trains, balloons & sugar: a simple birthday

I can’t tell you how freeing it felt to take it easy on the birthday thing this year. Hopefully, we started some traditions that will be great memories, but this year, I took the stress of a huge party out of the equation. We kept it relatively simple and this 4-year-old was probably more excited than he was at his last big party.

If you know me, you know that I don’t keep birthday celebrations to just one day… We kicked off “birthday week” by hitting up Henry’s favorite restaurant, 2Toots, over the weekend. Once we were sure that we weren’t running late getting out of the house, we decided to stop at the train station, so daddy and the birthday boy could hop on the Metra.  “MOMMY! DADDY! We’re at the TRAIN STATION!!!” Baby G and I drove there, so we could leave whenever we needed to, without being beholden to the train schedule.


So. Excited.

We probably could have stopped there, because he was so excited to take the Metra – something that is so simple and mundane, but he was thrilled. We rendezvoused after his 20 minute train ride and headed for lunch. What 4-year-old wouldn’t love to have a train bring their grilled cheese and split a root beer float with mommy? Can’t forget to mention the special birthday song and cupcake delivered via train.


That brings us to the night before the actual big day. We put the kiddos to bed and then blew up 30 balloons while we watched The Bachelor. {The hubs pretends like he doesn’t want to watch it with me, but really, I think he secretly enjoys it so he can provide snarky commentary! Why else would he make sure that I pause it when he goes to the kitchen?}


I knew I wanted to hang balloons in his bedroom doorway, as a fun way to start the day, but I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest. We ended up just hanging them in different entry spaces around our house. It was a HUGE hit! Next year, I think I’m going to add some crate paper to his doorway as well – pulled taut, so that he has to bust through it like a football team at homecoming.


The balloons were a hit! No helium required.

Henry woke up that morning with balloons floating into his room when we opened the door and he jumped up with a huge grin on his face. The look on his face will be one of those moments that is seared into my memory forever. We went downstairs for a birthday morning tradition that we’ve carried over from my hubby’s days as a kid – a stack of donuts topped with a candle for breakfast. I love this tradition, because it’s one of the hubby’s favorite childhood memories and, who am I kidding, I’m on board for any tradition that involves donuts.


The rest of the day was just kind of a sugar and balloon free-for-all. He opened a few gifts with breakfast and some close friends who live nearby stopped over to help us make cupcakes. Last year, I made his cake and frosting from scratch. This year, I went with a box of rainbow chip cake mix and coordinating frosting. Done and done.

Full Disclosure: I took this photo from above because the cupcake papers weren’t as cute after the baking.


By the end of the day, The H Man was fried from skipping his nap and our house was less-than-photo-ready, but I took that to be a sign of a fun day. I might not always think such glowing thoughts about seeing our house such a mess, but that day I felt appreciative looking at the remnants of chaos. It looked like laughter and joy; and really, most days that’s all you need. xoxo

The aftermath.


chill with the birthday madness

My sweet preemie is turning four tomorrow. It’s hard to process how quickly he’s gone from teeny baby to 89th percentile toddler to full fledged little boy, who is definitely not a baby anymore.

For Henry’s first birthday, we had a huge party at our house with 50 people. I was so excited to celebrate that it didn’t matter that it was the dead of winter and people would be tracking in snow and salt, that would take weeks to clean up. As an event planner, I wanted to make sure all of the details were covered, so of course, we had ‘Little Man’ touches everywhere. Being new to kiddo birthday parties, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything and I probably expected a lot from myself. I spent so much time worrying about making each detail cohesive. {That candle is NOT a shade of blue within the designated palate!!!} The day of the party, I think I had fun?

I put so much energy into making it the perfect party and being the perfect hostess, that I was more frazzled than anything, if I’m being honest. I remember specifically “checking in” to be present when we did the cake thing. At least there’s that!

For his second birthday, I decided we needed to make it more low key. We needed to have fun this time and not put so much emphasis on the little things that I’d stressed about the year before. Well, it was a nice thought, anyway!

