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?


Getting Organized With Blue Sky Home Series: A Giveaway

I keep track of everything in my head. This never used to be a problem for me... And then I had W and things started to slip a little bit. My memory failed me a time or two and I've missed a few things on my to-do list. I'm going back to work. My mind is worse than ever. And my to-do list is longer than I ever imagined. I need help.

When I got my first smart phone last year I thought it would solve my problems, but I'm terrible about using the calendar and can't be bothered to figure it out. Then when I switched to an iPhone earlier this summer I was positive it would be my new key to organization. It's better, but I'm still keeping things in my head or notes on scraps of paper. I really remember things from writing them down. No matter how far technology goes, I'm still going to have to use some sort of a book that I can physically write in.

Right now I'm kind of loving the Blue Sky Home Series products. My never-ending to-do lists and scraps of paper with notes floating around started to make me a tad bit crazy and their planner was a great answer. You get a full month calendar with a to-do list next to it broken down by DO, CALL, or BUY. I needed this. There's also a week by week calendar with a notes section.

I need the ability to keep lists and write random notes, which is what I feel like I can't get from my phone. It's also broken down from July - June, which totally makes sense to me. I mean, seriously, the calendar year may begin in January, but for most people the year really starts in July as you start to focus on fall, whether that means back to school or getting serious after enjoying the summer.

Here is my August list and calendar. See how everything is broken out. I like that:

In addition to the planner, there are all sorts of handy organizing pads, like a grocery checklist, mouse pad, and a quick reminder pad that is designed to hang from your door. If you're like me and usually put post-its on your door as reminders, this could really come in handy.

So, if you too like to use the old pen and paper to keep yourself (and your brain) organized, this might just be the thing to help you out.

And lucky for you, I'm giving away a set of Blue Sky Home Series products. Yay!

Here's how you can enter the Blue Sky Home Series Giveaway:

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

2. Extra entries for mentioning this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: I'm getting organized! Enter to win a Blue Sky Home Series set 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, August 24th. Enter now!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winner was chosen by using RANDOM.ORG and is... Linz! 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 complimentary Blue Sky Home Series products for this review and giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.


Tomorrow I'll Make a Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey and Jennifer Perillo

I return to work a week from today. And, I have to admit, I'm ready. I've had a great time home with the boys, but I really miss my job. I'm one of those lucky people who really likes what they do and loves their co-workers. I'm also really fortunate because my mom did full childcare for W up until now. I am constantly thankful for how lucky I am to be a working mom with such a great situation: Awesome job, awesome childcare.

Now that we have two kids, my mom is going down to three days and we've hired a nanny for the other two days. I think she's going to be a great fit. She's spending the day with us tomorrow so she can get to know the boys, and I can show her around the house and walk her to the library and the park.

And then I plan to take some time in the early afternoon to participate in Peanut Butter Pie Friday for Mikey and Jennifer Perillo.

Jennifer Perillo is part of the Yahoo! Motherboard. Her husband passed away suddenly this week. They have two young daughters. Everything about this is heart-breaking and terrible. There are no words. She asked her blogging community to come together and each make his favorite dessert, Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, tomorrow and share it with someone you love. I bought all the ingredients today and plan to see if I can get W to help me tomorrow while the nanny plays with B. He won't last long, which is OK. I could use the time to just bake something and be with myself for a little bit to reflect on the transition we're all about to go through.

Life is quick and it's times like these that I second guess my choice to go back to work, to spend all of that time away from the boys. How can I sacrifice a single day with them? But, I know it's not that simple. It just makes my heart hurt to know that everything can be so fleeting.

I remember meeting Jennifer during the Yahoo! Motherboard Summit last summer. I sat at a table with her and a few other bloggers who are all a much bigger deal than I am and it kind of felt like I was a little kid at the adults table. We chatted about our kids, our husbands, the usual... I remember so clearly what she said about her husband and there was an incredible amount of love there. That conversation, one that she might not remember, has been on my mind all week -- And so has she. So, I'll bake this pie and share it with people I love and once again remind myself to appreciate every moment we have together.


