Sunday, November 20, 2011

11.8...To Be Exact!

It's 5:35 a.m.  I've been up for an hour.  At the ripe time of 4:30 a.m., my little boy woke up and started playing in his room, quite loudly, I may add.  It was so cute, he knows he can't come out of his room until his "moon turns yellow and orange"...I guess I didn't specify not to get out of bed until at least, oh I don't know, the farmers get up for the day?  Starbucks opens?  Anyway, I lost the battle of the go-back-to-sleeps and he is now cuddled on the couch watching Cars 2.  And, I'm wide awake. 

Figured I would take this time to shout to the world my loyal readers that I have lost 11.8 pounds since starting Weight Watchers on October 3Pants are starting to get a little looser and I could zip up a pair of boots over my calves that I couldn't last winter.  Things are looking up.  I even found a form of exercise that I, gulp, actually like.  Spin class.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but the 50 minutes flies by.  Who am I?!?

In other news...

1.  We took family pictures yesterday.  I don't have high hopes here, my little lady was tired and not really herself.  The photographer assured me she got a few great ones, but we'll see.  I LOVE sending (and receiving) holiday cards, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed we got some card-worthy shots!

2.  My life-long friend, who I met on my very first day of sleep away camp when I was eight, had her first baby this week.  A little bundle of perfect love, for my friend who has been a "mother hen" since as far back as I can remember.  I know her adventures in motherhood will be nothing short of brilliance, like she has been doing it all along.  I can't believe I have to wait until January to meet that darling boy.

3.  I was looking through some email drafts, and I came across something I had to capture for posterity sake.  Husband said it while we were out to dinner.  I emailed it to myself at the table, because it cracked me up.  Maybe it was the cocktails, but it brought a smile to my face to read it again...He said, out of the blue, "Your blog has too many adjectives. Oh, and adverbs. That's the difference between girls and guys - it takes you four sentences to say what I could have said in 2 words."  Ha, he is so right!

I wish I could say that I will post again this week, but my track record says otherwise.  So, let me be among the first to wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings.  I absolutely love this holiday and can't wait to share it with those I love most. 

May your plates be full, your laughter loud and often and your day spent surrounded by those you are thankful for most in this world! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year, Halloween was an over-the-top, amazing, already-can't-wait-until-next-year success!  My Buzz Lightyear and Minnie Mouse stole the show...I mean, just look at 'em, cah-mon!  Scrooge McHusband won't let you see their adorable faces, but I tell you, grins from ear to ear!

It was fun to watch my kiddos tackle trick-or-treating so differently.  MDB ran full speed ahead, from door-to-door, not really caring what the candy was, as long as it was filling up his pumpkin.  Ellie, on the other hand, was much more methodical.  She thought very long and hard about what to choose and had to examine each and every piece before placing it gingerly in her stash.  And then she pulled things out from time-to-time, wanting to talk about the oh-so-goodness of candy. 

When they were done, MDB thrust his bucket in my arms and told me I could take it inside.  After dinner, when I let him pick one thing to eat, he just grabbed what was on top and that was that.  Ellie on the other hand, nearly had a stroke if someone even glanced in the direction of her loot.  She changed her mind 19 times in deciding what to choose for her after dinner treat.  And, we caught her sneaking pieces of candy under the couch cushions, to save for later.  Hilarious.

Overall, it was a great celebration.  To me, it was one of those times when I could actually feel myself taking a step back, trying to savor the moments and take as much of it in as possible.  It was as if I was hoping to bottle up the feelings so I could close eyes years from now and recall the pure joy of innocence in my babies eyes.  It seemed as if I was watching the events unfold from outside my body, bearing witness to one of those moments that mark a true joy of parenthood!

And, I would be remiss if I didn't mention -- one of those Halloween-sized boxes of Milk Duds -- only three Weight Watchers points.  Totally worth it, in my book!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Made My Day!

So, I have no idea where this came from.  It was sent as an email forward with no information...but it was way too good not to share.  So, if I am plagiarizing someone, please, please let me know and I will give credit as credit is FOR SURE due for this one. 

Laughed my tush off with the hilarity and truthfulness!  Enjoy!

Top 10 Ways That Being A Parent Is Like Being at a Fraternity Party...

10. There are half-full, brightly-colored plastic cups on the floor in every room. Three of them are in the bathtub.

9. There's always that one girl, bawling her eyes out in a corner.

8. It's best not to assume that the person closest to you has any control over his/her digestive function.

7. You sneak off to the bathroom knowing that as soon as you sit down, someones going to start banging on the door.

6. Probably 80% of the stains on the furniture contain DNA.

5. You've got someone in your face at 3 a.m. looking for a drink.

4. There's definitely going to be a fight.

3. You're not sure whether anything you're doing is right, you just hope it won't get you arrested.

2. There are crumpled-up underpants everywhere.

1. You wake up wondering exactly how and when the person in bed with you got there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slow and Steady...SUCKS!

Today I hit the 3-week mark on Weight Watchers and have five less pounds to show for it!  I have to say, things have been really good.  I'm not hungry, feel satisfied and have a lot more energy.

But, five pounds, really?!?  I swear, a few years ago, I could take five pounds off just by thinking about eating healthier.  I've been following the program to a tee and just barely dipping into my bonus "points" for the week.  I even worked out twice last week.   (Yes, that says two times...c'mon that's two more times than the week before!) 

Awesome.  Slow as sin weight loss...another reason that getting older sucks.  But, I'm not giving up.  I love the advice I got from a co-worker.  I can lose weight now or wait and do it later.  But, no matter what, the quest will always be there and get harder and harder with time.  I love that.  Also, I used to associate diets with never ever getting to eat the food I love again.  It struck me that as with the weight, the food too, will always be there.  I can say no now, knowing that if I can get down to a weight comfortable for me, I can treat myself every so often.   

It's been interesting, being so open and vocal about such a personal topic, but in the end, I'm glad I am.  The support has been great and I inspired two co-workers to join WW too.  Once of them lost five pounds her first week (ahh, to be in your early 20s again!) 

