Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Being around babies again

Well, after eight years of being a work-from-home/stay-at-home mom after leaving my full-time job to raise my family, I'm now back in the working world. When I started seeking out a part-time job recently, I thought about my work experience and what kind of job I might enjoy. I didn't want to go into it knowing it would be a place I'd dread going every day.

I worked at a couple fast food places back in high school, but have no desire to go into food service -- just don't feel like dealing with the occasional crabby customer I'd encounter and I'd probably put on 50 pounds being surrounded by food all day. I also remember that is was really hard work and really low pay, which is easier to tolerate when you're a high school student.

During and after high school I was an administrative assistant. I loved it. The office environment suited me well. I liked working with people, paperwork and computers. I sent out some resumes, but decent paying part-time office jobs don't come along that often. I also knew I'd continue writing and wondered if it would be too much to sit at a computer at home and do the same at work.

I've always wanted to work a retail job, if only for the holiday season. I consider myself a people person - friendly, helpful and like to help find information or problem solve. A bonus would be that if I worked at one of my favorite places, I'd get a heads up on the sales and probably a nice discount. I considered it, but the places I seeked out required long weekend and evening hours.

One day I was searching online and found a job posting that was intriguing. I always thought it would be neat to somehow be involved in weddings or with new babies -- somehow able to share a life changing day with someone. I've also always liked the hospital environment and especially the nursery, which is full of caring people on a floor that usually results in a happy ending to a hospital stay. I think I have the compassion for nursing, but maybe not the stomach. Besides, my kids are still young and I wouldn't want to jump into going back to school for nursing and then likely onto a midnight shift as the lowest person on the totem pole working all the weekends and holidays. I knew I wanted something part-time for now. Anyway, I spotted a job for a newborn photographer in a hospital. It sounded like a great fit. It was part-time and allowed to be around babies and use the photography experience I've gained over my years of freelancing.

I'm still pretty new to it all, but so far I'm having a great time. How can you not be happy being around newborn babies? I get to go to work everyday and see a new miracle that has just entered the world. Even though it's quite difficult to catch a smile on the face of a 1-day-old, I'm around smiling parents, grandparents and staff each time I go to work. A smile can go a long way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Moms never get too old to rock

Last week, following a two-day trip to Key Lime Cove and then Six Flags Great America, I had another big day planned. A few weeks ago, I saw that Bon Jovi would be performing at Soldier Field. Since my 16-year-old is a Bon Jovi fan, I offered him tickets as a birthday gift. He was excited and we got a ticket for my sister to go along.

I love that my son loves the music that I grew up on. I know I have Guitar Hero and Rock Band to thank for his fondness of 80's music. If you scanned through his iPod, you'd find that a big portion of the music he has downloaded is from long before he was born. Most of it is from when I was his age. So, in the Bon Jovi concert ticket deal, it was a win-win. I got to spend a memorable evening with my son, rather than buying him a material possession. I also got to see one of my favorite bands from my teenage years. My son would get to enjoy his first concert in a venue that large and would get to see a band he liked as well. I would find out that he was way more familiar with Bon Jovi's music than I was, since he had all of his CDs, including his most recent release, which I hadn't really listened to in its entirety.

It turned out that my sister had a super busy week and when I mentioned the concert to my 17-year-old nephew the week before, he said he liked Bon Jovi, also, and wouldn't have minded going. So, my sister opted for a quiet night and decided to give up the ticket and have us invite my nephew. She dropped him off at my place that afternoon and we headed for Soldier Field. On Facebook, I'd seen many of my childhood friends posting that they had been at the concert the night before or were planning to go to the show that night.

I hoped for my son and nephew's sake, that there'd be more in the crowd than a bunch of 30-something moms screaming over their teenage crush. Seeing that the opening act was Kid Rock, I think he drew a whole different crowd and a younger bunch of fans. I only knew two of Kid Rock's songs when I got there: All Summer Long, which is one of my absolute favorites and Picture, a duet with Sheryl Crow that had been played on the country radio stations and that I really liked, as well. I knew that some of his other recordings were profanity-laced and more on the hard rock/rap side. I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. He sang the favorites I hoped to hear and did a great job on some covers, but even those songs I didn't know, I enjoyed seeing his passionate performance. And then when he started in with jokes about being from Detroit and the hockey rivalry, the crowd went nuts when three members of the Blackhawks brought out the Stanley Cup and Kid Rock raised it up.

