Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Downtown to Sleepytown

It is sometimes a wonder how I function at all. I am constantly in a sleep deprived state of being. I thought this stage would end once my kids started sleeping through the night (which is only a recent development for my 2 1/2 year old son). However, it hasn't really materialized. I don't have anxiety and I am not an insomniac, I am just a mom.

I can fall asleep pretty easily. So much so that I rarely make it through a movie or even a full show. However, I am not sure I ever fall into a deep, well rested slumber. This sleeping disorder started literally the day my daughter was born...well actually maybe slightly before. I remember talking with my mom while I was pregnant and her saying, "That's good Amy, those are your maternal instincts kicking in." I wish I could shut them off say for just one night so I could really wake up refreshed.

Sometimes for work I travel to NY. It is hard to leave the family, but sometimes I secretly look forward to having a night to myself. When I first started traveling, I thought, 'this will be great, I will get to sleep all through the night in a great hotel bed and wake up with a new woman.' On the contrary, I often sleep even worse than at home. I find myself, missing the little coughs in the night or my husband who snores. My brain is a funny thing.

So although I have been up since 4am (when I heard someone call out from their bed), I am just settling into my other job at 9am. This reminds me of the Senifeld episode where George takes a nap under his desk...anyone??

Monday, December 27, 2010

Life List

This year has been a good one, in fact a great one. However, it has been sprinkled with a number of people close to me or close to my inner circle getting sick. Those phone calls are hard and deep but really important. For me, they always make me feel so grateful...for literally everything in my life. They also make me take stock of everything else I want to do with my life. I know many people have what they call a "bucket list" but frankly, I think that's a bit morbid. So I am changing it to my life list. Well, maybe just my 2011 list.

Given my attention span, I am going to scale down this posting to only things on my Life List-the Chicago edition. I recently told a friend, "It's been 10 years since I moved back to Chicago and I am so happy I did. There are still so many things in the City that I have yet to experience but still want to do." She started laughing at me, however, I think she came around when she realized that there were things on my list that she too wanted to do in Chicago as well. So read away and feel free to add your own.

1. Go and see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. I know its been around for ever, but I have yet to see it.

2. Take an intro to sewing class at the Needle Shop and learned to make a pillow. I was inspired but never followed through myself.

3. Visit and tour Graceland Cemetary.

4. Go and see a blue show at Buddy Guys or Kingston Mines. I know, I know...I should have done this one already, but life is busy and yadda yadda. (no links as I am blocked from entertainment type sites at work)

5. Take a class at Lill Street.-A long time ago there was a girl that was a sculpture major in college. Then she started working in politics and had two kids and lost her creative spark. 2011 is the year to bring it back!!

So my list is short. It is my feeble attempt to try to feel accomplished. It's all about baby steps people.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

Today I took the kids downtown by myself and got off at the Grand stop. It was nearing rush hour and it was pretty difficult to maneuver a double stroller off a crowded train and into a station with no elevator.

Instead of being annoyed that I would need to carry my stroller up the long flight of stairs, I thought of my friend Karen. She is disabled and is one of the most spirited and amazing women and mother I know personally. (She once wrote Obama a letter about how she tried to attend a fundraiser at a church and it didn't have a ramp. He called her personally to apologize and now she is invited to the White House Xmas and inspiring!) I thought this is the type of stuff she deals with on a daily basis. In this day and age, when we spend millions of dollars on high tech cameras (I know I used to work for Homeland Security), why the hell can't we put in an elevator and make this world more ADA compliant.

Then as the crowds descended up the stairs and I was left alone on the platform with two kids. This man offered to carry my stroller for me up the stairs, not just up one flight of stairs, but two. I was struck by his willingness to help a complete stranger. What a mentsh. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does...I feel re-energized by the human spirit.

So, pay it forward. It's good karma.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just a spoonful of sugar...

So it's Winter Break and I feel even more like a super mom than I usually do. I admit it, being a stay at home mom is hard. We have been up since 5am this morning and have been going nonstop. I must confess, I am having a blast. Going back to work will be a bit like taking a cold shower the morning after singing karoke until 2am at the Hidden Cove (but that's another story for another blog).

We have had playdates, gone to the library, visited museums, played dress up and really it's been awesome. I feel like perhaps I cherish this time more because I don't get to do it everyday. I am also accutely aware of how fleeting this time is, perhaps I can bottle up my kids right now and pickle them.

