Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dears Sons: Take Responsibility

Dear Sons,

(Letter #22)

Hi, guys. Another letter from Mom that hopefully you'll peek at down the road and think, "Mom was right."

If there's one lesson I have learned in adulthood that took a while to get through was taking personal responsibility. It's something that you really don't "get" until you mature and figure out that you yourself are the one to blame for what happens in your life - bad or good. Sure, there are other outside influences that may sway things you do and push against you even when you're trying to do the right thing, but ultimately YOU make the choices and what happens in life is a result of the roads you have gone down and the decisions you have made along the way.

As a child I remember how hard I'd try to skirt responsibility. If something happened or didn't happen and I knew there'd be a consequence, I might not have pointed the finger directly in my sisters' direction, but I sure didn't do anything to make it obvious that I'd made a mistake and go out of my way to get them off the hook and put the heat on myself. Taking ownership of your actions is something that often comes with age. It's part of learning and growing up. But it's not always that way. And I can think of examples with you boys where you've stepped up and let us know if you had accidentally broke something or neglected to do the dishes when it was your turn, knowing that the feedback would be unpleasant. It makes me proud when that happens.

I also had a hard time with it because in my late teens and early in my working career, I had this notion that I didn't make mistakes. Everyone makes them, but for some reason I just didn't know that yet. If I did make a mistake, I didn't want others to know. I'd try to fix it quickly so no one knew I made a mistake and I wouldn't have to own up to it. Now I know it's part of life. We should try not to make them, but we do. And when we do, we need to admit that we did. And we need to do what we have to do to make it right or apologize or fix it and make sure it doesn't happen again. Trying to hide a mistake hurts only you in the end. Taking responsibility for it can lift a weight from you and it shows character.



Spa Time for Mom at Cowshed

This little nugget was in my inbox this week, so I thought I'd share for those oh, so stressed moms out there who might want to give Santa hint. :)


Cowshed spa at Soho House Chicago is excited to announce new offerings designed to create a stress-free season of celebrating. With work parties, social gatherings and family festivities, the amount of time spent getting ready during the holidays may seem daunting, so milk these special offers for all they’re worth and turn that getting ready time into sociable grooming time. Guests can continue the pampering and start the New Year on the right hoof with a discounted detox program featuring Owen + Alchemy’s juices and Cowshed’s popular Slender Cow product line and body treatment.

December to Remember Offers
Guests may take advantage of the following offers the month of December, including:
  • Holiday Nail Art. Festive nails are a staple this holiday season. Book a speedy manicure and receive complimentary holiday nail art for the ultimate holiday hooves.*
  • Need a mani and a pedi? This December, receive a complimentary 15-minute scalp and shoulder massage when booking a Cowshed manicure and pedicure back-to-back.
  • Eye Opener. Perk up with the Cowshed Eye Treatment that targets the delicate eye area incorporating a pressure point massage and collagen eye mask. The treatment helps detoxify, reduce puffiness and combat fine lines (perfect for those not so perky mornings). Receive a complimentary eye tidy brow wax when booking the Cowshed Eye Treatment.
  • A gift for you a gift for me. Purchase a gift card valued at $150 or more and receive a $25 gift card for yourself. Crazy, right?
*Complimentary nail art includes one nail on each hand.  Offer is not valid on Saturdays.

Holiday Spa Packages
Sparkle from head to hoof with one of the festive holiday treatment packages this December.

Holiday Spa-rkle Package ($155)
Designed for total body rejuvenation and relaxation, this two-hour luxury package is ideal for gifting to a loved one, yourself, or both with a glass of bubbly to add a cheerful, celebratory touch. The Spa-rkle package includes the following 30-minute treatments:
  • Speedy Back massage
  • Speedy Facial
  • Speedy Manicure
  • Speedy Pedicure
  • Glass of Prosecco
Knackered Foot Massage ($30)
This 30-minute treatment is ideal for enjoying after a long day spent holiday shopping to console tired and aching feet. The treatment is performed in the luxurious, leather wingback pedicure chairs and includes:
  • Foot soak with Knackered Cow shower gel
  • Spearmint foot scrub
  • Foot massage with Knackered Cow lotion

Detox the “herd” way
Start the year fresh with the powerful one-two punch of Owen + Alchemy’s invigorating cold-pressed juices and Cowshed’s popular slimming product line and body treatment, Slender Cow. With the purchase of one of Owen + Alchemy’s juice cleanses (discounted at 15%), guests also receive a discount on the Slender Cow products or Slender Cow body treatment. The full body treatment incorporates the namesake products (with active firming and toning ingredients) with an invigorating full-body scrub, exfoliation and detoxifying massage. For those who prefer a reboot at the beginning of the year, this offer will still be available through the end of January 2015. Full details include:
  • 1-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 15% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment
  • 3-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 20% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment
  • 5-day cleanse (discounted at 15%): Receive 25% off Slender Cow product or Slender Cow total body treatment

For more information on Cowshed or Soho House Chicago please visit or

About Soho House Group
Soho House was founded in London, in 1995, as a private members’ club for those in the film, media and creative industries. The group has gradually expanded to include Houses across Europe and North America, as well as restaurants, cinemas, spas and hotels.

