Monday, December 27, 2010


Happy Birthday big boy!
More to come on Colin's cross-country birthday celebrations later this week.
But for now, just sweet pictures of our babe eating sausage (of course) pizza and ice cream on his special day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Beauty of Bartering

Have you ever bartered? I know that term sounds like a really old-fashioned practice, but its actually not.

I've started bartering in my own work from time to time. And I actually really like it. I've found that there is something more enduring and substantial about these sorts of exchanges. In my own experience, bartering has been the foundation of some really valued relationships.

Anyway, I became so interested in this type of exchange that I wrote a story about it. In my research, I came across all sorts of compelling stories about how individuals and small businesses are working together to get things done -- especially in this tough economy.

You can read more about this new-again practice and its collateral benefits in my piece, The Beauty of Bartering in the December issue of Mindful Metropolis. I hope you'll have a look.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Give Mamaloot a Try -- and Give Back to the Greater Chicago Food Depository at the Same Time

My buddies over at Mamaloot (the awesome daily deal website geared towards Chicago parents) are running a great charitable campaign over the next 9 days or so. For every new email sign up, Mamaloot is donating a canned good to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Plus, they are donating 3% of their proceeds from December 1st-23rd to the Greater Chicago Food Depository as well.

Isn’t that awesome?

It’s so easy to sign up on their site and every day they send you an email with some really great parent-focused discounts and steals. I've gotten already gotten great deals from Psycho Baby, Green Genes, and Manic Maids.

Better yet, some of Mamaloot’s “Best of the Best” partners (Bullfrogs and Butterflies, Grow, Building Blocks, Little Threads, Psycho Baby, Pump It Up, Kid City, Green Genes, Galt Baby, Family Grounds, and Wishcraft) are also hosting in-store email sign ups and some of them are matching the food donation or making unique gives of their own. We love these partners!

So if you’re feeling open to trying something new and want to save money on stuff you are probbly already buying for your kids, go sign up! Better yet, spread the word within you own networks (like on your Facebook Page) and help to feed some hungry folks this holiday season.

Cross-posted on Wee Windy City.

Disclosure: I am working with Mamaloot to help promote this campaign and I am being compensated for my time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Aaaacchoo! Local moms share their natural cold and flu remedies

Have your kids had their fair share of sickness this cold and flu season? Mine too.

When it comes to treating common cold and flu symptoms, more and more parents are looking to natural remedies instead of the traditional over-the-counter concoctions. I recently wrote a story for Chicago Parent Magazine about some of the more popular natural remedies that local moms are using to keep their kiddos comfortable as they battle fevers, coughs and runny noses. Plus, I checked in with an experienced pediatrician to get her take on these natural remedies.

Interested? You can read more here.

Cross--posted at Wee Windy City.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Chicago Kid Holiday Gift Guide

Over the past few weeks, I've been hard at work on my Chicago Kid Holiday Gift Guide.

I reached out to some of my favorite local vendors (like Psycho Baby, Bullfrogs & Butterflies, Building Blocks, and Green Genes) in search of gift ideas with Chicago ties.

Together, we came up with a pretty darn good gift guide (if I do say so myself). All of these gift ideas celebrate our great city in some way. Your Chicago kid would be thrilled to receive any of them.

I hope you'll take a minute to check out the list -- and support these fabulous local businesses (all of whom agreed to donate their featured items to the deserving kiddos at Association House).

Happy Holidays to you and your Chicago kids!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lil' Sluggers Baseball knocks it out of the ballpark

Nearly every day, my four year-old son Brendan comes into my room around 6:15 a.m. and asks me, "Is today my baseball day?"

He is referring to his weekly Lil' Sluggers class. For nearly a year now, Brendan has been participating in the Lil' Sluggers baseball program for kids age 2-8.

He loves it. I love it. My (former college baseball player) husband loves it.

I can honestly tell you that this my absolute favorite Chicago-area extracurricular program our family has participated in. Ever. Yes, seriously.

What makes it so great, you ask?

Lil' Sluggers teaches baseball fundamentals to kids ages 2-8 in a fun, positive setting. The program offers instructional classes and well as league play. Boys and GIRLS are welcome (you go get 'em little ladies).

My son Brendan has been enrolled in a Lil' Sluggers class since January of 2010 (so we are in our fourth seasonal session). He has had the same coaches for all four sessions. The same coaches -- how rare is that? They know my son's name, his strengths and his weaknesses. Brendan knows and trusts them. In his mind, they are rock stars (Matt, Noah, and Callie -- I am talking about you). All of the coaches are consistently positive, kind and knowledgeable. And that is the real strength of the program, in my opinion. Plus, Brendan absolutely adores each and every class -- and kids know a good thing when they see it.

