Thursday, May 31, 2012

this is real baseball guys!

Finn's first baseball game was such a surprise; with good plays, solid efforts by all and decent hits!  Our little man ended the night with two singles, an RBI and one run!  The game even came complete with our first-ever baseball freak-parent on the other team.  This opposing coach challenged our coaches on several plays, constantly going back and forth on his own implementation of MBA rules and enlisting a harsh learning curve whenever possible.  He ranted loudly to the parents and coaches on his own team when he had a grievance, not hiding his frustration at all.  It was kind of shocking, I mean, they're SIX!

As we watched from the sidelines, Mike said, "Now I think I see how little league fights happen, because I'm not even coaching and this guys is making me mad!"

Another fan, close to her due date, said, "This guy better be careful, or he'll have a crazy pregnant woman on his hands!"

Even with all that, the game was great fun, their skills so improved from last year and our New York Yankees took some serious pride in their first win:  12 - 9 over the Arizona Diamond Backs!  Here's the highlight role... could that uniform be any cuter?  I can't even stand it.

The best part was when Finn crossed home plate after working his way around the bases, one at a time, thanks to his teammates' hits.  Look at his face beaming with pride below!  Once he crossed, he threw his arms in the air and said, "Home Run!" and then high-fived us. 

What a great night. We laughed with friends, encouraged our kiddos on with the other parents and listened to the girls cheer for their brothers from behind the dugout.  Later, I came home to a note on Facebook from a friend who was still at her son's game at 11 PM (in the freezing prairie winds) so I know it won't always be short and sweet like this.  We're soaking up every minute while we can.  Congrats to Finn on a great start to the season!

 Finn just after crossing home plate

Can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

giving the brazilian a break

Aside from the birth order of my family, I've always been the youngest. 

I think it started in school because one of the many places we lived had a later date threshold for kindergarten, although it's nice to think I was just more brilliant than most! My lack of older siblings or cousins left me snugly and warm in this unfamiliar and youthful role among my peers.  But having kids is a great equalizer, and with everyone deciding a different age in which they'd like to begin popping them out, I got older in more ways than one.

Now my closest friends are every possible age, some even 8 to 10 years younger than I am.  It pains me to think how much more carefree and vibrant I might feel now if I wasn't 30 when we ushered Logan into the world (or 32 with Riley, or 34 with Finn.)  Although, even to feel younger, I wouldn't change a thing.

Yesterday I had my annual GYN check up.  I still drive 45 minutes to the laid-back, no-nonsense cool chick who was the only doctor in the practice that would entertain the idea of a VBAC, but who eventually delivered Riley and Finn via cesarean after my valiant attempt, just like Logan. 

When my wheels hit the pavement at each visit, there's a rush of nostalgia for that time and place, for the endless surprising possibilities I held in a burgeoning belly; a freeing and total love and acceptance of the unknown.  I suppose finding a closer and more convenient practitioner seems a little too much like cutting the cord that connects me to those cherished memories.

No worries, this isn't really a serious post.  I actually arrived at the office under a shroud of embarrassment.  You see, with youthful excitement, our recent weekend away inspired an aggressive bikini wax, one that I might not have undertaken had I remembered the doctor's visit in my schedule.  I went so far as to tell the doc before the exam.  "Don't think I'm some sort of weirdo," I blushed.

"Come on, Molly," she said.  "These days, anyone one with any hair at all is in the minority!"

Well, that sort of made me feel better. 

But the bastion of my increasing age crept back again and sunk in completely when it took two post-its to update my meds.  And when I left, albeit healthy, but with prescriptions for a now annual mammogram, cholesterol testing and a pelvic floor strengthening physical therapist?  Not only did I curse my experience with Insanity and our damn trampoline, I laughed out loud. 

In preparation for the appointment, baring my Brazilian had me in a regretful tizzy all weekend long.  At the visit's culmination, it was the only thing that made me feel young.  Never regret jumping out of your comfort zone - it just might save you in the end!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

crazy-good feta potato salad

Our recent trip to Asheville landed us at a great lunch spot, where we shared a side of feta potato salad.  (Actually, Mike shared HIS feta potato salad with ME!)  It was nothing shy of moan-worthy and all it took was a holiday weekend to lend me the inspiration to recreate it.  Here's my version.  The measurements are approximate for this one - sorry!  But with these simple, down home and affordable ingredients, who needs to be exact?

Feta Potato Salad

3 pound bag small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup mayo
1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3-4 T. snipped chives
pinch of salt

Cook potatoes in boiling water until a knife goes in easily (about 20-25 minutes.)  Drain and cool.

