Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 
Thank you for your support, friendship, readership, love, 
and for being a part of our lives.We're crazy lucky.


Are Picky Eaters Born That Way?

Even Big Brother can't convince this baby that pureed food is a delicacy.
W has always been a great eater. He's adventurous, has a variety of foods that he enjoys, and doesn't like junky foods. Currently his favorite foods are California rolls and chopped salad. He's three, so I realize this is rare. I always kind of assumed that I could take credit for his terrific eating habits. All of his baby food was homemade and organic and I made him try just about every fruit and vegetable I could get my hands on. I became a baby food making lover.

So, yes, though I may not have admitted it at the time, I was patting myself on the back for creating a good, healthy eater. And I figured that if I just did it the same way with B I'd have another great eater on my hands.

We've been working on the feeding process with B for a couple of months. And it's not going too well. (Honestly, it's been total crap.) This kid does not like food. And not only does he not like it, he forces himself to throw up if he especially doesn't like it. Very dramatic.

Seriously? You're trying the carrots again?
No can do, lady.
I've broken food into four categories for B:

1. Foods that make him throw up: avocado, peas

2. Foods he accepts, spits out, and then refuses: apple, mango, carrots, rice cereal

3. Foods that had limited success (a few teaspoons forced into his mouth): butternut squash, parsnips, banana, peach, zucchini, sweet potato

4. Food he likes: pears (and, come on, pears are a gimme!)
I really felt that feeding was one of my areas of expertise as a mom. Was it just that I had an easy kid?

OK, now this is just gross.
That's the thing with being a parent, you never know what's coming around the corner. And you never stop learning, even when it comes to the things that you're good at. Making baby food takes work and there is something about having that food turned down and go to waste that is really, really painful. But, it doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying.

You just try to break my love of making baby food, little man. I dare you.


Wordless Wednesday: Peek A Boo 2008 vs. Peek A Boo 2011

B Peek A Boo at about six months.
W Peek A Boo at about four months.


When Something Drops Off Your List (in this case my blog)

It's been quiet around here. I know. And that troubles me, it does. But, lately posting has been harder than ever before. Sure, it's been the annual Gala and the extra work, energy, and mental capacity it takes from me. And I stood up in a wedding that was our of town. But, my job changed and this year wasn't nearly as demanding as it used to be.

I've been tired. B doesn't sleep well. More like doesn't sleep at all. I'm getting tired of nursing him. He wakes up every hour looking for comfort. I'm waking up sleep deprived everyday. It gets frustrating.

I feel like when I'm home, I'm in the kitchen doing kitchen stuff or in the basement doing laundry. I'm working full time. Our weekends are jam packed with plans with family, friends, and the boys. I'm trying to figure out changes in our child care situation for the next five months in order to ensure we have our nanny for the summer. I'm a room parent for W's preschool class. There's family drama (just in time for the holidays!). We're starting to question how much longer we want to stay in our house and where we want to be in five years.  I have a long list of posts to write, stories to tell, important milestones to capture (like my adorable new nephew and my sister's wedding), and products to share. I'm trying to potty train W and get B to like baby food.

With so many things that are taking up my attention, my poor blog has just dropped to the bottom of my list and when I do post, it's simple, easy things (like a freaky photo of a jack-o-lantern after it was used as a squirrel buffet). This is one of those posts that I never want to write, because it comes across as complaining. But, remember the mission of this blog is to be honest about the realities of motherhood... And this is as real as it gets, people. Motherhood is exhausting. It's like spinning plates. And every now and then something needs to get dropped to the bottom of the list. And that's where my blog has been. Until now. I think I might be back. Today is the first day I've been able to sit down and

It gets a little crazy, but when you have these two adorable faces to look at and cuddle, it's pretty hard to complain:



We Have Fat, Psycho Squirrels

I've been hearing a lot of talk about how fat the squirrels are this year and that fat squirrels serve as a warning for a difficult, cold winter (grrreeeeaattttt). Our squirrels are no different. They're crazy fat.

In case you forgot, I don't exactly get along with the squirrels in our yard. They antagonize Howie, which results in incessant barking. They treat our bird feeder like a squirrel buffet. They dig up flowers and mess with my vegetable garden. And they snatch the Halloween spider web decorations that I carefully stretch over our bushes. They're total jerks and I'm pretty sure they know I don't like them.

So, I should probably watch my back, right?

Is this not one of the scariest things you've ever seen?
Note: This pumpkin is long gone, but the photo still freaks me out and these fat squirrels made me think of it.


When A Mom Blogger Has Nothing

I'm sitting in a hotel room. By myself. That never happens. Ever.
We're in Omaha for a wedding, which we are both honored to be a part of, for our good friends Angie and Jamie. We came in a day early to spend the night with family that we don't get to see enough. It's the first time we've gotten on a plane together and flown away from our kids. I wasn't anxious or worried or anything like that. It was just weird. As we pulled away from the house I kept feeling like I was forgetting something. I realized it was B, who is attached to me any time I'm not at work. (Note: Since arriving in cold Omaha, I also realized it was the wrap to wear with my bridesmaid dress...)

It's weird being alone. I'm sitting in my hotel room while Matt is off picking up his tuxedo. It's that time between nails and rehearsal. I caught up on some WORK work and then thought... How about a nap? Except they're banging on something above our room. Well, I figured, I have about 500 posts that are sitting in my head, why not write one? And then I opened my blog. I stared at the screen. And nothing.

Such is the life of a mom blogger. When your hands are full, the inspiration for posts clutters up the little space left in your brain. But, the second you have silence... Nothing.



I asked W what he was thankful for without giving him the definition of thankful. I wasn't sure what he was going to say, but I'm really glad I hit record:

While I may not need to explain the word "thankful" to W, we might want to clear up his confusion on the definition of question vs. answer.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Books You'll Find Under Our Tree: AMMO Books Review

In true second child fashion, I am totally stumped about what to get B for Christmas. I'm pretty much done with W, but it's hard to justify getting new stuff for a baby who can't open gifts and won't remember any of it anyway. So, I decided that books would be the best thing for me to focus on this year. And, let's face it, W will get his hands on any book that I buy for B, as well. Though we have tons of books , we can always use new ones. Mom and Dad get tired of reading the same books over and over and over...

I received Colors by Charley Harper and Counting in the Garden by Emily and Patrick Hruby from AMMO Books. And they're really good for both boys. I love the art in them. The colors, the black outlines, and the patterns just seem to mesmerize B. And he grips the corner of the page and only lets go when he's ready to move on. I love that the more you look at the pages, the more you see in them. We spent plenty of time with B gripping the book and staring while W pointed out shapes and other objects in the photos.

My favorite of the two is Counting in the Garden. We planted our first vegetable garden this summer (though it performed terribly) and W checked on the progress of his tomatoes and green beans multiple times a day. I like that this book focuses on not only counting, but shows how things add up when you're planting a garden.

i find that counting books are often a drag. We have plenty of books that just show a sleu of items with a big number next to them. The number 20 with a photo of 20 hats doesn't do much for me. I prefer books that can count with a point, like this one.

