Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Collection of Canada Days

For as long as I can remember, I've been celebrating Canada Day with my BFF by joining her family to watch the city's parade in the park. We show up bright and early every year to reserve our spots and to eat the delicious food before the huge crowds form - pierogies, spring rolls, souvlaki - there are booths set up with foods from around the world and it's always so delicious.  I look forward to it every year and hope to continue the tradition forever! 

The progression of growth...
2011 - eight months pregnant with Little m!
2014 - spot the tiny baby head!

Little buddies!


Friday, August 28, 2015

The First Broken Bone

My babe took a huge tumble off of the monkey bars this spring and broke two bones in her forearm. It was awful to watch, as I was only a few steps away, but was busy with baby sis and couldn't act fast enough to catch her. I went back and forth debating on whether or not to take Little m to a doctor to get checked out because visually her hand looked fine and she was acting fairly normal. Sadly the major thing holding me back was the cost to see a doctor ($1200 out of pocket in the end) so I waited till the following morning to see how things were (obviously I would have taken her in, no matter the price, if there was something seriously wrong). By morning Little m was cradling her arm and wouldn't put any pressure on it, so I decided we needed to get it checked out, for peace of mind especially, as the hubs and I were heading out of town on vacation a day later.

Well, am I ever glad I got her checked out - two broken bones in the forearm. My baby! First I went to a nearby walk-in clinic but they told me they couldn't do x-rays on someone so young.  Thankfully the doctor there brought us back right away just to take a look and they thought there was nothing wrong because Little m could move her wrist all around. They almost sent us out the door, but near the end of the exam they got a wince out of her while putting pressure on her arm and suggested we go somewhere more child specific.

I was able to make an appointment at Lurie's Convenient Care clinic where they took x-rays and found the two broken bones. The doctors there were super nice and sent Little m home with a splint. I was under the impression that she would wear the splint for about a month and would be good to go, but I received a phone call the next day from the fracture clinic asking me to make a follow up appointment, which was fine except when I told them I would be out of the country and that my parents would be taking Little m in to the appointment they gave me a huge hassle. I had to get a letter notarized stating that my parents could make all hospital related decisions, including the possible need for surgery. WTF? Surgery? What happened to just wearing the splint?
Being sassy as ever waiting for the technician to read the x-rays.
Clearly, the splint did not slow her down in any way!
My parents went in to the follow up appointment a week after the injury initially occurred and thankfully I was able to find a decent enough wifi connection in Nicaragua to text my mom throughout the whole thing. The doctors said that a cast would be needed due to Little m's activity level and to be sure that her wrist stayed immobile while the bones healed. On went the cast, in her chosen color of red. We paid $40 extra for a waterproof cast, which was absolutely worth it! 
She was so brave!
The cast stayed on for three weeks and the absolute worst part about it, other than the broken bones of course, was that it had to be "watered" every day. A bath every day? Ain't nobody got time for that! Actually, the bath I could handle, but the cast was supposed to have an hour of drying time before bedtime, and since my kids go to bed around 6pm, this was really difficult to do! Needless to say, I think everyone was happy when the cast was removed. 

Last day with the cast - and good thing - it was starting to get grubby!
So that's the story of Little m's first broken bones. She was such a good sport about the whole thing and the cast hardly phased her. Thankfully the doctors all told me that this would not impact the growth of her bones in the future and I know things could have been a lot worse. The doctor okayed her to go back to being a (more careful) monkey and she was hanging on the playground bars later that day. I hope for her sake she doesn't take after her Grampie and this will be her first and last experience with broken bones!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chicago's Maggie Daley Park

Guys, this might be the best park ever. 

After visiting Maggie Daley Park for the first time last winter, MY MIND WAS BLOWN. It's seriously amazing. To fully enjoy the park though, take my word for it and follow these two rules: 1) Never, and I repeat never, ever, in a million years go to the park on a weekend after 10am, and 2) Don't even think about coming here with more than one child to watch. You can thank me later.

My secret, that I can now share publicly since I no longer live in Chicago (crying face), is that Maggie Daley at 8am or earlier on a Saturday or Sunday is the shiznit. Pay parking starts at 8am (we always park on E Randolph), so if you can make it in earlier you'll score some free parking, plus the park is empty, as you can see from my pictures. To ease the pain of getting up early, make a stop before or after at Do-Rite for equally mind blowing donuts and some Dark Matter coffee. 

