Sunday, May 24, 2009

Busy days make you count your blessings

Whew, it's been a busy few days. The weather has been lovely lately, which is wonderful. However, it's also a reminder that I have to finish packing up the winter clothes and pull out all the summer stuff. It's a big job to tackle and I haven't had a big enough block of time to complete it, so I keep putting it off. It's time to get down to it, though, so that may be how I'll be spending my Memorial Day.

On Friday, I accompanied my kindergarten on a field trip to the zoo. Although I've been to Lincoln Park Zoo many times before, I was looking forward to spending the day with my little guy, soaking up the sun and seeing the monkeys, flamingoes, tigers and other animals. After a 1 1/2 hour ride on the bus to get there, we were left with 2 hours and 15 minutes to stroll through the zoo before we had to get back on the bus. Then the ride home took 2 hours and 20 minutes due to some re-routing because of a fire near the expressway. So, needless to say, it wasn't as pleasant of a day as I had hoped.

Yesterday morning I sat in the bleachers doing a pitch count during my son's game. The game was a real nailbiter. Just when the time limit was met, the game tied up and they ended up doing another inning. Later that evening I was able to get a little time to myself and I drove to pick up an old friend and former co-worker who happened to have an extra ticket to see her absolute favorite singer of all time - George Strait. I'm a big country music fan and love George myself, so I couldn't pass up the chance to go see him. My friend was in her glory - 16 rows from the stage. Julianne Hough (the cute blond from Dancing with the Stars) and Blake Shelton opened the show.

Today I took the kids up to Michigan to visit the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, so I could check it out to write a travel article. We stopped along the lake on the way back for some pictures and they ran off some energy in the McDonald's playland before the long drive home. Then we finished off the night with birthday cake for son #2 who turned 10 today. Sometimes in these busy days, you don't even have time to breathe, but when I do have a chance to stop and reflect, I count my blessings and feel an appreciation for the time I was able to share with my boys - even if it was a nearly 4-hour round trip with the last hour spent listening to a five-year-old whine because he had to go to the bathroom. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Visit my new travel page on

Just thought I'd put something on the blog to direct readers to my new page on I'm now the Chicago Family Staycations Examiner for the site, so I'll be covering attractions for the family in and around Chicago as well as some day trips and weekend getaways. I've been travel writing for 10 years and we've been to so many cool places in the Midwest, I'm happy to be able to share them with more families. Here's my page:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Everyone loves a parade

I just love this photo and had to share it. Recently, our town had the annual Good Neighbor Day Parade. It's been a tradition for about five decades in May and each year there is a different theme. This year it was honoring Abe Lincoln on his 200th. So, as you can imagine, the parade was filled with lots of Abes. One float had a log cabin, several had giant birthday cakes, one had a life-sized statue of Abe and another had an amazing recreation of the sculpture of the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C. Three of my boys were in the parade and my middle guy was more than happy to dress as Abe. Here's a shot of him before the parade.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's that time of year again

The past few weeks have been exhausting ones and the next few will be more of the same. We’re at a point in the year where nearly every day on the calendar is marked with at least one baseball practice or a game. Three boys are playing baseball so far and one more with a season yet to start.
I love the game of baseball and love when the boys have fun playing, but there are days when there are three games/practices on the same day at the same time at three different locations that just make me want to climb in bed, hide under the covers and not come out until the next morning. I’ve even been guilty of doing a rain dance hoping that we get the showers than have been forecast by the weather guy so I can get a break. What a bad Mom I am!
Last week there were the opening games after a couple previous rainouts. It’s always quite entertaining to watch those first games with little guys going up to bat with helmets that are bigger than they are, unimpressed outfielders gazing up at the sky while a ball rolls by them, base runners not quite sure what to do. It’s so fun to watch. It’s also amazing watching those few players on the team who are naturals – pulling a double play that looks effortless and throwing strikes with such intensity.
Well, only about eight more weeks of the season to go! Play ball!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Moms love a bargain

Way before we were hit by this recession, I was a thrifty mom. When my first son was born, I clipped coupons, saved labels from diapers packages for promotions, stocked up on baby food when I found a good sale, purchased gently used clothing at garage sales and gladly accepted used baby gear from my older sister.

Over the years, I’ve continued looking for ways to save money in raising my large family. I buy a lot of food in bulk and have figured out how to combine coupons with sale prices and in-store ads at places like Walgreen’s to get bottles of dish soap for 69 cents or a $4 bottle of shampoo for $1.50.

Aside form the strategic planning for bargains, I love being in the right place at the right time and finding a great deal. Just thought I’d share my great buys over the past couples weeks.
One way I’ve found to save money on clothing is to buy it at the end of the season at clearance prices to be worn the following season. I’m able to find a lot of great clothing as it goes out of season. Last year I picked up some winter coats for the boys that had been marked down as low at $12.

On my recent shopping trip, I got some $1.97 long-sleeved shirts at Old Navy. Often, I’ll find shirts that are normally $12 - $18 for $7.49 or $4.97. Once in a while I get lucky and find some cute tops in the right sizes for under $2. I just pulled out some summer clothes I’d packed away for my youngest and in the pile was a cute solid ringer t-shirt with the clearance tag of $1.47 on it.

Another place I love to shop for clothing for the kids is Kohl’s. They have nice brands the boys like. I stopped in a couple weeks ago planning to use the $20 in Kohl’s cash I’d accumulated on an earlier visit. I headed over to the overflowing clearance racks in the boys’ section and left with three hoodies (2 that had a bonus radio and ear buds along with them) and seven other long-sleeved shirts for $34 (after applying my Kohl’s cash.) The most expensive thing was a Tony Hawk hoodie for my oldest for $10.80. The least expensive was a Nike shirt for $2.

Last week, I was making a quick run into ALDI for milk and was greeted by some racks of flowers as I walked in. I picked up four 8-inch planters (2 snapdragons and 2 petunias) for $1.99 each and put them out of the front porch. While I love to add potted flowers around the outside of the house, it’s not often that I buy cut flowers for inside, but I couldn’t pass up the one-day only sale of a half-dozen roses with baby’s breath for just 99 cents! Sometimes great bargains don’t come from good planning, but good timing.