Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fabulous Fun in a Flower Pot

Ellie doesn't really like cake. She is an ice cream girl. We've done ice cream birthday cakes before so I wanted to go a different route for her birthday dessert this year.

I randomly came across a post about ice cream flower pots on The Pioneer Woman's website. I felt inspired. I knew that Ellie would love this playful dessert. And she did -- especially the gummy worms hidden deep beneath the "dirt." And who wouldn't love mint chocolate chip ice cream buried beneath a layer of crushed Oreo cookies? Honestly, who could resist it? Not you, I bet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Let's (re)do Lunch in the April issue of Mindful Metropolis

I wrote a story for the April issue of Mindful Metropolis about the efforts of local non-profit groups to make some serious (and seriously needed) change to the food choices available to Chicago kids. If you are interested in these kinds of things, you can have a read here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What She Had to Say on Her Sixth Birthday

Six? Really? Six whole years-old? I don't want it to be true! But she insists on getting bigger and bigger every day so I guess I'll have to learn to deal with it.

We have lots of big plans for our beautiful six year-old birthday princess today. I'll be back to report on all of the festivities later.

On the occasion of her big day, here is Ellie's "birthday interview" -- take two. I stole this idea from another blogger and I think that it is a great way to capture kids just as they are right now. I encourage you to steal this idea from me.

Here is what Ellie had to say on her 6th birthday:


cereal- Mighty Bites

vegetable- broccoli

drink- water and juice

toy- my Strawberry Shortcake doll

TV Show- Dragon Tales

game- Candyland

book- My Princess ABC's

dinner – mommy's homemade mac and cheese

lunch – peanut butter and jelly or noodles

breakfast - waffles

holiday- Easter

animal – flamingo

doll – "Rosie Violet"

color – pink

thing to do at school – recess and "the dramatic play center"

sport – ice skating and swimming

What do you want for your birthday? "A book that I can read -- an easy one, but not like a super easy one -- some hard words but with ones that I can mostly read."

If you could change your name, what would you choose? Lily

What do you love about each person in our family?

Daddy – I like that he is a good Daddy

Mommy – I like that you are a good Mom

Brendan – That he likes sports and he watches me do stuff

Colin – I like that he is cute and funny

Where would you like to go on vacation this year? Pittsburgh to see Grandma

What are some of your wishes for this year? I wish I had a kangaroo key chain. I also want to learn what else there can be in the world.

What makes you happy? Sometimes I sit in my bed and talk to myself.

What makes you sad? When I lose something.

How old is your Mom? 33

How tall is your Mom? 20 feet tall

What is her favorite thing to do? Take care of us.

What does Dad do for a job? Work to help our family.

What is your mom's favorite food? Salad.

What is Dad’s favorite food? Fish.

What does our family like to do together? Eat together.

What going to be when you grow up? A lot of stuff -- I should write it down because I can't remember it all. A ballet teacher, a teacher, a professional dancer.

Who are you going to marry? Maybe one of my friends from school. I used to want to marry Finn but now I think I should marry someone that I don't know. Or maybe someone from my preschool class.

Anything else you want to talk about? Having a good family and being able to help you and Dad. And being able to make my brothers feel happy. And sharing. And being able to give stuff a try -- like when we went to the hungry caterpillar puppet show. This year I am going to be able to write and read a lot of stuff. And I am going to be nice to my brother and anyone else I know.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Whole Gaggle of Blogging Mamas

Last weekend, I attended an event hosted by the Silicon Valley Moms Group at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. I've been a contributor at the Chicago Moms Blog for about two-and-a-half years but I only actually know a handful of the other contributors in real life. This swanky event was a chance to catch up with some familiar faces like Sara, Alma, Serena, and Cindy and also chat with some of my newer blogging buddies like Meredith, Lisa A., Lisa H. and Emily.