In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients.  Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces and drop into bowl containing dressing mixture.  Fold together and chill.  Garnish with a bit more snipped chives.

Enjoy the yumminess, but beware:  this stuff is addictive!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

shoestring living: may 24

Last week's Shoestring Living column and associated video offer great information on planning summer activities ahead of time and saving a little cash along the way.  Take a look at my column here, or watch the video here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

go get scared

"Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I love a good quote.  In days that I can barely remember my own name in the midst of a merciless schedule, a good quote sticks, moves me and keeps me focused.  I'm sure that has something to do with how important the written word is in my life; when I see a few strung together in a particularly striking way, they have an affect, period.  The one above is a personal favorite.

Let's face it, in average days of carpooling, schedule maintenance, appointment remembering, home management and for many of us, work life, there are too few opportunities to really challenge our limits.  Days melt together, with sore butts from bleacher seating and lots of mind-wracking to get us and our loved ones to the right places at the right times.  There's little time to stand on the proverbial edge and freak ourselves out.

But last Sunday, we did.  Well, Mike actually loved every minute; I'm not sure this qualifies as a "scare" for him.  I, on the other hand, screamed and swore like a truck driver for nearly two straight hours as we rode the Tail of the Dragon through the Smoky Mountains.  Top down and flying at high speed, we experienced what I can only describe as the longest, most thrilling roller coaster ride imaginable.  Only eleven miles in length, the lead up and tail end made it feel much longer.  I was white-knuckled from beginning to end, wondering what I might look like in the professional photographs being taken all along the 11-mile stretch and if the actual explicative I was emitting would be visible on camera. 

This is the same stretch of road that my father-in-law, an expert motorcyclist, drove a few years ago.  He had an accident and miraculously only broke ribs and some pieces off his Harley.  So we knew it was dangerous territory that lied ahead.  We saw crazy wrecks, took corners at top speeds with absolutely no vision of what existed beyond the bend.  We turned 318 times, abruptly.  We flew through the most beautiful mountain forests.  We stopped three times at scenic overlooks to let a terrified minivan driver get further out in front of us, so that we could obtain the FULL EXPERIENCE. And although it might be the most irresponsible thing we could do as parents, we are considering driving home this way from North Carolina in August.  Our youth-filled, fearless kids would probably think the Tail of the Dragon is the coolest thing ever.

Imagine this at 50 mph!

Once we hit rock bottom, the metaphor of the whole experience hit home.  I was thrilled that we survived.  (Mike was just thrilled!)  I placed total trust in my Mario Andretti husband and he delivered (as if there were any doubt.)  We accomplished something totally amazing and out-of-the-box and had an experience like never before.  Even though thoroughly freaked out, we emerged victorious.

(Thanks to for this awesome image!)

We must remember this feeling.  This free, we-can-do-anything-and-create-our-own-experience-in-this-life-of-ours feeling.  No one else is responsible for what we do, how we grow and what we take away.  Scaring ourselves, catapulting ourselves forward in every way, surviving our fears and then thriving?  We all need just a little bit of that.  Every day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

my name is molly and i'm addicted to rosemary

It started long ago.  In my early days of cooking, a recipe called for this aromatic herb that I had never tasted before.  I was instantly hooked.  Thanks to a brilliant idea by my mother-in-law, Mary, I even clip sprigs from bumper crops and stick them in vases throughout the house.  I love the fresh scent in a bright, clean bathroom or coming from a mason jar vase next to our bed.  I just love rosemary.

Our recent trip to North Carolina woke my addiction to this herb.  One swig of the homemade rosemary peach lemonade at the Tupelo Honey Cafe sent my senses into overdrive.  I don't know what it is, but this beverage might be the single best thing that I've ever tasted.  I plan to perfect my own version this weekend and will report back, and once my personal prohibition is over, I plan to dress it up a bit more (if you get my drift.)  It will be the end-all, be-all summer drink of choice.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share my favorite ways to use rosemary.  Here goes:

Best Grilled Meat Marinade Ever
I watched a chef in a upscale gourmet shop whip up a version of this about 15 years ago.  I tweaked it and it's been our go-to marinade for 15 years.  (Unless I'm baking, I just eyeball measurements, so these are approximate.)

1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 sprigs rosemary, de-stemmed and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 thinly sliced green onions
a hefty squirt of Gourmet Garden's chili pepper (keep it in the freezer)
salt & pepper

Cover chicken, pork tenderloin or flank steak (hmm, maybe shrimp?) and leave it sit for 6 hours to overnight and then grill meat like usual.  It will rock your socks.

