Lay A Little Longer

Will is 4, Ella is almost 8 and yet…we still put each of them to bed each night. When I say put them to bed, I don’t mean read them a brief story, kiss their head and say goodnight. I mean an hour + routine of agony. Struggling to brush teeth, go to the bathroom, reading stories, watching videos, talking about the day, listening to music, snuggling, requesting quiet, requesting quiet again and again and again. You get the point.

Ella has always been pretty easy. As soon as we get to the requesting quiet stage, she goes right to sleep. It’s the best part of our day. We talk about things, we giggle, we relax and all is great! Will on the other hand is a different story. He’s the reason we have multiple stages of requesting quiet. He just doesn’t give up!

14642069_10101641969711926_5390678529526965122_nFor that reason, we felt it was time for some tough love and a new bedtime routine. Of course, the first night of the new schedule fell on my shoulders (we rotate turns between kids). Going in I had the best of intentions and I know I’m stronger than him. As we went through the entire routine, it felt like we quickly got to the requesting quiet stage. As soon as I said it was time for me to leave the room, he asked me in the sweetest little voice to lay with him for a little while. I knew I should stick to my guns and leave the room, but how much longer do I have? He’s only little for so long!

So for now, I’m not going to worry about it and instead I’m going to lay a little longer. I’ve got no where to be and I’m going to miss that sweet little voice before I know it.

*This happened in a blink of an eye.



Sealed by the Sunflowers

13652651_10101531827867066_354295257_nWhat do you see when you look at this photo? A perfect, smiling, happy family? Me too… somedays, but in this particular photo I see the backstory that forced us all to fake the smiles just to get the shot. #memories

For the past two years I have seriously contemplated whether or not we should have a third child. I have never felt like our family was complete and my desire to add another little one has grown more & more recently. At the same time, I’m an honest person who also realize that making that leap from 2 to 3 would be insane, for so many reasons.

Our current children aren’t what you’d call “easy” so the thought of adding another into the chaos, seems overwhelming. When I say that to most people, their response is – “no kids are easy.” While that’s true, after doing some soul searching I realized that every part of our daily routine is a struggle. Things that we have asked our kids to do every single day of their waking life, are just damn hard! Experts promise that if you set expectations, provide routine and remain consistent that you’ll see the results you’re hoping for. In our case, that’s just not the case. Getting ready for school, getting out of the house, going anywhere, dinner time, teeth brushing….all things that happen on a regular basis and yet no matter what, they’re still a struggle!

Why does adult life need to be so hard? Decisions like these should be easier! At this point all I can I hope is that our family fate wasn’t sealed by the sunflowers.

Back to the story – on this particular day I had to carry Will to the car, kicking & screaming, spitting snot at me for 1 mile – all while the other smiling families passed by on their happy hike to the sunflowers. #kids


Cleft Lip & Palate Books

It’s hard to keep track of all the helpful & supportive cleft lip & palate books for both children and parents. Therefore we compiled a brief list. Which are your favorites?

Top – From left to right.
1. Wonder – R.J. Palacio
2. Lippy the Lion – Joanne Green
3. Your Cleft-Affected Child – Carrie Gruman-Trinkner

Bottom – From left to right.
4. Cleft Talk for Kids – Melissa Johnston-Burnham
5. Totally Normal – Paul Little
6. A Special Smile – Julie Graham

Top – From left to right.
1. Children with Cleft Lip and PalateMary A. Hardin-Jones, Kathy L. Chapman, Nancy J. Scherer 
2. First Place – Kate Gaynor
3. I Love You Now, I Loved You Then – Kate Isles

Bottom – From left to right.
4. Katie’s Dream – Mariette Vermeylen-Nuyts
5. Words in the Dust – Trent Reedy
6. Comprehensive Cleft Care, Family Edition – Joseph Losee


Riviera Maya

It’s that time of year again…vacation! Thanks to the help of my mom, once a year Joe & I prioritize taking a trip together, without our kids.

This year we chose to go to Riviera Maya in Mexico. Like other years we chose to stay at a Park & Fly hotel in Chicago the night before. This year though, we chose to pick a different hotel that’s a bit closer to the airport. Driving into the parking lot we immediately knew it wasn’t worth the $50 savings. When checking in they asked us to leave our keys with them for the duration of our trip, which seemed shady. As trusting Midwesterner’s we ignored our gut and surrendered them. We got in late and had to be up early for our flight so we were ready to hit the hay. 

Of course as luck would have it, some people in the room immediately next to ours were there for a party. For hours we endured loud music, banging on the walls & screaming. Finally at 1:30 a.m. I decided to call the front desk, but no one answered. Luckily, it was due to the fact that the staff was on their way to kick our neighbors out. Through our peephole, we counted 35+ people that filed out of the small room. 

Not the best start, but luckily it didn’t set the tone for our trip. We had a direct flight and all went smoothly, landing us in Cancun by noon. We arrived at our resort, Secrets Silversands and grabbed a drink while we waited for our room to be ready. It was exceptionally windy the entire time we were there, but the weather was the worst on the first day. We had dinner at Himitsu and ate some of the best sushi I’ve had in a long time. Every night there was live music after the nightly show & the singers the first night were phenomenal. Unfortunately it began to rain so they had to stop after 30 minutes, but that didn’t stop us from sitting in the rain until bar time.

