My Advice on Moving

I'm playing catch up after this year's Gala season... In all the madness I managed to write a post for Chicago Parent about moving with little kids. Our move was not smooth (read: NOT AT ALL). We underestimated the time it would take, ran out of boxes countless times, forgot about entire parts of the house, and Matt and I weren't really communicating well.

So, my advice comes from what we did right (color code boxes) and what I learned from what we did very, very wrong.

Hope you enjoy it!


Dear GE, Your Cafe Series Range Has Been Leaking Gas Into My House

Below you'll find a message to GE. I'm posting this to warn people about the Cafe Series (CGS985SET5SS) range I purchased and also about (what I think is) GE's lack of responsiveness to a very dangerous hazard. Please share with anyone who has this range or is considering buying a new range. I don't care about page count, publicity, or anything like that, I care about what COULD have happened to my kids and COULD happen to someone else...

Hey, GE, remember me? The lady who called about the two ranges of yours that were leaking gas into her house? Of course you don’t, because you never took the time to call me back and learn about it.

So, let me back track. I was dazzled by your Café series (CGS985SET5SS). The bells and whistles, the beautiful, sleek, professional look all attached to the name GE with a big red ribbon on it. I was creating my dream kitchen under high stress (hours notice), so I chose your products (range, fridge, dishwasher, and convection microwave) and built the rest of the kitchen around it. It was love at first sight when the appliances were delivered in late October.

And then I used the oven. The first time I actually cooked something in the kitchen the smell of gas was so strong you could smell it outside. How do I know this? Because I was hosting family for dinner and they smelled it on the driveway. So, I called our gas company whose tech arrived immediately. His meter went nuts and he turned off gas to the range. Yikes. I called our retailer who insisted this was the first issue they’d had with this unit and offered to send us a replacement. I agreed, figuring I was just the unlucky person who received the defective stove.

Then I used the new stove and I smelled gas… again. And again. And again. The gas company came out twice. They couldn’t figure out what the problem was, as their meters weren’t showing anything. They suggested I open the windows, that since they were new there wasn’t enough air flow. It was getting increasingly worse, so I started avoiding using the stove. Except for Thanksgiving when I made a full meal and had to open the windows to air out the kitchen (as had been advised by a confused gas company technician). My mom called me at work one day and told me she had tried making the kids dinner and it got so bad she could taste gas and we had no choice but to address it... AGAIN.

So, the next day my husband and I decided to figure it out on our own. We started the oven… No gas smell. It heated to 350, we both walked into the kitchen, and – BAM – hit a wall of gas. We turned it off. Then set it to 325 and tried again. Nothing. So, we opened the windows and called the gas company.

The gas company showed up and the two of us explained everything we knew about the problem, including our suspicion that gas leaks when the oven tries to maintain temperature at 350 or higher. He turned on the oven. Nothing. And then it hit 350 and within a few minutes his little meter starting beeping, went red, and basically did all of the things to alert us to the fact that we had a big gas issue in our kitchen.

“You've got a major problem here. This is crazy. You’re lucky you didn’t blow up your house,” he said. Hear that, GE? Because the “customer care” guy I spoke with yesterday morning didn’t seem to think it was a big enough deal to put me on with his supervisor. He told me I was now in a cue, which I apparently remain in as I await a call 24+ hours later.

But I digress... The guy from the gas company was shocked. We were shocked. The reality is: we were putting ourselves and the kids in an incredible amount of danger when we used that stove. Our retailer gets it. Apparently I’m not the only person who has complained about this very issue. And I have been assured they REMOVED THE RANGE FROM THEIR FLOOR until you figure it out, GE. But no recall yet. Both the gas company technician and my retailer confirmed that the range “spews gas” (their words, actually, not mine). Yet, you haven't put anything out there to warn people, GE. Why?

My retailer asked their GE specialist to call me A WEEK AGO. I have not heard from him. I called your customer support line yesterday to see what your recommendation on my next steps should be and to learn of any plans of addressing this hazard. Because, you know, I’m hoping other families who have this stove have a keen sense of smell. And, you know, I’d like to make Christmas cookies with my kids at some point this year. But, GE, you haven't called me back. In your defense, you did warn me it could take up to 48 hours. (By the way, GE, this is not a busted knob… THIS IS A SERIOUS ISSUE. And I was totally open to staying with GE yesterday and finding a different model if you could have assured me it was not a safety hazard, but guess what?!?! Too late.) You're apparently more than happy to send out one of your technicians, but I can’t speak with someone who can actually answer questions.

I'll be waiting by the phone, GE. You just get back to me when you have a chance.

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, based on what I experienced with two ranges, information obtained from GE, my retailer, our gas company (four technicians), and lots of internet searching for answers. Clearly, I was not compensated in any way for this post. And - luckily - there have been no physical injuries, just mental and emotional distress to me and Matt -- and the two grandmothers who have been in tears over what could have happened.


