Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

As I sit here writing this, I realize how much things have changed since the movie “Holiday Inn” when Bing Crosby sat at his piano crooning about his dreams for a White Christmas.

As I write this, my daughter is “talking” at the top of her lungs about going to Build A Bear Workshop and well, at least I have good old Bing playing on iTunes…that is until Maddie demands I put on “The Teddy Song” and it isn’t in honor of our trip to build her a bear, rather a song by the girl who plays Teddy on Good Luck Charlie (you have to watch Disney Channel on a regular basis to get this reference.)

Yes, the Holidays certainly have changed, but I guess that image I have was just a movie, and for all we know Bing went and drank a fifth of scotch and smoked a pipe after that scene was shot.  Either way, he helped create one of the fondest memories of Christmas that I carry on with me to this day.

See, I grew with my grandparents and a mom who plopped me in front of MGM musicals instead of Sesame Street.  My all time favorite movie is "Singin’ in the Rain" and really anything with Gene Kelly. My favorite Christmas album is Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gourmet’s “Happy Holiday.”  One year Tom spent an entire day hunting down the “Meet Me In St. Louis” DVD because I am a sucker for Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I’ll be the first to admit, I am a total nerd.

For me these movies and their music represent one of the best parts of my childhood, my grandfather.  As I’ve said before, had he been discovered he would have given any member of the Rat Pack a run for their money.  He could sing, he could dance and had one of the best senses of humor I’ve ever come across.  I’d like to think he helped develop my quick wit. 

When it came to Christmas, he was Clark Griswold before there was a Clark Griswold, but used much better judgment and better taste when it came to Holiday d├ęcor.  Of course, sine he was such a perfectionist, decorating had some very specific rules.

  1. Not a single Chrismas decoration was put up until at least December 18th. (I realize now that probably also had a lot to do with frugality, another one of his fine qualities.)
  2. We could not take down the decorations until Little Christmas (The Epiphany) on January 6th.  That also meant we could not put the Wiseman at the manger scene until this date since the Epiphany celebrated their arrival at the manger and when they gave baby Jesus the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  3. Our Christmas tree always had the same ornaments, gold balls (small, medium and large), gold teardrop ornaments, and crystal ornaments.  If they weren’t part of this collection, they didn’t belong on the tree.  If they weren’t gold or crystal, they didn’t belong on the tree. If they were handmade, they ABSOLUTELY did not belong on the tree.
  4. Only white twinkle lights were allowed.
  5. Only gold garland and it had to be perfectly measured distance between each row. (Yes, he and my mom would pull out yardstick to measure to make sure)

Despite these strict rules, it was fun and exciting.  There was holly, Santas and Poinsettias everywhere and there were candy canes on every lampshade. As we got older and liked to play tricks on my grandpa and we would try to sneak red ornaments, candy canes or clothespin reindeers on the tree to see if he would notice.  He ALWAYS did.  We had another Christmas tree in the basement that was for “kid” ornaments.

My freshman year of college, I told my grandpa that I wanted to come home for Christmas break and have the house all decorated, like a Folgers coffee commercial.  Of course, I was getting home before December 18, so I pretty much assumed rather than having it already decorated, I would be holding a yardstick up to the tree to measure garland.  My grandpa was the one who happened to pick me up from school and when I got down to the car, he was actually asleep.  He was not the type of person to fall asleep in a parked car…that was my dad’s M.O.  I knocked on his window and startled him.  He seemed a little embarrassed that I had caught him taking a short winter’s nap.  I got in the car and half-joked about his sleepiness and he explained that he had been up late finishing the Christmas decorations.  That was my Pa.  I still think that part of his efforts were really to create a distraction from my grandmother's erratic behavior especially during the Holiday's, but that is a whole other story.

Of course, despite all his best efforts, Christmas was always a little bit more “blue” than “silver and gold” for me.  I guess the first reason would be that we were the kids who got apples and oranges in their stockings and not because my mom was a health-nut.  Socks and underwear were considered “gifts” and thanks to my middle brother, Mark, I stopped believing in Santa at the ripe old age of four.  I’ll never forget that fateful day in Jewel when I innocently asked my mom how many more days until Santa came.  My brother had just turned nine and promptly said, “There’s no Santa, STUPID!”  I was confused, devastated, but ultimately found his cruel words were a reality when we found all of our Christmas gifts hidden in a wheelbarrow covered with a blanket the next week.

Then there was the fact that I was fully aware at an early age that we had no money.  At first I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to live with your grandparents.  I didn’t realize that most dads worked, unlike mine.  Once I started school and saw how other “normal” families functioned and heard the long lists of gifts my friends at school had gotten, I realized we were far from “normal.”

Based on this information, I also knew that when our car broke down without fail every November or December, that that meant that there was likely limited funds available for “Santa” (a.k.a. my single mom who worked her ass off to provide for us.)  I knew when my mom was wrapping our presents and could sense her stress with each piece of scotch tape she used to secure the wrapping paper.  Despite all her efforts, she never got Christmas presents.  Even before my parents divorced when I was ten, she didn’t get pearl earrings or diamond necklaces from my dad.  She didn’t even get a box of chocolates.  I remember being really young and feeling bad for my mom so I found a little jewelry box and put a penny, a piece of yarn that I placed in a swirl, a Hershey Kiss and some other “trinkets.”  That was all I had to give to her and knew it wasn’t the “best gift ever,” but I felt the need to give her something.  I don’t know if she remembers that, appreciated it or knew how sincere my intent was, but perhaps now she will.

As the years wore on, I learned that beyond my family’s stress around the Holiday’s, I grew into my seasonal depression and eventually learned how lonely the Holiday’s can be when you are chronically single.  I longed for those romantic Christmases under the mistletoe, fun-filled New Year’s with fancy dresses, champagne and kissing the man of my dreams at midnight. (betcha didn’t know I am a closet romantic?)  But those were non-existent and I spent many years favoring Sarah McLachlan “Song For A Winter’s Night” and Faith Hill’s “Where Are You Christmas” over “Sleigh Ride!”

Fast-forward several years and now I have my own Holiday magic.  Let’s start with Tom.  They say you marry a man like your father and since that would be a monumentally bad idea, I chose the next best thing, someone like my grandpa.  Tom has the same zeal when it comes to Christmas and enjoys putting snowmen and Santas on every flat surface.  He even bought a 6-foot Santa one year.  Since we have outgrown our house, our giant Santa now lives at grandma and grandpa’s house.  As much as I am sure the kids would enjoy having him around, I always had a mini-heart attach when I came down the stairs because I thought there was a man standing in my family room.  Tom also LOVES winter and even went so far as to build a hockey rink in our backyard this year.  I only approved this idea because my grandpa use to freeze the yard when my mom was a kid and well as when we were kids.

