perspective

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This isn’t the first time I’ve cried for a stranger, but this one hit me hard. Through Instagram, I saw bits of myself, or the version of myself that I aspire to be, in a fellow wedding planner 2000 miles away. Her two littles are the exact same age as mine – 4 and 1. Yesterday, she passed away from the cancer that was diagnosed, as her baby was born, not much more than a year ago. I am heartbroken for a complete stranger and her family. I am shaken to the core. And… I feel a little ridiculous about how I have been impacted by someone I never knew.

It’s no secret that social media is typically a carefully curated and filtered highlight reel that can often gloss over the realities of life. {I am certainly guilty of posting pictures that conveniently crop out the giant pile of laundry that seems to reappear immediately after I get it under control.} There are several people I follow on Instagram and I glance at their photos thinking that their lives really are just one constant highlight reel. Even though I know that’s far from the truth, my mind’s eye tricks me into seeing a perfect photo as a representation of overall perfection, giving me major life goals. In Tori’s feed, that’s exactly what I saw, with the added bonus of seeing slight parallels between us in our careers and children. Until I read about her illness. All of a sudden all of those perfect images that I’ve been re-scrolling through have a different meaning. I think about what she must have been thinking as she held onto her babies, made sure that she was in front of the camera with them, creating something for them to look back on.

When I think about the struggles we all face each day – laundry, stress, money, work, etc. – it all pales in comparison to the struggle of someone fighting to just live. Fighting to be there as their children grow. Fighting for the ability to carpe diem. Our lives are already beautiful, no matter how much they actually line up with the images we post. Even in rubble, there is beauty simply because we woke up today and have breath in our lungs. Right now, I have tears in my eyes for the emotions I’m feeling, joy in my heart for my children, stress for my to do list, a pile of laundry that needs to be folded and a splinter in my foot. It’s just a standard, unremarkable day, but I’m here.

What do I hope to accomplish by writing this? I want to put it out there as a reminder to myself to really live and be in the moment. I want to hold my children so close that my heart might burst. {Because just writing this now it feels like it could burst in the form of tears all over my laptop, so a group hug seems like better use of that feeling!} I want to tell my husband all of the things that he means to me more than I tell him about the things we need to do around the house. I want to make sure that the people I care about know that I love them, even the people that I’ve drifted from. I want to have more adventures, travels, explorations and experiences and not let the weekly monotony envelope me.

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One of the moments that put my life into perspective. Jen Lynne Photography

So, #fortori, I promise to take advantage of the now; to not wait for a more convenient time. I promise to remember, no matter how rattled I might feel or how much coffee I may need, each moment is fleeting. I promise to live each day with purpose and to fill my moments with zest and light.

https://www.gofundme.com/helpingthehendrixs

 

go the **** to sleep

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How did I not know about this giraffe sooner?? We haven’t ever been successful with a formal sleep training program and “cry it out” has never worked for our kiddos – they just escalate and get even more hysterical.

Henry was a not-so-great sleeper until somewhere around 11ish months and then it just clicked. He’s been an amazing sleeper ever since and he regularly goes down with a routine that’s less than 5 minutes long and stays asleep for 11-12 hours. So, with Graham, I committed myself to the idea that it would just click at some point as we got closer to his first birthday. Fast forward 15 months and he was still waking in the middle of the night and never able to get himself back down. Every. Single. Night. That was until about 6 weeks ago when this little magic giraffe arrived. I randomly snagged it during an Amazon haul and OMG. Game changer!!!

You squeeze his belly and he plays classical music for about 20 minutes with a soft glow that lasts about 5 minutes. {I definitely haven’t timed it, so these are just estimates.} It has made going to bed for both naps and night time a breeze, and when he wakes in the middle of the night, he’ll give the giraffe a nudge to start the music and soothe himself back to sleep! {Full disclosure: he still needs a snuggle to get back down every so often, but this is a MAJOR improvement.} Another big change is that he is not consistently waking every night, anymore – he’s staying down for 12 hours more often than not. It might be that it just started to click around the same time we got the giraffe, but the giraffe could also deserve the credit!

I’ve read several sleep books and articles and I know that you’re not supposed to give babies a “sleep crutch.” HOWEVER, when you’re in the trenches of exhaustion and on the brink of insanity, it’s easy to gloss over what you’re supposed to do in lieu of finding something that just works.

