Moving Into 2011: Stitch-Free

I took W in to have his stitches removed this morning. He insisted that they would be replaced and it took some explaining that he doesn't get new stitches, they just go away. I think he was starting to get used to them and the extra attention (and treats) he's been getting haven't hurt.

Dr.: "What happened?"
W: "I fell."
Dr.: "Oh wow!"
W: "I got some stitches."
Dr.: "How many stitches did you get?"
W: "One, two."
(I hold up my hand to show her five behind him.)
Dr.: "Five stitches?!?! Wow, you're brave."
W: "No. One, two stitches."

Stitch removal went well, as the Nurse bribed him with both a Thomas and a Cars sticker. W turned and took a good look at the pile of stitches, said good-bye to all five of them, and we were on our way. Just like that.

Listen and Repeat

Our chatterbox has us constantly cracking up. For a while I was really impressed by the things I thought he was coming up with himself, however most of his one-liners aren't necessarily original. He's been saying phrases from movies and books for a while, but it used to be random. Now, he's using them in every day coversation.

For example: Our neighbors were over a couple of weeks ago for brunch and play time. W was not so keen on sharing a toy with his little friend from down the block. All of a sudden a very loud and very stern, "Get out of this house!" can be heard. It was later that I realized it was inspired by the fish in "The Cat in the Hat."

His new favorite saying for moments of great excitement is: "Holy moly guacamole!" I wrongly thought he came up with this one on his own. Oh no. Upon the 10th viewing of "Toy Story 3" I realized Rex says this when they enter the Caterpillar Room.

As we were leaving Matt's parents after Christmas weekend, I gave the little guy the heads up that we were going to start getting ready to head home. His response: "We could build a life here!" Again thanks to "Toy Story 3."

It's all been sweet and funny, except for the random stupid that he's been throwing out every now and then. I think it's from "Cars" or one of the "Toy Story" movies. Or maybe it's from living with the two of us. And, if that's the case, we're coming off easy if stupid is the worst we hear out of his mouth.


Boxing Day (And Our Little Boxer)

Christmas was awesome in every way. I'll put together something soon about everything we learned about Christmas with a toddler, but it was Boxing Day that taught us the most this holiday season. W has been obsessed with playing "chase," a simple game that involves being chased around the house. It often starts with him coming up to any available adult and saying, "I better run...." And then he takes off.

This was, of course, his game of choice when we were at Matt's parents over the weekend. It was around 5:00 or so on Boxing Day when he ran from his cousin and fell, hitting the wooden stair between the kitchen and living room, and splitting open his eye.

It was bad. There was a ton of blood. I've never been a fan of blood and wounds give me the heebie-jeebies, so I always wondered how I would react when it was go-time. And now I know: I completely took control of the situation and focused on calming down W, barking out orders, and tried to make good, quick decisions. I'm usually good in crisis situations, but like everyone says, there is a gear that moms are able to put themselves in and I found it.

We ultimately had to head out so the little guy could get stitches. It all happened rather quickly. I think back and it was all a blur, except the blood that just kept coming and coming. Ugh. But I know that I had a moment when I turned away from him to grab a towel and had a tiny moment when I could have freaked, but I took a deep breath, looked back at him, and never gave in.

Sometimes being a parent is hard. Co-parenting can be really hard. Two people having to compromise, know what the other needs, step in, step out, bite their tongue, decide what is best for a child... It's all hard and (like most honest new parents will admit) Matt and I have had some really rough bumps as we learn how to best work together as parents. And on Sunday we seemed to figure it out.

When William was getting his stitches, I had to lay on the bed and hold down his arms, Matt had to hold his head in place. And we had to keep him perfectly still. Never before have the two of us worked so well together than we did in those ten minutes. From the second William hurt himself, we both instinctively fell into the perfect roles to compliment each other. I grabbed William and tried to calm him down and get his bleeding under control. Matt stood by, got me a towel when I asked, got his dad when I needed him, and was swiftly out the door to pull up and warm the car with his id, insurance card, and money in hand before we even accepted we'd go to the hospital. He knew I had the current situation under control and he was preparing for the next steps.

Five stitches later we were alright, but nothing hurts a parent's heart more than seeing their little one in pain. It's bound to happen to all of us. And, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about how we handled it this time around.

Special thanks to Aunt Kate for soothing the little guy, Uncle Dan for getting the ice, Papa Don for flipping into Dr. Hanneman mode so quickly, Nana Linda for riding to the hospital with us, and to that special person who cleaned up all the blood. (Somehow it was magically gone when we got back.) And to W's Hanneman family who cheered when we got back from the hospital and let him know how cherished he is by everyone.


Christkindlmarket: Seven Years Later

Ever since Matt and I started dating he has wanted to go to the Christkindlmarket at Daley Center. A Christmas beer tent caught Matt's attention back then and has held it ever since. Every year it comes up. And every year it just hasn't worked out, mainly because I'm too busy with work and then it's just too damn cold.

One year, even despite my best intentions of having friends meet us there as a surprise for Matt's birthday, we still didn't make it. I *may* have skipped the whole checking the schedule thing and quickly realized when we met there that the fest was set up, but not opening until the next day.

So, finally, finally, finally... Tonight we made it. We had plans for dinner to celebrate our dear friend Jennifer's birthday. Reservations were for 6:30 and I came up with the brilliant idea of finally making Matt's German Christmas dreams come true.

It would have been a different experience back in the day when we could have killed a few hours in the beer tent, snacked on pretzels for the night, and then jumped on the blue line home. It was a very different experience than the one we originally hoped to have there. Life has changed. We waited seven years to spend 20 minutes checking out the vendors, snacking on cinnamon/sugar almonds, and making some really excellent jokes about Germans (which we both happen to be, so don't get all offended). It was worth the wait.


I'm Back

OK, so it's been really quiet around here. I had to turn off all aspects of life, except work, for the past two months. Not complaining, but that's the way it goes. Starting in early November I was working at least six days a week, including two late nights. Then after Thanksgiving, I worked 27 days straight, most of those days were well over 12 hours and included commuting downtown.

All this work meant I missed a lot. I missed a lot of William and Matt. I missed a couple birthdays. A few opportunities to see my friends. A ton of opportunities to blog. The stress is hard to describe. Again, I'm not complaining, just stating the facts.

I work on a Gala that raised over $3.25 million and hosted nearly 2,000 guests. It takes this much time because it's done right. You cannot possibly imagine the amount of detail and time that goes into something like this. It wouldn't be successful without the extra hours, but it's an incredible amount of work for a small team of people to pull off... Which is why this was my last Gala. As I mentioned before I luckily had a really good opportunity to feel like I'd be here for William and still work for an organization and with people that I really care about. And I had to take it. I don't know if we Hannemaniacs can handle another Gala.

I missed a lot of William's life. Two months is a lot of development time for a 2 year old. He's not letting me back in as easily as you'd think. On the first day I actually stayed home he asked me to go to work and told me he wanted to drop me off at the train station. He asked to go to my mom's house, explaining "Nana needs me. She misses me and I have to go to her house now." Wow. Ouch. He also told me I wasn't nice and wasn't his best friend. That was a few days ago. Things are getting better. I know he doesn't mean it. I know he's only 2 with an incredible vocabulary, that he often doesn't even understand what he's saying. But, still, seriously?!?!

I'm slowly crawling out of the post-Gala hole. I promise to be more active and catch up on everyone's lives. Can't tell you the last time I read a blog. Right now I have to go get a little guy ready for bedtime. I have a lot of bedtimes to make up for.


How Good Grows Through Ripples of Kindness

As part of the Yahoo! Motherboard, I am SO EXCITED to take part in Yahoo's How Good Grows Through Ripples of Kindness. Yahoo! has offered me $100 for random acts of kindness to brighten people's holiday season.

