Favorite Moment From Our Vacation

Coco & Soleil at Lake Sawyer, Washington

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Random Thoughts of a Not So Super Mama

(Sorry for the way too personal bummer rant but I need to get this out there so I can get busy getting busy!)

That is a play on the title of another blog out there and it makes me jealous.  Not the title, really, but the super mom thing.  I came across another blog yesterday (my kid is sick, sue me for surfing) where the super crafty mom sews and crochets, keeps a busy blog  up to date AND has a few kids, teaches LAW at the university and trains for Triathalons.  I’m not kidding.

I have one kid, one puppy and one very busy husband who are my full time gig.  That’s it.  Sure, we keep busy.  We take a lot of classes through the park district.  We have daily play dates which we host, a LOT.  But come on!  I hardly ever go to the gym.  I have a weekly housekeeper!  And I still have no energy.  What is going on with me?

When I compare myself to my husband, I despair.  He started his own business this year.  He could be working 24 hours a day, he’s that busy, but he finds time to go to the climbing gym five days a week, gives our child a bath, gets her teeth brushed and reads her stories almost every night. He makes me coffee in the morning. And he STILL manages to clean the kitchen sometimes. Oh yes, and he folds the laundry.

So clearly, I’m a loser.

I want to be the mom who:

Makes fresh juice for the family every morning (sometimes I manage this for months in a row, then I just get sick of cleaning the juicer and stop.)

Helps her husband with his business – filing, taking care of bills and the billing, meeting clients out to help sell.

Reads to her daughter a LOT more.  Teaches her how to read and do basic math.

Goes to the gym five days a week.  This can include twice a week climbing with husband because that makes him so happy!

Writes her awesome zombie novel that is already partially outlined.

Trains her puppy to be the lovely companion /therapy dog she’s meant to be.

Sews beautiful things for house and home.

Crafts often with our child.

Cooks super healthy meals they love.

Okay, I don’t know if that’s all doable on a daily basis but that would make me a Super Mama and that would make me HAPPY.

So what’s the strategy?  How do I fit it all in when all I really want to do is read other people’s awesome zombie novels and surf all the awesome crafty mama blogs that others work so hard on.  It’s so much easier to live in my imagination but my husband, daughter and dog to not get the fun end of that stick.

What’s the secret?  I suspect organization, scheduling and discipline.  Not my strong suits.  Have to think on this. I’m open to suggestions.

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The Cuban Puppy Crisis

A Puppy Mill

What an eye opener. Those gorgeous little puppies I showed you yesterday?  They almost certainly have come from puppy mills.  The “breeder” of cute little Fifi is also the owner of a pet store that was being protested against in Wisconsin this weekend.  The puppy industry is all so sordid and confusing, not to mention depressing, that I had to stop and rethink.  It was either back to the shelters or on to professional breeders with solid references who show their dogs and only have a few litters or less a year.

Stephane and I discussed it and due to our particular need for a patient, child friendly, of a predictable small size, sturdy, non yappy and hypoallergenic-ish dog who will truly be an addition to our family, we’re going for a pure breed from a professional breeder.  And yes, we know it’s going to cost us.

The Havanese

Enter the National Dog of Cuba, the Havanese.  Here’s what Wiki has to say:

The Havanese is small in size and sturdy in structure with a tail carried up over its back and ears that drop and fold. The coat is abundant, long, and silky and comes in all colors. The Havanese has a spirited personality and a curious disposition, and is notable for its springy gait, a characteristic that distinguishes the breed from all others. The Havanese is considered an ideal family pet and a true companion dog. They are highly adaptable to almost any environment, and their only desire is to be with their human companions.

The Havanese is a very people-oriented dog, often following their human companions around the house. They are not overly possessive and do not suffer aggression or jealousy towards other dogs, pets, or humans.

Unlike most toy dogs, who are too delicate, nervous, or aggressive to tolerate the often clumsy play of children, the Havanese is a cheerful companion to even younger children.  This is a highly trainable dog and can learn tricks quickly and easily.

These are natural companion dogs: gentle and responsive. They become very attached to their owners. Affectionate, playful and intelligent, they are very sociable, easy to obedience train and get along well with other dogs. Havanese have a long reputation as circus dogs because they learn quickly and enjoy doing things for people.

So yesterday afternoon I filled out several adoption applications for local breeders in the mid west.  The applications, while not as stressful as applying for preschool, were involved and some required near essay-style answers.  But the process helps breeders to analyze which pup will be best for which family, or if a Havanese is even the right dog at all for someone.

I sent off the forms and then began a very impatient wait – the kind where I’m bouncing off the walls. Will we be be accepted?  What will the puppies look like?  Will there be any left?  Will they be right for us? HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST?  Believe it or not, many breeders won’t tell you jack until you fill our their application.  None of them specified cost until I was approved.

