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.