I decided right away that I would match it with my own $100. When I told my mom she offered to match as well. Then my boss told me she'd like to match. Yesterday my mother-in-law asked if she could match. I didn't *ask* any of these people to match, I didn't even think to. They all simply offered, because, you know, kindness brings on more kindness. Yahoo!'s $100 quickly became $500.

I made some phone calls and am still figuring out what to do with the money, but so far I have agreed to "adopt" a couple of families living at the shelter run by the domestic violence organization I used to work for and a friend of mine is looking into what students at the school she works with can use winter coats, gloves, hats, etc.

Today I received the wish lists for the families I've "adopted" and one of the girls #1 wish is a coat, her #2 is snow boots,#3 is a Dora watch. A kid wishing for a coat and boots. Ugh. A woman's #1 wish is underwear. These are the Christmas wishes Yahoo! and so many other great people are going to help me fulfill.

The least I can do is the shopping, right? So, I've decided to stretch the money as far as I can and will brave the crowds on Black Friday. Not for our gifts, but theirs. If you know me this is my worst nightmare. I make fun of people who shop that day. But, why would I ever make it easy on myself?

I hope you'll visit Yahoo!'s How Good Grows Through Ripples of Kindness to see what other people are doing to spread kindness and hopefully you'll make your own ripple.


Realities of Child Hunger Freak Me Out

My new post of TheChicagoMoms.com is about a realization I had about child hunger while feeding William his breakfast the other morning.

This morning I pulled together some extras from the pantry (rice, mac & cheese, corn, kidney beans, black beans, pumpkin, and tomato soup) and dropped them off at my office building's food drive. They were just extra things I threw into a bag without a second thought, but can feed someone who doesn't have other options.

I hope you'll do something this holiday season to help hungry families. Check out my post here.


Gun Control and 90210

I've always been completely against having a gun in my house. The idea of it freaks me out. Guns make me uncomfortable, period.

Today I've been doing a lot of work from home, playing catch up, and decided to put on the Saturday Beverly Hills 90210 block on Soap Net. I found this weekly marathon when I had the flu a couple weeks ago and it's my new go-to on a Saturday afternoon. The early years of 90210 were the best. I was the perfect age for its cheesy acting, over-the-top 90's fashion, and cliche story lines. It was the focus of my television watching back then.

That being said, the episode when Scott (David Silver's dorky friend) shoots himself and dies was on today. I half watched it, but remembered watching it the first time it aired, the hype it created. It was major. Is 90210 the reason I'm so opposed to guns in the house? I mean, besides all the other obvious reasons.


I Want to be an Earthbound Cook

For the From Left to Write Book Club, we read "The Earthbound Cook" by Myra Goodman, a cook book promising 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and A Healthy Planet. This post is inspired by that book.

It's been quiet around here these days, I know. Personally, I'm shocked I'm even getting this post together. A ton of time in the office and some other things seem to be sapping me of all energy and brain cells these days. Not only has this poor blog been terribly neglected, but so has our kitchen and nutrition. One night I ate a bowl of olives and then cereal for dinner. The next night I made macaroni and cheese (the blue box kind bought on sale for $1, waiting for a rainy day...). Indeed most nights William has eaten the best of what our freezer has to offer, I've been content with cereal, and Matt scrounges for left overs. His ability to eat just about anything comes in handy in times like these.

So, when I received this cook book I put it away and figured I'd find a time to get to it. And then I put it off and off and off. When I finally picked it up and started reading through it, looked at the gorgeous pictures, skimmed through the recipes, it was like a slap in the face. The vision of the mac and cheese blue box against the photos of the author's organic farm was torture.

I made a deal with myself then. I would make two recipes from the cook book in that week. I didn't have time to go to the grocery store until Saturday, so I chose two recipes (Orechiette with Broccolette and Mushroom Barley Soup) and took Willliam to Whole Foods to get some organic ingredients. That night I tried to convince myself to order in, take it easy, but instead I threw together the Orechiette with Broccolette. It was great and maybe the fifth time I'd cooked in the last 12 weeks. (It's been that bleak in our kitchen these days.)

I had to go to the office on Sunday, so my plan was to get the soup ready and then catch the train downtown. In stepped Matt, insisting that he could do it. I was skeptical. He knows how to cook, but doesn't do it all that much anymore. Can I tell you how great it was to come home on a Sunday night after a long day of work to a warm bowl of soup that all three of us seemed to equally enjoy?

I want to be an Earthbound Cook. I want to cook delicious, fresh, organic meals. However, with two working parents (one working overtime these days) it's too easy to take the simple way out. And I do. Last year I pulled out the crock pot during this busy time, but this year I'm just too tired. Come January I'll refocus and try more of these recipes, until then, pass the olives.

This post was inspired by the book "The Earthbound Cook" by Myra Goodman, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


Wordless Wednesday: Who is This Big Kid?

*Photo courtesy of our ever-awesome neighbor, Evan.


Working Mom

Those who know me best realize that from mid-October until mid-December my life basically shuts down and I go into "Gala mode." I fall off the map. The Gala is the focus of my job, an event that raises over $3 million and takes countless hours of management. Luckily, I've worked for an incredible boss and always have really smart, talented colleagues, so working long hours hasn't been as bad as it could be.

This year marks my sixth Gala, my third since having William. And it will be my last. A month or so ago I accepted a new role within my office, one that will allow me to focus on a few areas that I'm really interested in and not demand the hours that event management does. It is definitely a good move for me professionally and personally, but it was a tough decision. I don't let go of things easily.

I ultimately made the decision because I realized this: I am not the same person I was when I was hired on to manage this Gala. I've become a mom, moved to the burbs, and all that makes these months so much more difficult. Every Saturday or Sunday that I go into the office is a choice of work over William. Every night I'm there late is a day that I only spend a rushed hour in the morning with the little guy. And, at the end of the day, that's not fair anymore and makes me feel I'm letting him down. You can love your job and love your kid, but feeling like you have to make a choice is not something that I love.

So, here's to my last Gala...


Playing Barista

"Hi, baristas!" is often what we hear from the back seat when we drive by a Starbucks. Yes, between days spent with my mom and our own coffee-loving ways, our child is very aware of all things coffee. I think "coffee" was one of his first words. He'd point to our mugs in the morning or to-go cups during afternoon trips out and correctly identify what was inside. It doesn't hurt that there is a drive-thru Starbucks near our house and our pediatrician's office.

Last weekend on the way back from Michigan we were stuck in traffic. It sucked, but then we heard a little voice behind us say, "Would you like a grande skim latte?" And so the game of barista began.

Our new traffic game is playing barista. We take turns ordering and William makes our coffee drinks. Every now and then we get to play barista and make him a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, something he's never actually tried, but seems to think the pretend version is delicious.


Making Sure William Will Be Alright

For the From Left to Write Book Club, we read "The Kids Are All Right" by Amanda, Dan, Diana, and Liz Welch, a book about a young family torn apart after losing their father and then their mother. This post is inspired by that book.

We were standing over William's changing table, as I pulled his pants back up and I turned to my sister Christina and said, "You know that if anything happens to us, we want to you to take William, right?"

Maybe those weren't the exact words, but it was something like that. I didn't know that I was going to ask her right then. I didn't know what I was going to say before I said it. Sure, Matt and I had talked about it and decided it was best for his future. We went through our list of options and knew that my sister and her then fiance/now husband Tristan would be the most prepared to give William the closest thing to what we would give him.

If we die, they would raise him best. It's not something you ever want to think about, but as parents, it's reality. But, asking your sister to care for your child, provide for him, love him, educate, clothe, and feed him if you're not able to do so yourself, isn't really taking care of his future.

We have a lot of work to do. We need a real will, a real plan, a better savings account for William's education, and we need to do everything we can to be sure we're here as his parents as long as possible. Sometimes in the early years of building your family, you don't focus on what's down the road or the "what if's" in life. Honestly, why would you? Sometimes the "what if's" in life are too scary to even think about.