I thought that I would be taking it down a notch, by tightening up the guest list to 35 and doing breakfast & donuts instead of lunch & cake, along with cutting down the number of custom printables. But really, I just stayed up until 2am the night before working on general party prep and chalkboard signage.

Let’s talk about party favors for a minute. I felt a lot of pressure with the favors at the first party. After some comments from a couple of people, I seriously stressed about making sure that the favors were good enough and big enough. I didn’t really want to do them, for the same reason I don’t love them for weddings: If it isn’t something that makes sense and that people will appreciate, just skip it. No one needs more stuff, especially kids.

Which brings me to gifts. Of course, we are so thankful for grandparents and friends who have showered our kids with everything they could possibly need and beyond. Our kids are incredible lucky. We’d like to teach them about being appreciative of their belongings and not to expect a constant stream of toys. That’s a hard lesson to teach. We want them to be able to identify and appreciate the important things in life, like spending time with family and having experiences that create memories and build character. Those are the types of gifts that have the most value, not the toy that will be cast aside in a few days.

Last year, we had a great excuse to keep the birthday celebration low key; newborns are a great excuse for a lot of things! That made us focus on the simple things that we knew Henry would love, like going to a train themed restaurant and riding the Metra for 20 minutes. He doesn’t expect, need or even want a big birthday party right now. I think we finally did it right when we threw a chill yet thoughtful first birthday party for Graham this past November – I’ll throwback to that another day. For now, here’s what I’ve learned…

  1. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses or do things because you feel like you’re supposed to do them. Do the things that make sense – even if that means not having a party.
  2. Keep it simple! Back to not trying to keep up with Susie Pinterest. If you make it too complicated it will keep you from being able to be in the moment and have fun.
  3. There doesn’t need to be a party theme, just have a good time. {Although, I do love a good theme, when done well! As long as it doesn’t feel forced.}
  4. Lose the expectations about what your child should be doing. {Say Cheese! Smash the cake! Open the presents!}
  5. Birthday parties come with the expectation that the guest will bring a gift. It is totally reasonable to request and even emphasize no gifts, if that’s what you want.
  6. If you do have a big party, let kids be kids and run amok. You’re signing up for chaos if you’re having a party, so just let it happen and be okay with it.

You can make a birthday special and full of joy and love without a big bash. You can also have a big bash without losing the focus or the point of the celebration. Several of my mommy friends have figured this out already, but I’m catching up. Tomorrow, we will make sure Henry knows that he is surrounded by love and we will make his day special, even without custom printables.

Check back later this week to see what we do! xoxo

decompress: the power of a good shower

Last weekend, it dawned on me that I neglected a very important aspect in my boundaries post. With our nonstop to-do lists, the thing that routinely gets pushed to the bottom of that list is making time for ourselves. Amiright??

I hate the phrase “me time.” It makes it sound like something we should feel guilty about. When I’m a hot frazzled mess, it doesn’t serve anyone well. So, in addition to setting boundaries, we need to acknowledge the importance of making time for ourselves. And then we need to not feel guilty about it!! It’s just another piece of the puzzle to maintain or regain sanity, so we can be our best at work and at home. One of my friends calls it hitting her reset button. When things work out perfectly, the reset button might be dinner out with girlfriends, a mani/pedi or an elusive spa appointment. When things are less than perfect, we might chill by ourselves with a giant dish of pasta or something else carby and a bottle glass of wine, followed by something chocolate. Worst case scenario, has anyone else pretended they needed to be in the bathroom longer than necessary, just to be in a quiet room?

Last weekend, I was reminded not to underestimate the power of a good shower. We installed a new shower head, so I promptly locked myself in the bathroom for an hour or so. When I came back out, I felt surprisingly refreshed. I’m a total product junkie so I started thinking about my must haves for a little shower escape.



1 – I’ve never loved our bathroom; in fact, it was almost a deal breaker. This new shower head has changed the game for us, until we can renovate our master. Note: some extender arms come with a little rubber flow restrictor, so you’ll probably want to remove that so it doesn’t turn your rain shower into a drizzle shower.

