Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Help us to say thanks

Little ones deserve the best.

We saw that firsthand in the NICU but also already knew it in our hearts. We are so grateful for all of the good medical care Jossie received at the hospital last year as a preemie born at 33 weeks. Jossie′s good health today is the perfect example of how far a preterm baby can go with proper care. Quite honestly, we have erased "preemie" from our everyday lexicon at this point, for which we're grateful.

Please join us in saying thanks by supporting the March of Dimes so that their advocacy, education and research can positively impact the lives of tomorrow′s children and their families.  On April 29, our family and friends will be participating in the Chicago March of Dimes walk. Here are two ways you can join us:

1. Walk with us. To sign up, visit our team page. There is no registration fee, and you can sign up your entire family with one log-in name. Set your goal, which will feed into our overall goal of raising $1,000. Bring your kids and let's show them what it's like to be a part of something bigger than us.

2. Support us. Click on the March of Dimes link on the right side of this page and donate to Jack and Jossie's fund. Their personal goal is $500 toward the overall goal of $1,000. As a fundraiser by profession, I know what sells. And cute kids sell.

Thank you for helping us give all babies a healthy start!

The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My firstborn

Jack likes to sleep in our bed. If I'm among mixed crowds, I pretend like that it's actually part of our approach to parenting, and I throw around words like "family bed" and "co-sleeping." Working at a conservation organization helps with my street cred.

Jeremy and I will often wake up with Jack kicking one of us, Roscoe the cat sleeping soundly between my legs and Jossie tucked in the crook of my arm. If it's a Saturday or Sunday morning, I do enjoy having them all heaped atop of us. These days aren't going to last forever, and I'm relishing it.

But that said, I would really just like a good night's rest as a working mama. And that typically involves avoiding having bony little kids - who repeatedly kick - out of your bed.

So we started our campaign for Jack to sleep in his own bed this month. Every night he sticks to his own bed, we reward him in the morning with a sticker on the calendar. There was one day when he did come in sort-of early but he declared he was just popping in to "check on us" before headed back to bed, so we let it slide.

After accumulating the requisite number of stickers, Jack was awarded with a trip to the Lego store last week, that lucky boy. We picked out a new toy and he promptly put it together with our help that night. (If anyone has tips on what the heck we're actually supposed to do with these assembled Lego creations once they're built, please do let me know.)

And now we're starting to slide back into our old ways. The last two nights, I've woken up to Jack snuggling in beside me.

I talked with Jack about it this morning - we were all exhausted. Both kids had been up all night at differing intervals. Remember me waxing poetry about my friends' newborn yesterday? I love newborns - but not their nightlife. I told Jack I was taking drastic measures - if he got in our bed again, he'd get a black X on the calendar, rather than a sticker.

Jack can do your good, old-fashioned WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH freak-out when he doesn't like what he hears but he can also do the wet-eyes, sad puppy-dog look, which he did this morning after I made my declaration.

"No, Mommy. No X's," he said tearfully. "I want lots of check marks and stickers instead."

Is he a firstborn or what?

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Two of our dearest friends had their first child yesterday. And I took advantage of the lunch hour today to visit with them. Carrying a box of six cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and a handmade "welcome to the world, baby" card from Jack, I entered their hospital room to meet our new friend, a beautiful baby boy with round cheeks. He was wrapped up tightly in his hospital blanket, a blue hat covering his head. I had the opportunity to hold him, and he was looking around, so alert and aware. His mama looked on proudly - she was glowing and calm - a lot better than I ever was post-birth!

The new father served some Perrier-Jouet in styrofoam cups, and we toasted to new life. A toast that has followed a long line of toasts in our friendship...weddings, new homes, new babies, New Year's Eve, and a warm Sunday with nothing to do besides sit on a patio chair and drink some Riesling, to name a few.

Life is so often about routine, lots of work and a long list of have-to's. Then you have a moment like this. It is such an honor and joy to have space to stop and marvel at the beauty of new life and relish the goodness of long friendships.