Colors is great, because it has multiple styles and lots of fun, super bright colors. Again, color books are often boring. Seriously, how many books do you need that spell the color blue and then on the other page show a blue show, blue hat, and blue car. BORR-RINGGG. This book is much more hip and fun. I found myself genuinely enjoying the pictures.

They'll be wrapped and under the tree when the big day rolls around, but I had to give them a once over first. I would highly recommend you consider putting them under your tree as well.

I encourage you to check out the website for AMMO Books. They're really fun and exciting and have a lot of great things to offer. It's a very different style of children's books.... One that we Hannemaniacs really appreciate.

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of these books. The opinions in this post are my own.


W's Big Surprise Tomorrow: ChiTAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair)

Toys are W's life. He is OBSESSED with them. OBSESSED. So, we're taking this little addict to his crack den tomorrow morning... The 2011 Chicago Toy & Game Fair at Navy Pier!

We haven't told him we're going yet. I think that the idea of a toy fair could put him over the edge, so I just warned him that we have a big, fun surprise in store for him.

I can't wait to see his little expression in the face of a fair planned around toys and games.

If you're looking for something to do this weekend, check it out. It's running running November 19th and 20th and sounds awesome. You'll find us there tomorrow! For a coupon for $2 off click here.

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets for our family to attend Chicago Toy and Game Fair. The views expressed are my own.


The Boys Have Waged A Sleep War: How We're Fighting Back

This is how our nights have been going for the last two months:

7:55 pm: Warn W we're getting close to jammy time.

8:00 pm: Announce jammy time.

8:02 pm: Announce jammy time again.

8:05 pm: Announce jammy time and threaten to take away a book (he gets three before bed).

8:06 pm: Count: 1...... Do you want 3 books?....2.....OK, we're down to 2 books......3.....

8:10 pm: Matt gets W ready for bed while I feed B.

8:15 pm: W comes out to say, "Good night, Mom, good night. Good night, B, good night" in an adorable sing-song voice, which makes me much more inclined to let him hang out with me for a few minutes. Master Manipulator, right?

8:20 pm: Matt comes out to find him. Carries him back to room and book negotiations begin.

8:40 pm: Matt walks out of the room. B is starting to fall asleep, but I can't put him in his room yet, because....

8:42 pm: W starts talking very loudly.

8:45 pm: W starts opening and closing his door.

8:50 pm: W starts calling for help.

8:55 pm: W either leaves his room to find us or starts full on screaming and crying, which usually wakes up B. Feeding starts again.

9:00 pm: Matt lays down with W, who demands an original story (usually about Thomas the Train).

9:30 pm: I put down B and sometimes switch places with Matt.

10:00 pm: W is finally asleep and parent in bed with him climbs out (after falling asleep, of course)

10:05 pm: B wakes up. Feeding continues.

10:30 pm: Put B back down.

11:00 pm: B wakes back up. Falls back asleep the instant he's held (this continues in 30 minute cycles until about 12:30 and then 2 hour cycles).

So, this means we get nothing done at night and bedtime is a two person job. I have actually cancelled plans because bedtime has become such a nightmare. And then our nanny watched the boys on Saturday night and W went right to sleep... Which made me realize he's playing us for fools. Very tired, unproductive fools.

Now we have a new strategy. Call it a reward system. Call it bribery. But, a couple nights in and it seems to be working:
W gets a sticker for every night he doesn't make one of us lay down with him. Once he gets 10 stickers, he gets to pick our a new car. It was hard to convince him at first. I explained the plan and he got quiet for a while. When it was time to get ready for bed, I explained it again. He thought about it and told me this (not even kidding): "I don't need to do this. I have a lot of toys and Santa is going to bring me alllll the toys I need."

But, you know that boy of ours... He can't say no to a toy, no matter how hard he tries. And I may have told him that I have a direct line to Santa and if he doesn't cooperate with this Santa may not be bringing him all the toys he's expecting.

Remember this post? I still stand by it. Those moments are precious, but I feel like I'm being played by a three year old. So, now that we have a plan for the W battle... I'm plotting my plans for B. Tonight I gave him acetaminophen before bed (in case this is a teething issue) and a bottle of formula. He's already woken up once. But, I have my fingers crossed.


The Other William

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read the memoir Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck. Being pregnant while in graduate school at Harvard was stressful enough, but when Martha learned her unborn child had Down syndrome she battled almost everyone (including herself) over her decision to continue her pregnancy. This post was inspired by the book. 

 In college my sister Christina worked for an organization that helped socialize people with disabilities. They paid very little and I believe she would have done it as a volunteer, but it was the perfect position for her for the few years she was in Iowa City. She worked with a number of clients, but her favorite was a young man with Down syndrome by the name of William.

William lived in a little apartment in downtown Iowa City. He had a job at a bank. He was functional and contributing to society. Christina helped him cook his meals, clean his apartment, and meet other various responsibilities a few times a week. I remember her first telling me about William and more than anything I was shocked that he was living on his own. I remember thinking that his parents must have worked hard to make sure he had every opportunity and overcome their fears to allow him such independence.

Early on in their relationship, as she was headed to his apartment, Christina noticed William walking a block ahead of her. She quickened her step, called his name, and waved for him to wait, so they could walk the rest of the way together. In response William looked over his shoulder at her and started to move faster, which only made Christina run faster and call him louder, which made William move faster... until they were both running. (Can you imagine what people walking by were thinking to see this girl chasing down a boy with Down syndrome in the middle of a busy downtown area?)

William got to his apartment building and beat Christina up the stairs, closing the door behind him. When she knocked, he answered the door and greeted her. She asked if he had seen her on the street and why he ran from her. "Because you're supposed to meet me here," he said.

William loved Christina and understood her role in his life. But, William was IN LOVE with my youngest sister Danielle, who would often join Christina to spend time with him. Like any other young man faced with a pretty young university student, he tried to find ways to convince Christina to give him Danielle's number or allow the two of them to spend time alone, so he could woo her. He would ask Christina to help him make dinner for Danielle with the clear message that Christina was to leave once the meal was ready. He was one in a long line of guys who would be smitten with my sister.

Christina would soon graduate and move back to Chicago, thinking she wouldn't see William again. But, she did... Six years ago I was back in Iowa City with my sisters, we were walking through the main area of the downtown and there was a large group of people with Down syndrome listening to a concert in the pedestrian mall. Christina mentioned that she thought William might be there and as soon as she said it, he came running toward her. He gave her a big hug and gave Danielle an ever bigger hug. It was like they were long lost friends. He introduced us to his "friend," who was a pretty blond girl who also had Down syndrome. He was smiling. He was happy. And he was hanging out with his friends like a lot of other young men on a Saturday night in Iowa City. I'm not trying to simplify his condition and realize William may be extremely capable, but he's my point of reference when I think of someone with Down syndrome.