2 – My favorite face masks are by GLAMGLOW. You might be familiar with the original GLAMGLOW mask, SUPERMUD. It pulls all of the icky stuff from your pores and gets better the more you use it because it keeps your pores from clogging.

3 – More from GLAMGLOW! One of their new masks, FLASHMUD has become my new fave. It’s claim to fame is that it brightens while also exfoliating. I notice a huge difference in my skin tone on days I use this bad boy.

4 – One more face mask. I love love love Fresh products and the Rose Face Mask is a staple. You can use it daily, in place of a traditional toner.

5 – Speaking of masks, they are great for hair too. I regularly use the Phytocitrus Color Protect Radiance Mask to help protect my highlights. A friend of mine is a big fan of the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Hair Recovery Mask and she always has shiny, amazing hair, so I am definitely snagging some on my next Target run.

6 – I love bubble baths, but our current master bath is shower only, so I’m living vicariously on this one. My friend swears by Laura Mercier Honey Bath and it sounds like it’s fab enough to make taking a bath in the kids bathroom worth it. I love that it comes with a cute little honey stick!

7 – Essential oils are definitely having a moment. Another friend suggested adding a few drops of lavender oil to coconut oil or an unscented lotion. A few drops would be perfect in the shower for aromatherapy.

8 & 9 – Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate!!! If you aren’t on the exfoliation bandwagon, you need to be. Splurge. Save.

10 – Especially in the winter, it’s key to keep lips exfoliated too. I love this yummy sugar scrub by Sara Happ.

11 – Hydrating is huge for me because I have crazy dry skin. Right after I turn off the shower, I apply shea & coco butter baby oil. Then I do lotion on top of that – especially in the winter. My usual system is shower, baby oil, bathrobe, face mask, lotion.

12 – I am always on the look out for new lotions or body butters that don’t feel greasy. Right now, I’m swapping between this one by L’Occitane and this one by a small company from Indiana called Bass Farms. My mom gave me the Bass Farms goat milk body butter in Mandarin. The citrus scent really helps to beat the winter blahs.

What other must haves do you swear by? If a trip to the nail salon isn’t in your plans this weekend, hopefully you can at least get yourself to the shower and go off the grid for a while to decompress and hit your reset button. xoxo

building an addition: the unglamorous

As I think back on the process of building an addition onto our home, there was a lot of waiting before we got to any of the pretty stuff. It was fun watching all of the different pieces come together, but sometimes I really wanted to have a fast forward button and watch it all in quick snapshots.

I would’ve been much more anxious with every week that ticked by if it had rendered more than just our garage and driveway unusable. I’m sure living construction adjacent is much different than living in a construction site. This experience might have been a helpful warm up for future home renovation projects that would be a giant imposition – hello kitchen and second floor dream plans!

Part of wanting it to move faster surely came from excitement to just have it done. However, the original estimate was 6-8 weeks and, being newbies to construction, we took that at face value. People told us that we should plan for it to take longer than estimated, but what did we know? Maybe a couple of extra weeks? Try DOUBLE. There are so many moving pieces and things that are out of the contractor’s control. For any future projects, I’m going to go into it expecting double the estimated time.

One might think we are actually still under construction, because our contractor’s sign is still in our yard. Really, we’re just waiting for 2 exterior light fixtures that we had to keep sending back for broken glass. So technically, I guess we’re still in process…

The plan.
My fab sketch illustrating that I wanted a door instead of a window. I should be an artist.
The framing of the two new garage spaces. 
Starting to look like something! 
The garage space closest to the house was commandeered to become the mudroom.
Lots of garage spaces, old and new.
Super exciting: Mudroom insulation and ductwork.
Slowly but surely… mudroom taking shape!
Entry into the kitchen and lots of future storage.
My door and little window! Much better than the sketch.