Tom looks at Christmas the eyes of a child. (I won’t mention the various other things he also sees through the eyes of a child…)  Second, he made all my romantic Holiday movie dreams come true by proposing to me three days before Christmas.  We went downtown to the Art Institute and he proposed in the Stock Exchange Room.  We had some history with that room from the first time we dated several years prior and went to the Art Institute on a date.  We never managed to find the room that time. 

Now that we have children, Christmas has a whole new meaning.  If you ever want to shift your perspective on Christmas and what it is all about, have kids.  It is fun to get excited along with them and make all their Christmas wishes come true.  I have gone from being the Grinch to Santa.  I even sprint downstairs first thing in the morning to make sure our Elf on the Shelf is hidden when I forget.  I don’t dare do anything to shatter their fragile imaginations.  I sit at Maddie’s Holiday recital and cry at her rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” complete with hand gestures and clapping 3-beats off everyone else.

However, I also find the biggest challenge is to make sure we don’t over-do it on Christmas. I cringe every time they see a commercial during the weeks leading up to Christmas for all the latest games and toys.  If I had a penny for each time I here, “Oh, MOM!  Can I have that please??? Pretty please!!!??” I could pay for all the things they are asking for.   I want to give them the world, but have to hold back.  While we do make sure that we get the kids nice gifts, I have been very adamant about teaching the kids about giving to others, especially to those in need.  I’ll have to admit, it has been tricky incorporating Santa into the whole concept, since in their mind’s Santa visits all the houses of all the boys and girls.  So we simplified it and said that since the people we are giving to are so poor, they don’t have homes for Santa to go to.  It seemed much easier than telling her that there is no such thing as Santa and discussing various socio-economic statuses.

I decided to give up on doing goody bags for the kids to bring to school because that seems to be the “norm” in preschool.  See article I wrote for Kane County Magazine. I started with donating to UNICEF for Halloween and did a donation to Toys for Tots for Christmas.  I also made sure I explained, at least to Maddie who understands, what I did.  I made a cutout of a Christmas stocking and put one Candy Cane on it with a note saying that our family made a donation on behalf of the class.  This way, the kids still get to bring a treat and I put the money I would spend on useless toys and candy they don’t need and put it towards a good cause.

I have had several conversations with Maddie about why we donate money, clothes and food to the poor.  I’ve explained the giving tree at church and why her teacher asks that instead of giving her a gift at Christmas that we bring an unwrapped gift for her to donate.  I explained that some people don’t have money and have given examples of why. I explained that many kids don’t have lots of toys like they do.  That some kids don’t get to go to Target and pick things out at random, even from the dollar bin.   I told her that some kids don’t even have food or clothes and we need to help them out.  I even briefly explained to her at one point that I didn’t have money when I was a kid.  I explained that I lived with my grandparents because we couldn’t afford our own home. 

After a trip to Target this week to get the toys for Maddie to bring to her teacher, we were talking about what charity we should donate to for her class.  We decided on Toys for Tots.  She was quiet for a few minutes and then said, “Well, mom, you were poor when you were little, right?” 

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, did people have to donate to you and your family so you could have toys?”

“Well, Maddie, luckily I had grandparents who made sure I had presents under the tree at Christmas.”  At that point, I sat right there in the turn lane and cried.  I pulled myself together enough to add, “GiGi and Pa were my angels even before they went to heaven.”

If not for my mom working her ass off for us, my grandparents and other family members there to support us, we so very easily could have been on the receiving end of the “Giving Tree” at church.  We could have been the ones in line at the food pantry collecting food that other families donated.  While I don’t want to weigh my young kids with “the heavy stuff” too early in life, I think it is never too young to teach them about gratitude and giving, especially to those less fortunate.  I never want to have my kids carry the weight of the world on their shoulders as I did growing up, but I don’t ever want them to take what they have for granted either.  I don’t want to hide where I came from, but don’t want to pull the old “when I was your age I use to walk to school with shoes with holes and no socks in the snow and freezing weather, uphill, backwards and then ate grizzle for dinner.”  That wasn’t how it was at all.  I took the bus.

All kidding aside, my real message is that one that my mom taught me a long time ago and helps me avoid getting caught up in “the material things” and ensures that I always remember those in need, “There is always someone better off, and always someone worse off than us.  There’s no use worrying about who has what.”  My other message is what my family taught me and that is you never turn a blind-eye to those in need. 

Of course we can't ignore teaching our kids the real "reason for the season" and explain that it is Jesus' birthday and we have the Advent calendar (which I hope serves its purpose beyond feeding their need for sweets.)  Luckily, if our lessons at home and at church are lost, the kids both go to Lutheran Preschools and it is taught there.  A few weeks ago Maddie had her dance recital and one of the teachers came up to me at the end and said that while the kids were waiting for the show to begin they were all coloring Christmas pictures.  Maddie flipped her paper over and started her own free-hand picture of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus.  She kept asking the teacher how to spell each one of their names while all the other kids were coloring Santas and Christmas trees.  Atta girl, way to rack up points with the Big Guy Upstairs.

We will spoil our children this Christmas, but at least I know that we also made efforts not only to be charitable because “we should,” but because we can and am thankful for that.  Most importantly, we need  to focus on how good it feels to give to others.  I am also happy that, at least in some way, my 4-year old daughter has an understanding of that and hope that despite her undying need for an Easy Bake Oven, she will know how lucky she is that we….I mean “Santa,” got her one.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mark Cuban's Book "How to Win at the Sport of Business"

I totally dig Mark Cuban. I really got to know more about him a few years a go when there was talk he was considering purchasing the Chicago Cubs. My husband heard that if you email him, he almost always responds. Turns out, that's not a lie. Then I saw him on "Dancing With The Stars" and appearances on "Entourage." I have read several of his blogs on and became even more enamored with his straightforward viewpoint and writing style.

So, after reading the book, I highly recommend it. It was a quick read, full of down-to-earth pieces of advice and words of wisdom. He never talks down to the reader and makes you believe that anything is possible. He did an interview specifically to mom-preneurs that you can read below.

Best of all, you can enter to win two Landmark movie tickets if you go to

One part in your book I loved and my heart sank at is when your fiance
lost your $7500 ring.  What's your advice for those moms out there who are distracted by a relationship? How do you balance a real life with your dreams?

