Plucked From The Healthy World Together

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Philipp Sendker. The book inspired this post.

"There was the world of the sick and dying and the world of the hale. The healthy and hale did not want to know anything about the sick and the dying. As if they had nothing to do with one another. As if one false step on thin ice, one forgotten candle, were not enough to pluck you from the one world and land you in the other."
-Excerpt from "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats' by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Eleven years ago my grandmother died of cancer. It was rather aggressive and fast. She was in her early 70's and we all felt robbed and heartbroken to witness what we knew were her final days. I'm the oldest of sixteen cousins, so always felt lucky that I had the most time with her and would most likely have the best memories, but it still felt terrible to lose her.

As the cancer was taking over and it was clear her days were numbered, my grandfather had a massive stroke. The kind of stroke you aren't supposed to survive. They were in bed sleeping and my grandmother was in too much pain, too weak to quickly get to the phone. It must have been an incredible struggle for her to call for help. That was the last day that Grandma was really lucid and she was admitted to the hospital for hospice care immediately.

Grandma & Grandpa on their wedding day.
Grandpa was in bad shape in the ICU of another hospital. As we upped Grandma's morphine to keep her comfortable, we willed Grandpa to hang in there. Family went from one hospital to the other. Grandma's time was limited, but Grandpa needed to say good bye. Our family and the hospitals managed to allow them a final moment together. Grandpa was transported on a stretcher by ambulance to her hospital. They wheeled him in as she lay unconscious in her bed. He couldn't speak well and his left side was paralyzed. But, we all believe that they were able to say good bye.

She died soon after and my Grandpa was transported to the funeral via ambulance a few days later, able to sit up in a wheelchair. It was heartbreaking. It was tragic. People wandered around the funeral, looking at us with pity. My grandparents were healthy. They were high school sweethearts. It was not their time.

Luckily they created a family that survives through humor, so we found a way to laugh about it. The absurdity of it all. We created humor where most would have found none and ways to make sense of it instead of just crying our eyes out. It was decided that Grandpa never could have survived life without Grandma if he was capable and healthy. They had to cross from the healthy world together.

Today my Grandpa is still alive, trapped in a body terribly damaged by his stroke and in need of round-the-clock nursing care. He married a lovely woman he met in the nursing home, who is a considerate and watchful companion and lost her husband around the same time Grandma died. He found another person to love for the rest of the time he's with us, but he has a plot waiting for him right next to Grandma.

When Julia travels to Burma to search for her missing lawyer father, she discovers much more than she expected. Join From Left to Write on February 1 as we discuss The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


Today I Stayed Home & In The Moment

We didn't have child care today, so I stayed home from work. I made a decision when I was in the shower this morning to try to spend the day focusing on the boys and cut out the noise that usually overwhelms my day.

It was nothing special. I dropped W off at preschool and then went to a meeting with other moms for the preschool's "fun-raiser." I picked him up, brought them home for lunch, played, walked to the park, played more, made dinner, and hung out. I didn't worry about laundry. I checked my email a few times and took one call for work, but otherwise I tried to live in the moment. I didn't check Facebook or Twitter all day. Honestly, I forgot about them. I didn't read a blog or the news. I realized that my cell phone was in the other room for a good 4 hours before I went hunting for it.

I lived in the moment with the two of them and just enjoyed a normal day. I don't ever do this. If I stay home I usually plan a play date or take W out for lunch or run a million errands. I never have a day close to what I did today. I got on the floor and played with them without running out to check on something. I always have something to check or get done really quickly. Always. I didn't check my phone or feel like I was wasting valuable that could have been spent crossing things off my to-do list.

I'm not saying you have to stay home with your kids, but that's what worked for me today. And I knew it made a difference for them, too. For the first time ever, W turned to B and said: "She's MY mommy." Apparently, I became worth fighting over. I'm not encouraging jealous behavior, but I'd be lying if it didn't make me smile.


Meal Planning: Week 5 Thanks to Artizone

Boxes full of goodness...
I ordered groceries for the first time ever and I think I'm in love. Chicago has a great new grocery delivery service called Artizone. They deliver fresh food from specialty, independent, locally owned shops to your door. I was super excited to get my first delivery on Friday night (right on time and a nice delivery man!), which had lots of good stuff for our meals this week:

Monday: Roasted vegetables and amish chicken
Tuesday: Pasta with shrimp, shallots, and lemon
Wednesday: Crock Pot Pork Tenderloin and butternut squash risotto
Thursday: Wild mushroom pappardelle and a salad
Friday: Dinner out for my birthday!

We also ordered some salmon, which I made on Saturday and was possibly the best salmon we've ever had. Also, we have come Cowda cheese in the fridge just waiting for us...