The original plan was to keep an existing door to access the mudroom from the side of the front porch, but it just didn’t seem functional. The whole point of this project is function, after all. I was also worried about the idea of having a “side entrance” on front of the house. Now that it’s done, I am SO happy about the decision! When we repainted the whole house after the construction was complete, we chose to paint this door the same color as the siding, so it sets it apart from the main entrance. {Complete before/after photos to come!} I’m still a little sad that we didn’t do a dutch door, but turns out those aren’t the smartest choice when you consider winters in Illinois.

I remember coming home from work on a Friday in September and seeing this door and being so excited. It was like the kick off to the fun part and it was the point when the finished product seemed within reach.


At least this time I waited until baby G was 3 weeks old before I opened up my computer. Small victories?
I’ve gotten better, but my career has dictated much of my personal life over the years – missed weddings of friends or baby showers are just the obvious markers. I’m talking about feeling anxious throughout any kind of downtime. “What emails am I missing right now??” A few years ago, I totally snapped at my mom when she had my phone and accidentally opened my email app. I had changed my email to push notifications, so that it would only notify me of new emails if I opened the app. That was one of the ways I was trying to better manage that downtime anxiety, by not seeing a little red number yelling at me unless I was ready to respond. I went OFF on her and it was totally unreasonable. {Sorry Mom.}

I think being in the wedding industry, there is this really fuzzy line about personal time, because we are so used to meeting or talking to our clients on the weekends or evenings. I’m sure there is this vibe throughout other fields, as well, as I’ve heard similar stories from friends. It’s like there’s this guilt associated with taking time for ourselves.

There was a point when it was clear that enough was enough, even though it had been way past that point for a long time. I just was too scared to change. It was the birth of my first baby that did it for me. My water broke at home (5.5 weeks early) and I sat at my computer for an hour to get my ducks in a row before driving myself (!?!) from the suburbs to the city, to the hospital where I planned to deliver. Once I got my epidural, I sent emails from my phone. A few days later, I said yes to the client who wanted to have a conference call 5 days after I gave birth, for an event that was 4 months away. I brought my laptop to the NICU every day. And that’s how I started motherhood.

I was a disaster and I had trouble finding myself in this new role and just felt like I was disappointing everyone, mostly myself. I struggled with this for the better part of 2 years. I knew I needed to make major change in the way that I stayed connected and SET BOUNDARIES. I got better at setting those limits as time went by, but it took a drastic move and complete change in the way that I approach communicating, to really break the routine. I’ve recently noticed myself slipping back into old habits. Not nearly as extreme, but it’s a slippery slope. I need to pump the breaks.

The other day, I answered a business call at 8:40am, while I was in the preschool drop off line. I knew I shouldn’t answer it, that I should be present in the mom zone, but I did it anyway. So, I’m back to setting boundaries. I don’t think it needs to be this crazy complicated formula or rigid structure of ‘only between the hours of 9 and 5’ or ‘never between the hours of 5 and 8’ but that it can be broad strokes. What do I want to achieve? What are my priorities?

Family Time is Family Time. No Exceptions. I need to be present with my boys. This time is fleeting and that email can wait until after they’ve gone to bed and I can return that phone call when I have child care tomorrow.

Hubby Time is Hubby Time. No Exceptions. There’s definitely a difference between family time and hubby time. Most of the time, we are parents and housemates, because there are just a lot of unglamorous logistics that come with this life. But, when we’ve carved out time for just the two of us, it needs to be just that. Maintaining our relationship is so important and it can’t take a back seat.

MAKING TIME for Hubby & Wifey Time. It’s not as easy as it used to be for us, when we’d both work late into the evening and then rendezvous at a new restaurant for a 9pm dinner and bottle of wine. This kind of thing needs to be in the calendar now or it won’t ever happen! We shoot for once a month, but sometimes that’s a lofty goal. We need to work this.

Be efficient when I’m working. We are way more productive when we can just focus and I need to work on not getting carried away. Working with people that I really enjoy can be so wonderful and it can also lead to less than productive days. I need to get my shit done and then I can socialize. Put that in the “needs improvement” category.

