What are you thankful for?

That’s the question we asked Chicago Parent bloggers. Below are their answers. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

That’s the question we asked Chicago Parent bloggers. These are their answers. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

A tidal wave of thanks

A great storm is coming.

There is no way to adequately prepare for her onslaught orredirect her ferocious path. She comes every year and strikes fearin the hearts of all those around her. She is one-part angryChicagoan bemoaning her dreary winter fate. She is also one-parttired mom cursing the endless school communications regardingreported diseases, new project outlines, and requests for book fairvolunteers.

She is Hurricane Marianne

Hurricane Marianne starts out as a Tropical Storm. In thebeginning, she’s actually quite pleasant. She’s breezy and warm.After all, there is holiday planning to do! The decorations! Thebaking! Tropical Storm Marianne merrily tends to all the festivedetails with her three little boys serving as holiday elves.Christmas songs play on the radio. The smell of cinnamon, pinecones, and vanilla waft through the house. The first snowflakesbring great excitement to little boys with their promise of futuresledding and skating.

Still. We know who’s on her way. And it ain’t St. Nick.

Thanksgiving is welcomed first. With all its trimmings and goodtides, our storm stays firmly in check. Then there is the nextsurge of holiday parties that stave off Hurricane Marianne a littlebit longer. Christmas is the piece de resistance, carrying its fullarsenal of childhood magic, peppermint mochas, and electric trains.Hurricane Marianne dare not rear her ugly head with an army ofsmiling gingerbread cookies staring up her.

And for a while, all is quiet.

Then quickly, without much warning, Hurricane Marianne makeslandfall.

With nothing to look forward to but a long winter of sub-zerotemperatures, gloomy skies, and layers of ice and sleet to scrapeoff the minivan, Hurricane Marianne strikes her preliminary blows.She’s less patient with the kids. She is testier with teachers andtheir backpack notices (Are we done with fundraiser notices yet,Mrs. Teach, or do I need to start hawking my own flippin’ blood?.Worst of all, she is really, really hard on the one man who choosesto stand by her: Weatherman Joe.

Weatherman Joe accurately predicts Hurricane Marianne’s pathevery year. He takes the kids sledding to keep them away from theeye of the storm. He diminishes her strength by pouring a nightlyshot of Bailey’s. He goes so far as to take out the garbage withoutbeing asked and even hangs the coat rack that has been sitting bythe door for three months.

Yet when Hurricane Marianne is at her absolute worst, he remindsher. The kids are healthy. We have an income. Our friends andfamily are wonderful. We are blessed.

Unfortunately, that kind of logic and reasoning never reallywork on a woman in the throes of seasonal affective disorder. Sogoes the sun, so goes Hurricane Marianne’s sanity.

What does work is having our perfect little storm take a deepbreath and a step back to find thanks in the unique gifts the yearhas brought her. So in honor of Thanksgiving, I’ve been working onmy happy-happy-thankful list for a few days. Here’s what I got sofar:

  • 7-year Diaper Duty: DONE
  • Minivan: Last payment in the mail.
  • Stretch Marks: Nicely faded.
  • Blog: My mom really likes it.
  • Kids: Often described as “nice” and “thoughtful” by field tripmoms.
  • Husband: Still here.
  • Me: Ditto.

They say it’s often the little things that can make or break us.I’m bound and determined to keep my ungrateful alter ego locked inthe attic this entire winter as an homage to my favorite Brontesister.

So here’s to each of us finding a Thanksgiving list that works.If not, I’ve got a bottle of Bailey’s with your name on it chillingin the fridge.

Happy holidays, Chicago Parents!


What am I thankful for this year?

I am grateful for gratitude.

Sounds funny, right?

But honestly, gratitude has become my go-to response. It’sbecome my way of dealing with my fear, my impatience, and myego-based responses.

I can’t keep from feeling these things, but I can decide how Ideal with them. I can see them as feelings, as auto-pilotresponses, as old patterning, andI can choose to not identifywith them, to not see them as indicators of who I really am.