I had a lot of triggers being at the hospital - the same woman at the front desk in the lobby who was there last year when I was there with Jossie, a stack of "NICU mom" tags within view. Smells and sounds that put me in the place of last year. But overall, I was okay and that's nice to say.

It was a golden day outside - sunny and warm. My own children at home with Maria, having their lunches and settling down for afternoon naps.

Life is not perfect but we are all allowed some perfect life moments.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today's charms

Today is St. Patrick's Day. It was 80+ degrees in Chicago, and when I ventured out, I saw many a green-clad person dancing through the streets.

I project there will be many sunburnt hungover people tomorrow.

We probably couldn't be further away from the revelry of St. Paddy's Day celebrations, and that is certainly fine. We spent the morning hosting a play date between Jack and his school friend Charlie. Charlie is Jack's first friend he hasn't know since the crib - he is such a sweet boy from a thoughtful family. He showed up with a fistful of daffodils for Jack's mommy.

I loved having a pirate and a Superman run around, looking for monsters and laughing when I told them their pirates' treasure was called "booty." (Admit it, you smiled too.) 

I kind of love play dates, as the kids entertain themselves. With Jossie napping, I had time to try my hand at an omelet. Yes, City Sweet has not conquered omelets. And I did not do it today - letting the egg burn on the outside while the inside was still runny. I do love this book however - Cook's Illustrated is trying its hardest to give me step-by-step, scientific-based instructions to cooking perfection. 

After good-byes to Charlie, lunch, a grocery trip and an afternoon nap for Jossie, Jeremy and I took the kids up to the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Lake County. The capital campaign for the Preserve started two months before Jack's birth, so I like to think of both of these projects as things I've seen grown, myself maturing too. I played a small role overall in this project, but I can certainly take credit in front of my kids, right? "Mommy helped make this place," I told Jack as we strolled along the sunny lake bluff trail, with glittering views of Lake Michigan to our left. (Though I realized I may have led him too far, after Jack asked me if I made Lake Michigan.)

I proudly took in the many visitors we passed - mostly military families who reside at Fort Sheridan, cyclists and a couple getting their engagement pictures taken by a photographer.  "Mommy," Jack observed. "People like your place!"

I'll take that as a working-mama validation any day.

The sun and warm temperatures are so refreshing - it was great to play outside. I was struck by this picture however - look at those long shadows from the sun. Those are winter shadows despite our summer temperatures.

Jeremy had heard good things about Real Urban BBQ in neighboring Highland Park and is always excited to try a new BBQ joint, so we took the kids for an early dinner. The food was good - we would recommend it. They featured Carolina-style of BBQ - smoked meats and you can add your own sauces - which you ordered cafeteria-style. The kids and I love the sides, and they had an unsweetened peach iced tea that was very refreshing. People say that Jossie girl is my mini-me because of our looks but I saw the way that girl eyed her brother's mac and cheese - that is all me, baby.

They have seating outside, and I'm always quickly reminded how beautiful al fresco dining is with kids. Once you're finished, you just stand up, brush everyone off and go, go, go.

We finished our night at Homer's Ice Cream in Wilmette on our way home to the city. I like to think of it as really good birth control - the place was extremely loud, overrun by families and groups of tweens. While Jossie has had other sweets, this was her first bite of ice cream - despite her early startled reaction to its coldness, she loved it. And as I watched the tweens laughing with each other, pulling out iPhones and acting goofy, I pulled Jack's chair close to me. Grateful he's still mine, and he still wants to spend his time with Mommy.

An Irish blessing for today:

These things I warmly wish to you-
Someone to love
Some work to do
A bit o' sun
A bit o' cheer
And a guardian angel always near.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here comes the sun

I'm not really sure if I can quote a Beatles song in my blog - mostly, because I'm the only person on earth who hates The Beatles (continually trying to post controversial topics to stir up some from comments from my readers...)

Anyways, I believe in climate change and all. And I don't want Chicago to have Houston's climate by the end of the century, but I will admit: I love the warm weather we're having.

