Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Family legend has it that my Aunt Delia (the most beautiful and glamorous of the aunts) was known to host fun parties but when she was done with the party she would just leave and go to bed.

I do not know if this really happened or maybe happened once or many times but it is a good story.

We hosted our annual Christmas party this past Saturday. This is a great bash with about forty of our best friends and neighbors in Glenview we have hosted for fifteen years.

At about 9:30 I was talking to someone and thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm not sure I can stay awake all night." I said, "Excuse me, I have to check on Lilly, " whhich is a preposterous statement as Lilly is fourteen and was sensibly holed up in her bedroom ignoring the noise below.

I went into my bedroom and emboldened by thoughts of Aunt Delia lay down on the bed. In a few minutes Jeff came up the stairs. I thought he came to check on me but he was surprised to find me there.

"I just need to lie down a minute," he said and did.

We lay there holding hands wondering how long we could be gone from our own party without being missed. We figured hours actually.

We listened to the roar from below and it was quite festive and comforting like when you were a kid and your parents had a party and you could hear it all. It was a little annoying when their bursts of laughter interrupted your Partridge Family but otherwise it was fun and reassuring.

All those voices talking and laughing were so lovely. I thought about all those friends downstairs who have been there for us over the years through the good times and most recently the challenging times and I thought about how much I love them all and I may have gotten a little weepy--in a good way.

After about fifteen minutes I rose, refreshed. "Come on," I said to Jeff.

"I love martineesh," Jeff declared. I suggested maybe he had enough martinis but he waved me off.

We went back and I was just fine, fully alert and ready for the rest of the party (and so was Jeff by the way--he took a walk around the block with his BFF Dan instead of having another martini)  In fact, I made it all the way to 1:00 a.m. and I did not feel the urge to gather everyone's coats off the bed and hand them back to the few stragglers like I did in 2005 (or so). Nor did I have to put my pajamas on which is how I signal my dear friend Beth that it is time to go when she is visiting.

So next time you are at a party and need a little break go lie down. Even if if is your own party.

If anyone gives you a hard time about it, tell them Aunt Delia told you to.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Monday, December 10, 2012


Okay loyal readers, just in time for Christmas gift-giving, I announce my book, a collection of my greatest hits and essays is now available for purchase!!

Simply click here and you will be directed to where you can purchase my book for yourself or as a gift!!

This is a real book in print with a soft-cover. Soon, VERY soon you can also purchase this for your Kindle so check back in a few days if that is your preferred method of reading.

I also HIGHLY encourage any of you to write a  nice review of the book when you've read it and that will really help with getting me noticed by someone other than my mom!

To all my readers I thank  you for getting me this far!
Happy Holidays!

Friday, October 26, 2012


Today's post is written by my dog Molly.

Oh my gosh it was the most awesome best super coolest thing that ever ever happened to me. I call it "the night I finally caught an animal in my mouth."

I'm not saying I've NEVER caught anything but well, okay, I've never caught anything.

Every day I try. I really do. There's this squirrel that lives out on the woodpile and if I can get Mom to open the door at just the right time I can scare the crap out of that thing, chasing it through the yard while it chatters and yells at me up top of the fence. But I can't catch it. It's too fast.

Mom always says, "Go get her! Go get your squirrel friend," she thinks that's really funny. But I never catch her.

Once I caught a delicious dead thing from behind the shed. I took it to Mom but she did not like it and screamed and made me drop it. She called it a mold or something. Dad just went out and took it away so I did not even have a chance to grab it by the neck and rip it to shreds the way I practice on all my stuffed toys.

But that night, last August, I caught a big black thing with two white lines on its back and it was ALIVE!

I almost didn't get the chance. Mom quit letting me out after dark unless I'm on a leash for some reason late this summer. I heard her tell my human brother and sisters I couldn't go out after dark. I don't know why. I'm not scared. And I see great in the dark. But she said it was a bad idea.

So I just waited until she was having one of those drinks Dad makes her in a triangle-shaped glass. After she has one of those she kind of forgets things. It worked. I waited until Dad something real funny and she laughed and then I asked real politely to go outside. She got up and opened up the door to let me out like she did not even remember she just told the kids not to do that an hour before.

