Saturday, December 27, 2008

Colin Murray Giles

He's here! Colin arrived today at 2:04 p.m. We could not be more delighted to meet him.

More later (including cute pictures) . . . but for now back to snuggling my sweet baby.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hmmmm... I Wonder Why The Baby Doesn't Seem to Want to Come Out?

No wonder this baby would prefer to remain in my uterus rather than join us out here in the world.

Our house is full of sickness. Ellie has a cough that won't quit, plus a fever and a runny nose. Brendan is starting to exhibit cold symptoms as well. I have a sore throat and body aches.

We traded the past few days of sub-zero temperatures for blizzard-like conditions, with more snow expected tomorrow.

We are also expecting an ice storm that is going to coincide nicely with my scheduled induction on December 27th.

Delightful. Definitely not going to have any more babies in the dead of winter in Chicago.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Poingo: A Review

Watching Eleanor learn to read is almost as thrilling for me as it is for her. As a parent, few feelings can compare to the pride the wells up when I see my child learn something new and experience a sense of accomplishment ("Look Mom, I can do it!").

Because we have a beginning reader at our house, I was offered the opportunity to try the New Poingo, an interactive book complete with stories, songs, and games.

Both my four-year-old and two-year-old were very interested in this techno toy (which comes at a nice price point -- $34.99). The starter set contains the Poingo pen which reads the stories aloud and two books featuring the characters from Disney-Pixar's Cars and Finding Nemo. The set was easy to use (even my two-year-old was able to turn it on and get the story started by himself).

Even though my kids are familiar with the plots of both of the movies that the books are based on, the language and dialogue in the book seemed boring and not age-appropriate. Frankly, the stories moved at a snail's pace and seemed too detailed for young kids. My kids did enjoy the chance to stop and play a game from time-to-time as the story progressed.

New Poingo is marketed as a toy to help kids ages 3-7 want to learn to read -- and I am not sure that I agree with that. The words were too complex for her for my four-year-old to sound out, plus the story is moving at a fast pace and it isn't really possible to slow it down and take a closer look at the words. It just doesn't strike me as a learn-to-read aid.

That being said, I do think that New Poingo has its place as an age-appropriate plaything for young children. I think that every parent finds that there are times during the day when kids need to be able to play independently for a short time (i.e. while Mom feeds the baby, checks email, or generally attends to other things). I would much rather have my kids play an educational game on the computer or sit with a book that reads itself to them rather than plop them down in front of some inane cartoon. Around our house, my kids have been happily playing with their New Poingo books during those "quiet times." If you are looking for a little bit of "quiet time" in your life, I recommend giving this product a try.

A Girl Who Doesn't Let the Cold Slow Her Down

Sledding at Cricket Hill with Daddy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Peppermint Bark

No baby -- just obsessive amounts of peppermint bark.

I am generally following this recipe (except substituting Andes peppermint crunch chips for a more subtle mint flavor). If you decide to attempt your own batch, make sure that you allow each layer to completely cool.

It is delicious. I will never want for Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Maybe If I Change It, He Will Come

In anticipation of my third chick, Eliza from Crooked Tree Ink designed a new header for me (I am just changing the name on the header . . . way too lazy and busy right now to change the url address).

So all is right with the blog. Now labor can begin. Baby boy, are you listening?

P.S. If anyone is looking for a help with a new header, email me and I will put you in touch with Eliza. She is great.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Questions About Santa . . . Already?

Eleanor has gone from being totally terrified of Santa Claus to just mildly terrified of Santa Claus.

And as her fear wanes, she has been paying more attention to the big guy (well, big guys actually).

Today, she asked me if the Santa we saw at the Nature Museum a few weeks ago was real or not. Then before I could answer, she said, "Because that Santa didn't look the same as the Santa I saw with Aunt Meg at Navy Pier."

While I said something like brilliant like, "Ummmm, " she (thank God) gave me the answer she was looking for.
"I think that the are both real, even though they looked different," she confidently declared.