I am having so much fun planning the days activities and exploring with them. Just call me Mary Poppins or Maria (cue "These are a few of my favorite things").

So, as I go to bed at 8:30 this evening. I am fully exhausted in a different way than my day job and looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, December 20, 2010

So this past week my daughter had her "gifted" test for Chicago Public Schools. As many of you know, this is an elusive process. They take your child into a little room and do...god knows what. I assume they ask some questions and try to guage in about ten minutes (or less) if your4 year old is gifted. That seems reasonable....umm NOT.

So of course afterwards we grilled her:
  • what was the test like?
  • what kind of questions did they ask you?
  • what did you answer?
  • what words did you tell them you know?
  • and so forth.

My daughter's response:

  • Well I just made silly faces at them and laughed

Great...I am guessing that can only mean one thing. We're In! Yeah right. I have heard crazy stats that it is harder to get into a CPS selective enrollment school than it is Harvard. My brain gets so frustrated when I hear this.

It this frustration coupled with Michele Rhee appearing on Oprah to talk about teacher quality. Then it is Waiting for Superman touting charter schools as the answer. As a parent, it is ALL of these things that our children need. It is not a one size fits all answer. It is all answers.

If only teachers were paid and revered in this country like sports stars we might all be a little better off.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All We Need is Just a Little...


Shout out to Guns and Roses.

So here I am blogging from the Apple Store, while I wait for my turn at the Genius Bar.

I am trying super hard not to be annoyed that I have to wait in line. Instead, I am trying to roll with it and people watch for the next 20 minutes. I have to admit, I am finding this task difficult difficult as I think about all the tasks I need to accomplish in the next two hours before I pick the kiddos up from school.

However, as the year is drawing to a close I am thinking about new Year's resolutions. Well actually my January resolutions, because by February I usually forget about them. This year, it will be to try to have a bit more patience.

Patience with my kids. I admit that I have perhaps...once (ok maybe twice) lost my patience with them. I will try harder in January to remember that they are 2.5 and 4.5 and not little adults.

Patience with my husband. Self explanatory.

Patience with myself-this one seems the most difficult to achieve. I often put so much pressure on myself. With added patience, I will be in a better zone, as a mom, a friend, a wife, a daughter and as a professional.

So, instead of being annoyed that it is 2:29 and they promised my appointment at 2:30. I am cool with it-I promise...well at least until 2:40, when I go ask the guy where I am on the waiting list.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Online Shopping

So this story pretty much is the epitome of my life right now...

A few weeks back it was raining on the way to work. I realized I didn't have any rainboots, so I purchased a pair from Piperlime. They didn't fit quite right so I ordered a second pair; those too were a bit off. (Why don't rainboots come in half sizes?)

In the meantime, my daughter has turned the box from the first pair of boots into a dolly bed and my son has used the big shipping box to make a fort.

I have tried to be responsible and hold onto both receipts, but alas one is missing. I then have to go online and try to remember my special login and password for Piperlime, which I do not. They then email me a new code to reset my password, which I do. Finally I come to the page which shows my purchase, but you aren't able to reprint the receipt, only a new shipping label. I print it anyways.

I stuff both boots into one box, put this enormous and heavy box in the car and head to the post office. In the snow, I get out of my car, take out the box and as I am standing in line reading the mailing label I notice it is prepaid for UPS NOT USPS. So....

Out of the post office and off to UPS. I get out of the car with the big box, in the snow for the second time, only to realize that it is not yet open (I was there at 8:45 and it opens at 9am).

Back in the car the box goes and now I have to come back and try to ship back both boots for a third time. I will keep you posted on my success.

Moral of the story-No rainboots for me and no more online shopping. On the flip side, at least we have a new fort and doll bed!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Merry Everything

Like so many of my friends I am an interfaith family. I am Jewish and my husband is well...kindof Irish Catholic. This time of year is fraught with questions...
  • Does Santa visit our house? Does Santa eat latkes?
  • How come Daddy isn't Jewish?
  • Does my holiday card look too "Christmasy" this year?

Every family does it differently and I don't think there are right and wrong answers. (Ok, truth be told, I do judge a few peoples' choices in this category, but I really try not to!) When I was getting married, everyone asked me "what are you going to do?...Celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, both?"