I never was able to balance. Each person has to make their own
decisions. But remember, your competitors aren’t sitting by idly
waiting for you to have a nice dinner with your significant other.
They are trying to kick your ass. So choose wisely.

Mark, you mentioned that you were approached countless times to write a memoir but instead chose to ePublish.  Why?

The time obligations of a traditional release were more than I was willing to undertake. I couldn’t ask for advances and then not want to do a book tour.  Plus, the editorial deadlines were much more forgiving. I made changes hours before the final release.

You have three kids. What life lessons do you give them so that they don't
go through all the heartache that you've gone through?

That is a life-long process . My oldest daughter is just 8, so we are
still dealing with the basics.  But I try to do some things in my
businesses that are great for my kids. For instance, we changed the
programming on HDNet Movies so that every morning we run commercial-free, kid and family-friendly movies. I was mad that my kids always
were so excited about commercials they saw in their favorite shows
that I wanted to give them a commercial-free environment.

One of my favorite parts of your book, How to Win at the Sport of Business, that completely broke my heart was when your ex-secretary robbed your first company of over $83,000, leaving you only $2000 after a year of work.  If there are moms out there that have lost everything, what advice do you have for them to pick themselves back up?

Keep working. Don’t feel sorry for yourself because it won’t do any good.

There are many young moms who are just beginning their lives and can relate to
you when you said you were sharing a small apartment with 6 people and
sleeping on the floor.  How can someone keep their eye on the prize when they’re
living on Ramen noodles?

Who cares how you are living today? I loved every minute of living in
that dump. The low rent and utilities and eating Mac n’ Cheese all
the time allowed me to afford the startup of my business. Instead of
paying myself much, I could put it in to my business.

Where can we get a copy of your eBook, How to Win at the Sport of Business?
Anywhere eBooks are sold: Amazon,, and sites that support independent bookstores too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"No Problem" My Ass

There’s a saying you hear and see everywhere you go in Jamaica.  “No Problem!”  That was until Tom and Michelle Stien arrived.

While Tom and I have so much to be thankful for, we aren’t particularly “lucky” people when it comes to winning contests, lotteries, or things going smoothly in general.  As Tom always says, “If my raffle ticket was the only one in the drawing, I still wouldn’t win.” Or “If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.”  Just think back to my unfortunate cab experience on Tom's birthday!

We thought we had beaten the odds this time around. Tom won a sales contest at work that meant an all expense paid trip to Jamaica for 5 days and 4 nights.  Tom and I haven’t been on a vacation (alone) since our honeymoon.   We were supposed to go to Cancun before Maddie was born, but a hurricane obliterated the whole region a week before our trip.  We’ve never left the kids for more than two days and while we were apprehensive about leaving them, we knew that we both desperately needed this trip.

After a great deal of coordination between packing our stuff, the kids’ stuff, and getting them to Tom’s parents, we were on our way.  We arrived in Jamaica at about noon on Thursday.  Unfortunately, it was overcast and not exactly warm.  We finally made it to the hotel, secured our dinner reservations, excursion schedules and headed to our room.  We were told we had an ocean-view on the fifth floor.  SWEET! Of course, the room key did not work and the bell-hop had to take us back to the front desk to get our room changed.  We arrived at our second room and it had two double beds.  Sorry, haven’t been on a trip alone in almost 8 years, sleeping in separate beds is NOT an option nor is sharing a bed smaller than the one we sleep in at home despite the fact we wouldn’t have any kids or pets joining us.

We finally got settled in our room and it was time to eat lunch.  The weather was still not looking so good, so rather than drink the afternoon away, I headed up for a nap. When I woke up it was raining.  Fan-frickin-tastic.  Luckily it was almost time for dinner by that time and within the hour the rain had subsided.  We headed to dinner, but I still felt a little unsettled.  I hadn’t called the kids yet and wasn’t even sure how to call home based on the whole cell phone situation on the island.  I had had my phone enabled to make calls from Jamaica, but I knew it would cost a small fortune.  Tom suggested I set my mind at ease and head upstairs to call them before bedtime.  I tried calling and it wouldn’t go through. I called T-Mobile to see if there was some sort of code and after being on hold for 15 minutes, it took the guy another 15 to pull up the information.  I got back to the table at dinner just as they were about to take my plate away and Tom suggested I just hang up and wait until the morning and call from our hotel room instead.  I ate my dinner and had a glass of wine and tried to relax and enjoy the rest of my evening.

We headed to the hotel bar after dinner, but since we were staying at the Ritz Carlton, it was pretty conservative and certainly didn’t have a nightclub of any kind.  Not that I am complaining about staying at a Ritz Carlton, but I was hoping to do some dancing to Bob Marley.  I headed up to bed because we were supposed to go on a dune buggy tour in the morning.  I’ll admit I wasn’t real jazzed about the dune buggies.  As fun as it sounds, I just wanted to park my ass by the pool and relax.  I hate to admit this, but ultimately I cried myself to sleep because I missed my kids, I was worried that the weather was going to suck and I was never going to get the relaxing tropical vacation I longed for.  Tom said I absolutely did not have to go on the dune buggy tour and I could just stay behind and chill by the pool.  I love my husband.

I woke up the next morning and the skies were blue and the sun was shining.  I had breakfast, relaxed for a while and then headed to the hotel gym once Tom left for the excursion.  I enjoyed a workout without worrying about Colin getting kicked out of the childcare center or having to leave to go pick up someone from school, take Maddie to dance class or any of the other “life” things from home.  The only thing I was in a hurry to do is get to the pool before I lost sun time.  I did get through to the kids and was happy to hear they were doing well with grandma and grandpa. 

I was finally in vacation mode.  I put on my bathing suit and cover-up and headed to the pool.  I was able to chat with one of the other wives, have a fruity drink and have lunch on the beach.  Tom returned and had a BLAST, but was covered in mud.  We both enjoyed our day on our own terms.  Tom headed up for a nap and one of the other wives and I headed to the shops to pick up some souvenirs.  I returned back to spend some time with Tom before heading to our dinner with the group.