Thanksgiving Our Way

This year we stayed home for Thanksgiving. Just the five of us in our new house. When I told people that was our plan I received a lot of "awww" sad faces. But, seriously, it felt like the most selfish thing we could do and I loved every minute of it.

Both sets of grandparents were visiting other out-of-town siblings. My in-town sister had plans with her in-laws. We were planning to go to my aunt and uncle's which is always a blast, but I've been extra busy with work and we still have a ton of boxes to unpack. Most important, our kids just need a day to chill with us. And us with them. I knew I would spend the rest of the weekend working, so once we made the decision, it felt right.

But, then I needed to make us a real Thanksgiving dinner, right? So, I bought everything I needed to make my first turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green beans, roasted butternut squash, and masked potato. I made everything from scratch and it was pretty much perfect.

We planned to eat around naps (turkey was done by 12:30), we hung some pictures and unpacked more boxes, and then we had pumpkin pie for dinner. If I could choose one day to relive again and again... It might be this one.


The Nutcracker at The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences... Go See It!

Our W has a flair for the dramatic. He loves putting on a show, acting out a scene, and can carry a mean tune. The world is his stage... Though his skits seem to be more of the super hero variety, I jumped at the chance to take him to see The Nutcracker last week at The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire.

I told him all about how I used to see The Nutcracker when I was a little girl not sure whether he'd be into it or not. I gave him the heads up that there wouldn't be a lot of talking, mostly music and dancing. He was excited about it. We invited one of his best pals to join us. I wasn't sure how they would do since the two of them can be chatty and hadn't seen each other in a while. But I figured we could hit the road if they were disruptive.

The show started and the boys were mesmerized. And I mean totally MESMERIZED. And behavior was excellent. Why? Because the show was funny and engaging and the costumes were fun and The Mouse King was fabulous.

George Keating as The Mouse King = I Stole The Show
Doesn't sound like The Nutcracker you remember? Cuz it isn't. It's based on The Nutcracker, but a more kid-friendly, hip take on it with enough smart jokes to keep the parents engaged. For me, this is children's theater at its finest.

So, if you have kids and you're looking to introduce them to The Nutcracker this is your perfect opportunity. Ever since W has been hearing little bits of music from The Nutcracker and relating it back to the show. If I could take him back, I would. Maybe I will. He would happily sit through it again.
Your traditional Nutcracker photo for a very non-traditional Nutcracker.
 And - if you haven't been to the Marriott Theatre - there is not a bad seat in the house. It's an excellent introduction to theatre for the little ones. If I can recommend one holiday adventure this year - this is it. Make time before the show closes on December 28th. Tickets are $15 and the show runs at 10 am most Tuesdays through Sundays. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for details.

My biggest regret? No pictures. HOW DID I NOT GET A PICTURE OF THE BOYS NEXT TO THE SIGN?!?! Ugh. Shameful parenting. Just make sure you do and share your photos with me!

Full disclosure: I received four complimentary tickets to The Nutcracker. All opinions are my own. And when I say you should go, I mean it.


Amelia: Age One

Sweet Amelia is ONE. It happened like whiplash. Amelia - the girl we didn't expect - has been an incredible addition to our male dominated family. From day one she has been mild mannered and sweet. She has slept well, eats well, entertains herself, and is just an all-around happy baby.

Amelia adores her older brothers and they are incredibly sweet to her - especially William. She loves to be in the thick of it and prefers playing with cars, dinosaurs, trucks, and blocks. The only traditionally gender stereotypical thing she loves are shoes. She likes to walk around with her shoes in hands and raises her foot in anticipation when you're ready to put her shoes on.

Amelia is a hugger and a kisser. She squeezes so tightly and loves a good cuddle. On the other hand, she growls at the boys and throws down when fighting for a toy. Never shy to jump into a wrestling pile, Amelia can totally hang with the boys.

She started walking right at her first birthday (which puts her right between the boys) and she adds new words each day. Her favorites are "mama," "dada," "stop,"' "william,"  and "howie." She chants "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" and shakes her shoulders. She yells "me" when she see you eating something she wants and nods and shakes her head to answer questions.

Her favorite foods are bananas (seriously, she can't get enough), apple sauce, cheese, bagels with cream cheese, and strawberries. She's not very adventurous with food and spits out most new flavors, but when she likes something she really, really likes it.

Amelia is into everything. She wanders around the house looking for baskets, purses, boxes, and anything else that might have treasures for her to sort through. She is guaranteed to knock down any tower the boys have built or wipe out a delicately constructed race track. She has figured how to disassemble our tried and true baby proofing (we use lots of rubber bands) and scurries up the stairs before we even realize she has left the room.

I'm trying as hard as I can to savor my last baby firsts. However, I can't help but look forward to getting to know her better and watch the girl she will become. This baby is just so fun. We have had a blast this last year.

