A Blip On The Radar

It's been a long time since I've posted. I don't know that I've ever gone this long since setting up this here blog, but I haven't had a second to post. I've been busy staring at this face:

Can you blame me?

I used to spend almost my entire day on the computer, but these days I'm hardly able to check my email. There never seems to be a time when my hands are free or someone won't attack an open keyboard (W and B charge every time I open the computer).

Here's the honest assessment of having three kids: Everyone who says that going from two kids to three kids is no big deal is LYING or has kids that are much more generously spaced. Seriously, we might as well have ten kids running around our house. It's nuts around here. NUTS. I pity people who try to actually have a phone conversation with me, because it mostly means they're listening to me talking to a toddler or trying to pacify a crying baby.

But, we're getting into the groove, which is why I'm posting tonight... Baby Girl is sleeping in her bassinet instead of cradled in my arms. Wow, right? I'm not even sure what to do with myself! So, I'm going to wrap this up, fold a load of laundry, throw in another load (cuz it NEVER ends), and then get some sleep.

Let's consider this a little blip on the radar... More activity will be coming soon.


Goal: Don't Let Baby Get Sick

Mission impossible: Keep this girl from catching our cold, respiratory infection, croup, etc.
Baby #3 came home to one brother with a fever and the other with a killer cold. Two weeks later the cold has been passed around the house and both boys have had ear infections, I have an upper respiratory infection, and just last night B woke up with the croup cough. Once you have a kid with croup you know exactly what it sounds like, the distinct seal barking noise kind of makes your heart sink. W's case of croup was nothing like B's was last night, but the second I heard that cough I knew we were in for a long night. Matt steamed him a few times, then brought him outside into the cool air, and then it was morning and the cough went away leaving with us with an overtired, terribly congested, runny nose, drooling toddler. And despite how crappy he must feel, he's just as rambunctious and mischievous as ever.

The main goal of having a newborn is to keep her from getting sick for the first couple of months. I didn't realize how important this is until I had B and we ended up in the hospital due to a fever. Before that I couldn't understand why the pediatrician was so crazy about keeping kids out of our house... then I learned. And now I'm crazy about keeping her healthy. This also means that Matt is handling the boys when they're sick and when the reach out to me for a hug I have to blow them a kiss and rub their head to keep myself as germ-free as possible for when I nurse the baby.

So far A has been OK. Yesterday her two week check up revealed thrush, which explains a lot of the fussiness we were dealing with overnight. But, she is otherwise a-ok. I just wonder how the heck you keep a baby from catching something during the peak of colds and flu -- with a kid going to preschool every day. If anyone has a bubble she and I can hang out in for the next week, I would gladly take it.


Two Weeks Home

We've been home for just about two weeks with our newborn girl. It's been pretty great. The boys are good with her and for the most part don't even realize she's around. They're doing a terrific job playing together and we're getting into a nice groove.

W goes to preschool every morning. B naps for a couple of hours while he is gone and I have quiet time with the baby. I'd like to think that soon I'll start filling that time with some exercise, laundry, crock pot preparation, blogging, thank you note writing, working on birth announcements, and all of the other things that I feel like I should be doing.

But, knowing that this is my last time having a little newborn to snuggle and sleep on my chest, I'm trying to enjoy those moments. If that means the rest of the stuff gets delayed, then I'm ok with that.


Welcome Baby Amelia

It's been quiet around here, I know. I lost all energy or motivation to post in the last couple of months. Things would happen and I would think "I need to blog about this..." But then I wouldn't. However, something happened and I must blog about it.... We're now a family of FIVE.

Our male domimated household has received a 7 pound shot of estrogen.

Her name is Amelia. And we are insanely in love with this sweet girl.


Tricky #3

I've been having contractions since Saturday. Monday night we even made a false alarm trip to the hospital. The L&D nurse came in and asked me what number baby this was for me. When I told her it was #3, she laughed and said, "Ahhh... Tricky #3!" Apparently "go-time" is harder to determine with a third. It would have been nice if someone warned me about this.

I could have sworn it was time, but as soon as they hooked me up to the monitor, it became obvious that I wasn't quite there. So, they said I could walk around for a couple of hours and then start pitocin. But, honestly, I didn't need to have this baby bad enough on Monday night and there were too many loose strings to tie up and I told  them I wanted to go home. So, we did. I kept my feet up all day yesterday and guess what happened... The contractions stopped late in the afternoon and I woke up today feeling like a million bucks.

I saw the doctor today and she thinks I'll go in the next 48 hours. So, consider Baby Watch 2012 to be on.


It's Baby Month and I'm Tired

It's October. It's the month we've been looking toward for months in anticipation of the arrival of Baby #3. Man, we got here really fast. And suddenly I'm putting together a massive to-do list for these last three weeks. You can probably call this nesting, where only half of the items on the list really have to get done, the rest (like "touch up paint in the dining room") can wait.

But, looking at the three weeks we have left until our due date really means THREE WEEKENDS. That's three weekends to get an incredible amount of stuff done. Not to mention there are swimming lessons, naps, grocery shopping, laundry, meals, and the like thrown in every weekend, which leaves us with a few precious hours to actually get stuff done.

And we're trying to do fun stuff with the boys and enjoy these last few weeks as a foursome before we're outnumbered and have to request a much-harder-to-score table for five everywhere we go.

There's a lot to do and not a lot of energy to put toward it. Seriously, these last few weeks have got me tired.

Wish us luck.


Playing Politics With Women's Rights Makes Me Nervous About Having a Daughter

When you're a mom of two boys pregnant with a third child whose gender is a mystery you get really used to people hoping/cheering/praying/keeping their fingers crossed that you'll have a girl. I get it. People have good intentions, but I also find it annoying. Honestly, I'm not losing sleep over whether I'll have a girl and I really don't care about the baby's gender. There are many, many reasons I'm fine with having another boy. I won't go into all of them, but I was reminded of one while reading The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty: We live in a dangerous world for young girls.

Much smarter and eloquent people than me have written about the ways young girls and women are objectified. We see if every day, I don't have to go over all the details. But, what scares me most is how in 2012 we seem to be taking massive steps back for women in this country. In the last few months our rights to birth control, reproduction, abortion, health care access, domestic violence protection, workplace rights, and equal pay have been used as pawns in political campaigns. And all of this really scares me.

I have faith that we have enough smart people in this country to make sure we don't go much further down this road, but we're kidding ourselves if we pretend that women are sitting pretty. This NewYork Times article does a nice job of laying out some basic examples... examples that I have a feeling the vast majority of women have no idea are real.

Beyond all of this what infuriates me the most is the fact that women are even being used in this regard. This is 2012, not 1960. I studied women's studies in college and I haven't felt like this subject has been as present in my mind since. These aren't women's issues. These are all of our issues. Women's health, equality, and rights affect men and children as much as they do women. If poor women don't have access to cancer screening at Planned Parenthood what becomes of the family members who will have to care for them and may be left behind? It's that simple.

I want to be sure I am the most empowered, healthy, productive woman I can be, which will make me the best mom possible. Most of all I want to know that if I bring a daughter into this world her rights and choices will be guaranteed, not threatened for political gain.