Each class is a series of face-paced drills. The low coach-to-kid ratio means that no one wastes time standing around waiting for their turn -- one of the many coaches is always right there working on a skill or encouraging the kids to cheer on their teammates. This format works really well, given that kids in this age group tend to have super short attention spans.

I'm no Ernie Banks (obviously), but even I can see that my four year-old is learning important fundamentals -- like using two hands to catch, sliding with one foot tucked under, and developing a consistent hitting approach.

Lil' Sluggers is a year-round program. Summer baseball takes place outside and indoor instruction is offered for the remainder of the year. We've taken classes at BASH Academy, Windy City Fieldhouse, and Waveland Park. I can recommend all of those locations to you.

Until now, Lil' Sluggers has been a city-kid-only offering. However, the program has recently expanded into the suburbs for the upcoming winter session. Your little slugger can now get in on the action in Glenview and Northfield as well.

Thinking about signing up? Have questions about how the program works? Email Coach Jeff Kapp at

Jeff is the man at the helm of Lil' Sluggers. He is an experienced player and coach and is very hands-on in his management of this program (trust me, he will know your kid's name too). Go ahead and email him. He will genuinely welcome your inquiries (as he has mine).

Registration for the winter session is taking place now (so get going on that). Registration for the Holiday Camps (December 27-30 at several city and suburban locations) is also ongoing -- although the Windy City Fieldhouse location is now full.

My little guy Colin is about to turn two - which means that he is almost eligible to become a Lil' Slugger himself (he can't wait to get in the game after a year of watching his big brother play). Starting soon, there will be two little faces standing next to my bed each morning asking, "Mommy is today my baseball day?"

Cross-posted at Wee Windy City.

Disclosure: Lil' Sluggers is a new sponsor here at A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks. I am working with Coach Jeff and his crew to spread the word about their excellent program.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's not the Greatest Show on Earth but . . . .

On Wednesday night, we headed out to see the The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show at the United Center. This has become an annual family outing for my kids and nephews.

Ms. Eleanor was excited to see the "small dogs perform." My nephew Finn was looking forward to the motorcycle extravaganza. And nearly three-year-old Seamus was nervous that the tigers wouldn't be in cages (who can blame him).

The theme of this year's show is FUNundrum. The show was intense and action-packed (maybe a little too action packed?). At any given time, there were four or five different things taking place. It was hard for me to know where to focus my attention -- and I imagine that it was tough for the little kids too.

For us, the highlights included the elephants, trapeze artists, contortionists (my 6 year-old daughter confidently announced that she thought she could perform all of their amazing feats -- which she cannot). And the of course, there were the seven motorcycles driving at full speed inside a metal cage. Trust me when I tell you that you've never seen anything like this.

The circus is in town at the United Center through November 28th. This might be a perfect activity for one night next week when the kiddos are out of school. You can even get 4 tickets for a weekday show for $44 dollars if you use the code "MOMS."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Warning: This Post Might Act as an Appetite Suppressant

FYI: This fun mess was made with a tasty and simple spaghetti with chickpeas recipe from Smitten Kitchen (in case you care to recreate it in your own kitchen -- the mess or the recipe).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Best of the Best at Bullfrogs & Butterflies (plus a $100 gift card giveaway)

I am lucky to live in a neighborhood where I am surrounded by many fabulous, independently-owned shops that sell basically anything my family needs. One of my very favorite Wicker Park shops is Bullfrogs & Butterflies (a new sponsor here on A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks!).

This wonderful kid's store has been serving my baby-and-kid-related needs since it opened in 2007. It is my go-to spot for everything from new baby presents to birthday gifts for kids under age four to basics for my own kids (like the adorable knit winter hat I just picked up for Colin a few weeks ago).

Kristen, the owner of Bullfrogs & Butterflies, carefully selects the items that she sells in her store. She doesn't have shelves filled with every baby-and-kid product or line out there -- she just carries the very best ones.

For the wee ones and mamas-to-be, she has strollers, slings, swaddle blankets, and diaper bag necessities. For the toddler set, Bullfrogs & Butterflies offers adorable and comfy clothes, shoes, accessories (like the cutest hair clips you've ever seen), plus great books and toys.

The store basically stocks everything you need to keep your kid looking cute and having fun until age four or so. Hooray for one-stop shopping!

And I love that I can always find what I am looking for when I come to the store in search of a gift -- every single time.

Bullfrogs & Butterflies has some special holiday events coming up that I wanted to mention (if you were thinking about checking out the store, these would be great times to do it).

On Saturday, December 4th and Saturday, December 11th from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., shoppers can take (free!) photos with Santa, snack on cookies and snacks, enjoy holiday music and get special deals on toys.

Bullfrogs & Butterflies also has some other money-saving opportunities coming up as well. For every $50 you spend, you get $5 in Bullfrogs & Butterflies bucks back (redeemable from January 15th-31st). And those of you who sign up for the newsletter (right there on the left-hand sidebar on the website) or become a fan of the store on Facebook can get in the "Deal of the Week" and other special savings offers.