Roasted Gorgonzola Potatoes
A couple pounds of small potatoes - your favorite kind
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, cut in half
6 ozs. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper

Place taters and rosemary in baking dish and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to coat, and salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, it depends on size of potatoes.  When potatoes are knife tender, give them a slight smash with the back of a spoon.  Switch oven to broil, toss in cheese and return to oven until potato edges look crispy and golden (about 5 minutes.)  You won't eat the rosemary, but it will have left its delicious stamp on the crunchy, cheesy potatoes.

Speaking of potatoes, I've often said it's the food I'd choose to take if stranded on a deserted island.  That's another post all together!

Can't wait to taste what this little gem delivers...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

vacation evaporation

I swear that we were just on a gorgeous mountainside in Asheville, North Carolina in the amazing-in-every-way Grove Park Inn.  I'm sure that we were wandering the stone halls of the Biltmore Estate, drinking indescribably delicious rosemary peach lemonade at the Tupelo Honey Cafe (more on this soon - and yes, I will write a whole post about this lemonade) and taking pictures of things like wild bamboo and winding country roads.  I'm positive that we ate really late dinners and even woke around 9 AM once (oh, the joy of seeing those numbers when I opened my eyes!)  I know all this is true with my rational mind, but the feeling of it is gone, evaporated into memory, where barely any remnants remain.

That's the case with vacations I guess.  Especially coming home to the dreaded end of May, where schedules new and old collide in some kind of laughable matrix of confusion. I don't know why I expected the vacation vibe to continue.  But I did.  And it didn't.

I was so ready to come home and see the kids.  I loved every second as they ran into my arms at school and the bus stop; but reality bites at times, and within moments, life was right back to normal, with all it's ups and downs in tow.  Just the way we love it, I suppose.

We may only have the chance to exchange this reality for the other in brief snippets every few years, so even though it has evaporated, I'll keep my mental stronghold focused tight on the 80+ hours Mike and I had to be grown ups, eat amazing food, talk, dream, live off the grid and the strangling schedules we keep, and reconnect.  And the next time someone pukes in the middle of the night or talks back in that oh-so-wonderful-way, I'll return to that one tiny spot in my mind where the vacation vapors still linger, to keep me going until next time.

Thanks to the best extended family on the planet for making this much needed trip our reality.  We love you beyond words!

Related Posts:
i wish i didn't hate may
gaston 2011

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

here's to a healthy summer and a great giveaway!

As summer closes in, I spend a few minutes each day looking over the schedule for the coming months.  With free days for the kids combined with work days for me, I need to make sure that I have the new schedule down before we hit the ground running.  And my most important goal of the summer?  To ensure that my kids stay active in every possible way.  Too many free hours can result in too much television, especially when Mom is busy.  I'm a big believer that fun, physical activity leads to a healthy body and mind, which is why I find loads of ways for my kiddos to burn energy all summer long.

Early on, I've tried to follow my kids' instincts and interests when it comes to play, which to me, means that their physical activity will be fun for them, too.  I was so excited to learn about the Chicago Bears Youth Football Camps, which meet throughout the summer all over the city and suburbs.  Click here to find them near you.  These camps are zeroed in on healthy fun, keeping kids fit and honing leadership skills, all while developing a lifelong love of fitness.  As an adult who didn't participate in many regular physical activities as a child, I find it difficult to maintain my fitness-related motivation.  It's nice to know that there are places like the Chicago Bears Youth Football Camps, where the 'love of fitness spark' will be ignited early on.

ABOUT:  The Chicago Bears Youth Football Camps offer safe, non-contact instruction for kids ages 6-14 and are very suitable for any kid that just wants to learn the game.  They provide a station-based training format that allows campers to be divided by age and experience level so each receives the right level of instruction and support.  Kids will learn to run, throw, catch, defend, form block, form tackle and explode out of their stance with proper technique and improved speed.   The camps, which each run for 5 days from 9am to 3pm (that’s 30 hours of active learning, instruction and fun!), do more than just introduce kids to sports, they make kids passionate about being healthy and help develop a lifelong love of fitness.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!  I have a great giveaway for anyone who comments on this post, courtesy of the Chicago Bears Youth Football Camps.  Just a quick moment of your time will enter you to win their prize package, which will include things such as a small leather binder, Bears rally towel, water bottle, Play 60 drawstring bag, D.J. Moore fan face, Bears gloves and football cards.  Check out their site and comment below before noon on Thursday, May 31, 2012 to be entered to win!

Disclosure of Material Connection:  This is a "sponsored post."  The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it.   Regardless, the opinions expressed are solely my own and I only endorse products or services that I personally believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


frugal gardening in action

There is nothing quite as satisfying as going outside during my workday for a mental break and coming back inside with THIS:

I adore how perennials pay you back, more and more, year after year.  And peonies?  Gorgeous!