Our world is brighter because of Amelia. She wakes up with a smile and spends a minute hugging you before looking around in the direction of her brothers playing. Our favorite thing about Amelia is the line she is always walking between sweet, trouble, and tough. You can see it in her eyes... It's almost as if she is always in on the joke. This baby has excellent timing. She knows when she has an audience and she works it.

I see the way she already asserts her position in our family and I hope she holds onto her spunk and joy as she grows.


Our Wedding Dress: On Sharing a Dress With My BFF

One of the most important dresses a woman might wear is her wedding dress. I LOVED my dress. It was maybe the fifth one I tried on and then I refused to take it off. I knew right away that it was perfect for me. It was everything I didn't know that I wanted. But, at the end of the day it was a dress. I took it off, put it away, and then it sat in my mom's closet for months before being cleaned and stored. And there it sat in my basement.

Then when my BFF Brittany was engaged a few years later I started the process of helping her find a dress. We went to a store. She bought a dress. It wasn't special. So, we ordered some others and tried them on at my house. Still nothing special. So, then I offered to let her try on my dress. I pulled it out of its safe protection in storage and she put it on. And it was perfect. "Wear it," I told her. So, she did.

Some people were surprised when we shared the news that she was wearing my dress. Budget wasn't the reason. Ability to find a dress had nothing to do with it. I was shocked when someone told me they thought it was weird. I never even thought twice about it. It's hard to put my finger on, but it just felt right. I think it made both of us incredibly happy to know that it was something we would always share. There was meaning in sharing my dress. My gift to her was her something borrowed. And the gift we continue to give each other every day is one of the most honest, long-lasting, wonderful, understanding, exciting friendships in the world. We're lucky to have each other. It's that simple.

I think it's beautiful - just like the dress.

No one has ever entrusted impoverished Emmalee with anything important but she takes it upon herself to sew her mentor’s resting garment in The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Join From Left to Write on October 19 as we discuss The Funeral Dress.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


When Refinishing Turns Into Renovating

If I were a better blogger or could stuff one more thing into my days or slow down long enough to get my thoughts straight you would know that we are still living with my parents. You'd know that our original plan to paint, refinish floors, and replace windows was merely the entrance into our home renovation rabbit hole. Now we're pretty much gutting the house... Not much in this house will go untouched.

We didn't have a choice. Once you open walls you can't just let certain things go. Once you learn about the previous owner you can't just un-learn that they were basically your worst nightmare. Once you imagine your kids in the house you realize you were totally insane to think any of it could wait.

Once you jump down the rabbit hole there is no turning around. So, we're all in. ALL in. It's major. It's been more than two months since we took possession of the house and we've got about three weeks before we move in. We're on our second dumpster. The big dumpsters.

So, every night I've been choosing paint colors and counter tops and pulls and windows and glass doors and light fixtures and toilets and sinks and tile and newel posts and faucets and cabinets and appliances and shower doors and trim and baseboards and door knobs and furnaces and other things I can't even remember choosing. And then I sit and do the math all over again. Because when I said we're renovating I meant it. Just you wait and see!


Chicago Parent's New Voice: Yours Truly

Because I don't have enough going on... And because I am so good about updating this here blog often... And because I've been really awesome with blogging deadlines... Right?!?

But, really, I'm super excited for this opportunity. I love Chicago Parent. And I love that I'm part of their community now!

My first post? All about our praying mantis named Pray who is now dead. But will live on forever in our hearts. Well, mine at least.


What's Wrong With You?!?!

"What's wrong with you?" I hate that phrase. HATE. IT.

Yet, I hear myself say it to the kids and I want to slap myself. It hurts my heart when I say it and all I can think is: "Shit. Why did I say that?!?!" Matt says it, too. I don't know who started it, but it's the worst thing ever.

I try to be aware of the things that come out of my mouth when it comes to the kids. I constantly worry about the little things that will get lodged in the pockets of their brains and become memories. I worry that the bad things could outweigh the good. I know that words count so much more than actions. I can still remember things adult said to me that stung when I younger. So, I try so hard to remind them of how good they are, how beautiful and loved and smart they are every chance I get. I cover them hugs and kisses. But it doesn't erase those times I scream "What is wrong with you?!?!"

When they throw a tantrum or knock something over or just will not put on their shoes when we have to go. When they won't get in the car seat or flip over the laundry basket I just folded. What's wrong with them? They're kids.

They might not be scarred by it, but I am. I never want them to feel that there is anything wrong WITH them. Something might be wrong in general. They might feel sick or sad or bored or lost a toy. But that is a different question and that's not what I'm asking, but should be.

Really, the better question is what's wrong with me... And the answer is I'm stressed, tired, distracted, overwhelmed, running late, not paying attention enough to intervene, and dealing with a million other emotions and distractions that run through my head every day.