So, onward (and hopefully downward!)

Oh, and to the adorable little Halloween candy, all cute and scrumptiously don't tempt me!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Head Over Heels In Love

My very, very, very best friend had her first baby on Sunday.  A wee-little boy that captured my heart the moment I layed eyes on him.   He is a sweet bundle of love, with this adorable, squeaky little cry that makes you just fall for him over and over and over again. 

Oh J-Man, I adore you and I can't wait to watch you grow up.  Kiddo, you hit the jackpot in the parents department, really.  Their love for you (and each other by the way) is palpable and inspiring.  

I love watching your mama start her amazing parental journey.  I love that she trusted me as her sounding board to keep you safe and healthy in pregnancy and now beyond.  I love that she fearlessly and calmly put her body through hell and back again to bring you into the world. 

I love her and you, with all my heart!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food for Thought?

I was perusing Facebook this morning (when I should have been in the shower getting ready for work?!) and came across a post, originally shared by Delphine Fieberg.  Since I'm in the throws of a mind/body overhaul, it made me pause and reflect.  Wanted to share...

Do You Want To Be A Whale Or A Mermaid?

"A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was "This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"  The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

"Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.  They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.  They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on CD's. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.  But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?  They would have no sex life and could not bear children.  Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.  And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I'd rather be a whale.  At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn't enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.  We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.  Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: "How amazing am I?!"

I love this and hope to think of it when I'm being overly critical of myself!

P.S. My co-worker made encouraged me to power walk/run stairs with her at lunch today.  I mean, not many people can get my lazy butt out of a chair, but she did, just with her big 'ol smile.  Thanks to her and to EVERYONE who offered words of wisdom, tips, recipes and encouragement! 

Stay tuned to weigh-in day on far so good!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day #1 (of the Rest of My Life)

I started Weight Watchers today -- again.  Please, the story of my life with on again-off again diets plans for getting healthy. 

But, I do feel really good this time.  I have a support group at work and feel really committed and ready.  Also, food -- food that I used to love and worship (aka, junk!) just doesn't taste as good as it used to.  When I eat it now, it leaves me feeling tired, energy-less and, well, fat.  That says something, right?

I've been struggling with whether or not to post my actual weight on my blog.  The number is higher than it has ever been before.  Even with my share everything approach to life -- not sure I'm ready for it to be so public, so real.  Maybe I'll change my mind as the scale goes down, but for now, I'm just not there yet.

So my goal?  35 pounds lost by my 35th birthday. I usually set really unrealistic goals.  Like when I went to St. Thomas in May, my goal was 20 pounds in 2 weeks.  Yeah, OK.  So, in my commitment to truly make a life change, I'm going to try and slow things down.   My new approach gives me 9 months and 3 days!

In terms of working out (BLECH!), I'm not ready to hit the gym yet.  I really just dread it.  But, I was enjoying Bikram (hot) yoga.  So, I am going to commit to that a few times a week -- for now.

So, there you have it.  Keep you posted.  And, if you have any tips, recipes and/or moral support to share, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Survived (So Far!)

I wanted kids as far back as I can remember.  BUT, there was one thing about parenthood that stopped me in my tracks, gave me pause about having children at all and had me considering home schooling so they wouldn't ever have to be in a cesspool of germs -- vomit.  Hate it.  Hate the mere idea of it.  Hate the anticipation of it.  Hate the even remote possibility of it.

Well, I just survived the dreaded stomach flu with Ellie.  A major milestone of mommy hood (passed, with flying colors, I might add!)  I have to say, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  My little lady was SUCH a trooper, so very brave.  And, to top it all off, she kept looking up at me with those big, sad blue eyes, saying "tank you Mommy.  I wuv you Mommy."  Love.  Love.

As the clock strikes 10:38 tonight -- marking the exact moment we will reach the coveted 24 hour mark -- I will sleep soundly knowing that I graduated past my private parental panic with honors!

P.S.  G-D, since I was such an amazing mom...can you please spare me, the hubs and most of all the 4 year-old?  He has his first field trip tomorrow and is beyond excited.  And, selfishly, while I was great, truly -- I'm still not quite ready to do it again! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog Bliss

First...what do you think of the new look?  I love it..."me" colors and just the right amount of girly/cutesy.   I might re-work the signature a bit...but, I couldn't wait to get the new and MUCH approved look up and running.

Secondly, I was chatting with some of my favorite co-workers this morning, both who asked me when my next post was coming because they really do love reading my blog and my writing.  I honestly haven't been that into it lately, but just hearing those kind words gave me just the inspiration I needed to stick with it.  I'm such a sucker for a pat on the back or some every time! 

So, here are a few updates on The State of Jen:

1.  Last night, I went to a friend's house to help her with her darling kids while her husband was on a business trip.  She has a 6 week-old and a 3 year-old and the thought of doing the "witching hour" alone sent her into a bit of a tailspin.  I jumped at the chance to help -- because I remember feeling the exact same way.  She told me she was embarrassed to ask for help, thinking I'd judge her for not wanting to handle the few hours alone.  I took her hands in mine and explained that I did everything in my power to NEVER have to do dinner/bath/bed time alone until Ellie was oh, about 6 months.  And, that I stopped judging other parents the exact day I became one!  Her relief was palpable as I held that little bundle of newborn for a few, precious hours. 

2.  I'm co-throwing a baby shower for my BFF on Sunday for her baby boy due 11/11/11 -- so cool!  (You know I'm not that into getting induced for delivery -- but I might have to make an exception for this one, what a cool birthday that would be!)  I'm very, very excited and will post pictures next week.  I'm also a bit nervous since I volunteered to make ALL the food myself.  With the hubby at a golf outing all day Saturday, it should be an interesting scramble!

3.  The kids are fantastic.  MDB has his first field trip next week.  They are headed to another pre-school to play outside and have a picnic in the park.  He is beyond excited to ride the school bus and I was beyond excited to sign my very first permission slip!