Stop with the guilt. This is a hard one. It’s okay to set boundaries and to not feel bad about it when it comes to implementing them. We need to give ourselves a break from the constant nagging guilt and feelings of inadequacy. We’re just doing the best we can and setting limits to make sure that we are present and not losing our minds is more than okay, it’s essential. Stressing about it isn’t fair to ourselves or our kiddos… or the loved ones that we might lose our cool with.

I can’t remember where I read this, but it was something to the effect of ‘working mothers feel like they need to work as though they don’t have children and parent as though they don’t have a job.’ I like to think of myself as an expert multi-tasker, but I can’t be everywhere and everything at once and I need to be okay with that.

suburban problems: project mudroom

Our house is a 1965 work in progress. Parts of it are updated for modern life and other spaces need some love.

We jumped into a major renovation project over the summer, but since I wasn’t blogging then, I’m going to rewind and go through our process now. We are not DIY-ers. We love to take on some small things, but we don’t have the time or the knowhow to jump into anything major on our own. We knew we needed to bring in the professional expertise of a trusted contractor. However, we did not use a designer or architect, so that’s where things get kind of interesting!

Entry from the garage into the kitchen. Dining room to your left, refrigerator to your right. Nowhere to unload shoes or bags.

The Problem: Coming from a two bedroom condo in the city, the hubs and I were thrilled to have an attached garage and didn’t think about much when it came to the logistics of said garage. The entrance into the house from the garage is really the primary entrance and the space was just not functional, no matter how we tried. You would enter the house from the garage and land in the most awkward space, without a single square foot to kick off your shoes or drop a bag. When we first moved in, it wasn’t a big deal, but add Chicago winters, a toddler and a baby into that mix, and you end up with a constant track of snowy, salty, dirty footprints and what-have-you all over the counters in the kitchen, before you even make it to the entry on other side of the house, where you can unload. We quickly figured out, we needed a mudroom.

The Decision Process: We talked about it a lot. Could we reimagine our current kitchen/dining room layout to accommodate all of our stuff? Could we carve out space in the existing garage for a bench and hooks? Do we need to add to our home’s footprint? Or do we just move, now that we know better? We talked about these options all the time; to each other, to our neighbors, to our family and friends {sorry guys – one of us *ahem* may have been borderline obsessive}. Eventually we landed on the concept of building an addition.

Initial Planning: The first plan was something we imagined would be the most cost effective, out of the three potential ways we could expand upon the existing garage. HA! Is there such a thing as “cost effective” when it comes to building an addition onto your home?? The original plan was about double the cost of what we had initially ball-parked. Granted, to come up with that number, we used the super precise method of completely pulling a number out of our asses. After all, we were just taking the 10 feet at the back of the garage and converting it to a mudroom/laundry room and then adding 10 feet of space to the front of the garage. That plan would have altered the whole roofline, without adding any additional livable space on the second floor.

Change of Plans: We thought about scrapping the project all together after seeing the estimate, but we decided to re-work the plans so we could get a little more for our money. The investment made more sense if we weren’t putting so much money into roofwork that was purely aesthetic. We learned that a large part of the cost is getting the workers to your house in the first place, so if we were going to be putting that kind of money into our home then we needed to get more bang for our buck.

A snapshot of our revised plans, going into the project.


Pulling the Trigger: By extending the garage out to the side, rather than forward, we were able to fit a third garage space in addition to the mudroom/laundry, and a better “side” entrance. So now we’re talking about the mudroom/laundry of our dreams + an extra garage, instead of a different roofline. The snow blower needs it’s own space, after all. Hello, first world suburban problems! We started the process with our contractor again, with our revised vision, a process that took a few months, after you factor in the time to for him to price out each specific subcontractor and to secure permits. I acted as the designer and he told me what would logistically work and what wouldn’t. The project evolved a bit as we went, but now we’re done, after 16 weeks of a 6-8 week project.

Boots & more finally have a home. Having a mudroom is a game changer!