So, from here, let's consider it deleted. Today, September 19, 2013, I banish that phrase from my house. How about you join me?

What phrases do you say that you wish you could erase from your vocabulary?

A controlling mother, a missing daughter, and a family who is desperate for love. This post was inspired by the the psychological thriller Mother, Mother by Zoren Zailckas. Join From Left to Write on September 19 as we discuss Mother, Mother.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Moments That Didn't Matter Until I Read "Raising My Rainbow"

We have a specific type of sippy cup that we use in our house. It is the only brand that doesn't spill and doesn't have any parts other than a lid and a cup. Stores are always running low and the last time I went to Target they only had the Cinderella cups. None of the Lightning McQueens. None of the Toy Story guys. Just Cinderella. With pink tops. I had two boys at the time. I stared for a moment. Picked them up, put them back, picked them back up again and turned it around in my hands.

Then I said to myself: Who cares? And threw them in my cart. No one seemed to notice. My boys still use them.


W loves his super heroes. And he has been spoiled by almost everyone, so has the large action figures. The other day I asked him which of the super hero dolls he had. He stared at my blankly... "Mom, they're not dolls."

"Oh, sorry, they're super heroes."

"They're action figures. Girls have dolls, mom."

"It's ok. Boys can play with dolls if they want to, you know."

"Girls play with dolls, mom."

"Plenty of girls like super heroes. That's what's great about being a kid, you can play with whatever you want."

"And you can't when you're old?" he asked.


W has always been physically timid, doesn't really care about sports, still struggles when it comes to catching, throwing, kicking. I don't care.

B is naturally agile and quick. He was born coordinated and ready to pick up sports. He's fearless and determined. He's drawn to watching older boys play baseball or riding bikes. People always remark that he's "all boy." It's supposed to be a compliment. But, what's the opposite?

This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review.


How to Support Friends Through Infertility

If you think you don't have friends struggling with fertility, you just don't know the truth... because, trust me, you do. I've had a number of friends face fertility challenges, including a couple of my most favorite people. It sucks, no matter what the issue may be. Some just took longer than they thought to get pregnant, a couple were lucky after taking some drugs to kick start their efforts, and then there are a few who have gone down the road of IVF and more. Some have been successful, others have not. And as my friends struggled I had three healthy pregnancies, one even that was a huge surprise.

I feel the void that they feel as our family has rapidly grown with very little effort. It's incredibly unfair. It makes me sick that it's just luck. Dumb luck. And I'd by lying if I didn't think "why couldn't it be them?" when I found out I was pregnant with A. Seriously.

I've cried when reading text messages about miscarriage and unsuccessful attempts from a friend I know couldn't bear to have to speak the news to me. It's heart breaking. All of it.

People, you never know who might be dealing with fertility issues. So, do me a favor and keep your mouth shut. Don't ask people when they're going to have children (I'm looking at you, nosy old ladies) or go overboard in telling them how amazing it is to have children (trust me, they know).

So, while those are some pretty obvious things that you should not do. Here is a list of ways you can be supportive of friends dealing with infertility:

1. Don't Make Assumptions: It's really easy to make assumptions about what friends who are struggling with fertility issues will and will not want to do with your family. Don't jump to conclusions. An invitation to your child's first birthday party may feel like the worst thing you can subject them to, but extend the invitation with the understanding that you get it if they choose to pass.

2. It's Not About You. Your friends pass on your child's birthday party invitation? Don't want to come to your house for trick-or-treating? Seem a little distant? Get over it. It's not about you.

3. Don't Ask. Don't text every month to check in around ovulation time. Don't ask for an update every time you see her. If they want to discuss it, trust me, it will come up. Ask "how is everything," which is a good way to allow them to talk about the awesome soup they made for dinner last night or pull out a box of tissues and sit down for a heart to heart. You open the door, it's their choice to walk in or close it.

4. Do Tell. You're pregnant? Give them a call and let them know. Find a way to discuss with them before you invite them to the dinner with your 20 closest friends to make a grand announcement. Or just don't do that. I bet your friendship is more important in the long run. And do tell them about things going on with your kids. They're interested in your life and your kids, because they're your friend. Not talking about your own kids is like an elephant walking into the room. Just be thoughtful in how you approach it.

5. Be Positive. Don't ask what they're going to do if they don't end up delivering a child. As long as they are on this road, you're on it too. Let them determine the alternative routes. They already are a family, the same as you... Just minus the minis... for now. They don't need your opinion on their next steps. Unless they ask for it.

I'm no expert. I have no certification. But, I think I'm a pretty good friend and one of my strengths lies in my ability to read people and what they need. So, take my advice or leave it. And, better yet, comment with your own advice.

And, to my friends who have struggled and continue to struggle with fertility, I've never wanted anything as much as I've wanted you to be successful, because I know it's important to you. I hope I'm not a huge idiot in giving advice to others. I hope I've been a good friend to you. And I'm so honored you've held me in confidence and friendship on your journeys.

