Summer Break Day 1 Recap By the Numbers

First day of summer break recap:
Miles driven within city limits for day camp drop off: 15
Time spent in car (inclusive of forgetting baseball hat at home and going back for it): 1.5 hours
Snacks packed: 3 per kid
Times kids said “I’m bored”: 5 each
Punches thrown: 3.5 (I caught one mid-strike)
Tears shed: countless
Times I threatened summer school: a dozen

Off to a spectacular start, aren’t we?

Just say “no” to these 90s comeback spring trends

Seems like the fashion world is getting nostalgic for a bygone era of bad fashion, i.e, the 1990s. Known for Nirvana and Soundgarden, the 90s can also be identified with the grunge trend — cool on Chris Cornell or Kate Moss, but catastrophic for the rest of us mere mortals.

Yet, somehow designers think that we want to see remnants of the 90s again because across the fashion mags all I’m seeing are overalls.

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OVERALLS!!! Because somehow, somewhere some fancy designer actually thought these are attractive and that we’ll want to pay top dollar for them. All the celebrities are. But mere mortals cannot pull such things off such as overalls. Mere mortals have FUPAs and Jewish thighs and sorts of things that prevent overalls from LOOKING GOOD. So please, do not wear this spring trend.

Also, crop tops seem to have been making some sort of reappearance in the fashion world. Because all aging mothers want is to SHOW OFF THEIR TUMMIES. They all seem to only be sold at Forever 21 however, so shame on us for even thinking of wearing them. Leave the crop tops to the kiddos, ok?

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Here’s one trend you might be able to get behind — literally ONLY IF YOU WANT TO COVER YOUR BEHIND. It’s the I-never-want-to-see-again flannel shirt tied around the waist. Again, Chris Cornell. Need I say more? Yes, I do, because one of my go-to shopping sites, Shopbop is now featuring the never-to-be-worn-again trend of tied flannels. It just cannot be. Please people, just wear a longer shirt if ya wanna cover your backside.

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This is your spring fashion public service announcement. You’re welcome. What spring trend are you going to avoid like a bad Tiffany song?

Paying for bedtime

retro-mom-money-images-Graphics-Fairy004 (1)(I know it’s been awhile since I wrote. End of school activities/ summer starting, you know the drill.)

Anyone feel like they’re “paying” for bedtime? I mean literally shelling out dough so their kids sleep?

‘Cause I do. Since I moved my little guy to a “big boy bed” I think it’s cost me. In sleep, sanity and cold hard cash. Seems like the only way he’ll stay in his bed is if there’s a reward after the night’s sleep.

We started out big with little die cast airplanes (at $10 a pop those can add up.) Then we moved on to a series of Little Einstein books. Fortunately for my wallet those were discontinued so I had to buy them used on Amazon for merely a penny (plus the $3 shipping; I’ll deal.)

But unfortunately those little (in content and name) books seemed to have waned in interest here in favor of bigger and better gifts. Last on the list? A $14 digital clock. I’m hoping his time telling skills will help to negotiate me out of these daily payouts.

After that? Oh, I promised him a Crocodile Creek placemat (anywhere between $2-5 depending where you are) and after that it’s anyone’s guess.

So as my wallet gets lighter I need to figure out a new sleep strategy. Can’t use food – I save that for car rides and watching big brother’s baseball game. Can’t use the iPad, I use that for getting dressed in the morning, carpool and when my nanny is here and I have to get some work done.

I know deep down I need to go cold turkey on my little bribery ring. I’m being blackmailed by the cutest con man around. But I have to show him who’s boss, right? I’ll just have to go ask my husband for a raise.

p.s. if you have a good toddler sleep strategy that isn’t costing you an arm and a leg I’d love to know… 

Last minute Mother’s Day Must-Haves and Must-Dos…

I’m going on CBS 2 Chicago to discuss last minute Mother’s Day gift ideas. I was so bad this year, barely getting my mom’s present in time. (Luckily, this afternoon still counts for getting it in time).

But if you’re still looking for some good gift ideas, I have scouted out some of the best last-minute options for you. Now, go on and shop!!