When I was pregnant with my William, we were pretty set on the name since it was Matt's grandfather's name. But, like most expectant moms I spent plenty of time thinking of possible names and crossing any off of my list that reminded me of someone I wouldn't want to think of every day for the rest of my life. We all do it. Mark was an ass in high school. Blake was the smelly kid in school. Ray stuck his hands down his pants. Mike had small man complex. I don't mind thinking of William every day. I hope he is doing well.

As a member of From Left to Write Book Club, I received a complimentary copy of this book.


Our Little B

This is B's sweet little expression about 90% of the time. Our happy, happy boy.

He's FIVE months old. Seriously, did that time fly for you as fast as it did for me? I received all the warnings that it just starts to go faster and faster with each kid, but I kind of underestimated just how fast it could go. In the blink of an eye five months have flown by and I look at what's been documented about our little guy and realize he hasn't gotten much Hannemaniacs air time.

So, I thought I would introduce you to our little Baby B, who is quite possibly the sweetest, happiest baby I have ever met. He has an infectious little smile that constantly stops strangers on the street. He likes to intensely stare at people until they make eye contact and then breaks into a big smile when they smile at him. And if you don't smile at B, you have no heart. He's happiest standing and bouncing and rolls easily from front-to-back and back-to-front. 

B easily slept through the night at 2 months and, up until a few weeks ago, he was a champion sleeper. He popped his first tooth at three months and his second tooth at four months, both in the bottom center.

B adores his older brother and loves watching W and Matt play. He is fascinated by Howie. His favorite activity is burying his head in my neck and shrieking. We spend a lot of time sitting on the couch playing this game. A true mama's boy.

This little baby makes me incredibly happy and I spend a lot of time laughing at him and making funny faces and noises to make him smile (really, it doesn't take much).

I never, ever imagined I would have a child with blue eyes, but his seem here to stay. And now I can't imagine not having those big blue eyes to look into every morning. I can still remember when it was just the three of us, but barely. It seems like he's always been a part of our family.

In a way I really thought that our second child would just be a clone of W, but it's not the case. Both boys have distinctly different personalities and looks. I can't wait to see Beckett's continue to blossom.


Happy Halloween!

William chose the theme and assigned the roles. Originally I was supposed to be Jessie and Matt was supposed to be Buzz Lightyear, but you can't buy those costumes in adult sizes and I'm not the homemade costume kind... So, I found Mr. & Mr. Potato Head, which we realized later only contained one potato. The trash bag works though, right?


My 3 Year Old Will Not Stay In Bed

Bedtime has continued to be trying around here. W refuses to stay in bed. We put him to sleep and he gets up and starts opening and slamming his door and then wanders out to find us. No amount of negotiating, crying it out, or ignoring him works. Ultimately, it takes one of us to go lay with him in bed until he falls asleep and we can quietly climb out.

Usually this ends up being Matt since I'm dealing with getting B fed and ready for bed. Some nights I put down B and then trade with Matt. So, the deal is: One of us falls asleep with W and the other cleans everything up and then wakes the sleeping parent up and it's time for bed or B has woken up. This gives us no time to get anything done (the best example would be this here blog) or spend any time with each other.

It's frustrating. Parents crave their down time after the kids go to sleep. And we're not getting any. It's easy to focus on how much this sucks, but I realized last week that in a way it's really very special...

This extra time we get laying in bed with W, cuddling and whispering to each other, is something we'll never get back. With both of us working full time, it seems that every minute of our days are scheduled and we have trouble just being with W. We rush and rush and rush, focused on all of the next things we have to do. But laying in bed with W gives us time to just focus on him. It allows us to connect in a totally different way. He asks amazing questions and processes his day in those moments. And we're there with him.

When you're in the thick of parenting, it's hard to keep all of this in perspective. The hours we're losing for ourselves are precious hours we're gaining with W. It's not ideal and every parenting book will tell you not to do what we're doing, but I'd rather pay for it later. Time moves fast. These kids are growing up and I feel like, even though they're still babies, I'm grasping at any opportunity I have to hang onto this time and squeeze everything I possibly can from it.

Emails aren't being answered as often, we've missed our favorite tv shows, my blog posts haven't been as regular, but there will be time for all that. Now it's time for go switch places with Matt.


Carrying Baggage

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson. This post was inspired by the book. 

In the book Lost Edens, we experience a play by play of the end of a relationship due to infidelity, abuse, and mental health issues. The themes in this book weren't new to me. I've volunteered and worked for a domestic violence organization. I've had my fair share of friends in unhealthy, sometimes abusive relationships. I've known many people battling mental health issues. And I've been the person encouraging someone close to me to end a destructive relationship more times than I can count. But none of that is what this post is about.

Relationships are often messy. They can be painful. We don't always bring out our best when with our partner. We all have played a role in past relationships that we're not proud of... Right?

So, what about when you're the toxic one? Because I have been. I dated someone for a very long time, years longer than I should have. I knew I had the upper hand. I knew he needed me more than I needed him. I knew I could do whatever I wanted. So, I did. I wasn't very good to him all the time. He didn't bring out the best in me and I certainly didn't give it to him.

I made many attempts to break up with him, but they never stuck. He would beg me to stay with him and reconsider, promise that things would work out in the end, and time after time I took the easy way out. I wasn't doing the right thing, but there was a part of me that liked the security of having someone and knowing that I wasn't alone. My attempts at breaking up would continue over the years and with each one I gained more control, distanced myself more, and pushed every boundary I could. Finally, I was in a relationship that looked fine on paper, but wasn't really a relationship at all.

I just hope that when he looks back on our time together, he doesn't focus on the end instead of the beginning. I feel awful that what started as young, foolish love ended in a dramatic parting of ways. I regret that I wasn't a better person. I see the ways that I took advantage of the situation. And I feel bad for both of us and the people we both dated after our story together was over. Sure, we were young, but we taught each other how to be in a relationship and - in this case - a dysfunctional relationship.

Past relationships - the baggage we bring from them, the way we're treated or learn to treat the other person - impact our future relationships. And that would be true in this case. No matter how far we go or how much we grow or what amount of therapy we get, we still carry our past relationships with us. 

I wish I could say that retrospect has taught me to be a better, more gracious partner so I never have to look back and wish I might have acted differently or treated someone better... I'm still hard on my partner. I'm often self-centered. The difference now is that I've found someone who challenges me, puts his foot down, and pulls me back when I've taken a step too far. I'm still not the ideal partner, but I've found someone who balances me.

In the end, I know I've grown and learned from my past relationships, but more importantly, I'm with the right person now. I only hope that he is, too.

In Lost Edens, author Jamie Patterson struggles to save her marriage which may or may not be already over. Keeping her attempts a secret from her family, she attempts to mold herself into the wife her husband wants her to be. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson on book club day, October 27 at From Left to Write.


Attune Foods Give Away

I like to feel good about what I eat and feed my little guys. The more I learn about what is going into our food, the more determined I am to make good decisions, so I appreciate companies that deliver good organic options, like Attune.

I try to buy organic as much as possible. My goal is that 80% of everything we eat is organic. It isn't that hard and it's more expensive, but I like knowing that our food is as pure as possible. If I can't actually make it myself, the fewer ingredients and chemicals I can't pronounce, the better.

