Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The magic of seeing Christmas through your child's eyes

Well, Christmas 2014 is officially over. Kind of doesn't feel right as we've had spring like temperatures, but it's true. Christmas came and went without a flake of snow on the ground. In years past I've gotten things going well in advance, but I've been slipping in recent years. No more mailing cards right after Thankgiving or having most of my shopping done before the calendar flips to December. With each kid, I've slowed down a bit, but I manage to get all the important stuff done with time to spare.

This year, a bout of the stomach flu went through the house the week before Christmas. And I lost almost a whole week. Truly, I lost it. I was at home almost that entire week, either caring for sick kids or being sick myself or recovering from being sick with 3 or 4 hour mid-day naps. I was totally unproductive and then when all was back to normal, I found myself with a couple days left to get it all done. I missed parties and holiday sales and was overcome with stress, rather than Christmas spirit.

Finally, I figured I needed to let it go. We made a visit to see Santa with a couple days to spare and although the bigger boys were not at all into the visit, the two youngest ones still excitedly put in gift requests and posed for pictures.

Christmas was so magical to me as a child. It was truly the highlight of the year. Really, we didn't have much. I almost never got anything on my long, unreasonable list. But, even as a child I knew Christmas was about much more than getting gifts. I cherished our Christmas Eve dinner when all six of us and my big brothers and sisters' spouses were there together for a big meal. Although there's a mountain of responsibilities in executing the holiday festivities as an adult, there are at least a few moments where they melt away as you see your child's excitement. It's truly magical.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last minute gift ideas for the Pinterest challenged

We're getting down to the wire here. Christmas is creeping up fast. I have to admit that I am really behind and have more shopping to do and more gifts to wrap and put under the tree. You too? Well, here's a few quick ideas that will save you the time of scanning Pinterest boards and pulling out a ton of craft supplies.

Illinois lottery tickets are a fun gift and work for any grown-up, especially the ones who have everything, want nothing or are simply impossible to buy for.

1) Buy some instant lottery tickets from the Illinois Lottery. Grab a piece of paper and fashion some Holiday Cash Cards into the shape of a Christmas tree. Write the message "Have a Green Christmas!" on it and that's it. I used an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet which easily fit 6 cards. Use a bigger piece of  paper of a poster board if you'd like to make a larger tree. Grab some markers and glitter if you must dress it up. :)

2) This is a fun one for sports fans. Our family is full of huge Cubs fans. These Silver Bell Doubler Tickets are that perfect shade of Cubby Blue. Pair it with a team ornament or another small gift. The item on the right is a foldable fan for those sizzling summer ball games. I cut out a circle shape and drew seams for it to resemble a baseball. I wrote the message "Hope you hit a home run and win big!" followed up with a "Go Cubs." There are a variety of different instant tickets available starting at $1 and it's likely you can find one to go with the color scheme of your recipient's favorite team.

3) Many ladies, like me, love candles. They make great little gifts. Pick one up and add a note, "Hope you win some cash to BRIGHTEN your day" or "Hope you win something that LIGHTS UP your life" or "Hope this ticket SPARKS a big prize" or something like that. You get the idea! Be creative. Have fun with it. And cross off another gift from your list in just a few minutes.

Also, click HERE for another idea if you have a food lover on your gift list! :) And click HERE and HERE for more on the fun instant tickets available from the Illinois Lottery.

*** This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When the season of peace is so unpeaceful

It's the Christmas season. It's a time for giving. For generosity. For good will. For peace.

But this year it seems there's so little of the latter.

In fact, in my 42 years on this earth, I don't think there's been a time that I have felt this way. I'm an optimistic person and I look for the good and I can see positive things spill from not-so-good situations. But right now I just feel like there's such an unrest and such a lack of peace in the world at a time when we should feel it most. At Christmas a lot of the negative or the disagreements in various arenas can kind of be put the side temporarily. This year there seems to be so much of it at the forefront. Too much to brush aside.

I feel it locally as there seems to be so much animosity of late toward local village officials and school board members. Elections are coming up the spring and tensions are already building.

I feel it in our country as the recent weeks have brought forth the most intense race issues I have seen in my lifetime and a lack of disrespect for law enforcement spreads.

And beyond our borders a war against terror continues and our military continues a fight that seems never-ending while we hear threats from other sources.

On a local level, I respect our leaders. I respect those who want to become leaders in the community. I see so much moving our village toward goals that will benefit us all. I find myself wishing we could go back a decade when the interference of social media didn't proliferate the negativity, yet I can appreciate it's role in distributing information and creating a platform that hadn't been there.

