Friday, October 2, 2009

A few weeks back, I posted a Friday Free for All about a Kids Eat Free deal at iHop. Well, I'm here today to show you the motherload of all free dining deals...

The website is a collection of listings of child-friendly places and activities in the Chicagoland area but the highlight of the website is their Kids Eat Free calendar. Simply click on a date on the calendar and a listing of area restaurants that offer free or greatly reduced children's meals on that particular date. No longer planning nights out around the deals, now, you can choose the deal for your night out!

I'd suggest you call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure that the deal is still valid and then go out and ENJOY!

Now, readers, I'd like to apologize for being absent for the past couple of days. We've had some changes at my job and that, combined with a bit of a cold, has thrown my schedule for a loop. So, as a way to pay you back for your patience, I've lined up some crafty posts for next week. Be sure to check back and find out what fun I have in store for you!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This is Bear Necessities.

He is Morgan's constant companion. Her best friend. Her cuddle buddy. Her "brother" as she calls him (Which, if Vito and I have anything to say about it...which we DO... will be the only brother she ever has). Named after the song from Jungle Book because, when Morgan was a baby, it was the go-to song whenever she was crying. Worked every time. Thankfully for our vocal cords, he now comforts her when the song used to.

The other night, after putting the girls to bed, Vito and I settled in to watch So You Think You Can Dance and have a few adult beverages. As she is wont to do, Morgan waited until lights out to decide that she needed to go potty. Vito lifted her over the baby gate at her door and she scurried off to the bathroom. Suddenly, we hear a scream that would peel paint off of the walls. Thinking that someone was hurt, we both leaped off of our chairs and ran into the kitchen where we encountered a sobbing Morgan clutching a soaking wet Bear Necessities. "I dropped him in the potty! I dropped him in the potty!" she wailed. "Now I have NO ONE! I have no one to cuddle! No one to sleep with!" Her sobs were coming fast and furious so Vito stepped in to comfort and distract her while I took the bear, established that he had fallen in post-flush and proceeded to pretend to wash him in the sink and dry him with the hair dryer all the while getting another bear out of the closet.

You read that right. We have a Spare Necessities. When Morgan chose Necessities (with a little encouragement from Mom and Dad) as her comfort object, I scoured the internet to find a place where I could purchase two more. We rotate them out every few weeks to be washed and ensure an even wear.

Back to the night in question, I gave Spare Necessities a few blasts of heat from the dryer for authenticity and a tragedy was averted. Morgan snuggled up with her cuddle buddy and all was right with the world.

So, if you take nothing else from this blog, remember this story. The moment your child shows a preference for one item or another, get a spare. Heck, get two! Our Spare Necessities and Extra Bella (Sophie's cuddle buddy) have helped us deal with leaky diapers, stomach flu and, now, toilet diving. Don't be caught without one!

Friday, September 18, 2009

"One man's trash is another man's treasure"
Nowhere is this cliché more true than on The Freecycle Network.

I was first introduced to Freecycle by a friend of mine from high school. Every year, she hosts a multi-family garage sale and this was the first year we participated. Once the sale was finished, everything left over was either donated to charity or, if the item was not of interest to the charity, listed on Freecycle.

Curious, I had to check it out. Now, I'm hooked!

The Freecycle Network is a movement of people dedicated to keeping the amount of usable items from ending up in landfills. There are over 4000 groups located all over the world.

The way it works is simple: A person searches the Freecycle website for a local group. Once one is found in the user's area, they apply to join the Yahoo group and the moderator (a volunteer) will okay membership and send a list of rules (basic etiquette, list of forbidden items, safety hints). Then, simply start listing!

There are four self-explanatory types of posts: OFFER, PROMISED, TAKEN and WANTED. If you have something you want to get rid of, you post an "OFFER". Once someone has contacted you about your item, you post a "PROMISED" and, when the item is picked up, post that it is "TAKEN". Also, if there is something that you desire and are hoping another member has sitting in their garage, you can post a "WANTED" message.

The items being given away can range from the sublime (exercise equipment, computers, baby items, furniture) to the ridiculous (broken appliances, used lathe, 1/2 dozen promotional frisbees). I even saw someone offer a trash bag full of empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. Funny thing was that it was posted as TAKEN by the end of the day I'm sure that some daycare of homeschooling Mom found a great craft use for them!

Two of my best "scores" have been for the girls.

