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.