I'm Giddy About Healthy Snacks: A Give Away

How a mom feeds her kids is her choice. And each mom has a different point of view on this one.  I tend to be a little more extreme compared to most moms I know. W has very limited sweets, practically no candy, doesn't drink juice and eats pretty healthy in general. He's pretty much been deprived of what most kids get to eat.

Sometimes I find it difficult to find fast snacks that fit within how I feed my kids. And if I do find them, they’re really expensive or have a limited shelf life. A new product, giddy dip'ems, is hitting select Chicago-area Target stores (see below for list) and fits within everything I look for when choosing snacks for W. It’s compact, easy to transport, but even better, it’s natural and healthy. All in all, I honestly consider it to be a great snack.

Dip'ems are not a stretch for us. I immediately knew it would work for me, but wondered whether it would work for kids who are used to eating more traditional kid snacks. Would it be fun enough, sweet enough, colorful enough to appeal? I decided to share them with one of my closest friends from childhood who has a different point of view on feeding her kids. Her kids eat like kids.

So, I brought them with me to a play date with her boys to see if it would cater to kids who aren’t quite as limited in their snack choices as W has been. I opened up a strawberry and a tropical flavored, handed each boy a couple of the dip sticks and stepped back with my camera….

They approved. And so do I, which can be kind of hard. They’re not an every day snack, but they’re great for taking on a picnic, pack in a lunch, or grab from the cabinet when someone is having a meltdown and you just need a quick snack to make them happy.

I don’t really care how other people choose to feed their kids. Honestly, I don’t. I have my way, you have yours. But, I figure giddy is a good way to meet in the middle. That’s why I’m doing a giveaway of a week’s worth of giddy snacks for two of you. Whether or not you're strict with your kids food, you’ll be happy with these.

Here's how you can enter the giddy giveaway: 

1. Comment on this post about you favorite snack from when you were a kid. Be sure to include an email address if it doesn't connect back to your blog.

2. Extra entries for mentioning this giveaway to your network on Facebook and/or Twitter (one entry for each) by pasting this in your status: I'm giddy! Enter to win a week's supply of giddy snacks at www.hannemaniacs.com. (please let me know in your comment that you have done these)

That's right, three possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Wednesday, August 17th. Enter now!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! The winners were chosen by using RANDOM.ORG and are... Stacey from www.evolvingstacey.com and Julie Mayo! I'll contact you for addresses and the snacks will be sent to you!

Thanks for everyone for participating. I've decided I'll start doing more giveaways, so I'll have another one up soon!

To buy your own box, they retail for $3.99 for a box of four snacks packs and can be found in the lunchbox aisle of the snack section at the following Target locations: Arlington Heights, Chicago South, Chicago South Loop, Chicago South Pulaski, Cicero, Glenview, Rosemont, Shorewood, and Woodridge. After comparing to other high quality kids snacks, I do find it to be a good buy.

Disclosure: I received complimentary giddy dip'ems for this review and giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.


A Thong To Remember

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Anthony Youn's memoir In Stitches , a really human and funny look into the training of a medical doctor who discovers his passion is plastic surgery. This post is inspired by the book.

I have had a lot of rather embarrassing moments with doctors, most of which include med students or residents. We all have them, I know, but since I think that making fun of myself is generally the best way to handle all situations, I like to tell my stories. Most people tend to keep it to themselves.

When it comes to doctor's appointments, I'm pretty open. I'm fine with residents taking part in my care (hey, they have to learn, right?) and I always live by the mantra of "I cannot be the worst they have seen. There is no way I can possibly stand out." But, when I was reading Youn's memoir, my thoughts were shattered when he writes about the patient he saw on his ob-gyn rotation who had six toes. This woman made it into his book.

Back when I was running a ton (around 2005ish), I started to have issues with my knee, so I went to a Sports Medicine doctor to find out what was going on. When I was shown to my room, the nurse turned to ask if I had brought shorts. “Um, no. No one told me to bring shorts,” was my lame reply.