I took off like a shot to the back of the yard where all the animals hide at night. Mom started screaming then but nothing could have stopped me. She was screaming "Molly, NOOOOOOO. SKUUUUUNKKKKK!!"

I could see it out by the back bushes. Kind of fluffy and pretty. All tempting with it's big black and white tail. I caught it easy. It was not fast at all and it couldn't jump up on the fence like that squirrel does.

I had it in my mouth so of course I took it right to Mom on the patio. My plan was to shake the hell out of it, break it's neck, then tear it's throat open! I don't know what I would do after that, but I practice doing that ALL the time on stuffed animals and I knew it was just what I was supposed to do with that thing. It was all wiggly in my mouth and I liked that even more. Those dumb stuffed animals don't move when I grab them at all!

But then something really weird happened. Some kind of yellow, stinky wet stuff got all over me! I have NO idea where it came from, but it was so smelly and so yucky I had to drop the stripey animal I finally caught. That stuff (it was yellow and got in my eyes and on my neck!) must have come down out of the tree I was standing next to. Or maybe Mom threw it at me or something to get me to drop the stripey live animal. I don't know but it was NASTY!

Mom was screaming. Dad was screaming. Man were they excited and proud of me to finally have caught a real live animal IN MY MOUTH!

But because of that really weird spray thing that came from nowhere I had to go in right then and take a bath. A really long bath. Then mom gave me another bath. Then Lilly gave me a bath. Then they made me sleep in the bathroom all night. I didn't want to sleep in the bathroom but I could tell everyone was kind of mad about the smelly yellow stuff so I didn't complain.

The next day I went looking for my stripey friend but I have not seen it since then. Maybe it moved to someone else's backyard. I wish it would come back. I would LOVE to catch it again. IN MY MOUTH.

I had to have about eleventy dozen more baths and you know what I still smell a little like that weird tree smell or whatever. And it's been weeks now. I don't mind the smell anymore because it reminds me of the best night of my life ever. The night I finally caught something LIVE IN MY MOUTH!

And I can tell you too, if I EVER get the chance to catch another stripey thing in my mouth LIVE, I will totally try it again. 

Because that was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


If you think the family portrait is hard to pull-off just try the intergenerational one. Here are the Ludwig kids and their Rahn cousins with Grandma and Grandpa Ludwig, summer of 1998. 
The baby is Lilly. L to R: Atticus, Grace, Sarah, Brian, and Michael

"I don't see you on the schedule," I said frowning at my list of names.

It was church-directory picture-taking week last month and I had offered to help register families as they came in all shiny and well-combed and neat.  I was talking to a long-time parishioner so I was confused as to why her family's label was missing.

She waved my concern away, "Oh that's because we were here earlier in the week and it didn't go well. The boys had a meltdown, my husband complained, and I ended up in tears so we had to just leave."

Ah, the family portrait. Good times.

If you want to see a middle-aged mom roll her eyes, just ask her about the last time she tried to get her family together for a formal photo.

As every mother knows, it is exceedingly challenging to wrangle all the members of your family for this seemingly simple task. Whether you are dealing with colicky babies, cranky toddlers, or busy, busy, teenagers, it is a Sisyphean chore to get them all in one spot at one time looking well-dressed and well-groomed and not crying.

I don't know why we even try.

Yes I do. It's because one of our jobs is to curate an archive of the family history and a formal family portrait every few years is a big part of the exhibit.

When the kids were little I went for the old dress-em-all-alike look which involved weeks of scouring Target for similar outfits. What a colossal waste of time.

Even after making sure I had something that fit each and every one of us (sometime this process took so long someone outgrew something) and finding a time when no one was napping and dad was home, I would still meet with resistance from the crowd.

Really? Is it so much to ask that you people put the outfit on that I laid out for you on your bed and go smile at the camera for half an hour?

"Do I have to go get my picture taken! I don't wanna. I don't wanna wear jeans and a black t-shirt like everyone else," the whining would begin. The kids were worse.

So in recent years I've adopted the "I don't care what you're wearing, just comb your hair and let's go" policy. Which you think would take care of all the problems and resistance but no, just as you get to this point, the kids will be teenagers and have all kinds of school and after-school activities to conflict with a scheduled photo time.