You can also get $5 off any purchase of $25 or more. Use coupon code XM5N2010 to shop online or print this post and bring it in to receive the $5 off any purchase of $25 or more in store (offer expires 12/24/10 and is limited to 1 per person).

And I've got one last piece of good news for you! Bullfrogs & Butterflies is giving away a $100 gift card to help one lucky reader kick-off their holiday shopping. The gift card can be used online or in the store. Want to enter to win? I've got a few different ways that you can enter:

(1) Leave a comment on this post telling me what is on your kid's holiday wish list this year (or just say hi and leave me your email address).

(2) Become a fan of Bullfrogs & Butterflies on Facebook. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this).

(3) Sign up for the Bullfrogs & Butterflies newsletter on their website. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this).

(4) Follow @BullfrogsShop on Twitter. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this).

(5) Retweet this giveaway (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this):

  • Enter to win a $100 gift card to @BullfrogsShop, courtesy of @weewindycity.
So that's 5 different ways to enter to win. All entries must be received by midnight CST on Wednesday, November 24th. I will select a winner using Don't forget to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win!

Disclosure: I am working with Bullfrogs & Butterflies to help spread the word about their fabulous store and website. I am being compensated for my efforts. Cross-posted at Wee Windy City.

Monday, November 15, 2010

This One is Important: Making Holiday Military Care Packages

I don't mean to by pushy or anything, but I wanted to suggest an idea for a family project that is perfect for the upcoming holiday season: you should make a care package to send to someone in the military who won't be home with their own families for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.

We made a package for my cousin Brian who is in the Army. My kids loved participating in this easy project (and hopefully Brian liked the notes and goodies we sent along).

I wrote a story about the basics of assembling packages (with lots of helpful links) and a suggestion for a homemade craft that your kids can include in the box for the November issue of Chicago Parent. If you are looking for ideas on how to get started assembling your own care packages, you can have a look here and here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Collie Bear

Colin can talk now. He communicates his thoughts, observations and needs with (relative) clarity. These new verbal developments make him even cuter (in my opinion).

However, he is a wee bit demanding. For example, he uses his new-found words to say things like:
  • "New song right now!" (when we are driving around town and the children's music isn't to his liking)
  • "Want two lollies" (he has two hands so he obviously needs a lollipop for each)
  • "Keep my jammie pants on" (when he refuses to remove his pajamas each and every morning)
  • "More sausa, peeeeese." (As he finishes up his third breakfast sausage of the day)
  • "My my, where are youuuuuu!" (while searching his house for his beloved blanket "my my")
  • "Night night in mama bed dada bed, peeeeeese! (No Colin. Just no.)
Things are going to be very interesting with this two year-old boy, me thinks.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Final Day!

Sara is hosting the final day of Four Days of Giveaways from Grow over on her blog. The theme of the package today is "kids" and this collection of goodies would be a good start to your holiday shopping for the kiddos!

Go on over to Sara's blog and enter to win! But hurry - this giveaway ends at midnight CST tonight!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Day Three

And the awesome giveaways keep coming! Today, I am focusing on the "organic" aspect of Grow Modern Organic Kids. In fact, I think that organic and non-toxic products are really at the heart of what Grow is all about.

Back in 2009, I was researching organic clothing for my story The Organic Option in Chicago Parent Magazine. That is actually how I met Deree Kobets, the owner of Grow. I interviewed Deree for my story and she was an amazing source of information about why it is important to feed our kids organically and also surround them with non-toxic, organic products when possible. I learned so much from her and really came to value her sensible approach to this sometimes complicated and confusing topic.

Deree says, "Our society has recently gotten smarter about eating organically. Our skin is our largest organ. Just as it releases toxins when we perspire, our skin absorbs what surrounds it. Therefore, our clothing, bath & body products even car seats and toys matter when it comes to our skin." Make sense, right?

Deree proudly features non-toxic and organic products in her store. Some of my favorites include K
ate Quinn 100% certified organic cotton clothing for babies and toddlers (love, love, love this line), the Orbit car seat (the only car seat that is certified non-toxic), and an awesome selection of non-toxic toys from Plan Toys and Green Toys.

Today, Grow is giving away the following package of items to one lucky reader (see the photo above):
Here's how you can enter to win this beautiful collection of organic items:

(1) Leave a comment on this post. You can tell me about your favorite non-toxic or organic products for your kids. Or you can just leave me your email address. It's up to you.

(2) Become a Follower of the Grow blog by clicking here and adding yourself as a follower. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this).

(3) Become a fan of Grow's Facebook Page. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this.)