Have you ever had your groceries delivered? It's pretty amazing and I'd recommend trying it. Artizone is offering free delivery until February 15th, so you might want to give it a whirl. I still had to go grocery shopping today to fill in the pantry and some staples, but I'm a firm believer that fresh, finer ingredients are worth the extra money and I continue to be disappointed in what I find at any chain grocery stores in my area. Ordering through Artizone saved me some mileage and time this weekend and made my meal plan a ton easier.

Disclosure: I attended the Artizone kick-off party recently where I received a $30 coupon with no obligation. Opinions are my own, as always.


Handmade Thank You Cards by W

Like most kids W loves to color and in the last few months he's really started to actually draw, which is so fun. I like having him create thank you cards, because they're cute and who doesn't love a cute kid drawing for their fridge?!?!

These are W's Christmas thank you cards. I wrote "Thank You" on note cards and then left it up to him, asking what he drew each time... Let's just say I would love to spend a few minutes in this kid's head:

"Dr. Octopus"

"Ironman Fighting A Bad Guy"

"Octopus" (as opposed to his friend Dr. Octopus)

"Oogly Monster"

"Portrait of B"

"Portrait of W"

"Supermans's Car"

"T-Rex Eating a Lemon"
I really love "T-Rex Eating a Lemon" and his self portrait.

Which one is your favorite?


Good Deeds 2012 Week 4: Valentine's Cards For Nursing Home

Good Deed: Made Valentine's Day cards for a local nursing home.

I didn't think of this one on my own, but I love it. Our preschool asked that each kid make cards that will be delivered to a local nursing home for Valentine's Day. Sweet, right?

I love that this is something you can do anytime of year and is a great way to get the kids involved. I tried to explain why we were making the cards, which went something like this:

Me: "Sometimes when people get old they go and live in a place with other old people and people who take care of them."

W: "Am I old?"

Me: "No."

W: "Why do people have to take care of them? Can they go home?"

Me: "Because sometimes old people get sick and that becomes their home. Do you remember seeing Great Grandpa at the place he lives? It's like that."

W: "Do they die?"

Me: (...LONG pause...) "How about we get started on those cards???"

Wow, explaining nursing homes to kids is not easy. And he's been asking about the D-I-E word a lot these days. Thankfully making cards was easy and really fun!

I kept W's interest long enough to make two cards. I'm hoping he'll make a few more with me before the week is over.

What was your good deed this week? Link it up here or leave a comment!


I'm a Kidgrade Ambassador!

When you have kids your eating-out habits are going to change. It's inevitable. For us, it means we  don't eat out as often. And, when we do, we find ourselves at different restaurants than we used to go to and are looking for the best possible place for us to have a good meal and feel comfortable with our kids.

Some restaurants just aren't kid-friendly, which is OK. Maybe they're missing a changing table or only have one high chair. Or maybe they're just complete jerks about the fact that you have kids. Or the food takes fooooorrrreeeevvveeeerrrr and the kids menu is gross and overpriced. All of those things can ruin an experience with kids. We learned early on that when dining out with kids you're looking for good food, an environment accepting of your kids, timely food service, friendly servers, and clean changing tables and high chairs.

To make that easier we have Kidgrade, a site created to help families navigate the places that are worth your time and those that just aren't. It helps take trial and error out of the rare opportunities to go out for dinner.

We've learned a lot of by our own trial and error. I've changed diapers in very creative places and enjoyed my meal with a kid on my lap. We've been the only family in a too-quiet restaurant or waited beyond tantrum time for our food. And every time it sucked.

Matt once commented that it would be awesome if there was a website that rated places for families to help make going out easier. What if parents could find the best fit for them before going out to dinner instead of finding out the hard way? So, imagine how happy I was to find the site already existed and - even better - I get to partner with it!

Check out Kidgrade! Be sure to submit your favorite spots or check the rating before the next time you head out!


On Not Telling My Sister How To Be A Mom

My sister had a baby boy a few months ago. I've been thinking and thinking about how to post about this. Over thinking it, clearly. But, it's hard to explain the experience of seeing your sister have a baby for the first time.

I'm used to being the one with the babies. Waiting while she was in labor was agonizing. We spent a long day at the hospital and at one point my other sister looked at me and said, "This is your first time doing this, isn't it?!?!" Everyone else had played the waiting room game twice while I was the one on the other side of the doors. It was strange to be the one waiting to meet our new little family member.

Up until now I've been the mom and my sisters have been the aunts. And they're truly amazing aunts. They love my kids like no other. I have often wondered how they love them so much. I'm serious. I see how generous they are with their time and gifts and hugs and affection and wonder how you do that for a kid when they're not yours.