4.  Ellie, oh my Ellie.  She is just full of spit and vinegar these days.  Darling as heck, but also a whole, lotta 2.5 year-old drama.  I think we have a live wire here -- reminds me of someone else I know.  Me?  No, not me! :)  My parents secretly wished a "spirited" child on me during my own bouts!  Happy guys?

5.  Lastly, my quest continues on my never ending (or starting for that matter) weight loss/get healthy battle.  A few girls at work who have managed to change their lives for the healthier are letting me into their Weight Watchers "support group."  Today is our first meeting and I'm pretty excited about it.  Like I said, I've always needed the support (and praise) of others to help me on hard journeys -- so here goes nothing everything!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

That's Not My Name!

This morning we started our day with a full-on, music blasting, still in the wee hours of the morning, pajama-clad dance party to MDBs most requested song, "That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings.  Seeing the kids dance around shaking their little tushes, holding hands, watching them, watch themselves in the full-legnth mirror and hearing little Ellie's voice sing, "That's Not My Name" at the top of her lungs, seared a smile on my face that I just can't shake! 

Thought maybe hearing The Ting-Tings would help jump start your day too...

Happy hump day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Help Wanted!

Ok, so my brand new blog design fell through.  I'm pretty bummed...I was excited for something new and fresh.  The pink paisley's and single tulip, which I once loved so much, now make me not even want to spend time on my own site.  Yeah, not good.

Do any of you know any good and reasonably priced blog designers out there?  I want something clean, simple, girly, bright and fresh...


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday.  34.  It's not 35.  Truthfully, it doesn't feel too bad.  In my mind, I'm still too young to be a mother, have a tendency to regress to the likes of an immature 16-year-old in front of my parents and have to pack on 10 pounds of make up to be taken seriously at work or order a drink in a bar - so I feel ok with another year under my belt.

I love birthday's.  I'm not afraid to admit that an ENTIRE day about me is extremely appealing.  I love calls from friends that I don't get to talk to enough, getting pampered all day by my obliging hubby and, this year, waking up to my son's sweet voice whispering happy birthday and showering me with about 100 kisses.  I get teased a lot that I actually celebrate "the week of Jen" and you know what, I'm totally comfortable with that!

And, the best part about my's also my Dad's!  Honestly, sharing the day with him makes it all about 2 billion times more special.  Now that I'm a parent, I can only imagine how amazing it was to be handed his baby girl (a cute one, by the way :)) on his birthday! 

My Dad is, without question, one of the greatest men to walk the earth.  I love his passion for life, his unwavering commitment to his wife, marriage and family, his sense of humor, his work ethic, his uncanny ability to look at things from all different angles and challenge the status quo and his young-at-heart, playful soul.  And, to top it off, he has to share his special day with his birthday obsessed daughter.  What a guy!  Dad, thank you for always loving and believing in me, even when the boarding school in Britain seemed appealing, never letting me rest on my laurels, loving my kids and husband to your core, always being okay with figuring out the tax, flying to NY only to drive 15 hours home so I wouldn't have to be alone and actually being the Dad to pick me up from a party and really not ask any questions!  Happy birthday Pop Pop...I'm proud and honored to be your daughter.  Here's to 93!

This day also has a different meaning.  It was my due date - kinda, sorta, not really.  You see, hubs and I pretty much decided we were done in the kids department.  We have already been blessed with two perfect children.  To make a very long story short, last November I was late, took a pregnancy test and it was positive.  There it was in that tiny digital screen, one simple word, pregnant.  Whoa...impossible, I thought...we were extremely careful.  After the initial shock wore off and my husband could look me in the eyes again, I think we were both okay and even excited with the idea of another child.  It had to be fate...the super reliable Internet calculator said the due date was, none other than, July 6. 

I have to say looking back, I knew it felt different.  I took a few other tests that night and the next morning that were all negative.  Then, I woke up the morning after that with my period.  So strange...I mean, who ever heard of a false positive?!  I even went to the doctor just for reassurance and sure enough I'd never been pregnant at all.  I was relieved, but perhaps just a little disappointed too.  When I dug down deep, I realized my sadness stemmed from not being able to be pregnant again (loved it) and not getting to realize my dream of a drug-free birth -- but the rest of it made me feel nervous and completely overwhelmed and unequipped to handle it all.  I honestly didn't know if my sometimes overwhelming anxiety and heart already bursting with love and fear for all of the unknowns could possibly handle another child.  We're still struggling with the decision and I couldn't tell you definitively what the future will hold. 

It's strange now, thinking how different this birthday could have been.  What I do know, as I found myself showered with love all day, I'm one lucky girl and there is no better birthday gift than that!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I wanted a little girl as far back as I can remember.  I pictured shopping for days on end, spa-ing 'til we dropped and me spending endless hours coiffing her hair into the most perfect pigtails ever seen.  In my daydreams, I never considered what actually goes into parenting a daughter (and a daughter with barely enough hair for a simple ribbon, I might add!). 

It's scary stuff, I say.  How do you raise a girl (and boy...but that is another post!) to be confident, smart, poised and armed and ready to combat the plethora of social stigmas and lousy role models out there? 

I came across this article by Lisa Bloom, author of "Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World" and loved the message -- thought I would share!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Birds and the Bees

MDB:  "Ashley (our amazing new nanny), can boys have babies in their tummy's?"
Ashley:  "No buddy, only girls can have babies."
MDB:  After a few minutes of silence..."Ashley, when I get bigger, I'm gonna marry you and put a baby in your belly."

Okay, then.

This, coupled with a weekend filled with nothing but talk about his girl Belle, from Beauty and the Beast...I guess my little boy is quite the heart breaker.  So stinkin' cute and so surreal and so frightening...all at the same time.  In reality, I'm not really scared to have "the talk."  We are nothing but open and honest about bodies and parts in our house...but he is only four for Pete's sake.  I have a feeling less is more for this one...and, well, that isn't always my strength. 