This post was inspired by The Blossom Method’s You Never Know campaign. My participation is voluntary and I have not received any financial compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The Blossom Method is a therapy practice offering support, community, comfort and hope to women and couples experiencing issues related to infertility, pregnancy loss, genetic complications, pelvic disorders, NICU preemies and postpartum depression. 

Phone: 312.854.0061, email: info@blossommethod.com, website: www.blossommethod.com


William: Age 5

What other kid is this sweet at the dentist?
Sweet, sweet William is five. FIVE. I can't believe it happened so quickly on one hand. On the other hand, I can't believe our wise boy is only five. William, our old soul, never ceases to amaze me with the witty and smart things that he says every day.

His incredible imagination bounces between super heroes to animals to cars to anything else he comes across with ease. It's difficult to follow his story lines or keep up with his rapid brain. He moves so incredibly fast.

William is idolized by Beckett, his little shadow who repeats everything his big brother says and mimics his every move. This year William asked Beckett if he would like to help him blow out the candle on his cake. He knows just how to melt his brother's heart. And ours. He'll ask Beckett to walk around the house holding hands and pointing out all the silly things he can think of to make his brother laugh.

William is an entertainer at heart. He can mimic any voice or accent and quickly masters a song tune. Nothing makes him happier than making people laugh. On the flip side he also goes straight for dramatic phrases and fake crying over nothing.

"I love you, mom," is something William says at any given time out of nowhere and I know he means it. He is so incredibly loving and open to being affectionate and telling people how much be loves them. Likewise, I've heard him say to his friends at the end of a play date: "I'll never forget you." He wears his heart on his sleeve and enters every day with such openness. Looking into his eyes is like looking into a deep pool of wonder.

William has an imaginary friend named John. John has been a constant in our lives for the last year and he has a pretty detailed back story for him. William is always creating things in his head, including words and their definitions and often elaborate stories.

His teachers always have a story to tell me about something witty William said in class or a deeper understanding of something he had that stood out to them. His verbal abilities and comprehension are astounding. Experiencing him making friends has been wonderful. He values his friends and loves having them.

Learning how to snap his fingers has been a highlight of William's year as has mastering writing his letters, simple addition, and some basic reading. He is moving along slowly in swim lessons and can ride his bike with training wheels.

William is still getting more comfortable with himself physically. He's willing to try more and more, but his clumsiness is hard to conquer. 

William is such a special boy. I feel so lucky to be his mom. Five years have flown by so quickly.

Previous Birthday Posts:


Hold the Gluten, Pass the Cheese

I love cheese. LOVE IT. I could probably live off of a nice cheese and crackers plate. And wine. A little fig or dried cranberries would be welcome additions.

A few months ago I went through testing due to something they found when my appendix was removed last year. The doctor was convinced I had celiac disease. I spent the next 24 hours on google and realized that he was probably right... And then the blood test came back... Negative.

I was shocked. Shocked and relieved. They told me my results were close enough to consider further testing, but they recommended that I cut gluten from my diet, because I was clearly intolerant. From that conversation I went gluten-free for two months. TWO MONTHS of diligent gluten-free living. It wasn't nearly as hard as it sounds and - if anything - it just made me more aware of all of those things I absentmindedly shove in my mouth in a day. When you reach for a cookie and can't eat it, you actually realize you reached for it in the first place.

Other than some bleu cheeses, thankfully cheese has remained on my menu. It's made me realize that of all food allergies, dairy would for sure by the worst for me. Cutting gluten wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it did actually up my cheese consumption.

Am I completely gluten-free today? No. I had to gluten myself after a couple months of being off the stuff to see if there was a reaction. There really wasn't at first, so I haven't been as diligent about it... But little by little I've noticed ways that I just don't feel as good as I did when it was out of my system. So, I'm going back, but don't feel like I'll be too deprived. Luckily I found a few perfectly good gluten-free crackers to go with all of my cheese.

This post was inspired by The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison, who traveled to France in search of its artisanal cheeses. Join From Left to Write on August 22 as we discuss The Whole Fromage.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Creating Our New Home

We bought a new house, but we’re not living in it just yet… Why?

Because of rooms like this…

Nothing says move in ready like coral colored border.
And this….

Our foundation needed a little bit of help.
Oh, and this is the pile of carpet and draperies we pulled out of the house…

1964 called. It wants its drapes and carpet back.

And we continue to learn new things that keep us from moving in. They’re piling up and so is the cost. My contractor is probably tired of hearing me ask: “How much is that going to cost?!?!” And my parents are kind enough to let us stay with them and pretend it’s no big deal. 