I really like trying different options for organic snacks, so was happy to try some Attune products for the family. They have a few different product lines and I tried options that I thought were good fits for us:

Uncle Sam Multi-Grain Cereal: If you like really healthy tasting cereals, you'll love this cereal. It's full of fiber and hearty. I especially enjoyed it in yogurt or mixed with another cereal. It is a little hard to eat on its own with milk. I also think it would be a good addition to homemade granola. I didn't attempt to give this to W, because I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be into it. This is definitely more of a mom cereal.

New Morning Cinnamon Graham Crackers: These taste like a less sweet version of the graham crackers that we're all used to, which I liked. There is a really nice, strong cinnamon flavor, but they don't necessarily hold their crispness when enjoying with coffee in this morning. W actually really liked these and I handed them to a couple of other kids who were used to regular graham crackers and they didn't seem to notice a difference.

Erehwon Crispy Brown Rice with Mixed Berries Cereal: This is great cereal. It works on its own with milk, but can also be mixed with another cereal (like the Uncle Sam's) and stays pretty crispy. I especially enjoyed the berries and the larger sized crisped rice. I didn't get a chance to give it a try, but I think I could have made some pretty awesome rice krispie treats with this cereal.

Attune Chocolate Probiotic Bars: I tried the Milk Chocolate Crisp Probiotic Bar and the Mint Chocolate Probiotic Bar. (All in the name of research, right????) Chocolate with probiotics... Enough said. But, seriously, these were really, really good. Nice flavor. Super tasty. Very crispy. Healthy chocolate (yay!).

All in all, I think they have a lot of great products for my tastes. I like things that taste healthy. Don't you?

So, here's your opportunity to give Attune products a try! I'm excited to hold a giveaway for your choice of five Attune Foods products. TWO WINNERS will be chosen!

Here's how you can enter the Attune Foods Giveaway:

1. Comment on this post about which product you'd like to try. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog. (You must comment to be entered!)

2. Follow Hannemaniacs. (Look on the right side bar to follow.)

3. Like the newly-created Hannemaniacs Facebook page.

4. Follow Hannemaniacs on Twitter.

5. Mention this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: Enter to win Attune organic food products at www.hannemaniacs.com. (please let me know in your comment that you have done these!)

So, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Wednesday, November 2nd. Enter now!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winners were chosen by using RANDOM.ORG and are... Kari and Rita from Look It's Megryansmom. Please contact me with your address and the package will be sent to you! (If I don't hear from the winner by Friday at 9 am a new winner will be chosen.)

Thanks for everyone for participating!
Disclosure: I received five complimentary Attune food products to review. All opinions are my own.


Sleep Patterns Impact Everything

The last two months have been tremendous when it comes to bed time around here. Both kids have been total champs about going down easy and staying asleep... Until last week when things started to unravel. Not fair to do to parents who have gotten used to a full night's sleep for a while.

W is now refusing to fall asleep unless one of us lays in bed with him and - if we don't - has a new habit of letting himself out of his room. B broke his normal habit of sleeping through the night with waking for a 3:00 am feeding and then it became a 20 minute cycle of feeding, putting down, crying, cuddling, putting down, crying, and on and on. (And Matt was out of town last weekend, which meant little to no sleep for mom and Nana had to come over to help with bedtime.)

I know kids have phases and sleep patterns that will change many times. But, once you get into a routine, you depend on it. Every detail impacts the next. For example, Matt couldn't take Howie for a walk this morning, because he opened the bathroom door after his shower and found W standing there with his blanket ready to start the day at 5:30, rather than his normal 6:00. Normally, I get into the shower at 5:30 and W wakes up as Matt gets home from his walk. But, I didn't get up on time, because I was a train wreck, having slept holding a baby off and on through the night.

That all translated into me pulling up to the train station as the gates went down and then my mom driving to a different station to catch the next train with Howie rolling around in the back of her car along with some hand weights and W constantly asking WHERE we were going, WHY we were going that way, and insisting he didn't like it. I ran for the train, caught it, but then was getting in the city five minutes later, which meant I didn't have time to stop for coffee. And now I'm still tired. See where I'm going with this?

Parenting is all about flexibility, rolling with the punches, and handling what life throws at you, but dammit, it's also about a schedule... If only the munchkins in this house would respect that.

Advice: Don't ever get too comfortable or reliant on a schedule, because you never know what next week will bring.


What Do You Say to a Stranger? NO WAY! Unless They Have Toys...

At W's three year appointment our pediatrician mentioned that we should start talking to him about stranger safety. He recommended a book and video we could find at our local library that would be helpful. But, in my normal way, I decided to wing it the other day. We were sitting and coloring and I figured no better time than the present, right?

We were talking about going out for dinner that night and W wanted to go to a particular sushi place that makes me uncomfortable. The reason it makes me uncomfortable is a whole other post of its own, but let's just say the woman who owns the place does not have boundaries with babies and I had to wrestle B from her. I mentioned it to Matt on the phone, saying something along the lines of, "If that lady tries to take B outside again (Note: Oh, yes, she did.), I'm not going to be as nice. I want to go there, but I don't want her taking him." We agreed to still go to the restaurant, but be more stern if the baby grabbing started again. And I hung up and looked at W.

W: "I don't want that mean lady to take B ever, ever again!"

Me: "Well, she's not mean, but she just wanted to hold him and show him to some of her friends."

W: "I don't love her!"

Me: "You don't have to love her, but you do have to be nice. But, if she takes B you can tell her NO." (Yes, I was ABSOLUTELY planting this seed in hopes he would help me out.)

W: "But, she's a mean lady. Will she take me?"

Me: "No.... But, if someone does try to take you, what do you say?"

W: Blank stare.

Me: "You know, if someone says, 'Little boy, come with me, I have some candy...' What do you say?"

W: Blank stare.

Me: "You say, 'No, I don't know you!;"

W: "No way! Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!"

Me: "OK, so if someone says, 'Little boy, I have candy for you. Come with me.' What do you say?"

W: "No way!"

Me: "'Little boy, I have stickers for you....' What do you say?"

W: "No way!"

Me: "Little boy, I have toys for you. Come with me."

W: Long pause. "Well, I would go get the toys, because then I would have more and more and more toys and then I'd have all the toys in the world."

OK, so we may need a little work on the whole stranger danger thing. Apparently personal safety takes a back seat to toys.


Huggies Little Movers Slip-On Diapers Giveaway

I'm up to my eyeballs in diapers. They're a constant theme when you have a three year old and a four month old. (Yes, we have a three year old in diapers, which is not what I was hoping to have at this point. W was interested in potty training for a few weeks, but changed his mind.) So, we're not only spending plenty of money on diapers, but plenty of time changing them. While changing diapers is a pretty simple thing in general, it's a pain. And I'm always looking for ways we can make it easier and/or faster.

Enter Huggies Little Movers Slip-On diapers. Truthfully, I've always been a fan of Huggies, so I was excited to try their newest product. I'm a good tester considering I have the infant and the toddler angle. So, did they work for both boys? Yes.

