Sunday, September 25, 2011

To my dad

Today is my dad's 60th birthday. Surrounded by a house full of girls (even our cat Chloe), my dad has always been the quiet one.

But he was always there for us - especially for the not-so-fun stuff. Moving us in and out of college; taking us to buy a car (that was never a good time); math projects; oh, the list goes on.

I know he had to do a lot to be home every night in time for dinner. Even now, myself an adult, I see how far he walked to and fro the commuter train when we lived in the hilly suburbs of Pittsburgh, and I still think it's really far. Eating together as a family has all kinds of benefits, and we were lucky as kids to have both parents at the dinner table.

Once in middle school, he left work early to watch me play on the volleyball team (my only foray into sports) and that meant the world to me. I still remember it.

The only thing he can cook are omelets, which I still haven't mastered. That drives me nuts.

He was the first guy in mine and my sisters' lives and he was the one to walk us down the aisles to our husbands. Family comes first in his book, and we're grateful for the example he's given us of a good husband, father and now grandfather.

Happy birthday to the only person I know who likes fruitcake. We love you, Dad.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My day

Maria and I exchanged texts today about how the day was going and how pick-up went at preschool. We basically can read each other's mind at this point, so our correspondence is brief. As I signed off with a "thanks!" I realized I should focus my attention back on my organization's board meeting, given I was just about to speak about Openlands' fundraising goals for the coming year.

I'm very aware of my many worlds lately and my traversing from one to the next.  I start the morning in a sleepy state, often waking up to a cat sleeping on my pillow and a preschooler, clad in Buzz Lightyear pjs, elbowing me. Minutes later, I have my infant daughter tucked under my arm as I'm trying to pour my first cup of coffee for the day.

I'm at school with Jack for the morning drop-off, watching him play with his friends, trying to figure out which one is Oscar, whom he talks about at home. I say hello to my fellow mommys and we discuss our concerns about the kids playing outside in the courtyard next to the busy Michigan Avenue. I give Jack one last hug before dashing for the bus.

The bus gives me five minutes to be by myself. I check my email; I look out the window; I think about my day. As I walk the two blocks to my office from the bus stop, I notice a businessman playing a game of chess with a homeless man.

I'm at work, talking grant proposal deadlines, donor cultivation and stewardship and someone's net worth. My workplace is comfortable; I forget to change out of my sneakers for the entire day, and that's okay. One of Jack's watercolor paintings decorates my office.  Things are stressful as we discuss budgets and the new year.

I'm at home for the evening - where the real marathon begins. Dinner, baths, bedtimes, cleaning up of toys and resetting the house for a new day. Sometimes we open a bottle of wine and sometimes I blog.

Where did today take you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

School days

Nothing too profound to report today - I've enjoyed the last few days bringing Jack to school before work. We take the Chicago Avenue bus together and then walk a few blocks to his school, his small hand in mine. Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days.

Waiting for the bus...

Humoring Mommy...

And Jack's school (on the corner), in the middle of Chicago's Michigan Avenue...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First day of school

This morning, as Jack is still hanging out in his jammies, he's watching Disney Junior. A segment comes on between shows and it's a compilation of Disney mommys and their babies - Bambi, Dumbo, etc. as Jennifer Garner reads this poem, A Mother's Song.

I look at Jack, yutzing around and can't believe we're here: It's his first day of preschool. I can still remember the moment of his birth exactly on that November eve and now we're suiting him up in his monkey backpack and convincing him it's time to retire the summer sandals for his sensible sneakers.

And so Jack - and my heart - headed out to preschool today.

Today's class was only an hour long, and Jack brought along his entourage of Maria, Mommy, Daddy and baby sister Jossie.  It was totally free-form: The kids played with toys, had a snack when they wanted to and said hello to the class bunny, Hopsy Cabbage. Jack mostly played on his own but toward the end, starting to warm up to the others.  All in all, it was a very good morning, and Jack has already declared he's looking forward to going back.

We celebrated the first day of school with lunch at one of of Jeremy's and my favorite places, L'Apetito, which you can find in the base of the John Hancock Building. It's an Italian bakery and they have wonderful sandwiches, salads, pizzas and desserts. Even though it's in a prominent location - right on Michigan Avenue - I feel like it's still under-the-radar as a good lunch spot. As we're there, I picked Jack up and swung him around. He giggled and threw his head back. I caught his head in the palm of my hand, pull him close and rested my head in his hair. It's like someone hit the rewind button at that moment, and I can remember holding Jack that way as an infant, nuzzling his head close.

It really does go all too fast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Still standing!

So my best intentions for chronicling the weekend through photo and video were dashed by the madhouse of activity that ensued. You know - the typical insanity of driving around the North Shore, terrorizing little bakeries to make me cookie platters RIGHT NOW, which comes with special events planning.

I'm grateful to my parents for keeping Jack and Jossie, so Jeremy could fly (safely) to New York to do his thing and I could do the aforementioned bakery terrorizing. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

And without further adieu, here are the two pictures I did take this weekend with my phone. The first is the fully accessible trail that winds along the lake bluff, with majestic views of Lake Michigan. I was walking the path with my best friend Amy and her daughter Cate when I took this.

And this one is from our Sunday night benefit, which had the theme of a French country picnic. We rolled up the sides of the tent and let the delicious lake breezes in. My phone was in one hand and a glass of white wine was in the other.

