Ray's on the River

Moving to Georgia--we knew we would be itching to try all the great southern fare---from barbeque to grits and fried catfish. Admittedly, southern food is not the healthiest, but you have to indulge in local food occasionally right?

A great little date night restaurant we found is Ray's on the River in Sandy Springs. This restaurant, which is worth dressing up for, is situated along the Chattahoochee River. Scott and I went for a date night, and after dinner we walked along a little path overlooking the river.

My favorite part of the meal was probably the appetizer: goat cheese pimento fritters. I absolutely love goat cheese, and southerners seems to apparently obsessed with pimento cheese. It was a surprisingly delicious combination.  We split a huge salad and a side of creamed spinach. For the main course Scott opted for trout and I couldn't resist the shrimp and grits, which were amazing.

Shockingly we were too full for dessert, but I'm sure we'll try to save some room next time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Field Trip: Hillcrest Orchards

Right next to my elementary school in Maryland was an apple orchard. So, every fall, there were field trips to the orchard. As a class, we would tromp over in our rubber boots, swinging wicker baskets and we would pick apples. Then, sometime that week the class would make apple sauce.

I kind of forgot about those crisp, fall elementary school days picking apples. But, I had some flashbacks this weekend as Scott, the kids and I picked apples at Hillcrest Orchards in Ellijay. It was our first time apple picking and we had a blast. Julie and Johnny ran up and down the rows of apple trees, carrying their bags of apples. They made sure to pick the very best, and were excited each time they found a winner.

Apples aren't the only fall southern fun we found at Hillcrest. There were pony rides and bungie jumping, hayrides, and a huge inflatable bouncy pillow. And there was plenty of food--everything from apple cider donuts and apple fritters to pulled pork, corn dogs and chicken on a stick.

We'll definitely be back next year. I can't believe it took us this long to go on an apple picking adventure.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sorry if you feel neglected Baby Girl, but I promise we will love you

I'm almost 30 weeks pregnant. In about 8 weeks I'll most likely be delivering our baby girl via C-section.

And, we just bought our first baby items on Sunday. Two outfits. Receiving blankets. A soft toy and a rubber duck. (Kids begged to pick out something for baby.)

That's it. That's all we have purchased for our little girl.
No crib. No changing table. No diaper genie. No rocker. No adorable matching sheets and blankets and décor.

Our unborn baby has been a little bit neglected I guess.

Rewind 9 years and about 10 months when we found out we were pregnant with our firstborn Julie. We couldn't keep away from Babies R Us and Pottery Barn Kids. Crib was purchased 3 months into the pregnancy, and as soon as we found out "Girl!" we went all out. I couldn't pass Gymboree, Baby Gap or the baby girl section of Target without buying something. Scott painted her room bright green, and I spent months decorating her little "Under the Sea"-themed bedroom. I diligently wrote all my thoughts and milestones in a pregnancy and baby book, and pasted the little sonogram pictures on the pages. I read stories to my pregnant belly and Scott sang and talked to her at night.

The differences between a first and third pregnancy are astounding. Sometimes I forget I'm pregnant. Seriously. Despite my bulging belly, that is way bigger than my last two pregnancies, I kind of forget. During this entire pregnancy, I think I have taken one picture of me showing off my bump...or basketball to be more precise.

It's not that I'm apathetic about being pregnant. I actually love being pregnant. I love my big round belly and eating all the ice cream I can stomach. I love feeling our little baby move and squirm and dreaming about what she will look like and what kind of person she will grow up to be.

But, this time around I just haven't had time to cherish all those prego moments I love. With two kids, a packed schedule, freelancing deadlines and a move 800 miles away, this pregnancy has slipped away.

Thirty weeks have passed and I can't tell you when I first started to show or when I first felt the baby move. That's a little scary to me, considering I know how quickly time passes in mom time. I've been a mom for nine years now, and I can't explain how that happened. It really doesn't feel like that long ago that I was dressing up my first little baby girl in a pumpkin outfit and singing her endless songs I made up just for her. I remember calling her "Little You" because that's just what she was--a littler version of herself and how true that has proven to be. And, I clearly remember rocking my second little baby--the one I thought would be my last. I rocked him and held him like I never wanted to let him go. He's still my snuggly little guy who loves his mommy.

Here I am waiting for my third to come along and I don't want to rush this. So, I'm going to take it a little slower. I'll wait for her little movements and talk and sing to her...just like I did when the other two were in my belly. She may be the last little one to arrive, but she's going to be so special to us too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Me Again---Volunteer Mom

This year I have officially become the "School Mom I knew I would become".
In years past I barely set foot in the school because I always had my little Johnny and who wants to chase a baby/toddler/preschooler around the classroom during storytime? Life was super busy between entertaining my little buddy and also freelancing as much as possible. 

Well, for the first time in 8 years, I actually have full entire days to myself. Both kids are in school, and though I'm busy with unpacking our new house and freelancing, there's still a lot of free time.  Of course there are days where I fit in a manicure or read a book for a couple hours.

But, my time is fleeting. In about 10 weeks, my life will take on a whole new craziness when our little girl arrives. I want to make the most of these days and do things I know won't be possible when baby comes.

So, I've been spending most of my days at the elementary school. I volunteer at the library and make copies for the teachers. I read books to Johnny's class at storytime and I volunteer as the mom helper in Julie's class during science lab and social studies projects.

I'm at the school so much that I actually know every child's name in both classes. If you look at the class list of names, that's pretty impressive. Trust me.

And the other day a little girl asked me "Why are you here so much?"

I probably should have been embarrassed. But, I just smiled and said "Because I like you guys."
She then wanted to sit next to me for the rest of the day.

Besides, who can resist this face all excited to see his Mommy at school? Now, that's time well spent if you ask me.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Too cool for mom

"Can you stop walking me to the bus stop?"
That came from Julie. Age 9. A very new age 9 I might add.
"It's just embarrassing."

I knew this would come at some point, but not two months into third grade.

I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised. Julie has never been overly attached to her mama. Separation anxiety?? Not for this girl. On her first day of preschool, (not even 3 years old), Julie simply smirked and waved goodbye. Not a tear to be had. Even as a toddler, Julie didn't seem to mind when Scott or I left for her with grandparents for the weekend. And when planning an upcoming camping weekend for Brownies, she requested I not chaperone.