Oh hello, drab wintry Chicago. 
The slides can be ridiculously fast and I've heard of a few broken leg stories, so be careful, but wow, they're amazing. And big. Little m enjoyed the equipment as a brave 3 1/4 year old but I wouldn't recommend the park for anyone much younger. Yes, there are specific areas for the little ones (the splash pad area is pretty darn cute with little statue animals for the youngsters), but I wouldn't make a special trip out unless your child is a bit older. 

Whether you're visiting Chicago or just playing tourist in your own city, I highly encourage you to spend a morning at the park, followed by a walk over the bridge to Millennium Park to get a picture with the bean, and to top it off, bring a bathing suit for the kids and let them play in the cesspool at the Crown Fountains! 

Bravo, Chicago, on creating the most fabulous park I've been to. Your streets may be riddled with pot holes but at least you have beautiful Maggie Daley park. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

First Field Trip!

My stay at home mom dreams came true last week when I accompanied Little m on her first ever field trip with her preschool class. Big yellow bus included! I'm fortunate enough that if I need to be away, M's work schedule is flexible enough that he can stay home with the baby and work while she naps, which was the plan for Friday's field trip... until he was scheduled for an out of town client meeting. Until now we have only really used family or friends to watch the girls, which wasn't possible this time, so may I introduce you to the next best option, UrbanSitter!

UrbanSitter is a really cool website and app that makes it, dare I say, effortless to find a babysitter. As soon as I found out that M had to be out of town, I logged into UrbanSitter and registered for an account. I used the search function to look for a sitter who was available during the time slot I needed plus had completed a background check. I took a look through a bunch of profiles, read reviews from other parents, and watched a few of the sitters' personal videos. I then sent out some requests to see who could accept the job. I got a quick response and in no time, had a babysitter booked! I didn't schedule an interview with the sitter beforehand because she had over forty 5-star reviews and I felt confident that she would be great. One of the genius features to UrbanSitter is that you can link it with your Facebook account and see which sitters your friends have used in the past and how they reviewed them. So, friends, if you need to make your life easier and want to try UrbanSitter, here's a code for free month of membership: FORFREETRIAL

And now, back to the field trip! If you have little kids and have never heard of Elephant and Piggie, you are truly missing out. It's an amazingly funny book series by Mo Willems that I love as much, or maybe more, than Little m. Her preschool class has been reading these books all year, so of course they couldn't miss Emerald City Theatre's Elephant and Piggie show.
We all boarded the school bus and I had the best time watching all of the little kids enjoying their first ride. One of the best things about being a parent is seeing the joy in the little things. Look at how excited Little m looks!
Giddy with excitement!
School bus selfie!
The play itself was really cute, full of singing and dancing. We had to wait a looooong time for it to begin because some classes were running late, which in turn made it hard for the little kids to sit for such a long period of time. Overall, I'd totally recommend the show for kids aged 4+.

Halfway through, Little m crawled onto my lap, which to me was the icing on the cake. I loved being able to spend some quality time with her, knowing my other baby was being well taken care of as well. After the play, we boarded the bus and it was a happy ride home, me squeezed into a bus seat with two squealing preschoolers who talked nonstop about ice cream! Oh and one last perk about UrbanSitter? I took the option to pay the sitter by credit card so I didn't have to worry about stopping for cash on the way home. So convenient! 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Snow Days 2015

We got a good dumping of snow a couple of weeks ago and I had an absolute blast playing in it with Little m. We headed outside around 7:30am, just the two of us in the whole neighbourhood it seemed, and played in the soft, perfect for building a snowman, snow. It was magical. This is the only reason that snow should exist.

M took a picture of us playing from inside the warm house. 
Almost finished! Just eyes and mouth to be added.
Ta da!
24 hours and 20 inches later. Poor snowman lost his bottom!
The next day I tried to take Little m sledding. Fail! Too much snow, the usual
hill had been totally covered and the snow was too deep! 
What a great memory with my gal!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pinterest Recipe Wins

For a variety of reasons, M and I started eliminating gluten and dairy from our diets. It's not nearly as difficult as one would imagine, although if you have an allergy versus just a preference, that's a different story.