I have couple ideas for last minute activities if this gorgeous weather holds up. Sometimes it’s fun to have a Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

  • Odyssey Cruise Mother’s Day Brunch — I love seeing the Chicago skyline from the water and while my kids love the water taxi it lacks a little ambiance for 0789_Boat_Headermoms. The big Odyessy ship just underwent a $2 Million renovation and moms can have a choice of an early (10:30 am) or late (2:30 pm) meal aboard the ship starting at $64.90. Kids are 40% off adult price and moms will love the complimentary champagne, rose and rooftop lounge.
  • Susan G Komen Race for the Cure – What better way to spend Mother’s Day than for walking in support of breast cancer? This year, the race starts in Butler Field at Grant Park and includes a 10K or 5K race. Registration is still open tomorrow on site starting at 6:30 am. The Daley family will serve as Honorary Chairs of the race to celebrate the life of Chicago’s former first lady Maggie C. Daley and the passion and energy she displayed as a mom and breast cancer survivor. Registration starts at $35.

But if you want to sleep in or want to give something more tangible I have some cool ideas for last minute gifts, too.mom-wine-water-bottle

  • Psychobaby Happy Hour Water Bottle, $18 – This is a great and practical gift for the mom who has a sense of humor – you can get a customized aluminum water bottle made for you at Psychobaby in Bucktown overnight to surprise and delight mom for a Sunday happy hour. Wine not included!
  • Lill Studio customized bags – Isabel Messenger bag in Blue Ikat Dots $92 and Lilli Tote in Baltic Blue, $169. I got the idea of Lill Studio bags from a friend who goes to the store every year with her mom to design a bag for Mother’s Day. I love the messenger, hands-free style for a busy mom on the go (who wants a shoulder bag at the park), and the carryall tote for those big outings. Plus, they have hundreds of fabrics and patterns to choose from. Also Lill is running a promotion that if you design a full price bag with your aunt/ sister/ mother/ daughter through tomorrow you get 30% off your purchase.
  • KLUTCHclub/KLUTCHmom – KLUTCHclub is a monthly subscription service that sends a hand-picked and “themed” box of holistic health, fitness and wellness products – organic protein bars, workout wear, skincare products, teas, etc. – right to your doorstep every month, making it a no brainer to incorporate healthier choices with ease. Price ranges around $17 per month; subscriptions are 1, 3 and 12 months.
  • Rachel Barton Pine – lullabies CD – Our editor at Chicago Parent loves this CD so much that I had to share it. Pine, who has released more than 20 albums, including CDs of heavy metal violin music, has added a softer selection to her collection — a CD of instrumental lullabies recorded with pianist Matthew Hagle. She ended up finding 150 classical lullabies from various parts of the world, then set about the task of narrowing it down to 25. You can download it on iTunes!
  • Me Smooth –  Perfect for the busy mom who doesn’t have time to get her beauty treatments, the me Smooth removes unwanted hair safely and effectively and is pain free! Costs husband a fraction of what it would in the doctor’s office… and makes the morning shaving routine so much easier and quicker.  Plus you can pick it up at Sephora, Ulta, Bloomies, Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus! Costs $395
  • Lush “Cream of the Crop” Flower Soaps a selection of innovative re-usable bubble bar wands especially for mom – all are on sticks, so they are easy to tuliopswish around the bathtub creating masses of skin softening, beautifully-scented bubbles.  Then place on the side of the tub and allow it to dry, so it’s ready to use again and again (you can get up to six baths out of each).  We suggest giving mom all three to make a gorgeous bubble bouquet. Some are vegan and start at $8.95 each.  Lush stores are at Macy’s, Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and Old Orchard.

Leaning In and Loving It; Or, WWSD?

pirat-games-3I just wrapped up reading Sheryl Sandberg’s hotly contested book, Lean In Lean In is the latest book about working motherhood to hit the shelves and it’s causing quite a stir. If you haven’t heard of it by now, well, let’s just leave it at that. You probably have heard of it by now.

And it seems like everyone has an opinion or take on the book, or maybe worse, Sandberg herself. I don’t really want to re-hash all the opinions or arguments the book has caused. I’m not being cowardly, (maybe lazy and tired), but really I just am not sure I’m going to add too much insight to the discussion of the biggest book on women working that’s come out since, well, I’m not sure when.

What I’d rather focus on is the positive I gained by reading the book. Because I gained a lot. Really and truly! Sandberg has an informative and pretty inspirational point of view. She was extremely lucky in her career, but also, clearly, she was very hardworking. She didn’t just get there because of favors that were called in. And hey, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably had a favor called in for you once along the way — is that such a bad thing?