What the heck??

I can't help but be a little offended that she wants to be rid of us so soon. Are we that embarrassing? I  admit that some days I walk to the bus stop in sweats and flip flops. But, I'm not that bad am I?

I guess I have to come to terms with this new phase in tween-hood. I'll try to keep my distance sometimes...
But, unfortunately Julie will have to deal with her mom at the bus stop. My baby Johnny still wants me there and I'm not giving that up just yet.

Friday, September 26, 2014

11 Years---quite a wild ride

“Our life isn’t exactly how you pictured it, is it?” –You asked me that a couple weeks ago.

We had been living in a hotel for three months. We were both frustrated, tired and worried. We were stressed about selling our house and anxious about moving into a new house.

I think I just smiled wearily and nodded.

But, you were so right. This life of ours isn’t anything like the life I imagined on that crisp September evening 11 years ago. 
We were young, a bit plump, in love and dancing to “Fools Rush in.” We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had plenty of dreams. Back then, I just assumed we’d live in our little Baltimore townhouse forever. Raise two kids. Work hard. Maybe travel a bit.
My, how wrong I was.
As we settle into our fourth home and prepare for the birth of our third child, I can barely recognize those two 20-somethings. They had all the time in the world, and not too many worries. They went on long walks and bike rides. They held hands constantly, shamelessly made out in public,  played Scrabble and snuggled on the couch every night slurping homemade smoothies.
A lot can happen in 11 years.
Three moves. 2 ¾ kids. A dog.
Our life is noisy. Busy. Stressful. There are two kids and a dog who rarely let us snuggle anymore, and kissing grosses everyone out. There’s whining and tantrums and attitudes and bad moods and sometimes complete chaos. Add to that a new baby and our life is bound to become even more hectic.
But it’s our life. It’s tickle fights and fondue nights. It’s marshmallows and wine around the firepit. It’s karaoke and ping pong and becoming obsessed with the latest Netflix drama. It’s ice cream and adventures.  Sushi and Pho. Football and lots of Mexican food. It’s our crazy, imperfect life.
While everything hasn’t gone exactly as planned and we are bound to face more struggles, we are in this together. You’re perfect for me and I can't imagine doing life with anyone else.
Happy 11th Anniversary!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday to Our Dreamer

Dear Julie,

For your 9th birthday you requested "lots" of paper, a shrink ray gun and a magic wand from Las Vegas.

You are my writer, my dreamer and my stubborn little girl with her head in the clouds. You think unlike anyone I've ever known, and I want you to know how special that makes you.

Today you are 9. A few years ago I read a blog written by a mom when her daughter turned 9. She lamented that they were "half way there." In just 9 more years, her little girl would be gone.

I can't bear to think of it like that. Nine years seems like a lifetime...and yet it wasn't.

It's wasn't so long ago when you were my 3-year-old who bragged about her 11 imaginary princess friends all named after colors. Every day after preschool you concocted elaborate tales about your princess friends.

I know you don't love princesses anymore but you are still my little girl with a wild imagination.

Your stories are filled with strange little creatures like Xzeedo the blue dot and you love writing letters to the Tooth Fairy inquiring about the existence of water and garden fairies.

You are my believer. You don't care what people think and I so want to keep you like that.

Every year I fear this is the year the magic will be lost. One day, will you just forget to use your wonderful imagination? Will you become realistic and jaded and give up those big dreams?

I hope not.

Your wonderment of the world is what makes you so beautiful. (I know how much you hate being called pretty. But, before you protest, I'm talking about inner beauty.)

You believe anything is possible and that is a gift.

So, I'm sorry there won't be magic wands or shrink ray guns to open today. But the paper we can handle.

Happy Birthday to my little 9 year-old dreamer. We aren't just halfway there. We have a lifetime to go.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Field Trip: Helen, Georgia

So, here were are in Georgia.
Our official residency starts today (the start of our lease), but we've been exploring our new state for about three months.

While the city of Chicago stole my heart---I'm falling in love with the country and outskirts of Georgia. We have not once set foot in downtown Atlanta in our three months here. Instead, we have been taking little day trips to the outlying areas. Because of the amazing weather, there are so many outdoor activities here.

One of our favorite little trips was to the town of Helen. We ventured to Helen for a tubing adventure on the Chattahoochee River. Outfitters provide tubes and transportation to a safe spot to access the river. Though I won't say it was a relaxing ride down the river (a little nerve-wracking trying to keep track of two kids who were determined to be independent), it was a great experience.

Though we went to Helen for a tube ride, we didn't realize what the adorable town had to offer. Helen is like a miniature Alpine village with plenty of quaint shops, cafes and restaurants. We will definitely be back to explore some more.

Before our trip down the river. You definitely won't stay dry!

Monday, September 15, 2014

So, this is third grade....

Armpit hair.
Apparently third graders have it.
To be more accurate, one third grade girl has sprouted two armpit hairs, according to Julie.
I don't think it ever occurred to Julie before that girls grow armpit hair.
But, she was intrigued as she relayed the story of a girl in her class who is "smaller than Johnny" and has exactly two hairs on her left armpit. She wondered when she might get some.

I'm so not ready for this.

This summer, it was still Barbie dolls and stuffed animals, and she dreamed about owning a magic wand.

Then third grade happened.

Before the armpit incident, Julie came home and informed me that there was another reason she really didn't like One Direction.

"They have tattoos on their privates!" she practically spit out with disgust. "They are just gross."

What do you even say to that?

And it's not even all this puberty stuff that has me rankled about third grade.
It's just the loss of innocence in general.

Our little girl is so beautifully naïve and imaginative. It hurts thinking that might all go away sometime very soon.

"Mommy do you believe in leprechauns?" Julie asked me last week. A girl in her class had presented an "All about Me" collage to the class, and pasted on the collage were pictures of her favorite things, including Santa, mermaids and leprechauns.
Let me preface this by saying, we believe in EVERYTHING in our house. I mean EVERYTHING. There's of course Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. But, there's also our Elf on the Shelf, a Christmas Angel and our mischievous leprechaun.