Once Bon Jovi came out, I might as well have been a screaming, dancing 15-year-old again. I loved everything about the show and was amazed at how much he put into it, singing non-stop for about three hours. I probably embarrassed my son and nephew a wee bit, but well, that's tough. Why should the teenagers have all the fun?

Nothing rejuvinates mom like spa time

It's been an unusually busy week and I'm just winding down and catching up. A week ago, I was up in Gurnee, Illinois with two of my boys. I had been thinking about paying a visit to the Six Flags Great America theme park and decided to try and add in an overnight at Key Lime Cove, since I write/post about a lot of water parks.

The Key Lime Cove water resort has a Caribbean theme with a decor and atmosphere meant to duplicate Florida's Key West. We enjoyed our short stay in our two-bedroom suite where the theme continued with pastel-colored walls in the hotel hallways, flowered bedspreads and shampoo that was scented like a tropical drink. In the indoor water park, we floated in the lazy river, jumped around in the wave pool and sailed down the water slides.

As part of my press trip, the GM arranged for a complimentary pedicure so that I could experience the resort's spa. Knowing it would be a quick, busy trip I was initially inclined to decline. However, since it had been months since my toenails had been touched by a professional and I figured my feet would appreciate the pampering after the grueling drive, I accepted. And boy am I glad I did!

At the Paradise Mist Spa, which has been named "best spa" two years in a row by the Daily Herald, you just can't help but feel a wave of calm come over you as you walk in the door. Before your service, you're taken to the relaxation room to chill a bit before your service. Besides the area where nail services are done, there are eight additional rooms for massages, couples massages and facials. Clients should arrive about 15 minutes before service time to get into relaxation mode.

I was treated to a Pure Fiji Pedicure, which lasted about an hour and included an adjustable massage chair, warm neck wrap, hot stones and refreshing sugar scrubs from the Fiji Islands. A shout out to my excellent nail tech, Julie, for a wonderful spa experience that any mom would savor. The spa is available for Key Lime Cove guests and also open to the public. Browse the lobby area before you leave for a great selection of reading material and spa products. To learn more about the spa, visit

Some links for Moms...

Just sharing some sites for the other Moms out there. Here are a few links you might enjoy:

And visit my page as Chicago Family Examiner at

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slow down, summer!

Ah, can't believe I'm about to turn the calendar to the month of August. Although we're in the midst of a big heat wave and summer seems to have just begun, it's time to start thinking about the new school year. Registration isn't far off and the store shelves are filled with glue sticks and pencils. There are always so many things I want to accomplish each summer that don't seem to happen. However, this year has been warmer than past years and provided great weather for many fun days at the pool. Hopefully, the cool down will come as school begins since the schools don't have air conditioning. That makes it hard for kids to concentrate and makes it miserable for the teachers who have to do their jobs in the heat and deal with a classroom of sweltering, cranky kids. Besides our pool days, we squeezed in a short trip that included an amusement park, berry picking, some festivals, the drive-in movie theatre, movie in the park, some baseball games, fishing, VBS, camps for the kids, camp-out in the back yard and the splash pad. Some more fun is in store in the coming days. I'm not quite ready for the countdown, but then again I never am.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Remembering the Joys of Reading

As a child, I was an early reader. I was also a young kindergartner, having turned 5 just before the school year started. I was starting to read simple books before I started school and probably during first grade I was on to larger chapter books and my favorites were the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember how much I loved watching the series on television and my mom had found a full-length pioneer-style dress with a bonnet that I would put on to get into character when I'd sit down and read the books.

Later, in maybe fourth grade, I remember reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and how much I liked it and then The Diary of Anne Frank made quite an impact in about sixth grade. By high school I was so preoccupied with all the social interacting and boys, I didn't much care for reading anymore. It seemed more of a chore. And once I got out in the working world and married, I didn't really read books much, mostly magazines. I recall reading The Firm after I'd seen the movie starring Tom Cruise and it was the first book I read in a very long time that I read for pleasure and not because I had to. When my first son was on the way, I read everything I could that had to do with caring for babies or naming babies and from then on, every bit of reading material revolved around motherhood. I'd try to relax from time to time and read something for pleasure, but I'd often get a few chapters in and never get back to it.