The clubs include the original Soho House, Babington House in Somerset, Electric House, High Road House, Shoreditch House, Little House Mayfair, Soho House Berlin, Soho House New York, Soho House West Hollywood, Soho Beach House Miami and Soho House Toronto. (Babington, High Road, Shoreditch, Berlin, New York and Miami also host hotel rooms). Soho House Chicago is the group’s twelfth house and will be followed by Soho House Istanbul at the end of 2014.

The portfolio includes 18 public restaurants to date; CafĂ© Boheme, Soho Kitchen & Bar, Electric Diner, High Road Brasserie, Hoxton Grill, Cecconi’s Mayfair, Cecconi’s West Hollywood, Cecconi’s Miami, Pizza East Shoreditch, Pizza East Portobello, Pizza East Kentish Town, Pizza East Chicago, Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger Chicago, Chicken Shop Kentish Town, Chicken Shop Tooting, Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop Whitechapel, Dirty Burger Kentish Town, Dirty Burger Vauxhall and The Allis Chicago. In 2009, the group launched its first standalone hotel, Dean Street Townhouse, hosting 39 bedrooms and an all-day restaurant. The group has also developed the Cowshed spa and salon along with a line of Cowshed-branded hair and body products. Last year Neville, a men’s grooming line created by Soho House, joined Cowshed.

About Cowshed
Cowshed is a quintessentially British beauty and lifestyle brand, established in 1998 at Babington House in Somerset. Since its launch, Cowshed's philosophy has remained the same, to create a complete range of honest, natural and therapeutic products, made in England using a variety of organic ingredients, wildcrafted plant extracts and pure essential oils of the highest quality.

Cowshed’s UK Spas:
  • Cowshed Selfridges, Ground Floor, 400 Oxford Street, London, W1A 1AB
  • Cowshed Primrose Hill, 115-117 Regents Park Road, London NW1 8UR
  • Cowshed High Road House, 162 Chiswick High Road, W4 1PR
  • Cowshed Carnaby, 31 Foubert’s Place, London, W1F 7QG
  • Cowshed at Shoreditch, 1 Ebor Street, London, E1 6AW
  • Cowshed Clarendon Cross, 119 Portland Road, London, W11 4LN
  • Cowshed at Babington House, Babington, Somerset, BA11 3RW

Cowshed’s Global Spas:
  • Cowshed at Soho House Chicago, 113-125 N. Green Street, Chicago, IL 60607
  • Cowshed at Soho House New York, 29 - 35 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10014, USA
  • Cowshed at Soho House Berlin, TorstraBe 1, 10119, Berlin
  • Cowshed at Soho Beach House, 4385 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33140, USA

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dear sons: Be a Helper

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)

Dear sons, 

(Letter #21)

One thing I hope that you have learned in having me as a mother is to be giving and generous - to give of your time and talent and gifts to help others. And not only is it important to be giving, but to not seek reciprocation. Give to be kind and brighten another one's day. Give because you know that there's a purpose to it. Give so that you fill a need for that person. Give so that they know someone cares. Give expecting nothing back except the words "Thank you." I want each of you to be men who want to help others.

Throughout your life there will no doubt be people who help and give to you in numerous ways - your family, your friends, your teachers, your co-workers. Pay forward their kindness and gifts if not directly back to them, but give forth to others because others were kind to you.

Helping and giving feels good and that feeling is the best reward.



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can't we all just get along?

It's the weekend. It's Autumn. It's chilly outside. These are times that I like to hang out in the warm, quiet house for a peaceful day where I don't have much on the agenda. A couple errands to run later. Some housework to do. Catching up on e-mails. Meals to plan. A cupboard waiting to be organized.

I should be urging the kids to do their chores right now, but I hear my two youngest in the other room playing. And they are playing nicely. And it's something that is pretty rare, so I don't want to disturb it.

I know the clock is ticking. In an hour (probably much less) it will be all over, likely ending with a dispute and someone stomping out of the room or the Lincoln log structure they are building getting "accidentally" knocked to the ground. But right now they are getting along and exchanging ideas and laughing and I'm clinging to it for as many short minutes as it will last.

The sibling rivalry is what I would say is my most difficult challenge of parenting. And when there are five kids - all of the same gender - there is sibling rivalry. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of it.

And it's something you expect they will outgrow, but so far it hasn't happened. I'm sure it will subside eventually, but there's a long way to go. When they were toddlers and would fight over the same toy I thought it would get better as they got older and matured and didn't both want to play with the same talking Buzz Lightyear action figure. But, that's not the way it goes. As they get older they get more sly and sneaky, more aggressive, more personal with insults.

I don't mean to paint a picture of a house full of boys brawling from morning 'til night. Much of the time it is peaceful. Violence isn't tolerated. They each have a space of their own where they go to be away from each other. They have some similar interests and have fun sharing in those together. But the disagreements and teasing still happen way more often that I would like. Well, honestly I'd like them to never happen, but I know that is something that is completely unrealistic.

