Morton Arboretum

I know I’ve blogged about it in the past but it mysteriously disappeared. The company hosting my website had no idea where my first set of blogs went so I am doing it again. The Morton Arboretum. I can’t praise it enough.

Another great day at the Arboretum

Every time we go we have a completely different experience. It’s humongous. Playgrounds, streams to play in, tadpole farms, rope bridges, and who knows what else. In fact we’ve only seen a very small part of it so far, mostly just the Children’s garden. But I’m looking forward to seeing much, much more!

Just be warned, bring a change of clothes. Your kids will be drenched.

Our membership expired for the Chicago Botanical Gardens so we renewed here. For $115 you can get 4 adults in (under 2 doesn’t count). And you can use your membership for the Arboretum to get in free to the Chicago Botanical Gardens which has a great train exhibit that Jack loves.


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Top Five Infant books

Recently a friend of mine announced they were pregnant. It is their first child. As I move on in the world of parenting, their announcement made me reflect on how far I’ve come.

Baby Jack March 2007

The learning curve is so big, and it doesn’t stop curving. Sometimes I think becoming a parent is like getting on a huge loopy roller coaster ride with no end in sight.

Though I feel more comfortable in my mom skin now, I haven’t forgotten the things that brought me relief while I was acclimating in that confusing first year.

So I decided to go off the registry. Instead I wanted to give them as much comfort and guidance as possible without being overbearing. What better way then to pick some of my top 5 best infant books?

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. Nothing could get Jack to stop crying in those first six weeks, it started a few nights after he came home and escalated each night until it was going on for up to four hours. It was colic. Karp showed us skills to calm him that we would never have been able to figure out on our own. If you are reading this and are to tired and defeated too read a book, I’ve heard from other mom friends the DVD is very good.

2. The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. I liked her approach. Very gentle and loving. It encompassed lots of aspects of infant rearing. The most important thing I took away from it was the schedule. Once we had one we were both happier.

3. The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. I’m not ready to stop shaving my arm pits or anything but this book was a welcome change from the rigid approach of some other books. I did a lot more baby carrying after reading it.

4. At some point almost all parents have to face the inevitable. You are at your wits end from lack of sleep and have no idea how to get it to stop. The methods can seem harsh but they can be extremely effective if you stick with it. I used both Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth or Solve Your Child\’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber.

5. First Meals by Annabel Karmel. By the time Ben was born I was not testing each food. The second child just got whatever dinner happen to have leftovers whizzed together in a food processor. But our first born prince got a lot of great meals from this book.

Stay tuned for a blog on top five toddler books. I’m still in the throws of research but definitely already have a few favorites.

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Rain Boots

In preparation for Jack’s field trip, which was suppose to be a walk through the North Park Village Nature Center, we went out and got his first rain coat and boots.

Of course, Ben had to have them too.

My little fire fighters

If you are looking for a good place to buy these – we got them at Snippets. They have all kinds of other fun designs too.

I realize the idea of the boot is to keep the foot dry, but what ends up happening is you think, oh you have your rainboots on – go ahead and stomp in puddles.

In the end Jack had so much muddy water in his boots that when I took them off I had to pour out the excess. Poor guy was wrinkled and shivering.

My million dollar idea, (and yes, I am one of those people who has a million dollar idea almost every day but somehow, I’m not a millionaire yet) is to make these boots with elastic at the top. To keep the water from seeping through the boot at the bottom AND the top!

In fact, I’m not totally against a head to toe waterproof Michelin Man type suit for toddlers to wear on rainy days.

Or we could just make an effort to stay in when the play grounds are soaked. Nah!

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Leap Frog is My Friend

I admit to feeling guilty for putting my kids in front of the TV for much longer than the prescribed 2 hours that most ‘experts’ recommend.

But I can’t help that it’s sooooo useful. It’s my free babysitter for Jack when I need to put Ben to sleep. It’s the mind nummer I need when the fighting in the basement is overwhelming. It’s the entertainment that keeps them sitting at the breakfast table long enough to shovel their food down.

Yes, there is a lot of bad, mindless TV out there, and not everything I let them watch is educational. Sometimes I’m just happy if it’s entertaining enough for both of us, thank you Phineas and Ferb.

I will say, in my defense, it’s not all the Tom and Jerry excessive violence of the last generation. In fact, I often make myself feel better when I notice my kids are learning a lot from TV.

Just last week I completely, shamelessly took credit for being a good mother when TV was the actual educator. Jack got a prize for, as the teacher said, all of a sudden knowing all his letters. I demurely smiled and didn’t admit it was my free babysitter that taught him those letters. What a good mom I am!

