Photo by Megan Saul Photography

The Real Deal Baby List

19 months! How can it be that it’s been so long since the birth of Augustine?! The last year and a half have flown by, and with that countless of onesies, shoes, and rattles. Edging ever closer to two, I’m now thinking back at all of the good things, and useless things, I acquired in preparation for my little bundle.

When August was first  born we were living in a spacious one bedroom, complete with three rescue pets. Fast forward 19 months later. Now the five of us (August, Peanut, Butter, Tomato, and I) live in a vintage 2 bedroom with way more leg room, and yet, we’ve actually down-sized since adding square footage. I’ve found that the adage “less is more” truly is the way to go. Less stuff means less to wash, clean, trip over, and, the most important thing, it means less clutter. So with that context in mind, here are my favorite “I can’t live without you” items that I’d recommend to any urban parent, as well as a few things I’d urge you to leave off your list. Continue reading

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A Fine Feathered Friend

I love animals. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise given my profession and the menagerie of critters I’ve adopted over the years. But there’s a special boy who now has a permanent place in my heart: Joey.

14032990_285483101817254_1513580391_n1This beautiful ring-necked dove made his way to our shelter earlier in the summer when a good Samaritan found him wandering the city. Though doves and pigeons are close cousins, he was clearly not made for the street life, so his rescuer brought him into us for re-homing.

Joey was an instant hit among staff and volunteers. Incredibly social, affectionate, and frankly, a huge flirt, he soon captured the hearts of all who met him. Including me. After seeing him spend a few weeks up in our small animals room, I decided the time had come to make him an office foster. So Joey moved in!

One of the best things about having office fosters is exposing people to species of animals they normally wouldn’t have a chance to encounter. Most people have some vague concept of the intelligence and sociability of birds, but have not experienced it first-hand. Joey was the one to change all of that. His overtly friendly disposition, combined with his handle-ability, made a believer out of even the most hesitant of people.

joey-and-guyJoey spent six weeks cooing, snuggling, and pooping his way around my space. Our daily routine went something like this: I come in and immediately feed and water all the office fosters. Joey spends these 15 minutes singing to me atop the bookcase. Once everyone was fed, the cleaning could begin. At this point Joey would take to rummaging my sweeping piles along the floor, right beside whichever office rabbit I was fostering at the time. Finally, his favorite part of the day would begin: desk time. There was rarely a moment in my work day that I wouldn’t find him either sitting on my computer monitor or hunkered down beside my key board. In the moments he wasn’t standing watch on my desk, he’d be busy perching a top my head, or socializing with the many visitors who would be making their rounds through our department. One of our favorite Joey quirks was the full bellied cackle he’d cry when he’d perch upon an office guest. To the unsuspecting, it was a bit alarming, but to those of us who knew him, we thought of it as the cuddling battle cry.

joeyIf not for the spunk of our two office cats, I’m sure that Joey wouldn’t have been a temporary fixture, but a permanent member of our team. But alas, for his own safety the team decided that he’d be better off in a feline-free home. He’d also make it into our history books as our first-ever bird adoption. Just 10 days after his picture appeared on our website, a lovely mother and daughter duo came in to meet him, and fell in love. Our sweet Joey has now been in his new home for a week and we couldn’t be happier for him and his new owners.

In ode to my fine-feathered friend, here’s a peek at our daily sing-songs and chit-chats. Best of luck to you beautiful boy!

 

Suddenly Single

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Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?

Six months ago I was minding my own business when WHAM! Something sudden and awful destroyed my marriage. The what, who, hows and whys are something to explore on another day, but suffice it to say, I was shattered. After a decade of (what I thought was) wedded bliss, and almost 14 years of intimate friendship, the man of my dreams descended on a very different, and dark, path. It was the middle of summer, the city was exploding with life, energy, and happiness, and I lay on the floor of my living room sobbing as he walked out the door. I was suddenly single. What’s more, I was suddenly a single mom.

The build up to that moment was three months in the making. I was preparing my heart and soul for what seemed inevitable. The break up to end all break ups. No one expected this. Not even me. And perhaps being caught off guard was in itself a blessing. I was the best wife and friend I could be, and everything seemed peachy keen, so this sudden turn was a complete surprise, but I had a clean conscience, knowing I had truly always offered the best of myself.

But breakups are never easy.

When you spend so much of your life living, loving, and growing with someone, only to find that they were not the person you thought them to be, it is devastating. And what’s worse are the endless questions that build up in your brain. You wonder, “Was it me? Did I do the wrong thing? Get the wrong hair cut? Was I not affectionate enough? Had I made the wrong comment?” But in this kind of scenario, you quickly realize, it’s not about you. It’s about someone else being deeply troubled and lost. You realize that, in God’s grace (yes, grace!), you’ve been given a life raft by being left behind. You were rescued from a sinking ship.  Continue reading

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The Bebe: 18 Months & Growing!