Finding meals to prepare was challenging in the beginning but there are so many resources out there, it's easy to find meal ideas and substitutions. I thought I'd share my recent favourites. All of these recipes are on my pinterest board "Recipes I've Made and Loved", but I linked to the original sources for your viewing pleasure.

Find recipe here.
Yes, really, this is the best pulled pork I've ever made! It doesn't use any barbeque sauce, which is nice since that's often filled with high fructose corn syrup. The meat turns out tender and has great flavour. Usually I use a pork tenderloin from Costco because I have it on hand the most. If you have a kitchen aid mixer, remember that you can shred any type of meat in it in a matter of 30 seconds. So easy! And if you like pickles, these easy fridge dills are incredible paired with the pulled pork.

Find recipe here.
Pizza Spaghetti Pie. Me likee. So simple, so tasty. It uses a spaghetti squash as it's base, which I love, because the more veggies, the better. This is an easy dinner to prepare early in the day and then pop it in the oven an hour before you want to eat. I find it's even better if you add your favourite pizza toppings - mushrooms, peppers, etc.

Find recipe here.
What is it about avocado that makes the world a better place? This is such a delicious lunch choice or side dish. I was gifted some flavoured olive oils and balsamic vinegars for Christmas, so I use those as the dressing over quinoa, spinach, avocado and tomato - and it's amazing, every single time.

Find recipe here.
Pair this orange glazed brussels sprouts and butternut squash dish with a protein and it makes a perfect dinner. I can't wait to make this again. Make extras because you won't want to share.


Friday, January 30, 2015

My Baby's a Preschooler

Little m started preschool last fall. Half days every day. I have to admit I was very nervous for her leading up to this time because she had been at home with me since birth and was going to be the youngest in her class. Really, I should have known better. She is thriving at school and learning so many new things. She is absolutely benefiting from a more stimulating environment. Being a former teacher myself, I knew I could give her proper instruction but oh hell no, that child doesn't listen to me, and with a new baby in tow, it was impossible to even think about schooling at home. Her class seems like a nice group of children and she's in love with her teachers. She comes home with cute songs and stories and who knows what else because every day when I ask her what she did at school she tells me, "It's a long story mama." When I ask her what her favourite part of the day is she tells me, "Jumping." Every day it's the same, so apparently they do lots of physical activity in her classroom. Oh and did I mention that she's learning Mandarin? Ha, I have yet to hear Mandarin sounding words come out of her mouth but she often makes up her own languages, so well, there's that.

And whoever invented the school uniform is genius. Not having to fight about clothing in the morning is the best. How cute is she on her first day of preschool?
Not a single tear has been shed over school and never once have I heard a complaint about going. I am happy she's happy. Plus, they feed her breakfast every morning which is a win in my books. 
Oh my heart, she is so dear. She loves carrying her backpack like a big girl and looks forward to the nicer weather when daddy can start walking her to school again.. or wait, is that me? Her school is in the direction of M's work, so they walk together a few times a week when it's warm enough, which gives me an extra 45 minutes of peace. 
She's growing up!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Littlest Hockey Player

With a hockey playing dad, you better believe little M was signed up for hockey lessons as soon as she was old enough.

Her nanny and grampie gifted the lucky gal every possible piece of hockey equipment for her 3rd birthday and she started a program through Chicago parks last fall.

I wasn't able to go to the first class since it was during the baby's nap time (oh yeah, surprise, that's what I was doing during my year long blogging break) and she flat out refused to get on the ice. Womp womp.

The second class we bribed her with gummy bears and she got on the ice, but not without a few tears. Every class got better and better, so her dad tells me, and by the end of the fall session she was able to skate without holding onto anything.

For the winter session we've switched to an arena in the suburbs where there is better instruction. I went to see her a couple of weeks ago and there were a few tears near the end of class when she didn't get to win the race, but that's a whole other story. I'm so proud of my brave girl!