Internationally, there's a particular feeling of being helpless. You're one minuscule fish in an enormous pond and in waters that are foreign and sometimes so hard to understand and navigate.

In so many situations, I really try to see it from opposing views. I try not to jump to conclusions. I try to look at all sides and see the pros and cons.

With race issues, attempting to see things from another perspective is key, but acknowledging that you can never fully understand the other's point of view is essential. There are many difference in black culture and in white culture and in every other culture. It doesn't mean that one has to agree with the other. It doesn't mean that one has to follow the beliefs of the other. It doesn't mean that we can't see one another as simply human beings rather than being one of another group. Differences can bring people together as much as push them apart.

As I was growing up, I came from a community that was nearly all white and was bussed to a high school that was nearly all black. There had been a lot of discord in the previous decade as the bussing was initiated to integrate the school district. I had heard people talk of that time and about riots and fights and cops with dogs patrolling the halls and was really scared to attend the school.

My experiences there were so different than what I had heard and what I had feared. While I learned there were differences in culture, I learned how much the same we were, too. I remember the days in my homeroom where I recall there being only one other white student. The teacher, a black man, could not have been more kind and caring and encouraging and a better symbol of an ideal role model. Sitting beside me in class was the child of a physician and the two who graduated as valedictorian and salutatorian. In another row was a young girl who was sweet and shy and pregnant her freshman year with her second child (I believe she went on to have one more child before graduation.) In another row was a quiet young man who wore the same clothes for days in a row. I believe he was shuffling back and forth staying with siblings and relatives as his parents weren't in his life. I remember him once talking about having not eaten the day before. Within that room were kids of so many walks of life, all of the same race.

Maybe I'm looking through that slightly skewed nostalgic view that we sometimes have when looking back on our youth, but I don't recall many problems when I was there. I never was involved in any physical altercations. I was never threatened. I never came across any drugs or weapons. Maybe it was that it was a different time. Maybe it was that those who might be referred to as "thugs" today didn't stay in school - the dropout rate was pretty high and those who caused trouble were sent elsewhere or didn't come back. Maybe it was because I was in that neighborhood pretty much only during school hours when we were in a supervised and controlled environment and I would have encountered more problems if I was around there more often at night and on weekends. I learned during my time there how misleading stereotypes are.

I can say there were a few occasions where I did feel entirely out of place being in the minority, like when I attended school dances and not one song by a white artist was played. Another was when I heard in the school announcements about an arts competition that had cash prizes and scholarships to be awarded. When I went to my counselor to get an application, she told me it was only open to black students. It stung. It was something I wanted to have offered to me, but I wasn't eligible because of the color of my skin. It seemed really unfair. At first I it made me feel angry, but then I realized that this is what it feels like when the tables are turned. I can't say that I know what it feels like to be black, but in that moment I felt what it was like to be discriminated against because of color and after initially feeling unhappy about it, it made me feel sympathy. I realized that a few years before high school when there were only a handful of black kids in the junior high I attended, that they must have felt out of place quite often and were probably feeling at times like they weren't treated the same. It was an experience that made me consider difference and often disadvantages in race when I had really not looked before.

I continued at the school for my entire high school career. I went back to work there after I graduated. Every day I drove into this all-black neighborhood. Every day I continued to work and interact with those in another race and it was peaceful. And I wish I felt that peace again. And I wish everyone could feel that peace - of all ages and classes and races.

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 www.cowshed.com or www.sohohousechicago.com.

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.

Parenting across the ages

So I just read that it's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and that a lot of bloggers are committing to posting daily in November. I'm getting a late start. It's November 3rd, but I thought it would be a good reason to get back to this blog. It's been sadly neglected as I work on deadlines for my writing jobs, concentrate on the food blog, do volunteer stuff that I somehow get myself into and you know, those other things that fill my time - like five kids. It's not that I have nothing to write about. At least a dozen times over the last couple months there have been moments that cause me to think, "This would be a great blog post" and then life marches on and I don't take the time to type it up.

So, let's count this as my November 2 post and I'll see what else I can come up with later today because November 2 was a fun day. My nephew, Eli, turns 1 today and yesterday was his party. My sister Becky is just two years younger than me, but there was a long time between when I became a mom and when she became a mom.

My oldest will be 21 in May. He was born in 1994 just before I turned 22. Becky turned 40 this year and became a mom for the first time at 39. So, naturally, I was at Eli's birthday party thinking back on my early mom days and how easy it seemed. I don't mean it was EASY. Parenting never is. I mean that I'm now 42. I've got a few more pounds on me than I did at 21. I've got a few more aches. I get winded a little easier when I'm running or going up and down the stairs. Let's face it. Energy is much more abundant to a 21-year-old than a 42-year-old. I felt glad that my days of chasing toddlers and sleepless nights and changing diapers happened long ago.