When I picked up packets at the library for the kids' summer reading program, I realized that it had been last summer when I last read an entire book from start to finish. It was the required summer reading for my high schooler, but i decided to read it, too. It was Swallowing Stones, a book that I had a hard time putting down. It was the fourth book I read last year over a couple months, which was more than I had completed since I was a student. I do read daily. It's just usually a newspaper or a magazine article or something I find online. Something that you can get through quickly when you just have a few minutes to spare. Full books are hard to fit into the schedule, especially since I find myself needing to get back t it when it's a good one and everything else seems to fall by the wayside while I am enthralled in the story.

The other books I read last year were Let's Roll (the story of 9/11 passenger Todd Beamer's life as told by his wife), Why You Crying' (a hilarious and heartwarming autobiography by comic George Lopez) and The Passerby, which I read before interviewing the author for an article. With all of them, I started and just kept reading and reading, unable to pull myself away.

A few months ago I picked up a copy of Three Cups of Tea, but just couldn't find the time to finish it.

So, on a trip to the library with the boys recently, I told them we'd go to the children's section after Mom picked out a book to read while they played. I went to the biographies, my favorite reading material, and grabbed a few. My eight-year-old even grabbed one from that section. It was way beyond his reading level, but I wasn't going to discourage it. he checked out a 670+ page biography of Christopher Columbus.

Once we got to the youth area, the boys got to playing and I got to reading. I opened Last Man Down, the story of FDNY Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto and his escape from the rubble of the World trade Center north tower on 9/11. I just kept reading. The kids kept playing. Next thing I knew I was nearly half-way through the book. It had been almost two hours and the library was about to close. I brought it home and read another hour before bed. Then the next day, after the kids got out of school, we headed to a park where they ran for a little bit and I read a little more. We got home, had some lunch and they watched a movie while I finished up the book. 243 pages and I was done in less than 20 hours. I start reading and race to the end, then am left with this feeling of "now what?" So, after some housework, we set off for the pool and I grabbed another book. This time it was another autobiography, 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal. As the kids swam and splashed, I sat in the shade at the edge of the pool, flipping pages and watching the kids frolic, laughing out loud at both the kids and the story.

I had forgotten how fun it was to read - to escape into the setting of the book. I'd sit there looking at those manila pages and suddenly I was there beneath smoldering rubble alongside some exhausted and anxious firefighters or I was taking in a jazz concert as a young Billy Crystal or sitting with him at Yankee Stadium watching Mickey mantle hit one out of the park. Over the two hours at the pool, I got through roughly two-thirds of the book. I probably won't be able to rest my head tonight until I'm finished so i can start another book tomorrow. I know I can't keep this up. I'll soon be completely exhausted and my home will suffer. However, I've resolved to keep a book close at hand this summer. I seem to spend so much time waiting. Waiting in a doctor's office, waiting in parking lots for my children, waiting at a sports practice. Rather than spending that time sending texts or staring off into space, I can escape to whatever place or scene exists on the pages inside the cover.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sisters Weekend, Part II

I intended to write a follow-up to our second sister's weekend and time got away from me. So, I'll fill you in now. My sister, who lives in Geneva, Illinois, had noticed a sisters weekend planned in downtown St. Charles. She offered up her house as our lodging for the weekend and another sister booked us for the sisters weekend activities.

It was a great break that we all needed. It was me, my three sisters and a sister-in-law. We started night one with a wine tasting at a local steakhouse, followed by a a pajama party at Hotel Baker. It was so much fun. They have different prizes for pajamas and some groups went all out with cool, matching sets. There was a DJ and dancing and the best part was the mini-spa services - short massages, manicures, wax treatments, pedicures and make-up applications. We had a blast, leaving the hotel in pajamas and slippers in a rainstorm, then making a late-night Taco Bell stop.

The following day there were workshops and special sales at downtown shops. We discovered a wonderful restaurant, the RX Cafe, and had a leisurely gourmet lunch. In the evening it was a show at the Arcada Theatre of Michael Jackson tribute artists and a Mowtown Band.

On Sunday, we went for a cooking demonstration at Thai Zie, a great Thai restaurant with fresh, tasty food and wonderful service. After making spring rolls, we stayed for a filling lunch. I headed home and the other girls stayed for a little shopping. It was a great end to a fun-filled, refreshing weekend. I'd recommend it for any group of sisters or girlfriends to get together. Get more information at

Monday, April 26, 2010

A weekend with the sisters

Last year, my sisters and I (I have an older sister and younger twin sisters) decided to get together and spend the night at a B & B we visited a few times as kids with our parents. The planning got a little more elaborate and we ended up meeting for lunch at Lucrezia Cafe in Chesteron, followed by a little antique browsing and some shopping at the nearby Schoolhouse Shops. After that, we checked into the Gray Goose Inn, also in Chesterton. The owner, Tim, knows our family well and gave us free use of the dining and sitting areas. It was a Sunday night in January and we were the only guests that night. We sat in the dining room giggling, eating and drinking. Later we watched a movie in our room and turned in for the night.