On day 2 we laid low & visited the excursion desk to plan out our trips & spent the remainder of the day drinking in the pool. It was very cloudy so I was cold a lot of the time, but it still beat Wisconsin. In fact when we talked to the kids they informed us it was snowing & sleeting. We had the best of intentions on having dinner with a Canadian couple that night but after a long day of drinking in the pool, we fell asleep before making it out :( 

12189634_10101405191472416_4242653828440681218_n (1)Day 3 was the first of our excursions and an early start to the day. Joe loves history so we booked a trip to Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins and afterwards, we swam with sea turtles in Akumal. Our tour guide, Uri was amazing and he spoke four separate languages and translated everything he told us in English & French (he also speaks Spanish & Russian)! The ruins were amazing to see & the views of the ocean we’re irreplaceable. On our way out we ran into the Kennedy’s, who were staying in Cancun. If we weren’t in Mexico, I would have bought a lottery ticket because the odds of that happening were slim to none. Such a small world we live in!

After the ruins we packed up & headed to Akumal “Place of the Turtles” to swim with the turtles. We didn’t know what to expect, but were delightfully surprised as we saw over 20 turtles, 2 stingrays & many other fish while snorkeling. You’re not supposed to touch the turtles, but a baby kept swimming right next to me that it was hard to not run into it. We also saw another turtle with a fish suctioned to it’s shell. Uri called it a parasite, but assured us that it didn’t hurt the turtle. 

After snorkeling we had a local lunch at a beach clubhouse and I had two of the best margaritas I’ve ever had. It was a great day! We got back in time to sit in the pool for a little bit and made plans to eat with yet another Canadian couple that night. We did make that dinner & my Shrimp Ravioli was to die for. 

Day 4 was our next & last excursion where we visited four types of cenotes. Our first stop was The Fire or ‘K’aak’ cenote where we zip-lined into the water and swam to a cliff to jump from 30 ft high. The water in all the caves are fed from underground rivers, so everything was very clean, but also pretty cold! Our next stop was The Earth or “Lu’um” cenote where we rappelled into fresh waters. This was by far our favorite. We hiked up the trails and arrived at a platform. Our guide, Pedro – who was also super friendly & awesome – didn’t really setup (I think on purpose) what we’d be doing at this stop so when we climbed to the top of the platform, we saw the most amazing view. There were zip lines running straight down into a cave & that was the only way in. Our next stop was The Water or ‘Ha’ cenote where we were able to snorkel and see the rock formations and incredible underwater lillies. Our last stop was The Wind or ‘Iik’ cenote where we ziplined 300 yards across the open water at 60 ft. high.

Day 5, our last day – we had originally planned to go into Playa del Carmen, but later chose to stick around the resort & relax before leaving. We went to the beach, Joe snorkeled in the ocean, picked up the kids souvenirs & swam in the pool the remainder of the day. We met a very nice couple from New York & had the best French onion soup I’ve ever had at dinner that night. We had a 4 a.m. wake up call, so we made it in early night, packed our things and headed for home.

For once the travel both there and back went very smooth and were sort of uneventful. We made it home on time to watch the Badgers lost to Notre Dame for their chance to make it to the Elite Eight. Not the ending we were hoping for, but we were happy to get to see it.

Raising kids is hard work. Life is busy and it’s so easy to not prioritize the things that matter the most. Our annual vacation sans-kids so important for the health of our marriage and I hope we continue to prioritize these vacations until death do us part.


Keepin’ Up

Last week we celebrated St. Patrick’s day. Even though I’m Irish (no clue on what percent) I didn’t grow up celebrating that holiday. I mean, I celebrated in college, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to the day than donning your favorite green attire & drinking copious amounts of Guinness & Jameson.

So as I was planting evidence of a sneaky leprechaun throughout our house at 1:30 a.m. the night before, I wondered how I got here. In fact when I posted the evidence of Sneaky Sam’s (yes our leprechaun has a name) arrival on Facebook the next day, I caught flack from one of my most honest friends (which also makes her one of my favorites).

stpattysIn fairness I saw the comment coming, because as I was toilet papering both kids rooms, I knew how ridiculous it was to 1) be wasting two roles of perfectly good tp and 2) to be making a mess I’d have to clean up. And even more to her credit – she knows me & knows I hate “stupid” things like that. In fact, I’m the mean mom who refuses to do Elf on Shelf.

So why did I do it and what does this have to do with keeping up?

St. Patrick’s Day is just one of MANY holidays and events that have changed from when I was a kid. Valentine’s Day this year did not consist of a handmade card & a piece of candy. Instead Ella got Will an oversized, robotic dinosaur. In return he got her a large beanbag chair for her room…plus the card, candy, etc.

Easter is in one week. My mom called to ask what she should get the kids! Ella wants a new bike (note: that does not say says wants). She has been told she’ll have to use the money she’s saved to buy it herself. When I was discussing it with my mom, she suggested maybe we could get it for her for Easter. What?! It’s Easter. You get jellybeans & hunt for Easter Eggs, you do not get a $100+ bicycle.

Everywhere you turn, there’s pressure to do more. Go bigger. I HAD to decorate for the leprechaun. He goes to every kids home and if he didn’t pitstop at our house, the kids would wonder why it was different for them. “Why doesn’t the leprechaun like us?” It’s expected..and not just by our kids. Our teacher emailed a reminder ahead of time. Everyone asked our kids if they saw the leprechaun and what tricks he pulled and treats he left behind.

Right now as my aforementioned friend is reading this, I can hear her thinking something like, “life’s not fair. Kids need to learn that they don’t get everything they want. If you hate doing it, why do you?”

All valid points and again, things I whole-heartedly agree with (it’s why we’re friends)! However some battles aren’t worth fighting and if it only takes two rolls of toilet paper to make our kids happy, then I’m going to do it because…it’s easier.

And please don’t be mistaken, I’m still not doing Elf on the Shelf, because ain’t nobody got time for that!