Sunday, January 27, 2013


After weekends of planning for fun and having planned fun, this was a weekend of living-in-the-moment fun. It's exactly what we needed - a Saturday of part-exploring/part-errands and a Sunday where the weather is predicted to be icy rain so we are staying tucked indoors.

Saturday was a brightly sunny and chilly day. Our morning started at the children's photography studio jookie. The owner Jill is a Northwestern alum as well. In 2008, she photographed a one-year-old Jack.

We were thrilled to give back through her Valentine's Day fundraiser. We are excited to see the images she captured, which we'll share. Jack, per usual, did not want to go, and as soon as we got there, while I was still fussing with Jossie's hair, Jack was already in front of the camera, giving Jill adorable smiles. 

jookie is located in my BFF's old neighborhood, Chicago's Lincoln Square. We never go there anymore, so a trip up there warranted some time walking around the neighborhood and poking around the many locally owned shops. Timeless Toys has all of the requisite Melissa & Doug and Playmobil gear, but they also have a great selection of lesser-known board games and dress-up clothes. Gene's Sausage Shop is just as amazing as it sounds (besides smoked meats they have a nice selection of specialty ingredients, like fine sea salt). And Merz Apothecary has a variety of natural health and beauty products, including my new favorite, friend-recommended hand cream, Lotil

Our outing also included brunch at Cafe Selmarie, where we ran into college friends and enjoyed a hearty breakfast of multi-grain pancakes, scrambled eggs and chicken sausage. We rarely brunch anymore, with having the two littles, so this was a treat. I may have ordered myself a mimosa. It's very Middle America there - patrons dressed in oversized sweaters, jeans or leggings and snow boots. Little ones are rapping silverware against the tables, their hair sticking up from their mamas pull wool caps off of their heads. Local watercolors adorn the walls and are sale for purchase. The servers are all twenty-somethings, wearing their funky eyeglasses while serving up creative dishes like cinnamon roll griddlecakes. 

I like to record these outings - this moment in time while the kids are little, and we're city dwellers enjoying Chicago's treasures.  I sometimes think the story of my blog is this story - Chicago living with young children, making a home in 1,300-square feet of condo with the city as our backyard.

And today is Sunday. Everyone was in bed until 8 a.m., which is unheard of. I made waffles. They were not overly sweet but do have a hint of cinnamon warmth. To make them appealling to kids, add some maple syrup, fruit and/or a dollop of whipped cream.

Buttermilk waffles

2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (did you notice the foreshadowing above?)

Preheat a waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, using a sturdy whisk, beat the eggs until evenly mixed. Add buttermilk, oil, sugar, cinnamon and baking soda. Whisk together until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until just the large lumps disappear. The waffle batter should be a little thicker than heavy cream. Transfer the batter to a large glass measuring pitcher (I used a four-cup measuring glass).

While the waffle iron is hot, pour some batter evenly over the center of the grid, easing it toward but not into the corners and edges with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.  Close the iron and cook for 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

And that's it - just a bunch of relaxing and some cooking for the rest of the day. Happy relaxing Sunday to you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

All you need is...

Jack's preschool teacher is fond of reminding the students that if you are nice to the class bunny, then Ms. Hopsy Cabbage will be nice to you. A loved bunny is a happy bunny.

I have two some bunnies who were driving me crazy at home tonight. After our holiday weekend of fun, it was back to work today. When I got home at 5 p.m., toting my Target purchases and trying to shake off the chilly Chicago temperatures, I had no break. There is no happy hour. No civility. It's right into mama mode, making dinner, negotiating squabbles, giving baths and brushing the teeth of a thrashing toddler.

The end of the night was laughably bad - Jossie and I had toothpaste all over our clothes and the bathroom floor had large puddles of water. I asked Jack the same question about seven times before he responded; he was too busy hopping around our living room, which was strewn with toys. I was tired.