Last week she tried holding a stick for the first time and now M of course has been talked into buying one for her, plus purple, white, blue, and green hockey tape to decorate wrap it. I love that daddy and daughter have a special activity to do together.
And speaking of skating, I got out of the ice myself recently for the first time in 3 years. I am not holding onto to M's hand to be romantic in the picture below, I'm holding on for dear life! We tried the skating ribbon at the new Maggie Daley Park and I have to say, it was pretty great! M kept commenting on how cool the views of the downtown buildings were, and I just had to believe him, as I couldn't life my eyes off the ice in fear of falling. With a little more practice, maybe I'll be as good as my 3 year old!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Makes Me Happy #9

I'm making a list of 101 things that make me happy. Go here to read rounds #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7,  and #8).

A while ago during my mom book club, we were talking about fun events or traditions that we remember from our childhood. It took me a few minutes, but once I got my brain working, so many happy things popped up in my memory. More and more I'm finding that it's truly the little things that make lasting memories and I hope that M and I can create family traditions of our own that our children will look back on fondly.

Adding to the happy list...

38. Every Saturday night my parents brought us to church and then oftentimes when we got home my mom would pop popcorn on the stove and sprinkle on douse it with butter and salt (it is my mom, the butter lover we're talking about here). The whole family would gather in the basement and turn COPS on. Yes, church and then bad boys, bad boys. Such a random memory, but it makes me smile. My mom still makes good popcorn, albeit with less butter now.

39. My grandma used to make my dad and his sisters crepes when they were growing up, so my dad also made crepes for us. Come to think of it, this is one of the few things I've ever seen him cook, other than his beloved green beans and asparagus, oh and rice pudding as well. Anyway, on Sunday mornings, every once in a while, my dad would make crepes plus the delicious brown sugar filling that gets slathered inside. It's a time consuming process, but oh, every bite is a taste sensation. My dad made some a couple of Christmases ago and Little m was of course a fan. I must remember to get the recipe.

40. This memory is still so vivid in my mind and I think it's hilarious. My poor mother. We would all be driving somewhere in our childhood van and one of us kids would slide our foot up and sneakily lift the lever to recline my mom's seat. She would fly back in her seat, screaming in shock. Much laughter from children ensued. HA. We'd let a few months pass by before each attack, just to make sure she was off guard. What rotten kids we were! One of my all time favourite memories.

41. "Is there a little girl in here who wants to wa-ake up so dear?" I will never forget that tune of that dreaded song my mom would sing to wake me up in the mornings. I seriously hated that song but love the memory of it now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

36 in 365: 2015 Edition

Well hello! Long time no see! 

I've missed this spot and am sad a whole year of unrecorded memories has passed because what I value most about this place is that it provides a way to look back and see what life was like at whatever moment in time. One reason I stopped blogging was because I had SO much to catch up on and was overwhelmed. I've decided to let it go, let it go and not worry about all of the things that I missed blogging about, just focus on what's happening now.

As a list lover, I couldn't pass up my traditional 36 in 365 list of goals for the year. This year, my overall resolution is to laugh more. I thought about what makes me laugh and of course the most laughter happens when I am happy. I thought about what makes me happy and narrowed it down to when I'm doing these things: eating amazing food, spending time outdoors, reading can't put you down books, exploring new places, and being with people I like. So, drumroll please....

36 in 365 (Round 7): 

1. Bari
2. Firecakes
3. Au Cheval
4. Bongo Room
5. Bang Bang Pie
6. Umami Burger
7. Sultan's Market
8. Do-Rite Donuts
9. Longman & Eagle
10. Dove's Luncheonette
11. Mindy's Hot Chocolate
12. Grandma J's Local Kitchen

Go Outside:
13. Graue Mill
14. Wagner Farm
15. Humboldt Park
16. Lakeshore Trail
17. Caldwell Woods
18. Maggie Daley Park
19. Apple orchard in autumn
20. North Shore Channel Trail
21. Explore 5 new Chicago parks (1/5): Elston Park
22. Spitting fountains at Millenium Park

23. Middlesex
24. The Seamstress
25. All the Light We Cannot See
26. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
27. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World
28. The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

29. St. Louis
30. Milwaukee
31. Indiana Dunes
32. Starved Rock State Park
33. Somewhere in Central America

34. Call BFF once per month
35. Continue monthly brunch with mom friends
36. Host one neighborhood play date or moms night per month