The dinner was at the Jerk Center on the beach and then we all headed to the hotel bar where as luck would have it, there was a woman singing Bob Marley.  Finally, I got to cut loose and dance.  Unfortunately, I cut loose just a little too much and woke up feeling pretty rough around the edges.  We were supposed to go on a catamaran, but figured it was cancelled due to high winds like it had been the day before.  Of course, ours was still a-go and I was a bit concerned that the mixture of my hangover and history of motion sickness was going to make for the longest 3-hour tour of my life.  We set sail and sure enough we hit some major swells.  I could feel the vodka swishing in my stomach with each wave and within a half-hour I was puking into a plastic bag.  I felt better, but it was only temporary and I found myself losing it one more time.  The people of Jamaica are so courteous and kind, so I can’t think of a better group of people to toss my cookies in front of.

I was finally feeling better, when the other flip-flop dropped.  Tom informed me that his insulin pump wasn’t working.  As many of you know, Tom was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 9 years old and has been insulin dependent ever since.  He used to have to take shots, but he made the decision to go on the pump before Maddie was born since it gave him better control over his blood sugar. 

Once we returned from the excursion, we tried changing the battery and then called the manufacturer to see if there was some sort of quick fix for the error he was getting.  When that did work, we had to switch modes and find a way to get some insulin into Tom.  I went to the nurse at the hotel and we were lucky she had ONE lone needle to offer us.  The next step was to talk to the group coordinating our trip and see if we could get a flight home ASAP.  Even though we had one needle, it still meant Tom would have to constantly deliver insulin to his body like the pump did.  This is going to get a little technical, but before he was on the pump and gave himself shots, he used two different kinds of insulin, one that was long acting and one that was short acting.  Now he only uses short acting on a regular basis.  He had plenty of insulin with him since when we were on our honeymoon, his insulin went bad and he was miserable and could barely eat or drink anything (like I said, we have horrible luck).  Therefore, he no longer has the long acting insulin readily available.  Basically he wouldn’t be able to eat or drink much and wake up every hour to check his blood and take insulin. Even if we went to the hospital to get the long acting insulin, he had no idea how much to take since it had been so long since he has taken it.  He was concerned if he took too much, he would go low and that can be fatal.  We have had to call 911 for this in the past and it seemed like a huge risk to have this happen in a foreign country.  Ultimately, neither one of us would have been able to enjoy ourselves with the all the work and worry necessary to keep Tom alive.  We decided the safest best thing to do was head home.

I headed down to eat some lunch and within 20 minutes Tom came down to tell me we had to leave.  I left my uneaten lunch and packed our bags in 15 minutes.  Before I knew it, we were on our way home.  I’m not gonna lie, the first thing I did was cry and feel sorry for Tom and myself.  What the hell did we do to deserve this?  I think we are fairly good people.  Tom works really hard at his job and has never won a trip before while many of those on the trip were rattling off the various company-paid-for trips they had been on.  We are committed parents to our children.  We give to others.  Why us?

But I wiped away my tears because the first thing I thought of was our kids.  As much as I needed time away from the monotony of my daily grind, I missed them like crazy.  There were several babies and young kids staying at our hotel and every time I would see one of them, my heart ached a little bit.  I didn’t want to walk through the resort sobbing because I figured I didn’t need to bring anyone down and besides, they would probably think something awful happened like someone died.  Then it really sunk in.  There were so many worse things we could be going home for.  Furthermore, we have such a wonderful life to return to.  While we were at the airport Tom stopped dead in his tracks and turned and looked at me.  He said I could have stayed behind and he could have just come home on his own.  I could not have even imagined staying behind.  One thing that we have learned and made abundantly clear over the years is that we are a team.  Through thick and thin, the only way to make it through life is to do it together.  After all, we made vows for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

I am not ready for death to do us part.

Then we started to think of all the “silver linings.”  Tom mentioned that maybe since so many other things in our life are good, all the other things we consider “good luck” aren’t really that important.  All I knew is that having my husband alive is much more important than two more days on a beach.  So, we made a list of all these silver linings to remind us how lucky we truly are and cope with our complete bummer of a situation.  Many of these things came up as we were waiting for our flight in utter disbelieve that we were heading home, or on the plane, or at home listening to our kids whine, cry, misbehave, thinking “right now we would be sitting by the pool.” Many of these items made us laugh, which is one of the major benefits to marrying your best friend.  So, here they are:

  1. Tom is alive.
  2. We got to see our kids.
  3. They were soooo happy to see us and we got the biggest hugs and kisses EVER.
  4. Our livers will thank us later.
  5. We decreased our chances of skin cancer.
  6. I don’t really like rum drinks anyway.
  7. Tom and I got to have a “bowling date” playing on his iPad on the plane on our way home.
  8. We still got to go to Jamaica for 2.5 days.
  9. I’ve never been to Jamaica.
  10. Tom got a “pin” on his map.
  11. We ended up having a layover in Miami on our way home and I’ve never been to Miami, even if it was just the airport.
  12. Tom wasn’t real sure how we would be able to catch the Bears game while we were in Jamaica.  In the end he got to watch it at home.
  13. I had a column due on Monday and sent it before I left and it didn’t go through.  I was able to send it on Sunday.
  14. I was still able to get most of our souvenirs for the kids and Tom’s parents.
  15. I am already halfway finished with my laundry.  I am trying not to dwell on the fact that part of that is due to the fact we didn’t wear a good portion of the clothes we packed.
  16. I just watched the weather and it is going to get REALLY cold later this week.  We had 2 extra days to adjust.
  17. Our family pictures were ready to pick up on December 1st and I was able to pick them up sooner.
  18. Since Tom’s parents got a 2-day reprieve from babysitting duty, we don’t have to avoid asking them to babysit next Friday.
  19. We didn’t miss any of the excursions.
  20. Only 199 days until the first day of summer.
  21. Only 277 days until we go to Disney World.
  22. I still can’t help but think there is another reason for us coming home early.  Maybe the universe prevented something from happening to the kids, Tom’s parents or us.  I still believe there is a reason for everything.

I also got back to good news on the work front and made me so happy that rather than coming back to a inbox full of issues and fires to put out, I was greeted with lots of positive aspects of the budding business that I am working for. (Shameless plug…Visit to “Meet Vivi.”)

As I sit here writing this, we would likely just be arriving home if everything went as planned.  At least now we can stop thinking of what we “could be doing at ‘x’ time.” Now, I am in full-throttle Christmas mode to raise my spirits and appreciate flakes flying rather than curse them.  I fully plan on sitting in family room in my pretty pink sundress that I didn’t get to wear and make a margarita. At the end of the day, I can honestly say regardless of our vacation woes, I am one lucky girl.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cheers to the FREAKIN' Weekend

 11.11.11 was a rough one.  You would think it would be rough for Tom, since it was his 35th birthday, but that was not the case.