What works for us is this formula: binky, blankie, white noise machine on the ocean setting and the giraffe, making sure that we get him down pretty early (6/6:30) so he doesn’t get overtired. And hallelujah, we are now slightly more rested!

Wishing everyone a well-rested weekend!!

xoxo

the other side of the filter: my girls

 

tribeDo you ever look at social media and feel like your life isn’t as pulled together or as beautiful as it should be? I love a pretty Instagram post as much as the next gal, but sometimes I start to look at my surroundings and question myself. I’m sure that I’m guilty of the humble brag and putting perfection-panic inducing material out there, but I think we could all use a little more honesty. With honesty and substance, we build each other up, rather than focusing on a heavily filtered highlight reel, that ultimately makes others feel less than amazing about their own lives.

There are those people in your life who remind you to embrace and appreciate your own imperfections, that those are the things that make you beautifully human. Because perfection really isn’t a thing; it’s just some lofty ideal that no one can ever attain and constantly reaching can be exhausting and sometimes demoralizing. Over the last several years, I have learned to do some filtering of a different kind: I have stepped away from the negative voices and now make a conscious effort to surround myself with people who exude love and support.

I have incredible women in my life and in honor of International Women’s Day this week, they are my highlight reel. These are my people.

 

COLLEAGUES 

The wedding industry is filled with a high percentage of women and I am lucky to work so closely with colleagues whom I have admired for years. Our industry, on a whole, is one of support rather than competition. In a time when it’s still not uncommon hear stories from working mothers who have been discounted in the workplace or have not been able to take a reasonable amount of time after giving birth or adopting, I think that sometimes women can be toughest on each other. In my colleagues, I have found nothing by the strongest of supporters as I navigate the complexity of working motherhood. Through an unshakable camaraderie, they give me strength to tackle challenges, however insurmountable they may seem. They inspire me to have even bigger dreams, to think outside of the box and to set lofty goals. With them, I believe that anything is possible and feel a sense of pride and drive to leave my mark. They are more than just colleagues, they are friends, family.

 

FRIENDS

 

My friends don’t fit into one tight little group and I couldn’t possibly upload photos of all of them, or it would take up this entire post! They are scattered throughout close individual relationships and a few different clusters. Some I have known since childhood, others I have only just recently met and some I used to rely on heavily as mentors and now count as friends. There seems to be an ebb and flow with friendships and you may go months or even years without connecting, but you can still pick up just where you left off. My friends are moms, students, teachers, scientists, designers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, marketers, musicians, artists, foodies, yogis and more. Some of them can check many of these boxes all at the same time! As different as they all are, they carry similar qualities and have had a profound impact on my life. They are therapists {well, only one is technically a therapist!} and they always seem to know the right thing to say to help pull me out of a rut. They are confidants and keepers of my embarrassing moments, my heartbreaks and my insecurities. They inspire me to make the world better and they shape the way I parent. They love me as I am, which helps me love myself. Friends are the family you choose.

 

SISTERS

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I grew up with one younger sister – just the two of us. Marrying my husband gave me two more sisters, and for all intents and purposes, another sister who is technically a cousin. There’s something about growing up with a sister that holds a steadfast bond, even if the tides take you in different directions. You may have memories of intense conflict over stealing borrowing clothing, but right next to those memories are ones of inside jokes and sidesplitting laughter. Your sisters are there for you when you need them and in an instant, they’ll swoop in with a meal or help take care of your kiddos. You are connected to your sisters in a special way; your heartbreaks are their heartbreaks and your joy is their joy. Your history is shared and your lives are intertwined. Sisters are all about honesty, even if the honesty is brutal, you’re stuck with each other!

 

MOTHERS 

Mothers are everything. They are support systems, cheerleaders, confidants, advice givers, hand holders and beyond. I have three of these special ladies in my life: my mother-in-law, my stepmom, and of course, the incomparable original. My mother-in-law is the whole village in the phrase, it takes a village. Living nearby, she is a constant presence taking care of my children and taking care of our family in general. I would not have gotten through my last pregnancy and 12 weeks of bed rest without her. She is truly an extension of our parenting system. Now, stepmom is a word I only recently started using and I think it’s one that she’s only recently been comfortable hearing and using herself. But over the last ten years since they’ve been married, she has become so much more than just someone who makes my dad happy. She is my friend, my foodie resource and a mentor. It’s hard to find the right words to describe it, but she occupies a space in my heart that didn’t feel empty before, but now feels complete.