That fear is what left the mother in the book frozen in the face of choosing who would raise her kids once she was unable, forcing them to live apart. Being apart was, to me, the opposite of what I would want for my family. It made me want to reach through the pages of the book and give each of these kids a hug and a home where they could live together. It kept me glued to the book, wondering what I would do if I was their aunt or mother's friend.

And it made me realize this: In asking Christina to take responsibility for William I was also silently asking her to tack on whatever future children we may have. If they have a few and we have a few, am I asking them to be willing to double their family if something happens to us? I guess I am.

When you think about it that way you really realize it's not a simple question to be asked over the changing table at the spur of the moment. We should at least buy them dinner.

This post was inspired by the book "The Kids Are All Right" by Amanda, Dan, Diana, and Liz Welch, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers connected to this book here. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


ABC's: Baby Steps Forward, Toddler Step Back

William has been reciting his ABC's and identifying letters on their own since he was about a year and a half. It was just something that came naturally to him. The alphabet quilt on the wall of his bedroom and lots of time playing Starfall are credited with this. However, once he mastered his letters, we stopped some of the things that made him so excited about them to begin with. Starfall was played less often. We quizzed him on letters less and less.

Recently we've realized that his spot on letter identification has slipped a bit. He's started to switch some letters around lately or takes a second to come up with the right answer. We've learned a valuable lesson. Just because something is figured out doesn't mean you have to keep working on it, which is true in all areas of life. I have a feeling this is one of those parent lessons we'll continue to learn.

Last night I was wearing an IOWA t-shirt and William looked at it and correctly identified each letter.

"Do you know what it spells?" I asked

"Yeah, I do know what it spells," he replied.

"What does it spell?"

"Gap." He looked at me with the straightest, "duh" face you can imagine.

We're clearly not onto reading yet and this kid has defined the everything that drives me crazy, yet is totally brilliant about Gap.


Will I Ever Master Timing in the Kitchen?

For the first book of the newly formed Bloggers' Book Club, we read "Too Many Cooks" by Emily Franklin, a book about "Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes." This post is inspired by that book.

I remember the first time I had friends over for dinner after I had William. I was making Greek chicken, salad, rice, and pumpkin spice cupcakes (an embellished recipe from the box). I was on maternity leave and Matt was catching a ride home from the city with our friends, Kari and Anthony. All week Kari encouraged me to order pizza, to not worry about cooking something, but I was determined to prove that I could still host friends for dinner with a newborn.

When they showed up I was quite possibly on the verge of tears, had no make-up on, a crying kid sat in his bouncy chair on the kitchen floor, and dinner wasn't ready yet. But, I was almost done. They shuffled in, played with William, and I was able to focus and finish it up. And I learned I could do it. It took me longer than I imagined, I got a ton more frazzled. But, I did it.

I've never been great at planning ahead when it comes to cooking. I underestimate how long it takes to chop things and think I can make three dishes at once without a real plan for how it will go down. But, somehow I *almost* always pull it off.

Tonight I decided to make The Best Split-Pea Soup Recipe Ever from Too Many Cooks. I, of course, realized that I was short a half pound of split peas and a pot large enough to hold all the soup the recipe would make, so when the soup should have been simmering on the stovetop, we were out tracking down these small necessities. The recipe calls for putting the soup in the oven for two hours. I gave it an hour and 15 minutes before I had to take it out to keep us from eating too late. I figured it would be fine. And it was. We enjoyed some awesome, complex split pea soup. (See, somehow it always works out.)

So, I guess nothing has really changed. In my head I can chop two leeks, two onions, six carrots, five celery stalks, and eight cloves of garlic in ten minutes and then saute all of it in about two minutes. Clearly, this is not possible. I drastically underestimate stuff like this. I'll for sure make this soup again, as it was a huge hit. But, I promised Matt that next time I would leave enough time for it to spend the recommended two hours in the oven to see what it's really supposed to taste like.

This post was inspired by the book "Too Many Chefs" by Emily Franklin, which I received complimentary as a part of The Bloggers' Book Club. See how other bloggers connected to this book here.


I Might Be A Mean Mom, But He'll Be Healthier For It

I'm a mean mom. I'm no fun. Poor, poor William... I hear this a lot and it has nothing to do with my mothering skills and more to do with the things that I don't give William. I should be more specific: It has everything to do with the FOOD I don't give William.

He's never had McDonald's (or any other fast food). He doesn't get lollipops (even when he gets a shot). Candy has never crossed his little lips. I can count the number of times he's had (extremely watered down) juice. He doesn't get syrup with his pancakes. And, for each of these things, I've been told I'm a mean mom. Friends and strangers have no problem making the pained "ooohhhh" sound and then call me mean. I'm not depriving him, I've just made a commitment to trying to keep him eating healthy. It's irritating that people choose to translate that into me depriving him of something. Whatever, so be it.

It all started when we introduced fruits and vegetables. I made ALL of his baby food with my trusty Beaba. I loved introducing him to new fruits and vegetables, knowing exactly what I was feeding my little guy. It was easy and made me realize how cleanly he was eating.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the little joys in life that treats and sweets give us. I grew up in a house that always had fresh-baked goodies on the counter. My mom made chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie treats, brownies, and her signature cinnamon coffee cake on a near-constant basis. I appreciate the comfort that baking brings for a mom and every now and then make banana bread or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to share with my little guy. It's not like I'm totally crazy about living a non-sugar/healthy foods lifestyle, I just try to make good decisions for him while I'm still in charge of what goes in his mouth. And I'd rather he eat homemade treats than those coming out of a bag.

His eating habits aren't perfect. Yes, he gets chicken fingers and likes to dip them in honey mustard. Sure, he gets a cookie when I'm desperate in a grocery store and just need to cooperate as I get my list done. Grilled cheese and fries are a go-to at one of our favorite local restaurants. His favorite snack is Goldfish. And I'm absolutely guilty of letting him indulge in his love of chips and guacamole when we go to a Mexican restaurant.

However, given the childhood obesity epidemic that threatens our nation, the high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, extra sodium, and who-knows-what lurking in our foods, I'm fine with being a mean mom. I'll take mean if it means my little guy will be healthier in the long run. I just hope that more people will stop considering moms mean for saying no when their kid is offered a lollipop after their haircut.

This month Yahoo! Motherboard members share their thoughts on teaching kids healthy eating habits. See what think others about this topic here.

ReVamp Round 1: Boot Camp

The first phase of the ReVamp Project was a fitness revamp (in the form of boot camp) and I totally loved it... Except I had to miss the last couple of sessions due to the most killer chest cold that our germ-sharing little William passed on to just about everyone.

I was really, really bummed to have to miss any of them. I've always wanted to take part in a boot camp type of workout and this was a really good one. Check out my post on making it happen here on Chicagonista.

Check out this video hosted by Miss Lori that MJ put together to sum up our first day of getting our butt kicked, including a cameo from yours truly:

And if you're looking to try out a boot camp yourself, check out Total Results Training. I'm a big fan.

I received the boot camp classes complimentary as part of the ReVamp Program.


Holding Down the Fort

I'm on my own with the little guy for the next few nights. Matt went to his parents's house to help out while his dad has surgery, so it's just me, my little man, and our attack dog Howie to keep us safe. This shouldn't be a big deal, right?

Well, it kind of is... This is the first time Matt has been away this long since William was born. I'm the one who has the job that includes lots of nights and weekends. My social plans with friends more often end up in a sleepover or reasons to travel. I've become accustomed to nights away, counting on Matt to take care of everything at home.