(4) If you use Twitter, retweet this giveaway for another entry.
(Leave a separate comment to let me know you've done this). You could even say something like:
  • RT@weewindycity Giveaway: Organic bedding from Grow Modern Organic Kids! #growmodern.
Each person can enter up to 4 separate times. All entries must be received by midnight CST on Thursday, November 4, 2010. The winner will be chosen using I will notify the winner on Friday, November 5, 2010. Be sure to leave your email address so we can find you if you are the lucky winner!

Disclosure: I am being compensated to coordinate this awareness campaign and event for Grow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Day Two

Time for another giveaway from Grow Modern Organic Kids!

Today, my partner Sara (Self-Made Mom) is focusing on what it really means to be raising "modern" organic kiddos. Plus, she is giving away this (quite spectacular) Skip Hop “Versa” diaper bag to one lucky mommy. This is an affordable, chic, every day diaper bag – and it is BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free. It gives me a serious case of diaper bag envy.

Want to enter to win this great bag (for you or a friend who could use a diaper bag update)? Head on over to Sara's blog to enter!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Day One

This is going to be an exciting week here on A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks! My friend Sara Fisher and I are coordinating a great event called "Growing a Modern Organic Family" this Thursday night at Grow (a fabulous local boutique for modern organic kids).

We are so excited to spend the night with Chicago-area moms -- munching on organic goodies and learning more about how to make smart purchases for our family, courtesy of Deree Kobets (who owns Grow and knows her stuff when it comes to organic and non-toxic products for babies and kids).

We know that everyone can't make it to the big event -- but we wanted all of our readers to be able to participate in this awareness campaign. So we've planned 4 days of online giveaways from Grow.

Starting today, Sara and I will be featuring different items from Grow (and chatting a bit about the philosophy behind the store). And then we are giving all of these fabulous items away to our readers!

Today, we are focusing on the many ways that our kids and families "grow." As parents, we are faced with daily choices about the type of environment we create for the constantly-changing little people in our lives. Parents have lots of (maybe too many?) choices when it comes to furnishing their homes and outfitting their kids. The reality is that not all of the products on the market are safe for our families.

I think that Deree Kobets says it well: "If a child is surrounded by natural and non-toxic products, they will grow naturally."

After purchasing a ton of stuff for my three kids over the past seven years, I've learned that I am better off spending my (very hard-earned, thank you very much) money on a few quality, multi-functional items that endure and "grow" with our family. When it comes down to it, I'd rather invest in a few quality items than a bunch of cheap junk that my kids just end up breaking or destroying.

At Grow, Deree has done a lot of the leg work for you when it comes to choosing durable, non-toxic items. Her store features non-toxic, organic mattresses in crib and twin sizes by Naturepedic and non-toxic cribs like the Eicho by Spot On Square and alma crib by bloom. Deree can help you make smart choices when it comes to purchasing essential items that will "grow" with your growing family (like that very important mattress that your kids are going to be sleeping on every night).

Today, Grow is giving away the following package of items to one lucky reader:
Here's how you can enter to win this awesome collection of baby items:

(1) Leave a comment on this post. You can tell me about an item that you've purchased for your kids that has really "grown" with them. Or you can just leave me your email address. It's up to you.

(2) Become a Follower of the Grow blog by clicking here and adding yourself as a follower. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this).

(3) Become a fan of Grow's Facebook Page. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you've done this.)

(4) If you use Twitter, retweet this giveaway for another entry.
(Leave a separate comment to let me know you've done this). You could even say something like:
  • RT@weewindycity Check out The Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids #growmodern.
Each person can enter up to 4 separate times. All entries must be received by midnight CST on Thursday, November 4, 2010. The winner will be chosen using I will notify the winner on Friday, November 5, 2010. Be sure to leave your email address so we can find you if you are the lucky winner!

Disclosure: I am being compensated to coordinate this awareness campaign and event for Grow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Calm Before the Sugar Storm

This year, we had:

A monkey (in a costume that has been recycled at least three times --- maybe more).
A super sweet (and feminine) shark.
A fireman (Chicago's finest).
And a police officer.
A bat (wearing the very same homemade-by-Grandma costume that his Daddy wore when he was 5 years-old).
Little Red Riding Hood.
And a wee little lioness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Our Bats

I am not into Halloween decorations. Although Brendan would like to have a giant inflatable pumpkin and fake cobwebs all over the front yard (he has asked no less than 10 times), I like to keep the seasonal decor simple and natural -- a few pumpkins and gourds and maybe a nice scented candle. That's it.

But for my October craft story for Chicago Parent Magazine, we decided to do a Halloween-themed project. We made bat sock puppets out of David's stray work socks. (At least I thought they were strays. Turns out one of them was a part of a perfectly good set of $45 tuxedo socks. Ooops.)

This project was fun and easy and now we have something to hang in the trees in front of our house for Halloween so Brendan is happy. You can find the instructions for this project here -- and my bat origami project here.

Happy Halloween crafting!