How did I not think of this?!?! I had even considered bringing a pair that morning, I should have known it was protocol. How did I expect them to get a good look at my KNEE in dress PANTS? I brought my running shoes, I brought my exercise diary, I was otherwise prepared. Except for shorts.

Instead, I was handed a backless gown and told to undress. The doctor (an adorable young female doctor) entered the room with a med student (also a good looking woman) in tow. She asked if I'm alright with the student sticking around, to which I agreed. The exam started in a basic enough way... I stood in front of them, on one leg, then the other. All the while, they stared at my knees and legs. Then she asked me to walk toward them. And then away. IN A BACKLESS GOWN. The walk away happened twice, my doctor wanted to be sure to point out my glutes (as in my butt) to the shadowing med student. Mortification is not even the word. Why? I was wearing a thong IN A BACKLESS GOWN. Not a cute thong, or some type of coverage thong, but a string Victoria’s Secret disaster of a thong. Old, cotton, discolored. And let's just say I was not bikini ready, if you know what I mean.

So, after the walking, I was asked to perform squats and lunges. Then back to the standing on one leg and then standing in place as they checked me out from every angle to gage my posture and core strength as they tried to push me over while asking me to stand as straight as possible and resist the pushing... in a thong and backless gown. Then came the fun stuff: "Lay on your back, let’s check your flexibility," she said.

“Wow, you’re flexible!” as my leg was being pushed literally behind my head with my knee bent up and then moved to either side. Then she straightened my leg, one hand on the back of my thigh, the other on my lower leg and pushed. Imagine, if you will, doing the splits while laying on your back... in a thong. The doctor pushing above, the med student looking on amazed at my flexibility. Gripping at my flimsy little gown to cover anything became hopeless.

"This is incredible," they both kept muttering.

“Yup. I've always been really flexible. You know, I really wish I had brought shorts. You don’t have any for the patients, do you? You might want to direct the front desk to work that in when people are making appointments, because I really wish they told me to,” was my pathetic reply as they continued to push my legs in every possible direction.

I am flexible. I'm crazy flexible. It also leads me to be injury prone. I roll my ankle over anything. My knees hyper-extend like a Barbie's. But, being stretched in a thong is never flattering. I just told myself that this doctor would never remember me and I would never see her again, that it was all rather routine. She was really sweet about it, nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, they've seen lady parts. They have them, right? And isn't that part of the whole med school thing?

Flash forward a couple years, I'm at the Gala that I manage. There are 2,000 guests and 400 volunteers and who do I see? Yup, the doctor. We make eye contact and I immediately turn and walk in the other direction. Something tells me a little voice inside of her said, "There is that strangely flexible woman with the terrible thong. Why the hell didn't she bring shorts?"

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of In Stitches. To see how other bloggers were inspired by this book, visit From Left To Write.


Rough Morning With a Silver Lining

11:00 pm: Went to sleep.

1:45 am: B wakes up, diaper change, feeding, and unusually long fussy time.

3:45 am: I lay back down.

4:00 am: W is calling me from his room because he has wet through his diaper. This also happened a few days ago and the mattress pad is not on the bed. Wake up Matt to clean up the kid while I strip the sheets and do an internet search for "how to clean urine out of mattress." Clean spot with carpet cleaner, sprinkle with baking soda, and then cover with plastic.

4:30 am: I get back in bed and B starts to fuss. I take him out to calm him down.

4:45 am: Matt's alarm clock goes off and W refuses to go back to sleep. We watch two episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

5:30 am: Matt leaves for work. I convince W to lay down with me once B falls asleep.

5:45 am: Diaper explosion from B, explaining his fussiness that bothered him all night.

6:00 am: I give up on sleep. Pour a cup of coffee and decide to write a blog post.

Reality: I'm exhausted and not looking forward to dealing with a very tired W all day.

Silver Lining: I got to write a blog post!