Lately, I've had tiny triumphs at work - shared and personal. Even just tonight - while the crazy ensued at home - my boss emailed me about two major gifts coming our way. And as a fundraiser, I'm constantly thinking about my organization's outcomes and how we can accurately show progress to our donors.

Successes at home are a lot harder to measure, which is hard for my Type A brain to comprehend. Success comes in different ways - me keeping some bit of calm rather than reaching the end of my rope tonight is a tiny success. Me reading to the kids and them settling down to enjoy the stories is a tiny success. Jack and Jossie both falling asleep in my arms, all of us cuddled in Jack's twin bed is a tiny success, with a little heavenly intervention surely thrown in.

I'm never going to be a perfect mom. I will lose my temper from time to time. I will lean on TV - dear sweet TV - to entertain my kids while I make dinner. And I will wish I could just have some Peace and Quiet once in awhile.

But for now - these little bunnies are little. And needy. They need me and my love and the structure I bring to our home. I know they will benefit from what I'm trying to do here - for them to know they are loved above anything else.

A loved bunny is a happy bunny.

What do you think? Please hit "comments" below and post your thoughts.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pretty in pink

While the gala season may start in September and end by Christmas, my family's party season extends from Halloween to mid-January. Instead of formal dress, passed appetizers and open bars, our season includes presents, homemade cookies and lots of laughter.

Since October 31, my family has donned Halloween costumes and eaten candy, sang happy birthday to Jack, saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in person and eaten turkey in New York, lit eight nights of candles for Hanukkah and celebrated with Jack's preschool class, awaited Santa's visit and played in the snow in Cleveland, toasted 2013 with Champagne and sparkling cider, watched the Northwestern Wildcats finally win a bowl game, and - just this past weekend - end our party season with a family weekend for Jossie's second birthday. 

It was the first time since Jeremy's and my wedding that we had all of our siblings and parents in one room, which was a treat in itself. Throw in a few best friends and their families along the way, and our 1300-square-foot condo was quite the party. 

As usual, the best moments of this weekend were the unplanned ones. My parents and Jeremy's parents sitting at the dining room table Saturday night chatting; my sisters, all of our kids and me sitting in the living room; and my mom likening Jossie's behavior to mine (we both sucked our index finger as toddlers) and Jeremy's mom likening Jack's behavior to Jeremy (both hummed constantly while playing toys as preschoolers).

Jossie and Jack had big smiles on their faces all weekend. As we toasted Jossie Saturday night, surrounded by our loved ones, I noted how lucky she was. How lucky we all are.

I unabashedly did everything in pink this weekend. I bought a few things from the Martha Steward Vintage Girl line to help decorate and found inspiration from Pinterest. My sister made some tulle pom-poms that I will reuse in Jossie's future playroom.

I made a birthday banner to celebrate Jossie's past year of life.

The food was simple breakfast foods; besides me baking the zucchini and banana breads and my mom cutting up the fruit, we bought everything pre-made. Easy! Sparkling pink lemonade and pink and white striped paper straws were highlights.

My sister, mom and I baked cookies, and I bought pink candy (benefiting from Valentine's Day, which is right around the corner) for a sweets table for our guests' party favors. I found small clear plastic scoops at The Container Store for the candy.

One of the cookies I baked was a crisp chocolate chip cookie:

Tate's Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies
From Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup salted butter, 2 sticks
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars, then add the water and vanilla. Mix until just combined.

Add eggs to the butter mixture and mix them lightly.

Stir in the flour mixture. When flour is mixed in, fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough 2-inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Make sure the cookie sheets are well greased. I like to use parchment paper.

Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the edges and centers of the cookies are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks.

Personalized stickers from this Etsy seller adorned the empty bakery boxes, waiting to be filled with sweet treats.

We had light pink and white flowers from A New Leaf and a confetti birthday cake from Sweet Mandy B's.

