Monday, March 31, 2014

Road trip!

Driving 10-plus hours in a car with two kids by myself. Sounds like a nightmare doesn't it?
Guess what? It totally wasn't.

When planning our spring break trip to Maryland to see my parents, I was a little nervous. Scott had already committed to a leadership conference that week, so that meant he was out.
Could I do it myself? Would it be a car trip from hell? I envisioned nonstop whining, fighting and too many bathroom breaks to count.

Amazingly, our trip was pure bliss. Ten hours. Two bathroom stops. Zero fighting. One meltdown over a lost batman flashlight. (Can you really blame him?) And a minor mishap with a spilled bottle of water and wet pants.

While I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of our trip, it wasn't all luck. I had planned for the worst and also I was determined to make the trip fun and stress-free. No worries. No deadlines. Just the kids, me and the road. I was optimistic, and for once it paid off.

I made a point to not zone out like I sometimes do when I drive. We played games in the car together, sang songs from Frozen, and talked about our trip.

I packed surprise bags the kids were allowed to open every couple hours. Each one was filled with something different---books, window markers, stickers, treats. These little bags may have been our saving grace because the kids constantly looked forward to the next prize bag. The other secret to success I think was just going at our own pace and not rushing. At the rest stops, the kids picked out maps and special drinks, and I let them run and dance a little to burn off some energy.

Of course the excitement of seeing Meme and Papa got us through any cranky moods on the way there, and on the way back, I think we were all so exhausted that we were glad to get home.

Overall road trip was a success. Bring on the cross-country trip!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Munch: Onion Pub and Brewery

I'm not a beer girl...not anymore at least. But, I love a good brewery. While a Miller Lite doesn't appeal to me, I do enjoy trying different local craft beers. Last week Scott and I tried Onion Pub & Brewery in Lake Barrington. I loved the Summer Wit, a Belgian White Ale, which was completely refreshing...especially with the lemon slices. Scott opted for the HopSlayer, an IPA, which he really enjoyed. We intended to just stay for drinks, but who can resist beer cheese soup at a brewery? Absolutely delicious and served with pretzel goldfish. How cute! A platter of hummus, pita and vegetables also made a great match for our beer selections. Another plus about Onion Pub? They offer miniature tastes of any beer you want---that way you can make an intelligent selection.
Though Onion Pub is situated in an odd location (near an industrial park), the beer is great, the atmosphere is fun (there was a band playing), and the food is just right.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Munch: McGonigal's Pub

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
If you're looking for some delicious Irish fare in a fun atmosphere, check out McGonigal's Irish Pub in Barrington. They host a Celtic fest every year the weekend before St. Patrick's Day, and on the actual holiday. There are beer tents, Irish music, bagpipers, entertainment and festive food--including green beer of course. If you aren't up for Celtic Fest, check out the pub another time. We love the soft pretzels with beer cheese, the reuben sandwiches and of course the wide selection of beer. There are plenty of choices for kids as well. And, it's in adorable downtown Barrington.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The writing bug

Sometime in my early elementary years I was told I was a good writer. Undoubtedly my parents had a lot to do with that, but a few teachers showered on the praise. When I was a kid, I kind of stunk at anything athletic. I earned Cs in gym class. I couldn't ride a two-wheeler until I neared my 8th birthday and I never set foot on a soccer field or basketball court. So I devoured all the accolades. I loved being good at something. My diary was my best friend and I was probably the only kid in class who got excited about writing sentences with spelling words. For special occasions, I wrote poems or stories as presents to my parents. I loved writing "books", and in middle school I joined the after school writing club. I was convinced writing was my destiny.
 I guess I was right, though I'm not writing books as I dreamed (yet). I'm happy though, and I'm absolutely ecstatic that Julie shares my love. Every day after school she rummages for paper and gets to work on her "books." She writes about friends and animals, teachers and field trips. And she creates characters. Her imagination and creativity amaze me. Her sentences aren't perfect and sometimes her stories need more thought or explanation. But, it's really her passion that moves me. My girl's got the writing bug.
Here's a whimsical little blurb she wrote for St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Have you ever cried to avoid a traffic ticket?
I can honestly say I have not.
Even after yesterday....

I was pulled over yesterday. It had been a bit of a stressful of those days where everything seems to go wrong.

Let's start at the beginning.
It was the Monday after Daylight Savings and the kids for some reason, didn't seem to sleep any later than usual. But, they were still dragging, and so was I.