How old were your kids when you started talking about the birds and the bees?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Story of Brayden's Heart

(Reposting with a quick edit below in bold and red...oops)

The day my nephew was born is etched into my brain as one of those days that I'll remember forever.  The joy of watching my brother become a Dad, seeing the love on my parent's faces as they became grandparents (again) and getting to hold that precious little boy moments after his birth.  And then, in a split second, the news that would change us all forever -- his diagnosis of Aortic Valve Stenosis (AVS), a congenital heart disease. 

I've been quiet on the subject, as my brother and his amazing wife dealt with and processed all the ups and downs of this past year.  And, to be honest, from the first moments we learned of Brayden's condition, I've yet to be able to find the right words to help, comfort, sooth, encourage and, most of all, express my love. 

Why share now? 

In hind site, it doesn't surprise me.  My family has always been amazing and never ones to rest on their laurels.  My parents were never the sit-idly-by kind of people and from the first moment of Brayden's diagnosis a plan was set in action to help their beloved grandchild and his parents and the legions of other parents dealing with the same psychological, financial and medical issues that come with a similar diagnosis. 

And so out of endless love, devotion and a overwhelming calling to help our Brayden and other families in similar situations, was born my family's registered 501(c)(3) foundation -- A Giving Heart Foundation:  Big Hearts Helping Little Hearts Grow.  I do hope you'll visit the site and if you feel so obliged, make a donation to this amazing and personal cause -- 100 percent of your donation reaches children in need.

My beautiful, strong, the-kind-of-Mom-we-all-want-to-be, SIL wrote Brayden's touching story for the foundation's Web site and I wanted to share it with you:

"Like many parents, we weren’t prepared for the day Brayden was born. We’d chosen that weekend to move and, generally speaking, I don’t think any first time parent is prepared until they are holding their beautiful baby in their arms. It’s like a switch flips and you want nothing more than to protect and love them. The amount of love that instantly grows is immeasurable; we were on cloud nine. So when the pediatrician stopped by for a routine visit, we didn’t think much of it. All of the tests done while I was pregnant came back perfect, why would anything change now?  And then she told us that Brayden had Aortic Valve Stenosis (AVS). In an instant, it felt like all of the air had been sucked out of the room. 

The next month, we were living under water.  Shuttling our innocent little bundle to doctors for echocardiograms, researching AVS and trying to make sense of what was happening.  And then, the day before Brayden turned one month old, the decision was made that doctors would need to intervene and do a balloon procedure on Brayden’s tiny, baby heart. We were to report to the hospital the next day at 6 a.m.  This is when we met Dr. Hijazi. We weren’t scheduled to see him, but another doctor working at a different hospital.  But a family friend recommended Dr. Hijazi, claiming he was the best of the best.  After a quick online search, we were sold.  He is an expert in his field and his accolades endless.  My husband, called Dr. Hijazi’s office to explain our situation and Dr. Hijazi immediately called back. Though he was scheduled to leave town, and had never met Brayden, he agreed to meet with us.  He said that if he agreed the procedure needed to be done, he would stay and do it.  At the same time, I was speaking with our insurance agency.  Not only was Dr. Hijazi out of network but, our insurance agency had dropped Brayden from our plan that day due to a system glitch.  At the 11th hour, the glitch was corrected and we were told the costs would be a maximum of $5,000.  At this point, costs didn’t matter.  We would have sold our souls to make this procedure happen.

The morning at the medical center is a blur.  I was a mess; Mike was holding it together (one of us had to).  But once we spoke with Dr. Hijazi it somehow seemed a bit better. Mike was shocked at my lack of worry once we left Brayden in his capable hands.  In my mind, this guy was the cream of the crop.  And not only is he extremely talented, he is personable, understanding and, for some reason, I trusted him.  After three hours of pacing the floors, we met Dr. Hijazi in the hall and he smiled immediately.  I broke down in tears again, this time out of relief.  He said the procedure was extremely successful and Brayden was recovering well. It was like the weight of the world had been lifted from our shoulders.

Since the procedure, Brayden continues to grow strong and is living a normal life like any other kid.  He’s met or exceeded every milestone outlined for his age and has a great personality.  But, while Brayden’s heart is healthy, we still have fears for the future.  Brayden will need another balloon at some point, as well as open-heart surgery to replace his valve.  How will we explain this to him as he gets older, how do we push our fears aside and focus on our healthy little boy?  We were also left with a mountain of bills from our insurance company that far exceeded the original amount discussed.  Thankfully, Mike’s father made it his personal mission to negotiate those costs.  And Mike’s mom is a psychologist, which has been a huge help in calming our minds.

But not everyone is as lucky as we are.  Not everyone has a “simple” case like Brayden – though I see nothing simple about congenital heart disease.  Not everyone’s parents like to navigate the legal/insurance system, and not everyone’s parents are able to provide the emotional support that’s needed. 

And that’s why we’ve created this foundation.  Will it benefit my son when he needs to have his valve replaced - yes.  But, I’m hoping it will also help families like ours - those just starting out and not emotionally or financially prepared for the worst-case scenario.

I still spend a lot of sleepless nights asking myself what if, and that’s when Mike reminds me that we’re doing our best. And that’s all you can do."

You can also check us out on Facebook and please "Like" us, it would mean a lot to me!

From my heart to yours,

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy Belated Mother's Day

Last weekend/this week was a hectic one.  Aside from finally getting to attend another birth (story to come, I promise it's worth the wait!) we had a family birthday party, final preparations for getting the house on the market (gulp!) and day-to-night pampering of all the Mom's in my life (me included!) for Mother's Day.

What am I trying to say?  This post is overdue and I know it.  But, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share with the world how truly blessed I am to have the most amazing mom in the entire world.  She is the glue, the peanut butter to my jelly, my best friend and role model all wrapped up into the most amazing mom, grandma and human being who ever graced the earth.  I wrote this for her 60th birthday last year and I wanted to share it with the world:

Thanks for...