And here's a picture I stole from a board member - my favorite part of the weekend was seeing the almost-full moon's reflection off of Lake Michigan. Heavenly.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mixed emotions

It's 6:45 a.m., and I'm checking email, nursing a baby and writing a blog post. Sounds about right for myself these days.

Our grand opening of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is today and tomorrow - hence the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I've been working on this opening since I returned from maternity leave in early April. I'm honored to be a part of a wonderful team who is making this weekend and the Preserve happen. The weather is looking good, and we are ready.

As the retrospectives for 9/11 play on TV, I enter this weekend with one part concern and two parts feeling blessed. My concern is that Jeremy has to fly tomorrow on 9/11 to New York for business. He will be fine, but I don't love it nonetheless.

Okay, on to the fun stuff: I'm blessed that my parents are driving here right now and I get to spend the weekend surrounded by them and my children, spending time looking inward and being reminded of what's most truly important to me.

I also get to participate in a weekend of activities at the Preserve. The Preserve is situated on a working military base. About 400 Naval families are stationed here, and we've invited them to participate in our open house today. It's nice to be part of something bigger than my own little life this weekend, spending time looking outward, enjoying nature with a lot of people.

I'm armed with my camera and my Flip - hopefully to capture some of the weekend for you. And after this weekend, I'm looking at some exciting things for my writing here - beautifying the blog design and I'm potentially entering a partnership to learn more about local farming, so I can bring you some original, firsthand information about feeding your family local, healthy foods without breaking the bank.

Happy Saturday! Here's a picture from the Preserve's lake bluffs, which my colleague just took:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Living right now

It's Labor Day weekend - the last official weekend of summer. Jeremy and I are at home with the kids, having one last weekend of hanging around in our jams, eschewing nap schedules and sipping another glass of red wine after the kids go to bed. We watched Northwestern's first victory of the season yesterday, and Jack and I made a new chocolate chip cookie recipe:

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef

·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 cup rolled oats
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
·         1 cup brown sugar
·         1/2 cup granulated sugar
·         2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
·         2 eggs
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         12 ounces block dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
·         1 cup walnuts, chopped
·         Large flake sea salt, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and kosher salt.

In large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter. Using an electric beater or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until it they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat them into the butter and sugar mixture. Add in the vanilla as well.

With a rubber spatula or with the stand mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture. Mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks and walnuts.

Spoon the cookie dough by 2 tablespoon-size balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Place the cookie dough balls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 12 to 13 minutes.

When the cookies come out of the oven immediately sprinkle each cookie with a few grains of sea salt. This is really important to do while the cookies are hot.

Let the cookies cool for 2 to 3 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

* * *

But don't let the laziness trick you: We're readying ourselves for a crazy month. I won't bore you with the details but a quick list includes my first gala benefit for Openlands, Jack's first day of preschool, business trips for Jeremy, budgeting at work, visits from family, milestone birthdays for both of our dads and a trip home to Cleveland. Oy.

I got a little worked up this afternoon just thinking about it all, so Jeremy declared we were going outside. He barely packed a thing, and I practically got hives at the prospect of leaving the house with no sippy cups, no snacks and no sun hats.

We headed to Northwestern's lake fill to soak in the sun, the views of Chicago and the waves of Lake Michigan. Being outside, I was able to let go. And it was nice to just be.

We ended Daddy's outing with an early dinner at Lulu's. If Lulu was a woman, Jeremy would have left me for her and her wide rice noodles year ago. And Jack loves the dinosaurs they have to play with.

So tomorrow, we rest one more day, and after that, September, it is on.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poor second kid

As I was feeding Jossie baby food out of a plastic cup with a plastic spoon at the eating area of Whole Foods last week, this thought crossed my mind: I would have never done this with Jack.

As Jack's parents, Jeremy and I are slightly nervous, always tired and afraid that each phase might not end. We put a lot of research into everything, diligently reading our child-rearing books. I just put a bunch of back-to-school books on hold at the library to ready Jack - and frankly, me - for his first day of preschool.

As Jossie's parents, we are more at ease - even when we were given a three-pound baby. She goes with the flow and so do we. We cuddle her to no end because we know these baby days are brief.

A few other differences that make me laugh at us...
  • I read in one of my four baby food cookbooks that lamb is the most easily digestible meat for babies. For baby Jack, I bought ground lamb, browned it and pureed it into a fine paste with water.  It was disgusting. Neither he nor I ate it. And Jossie had her first bite of meat this past weekend, and she loved it: tiny bites of rotisserie chicken breast from Costco. Yum!
  • When Jack was little, he had days where he wouldn't stop crying, unless we held him. I was so tired and had to lay down. I was so afraid I would roll over on him, so I put him in the Baby Bjorn on my chest, and then propped pillows around me so I wouldn't roll over. We blissfully slept that way in the afternoons. On the other hand, encouraged by Dr. Sears, Jossie and I co-slept - as a tiny baby, she would sleep on my pillow, cupped in my hands, our faces toward one another. As she got older, she easily slept in the crook of my arm. I trusted myself and my body to know I wouldn't roll over.
  • And then there's this move Jeremy pulled the other day:

Happy almost-Labor Day!