Somehow this makes playing catch-up after a few days off just a little bit easier.

this week's Shoestring Living and video

Read my Shoestring Living column, Tips for your Frugal Garden, from May 14th.

And watch me on the associated video...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

the graduate

The last thing that I have time for is a blog post, but I'm so enamored by the images captured tonight of Finn at his kindergarten graduation that I just had to write.  I have hours of laundry left anyway, before heading to the airport and a much anticipated weekend in Asheville, NC with Mike. 

Montessori Children's Garden just plain does it right.  What a special experience they gave our kids tonight, in perfect weather, sitting in their kid-sized chairs on the lawn.  Each of the twelve graduates were talked about in detail, with their teachers telling all the guests what makes each one of them so special.  Then, the kids got a chance to speak as well, telling us all their favorites about school at MCG.  I cannot express how much I love this school and the amazing staff members who grace its halls.

Finn and his "A" last name were up first and Miss Teresa talked about how his excitement for school has grown so much over the last two years and how creative he is.  Then she ended, with Finn's permission, with a story about his most recent Mother's Day letter to me.  Really, let's allow the letter to speak for itself.

As you might have guessed, Finn's "ferret" comparison was a killer and we all laughed out loud.  Never in my life would I have thought my son would find me similar to a rodent that requires de-skunking, but hey, I'll wear it with pride because I'm sure he means it in the nicest possible six-year-old way.  After graduation, a few moms that I didn't know even asked, "Are you the Ferret Mom?" 

"Yes, yes I am," I proudly replied.  What a hoot this kid is!

So here are some pictures of our little graduate, who was blessed enough to have a crowd there in his honor to cheer him on, and to whom, I know, only great things will come! Love you like crazy little dude!

Check out last year's Mother's Day Letter - he's growing up!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

young naperville singers

What a thrill it was to watch Logan in her sixth concert with the Young Naperville Singers last weekend. She just completed her 3rd year with this group, as part of the Cantabile Singers of Young Fox Valley and the experience has been top-notch all the way through.

At one of our annual parent meetings, YNS artistic director, Angie Johnson, mentioned that she believes singing keeps kids' hearts soft.  In a world full of heart-hardening competition, I believe she's right.  Of course I'm anxious and excited for Logan's concerts, hoping she'll have a great performance, but it's such a different experience than other activities our kids participate in.  Just watching them up on stage, you can see how it changes kids for the good and builds them up inside for the future. 

Taking Logan to that vocal audition in 1st grade, I felt scared for her and wondered how she'd do, without me in the room to hear her and cheer her on.  But she did just fine!  Three years later, my daughter fearlessly performs, smiling and relaxed, striving for a solo or a chance to stand out.  Along with piano lessons, she has taken her talents further on her own, writing lyrics and composing her own music.  As a non-musical music lover, I could have never helped her develop these interests.  I am so grateful that YNS and YFVS has given her the opportunity to bloom in this way.

The bottom line is, this is not your typical choral group experience.  The exposure to different cultures and musical styles is endless and the performances are breath-taking. If you have a child that loves to sing, consider this amazingly talented group that focuses promoting the highest level of artistic excellence in choral music, through extraordinary educational and performance experiences that enrich the lives of young people.

Past concerts:
catching my breath
young fox valley singers
and the angels sang
voices of angels

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

and our baby turns SIX!

There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful that Mike and I took that leap of faith and decided on baby number three.  Finn delivers bursts of joy every single day and even more humor.  He is cuddly and cute and all boy, hates to cry but will share endless details of his most recent injury, and still carries Whoa Whoa around in his more quiet moments.  He's into any sport that you want to play, would rather be engaged in an activity over television when he can, but loves a good Sponge Bob episode, too.

Finn asks "Do you think..." and "Why does..." questions all day long.  Last Friday, he had a half day and we ran birthday party related errands all afternoon.  He asked me questions from 12:30 to 4:15, when his kid-party began.  I called Mike at one point to say that I really didn't think I could take much more.  Here's a sample:

"Do you think a spaceship made that mark in the sky?"

"Can people go inside that water tower?"

"Why don't birds get electrocuted when they site on electrical wires?"

"Do you know why I think the black angry bird is the coolest?"

"Isn't Squidward funny when he does that?"

"Do you know why this t-shirt has an "A" on it?"

"Why can't we kneel in the communion the whole time?"

"Do you want to go check on your flowers at the end of the porch?"

And my favorite, "How does this work?"

Finn is more interested in the garden and landscape that his sisters.  He weeded the whole vegetable patch on Sunday with Mike and then helped me plant all the veggies.  When I say that he 'helped', I actually mean it.  His work ethic comes directly from his Daddy - they will both help until they can't help anymore.  They are the two best men I know.