My mom had six kids with a 20-year span from oldest to youngest. She had her first at 19, followed by two more in the next 2 1/2 years. Then she had me the week before she turned 37 and then twins at 39. As we were growing up, my parents always seemed so tired. Can you blame them? Keeping up with kids isn't easy at any age and I'm sure it's even harder when you are in your 40's and 50's.

While other kids' parents took them to the beach, the pool, camping trips, amusement parks, it just didn't happen for us. We made a lot of good memories at home. Our parents just weren't the on-the-go type and maybe that was just them and not really an indication of age. Anyway, I've always been an on-the-go type, so I had the intention early on of having my kids while I was on the younger side. I wanted to be finished with having kids by 30. My youngest one was born when I was 32, so I had 5 kids over 11 years.

As I was pregnant with my youngest one, the other twin was pregnant with her first. Her youngest was born when she was 39. So, both of my little sisters have had their kids in their 30's. I think they may have started sooner if Mr. Right had appeared earlier, but it just happened that it didn't happen until later on. And I'm so glad that it happened for them when it did. Although there are some increased risks as expectant mothers age, the age for first time moms has increased over the years. A lot of parents plan it to be later and I certainly understand the many reasons - you want to feel ready, you want to have an adequate home, you want to feel like you can financially care for the baby or you just want to live more and see more before becoming a parent.

Also at the party was my sister's best friend. She also recently became a mom for the first time. Her daughter is two and she has another one on the way. When I commented that I couldn't imagine having a baby at my age, she retorted with, "Well, I couldn't imagine having one when I was younger." It is really an individual thing. Her oldest sister just became a mom for the first time at age 47 and it was a big surprise to them and such a big blessing. I'm so happy for her. Motherhood is the best, whether it happens at 21 or 39 or 47.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rock and Roll all night with the Anything's Possible Music Series

Well, summer is winding down and it's gone way too fast. Ok, technically we still have about a month to go, but the kids are heading back to school and it's back to the same old routines. I love that during the summer each day is a blank slate and anything is possible. And that was the theme of this summer's concert series sponsored by the Illinois Lottery - the "Anything's Possible" Music Series.

I was happy to make it to several concerts this summer, the most recent being the Def Leppard and KISS show at Midwest Bank Amphitheater. My son is a big KISS fan and being a kid of the 80's, I had every song on my Pyromania cassette memorized when I was in 6th grade.

First thing I learned was that KISS fans don't mess around. This was just one of many fans dressed in full garb.

We got settled in to our area before the show. My 20-year-old son was happy to be there, but not that trilled about posing for a pic with mom.

I did manage to get a smile out of him for a Gene Simmons-esque pose and proclaimed myself a "really cool mom." I told him he should consider himself lucky. The coolest thing my mom ever did when it came to music was dance the twist in the living room to a Backstreet Boys song.

I was pretty excited when Def Leppard came out. They were one of my very favorite bands of the 80's. I really wasn't all that into the metal rock of the time, but I loved me some Def Leppard. It was awesome to hear some of their classics, like "Foolin'," "Love Bites," "Rock of Ages," "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." I've always had a thing for British rockers. :)

One thing about Def Leppard that I find so inspiring is the story of their drummer, Rick Allen, who lost his left arm in a car accident. How many people could go through that and still continue their career. He continues to tour with the band and does some of the drumming with his feet. 

This was my first experience at a KISS concert and it is definitely quite a show.

My pictures with my phone (like the one above) were pretty terrible and I saw that a Facebook friend that I went to grade school and high school with had been there and gotten much better photos than me, so I asked him if I could post them. His photos are posted below. Aren't they awesome? Thanks, Jason Lucas!

And one last shot from me - of the finale. I have never seen so much confetti! Was a pretty cool ending, but I couldn't help but think about the poor guys who had to sweep it all up!

You can pick up Anything's Possible scratch off tickets where Illinois lottery tickets are sold and you can win up to $1,000. Tickets are also available at some of the upcoming concerts. Click here for a list of the remaining concerts in the series.

***Tickets to the concert were provided by the Illinois Lottery. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Still little

Sometimes it's funny how parenting works. These kids are in front of you every day. You see them so much that their growth happens right before your eyes, yet you don't see it. I can visit with a niece or nephew I haven't seen in months and their growth is immediately apparent. But somehow, when it's right there in front of you it just slips by. 

And now that my youngest is 9, I am in that stage where he's still little, but he wants to be grown up. He's got so far to go to catch up to his brothers, but he wants to get there. Really, he's still a little boy, but he is moving into the pre-teen category. He's in-between. And when you're a kid, who wants to be there?