But, now I get it. I see how amazing it is to see your sibling become a parent and have an adorable little guy in your life who isn't yours, but feels pretty close to it. And now I know how hard it is not to tell my sister how to be a parent. I'm the older sister. I've always told her what to do, that's just how it goes.

When she calls to ask about sleeping or feeding or going back to work or anything like that I tend to start telling her what she should do. But, that's not my job. My job is to talk it over, listen, give her ideas, and let her know that being a mom is often difficult, nothing works for everyone, and it gets easier.

This weekend we were talking about Baby C's erratic sleep schedule. Some of my ideas don't work with how she wants to parent, but I didn't stop trying to convince her that she should do it my way. I hung up and Matt told me this: "You cannot tell her what to do. She's not your little sister anymore, she's a mom and you have to let her do it her way. She'll figure it out." And he was right. This is the first time I get to sit back and watch her make her own decisions and know that it will all work in the end. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy being an aunt and watching her figure it all out.


Trust Me, You'll Love Baby #2 Just As Much As #1

Almost everyone I know thinking about having Baby #2 has the same thought: There is NO WAY I will love Baby #2 quite as much.

I thought this too. Actually, I was POSITIVE that there was no way that any baby could ever compete with my love for W. I was really nervous that I wouldn't have enough love for both of them or that I'd always favor W. And then B was born... And I can say to parents thinking about Baby #2: You're wrong. You're beyond wrong. And so was I.

I never, ever imagined how different and fiercely you can love another child without any hint of competition or change in your love for your first child. It's hard to grasp, but your heart grows and stretches beyond what you imagined possible, as does your capacity to love. It's just one of those crazy parenting things.

When people ask me about B, I usually tell them that he and I are connected in a special way. I mean it. I feel a very strong, emotional connection to him, as if he and I have known each other for a very long time. It's hard to explain and might sound totally crazy, but I can look at him and know we're on the same wavelength. There are moments when I'm positive I know what he's thinking or that we're in on the same joke. And he loves me in the sweetest way. He has been wrapping his arms around my neck and fiercely hugging me for months and just this weekend he grabbed my cheeks and put his lips to mine. I'm convinced it was the first time he kissed me.

We were all having dinner the other night and W started asking when B will be old enough to play with him more. I asked if he remembered life without B and he had to really think about it... and so did I. As each day passes it's getting harder to remember life before B. It's almost as if we were all waiting for him to get here. And it will be the same for your family. I can't promise many things when it comes to parenting, but I can promise that.


Meal Planning: Week 4 and I'm Less Enthused

Seriously, if it were not for posting it on this blog I'd be going into this week totally clueless about our meal plan. Tonight I gave W peanut butter and jelly and Matt and I had sauteed kale. Just could not bring myself to cook. My enthusiasm is disappearing.

Here we go for this week:

Monday: Pepper chicken in the Slow-Cooker and baked sweet potato fries
Tuesday: Baked paprika chicken with brocolini and salad
Wednesday: Slow-cooker pork tenderloin with brocolini and roasted fingerling potatoes
Thursday: Fritatta with turkey bacon, spinach, potatoes, and parmesan
Friday: Roasted curry root vegetables and chicken

So, what are you making this week? Any great, fast, healthy recipes to share?


Call Me A Mom Blogger, But Don't Treat Me Like An Idiot

There are a few perks of blogging... I often get invited to fun events, I get complimentary products to review and sometimes offer to my readers. In turn, a lot of my non-blogging friends comment on the cool stuff I get and how fun it must be. It is fun, but it's also work, just like any other job.

So, while it seems fun and exciting to get all of this complimentary stuff, there are also pitfalls of having the mom blogger label. Like I said, blogging is like another job. A job I am not paid for, but just like any other job, I expect to be treated like an adult and a professional. Calling me a mom blogger is OK with me, though a lot of "mom bloggers" take issue with it. I take issue with the stereotype, not the title.

I'm going to share an interaction that I had with a PR professional last year to give you a taste of the other side of mom blogging. I agreed to REVIEW a product and do a give away. I am blocking out anything that would tell you the name of the product. I am not going to tell you what it was, only that you can take a look at my PR disclaimer and see my reminder to her.

She asked me to include mention of what a great gift I thought the product was and requested more than I was comfortable doing, to which I replied:

Hi "PR Professional,"

Yes, I will link back to your sites. I'll mention the gift stuff, as long as I really believe it. I don't agree to review products that I am not confident that I'll like, but I'm honest.