"That's right," I said.
Caught totally unprepared again (this is becoming a chronic problem).

So I am wondering . . . . what do you tell your child about Santa Claus? Is every single Santa you see the real deal? Or are the guys who make appearances at the local toy store Santa's "helpers" because he is so busy this time of year?
I am feeling panicked by her questions and I want to get prepared now before some jerk kid at school tells her that his older brother says that Santa isn't even real.

I thought that all of this nonsense was several years off. She is so little.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One Last Night Out For the Three of Us

I treated my baby to a really, really lovely dinner and opening night of Puccini's Madame Butterfly at the Chicago Lyric Opera last night (please insert your own fat lady at the opera joke here).

We all had a great time -- which is good because God only knows when we will get out for a date again (April? Probably closer to June?).

I was also glad to be able to provide a full spectacle for all who laid eyes on me (from homeless guys on the street commenting on my girth, to the four waiters at the restaurant who felt the need to escort me to the lady's room, to the usher at the opera who proclaimed, "Woo hoo honey, look at you!").

Now, back to the couch to knit and wait for my baby to find his way out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

He Loves Her the Best

Eleanor is out-of-town on a two-day adventure with her Grandma and Aunties -- and Brendan is totally miserable without her. Truthfully, it pains me a little bit to acknowledge that she (and I guess therefore not me) is the center of his world.

He has been asking me, "Where Eyyee?" over and over for nearly twenty-four hours now. He went to her room to wake her this morning and demanded to know, "When she comin' back?"

Each time we get into the car, he first asks if he can ride in her booster seat (all situations have their perks) and then wonders, "We goin' pick up Eyee now?"

It is like he is suffering from a bout of toddler depression. David found him sitting alone on the steps this morning, with his chin in his hands, saying, "I sad."

He doesn't really want to play with me -- although it is a rare day when he truly has my undivided attention.
He wants her. She is his most favorite person. That makes me happy for them and hopeful for the future of their relationship.

But it also makes me feel a tad bit . . . marginalized.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Long Wait

My baby is showing no signs of wanting to exit the comfy home that is my uterus (I must create a particularly nice little nest for my babes because they have all been reluctant to make the separation).

So I am knitting and waiting.

Big sigh.

Please see the comment section to leave me advice on how to ripen one's cervix or any other labor-inducing tactics you have found helpful. Thank you kindly.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Sugar Plum Fairy

Eleanor at the Dance-a-long Nutcracker at the Chicago Cultural Center on Sunday, December 7th. Pure sweetness.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Making Pizza With Daddy

Oh, how I love this group of pizza-makers. This was the kind of night where I feel like I could just stay in my house with these guys forever and be totally, perfectly happy (eating delicious pizza of course).

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Thank You (Albeit Overdue)

I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy and my body is totally maxed out. I feel like I can't possibly gain another pound or grow another inch (but I am also wise enough to know that yes, indeed, I will get a bit bigger in the coming days).

Anyway, I am over at Chicago Moms Blog today giving a long overdue thanks to my body for its cooperation in growing, nursing and caring for all of my babes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Big Kids

My busy, busy ones -- running away from their slow, pregnant Mama.
They are most certainly going places.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Dreaded Holiday Card

I don't mean to sound like the Grinch . . . but sometimes sending out a holiday card is just no fun for me. First, there is the issue of obtaining a decent photograph. Then I end up haphazardly updating this address list I keep from year to year. Then of course you have to print the labels or address the cards and actually get them stamped and into a mailbox. Ughhhh.

That said, I really do love getting holiday cards from my friends and family (especially those with cute pictures of the kiddos).
(artwork courtesy of Ms. Eleanor)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Hat For My Boy Who Won't Wear Hats

Brendan generally refuses to wear hats. But I made him one any way. So far he has been willing to indulge me and wear it for about ten minutes at a time before he declares, "All done."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why I Am Thinking About Graco on Thanksgiving

Are you hugging your little turkeys close today and feeling thankful for all that you have in your life? So am I.