It’s stressful in a way I can’t explain. These aren’t just little issues that keep popping up. We’re dealing with major problems, but luckily everything is fixable. My kids miss their house. W asks every day about his toys and when we’ll get to go home. We’ve avoided play dates with our neighbors because it would just be too hard for W. I drove by the old house the other day to pick some mail up from a neighbor, thinking I was safe with just B and A. And as I turned the corner, passing our old driveway B started yelling “Home. My house! Home!” Our home - the only house our kids have ever known - is no longer ours. The heated floor that made our winter days so cozy, the mural Matt labored over for weeks, the new kitchen that I finally finished all belong to another family now. And we have a house that we don't even live in.

But, here’s the thing, we bought this house because of what it will be, not because of what it is today. We bought this house because I fell in love with it. I could see the house in five, ten years - not in 2013. And that’s why we bought our old house, the house we cried about leaving. I saw the same things in that house, the same potential that I see in this one.

I want my kids to remember this house fondly. I want it to be filled with laughter and fun and warmth (even without a heated floor). We bought it because it was a house that allowed us to put our mark on it. We will have to touch every inch of this house, whether with paint, refinished floors, new windows, appliances, tile… The list is endless. But, this allows us to create our own family home, not step into the choices of someone else.

I hope it all works out the way I envision it. I hope it is everything I feel like my family needs. And, most of all, I hope my kids always feel like this house is their home. I hope they'll come back and visit from whatever part of the country or world they're living and always feel that fullness inside of them.

This post was inspired by the novel This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a collection of short stories that shares a view of Hawaiians few tourists ever experience - one of Hawaii as home. Join From Left to Write on August 8 as we discuss This Is Paradise.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Blaming Ourselves When Bad Things Happen

B recently had a terrible fall. It was the single most frightening moment of my life. I saw the entire thing. I was RIGHT THERE. It was the kind of fall that could have been much worse than the six stitches and diagnosis of a "mild head injury."

I saw it happen. I was holding the baby. W was there. Matt was in the other room. It was as bad as every nightmare I have ever had about something terrible happening to my children. I couldn't move fast enough. I needed a second to think. To figure out a plan. To assess his condition. To make everything ok.

I put the baby on the ground. I reached for B. And I was so thankful he was coherent and breathing and with me.

I can list the ways the accident could have been prevented. I described the fall to the EMT and then the emergency room doctors. I told them all the details, admitting my short falls. And I have seen it happen again and again in my mind. When I'm giving him a hug, when I'm driving down the street, when I'm in the middle of a meeting... The vision of his fall haunts me.

What haunts me more is the thought that a parent could react in any other way. That was the case in the book The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, my latest From Left to Write Book Club read, which inspired this post. A mother drops her child down the stairs and convinced she'll be blamed for doing it on purpose, she calls the police, claims a robbery, then trashes her house. This becomes the baby's first memory and echoes throughout her life.

This post was inspired by the novel The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver. Mere months before Noa’s execution, her victim’s mother changed her mind Noa’s sentence and vows to help stay the execution. Join From Left to Write on July 30 as we discuss The Execution of Noa P. Singleton.. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Big News: Hannemaniacs Are Moving

We sold our house. Well, first we found a house we liked, got into a bidding war, won the contract, listed our house, sold our house fast, found issues with our new house during inspection -- and then things halted. The foundation needs some help and there is evidence of flooding. So, we spent lots of time talking to vendors and specialists and considered our options. And ultimately decided: A house with sinking foundation that floods? WE'LL TAKE IT!

Because, yes, we are that crazy. And also because, let's face it, we Hannemaniacs love a good project. So, that my friends is the next chapter... We're moving into a house that needs to be totally renovated. We will literally touch every inch of the house. We will sink all of our extra money into the house. We will be totally exhausted. Yet we're totally excited. We have vision.

It's not all bad. We're doubling our square footage. We love the layout of the house. The location and neighborhood are terrific. And it's a diamond in the rough (REALLY, REALLY ROUGH).

So, right now we're packing and talking plans. And trying not to get too sentimental about every "last" we have in this house we have loved so much for the last five years. We moved into this house with vision. We made it our own, which is why I know that in a few years our new house will feel just as good to us. Hopefully better.


Why I Stopped Watching The Following

Do you watch The Following? I love me some Kevin Bacon, so tuned in for the first few weeks and loved it. Then it started to feel too violent. Sometimes unnecessarily violent. And then it felt like while I was watching and snacking on a bowl of popcorn some psychopath in the US was also watching with more sinister intentions. As the show continued it just seemed like the life of sadistic killers was becoming too sexy and exciting. But, I kept watching.

Then Sandy Hook happened and I told Matt I just couldn't watch anything violent and we just needed to turn off the tv for a while. And then the bombs went off in Boston. It was all so terrible and heavy and made me realize how vulnerable each of us are as we go about our daily lives. I haven't watched The Following since. It's scary to realize the fragility of life, which is the single most frightening aspect of being a parent. The Following made me feel like anyone could be a target, but I was able to remind myself it was a tv show. The shootings and bombings were suddenly real life. You can't escape reality (well, you can, but I'm not really into psychedelics).