So, I laid it out clearly, right? A week late I put my post up and sent her the link. Imagine my surprise when I received this email:


Thanks for sending me the link.  I'm a little disappointed that you posted some negative comments.  I don't see how providing you with a free personalized book is going to help my business with this review . :(   The company that made this book has no relationships with a fishing company.  All I have gotten with other Moms have been great reviews on the books I sent them.  I didn't see any mention to our Facebook and Twiter sites - can you pls put that info in.   Sorry this book wasn't a great fit for you family.  I wish I knew about it ahead of time before you posted the review.
Kind regards,
"PR Professional"

Side note: My review was not negative. Basically she is expecting me do something that is totally unethical and I don't believe in, by not including any thoughts that could be read as negative. And she is also acting as if I was hired and my time is worth about $10, which is roughly the value of the product.

My response...

Dear "PR Professional"

I'm surprised you felt this was a negative review. I think that I gave my readers a good review with an overall positive opinion. However I think you need to understand that I never offer positive reviews, only honest ones: http://hannemaniacs.blogspot.com/p/pr.html

Nowhere did I say this wasn't a good fit for our family. I said it has staying power, will work for years, and that our son may have been a little too young to grasp the story and that we weren't into fishing. Had we been given an option of what book would work best, I would have chosen one that
fit, but you never gave me an option.

I'm disappointed that you feel that a blogger should post positive reviews because they receive something for free. I usually receive items that are valued much higher than this and have never received that type of input. If you are looking for someone to "help" your business, you should plan to pay them for it. A book is not payment. I have worked with companies that compensate me in return for partnering with them on a campaign. This was not the case.

I plan to promote the giveaway this week through my Twitter and Facebook pages. Including Twitter and Facebook links were requested, but not part of what I felt was required or works with my post.
There are multiple links to your website within the review.

For what it's worth: I'm really surprised the company doesn't have a relationship with Bass Pro Shops. Their logo was on the jacket and the hat of all the bears on every page of the book and the description of going to the store seemed like an advertisement to me. Telling my readers that I felt it was distracting is my honest opinion. Rather than take that as a negative, I would hope you would value the input from your target audience.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.


In her response she admitted that she did her homework and she was incorrect in telling me that I wrong about a particular item in my post and learned something about working with Mom bloggers, which I can appreciate. But, my job is not to teach her a lesson on being professional. When I am working at the job that actually pays me, I don't experience this treatment.

When I first started blogging there was a lot of animosity between PR companies and mom bloggers. It was a dialogue that I walked into. I didn't really know what earlier mom bloggers had experienced, so I kind of rolled my eyes and figured most of these ladies were being big complainers. It couldn't be that bad, right? (To be honest, I have always had pretty good interactions with PR companies.) For all of you non-bloggers, the issues are of compensation, being treated like a professional, being valued for your partnership, etc. etc. And with the perspective I have now, they were right on, but things have started to change in the last couple of years. Except there are still people out there who don't get it. Like this "PR Professional."

I do reviews and giveaways, because they're usually fun and it means I can offer something to my readers. I like when my friends and family ask about the blog and are interested or excited about the opportunities that come my way, but here's the flip side. And I don't take well to people who treat me like I'm an idiot. Because I'm not. And neither are most of the other moms out there blogging.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 3: DVDs4VETs

Good Deed: Donated DVDs to DVDs4VETs.

I'm finding that unless it is an absolute favorite, something rare, or one of the kid's movies, there is really no need for us to keep DVDs at this point. With Netflix, streaming, Apple TV, On Demand, we don't have to keep DVDs like we used to. And, seriously, when the heck are we supposed to watch most of these movies. Some of them haven't been watched for years.

So, they're now headed to DVDs4VETs, which is an organization that puts DVDs in the hands of vets who most need them. The organization started in 2006 as wounded soldiers were returning from Iraq and required long-term rehabilitation.

DVDs can be mailed to your nearest VA Center or the DVDs4VETS office:
173 Halstead Avenue
Harrison , NY 10528

Take a look through your DVDs and I bet you have plenty that you don't need anymore. If you do decide to donate yours, the least expensive way is to mail them via Media Mail through the US Postal Service.

What was your good deed this week? Link it up here or leave a comment to share!

Note: I am in no way affiliated with DVDs4VETs,nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.dvds4vets.org.


I'm An Extrovert Married To An Introvert

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. This post was inspired by the book.

Growing up my mom and teachers called me "outgoing" and "talkative." My mom always went into my parent/teacher conferences nervous. The outcome was generally this: my teachers couldn't help but like me because I was entertaining, but they had trouble controlling my constant need to communicate with the person next to me. I still have this problem (just ask my co-workers). I like to talk and share the things on my mind. What can I say? I'm an extrovert.
Now I'm an extrovert married to an introvert. I fill our calendars with plans with my large circle of friends. I like to be on the go, busying myself with this and that. I'm an open book (have you noticed?) and love sharing stories. I go, go, go... And Matt is constantly begging me to slow down.