It’s already one of the hardest working spaces in our home – getting almost as much action as the kitchen. It’s a mudroom, a laundry room, the pantry that I’ve always dreamed of and extra storage for days. I don’t think we realized how much of a difference it would make in our daily lives and in our ability to stay organized and sane. It’s been a game changer, even without a major built-in that we plan to add down the road. Now I get to relive the process of getting to the finish line. #stcmudroom 


wedding planner press

Magical ceremony in an urban Chicago space. Credit: Olivia Leigh Photographie

I have been a wedding planner for over a decade. {Side note: counting things in “decades” rather than simply “years” is a fast way to make you feel old!} I’ve been immersed in the world of events since before my career officially began and I don’t think I would feel like myself if it weren’t such a major part of my life. There was a time when I thought about changing the course of my career path, but ultimately, I love what I do and it has this pull on me. I’ve planned over 150 weddings and I have stories for days. Split a bottle of wine with me and I’ll dish on moments like when the cake table collapsed right as the bride and groom were about to cut the cake!!

Wedding planning can definitely be very demanding, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. Hearing a couple tell you about their dream wedding and then bringing it to life with them is like living in a fairytale. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all glamorous! There are moments of glamour and beauty, but there are also countless hours of grunt work. We are project managers, schleppers, researchers, schmoozers, therapists, troubleshooters, designers, accountants, dream makers and more.

It’s always fun to see the result of months and months of planning in the pages of a glossy or featured by tastemakers online. Several of the weddings I’ve done have been featured in local Chicago bridal magazines and major wedding websites, but for the first time in my career, one of my weddings has been featured in a NATIONAL magazine!! Slide1

Brides national feature – December 2015/January 2016 issue

The December 2015/January 2016 issue of Brides featured a stunning winter wedding that I did last February. I just love this couple and had so much fun planning a day with them that was full of so many breathtaking details!

Hand calligraphed place cards on ribbons, draped across each place setting. Escort cards threaded through satin ribbons and suspended from above, as guests entered the space. Warm, glowy candlelight and magical cherry blossoms created a dreamy urban winter wonderland. Sequin table runners. Lucite ghost chairs. Cut crystal and mercury glass. Playful touches like a slo-mo booth. Thoughtful and fun cuisine, in a true representation of the neighborhood where the wedding took place and that the couple calls home. A food truck, serving artisanal donuts, greeted guests as they entered the after party space. Every little detail was touched by the bride and groom’s vision.

I worked with such a talented team to bring the event to life. HMR Designs, Magnificent Milestones, Olivia Leigh Photographie, Blue Plate Catering, The Party Faithful, Poetic Productions, Morgan MFG, Donut Vault. I really do have my dream job with Bliss and being a wedding planner is so much a part of who I am, that most days, it doesn’t feel like a job at all.

Cherry blossoms transition to stunning tabletop decor for the reception. Credit: Olivia Leigh Photographie

scheduling balance


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Pretty things and organization! I heart Rifle Paper.

I am OBSESSED with my new Rifle Paper Co. calendar that just arrived today! Pretty things that also facilitate organization… I mean! Heart eyes for days (literally days, because we’re talking about a calendar).  I’m sometimes a little too type A for my own good and for the good of the people who have to deal with me… I’m sure the hubs could write his own post on this topic. But, I digress.

Scheduling can be super stressful, so having a great place to keep track of everything is essential. Bonus points for the fact that it’s designed by one of my favorites and the artwork makes me happy. This will hang in the space between our kitchen and our new mudroom (more on that later!) and it will be our base of operations. Though I love my electronic calendar for specific appointments throughout the day, we need something that functions as a basic overview for each day, at a glance. I love this layout because it allows plenty of space for just that.

Is it weird that fresh calendar pages make me happy?? This baby will be full of details in no time.

We take our schedule week by week and it’s constantly changing, so that’s why having this central hub is so important in keeping us sane. There are days I’m in the city, days that I’m working from home, days that my hubby is traveling for work, preschool, doctor’s appointments, etc. You get the idea. Lately, we’ve fallen into a pretty solid system that works for us.