My friend Pam bought Jack the Leap Frog Learning Set set for his birthday. One of the DVDs sings all the letter sounds. You know the song, “The A says Ahhh … every letter makes a sound, the A says Ahhh”.

The kids are obsessed with it, even Ben sings it all day long!

I highly suggest it for kids on the cusp of reading. Or anyone who wants to assuage their TV usage guilt.

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Play dates

Over the years I’ve noticed the play dates us mom arrange for the kids has changed.

When we had our first children we would meet for a couple of hours at one of the mom’s houses and moan about our lack of sleep or the color of our kids poop. We would sit in the same room as the kids and if they so much as brushed past another kid we would ask in a sing song voice for apologies or kindly remind them to be polite. Share sweetness! Take turns honey!

This past Thursday I had my friends Pam and Laurie over. Between the three of us moms we had six kids, five of which were boys.

There was no talk of poop, no sing song voices, no sweetness or honey. There were drinks for the adults upstairs and who knows what downstairs. As long as there was no crying us moms didn’t seem to mind.

Play dates are even better when Doug arrives to help!

It’s not just a play date for the kids anymore. It’s for the adults as well!

I must say, it’s better this way. My father once said, benign neglect can be a good thing when raising kids. The kids have more fun without us constantly reminding them to behave, the adults have more fun without having to constantly remind about behaving. The mess is about the same whether or not I’ve have other people over and after you’ve gotten a good gossip and buzz going bedtime is much less tedious.

The Other Play Date at My House that Day

Afterwards I did find little chocolate hand prints located in sporadic places and there is a new gash in the wall that could have happened that evening but all in all I’m surprised at how little damage was done. I’ve seen much worse in the past, like bathroom flooding and once my entire jewelry box was dumped.

So let me take this opportunity to shout out to Laurie and Pam – you and your kids are welcomed to trash my place while we trash our liver anytime!

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Cake Pops

Seems like everyone lately is talking about Cake Pops. Must be the new trendy dessert for stay at home moms. Like chocolate chip cookies were when I was a kid. I remember many fun evenings licking the beaters of the hand mixer while my father, the scientist, tried different variations of baking soda to make the cookie rise just right. That was back when raw egg wasn’t taboo.

So of course, you know me, I had to try the new dessert of the moment.

Other recipes on the web said just cook the cake, mix in some frosting, roll it into little balls then stick them on a stick, melt some dipping chocolate and dip them in and add any topping you like. Easy, right?

Dipping the Pops in Sprinkles

Not really actually. I’m not sure what I did wrong but the balls kept breaking apart during the dipping process, it was impossible to spread topping evenly, and the topping stuck to the sprinkle bowl.

In the end they looked nothing like the gorgeous ones I saw on the internet…

Cake Pops

Cake Pops, Calisoff style

Ben ate them up, but his eating habits resemble a hoover. Jack wouldn’t touch them after the first one he ate. Next time I think I’ll stick with what I know – chocolate chip cookies.

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What’s on your Facebook newsfeed?

Mostly pictures of kids and food, travel, with the occasional alcoholic beverage mixed in. Is this what my life has become? How did everyone become as boring as I have? Ten years ago my face would have been loaded with pictures of me dancing on bars and junk trips in Hong Kong.

Facebook is a funny thing. There is no one out there without an opinion on it.

Personally I love it. My life and perhaps everyone’s life (which is why it’s so popular) has made it the most incredible, perfect thing for the times.

Here is why…

1. As a stay at home mom, I have no free time. I do my job 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If there is a moment to myself, it is but a moment. Facebook only takes a moment. I can be distracted and even drunk and still find something that makes me smile.

2.  I hate to lose people. But I’ve lived so many lives in so many different places. Boca, Gainesville, Hong Kong, Shanghai and now Chicago. At our wedding we had people from at least 12 countries and over 14 different states. I miss my friends from across the globe. And I have no time for lengthy emails or time difference phone calls. But I love when they post important news. I want to hear it. I hope they realize that.

3. I was trying to explain how great I needed to look for my high school reunion this July. My husband, whose reunion we went to three years ago, pointed out to me that people at his reunion looked older, fatter, divorced, more unhappy so he was sure it would be the same at my reunion. Did I mention he’s a bit of a dinosaur? He’s not on facebook. If you are, you would know that I’M FROM BOCA! People may be divorced but they are NOT fatter! It’s SOUTH FLORIDA for goodness sake! Thank you facebook for spying for me.