Julie's snow boots were soaked from playing outside all weekend, so she couldn't wear them to school on Monday.
Johnny was late to school. I forgot to bring his backpack. Then, I drove an hour and a half to interview a family for a story I'm working on. When I showed up at their house everyone was in their pajamas. They had emailed me while I was making the long trek to their house. They wanted to cancel the interview. Luckily, I convinced them otherwise.

On the long drive home, I was stressed about not getting back in time to pick up Johnny from school, and I was a bit worried about the article. I called my editor on my cell phone to update her on what happened.

Then I get pulled over barely a half mile from Johnny's preschool.

The officer saw me on my cell (even though I was wearing a headset) and thought I was distracted. I had swerved at an intersection, and not stopped completely at a stop sign, he said. 

Even worse...I couldn't find my insurance information.

My mind was racing. My heart was pounding. I couldn't hold it in any longer. First came the sniffles. Then, my lip started to quiver. By the time he finished looking up my information, I didn't even try to pretend I wasn't crying.

I think I scared the poor cop because he warned me verbally, and with a pitying glance sent me on my way.

The tears worked, but that was definitely not my intention. I thought at 35 years old, I could handle a run-in with a traffic cop. But, as he drove away, I sat there whimpering like a wounded pup. Guess I'm still the sensitive softie after all these years.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What's a Pop Tart?

"Mommy, What's a pop tart?"
Julie was curious because one of her best friends had proclaimed these frosted pastries as her breakfast of choice.

Call my kids sheltered, but pop tarts aren't the only treats that have never graced our pantry shelves.
Twinkies. Fritos. Cheetos. Little Debbie Cakes. Nutter Butters.
They have no clue.

That's not to say our kids are perfect eaters. Johnny would live on Skittles if we let him, and Julie could easily devour an entire medium pizza.

But, for the most part, they are probably the some of the healthiest eating kids we know.

Their favorite vegetables (not kidding) are artichokes and edamame. Johnny's teacher thought it was a joke when he brought a little container of edamame to school on vegetable day. The other night the kids were slurping mussels. And Julie will literally eat anything....from sushi and salmon to kale and quinoa.

We've undoubtedly made mistakes with our kids, but feeding them isn't one of them.
I know there's this whole movement for parents to not force their kids to eat. There are so many parents who cater to their kids by cooking them exactly whey want for dinner every night. To Scott and I that's absolutely absurd. Since the kids were small, they were expected to eat whatever was served for dinner....whether it was tilapia and broccoli or chicken and mashed potatoes. It really made no difference whether they liked the particular meal or whether it was kid-friendly. If they didn't eat it, tough.

And, don't think for a second that it was always easy. While Julie rarely gave us trouble when it came to eating (except for a phase where she had to plug her nose to drink milk), Johnny was a tough one. He's my little sweet tooth. Give him cake or cookies, and he'll eat until he pukes. Put a brussel sprout on his plate and he will literally puke.  Seriously. He did that just last month.

Johnny was so stubborn when it came to eating that he would just not eat. He didn't care. He would go to bed without eating a bite.

Don't worry too much about him though. He came around. And this is the same guy who gorges himself on halibut and asks for seconds on snap peas.

I really think most kids will eventually turn around. It's parents who create picky
eaters. Who buys the mac n' cheese and chicken nuggets? Not the 2 year-old? Who cooks hot dogs every night? Not the preschooler.

So, stick to your guns parents! They won't starve. I promise.

Oh, and an occasional treat also won't hurt.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Munch: Stoney River, Deer Park

Saturday was an impromptu date night.
For the last month we have tried to budget pretty tightly so we haven't been out on too many date nights. So, Saturday was long overdue.

We chose Stoney River in Deer Park. It was a snowy night (as usual here in Chicagoland), so the lodge-like atmosphere was perfect, and the fireplaces created the perfect ambience.
Our favorite parts of the meal came before the entrees. We ordered the Ahi tuna roll as an appetizer, and it was amazing. The tuna was raw even though the entire roll had been flash-fried. Very cool. And then the waitress delivered these delectable mini rolls served with warm with honey butter. Scott requested another basket!

For the main course, Scott opted for a "Cowboy cut ribeye" which he had no problem devouring. I ordered the swordfish special. Though the fish was a tad undercooked, the waitress promptly returned it to the kitchen and apologetically delivered a perfectly grilled piece.

We'll definitely return to Stoney River for another date night, or possibly with the kids.