But I am also thinking about the families who aren't quite so lucky. Graco has a new program called Ready For The Road Ahead that focuses on car seat safety (a topic that I think can be baffling and overwhelming to first time and experienced parents alike). It is a great resource for navigating the sometimes confusing world of car seats.

But that's not the reason I telling you about it. If you go check out the website, you can help a family in need by simply registering for their Ready. Safe. Go! Car Seat Club. For every ten people who sign up, Graco is going to donate a brand new car seat to a family who needs it.

So basically, all you need to do is take three minutes to sign up and know that you are helping another family in need and then you can go back to sneaking extra bites of stuffing and hugging your little ones. So simple.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Win Free Passes to Day Frog

Hey there Chicago Moms. With the arrival of the oh-so-cold weather and holiday breaks from school just around the corner, I know that you are looking for ways to keep your little ones busy. (I know that I am).

I have free passes (a $15 value) to give away to Day Frog, the new indoor play space in the Streeterville neighborhood. Head on over to Being Savvy: Chicago and learn more. Or just email me a to win one. Enter by midnight on November 30th and I will notify the winners on Monday, December 1st.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

It Wasn't the Greatest Show on Earth, But It Was Pretty Good

On Wednesday night, I took my little monkeys to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus at the United Center. My group included three sick children (runny noses, coughs, possibly slight fevers) and my sister (who is an unabashed circus enthusiast -- she would go to the circus by herself even if there weren't kids around).

And I am happy to report that, despite some reservations I had about how the kids would react, the show pretty much delivered family fun.

After surveying my group, the highlights definitely included the animal acts -- the elephants, dogs, ponies, horses, and one stray porcupine. Ellie loved the aerialists who hung from their hair and has declared her aspirations to do that when she gets bigger (great). And -- no surprise here -- the little boys loved the seven motorcycles driving around in a cage at the same time. I, myself, thought I might go into labor during that part because I was so afraid that something bad was going to happen and be etched in the kids' memories until the end of time.

Other parts of the show were not so inspired. Some of the clown schtick was painfully bad. Even my two-year-old had the presence of mind to declare, "I don't like this" during a scene about a cell phone with a planted audience member. We also didn't think much of the "clumsy" aerialist who ends up losing her costume and swinging around in her underwear -- didn't really seem like "family fun" to me.

My other least favorite part of the circus was the constant barrage of crap they were trying to sell you. As soon as one guy finished trying to convince you that each kid needed a $9 lemonade in special souvenir cup, another vendor came by with the replica plastic motorcycles. Enough already.

All in all, the kiddos had fun -- which is why we went. I definitely recommend arriving early so you can take advantage of the "pre-show" where you can walk out on the floor and check out the costumes, motorcycles, and see an elephant make a watercolor painting.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus is at the United Center until November 30th and tickets are still available.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Parents of Preschoolers

Do you live in the Chicago area? Are you the parent of a preschool-aged child? Are you reading Being Savvy: Chicago on a regular basis to get good ideas for educational and enrichment activities for your family in our great city?

If you haven't checked it out yet, you should take a peek. And hey, while you are there, go ahead and leave a comment on one of the recent posts (a nice one, please). Or maybe send me an email at to tell me about some great local activities that your kids love.

Now I know that Savvy Source has instituted this somewhat complicated sign-in process where you need to give your grandma's maiden name and the pin to your 401(k) account in order to comment (this was not my idea). But once you have an account set up, you just need to put your password in next time you come back.

So go on over there and have a look. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Made It For Me?

Eleanor made me this necklace out of string and cut-up straws. I have been wearing it every day. When I picked her up from school last Friday, she hopped in the car and declared, "I made this for you because I love you."

Of course, I started crying.