Inspired by a real-life murder that threatened to topple the powerful Hapsburg dynasty in the 17th century, The Bloodletter's Daughter imagines how one young woman holds more power than she thought possible. Join From Left to Write on September 25 as we discuss the The Bloodletter's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


A Very Different First Hair Cut

Our first hair cut with W was a total reflection of being rookie parents... We went to an old barber shop (because I thought I was too cool for a kid's hair place), got plenty of videos and photos and then had special lunch plans. W was his normal sweet self. They cut his hair too short. There were no toys or bright colors, no movies or fire trucks to sit in. And we learned quickly that they have kid's salons FOR A REASON. We've been using them for W ever since.

So, today we took B for his first hair cut. Let's just say it went a little different:

"This bin of crap is cool and all, but I have a feeling we're here for something different."

"Get me out of this f-ing fire truck! Have you met me? Nothing about this is a good idea!"

"Stop taking pictures of me and get me out of this chair! I'll rip this place apart!"

"No! That comb! The horror! Get it away from me!"

"Awww, man, this kid's drama is making me look AWESOME!"
So, yeah... I think it's safe to say it didn't go well. After trying to put B in a fire truck seat we resorted to sitting in my lap. We couldn't even get a smock on either of us. No video was taken, the photos are limited. It was as bad as it looks. And was a great reflection of their personalities.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 38 Animal Store Alphabet Book

Good Deed: Supported Kickstarter program for The Animal Store Alphabet Book by Susan Bearman and Rebecca Hamlin.

Have you heard of Kickstarter? I had, but had no idea what it really was and this is how Kickstarter is defined on the website:  "Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding nearly 30,000 creative projects."

Cool, huh? So, another local blogger wrote The Animal Store Alphabet Book, a children's book that needs support through Kickstarter. It's basically a way to pre-order your book (or more) and support their project. The book looks awesome and I ordered my first Christmas gift! Win/win, right?

W loves animals and thinks visiting our local pet store is an exciting way to spend an afternoon. Check out the book and get your first holiday gift. They need to raise $2,700 more in the next 14 days. I would love to get my copy, so order yours!


Just Another Morning With Two Working Parents & A Surprise

Today should have been one of those days that fell into place. I stayed up late last night and marinated chicken and chopped veggies for a Greek salad for tonight's dinner. I woke up a half hour early this morning to make lunches for Matt and me and make sure I could get showered and dressed early enough to help W with his new morning routine (make bed, go to the bathroom, brush teeth). I put on an outfit I liked, put on makeup, and then went in to wake up W. He likes to take his time getting out of bed and - though I always do - it feels wrong to rush him in the morning. So, I gave him extra time this morning and didn't turn on the light to get him moving as I usually do.

We got into the bathroom, started brushing his teeth, and in the light I realized that his eye was swollen. Like really swollen. I asked W if he fell at preschool or remembered anything hitting him in the eye. He said no. And then I remembered that the evening before, as our nanny was getting ready to leave, W called us into his room to show us something (can't remember what it was) and ended up pulling a curtain rod down on his head... with his mom and nanny watching. At first we were concerned, but he yelled out: "Take that curtain to someone else's house. It's bad!" So, we ended up laughing and he didn't seem hurt. He ate a really good dinner, had a bath, played, and acted totally normal after the rod incident. But, that had to be source of the swollen eye. I touched the side of his head where I suspected a bruise was forming and the rod had hit him, he confirmed it hurt. Bingo.

One of the more unspoken moments of two working parents is deciding who stays home. Matt and I usually stare at each other for a minute, mentally review our day and the other's stress level, and then one of us offers to stay home. It had to be me today. Matt took one for the team when I was traveling a couple weeks ago and B spiked a fever. So, with my bag packed, all dressed and ready to go, I jumped on my computer to see what would have to be moved on my calendar and emailed my understanding bosses (how they are still understanding, I don't know) that I would have to work from home.

Our nanny arrived as I was sending the email and B ran to me and held on tight, clearly freaked out by the excitement in our house. I decided to drive Matt to the train. Matt gave W a hug good bye and a complete breakdown followed. Full on tears, open mouth crying, snot... Clearly the kid was in pain and dad leaving was the trigger. So, I told him that if he stopped crying he could come with me to the train station, which worked. Until B figured out what was going on (the kid understands everything, but says very little) and got hysterical as well, which made W hysterical and insist that we couldn't leave B at home. So, there Matt and I stood, defeated by a swollen eye or curtain rod or whatever triggered this morning. By now Matt had missed our normal train, so we each grabbed a kid and headed for the train station. Meanwhile, our nanny was left to hang out with Howie. Poor thing.

Anyway, it all worked out fine. I called the doctor as soon as they opened, scored a late morning appointment, headed down to my basement office and crossed a couple of things off my to-do list. I took W to the doctor who mentioned he might have a black eye when he wakes up tomorrow and confirmed he seemed fine otherwise. I even managed to hold him down long enough to get a flu shot. I stopped and had a special lunch on the way home with him, capped off with a special cookie (flu shot bribery). Then the boys spent the afternoon with our nanny at the park and I got back to work. Our nanny stayed a little late so I could catch up. I entertained the boys, started dinner (much easier given the prep work), and then strapped the boys in the car to pick up Matt from the train station. I felt like I had somehow found a balance. I made both my mom and work responsibilities happen today only because I work for and with people who are understanding and value my work.

But I'd be lying if there wasn't a voice in the back of my head that kept repeating what Matt said on the way to the train station: "How are we going to juggle all of this with three?"


We're Staying Put

When we first moved into our house it was a 3-5 year plan. We knew we would quickly grow out of our little ranch. We bought our house based on location. We knew it needed a lot of work. But, we had to move to a desirable, expensive area with incredibly low real estate inventory, so we didn't have a lot of choices. We also bought the house as a couple pregnant with a baby. We came from living in our condo and the space seemed totally fine. But, things have changed and four years later we're getting ready to bring home baby #3 and started to consider our options.

So, we had a neighborhood realtor come over and give us her honest opinion of whether selling now would be a good idea. She didn't say no, but she gave us a list of things we would have to do first. Most of the things we knew, like redoing the kitchen. So, we did them. We redid the kitchen, reorganized and fixed up our basement, replaced a few window treatments, and packed up some clutter. The changes made us happy. So happy that we decided we'd table moving and stay put for another year.

And then the phone rang. It was said realtor who had a client who was looking for a house in our area. Our house met her needs, but was a little out of her price range. Would you be interested in showing your house, she asked. We thought about it and discussed the pro's and con's and ultimately decided to agree to a showing. So, we de-cluttered more, rearranged some furniture, and bought fresh flowers. We set a price and walked out the door kind of hoping we wouldn't get an offer.

The buyer was interested, but ultimately didn't pursue it. It's a little out of her price range and doesn't have the master bathroom that she wants. It was a relief, honestly. But, then the realtor said: "Your house shows really well. There is very little like it on the market right now and a high demand. I know I can sell your house right now."

So, we considered it. We really did. This is not our dream house, nor is it the house we see ourselves in a few years down the road. But, we have no idea where we would go. We don't know what our next step should be. We're comfortable, so we're staying put. Check back in with us in a year. I'm hoping the "we're not sure" will be replaced with a plan.