And, as much as I never thought I would admit this, lately I've noticed a change. I've become more picky about what I'm willing to commit to and try to carve out time for us to be at home, rather than constantly running from one thing to another. I'm enjoying quiet time more than I ever thought I could. This extrovert is changing and there are other subtle ways his introvert-ness has rubbed off on me over the years.

I know some of this may come as a surprise to a few of you, but the voice inside of me has quieted a little. I no longer feel the need to have the last word. I'm not nearly as aggressive or willing to argue with someone. I'm not convinced that the louder person wins the argument... And I can credit Matt (plus maturity, therapy, and less drinking than I did in my 20's) with a lot of it. I look at my most outspoken moments and know my reactions would be very different today.

Now, let's be serious... I haven't entirely crossed the line to introvert. I'm still taking on too much, talking all the time, vocally battling the speeders that whiz by my house, and calling out little injustices when I see them. The quiz still defines me as an extrovert (which is not the most favorable personality according to this book). But, I know that the subtle ways I've changed are good.

I learned from the leadership positions that Matt has been voted into (did you know he was chosen to give the commencement speech for his class at grad school? or that he was the president of his fraternity?) that showing a more quiet confidence goes a long way. I remember once my friend Kari commented that Matt was the first person who was able to get me to shut up. And she's right, because I've learned that if we find a happy medium between the two of us, we're the best team possible.

Yes, it's true, there is something to learn from those introverts. And, in turn, my introvert has learned somethings from me. Just ask him.

Are you and extrovert or introvert? Have any extroverts or introverts changed you?

Join From Left to Write on January 19 as we discuss Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. We'll also be chatting live with Susan Cain at 9PM Eastern on January 26. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Wordless Wednesday: How to be the BEST MOM EVER


Dreamers Cling to Hope, Just Ask My Friend Nicki

This is Nicki and me learning all about being kick ass bloggers. Clearly she was paying better attention.
There are many, many reasons to blog. And we all blog for different reasons. I blog for a whole slew of reasons, however connecting with other bloggers was never one of those reasons. It never even crossed my mind. But, then I did connect with other bloggers (and actually have made some wonderful friends). And they continue to remind me of how powerful the online blogging community can really be and how lucky I am to have met some of these creative, smart, and inspiring people.

I met my friend, Nicki (she's a dreamer, who also blogs here), at the Yahoo! Motherboard Summit in July 2010 and I am positive she will be a friend of mine forever. We were both SV Mom bloggers before it went defunct and are From Left to Write Book Club members, so you can say we run in the same blogging circle (if you're a nerd, like me). More important, we just clicked and made each other laugh really hard (and are both super smart and painfully pretty), so of course we had to be friends, right?

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, e-mail chats, social media tools, and our respective blogs, we've stayed up-to-date on each other's lives. I'm thankful for that, because it means that Nicki didn't have to pick up the phone to let me know that her baby girl Kenna was born earlier this week via emergency c-section at a teeny, tiny 9 ounces and 9 inches. I keep looking down at my hands, trying to even imagine holding a baby that small. Try it, it's crazy.

Kenna has totally defied the odds, showing she has her mama's spunk and resilience. I believe in Nicki. I believe she and her little girl will come through this, but my heart aches for her. Nicki blogs because she has to write. It's her outlet. She's blogged honestly about the ups and downs of her life. And she has blogged every day through this difficult week. When life gets tough, I fall off the map. (Notice the complete drop in blog posts after B was born.) I hide. Instead, Nicki has replied to texts, e-mails, Facebook messages, everything... And I do not know how she has does it.

Nicki draws strength from her readers and her community. She is putting herself out there, radiating positivity, sharing her struggles, and keeping her readers and friends informed each day. She is a really talented and truthful writer. And she knows that this is what blogging is all about... Putting your story out there, sharing your life, and finding that there are people out there who can understand you.

I have seen the way the blogging community has rallied around my friend, in ways she may not even know yet and I'm proud to be a part of it. In the same way we were making peanut butter pies in August, we're sending our most positive energy, thoughts, prayers (whatever it might be) to Nicki who proves that blogging is about so much more than just being a mom blogger. So, do me a favor... Send her some of your energy. She needs it.

This is Why Howie Drives Me Crazy

This is what Howie did last weekend while we were at the park enjoying the beautiful weather:

Howie is not a destructive dog... Unless you leave the cabinet open and leave. Wine, please.
You can imagine how unhappy I was, right? B was hungry. W was melting down because he had to go inside. And I literally screamed when I walked in the door. When Matt asked me how he could help, I immediately told him to open a bottle of wine. Such is life with a toddler, baby, and a dog...

Check out my post on TheChicagoMoms.com about accepting responsibility for Howie's naughty moments.


Meal Planning: Week 3, Yo!