"I know we have a Leprechaun, but Taylor doesn't believe in leprechauns or SANTA!!" Julie told me about one of her third grade buddies. "I definitely believe in Santa, but I'm not sure about leprechauns, and I know there aren't any mermaids."

So, here's the dilemma. If all the sudden I spill the beans about the leprechaun, and tell her it's really Mommy and Daddy who make a mess and leave Lucky Charms outside their bedrooms---that would just blow the whole thing. If there aren't leprechauns, how can there be fairies or elves or Santa?

I realize our days our numbered. It's probably not healthy to enter middle school believing in pixie dust and she needs to understand life's realities sooner or later.

But, can't it be later? Can I please have one more innocent, magical year?
Third grade--Please take it easy on me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The American Dream?

This is our house in Chicago. Four bedrooms. Lots of space. Great neighborhood. Within walking distance to our town's little lake.

We lived here less than two years, but we felt more at home here than anywhere else we lived. The kids rode their bikes up and down the sidewalks. The neighbors gathered around fire pits on cool nights. And on hot summer days we headed to the swimming beach out our little lake.

It was really a great place to live and we made some great memories. Living the American Dream right??

Well, two years later we're selling our house we love for much less than we bought it. It breaks our heart and makes us bitter---even though we don't want to be that way.

Once upon a time, buying a house was the American investment.....something everyone did. Growing up my dad stressed how important it was to stay out of debt and never waste money on rent. That mantra stuck.

Unfortunately times have changed. And, if you move as much as we have, buying and selling a house is more like an American Nightmare. Sounds dramatic, I know. But, it's true. It's stressful and you're never guaranteed to come out on top. In our situation, this is the second time, we  have lost money---a grand total of close to $50,000 on two different houses. Houses that we loved and took care of, and improved, and didn't want to leave.

So, for now, we are boycotting the real estate market. Instead, we're renting a modest four-bedroom here in the Atlanta area in a nice neighborhood. No frills. Less space. Not much of a yard. But, it's NOT ours and thank goodness for that.

We can't have our hearts (and our budgets) broken anymore.

Friday, September 5, 2014

It's a.....

When I found out I was pregnant with Julie, I could only dream of a baby girl. I couldn't imagine having anything but a little girl. Growing up, it was just my sister and me... and we definitely weren't tomboys. So, I was terrified of raising a little boy and I was so happy to have my little girl.

Three years later, I found myself wishing for a little boy. I loved having my girly girl who loved princesses and the color pink. But Scott so desperately wanted a boy, and I too, thought I might be missing out if I never had a son. I was so right. Johnny is such a cuddly, lovable little guy.

We can't imagine life without either of them.

With number 3, Scott and I could honestly say we didn't care whether it was a boy or a girl. I know everyone says that with every pregnancy. "Oh. We just want a healthy baby." Of course that's always true, but I believe everyone has a little inkling on which they would prefer. For this baby, I can say I really couldn't decide which I wanted more. I love having a little boy who loves his mommy more than anyone in the world. But, having a baby girl again would be so fun, and maybe this little girl will love American Girl dolls as much as I do. The one reason I was leaning slightly more to girl was Julie. She was adamant that she wanted a sister. "I already have a brother!!" she says.  Of all of us, I have to say, she's the most excited about this new baby, and she's the one who's been begging us for a baby sister for the past three years.  And, seeing her with our new nephew Matthew (Todd and Melinda's four-month-old son), was amazing. She held him, rocked him, and loved him to pieces. She's so ready to be a big sister again.

So, when we found out GIRL, we were pretty psyched.

Check out the kids' reactions:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not a friend in the world

If I were forced to change schools as a kid, I'm not sure how I would have survived. I was painfully shy, self-conscious and unsure of myself. Eager to fit in, I desperately wanted kids to like me. Switching schools would have devastated me.

So, I get how Julie is feeling right now. School started a few weeks ago here in Georgia and she's doing OK. But, she is not exactly feeling comfortable. She tells me every day how much she misses her friends in Chicago and her old school. At recess she plays with "Nobody," so she says. "I just walk around and throw a ball to myself."

I'm not sure I could envision a more heartbreaking scene.

I've encouraged her to ask the other kids to play or join in one of their games. Her only reply is "I don't want new friends. Why do I need new friends? I already have friends back home."

This all is definitely worrisome and sad, but Julie's story is a familiar one. When we moved to Chicago from Pennsylvania, she also insisted she would never make new friends because she only wanted her old friends. Of course it didn't take long before Julie made several best friends in the neighborhood---those same friends she writes to and FaceTimes every week.

While Julie might think her plight is hopeless right now, I know she's a strong girl who will find her way. She's much more resilient and confident than I was as a kid and I know she'll be just fine.

(Johnny, on the other hand, was completely fine from day one. He has found a best friend, a girlfriend and a teacher he loves. I'll save his story for a different blog.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

This old Mom needs to Relax

It was a steamy August morning. The air was thick and the sun was scorching. But I was ready to run the 5K around the adorable little vineyard north of Baltimore.

Did I mention I was 8 1/2 months pregnant?

I was 27, fitter than I had ever been, and I was determined to remain active through the entire pregnancy (my first of course). I worked full time until the day I gave birth, got up at 5 a.m. every morning to run 4 miles, swim and lift weights. And I filled the weekends with fun activities with friends and family.

But, the 5K that humid August morning changed my perspective a bit. Scott, who had never before ran a race, insisted on running along with me because he was so worried. Three miles was nothing to me, but the heat was unbearable. People were passing out and getting sick along the route, and a couple runners were taken away on stretchers because of heat exhaustion. About halfway through that race, I got scared. I had started walking. Sweat was pouring down my protruding belly. And I felt the exhaustion.

I made it to the finish line, but I definitely learned a lesson that day---I wasn't invincible and I didn't need to prove it.

Fast-forward almost 9 years. I'm 36 now and pregnant with my third baby.
I pretty much popped out by week 10. I'm tired, emotional and I don't feel a bit bad about eating ice cream every night.