Now it's my turn. It's ridiculous, but I'm excited to finally have my turn alone with him, to test my skills as a mom. At first all I could think was that I need to spend more time with him like this and I was a little overcome by guilt. What kind of mom lets the dad do most of the one-on-one time?

Then, he looked up at me and said, "Best friend."

"What? Me?" I asked.

"Yeah, my best friend."

Obviously I've been doing something right.


"Room" by Emma Donoghue: Did a Book Change My Weekend and Make Me a Better Mom?

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "Room" by Emma Donoghue, a novel written from the perspective of a five year-old boy living in captivity with his mother, who was abducted when she was 19 years old and has been held for seven years. This post is inspired by that book.

Our life is constantly overbooked. It's often hard for us to enjoy a day of just being together. When I feel the most overwhelmed I have these visions of living somewhere far away, in a private place, where we don't have to share our time with anyone else. Just William. And then he'd be safe from the outside world, totally protected. Just us.

And then I read "Room." I was horrified. I cried. I was angry. It's not as if I haven't heard stories like this before. We've all been intrigued by the painful, outrageous, disturbing stories of a captured woman's rescue, often with children she bore while living in captivity. Reading an in-depth (although fictionalized) account of this life was terribly hard.

But, I have to admit, there was a little piece of me that yearned for the closeness between this mother and son. I feel crazy admitting this, I do. Under all the suffocation and cruelty of their life, the love between a mother and a son was what kept me turning each page. Life between the two of them was intimate and honest. They only had each other.

This is all likely due to the limited time I feel like I see my own son and as I'm ramping up for my busy season at work it will only get less and less. I miss a lot of time with him and I've been frustrated knowing that in the next couple of months it will be worse.

I was supposed to miss even more time this weekend, but reading "Room" and a nasty chest cold made me reconsider traveling for work. A Saturday morning appointment at the pediatrician resulted in breathing treatments and a warning to keep a close eye out for a fever. I couldn't leave. So, I prioritized and traveling to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for work didn't have a chance in the face of the slightest possibility of pneumonia.

Did reading "Room" make me want to stay closer, hold him tighter, know him best of all? Maybe. I try to do it all and that usually means that if I think Matt is fine on his own, I head out. But, this time I couldn't. So, I stayed home, wiped his runny nose, made him cookies, and spent a lot of time reading this book.

This post was inspired by the book "Room" by Emma Donoghue, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


Dear Chevy Traverse, I Miss You.

We're leaving today for Wisconsin this morning and I'm going through Chevy Traverse withdrawal. HELP! My sedan-driving world will never be the same and neither will long car trips.

You see, for William's 2nd birthday we had to travel to DesMoines, Iowa for a friend's wedding. We decided to bring the little guy along since another friend who happens to live there offered her guest room and her babysitting services. (Yup, we're lucky like that.)

Des Moines is a good five hour drive from Chicago and I'm not a big fan of long drives. Long drives with a little guy are even harder. It doesn't help that we have a sedan. This is where the good people at Chevy come in...

The kind people at Chevy lent us a 2011 Chevy Traverse for a weekend test drive and let me tell you... It. Was. Spectacular.

I've always been an anti-minivan kinda mom. My mom rocked the minivan for years. It was good to our family and I totally get why they are a great addition to family life, but the minivan and mom jeans became a symbol for all that is uncool. Call it marketing, stigma, mom backlash... Whatever it is, I fell for it.

So, we tried out the Traverse. It was delivered to our house on Thursday and coming home to shiny, new navy blue car in our driveway was awesome. (How did they know navy blue is my favorite car color?)

We shared the news with William that his birthday present this year was going to be really exciting: A movie in the car! He squealed. (Yes, my kid is pretty easy to please.) We packed Cars, Sesame Street, Thomas, and Toy Story. We reminded him it would only be for this trip and only in this special car for his birthday and he totally got it. All the time reminding him that Chevy was sharing this car with us, a concept he struggles with these days.

We filled the I-Pod with all of our favorites. Matt packed the car with ease, which is usually is stressful for us with a pack-and-play, stroller, toys, and bags of clothes. Then we hit the road basking in the new car smell.

There were plenty of things to get excited about: the dvd player, the I-Pod hook-up that allows you to then control the I-Pod through the radio controls, the air conditioned seats, the ability to comfortably change a diaper out the back, the reverse video (probably not the technical term), smooth ride, and the ROOM. I made sport of climbing from the front seat to the back when William needed all sorts of things and to catch a couple of movies with him. It was like a vacation. I could have driven across the country.

And now we're planning to leave for Wisconsin tomorrow and it brings a tear to my eye.

Disclosure: We enjoyed a complimentary five day test drive compliments of Chevy. They did not compensate me in any other way to write this post, nor did they request that I do so. We currently own an Acura.


Five Years Later...

It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp, hot September day (just like today) that we were married. It's easy to say that it's flown by, but in a way it hasn't. We've started a new job, went to Lake Tahoe, bought a condo, went to Italy, adopted a dog, got pregnant, sold the condo, went to New York, had a baby, bought a house, started a blog, renovated a house, went to Portland, and still both make it to work every day and manage to keep our kid fed (with lots of help). When I put it that way, it really doesn't seem all that fast or we've just done a bang up job of packing it in.

We always swore that we'd keep our relationship first, have "dates" once a week. In this regard we've totally failed. We both admit it, don't worry, we're OK with it... Because it makes simple celebrations like this so much sweeter.

A lot of people have been asking what we're doing for such a milestone. Five years is a big deal, I get it. But, I gotta admit, I don't really like jewelry, travel is simply not in the budget, and we spent whatever extra money we would have blown on theater tickets on an unexpected visit from a plumber earlier this week. (Awesome!)

Today I went to boot camp while Matt and William played in our old hood, then we had pizza at our favorite old place Piece. Tonight we will enjoy dinner at Quince in Evanston, which looks totally amazing. Then we'll find some live music, stroll around, chat, drink too much wine... Sounds pretty damn good to me.

So, the moral of my story is... The celebration is what you make of it. Tonight we'll get all dressed up, go to a really nice restaurant, enjoy live music and drink wine, maybe grab a coffee... And when we wake up tomorrow we'll be married five years and one day and love each other.



Watch out, world! I'm going to ReVamp with some other area Chicago mom bloggers and am crazy excited to be part of this awesome group. You'll be seeing a lot of my ReVamp experience around here.

Today was our first boot camp. (Yup, you read that right.) And I even learned some things, imagine that:

1. I'm not in nearly as bad of shape as I thought I was. My P90X experience this summer really helped get me ready.

2. My sense of humor is sometimes lost in boot camp settings.

3. I love exercising outside in the fall.

Boot camp will be three times a week for two weeks. Finding time is a little tough, but luckily Matt is up for Father of the Year again! More ReVamp details to come!

Disclosure: As part of this project, I'm receiving six complimentary boot camp sessions from Total Results Training.


Driving Home Baby

The drive home from the hospital with William was one of the most scary drives of my life. Every car on the street was a threat. When I recently talked to my friend Kari about her experience, I realized how universal it is... So, I wrote about it.

Check out my latest post on TheChicagoMoms.com here.


Private Investigator

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "Following Polly" by Karen Bergreen, a novel about a woman (Alice) who takes up the habit of following her arch nemesis from college (Polly) to "figure out what her life is like." Little does Alice know, Polly's life is going to come to a shocking end and she's walking right into a murder mystery.

Like most people, I'm often convinced I would be an awesome detective. I know everyone thinks that they're a super sleuth, but hear me out...

I often play the role of confidant to my friends. People just tend to spill it with me. I don't generally judge and can give pretty good advice. One of my roommates in college even told me that if she was ever trying to keep a secret from me all I had to do was look at her and she would assume I already knew the truth. Apparently, I'm hard to keep secrets from. See, that would make me good at the detective thing, right?