...never, ever, ever giving up on me.
…loving my husband like one your own.
…always making sure I had something cute to wear and painstakingly helping me find the perfect one!
…never letting an opportunity for us to talk about something pass us by.
…showing such love and devotion to my children – not because you have to – but because you want to!
…helping me find my true self and leading (never forcing) me to find my better self.
…being generous beyond words.
…not sending me to boarding school.
…helping me see things in a different light, a gift you give me always, probably without even knowing it.
…helping my brother and I see the potential, growth and importance of each other.
…never allowing me to just take the easy road.
…always being the keeper of my secrets.
…loving me for who I am, but never failing to see my potential and helping me get there in a kind way.
…allowing me to see what true love looks like and teaching me the kind of wife I want to be.
…Tuesdays. My kids love it and I always look forward to coming home from work and having you there.
…always doing more than is expected or asked, like bringing dinner for my kids and stocking your house with the ever-growing and ever-changing me-approved products.
…letting me share your Miraval experience with you.
…taking my passions and making them your own.
…researching things that are on my mind to educate me or ease my concerns.
…giving me the vital tools for survival…from what to eat to cure all that ails to must-have beauty products to how to shop ‘til we drop.
…being okay with no bathroom breaks during shopping BUT always making time for lunch.
…having the remarkable stamina of a 19 year old.
…being a shining example of pure beauty on the inside and out.
…the best and most coveted hand me downs around!
…helping me overcome my many anxieties in a patient and kind way.
…being my role model.
…touching so many people’s lives, just by being you.
…teaching me that you can follow your dreams and be an amazing Mom too.
…and, mostly for giving me all the tools I need to be a great Mom. It’s easy, be just like you!

May this remind you of how loved you are by your family, friends and legions of patients whose lives you have bettered. You, my Mom, are my hero today and always! I love you!

But, here's the deal.  I hit the jackpot in the mom department...twice.  My MIL is, hands down, one of the most unbelievable, selfless, kind, sincere, hard working women I have ever met.  She has this hard-to-put-into-words calming effect on everyone she meets.  There is a sense of serene, just by having her presence in a room.  She loves her children and grandchildren to the depths of her soul and would gladly give the shirt off her back if it meant helping someone in need.  

I love her commitment to woman's rights, even if I don't religiously read the subscription to Ms magazine she gave me.  I love spending time with her in the kitchen talking about nothing and everything.  I love that she held my babies in her arms all night long, just so I could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I love her stunning red hair and understand her disappointment over not getting a red headed grandchild - yet.  I love her ever-so-sweet demeanor yet ability to curse like a truck driver during anything competitive.  I love that she raised three boys who can all do their own laundry, cook, not freak out over a tampon and that simply adore each other.  I love that she ALWAYS takes my side.  I love that she isn't afraid to put me in my place, as I often lose my way.  I love that she doesn't roll her eyes when I freak out about sleeping arrangements or food for the kids, even though I know she wants to.  I love that she treats me like the daughter she never had.

Happy Mother's Day to the two women who guide me as a Mom and person each and everyday.  I love you!

And, happy, happy to all the Mom's out there.  I know the "official" day is over -- but I frankly think for all we do, is a week of celebrating too much to ask?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stopped Me In My Tracks

Sometimes something I read or watch stops me right in my tracks.  The sheer truthfulness of the words or the overwhelming feeling that the person is speaking directly to me just shakes me to my core.  I had one of these hit-me-over-the-head moments yesterday and I just had to share. 

This video, of one of the miracle survivors of the US Air Hudson River plane crash sharing his story, is short, simple, to the point -- and quite possibly life changing.  I hope it leaves you thinking about your life a little differently too.  I'm quite sure the message will change me and follow me for a long time to come.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The State of Jen

I write blog posts in the shower.  I write blog posts when I blow dry my hair.  I write blog posts on the train going to/from work.  I write blog posts as I fall asleep at night.  Such an amazing, dedicated would think.  Except there is one teensy-weensy problem.  I have yet to figure out how to actually find the time to turn all these unbelievably witty and thought-provoking daydream posts into, you know, actual ones. 

While on the subject of finding the time...I had a meltdown on the way home from work today.  Lately, I feel like I suck at my job, suck at wifedom, suck at home, suck at taking care of myself and just in general suck at life.  I'm telling you, admittedly, I'm still not sure I fully recovered from the nanny leaving.  My supportive and amazing husband just held my hand and listened to me rant and rave (and sob, I might add) as I shared with him my feelings about just overall sucking at finding balance these days.  Then, ever so matter of factly he said he feels the same way and that he guesses the only way to truly find more time in the day is to just sleep less.  Awesome.


It has been a very busy past few weeks.  There has been so much I've been wanting to post, but I couldn't open my eyes -- literally -- for an entire week!  Oh, where to start...

1.  This is how I spent all of last week:

Hubs and I went out on Saturday night for a friend's 40th birthday.  We went to one of my favorite places -- a dueling piano bar that plays music that makes you want to stand up and dance.  And, so I did.  And, so did my friend.  We got so into our moves that her elbow accidentally found my eye.  It hurt a little at the time and kept watering, but didn't really seem like that big of a deal...until the next morning at 4 a.m. (probably when the alcohol wore off!)  I couldn't open my right eye without excruciating pain and just the strain of trying to see out of my left was too much to bear.  So, after a trip to urgent care (in which the hubs walked the kids in the double stroller and me down the street with my eyes closed) and a Opthamologist (in which I had to be wheel chaired out, due to my lack of food and abundance of pain pills), it was deemed that I had a very major and very large cornial abrasion.  I literally spent 3 days straight in bed - unable to watch TV, read, be on the computer or do just about anything else.  Thank the lord, I have unbelievable friends and family that dropped everything to help!  And, my days were brightened by flowers from friends and a hilarious card that read, "Next time you get into a cat fight at a bar, be courteous enough to take video."  Hee hee.

2. Sadly, I had to call off a volunteer doula shift last week.  I haven't been to a birth since January and I really, really want to!  Keeping my fingers crossed for May!