And, I'm taking it easy. I was kind of forced to. A couple weeks ago, during the "big" ultrasound, the doctors determined I have placenta previa. If you Google it, you'll probably find some terrifying stories, like the one about Tori Spelling almost bleeding to death, or about women who go on bed rest or deliver months early because of this condition where the placenta is covering the cervix. The risk of bleeding is pretty high, and a C-section is almost certain.

I've never had issues with my pregnancies, so this came as a shock. I'm not going to lie. I'm scared, but I'm also not trying to over-react. I may be 6 years older than when I delivered Johnny, but I'm still healthy and I take care of myself. I'm just going to follow advice and not push it.

Of course, it's not always easy to stay off your feet, when you have two kids and a very energetic dog who needs exercise. I think the key is to just listen to my body and to learn to relax (something that doesn't come easily for me.)

Delivering a healthy baby is much more important than checking off a to-do list or trying in vain to stay fit and trim.

It's my last baby so I'll prop up my feet, read a few good books and enjoy my ice cream.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy 85th Birthday to a wonderful woman

I'm not sure I've known a more sweet and gentle lady than Scott's grandma, Thelma Hubbell. She raised six children (one of them Scott's mom), and rarely spoke an angry word. She's patient, kind, loving and opens her heart to everyone.

I met Thelma about 13 years ago, when Scott first took me to visit his family in California. She greeted me with a warm hug and a plate full of rice and beans. Somehow she seemed to already know everything about me.  Before long, I found myself calling her Grandma. (Both of my grandmothers had passed away and I almost instantly felt like she was another grandma to me.)

Grandma Thelma celebrated her 85th birthday last weekend with a big family party in Cambria, California. Her six children, and almost all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren came along. Wearing a sparkly little tiara, Grandma was the center of attention---which isn't usually where you'll find her. Her three sons Frank, Gil and Bob (along with a couple friends) reunited their high school band "Frankie and the Rebels" and jammed to some 50s tunes. Grandma Thelma danced with her grandsons, and grandkids sang songs and told jokes. We all cried and laughed watching family videos and shared countless memories of Thelma as a mom, grandma, mother-in-law, and great grandma.

One of Scott's aunts put it best when she told Thelma: "You are the glue that holds this family together."

Scott's mom, Janice, with his Grandma, Thelma

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First day (mom) jitters

A new school year. A new school. My youngest going into kindergarten.
What was there not to worry about on the first day?

I couldn't help but be nervous. Would we get to school on time? Would they make friends? Would the kids know where to get off the bus? Would Johnny remember to wipe? How would I cope for seven hours without any kids?

Monday was the first day of school here in Alpharetta, Georgia, and my mind was racing. I wanted that first day to be perfect.

Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Adorable first-day-of-school outfits. Sweet notes from mom in their lunch bags. And big hugs goodbye.

Julie and Johnny practically skipped into the massive school of almost 1,000 kids. They were more than excited...not seeming one bit nervous (despite their mom's anxiety.) At one point Julie even had to assure me "Mommy, it's going to be OK." (How were they not freaking out like me??)

The day, however was not without a few hiccups. Julie had a minor meltdown trying to put away her huge bags of school supplies. And the school inadvertently assigned the kids the wrong bus number. So, I frantically spent half the day on the phone with the transportation department trying to remedy the situation.

Despite the snafus, the kids hopped off the bus full of smiles and stories.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


"Well, I thought you were putting on some weight"---That was my mom's retort when I told her I was pregnant. A month prior she and my dad were visiting, and apparently she thought I was getting hefty--though she kept that comment to herself until I told her I was pregnant. Oddly enough, I was only a week or two pregnant when they were visiting--not really at the point where you start showing.

Despite my mom's not-so-tactful comments, she was right. I had put on a few pounds recently, which seemed to make me look pregnant very early on in the pregnancy. Add to that the fact that this is my third child, and I look like "it's about to come out", according to Julie.

Yes. I'm 19 weeks and I have definitely popped, which is entirely fine with me. I'd much rather be obviously pregnant than chubby/pregnant.

This is the phase I love. Where people ask when I'm due and whether it's a boy or a girl. My absolute favorite question has to be "Is this your first?" It makes me feel young. When I reply that it's my third, I usually get an "Are you crazy" look followed by "Wow.  Congrats."

If I happen to be with both kids and our dog, then the response from strangers is usually--"You've got your hands full."

It makes me laugh. I used to be one of those moms---just in awe of anyone who had more than two children. Especially when we only had Julie---I would marvel at  moms who juggled multiple kids. How could they possibly do that?

Well, I admit I don't have all the answers yet to life with three kids. I'm 36 with two kids and I'm no dummy. I've been there before. I know it won't be easy and life will be exhausting and challenging.
But, we'll all be OK, and before we know it, life will little kids will be over.

Right now, I'm just going to enjoy my big ole' baby bump.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Onto the next phase

 I saw my little sister Kelly in a wedding dress.
Considering she's 31 years old, the sight shouldn't seem terribly abnormal or shocking.

But, she's my little sister---five years younger. Because of our age difference, we've always been at different stages in our lives. When I was partying in college, she was in high school. When she was in college, I was getting married and having my first baby. As she has flourished in her career and enjoyed single life, I have been devoting my days to kids and family life.

Kelly and I at the engagement party

Though we are close, it has always seemed like we are light years away, in terms of our lives.

Now she's getting married.

Last week Kelly found the dress. We were visiting Maryland for her engagement party and Kelly, Julie, my mom and I spent the day dress shopping. At the very last shop Kelly tried on a dress and we all new it was the one. It fit perfectly. Her eyes lit up and she seemed to just sparkle.

It's time for the next phase.

Kelly and her fiancé Rob at their engagement party

Monday, July 21, 2014

A little Diversity

"I'm afraid of going to school in Georgia Mommy," Johnny told me the other day. I assumed he was just being a Mommy's boy and wanted to stay home with me or maybe he was just nervous about starting kindergarten.
"I think my teacher will be scary," he continued. "What if she has a brown face?"

Say what??

Did that really just come out of my kid's mouth?

I grew up in a household of complete tolerance and acceptance. Probably one of the most important things my parents taught my sister and me, was to love all people--regardless of our differences.