But, there's more: I'm usually onto someone before I hear what it is they have to say. I'm perceptive and have a knack for putting things together. I often "have a feeling" about something before the beans are spilled. Call it a sixth sense. I just know...

Here are some of my other qualifiers: First of all, I figure out movies, generally know what's going to happen next, can be the annoying person who turns to my husband and calls out my super sleuth abilities. Secondly, I have a tendency to question people. Call me a cynic, but it has given me the ability to be prepared for someone flaking on me. Thirdly, I have a tendency to size people and their motivations up rather quickly. As Matt likes to say, I see through people's BS right away.

Now, with all of my strong qualifiers, I have one major issue (one road block that Alice did not have): I would be terrible at tailing people. The idea of following someone practically gives me an anxiety attack. I have what you might call a staring problem, which would give me away in a second. I have no control in this area (I wish I did, because it's rather rude). Also, when I'm nervous or getting caught in the act I have a tendency to smile and laugh. A brief glance from my subject would plaster a smile and nervous laugh on my face in a second. And, finally, I would for sure trip, run into something, or roll my ankle in pursuit. All of these would mean a big fail in the following department.

However, like Charlie has Alice in the book to do his following, all I would need is someone to do the tailing for me, report back, and I'd be brilliant... Except I might not totally trust the information I'm getting from them. Who says they wouldn't be a double agent?

This post was inspired by the book "Following Polly" by Karen Bergreen, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.

Pottery Barn to a 2 Year-Old

When William was an infant I picked out an alphabet quilt from Pottery Barn to hang above his changing table. (Best purchase ever! I credit this quilt for his love of letters and ability to recite the alphabet when he was 16 months old.) With a clear view to the quilt from his crib and a ton of time on the changing table, it's the focus of his little room.

This morning as I was changing him, he looked up at the quilt and asked, "Who painted those ABC's?"

Me: "No one painted them. It's sewn together."

W: "Who sowed it?"

Me: "A store called Pottery Barn."

W: "A cow did it?"

Me: "Huh?"

W: "Animals sowed it?"

Me: "Oh, yeah, I guess that would make sense, but it's a different kind of barn."

W: "They should come over and see it."

Now every time I think of ordering something from Pottery Barn, I'll wonder why I'm paying high prices for stuff that even an animal can make. As Matt reminded me this morning, it's better than the reality of how the stuff is really being made.


Netflix: A Lesson in Sharing (for me)

We've been Netflix members since July 2004, which is before we were even married. It's been a great relationship for the past six years, a good amount of give and take. Some months may pass and our three dvd's sit unwatched, other months we're racing through seasons of a television show. (I think the most dvd's we made it through in one month has been eight. We can do better, I'm sure.) All in all, it's been a nice component of our life.

The other day I was updating our already stuffed queue of 424 videos. (That's what happens when you have a tendency to save every movie and show you want to see in your queue and can easily spend an hour hopping from one recommended video to the next.) But, I digress...

As I was moving around the order of our movies, I realized that someone else in our family is ready to get in on the action. I pulled him onto my lap and flipped through a few kid-friendly options. I added the videos he seemed the most excited about, but then it came down to moving them around in the queue and here it is... I didn't want to share. I want to get all the Dexter: Season Four discs as soon as possible. The Buzz Lightyear movie was clearly the most exciting option to William, but is it worthy of putting us back a disc?

I don't think so. It's in position number three... He won't know the difference, right? Sharing has been a stretch for William these days, clearly he's not learning better habits from me.


Wordless Wednesday: Cars Obsession

A special prize for the person who finds the most Cars items in this photo. Tell me the number.


Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead

When William was still an infant, I would feed him and then read the book "Goodnight Goodnight Sleepyhead" every night. I often read the book multiple times, it just seemed to soothe him.

As he got older, he became tired of the book and I was looking to change it up a bit, so it went onto the bookshelf and sat... and sat... and sat. Tonight when I put him down the book somehow ended up on the table next to the reading chair in his room.

I reached for it and was reminded why I loved reading it to him so much. And he positively remembered being read the wonderful rhyme. He whispered along, asked me to read it a second time, and then whined when I put him in his crib. I handed the book to him and he happily held onto it as I turned off the light.

I love that a book made such a strong impression on him at a young age. How quickly he has gone from a baby snuggling into my arm staring wide-eyed at the photos to a toddler sitting on my lap whispering along. If this doesn't encourage you to read to your children, no matter the age, I don't know what will.

I was not compensated for writing about this book, nor did I receive a complimentary copy of the book. I did, however, receive it as a baby gift, but have no idea who gave it to me. If you are the gift-giver and happen to be reading this, please let me know.


Top Chef in Training

I am by no means an expert chef. I really like to cook, I have a few things I can bake with relative success, and people generally don't hate my food. My mom is a terrific cook and baker. We grew up in the kitchen with her. Since we're so lucky to have her as our main source of child care, she's started including the little guy in meal preparation, which he really seems to love.

With the awesome fall weather we've been having, I figured it's about time to get our kitchen messy. So, today I decided to take some time to put the over ripe bananas and the huge bundle of basil I bought at the Farmer's Market to use. Banana bread and pesto day at the Hannemaniac household...

First up was the banana bread. I thought that mashing bananas would be the perfect job for the little guy, but he really seemed to enjoy tasting the banana more than anything, which could explain the end result of slightly dry banana bread.

An apparent fear of the loud mixer left most of the rest of the banana bread up to me, but I found a two year-old to be most helpful for pouring the batter into the bread pan. However, after the bread cooked he informed me that it was yucky and not good for him.

While the banana bread baked we started the pesto. (So maybe tearing the basil apart was a somewhat "made up" job.)

But, it kept him really occupied and MAN that kid totally loved the smell of basil. He may have even stolen a few licks of it. It was pretty awesome to see him play with fresh food with such enthusiasm. Lots of yelling "Pesto! Pesto!"

All in all today I was a happy mom. I've been excited about having him help me cook and bake. This is only the beginning of a lot of time in the kitchen for the two of us. I figure I'll take advantage of it while I can.



So, apparently it's Fall at our house. The river birch in our front yard shed its leaves. I'm OK with it. Actually, between you and me, I'm happy about it. 'Cuz I love fall.

Looking for Forgiveness

I'm carrying a weight around with me, chained to my leg for eight years. I didn't treat someone well, I broke his heart is all sorts of terrible ways. And now I look into my son's eyes and think of someone doing that to him. I can't stand myself.

I'm not a bad person. But, I was given an inch, so I took a foot, then a mile. We parted ways with the understanding that we wouldn't speak anymore. Now that time has passed, I have a child and he has his own, I just want to say sorry.

This post was inspired by the The Father 100 Project. Yup, I'm a mom blogger, but I think I can hang with the dads, right? Consider it a flash blog project, 100 words or less. The word that inspired it: Forgiveness.


Howie and Us

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "Cowboy and Wills" by Monica Holloway, a memoir about a boy with autism and the love story between him and the family's dog. Their relationship alters the boy's life and ultimately is a heart-breaking story.

I have two great, overwhelming fears. The first is that something, anything remotely bad might happen to my son. The second is that something might happen to our dog. Reading Cowboy and Wills just reinforced these fears.

We adopted Howie from a shelter four years ago. He was loving and cuddly and sweet as can be, so we treated him like our baby. An emotional dog, he took to the role rather willingly. Two years later Howie was joined by our human baby, William. It wasn't a great match at the beginning.

Some of Howie's frustrating traits, like his skittishness, his tendency to bolt at any chance, his mood swings... just seemed to become worse. I was in the fog of having a new baby and the stress of lack of sleep and juggling this new life meant I had no patience for Howie. He wasn't meeting my expectations of what I thought a family dog would be.

He kept his distance from William, sulked about sharing the spotlight, and spent a lot of time hiding. He started to bark when people walked in front of the house, acted aggressive with strangers, and left the room if anyone raised a voice. He became worse on the leash, started begging and stealing food, and even gave William a few warning snaps when he got too close to his dog bed.