3.  Our house is going on the market at the end of next week.  Gulp.  Apprehension is really setting in.  I'm so ready for suburban life, but also so not.  The thought of keeping the house psychotically clean makes me physically ill.  Oh, and, we still haven't solved that little problem of where to move next.  Aside from the annoyingness of it all, I truly know its time and am excited for what lies ahead.

4.  And, I saved the very, very best for last.  The newest member of our family was born on April 7.  Hubs middle brother and his wife (who just happens to be my HS friend) welcomed their third baby into the world, a truly precious and adorable little girl.  I now have two nieces and two nephews...who is luckier than me?  I couldn't get enough of snuggling that little baby.  Is there anything more amazing and perfect that newborn babies?!?  Man, do I just adore being an Aunt.  I really, really do.  This little girl just captured my heart at first glance.  I can't wait to spoil her rotten and tell her as much as I can how much I just adore and love her (and her big sister and brother too!)

My SIL rocked, really!  The baby had been breech starting at about 35 weeks and she painstakingly committed herself to all the chiropractic-acupuncture-therapy appointments she could to get that baby girl to turn without medical intervention!  She eventually went in for the version procedure to turn the baby, got to triage and ended up going into labor naturally and when they examined her, the baby had turned head down.  I guess its true that third children are so easy going and accommodating! :)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for continuing to read and support me, even thought my posts are never as frequent or amazing as they are in my head!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Boy

At this exact moment four years ago, at 3:20 p.m. on April 12, my life changed in an instant.  At that second, when I first layed my eyes on my newborn son, the air felt different, the world around me seemed to stop in time and I could feel, from the depth of my soul, love like I've never felt before.  I knew becoming a mother would be monumental, but in the calm of those early moments of us breathing the same pocket of air, it became clear to me that I was put on this earth for that little boy and later his sister.

Today, I'm the mother of a four year old.  Where does time go, really?  All those days I prayed for him to get a little older so he could sleep through the night, get out of diapers or be able to play by, I find myself craving to go back in time.  I catch myself mesmerized by his big, blue, full of life and wonder eyes and his way-too-grown-up, perfect face trying, with every ounce of my being, to remember the way his newborn skin felt and the exact position he would snuggle in my arms as he dozed off to sleep. 

But, if his 4-year-old self is any indication of the boy and man he will become, I also feel myself about bursting with pride.  I just love everything about him and marvel at the intensity in which this little human brings joy to my life more and more everyday.

My darling boy -- where do I even start?  These past few months, I have watched you in awe take those last precious steps out of babyhood.  Your true personality is shining through more and more everyday, revealing a vivid imagination and endless sense of wonder, an unmistakable passion -- bordering on obsession -- for the things you love most (at the moment being Thomas the Train and Disney Cars and Toy Story) and a sweet shyness that as moments pass turns into a hidden, sweet smile and then comfort and calm. 

You're never the most outgoing or loudest in the room, but instead I catch you watching, observing and learning.  And, when deep in play, when it seems like you aren't paying attention at all to the world around you, you're the first to pick up on tensions or unrest and your mood shifts instantly. 

You seem to be more in your element when with a select few, versus a large group.  But, also the kid that after a few moments of assessing the situation can adapt to an unexpected situation and go with the flow.  You like to play with older kids -- especially your beloved cousin -- but are also at-ease with the younger ones.

The past few months have brought more change than you have known since birth, with your beloved Marta leaving.  As your Mom, I always go out of my way to protect you from pain or unrest and I ached for your little heart as I watched you try and make sense of her departure.  I sat awake at night with fear of how you would get through.  And, of course, as you always do -- you amazed me.  You were brave and strong and could express your sadness when you needed to.  You were understanding and calm and welcomed our new normal with trepidation but an open mind.  Such a huge life lesson from my little man.

You love your family to your core and seem happiest surrounded by your legions of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (and all the pseudo aunts, uncles and cousins in your life).  And, to them, your mere presence lights up a room and endless hugs light up the lives all around you.

Your sister is the luckiest little girl on the planet, because she has you.  No one makes her feel better when she's sad and no one can make her smile and laugh more than you.  The way you look out for her brings me such comfort as I know she is set for life.  My heart nearly busted out of my chest when Ellie's teacher told me how you two hug each other like a lifetime has gone by, when you see each other in the halls at school and how you raced to the nearest adult you could find in distress when you realized your sister was sock-less at the indoor playground.  And, just yesterday, after you received the gifts you've been waiting for with baited breath -- the real Buzz Lightyear and Woody -- you let your sister hold them - both - only moments after opening them.  The best part, you do things like this all the time.  Not because anyone tells you to, but just because you want to. 

I love how you have your Dad's spirit (yep, the very one that got him in more trouble than you are EVER allowed to know).  Just like him, you're quick with a joke and love to see just how far you can take something before you really get in trouble.  But, in a pinch, more and more I can count on you to be a great listener and know right from wrong.  And, while it seems I passed my love of routine and need to be prepared for what's ahead to you -- you're also way better at bouncing back from disappointment than me.  You're teaching me to not sweat the small stuff and that a big hug and belly laugh really can cure all that ails.

Happy 4th birthday my darling.  I plan to give you about 10,000 kisses as a gift, as I'm just not sure how much time I have left where that will still be okay. 

Your Dad, sister and I, oh how we love you, right down to your very core. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quick Tips

My never-ending quest to avoid toxic chemicals for my family and my love for easy solutions collide.  It's the little things, right?  I wanted to share this great article and tips for avoiding and decreasing your exposure to the nasty BPA.  Check it out...

Do You Want To Boogie?

Within moments of walking out of the 20-week ultrasound with my first born, after finding out it was a boy -- my Mom literally met us running down the street holding a huge box.  She wanted us to unwrap it, right there on the corner of a busy Michigan Avenue street. And once I did, I knew why.  It was this amazingly soft and adorable blanket from the Boogie Baby collection:

You see, I was apprehensive about having a boy, because I was convinced there was nothing cute for babies unless it was pink and covered in ruffles.  In an instant, after seeing and holding this amazing blanket, my mind was changed and nursery designed to match! 