Finn is a great reader and now reads to us at night almost 100% of the time.  He's figured out that reading anything is possible, and he proved it last week with Dr. Seuss' Fox in Sox.  I can barely get through that book, but he did it perfectly!  He is math-minded though and requests or makes up his own math questions throughout each day for fun.

"Mom, do you know what 200 + 300 is? Do you know what 12 - 6 is?  Do you know what 8 +7 is?"

He loves to cook and expands his tight line-up of favorite foods daily.  He will always say "I'm sorry" when it counts, even if it's hours after his offense.  And he says "thank you" when it counts, too.  I just love him for that.  And at night, even if he's toasty and warm inside his covers, he'll pop out once more to jump into my arms for another goodnight hug.  For now, holding him is a breeze, but I can't imagine how soon he'll grow too big for me to handle a legs-around-the-waist squeeze.  So I won't imagine it.

Instead, I'll wish my strong, sweet, smart, sensitive, loving, laid back, generous, funny boy a Happy 6th Birthday.  Finn, anything you want is possible.  Everything you wish for will come true.

May you always have a life of love, laughs, health and joy.

See how he's grown!
finn turns 5!
finn's four!
on the verge
happy birthday finn!

Monday, May 14, 2012

post mother's day blow up

Yesterday was a great day.  I felt loved, a little spoiled, immersed in a favorite past-time, and eventually, a little guilty.  However, the party is over and today is another story entirely.  On the morning following a celebration of the role I cherish most, I feel spent and sad and exhausted.  Lost homework turned into WW III, big changes have presented new and confusing challenges, this might be the busiest week of life so far, and Mom exploded on the (late) ride to school.

None of the concerns that I loudly voiced on the way to school were incorrect.  Everything was something that needed to be said.  My kids are getting older and even though they fight it, sometimes they have no choice but to rise to the challenges that face them.  If they can, I've done my job.

And I know that they will.  That somehow, just when they think they can't, they'll realize they can.  That they had the power all along, right inside.  It's my responsibility to make sure they discover that inner power as soon as possible and help them harness it to use in whatever way their dreams lead.  So, sometimes I'm tough and tell them what they need to know, once again, because it hasn't sunk in quite yet.

Then they hop from the car, obviously tired of my words, possibly feeling their sting just a bit.  As I watch their tiny (and huge at the same time) bodies walk away and into the world, my heart falls deep, deep down into a place I hate to go.   Why do I ever yell at them ever?  I just love them so much it hurts.  Literally.

I can't imagine growing up in the world that they face.  Technology and its implications beyond imagination, more pressure to succeed than ever, and growing requirements and expectations at every turn, are just some of the things they face.  And they're just little kids.  Kids who, more than anything else in the whole wide world, I just want to be happy.

I know that I'm good at this job, most of the time.  And I'm human, so I have to forgive myself the mistakes I make, just as I forgive my kids.  I mean, how can we improve if we never falter?  So here's to falling, getting back up and being better than you were before.  Every single day.

Interested in some past Mother's Day posts?  Here are a few:

Just in Time for Mother's Day
Mother's Day Breakfast
Mother's Day 2009

Friday, May 11, 2012

why pinterest rocks

I wouldn't call myself an early-adopter.  It takes me awhile to ramp up an interest in something new in the virtual world.  I waited a long time before venturing onto Facebook and just started Tweeting last week.  (Follow me @MollyLoganAnder.)  But Pinterest, for me, is another story.

I've been wondering what it is about this seemingly pointless online bulletin board that continues to hold my attention week after week.  I look for pockets of time to spend searching through not only my Pinterest friend's boards, but also through the "Everything" category, where I can peruse thousands of endlessly generating pins from folks throughout the world.  I could easily spend forever on this site.  Here's why I love it:

It's so pretty
It feels as if the most hip and stylish peeps in Internet Land combed tirelessly through the net and came up with this perfectly categorized collection of PICTURES of the best of everything on the planet and then called it Pinterest.  From home improvement solutions, to fashion finds, to travel inspiration, to garden ideas to, MY FAVORITE: recipes; Pinterest has it all sorted out, depicted and labeled for our searching pleasure.  One word, like "chandelier", results in a veritable banquet for the eyes and endless suggestions for whatever it is you're looking, without the stuff you don't want to see. 

It's like shopping
For someone who writes a column about frugality each week, limiting shopping is key.  However, I like to shop as much as the next girl.  I've found that a good twenty minutes on Pinterest leaves me feeling like I've actually spent some cash.  And the money-saving ideas and organization suggestions offered, help save time and money, too.