Today was one of those days I looked at him and something just struck me. It was one of those moments that make a mom misty as she just freezes for a moment and takes in the wonder of that child. As hard as he wants to be a big guy, he is still little. A funny, goofy, little care-free boy. I was driving him to his last day of summer cub scout camp this morning. I made a quick trip through the Dunkin' Doughnuts drive through for breakfast on the way. We stopped at a traffic light. I looked over at him with his little hat on and the sunglasses that he thinks make him look tough propped up on the hat. His face was covered in crumbs from his Oreo filled doughnut. He had a backpack next to him that was as big as him. He's trying so hard to be big, but he's still little. But he won't be for long. And I'm glad I took notice today.

Always trying to be big - playing "co-captain" on his Uncle Phil's boat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Old school rock and roll compliments of the Illinois Lottery

The Illinois Lottery is bringing audiences a great line-up of concerts this summer in the Anything's Possible Music Series - everyone from Jack Johnson to Rascal Flats to Bruno Mars to Jimmy Buffett to Aerosmith and many, many more. This past week I attended my third concert this season at First Midwest Bank Theatre this year. The first two were country shows - Brad Paisley and Toby Keith. This most recent concert was a big dose of old school rock and roll with Lynyrd Skynrd and Bad Company.

I attended with my sister-in-law and we stopped for a pre-show dinner at Hamada of Japan, which is just a couple minutes down the road where we stuffed ourselves on noodles and rice and veggies, meat and seafood cooked right in front of us. I totally recommend it for a concert night dinner.

We watched the show from the Illinois Lottery VIP deck - a nice vantage point. First up was Lynyrd Skynyrd, followed by Bad Company.

A lot of the music from both bands was released when I was a toddler, but I'm a sucker for classics and oldies. I didn't realize until I looked up some song lists for each band how many of their songs I knew. There were some great old school classic rock songs on the list that I knew and loved, but didn't realize who the artists were.

I was very excited to see Lynyrd Skynyrd. As far as I'm concerned Sweet Home Alabama is at the top of the list of all time best rock anthems. I've always loved the song and then when Kid Rock added it in to a mash up with his hit All Summer Long, I loved it even more. I saw Kid Rock at Soldier Field a few years ago when he opened for Bon Jovi. I went there not really into him, but he totally won me over with his performance, especially when he sang All Summer Long. Anyway, it was a blast being there to see Lynyrd Skynyrd sing one of the best ever rock anthems live.

It wasn't until I saw the movie Con Air (remember that scene where the song Sweet Home Alabama plays as John Buschemi explains the definition of irony?) that I learned that three members of the group died in a plane crash in the late 1970's. The group now tours with a re-formed band that includes  couple of original members and the younger brother of the original lead vocalist filling his brother's shoes.

So, the show then went from the deep south to the English band Bad Company (I adore British musicians and singers), which had a big string of hits in the 70's that produced some disco-era baby making ballads, like Feel Like Makin' Love and Ready For Love and some good nitty gritty rock tunes like Can't Get Enough, Bad Company and Good Lovin Gone Bad. 

It was a fun night. Thanks to the Illinois Lottery for providing tickets as part of the Anything's Possible Music Series (a cool slogan to remind you that the sky is the limit if you are a winner.) You can pick up Anything's Possible scratch off tickets where Illinois lottery tickets are sold and you can win up to $1,000. Tickets are also available at some of the upcoming concerts. More on the #apmusicseries here where you can also enter the Anything's Possible Music Series sweepstakes to win concert tickets and meet and greet passes!

***Tickets to the concert were provided by the Illinois Lottery. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's just sand

I recently had a work trip scheduled up in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Hubby and the boys decided to drive up with me and have some fun while I was in meetings. They went cherry picking and then to lunch and to a cider mill and for a drive by the lake.

At the end of the day, I requested a stop at the beach since I'd been inside all day while they were having fun. For so many years I avoided beached simply because I didn't want the mess of the sand everywhere. It does get absolutely everywhere - in your clothing and you shoes and your towels and then you car and you find it at home in your bed and your sofa. I'm glad I finally got over that aversion to sand. I'd be missing so much! So, despite the fact that we'd driven my new car there, I sucked it up and decided to deal with the sand and I'm so glad I did. Here's what things looked like at the beach that day in St. Joseph, Michigan.

The boys had fun feeding crackers to the gulls.

Then we spotted an ice cream stand on our way out of town and couldn't pass it up.