To say planning his party was a breeze would be a lie.  It all started several months ago when Tom returned from a family wake that was held at a funeral home next to his old favorite watering hole on the Northwest Side of Chicago.  He did what all fine Irishmen do at a wake, he had some beers with his friends and family.  He returned home and said he wanted to have his birthday there.   I wasn’t able to keep a straight face and when it comes to Tom, I cannot tell a lie.  I had to break down and tell him that I was going to capitalize on his birthday falling on 11.11.11 and throw a surprise party for him either at said watering hole or his parents’ house.  After his request, I knew exactly where it needed to be, it just wouldn’t be a surprise anymore.  One of his aunt’s shares a the same birthday, so I coordinated with Tom’s cousins and we decided to throw a combined celebration.

His favorite bar holds great significance, not only to Tom and his drinking buddies, but also to his family and oddly, he and I as well.  Mugshots is located just blocks away from where his mom grew up.  His aunt works there and his uncle’s Harley Davidson can usually be found parked out in front.  His cousin used to bartend there, one of his friend’s met his wife there while she was a bartender. Ten years ago at his aunt’s 50th and his 25th party, Tom told me he wanted to be “more than friends” and even when to far as to tell me he was going to “make me his wife.”  Keep in mind, I had arrived to his party at midnight after babysitting my nephew who at the time lived in the house we live in now.  Did you follow all that?

So, for my readers that aren’t local and don’t understand the geography of Chicago, let me give you a brief description of where my husband’s family is from.  This is the Northwest Side of Chicago.  It is very different from some of the other Chicago neighborhoods most people think of and in my opinion is a “real” Chicago neighborhood.  I have to give props to similar South Side neighborhoods, since that is where my family hails from.   However, I’ll probably offend a lot of people, but it is not Wrigleyville, Lakeview or Lincoln Park filled with drunken twenty-something’s and trendy restaurants and bars.  It isn’t Bucktown or Wicker Park with young hipsters with funky glasses, sushi restaurants and retro record shops. No, this is old school Chicago.  This is where a typical block is lined with a hole-in-the-wall-bar, a Polish Delicatessen, another hole-in-the-wall-bar, a funeral home, a shoe repair, another hole-in-the-wall-bar, an Italian sandwich shop, a church, a school, a park, another funeral home, a banquet hall and in-between,  you’ll find 2-flats with Virgin Mary statues on the front lawn. Running parallel are streets lined with bungalows. This is where the city workers, police officers, fire fighters live.  This is where Tom loves to be.

My party planning was jinxed from the get-go.  We wanted to have the party on 11.11.11, but it landed on a Friday and we figured we could suck it up and do Saturday in order to make it more convenient for our guests.  As luck would have it, Mugshots’ back room was already booked for that day.  As luck would NOT have it, I had already sent the Evite.  I never in a million years thought Mugshots would be a hot-bed of entertainment and party planning and would have been booked on the exact day we wanted it.  I put my tail between my legs and resent a revised invite with the new date. 

I wasn’t real concerned with the planning details because I knew that at the end of the day, Tom just wanted to be surrounded by his friends and family, drinking beer, doing shots of Jameson and maybe having some pizza, chips and salsa.  Luckily his cousin works for a restaurant where we ordered food more suitable than just nosh for drunken bar goers.

My biggest concern was more in what we were going to do with the kids the night of the party.  Since we live about an hour from where the party was, I figured it would be best if my mom watched the kids and we all stayed there since she lives 20 minutes from the bar.  Unfortunately, I had to uninvited my mom to the party when I informed her she would be watching the kids and we were going to all crash there. 

OK, sitter secured.  Now on to logistics.  Tom took his birthday off so that gave us a little more room to work with.  After going through a few different scenarios we decided that I would pick up the balloons and cake and then head to the bar to set up while Tom, the kids and his parents would meet me at Tom’s grandma’s house and then when I was done decorating, I would get the kids and take them to my mom’s.  Unfortunately, my mom didn’t get off work until 7:00, so I would have to be a little late to the party.  Originally, I had planned on just driving back to the party, but after all the planning and schlepping, I wanted to be able to partake in the festivities without worrying about driving.  My friend suggested I just take a cab from my mom’s back to the party and then Tom and I would take one back to my mom’s.  It seemed worth the cost in order spend a night out, sans kids, no hour drive, to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Besides, it might be fun to relive our “glory days.”

Of course, after running to get the cake, balloons and to Meijer because I realized I forgot to pack Pull-ups for Colin I finally got on the road to the city.  I was cruising until I hit O’Hare Airport and proceeded to sit in traffic for the next hour.  I finally got to the bar to set up and from there had enough time to go get the kids.  Tom and his parents hit a ton of traffic and never made it to his grandma’s house, so I met them at a McDonald’s near the bar where they stopped to feed the kids real quick. (A small detail I forgot to account for.)  Of course, there was a major traffic jam on Irving Park Road and I was at a stand-still for another half-hour because I thought they were having a Veteran’s Day parade in the middle of rush hour on a Friday night.  I was cursing and swearing when I realized that it was actually a funeral procession from O’Hare Airport for a fallen solider.  Boy, did I feel like a jerk. As I watched the procession of Police cars, family members with American flags flying, Patriot Guard motorcycle group and various other vehicles with Marine Corps flags, I said a prayer, apologized to God for being a heartless bitch and within 5 minutes, traffic started moving again.

I walked into the McDonald’s and Tom immediately asked if I had a Pullup.  Colin hadn’t been changed since lunchtime since he fell asleep in the car on the way home from lunch and we put him straight down for his nap.  Tom forgot to change him when he woke up and he had 6 hours of 2-year old boy pee in his Pullup that soaked through to his pants.  That may seem like a strange description, but if you have ever had a two-year old boy who still wears diapers, you know what I mean.

Luckily I had a change of clothes with me for our slumber party at my mom’s and was able to change him in the bathroom.  I had been in desperate need of a diet Coke for the last 5 hours and Tom handed me one as I walked out the door to load the kids into the minivan and head to my mom’s.  As I was driving, I decided to call the cab company to make sure there would be one there at 7:45 to take me back to the party.  I pulled up at my mom’s at 7:25 and unloaded the kids, the Aerobed, two backpacks, a suitcase, blankets and sheets.  The kids had their bubbas and then we just had to actually get inside my mom’s condo building.  After two large doors, one of which required that I actually locate my mom’s keys on my keyring, and an elevator to the 5th floor, we had arrived.  Of course, the kids got off the elevator and as I was literally throwing our belongings out of the elevator, the door closed on me and the kids both started screaming and crying because they thought I was going to fall down the elevator shaft leaving them orphans on the 5th floor of my mom’s condo building.