Ever since, we have been a Boogie Baby family.  From personalized blankets to one-of-a-kind bibs and hooded towels, the stuff is not only adorable but washes AMAZINGLY well for the soft and fluffy fabric they use.  Honestly, the ONLY bib that lasted through both kids was the one from Boogie Baby. 

So, I had to share this great giveaway with you:

Act quick because the deal ends tomorrow (April 1), but it's so worth taking the time to enter.  And, you should know, I'm in no way being compensated for passing this along.  Just a loyal customer wanting to share the love!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Deed Day

I'm grumpy tonight.  Poor little guy is on day three of a high fever and cough that won't quit.  My little lady started school, got sick three days later and has passed some nasty bug around to the entire family -- Grandparents included. 

And, now that we don't have a full time nanny...sick days are getting more and more difficult to navigate.  Aside from going even more psychotic with my quest to keep my kids healthy (I already have a 10-step morning probiotic/vitamin regimen) -- anyone have any tips for tending to sick kids and keeping your job? 

So, aside from that, I still feel the need to rant.  For some reason, there is a notion that  people from Chicago are nice.  Lately, well, I just disagree.  Today, I watched another 8+ month pregnant woman on the train have to stand because no one would give up their seat.   I'm just so sick of it.  Where's the chivalry?  I took public transportation during both my pregnancies and not once, NOT ONCE, did anyone offer their seat to me.  The only time someone was kind enough to offer me a seat, was when I was about 4 months postpartum.  I almost punched the poor guy out, but hey, at least he tried!

And, its not just pregnant ladies...I've seen people with disabilities, women with multiple young children (and diaper bags and strollers) and even an older gentleman with a walker have to stand, fighting the crowds and trying desperately to keep their balance.  I mean, what is wrong with people?  I see them glance at the person and then around to see if anyone is looking and ultimately pretend not to notice.  Karma people, karma.

A few months ago, it hit rock bottom.  I got down to the train platform and there was a train just sitting there.  I walked to my usual car and saw a little commotion.  I asked someone what was going on and she pointed to a man in the window -- obviously homeless and seemingly sleeping.  She told me he had a seizure.  When the paramedics got there -- not moving very fast, I must add -- only then did I see the woman who had been sitting next to this man get up.  She didn't look away from her book, not once.  Not even as the paramedics were working on the man, including pounding his chest in what I could only assume was to help keep him alive.  She just sat there, reading, while this man was obviously not well and based on the paramedics reaction, possibly not even breathing.  And, she never moved too far away...because the minute they moved the man off the train, she made a beeline for her seat, as if afraid someone was going to take it.  I was shocked. 

Was it always like this?  Does compassion for strangers still exist -- because I want to believe it does.  Or, does the fact that most people, when faced with a room/train car/elevator full of strangers would prefer to just keep their noses in their blackberry or iPhone rather than face a possibility of human interaction?

So, since I can't change human kind (or just Chicagoans, perhaps) I'll focus on me, making sure I don't make these same mistakes.  I know I'm not perfect, far from it.  I'm not always kind or selfless or consider other's feelings as I make decisions.  But, that's not the kind of person I want to be, ever.

I'm going to challenge myself to a "Good Deed Day", at least once a week.  In my mind, it doesn't have to be big things -- just little random acts of kindness to put a smile on other people's faces, help to make another person's day just a little bit better.  Of course, I want and should be doing these things everyday, but maybe holding myself accountable once a week will challenge me to be creative and thoughtful, and really look for meaningful ways to contribute to society and those in my life I care for so deeply.

So, tonight, I'll do the last dog walk for the hubby, who usually takes this on so I can get in bed early.  And, while I'm out there, I'll get the mail, which is also normally his "job."  And, before bed, I'll clean out the coffee pot and get it all ready for morning -- so all he has to do is hit brew.  Maybe not much, but at least I know he'll get a few extra minutes of sleep and have a few extra minutes in the morning because of me.  Who knows...maybe starting his day to a little surprise will entice him pay it forward with a random act of kindness of his own! 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So Not My Original Idea...

...but, I thought I'd share anyway. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm over-the-top, crazy obsessed with my kids eating healthy food.  I've loosened up a little, as in I stopped bringing my own food for the kids to restaurants and hyperventilating if a non-organic morsel touches their lips.  Baby steps, okay.

I can't help it...I think about each and every meal and snack and how it will impact their little bodies.  You hear so much about food these eating certain greens can fight cancer cells or that the chemicals added to preserve food can do just the opposite.  For some reason, I can strike a more normal balance in my own life, understanding moderation and doing the best I can to make good choices...but with the kids, it's all consuming.  I know that giving my kids the best, healthy start in life is all on me.  They can't choose for themselves the food they eat, where it comes from and the quality...but I can.  I take that job very seriously.  In some ways, it's my quest to give them the tools they need to be healthy for life and in other ways, I'm just so scared of something bad happening to them.  With all the scary unknowns out there -- safety of vaccinations, pollution in the air, chemicals in water -- food is an area I know makes a difference in health and something I can control -- somewhat.

When the horrible, unthinkable crisis happened in Japan, aside from trying to wrap my mind around all the people whose lives were changed in an instant, I was also apprehensive about the radiation making its way across the globe.  I took to the Internet, in which I found a plethora of articles about how green and orange food can fight radiation in your body.  My poor kids were force fed sweet potato everyday for a week!

But, here's the problem.  Aside from a few things here and there, if it's green or slimy or too hard or too soft or offensive in any way -- my kids won't eat it.  And, my son will gladly give up dessert as long as he doesn't have to gag down a vegetable.  So, Jessica Seinfeld style...I've gone the deceptive route and have a handful of proven tricks up my sleeve to hide vegetables in their food.

I'm not perfect.  As a busy working Mom, I'm embarrassed to say how many times my kids eat pizza bites for lunch or "breakfast" for dinner.  I whip up instant oatmeal and jelly crackers at the last minute more often than I'd like to admit.  They eat enough Annie's cheddar bunnies that I should probably buy stock in the company and sometimes my son sits with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon, otherwise known as breakfast.