Other Mamas out there know what I mean when I say that there is no better gift than one made just for you by your little one. I would trade my whole jewelry box for a selection of homemade items like this. And I have seriously been wearing it every day.
Ellie makes lots of things for lots of people -- but usually I am involved in the process (i.e. a book for Grandma's birthday or a thank you note for a friend). I hardly ever get to be the recipient of her gifts and I think that is why it is so special to me.

I still have the first thing she ever made for me -- this Styrofoam Christmas tree. Isn't it beautiful? Such a talented artist, my little girl.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Last Project

Those of you who know me in "real life" know that my Dad passed away last June after three years of illness. Some of you also may know that he was an accomplished poet.

During the last three years when his entire body was basically falling apart, he managed to complete a book about Buffalo, New York -- his beloved hometown. Much of it was written on legal pads from his hospital bed in various stages of consciousness (and some stages of significant confusion).

The fact that he was able to call upon his brain to write poetry in the midst of all of his major organ systems failing him is a feat that I still can't quite comprehend. I certainly think that it is no coincidence that he died within days of submitting his final manuscript (and watching my sister walk down the aisle).

Last Tuesday, I traveled (gigantic baby belly and all) to Buffalo for a sort of "book release" party to celebrate my Dad and his one last project. If you love Buffalo (or know someone who does), this book will inspire many fond memories.

Anyway, the book is available now. It is called Buffalo Visions and Voices. And it is one last accomplishment to marvel at.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Chance to Win a Holiday Apron for the Little Baker in Your Life

If you have any holiday baking planned with your little kitchen helpers in the next few weeks, I have an opportunity for you.

Check out this post on Being Savvy: Chicago and enter to win a personalized children's holiday apron. The winner gets to choose from three different styles and your apron will be ready in plenty of time for the holidays.

Go ahead and click over right now. Hurry. The giveaway ends tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Baby Om

Today I am over at the Chicago Moms Blog writing about my love for prenatal yoga.

Pregnant or not, you should think about taking a class -- there is a nap at the end.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Help Me. I Make the Worst Butternut Sqaush Soup Ever.

Every fall, I try to make butternut squash soup.

I always have an absurd amount of squash from my CSA box and squash soup always sounds like a good idea on a cold fall day.

But it always disappoints (you should see my husband's face when he sees is simmering on the stove).

A few weeks ago, we had the most delicious pumpkin soup with chorizo and sherry at Lula Cafe. Amazing. The flavor. The texture. So good.

I think that I loosely follow Ina Garten's take on butternut squash soup. But the flavor always ends up being flat -- too squashy. And I can never achieve a smooth, thin consistency so it looks a little bit too much like the pureed squash I feed my babies.

So I thought that I would ask you. Anybody have an amazing squash/pumpkin soup recipe for me?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Little Mama

I am reposting this picture today because Steph at Adventures in Babywearing (who is like the nicest gal ever) is having a giveaway for a Nonny and Boo sling -- which I have been shamelessly coveting for some time now.

I figured that a picture of my sweet girl wearing her much-loved baby is a lot more interesting that a picture of me with one of my babes in a carrier.

Isn't she just the cutest little mama?

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I had kind of forgotten about how the last stages of pregnancy can be a little bit . . . physically challenging.

Between my barely tolerable lower back pain, periodic Braxton-Hicks contractions, middle of the night leg cramps, heart burn and general digestive distress, I am not the world's most pleasant person.

When someone says, "How are you feeling?" I either just say "great!" to spare them the unwanted ranting and raving or the floodgates open and I feel compelled to detail every ache and pain.

Just looking forward now to some swelling in my hands, the inevitable onset of cankle, and gaining somewhere between six and nine more pounds before I deliver.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Livin' in the Land of the Free

Have you noticed that our economy is a disaster lately? Oh, you have.

With your disappearing 401k, the upcoming holidays and the rising price of . . . everything, family budgets are getting tighter and tighter. But that doesn't mean that you have to skip out on great family activities. Chicago is full of great free stuff to do with kids . . . you just have to know where to find it.