This year I rescheduled our time slot three times to accommodate the work-choir-horseback riding commitments of my brood. I wasn't quite ready to adopt my friend Laura's policy-- "I just scheduled a time and figured it was like dinner on any given night--whoever shows up is in."

This time around I was introduced to a new wrinkle in the whole process--with kids headed off to college it is even less likely you will be able to pull off a complete family portrait.

Mom friends told me their college children had expressed disbelief and even outrage that they would not be in the church directory. One mom said she had a different shot of the family taken and submitted it to accommodate their college kid. Another one submitted their college student's picture separately.

So as we four who were once five stood fake smiling I said a little sadly, "This is weird without Atticus."

But Grace was more pragmatic, "This is who we are now. Let's just take the picture."

Which I think is the perfect sentiment of any formal family picture and a gentle reminder of the ever-changing nature of family.

This is who we are now.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Nice skirt.

Most of you know I just dropped number one child off for college and may even be expecting me to write something sentimental and insightful about that experience but all I can say is man that sucks.

And if you are struggling with it like I am you might want to read my friend Christie Mellor's latest book, Fun Without Dick and Jane which is so very cleverly titled you just know it is full of helpful coping advice, which it is.

Instead, I want to write about how much I love back to school time and especially the clothes we wear for the occasion. I have loved back to school since I was in grade school and I would wear a plaid dress with a big white collar (had to be plaid, my favorite; had to be a dress, we were not allowed to wear pants to school back then). I love my first day of school photos with my gap-toothed grin as I stand clutching my pencil box. Remember those?

As far as I remember I wore the same version of that first plaid dress up until about junior high. I clearly remember my 7th grade outfit. By then we were allowed to wear pants to school and I wore purple bell-bottoms with laces on the side. I had a matching purple body suit (snapped at the crotch) that laced up the front and even though it was all one piece it was supposed to look like you were wearing a short-sleeved shirt over a long sleeved shirt which was the height of fashion in 1973. The bells on my purple pants were so wide they covered my shoes. That is how we measured if they were big enough. I could make a joke about that outfit but I think it speaks for itself.

And I loved going off to college in Ann Arbor with my THREE Pendleton wool skirts my mom made me especially the red and black plaid one. They looked fabulous with my shetland sweaters and my penny-loafers which were back in style in the late 70s after having been mothballed since the 50s.

Since I have had my kids I wear my own red and plaid skirt every first day of school when I get my picture taken with the kids--see above. I have worn that skirt for the past 14 years.


Except that this year, I had to unbutton not one but TWO of the buttons on my skirt to fit in it. I know, I could buy a new one but really, I am much too old to wear a plaid skirt to begin with let alone buy a new one.

Several years back, Barbara Brotman of the Chicago Tribune wrote a whole column on being too old to wear a plaid pleated skirt which I literally read while wearing my plaid pleated skirt. I am sorry to say I cannot find that column and if any of you do, let me know (Maria?).

Anyhoo, I pointed out to Lilly that I had two buttons unbuttoned and that maybe it was time to give up on the skirt but she loves tradition more than any of us and looked at me with horror at the suggestion. I guess I have two more buttons to go so I don't see any reason to get rid of it now.

And by the way, speaking of tradition, I did get to read "Kissing Hand" to all the kids even Atticus on the day we drove him to college but I had to sneak in his room and read it to him while he was barely awake so he wouldn't hear me cry and I also had to change some of the words to nonsense like, "Chester skipped off to school and did not look back the little bastard," also so I would not cry too hard.

So, if you have any back to school memories of particularly fetching or ridiculous clothes you wore or wear still, let me know.

Cute girls. Some day their fashion may be funny too!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Well here we are. August 1st and that means tuition bills are due and (for many of us) our eldest child is getting ready to go to college for the first time.

I feel like we've prepared for this for a long, long time. We watched our friends do it, we've listened to their advice and now it's our turn.

So far they have been right: This is a difficult, sad, often grief-filled time in which you struggle to deal with the impending separation--but most of the time you will be thinking--hey can you get out of my house now?

Yes, just as I was counseled by the wise women who have gone before me, a young person between his or her senior year of high school and first year of college is umm, well, kind of a pain in the neck. This is nature's way of making it easier to say goodbye.