4. Entertainment value. What is greater than reality TV with your own friends on?

5.  I hardly ever post things, but I do use it to keep up my monthly photos. It’s so easy! Everyone, even non-facebookies can see it.  It’s a very passive and non-intrusive way to keep news on your life updated for anyone who is interested, available anytime they have time or interest.

Anyone else out there want to talk about facebook? I’m curious to know what people’s befriending criteria is. And what sort of censors they have for posting. And how they discovered it. And honestly, how much time do you waste on it? If you aren’t on it, why not?!

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My New Favorite Cookbook

My food journey began around age 28. Before that time I could eat whatever I wanted without thinking about it.

After that started a long and frustrated path of exercise, eating less, fasting, cutting out certain meats, and generally oscillating between feeling either hungry and skinny or fat and full.

I remember one particular morning somewhere near my 28th birthday in Hong Kong, eating Doritos and a MacDonald’s bacon egg and cheese biscuit for breakfast while my office mate peered at me in horror. She was 10 years my senior and already on a food journey. Helen, if you are out there I can finally say – I understand!

I understand when you told me you had the most amazing dinner of steamed vegetables. It seemed a bit unhinged at the time but now I’m 10 years older and I’m obsessed with vegetables. A plate of steamed vegetables for dinner does indeed sound perfect.

But even better than that is a plate of deliciously flavored vegetables. Hence my vegan cookbook.

I’ve been cooking my way through Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. And it’s been culinary ecstasy, a taste revolution, a palate revelation!

Moroccan Zucchini and Chickpea Stew

I’m always looking for new things to cook and this has been the most exciting discovery I’ve had in years. Eggplant Bacon, OMG Onion Rings, Roasted Cauliflower with Herb Breadcrumbs, Garlicky Mushrooms and Kale… I haven’t tried a recipe yet that doesn’t make me excited to wake up the next morning and eat the left overs!

And unlike most cookbooks, she has a calorie count on the side. A woman after my own waistline. Thank you Isa!

No, I’m not going vegan. I’m too practical (who else is going to eat all the left over chicken nuggets?) and too much of a epicurean to restrict myself like that. It was just nice to find more exciting ways to cook your veggies.

She also has a food blog, Post Punk Kitchen.


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Mother’s Day at the Museum of Science and Industry

I hope everyone had a great mother’s day.

It seems with each stage in life there are more holidays and gift giving for just being you.

When you were first born, there was your birthday and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa or whatever end of the year celebration that you celebrated and received gifts.

When you were old enough to date, Valentine’s day was another way to get gifts.

Next came marriage and with it an anniversary.

Then kids and mother’s day.

Now some of these are Hallmark made up holidays but we humans are like lemmings, if one of us are doing it, we all feel we must follow.

Having said that, we had a lovely morning with Adam’s mother and husband at the Museum of Science and Industry this year.

On the steps of the Museum of Science and Industry

Followed by a great long nap for the entire family, which, at this stage in our life is the very definition of a good day.

Stay tuned for a future blog about the Museum of Science and Industry. It’s such an amazing place I think it deserves it’s own blog.

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Self Improvement

Either I’m evolving or really impressionable.

You would think constantly wanting to change or try things just because others are doing it would mean you are secretly unhappy. But actually it’s the opposite.

In fact a loss of interest in life’s activities, lack of energy, and inability to see the bright side are the very symptoms of unhappiness.

I love my life but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be able to run longer, lift heavier weights, be skinnier, have better hair, better skin, be a better parent, be a better wife, have more computer skills, read more books, eat healthier, improve my yoga practice and so much more. No matter how great you think you are, there is always room for improvement.

But it does bother me that sometimes I can’t tell if I’m trying to better myself or just be like someone else.

I was over at my friend Hedy’s house the other day. She is into food combining. I knew little about it but was curious. Not curious enough to take the 300+ book that she suggested, especially since the first page I opened had math equations on it. But now I’ve downloaded my food combining chart and I’m already eating differently. She also made me an amazing cocktail. Tequila, Pama pomegranate liqueur, and a splash of fizzy water. The next day I was at Costco buying the ingredients! Evolving or impressionable?

I guess it didn’t matter. Learning about all the new things that day made me happy. It enriched my conversations with others. Maybe it even made me eat a bit healthier. And hey, my husband said the tequila made me quite entertaining.

So I say – people, go ahead and browse the self help aisle without embarrassment, take a new class, unabashedly keep up with the Jones’!

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