So when they make their inevitable appearance, I take it as asignal to practice gratitude. I grab the journal next to my bed (oranywhere in the house…I have a lot of journals sitting around), orI type on my computer, or I just think about my loves and whatinspires me.

Gratitude breaks through the false and fear-based thinking ofthe ego. Gratitude is about seeing the truth, it’s about feelingand realizing who you are and the gifts that you have beengiven.

Regardless of circumstance, there is always something to bethankful for.

When I am struggling I almost see more to be thankful for – Isee the sun and the moon, I fully experience my breath and I stayas close as possible to the loves in my life.

I see what is difficult to see when I am stuck in my head orstuck in the belief system that life is about stuff, jobs, money,or status.

I see my family and friends, and I realize how grateful I amthat they are in my life. I am even more grateful that I know theirimportance.

I am thankful that I know that life is about loving me so I canlove them. I am thankful that I can feel love anytime I desire bygetting out of my head and placing my attention in my heart.

So when I feel like I’m being pulled down by societal fear anddoom, I pull myself back up with gratitude.

It helps me remember everything. It helps me remember why I’mhere.

It brings me back to reality.

Click here to listen to Cathy and her husband Todd talk about
gratitude on ZenParenting Radio.


The opportunity to travel

As Americans, we are blessed with so much, including the chanceto travel.

That means different things to different people. For many, itmeans heading home for the holidays to see family. For a lucky few,it means cashing in those frequent flier miles and exploring theworld. For lots of people, it means heading to the library to checkout books, videos and other media that allow them to explore theworld from their own family rooms.

Whether we travel regularly or virtually, continue to go back tothe same place or explore the globe, every trip opens our kids’minds (and ours) a little more.

I am been among the lucky few blessed with the ability to takemy kids with me to see many parts of the world in person. One of mygreatest joys as a parent is seeing my kids’ eyes light up whenthey see in person things they previously only read about in books.It is just as powerful when they see things in books or ontelevision or in a movie that they have seen in person.

It enriches our lives and makes me believe that my kids willjoin a generation of adults who are curious about the bigger worldand forgiving of its flaws. The more we can do that, the more weall will have to be thankful about.



Watching our turkey grow

When Thanksgiving comes to mind, I think of my family and all ofthe things I am thankful for having in this life. But the wholetime I’m thinking those nice thoughts, what I’m really focused onis the food. Everything, even the thankful thoughts, seems to becentered on that one meal: the roast turkey, the stuffing, thegravy, the potatoes, the cranberries, the pies and more.

As my family started making our own Thanksgiving traditions, oneof things we decided was to have a farm-fresh turkey. I grew up onfrozen Butterballs (no worries, mom,they were delicious). But Idecided that Thanksgiving is probably one of the best times for usto remember the motto “know your food, know your farmer.”It’s important to us that our kids learn from the start thatturkeys come from a farm, not a freezer case at the grocerystore.

In the season of the city farmer’s markets, we try to purchase alot of our food there. One of our favorite’s is the Green CityMarket, which is where we found Meadow HavenFarm, the owner of this year’s (and last years) Thanksgiving
turkey, at least until Wednesday when I pick it up. Last year, the
beautiful, free-range, organic poults grew so big that I had to
figure out how to use a lot of turkey.

A few years ago, we visited a dairy farm in Wisconsin. The farmhad just received their poults, and we decided to let Gabriella andNicholas pick out our Thanksgiving turkey. At age four, my daughtercould completely understand what this was all about, because weexplained it to her in great detail-and she was fine with it. Imight even say she was excited about it. They picked the smallestturkey that happened to be a hen, and promptly named her”Isabelle.” So, for the next few months, Isabelle was thetalk of our house. Unfortunately, since she was in Wisconsin, wecouldn’t witness her growth in person, but the farmer was kindenough to send us pictures of Isabelle as she grew. About two daysprior to when we were scheduled to pick up Isabelle; my phone rangand panic set in. Isabelle, having always been the smallest of thebunch, turned out to be a lot of feathers and fluff-weighing in atabout 8 pounds after processing. The farmer apologized, and offeredto swap a larger turkey and not tell our kids. In the end wedecided to take Isabelle, and an additional larger turkey, and allwas well. Nobody cried at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and wetalked about how nice it was that we knew exactly where she’d beenliving and what she’d been eating since we saw her.