I'm not sure what it is a mom might find annoying....Maybe it's the way he sleeps until noon then spends the early evening hours with his girlfriend and the late nights on the computer until the wee hours. Could it be his general attitude that he no longer has any family obligations but is still entitled to the whole free food/free laundry thing? Or the way he leaves his socks on the kitchen floor and sometimes his pants and shirt too when he comes home hours after you have already been in bed. Perhaps it's that he's taken to showering in your shower (it's closer than his) so when you go to shower there are no clean towels.

It's true, I will cry when I leave him at the dorm but he's virtually already gone. I only see the back of his head as he plays on the computer or leaves the house yet again to "hang" with someone. 

His sisters and I have taken to talking about him as if he's gone. "Hey, can I put my bunnies in Atticus's room now?" one asks. "I'm still here!" he cries indignantly.

The other sister (and I) can't wait to clear out the hovel in the corner of the kitchen that has been his computer/work space. We pour over Houzz online and pick out new furniture to fill in the space. (That corner below...what do you think?)

I remember when my mom went to parent orientation at Michigan State for my sister (the eldest) and came back and said, "They told us not to turn their bedrooms into sewing rooms. They need to know they're welcome at home." So at first I said no to the bunny hutch idea. But then a wise friend suggested, "Why don't you just move the rabbits back out when he comes home? You can enjoy the extra space while he's away."

Good idea.

So we're all a bit sad that Atticus will be leaving soon (in twenty-four days, three hours, and six minutes).

But we're also looking forward to an actual kitchen table, a sock-free floor, and clean dry towels.

(A special shout out to Kelly and Wendy who have been there from kindergarten...can you believe it's really happening?)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Hey, I made a new video! I will say the technology has sure improved since I made my first video. Oh, and it helped that Grace's boyfriend, Billy, a tech/TV guy did all production work. I just had to to show up with my trailer and my agent and make sure they only had green M&Ms on hand.

And no, I had no control over which frame popped up there. But maybe Billy did that on purpose.

Enjoy! And pass it along if you like it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


When you become a mom you are instantly deputized by the powers of the universe to do mom things like help children who have toppled off bicycles or approach a child who is obviously lost. In the past you may have thought, "I wonder if I should try to help?" or when you were much younger you really did not even notice a kid who fell off a bike, but now you know viscerally that you must help. And not only that you must help but that you have all the authority needed to take charge because --you are a mom.

The magic powers that make you a Deputy Mom are not the same powers that turn you into Super Mom. Super Mom powers are those that enable you, who are so squeamish you literally had to put your head down between your legs or you would have passed out when a friend told you about a particularly gory episode with a broken glass, to look your toddler in the eye while holding a washcloth to a cut on his chin that reveals bone, and say calmly, "We may have to go to the ER for this one."

Usually you realize you possess this power the first time you encounter a large spider near your new baby. Though you have spent your entire life dealing with spiders by shrieking for help from the nearest person in the house and/or closing the door and simply not going in the room where the spider is for a few days, you realize at that moment that you and only you must kill the spider. And then you do it --because you are Super Mom.

Super Mom powers and Deputy Mom powers come from the same place: a very clear realization that if you don't take care of this no one will. But Super Mom powers are used to protect your own child from danger where as Deputy Mom powers are used to help make this world a better place in general.

With Deputy Mom powers you have the right, nay the obligation, to help or correct all endangered or misguided children as needed. You may find yourself calling out to a teen on a skateboard, "Hey, where's your helmet?" or to a tween, "Watch your language I've got toddlers here!" ( I must mention here that I live in a place where the children are all incredibly polite and usually answer with a wave and a "Sorry" instead of an "Up yours old lady" like they would have when I was growing up.)

There is only one very important rule when you invoke your Deputy Mom authority and that is you must never, never, never use the power if the parent of the errant or imperiled child is present. That is poor form. But feel free to tell the potty-mouth in the carpool, "Oh dear no, Justin, we do not say Mother Fucker in this van."

Fathers are also deputized but they seldom use their authority to call kids out on safety violations. For one thing, safety violations often go undetected by them or even admired as an act of boyhood derring-do as in , "Look that kid is getting towed on his skate board by his brother driving that SUV! That looks so fun!" So don't count on them to get the neighborhood hoodlum to wear sneakers instead of flip-flops when he mows the lawn but they should feel moved to correct rude or unkind behavior.