Anyway, I digress. I’m thinking about this book a lot lately. It’s like “What Would Sheryl Do” in my head every time I’m on a call, in a meeting, trying to write a new business proposal. I sort of know WWSD, but here are some changes and observations about myself that I’ve made in just the short time since I’ve read the book. My own WWSD (See we even have the same initials!):

  • I don’t aspire to move all the way up the corporate ladder; I just want to be on one of the rungs. Even though Sandberg clearly speaks to women in executive positions, I was empowered by her message to continually go after your goals and to not settle.
  • I also have decided to speak up more. I used to constantly just keep my mouth shut because I was afraid I was being impolite or talking out of turn or because I was just nervous. So I loved the part of the book where Sandberg talks about how women never interrupt in meetings as compared with men. Now, I’m not advocating interrupting, but I am advocating being honest and speaking your mind appropriately and assertively. You cannot go wrong being true to yourself.
  • I’m not as nervous or resistant to asking my husband to pitch in and help when I need it for work. He’s most definitely the breadwinner, but I’ve been pulling in my share of the pie lately and if I need to work, he needs to adjust his schedule if he can. My kids generally like him better anyway.
  • I also know it was one of the lightest parts of her book, but I appreciated Sandberg’s examples of forgetting to dress her kids for school theme days, leaving work at 5:30 and logging on after bed, and generally feeling torn about where to be and when. Part of me knows that it is very anecdotal and meant to appeal to more of the masses, but that even someone with more help and resources than I can ever imagine still f’s up once in awhile with her kids.
  • The part that really resonated with me was how Sandberg identifies so many examples of how women screw over other women trying to get ahead in careers. It happened to me, I’m sure it happened to you, and I really want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone I manage, work with, or other. Easily implementable for me as my own business owner.

 

Did you read it? What was your key takeaway?

Hockey is for girls, too!

Move over Mattel being the king of toy stereotyping; Oriental Trading Company’s got one up on you…

We’re playing spring hockey over here (gah!). So my eldest son is reeeallly into hockey. Truly. He’s pop out of bed on Sunday mornings for a 7 am ice time into it. So you can imagine that only a hockey party will work for his upcoming 7th birthday celebration. Rink is booked, but party favors are not. So, today, while searching for hockey-related hockey party favors, I came upon these inflatable hockey sticks. Kitschy, yes? Perfect for a seven-year-old, yes? But just for a boy’s birthday? Oriental Trading Company thinks so, but I’m not so sure.

hockeystick

 

See it? Says these are “fun for boys’ birthday parties, too,” mentioning nothing of all the girls playing hockey these days. The GIRLS skating circles around my son on his team. Say nothing of women’s hockey leagues. Yet women in sports that are dominated by men are overlooked in the simplest of ways.

Maybe Sheryl Sandberg has a point. I’m partway through her book and I’m not hating on it yet. We have to be our own best advocates to lead and be heard… Even if it’s just making sure girls get noticed in the smallest of ways.

Yeah, Oriental Trading Co. girls skate, too.

 

 

 

 

Surviving my life, or, surviving spring break in Chicago – as seen on CBS 2 Chicago!

This year so far has been no short of hectic, intense and exhausting. All in a good way. Being busy is a good problem in my household. But being busy means finding a way to survive as well – not to be too dramatic, but I haven’t cooked a fresh meal in over a week in my house. In our first world reality here, how do we survive being so busy? I want tips.

I’m also here to give tips. (Can you believe people actually ask me to give tips on things??) I was shocked and flattered CBS asked me to appear on their morning show today to talk about how to survive Spring Break in Chicago if you aren’t going away. Many spring breaks are over the Easter and/ or Passover holiday this year and so some folks might choose to stay home. Also: it’s a pain in the butt to travel with little kids.

So, here are some tips to surviving spring break in Chicago! I’d love to hear your ideas as well.

