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 CafĂ© 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.