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.



Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cosmo (Or The Boy Without a Name)

Giving another human being a name is serious business. For months now, David and I have been working on choosing a name for our new boy . . . without any success whatsoever. We have been through the baby name books. We go round and round with the same group of names and never seem to find the right one. I sit in yoga class holding my belly, trying to feel what his name is. I practice calling my children in for dinner, "Ellie, Brendan, whatsyourname, time to come inside and wash up." Nothing.

Naming our little ones hasn't always been this hard. When we found out that we were having a girl back in 2004, Eleanor seemed like the natural choice. I have always loved the name (my Mom claims that I requested that people start calling me Eleanor in preschool because I was infatuated with another little girl by that name) and David's beloved grandmother was also named Eleanor. We never seriously discussed other options. Easy.

Brendan's naming was a bit more complicated. We went back and forth between Brendan and William, possibly Brendan William, or maybe William Brendan. I thought we had settled on Brendan William, and David disagrees (to this day). To his credit, he did point out at the time that maybe we shouldn't use both Brendan and William in case we had another boy. . . .

Which brings us to our current dilemma. If Brendan's middle name wasn't William, I think that we could easily agree on that. But what's done is done. We have been unable to agree on any other suitable names -- except for Cosmo.

When my sister-in-law was pregnant with her son in late 2007, Eleanor declared that she wanted to name their baby Cosmo. I explained that you don't get to pick the names of babies in other families. Upon learning that we were going to have a new brother or sister, Eleanor quickly surmised, "Perfect, now we can name our baby Cosmo."

So Cosmo it is. I must admit that the name is really catching on amongst our family -- who all refer to the baby as Cosmo. Brendan rubs my belly and says, "How Cosmo doin?" Eleanor informs strangers that we are going to have a new brother born in December named Cosmo (people give me a puzzled look because they aren't quite sure if it is a joke or not).

David and I can't even agree on how to spell Cosmo. I say Cosmo (so obviously the correct way) and he thinks it is Kozmo (which is crazy).

For now, that seems to be the best we can do. I imagine myself saying, "Have you met my son Cosmo? He is a clown." (which I think is all that you can be when your idiot parents name you Cosmo).

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Question I Have Been Waiting For

Eleanor: "Mama, how is the baby going to get out of your tummy? Is your tummy going to explode open and let him out and then go back together?"

Me (feeling totally unprepared despite having anticipated this very question): "Ummm, sort of."

So hard to know how detailed to get on this one . . . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hey Chicago Mamas, I Have A Favor To Ask of You

Do you live in the Chicago area? Are you the parent of a preschool-aged child? Okay good, I am talking to you (the rest of you please feel free to move on).

As some of you might know, I write for Being Savvy: Chicago about local educational and enrichment opportunities for little ones. Being Savvy: Chicago is part of a national site called Savvy Source that is dedicated to offering parents of preschoolers information about local preschools, plus tons of other information about age-appropriate activities and child development (it is great -- you should check it out). One of my favorite features of the site is the preschool reviews from real parents (wouldn't you have loved to have had an insider's view before you applied to your child's preschool?).

This is where you come in. Please take a minute to check out the Chicago-area preschool page and find you child's school. See what other parents had to say and then click "Review" to share your thoughts. The information you share is anonymous. The whole process will take you about six minutes (I timed myself). Thanks so much for being a pal. I owe you one.

Kids and Kites

Over the weekend, David and I were delighted to discover that we are the parents of two very adept kite flyers.

We went to Mayor Daley's Kids and Kites Festival at Montrose Harbor on Saturday. I can't say enough good things about this (free! free!) event. The kids got to assemble and decorate their own kites before they took off running down a hill like crazed monkeys trying to get their contraptions to take to the sky. When the thrill of kite flying wore off, we headed over to the craft tent where the kiddos painted little kite magnets to take home. We stopped by the Whole Foods tent for a free apple and picked up another free kite to take home. I couldn't have asked for a better family activity on a beautiful fall day.

This event takes place in the fall and again in the spring. We are totally going to go again in the spring (and you should too).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Musings on My Messy House

If you ever feel like your house is a constant mess despite the fact that you devote much of your time to cleaning, straightening up, organizing, etc, head over to the Chicago Moms Blog to hear me whine about my dirty house in my latest post.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oh, Hello There October

Fall is decidedly HERE (brrrr).

We are starting to get into an autumn mood around here and we have lots of "fallish" activities on the agenda for next week:

(1) Soup -- tons and tons of soup (potato leek last night, lentil and vegetable next Monday)

(2) Planting daffodil bulbs for the spring

(3) Picking up some funky gourds from the farmer's market to go with the pumpkin collection on the front porch

(4) Fall baking with my little helpers (pumpkin cookies and an apple crostada)

(5) Knitting, knitting, knitting because I know two heads that are going to be in need of hats very soon

(6) Drinking warm apple cider at every opportunity

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Method Goodie Bag Giveaway!

The folks at Method were kind enough to give me an extra goodie bag after the fab cocktail party yesterday. In addition to the reusable tote (which I have already gotten compliments on at the farmer's market), you get a hand soap, toilet bowl cleaner, dish soap, and all-purpose cleaner, plus coupons for $1 off future Method purchases. Forgive the lame picture above, but it helps you get the idea.

Want this goodie bag to be yours? Leave a comment (be sure that your Blogger profile includes your email address or leave your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win!). All entries must be received by Sunday, October 5th at midnight CST. I will contact the winner on Monday, October 6th. Good luck!