And then we stopped one more time on our way out of town at Lookout Park so I could take a couple pictures. What a peaceful place.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Off to camp

My middle boy is 12. This past spring he joined the local Civil Air Patrol chapter. Being a child who loves structure and schedules and routines and doing things by the book and playing by the rules he took well to it. He liked how they marched in formation and did drills and wore uniforms according to specific guidelines.

The CAP program is a cadet program of the Air Force, so it gives the cadets a little bit of a taste of what life is like in the military. So far, he has loved it. This summer he had a chance to go with the group to an encampment on an active military base in Southern Indiana. At first I wasn't sure how he would do with it. He's only 12. I can count on one hand the times he has spent the night somewhere other than home. All but one were at his grandparent's house. The other was when he was about 9. He went to spend the night at a friend's house on New Year's Eve. About 10:30, we got a call from him that he wanted to come home. But, he's older now. He's gotten to know the kids in the group.

So, he left on a Friday afternoon with his dad driving him and a few other cadets to the base. Dad came home with my son's phone. He wouldn't be able to use it on the base. It's been hard not being able to talk to him for several days. There is a website for the camp and three days in I got a glimpse of him in a photo. That in itself was a little shocking. He hates having his picture taken. And he's been very ambivalent about going up in an airplane despite being in the Civil AIR Patrol. But there he was in the photo standing in front of a plane with a certificate in his hand indicating he had flown. He was giving a thumbs up and had a little smile on his face. It was so nice to see that image of him.

Camp will soon be done and he'll be back home. I can't wait to hear about it. 9 days away from home I'm sure will have an impact on him. I've missed him, but I'm so thankful he's had this opportunity to experience life away from home doing something he enjoys.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's not summer 'til I've been to a concert

I was not one of these adolescents or teenagers who went to concerts. As much as I would have loved to, I just never had an opportunity to go to one. There were some pretty awesome artists touring when I was growing up in the 1980's. I can imagine how awesome it would have been to see Madonna, Michael Jackson or Prince. I was 19 years old before I went to my first concert and it wasn't a rock concert. It was a country singer, Travis Tritt. An evening of watching him perform in the intimate Park West venue and I was hooked. Ever since then I've loved attending concerts and have been to way more than I can count.

My first concert at a big venue was Garth Brooks at the World Music Center, which was then the Tweeter Center and is now First Midwest Bank Amphitheater. A group of us went to the show, including my sister-in-law, Sherry. It was 1992. We watched from the lawn seats.

Well, a lot has happened since 1992. I've had 5 kids. Sherry's kids are all adults. But we both still love concerts and country music, so this summer we decided we'd go see Toby Keith's show at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater. My summer just isn't complete until I've been to an outdoor concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater - and there's always more than one.

The day before the concert there was some nasty weather. Huge downpours flooded the lots at the concert venue and a Journey concert had to be cancelled. Luckily, enough of the water had dried up the next morning for Toby's show to go on. We headed to Tinley Park and crossed our fingers for good weather.

We stopped on the way for dinner and martinis at Gatto's Italian Restaurant. I also write a food blog, (Chicago Foodie Sisters - www.chicagofoodiesisters.blogspot.com) so I'm always looking for new places to dine and this one was new to me. We then went over for the show and I took her on my secret route (well, not really secret, just much less traveled road than the one leading to the big parking lot) and we were there in just a few minutes.

Toby Keith's gorgeous daughter Krystale Keith was on stage and she has got some pipes on her. Up next was Colt Ford singing some country rap. Not exactly my thing, but you could tell he was having a blast up there on stage and how could you not love watching that?

As Colt Ford finished up, I went out seeking nachos and saw the Illinois Lottery tent. I'd applied through a blogger program for their "Anything's Possible" Music Tour to attend the event and blog about it. Unfortunately I wasn't picked as a blogger for this concert and we purchased tickets and attended on our own, but I stopped at the tent and they had a pretty cool set-up with some nice gifts if you purchased $5 in lottery tickets. 

I talked to the staff to see if any other bloggers had cancelled and if I could possibly get into the lottery section for the show. We were escorted there, but just after we walked up on deck, it started pouring down rain. Since we were getting soaked, we realized we were better off back in our regular seats. So we hung in the lottery section for about five minutes, took this picture and then went and sat back down in section 104.

We had pretty good seats and enjoyed Toby's show. We decided in recent years that if we were going to a concert we needed to bite the bullet and buy pavilioin seats. The days of hanging in the lawn are behind us. Toby didn't disappoint. He always puts on a good show. This was my third time seeing him in concert.

As I watched him sing "I'm Not As Young As I Once Was," I thought of my friend, Fran, who went with me to see him in concert at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre about 5 or 6 years ago. She loved country music and we'd go to a lot of concerts together. Fran passed away last month at the age of 80, so it was quite bittersweet.