My Mom Voice Won Over My Reader Voice

I've been a member of the From Left To Write Book Club for a while. It has consistently been one of my favorite online communities and has inspired what I feel are some of my best posts on this blog. And, oh yeah, we get to read a great list of diverse books... Except I didn't read this one. The point of the book club is not to write reviews of books, but to allow the book to inspire a post. And though I didn't read January First by Michael Shofield, it inspired this post.

Being a mom changes something in you. Every four year old is as innocent as your own. Difficult stories, diagnoses, painful experiences all take on a new layer of severity. It could be your child. What would you do if it were? How would you survive? These thoughts now touch me deeply. They reach deep down to a place of emotion I didn't even know was there before I became a mom.

I don't like to get emotional. I'd rather keep my emotions at bay and avoid crying as much as possible. I find myself avoiding sad movies. I skim over articles about victimized children. I refrain from reading blogs about tragedy. I try to keep myself safe.

I signed up to read January First with some hesitance. The story begs me to read it. But, I was conflicted about whether it would be good timing with being as pregnant as I am these days. Take this line from the cover, for instance: A Child's Descent Into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her... Might not be in the best interest of my emotions to read that book right now, said my inner mom voice.

But, my reader voice encouraged me to open it and give it a chance. Go read the description of the book. Looks fascinating, right? But, should I read a father's memoir about his young daughter's struggle with severe schizophrenia? I received the book, turned it over, read the back and was torn. Then I talked to my BFF, who knows me all too well, and encouraged me to put the book aside and read it later.

I was torn. I was dying to read the story, but it scared the hell out of me. And, ultimately, I decided to skip the book and protect myself. I made a choice as a mom and a reader. I love reading. I treasure books. Being a reader is a big part of who I am, but I allowed my mom voice to speak a little louder to me this time.

One day I'll read this book. But, for now it's going to sit on my bookshelf waiting for me to get through the next seven weeks of pregnancy and those first few emotional weeks of having an infant. Then my reader voice will be heard.

How far would you go to advocate for your child? In January First, father Michael Shofield and his family struggle to find the right treatment for his daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years old. Join From Left to Write on September as we discuss the Shofield's memoir January First. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Lessons Learned From Kids With a Stomach Bug

First, the lessons:

1. You can do eight loads of laundry in one day.
2. Pillows are machine washable.
3. A "dry clean only" tag on quilts and duvet covers does not have to be followed.
4. Pedialite is totally gross.
5. Vomit is not as gross when it's your kid's vomit.

Now, the back story:

On Sunday night we got home late after a long drive home from a family reunion in Iowa. We had stopped late for dinner. We were all exhausted. Around 3 am W woke up yelling for me and by the time I got to his room he had already thrown up. I swept him into the bathroom, calmed him down, cleaned him up, and Matt took care of stripping his bed and putting his sheets in the wash. By the time he was done, W and I were curled up in our bed.

I really thought it was just the late burger that made him sick. But, around 5 am he started throwing up again. Matt and I both resumed our roles and B started calling from his crib where we found that he too had gotten sick. Another mattress was stripped and so began our day of carrying laundry baskets up and down the basement stairs.

We're pretty sure it was food poisoning. W got sick again after he had lunch and the two of them hardly ate or drank anything for the rest of the day. We stayed in the house and spent a hot Labor Day quarantined. I gave each boy his own super bubbly, warm bath. I scrubbed the bathroom. I grocery shopped and planned for this week's meals. I made a couple future dinners. And did I mention the laundry?

Things are better today. We took it slow and they both seem to have bounced back. Labor Day was a long day in our house.


A Stomach Bug Inspires This Week's Meal Plan

The boys both came down with a stomach bug around 3:00 am last night. W had the worse case by far. We had to skip a BBQ this afternoon at my sister's house and spend the entire day at home, so it gave me some time (in between EIGHT loads of laundry and trying to hydrate the boys) to make a meal plan and go grocery shopping. Here it is...

Monday: Penne with pesto, peas, and tomatoes for Mom and Dad, Mrs. Grass Noodles for the boys
Tuesday: Toasty Mac & Cheese* with broccoli
Wednesday: Taco Night
Thursday: Pizza with Green Salad
Friday: Whitefish with Greek Salad

*This mac & cheese recipe is a make ahead that is divided into two meals. I made it tonight while I was making dinner and now I have another ready to go for the future. I tasted it and it's great. Hope the boys' stomachs are back to normal so they can enjoy it tomorrow.


A Girl President

William received a sticker book about US presidents for his birthday. He is currently obsessed with sticker books, so loves talking about this new one. He and Matt were looking through it and this is what I heard from the other room...

W: "Why are they all guys?"
Matt: "Well, I bet you'll see a girl president in your life."
W: "Like Word Girl?"
Matt: "Yeah, Word Girl would be a good president. Or some other girl. But I have a feeling there will be one."

This is why I love my husband. He had no idea I could even hear him. If you know Matt this conversation isn't a surprise. Most days I wouldn't even think twice about it, but I'm getting tired of hearing about sexism, racism, and all the other BS-isms that invade our daily lives as ignorant people get more and more extreme.

Election years bring out the worst in people. But, sometimes they also remind you why you respect other people and why you're so happy you married them.


My Boys

At first glance my boys look very different from each other. W has dark hair, dark eyes, and a more olive skin tone. B is fair with blond hair and blue eyes. Their eye shape is different, but their noses, cheeks, mouth, and chin are very similar... Except people don't usually look long enough to notice it. They take a quick inventory and then ask me how my two boys look so different. I've grown accustomed to making a joke of it, rather than pointing out their similarities.

While I was reading the amazing novel The Baker's Daughter I couldn't help but think that if we were in a different place at a different time these differences could allow for very different lives for my kids. If we were living within the setting of a book and were a Jewish family living in Nazi Germany, B would fit the perfect Aryan stereotype. Would he have been spared? Would a family have taken him in to protect him? Would I encourage him to pretend to be something else to protect himself, even if it meant W wouldn't have the same chance? I found myself wondering this again and again throughout the book. And I still can't shake the question.

I'd like to think that we live in a place and time when these simple differences don't matter and the world will view each of them the same, regardless of hair or eye color. But, we all have stereotypes, right? It can't be compared to real true bigotry or genocide, but I do wonder what the future has in store for two boys who outwardly might look so different at first glance.

This post is inspired by Sarah McCoy's The Baker's Daughter. In a small Texan town, Reba discovers Elsie's German Bakery and falls in love with more than the pastries. Shes drawn to Elsie's life in Germany during the last year of WWII. Join From Left to Write on August 29  as we discuss The Baker's Daughter. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


William: Age 4

Happy 4th birthday to William! Our little guy became a great big brother and forfeited his role as the baby in the family pretty easily. He is idolized by his younger brother. The relationship between William and Beckett has been a highlight for all of us, especially William, who loves having a brother.

William has grown so much this year. Sometimes I find myself doing a double take. We have a REAL boy in our house now. He loves Super Heroes, bugs, and dinosaurs. He gets dirty, his feet are smelly, but he is still incredibly sweet and cuddly. William's first year of preschool really helped him blossom socially and he's still figuring out his role in social situations with other kids. He still likes to play on his own and you'll often find him wandering away to play with something that has caught his attention.