We can't stop leaving the house and taking our kids to school and going to the grocery store, I know this. So, I wonder if this is our new reality... Are tragedies like Sandy Hook and attacks like the Boston bombings just part of life? I don't want to admit that could be the truth.

While reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon I was reminded of the charmed life most Americans live compared to the majority of the world. I had to keep reminding myself that much of the book took place in 2004 in Chechnya. In 2004!!! As in when I was living the care-free existence of a 20-something in the city. Yet one of the main characters in the book was likely the same age and returned to her ravaged homeland after the start of a promising medical career in London. Fear of landmines, living in a seemingly lawless land, and the devastation that surrounded them was a reality... The fragility of life an actual concern every moment, not just something on television or the news.

I'm still not planning to watch The Following anymore. I'm sorry, Kevin Bacon, I love you and your skinny ties, but the world doesn't need any more ideas on how to hurt each other.

This post was inspired by the novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. In a war torn Chechnya, a young fatherless girl, a family friend, and a hardened doctor struggle with love and loss. Join From Left to Write on May 20 as we discuss Anthony Marra's debut novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Beckett: Age 2

Beckett is two. In some ways I can't believe he is ONLY two. A lot has happened since he was born, but it's hard to believe how the days fly by.

Beckett is the most charming trouble maker you'll ever meet. He loves to entertain and get a laugh and is constantly up to something. If he sees an opportunity for mischief, he takes it. There's a little gleam in his eyes as he runs around the house quick as he can. Speaking of, Beckett is extremely quick and light on his feet. He's agile and has great awareness of his body. His signature move is running away from you and diving under the closest piece of furniture.

Beckett loves Thomas the Train, Elmo, and the movie Rio. He thinks super heroes are super cool, especially Batman. Other than Batman, he calls every other super hero "Hulk." His favorite song is "Troublemaker" by Olly Murs. He insists on having daily dance parties to it.

Our blond haired, blue eyed angel face is a fearless climber and jumper, but is very clingy when introduced to new social situations. Once comfortable, he runs around like crazy and easily plays with other kids. However, Beckett is not a fan of sharing and is extremely possessive of his things. His best friend and cousin C is often at the receiving end of high-pitched shrieks of "Mine!" He's a passionate little fellow and things like getting his haircut or getting sized for new shoes result in intense screaming and crying. But his passion also leads him to practicing jump moves off the couch for 20 minutes or running at a low chair to jump and spin in the air perfectly for the better part of an afternoon.

Beckett loves being outside and it's one of the main things that lead him to a tantrum (poor guy has to watch people come and go a lot). He is a terrific companion for errands, as he's always happy just to be asked along. He is quiet and content in the car and terrific in shopping carts.

A very picky eater, Beckett's main source of nutrition is milk. He also enjoys hummus, eggs, cheese, and chocolate. His very favorite thing is french fries or chips. Otherwise, he won't eat much of anything.

Beckett is sweet and cuddly and extremely loving... when he wants to be. He likes everything on his terms and - if you can catch him - will reward you with generous hugs when he's in the mood.

Beckett has a great sense of comic timing, loves playing it up for a laugh, but is the most temperamental kid you might ever meet. He completely understands everything and his speech is starting to get better, which gives him a lot of pride.
While complete opposites in almost every way, Beckett adores his older brother.... But isn't afraid to get scrappy when he needs to. Overall the two of them have a sweet relationship and play well together. He is extremely sweet with his baby sister and his other favorite thing to say is "baby cry." He hates to hear her cry.

We're so lucky to have Becks as our little boy. He is joyous and rambunctious and mischievous and sweet and crazy and runs into life at full speed. Man, I love this kid.

Previous Birthday Post:


A Girl In Boy's Clothes

She's adorable, right? Granted I'm biased, but seriously... Look at that face. I'll say it again: LOOK AT THAT FACE. Does it look like a boy's face to you? Because whether I dress her in pink or blue people always refer to her as a boy... every where we go. It could be her bald head.

Whatever it is, I don't really care. Everyone calls B a girl due to his curly blond locks and tiny little features. It hasn't made me cut his hair and it won't make me stop dressing her in cute blue outfits. I have them, might as well use them, right?


BubbleBum Inflatable Seats Give Away

We're in preschool now. We have friends and play dates and lots of offers to pick up each other's kids. That's what moms do: we pick up each other's kids. We throw them in the back and act like it's no big deal. We pile them in and unload them when we get home. But our kids are still in car seats and boosters, so it can be complicated.

W is just about to transition from his car seat to a booster. We're still keeping him strapped into his Britax for now, but pretty soon he'll be in a booster. This is the age when car seats get weird. They're bulky and expensive and you always seem to need an extra one. It's hard being the mom who doesn't have the extra booster. W can fit into his Britax, but a lot of his friends are bigger than him and cannot.