Three weeks in a row! Woo hoo! I seem to be on a roll, huh? Posting my meal plans here seems to be the thing that gets me through the week with less stress.

Here's my plan for this week:
Monday: Slow-Cooker Pulled-Pork Tacos
Tuesday: Salad with chicken, cinnamon beets, goat cheese & toasted pine nuts
Wednesday: Left over soups from the freezer
Thursday: Slow-Cooker French Onion Soup
Friday: Pasta with Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce

And, if you're in the looking for an idea for this week... Tonight I made this Pumpkin Turkey Chili and it was really good.

What are you making this week? Does meal planning help you?


January Heat Wave in Chicago: A Distant Memory

It's hard to believe that a week ago we were enjoying a day full of sunshine and comfortable temps in the 40's. In January. In Chicago. It was crazy.

Every winter Matt and I spend some time moaning about living here and start making pro/con lists about moving to a place without the ice, snow, wind, and frigid temperatures. We haven't had many of those this year since it's been rather mild, but I have a feeling that's all about to change.

Until spring we'll keep looking back at these photos from last weekend courtesy of our neighbor Evan and his kick ass photography skills:


2012: The Year of Us

Not really the best photo of our family, but the only shot we have from New Year's Eve.
I've been talking a lot about the New Year, haven't I? I usually don't really get this into the whole New Year buzz, but this year I've kind of fallen for the excitement of a fresh start. I've been meal planning, doing good deeds, and committed to follow the "if it's broken, fix it" mantra. But there is still one other thing I'm committed to this year...

In 2012, I want to focus on my family in order to take advantage of every possible moment and build a foundation of happiness for all of us.

I take too much on. I let white noise get in the way of the stuff I should be listening to. I get way too distracted. And the thing that drops to the bottom of my list is my family. It's not intentional, I just feel like they'll always be there. I spent too much time putting my job first in W's first couple of years. I can admit all of this.

It almost felt like we were playing house before. Have you ever felt that way? Like you're pretending to be the adult that you're supposed to be? We had the house in the suburbs, the baby boy, but none of it seemed real. I kind of half expected to wake up from a dream in our old condo in the city. And I did wake up, just in a different sort of way.

With your first born, you're all learning together and figuring it all out. I feel like W raised us as parents as much as we raised him. We taught each other how to be a family. And now we have this wonderful little family and it feels right. We feel like we're supposed to be mom and dad to these two beautiful boys and I embrace this roll.

I'll always take on too much and have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. I'm not looking to change who I am. I'm looking to embrace it and live in each moment that I can. I'm making a promise to all of us that I'll stop stretching us too thin and make the most of the time we have together. It's time for us to reevaluate what we're doing based on what works for our family, not what worked for the priorities we used to have for ourselves. The decisions that have led us here were based on 3-5 year decisions. This year we have to make 10-30 year decisions. And we're all ready for it.

Disclosure: I was compensated with a $25 gift card for participating in the Trop50 True Resolutions Campaign, which celebrates the real reasons behind New Year’s resolutions. Share your secret motivation behind your resolutions and you’ll earn a coupon for $1 off Trop50 for yourself and 50¢ off coupons for up to 50 of your friends. You can even submit incognito with a fierce disguise. Bonus: Whether you submit a resolution or not, you can also enter a sweepstakes to win a $1000 gift card.


Good Deeds 2012 Week 2: Share Your Soles

Good Deed: Donated barely used shoes to Share Your Soles.

I found a box of shoes that I hadn't even opened since we moved into our house three years ago. Clearly, these were not shoes that would be missed. There were three pairs of sneakers that together had been worn a total of six times (one pair was possibly never worn, which is not normally the case for me and I think I received them from a friend who didn't want them). GREAT condition. See for yourself:

Those shoes that had been taking up valuable storage space in my basement are now in the hands of Share Your Soles. Share Your Soles was started by a woman who traveled to Central America and was told by an American orthopedic surgeon she met in the village that if children there had shoes to wear he wouldn't have to visit to perform amputations on children with infected limbs. Playing with bare feet, leads to cuts, leads to infection, etc. Heart-breaking, right? So, she got home, collected shoes, and brought them to an orphanage in Honduras and that good deed resulted what is now Share Your Soles.

They sort, sanitize, and polish donated shoes to ensure people are given shoes with dignity, not crap. Shoes have been provided around the world, including: Central America, Southeast Asia, The Caribbean, Appalachia, Africa, Eastern Europe, American Indian Reservations, India, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Cameroon, Nicaragua, Tanzania, and Ghana.