It's usable
I've implemented or tried so many Pinterest-found ideas, I can't even count them.  It's my go-to source for new recipes now, more than any other site.  The images make the decision for me and so far, most recipes have been delish, with some even being adopted as family-favorites.  I've got a stockpile of garden projects in the works, like this cucumber trellis and a plan to make our builder-grade bathroom better with some simple woodwork

It's inspiring
The best part about Pinterest is that it gets my creative juices flowing.  In terms of interior decor, design, fashion and food, I absolutely love the style-provoking ideas from pinners that I follow.  They don't inspire me to copy, just get me thinking about my own style and how to create a home tailor-made and designed by me.  And the quotes, well, I'm a sucker for a good quote any day of the week.  Love them.  My boards feel like the ultimate vision collage - don't you remember making those works of art a million years ago?

But the jury is still out on...
Businesses.  For now, it's an instant turn off to see a price tag on the corner of a pin.  I've read about how brands big and small are getting on the Pinterest bandwagon and I just don't get it.  The last thing I'd put on my bulletin board is an ad from the Gap (even though I'm a big fan!)  My Pinterest boards are for ideas, styles and design, of any type, from non-retail pinners, that speak to me.  I look back through them as a reminder of what makes me happy and to inspire me to make all walks of my life more authentically me.  So, for regular old folks like you and me, I get sharing who you are through your pins.  But for big brands with sales on the brain, the jury is still out. 

If you're pinterested... follow me on Pinterest via the pin in the upper right corner!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

i wish i didn't hate may

I shouldn't hate May, I mean, May marks Finn's arrival into our lives, but I growl inside every time another May appointment - game - concert - event - anything must be put into the schedule.  My calendar software chuckles at me (literally, with reminders beeping about something new every 15 minutes) as I try to find spots for necessities, as if it holds the secret to making it all fit, but refuses to share it.  I feel like the frog in that archaic video game, Frogger, do you remember it?

I begin the day at 5 AM, staring at a full lineup of overlapping meetings and responsibilities and I hop here and there, backtracking and side-winding, just trying to get where I need be (asleep) at 10 PM.  I'm not dodging cars and trucks, I'm dodging teacher requests, celebrations of any type and new season start-up meetings.  And I don't get three lives like Frogger.  I only get one.

It's honestly laughable to imagine Mother's Day plopped in the middle of this mix - what a joke!  Although I fully intend to enjoy a full day of garden-dirty hands, and get my floral and vegetable fix, I can't imagine where the time or energy (or money) will come from.  If I write one more check for an end of year t-shirt, appreciation item or unexpected activity expense, I think I might just throw in the towel.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - MAY IS WORSE THAN DECEMBER!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

my take on fifty shades

I'll just put it out there.... I've read Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  I've read the second one, too and I'm half way done with the third.  Curiosity got the best of me after I heard about it in every corner of my life and I just had to know what it was all about.  Then my book club adopted it this month, actually swapped it out with another read, and we discussed it last night.

All month long, I've worried that a.) my book club would think me a total pervert for suggesting it, b.) my children may suddenly peek over my shoulder and catch a glimpse at what I was reading and c.) the media concern and coverage of what many outlets are touting as disturbing is likely a total waste of air-time.

The fact is that Fifty Shades of Grey is mindless entertainment at its best.  Promoted as steamy erotica for suburban moms, Fifty Shades is exactly that and nothing more.  In my opinion, it's not disturbing or degrading in any way.  It's not the great American novel either, but it's thoroughly engrossing for sure. If anything, my curiosity is satisfied and I'm more educated and less judgmental about a consenting-adult lifestyle that I previously knew nothing about.

As someone who has never read ANYTHING like this, the initial scenes, descriptions and subject matter were a little shocking; but shocking in the same way that we like to watch steamy love scenes in movies or people wiping out on American's Funniest Videos.  No, this is nowhere near a PG-rating, but does everything need to be?

Fifty Shades was a true departure for me and everyone in our Book Club, but it was completely refreshing to experience and partake in the discussion that followed.  It's unlikely that this book is  saving marriages as I've read in the press, but I think I can say that for some, it's heating them up  and reminding us all of a time in our lives when passion, not the carpool schedule, was first and foremost on our minds.  What's wrong with that?  And discussing it with a group of friends might just be the funniest few hours I've ever enjoyed.  (Imagine quips about Fifty Shades Charades, strong pelvic floors and multi-use chip clips - it was nothing shy of hilarious!)

I've also heard concern that exposure to this book will lead women down new paths in their lives that they never intended to go.  Let's give women a little more credit.  It was interesting, fantastical, ridiculous, provocative, and a little inspiring, if I'm being honest.  But on the flip side, I have no desire to change my lifestyle as a result of this book.  I found parts of it annoying, repetitive and desensitizing, too. 