The next morning was a gourmet breakfast and after check-out, we drove down the block to the WaterBird spa where we indulged in massages, manicures and pedicures and had lunch.

Our girl's getaway lasted about 24 hours, but it was such a nice getaway. It was nice being pampered, shopping and enjoying great food that we didn't have to cook. We decided that day that it would be an annual thing.

My sister lives in Geneva and the neighboring town of St. Charles hosts an annual Sister's Weekend, so she suggested it as our next girly getaway. We're fresh off of our second trip, which was wonderful. More on it in the next blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bringing out that wee bit of Irish

St. Patty's Day was quite fun this year. I'm always up for partying with the kids in their classrooms at school. Last month I went in with fried rice and fortune cookies for Chinese New Year and mentioned to my son's 2nd grade teacher that maybe I'd make Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day. I told her I wasn't any good at making corned beef and cabbage or I'd bring that in. She told me that her mom's corned beef was great and she'd see if she could talk her into making it or showing her how.

A few days before St. Patrick's Day, another mom told me she was going to make Green River floats, which I thought was a great idea. So, on March 17, I showed up with Irish soda bread (I did intend on baking it, but there just aren't enough hours in the day and the Strack and Van Til bakery probably did a better job than I would have) and Green River soda and vanilla ice cream. Ms. P's mom brought in two huge casserole dishes filled with corned beef, potatoes, cabbage and carrotts. Oh, yum!

I then set off to visit two of my other boys and make floats and hand out soda bread. It was a fun day. I love having the opportunity to pop into the classroom for fun stuff like that. The teachers have always been great about allowing me to help educate the kids about different cultures using food. After all, it is educational, too. :)

In the evening, we drove out to the Lake County courthouse to watch Crown Point's 2nd annual evening St. Patrick's Day parade. Couldn't believe the crowd. As I was there celebrating my Irish pride (my ethnic heritage is mainly British, with some Scottish, Irish and Native American thrown in), up marched the Band of Brothers Pipes and Drums group - which elicited another kind of pride.

The group is made up entirely of area firefighters, including some of my husband's co-workers. For families of firefighters, the sound of bagpipes seem to bring forth emotions. They sound beautiful, yet eerie. I saw the group perform last year on 9/11 at a benefit and just left in awe of these people and the profession they've chosen. They really are heroes. I felt pride at being married to one of the men in that brotherhood known as the fire service that is unique to any other career out there. Many days at the firehouse are monotonous and routine, but for the risks that may or may not be awaiting them when the tones go off, the unpleasantries they deal with from the public as firefighters and paramedics and the heartbreak they face when their strongest efforts aren't enough to save a child, I applaud them all for doing what they do. I sure couldn't do it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Moms never stop learning lessons

Wow, it's been a while since my last entry. Don't I always say that? Guess motherhood and writing keep me quite busy. Happy New Year!

I've been busy keeping up with regular deadlines and trying to keep up with all the digital media out there these days...tweeting about my travel articles, creating a fan page for my book and just the fun of keeping up with other moms on Facebook. The boys have been busy with a science fair project, cub scouts and the regular homework and I can't believe baseball season is right around the corner.

I was talking the other day with my husband about opportunities our kids have that we didn't and how kids today seem to take such opportunities for granted. I was not a real confident kid, but I did like to try new things. I always wanted to try band, takes classes and lessons of different kinds, etc. I did Girl Scouts one year and remember how much I loved it. When it was cookie season, I was all over the neighborhood determined to outsell everyone and I did.

I have to remember, though, that even thought I was the type of kid who wanted to try everything, not every kid is that way. As a parent, you have to gently push them into new endeavors, recognize where their talents lie and help guide them in a direction that will nourish them in many ways. Signing them up for a class they're not interested in or registering them for a sport they aren't into sometimes backfires. When they're little, it's good to get them to try something, but you also need to learn when to back off. Parenting is a journey where you never stop learning such lessons...

Bye for now.