This has been an ongoing struggle.  I talk about it a lot.  And, after sharing my woes with a co-worker and some of my little secrets for getting the wee ones to eat their veggies, she thought I should share.

Let me preface by saying, I'm not a nutritionist in any way.  I'm also not a chef.  And, some of these recipes are not even mine (but I do give credit where credit is due).  But, what I do know is that they work.   And, before you judge, I also know I'm probably not doing them any favors by hiding the vegetables in their food -- my mother of the year badge got rusty long ago.  But, I'm consciences of this and try and serve actual vegetables with meals and encourage them to try it.  Hey, and sometimes they do!

So, here are my go-to favorites:

Using MDB's chocolate almond milk and rice or coconut milk ice cream as a base, I add strawberries, raspberries (or really any fresh or frozen fruit that I have) and a banana to a blender.  Oh, and while the kids aren't looking -- fresh kale, a cube of store bought frozen wheat grass and some spinach.  Once you mix it up, the kids can't even tell there's "green stuff" in it.  Even my father-in-law fell for this one.  If your child is really picky -- I bet chocolate ice cream would hide the "green" even more.

Every week or so, I make a puree of raw spinach, blanched broccoli and garlic sauteed in some olive oil.  I freeze the mixture in the little mini Tupperware (which are BPA free now...go Glad!).  I defrost one about every three days and use the mixture to make scramble eggs, nearly every morning.  My kids love their "green eggs" and I couldn't hide my grin when my son wouldn't eat the strange looking yellow scramble eggs at a restaurant!  I started this one when my kids were infants and got the green light to eat, they didn't even know the difference and it stuck.

I got a bread maker for the holidays and I'm hooked.  My secret here is that all of the recipes call for water.  So, whenever I steam vegetables, like broccoli or carrots, I save the cooking water at the bottom and freeze it.  I defrost and use this water when I make my bread. 

I love these and low-and-behold so do all three two kids in my house (husband included).  I don't have an exact recipe for this one...I make it up as I go along and with whatever I have in the house at the time.  In a food processor, put half of a large onion or a shallot (whatever you have laying around), 1 - 2 garlic cloves, fresh parsley and basil (or any herbs you like), grated Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, an egg, a little olive oil and grind it up.  Add some raw spinach and kale and raw or lightly cooked broccoli and grind again.  Add this mixture to about 1 pound of ground beef (I like the grass-fed variety) and mix with your hands.  Add a splash of worchehire sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix again.  Form the mixture into bite-sized, mini meatballs and place them on a sheet pan.  It should look like this:

(I promise...they don't look so green after they are slightly browned from the oven).  Bake the meatballs at about 375 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes or until almost done.  If you are going to serve them right away, finish cooking them in your favorite sauce.  Otherwise, let them cool, transfer them to a bag or container and freeze.  I always have a stash of these in the freezer and the kids gobble them up!  This one is husband and MDB's playdate approved as well!

This recipe is courtesy of Jessica Seinfeld's book, Deceptively Delicious.  It is one of my favorites -- and, when my husband tasted it before he knew veggies were hidden inside, he said it was my best batch of banana bread EVER!  MDB devours it too...and the best part, it's a pretty easy recipe so he always helps me in the kitchen with this one.  Full disclosure:  my Ellie won't touch this bread with a ten foot pole.  Dating back to the baby food days, bananas just ain't her thing!

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large egg whites (I use the whole egg, mainly out of lazinesss)
11/2 cups banana puree
1/2 cup cauliflower puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9X5-inch loaf pan or 2 mini pans, with cooking spray.  (I'm not a big fan of cooking spray, so I coat my pan with butter).

2.  In a bowl, mix the flours with the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar and oil with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Mix in the eggs, banana and cauliflower purees and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and mix just until well combined.

4.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes for the large loaf, 25 to 30 minutes for the mini loaves.  Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn the bread out of the pan to cool before serving.

I found this great mini loaf pan at Crate and Barrel, which I use to make the banana bread.  Aside from the fact that I can keep some in the fridge for the week and freeze the son thinks the little individual loaves are great!

I find the "dinosaur" kale works best, but all the varieties will do. After you wash your kale, pull the leaves off the stem in the middle. Break or chop the leaves into "chip" size pieces and toss them in a little olive oil. Spread them on a sheet pan and sprinkle with a touch of kosher salt. Bake on a high temperature (like 375 - 400 degrees) for about 5ish minutes, or until the pieces are crispy but not brown. The "chips" come out crunchy and delicious.  We can get Ellie to gulp these down by having her see how loud she can crunch! My son...well, he knows they are this one is hit or miss with him.

1.  Whenever I add chopped herbs to a meal, like over spaghetti or roasted chicken, I add chopped spinach too.  It looks the same, trust me. 
2.  My mom pureed steamed carrots into peanut butter once and MDB loved it.  I haven't tried it again in a while...but I should, since he consumes enough peanut butter alone as a family of four.  If you have a nut allergy in the family, this would also work with almond butter or sunflour seed butter.
3.  Whenever I make sweet potato mash for dinner, I save a little for pancake batter the next day.  Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup to whatever batter you use.
4.  If I "bread" something (like this great recipe for Pretzel Crusted Chicken), I chop a little spinach along with other fresh herbs into the mix.  If you use herb breadcrumbs, you can barely tell the fresh stuff is there!
5.  My son was recently introduced to french fries.  So, whenever I make them at home, I always use sweet potatoes sliced, brushed with olive oil and baked.  As long as they are doused with ketchup, he hasn't cared about the difference.

I'm not gonna lie -- sometimes when I share with others the time and energy I put into meal planning and healthy eating, I'm met with nothing but eye rolling.  So, if that's you...sorry!  But, if not, I hope you got some good ideas you can share with your family.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming Soon!

A brand-spankin' new "The State of Jen" is on the way!  I thought a little blog re-design was in order and it's close, oh so close to being ready.  I'm giddy with's just so, me!  Stay tuned...