Check out my guest post on We Just Got Back (a travel site for families) about fabulous free family activities in Chicago.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Hat For Her

I made this hat for Eleanor.

My pride prevents me from disclosing how many starts and stops I had with this little number. My hat making is definitely still in the rudimentary stages. And there is one dropped stitch.

But Ellie likes it. And so do I.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What If She Were My Only?

On Saturday morning, David and Brendan went in search of a meat grinder (whole other story). So Ellie and I were free to spend the morning together. We packed up the wagon with some necessary supplies, headed down to the neighborhood Starbucks to pick up some provisions (a vanilla milk box and a donut), and then we spent the morning together at Wicker Park.

Ellie brought her sketch book and colored pencils and did some drawings. After awhile, she got up and asked me, "Will you push me on the swing for as long as I want? Not just for a minute but until I have had all of the swinging that I want." I almost started crying.

And since then I can't stop wondering how her life would be different if she were my only child.

She makes a good point. When she asks to be pushed on a swing, I oblige her for a moment -- but then inevitably have to run off because Brendan is waiting to be pushed in a swing or he has gotten himself into some precarious situation that requires adult intervention.

And if she thinks that she has to wait for a decent push now, wait until the spring when I have a new babe in a sling and Brendan is still getting himself is precarious situations that require my constant attention.

How is a girl supposed to get a decent push from a distracted Mama like me?

As much as I like to think that she is better off having her brothers in her life, I also must admit that as a consequence, she gets less and less of me. The mornings when I can take her to the park and give her 100 percent of my attention are few and far between. And I think that there is something a little bit sad about that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

There Are Some Advantages to Being Gigantic

I went to vote early last Thursday. My Mom had already voted and she warned me that the lines were pretty long. She offered to watch my kids while I voted and I couldn't pass that up.

As much as I wanted Eleanor to participate in the voting process with me, I just didn't think she had it in her to stand in line with me for over an hour (this was such the right decision).

When I arrived, the wait was nearly two hours.

The man organizing the line took one look at me and apparently decided that he didn't want to risk having me birth my baby right there in the hallway.

Next thing I knew, I was standing in a considerably shorter line behind three elderly ladies with walkers (I am not kidding). The four of us got to go right to the front of the line and I was out of there in no time.

And I just looked straight ahead on the way out so as not to catch the hundreds of dirty looks that the people in line were shooting my way.

So it turns out that it really pays to be an enormous pregnant lady sometimes (it is almost worth hardly being able to tie my own shoes).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Four Things To Do With Leaves (Other Than Rake Them)

By the looks of things in my neighborhood, the best time for fall foliage in Chicago is upon us (one really cold night and all of the remaining leaves will be history).

Check out my new craft story in the November issue of Chicago Parent for ideas on how to incorporate leaves into your child's creative play.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven (A Review)

Skinny Bitch: Bun the Oven is not the book that it purports to be. In fact, I feel like the Skinny Bitches tricked me a little bit -- and I suspect that might be the whole point of their book.

I was not familiar with the Skinny Bitches and their work prior to being contacted about this book. I was expecting something along the lines of Hot Mama -- you know, kitchsy tips on how to look good while you are pregnant. And frankly, the book seems to be to be marketed to give you the impression that's what you will be getting. I mean, look at the cover - it says, "A Gutsy Guide to Becoming One Hot and Healthy Mother!"

Simply put, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven is about why you should become a vegan -- pregnant or not. Now, I am not saying that this book doesn't have lots of helpful information in it. The Skinny Bitches offer lots of really disturbing (but factual) information about the food industry in the United States.

Do I completely agree with them that the FDA, USDA, and entire government are not to be trusted when it comes to keeping our food and personal care products safe? Yes. Are the conditions under which most animals are raised and slaughtered abhorrent? Absolutely. They raise some excellent points about why you need to be your own advocate when it comes to the types of food you are feeding yourself and your family.