William creates elaborate games and story lines in his head. He runs around the house, having a conversation, acting out a scenario, which he will rarely explain. His imagination is really incredible. William still loves books, but has become more interested in cartoons and video games. He is obsessed with stickers.

His limitless appetite has started to become more picky and William is becoming less open to trying new things or eating some of the adventurous items he used to enthusiastically eat. Currently his favorite foods are California rolls, hamburgers, hummus, peanut butter & jelly, and pancakes.

William is clumsy and tentative physically. He needs to really wrap his head around things before giving them a try. He has a high tolerance for pain and rarely cries when he falls or gets hurt.

He is still verbally many years ahead of his age and I love that I can full, serious conversations with him. He is a great lunch date and always keeps me interested. Anytime he hears a new word he asks for an explanation of what it means and then examples of how to use it, then includes it in his own vocabulary. It's normal to hear him properly use words like "prefer" or "familiar."

William's two best qualities are his sweetness and sense of humor. He is thoughtful about things, shares hugs and kisses happily, and makes me laugh harder than anyone else. Having other parents tell me they enjoy these things about William and are happy he is friends with their kids has really made me proud of him. It's easy for me to see all of his great qualities as his mom, but hearing it from others makes my day.

I worry that William's sweetness will be taken advantage of, as he wears his emotions on his sleeve and easily gets his feelings hurt. When I've seen kids say things that hurt him, he often hangs his head rather than defending himself or letting it roll off his shoulders. It's the thing that makes him so genuinely sweet and I hope he finds a way to handle this part of growing up.

William is turning out to be a great kid and we are so proud of him. I feel lucky to know and love him each and every day. He is an extraordinary boy.

Previous Birthday Posts:


Brookfield Zoo Trip

We went to Brookfield Zoo a couple of weeks ago. It was awesome. I wrote a post about it over on TheChicagoMoms.com that you should check out and then plan your trip to this awesome local zoo.

Look how much fun we had!

Full discloaure: I received complimentary tickets to the zoo and all exhibits for my family. All opinions are my own.


Meal Planning: What Really Happened

I like sharing meal plans on this blog. Not only does it force me to give some thought to our schedule for the week, but it gets me to actually prepare for it. The thing is... Meal planning is one of those things that doesn't always work the way you planned. Let's take this week, for instance.

This was my plan:
Monday: Wheat Penne With Peas and Homemade Pesto (yum!) and green salad
Tuesday: Paprika Chicken with Rice and Pattypan Squash
Wednesday: Royal Pies from Pleasant House Bakery and green salad
Thursday: Something with kale (cuz I have a big bag of it...)
Friday: Pizza for the guys... Mom is going out

And here is how it really went down:
Monday: Wheat Penne With Peas and Homemade Pesto and green salad (PLAN!)
Tuesday: Taco Night!
Wednesday: Greek Peasant Salad and Baguettes
Thursday: Mac and cheese (with peas and tuna)
Friday: Matt's parents are coming in, so we're all going out for dinner

See? I stuck to our plan ONE NIGHT. And now I have a bag of kale, squash, and mixed greens that will most likely go bad. It's wasteful and frustrating, but I did the best I could to get by. I made things that sounded good and made my life easier. It's hard to guess what you'll be hungry for in four days... So, there's give and take with meal planning, like everything else.

I hear from people that they don't make meal plans because they're just too hard to stick to, which isn't wrong. Maybe sticking to meal plans isn't the point. The point is creating one, ensuring your family enjoys healthy meals together, and trying not to waste too many fresh items by the end of the week.


Lessons From The Dailey Method

I've been going to classes at The Dailey Method for the last few weeks. It's been really great for me. Not only has it given me time for myself, but it's also been a good reminder that pregnant ladies need to get their exercise on.

Here are five things I've learned from working out at The Dailey Method:

1. The Dailey Method (like so many other types of exercise) is a practice... You have to work at it, sometimes you're just a mess and other days you're in the zone. There are hundreds of things that affect you each day, so don't stress if you're not "on." Practicing is a step in the right direction.

2. You look and feel better when you're working out in nice gym clothes. Yes, lululemon and Lucy and Athletica might be a little expensive, but worth getting some good basics. You're going to watch yourself in a mirror, splurge a little and feel good about what you see.

3. Little movements make big differences. Just go to a class and you'll understand.

4. Pregnant women can work out and will feel better if they do. Yeah, sometimes you have to modify an exercise or stop for water more often... But, all in all, even a tough work out - like The Dailey Method - is doable.

5. Mom needs some time. The women who own this location are moms, most of the teachers have been moms. They get it. Remember the failed attempt at keeping the boy's in the kid's room? No one judged me for leaving my kids in there in the first place... Instead, they apologized that I wasn't able to use the hour of time I had carved out for myself. I knew they understood.

I've loved these classes. Loved clearing my head, feeling good afterward, and feeling strong. So, moms, whether it's The Dailey Method or something else, find your outlet.

Full disclosure: I received an unlimited month of classes at The Dailey Method North Shore location. All opinions are my own.


Our Meal Plan

I can't tell you how much easier the week goes when I make a plan for our dinners. Even if I don't follow it completely (which I often don't), it still makes me feel prepared and always have something to fall back on.

Here's what we're cooking this week:

Monday: Wheat Penne With Peas and Homemade Pesto (yum!) and green salad
Tuesday: Paprika Chicken with Rice and Pattypan Squash
Wednesday: Royal Pies from Pleasant House Bakery and green salad
Thursday: Something with kale (cuz I have a big bag of it...)
Friday: Pizza for the guys... Mom is going out

What are your dinner plans this week?

The Farmtastic Food Trek

I really don't like grocery shopping. OK, let me clarify this... I have grown to dislike grocery shopping in big chain grocery stores. Why? The produce is often not local (though this is getting better) and their organic selection tends to be disappointing and overpriced. It's also hard to grocery shop with kids and the stores are seemingly overrun with food marketed to children, yet terrible for them.

I tend to shop at smaller stores, farmer's markets, Whole Foods, and order from services like Artizone, but sometimes I just have to go to the grocery store with the kids. If you're like me and tend to struggle with your visits, I might have just the activity to help...

Illinois Farm Families is hosting the Farmtastic Food Trek now until September 30th. It's a really great way to teach your kids where their food is coming from, turn grocery shopping into a game, and have fun at the grocery store.

Here's how it works: Farmers provide clues on www.WatchUsGrow.org that lead to the food they raise. Families then use those 15 clues to find that food at local grocery stores. Once you identify the food referenced in the clues, use Instagram™ to take pictures of your kids holding the products and add the hashtag #foodtrek in the photo comment.
Go to www.WatchUsGrow.org and use the Farmtastic Food Trek button on the homepage, which will link you to the clues, instructions on how to play, as well as the complete contest rules.

To win, you must upload five accurate photos using the hashtag #foodtrek. Three random winners will be chosen. Check the website for all of the details. The winners will receive: A gift certificate for $500 in free groceries, a family farm tour, and farm games and toys!

Sounds fun, right? The clues are fun and aren't too difficult. Can't wait to start participating the next time we're at the grocery store! I'll share some photos on here so you can see our findings!