While we mingled and munched on made-to-order stir fry, we had a chance to learn more about the event's sponsors. I especially loved chatting with the Chicago-based businesses like Garrett's Popcorn (which I had never had before -- and boy was I missing out) and The Oprah Store (which has kindly invited me for afternoon tea next month).

The event also featured some very cool charitable projects: Army of Women (a campaign to sign up over 1 million women who would consider participating in breast cancer research) and Chevy Missions (a project that provides Chevy vehicles to non-profits and individuals who want to do service projects in their communities).

Like all attendees, I walked out of this event with an armful of complimentary products from each of the generous sponsors. I learned more about some brands that I was already familiar with (like my beloved Peapod grocery delivery service and the amazing Stoneyfield Organic) and was also pleasantly surprised by a few brands that I didn't know much about (like 1-800 Baskets and iGo Green).

But mostly, I was glad to have a chance to hang out with other Chicago women who write and blog. I think of these people as my "colleagues" and it is nice to check in face-to-face once in awhile -- even better when we get to do it over wine and cupcakes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Green Guide Families

I find that reference books are pretty handy things to have around. For example, when I am not sure what product I should use to make my stainless steel sink shine, I consult with Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook.

Similarly, when I am wondering whether there are natural remedies that could rid my son of his chronic runny nose, I take a peek at Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child.

And now I have a new book to add to the ol' reference library -- Green Guide Families: The Complete Reference For Eco-friendly Parents by Catherine Zandonella.

This book really is a comprehensive reference when is comes to "green" parenting issues. Rather than sitting down to read it from cover-to-cover, I began by reading the entire table of contents and then I dug deeper into the chapters that really interested me.

I especially liked the advice on how to raise a child who cares about the well-being of other people and our planet in Chapter 5 and the words of warning about toxins in every-day products found in Chapters 1 and 6. I was also impressed by the creative ideas for "greening" birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and family vacations.

Green Guide Families manages to provide a ton of helpful information -- but without judgment or condescension. As someone who is responsible for the well-being of three small people, I am always looking for information on how to live a more sustainable life. But I also don't want to feel ashamed of the fact that I drive an SUV or plan on using Cubs paper plates at my son's upcoming birthday party.

I think that Green Guide Families is a great addition to our family reference shelf. Want to take a look and see if this book is something that would be helpful for your family? I am happy to lend out my copy. Just leave a comment on this post or email me at ahenandtwochicks@gmail and I will send it your way.

*As a contributor to the Chicago Moms Blog and a member of the SVMoms Book Club, I was provided with a free copy of Green Guide Families.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Me in the April issue of Chicago Parent (x3)

I wrote 3 stories for this month's Chicago Parent.

First, I wrote about practical tips for raising a lefty. My Dad was a lefty. I am a lefty. Brendan is also left-handed. My Dad always made me feel like being left-handed was special. I am working hard to send my Brendan that same lefty propagandist messages. I thought I would start by writing this story in his (and my Dad's) honor.

I also wrote a piece about the online interactive resources offered by many Chicago-area museums. Can't make it to the Art Institute with the kiddos this month? Check out the site Curious Corner where kids can still have a hands-on learning experience.

And for my craft column, we made spring greeting cards that you can plant. We embedded wildflower seeds into paper note cards. The recipient can plant the card and watch the seeds grow. Perfect for Mother's Day gifts, don't you think?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Fabulous Life of Fifteen-Month-Old Colin

Aside from the fact that he seems to catch every single bug that his big brother and sister bring home from school, this little man has it pretty good.

He loves his blankie, looking for dogs, the constant entertainment provided by Eleanor and Brendan, and "coloring" at the table in his Stokke chair like a big kid.

He is generous with hugs and (wet, wet, sometimes with a little bite) kisses.

He spends the majority of his waking hours banging on the back door saying "Out. Out. Out." in an effort to get someone to take him to the backyard and pull him around in the wagon.

He says: Dadd-ee!, out, Ellie, Mommommom, dawg (dog), orse (horse), didi (bird), rain, bub (bubbles), ooose (shoes), ish (the cheddar-flavored kind) and ball.