Once when we were leaving the movies a teen called out to a girl he knew. When she turned to smile at him he MOOED at her! Jeff grabbed the kid by the shoulder, "Did you just moo at that girl?" he asked in a tone that clearly conveyed he did not find that acceptable. The kid tried to deny it but Jeff would have none of it, "Yes you did. I saw the whole thing. That is the most unkind thing I've ever seen anyone do and if I ever see you do it again you will be very, very sorry." Now I have known Jeff for nearly 30 years and I can tell you, though is he a champion of the underdog, he never did stuff like that before he had kids.

So if you are a new mom (Leslie) I dedicate this blog to you and I officially deputize you and your spouse (Chris) as keepers of civilization.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


There was this time back in the 90s when I gave birth to three children in about four years. It was crazy, and chaotic, and wonderful and the only thing I would do differently if I had a do-over is I would have four children.

During that era I loved the challenge of the simple act of getting us all dressed and fed and out the door even if we were just going to the library. I liked knowing that if I did it all just right we made a peaceful and serene mother/children scene that made people smile--like a mama duck and her babies. And if I do say so myself, we looked pretty good most of the time.

I remember talking to my sister about how tricky it was to do that.

She said it was like being a duck: if you did it right, on the surface you were sailing along peacefully, your children calmly circling you--but underneath if anyone could see your feet you were paddling like hell.


Most of the fabulous mom friends I know are fantastic ducks. Or even swans (Ann R and Martha come to mind). They look amazing, they glide along, they look calm, their children now teens still glide along next to them peacefully and I love them and admire them for it.

And I know that this is not as easy as it looks.

I know that a lot of us (all of us at some time) are gliding along despite a broken webbed foot or a pond that is losing water rapidly. But we accept these challenges and work that much harder to glide.

Sometimes you might see a mom who is not so good at this. 

I saw one yesterday at the Shedd Aquarium. She was there with two quiet school-aged kids but somehow she made it feel like she was herding a dozen screaming toddlers who needed naps and lunch.

It did not help that she had waaayyy too much gear: strollers, backpacks, lunchboxes, GameBoys--you get the picture. These types always have too much gear; sometimes they even have a spouse and they still look like they have no control over anything.

She was talking way too loudly, over-managing the kids, quizzing them to make the visit "educational", correcting them when it wasn't necessary and ignoring them when it was. 

In short, she was making her own job much, much harder than it has to be. I thought "There goes a bad duck."

But later, when thinking more about it, I realized that this mom isn't just a duck who swims poorly, she is an upside-down duck. She has her head under the water, her feet paddling madly in the air, flapping her wings beneath the surface nearly drowning, and making her children (and the rest of us) crazy.

If she just put all that effort and energy into paddling under instead of above the water she'd be sailing along.

So the next time you run into an upside-down duck (and you will) do us all a favor--tell her to TURN OVER. 

We, and her children, will thank you.

Friday, May 18, 2012


My niece Leslie, me, and Atticus (baby bump)

 In 1993, just during this time of year, I was four months pregnant with Atticus. I went to meet our real estate agent who was trying to sell our condo in Barrington (which is another story all together).

I got out of my car and she got out of hers, and she turned slowly to face the late afternoon sun and squinting at my baby bump she smiled and pointed at me, 

"Watch out. One minute you look like that, and the next you're going to help him pick out his prom tux," which is what she had just been doing prior to meeting me there.

Now this is a sentiment all parents have heard many times and it was not the first time I had heard it and certainly not the last. But it is the time that sticks with me the most; I think because she said it without sentiment, without regret, but simply as an irrefutable fact in the same tone you might say "The sun has always set in the west," and I know I felt a chill run up my spine on that warm May night because I got it. I really got it.

I used to be slightly annoyed with this kind of advice because really, what can you do about it anyway? Are they telling me I should try to slow time down? Well, that's how I interpreted it for a long time and I really did try. Mightily.

 In fact when I listened to Joni Mitchell's Circle Game  (yes, I know I've referenced this song before) I would wait to hear the milestone that most closely marked my eldest child's time with me and I would feel triumphant if we hadn't gotten there yet.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder. Caught a dragon-fly inside a jar and I'd think, "Yes, he still does that!"