I opened the door to find them with crocodile tears rolling down their red cheeks.  Poor babies.  I got them down the hall along with our belongings and was greeted by my mom.  Perfect timing. (sarcasm)  I started to get the kids settled, rattled off necessary information, blew up the Aerobed and threw some makeup on my face.  At that point I was already having a full-blown panic attack. Meanwhile, my mom had to run down to put her parking pass in my van since it would be parked in the parking lot over night.  She informed my cab driver that I would be right down.  As soon as she came back up, I kissed the kids goodbye and ran out the door.  I got down to the cab and told him I just had to run to my van and get my “big girl purse” as opposed to my diaper bag/purse.  He started reprimanding me for coming down 7:55 when I had told dispatch I needed a cab for 7:45. He told me the meter was running. I closed the door (ok, maybe slammed it a bit) to go get my purse and….are you ready for this?  He. Drove. AWAY!  Guess he wouldn’t get paid for those 10 minutes.  Dummy.

Of course, I felt more the fool standing in the middle of the parking lot with my mouth wide open in shock and awe and the feeling I would NEVER get to the party.  I grabbed my purse out of the car and called Tom.  At that point, the last couple of days of running around, planning, schlepping, coordinating, working, yelling at my kids, worrying, and one completely a-hole of a cab driver came down on me and I felt as if I was unhinged.  I started crying to Tom who likely already had 4 Miller Lite’s in him and he could barely understand what I was saying because I sounded like Jesse Spanno, “I’m so excited, I ‘m so excited….I’m so TIRED!” Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten to take a long over-due nap and hadn’t had some good drugs.  I guess the good news was I didn’t have a test to study for or a dance to perform with Lisa and Kelly.  Most importantly, I wasn’t wearing a leotard and a sweatshirt with one shoulder down and a giant black bow; that would really have been embarrassing.

I finally regained my composure and told Tom to just go enjoy himself while I figured out what my next steps were.  I called the cab company back and told the dispatcher what happened.  She sounded puzzled as to why I was so upset and asked if I wanted the same driver to come back.  I told her if they did, I would call the cops.  “Well, he left because you were ten minutes late, m’am.”  Really?  I know I am out of the loop when it comes to cab etiquette, but the meter was running.  I told her I didn’t want her stinkin’ cab and that their customer service sucked and called a different cab company.  I am pretty sure that the cab company was a small subsidiary of U.S. Airways.

I got a hold of a different cab company and had just enough time to run back up to my mom’s place to reapply my make up that I had cried off.  My mom talked me off my emotional ledge (something she probably hasn’t had to do in about 15 years) and I was off.  I finally arrived at the party at about 8:45. 

I walked in and had several people offer me a drink, which I know I could have used, but didn’t really want.  That was when I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner.  I finally went back to eat so I wouldn’t end up becoming “that girl” who gets sloppy drunk because she at a vanilla wafer before she went out. I finally sat down with a beer and caught up with some friends.  At about 11:00 p.m. a group of people in their 20’s came in and it was clear that they had just begun their evening when all I wanted was my bed.  They were what we used to be.  The girls were all dolled up and kept feeding the jukebox and dancing in a circle as if they were in their own little world without a care in the world.  That was what going out used to be like before it required a flow chart and being a certified party planner.  Sigh.  Those were the days.

I spent the rest of the night hosting, cleaning up and babysitting Tom.  Of course, when all was said in done, I barely drank anything and could have just driven.  Luckily Tom drank enough for both of us and his aunt and uncle drove us back to my mom’s.  Tom kept babbling about how 10 years ago he professed in undying love to me and that was when everything changed and our life began.  Yeah, we aren’t hanging out at bars or dancing with our drinks held in the air, singing Karoake when our poor reaction time made following the words next to impossible.  Yet, when we got home, the kids were asleep on the Aerobed cuddled up together.  They even woke up to greet us with sleepy smiles and snuggles. Cheers to that.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Job Security

For Halloween, I was a Vomit Spewing Mummy.

To be accurate, I was a Mommy with a stomach bug or food poisoning or something possessed my body and created a cross between The Exorcist, Saw and Faces of Death. Had I actually been able to lift my head off the toilet long enough to attend a Halloween Party, I would have won the contest for goriest costume for sure.

Going into the weekend I knew it was going to be a crazy based on the fact that our schedule was jammed pack. Friday night started with an impromptu date night with Tom while the kids went to IHOP with my in-laws to decorate Halloween pancakes. Saturday morning began with the usual breakfast for the kids and I and then I passed the kids off to Tom just before 8 a.m. so I could go take my aggressions out on a spin bike without getting called out of class for Colin biting or filling his diaper. As soon as I finished class and a brief conversation with a friend, I ran home, got everyone including myself showered and ready to go since we had to take Maddie to her Hip-hop/Poms class and then straight to a Christening that was 40 minutes away. We all traipsed into Maddie’s dance class ten minutes late looking like we were part of a funeral procession. Immediately after class ended, I threw a dress and a pair of tights on Maddie, who lucky for us was super crabby and complained, cried and stomped her glittery dress shoe because the tights weren’t on her just right. I gave her tights a good hike up in the crotch and we were off. Poor Maddie is learning at an early age that nylons are for the birds.

On to the Christening. Due to our hectic morning schedule and logistics, we weren’t able to make it to the church to see our friend’s baby Christened, but we did make it to the luncheon. It was held at a banquet hall and they even had a clown for all the kids. Tom and I spent most of the time chasing after Colin who had scored a balloon shaped like a sword and was beating the crap out of a 3-year old boy. They seemed to be having fun, but occasionally Colin would accidentally drop the balloon and unknowingly lunge at the kid with his fist. Not real cool to have your kid throw punches at such a sacred event.

After our lunch, some face painting and more balloon animals, we headed home where we had to change and go across the street for our neighbor’s little boy’s first birthday party. We only caught the tail end of the party, but it was probably better that most of their guest had left to spare me the embarrassment of Colin trying to steal all the newly opened toys from the birthday boy. The kids were on melt-down mode since the only nap Colin got was about 12.5 minutes on the way to Christening and Maddie got about 17 minutes on the way home before she started coughing and threw up in her car seat.