Full disclosure: I was compensated for partnering with Illinois Farm Families on this campaign. All opinions are my own.


My Stonyfield Superhero Alter Ego: The Delightful Yogurt

Making banana bread... Secret ingredient? Greek yogurt!

Superheroes are all the rage around our house these days. A certain preschooler is slightly obsessed with them and his little brother follows suit, lifting up any figure he can get his hands on and making it fly through the air as he makes sounds effects. I don't know much about superheroes, but I'm learning a ton and they're actually pretty fun.

Stonyfield is giving moms like me the opportunity to transform ourselves into Food Superheroes. Who am I? The Delightful Yogurt, which is perfect considering I eat yogurt pretty much every day and let's face it... I'm delightful, right?!?!

You can choose your name, your superpower, and your favorite Stonyfield food. Visit www.iWillKnowMyFood.com to make your own persona. Trust me, it's fun! And then come back and tell me what your superhero alter ego is in the comment section. Why?

Because I'm giving away a $50 Whole Foods gift certificate, a Stonyfield "Food Superhero" cape, a coupon for a free 6 oz Stonyfield yogurt, and some temporary tattoos:

Here's how to enter:

1. Comment on this post and share the name of your Food Superhero alter ego. 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.) Click on the "Join this Site" button.

3. Like the 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 Stonyfield Food Superhero Package including a Whole Foods gift certificate at www.hannemaniacs.com.

Please let me know which of the above actions you have done to be counted.

As always, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Friday, August 31st. Enter now!

Disclosure: I received a $50 Whole Foods certificate, Food Superhero cape, Stonyfield yogurt coupon, and temporary tattoos and another package to give away to a reader. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 33 Recycled Wire Hangers

Good Deed: Saved box of wire hangers from the landfill.

I don't reuse the wire hangers we get from the dry cleaner, but I feel terrible throwing them away to sit in a landfill forever, so I've been collecting them for a while. I wasn't sure what I would do with them, but I knew that I'd figure it out.

Three years later and I decided to ask my dry cleaner if they would like them, which they did. So, the next time I brought in clothes, I also carried in a box of hangers. And guess what? They were actually really appreciative.

I figure this counts as a good deed for the environment and my dry cleaner, which is a family owned business with a husband and wife who work 12+ hours/six days a week. If this saved them a few pennies, then I'm happy to keep doing it.

Trust me, it would be much easier to just throw the hangers away, but I'm glad I didn't.

What was your good deed this week?


Howie Is Sick, But It's All About Me

Remember our dog, Howie? Yeah, we have a dog. A dog that has dropped far to the bottom of the list. I've written about Howie on occasion. Not enough, clearly. Howie just isn't my thing anymore. He is Matt's responsibility and that's how it should be, because my plate is overflowing. And sometimes I get a little resentful when he gets in the way. Clearly I am not the poster dog parent these days.
The other day I was working from home and on a call when I started to smell... something. I thought to myself, "No way. This dog never has accidents." I investigated and found the source. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that clean up was not pretty and it was in the worst possible location in the house... The only room with carpeting and right in the middle of where the kids play.

I considered that he might be sick for a split second and then decided that it was must be a behavior thing... And by behavior I mean: he was punishing me personally. I kept him outside for the rest of the day and grumbled to myself about how mad I was, but thankful that I was working from home and the kids weren't here when I found it. I have no idea how our nanny would have handled it had she been here.

The next morning I'm sleeping until I hear Matt come into the bedroom, "Howie did it again. How should I clean this up?" It wasn't even 6 am yet. Good morning!

Anger launched me out of bed and I told him I would take care of it. Scrubbing dog poop out of your carpet is not something I would recommend while seven months pregnant and/or before coffee. I became convinced it was behavioral. Matt had taken Howie out at 3 am and then again before he got in the shower and Howie struck again. Matt's manager and his assistant were out last week, so working from home wasn't an option for him, which meant I had to work from home and continue with Howie duty.

I turned to the vet (who now thinks I'm totally crazy). I described what was going on to her and her response was: colitis. Here is a picture of our conversation:

Me: "Are you sure? Because I kind of think it's behavioral."

Vet: "No, this doesn't seem behavioral. It can be stress-induced, though."

Me: "Yeah, but, he's given every opportunity to go out and he only does it when I'm home."

Vet: "I think it's an urgency issue and you just happen to be home at the wrong times."

Me: "OK, but, he's choosing to do it in the middle of the kid's play area. I feel like he's choosing the worst possible place on purpose."

Vet: "How about we try some treatment and see how it goes. If this continues we can talk more about it."

Me: "So, you're sure this isn't behavioral? It just feels really personal. I mean, he is fine otherwise."

I think the vet wanted to scream: "Hey lady, this isn't about YOU!" But she remained patient and let me get all neurotic and crazy.

And she was right. Now that Howie has been on special food and is taking medication, he's much better and it's clear the poor dog has colitis. Yeah, I'm pretty much a monster. But, here's the thing: My plate is full. I have two kids under three and am almost seven months pregnant. I work full time, have spent the greater part of the last month working on our house each night, just hired a new nanny...  Right now anything that doesn't go according to plan or is an additional thing for me to deal with is beyond what I can handle without it feeling personal.

Sorry, Howie... But, in the back of my mind I still think you were torturing me.


Meal Planning: Bringing It Back With The New Kitchen

Now that our kitchen renovations are done and everyone is focused on back-to-school preparations, I feel like I need to get back into the meal planning swing of things. It makes each week so much easier, so we're jumping back in. Here's my plan for this week:
Monday: Avocado Chicken Salad
Tuesday: Rotisserie Chicken (store bought) with Green Salad and Rice
Wednesday: Broccoli and Cheddar Frittata
Thursday: Chicken Breast with Black Beans & Corn in the Slow Cooker
Friday: Turkey Tacos

What are you eating this week?


Good Deeds 2012: Week 32 Donated Items to Epilepsy Foundation

Good Deed: Donated two bags of clothes, accessories, and toys to Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago.

If an organization calls asking if they can schedule a pick up for a donation of gently used clothes and household items, they will most likely get a "yes." I have some clutter bug tendencies and donating a bag of items has always been a good way of finding things that we don't really need.

Epilespy Founation of Greater Chicago called and I told them I would be happy to make a donation. The morning of the pick up, I packed up a skirt and a dress shirt of mine, t-shirts that were handed down to W and don't fit in his drawers, five stuffed animals, a few outdated belts, and a couple of books. All of the items were gently used and can be sold in their thrift store to support families impacted by epilepsy in the Chicago area.

The best part? I filled the bag, put it out before I left for work, and it was picked up before I returned home from work. Easy as can be. Learn how you can make donation here.


New Nanny, Frustrating Reference

After kind of freaking when our nanny quit last month, I switched gears and put a ton of time into trying to find a replacement. I interviewed seven candidates and instantly felt comfortable with the woman I chose. She is warm, sweet, trusting, smart, and her references were really solid.

So, now we have Nanny C working with us. The transition has been more difficult that I anticipated. W is pushing limits. He isn't listening well and I've caught him taking a surprising tone with her. I know he'll get more comfortable with her in time, but it's hard to see him act this way. It's hard to go to work and just hope he listens. I'm just not feeling confident.