The circus is rolling into town

It's almost November and you know what that means, right? It's circus time in Chicago. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show comes to town on November 4th.

The theme of this year's show is FUNundrum. The show features 130 performers. Highlights include the trapeze artists, acrobats, contortionists, and Mighty Metal - the strongest man in the world. Featured animals include horses, ponies, llamas, goats, tigers and even a Watusi (whatever that is).

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey show will be at The Allstate Arena from November 4th-14th and The United Center from November 17th-28th.

Thinking about taking your kids to this show? You can get 4 tickets for a weekday show for $44 dollars if you use the code "MOMS." And click on the image above for a printable coloring page to get your kids psyched for the big family outing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best of Family on

CBS Chicago just relaunched their website to include more local content. I was pleased to contribute some posts for their "Best of Family" section. My blogging buddies Emily and Hyacinth are also featured.

If you have a minute, click on over and check it out.

I tackled must-do Halloween activities, best indoor play spots, cool parks and playgrounds, my favorite family activities at Millennium Park, and good spots to experience nature right here in the city.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Pumpkin Pickers

Last weekend, we headed up to Dinges Fall Harvest in Michigan with our cousins in search of the perfect pumpkin. We had a blast. You can read more about it (and see a few more photos) over on Wee Windy City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Dream Family Getaway

Sponsored By

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.

When I first committed to write a post about my ideal family vacation, I really had no idea what that would be. Lots of vacations are good, right? But few vacations are AMAZING. I mean, come on -- an ideal vacation. That's a tall order.

So I spent some time mulling over what would be the "essential components" of any such trip. We would need to be someplace we've never been before (someplace warm), doings things that we all liked to do, in a non-hotel setting, all the while dining on fabulous food.

Where on earth could we find all of those things?

Then the answer came to me: Italy.

My dream family getaway would be to rent an Italian villa for a whole summer. Ideally, this property would be located in the Tuscan countryside -- allowing for easy travel to both northern and southern Italy. This one looks pretty nice, doesn't it? Although this one isn't too shabby either. Choices. Choices.

We'd need to have a house large enough to accommodate our visitors throughout the summer (grandmas, grandpas, cousins, aunts, and uncles). We'd hang out alone for a few days, and then welcome a new wave of visitors for a few days, and so on.

Our villa would be comfortable, but not so fancy-schmancy that we wouldn't feel at home. We'd need to have a little pool for cooling off on those hot Mediterranean afternoons. And a garden to provide fresh produce for our meals. And, I know this is a lot to ask, but I'd also love to have a nice old Italian lady on site who could teach me how to make delicious pastas and sauces.

We'd take some day trips and learn Italian. We'd cook amazing food together and gather around a large outdoor table for our leisurely meals. We'd go swimming every single day.

We'd be together -- really together -- for an entire summer. Sounds pretty darn ideal to me.

Don't forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Colin and his luggage

Photo taken with the Hipstamatic iPhone app.

Colin in his car seat with two blankets ("me my-mys") and three bunnies (" me hop hops").
His luggage every where we go.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me, my wrinkles, and my new personal microdermabrasion tool

When I was in my 20's, I could not understand why women sought out plastic surgery and injected Botox into their faces (only to end up looking totally unlike their former selves). It just seemed crazy to me.

Now that I am . . . let's just say that I am no longer in my 20's, I can understand why women do these things. That's not to say that I plan to follow suit -- I am just saying that I can understand why the decide to do what they do.

The truth is that the idea of plastic surgery or Botox injections completely freaks me out. No matter how wrinkly and saggy I get, I just can't see myself going that route. But that's not to say that I'm just going to sit here and do nothing!

I am a big believer that lifestyle is the key to how you look and feel. Healthy food, lots of water, rest, exercise and managing stress are certainly the keys. There is no magic bullet. But I am also willing to accept a little help here and there.

SkinCareRx (a sponsor of A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks) offered me the chance to check out their personal microdermabrasion tool. I couldn't resist.

Microdermabrasion is known to improve early texture changes, sun damaged skin, uneven sun freckling, mild acne, and conditions where there is a buildup of dead skin. It sort of feels like you are sanding your skin -- but in a good way.

I haven't had any experience with microdermabrasion so I watched the video that came along with the kit (definitely recommend this). The personal microdermabrasion tool is meant to be used with the M2 Skin Refinish 20% Serum and the M2 Skin Recovery Moisturizer (you definitely need to follow the directions with those).

The tool is really easy to use right from the start. It is literally like giving your face a gentle sanding-- leaving softer skin behind. The directions say to only use the product once a week or so, but I found myself wanted to use it more.

Don't get me wrong -- the results are gradual. I don't have the skin of a 20 year-old or anything. But I have seen an improvement. And I love that I can just do this at home in my own bathroom when I have a few extra free minutes -- it is ideal for busy moms who only dream of regular trips to an esthetician!