The best part: It's easy to make the donation. There are ton of running shops that accept drop-offs, including a Runner's Edge store a few blocks from my house. So, I made the quick trip with W and used it as an opportunity to explain why we were giving these shoes away. He looked at them and I explained that they were barely worn and I had plenty of shoes. He asked a lot of why questions, most of which I couldn't really answer. The only thing I can assure him is that hard work and luck from generations of both my and Matt's families means that he will never have to worry about a pair of shoes. Another reminder to be thankful for every step we take in shoes.

What was your good deed this week? Join me as I do one good deed a week in 2012.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Share Your Soles,nor was I compensated for this post. All information was found on their website: www.shareyoursoles.org


Sleep Training Baby #2: Same Stress, Better Perspective

Disclaimer: This is an outdated photo of a sleeping Baby B. Still adorable, though.
Right now we're potty training and sleep training (yeah, gooood times!). You can guess which kid is going through their respective stage, right? These are seriously two of the hardest pieces of parenting that we've experienced. Since potty training has been rough and I can't tell you what works, today I'd like to focus on sleep training your second child. You feel confident after successfully training #1, but it's still stressful for mom and dad.

Here is what we've learned this week about sleep training: it doesn't necessarily get easier with your second baby. We had much of the same concerns training B at seven months that we did when we trained W at nine months. But, we both know it's time. B slept through the night from two months to four months, but for the last three months he's been up all night. Our nights have been dominated by a baby in bed between us, waking up and wanting to be comforted. He likes to sleep with his forehead pressed against mine, which is sweet until you find yourself using the bedside table for a pillow. I started to reach low points of exhaustion after three months of not sleeping. It was time.

We used the Ferber Method, which worked like a charm for W. The first night is stressful. B woke up crying and after five minutes Matt went in to comfort him, then we waited ten before comforting again, and then 15 before another visit. And then... Silence. Sweet silence.

It was a painful 40 minutes. We stared at each other, tried to watch Portlandia, and I googled "Ferber Method night one" in search of posts and articles to reinforce that we were doing the right thing. Listening to your baby cry is torture and nothing makes you question yourself more as a parent, even the second time around. Even when you know it's right.

But there was a distinct difference this time around: Perspective. It's almost as if we've looked ahead in the book and see it will be alright... We know that ultimately we're doing what's best. With W we weren't sure whether we were doing the right thing or how long it would take. We also didn't know how much of a difference a reliable sleep schedule makes. Hannemaniacs are happy with reliable sleep. And in 2012 we're bringing reliable sleep back into this house.

Parenting is about making difficult decisions that you know will be best in the long run. Every parenting decision feels heavy. They don't feel easier just because you've made them before.

It's Night 4 and we're still not out of the woods (though he did sleep through the night on Night 3). Each night has gotten better, but it could still take come time. We're still stressed about when we might hear him cry, but we're not nearly as freaked out as we were last time around.

Hopefully potty training will be similar in a few years, because right now it's hell.

Note: There are extreme opinions encouraging or discouraging just about every choice you make in parenting and sleeping is one of those hot topics. I love comments (really I do), but if they're attack comments, they'll be deleted. We all raise our children differently. You have your way. I have mine. Let's not attack each other's decisions.


Meal Planning: Second Week in a Row!

After a low stress and really successful week of dinners based on meal planning last week, I was encouraged to give it another spin. Matt said that he felt a ton better last week and I think it was my well planned, balanced meals. I'm determined to keep it up, but didn't have time to give it much thought. I put this plan together in my head while I was at the grocery store based on what would be easy and could be covered by stuff I already had in the kitchen.

So, this is what we'll be eating for dinner this week:

Monday: Crock pot pork tenderloin, broccoli, brown rice
Tuesday: Mexican layer bake
Wednesday: Cod with dill red potatoes
Thursday: Some sort of chicken and vegetable soup in the crock pot
Friday: Roasted chicken and vegetables

There is nothing special about this week's plan. I've never cooked a tenderloin (cuz I don't really like them), but Matt likes them and it was on sale at the butcher. The rest are easy and hopefully will help me clean out the freezer. I'm also relying on crock pots and a meal I can pre-prepare on Sunday night for the days I commute to the city, which makes working mom life a ton easier.

What are you making this week?


Good Deeds 2012 Week 1: Set Up Monthly Donation

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 Good Deed: Signed up for small monthly contributions to a charitable organization

Greenpeace got me. I'm not even kidding. I was walking down Michigan Avenue on a particularly nice afternoon when I was stopped by a Greenpeace employee. I usually duck and run or pretend I'm on my cell phone or give them the "we're not in the position to give right now" excuse. But, after ten years of working in the city... They finally got me. I signed up for a small monthly contribution.

We've actually found that making monthly contributions that come right out of our account is a really easy way to give. Signing up for a small amount (say $10-$20 per month) isn't as rough on your bank account as writing a check annually might be. It's easier to part with the cash when you realize that a $10 monthly contribution is the same cost as skipping one lunch out per month.