The best part of these diapers is that you don't have to hold down a squirming kid to get his diaper on. People totally underestimate the strength of a fussy baby or strong-willed toddler. It's no joke. Sure, you still have to lift them and scoot the diaper up a bit, but it's a faster diaper all around and you'll have less of a fight to get them on in the end.

Plus, they seem to fit more comfortably. I always feel bad for kids with diapers tightly cutting in under their belly, but this doesn't happen with the Slip-Ons. They fit higher and don't have to be pulled tightly to stay on, so don't cut in like regular diapers. They just seem to give the kid more breathing room and better coverage.

So, what's the difference between these Slip-Ons and Pull-Ups? That was the first thing I asked myself when I heard about them... And there is a considerable difference: Slip-Ons have tabs on the sides that are a lot like regular diapers and can be opened and closed. Slip-Ons are also thicker and are like a real diaper. (It's like pulling together the best of diapers and Pull-Ups.)

I didn't have any issues with leaking, but I did have an issue with them falling down on W once he'd been wearing them for a while. He's gotten really skinny lately, which means most things hang off of him. And he hates having his diapers changed, so we really stretch time between diapers for him these days. (So, it was more of a case of them being WEIGHED down.) All in all, I am really happy with these and I think you will be too... And now's your chance to win some!

I'm thrilled to offer my readers the opportunity to participate in a giveaway for a Huggies Little Movers Slip-On Diapers Prize Package, plus a $25 gift card that can be used at Jewel-Osco®, Albertsons®, Cub®, Farm Fresh®, SHOP ‘n SAVE®, Shoppers®, Hornbacher’s ®, Lucky® and Shaw’s®.

Here's how you can enter the Huggies Little Movers Slip-Ons Giveaway:

1. Comment on this post about how many diapers you think you've changed in your life. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog. (You must comment to be entered!)

2. Follow Hannemaniacs. (Look on the right side bar to follow.)

3. Like the newly-created Hannemaniacs Facebook page.

4. Follow Hannemaniacs on Twitter.

5. Mention this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: Enter to win a Huggies Little Movers Slip-Ons Prize Package and a $25 gift card at www.hannemaniacs.com. (please let me know in your comment that you have done these!)

So, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Wednesday, October 19th. Enter now!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winner was chosen by using RANDOM.ORG and is... Lisa Noel! Please contact me with your address and the package will be sent to you! (If I don't hear from the winner by Friday at 9 am a new winner will be chosen.)

Thanks for everyone for participating. Look for another giveaway up soon!
Disclosure: I received two complimentary packages of Huggies Slip-Ons and a gift card (which I actually used on more Slip-Ons). All opinions are my own.


What is a Crescent Moon?

Last night we went for a walk and I realized there is something I am totally clueless about... Science and astronomy.

William: "Look at the moon!"

Me: "Yup. That's a crescent moon."

William: "What is a crescent moon?"

Me: "Ummm...."

We continue to walk. I try to remember everything I can about science.

Matt: "Actually, buddy, it's the shadow of the Earth that makes it look like that."

Me: "Wait, is that for real?"

Matt: "Yes. Tell me you knew that."

Me: "Nope. I thought it was due to cloud cover."

True story. And I'm ok with it.


One Day I'll Be A Reader Again

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Carry Yourself Back To Me by Deborah Reed. This post was inspired by the book.

I love reading. It has always been one of my favorite things to do. Nothing is quite as satisfying as a really incredible book... the kind you have trouble putting down and grab at any chance you get. I don't read nearly as much as I used or as I'd like to. It's dropped way down on my priority list and has become something that I do on my train commute three days a week.

One of the things that you don't really prepare yourself for when having children is the loss of your ability to just read really good books. You don't have time for reading the same way and when you do... Well, you might just find yourself nodding off (at least you will if you're me). And then there's those parenting books that you feel like you should be reading instead. Books on sleep training, feeding, and behavior. Books that you don't even buy for yourself, but find stacked on your bedside table. Books you promise yourself you'll get to... One day. (For the record, I still haven't gotten to these.)

I constantly worry about how fast this time with the boys is going to go. I so want to be present right now and enjoy every minute, but there is this tiny little piece of me that looks forward to a time when I can read again. It's hard to think that there will ever be a time when I can spend two hours lost in a good book.

So, why am I telling you this? Because I just read a book that grabbed me in that way and forced me to find the time. There was something that connected with me on a really great level. The writing was wonderful. The characters were real. And the book just made me feel warm and cozy. It sucked me in and I liked being there for a week.

It made me think of how many other great books I've been waiting to read, so many books I can't get to right now. I know I'll get to them eventually and the time away from feeling like a reader is well worth it. Until then I'm keeping a list of all the books I'll read one day when my little ones are not so little. And, when I have the time, I'm sure I'll be wishing I didn't.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Carry Yourself Back To Me. To see how others were inspired by this book, visit From Left to Write.


Problems in Suburbia

I took this picture earlier this summer while on a walk with the boys. Maybe a phone call
on some jerky kids could have kept this fence from being vandalized. Just saying.
Tonight I called the police... On teenagers walking by, drinking, and yelling the F-word at the top of their lungs.

Matt and I were sitting in the living room when we heard crazy screaming in front of our house. I thought it was a fist fight. Matt thought that one of our neighbors was robbed and was chasing down the guy who did it. We both jumped up, ran to the window and saw four boys acting like fools, screaming profanities, and drinking something. So, I called the police.

I don't know why I called the police. It was a reflex, really. I told Matt I didn't want them stomping on our flowers or doing something to our car. Granted, both were possibilities, but I was also pissed that kids were screaming like that 20 feet from the windows of my sleeping kids.

So, here is the question: Does living in the suburbs mean you shouldn't have to deal with that kind of stuff? When we lived in the city people walking down the street screaming was a constant annoyance, but it was never police call worthy. Do I feel entitled simply by living in this zip code? Possibly.

So, what's a mom to do?  How would this situation have been best handled? I figure these were our options:
  1. Open the door and confront the kids, which could have resulted in our house/car getting egged or us being told to f-off by some teens
  2. Ignore it and let the jerky kids carry on and possibly wake up our kids, vandalize something, etc.
  3. Call the police to figure it out for us
Given those options, I'll stick with #3. They don't call me Alderman Hanneman for nothing.


I Was Cleopatra

For the Left to Write Book Club we read Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. This post was inspired by the book.

I was one of those people who was involved in a ton of stuff in high school. I was a swimmer, a soccer player, a dancer, a cheerleader, on the newspaper staff, but there was one thing I was not: An actor. I cannot act to save my life. I can speak publicly, but when it comes to taking on another persona... Forget it. Yet, I was chosen as the emcee of our variety show my senior year. Our variety shows always had a theme that ended with Knight (our mascot) in place of Night. Clever, huh?

Anyway, I was chosen to be the emcee. For this particular year, the emcee was Cleopatra. And I was supposed to act like her. I think the fact that I was the darkest girl who auditioned and don't get stage fright had a lot to do with me getting the part. Well, that and the fact that the director was one of my teachers who knew my personality. I just acted like myself. I doubt anyone was impressed by my ability to channel Cleopatra.