I have six siblings. Three are much older and were out of the house by the time I was in kindergarten, but I have twin sisters two years younger that I grew up with. The truth is we fought. We fought a lot. We fought over Barbies and what TV show to watch and clothes and whose turn it was to do the dishes. Sometimes it was verbal - yelling and teasing and name calling. On occassion  it ended with hair pulling and kicking and slapping. Now as adults we are wonderful friends. But when we were teenagers and someone had taken a hair clip without asking, it was World War III.

The boys have some great moments. One will realize that his brother is busy getting ready for a soccer game and take out the garbage even though it isn't his job for the day. One will spend their own birthday money they received as a gift to buy something he knows his brother will like. There are a lot of those examples and those are ones I cherish. And the ones that get me through the other times when the bickering has struck my very last nerve. I just wish they could get a long. Like ALL. THE. TIME.

P.S. It's been 24 minutes since I started typing this. They are no longer playing together. I heard "stop it" seven times. Called the offender in the kitchen to let him know there were some doughnuts. He ate one and went off to do something in a different room. Crises averted, but no more pleasant conversation and laughter to listen to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

Today is election day and because the schools are also polling places, the elementary and junior high school district a couple years ago decided to start scheduling parent conferences on election day so that kids weren't in classes while scores of strangers were filing in and out of the gym.

Too bad it couldn't be a sleeping in day for me. High School is in session today, so I was out the door at 7 to take him to school. A mid-week no-school day is welcome right now.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Spreading it out

I've been thinking lately about how much I miss the years of having toddlers and preschoolers, but also how nice it is to have gotten to a stage where the boys have become quite independent and able to do a lot on their own. They also don't have to be supervised every moment like when they were into absolutely everything.

One thing I remember being so stressful in the past was when I'd have to load all of them into the car in the mornings to get the oldest to school and then wake up a sleeping baby at pick-up time. That is one part I definitely do not miss.

These days I have kids in three different schools. They are all heading out the door in the morning at separate times. I'm usually in the car with just one, which is something that I enjoy. I still love spending one-on-one time with each of the boys and having conversation with each one individually. The house gets emptier little by little in the morning over a 1 1/2 hour span. It generally makes for a smoother morning than it did a decade ago. :)

Hoping for a better Halloween next year

Okay, so I'm going along with the National Blog Post Month effort to post every day in November to my Adventures in Motherhood blog. Since I missed two days already, I'm backing up to Saturday, November 1st. So, let's just pretend you are reading this on Saturday, ok?

Friday night was Halloween. It's a holiday I typically love, but it was hampered quite a bit this year by the weather. I was also pretty exhausted by the time trick-or-treating was to start. I have a column deadline on Friday mornings, so I got up early to write my column. Next was shopping. I'm the snack day chairperson at the junior high every other Friday, which happened to fall on Halloween.

So, that meant out early for a shopping trip at Sam's Club for about 15 cases of various chips and a few cases of cookies and then about 8 cases of candy. Then it was over to the school to unload and set-up and spending the next three hours there selling Flaming Hot Cheetos and sour Skittles to preteens.

From there, it was a stop at Walgreen's for a couple items and then over to the elementary school where I'm head room for the fourth grade class. They have a parade followed by a party, but this year food was completely banned from school and occupying the kids for the party and not involving food in any way was a bit challenging. No more candy corn bingo. No more handing out candy for goodie bags. No more make-your-own ice cream sundae bars or decorate your own cupcake or cookie activity.

Let me insert here the respect I have for all teachers. I love kids. I love spending time at my kids' schools, but it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Kudos to all the teachers who do it every day.

By the time we got home I was ready for a nap, but trick-or-treating was still to come. I was a little relieved when the kids said they wanted to stay home for a while and hand out candy. It was not just raining, but there was sleet and hail and very strong, cold winds. I wasn't jumping for joy to head out in it.

As the time was passing, I asked a few more times if the kids wanted to head out to trick-or-treat, but they were content jumping out and scaring kids and handing out candy. After it got dark, the two youngest decided they'd like to head down the street to a church that always does a trunk-or-treat on Halloween. My husband walked down there with him and I snuggled under a blanket on the sofa flipping around through channels with the remote because it is highly unusual for me to have control of the remote and a quiet room to watch what I want to watch.

The next morning, though, I just felt cheated. The weather had been so yucky. I missed out on trick-or-treating. I really wanted a do-over. The kids were fine with it, though. I was prepared for hundreds of trick-or-treaters and we got way fewer than most years so there was plenty of candy for them since they didn't brave the brutal weather to collect any of their own.

I'm really pleased that Halloween next year will be on a Saturday. So, that means the school party will be on a Friday and I won't have both in one day. Saturday will mean more time to prepare, more time to trick-or-treat. It'll also be my last year as a room mom. My youngest one will be in 5th grade so no more parties after next year. I will miss it. Time's just moving too fast for me. I wonder how many more years there will be of trick-or-treating with my guys. I'm hoping at least a couple more.