Finally, Fifty Shades does not belong in the hands of youngsters, probably not even college students - they already have enough out-of-the-box ideas and activities in their lives.  The thought of my daughters reading this in the years to come is appalling and I wouldn't recommend it until they know themselves very, very well.

Other than managing the ages of the eyes that fall upon it, Fifty Shades of Grey should not to be analyzed to death and taken so seriously.  Instead, it should be taken on vacation and devoured.  Purely for the complete departure from reality and the plain and simple fun of it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


My head is killing me.  Well, not literally, but it feels like it sometimes!  It's definitely killing my joy!

My initial rush of excitement about the right meds doing the trick on this noggin of mine is starting to fade, with a sudden increase in the severe migraines that I typically only experience once or twice a year.  I've had three in the last four weeks, on top of my regular headaches, and they are not reacting to the abortive medicine, Frova, that once worked for me.  I called the doctor to today to let them know that things are sliding.  Hope to hear back soon.  I fear the word "injection" is on the horizon. 

This migraine thing is a challenge.  I feel like a complainer.  I hate saying, yet again, "Please be quiet, Mommy has a headache."  What a bore.  I really just don't want a headache.  Is that too much to ask?

The last round of information was that our current plan seemed to be working, and that I needed another EEG to see if an abnormal brain wave and low seizure threshold had corrected itself after two months of a new medicine.  Another tidbit of unwelcome news: I'm not allowed one drop of alcohol for about a year!  I'm not a big drinker, but hearing that it was totally out of the question feels a little bit restrictive.  I mean, really?  It's summertime!

As Mike and I prepare for our first weekend away in years, I'll be ordering a Perrier, I guess.  And that trip with our high school pals on the Kentucky Bourbon trail in July?  Well, that won't be quite what I imagined.  But at least the group will have a designated driver in tow.

This temporary personal prohibition really isn't a big deal.  It's the thought of a headache arriving on vacation that is worrying me sick.  I'll do anything to have a headache-free, marriage-building weekend away.  Cheers to the doctor calling soon.

Oh, and there is some good news: a new pal seems to be an expert on the best non-alcoholic beveridges around.  Can't wait to try her favorite, Buckler, St. Pauly Girl NA, and surprising top-choice, Busch NA, sometime soon!

Monday, May 7, 2012

shoestring living: making mother's day more meaningful

Here's my most recent Shoestring Living video:  Make Mother's Day More Meaningful!

Look for links, like this one, to my latest published articles, columns and videos in the coming months.

gymnastics state meet 2012

Just had to share these fabulous professional shots of Riley at this year's USAG Level 4 State Meet in Peoria.  She competed fabulously and ranked 8th All Around in a super-tough age group.  She also placed on beam and floor and put up her personal best on bars as well.  She's a star and we are SO proud of her!  Mostly, we just love that she's founds something she loves so very much!

boys will be boys

Just days away from his 6th birthday, Finn continues to provide constant comic relief for us all.  Last weekend, he had a friend over and they were all playing in the "ditch".  No, it's not really a ditch, but a ravine that runs perpendicular to our street just one house away.  They of course call it a ditch though, to anyone who'll listen, and I'm continually concerned that people think I let my child play in a murky mud puddle alongside a busy road.  However, I digress.

So, Finn and his buddies, two from the street and one from the other side of the neighborhood, were playing in the ditch.  It's like their own little world of forest.  Over the years, the boys have built a fort in there, and to be honest, I've never gone to see it.  They've never borrowed wood or tools, so I'm assuming it's just a natural structure built from whatever they could find in the ravine.  After a day full of ditch-loving fun, it was time to take his buddy home, who lives several blocks away.

As we got in the car, Finn's pal said, "There's pee on my sweatshirt."

"There's what on your sweatshirt?" I asked. "Why?"

"Well, [insert another child's name] peed on it."

"He peed on it?  Like on purpose?"

I receive two blank stares.

"What happened?  Did you two pee in the ditch?"

"No, just he did," answers Finn (the liar.)

Fast forward to our arrival at my friend's house.  I return her son, tell her what happened and to wash the sweatshirt.  Thank God she's a good friend.

Finn gets a lecture about ditch-playing and peeing outdoors on the way home, as he continues to steadfastly deny his involvement.  I am grossed out that my child is playing where people are peeing.

Fast forward a few days and we're at a school function with the friends who own the peed-on sweatshirt.  They inform me that their honest son immediately cracked under the pressure and said all four of the boys peed in the ditch, not just the one.  I can't wait to get Finn home.