In the end I did alright, but it wasn't really that big of a stretch... After all, my personality tends to be strong, direct, sometimes aggressive. I'm pretty good at influencing people and can read a situation really well.

Like Cleopatra, I've often been misunderstood. Isn't that the unfair plight of a strong woman?

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Cleopatra: A Life. To see how others were inspired by this book, visit From Left to Write.


How To Make A Working Family Feel Included

I'm one of the room parents for W's preschool class. I know,I know, things are crazy enough around here... But of all the things I'm doing in my life, being involved with my kids has to move to the top. So, what if I work full time, have a three month old, and this here blog??? Add room parent to the list!

I'm excited about being involved with the preschool. It's an opportunity to meet other families in the area, watch W blossom, and take part in a serious milestone in his life. I want to be a part of this experience with him. And I can, even if I work full time.

At the meeting for all the room parents, we were told that one of our first tasks was to set up a meet and greet for the families to get together. Awesome, right? The volunteer coordinator mentioned that cliques can form quickly and this is a nice way for everyone to get to know each other. She then mentioned that we should meet at a park or use the outdoor play area after class, which means at 11:30 on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. What working parent would be able to take part in that?

So, I raised my hand and mentioned that, as a working mom, if I were to get that information I wouldn't feel that it was intended for all families, just families with a parent who stays home. I know I'm not the only working mom in the class. I met two others, I'm not alone.

And what about the dads? I'm sure more of them would come if this were to take place on a weekend.

I know, weekends are cherished time. Trust me, I get it. But, it's 2011. Shouldn't families with two working parents expect to be included?


Meal MacGyver: Chicken and Orzo Lemon Soup

Tonight I managed to surprise all of us with a delicious soup that I threw together in under an hour. It was rainy and cold and I'd been busy hosting my sister's baby shower all day. At the end of the day we all wanted something comforting and tasty without too much effort.

For a moment I considered ordering out, but I looked at what we had on hand: cooked orzo, lemons, chicken breasts, chicken stock, and eggs... Why not try making a lemon soup. I looked online for ideas and put my own spin on it.

First I heated up 2 quarts of chicken stock and added three cups of pre-cooked orzo. I chopped two chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and dropped them in to let them cook a bit while I beat two eggs. I juiced two lemons and zested one of them, which I whisked into the eggs and then slowly added a cup of the hot stock while whisking to make sure the eggs didn't get weird. I added the egg/lemon mixture to the soup while stirring quickly, which thickened it up a bit. At that point I added a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, fresh thyme, a lot of onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper, a couple pinches of saffron, and a chicken bouillon cube. And then I let it cook on low for about 15 minutes.

And I have to say it was really, really good. William declared, "I love this soup" and ate his entire bowl, then asked for more. Trust me, it was really, really good.

So, next time you think about ordering out... Take a look in your kitchen and see what you can figure out.

What's the last meal you created from nothing?


Six Years In

Today is our sixth anniversary. Somehow our anniversary always falls on a really beautiful day and we've taken advantage of it. We went to the Oktoberfest in Wilmette and tonight are going out for dinner followed by coffee at a really neat coffee place I currently love. Super low key.

Last year we had a really great anniversary, but this year won't be nearly as exciting. We had one of the best meals I've ever had at Quince in Evanston, as I mentioned in last year's anniversary post. What I didn't mention is that I ended up being a total mess... Like a 17 year-old at a kegger. We had dirty martinis before dinner and then a few glasses of wine with dinner. This should not have been that big of a deal, but I was sick all night. The next morning we learned that I was actually pregnant with B. It was an awful way to find out something really amazing. It was the best anniversary gift we could give each other. It feels like yesterday. These years are just flying by.

In six years we've hosted countless parties, created an incredible group of friends, adopted one dog, purchased two homes and two cars, had plenty of arguments but still trump them with laughs. And, most important, we've had two really special kids. I can't think of any better reason to celebrate.


List for Getting Ready for Baby #2

I found getting ready for Baby #2 to be an entirely different experience than #1. You don't receive a list like you did the first time. No presents are arriving at your door and there isn't a shower to make sure you have all the odds and ends. Instead you try to remember what you'll actually use, where you put it, and then dust it off. And you feel like you should just know what to do. Except this time around you're getting ready for a baby with another kid to take care of, so it's not just about you and baby this time around.

A friend of mine recently asked for some advice as she prepares for #2, so I've put together a little list of the top five things to get ready for Baby #2:

1. STOCK UP. Stock up on necessities. Toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, diapers, frozen chicken, pasta, crackers. Have back-ups of everything you use on a daily or weekly basis that isn't fresh. The last thing you are going to want to do with two kids in the midst of post-partum recovery is go to the store. This will give you an opportunity to make a quick trip to the store for a few things. Good excuse for a get-away that wouldn't take too long.

2. CLOTHES. Go through all the baby clothes. Donate the pieces that are stained or over-worn. Pull out what will work for your current season and then wash and organize by size. It doesn't just stop with baby's clothes... Don't forget you have another one who is probably going to transition into a new season and size in the first few months of baby. Get online and get your basics covered. Trust me, the thought of hitting up Gap Kids or Old Navy after the baby is born will put you over the edge.

3. YOUR NEEDS. Don't forget about you. Get yourself at least four new pairs of yoga pants and lots of comfortable cotton t-shirts. I was pretty happy with the Liz Lange Maternity line from Target. This will be your uniform and with how tired and yucky feeling you may be, having newish clothes that aren't already faded out and stained will make you feel a little better. Also, don't forget to have plenty of pads on hand (ladies, it's the truth), as well as extra shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, face wash, moisturizer... All of those things you don't want to all of sudden be without one morning. It also might be a good idea to get some sort of dry shampoo and bronzer for those last minute visitors.

4. MEALS. I always bring good friends a couple of meals when they have new babies, mainly because feeding people is just kind of in my blood. Since we were living with my parents when W was born, I had no idea what a life saver meals are in the first two weeks. I, personally, hate pre-made frozen meals from the grocery store. So, I went to our local poultry place and purchased a few meals and then two of my most awesome friends brought me a few meals. This was huge. HUGE. Enlist some help if you don't have rock stars who might just bring meals over or cook now and freeze. Trust me, LIFE SAVER.

5. DOUBLE STROLLER. I completely underestimated what double stroller hunting was going to be like, so waited until the baby was here to do it. And then I put it off week after week until I couldn't handle it anymore. If you are having a baby when the weather permits you to go outside, get your double stroller ahead of time. Don't wait. Go get one. And if you're me, you should go get the Bumbleride. It's expensive, but I LOVE it. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.

There you have it! Just be ready to feel like a real official mom. I felt like a mom with W, but having a second is very different. There's something really cool about having a newborn when you already trust your mom instincts, are confident in your mothering skills, and have this insane capacity for love that only mothers have for their children.