I set my days each week that I’ll be in the city based around when my clients can meet and other events or happenings. Usually this works out to be about 1-2 days per week, but sometimes it’s more. City days require a serious childcare plan. Depending on what my meetings look like, the childcare plan will play out in one of a few ways:

  1. I bring them with me and drop them off with our “city sitter” turned auntie/super close friend. She hangs with the boys while I’m working and then we all rendezvous at the end of the day and find a yummy spot for a family dinner out. This is super fun, but used to be way easier when Henry was flying solo. Now with two kiddos, it’s imperative that we have them changed into their jammies and in the car by 7:00. Theoretically, the baby falls asleep in the car and transfers into his crib and we’re home in time for Henry’s regularly schedule bedtime. So, as fun as this option is, we don’t do it very often because having it all work perfectly is kind of a crap shoot and we’re usually all fried by the end of the day.
  2. My mother-in-law comes over. This is an awesome option, because it gives the boys quality time with their grandma and the obvious… free childcare! But, Nina has 7 grandchildren and we’re not the only ones who think this is a great idea. So, we try to be careful not to ask her to come over too frequently and we certainly don’t want to take advantage.
  3. Our AMAZING nanny! We hit the jackpot through this fall when we met Young Mary Poppins. The boys and I adore her and she is totally comfortable doing preschool drop off and/or pick up if needed. We don’t do a full-time nanny schedule because she’s in grad school and also, we like having the flexibility for me to have days where I’m just solo with the boys or having a grandma or auntie get some quality time with them.

Once a month or so, it works out where the boys are at our house in the burbs and I don’t have an evening meeting or event, so the hubs and I are able to grab dinner and have adult conversation and pretend like we haven’t actually moved 42 miles from the city.

The phrase, no two days are ever the same, has never been more true. It is a constant juggle to make sure we don’t lose our minds and sometimes we do. Just as I think we’ve got the hang of balancing everything, something changes and then we have to find a new system again. For us, the only thing that is constant is change… and the need to stay organized and flexible!

reflections, lessons & appreciation

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NYE Essentials: party hats and noisemakers (including one rather cute noisemaker)
Tonight is New Years Eve and I love this holiday even more, now that I have a legit excuse to stay in my sweatpants and watch the ball drop with a glass of wine on my couch. We’re having friends over with their 3 kiddos, plus our 2 boys, brings us to 5 kids, age 6 and under. So let’s be honest, this party will probably end around 9pm and I’ll be in bed asleep on the couch well before midnight. As I’m setting out the party hats, bubbly, noise makers and glitter (not sure what I’m going to do with the glitter just yet, but glitter is always a good idea, right?), I can’t help but reflect on where we were last year at this time. The very important lesson I learned is that as parents, it is on us to advocate for our children.

It was a year ago that I was at our pediatrician’s office for the 3rd time in as many days. Henry picked up a nasty cold, we believe, from one of the many kiddos at our big family Christmas gathering, and then passed that cold onto everyone in our house, including 5-week-old Graham. I did everything I could to keep them separated in hopes that baby G wouldn’t get sick, but it happened anyway and I was scared. His breathing was labored and he was super congested. Our pediatrician told us Henry and Graham both had really bad colds, so we just needed to let it run its course. I wanted to know what I should be looking for – specific symptoms or signs that would indicate the cold had turned into something more serious in this tiny newborn. Every time I called or brought G in, I was made to feel like I was this overreacting crazy parent who just needed to go home and calm down.

On January 2nd, I pushed my way into yet another appointment with our pediatrician and this time my fears were confirmed. We needed to go to the ER for testing. I asked if we could of to the hospital that was just 15 minutes further away, because they are better equipped to handle children, especially babies. Our doctor assured us that it would be fine and that he just needed to have a few tests done and it would be faster to have them processed in the ER than in his office.

My husband and I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. Just a few tests. But once we got to the ER, we realized that it was a much more serious situation. His pulse-ox was alarmingly low and he needed help fast. What happened next was serious of moments when we should have spoken up and advocated for our child. We should have said “No, this is not acceptable. Stop.” But neither of us did because we were out of our element and afraid. We were doing what we were told, by people who knew better.