Does this sound like something you might want to try out? Take advantage of a 15% discount if you order from SkinCareRx before the end of October. Use the CODE: PMD15Off.

If you order before the end of September (so, like right now), you can get 20% off your order. Use the CODE: MAKEOVER20(and hurry!)

Disclosure: Skin Care Rx provided me with a free personal microdermabrasion tool so I could check it out and let you know my honest opinions (and I've done just that!).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Words of Wisdom from a Toothless First Grader

Eleanor on the loss of her third tooth: "I am really trying to take advantage of having this extra space in my mouth. I am putting all sorts of interesting things in there whenever I can -- like straws or my tongue. Because I know that this space isn't always going to be here. I am so lucky."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Marsha's Music Together: A magical, musical experience for the whole family

Despite the fact that neither my husband or I have any musical talent to speak of, all three of our kids love music -- each in their own way.

Ellie is quite the dancer and she is quick to get moving when she hears any sort of music (the girl isn't shy). Brendan likes to hang back and listen intently -- memorizing all of the lyrics while nonchalantly tapping his foot. Little Colin loves a good maraca or shaker and he invariably concludes each song with an uproarious round of applause in celebration of his most excellent performance.

As a mama, I love to see how music awakens a child's enthusiasm, curiosity, and imagination. I love to watch them dance and sing along. I love the smiles on their faces while they are having fun (and learning all sorts of new things at the same time).

For all of these reasons, I have long been a big fan of music classes for kids. There is something sort of magical about gathering together in a room with other parents and kids, sitting on a carpet filled with drums, tambourines, and music-makers in all shapes and sizes and just watching what happens. This experience always makes me feel good (I suspect that the kiddos feel the same way).

Last Sunday, 20 month-old Colin and I met up with my sister and her 5 month-old daughter to try out a Marsha's Music Together class. We gathered together in a comfortable room with other parents and kids. The kind and gentle teacher led us in some familiar (and a few not-so-familiar) tunes. We moved our bodies. We were LOUD and we were very, very quiet. We played with a huge variety of instruments. We had fun making music together.

Marsha's Music Together recognizes that children have an innate need and love for music. This program has been popular in the Hyde Park neighborhood for years and is expanding to new Wicker Park and Lincoln Park locations this fall.

Each class has rituals that the children need and enjoy — the hello song, an instrumental play-along, a lullaby and the goodbye song — plus eight to ten varying experiences involving unusual meters and tonalities, sometimes using props like scarves or a parachute. Many of the classes are for mixed ages (birth through 5 years). I found that this mix of younger and older children makes for a lively, interactive atmosphere (and also makes it easy for families with multiple children to attend one class together).

If you think this sounds like something that your little music-maker would love, I encourage you to try a free class. Marsha's Music Together is holding free demonstration classes at a variety of locations throughout the city this week. Have a look at the schedule of demo classes to find one near you.

Enrollment for the fall session is now open. Each Music Together session includes 10 weekly 45-minute classes filled with live music. Each new family also receives the complimentary booklet Music and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers plus 2 copies of a CD with familiar tunes (one for home and the car).

Whether you do it in a class setting or simply at home in your living room with a drum and a kazoo, I encourage you to set aside some time to make music together with your little ones (trust me -- you'll be so, so happy that you did).

Disclosure: Marsha's Music Together is a new sponsor of A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks. I am being compensated to help spread the word about their program (which is an easy thing to do because we really loved our experience in the demo class).

Cross-posted at Wee Windy City.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Preschool Pro

Brendan headed off to school today for his second year of preschool.
Same teacher. Same classroom. Same best buddy. Even same backpack (but brand new Cubs lunch bag).

I have a feeling that this is going to be a big year for the B man.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I wish I may . . . I wish I might . . . get a great deal on kid's craft classes at Wishcraft !

A special offer for Chicago readers brought to you by A Hen and Two Three Chicks and Self-Made Mom!

We are always looking out for our readers, and we know our local friends cannot possibly miss a deal as good as this. What kiddie class isn’t made better with a friend? If you have a creative kiddo at home, you won’t want to miss this amazing, limited-time-only deal from the popular Wishcraft craft studio in Roscoe Village.

The clever ladies behind Wishcraft are offering a special “2-for-1 Bring a Friend Along promotion from September 7-10th only. You can sign your kid and a crafty buddy up for any of the Fall 2010 craft classes and split the price of the 8-week session. That’s 50% off the regular cost – a total steal!

The class offerings at Wishcraft go way beyond your typical kiddie craft projects. Cool options include Dim Sum Paper Fun (ages 3-5) and It’s Sew Easy (age 7+). Kids can even make their own Halloween costumes or fashion eco-friendly accessories.

Wishcraft has morning and mid-day classes for wee ones and afterschool programming for school-aged kids. They even have classes for adults looking to hone their sewing or crochet skills! Check out their full schedule online to see all of the awesome choices.