Just Kids Gifts Personalized Book: A Giveaway

Like most people with toddlers, books are a major part of our life. They're all over our house and we can never have too many of them. So, I thought a personalized book would be just about the most exciting thing we could present to W.  I remember a personalized book that I received when I was younger and I totally cherished it. I would read it again and again.

I received a book called My Fishing Adventure from Just Kids Gifts after filling out a very short list of questions about W. The book came shockingly fast and we jumped on the couch to read it. At first W didn't seem to believe that the book was about him. I mean, after all, the illustrations were of a bear, so he just had some trouble imagining the bear was him. Once we got to the part that included names of his friends, he gave me a big smile. I think he thought I was teasing him by claiming the book was about him, but having Griffin, Parker, and Jack mentioned was beyond exciting for him.

So, what do I think?

There are some great things about this book: For a kid who loves to read, I can't imagine something more exciting than being part of a story. It's a book with major staying power that will work for years and I was happily surprised by the cost ($16.95). If you're the total opposite of me and already thinking about holiday gifts, this would be a fun surprise. Also, the delivery was fast and it has a sturdy, lightweight hardcover.

A couple of things that kind of bugged me: I don't know if a particular fishing store sponsored the book or has a relationship with the company, but their logo is all over it and the store is mentioned in it, which seemed really weird to me. And very distracting. The story was a little confusing, but I think that's due to W's age more than anything. We're also not that into fishing (read: have never been fishing), so I think it would have been better if it was something W is into.

All in all, I think stuff like this is really cool, which is why I'm excited to offer a copy to one of you! You get to choose from one of the books from Just Kids Gifts. There are some pretty fun options, so check them out.

Here's how you can enter the Just Kids Gifts Series Giveaway:

1. Comment on this post about your favorite childhood book. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog. (You must comment to be entered!)

2. Follow Hannemaniacs. (Look on the right side bar to follow.)

3. Extra entries for mentioning this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: Enter to win a personalized Just Kids Gifts book at www.hannemaniacs.com. (please let me know in your comment that you have done these)

So, that's THREE possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Wednesday, September 28th. Enter now!

PLEASE NOTE: Just Kids Gifts ships to the U.S. ONLY, so you must have a U.S. mailing address for shipment.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winner was chosen by using RANDOM.ORG and is... Catherine from Everyday Epiphanies! Please contact me with your address and the package will be sent to you! (If I don't hear from the winner by Friday at 9 am a new winner will be chosen.)

Thanks for everyone for participating. Look for another giveaway up next week!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of My Fishing Adventure for this review and giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.


When to Explain 9/11 to Your Toddler?

We've been avoiding 9/11 coverage all week. W still talks about "those poor people who lost all their things" in the tsunami. He asked question after question when it happened. We tried to answer them as honestly as possible. I can't imagine doing that with 9/11. There is a very big difference between a natural disaster and terrorism.

A three year old has no ability to understand something this horrific. And a parent of a toddler has no place creating that kind of fear in their children. I believe in being honest with him about everything I can. But all in due time... None of us are ready for this conversation yet.

It was nice to have to avoid it this year, because it meant that we didn't get sucked into the media coverage and could choose to think about it in our own ways. Now that we have kids, it means something entirely different. Now I think of the moms and dads who were killed, the scared children coming home to a frantic parent. And the fear. I can't imagine experiencing that kind of fear myself or seeing it in my child's eyes.

On 9/11 I was in Iowa City visiting my sister. I had just graduated, but went back to see her and some friends. I was supposed to leave on Monday, but stayed longer. I was waiting tables and looking for a job at the time, trying to decide where to go and what to do with my life. Iowa City was still home to me and my sister was living in the house I had lived in for two years.

My mom called and woke us up to tell us that something was happening in New York and we needed to turn on the tv. We turned on The Today Show minutes before the second tower was hit. My plan was to move to New York at the time and most of my resumes had been sent to publishing companies there, yet it seemed so far away that morning.

My sister and I got into an argument about something I can't even remember, as we tend to do under any amount of stress. I packed up my stuff and left her house in a huff. She kept telling me that given the current events, I should stay. But, I just wanted to go. It was such a weird time - Iowa City had been my home for four years and I missed it terribly, but I just wanted to get out of there. In my mind I knew that it was safer than heading back to Chicago. The more rural, the better, but I couldn't sit still. So, I got in my car, turned on NPR, and started the drive home.

Even in the middle of corn fields, the silence was heavy. The normal busy campus was dead, as everyone was either sleeping or glued to their televisions. Driving down the highway was more of the same. There were few cars on the road and those that were drove with a remarkable amount of care, minding the speed limit, hands at ten and two. I remember making eye contact with a guy driving next to me and having this strange connection, knowing we were both flying solo in complete peace while there was so much chaos.

I would listen to the radio for a bit, then drive in silence, then try some music, but always get pulled back to NPR to try to make sense of what was going on. I remember the drive went quickly.

I don't remember much else about the following days, except the night I was laying in bed at my parents house and I heard a plane fly overhead for the first time since 9/11. It woke me up with a panic. All my life I was used to the constant sound of planes overhead, having grown up directly under the flight pattern to O'Hare. It was a sound I had never even paid attention to, but the silence that followed 9/11 gave it an incredible amount of power.

On 9/11 Matt was in grad school in Vancouver. An American in Canada on 9/11. He received apologies from Canadians, went to the ocean and just sat, feeling the same heavy silence. There were others there sitting as well, staring out at the ocean. Possibly Americans, taking a moment to feel closer to home. He saw it as an outsider without the flag waving being shoved down his throat and  I think his version and perspective might be better. So, maybe his tale will be the one we choose to share.

I don't know how to explain 9/11 to a child. But I'm thankful I have at least another year to figure it out. I read somewhere that we are all victims of 9/11. I'm not going to pretend that I am nearly as affected by anyone who was there or lost a loved one. But, I can say that every generation of parents has had their own 9/11 to discuss with their children.

This was just seems beyond what I can comprehend right now.


Blogs About Loss

There are a lot of blogs out there that focus on loss or a family member's terminal illness. Sometimes I can't help, but click and read. I remember one in particular. Brittany called me and told me to look at this blog. She was balling. I ended up crying. And then got mad that she made me look. It was beautiful and heart-breaking. And, as a new mom and blogger, I was stunned. And there were so many others like that blog. So many families sharing their pain and their stories. And so many reasons to be thankful and fearful at the same time.

Last night I followed a link and was introduced to a little girl and her two mommies. The little girl was diagnosed with an inoperable, terminal brain tumor. In a recent post one of her moms writes about planning the funeral for her sweet, curly haired girl, as she sits on her lap - Blissfully unaware. Gut wrenching, right? There are mentions of morphine and naps and loss. And through tears, I made myself stop reading.

I wanted to comment, but didn't know how. So, I wrote a post for Yahoo! Shine that I would love for you to read. I want to hear from you. Would you have commented?

Photo courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Welcome to Preschool: First Day

Today was W's first day of preschool. Translation: He went to class with seven other kids for an hour while the moms sat in the corner and whispered to each other. For all the fanfare (new outfit, backpack, lots of talking it up), it wasn't that big of a deal.