Toby is known for his patriotic anthems and at each show I've been to he has ended it with his songs touting the good 'ol USA and has had military personnel in uniform join him up on stage. It's always special and a little emotional, this time even moreso since Sherry's two sons, my nephews, James and Jeff, are in the military. One is in the Marines and the other in the National Guard. 

So here's a peek at the grand finale.

It was a fun night where we got to be a little nostalgic and relive our days of attending country concerts back in the 1990's. Can't believe it's been so long since our first concert there. When we got home I posted the following on my Facebook page:

"Sherry and Carrie at a concert in 1992: 
- Lawn seats in the rain. Who cares?
- Hang out in the parking lot following the show. No one's moving. Who cares?
- Contemplate what bar to go to after show
- Call in to US99 to chat with DJ about the show and make requests
- Head to White Castle

Sherry and Carrie at a concert in 2014:
- Dinner before the show.
- Seats in the pavilion so we don't have to sit on the lawn in the rain.
- Plan for fastest route out of parking lot so we don't have to hang out in parking lot.
- Yawn as we make our way out of the parking lot.
- Home by midnight."

As Toby sang, "I'm not as good as I once was." :) But that won't keep us from having fun at concerts. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to attend some other concerts this season as part of the Illinois Lottery Anything's Possible blogger team. This was my second concert at the venue this season and I'm ready for more. Hoping the next one will be some classic 80's rock with one of my boys.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The end of the lazy summer month

After twenty years of parenting, I've learned that lazy days of summer are hard to come by. The summers of my youth were completely unscheduled. My dad was at work all day. My mom didn't drive. We hung around at home or in the neighborhood and played all day. We weren't in any scheduled activities and pretty much the only time we left our little block or two was when my sister-in-law would drive us to a pool in a nearby community. And it lasted until after Labor Day.

Things aren't like that anymore. Come July each of the kids has at least one thing scheduled. One is going on a trip with church to Colorado. He's also starting driver ed. class. Another will be going to a nine day camp on a military base. Another will be in a two week theatre camp. My youngest will be at scout camp. Then there will be some outings in between I'm sure to the pool and festivals or farms.

Once the 4th of July hits the school supplies are out in stores and the pressure is on. Then as soon as August gets here, there's school registration and just a few precious days to run all over checking 73 items off of 4 school supply lists and then they're back in school.

June is the calm month. The month when we get to have a few of those lazy days. School was out a few days later than expected due to our crazy winter weather that caused some snow days, but we had a good week after that when we all slept in and didn't do much of anything other than finishing up the last few games of the spring soccer season. Then it was off on a vacation that was much needed. But the month is done and it's busy times ahead. It was nice while it lasted. :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

No More Perfect Kids: The beginning of a review

For a couple years, at the urging of my younger sister, I attended the annual Heart at Home Conference in March in Bloomington, Illinois. The conference grew out of a ministry started by Jill Savage, who created Hearts at Home to support mothers in their important role and encourage them. Attending was a great experience. The words of each speaker were ones I could relate to in some way. It was a weekend of just moms connecting and learning from one another. They covered so many topics - managing money, parenting a large family, helping your child to grow in their faith, setting limits and boundaries and much, much more. 

My sister introduced me to Jill, who she had been in touch with via e-mail. Jill seemed the perfect mother who had it all together and had it all. She spoke confidently, but relayed stories that let us know that she deals with the same struggles as other parents and that no one is immune to difficulties in child rearing. 

The next year when I attended the conference, Jill was facing marital issues and everyone could feel her pain and she didn’t try to hide it, but stood on stage in front of the crowd and talked about the difficult time she was going through. This year I wasn’t able to attend, but through following her blog and getting e-mail and Facebook updates learned about her diagnosis with breast cancer and ongoing treatment. The battle she has been going through is heartbreaking, yet so inspiring. 

In the spring, I got an e-mail asking to be one of a group to preview her new book, No More Perfect Kids with co-author Kathy Koch, PhD and review it. I was happy to. I find her so inspiring and in her writing, she expresses so many things that other moms feel. I value her experience as a mother of five and know that she has a lot of wisdom to pass on.

I feel like a little bit of a failure for not finishing the book in time for the launch, but as even Jill might say, life happens and we have to adjust to it. I tend to do my reading in the more relaxed summer months when I don’t have my day mapped out with chauffeuring and I can stay up a little later to read as I am not up doing drop off at 7 a.m. the next day. 