Skated over ten clear frozen ponds "Yes! He's only nine! Lots of time left"

This is delusional behavior and maybe even slightly psychotic and it did not work. Time did not slow down. In fact, it sped up and before I knew it, cartwheels turned to carwheels round the town.

And today is senior prom and I remember Deb Villers saying that to me all those years ago.

And I thought about it as we picked out Atticus's tux this week (white dinner jacket, black pants, yellow vest and tie to match her dress, thanks for asking.)

And I thought about what that advice really means. Because of course it does not mean "Be careful time goes fast, try to slow it down." It means "It goes so fast so enjoy, embrace every minute. Savor every peanut-butter and jelly kiss, every night up in the bathroom with the shower steaming for a croupy cough, every god-awful honking squeaking band concert, and every psycho teen-aged melt-down. Because it does go crazy fast but it is also crazy fun and worth it all."

For new moms everywhere (shout out to Leslie who is in that photo above) --you cannot slow the circle down.

But you can enjoy every single spin you take around it. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012


So I have been a stay-at-home mom for 18 years now and every few years some numb-skull says something to unintentionally insult stay-at-home moms and the press just picks it up and RACES away with it turning it into cover stories and blog fodder and yaddah yaddah yaddah.

And each time I have to sort of mull it over and wonder how I feel about this supposed "war" in which I am in.

This most recent skirmish got me thinking again and I have come to several conclusions that I thought I might share for those of you who are in this "battle" or merely observing it from afar.

Here's what I have learned in 18 years of "fighting".

There is no mommy-war. 

It's completely made up by the press for something to talk about and maybe a handful of mommies who really are conflicted about their own choice.

 For the rest of us, it does not exist. In 18 years I have literally never heard a stay-at-home mom bash a working mom for that decision. Never. Sometimes I hear a stay-at-home comment that it looks like it would be awfully hard to work full-time but that is about it. When I worked, I never heard a working mom disparage a stay-at-home. Sometimes I heard a working-mom say staying at home looked boring but that was about it.

Let me organize my thoughts even more with a few bullet-points--because I love bullet-points.

1. The issue of stay-at-home vs. working is not an economic issue (though that topic gets muddled into the debate frequently)--what I mean is if you are talking about the value of a woman staying home raising kids versus the value of her working outside the home while raising kids you are by definition taking the need to work out of the equation.

No this is not nice for women who have to work--they have no choice--but it is not the issue at hand--if you have to work you have to work there is no debate about your decision to do so.

It is like trying to have a conversation about anorexia and having someone point out that there are starving people in the world. Yes, there certainly are and that fact does put the issue in perspective--but it does not address the issue at hand.

2. Here, where there are boots on the ground, there is not much animosity between these two groups (despite all media hype to the contrary including TV and movies): Because our best friends, sisters, and neighbors (or even we have been working moms), we are not really into hating on each other. I seldom hear these terms even come up.

As for the working moms bashing on us...well the worst thing I read in the last go-around was that sometimes we are called "LuLuLemon Moms" because we wear yoga clothes all day. Really? This is the meanest thing you can say about us? Yes, it's true we do wear our yoga clothes but you wear nice work suits! So na-na-na-na-boo-boo!

3. Everyone hates their job and envies someone else's job sometimes--this does not constitute a war:  My husband, a successful corner-office-clawed-his-way-to-the-top business guy sometimes (okay a lot of time) wishes he played lead guitar in a rock band. But he does not go around bashing all men who chose to pursue a music career. He might envy them, but he doesn't try to tell them they should "get a day job". We stay-at-home/working moms are no different. Sometimes we regret what we chose, usually we are happy, we try not to be envious.

4. Bottom line is we all do what we can and what we have to do to make the best life for family and ourselves. If you find yourself getting very worked up over this topic, perhaps it is yourself you are struggling with. As has been suggested before by many wiser than I, it might just be that the mommy-war is an internal struggle.

As for the rest of us, we can always meet up at the end of a work day (wherever that may take place) and discuss our common lives (being mommies) over a glass of wine.

That doesn't look like a war to me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,
As we head off to Sanibel Island this weekend, I cannot help but remember that it was ten years ago this weekend, on March 25, 2002, that we discovered a lump on our daughter Lilly's abdomen.