He loved it. I knew he would. I had to keep grabbing his hand to keep him from running away from me as soon as we entered the school. I was so very happy to have him act that way.

Last week he went on an anti-preschool rant:

"I don't want to go to preschool," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I don't want to listen to the coach's words."

"You'll have a teacher, not a coach, and I'm sure you'll get to talk, too."

"I don't want to be on a school bus."

"You're not taking a bus. I'll drive you."

"I don't want another William in my class."

"Wellll, you better get used to it, kid. You have a pretty common name. This will not be the last time. But, maybe his name will be Will or Bill or Billy the Kid."

William met William, another cute little boy with unruly, dark hair. Despite looking totally confused when the teachers sang a song about the other William, W did a great job. He played and chatted and got into cabinets he wasn't supposed  to.

But, there is one thing he refused to do...  Cooperate for pictures. These are the best shots I could get:

How long will she chase me with that camera?

OK, so if I pretend she isn't here, what are the chances she'll go away?


Back to School Tip from Hannemaniacs and Whole Foods

Whole Foods is one of my most favorite places to shop. I mean, seriously, who doesn't love that joint?

So, when they asked me to create a video to be featured in the Whole Foods Back to School Campaign, I was really excited. Talking about my kids, food, healthy feeding, and Whole Foods... I could go on forever. I decided to share my dipping, stacking, crunching tips that work for W.

Check out my tip for healthy back to school eating on one of these local Whole Foods store Facebook pages:

Also, be sure to checkout the Weekly Special Sign-Up for a chance to win a $500 gift card to Whole Foods.

Now it's your turn... What is your favorite healthy tip for sending the kids back to school?

Disclosure: I was compensated for taking part in this video campaign. The thoughts are my own.


William: Age 3

Today is our hilarious little man's third birthday and I can hardly believe it.

It's been a big year for all of us and, though we weren't sure how he would handle it, William has taken it all in stride. He has turned out to be a really sweet big brother and does little things everyday to show us how much he loves his Beckett, even if he sometimes tells us differently.

He continues to be incredibly verbal and was recently assessed as having the communication skills of a 6 year old. Conversations with him are some of my favorite times of the day and I'm always amazed with his ability to use proper tense and multi-syllabic words. William still loves to read and has memorized most of his books, demanding that he "read" his books to you. Favorites include: "Are You My Mother?," "Good Night, Good Night, Dinosaur," "There's A Wocket In My Pocket," "Stella Luna," and anything Dr. Seuss.

William is still cautious physically and trips constantly. He runs fast and falls hard, but rarely gets hurt. Even when a fall this year led to stitches above his eye, he impressed me with how quickly he bounced back (after the initial screaming and crying).

He is full of personality and it's evident in every interaction you have with him. He uses words like fantastic and absolutely and like to use his hands and voice inflection to tell stories. He answers questions with "of course" and never takes no for an answer, instead insisting "maaaayyyyybbbbeeeee." He likes to tell people he loves them.

William loves other kids and seeks them out. He doesn't quite get the social complexities of friendship yet and still seems confused when other kids aren't as excited to see him as he is to see them.

Our little man has an intense ability to love, but the hugs and cuddles take a little more work as he gets older. His obsession with playing often outweighs any one-on-one downtime these days and he gets increasingly frustrated with people who don't know how to play well (MOM). He and Matt are best friends and share an incredible imagination and ability to focus with each other. I see William having my general "it's going to be fine" attitude about everything and interest in socializing.

Currently, William wants to be a chef when he grows up and constantly wants to help in the kitchen. The boy can crack a mean egg. His favorite things are cars, smurfs, dinosaurs, stickers, puzzles, and painting. He is obsessed with toys and playing. 

He's constantly singing, making me sometimes feel like I'm in a musical. Conversation is often a singing production.

William is focused and persistent. If he doesn't get something he wants, he gets easily frustrated. He's realizing the power of his words and sometimes likes to say things like "I don't love her" or "get that guy out of my house" to test our reactions. I truly hope he grows to realize and respect the power of his words. As he has gotten closer to three, he has trouble listening and cooperating. He is a total control freak.

Our little guy has a really amazing sense of humor and we spend more time laughing with him than I ever imagined. I can't wait to see what this next year has in store.

Previous Birthday Post:


Maternity Leave Is Over

I've returned to work. At first it didn't seem real. It was as if I was just visiting my friends, checking in to see how everything was going, and then I'd be on my merry way. But, yesterday it sunk in: I'm back.

I'm glad to be back in the office. I love my job, I adore my co-workers. I'm lucky like that. But, it also means no more mornings spent reading to W while B takes his cat naps and no more trips to the park in the morning. No more lunches shared just between W and me. No more staring at B for 15 minutes in the afternoon just because I can. I'll miss those moments with my boys. It wasn't all sunshine and roses, believe me. I was ready for a break from arguing with W over everything and chasing him when he refuses to stop running toward the street. I needed a break from B's diapers and I really needed to get back into a routine that forced me to shower, blow dry my hair, put on makeup and get dressed.

The great thing about maternity leave was that it allowed me to get to spend some time with W and get to know him on a different level than I did when I was working. Going back to work makes any mom worry about the stuff she's missing. And I do worry about the little things that I might miss out on.

For now, work is a positive part of my life, so I'm going to keep doing it. However, my track record of priorities and work-life balance has been pretty bad. So, with this fresh start I've promised my family and myself to put being a mom first. And now I can honestly say I'm happy to make that promise.


Meal MacGyver: Smoked Salmon and Peas Pasta

I love a good challenge. One of my favorites is when it seems like we have nothing in the house for dinner and I manage to pull together a good meal with no real plan other than to use what I have on hand. I've mentioned some of my hits and misses with these meals here and there, but I'm going to try to make this a regular update on the blog.  Just the other day I inspired my sister to pull together a meal like this, maybe this will inspire you, as well.

It's all too easy to turn to take out when a little creativity could lead you to a nice meal and save you some serious dough. And you learn a lot about cooking when you play with food.

Tonight I pulled these items from the fridge/pantry/freezer:

See that Smoked Salmon in the back? Heaven.
I found the lovely smoked salmon that we bought for our Michigan vacation that wasn't, a little cream left from the pie I made last week, ricotta that I impulse bought with a coupon, and the frozen peas and whole grain pasta that are staples in our house. Not too shabby, right?

So, I melted some butter and a little flour to create a roux. Then I added the cream, followed by a couple spoons full of the ricotta over very low heat and whisked until I had a nice cream sauce. I added a ton of parmesan, seasoned it a bit, and then threw in a few cups of frozen peas. I flaked up about half of the salmon, which I stirred in and let sit for a couple minutes. Finally, I added the pasta. It sat on the stove top while I threw together a salad. All in all, it was extremely fast and really tasty (the only thing it could have used was a bit of nutmeg, but I was out). I would actually make this again and the best part: left overs for lunch tomorrow, saving us even more money!

What's the last meal you created from nothing?