Now, I’m not ready to let my kids watch the turkeys getslaughtered. But someday, when they are much older we will. I’m nottrying to turn them into vegetarians, and can’t imagine they wouldwant to give up bacon and sausage even if they watched a pig getslaughtered. Sometimes, protecting our children from things thatare real and part of life seems strange to me. Read Charlotte’sWeb, and help them understand that many pigs like Wilbur provideour food, and that Charlotte dying is part of the circle oflife.

So this Thanksgiving, why not let your kids know their food andknow their farmer? Find some farm-fresh produce, or order afarm-fresh turkey, or talk about where our most delicious mealevery year comes from: the farm. Then remind them that we should bethankful for our family and friends, and the farmers that help usenjoy this delicious meal: Thanksgiving dinner.


The non-material things

As I get older it becomes a more frequent task to take inventoryin my life. Am I where I want to be? Before the “Great Recession”hit, most of my taking inventory was tied to materialistic things.My possessions and status in some imaginary race had become myfocus. In the past three years most of us have seen family,friends, and neighbors lose their homes and fortunes. In myneighborhood I see homes that only a few years ago sold for sevenfigures now stickered with bank notices and “no trespassing” signs.I see empty storefronts where friends businesses once thrived.These stores will one day fill up again, but I hope the lessons ofthe times never leave me.

Now, I see life more as a measure of personal growth. How am I abetter partner, father and person? Hopefully, on most days I cananswer that question with confidence. Some days are better thanothers (like while I am writing this my son is BOUNCING off thewalls). I am thankful for the time I get to spend with my son andpartner. I understand that nothing, including time, is guaranteed.I am enjoying my son being 6 and me being 30 “something.” I amlearning to live my life the “right way” and set an example for him- but also for myself. Being the man I want him to be. It soundssimple enough, right?

I am thankful that I have today with them and hopeful for tomorrow.You can’t ask for anything more than that. Happy Thanksgiving frommine to yours!


Putting the “Give” in Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again. The streets are bathed in holidaylights, window displays beckon shoppers, and anticipation ofupcoming family get-togethers puts an extra spring in our step,even as the temperatures drop. During this special time of year, wecan’t help but stop for a moment and take stock of all we’regrateful for.

And this year at Families in the Loop, we’re extra thankful.Why? Because we’re approaching our one-year anniversary! There’ssimply no better time to reflect and give thanks for all the peoplewho have supported and encouraged us along the way.

Throughout this past year, fellow entrepreneurs and Chicagobusiness owners have shared their knowledge and expertise with usin abundance. Families and friends from around the neighborhoodhave enthusiastically hopped on the FITL bandwagon, volunteeringtheir time to make FITL a spectacular hub for families. For all ofthis and more, we are truly thankful. We really are an example ofwhat is possible when two moms come together with a small idea,along with big dreams and tremendous love for Chicago’sone-of-a-kind family community.

And there’s no better time than Thanksgiving to put some musclebehind our gratitude and get the kids involved in giving back. FITLguru and On The Go Chicago founder Cindy McCarthy has
some guaranteed feel-good ways for the whole family to
participate.

  1. Just because your children may be too young to volunteer at asoup kitchen (the majority don’t allow volunteers under 12 doesn’tmean they can’t give back while being hands on. Get your wholefamily in philanthropic gear by organizing a drive for diapers,warm coats, food, letters to the troops, pet supplies, and more.Plus, your home-crafted event doubles as a great reason to gettogether with your friends and neighbors.
  2. Cold winter nights are perfect for snuggling up in a cozy pairof pajamas, so what better way to give back this season than bythrowing a pajama party? Ask attendees to bring one new pair ofpajamas and a book to donate to the PajamaProgram. Alternatively, bundle up and head outdoors for a
    neighborhood dog parade. Ask participants to bring dog food and
    leashes to donate to the AnimalWelfare League. Be creative and have fun with it!
  3. Giving back often feels the best when the cause resonates withyou or your family personally, so take time to talk with your kidsabout different charitable organizations and see what strikes achord. Then pick an organization to support based on what the wholefamily is most passionate about.