After six grueling hours in the ER at Ft. Myers, we learned our 3-year-old baby girl had kidney cancer. We raced home to Chicago where she had her kidney and the tumor removed and received six months of chemo and radiation at Chicago Children's Memorial Hospital.

To express our gratitude to the hospital and our happiness that Lilly is ten years cancer-free, we would like to have a mini-fundraiser here online to benefit the Patient Emergency Fund at Children's Memorial.
During that grueling time, we were SO grateful to have a place like Children's Memorial that we could drive to easily for world-class care. Just a half hour away we were able to drive down for the day on treatment days and be in our own beds at night. And we were fortunate that our insurance paid for it all.

I cannot imagine going through what we did AND having to worry about getting to the hospital, where to stay, what to do with the other kids, and how to pay for it all. But that is just what many families face and I saw many of them. As if the pediatric oncology ward isn't sad enough, I would watch families numbly talking to the social worker about how they might get help paying for diapers or a place to stay.

One family in particular broke my heart. They had come from out of the country --having already lost one child to cancer they hoped to save another--leaving two more children at home in the care of a grandmother. I remember watching the social worker discretely hand them Target Gift cards so they could afford some basics.

I have since learned that the Target cards and similar gifts come from a fund called the Patient Emergency Fund that is financed solely by donations. It is to this account I hope you will consider giving in honor of Lilly.

Today Lilly is a completely healthy, lovely, sassy 13-year-old thanks to her successful treatment at Children's Memorial Hospital.

If Lilly has ever made you smile, then please click on this link and make a donation. Even a small amount would be appreciated.

If you prefer to mail a check you can send one to the address below. Just include Lilly's name on the memo line so they know :

Children’s Memorial Hospital
Attn: Katie Green
2300 Children’s Plaza
Box 4
Chicago, IL 60614

For all you have done. For all you do. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Judy and Jeff

Thursday, March 01, 2012


I never really thought of Atticus as artistic. He is not the kid who worked feverishly on art projects or brought home stuff from art class --that would be Grace.

But he started taking photography classes as a Freshman and never really stopped. Still, I didn't think of it as an artistic pursuit but more of an interest of his because he is, after all, a serial interest taker.

Last spring I finally noticed he was doing more with his photography. One day he asked to use a speaker from the computer and he stretched a black balloon over it, poured paint on it, then turned on music. When the paint jumped up he took pictures (see left).

And on vacation in Maine while the other kids ran around the grounds he covered his bedroom windows in black garbage bags and created a room-sized camera (see left above).

Still I just thought it was just a hobby of his so I was surprised when he declared he wanted to study photography in college. And surprised when the Art Institute sent someone out to the high school to help the kids with their portfolios that the woman told him his stuff was fabulous and he should apply to their school. And shocked when he not only got accepted but was offered an amazing scholarship based on his portfolio.

So that's a quick version of how he got to the SAIC. As promised in my previous post, here's some more info on the school that is kind of cool and we have learned since he was accepted.

-The school came before the museum. In the 1860s some artists started a school of art. Their personal collections of art became the start of the museum

-The Chicago Art Institute is the third largest art museum in the world: after the Louvre and the Met

-As a student you have access to all the art in the museum. Only about 25% of the collection is out at any time. You can go into the archives and say "I'd like to look at Picasso's diaries" and they'll hand you white gloves and let you have at it.

-There are dorms. They are high-rise loft apartments in the Theatre District. Every student has a drafting table in their room. The entire 17th floor is an art studio open 24/7. When Atticus heard about the drafting tables he was sold.

So next time you are in Chicago, don't forget to visit our museum and keep your eyes peeled. That artsy kid prowling the galleries just might be mine.

Monday, February 20, 2012


When Grace was first born and Atticus was just 19 months old we moved to a high-rise in the city on Wacker drive. We had a view of the lake and Grant Park and rode the elevator with a former and a future governor (Edgar and Ryan). It was the summer of the OJ trial and it was so hot people were dying left and right in the city. Fireworks were shot out every night over the newly renovated Navy Pier and we could see them and hear them from the kids' bedroom.