My recommendation would be to choose an organization(s) that's important to you and has a mission that you believe in. And do your research with an online charity watchdog, like Charity Navigator.

How did you make a difference this week? Interested in joining me in doing one good deed a week in 2012? Here's more information about my goal.


Meal MacGyver: Roasted Chicken with Pumpkin

I've embraced the roasted vegetable and chicken one pot meal more and more over the last year. I usually end up getting rid of pumpkins at the end of fall, but I was able to put one that W had painted in preschool to good use for a meal on a day I had no idea what to make and a blogging pal, Thien-Kim, inspired me to add fruit to my regular roasted vegetables, which I did here.

Here's how I did it: I chopped onions, potatoes, and pumpkin, which I tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I added a couple cloves of garlic, a couple handfuls of raisins, a handful of dried cranberries, as well as a couple of bay leaves, a palmful of cinnamon, and a heavy sprinkle of allspice and curry. I added this to bone-in chicken breasts in my trusty dutch oven and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour.

This is a good one for those nights that you feel like you have nothing in the kitchen. Dig those chicken breasts out of the freezer and throw in any root vegetable, potatoes, or fruits like apples, cranberries, raisins, or prunes and I pretty much guarantee it will be awesome.


Good Deeds in 2012

There are more than one million charities in the U.S. And there are millions more ways to make a difference every day or do a simple good deed. I've heard lots of chatter about how people want to do something to help others, but don't know how to start. With limited time and resources, I think it's tough. People are more protective of their personal time and wallets, but people are generous at the core. I believe that. I have to believe that and luckily work in a place that allows me to see people's optimism and generosity every day. Generosity is why I have a job.

I've been playing with the idea of how to bring charity to the blog for a while now, so we're going to make it a focus for 2012... Each week I am going to do something that makes a difference and share it with you here. It can be making a donation, volunteering, a good deed, something to give you an idea of what you can do.

If you know me well, you know I believe that we all have a responsibility to help others. I don't think it's a coincidence that I work in non-profit. I'm hesitant to do this, because I really cannot stand the whole "look at what a good person I am, I volunteer" mentality. It goes right along with the whole "I made chocolate chip cookies that I would like to pass out to women at a domestic violence shelter. I can't pass them out personally? Then they can't have them..." (Yes, I have had that conversation with some idiot who I may even be related to.) But, if we can make ripples, then let's get over ourselves and share how we make them.

So, this is how it's going to work: I'll spend minimal money (you don't have to spend much to make an impact). I'll keep the time commitment minimal (it's limited enough as it is). I'm not telling you what to do, just trying to give you ideas of what you can do and little ways we can all make a difference. There are 52 weeks in a year. That's 52 opportunities to make a difference.

Care to join me?


Meal Planning is BACK!

It seems with the New Year and the fresh start we get I'm hearing lots of chatter about meal planning. Are you? (OK, maybe it's just most people I know...) Anyway, I've often documented my meal planning attempts and challenges here. Then I started to think to myself: "Seriously? Who cares about what we're eating?" and I totally fell off the wagon with posting and with meal planning.

But, I've realized a couple of things: First, this blog is about managing a modern family with two jobs, two kids, a house, a dog, and all that entails, so if I feel meal planning is important, then it is! Also, it seems that people do care what everyone else is eating and want to share their meal planning successes, tips, failures, and recipes. While I do not have tips to share, I do have a plan that I put together in my head while we were at Whole Foods on Monday...

Monday: Ina Garten's Parker's Split Pea Soup
Tuesday: Baked Salmon with rice and a salad
Wednesday: Chopped Salad with turkey and beets
Thursday: Southwestern Slow Cooker Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup
Friday: Smoked Paprika chicken thighs and roasted cauliflower

Sounds good, right? So far we've been eating well this week and I've been far less stressed about dinners. Let's see if I stick to meal planning and have another plan for you next week. I make no promises.

Wordless Wednesday: Looking Into 2012


The 2012 Post: If It's Broken, Fix It

We have a tendency here in the Hannemaniac household to plan on getting to things. I put off the things that I really don't like to do. I admire people who do things to just get them out of the way or start with the things they don't like, so they can focus on all the other good stuff. Instead, I have a terrible habit of putting those things aside and busying myself with another one of the hundred things on my to-do list. This is why things in my life pile up and why I work really well under pressure. Matt and I both have these habits.

So, here's to beating deadlines, replacing the bathroom fan and light in the kitchen, cleaning out all our of our drawers and closets, and fixing ourselves in all the ways we need to, but keep putting off until we "have time."

What are your resolutions this year?

Past New Year Posts:
The 2011 Post