A while ago I was given the opportunity to try out a BubbleBum. They launched this cool new product at the beginning of 2013 and did a roll out at Target. Cool, huh? I was originally supposed to be part of the launch, but W didn't weigh enough to test the seat and you can see by my lack of posting that the blog has fallen way down on my list. But, this is a call product and I'm true to my word. I only do give aways that I think my readers will like and/or find useful and this one fits the bill.

So, I'm finally giving one away to a lucky reader! I have readers still, right? I kid... I know there are two of you left!

Let me tell you about the BubbleBum... It's the first inflatable booster seat designed to make travel and car pooling safe. It deflates small enough to be kept in a large purse or back pack. It's pretty genius. W doesn't weigh enough to get in one of these yet, but I'm excited to try it out when he does. It already has its spot in our car and when I practiced using it, I found it to be really easy.

Holy crap, is this my future or what?!? Except without the red hair. And perfectly smiling kids.

If you don't have time to run out to your local Target to grab one, you're in luck! Enter to win one here...

Here's how to enter:

1. Comment on this post and share your favorite trick to make carpooling easy. 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 BubbleBum inflatable booster at www.hannemaniacs.com

6. Like the BubbleBum Facebook page.

7. Follow BubbleBum on Twitter.

Please let me know which of the above actions you have done to be counted. That's a lot of entry opportunities!

Contest ends at 5 pm Friday, April 12th. Enter now!

THE WINNER (chosen on Random.org): Vanessa.

If you did not win, you can purchase your BubbleBum at Target. Find your store with this locator or visit one of these Chicagoland Target locations: Alton, Normal, Rockford, Glendale Heights, Naperville, Gurnee, Moline, Peru, Tinley Park, Broadview, and Bourbonnais.

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


Watching For Dyslexia

Matt is dyslexic. It's a big part of who he is, yet isn't something that most people know. Why? Because his parents hired specialists, tutors, and did everything they could to give him every opportunity to succeed, to ensure he didn't get lost along the way. So, I don't really think of it very often. But, I know it's always on Matt's mind, especially now with three little kids.

It started with W. Matt would admit he was worried about passing on his dyslexia. The common belief that boys are more likely to be dyslexic than girls (though this is not actually true) was his first concern. And then when W started showing that he was right-handed, Matt sighed with relief that his chances of not being dyslexic were that much better (lefties are more likely to be dyslexic than righties). And then B was born... And it started again. Now with A, the wheels are turning again...

Neither of us know what's buried deep in our kids' genes, but the concern is always there that they could inherit some of our traits that we hope were strained out along the way. Yeah, they might be dyslexic, but it could be worse. And, let's face it, special education has come a long way. But to Matt dyslexia will always be the memory of him as a little boy sitting in class, frustrated about being forced to read out loud or recite a multiplication table. For him growing up as a student with dyslexia in a rural school meant being kept inside at recess time with a girl with a lisp and a speech therapist. The school had to offer him services and that was their version. And it's the voice of that little boy inside of him that freaks him out that our kids might feel what he felt for even a second.

I'm no expert on education or teaching, but we all know that schools don't teach in a way that benefits children who aren't mainstream learners. Memorization is one of those things that didn't come easily to Matt. He had a third grade teacher who told him that if he didn't memorize the months in order he would never get out of the third grade. Guess what? He still struggles with reciting the months in order. And he graduated from high school, earned his Bachelor's, then went to film school for grad school and graduated from there as well. Today he works in a job that revolves around television schedules every day.

So, even if our kids struggle, I'm assured they'll have a terrific role model in their dad. They're lucky kids already

This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison. Parenting is a challenging job, but what challenges does a parent with Asperger's face? Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Swimming Lessons: Should Progress Be More of a Concern?

W has been in swimming lessons since June 2012. We go once a week. Same pool, same lane, same teacher, same routine... Same level. We take him to a swim school. It isn't cheap, but my goal was for him was to be comfortable with water by the summer of 2013 and I was confident that would happen at this place. He didn't need to learn to swim in a year, just develop a comfort level in the water.

He doesn't love swimming lessons. He likes it, but it's often a struggle to get him out the door and there is a lot of whiny questioning of how long he has to take swimming lessons. My answer to him is always the same: "Forever. You will be in swimming lessons until you are a good swimmer, which will seem like forever." 

There are six things he has to master before moving on to the next level and he's done four of those things. While there has been plenty of improvement, he still won't let go of the instructor to try to float on his back for five seconds. Until he does that he'll stay at the level he's at.

His instructor looks at me each week and assures me W is doing better. I tell him that I know, but I can tell he expects me to be more frustrated. I'm a competitive person by nature. But this is one situation when I'm going to focus on the improvements that I see in him every week, rather than what the school uses to determine his progress. Is it wrong that I'm not?