In reality this is the easiest part of an interfaith marriage. We never have to split our time between two families on the holidays. We spend Xmas with his family and hannukah with my family. We have tried really hard to teach our kids that it is about helping our family and friends celebrate their own traditions while creating our own.

The really hard questions about an interfaith marriage might will we have bris? Will your family come? How come we always have to have lox and bagels for every brunch, can't we have a quiche lorraine (ham and cheese)?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Blues Already??

Is it possible that I already have the winter blues before the end of Hannukah? I am trying to deny it, but it is officially here. This weekend I tried to embrace the snow by walking around downtown, wearing my cute hat and laughing as my kids made a snowman. But today, I am a grumpy and cold.

As if getting out the door in the morning wasn't tough enough, throw in boots, hats, mittens and oh yes and the windchill of 5 degrees. Do I live in Alaska?

Usually I don't feel the winter blues until late January or even February on a good year. This year, it is December 6th.

So here are my Monday suggestions to beat the Winter blues.

1. Drink some Glogg. It just so happens that I live near Andersonville, which specializes in this holiday libation. Might I recommend visiting Simon's.

2. Put on some sweats and curl up with a good book. I am currently reading Freedom, by Jonathan Franzin. Normally I would chide away from an Oprah selection, but this book is too good to care.

3. Cook some soup. I recently bought all the ingredients to make Balthazar's Cream of Mushroom soup recipe. A year ago this December I was in NY for work and my husband came to visit. It was freezing and had just snowed about 8 inches. We didn't care and headed to the Village to eat at Balthazar's. It did not disappoint.

4. Perhaps a little retail therapy can help? A cute new sweater? I really love this one from Banana Republic. Stocking stuffer anyone?

5. Volunteer! I am always reminded that no matter how cold it is outside, I can go inside and lay in my warm bed. One organization that is close to my heart is Inspiration Cafe. They provide meals to the homeless with dignity and also run an amazing social enterprise called Cafe Too.

So stay warm everyone. The high tonight is 10 degrees.

Friday, December 3, 2010

CPS Step 1

As if getting your kid into a park district gymnastic class wasn't enough...I have just fallen into the metaphorical "rabbit hole" of CPS and KINDERGARTEN applications. I have friends who are crazy obsessed with the process, it is all anyone talks about on the playground at playgroups and on blogs. Last week the Tribune posted a great article about how stressful this is for parents and my friend Rebecca writes a great blog, CPS Obsessed. I happen to see her at the gym (kudos to both of us for working out!) and lamented..."i don't even want to blog anymore about this. People are out of control on this topic."

My solution, along with superstars, Terri Versace and Jacqueline Edleberg-get involved in your own local school. Don't bet on the magnets and make public schools a great option in your own neighborhood so you don't have to play this silly game.

So in my effort not to get too caught up in this whole process, I have decided to home-school, just kidding (not that there's anything wrong with it).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Obbessed with BLOGS

So some people use Facebook as their time suck, others watch reality TV and I..well I read blogs. Almost an embarrassing number of blogs. I have decided to dedicate today's post to a few of my favorite ways to waste time, daydream at work and get some good information.

So I love great home designs and think Apartment Therapy is just an all around great site. It is pretty often that I see a home tour on this site that is in my own neighborhood. There are of course profiles of the most amazing lofts in Tribeca, as well. AT has spun off several other super fun cousin blogs such as Oddeedoh, which is cool design for kids.

Who doesn't love Etsy? But I have to admit, even as an avid blog reader, I often get lost in the vast blogosphere of this site. So along came Etsystalker and my life has changed. To be totally transparent, this author of this site is also my blog mentor. Shout out to Julie here.

Mom Blogs:
So many in this category that I am often overwhelmed...but to mention a few in this genre..mamapedia and cool mom picks. I honestly don't think these are the best, but I enjoy the ones where real people post everyday questions and then other moms can post answers. I often prefer these to the so-called, "parent expert". Cool Mom Picks shows me the coolest stuff that all the Wicker Park hipsters get their kids.

Food Blogs:
My most favorite of writers. There has been an explosion in this category, added to my recent repertoire. I adore Gluten Free Girl. She is so fun and of course reminds me that being GF doesn't mean I can't eat and cook good food. Her recent post about the top 10 cook books of the year had me drooling! I even sent the link to my husband with a note..."Hint for Hannukah!"