I started to get annoyed and then nervous and finally apathetic. My relationship with him became strained, Matt would get frustrated with me for not paying more attention to him, for showing him more love, for being more patient. All my attention, love, and patience was going in another direction, not the dog's. So, Matt tried to overcompensate, which only made me more mad. I could use some love and attention too, you know. It was a weird dynamic and no matter how hard I tried to go back to our loving relationship, Howie would steal a snack off the highchair tray and I'd revert back to frustration.

One night when we were getting ready for bed Matt told me about a pea-sized lump he found on Howie's leg. I assured him it was probably nothing, but reached for The Dog Bible and read about what it might be, the worst was cancer. No way, I thought.

I brought Howie to the vet the next day and learned it was cancer. I started crying with the vet, but pulled it together enough to find my way to the car where I called Matt and just about ... lost ... my ... mind. It had been a long week of being a mom and this just about broke me. For all the frustration, annoyance, and scolding I had done, I suddenly felt guilty. I regretted ever thinking he might not be the family dog we really wanted. And I immediately imagined William growing up without knowing him. It broke my heart.

Thanks to early detection, quick action with the vet, a surgery to remove the tumor, and our willingness to pretty much empty our bank account, Howie is cancer-free. But, it was tough. The thought of losing him was too much to handle for me then, it still is now.

He might not be the perfect family dog, but he's ours. And we love him, even if he drives me crazy and is terrible on a leash. In my heart I know he'll learn to love being a family dog in his own way.

This post was inspired by Cowboy and Wills by Monica Holloway, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


Long Days of Summer

Remember when I did that spot on NBC 5?

Remember the bachelorette party I hosted that night?

Did I mention the 90 minutes of sleep I got in a 48 hour period?

Wrote a new post for Mom Renewal on the longest day I had this summer. You guessed it, that was the one. Check it out here.


"Don't Go To Work, Mama"

This morning as I was getting ready to head out to work the little guy grabbed my skirt, looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said: "Please don't go to work, mama."

It was the first time he had asked me to stay home. He even said please. And all I could do was tell him I was sorry, that I had to go. He didn’t cry or beg or tantrum over it, just accepted it, which made it so much worse. It was almost as if he knew I’d go, but gave it his best try.

I thought about this all day while I sat at my desk and worked. I like my job, it felt like I was in the right place, but seeing myself through his eyes made me wonder. I never questioned working out of the home, but it seems like he might be.

I knew separation issues would come and it was a minor version of what can be painful tantrums for most moms, but I don't want to forget what I saw in his eyes this morning. It's a good reminder to constantly evaluate if you're doing the right things for yourself and your family. I still think that I am, even if he can't see it right now.


William: Age 2

Today is my sweet little guy's 2nd birthday. I plan to do a recap of who my little guy is every year moving forward. Here is William: Age 2...

William is verbally light years ahead of where a 2 year old should be, his favorite sayings include:

-"You're the best ____ (insert word of choice: guy, lady, dad, mom) ever, ____ (insert person he's speaking to: Dada, Mama, Nana, Papa, etc.)

-"I like it!"

-"No, mama, no talking."

-"I need this!"

-"That sounds wonderful!"

-"I can do everything." (Formerly "I can't do anything!" thanks to Rosita from Sesame Street in the Guitar episode.)

-"No phone, no phone!"

-"Where's my paci?"

-"My teeth look good." (after having his teeth brushed)

-"Lightning McQueen is fast!"

-"What noise is that?"

While he verbally takes risks, he's thoughtful about physical stuff. He's fearless, but always pauses before climbing something or crossing a bridge, taking in the situation. He runs from one thing to another like he's drunk and still falls often.

His favorite things are: cars, trucks, cowboys, trains, dinos, Sesame Street, and anything farm-related. I never thought I would have a boy so into boy stuff.

William does not share well and has told me he "doesn't like to share." We're working on this one.

His favorite foods: guacamole, corn, ice cream, scones, yogurt, chicken dipped in anything, grilled cheese, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly, and Egg McRuckers (the breakfast sandwiches my dad makes for him). He likes spicy food like salsa and curry. Indian and Mexican are always a hit with him.

He hugs tightly, kisses with his mouth open and sometimes his tongue out, likes to be held while dancing, and asks to play and cuddle in mommy and daddy's bed during the day.

William would rather walk than be pushed in his stroller, prefers the umbrella stroller to the jogger, demands to have naked time after his baths, which includes naked dancing to hip hop with Matt in the bathroom. He isn't ready to let go of his pacifier or his diapers. I'm ok with it.

His favorite songs include: Happy Birthday to You, ABC's, Sing a Song, and anything by Dean Martin. He is obsessed with Dean Martin and we listen to it during every car ride. He can sing most of the words to Mambo Italiano.

William's tolerance for pain freaks me out. He got his first bee sting this week and we didn't figure it out until the next day. He rarely cries when he falls, instead jumps up and says, "I'm OK!"

My little guy has an intense ability to love and a capacity for joy that is unmatched. He is a very fortunate boy, surrounded by an army of people who love him fiercely. His sense of humor is beyond his years. He smiles bright and loves strangers. He continues to make our world a happier place every day.


Waking Up To Love

You're the first thing I hear in the morning, greeting me from across the hall. I listen for a bit, admiring the early morning noises you make, sometimes crying, often chattering, always waiting for me. Groggy, comfortable in my bed, I pull myself up and stumble into your room.

You throw yourself back down, peek at me from the corner of your eye, pull your blankie over your head. I pick you up and you wrap your arms around my neck. And I stand there for a moment breathing you in. The best moment of my day.

This post was inspired by the The Father 100 Project. Yup, I'm a mom blogger, but I think I can hang with the dads, right? Consider it a flash blog project, 100 words or less. The word that inspired it: Love.

Our Favorite Dinos

William LOVES dinosaurs. BIG FAN. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see that Dinosaurs On The Move by Cathy Diez-Luckie would be the next From Left to Write Book pick. Perfect, I thought. An interactive dinosaur book, he'll love it.

Dinosaurs have been a big topic around here for the last few months. It started with a book and a stuffed t-rex puppet and escalated from there. Now he can name a few dinos by sight.

When I received the book I realized just how much work I would have to do and just how much I don't like doing crafts. But, I made one. And he loved it:

We'll make more one day. Just not until he can be a little more helpful. And as you can see his attention span wouldn't last long enough to put stegosaurus together, even if it is his favorite dinosaur.

(Clearly Lightning McQueen is never far from him mind. At the end of the video he was saying: "Can Dada be Lightning McQueen?" Cars and dinos have taken over my llife.)

This post was inspired by Dinosaurs On The Move by Cathy Diez-Luckie, which I received complimentary for the From Left to Write Book Club.

Out of the High Chair

It's official: The little guy's high chair days are over. Attempts to get the little guy into the chair often end in major struggles, which usually result in him sitting next to me on the bench at our table. It's a sad reminder of how fast he's growing.

Here are some final high chair photos (the only smiling photos I could find):

Clearly this kid is getting a little too big for the chair. But, thanks to Kim, a mom blogging friend whose boys have grown out of their booster, our transition will be inexpensive and quick!

Saying farewell to the high chair has made me realize how often photos are taken in this little seat. After all, it's the best place to keep them happy and in one place for a good photo op. Remember these days? Or his first taste of chicken? How about the teething biscuit revelation? And his love of yogurt? Man, he was so stinking cute, even messy!

For the record, I am a huge fan of the Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair. I bought this high chair on my own, it was not given to me for a review, nor do I have any relationship with Fisher Price. I just really dig this high chair for my little house.