Still, I found myself feeling resentful over the fact that the authors were basically telling me that if I didn't follow a strictly vegan diet, I was not living a healthy lifestyle and doing a disservice to my baby. I just don't buy that message, ladies. And once I read the chapter "What the Hell to Eat" about meal planning and foods that were "acceptable" (basically soy products, hemp sprouted bread, and something called "unsteak"), I actually felt better about my choice to include dairy and low-fat proteins in my own diet. But I do see how one could grow quite skinny on their recommended diet (because I would probably pass on the veggie salami too).

Towards the end of the book, the focus shifts from nutrition to a lot of scattered advice on everything from why you should breastfeed to the dangers of disposable diapers to possible signs of postpartum depression and the benefits of an organic mattress.

My other gripe is that apparently one of the skinny bitches has never been pregnant. I mean, come on. Some uber-healthy, refined sugar-rejecting girl who lives in Los Angeles wants to tell me how to face down a mid-afternoon pregnancy sugar craving when she hasn't ever been pregnant? I don't mean to be a jerk about it, but I feel like there is a major credibility issue here.

So if you are thinking about becoming a vegan, you should buy this book. If you are just a regular pregnant girl looking for a cute read to make you feel better about your ballooning bum, keep looking.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Cookie Chaos

You would not believe the amount of the cookie dough and straight-up butter cream frosting that my baking team consumed while we made Halloween cookies yesterday afternoon.

I am not entirely sure that the sugar high has totally worn off for any of us yet.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Attention Local Early Risers

If you live in the Chicago area and are planning to be awake at 6:15 a.m. tomorrow, tune into the NBC5 Saturday Morning Show to see me talking about Ways to Avoid Over-scheduling Your Preschooler.

One Apple Up on Top

When we moved into our house in August of 2007, the backyard was literally covered with apples from the apple tree (most in various stages of rot). It was kind of a mess.

By late September, I got my act together and bought an apple picker to reach the good, ripe apples up high in the tree. Boy, oh boy, did we have apples. We made apple crisp and apple sauce. We gave bags of apples away to our family and friends.

Last spring, I just assumed that we were in for the same apple bonanza. I waited to see blooms on the tree. And I waited. And then I called an arborist to come out and prune the tree and he told me that some varieties only bloom every other year. What! No apples?

Turns out he was right -- well, almost. I walked out into the yard yesterday to find one, red, perfect apple had fallen from our tree. Just one. I looked up and I don't see any others.

It is as if the tree put all of its efforts into making one, perfect apple. I can't quite bring myself to cut it open and eat it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Belly at the Beach

I took my belly . . . .

. . .. and my bigger babes to the beach.

We snuck away to the beach for a few days for one last burst of sun and warmth to fortify us against the chill and the cold that will invade Chicago for the next six months.

It felt sooo good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've Been Thinking About the Holidays. Have You?

The Holiday issue of Going Places Magazine is out. I have two pieces in this issue: Getting Away Without Going Away and Teaching Gratitude. Have a look (and also check out the really comprehensive calendar of family activities in the Chicago-area this holiday season).

On a totally unrelated note, we just got back from a perfect fall getaway and I want to tell you all about it, but I need to get my pictures organized first. Be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Endings (And New Beginnings)

My hydrangeas are putting on their grand finale (and it is grand).

The last few tomatoes hanging on amidst withering branches.

Daffodils for the spring (which is so, so far away).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Madness

Oh, Oz Park Pumpkin Patch, each year you entice us with your promise of Halloween fun.

And each year, we can't stay away so we end up standing in absurdly long lines waiting to feed goats (yuck), jump in inflatable houses, and decorate the smallest pumpkins ever. As usual, we decided to skip the longest line ever for pony rides. And Eleanor got bit by a piglet in the petting zoo, causing her to declare, "I am never feeding a pig again." But other than that, a good time was had by all.

Hard at work.