So, I can’t give a full review yet, but so far I’m enjoying it and finding it useful especially as it relates to treating kids as individuals - that’s so important when you have multiple children. You can’t have blanket rules and expectations as you are setting yourself and them up for failure. Each one has his own thoughts, beliefs, passions and when we see that and recognize what their strengths are, things can go so much more smoothly.

I’d gotten through the first few chapters reading them as my son was at his archery lessons. When archery finished up it went in my tote bag and I haven’t gotten back to it. Now that it’s summer, I’ll be shifting back and forth between it and “The Book Thief” which I started after seeing the movie and only got 20 pages in. Here’s to a relaxing summer with lots of good reading. I’ll post more on the book later, but if you’re looking for some interesting reading this summer to help you improve your role as a parent, this is a great book to pick up!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Turning things around

I love when I have one of those clarifying moments that seem to open my eyes and make me look at everything a little differently. Recently, I went to school to help out at the book fair. It was following an extremely cranky evening - on both my part and the kids'. Nothing was making them happy. Nothing was making me happy.

Suddenly there I was among these little people who seemed so genuinely happy to see me. I got a couple hugs. And then there were other gestures that just made me realize how kind kids can be. Kids can get a bad wrap these days for being mean and bullies and spoiled and lots of other things. And there's plenty of that out there. But on this day, everything seemed to be falling into place and everyone was behaving so nicely.

When one kid got a few coins back, she asked us to donate them for the fund for buying books for classrooms. Another child saw someone drop some money and promptly returned it to her classmate. Another child came up and bought something for her friend. Another child bought a book for his teacher.

I went into that situation feeling really grumpy and expecting that the kids I'd encounter would make me grumpier. They proved me wrong and I'm so glad they did. I left with a completely different outlook on how good and pure and full of hope kids can be and how much hope they can restore in me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Siblings Day

When we got married and decided to start a family, there was one thing that was a given. That there would be more than one child, probably a lot of children, but we knew we wanted our child to have siblings. I was one of 6. My husband was one of 4. My dad was one of 4. His dad was one of 3. My mom was one of 6. His mom was one of four. I liked the idea of having kids growing up having a companion.

Today is National Siblings Day and I have to say that I have always loved being part of a big family. I've sometimes felt like the oldest as there was a 13 year span between my older siblings and the older three were out on their own by the time I was in kindergarten. I have twin sisters that are two years younger. So, I was a middle child, but kind of an oldest child if that makes sense. I loved having older siblings and I always looked up to them. These days we don't see each other all that often since we're all living in different suburbs (and one sis is now out in Arizona and one is in Central Illinois,) but we really enjoy seeing each other and getting the cousins together. I'm so glad that I didn't grow up alone and that I had older siblings watching out for me and younger ones to grow up with.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To be a parent is to never sleep the same again

My sister has a new baby and one that isn't sleeping much. Imagine that. I know it is something all moms have gone through - sleepless nights. I have five children, so I can definitely confirm the idea that every child is different. And sleeping habits are also so different. And there are so many things you try to get that much needed rest. How many sitcoms have you seen where new parents have resorted to driving their kids around in a car because the motion puts them to sleep?

My first son was a pretty good sleeper once we got him to sleep, but it was getting him to sleep that often posed a problem. I was young and a new mom and just followed anything I read that was put out by an expert and believed that it was the way you should do it not realizing that there are so many variables and that some things just don't work on some babies. The expert opinion at that time was to put a baby to sleep in a separate room in a crib on his side and to put him down drowsy but not fully asleep.

I had no problem getting him to drift off in my arms, usually as I rocked him. Then he'd fall asleep. I'd put him in his crib on his side in between the contraption I'd bought at Babies are Us of two wedges that kept him from rolling onto his tummy or back. At that time they pushed side sleeping as they believed there was a significant risk of choking if babies were put to sleep on their back.

So, he slept pretty good stretches. If he did wake up, I'd tiptoe in and pop a pacifier in his mouth and he'd usually go right back to sleep. But, he still wouldn't go to sleep if I put him in the crib awake. I was listening to all the experts and figured I was doing something wrong. I tried the "letting him cry" method, which is complete torture. I'd let him cry a few minutes. I'd go in and try to calm him without picking him up. I did it not because I wanted to but because I thought I was supposed to. I wish I'd listened to my gut more often than doing what I read was recommended. It didn't last very long. I didn't want to let him cry. He was crying because he wanted his mother and I was right there and I was letting him cry when it didn't feel right to let him cry.