Maybe it has something to do with on a comment that one of her references made that is eating at me... In response to a question I asked about thoughts on Nanny C's ability to take a 4 year old, 18 month old, and infant to a park, the reference responded with something like this: "I think that would be difficult for anyone. Are you sure you're comfortable with someone else doing that with your kids?"

My response was something like: "Well, I don't think I have a choice but to trust someone."

This conversation has played over and over again in my head... It felt judgmental, because really it was none of her business. She wasn't answering my question about Nanny C's capabilities, she was questioning my choices. The whole situation struck me a as strange. I chalked it up to the fact that she was a new mother of a 15 month old and was still getting comfortable having other people watch her son.

Then Nanny C mentioned to me that the other mother she works with (who happened to be said reference) doesn't work. And it pissed me off. Because, seriously, this woman has no idea what I'm facing in hiring a nanny for my (soon-to-be) three children. Her reasons for having a nanny and my reasons are very different. Working moms question their decisions enough, as does everyone else.

A word of advice if you are ever a reference check for a nanny: The referral is for the specific candidate, not whether you think they should hire a nanny or not.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 31 Humanity Helping Sudan

Good Deed: Voted for Humanity Helping Sudan for the VH1 $100,000 Do Something Award.

I received this from my sister-in-law in Richmond, so am pulling her words directly (thanks, Kim!)...

At age 3, Manyang became a refugee of the Sudanese Civil War. For 13 years he lived in refugee camps for Lost Boys, where homelessness, hunger, fear, and abuse were part of his everyday life. At age 17, Catholic Charities brought Manyang to Richmond where he learned English, finished high school and began college.
He started Humanity Helping Sudan Project to improve the lives of Sudanese refugees and attempt to battle the problems of an entire displaced population. Humanity Helping Sudan runs on-the-ground programs at refugee camps where they provide fishing nets, agricultural programs, and community gardens, reaching 40,000 displaced people.

Learn More About Humanity Helping Sudan and take a minute to vote for Manyang Reath for the $100,000 Do Something Award.
What was your good deed this week?


Protecting My Child or My Paranoia?

W is taking swimming lessons at a swim school that I have been very happy with. Everything about it seems just right. The classes are small, the teachers are enthusiastic, there are changing rooms in addition to women's and men's bathrooms with showers... And most of all W is happy there (except for a few off days so far).

We had to do a make up class last week and afterward I was showering him in the women's bathroom. There was another mom showering her son while her daughter was playing with her phone behind us. I suddenly heard the mom say, "No! No taking pictures in here! Do not take pictures of your brother!" and I turned to see her snatch the phone away from her daughter.

I wrapped W in a towel, changed him, and left. But when I got into the car I started to wonder... What photos had that little girl taken? Should I have asked the mom to make sure there wasn't a photo of my son on her phone? Did I do enough to make sure she didn't get a picture of him?

The mom seemed totally normal, but still... It just wasn't sitting well with me the more I thought about it. So, the next time I went to the swim school at my normal time I decided to mention it at the front desk. I asked to talk to a manager. I explained the story and recommended that they consider putting a sign up requesting that people not use cell phones in the shower area. The manager agreed that I was right to be concerned and said he would address it. I felt better, a little bit of an alarmist, but better for having said something. After all, my #1 priority is protecting my children, right? So, if that occasionally makes me seem paranoid, then fine.

It's been two weeks and I have yet to see a sign or any indication that they took my concern seriously. I believe it was a one-time issue and I should let it go, but I feel like I'm one of many parents with little ones who will continue to be overly skeptical when it comes to our children's safety. It's a post-Penn State/Jerry Sandusky world and places that cater to children should take these concerns seriously, right?

So, now what? Do I press it? Do I let it go? What would you do?


Carving Out Time For Myself

Who starts exercising when they're six months pregnant? That would be me! And I'm getting mad that I didn't focus some time on myself six months ago or a year ago or four years ago for that matter. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, right? But, seriously, you forget how good it feels to have time to exercise and focus your brain on your body and actually feel your muscles and be reminded that your body is capable of more than having kids and then serving as their stomping ground. I mean, that's all pretty amazing, but pushing yourself and then feeling sore muscles for a few days is a good reminder that our bodies have a lot more going on...

My exercise routine for the last four years has been terrible. I have relied on our treadmill or workouts on video. While it's better than nothing, I rarely make it through them, because there are two little people who know what I'm up to and it's hard to not hear them or for the timing of their nap to work out just right. It's annoying and is why I maintain that the only way I will ever be able to get back in shape will be to exercise outside of my house.

I've stuck with my classes at The Dailey Method. I've left the boys at home and found time for classes twice this week (woo hoo!). It's a really good hour for myself. It's not easy. There is a lot of shuffling that goes into finding time between having a full time job and two kids and the things that life continues to throw at you. You never think it will be that hard to find time for yourself until it is and then having time for yourself becomes a distant memory. In this case it's a far, far memory.

I might as well stick with it while I can... Because some October it won't get any easier.

Disclosure: I received a one-month unlimited package to The Dailey Method Kenilworth. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 30 MyMaryCate.org

Good Deed: Sharing information to further awareness and help fundraising for www.MyMaryCate.org.

It doesn't feel like it very often, but there is some power in having a blog. We bloggers have the power to share information, whether with five people or 10,000 people, our words can help spread information.

I was contacted about a local family and an opportunity to support them and their baby girl.

Their story:
Local Chicago mom, Kerry Lynch welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Mary Cate on December 8, 2011 and soon realized something was wrong – baby Mary Cate was the 1 child in 160,000-200,000 to be born with Apert Syndrome. This craniofacial condition causes issues in the development of the brain and skull, hands, and feet. Mary Cate has recently undergone her first of very many surgeries that she will need in her lifetime.  Kerry has started a blog to share her journey with readers.

How You Can Help:
To help support the financial struggle the family will inevitably face, a special needs trust fund has been set up in Mary Cate’s name.  Local maternity store, Belle Up has created special “Team MC” hairbows that the boutique is selling and will donate 50% of the net sales to Mary Cate’s special needs trust. 

In addition, on August 18th, from 1-6 p.m., the My Mary Cate Benefit will be held to help offset the medical and therapy costs for Mary Cate.  All money raised will be donated to the My Mary Cate trust fund.  For more information on the benefit, to donate money, or to purchase a ticket, please visit: http://www.mymarycate.org/#!benefit

When you hear about another family struggling with the health of their child things come into perspective and you hug your kids a little tighter. Maybe consider a way you can help them, too?


The Dailey Method: My Kids Hijacked My Workout

Have you tried The Dailey Method? It's a pretty kick ass work out. I was taking classes for a while when they first opened their North Shore location and then life got in the way and I stopped carving that time out for myself. So, I'm giving it another go.

I scheduled a visit. I signed the boys up for their children's room, because it looks really fun, clean, and W loves new toys. I figured B would follow his brother's lead and it would be fun for both of them.

Excited may not even begin to tell you how I was feeling... This is the first time I have carved out time for myself to work out in a long, long time. And I knew I was in for a really good work out. The staff was terrific, assured me it was a great exercise for pregnant ladies, and were sweet with the boys. I brought them into the play room and they seemed ok. I stepped out and thought I heard some crying. I figured it was B, but that it would subside over time.