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And then there’s my mom. Where do I begin? How do I put into words what my mom is to me. My mom is my best friend. We talk multiple times a day and she is my go-to for just about any question I might have. I have a respect for her that cannot be matched, even when both of our strong-willed personalities butt heads. She has walked a path that was far from easy: as a woman working in a scientific field rampant with misogyny, a single mother jumping through fire for her daughters, a woman with an open heart and mind challenging those with closed minds, just trying to make a difference. She loves my children as if they are her own and spoils them like any good grandparent would do! She has set a lifelong example of the importance of character and compassion. Though we are very different in many ways, she has influenced me beyond measure.

The women in my life have all impacted the woman that I am and hope to be. It’s so important to build each other up because we women are fierce and we can move mountains together. When we support each other and drop the pretense, we are ultimately making our own lives richer.

xoxo

surround yourself

uncomfortable issues: bias, privilege & quiet racism

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Privilege does NOT mean that you haven’t had to work hard to get where you are or that it’s been an easy road. It also doesn’t mean that you are racist. Via.

This isn’t a direction that I pictured taking my blog, but there has been something weighing heavily for me lately and I feel like I need to write about it.

I think Chris Rock made an excellent point in his opening monologue at The Academy Awards, that I can relate to my own environment: Hollywood isn’t “burning-cross racist” or “fetch-me-some-lemonade racist” and neither is my world. But passive, marginalizing comments are too frequent. There are lots of marginalized people, but what I have seen in my news feed lately and the casual statements I’ve heard are specifically toward African-Americans. I’ve seen Facebook debates over the “offensiveness” of Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance; debates over the validity of the #blacklivesmatter movement; debates over the second consecutive Oscar whiteout; debates over whether or not we are living in a post-racial world. The fact that these debates are taking place at all illustrates that we are most definitely not living in post-racial society. 

All of this has me thinking a lot about the types of things that will influence my two young kiddos. I can’t handle the idea of them growing up to become adults who perpetuate this status quo. As a parent to two white boys, how do I begin to make sure that they are raised in a mindful way? Mindful of their inherent privilege and the dynamics within our society and history. Mindful so that they can be part of change. This keeps me up at night. I find myself bringing this issue up in conversation a lot lately. I don’t know why I keep broaching a subject that makes people so uncomfortable, but I think it’s because I’m searching for the light in a dark room.

The reality of inequality, privilege, bias and prejudice is an uncomfortable reality for my fellow white folks. The way I see it, there are two ways that we can process that discomfort: 1. We can pretend the issue is not there because it doesn’t have a direct negative impact on our lives. OR 2. We can acknowledge it and be part of the change. As ugly as a truth as it is, if we default to choice #1 then we are part of the problem. Choice #1 just perpetuates the situation, but it’s the easy choice; it doesn’t ruffle any feathers. As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ll hit the publish button for that very reason.

Upworthy posted an great piece regarding two sets of white girls who were given black dolls. The original video that spawned the article is quite disturbing and eye opening about just how early children pick up on racial bias and unfortunately, I’ve seen it first hand. These children will grow up to be adults that will perpetuate these issues and this type of climate we’re living in now. A mom and blogger with Rage Against The Minivan also posted a response video to the original, featuring her two daughters and their dolls. The fallout is heartbreaking.

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Me with my bestie, Harmony Anna, posing for our formal Olin Mills family photos. This picture has been the cause of many a snicker over the years. Apparently it’s hilarious that my favorite doll was not white.

I know a little girl who was in a store and picked out a doll, a black doll, and an adult with her put the doll back on the shelf and replaced it with a white one. A few years later, that same little girl was playing a game of Guess Who and she commented on not liking any of the “brown faces.” This story shatters me. My oldest little guy is at the age where he is picking up on everything, even nuance, and I know that these observations will shape the person he grows into. It’s our job, as parents, to be aware of any kind of influence in our children’s environment, especially our own influence of modeling behavior. I want my sons to be the type of people who will stick up for the kid being bullied at school or fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own.