Luckily we had a relatively relaxing Saturday night at home because Sunday was another action-packed day. I went to church with Maddie and my mother-in-law where I had to do a reading. From there Maddie and I had to run to WalMart for a few odds and ends and to find Colin a Halloween costume. I had been searching for weeks because Mr. Picky-pants won’t were anything on his head, which rules out 99.9% of the costumes out there. The rest all cost an arm and a leg and I’d rather keep the arms and legs for decorations on the front lawn. After failing at WalMart, we headed to Party City and despite Maddie trying to finagle some Hello Kitty party favors, we scored a Darth Vader costume on the clearance rack that only had hat and no mask and I figured for $10 I could care less if he wore the hat. I compensated by buying him a light saber to go with it.

From there, I came home and did as much house work as I could before I had to go to a wake for a friend of mine’s father. After that, I headed to my in-laws where Tom had taken the kids for dinner. After warming up some dinner for me and the kids finished decorating Halloween cupcakes with Grandma, we headed home to put together Maddie’s Halloween treats for her Pre School class. It was getting late and after battling with Maddie over who was going to cut out the pumpkins, I decided to put the kids to bed and finish this project on my own…with a glass of wine.

I got up from the table and felt a little woozy. By the time I got the kids upstairs I felt a little nauseous. Once I finally got them both in their beds, stories read and tucked in, I was ready to fall over. I came downstairs to finish the Halloween treats and within 5 minutes was pulling my hair in a pony tail as I raced to the bathroom. I will spare you the gory details, but all I can use to describe the episode is “violent.”

Of course I felt much better after that, but skipped the glass of wine and had tea and toast while I finished my project. Of course, within about a half hour I was right back to where I started and holding on to my toilet for dear life because I felt like my entire chest was going to combust from the force at which the puke was exiting my body. By 5 a.m., I had been up pretty much every two hours and had nothing left in me. Tom decided to stay home from work to get Maddie to school and make sure Colin didn’t burn the house down while I had my head in the toilet.

You know you are beyond sick when you have to have your husband take over. Luckily I was able to make it downstairs to the couch without passing out or blowing chunks so I could make sure Maddie had all of her belongings for her Halloween party at school and that her clothes weren’t on backwards. She had to be an animal since they do a “Noah’s Ark Party” instead of traditional Halloween costumes. I spent the rest of the morning on the couch watching Disney channel with Colin who could care less that I smelled like stomach acid and wanted to cuddle with me regardless. I was also able to get some work done because as luck would have it, I had a project due. When Maddie got home from school, I got to hear all about her party, but was bummed that I missed all the excitement. I did get to see that major bag of loot she brought home that I normally commandeer before she is able to see exactly what is in it and then use it to make my life a living hell while she whines and cries begging for its contents.

Around lunchtime, I got up to make some toast and saw that the kitchen was in utter disarray with four loads of laundry that I had planned on folding on Sunday night piled high outside the laundry room. I decided to take my toast and flat Sprite back to the couch before I passed out. After lunch, I was trying to find the syringe to give the kids their antibiotics that I forgot to give them in the morning. I went upstairs to find it and found by the time I got to the end of the hall I needed to lay down. I finally made it downstairs to look in the kitchen and the sink was now like Mt. Vesuvius. I tried to unload the dishwasher in order to reload it and clear out the sink. Unfortunately, my stomach had other plans and I only got half-way through the process before I had to head to my new spot on the bathroom floor. Luckily I was still just dry-heaving (aren’t you relieved?) but felt like a vice-grip was on my head. Tom was now lying on the couch and I told him to find something, anything that could measure one teaspoon and give the kids their medicine. I immediately went upstairs and took a two-hour nap.
A few things to note: a) I look like hell, but nearly as bad as I thought  I would while Tom was capturing this moment. b) I am in the midst of folding laundry and there's a gourd, miscellaneous toys and shoes and my area rug grippers are showing. c) Colin is NOT happy about Halloween d) At least our dog looks relaxed. 

Luckily when I woke up, I felt much better. Thank God, because as we were trying to get Maddie’s witch costume together, Daddy could not locate her broom. I thought I had hid it in the coat closet one day when the kids were fighting over it, but he couldn’t find it. After searching everywhere, I went back to the coat closet and looked for it like a mom and not like a dad, and there it was wedged between a puffy coat and a fleece jacket. After that I was able take a shower and fold some laundry and realized that the dry cleaning needed to be taken in so Tom would have clean work clothes for his trip on Wednesday. I made Colin (who wanted nothing to do with Trick-or-Treating) a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an orange for dinner, while I had chicken broth. By the time the kids went to bed, I still didn’t feel 100%, but it was definitely a marked improvement and I even made some progress on my project for work to send to my boss.

It takes a lot to knock this mommy flat on her ass, but maybe there is a silver lining in all of this. While my hiatus was short-lived, maybe it my body’s way of forcing me to either lay on the couch or in bed for a few hours (although I wish it had a different way of telling me than how it did). Either way, it made me realize that I am an essential part of making sure this house runs smoothly. I am also fairly certain that Tom will not be quitting his job to raise the kids nor will he be getting rid of me any time soon. I also learned that for as messy as I feel the house gets throughout the day, it could be much, much worse. If nothing else, we are going to Jamaica in 29 days and ain’t nothing like a good stomach virus to get you a head-start on that bikini body.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oh, Fudge!

Well, it finally happened. One of my kids used a curse word and I know full well where they got it from. First of all, it might surprise you to know that it wasn't Colin, it was Maddie. She didn’t learn it from her dad, she learned it from me. Yeah, I guess based on the name of this blog and my reputation of swearing like a sailor it isn't that big of surprise.

I keep hearing that PSA from the ‘80s where the dad walks into his son’s bedroom with a cigar box of dope and demands to know “who did you learn this from?” And the boy half cries and half yells, “I learned it from watching you!”

Those commercials must have made an indelible mark on me since that is the second “Say No To Drugs” commercial I have referenced in my blog. Granted, my kids are not smoking dope and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t learn it from me, but seems everything I do definitely leaves an impression on them.

So, I am sure you are all dying to find out what word she uttered. Well, it was relatively benign, but was inappropriate and stopped me in my tracks none-the-less. She was innocently sitting at the kitchen table finishing her apple while I was cleaning up after lunch and preparing to get ready to leave the house to run errands. Suddenly the apple slipped out of her hand and landed on the floor. “Awe, DAMMIT!” she yelled. My little “mini-me” could not have sounded more like me at that moment. I had to be careful of how I handled it since in all reality she had no idea what she was saying was wrong. I told her that I know she has probably heard me say that word, but that it is not an appropriate word for her to use.  I also explained that I need to be more careful of "naughty" words that I use.  If I were my own PSA, it would have had me talking to my 4 year old with a giant "hypocrite" sign on my forehead.