This past August marked, ahem, August’s half birthday! I’m convinced that all winter babies are entitled to some kind of mid-year hoopla to celebrate when the season is fair. And that’s exactly what we recently did!

All the parents I know warn of the fleeting nature of the early formative years – so I’ve made it a point to celebrate every milestone possible. First tooth? Celebration! First burp? Party-time! First word? Make it a holiday!

But in all seriousness, each new season, each new phase of development, is better than the last. Being the mama to such a quickly growing chap has been nothing but a delight and blessing. Watching him investigate, explore, and challenge the world around him is a treat. Plopping him down in a field to smell a flower, gather sticks, chase butterflies, and dig in the dirt makes this mama’s heart sing.

That’s why turning 1 1/2 years old was something I couldn’t let off easy. So on a recent summery weekend I planned a day filled with treats and outdoor activities. We had plans to hit the lakefront, stroll the park, play in the sand, eat pizza and frozen custard, and (of course!) sneak in some photos!

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Recent nursing school grad, friend, and photographer, Jessica Woodville, has been delighting us with her nature photos for years. Since the birth of her much younger brother Adam she’s also been sharing adorable documentary style portraits of her baby bro. Watching her work develop, I had hoped for an excuse to nab her for an easy-going photo session with August. And what better time than the present, right?! Continue reading

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City Kid: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Now that August is walking – well, more like running – I’m always looking for new ways to engage both his brain and brawn. And with the weather slowly turning from dry and hot to rainy and cool, I’m also looking for fun indoor spaces where he can burn some energy while engaging his imagination. So where to go? One of my favorite Chicago gems: the Nature museum!

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has been in their current space since 1999 but has been a part of Chicago’s history for more than a hundred years. An interactive educational space for people of all ages, the museum’s mission is to create a positive relationship between people and nature. Sounds like the perfect place to me!

Just a stone’s throw from the Lincoln Park Zoo, the museum sits north of Fullerton Avenue and is surrounded by a gorgeous (and hilly!) prairie restoration complete with hiking trail. It’s the perfect place to stroll your toddler before entering the museum itself. The fresh grassy smells are enough to make you want to escape the city for good. But we know that’s never going to happen, right?! At least we have a bit of ancient flat lands to explore in our urban backyard! Continue reading

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Green Living: Eating Clean On a Budget

Eating clean – it’s the best and most clear cut way to describe what it means to limit your intake of pesticides. There seems to be an ongoing debate in mainstream media whether eating organic food actually makes a difference. A highly referenced 2012 Stanford study claims that there are no obvious health benefits to eating produce labelled organic. Can that really be so? Has history not taught us that ingesting insecticides, among other chemicals, causes increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and other health issues?

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Beautiful beets grown on a friend’s “beyond organic” farm in rural Pennsylvania.

If you’re anything like me you too are skeptical of recent headlines counterclaiming the benefits of eating organic. If you’re also like me, you know that choosing the big O also means paying significantly more for your fresh greens and fruits. So what’s a budget conscious health savvy vegetarian to do?!

Let me introduce you to the saving grace of shopping organic: The dirty dozen and clean fifteen. If you’re anything beyond a green living novice, these two lists are probably already part of your shopping arsenal. But if they’re not – be ready to take screenshots of the graphic below.

So what are these lists? Each year the EWG, aka Environmental Working Group, puts out a list of the 12 crops that have tested highest on the pesticide scale, as well as the 15 that are lowest. Continue reading

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I’m Back!

It’s been over 6 months since I published my last post and sooooo much has happened since then.

Since August’s birth in early 2015 I’ve found it difficult to get back into the swing of blogging. Learning how to be a mama, struggling with nursing, perfecting the art of changing diapers, all while working full time, kept me busy and away from writing. But that’s all about to change! Having entered a new chapter of my life, one complete with my fur babies and a bouncing off the walls toddler, I want to get back into sharing the highs and lows of living a conscious lifestyle in the city.

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Life has a way of catching us off guard. Having moved into a new apartment in the spring, and then unexpectedly transitioning to becoming a single parent, this last season has had its fair share of trials. But God is good. Life is good. And I’m keeping my chin up! I’ll share more about what’s happening in my marriage some other time. For now I’m just here to say, “Hello! I’m back!” Can’t wait to share with you what I’m working on, things I’m dreaming about, and all the goofy little things in between.