The group of young nurses attempting to get an IV into a tiny baby was clearly some kind of practice session. I had to leave the room after they asked my husband to help hold him down. After 20 minutes of failed attempts, they finally called in a specialist, who got it in the first try. It was then confirmed that he needed to be admitted and this hospital didn’t feel like they could offer him the best care, so they were sending us to the hospital we wanted to go to in the first place. After several hours, our baby was being loaded onto an ambulance. The whole thing seemed wrong – they put a 5-week-old on an adult stretcher, with 5 point harness adapter for a toddler. His head was completely unstable and the straps of the harness were up around his neck. We gave some pushback, but we were told we had no choice. They did allow me to take baby blankets from our diaper bag and roll them up to secure all around his little body and head (and to use as a barrier between his neck and the strangulation hazard that they called a harness).

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Our ambulance experience
With the sirens in the background, the EMT proceeded to talk to me about the weather and the inconvenience of having to drive to his cousin’s wedding that weekend. I’m sorry – WHAT? Not a time for small talk. We arrived at the other hospital and the nurses in the PICU immediately asked questions about why this baby was transferred in such a manner and why he had adult leads (that left big welts) instead of the appropriate pediatric leads. The direct quote from the EMT to the nurse was, “Well, we weren’t really set up to handle a baby this small.” The nurse later explained to me that babies of G’s age are supposed to have a specialized team with specialized equipment for their ambulance transfers.

The next 5 days/4 nights at the hospital were grueling, but we have a perfectly healthy one year old today, so I can’t complain. I still feel angry about the whole experience, though. The hospital where G was admitted took absolutely excellent care of him, but I’m angry at myself for not insisting that we go there in the first place. I’m frustrated that my attempt to be a proactive parent was not met receptively by our pediatrician. I’m disappointed that the simple test for RSV wasn’t done on Henry, knowing that it was going around in our area, and then we would have known 5 days earlier what we were dealing with. I don’t doubt that we would have landed in the hospital regardless, but had I trusted my gut, getting there would likely have been a considerably less traumatic experience.

So, a year later I am beyond thankful that we have two healthy children and that all is well. However, that experience was nothing short of a nightmare at the time. Even if it means that you are labeled as an overbearing parent (I’m sure there is a red flag next to my name in the pediatrician’s system!), I strongly feel that we must value our intuition and be advocates for our children. Going into 2016, I look back on these lessons with a renewed sense of respect for my instincts and confidence that when faced with another such moment, I will speak up and not take a back seat when it comes to my children.

Cheers to health, happiness and love in spades in the New Year! xoxo

mother, wife, wedding planner…

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Credit: Apples & Honey Photography

It’s been fun watching how social media has evolved over the years and how it has changed the way that we communicate and connect. For what it is now, I most appreciate how social media can change my perspective or inspire me to look at life through a different lens and to find the beauty in a dull moment.

I guess I’m taking it a step further by jumping into the world of blogging. My vision for this project is that it will fuel the inspiration in my life, while sharing that inspiration and experience with others. We all post the best of our best moments online and it can create a dreamy Instagram feed, but life is not just the highlight reel. Days are full of chaos and life is messy, complicated and beautiful at the same time.

There is plenty of chaos in my world: I am a mama to two sweet and energetic little boys; a wife with a hubby who has a long daily commute and a dry sense of humor; a wedding planner, surrounded by dreams and pretty things; and a homeowner with a 1965 house that’s a work in progress but full of warm and fuzzies.

After almost a decade living in Chicago, my hubs and I took the leap out to the far western suburbs. It’s about an hour from our house to downtown, but we’re constantly working on our balancing act to blend our love of the city and our charming little small town suburb. I’m learning that life is just one big balancing act and it can get overwhelming.

Regardless of how overwhelming it may get, I remind myself to appreciate the sweetness of life, even when it’s chaotic and messy. To find the sweet spot.

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