The class started. I was just getting into it, feeling good... Until a staff member stepped in and gave me an apologetic wave. "I'm sorry, but they're both really upset and it's not getting any better."

"Both of them?!?" I asked.

"Yes, I think W is upset because B is so upset."

I looked into the room and there were my two boys sobbing and snotty and totally inconsolable. So, I walked in, sat on the ground, and they pounced. I calmed them down, but there was still plenty of jagged breathing as W explained that B needed me and I should stay in there for B. Uh huh.

The woman explained to me that B got really upset when I left, but W was too consumed with the toys to notice, but then he started to get scared as B continued to cry harder and longer... And pretty soon both of them were a mess. She apologized that she wasn't able to fix it and they had to come get me, knowing that it was my limited time for myself. I can't tell you how much I wanted to give her a hug. The fact that she got that instead of assuming I was just dropping them in her lap made me want to kiss her.

I sat with the boys for a while, trying to distance myself to gauge whether there would be an opportunity for me to slip out, but they were onto me. It wasn't happening. Before I knew it, the hour was coming to an end. We'd read a few books, they showed me some cool trucks, I enjoyed a nice conversation with the woman in the kid's room (and kept myself from any of the hugging or kissing that I wanted to share with her), and then I decided it was time to go. I scooped up the boys and we headed home as the class was letting out.

I didn't mind. It was their first drop off experience like this. I never even stopped to think that there would be an issue. That was my fault. B is a mama's boy. He doesn't like when I leave him to go to the next room in our house, let alone in a strange room. W would have been fine, but he is very introspective and emotional, so probably started to freak himself out because of B.

Ok, so I was bummed I only got 15 minutes of class time in, but it's better than nothing! I've already scheduled my next class, but I didn't schedule child care this time. If I do that again it will be for W only and for now I'm going to make it my time in every way I can.

Disclosure: I received a one-month unlimited package to The Dailey Method Kenilworth. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 29 Don't Let Big Plastic Bully Me

Good Deed: Signed petition to Illinois Governor Quinn to veto a bill that would not allow cities in Illinois to create plastic bag bans.

I'm so tired of seeing plastic bags stuck to fences, floating in the lake, blowing down the street, and I'm also tired of hearing about how bad they are for our environment. I try really, really hard not to use them. I'm not always perfect. I often forget my reusable bags, but I always choose paper when I do. But it would not affect my life if they were banned and I think that the damage they cause to the environment and water outweighs their convenience.

A 12 year-old named Abby started this petition as part of her school project to get a local ban on plastic bags. Enter big lobbyists and you can guess how the rest of the story goes. I like kids who are trying to make a difference and it's a pleasure to support their (good) efforts. If you agree, sign the bill.

What was your good deed this week?


We're Sleeping In Separate Rooms

It's been two weeks since Matt and I have slept in the same room. Normally that might be concerning for a married couple and - trust me - I'm concerned... Just not in that way. We've been staying with my parents while our kitchen is being renovated. I'm concerned we will never go home.
What we thought would be a four or five day stay has turned into WEEKS. Since the boys each have their own bed times and routines, they sleep in separate rooms while we're at my parents. Matt sleeps in the room with W and I sleep in the room with B. If you have ever had to share a bed with a three year old before you know it does not make for a restful night, so I feel like I'm actually getting a good deal here.

We see each other for an hour in the morning while we're running around to get ourselves and the boys ready. Matt goes directly to our house after work to refinish our cabinets and usually returns around midnight. I can't help with any of this because of the whole being pregnant thing, but I feel obligated to wait up for Matt and my mom (bless her for helping us!) who wearily walk in and update me on their progress. We talk for about 15 minutes and then say good night. We each go into a room where one of our boys already sleeps, close the door, and will wake up to start it again the next morning.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's been a long, exhausting, and somehow kind of lonely tunnel. I'm ready to get back to our routine of me complaining that he's too loud for me to sleep and him complaining that I move around too much.


My Magic Big Brother Moment

A big thanks to Disney Baby for sponsoring this post and the Disney Baby “Little Character” Contest!

Parenthood includes an incredible amount of "a-ha" moments. One of my favorite moments was when I caught W singing to his new baby brother who was hanging out in his swing. I could hear him softly and sweetly singing a made up song: "You're so cute, Look at those little feet. I love you. You're my brother. What a sweet baby."

I walked into the living room, sat down next to him and rubbed his back, getting ready to tell him how proud I was of him, that he was such a wonderful older brother... Until he finished his song with "I don't love you. Go away" followed by a sideways smile as he glanced to see my reaction.

I laughed, realizing my attention-loving son was figuring out how to be a big brother while still keeping the spotlight on him and using his incredible sense of humor to do so. Little did I know this would be the moment that seems to best define their relationship still. My boys are sweet together. There is so much love there, but W always looks for his next opportunity to get a laugh and maintains an air that he is being a little put out by this new kid.

When you're preparing to add a sibling to your family, it's impossible to comprehend that you'll love the next one as much or share your attention and affection. You can imagine that your children will love each other and develop a great relationship, but it doesn't seem real until you're faced with it. That was the first moment that I experienced what it was like to be the mother of siblings. And I'll never forget it.

That's one of those things that I love... When you think back on life moments it's often the small moments that become the most memorable. I remember building up the moment that W would walk into the hospital to meet his baby brother. I had this fantasy of how it was going to go, but it was hardly memorable. W was more interested in the "Big Brother Gift" we had for him and seemed overwhelmed and confused. It wasn't until we'd been home for a few days, things quieted down, and we started to settle in that real moments were possible.

What is your magic moment as a mom of an infant?  Share your magic moments and vote for your favorite sweet baby in the “Disney Baby ‘Little Character’ Contest.” Proud parents shared photos of their babies for a chance to win $10,000 toward their baby's future education, so help them out with a vote! Voters will be also eligible for a chance to win the Voter’s Sweepstakes, a Beach Vacation at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. Voting closes this week, but you can vote every day to increase your chances of winning!

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 28 Found a Dollar, Shared a Dollar

Good Deed: Found a dollar on the ground and shared it with a homeless person.

I don't have good luck when it comes to money or winning anything... I can't recall a time when I've found money on the ground. I don't win raffles. I've won one blogging giveaway (and never received the package!?!). I've bought Lotto tickets once and obviously did not win (or else this would be a very different blog). I certainly don't gamble, because I know I would just be wasting my money.

So, imagine my surprise when I found a dollar on the floor of the train during a morning commute this week... And since it wasn't my dollar to begin with, I carried it out of the train station and placed it into the cup of a homeless woman. It felt like that dollar was in the right place.

What was your good deed this week?