We lived a few miles from Baltimore City. My high school sat about 1 mile from the Baltimore City line. About half of my classmates were white--the rest were African American. I never gave diversity a second thought. It's just how I grew up. My dad was a principal of a school in a low-income community near the city. He spent countless hours and resources mentoring and almost fathering some of the less fortunate kids.

That way of growing up left a lasting on impression. Tolerance. Open-mindedness. And above all, an utter lack of fear of people who are different.

Living away from Baltimore for almost a decade, I think I almost forgot my roots. For seven years we lived in a small mostly white town in Central Pennsylvania and then for another two years we lived in an affluent suburb in Chicago. I had no idea what effect this lack of diversity had on our kids until Johnny's statement.

I couldn't blame Johnny for being nervous about people who were different. I blamed myself. We had never really talked about people's differences and he definitely wasn't exposed to different cultures.

This move to Georgia is going to be a good thing. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Limbo

Here we are in Georgia---in a beautiful little town called Alpharetta, about an hour north of Atlanta.
It's sunshine and blue skies every day. The peaches are sweet. And so are the tomatoes. Pretty much everything down here is sweet, including the people.

Every day is an adventure. We hike and swim, find delicious eats at the local farmer's market and we discover different parks and trails. We've been zip-lining and go-kart racing. We found an amazing nature center on the Chatahoochee River. And on one of our favorite hikes we skipped rocks and dipped our feet into a little creek.

Life is good in the south.

But, it's not our life...not yet anyway.
It's hard to feel at home when you're completely unsettled. We have yet to sell our house in Chicago, so we're living in a two-bedroom hotel suite. It's quite a change from our four bedroom house with a yard, but in a way, it's been simpler. We're all confined in a small space--two kids, a dog and Scott and me, and it's almost comforting in a way.

Still, it's not home. We're in limbo.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Ray of Hope

Sometimes parents just aren't enough.
We love our kids so immensely, but we can't always give exactly what our kids need. That's hard to admit, but it's true, and I find this especially true with Julie---my strong-willed, unpredictable little girl, who is still somewhat of an enigma to me. She is loving and caring and angry and overjoyed and sad--all at once.

This upcoming move to Georgia has been especially hard on her. She has found her place here in Chicago and she doesn't want to leave. "I wish June would just go on forever," Julie told me. We leave in July.

Just when life seems impossibly glib for a little girl, a speck of hope arrives. It was in the form of a letter from her favorite teacher, Mrs. Johnson.

I can't begin to describe this woman because I have never before met anyone quite like her. The day before first grade, Mrs. Johnson called to talk to Julie--a little pep talk of sorts. I knew this teacher would be someone special. And she was. She cared enough to get to know Julie and her strengths and weaknesses and she built her up like no one has before. Julie shined that year in first grade.

I have no doubt Mrs. Johnson cares deeply for all of her students, but we seemed to make a special connection with this special teacher. When she found out we were moving, Mrs. Johnson called to talk to Julie one night, and the next day, she sent Julie home with a little book about penguins (Julie's favorite animal), and a card saying how Julie was special. We gave Mrs. Johnson a bracelet as a parting gift.

The most recent letter arrived yesterday---three days before our move. In the letter, Mrs. Johnson described her summer trip to Israel, but the following paragraph brought tears to my eyes:

"Dear Julie,
I hope you are having a wonderful summer. I adore the beautiful bracelet you gave to me. It will be a treasure for the rest of my life. You will always have a special place in my heart. I know we will keep in touch with each other forever. I believe God has a special plan for you, Julie. I am honored that I was picked to be a little part of it. Remember to SHINE and BE THE DIFFERENCE wherever you go in life. I look forward to hearing about it.
Mrs. Johnson"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Field Trip: Xtreme Trampoline

The kids and I spend most of our summer days outside. Chicago winters are so terrible that we try not to waste too much time inside. But of course there are exceptions---rainy days, sweltering hot days or just days where you need a change of pace.

Today was one of those days. We spent the last four days outside at Girl Scout camp, so we were ready for something a little different. We headed to Xtreme Trampolines in Buffalo Grove. In February Julie won six tickets to Xtreme Trampoline at a Daddy/Daughter Valentine's dance.

We wanted to make sure we used these special tickets before we moved. (Price is $12 per hour per person.) Julie and Johnny took along four good friends and they jumped the morning away at Xtreme Trampoline.

There are six huge areas covered with trampolines---plenty of space to run, jump, flip and be silly (especially since we basically had the place to ourselves this morning.) The highlights were the foam pit and the dodgeball courts. Who wouldn't love jumping on trampolines while nailing your friends with dodge balls.

Pretty much awesome.


Friday, June 20, 2014

And then there were three...

That's how we announced our third pregnancy.

Yup. Number three is due Dec. 29.
Kind of scary and crazy considering we are moving to Atlanta in a few weeks.

Needless to say, we were a little..ahem..."surprised" at our pregnancy news. Considering the timing, it took a few days to feel the joy without feeling completely overwhelmed.

But, before too long, we had picked out names and were making bets on whether we'd have a boy or a girl.

Sure. Life has a way of throwing curve balls, but this little one is meant to be. I just know it. Though Scott might disagree, I never felt completely "done" after Johnny was born.

Johnny was such a snuggly, happy baby that I clearly remember feeling so sad that I would never have another baby. I thought he was my last, which was probably why I babied him so much. I just couldn't get enough of him.

When he turned 5 in April, I was miserable. There was no denying his big boy status---even if he still pronounces his sister's name as "Juweee."

So, I truly don't think we were done. Though we're a tad older (Scott is 38 and I'm 36), we have more love to give. It will be completely strange to revert to diapers and feedings and naptimes and sleeplessness. But, in a way, I can't wait. And, I just know I'll cherish every single second. This will be our last....For real this time!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thanks Daddy.

There's a line in a song Taylor Swift sang about her father: "He had my back even when I was wrong."

That gets me every time.

It kind of sums up the relationship with my dad. For Dad it was all about unconditional love. He truly supported my sister and me no matter what. He stuck up for us and he trusted us to a fault.