It was a perfect weekend for our family and our sweet girl. Many thanks to our family for making the trip. It meant the world to us.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy birthday to Jossie

Jossie was born at 12:33 a.m., 33 minutes into her 33rd week of gestation. God graced me with the gift of a suit of armor that lasted for 12 hours or so after her birth. I only felt elation, adrenaline and relief for her safe and healthy birth. She was breathing on her own and regulating her temperature well. We knew each other the moment Jeremy brought her to me. Daughter and mother. Joy. It would be a little later on that doubt, regret and worry would sneak in, but blessedly only temporarily in the grand scheme of things.

And today is her second birthday, and she is our beautiful, determined little girl. The sun shines brightly today, a stark contrast to the bitterly cold temperatures, as it did two years ago. The happiness that surrounded us during those early moments surrounds us tenfold today.

Happy birthday to our dear Jossie.

Jossie, you have much patience living in a house full of firstborns - your mother, father, and older brother. At an early age, I see you learning the art of negotiation. When Jack was 2, he would ask for a TV show, and I'd happily oblige. When you ask for a show, you say, "Elmo show first," giving Jack a watchful eye to see how he'll respond.

You are our quiet observer and you have always been that way. Even as a newborn, you would look deeply into the eyes of your doctors and nurses, trying to figure them out. I see you do that in every new situation you're in, taking stock of the scene before delving into action.

You are happy to amuse yourself. When you wake up in the morning or after your nap, you're more than happy for one of us to put a few books and a comfy pillow in your crib for your quiet time.

You are a self-proclaimed "Daddy's princess" who loves horses, puppies and baby dolls. But you also love watching football, playing hallway soccer with Jack (which you call "hallway balls"), and a good pillow fight. I hope you always keep them guessing, Joss, and keep your interests diverse.

And though she be but little, she is fierce.
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I resolve

I have been meaning to write a resolutions post for the past week. One of the lessons learned in 2012 was if you write something down, there's already something to it.

But 2013 has been one of those sneaky ocean waves for me so far. You're walking toward the sandy shore, and it catches you, knocking you down. You get a bit disoriented, your hands and knees dug into the sand and broken shells, and you try to stand up, only to be knocked down again.

But is it really that bad? You're still at the beach and probably someone you love is watching from the shore, having a good laugh at your poor expense.

Anyways, 2013. 2013. 2013. Had a few work headaches and illness at home to start off this new year. Like multiple people throwing up on me. I've taken to listening to the 40s XM station in the car and this song came on when I was feeling particularly low. Someone up there has a great sense of humor.

Don't lose your confidence
If you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off
And start all over again.

We are all getting better and I have a quiet moment to list off my resolutions.

1. Live generously. This essay describes it beautifully. As the essayist states, "...I believe I’ve been given much, so much is required of me." My family is healthy; Jeremy and I have a lovely network of supportive friends; and our jobs allow us some flexibility (the flip side being we work on off-hours sometimes). We're thriving on this as long as we can - volunteering in Jack's classroom and I am enjoying my work through the March of Dimes, which is mostly therapy for me.

2. Self compassion over perfectionism. This is taken directly from the book, Daring Greatly. Perfectionism isn't attainable. Tonight I'm choosing some sleep over running errands. It feels good.

3. Respect myself and protect my health for my kids. My youngest sister has challenged my middle sister, my mom and I to run/walk a marathon each month - meaning adding 26.2 extra miles into our daily activity over a month's period. Mine has been simple - instead of catching the train to work, I walk the 1.9 miles daily. I also am trying to skip cheese for the month of January. We'll see how long that lasts. (Reference resolution 2).

4. My ever-present goal of being present. Today of all days, I had a choice. I could go to work and dig in, or I could rearrange things to attend Jossie's first-ever music class. I'm so glad I made the choice I did. Jossie might never remember this day, but I will. No regrets. The love continued with Jeremy and Jossie dancing around the kitchen at dinner time. No TV, no iPads or iPhones, just us.

I say it often but here's to writing the best stories we can in 2013.