I soon returned to the nightly routine in the rocking chair. Where he'd fall asleep nursing or cuddling beside the glow of a nightlight and then I'd put him in his crib and we'd all go to sleep. When I finally decided to ignore the expert advice and follow my heart, we were all much better for it. It was a beautiful routine that I cherished of rocking my baby to sleep in my arms. Once in a while he'd wake at 2 a.m. and I would have to rock him back to sleep and I would tell myself that one day he'd be grown up and I'd be wishing I had a baby to rock and sing to in the middle of the night.

With my second one it was really difficult. After an emergency c-section, I woke to a quick peek at my baby who then went down to special care where he spent the next 5 days sleeping naked on his tummy with his eyes covered because his bilirubin levels were extremely high and he had extreme jaundice. At five days old, I finally got to hold him. He came home with us and less than 48 hours later we ended up bringing him back to the ER because he wasn't eating or responding. He was then in the pediatrics unit for several more days - same thing - under the lights, unable to be held.

Once he got home, he only was content falling asleep on my chest. I attributed it to being so starved of human contact in those first several days. As much as I loved snuggling with him, it just couldn't be sustained with him sleeping that way all the time. I was still recovering and I had another child to take care of. The only way to keep him sleeping once he was asleep was to gently transfer him onto his stomach, which I hated doing because I was so terrified of SIDS. But, when dozens of attempts to put him on his side (the recommended position at the time) didn't work, I finally had to resort to letting his sleep on his stomach as it was the only way he would sleep when he wasn't on top of me. Finally when he got to the point where he was lifting himself easily and pushing himself onto his side or back, I felt a little better and just gave in to it. But in those early weeks when he would only sleep on his stomach, I wasn't sleeping at all because of the constant worry for his safely.

My next three slept in a variety of ways. One in a crib without the side pushed up against our bed or in a bassinet next to the bed. Another slept best in a pack-n-play in our room. Another co-slept. But we learned that we had to do what we had to do. Sometimes they'd sleep in a car seat or a bouncy seat or a swing. Sometimes they'd sleep beside me on the floor. Or on my chest. Or even in my arms in a recliner. We'd try the most recommended sleeping methods first, but when they didn't work, we knew we had to move on to something else. When they'd get hooked on the swing, they'd sleep in the swing for a couple weeks. By the time I was on baby #3, I knew that each phase was temporary and tried to get through it. And I learned to do what felt right with that baby.

When I had a son who was content being put down in his room to drift off watching a mobile above his crib, I did that. When I had one that I knew wanted to be rocked in my arms until he was asleep, I did that. When I had my last one and knew he would be my last one and he wanted to be close and I wanted to be close to him, I brought him into bed with me. Whatever the arrangement was, it was usually a deep dark secret I didn't let others in on as the onslaught of criticism to letting a baby sleep on their stomach or in a bed with their mom or spoiling them by rocking them to sleep every night could be brutal. Bottom line, I did what I had to do for our household to get some rest and I did what felt was right when I knew my baby needed to be comforted. We all made it through it. Sleep (or lack of it) is for sure one part of parenthood you can't prepare for and it's yet another part of your life that will never ever be the same again.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear Sons: I'm thankful for you every day

I'd been writing a series of letters to my boys that past couple years that I post here on my mom blog. It's been quite a while, so I'm posting this today.

Dear sons:

I love you guys. And I'm so glad I'm your mom. And I'm so glad for each day that I get to spend with you. I know I don't always seem happy and excited. I get frustrated when you don't clean your room or when you fight with one of your brothers or when I see a "D" on a report card when I totally know you're capable of better grades or when I have to tell you do take out the garbage four times and then just give up end up doing it myself. It's not an easy job to be a mom, but I love this job. And I know that if I ever lost one of you that I'd give anything to have you with me to tell you to take the garbage out one more time.

I am thankful every day that you are all healthy boys. I know other people with children who aren't healthy. Or who have lost their children way too early in life - to disease, to suicide, to war. And I have you here, all of you. And if I don't make it clear quite often enough how much you mean to me, I do love you with all my heart and am so grateful to be able to see you grow. Please don't forget that.

I was working on an article today for work on a young man who died at 19. It was hard to try and do an interview with a mom who had just lost her 19-year-old son. I have a 19-year-old son. It's just hit too close to home. She talked about all he'd done in his young life. I could feel tears streaming down my face as I didn't show it in my voice over the phone. All I could think was how heartbreaking it would be to lose a child at that age. She didn't seem sad. She seemed proud and talked about happy memories. She seemed confident that her son knew how much she loved him and that she'd made the most of her time with him.

None of us knows when our time will be up. But it is up to us to not waste the time we have been given. We should make sure those we love know that we love them. I feel very loved as a mom to all of you. And I want to make sure you know how cherished you each are just for being you -- for those quirks and characteristics that make you so lovable.