Right around 6th or 7th grade I was befriended by a neighborhood girl who was had a rough life.  She was constantly finding ways to get into trouble. One afternoon we decided to prank call another girl in the neighborhood. Little did we know her dad was a police officer and he traced the calls back to my house. (Back then, caller ID was not the norm.) Of course the cop contacted my parents. Terrified, I swore I didn't do it. And, I specifically remember Dad believing me. I'm not sure whether I ever told him the truth.

Much worse than getting grounded was suffering my dad's disappointment. I can never remember Dad yelling or raising his voice. (Spanking wasn't even close to a possibility in our house. My parents didn't believe in it.) Soft spoken and gentle, Dad just talked to us when we did something wrong. That's it. Just a simple conversation. But, he never failed to express his disappointment, and it often came with the "look." That was the worst. I'm not kidding. That look kept me out of a lot of trouble. It didn't scare me. It just made me so completely sad. I never wanted to disappoint him.

And, it all goes back to how much I loved him. He loved us so much and made it so clear how proud he was of his daughters that we always wanted to make him happy. Many of the things I did in school and even later in life were to make him proud. It was just the best feeling.

He had a way of making us feel as if we were the most special girls on earth. Of course we eventually realized that wasn't exactly true. But, what a wonderful way to grow up.

Thanks for making me feel so special Dad. All the time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our little grad

There's our little guy with his preschool teacher. Hat falling down over his ears--all smiles and completely proud that he just graduated preschool.

Before kids, I kind of thought preschool graduations were completely ridiculous. Why all the pomp and circumstance for a bunch of four and five-year-olds? But, I get it. Graduating from preschool is much more for the parents than the kids. When your kids goes off to kindergarten---it's a pretty big transition--probably one of the bigger milestones of childhood.

If you're a stay-at-home mom like me, it's probably a little more emotional--just because you're used to having your little munchkin around all the time. For five years, Johnny has been my little buddy.
By the time he was born, Julie was already in preschool, so many times it was just my guy and me.

Kindergarten changes all that. Off he'll go next year every single day...spending more time with teachers and friends than his mommy.

 I'll ask him what he did that day. Maybe he'll tell me. Maybe he won't. I'll see papers and crafts and drawings and maybe emails from his teacher talking about the school day.

But, I won't be there.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Here we go...again

My mom was pregnant with me when she and my dad bought their first home in Baltimore. The house was brand new at the time, and I think they thought if it as their starter home. I lived in that same house for 25 years. Except for my for a four-year stint in college housing with roommates, my address was 26 Bantry Court until I got married. (My parents still own that house, though now they rent it out.)

There were times I remember wanting something bigger or fancier than our little townhouse northeast of Baltimore. I wanted a bigger room or a bigger yard or just a house where you couldn't  hear your neighbors' conversations through the walls.

Looking back, however, I realize I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It was our little house---small, but comforting and full of memories. Our bedrooms were so close together that on Christmas Eve my sister Kelly and I would talk through the vents, wondering what magic awaited us in the morning. We ate all our meals in a tiny kitchen...except when guests were visiting and we moved to the dining room and ate with mom's fancy china. In the evenings we'd gather in the basement, play games and watch Wonder Years or The Cosby Show or Family Ties.

It was a warm house---where I always felt at home.

Never having moved as a kid, I imagined my grownup life with kids would be similar. Little three-bedroom house where we would live until we retired.

I couldn't have been more wrong. In a few weeks, we will be moving for the third time in our 10 years of marriage. From Maryland to Pennsylvania to Illinois, and now to Georgia. This will be Julie's third school in four years. We feel terrible for the kids, but each move has kind of been thrust upon us because of Scott's job.

Though it's exhausting and often upsetting to leave somewhere you've come to call home, we try to think of it as our next adventure. We try to sell it to the kids---"Think of all the new friends you'll meet." "It will be nice and warm there." "Maybe we'll have a swimming pool."

No matter how much we sugarcoat it, we know it's not easy. We're leaving. Again.

What we do know, however, is how important it is to rely on each other---just the four of us. Though our kids won't have memories of one special house or neighborhood, and maybe they won't feel completely rooted to a city or town---I hope they feel that home is so much more than just a house.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I have always sensed the ticking of time. Since I was a little girl, I was acutely aware of an end in sight. I distinctly remember dreading my 10th birthday. I didn't want to be an age with double digits. I didn't want to grow up.

I still don't want to grow up. Yesterday was my birthday. 36.

36 is scary. Life is real. No denying that you're a responsible grownup--or at least you're supposed to be. Four more years until 40 and that's just frightening.

I think this fear of getting older must be genetic somehow. For as long as I can remember, my dad has denied his age. That's kind of hard to do when you have a twin sister, but he tried anyway. He hates getting older and he almost wants to forget his birthdays. In January he turns 70. That's a big one.  A milestone.

I just don't want all the stuff that comes with getting older. I don't care about wrinkles or extra pounds or Menopause. That stuff doesn't matter to me.

 I just hate watching the time pass. I want more of it.  I want my kids to stay little. I want my parents to be able to get down on the floor and play with their grandkids. I want them around forever. I want Scott and I to run races and stay up past midnight drinking wine and talking by the campfire. I want this beautiful life as I know it to freeze or at least slow down.

Of course it all can't last forever. But, sometimes I wonder why can't it?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Field Trip: iFLY

Skydiving is not on my bucket list.

Jumping out of an airplane and plummeting to the ground doesn’t sound appealing. Besides, I’m afraid of heights. So, when my family and I were recently invited to experience indoor skydiving at iFLY in Rosemont I was a bit hesitant, but eventually agreed. If it’s safe for 3 year-olds I guess it was OK for our kids (Julie, 8, and Johnny, 5). And I guess I’d just have to suck it up and try it.

Located at the MB Financial Park in Rosemont, iFLY looks like a giant blue warehouse. Inside the massive building, it feels a little like a warehouse too. We arrived on a warm spring day, and of course the kids and my husband Scott were more than excited to fly. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but feel nervous.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by professional skydivers and informed that everyone had to suit up immediately. This meant skydiving suits, helmets and goggles. My crew looked adorable. We were then whisked to a special room where we watched a training video and learned what to expect with our flights.