He nods his head "yes" or "no" so emphatically in response to questions that he sometimes knocks himself over.

He loves to jump up and down.

He eats an entire avocado almost every day. And he loves breakfast sausage (he is a boy, after all). Other than that, things are pretty finicky in the food department.

He'll happily show you his head, toes and big belly.

When he walks, he sways side-to-side and swings his arms like he is hearing music in his head.

He is obsessed with toothbrushes (and is amazing good at sneaking into bathrooms to steal them when the door is even slightly ajar).

He is teaching himself to play t-ball (seriously -- he gets the ball, puts it on the tee and tries to lift the bat and swing at it.)

When he waves hello or goodbye, his moves his wrist up and down in the cutest flapping motion.

And he is always up for a good game of peek-a-boo.

A fabulous fifteen-month-old indeed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Better Afterschool

When I was growing up, my afterschool experience was pretty idyllic.

When the school day ended, I walked the block-and-a-half home with a group of neighborhood kids. My stay-at-home Mom and baby sister were usually on the front lawn waiting for me and my brother. Sometimes my Mom would have homemade cookies for all the kids who strolled by. Our door was always open to any neighborhood kid to had to make a bathroom stop or needed a band aid for a scraped knee.

After the requisite "how was your day?" exchanges, we would throw down our backpacks, grab a snack, and head back outside for an impromptu game of kick-the-can or some serious backyard fort-building. Parents didn't stand by and supervise -- we just played.

Some days, I had a piano lesson, soccer practice, or an arranged play date -- but most days, the time between school and dinner was spent hanging outside with other kids who lived on my block. Eventually, my Mom would call for us to come in for dinner and the good times would come to an end -- until the next day when the exact same scenario would take place.

I certainly recognize how lucky I was to have this kind of carefree time as a kid. My afterschool experience is far from typical -- especially for kids growing up now.

For many kids, the hours between school and dinner are not always a happy or productive time. For some, this time is spent alone because parents are at work. Other kids plop down on the couch for a few hours of television or video games. For other kids, this time is spent plowing through the mounds of homework they receive each day.

One thing seems clear from all of these different scenarios -- afterschool can be a better experience for our kids. Kids should use this time to run, play, breathe fresh air, learn about music, make an art project or practice their tennis serves. Afterschool should be fun -- and that isn't the case for every kid.

The Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks Program is partnering with the Afterschool Alliance to provide school-aged children with opportunities to learn and grow through affordable, quality afterschool programs. To help raised awareness for this campaign, Quaker has joined with Miranda Cosgrove of Nickelodeon's iCarly. Parents can enter into the Quaker Chewy Afterschool Rocks sweepstakes to win a private performance by Miranda Cosgrove (can you hear tween girls everywhere squealing at just the thought of it?). Mamas and papas can enter to win once a day through April 16, 2010 at

Plus, every day you have the chance to win a 10-count box of Quaker Chewy Bars. Head on over to the website to check out all of the details. While you are there, be sure to check out the information on how you can get your kids involved in afterschool programs in your area.

In the spirit of inspiring afterschool fun, Quaker sent me an Afterschool Kit -- complete with Quaker Chewy Bars, an itunes gift card, a journal, and a box of perfectly-sharpened colored pencils (love that). Sound like something your kids would like? You are in luck because Quaker gave me an extra Afterschool Kit to give away to one of my readers. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post (be sure to include your contact info) by midnight CST on Monday, April 12th.

Good luck and happy playing!

The full disclosure part: I was compensated for writing this post about the Quaker Afterschool Rocks program. I also received an Afterschool Kit to keep and one to give away to my readers. Quaker did not tell me that I should write about my memories of my Mom standing on the front lawn with homemade cookies -- that part is all me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The new little lady in my life

Meet Olivia Maeve -- the beautiful daughter of my beautiful sister.
She made her world debut on April 3rd.
We are ecstatic to have her here.