Anyone here read Smitten Kitchen? Umm, hello the most wonderful brisket I have ever eaten (sorry mom!). She is great and love that she talks about her kitchen failures as well.

And then there's Heidi and Dorie. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks is beautiful, artistic and cooks yummy, uber healthy and vegetarian food. Dorie Greenspan is a living legend. No more information necessary. Hint: Check out Dorie's fantastic recipe for a baked pumpkin. Not gluten free, but definitely worth cheating for this one.

So there you have it a sampling of how I spend my time, hope you find them as fun and time wasting as I do. Feel free to send me some of your favorite blogs.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I am THAT mom

I never thought I would be THAT mom, you know the ones...they sign their kids up for everything under the sun. Gymnastics on Monday, karate on Tuesday, piano on Wednesday and so on. But lately, the Chicago Park District has turned me into that overly obssesive person about my kids activities. Park District registration classes seem harder to get into than dare I say...a magnet school? They are the hottest ticket in town. Who knew Mom and Tot gymnastics would create such a buzz.

So for those unfamiliar with the process, I will describe:
Step 1: Browse the programs online before the regsitration date
Step 2: Create a log in and password
Step 3: Add the programs you want into your online shopping cart and convince a friend, a spouse or relative to add the programs to their carts as well. This increase the probability of getting into the desired class.
Step 4: log in at the precise moment the registration clock strikes 9:00am and hit submit

I failed to actually mention the step when I start getting nervous about not getting a spot. Or not getting both of my kids into the class.

This may seem easy but it is anything but. Today, my husband and I accomplished an amazing feat...we registred both kids online and GOT IN!!! I feel like I just won the lottery. I tell ya, it's the little things in life!

And if, God forbid you don't succeed online, then it's off to wait in line at 5:45am for the class of your choice. (Which I have done once before). As I said , I have turned into those people that I have mocked all along. Those silly shoppers who stand outside Best Buy at 3am to score a new plasma TV.

The only silver lining to this whole process is that at the end of 45 minute gymnastics class my kids get a hand stamp, which to a 2 and 4 year is the best thing in the whole world. I guess it is all relative, right?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Code Yellow

So raise your hand if you know what Code Yellow is??? Anyone? It is when your child wanders off in Target and the employees issue a CODE YELLOW!!

So yesterday, during the craziness of the holiday shopping my daughter decided to check out the toy section BY HERSELF. It was the kind of panic you never want to feel. It rises so quickly from your stomach into your throat and you go into "flight or fight" mode. Luckily the Target team members were on the scene helped with the search and rescue operation. I wish I had a witty remark right about now...but safe to say it was scary stuff.

Perhaps those little backpacks with an attached leash aren't such a bad idea after all and I take back all the judging I have done in the past about parents who use them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Overwhelmed with Peace and Quiet

So I just got back from NY for work. It was the perfect amount of time to be away...two nights. I had time to have a few nice dinners, go for a run and...oh yeah, attend a few meetings. On the plane and at night, I was a little beside myself with the quiet (even though I was in NY.) In my hotel room last night I found myself debating, should I read a book, watch a girlie movie on TV, go to sleep or go out drinking. Sometimes, in these circumstances, I become so overwhelmed with the choices associated with my ephemeral freedom, that I tend to waste the time cruising facebook. What a waste!

Most things in NY tend to start so much later than in Chicago. Meetings that are called for 9am, don't really start until 9:30. I knew this would be the case and so I found myself in the rare position of being able to sleep until 8ish and only have to get myself ready in the morning. From a distance, I am sure this sounds completely pleasurable to all my mom friends. However, in reality I miss my family and don't sleep as well knowing that they are right down the hall.

So tonight being Friday, I am happy to be home, but know I will probably want to retract this post at 6am, when my youngest calls out for me from his crib.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

That's Disgusting

So tonight after my husband made a nice dinner (thank you to him!) my daughter yells out..."THAT'S DISGUSTING!" And...let the battle of the wills begin. Clash of the Titans anyone?

She refused to eat dinner tonight and insisted that she have something else to eat. We held our ground pretty firmly, by mentioning,no less than 15 times that dinner was what was on her plate.

I am always conflicted in the situations when food is involved. We did the old-"you should be grateful to have any food, let alone this delicious meal." This age-old wisdom did little to comfort her tantrum.