Jack had the biggest smile on his face today, as he played with his friends at school outside. And last night, we enjoyed the time change, giving us more daylight so we could enjoy the park.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An everyday hero

Jack has a box of superhero costumes that we've stashed under his train table. He'll mash-up costumes - a Superman cape paired with a Green Lantern mask and Spiderman arm shields and take on the monsters lurking in our closets.

Lately, I'm been reading a lot about real-world heroism.

I'm continually amazed about the story about the woman from Indiana who saved her children's lives while losing her own legs; I think of the parents who lost their children to the terrible shootings in Chardon, Ohio, 20 minutes from my hometown, and how they must find the strength to carry on; and I just found this blog and I can't stop reading this woman's story of losing her son.

I have no doubt that I would do anything to protect my children in this world. But please let me never be put to the test. So, that said, how can be we everyday heroes?

Sometimes I feel like I fall hopelessly short. Last night, Jack took his cup of milk and turned it upside down when he didn't like the dinner he was served. As he was sent to his room for a timeout, he took a picture his preschool teachers had left for me in his cubbie at school and crumpled it up and then went to his room, knocking everything off of his bed and dresser.

I had it.

I could almost see the words blowing out of my mouth. "I am. So. UPSET," I said right into his little face.

His tears ensued as he sat on his bed.

I took Jossie for a bath, and Jack straightened his act out. With Jeremy, he cleaned up his room and ate the dinner that sat waiting for him. He then came to me and put his bony arms around my neck, as I was sitting on the bathroom floor, drying off Jossie.

I couldn't help it but I started to cry - mostly out of exhaustion and frustration and then a little beating myself up for being weak in front of my kids - who wants to see their mom cry? I looked at Jack and his eyes were wet and he held me tight, and I told him, I can get upset but I would always love him.

Trust me, my son can use tears when he doesn't get his way or a toy he wants - but to see true sadness for feeling bad was noteworthy. I wasn't sure if I should be grateful for his empathy or truly ashamed that I elicited this reaction from him.

So anyways, I'm not perfect.

But, as I'm wont to do, here are my thoughts on what I've learned so far in my wee four years of parenting to be my own everyday hero. And yes, they're touchy-feely: Give your kids structure and set limits. Remind them often they are loved. Do things that you love so they can see you as your own person. Embrace different because it can be awesome. Think about your community and the role you play. Be present in the moment. Be aware. Be intentional. See things through. And cut yourself breaks. And drink wine.

What would you add? If you're reading this post, I ask you to leave a comment. Please. I'll even give you a new Pandora station to try: look up singer/songwriter Jillian Edwards. You'll love her.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Still here

Well, hello.

Jeremy and I have been taking the vow “in sickness and in health” quite literally lately as our little family continues to pass around a cold. I think we’re now on round #2.

Despite the runny noses and dry coughs, we did have a lovely time in New York this past weekend, celebrating Jeremy’s sister’s upcoming wedding.  Happiness was seeing our sister glowing at her bridal shower, being celebrating by family and friends.  Happiness was seeing my mother-in-law and her friends do what they do best - throw a great party. Happiness was showing off the kiddos at the end of the shower. Jack and Jossie, of course, were overwhelmed with the love and attention they received. I sat with them at a window seat of the restaurant’s banquet room to give them a quiet moment. We watched the Upper East Side comings and goings, on the street level below. “This is New York City, children,” I whispered into their soft brown hair as I held them close, not really knowing what I was trying to impart in that moment.

Back to reality: I was home from work today, sick as a dog. I did make dinner. This is an easy meal for a weeknight. I was even able to throw together the meatballs as one 13-month-old held onto the back of my legs, sobbing into my yoga pants.

Mini turkey meatballs and pasta
1 pound ground turkey
¾ cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (goes really well with the ground turkey!)
1 large egg, beaten

Mix together all ingredients. With a small scoop, make mini-meatballs and broil on high for 6-8 minutes, flipping half-way through. And this is where it gets really easy – open up a jar of premade tomato sauce and throw into a pot – put meatballs in the sauce to continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes while your pasta boils. Enjoy!