And when I do, I learn that the ingenious little tikes have built a fort that actually has a bathroom in it.  And they all use it.  Regularly.


One more of the road.

Last night Finn says, "You know what my friend says?  He says, "Ball-SSSS" and then, "Get it?""  He chuckles.

And I say, "What do you mean?  What does he mean by that?"

And he says, "Why don't YOU know, Mom?"  He appears shocked by my ignorance.

I sit like a deer in headlights and Mike laughs hysterically, making a joke that involves the word "nuts".  Yes, this is helpful.

Boys will be boys.

Friday, May 4, 2012

the last bowl

I've been dreading its demise for weeks as I washed it and noticed the cracks becoming more and more apparent.  Just as the bowl's heyday moves further and further away in the rear view mirror, its existence has been threatening to do the same.  When I removed it from the dishwasher (what was I thinking?) this morning, I noticed that a few bits of food remained post-washing.  While cleaning it by hand, I saw the death-crack.  Not another chink in the armor, but a life-ending, through-and-through crack from one end to the center of the bowl.  Crud.

You see, this bowl is the last of its kind from another lifetime, a million years ago, when everything was different and all that's happened was only a dream yet to unfold.  It once belonged to a set of four Pottery Barn bowls that seems almost silly to be obsessing over, but it is so significant as a constant reminder of that special point in time.

The beautiful blonde that we met on a hot and steamy Tampa day, wearing grassy heels and cut off shorts became a partner for endless fun, our mother figure far from home and a cherished friend.  We talk to her far too seldom and have seen her even less in the last 12 years, but she's on our mind often.  Miss Debbie Carter gave us our bowls and at the time, I think they were the nicest thing Mike and I owned.  We ate nearly every meal from them and they made us feel cool, you know, Pottery Barn classy, even in our much-loved $350 per month rental house, where we barely made ends meet.

Three of our bowls were gone about four years ago; dropped or knocked off the table's edge by a playful toddler or an excited dog's tail.  But this last one, it hung on.  Until now, I've used it daily to house my giant lunch salad - it sits perfectly in my hand as I catch up on emails.  To learn it had served its purpose for the last time brought tears to my eyes.  As one of the few remaining talismans from such a memorable time in our lives, it will surely be missed. 

I know it must seem ridiculous.  But isn't it really the little things that make us who we are?  I'd never miss a piece of our china, which has been used only once in 15 years.  This bowl is a sign of where we once were, where we hoped to go, who we hoped to be and how far we've come.

It represents THIS time in our lives, which sometimes seems so long ago and at other times:  just like yesterday.

It's the definition of memorabilia and even though I'm not a saver, you can bet this chipped and pitted remnant will be placed in a box somewhere, only to be uncovered by my children or grandchildren someday.

"Why in the world would she save this?" they'll ask.

And if I'm not around to tell them, maybe my blog will.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the right folks at the right time

I recently read somewhere that in order to welcome the right situations and people into your life at the right times, you've got to say "yes" as often as possible.  For this homebody, saying "yes" is sometimes a challenge, but hindsight and wisdom get me out the door even when my tired bod says "no."

That being said, I jumped at the chance to get together with respected friend and colleague, Patti Minglin, CEO of Go Girl Communications, at a recent meeting.  In the midst, I finally met my amazing Chicago Parent editor, Alena Murguia, who I've known - only virtually - for more than four years.  What a morning - two writing mentors, coffee and lots of laughs!  I can't tell you how much fun it was to hash out creative ideas with a group that extended beyond me, myself and I.  What's more, the meeting ended with a serious take-away for me - a big time lecture regarding my lackadaisical attitude about self-promotion.

It's ironic that I put myself out into the world, my naked words alone on pages and screens all over the U.S., and never think a thing of it.  Conversely, I can barely contemplate sharing these same articles and columns with those that frequent my social media networks.  Every day I advise clients to use social media to their advantage, to extend their customer bases and further establish their brand through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and more.  Some serious soul-searching has left me with a realization:  rejection from those closest to me might just be my ultimate fear, but putting myself out there might just be the most trusting endeavor of my life.  Not only is it an opportunity for career growth, but for enormous personal growth, too.

With the help of technology, the stern words of wise friends and a healthy dose of courage, I am turning the proverbial page.  I know what I want and I intend to get it.  The time is now.  Much gratitude to Alena and Patti for the words I needed to hear.

I am currently reading The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho.  While I've barely gotten into it, the message is already ringing clear.  The old king says to the boy in search of his Personal Legend, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

I believe that's true.  And when you combine 'want' with 'effort' while focused on your passion?

Success is the only possible outcome. Look out world!