Back to School for Some, Back to Schedule for Us

It's late August, which means back to school for most people. We're not there yet, but August does mark a major time of change at our house. Summer this year was so jam-packed with plans, parties, travel, work, and house stuff that we hardly got a chance to function as a family. You know, make lunches, sit down for dinner, or even hold any sort of regular schedule. None of that existed for us this summer.

Fall tends to be a turning point for us. Our social obligations lighten, travel is less, and the lack of yard work opens more time in our regular life. We also enter my crazy season at work for the Gala and Matt's workload increases with annual media buys coming in, which means that we have to plan for everything. We make lunches, try to do weekly meal planning, use our crock pot multiple times a week, do laundry on the weekends, grocery shop on Sundays... We just kind of get into a groove, which somehow makes us feel more like a family.

Regardless of whether we're going back to school or getting slammed at work, fall will always be our favorite time of year. There's something about it that makes me want to organize the house, make some good meals, and be a really good mom. Maybe I've been trained to feel like fall is a new phase since my mom always made a huge deal of our going back to school preparations. We took our lists to the store, begged for pens and accessories in our favorite colors, new outfits, shoes and soccer cleats... Fall meant the beginning of something. It still does. I get energized by the Fall, everything feels more crisp to me. It just feels good.

We're a couple years away from the first day of kindergarten, but it'll be here before we know it. I just hope that we find a happy medium with work and home so we can be there for our little guy on all his first days, hear about the details of his day, watch his first soccer practices, and ensure it's a special time for him, like it was for me.

This month Yahoo! Motherboard members reflect on the Back to School season. While I can't give you back to school tips, you can get some from Yahoo! here.

Bottle of Joy

Our dear friends have a new baby girl and with that came a new brew. You see, Anthony is the brewer behind Rockmont Brewing and had asked Matt to create a label for the special occasion, which he was thrilled to do.

Matt came up with a few options, but this was the winner! And, our friends Kari and Anthony are even bigger winners with their adorable baby Lyla Jean.

Welcome to the world, sweet girl. Cheers!


Lunch Budget: When Simple Math Makes Me Feel Like a Fool

This summer was a hectic one and grocery shopping and lunch making became somewhat impossible. When we got home from Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, we took a quick walk over to our Treasure Island to grab something for dinner and I noticed a few choice Boar's Head meats and cheeses on sale for 1/2 price. This is the week we get back to making our lunches, I thought to myself.

I did the math while I waited at the counter: A lunch out is roughly $10. I work in the office three days a week, Matt is in the office five days a week. If we each eat lunch out on those days it's about $80/week. The math is like a slap in the face, especially when you factor in the yogurt parfaits I often grab in the morning along with my coffee, which is another $6 or so. All together I figure we're spending $100/week on coffee, grab and go breakfasts, and lunches. That quickly becomes $400 each month.

I picked up a 1/2 pound each of chicken, ham, and cheddar cheese, which cost me about $8 total. Not too shabby considering you usually have to pay $10/pound for Boar's Head. I bought yogurt to bring to the office for $3. A loaf of bread and other lunch snacks added about $10 and I dusted off my travel mug for home brewed coffee. So, we're looking at about $21/week. No more than $100 a month, even with a cup of coffee here and there.

My goal is to stay on top of lunches and get back to my meal planning as fall approaches. If you need a good exercise to give you and your budget a swift kick in the butt, I suggest you start with your lunch.


Toddler Talk: Some Recent Goodies

The little guy is almost two, but talks like a teenager these days. Seriously, the stuff he comes up with is crazy, so I thought I would share some of his finest comments.


Scene: Playing with a purple car and a Lightning McQueen car.
Purple Car: "You're the best car ever, Lightning McQueen!"
Lightning McQueen: "Yeah, I get around."


Scene: Riding in the car. A few hours after Matt and I discussed using his ring bearer tuxedo for Halloween, unaware that he was listening.
William: "I don't want a tuxedo!"
Me: "You already have a tuxedo."
William: "I don't want to have a tuxedo!"


Scene: Leaving the Farmer's Market, a lot of cash was used.
William: "I have money."
Me: "You do? How much?"
William: "Ten moneys."
Me: "Ten moneys. That's a lot."
William: "No, two moneys."
Me: "Where did you get your money?"
William: "I don't like money. I like helicopters."


Scene: Grandma drops off William at the end of the day.
William: "Bye bye, honey bunny, bugaboo boogaloo!"


Scene: Sitting at the dinner table. I take a sip of Matt's beer.
William: "No!"
Me: "What?"
William: "Mama doesn't drink beer!"
Me: "I don't?"
William: "Mama drinks wine!"


(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Guess what I threw together last night? I have a husband who really likes roasted chicken, which I'm really not very good at, but I winged it anyway. Plus, fall is my busy season at work and, since summer seems to be on its way out, I'm trying to get myself back into the swing of things.

Here we have a rub I threw together, an organic chicken that's been taking up too much room in the freezer, and every vegetable I could squeeze in here. Feel free to come over to our house this evening for a free smell.

I'm expecting my Wife of the Year award to come in any minute.


We've Been Vandalized!

We woke up this morning to vandalism. In the suburbs. Some jerk decided to ride through our landscaping in the dark hours of night while we peacefully slept. I assumed it was some dumb kid who might have had too many beers, Matt hoped it was an adult who happened to look down a little too long and veered off the sidewalk. I think I'm right. (What else is new?)

Whatever it was, I feel violated. It's hard to complain about something that seems so minor given what we used to deal when we lived in the city, which included gang tagging, drug dealers next door throwing tiny plastic bags into our lawn, and a bike stolen from our patio. But, seriously, I've been suburbanized. And this just won't fly.

Below is a photo of the offense. (Please don't judge the lack of weeding, which in itself is an offense.)

Luckily, the crushed plants were perennials and will be back next spring. All is not lost. Dumb kids. Go for the annuals next time if you really want to do some damage.

When Parents Lose Their Cool

During our week-long getaway in Michigan, we spent a great afternoon in St. Joseph. You'll hear all the details of our awesome trip soon, but in the meantime you can check out my post on The Chicago Moms site.

I saw a guy spank his two year-old four or five times for a pretty minor offense. I immediately decided this dad was too quick to spank, probably not a good dad, and possibly a little angry. But, seriously, what do I know?

I do know that when parents have their "moments" in public, you better believe someone is watching.


My NBC Chicago Spot

After a few mentions and an unfulfilled promise that I would post the video, I finally have the ability to share my few minutes of on-air exposure. I had a lot of fun that morning. The people at NBC 5 are the best and made me feel really comfortable. And they thought I did a solid job, which made me happy.

So, here you go... I give you my tv spot. Not the best quality, but you get the idea. I was totally unprepared for how much screen time my hands were going to get. Notice I made the good decision to get a manicure the day before this! (Please let me know if you'd like to book me for a hand modeling job.)

And, may I remind you, this was only the first activity of a long day that included hosting a bachelorette party... on a bus... at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Man, it was a long day.

For the record, Nesita Kwan is one of the smallest women ever, which might explain my giant appearance. (I even wore very low wedges and offered to take my shoes off, but she was cool with it.)

For more information on the items I reviewed, check out the post I did on them.

Disclaimer: I received all of these items complimentary and am not a paid commentator for NBC 5 (yet!).


SYTYCD Best Dance of Season 7

So, you know my favorite show is So You Think You Can Dance and I like to share all of my thoughts on its greatness, but this season has been tough since I spent so much of July out of town. It became the last thing I had time for, so I'm playing catch up...

Wanted to share the best dance I have seen in a long time, by far the best of the season. Travis Wall is a GENIUS. I've rewatched it too many times to count and there may have even been some tears... I don't think it's because I'm a mom and it's about a son taking care of his mother through a medical crisis. You'd have to be a stone not to react to this amazing dance.

Check it out.