With training complete, we were ready to fly in the enormous vertical wind tunnel. Four axial fans are mounted at the top of the building, channeling air down the sides of the tunnels into the basement and then up through the floor of the 14-foot-wide circular flight chamber, creating a strong upward draft. Ranging in speeds of 80 to 175 miles per hour, this upward draft creates wall-to-wall air flow that pushes flyers aloft and makes it possible for them to fly.

Julie insisted to fly first. Our brave little girl practically jumped into the chamber with the skydiving instructor. For the first 60-second session, the instructor held Julie’s leg to keep her steady, but eventually she was flying on her own. For her second turn, the instructor grabbed onto both legs, and he and Julie zipped practically to the top of the air chamber flying up and down. It was completely exhilarating. When it was Johnny’s turn, it was obvious he thought he was some sort of super hero. Because he was a bit lighter, he seemed to fly effortlessly to the top with the instructor.

They were truly flying, but surprisingly, I wasn’t worried a bit. The instructor was there to catch them at any time and to give guidance and the wire netting at the bottom would prevent any falls. It’s an experience I know my kids will remember forever.

iFLY is located at 5520 Park Place at MB Financial Park in Rosemont. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Beginner-level packages which include two 60-second flights and a personalized flight certificate are $69.95 per person.
Before the flight
Johnny thinks he's Super Man

Julie looks terrified, but she actually loved it.

The windblown crew afterwards.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Monday Munch: Julio's Latin Cafe

Of course we are always on the lookout for great Mexican food. Conveniently, we live within walking distance from a cute little Latin restaurant. Julio's Latin Café in Lake Zurich features plenty of Latin flare. The South American-inspired Ceviche is delish, as well as the Costa Rican coffee rubbed pork chop served with the potato corn cake, the torta Cubano and blackened basa tacos. Julio's also offers Gluten-free menus.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Food Effect

One day there was a fit over a pair of shorts and a tantrum because the bagels were gone. The next day there was a meltdown over a request to walk the dog and clean up a bedroom. And, then a proclamation: "I don't love myself. I'm dumb."

That was one tough week for Julie. And we just couldn't figure out why life seemed so miserable for our 8-year-old. She was excelling in school. She had just rocked it at a recent dance recital. She has plenty of friends, and she was not lacking for fun or exciting. (We had just gone indoor skydiving that week.)

Then, Scott and I had an epiphany. The food. Life was hectic recently, and we had been eating like crap. There was a visit from friends, frequent restaurant meals, Easter, a string of birthday parties, and overall just not great eating.

We know better than this. For some reason, food affects Julie tremendously. She's one of the healthiest 8-year-olds we know, but when we, as parents slip up, and start letting the junk in, it all goes down hill.

We were done. No more muffins or waffles for breakfast. No more after dinner trips for ice cream. And definitely no more restaurant food. Back to real food for us. Within a week, I'm not kidding, Julie's attitude was completely different. She went from angry, sad and defiant to completely helpful, sweet and kind. Every evening she told us about her day at school, and willingly played her piano, did her homework and completed her chores. She was like a different little girl. One night at dinner I asked if she felt different when she ate better. "Yup. I just feel happier," she told me.

Healthy eating has always been an important part of parenting for Scott and me. From the time Julie was born, we knew we wanted to raise healthy, adventurous eaters. But, we didn't quite realize how important this was, or that food affects so much more than just weight and fitness.

It's ironic--because our little return to whole food eating came around the time my good friend Lindsey hosted an awesome Food Revolution Day festival in Lake Zurich. She organized workshops, seminars, giveaways and food tastings. (Lindsey has experienced her own little adventure with kids and eating healthy and her family's transformation is truly inspiring.)

I took the kids to the festival and a lot of it seemed to sink in for Julie. We bought a little cooking tools package Lindsey had created, and that afternoon, Julie, unprompted, created her own lettuce wraps. She diligently grated carrots and cucumbers, and wrapped them in romaine lettuce. Nothing fancy, but she was so proud.

 I was relived my healthy eater was back.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Munch: Inovasi

There are plenty of cute little towns on the North Shore. Lake Bluff is one of my favorites. I took my parents there one chilly afternoon when they were visiting last week. The little downtown is so quaint, and you can't get much better views of Lake Michigan in the suburbs.

We ate at a trendy, little restaurant called Inovasi. Fresh and organic meats, cheeses and produce were used in all the dishes. Served before our lunches was a dish of soft bread and hummus. Delish!

I was super impressed with the kids menu. Finally a restaurant that serves real food for kids! Johnny ordered the haddock and it was only $6. That's not bad! I loved my salad with shrimp and avocado and my parents went traditional with a burger and chicken sandwich.

Also in Lake Bluff are a brewery, a sandwich shop, a little Italian eatery and a yogurt shop.
Definitely worth a visit!

Being a mom

I wasn’t quite ready to be a mom.

Then again who really is?

I’m not sure what exactly I expected, but it is nothing like how I imagined.

I’m not talking about the sleepless nights or temper tantrums. It’s the all-encompassing nature of motherhood. It’s everything. It never leaves you and that is completely amazing….and frightening.

Being a mom is something I will be forever, and as Julie and Johnny get older I realize, how much of an impact I can have. I think about how angry words might scar or how encouragement might build confidence. Every day is a lesson for me as a mom.

It’s funny to think about this because I think about my mom. As a kid no one really doubts their mom. She’s got it all figured out. She’s all put together. My mom never let on that she doubted whether she was getting it right. Maybe she really did know the answers. I’m not sure. I just know she did it all. She wasn’t necessarily the cuddly type and I rarely remember her saying “I love you.” But, she always made us feel loved. She was the fixer and she was always there no matter what. The other day my mom told me a story about how sad she was when I went off to kindergarten. She cried when the bus drove away. “See I was always thinking about you,” she told me.

Sometimes things like that are important to say for a mom, even if it’s 30 years later. My mom helped shape me as a mom. She was just so selfless as a mom—always doing everything without questioning.

Though I didn’t grow up with her, Scott’s mom, Janice, also helped shape me as a mom. She’s more snuggly and touchy-feely than my mom, and more open with her feelings. Her life hasn’t gone perfectly, but she knows love is the most important part of raising kids. She loves her boys unconditionally and would do anything for them. And she understands that raising kids isn’t easy. When the kids act up or things go wrong, she just smiles knowingly, understanding, that’s how life is. From Janice, I’ve learned it’s OK to rock your babies every night—because it doesn’t last forever. I’ve learned that loving kids with all your heart is more important than teaching them to read at 3, or making them eat vegetables. And I’ve learned that it’s OK when you screw up, because life isn’t perfect and kids aren’t perfect.