I believe people tend to approach things with negativity when it’s something they don’t understand or can’t relate to. So, if the latest from Beyoncé and her dancers makes you feel offended or uncomfortable, shouldn’t you consider WHY you are offended and uncomfortable? Is it possible that she is acknowledging a societal reality that has not impacted you a negative way, so it’s just not a reality that you can imagine? Is it because when faced with these realities, we white people, have to think about how the structure of society has benefitted us? It’s uncomfortable. It’s icky. But it’s also just fact. I’ve learned that there is still a lot of confusion about our nation’s history and questions about why racial tension is still a talking point.

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Putting things into perspective.

I heard a great explanation of the #blacklivesmatter movement, in relation to people responding with #alllivesmatter. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t saying that black lives are more important than any other lives, it is just calling attention to a specific issue; much like going to a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. Responding with all lives matter would be like going to that breast cancer event and proclaiming that all cancer matters. That would be ridiculous. This movement doesn’t diminish white lives or Asian lives or Hispanic lives. It is just calling attention to a very specific plight of a group of our fellow citizens who continue to be marginalized, treated unfairly and even killed.

Regarding the Academy Awards: A few friends have mentioned confusion at the dust storm surrounding the whiteout. More than one friend stated that the roles are just not there, to which I suggested this read that points out notable times the roles have been there and have still gone to white actors. The Economist noted that a “statistical glitch” leading to a whiteout would be “hugely unlikely.”

“The chances of no single person of colour being nominated across two ceremonies would be exceptionally small—even during a 15-year span, the odds of seeing at least one sequence of back-to-back whiteouts are around one in 100,000.”

– The Economist

 

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It’s easy to look the other way, but once you start paying attention, it becomes a screaming chorus of disturbing beliefs and comments. You might not see burning crosses, but even just hearing the words THEY and THEM is unsettling, as though anything other is unsavory.

I’m certainly not an expert in this subject and I don’t have a solution. I have more questions than answers, but I think that acknowledging the issue(s) and not being okay with the status quo is a good start. I just want to do right by others and most importantly, do right by my children. I want to raise them to be the light in a dark room.

 

 

Good Reads:

Chicago Now: Talking about race with young children

Do Something: Important facts

Rage Against The Minivan: White privilege

More Rage Against The Minivan: 7 action steps

 

 

when are you going to try for a girl??

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My little men.

Thank you for your interest, clerk at the grocery store/lady behind me in line at Target/valet attendant/schmoozer at an event/friend, but why is this still a question people ask?? I am a #boymom and for some reason, the most common question launched my direction is if I want a girl or when are we going to try for a girl. I don’t even know where to begin with this. One of my friends and fellow boy mom, told me about an acquaintance who asked, “What? You didn’t want a girl?” To which, she responded, “Oh! I didn’t know you could choose!” Brilliant.

When I was pregnant with my second baby boy, I just looooooved the people who responded to the news in disappointment. I mean, I was still pregnant and there was a clear pattern of audible let down from would-be-well-wishers. 

IF my husband and I decide to have another baby it would be only because we want a bigger family and not because we are holding out hope for a girl. My last pregnancy was a bit rough, complete with 12 weeks of bed rest. As much as we would love to have a big chaotic family buzzing around the house and though we have envisioned having three children for years, I don’t know if I’m ready to sign up for another tricky pregnancy again. Pregnancy issues aside, the years of the littles are tough and we are in the thick of it. We’re finally starting to feel slightly less sleep deprived and that we have a good system going, but some days we still feel like we’re barely treading water. If we were to add another baby to the mix, would we be ready? So, if we do go down the road of trying to have a third, it will be a well thought out decision and NOT a whim for the possibility of having a girl. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dreamed about being a mom. I even made a book of my future family, by cutting out pictures from catalogs and then writing a story of my life as an adult. {I would have a daughter named Stephani – HELLO 90’s! – and then I’d get divorced and remarried and have twins, Molly and Peter. AHMAZING!} Truth be told, I have always pictured having a daughter. I grew up with just one sister, my cousins are mostly girls and my mom is one of four sisters – women rule the roost in our family, so I hadn’t ever pictured not having a daughter. But, my motherhood reality is that I have two sons; two loving, snuggly, funny, happy, healthy BOYS and my heart is full.