Say you’re not lucky enough to jet out of town this month during spring break, Sara Fisher from Chicago Parent magazine and 2 Moms Media has lots of ideas to keep the kids and yourself busy and having fun during what can be an iffy month weather wise…
1) Indulge in a Staycation
If the budget doesn’t allow for a full on vacation somewhere out of town, there are plenty of options in the city to have a staycation – enjoy luxe accommodations and explore the sites of our very own lovely Chicago. You’d be shocked to know there is a lot to do here!
Pen. Kids 1Peninsula Hotel 
The Peninsula hotel, one of my favorites, and past winner of best 100 hotels in the United States by Travel and Leisure Magazine last year has really family friendly options and discounts for those who want to live in the lap of luxury and indulge, even for just a night! Their Peninsula family moments package includes:
* Daily American Breakfast for two persons served in The Lobby or Room Service
* Eligible to a 50% off the second room’s rate on respective connecting/adjoining room type.
*  Children (12 and under) dining together with parents can enjoy the complimentary kid’s menu, and enjoy an array of amenities and programs tailored for junior guests. Please contact the hotel for full details.
Pricing for a Deluxe King/Double starts at $445. Valid until 12/31/13
  • These other two luxurious bellwethers  have a lot to share for families. There’s third night free at the Ritz and Winter Escape which features 25 percent off the room rate and complimentary parking.
  • Also we have fun children’s amenities at the different hotels. At the Ritz, they have daily cookie baking with the pastry chef and The Candy Man is on call to roll up his cart of sweet treats to guest rooms. Both of these services are complimentary.
  • At Four Seasons, we have a complimentary Bedtimes Stories Butler, daily treats through room service, a new Kids Club Room
  • All these packages are good through the end of March.
2) Send your kids to camp! Yes, camp!
There are many options for you to maintain your “me” schedule during spring break, even if the kids are off. YMCAs around the Chicagoland area have a variety of kids’ camps for the spring, and I found two more that are fun and different than the typical school day to get your kid thinking and creating during the time off. My kids spring break is almost 10 days and I definitely want to make sure they’re using that brain a bit!
  • Wishcraft Workshop in Roscoe Village has a terrific spring break camp series March 25- April 4 – FUNOrdinary camp is a customized daily craft camp IMG_7861 - Version 2that takes the campers’ wishes into mind when they create the curriculum – each day features a craft, snack, outdoor play time and all materials included – $65 a day. They also offer another one called “Let’s Make Something” for the budding seamstress or embroiderer. That’s $75/ day. 
  • Kids Clayroom – Kids Clay Room is a clay studio for children where they teach our students how to create a ceramic piece from start to finish. During the Kids Clayroom’s Workshops, Camps and Birthday Parties, children get to work (and play) with squishy, wet clay and use a variety of techniques and tools to mold and sculpt clay into unique ceramic pieces.
    They have Spring Break Camps scheduled over a period of 2 weeks to accommodate CPS and non-CPS students. The Camps are 3 hours long-from 10 am to 1 pm. We will work on 2 clay handbuilding projects and take a lunch break before painting the pieces. Children are required to bring a nut-free lunch. Registration is required. The cost for the Camps are $40 per child and $35 per sibling. Call or e-mail to register.
3) Keep them home, but keep them busy with these brainy toys and games: 

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If you can’t quite motivate with the pocketbook or the driving to get your kids to a camp, then invest in a few toys that will be sure to keep them busy if our March weather doesn’t cooperate. Our friends at Marbles the Brain Store have just the perfect things to make you survive the madness of having the kids home!

My kids need a dose of overprogramming

I’ve always tried not to be that helicopter parent. I adhere to lots of my own rules like kids should have time to play at home, be creative, be bored. Some experts even say it’s good for kids. (Apparently mine don’t adhere to the rules of this story – they lunged for the iPads all weekend and I had to pry them out of their sweaty hands.)

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But after last weekend of doing absolutely nothing, (heck it was too cold outside last Sunday to do anything anyway), I’ve given up on under-programming. Because it under-delivers on me being a good mom. My bored kids are killing me!

How many times can I run a football drill in the basement (the flea flicker! the y pattern! the I’m going to slant this way, come back and get the ball and go out for a long pass) without my newly manicured fingers getting calloused? How many times do I have to break up a fight between a 55 lb. 6.5 year old and his pipsqueak brother? (Who do you think won, btw?) How many times do I have to suffer through elongated games of Battleship that have no end in sight?

Too many.

My kids don’t just play silently with trucks like this unfortunate looking boy in random web clip art. The little one may start to make up imaginary games and such, but only long enough for the eldest to crush his dreams of the best WWII airport in modern times.

My kids are too bored. Sorry all you psychologists.

So after some hemming and hawing about not interfering with their iPad time creative juices, I took matters into my own hands. Drastic times call for drastic measures. One sport is not enough for my eldest so now he’s in TWO! Instead of sitting at home this Saturday watching whatever sport is on TV or running errands we are driving an hour to a glacial formation landfill to get their little bodies MOVING.

Because I have this theory that little boys are like little puppies. They need exercise. They need to run around, and this cold, dry, oddly-snowless winter is creating few opportunities for movement.