Every day the kids and I would head out to explore with the double-stroller. I quickly got to know the underground pedway system (to escape the heat) and soon walked off the baby weight and then some. Sometimes I would push them down to the Art Institute (the stroller entrance is in the back on Columbus--can't get in on the lion side) where we've always had a membership. Sometimes I just nursed Grace in the family area while Atticus looked at art books. Other times we would wander around and stop to people watch. I like to look at people looking at art more than I like to look at art really. Most days we sat in the room with Monet's haystacks and enjoyed the cool, quiet room and then went on to get a snack. After we moved out to Glenview I still took them in to the city whenever I could and we almost always included a brief stop at the museum. That might be the best part about having a museum pass--that you can pop in for a short time and not feel obligated to look at everything all at once-- which is really just a chore.

During these visits we had some memorable moments like the time Grace petted the horse on a Remington statue. Atticus and I had a heart-attack--the guard never noticed. To this day she says, "Well how was I supposed to know you're not supposed to touch it?" Or the time Grace tripped and nearly went through the Chagall windows.

Sometimes we would see young adults in the galleries, dressed funky, sketching the art, or taking notes, or just discussing the art with each other. Art students I would think--how cool is that? I was vaguely aware that the Art Institute also has a school attached to it but did not give it much thought.

So it is a great surprise to me that after the long hard college search it turns out that is where Atticus will be going--the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During all those visits it NEVER occurred to me that one of the kids might go to school there one day.

He will be studying photography and print-making starting next fall. And one thing's for sure, he will feel quite at home there. More on the School of the Art Institue of Chicago in my next post...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Not me I hope! --->

My youngest has been a vegetarian since she was 10-- three years now. She did not go to this place easily--she was one of the biggest carnivores I had known until she made the leap. I once saw her eat 12 pieces of bacon. She could eat half a potroast by herself. The night before she became a vegetarian, in a last hoorah, she ate three corn dogs.

But it was important to her and I have always supported this very thoughtful and well-informed decision. So I am always surprised by the reaction her decision often gets from people.
You'd think that in this day and age this would not be such a big deal but people often react to her news as if it were novel, or an invitation to debate, or worse, some kind of anti-American behavior.

Let me explain her decision quite simply: she does not eat animals for the same reason you do not cook your dog for dinner.

She kind of has the high ground on this one--there is no moral reason at all that we eat cows and pigs but not cats and dogs. It's just our culture. And I probably don't have to remind you that cows and pigs aren't exactly treated as well as our cats and dogs prior to their slaughter.

So you can see her point, even if you don't want to stop eating meat yourself.

Now I know you don't want to be one of those people who responds in a goofy manner so I will give you a few tips for the next time you encounter a vegetarian:

1. Please don't ask why she is a vegetarian: I know, I used to do this all the time too thinking I was making clever conversation--but the fact is most vegetarians have chosen not to eat meat for ethical reasons not health reasons so there's your answer. Additionally, it is just more polite not to require an explanation for the same reason you are not required to explain why you just ordered that bacon cheeseburger. It is tiresome.

2. Don't worry about the protein: People, adults especially, like to tell her she won't get enough protein if she doesn't eat meat. This is a big fat myth. The American diet is loaded with protein. If you eat an egg for breakfast, a piece of cheese for lunch, and some beans for dinner you have just had more protein than most of the world has in a week.

3. Don't worry about what to feed a vegetarian: Hostesses often stress over this, "But what does she eat!" Umm, let's review...EVERYTHING but meat. You do not need to make a tofu turkey or anything, she'll eat the veggies and rolls thank you. But what about her protein, you will ask--no worries, she's only eating one meal at your house, she already got her daily protein (see above).

4. Do not say "You don't eat meat? Not even chicken?": Really people, this one is pretty simple--she does not eat animals. Yes, fish and chicken are animals. If you TRULY don't get this one, a basic biology class may be in order.

5. Do not try to convert her back: She will not give YOU a lecture for eating meat (though she could) so do not give her one for abstaining. You'd be surprised how many (usually men) people give her this speech.

Well, there you have it--the basics on how to politely communicate with a vegetarian. She is a friend to all animals, healthier than us, and a better steward of the earth's resources (the quantity of grain and water to raise one cow is crazy).

So the next time you meet a vegetarian instead of rolling your eyes or asking "Why?" just smile and say, "Good for you!"