Needless to say, they think Freecycle is pretty cool too!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In getting out and about with the girls, I always have my trusty aluminum water bottle with me. I also try to remember to bring snacks with me. It helps to battle the demon of low blood-sugar crankiness WITHOUT spending oodles of money at the snack bar. It is easier to do when you keep a bunch of quick and easy snacks on hand to grab as you head out the door.

Here is a recipe for a favorite in our family...

Seasoned Oyster Crackers
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1 Tbsp dill
2 (12 oz) boxes oyster crackers

Combine all ingredients in large freezer bag. Shake well. Refrigerate overnight. Package in airtight containers and dispense into smaller sandwich bags as needed.

Simple. Tasty. Great for kicking back on a park bench and snacking on in between turns on the swings!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


This is a wordle (word cloud) created here from Mommy and Me (and Me!). You can input any body of text or URL. Try it! It's fun!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One of the many things I wish I were better at is keeping a journal. Throughout our house are beautiful bound books with the evidence of my good intentions: a couple of entries, a week or two absence, a few more stops and starts and, then, nothing. Two of my most treasured possessions are a "note" book that Caryn, my best-friend in high school, and I would write in and pass back and forth in between class and a gingham covered book which is the only journal that I kept for an extended period of time. The former is a silly back and forth between two teenage girls obsessed with boys and trying to wend our way through puberty. The latter details Vito and my struggle with infertiliy and subsequent pregnancy with Morgan. Paging through the two is like stepping into a time machine. I'm instantly transported back, laughing and crying as I remember the person I was back then.

Our family took a trip recently to San Franciso to attend the christening of my nephew, Sullivan. I began with the girls what I hope to be a continuing tradition... the travel diary. Armed with books, stickers, glue sticks and crayons provided by Nana, the girls and I would sit in the hotel after a day of sightseeing and discuss our adventures. Since they are still learning to write, I'd jot down a few of their quotes or a memory that I had from the day (ie "Sophie slept her way down Lombard Street" or Morgan says "I'm going to move to San Francisco when I'm in 8th grade.") Then, the girls would draw, color and decorate the pages however they felt. I highly recommend you try this with your kids next family trip as it is a great way to unwind (and keep the kids quiet) in the hotel room and will help all of your relive the fun of the vacation for years to come.

A few tips:
1. Be sure to grab brochures, business cards and area travel magazines wherever you go. They are great items to paste into the books. (And be sure to get enough for each child to have their own. You don't want any arguments over that ONE particular picture of the Golden Gate Bridge!)
2. Look for a book that is small enough to stick in a bag or purse as the travel journals are also a good pastime for antsy kids in a restaurant.
3. When you get home, print out a few pictures of your child on the trip and add them to the book.
4. Remember, there is no "right" way to make a travel journal. Try not to influence their creativity too much. If your 2 year old wants to put EVERY San Francisco sticker layered on top of each other on one page and not space them out evenly so there are enough for each page, let them! You will look at that page and chuckle once you are home.

Friday, September 4, 2009

One of the upsides (actually, the only upside) of having a 45 minute commute to/from work is the time allows me to read in peace. If by "in peace" I mean "while being jostled by shoppers with large bags and having errant cups of coffee spilled on me all while trying to determine the source of that funky smell" which, as a parent of two young children, I do!

Some of my most recent favorite reads have been the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, Roma by Steven Saylor and Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. Often, my selections are courtesy of our local library but, recently, I've discovered a new way to feed my book habit....

This free online service is a way for people around the country to clear out some of their old reads off the shelf and get some new ones. How it works is easy: After signing up for membership, you list the books you are offering for trade by typing in the ISBN number on the back cover of the book. (Don't let the name of the site fool you! You can list hardcover books and audio books as well!) Then, if a person is interested in one of your books, they request it and, if you accept the request, you ship it via media mail. (Usual cost is $2-4 depending on weight of book). You can even print out shipping labels and postage on your computer. It couldn't be any easier! Once the book is marked received by the requestor, you are awarded one credit to your account with which you are free to request whatever book you want from another member.

There are all sorts of books available: fiction, non-fiction, how-to books, textbooks, children's literature. If you don't see a particular book you want, you can add it to your wish list and are alerted once someone lists it.

To get you started swapping books right away, PBS offers two free book credits when you list ten! It is almost the season to curl up under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa (or brandy) and a good book. So, this weekend, clear off your shelves, go to and start swapping!