In my role as a Jewish mother, second only to guilt, is putting your child to bed hungry. She has already figured me out and of course prolonged the meltdown and bedtime by insisting that she was now hungry. I felt like whispering, "I told you so." (Even though I know that is pretty immature!) However, in all my parental wisdom, I refrained, knowing that one day in the not so distant future, that phrase will come back to bite me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cleaning Lady Guilt

Does anyone else have this? I love our cleaning lady, but I feel so guilty when she is at my house. I then try to rationalize it in my head..."I am giving someone a job, who might not otherwise have one"..."I am outsourcing this function of my life, just like people outsource their nonprofit questions to me." Either way I slice it, it still exists. Perhaps it is hardwired in my system, after all, I am officially a Jewish mother. However, I thought that I was supposed to be able to dole out the guilt with this title vs. feeling it myself.

Another question out there, how come I need to pick up before she comes? Perhaps I can outsource that service too?

Now if only I could outsource my laundry, cooking dinner every night and sleeping training my 2 year old (again!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Daily Pressure

My good friend recently sent me this article and it really made me think. I do feel the daily pressure of trying to be the best parent, while balancing everything else in my life. I try to be involved, but not too involved. I try to give my kids healthy food, but not deprive them of the occasional Dorrito. It is a delicate tightrope that I often feel like I fall off.

I am keenly aware that I often put these pressures on myself, as many of us Type-A mommies do. I have tried to follow the 80/20 rule. (For those unfamiliar, eighty percent of the time we try to follow the family rules, but twenty percent of the time, they go out the window.) This is one way that I have found internally to relieve some of the "perfect mom" pressure.

The article also talks about how attachment parenting can be isolating and add undue pressure on the mom. I have often thought to myself the difference between the mom role and the dad role in our society, and I guess in our family. Don't get me wrong, my husband is super involved and a great dad, but there is a difference.

Ok enough intellectual for my deep thought of the evening. Wouldn't it be great to be in a polygamist household, where there were multiple moms around all the time helping out with the children related responsibilities? Remember it takes a village.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Everything

So nothing marks the beginning of fall for me like the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks. It used to be the Pumpkin scones, until the whole gluten-free thing got in the way. I love all things pumpkin flavored and am always looking for the next best pumpkin dessert.

Tonight my husband and I took a cooking class to get us in the mood for the holidays. It was wonderful except I was a little bummed that I couldn't eat the dessert (pumpkin bread pudding). So, I decided to come home and search through my recipes for one that was both pumpkin flavored and gluten-free. I found this oldie-but-goodie. I also love this one for entertaining as you can make it ahead of time.

Enjoy this amazing Frozen Pumpkin Mousse with Walnut Toffee Crunch.

So if you have a friend, relative or you yourself are gluten free and love pumpkin and desserts this ones for you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vacation Blues

Going away for the weekend seems so bittersweet when you factor in the sleep deprivation of the first night blues. Does anyone else have trouble putting your kids to bed on vacation? It's the new space, the extra vacation desserts and the fun of sleeping in the same room as their siblings, but whatever the reason, it makes for a long night. Tonight we resorted to the old, take-your-kid-for-a-ride-to-fall-asleep trick. It worked for a few hours and now my husband is sleeping in his clothes with my son fast asleep on top of him and my daughter is sleeping in my bed. Oh yes did I mention it's daylight savings tonight....awesome!

On a different note, we had an intellectual conversation tonight about being a helicopter parent. It made me think, but I have to admit, I was also daydreaming during the conversation about what I was going to make for dinner tomorrow night.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Innagural Post

Every morning by the time I get on the train to get to work, I feel like I have accomplished the world. I have made breakfast, made lunch for my daughter, dropped both kids off at separate schools, oh yes, and gotten myself ready for work. This last step usually involves my son, peeping into the shower, clapping for me as I take my "good morning tinkle" saying "good job mommy", pretending my hair dryer is a gun, and trying to put on enough concealer to cover up the dark circles.

I know many other working women feel this too, on a daily basis. I know I should cherish this time of my life and I do. It is just a bit draining at times. I haven't really kept up with my kids baby books, or their journals or even their photo albums for that matter so this my latest attempt to chronicle these wonderful years.

(BTW-I just put up my first posting all while pretending to participate on a conference call.)