My Protect-A-Bed Summer Sleep Thoughts and A Giveaway

We don't get a ton of sleep around here. Matt has always been an early riser and our kids have followed in dad's footsteps. We usually start the day by 6 am, sometimes closer to 5 am. And while our kids observe their early bedtimes, Matt and I try to get in a little time to get stuff done or hang out together or just veg in front of the tv and get about six hours of sleep. It's not terrible, but it would be nice to get more.
Sometimes as a parent you stress so much about making sure everything is perfect for your kids, you forget about your health and needs. We make sure the kids have new mattresses, allergen-free pillows, cozy pajamas, safe bedding, sound machines, and a comfortable room in every way. Sometimes we forget about those upgrades for ourselves. I just bought us new bedding last year, which replaced sheets and a duvet cover we'd been using since we were dating. I splurged at Target and bought some new soft pj's for the first time in years and it felt really good. With the basics covered, I realized my next step: protecting our bed.

When W moved into his big boy bed we purchased a Protect-A-Bed mattress protector, which has proved to be totally waterproof annd comfortable. But, Matt and I are still sleeping on an old, quilted mattress protector. With a kid sometimes creeping in our bed, Matt's allergies, and the male ability to get crazy hot (and let's face it) sweaty at night, it was time for a change. So, when Protect-A-Bed offered me a Luxury Mattress Protector I jumped on it. And we've been comfortably using it since. I'm feeling good about our sleeping arrangement, but we're not always sleeping at home.

In the summer months we do a lot more bed hopping and spend some time at my family's lake house in Michigan, which was purchased by my grandparents in the later 60's. Countless people have slept in the 13 beds and laid their heads on the pillows.

Now consider this: According to Protect-A-Bed, dust mites are impossible to see and live in mattresses and pillows, living on human skin cells, and thriving in hot and humid conditions (like, for instance, a lake house in the midwest). Female dust mites produce one to three eggs per day within their 30 to 90 day lifespan. Despite their tiny size, they create 10-20 waste particles a day, each containing a protein known to cause allergies and asthma.

Now the thought of these mattresses full of dust mites is kind of gross, but not gross enough to keep me from sleeping on them. What freaks me out is the thought of W and his issues with asthma sleeping on them. What's our plan? We're bringing our mattress covers along when we go to Michigan at the end of the month.

What's your plan to ensure your family enjoys safe, healthy sleep this summer? Leave a comment here and you'll be entered in a giveaway for a Protect-A-Bed Luxury Mattress Protector. They're not only perfect for families with allergies, but they're even better for families with little kids and need a soft waterproof mattress cover. Not the plastic ones we used to have to sleep on that made noise every time we moved. Remember those? Yuck.

Here's how to enter:

1. Comment on this post and share your summer sleeping secrets. 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.) Click on the "Join this Site" button.

3. Like the 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 Protect-A-Bed Luxury Mattress Protector at  www.hannemaniacs.com

Please let me know which of the above actions you have done to be counted.

As always, that's SIX possible entries per person. Contest ends at 9 am Friday, July 20th. Enter now!

Disclosure: I received one complimentary Luxury Mattress Protector and one to give away to a reader. All opinions are my own.

Good Deeds 2012: Week 27 Hunger Avengers

Good Deed: Downloaded Hunger Avengers Activity Booklet and ConAgra Foods donated a meal to Feeding America.

It is often hard to remember the level of need in our country, especially the staggering number of children who are hungry. After spending nearly a week with Matt's family doing lots of eating and often scraping unfinished food into the garbage, I read a blog post by Tracey from Just Another Mommy Blog. And it was a humbling reminder of hunger in our country and a great opportunity she had to participate in making a difference. Go ahead and read it and then download this booklet.

With W's current Avengers obsession and my goal to make sure he is aware of what he puts in his mouth and appreciates his full plate of food at every meal. So, go ahead and download the booklet and someone will get a meal.

What was your good deed this week?


A Working Mom's Worst Nightmare: When Your Beloved Nanny Quits

Three kids seems to be the magic number that makes people get all serious and ask: "What are you going to do?" They seem to look at our life (two parents working full-time and three kids under four) and figure it isn't sustainable or sane.

Up until last week I would look right back at everyone and say, "We'll be fine!"

Then our nanny quit. And now I just don't know.

I haven't written a ton about Nanny K on here. She is amazing and perfect and in the almost year she has been with us I completely fell in love with her and the relationship she developed with my kids. She never once turned on the tv, enforced boundaries, taught W to put on his own shoes, took the boys to museums and the zoo, keeps her cell phone in her purse, makes sure the kids have hats on, packs lunches and finds free parking even when I give her cash... She is everything I never knew I wanted in a nanny. And now she's leaving us. I'm happy for her, because she has a job that she worked really hard to secure, but I'm devastated for us.

When she told us I started crying. My hormones are totally out of control thanks to pregnancy and I hadn't even prepared myself for the possibility that we could lose her before 2013. But, here we are... Starting a search to replace an irreplaceable nanny in just over a week. After she told us last week I sat on the train all teary-eyed and pregnant and starting reaching out to my network. I started to feel confident that I would quickly find someone just as wonderful. Yes, my well-meaning Twitter pals and their positive vibes really made me believe everything would be fine, but my enthusiasm is melting.

I've set up a number of interviews and already met one candidate (big NO) and had another cancel on me. It was when I made my list of interview questions that I realized we are going to have to find someone really, really, extraordinary. This was the question that freaked me out: You'll have to take our oldest to preschool every morning. How will you manage this with a 4 year old, 20 month old, and an infant?

Who is going to be able to do this and - beyond that - who can give me an answer that will convince me that they can handle this? Because I'm having trouble figuring out how it's going to work.

This is the absolute worst part of being a working mom. I know we'll work it out deep down inside. But, in the mean time, I'm kinda freaking out.


Happy 4th of July!

This year 4th of July was kind of a weird holiday. To begin with, it fell on a Wednesday, which was just wrong. We went to Wisconsin to spend time with Matt's family from Saturday until Wednesday, but came home on the 4th since both of us have to work on Thursday and Friday. Traveling coupled with our kitchen being torn apart (yes, we are finally redoing our kitchen!) and this crazy heat wave just made the 4th feel weird and not so festive. In fact, I was pretty much ready to scrap the whole thing and just call it a regular Wednesday.

But we decided to do something low key instead. My sister, bro-in-law, and adorable nephew met us at my parents' house who weren't home (the mature version of the kegger). We had dinner and then most of the party walked down the street to the local fireworks display. I willingly stayed back as B was sleeping and a little quiet time out of the heat sounded really good to me.

I know sometimes we run around like crazy, pile too much on our plates, and need to learn to relax more often. This just wasn't the day. After all, often when things don't sound great to mom and dad it means they're going to be really great for the kids and is worth the rally:

"I loved the red one because it made the whole sky turn red!"
W's first glow stick, which he insisted on bringing to bed.


Good Deeds 2012: Week 26 Donate Life America

Good Deed: Registered as an organ, eye, and tissue donor through Donate Life America.

It took me about one minute. All I had to do was enter my driver's license number and address and now I am one of the six million adults in Illinois registered to possibly save lives. I've always been a donor on my driver's license and told everyone my wishes, but I figured this was the final step in making it official.

My uncle who was killed in an accident last year was a donor and knowing that his death made a difference to so many lives was the one comfort I could take from knowing he was killed.

Consider this: According to Donate Life America, there are more than 114,000 people nationwide waiting for lifesaving transplants, including more than 5,000 men, women, and children in Illinois. Isn't that reason enough to register?

What was your good deed this week?