Being a mom is about accepting and loving your kids unconditionally and selflessly. And about trying to be a better mom every day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


It was probably the worst Julie had ever performed.
Her voice trembled. Her fingers fumbled over the piano keys. She rushed through some parts of the song, yet stalled on others.

But we couldn't have been more proud.

Julie sang and played the piano in front of roomful of people at her school's talent show. Just to get up and perform took talent. Unprovoked, Julie volunteered to perform in the talent show. Scott and I were shocked.

She's not always one who wants to take the stage. During preschool performances, Julie usually stood on stage, lips closed tightly, and head held down. Even in more recent performances, Julie is definitely not one to stand out  in a crowd. She doesn't sing the loudest, and often forgets hand motions or dance steps.

So, when Julie mentioned participating in the talent show, we were curious about the outcome. She decided to play the song "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen and sing along. Her piano teacher worked with her and helped her. She knew the notes and words by heart.

Donning an Elsa-like dress, Julie took the stage. Though there were some nerves and mistakes, but it was the courage that impressed us the most. Way to go to our brave little girl!

Julie and Scott before the show

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday Munch: Bob Chinn's Crab House

To celebrate an early Mother's Day with my mom who is visiting, we headed to Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling. This was our first time to the massive seafood restaurant, though Scott had been wanting to check it out for a while. We all were pretty hungry, so we scarfed down the buttery garlic rolls as soon as they hit the table. For appetizers, Julie and I shared two sushi rolls and Scott downed and order of clams casino. Obviously Bob Chinn's is known for its fresh seafood, so it was hard to decide from the menu filled with fish, shrimp, scallops and lobster. Three of us opted for lobster rolls, while my mom ordered the scallops. Johnny ordered the "fresh catch of the day," while Julie, usually my adventurous eater, went for boring chicken fingers. A few of us added on the salad bar, which was fresh with plenty of options. The freshly sliced avocado was amazing. The kids were also treated to free ice cream cones. Bob Chinn's was a  hit with our family.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Love Note

It doesn't surprise me that my youngest is the first to receive or send a love note.
Our little Johnny has always been quite the lover.
As a baby he was a snuggler, and as a toddler he would hold my face in his pudgy hands and say "Wuv you." Even as a 5-year-old my Johnny finds ways to melt my heart....whether he's drawing me pictures or picking me flowers.

So, it wasn't too shocking when Johnny penned his first love note to our neighbor Sam the other day. (Yes. Sam is a girl. Quite a tomboy, but still a girl.) It started with a freshly picked daffodil from our garden. He desperately wanted to knock on Sam's door and give her the flower.

Then, he decided she needed a note to accompany the flower.

"I love you so much," Johnny wrote in his note.

Then, he drew a picture of the little girl with blue legs, red arms and unusually large purple ears.

He neatly folded the note and stuffed it into an envelope and promptly delivered it.
"I'm the mailman, Mom," he said, as he headed out the door.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pretty Girl

It ain't easy being pretty.
Or, at least this is the latest drama in Julie's life right now. Being 8 is hard. I get it. But, sometimes our strong-willed little girl seems to find reasons to be unhappy.

Her latest angst is she hates dressing up.
"I just want to wear random pants and random shirts," she tells me. "Why does it matter what you look like on the outside?"

Unfortunately, for our deep-thinking daughter, there are times you have to look nice. Such, as Easter. Or a party. Or a school event.

The most dramatic incident happened last week when I informed Julie she had to wear a dress for a school performance. She was pissed. While rolling her eyes consistently, she promptly listed 20 reasons why a dress wasn't necessary. Number 3 was--"I hate being pretty!!"

Huh? That one really got me.

In second grade, I would have loved to be in Julie's shoes. I was probably 15 pounds overweight and I  frequently got mistaken for a boy because of my "pixie" haircut. Not to mention the mullet I gradually grew by sixth grade.

How can one "hate" being pretty?

After school that day, Julie handed me a story she had written about two girls named Sarah and Anna. Anna always looked beautiful---curls in her hair, gorgeous dresses, sparkly shoes. Sarah just rolled her eyes at Anna. Sarah hated being pretty and didn't see the need for it. Anna was spoiled and mean. Sarah, however, was nice and kind, and knew the only thing that mattered was inner beauty.

Ok. Ok. We get it Julie. Well played. But, you still have to wear that beautiful blue dress we bought you for the talent show.

Our pretty girl on a day she actually didn't mind dressing up. She was going to a dance with her Daddy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Munch: Carson's

Considered something of an institution, we had heard Carson’s mentioned by a few of our Chicago-native friends. Portions are generous and the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce is delicious. The restaurant is a tad fancier than your average barbecue joint, but families will feel at home here. The ribs were great and the au gratin potatoes reminded the kids of my homemade “cheesy potatoes” but “10 times better” according to Julie and Johnny.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Field Trip: Crabtree Nature Center

Our newest mission for Chicago Parent?
Playing with nature!
For a big city, Chicago and its surrounding suburbs offer an incredible amount of open space, trails and forest preserves. The latest trend is nature play places where kids are encouraged to play and explore nature. The motto: "No child left inside" is perfect.

Johnny  and I had a blast exploring all the awesome nature play places around Chicago. My little guy is always up for an adventure, and he loves getting dirty--which is usually encouraged at the nature play places. One of our favorites so far is Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills, which isn't too far from our home.

We visited Crabtree in early spring, so many of the trees and plants weren't blooming and the trails were muddy. But, this did not lessen our fun. Along the trails are rescued birds in cages. The owl was our favorite.

When we found the children's section, Johnny was ecstatic to build a "Batman" fort and climb a spider web like Spider Man. We climbed a huge pile of woodchips, then followed a little trail with a wooden bridge.

Playing at Crabtree is a magical adventure--I'm sure it's different for every kid. It's a place to play, imagine and create your own storyline.