Here are the deets on how to get in on this deal:

  • The promotion applies only to new students for the 2010 Fall session.
  • The promotion does not apply retroactively.
  • If you register online, you can pay the full price for one student, enter the second student’s name in the “comments to seller” box and split the costs yourselves.. Or you can email the folks at Wishcraft at with the info for both students and they will send PayPal links with the 50% discount to each person. Discount code to reference is “Tell 2 Friends.”

If you want to take advantage of this great deal on kid’s craft classes, you have to move fast – the special 2-for-1 promotion is only valid through September 10th. Classes start the week of September 13th.

Want to know more about all of the good stuff happening at Wishcraft? Follow their Twitter updates or become a Fan on Facebook. Got questions? Send them to

Now go get those (cheap! cheap!) classes. Your crafty kid will love you for it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of First Grade

She's back already -- just a half day. So far, so good. Nice teacher. Lots of buddies.
Off to another good start.

For those of you who are inclined, here is a little retrospective of Miss Ellie heading out to school. (It's true what they say about time flying by.)


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another example of the benefits of play

In my 6+ years as a mama, I've found that one of the very best (and also hardest) parts of parenting is letting go of stress and worry and totally committing to playing with a child.

When I am sitting on the rug with familiar blocks, puzzles, and toys in front of me, my mind sometimes wanders -- to my grocery list, freelance deadlines, and bills.

That being said, periods of focused play with my kiddos are also some of my happiest times as a mom. I love to sit and watch a quiet, focused child work on a new skill.

It is largely for this reason that I just signed Colin up for a Parent/Toddler class at our Montessori School. With my older two children, I have adored that hour-and-a-half a week where I am 100% focused on playing with the perfect little being before me. I can't wait to do the same thing with Colin in just a few weeks.

While I am on the topic of play, I wanted to tell you about a new book I just read called Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School by Christy Isbell.

This book was written by a pediatric occupational therapist. She advocates the very sensible view that kids can work on their oh-so-important fine motor skills by engaging in a variety of creative activities at home. I love the idea that learning critical skills should just be another part of the many types of play that a child engages in on a daily basis.

Isbell has some great suggestions for fun and creative activities that will get your child working with his hands. I am particularly fond of the following ideas (and many of them remind me of the activities in a Montessori environment):
  1. Use a wooden mallet to hammer golf tees into Styrofoam.
  2. Using tongs and tweezers, challenge your child to pick up a variety of small items (like Legos).
  3. Squirt two colors of fingerpaint into a resealable plastic freezer bag. Encourage your child to use his index finger to make lines or shapes in the paint and mix the colors together.
  4. Use play dough to teach your child how to use his thump, index and middle fingers to create small "peas."
Everyday Play also includes a helpful "Frequently Asked Questions" section for parents who want to know more specifics about their child's fine motor skills.

This book has been a helpful reminder to me of the many benefits of sitting down one-on-one with a child and engaging them in an interesting "play activity." Plus, I love the idea that you can accomplish this by simply using items you already have around your house.

And with that thought . . . I am off to dig out my mini-muffin tins, tweezers and some small items for a sorting activity I have planned for Brendan tomorrow afternoon.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book. That means I didn't pay for it myself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Giveway from Stonyfield Farm (yes, that means delicious free organic yogurt)

My kids are huge yogurt eaters. Me? Not so much. Well, until recently that is.

Although I have long believed in the many benefits of feeding organic yogurt to little people, I've never been the biggest fan of the cold, creamy stuff myself -- until I had lunch with the Gary Hirshberg , the CE-Yo (ha!) of Stonyfield Farm.

Back in February, I received an amazing invitation to join a few other lucky Chicagoans for lunch with Gary at Frontera Grill. The meal was amazing. I learned a lot (you can read all about it here).

Anyway, at the conclusion of this lunch, everyone was served an Oikos Caramel-flavored Greek-style yogurt. I was certainly not going to decline a Stonyfield product while being treated to lunch by the head of the company. So I dug right it. And it was amazing. I ate every bit and walked away wondering why it was that I thought I didn't like yogurt.

So now it is unanimous. We are all Stonyfield yogurt eaters (even Daddy gets a bit of yogurt in his fruit smoothie sometimes). The babe is a fan of YoBaby and the new YoToddler. The big kids eat YoKids like it is going out of style. During the summer, I freeze tubes of the YoKids Squeezers to make "popsicles." And Mommy eats the Oikos Greek-style yogurt (which I have to hide in the back of the fridge or Ellie would eat it all).