  • Following are some local and national organizations to considerpartnering with:
  • Bundleof Joy Diaper Bank is a not-for-profit diaper bank serving
    families in Chicago’s most economically depressed
    neighborhoods.
  • ThePajama Program provides new pajamas and books to children in
    need.
  • One WarmCoat provides people in need with a warm coat, free of charge.
    One Warm Coat works with more than 30 Chicagoland agencies whose
    clients would not otherwise be able to secure a warm coat for the
    winter.
  • Animal Welfare League is committed to helping
    every pet find a loving home. Needed pet products for donation
    include toys, food, litter, and treats.
  • OperationGratitude annually sends 100,000 care packages filled with
    snacks, entertainment items, and personal letters of appreciation
    addressed to individual U.S. servi

I’m thankful…that I’m living and raising my kids in the city

It’s not always easy being an urban mom, and the city of Chicagotends to take more criticism than applause. This season though, I’mgiving thanks for the city I live in: Chicago.

Here seven reasons why I’m thankful to be living and raising mykids in this Windy City:

  1. Lake Michigan is our swimming pool. There is nothing quite likejumping into a cool Lake Michigan on a hot summer day. My kids havegrown up with Foster Avenue beach as their sandbox and LakeMichigan – the 2nd largest of the Great Lakes – as their swimmingpool. The lifeguards keep things in check, the water is remarkablyclear, and the people watching is sublime.
  2. We can travel the world, one restaurant at a time. We can”visit” other countries on a whim – via the huge selection ofdelicious ethnic restaurants that dot our city. From naan tolassis, from bulgogi to kimchee – my kids have tried it all.
  3. Amazing things are happening in our public schools. While muchof the news is doom and gloom, my son is enjoying his elementaryschool experience at a fantastic CPS magnet school. Involvedparents, super teachers, and a rigorous curriculum make his schoolone of the best in the city. Best of all, the rich culturaldiversity of our world is reflected in his classroom. Something tolook forward to: of the 500 top high schools in the U.S. rated byU.S. News and World Report, Chicago has three (Northside CollegePrep, Lane Tech, and Lincoln Park High School).
  4. We don’t have to depend on a car to get from point A to pointB. My kids love taking public transportation. They beg me to takethe blue line downtown on a regular basis. I’m fairly certain thatI could drop my 10-year-old off at a random spot in the city andhe’d be able to find his way easily and confidently home on publictransportation. We also have been enjoying riding our bikes, andI’m finding that Chicago is becoming bike friendlier by theday.
  5. Our family pets live at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Who needs a petcat or a pet dog when you can have a pet lion, gorilla and sealion? We don’t have to feed them and they don’t shed on our sofa.Our pets live at the lovely Lincoln Park Zoo, and we can ride ourbikes over and visit them for free, whenever we want, year round(during visiting hours).
  6. Backyards are overrated – especially when you’re surrounded bybeautiful city parks. We have a huge backyard: our city is dottedwith parks, both big and small. From the big – Humbolt Park (theducks living at the pond are especially friendly) and Lincoln Park- to the small – Adams Playlot (with its awesome water playequipment) and Holstein Park – our parks are beautiful and simplymade for fun.
  7. There’s no excuse for boredom. With so many gems just a shortskip, hop or a jump away, there’s no excuse for boredom. Feel likeflying into space? Rocket on over to the Adler Planetarium.Undergoing a dinosaur phase? Trek on over to the Field Museum, andsay hello to Sue. In the mood for exploring a forest of ferns? Popinto the Garfield Park Conservatory. There are so manyneighborhoods to explore on a whim – our favorite is Chinatown -and the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry arejust right for just right rainy days. Any ordinary day can betransformed into an day bursting with adventure and new discoverieswhen you’re living in Chicago.

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