The Stuff That I'll Never Post

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "The Stuff That Never Happened" by Maddie Dawson, a novel about a woman who runs into the man who has held "the one who stole her heart" title, their sordid history, and her relationship with her husband.

The point of this book club is to read a book and then write a post inspired by that book, which is the thing that I love the most about it. But, for a book that deals with relationships out of a marriage, the "one who got away," and the reminders and memories of former relationships and our partner's reactions to them. Well, it's tough to write about what it really inspires... Right?

Of course, you want to honor the person you're with and not get all gushy and romanticize those of your past. But, if a book like this didn't make you think about them, then you're lying.

That's the thing with blogging: It's a fine line between determining what you want to put out there and being honest. I always promised honesty, but nothing that would get me fired or create problems in my relationship or make DCFS come knocking.

In the spirit of these guidelines, I won't post about the one person Matt asked me to cut communication off with or about my version of "the one who got away." Those aren't things that I need to go into here. It's just not appropriate for me to post the details. But, of course they were thoughts when I read this book.

Instead, I decided to talk to Matt about it and tell him the concerns it created when posting as a "mom blogger." He said it very well: "I'm glad you had relationships before me. It gave you practice on having an adult relationship. Maybe you should have had more of them."

He's probably right. I was in a relationship from my senior year of high school until a year out of college (with a few "breaks") and learned some really bad habits. The worst being that I could do pretty much whatever I wanted and would still have a boyfriend. I took advantage of that one, knowing all the time it was a relationship of convenience and he deserved better. I'm not proud of the version of me who was in that relationship and I don't blame him for not speaking with me anymore. After that, I jumped into another relationship with someone seven years older and totally unwilling to deal with my bulls**t. Good for him. Smart man. It forced me to take a step back.

I learned that I just needed to spend some time by myself and "saw" people without a commitment. It was easy to meet people as someone in my early 20's, living in the city, working in advertising and bar tending for extra cash. When I met Matt I was "talking" to a few different people. Nothing serious. And the first day we hung out to watch an Iowa game I ran into four guys that I had some sort of current situation or recent history with, from the "one date and I'm out" to the "I don't like you that way" to the "I kinda like you, let's meet up on the weekends." It was hilarious. And it was relationship karma's way of giving me a big old middle finger for the way I treated my ex-boyfriends.

But, despite karma's personal attack, Matt liked me anyway, and, of the guys we ran into, I realized I liked him best of all. The others fell somewhere into the history of my life and then Matt quickly became the future.

It's not that I don't think of some of them every now and then. We all think about people from our past everyday, because they shaped who we are today. We just don't have to divulge details on our blogs. And, trust me, the details aren't nearly as romantic or exciting as the relationships in this book.

This post was inspired by The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other bloggers were inspired by this book here.


Congrats, Windtravelers!

I interrupt my "disconnect vacation" (more on this later...) to mark the almost two week anniversary of Brittany and Scott, two of my most favorite people in the world and the dynamic duo behind Windtraveler.

I have been lucky enough to know this little lady for roughly 25 years and over the years we've been our own version of codependent. We have a very special friendship and to call her my best friend wouldn't really cover it, so it made me nervous to think what might happen when the two of us settle down... It would take a particular kind of guy to roll with the punches and know that I may be on the phone during some of their fights, know way too much about their relationship, and call for no reason whatsoever. Enter Scott, who is right on in every way. These two are so stinkin' cute, it makes me sick. I mean, seriously. And for the record: I usually defend him in their few and far between tiffs, anyway.

While I am incredibly happy for these two crazies, I'm heartbroken that this marks the beginning of their journey to wedded bliss living on the sea. Yeah, that's what I said. Check out their blog here for all the details. Warning: You may become really jealous or think they're totally insane. (I go back and forth.)

Congrats to two of my favorite people and thank you for letting me be the matron of honor in a monumental wedding. Love you, guys. And, man, I'll miss you like crazy.


Yahoo! Motherboard: Learned About Blogging, More About Me

I know you've all been waiting to hear how things went during my trip to California to visit the Yahoo! campus and I'm FINALLY pulling it together. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Cut me some slack, I'm lucky I made it in the first place with the whole shingles situation. Lucky, indeed.

Here are five things that I learned about myself at Yahoo!:

1. You can call me a Mom Blogger.
Go for it. I don't care, in fact I prefer it. All of us Mom Bloggers (and there are a ton of us) are doing this for a reason. Our lives may be our inspiration, but we're all so very different with vast backgrounds and current-grounds. So, if that's what binds us together, then so be it. Call me a Mom Blogger. I'm in really good company. I'm proud to be in a group with some really intelligent, fun, witty, fabulous women who also happen to be moms.

2. I will never catch up.
We cannot keep up with the internet. As soon as we got it down, it's changing on us, right? And with a full-time job and every other bucket I'm carrying full to the top, I'm hardly keeping my head afloat sometimes when it comes to online trends, resources, or buzz. Man, I have a lot to learn. But, luckily, we were gifted the Yahoo! Style Guide, which is THICK. So, by the time I finish reading it, there will be plenty more new stuff to learn.

3. I'm a small fish in a vast ocean.
Seriously, I wasn't even sure that I should be going to the conference. But, really, how could I not? Household mom blogging names were there, women that I follow and read, established internet women... And me. But, it didn't mean they were mean to me or act like mean girls. Everyone I met was awesome. I learned what I could, made some really nice friends, and walked away feeling that I'm on the right track. I'm working in the right space for me and I have a good outlet. Most of the women considered this their full time deal, but for now I'm still loving my real job and having fun with this on the side. And that's ok. For now.

4. Yahoo! has to be the best workplace I have ever seen.
An immaculate campus with gorgeous flowers. Sand volleyball courts. Basketball courts. Pool tables. And (the best detail ever!) a FREE ESPRESSO BAR. Oh, and I know they really care about the women who work there... No quarter necessary to work the tampon dispensers. I'm just saying... Anyway, it made going back to my cube a little rough.

5. Palo Alto is just about the perfect place for me.
Nice people, beautiful weather, best Farmer's Market I've ever visited, a Venezuelan cafe (first I've ever been to), the most incredible downtown area you'd ever wish for, and adorable houses... that cost about $12 mil. So, yeah, I'm not packing up and moving. Clearly. But, when the Lottery comes a-knockin...

These are the general themes that I left with, but trust me, I learned a lot more... Like that I should keep my posts under 300 words (oops) and how to title for better SEO and how important internet security is with your kids and the dangers of sexting and cyberbullying and how people read blogs and where eyes fall on a computer screen and what a really good California Sauvignon Blanc tastes like and that you can buy awesome hairdryers from The Four Seasons and that I now have friends all over the internet that I hope to see in person again soon.

Since I was terrible with the camera, I suggest you check out these photos:

Disclaimer: Yahoo! paid for my travel expenses and basically everything else. And treated me well. Really, really well.


July Sandwich: Weddings on the Outside, Delicious Conference in the Middle

I've spent the past three weekends away from my little guy. Attending to my matron of honor duties for my sister's and best friend's weddings sandwiched the fabulous Yahoo! Motherboard Summit. I worked the two or three days that I was home in between each and then unpacked and repacked my suitcase for the next destination. Oh, and I had shingles throughout all of this. And was drinking heavily. (Who am I to pass up a celebratory cocktail... Or 8?) So, it was a lot of running around for a lot of incredible reasons, but it made July a total blur.

Anyway, I will post about all of these things in due time. I just have to get my act together, because I kind of feel like I was hit by a train. So, I'm licking my wounds, taking all my meds, hydrating, and loading this kid with hugs and kisses. His new words and phrases are just beyond amazing and he even remembers who I am, so it couldn't have been too bad, right?

This mom has a lot of catch up to do on the home front, so bear with me. I feel like I spent the 4th of July with a toddler, but am entering August with a little boy.