If you also have a family of yogurt-lovers, I have a giveaway that you might be interested in. Stonyfield Farm is giving one lucky A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks reader the following goodies:

  • A YoKids Cape
  • 2 coupons for FREE YoToddler multipacks
  • 2 coupons for FREE YoKids squeezers/multipacks
  • 2 coupons for FREE Oikos multipacks
  • An Oikos tote bag (which is super versatile and sturdy)
  • A Eric Carle growth chart
So how do you win? I am going to keep it simple -- all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight (CST) on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. If you feel like telling me about your favorite Stonyfield product, go for it. If not, that's fine too. Don't forget to leave me your email if it isn't part of your Blogger profile so I can get in touch with you if you win!

I will notify the winner on September 1, 2010. That lucky, lucky individual will have 48 hours to provide me with their mailing address so that Stonyfield can get their goodies out to them.

Go enter to win some free organic yogurt (for you and your kiddos!).

The disclosure part: Stonyfield provided me with coupons for free yogurt. Other than that, I was not compensated for writing this post or hosting this giveaway. We just like Stonyfield yogurt.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Me! On WGN Radio on Monday Morning!

If you are up and at em' bright and early on Monday morning (and really, what parent of a young child isn't awake before 7:00 a.m every single day of the week), tune in to WGN Radio to hear my thoughts on packing great back-to-school lunches. I'll be on around 6:39 a.m.

I'll be sharing my suggestions for the very best reusable school lunch supplies you should have on hand in order to get the year off to a great start. Plus, I will be offering some tips on how to "cheat" and not have to make lunches at all. Intrigued? Listen in on Monday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Attention all deal-lovin' Chicago Mamas!

If you are a Chicago-area mom who loves saving money on ALL OF THE STUFF you buy for your kids and family, then I have great news for you. There is a new mom-centric, daily deal site in town called mamaloot.

Mamaloot generally operates like the other big daily deal sites in town (like Groupon, You Swoop, etc.). You subscribe to the mamaloot email list and receive emails offering discounted deals from family-friendly businesses.

If the deal interests you, go for it! If the deal doesn't ring your bell, click delete and move on with your day. That's all there is to it. And you can unsubscribe at any time if you find that these deals aren't for you.

The big difference between mamaloot and the other daily deal sites is that they are going to offer you deals for things that moms actually buy. I don't know about you, but I'm not really in the market for tickets to sketch comedy shows or go cart racing (no offense to those of you who go crazy for discounted go cart racing).

To start, mamaloot will be featuring businesses from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs but will soon showcase a variety of mom and kid centric internet services and retailers as well. The site officially kicks off today with its first deal -- 50% off a session with a local family photographer.

I love this business idea because it is totally mom-driven and mom-focused (and these are Chicago moms so that makes it even better). Lindsay Cohen, Co-Founding Mama of mamaloot says, "We cater exclusively to moms in everything that we do. Our deals, our writing, the way we partner with local businesses all exude a mother's touch. We are excited about bringing new customers to local businesses and educating moms about appealing products and services in their area."

So how do you get in on these deals, head over to and add your email address to the list. And let the deals begin!

Disclosure: Mamaloot is a new sponsor here on A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks. You can check out their cute new ad over there on the right-hand sidebar. To be clear, I am working with mamaloot to spread the word about their launch (and by working, I mean services in exchange for money).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Scenes from our summer

The baby and the Bean at Millennium Park.

At the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond in Lincoln Park.

Wow. August really snuck up on me. The clock is really ticking on summer 2010! We've been busy checking off activities on our summer must-do list. If you click on the links above, you can see expanded accounts of our most recent adventures.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Magical Green Beans

My little backyard garden is a source of a lot of happiness. Today, I thought I would share some of my special gardening "secrets" with you. {cough, cough, giggle giggle}

First, I plant way too much stuff in too little space. I start with good compost-rich soil, but then I forget to ever fertilize and rarely weed. I water -- but in a lazy, distracted way.

My trick is to basically ignore the plants, allow children to trample them at will with their flip flops and soccer balls. And somehow despite all that, most of my little seedlings actually manage to grow. I am always sort of amazed when I root around out there and find things like zucchinis and jalapeno peppers.

This year, I really outdid myself in the overcrowding department. We've got:
  • 3 tomato plants (2 grape and 1 big boy)
  • 3 basil plants
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • Lots and lots of haricot vert (pictured above)
  • Thyme
  • 3 basil plants (pesto, pesto, pesto)
  • Lemon verbena (which is totally amazing --- hoping to have a lemon verbena tea recipe to share soon)
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Cucumbers (the tastiest, little thin-skinned things)
  • Zucchini
And that's not counting the lettuce, spinach and 2 varieties of snap peas I grew in my Earth Boxes in the spring.

Today, I found myself at the Home Depot filling my cart with arugula, Romaine, and Bibb lettuce seedlings for our fall salads. I need to exercise some self control.

So the truth is that I am no master gardener. But I can grow green beans in my backyard in the middle of Chicago and my three children devour every single one on their dinner plate.

Doesn't get much more magical than that.