Either that or mommy may call up that chopper and fly far, far away.

 

 

On Track Pants and Waffle Shirts

‘Tis the time of the year to dress up, or, in my household’s case, dress comfy. One would think with all the holiday festivities, my days would be filled with bow ties and vests and cute cords and loafers and, and.

But, no. My holidays have been filled with track pants, waffle shirts, t-shirts, and more track pants. I think it’d be one thing if my kids were Bjorn Borg or at least aspiring to be so, but really, it’s just all about the comfy factor with a little “but I have P.E. today MOM” thrown in.

They love their track pants. And waffle shirts?

They unfortunately won’t go NEAR this cuteness.

 

And where do you think they learned of such behavior? From the ah-mazing Back to School shopping spree I went on earlier this year courtesy of The Children’s Place. They offered, I obliged, and now my boys have been sucked in by the world’s best athletic pants. (Seriously, good track pants are hard to come by.)

It got so bad that when they invited me to come back out for a little holiday shopping, I started counting down the days until I could get them MORE track pants. Four from my previous trip just weren’t enough for the big guy.

And, so, last week, I went back out to their store and begrudgingly passed by all the cute button downs, cords, khakis, cargos, hi-tops, sweater vests (I could go on) and immediately asked: WHERE ARE THE TRACK PANTS AND DO YOU HAVE THEM IN SIZE 6 PLEASE as only a mother of a son who only wears track pants could do.

They pulled their stock of the pants and I bought 3 more pairs.

That should last til spring shopping I think? Then what, off to mesh shorts, I suppose. *sigh*

What piece of your kids’ clothing is the bane of YOUR existence? Comment here and I’ll pick a winner for a $25 gift card from The Children’s Place. Because they rock!

I won’t pimp my blog out for just anyone, but I will for Sh*tty Mom

If you look at the past five months of my blogging you’ll see that, well, I don’t blog all that much. So if I’m to devote my not well-read blog to posting about something more than once in that short timeframe, well, consider it pathetic something I love very much.

I love the new Sh*tty Mom book. It’s just f’ing funny. Every not sh*tty word of it.

As I said before on Mother’s Day, this book is worth every penny. Even my mom liked it, and she’s a tough critic on funny. (She used to write dirty greeting cards for a living. More on that another time.) And since next week is the launch of their book, and September 12 has been declared “National Sh*tty Mom Day,” I told my friends over at Todays Moms I’d give them a little internet luvs. I even agreed to help co-host a twitter chat with The Motherhood on Monday, September 10 at 1 pm ET during the time I’m supposed to pick up my little guy from preschool. Isn’t that sh*tty? Of course this means I won’t be able to tweet and drive en route either way because that’s dangerous and, er, really sh*tty. But you should tweet along if you’re not picking up at preschool or driving, because it’ll be good fun. Hashtag #ShttyMom. Handle @ShttyMom.

And if now, you’re like, “Sara, enough of this promotional BS you don’t blog enough to warrant all this twitter talk,” then pay attention, because I’m going to give you some real content to read.

Herewith, a few of my favorite lines from the book. I can’t tell you all of it, because you should go and buy it. And because I keep re-reading my advance copy and you can’t borrow mine.

  • From Chapter 5: “How to React if You’ Think Your Child Might Be Gay (Hint: Celebrate): Don’t try to “straighten” your gay child. Not only will she remain gay, but one day she may write a scathing memoir about her childhood. When it’s turned into a movie, the “mom” will be played by someone who’s shorter, fatter, and more wrinkled than you are.
  • From Chapter 12: “Organized Sports Might Be Great for the Kids, but They Suck for You: Your kid is an average athlete. If this keeps up into her teenage years, you’ll be putting in the same hours and expenses as an Olympian’s mom, but with no scholarship to make it all worthwhile.
  • From Chapter 17: Someone Stole Your Baby Name! aka Ballad of the First Aidan Mom: How to tell when your friends are pretending they like your baby’s name. You went your own way with your baby’s name. You picked a name you’re pretty sure no one else will touch. You like it, your husband likes it, and that’s all that matters. Besides, if first names were destiny, Condoleeza Rice would have been a stripper.
That’s just a sample of the brilliance and hilarity that ensues throughout the book. We’ll all be sharing Sh*tty Mom moments on the Sh*tty Mom Facebook Page next week as well and you can win a prize pack by sharing your Sh*tty moments. Bring ’em.