After over a year of struggling to get and stay pregnant, learning that my first baby was a boy was neither here nor there. We were just thrilled to have a healthy pregnancy. Following a miscarriage, we had that same feeling of gratitude when we found out that there was another healthy baby boy on the way. This time there was also a sense of understanding that we are officially a boy family and I am a boy mom. There has definitely been a process of letting go of the idea of having a frizzy-haired mini-me, running across a ballet studio, but in no way have I ever felt disappointment. Sure, it would be great to have the experience raising “one of each” but at the end of the day, for us, that’s not a reason to have more kids. Even if we do try for another, who’s to say it wouldn’t be a third boy? If a third baby happens, I can guarantee you that it would be because we want another child. 

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Frizzy-haired me, running across a ballet studio; circa mid-80’s.

So, back to the question at hand: how are these types of inquiries and comments still a thing? Don’t we all know better? Maybe that boy mom isn’t pining for a daughter and she is just happy to be a mom, period. But maybe she is still holding out hope for a daughter and your comment is salt in the wound because it’s not something she can control. Or perhaps that mama has lost a daughter. I just recently learned that a family we know with three boys, actually had a girl first who passed away as a baby. At the very least, the “you need to try for a girl!” comments are silly and uninformed. At their worst, they are hurtful.

Some days our family feels complete and perfect just the way it is. Some days we daydream about having another little one. {Usually those are the days when the kiddos are remarkably well-behaved and we are well-rested!} When thinking about my dreams for our family, I think about the closing scene in the tv show, Parenthood. Zeek and Camille take a step back, looking at their four grown children and grandchildren, all interacting with each other, in a sea of voices and commotion and they say to each other, “We did good.” I want that. So whether the “we did good” feeling comes from having two boys or a bigger family, it certainly isn’t continent upon having a daughter. I just want a family full of love and I feel beyond thankful to have two little boys that fill my heart with joy. 

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I couldn’t ask for more.

kindness

 

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Yesterday, I turned 35. I used to make a huge deal about my day, but somewhere along the line, I stopped feeling that special birthday buzz. Not sure if it was the February weather in Chicago that diminished the sparkle or if it was just adulthood. This year, I made a point of making a bigger deal out of it, for the first time since my 30th. In the last several days, I’ve had dinners with friends, brunch with more friends, spa time and date night with the hubs. Actually, he was the one who helped me to stop feeling guilty about taking time for myself this year.

I’ve been making a conscious decision to stop feeling guilty about a lot of things lately, as you may have noticed from a few previous posts. In honor of my birthday, I am taking the opportunity to make another change.

I am going to be kind to myself.

There are lots of ways that we can be less than lovely to ourselves with our internal monologue. I usually tend to pick on the fact that I am not always usually the fully put together version of myself that I want everyone to think I am. I know this is completely ridiculous. Life is short and there is a lot of unkindness in the world, so why am I wasting time, even if it’s only 30 seconds, being unkind to myself? Enough. I am going to hold myself accountable by putting it out there.

Baby Weight. Looking at myself during pregnancy, I had so much respect for my body and what it was doing. Why do I feel disdain for that same body after my babies are born? Those 10ish extra pounds are still with me a year later… I need to remember that they are there because I grew life and then continued breastfeeding each of my little guys for over a year. {Anyone else have a body that doesn’t abide by the adage that breastfeeding is the best way to lose baby weight?!} It’s frustrating that most of my clothes don’t fit at the moment, but I don’t need to hate on myself because of it.

My C-Section Scar. That scar is a symbol of a baby who was born safely. I couldn’t look at it for several weeks afterwards and when I finally did, I felt straight up maimed over the next few months. I’m used to it now, but I definitely need to work on feeling respectful toward that scar. I should respect it as a part of me and something that facilitated the safe arrival of my youngest, in the same way that I respected my pregnancies.

Perfection. I’ve been followed by feelings of inadequacy since I was a kid – early elementary school. As an adult, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be perfect, as a way of compensating. I didn’t have the perfect childhood or adolescence, but who does… other than my husband, The Beave?? I sometimes I feel like I need to make up for those insecurities by having a photo-ready existence. The reality is that things are usually far from photo-ready and that is OKAY.

I’ve said for a while that I think it’s important to be authentic, in the spirit of following your heart and your gut, to live a meaningful life. But how can you really have authenticity if you aren’t embracing the things that make you you, but instead striving for something unrealistic? So, I need to stop being critical of myself and replace that criticism with the same kindness and love that I extend to the people around me. I need to cut myself some slack. I need to respect my scars.

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.

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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.

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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?}

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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…

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.