In my defense, I do my best to curb my potty mouth around my kids and wait to drop f-bombs until after they go to bed or when I am out with adults. I’ve caught myself unleashing my inner truck driver once I get around adults, especially after a few adult beverages. It is a little embarrassing when even I notice I am swearing too much and feel as if I need to take myself home and wash my own mouth out with soap.

However, “dammit” is one that I end up slipping up on around the kids, especially because I am a super-klutz and end up dropping things, making messes, tripping, ripping things, braking things etc.. The first word out of my mouth is dammit. Then there is my incurable road rage that usually results in an even worse, “God Dammit! Will you please drive your car!!!” Hey, at least I said “please!”
I’ve been lucky up until this point that not only have I been careful not to swear in front of the kids, but that they haven’t picked up on it until now. I have caught myself saying something under my breath when I am really upset and Maddie simply asks, “Mom, are you talking to yourself again?” or I am good at replacing swears with creative alternatives like “Gosh darn it,” “Oh, phooey,” or “Oh, for the love of Pete!” Tonight at dinner I spilled an entire cup of water all over the floor and due to my new attitude, caught myself and said, "Awe, CRUD!" Of course I do push the limits by saying, “Are you f-ing kidding me?” or “Jesus Christ on a cross!” but to me those are inappropriate either way and use them only in case of an emergency.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that they have picked up another bad habit of mine, yelling. Maddie is the worst offender and I often find myself yelling at the top of my lungs, “MADDIE, STOP YELLING AT YOUR BROTHER!!!” I also have a short fuse and she has inherited my Irish temper. During these moments I know I sound like my grandmother who was infamous for her “screaming like a banshee.”  I also find it difficult when she says, “Mom, aren’t you going to get what I asked for you to get me?” When I am constantly saying, “Madelyn, aren’t you going to do what I asked you to do?”
So, it is time for me to clean up my act and my language. It really is hard work being an adult and expect your kids to behave when you yourself don’t always behave. I guess the upshot is that there are plenty of good things that I have seen my kids do that I know are a direct reflection of Tom and myself. Maddie has a phenomenal memory like I do. I also have been told that she is polite at other people houses since Tom and I drill it into her head since the one time her memory fails is when she is supposed to say “please or thank you” at home. Colin is very witty as I like to think of myself and despite his “aggressive ways” he is a lover boy like his dad.  They eat healthy and like to exercise and Colin even does yoga.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, they listen and see EVERYTHING you do, and as my grandfather always said, "you’d better mind your P’s and Q’s.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Check Out "Adventures of Smitty" by Anna Deskins!

I recently came in contact with a talented mother who is publishing a childrens book called, "The Adventures of Smitty."  In the spirit of promoting another aspiring writer, mom and entreprenuer, I wanted to share some information about her and where you can find her book online.  Be sure to check her out!!!

Your children's book, The Adventures of Smitty looks magically. Tell us about it.
It's the story of a magical island of little creatures called Smilies and the mischievous little main character, Smitty. He's such a naughty boy. Haha! All the moms and kids I've shared it with have been giving me such a wonderful reaction. I cannot believe it. I have to tell you how excited I am to finally have a life-long dream come true. Writing The Adventures of Smitty was really about finding a story that I would want to read to my children at night. It has to be exciting but not scary so that my two daughters can go to sleep. Basically, I was looking for that perfect blend to read to my kids at night and decided, "Why not try writing my own?"
We've had a lot of changes in our life recently, so I want to make sure that when I put my daughters to sleep that they feel safe. I have short chapters because I know how busy we moms are but if you can just sacrifice 5 minutes at night reading to your kids, it makes a world of difference. Your kids will never forget it. And although we're running around the whirlwind of life, our kids grow up so fast, and that time that we'd rather finish watching what happened in our favorite soap opera instead of reading to our kids will never come again. I hope that The Adventures of Smitty and books like it help moms do exactly that.
And it's only 99 cents this week. That's what I love about it.

Now, You are recently divorced. How have you been able to continue writing when going through such a change?
Yes, it is by far one of the most challenging points in my life. To see a marriage you thought would last forever to not last forever was difficult for the two of us. I really learned a lot about myself and most importantly, it's brought me closer to my daughters. I think that's what really motivated me to finish this children's book no matter what. When you're going through changes in your life like this, you need something to hold on to. There's a part of you that wants to prove that you can make it, that you will be a success even if it's not with the partner you originally imagined building a life with. I had to keep writing, for my kids. I want to show them that they have to keep strong, no matter what.

We as women, as moms really need to stick together to support each other and our dreams. We're living in an age when I think we're finally realizing, although we want love, the men in our life aren't the answer to everything. We have to stand up on our own two feet and keep going. True love will happen, but until then, we have to keep moving forward. Our children depend on us and we depend on us.

In addition to being a children's book author, you're also a small business owner. How do you juggle taking care of two daughters and at the same time running a business?
Yes, I am a fashion designer and have a retail store. Any type of creativity is what I'm passionate about. That's why writing The Adventures of Smitty was so important to me. Let me tell you, running a small business in today's economy isn't easy especially when raising two girls at the same time. But somehow, it seems someone's watching over me because my dreams are coming true no matter what. To have that many moms glowing about my children's book, means so much to me. And I know my girls are proud.

When do you ever have time to write?
You mean, in between laundry, running a business, chasing my girls around the house, cleaning the house, and flying back and forth fromMiami to New York? Haha? That's one thing I've learned, when you really want to do something, you find a way. Things fall into place if you just go for it and that's what I want to encourage all the moms who are reading this right now. Whatever your goal is, you can do it. Don't let the challenges in your personal life stop you from going for your dreams. Just go for it and it's almost magical how things fall into place.

Where can we get a copy of "The Adventures of Smitty"?
Right now, it's available online by going to: You can also visit my website: where you can read more about my writing process, my recommendations for other books and my own adventures in Mommyhood.

I'm so grateful for your support and the support I'm getting from so many wonderful moms who dream of writing children's books one day too. Writing The Adventures of Smitty has been such an emotional experience for me, a true journey as I was going through so many changes while writing it. It's truly been a blessing in my life. It, along with my daughters, and that guy upstairs have really pulled me through a challenging time.