In the meantime, because Coco was sick and insisted that I lay in bed with her for the third day in a row, and because I couldn’t stomach watching Barbie in the Nutcracker ONE.MORE.TIME, I did more research on my laptop.  Lots more.  How to crate train. How to groom.  How to potty train. I looked at all the Havanese Clubs of name your city and got to know the important breeders and the names of champion lines. It became apparent that if you really want a Havanese, you should be prepared to wait up to TWO YEARS to get your puppy.   TWO YEARS.  Did I mention that I want a puppy right now?

I have it all worked out.  We get back from LA on June 14. Pick up puppy right away and spend next two weeks at parks and beach with Coco. Then Coco starts summer school and I’ll have five weeks to take the pup to classes and spend lots of one one one time with her.  Then we go to Maine for August and that’s puppy heaven. Round that off with two more months of good weather in September and October and I should have a fully potty trained pup before the first snow falls. That’s the plan.

Well last night I heard back from Diane at Windfall Havanese.  She breeds champs and I’d seen her name quite a lot in my research.  She just happens to have a nine week old girl she had been planning to keep because both her parents are champions and three of her sisters from earlier litters are are champions.  But she thought about it and decided that we could come up and meet Sunshine (and I’m sure Diane wanted to check us out, too.)  Then came the price tag.  HOLY.COW.

Sunshine Supernova

I cost WHAT?

I wrote and thanked her profusely and asked if the price was negotiable.  And then the real wait began. First thing this morning I checked for an email. Nothing.  All morning, I raised “bouncing off the walls” to a new art form.  In the meantime we were approved for another pup, quite a bit older, for the same original price as Sunshine. This one was another show pony but apparently is developing an underbite so her competition days are over. I don’t care at all about that but at the same price, I still really wanted Sunshine.  Then another approval came through and this one was tiny, would probably be only eight weeks old when we get back from LA, and was even more expensive!

I loved that Diane really listened to what we were looking for and explained the ways Sunshine would fit with our family.  I love that with all of her pups, if ever the buyer can’t keep theirs, she’ll take them back no questions asked.  For all kinds of reasons, I couldn’t face the possibility of her saying no to us.  So I wrote her back and told her never mind, we’ll pay full price.

Then around midday Diane wrote to say that Sunshine is ours.  YAY!  I know I’m probably an idiot and should have waited but I couldn’t.  I simply couldn’t.

And so the crisis is over, at least until the bill comes.

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Designer Dogs and Teddy Bears

So a natural progression for my current obsession is the “available puppies” pages on breeder websites, petfinder.com and puppyfind.com. It’s quite possible that I have seen photos of every single available puppy of a certain size in the entire country. Possibly more than once. And I’m pretty sure if I didn’t already have carpal tunnel, I do now.


There is a plethora of small dog breeds available: Jack Russels (too hyper), chihuahuas (too yappy) Westies (potentially too big to fly in cabin on Southwest), Yorkies… and then there are the “hypoallergenic” breeds: Maltese (fine boned but glorious personalities) Bichons Frise (too frizzy for me but also fabulous little dogs) poodles (super smart but I’ve never liked their look) and Havanese.


Yorkshire Terrier

Bichon Frise

Then there are the hybrids, “designer dogs’ if you will, because who would pay $1,000 and more for a mutt? A Maltese mixed with a Shih Tzu is a Mal-Shi. A beagle and a golden retriever make a Bego (but why would you DO that???) A golden, mixed with a poodle, makes a Golden Doodle and that of course, was the original hybrid, bred as service dogs for people with allergies. The world went crazy after that, apparently.

Golden Doodle

Puggle - Pug and Beagle

Dachshund and Wired Haired Terrier

But in my opinion, they get some mixes right. The wonderful Bichon Frise, entertaining little smarties often used in circuses, crossed with the colorful, long hair Shih Tzu lapdog makes a fluffy little lover called a Shichon or Teddy Bear that can have the best traits of both parents. And holy cow, I want one!

Shichon puppy

Her name is Fifi but I'd love to call her mine!

Here’s how they’re described:

Size: The Shichon averages a weight of 10-12 pounds.

Coat: The coat of a Shichon is usually thick and sheds very little. The coat can come in a variety of lengths depending on which breed this dog’s coat takes after.

Character: The Shichon is a happy, friendly dog.

Temperament: The Scichon are easy-going and enjoy the companionship of their owners.

Care: Regular brushing is required.

Training: The Shichon is eager to please their owner. They require consistency in their training and done with a gentle hand.

Activity: The Shichon does not require formal daily exercise. Routine play is sufficient though they do enjoy short walks with their owners.

I am utterly in love with these dogs. The trick is finding an affordable pup that didn’t come from a puppy mill. Ugh, who knew about these places? Well apparently they’re all over the news but I tend to avoid sad animal stories as they give me nightmares. So now I’m doing the research and it’s horrific. Google it, you won’t believe who some of the worst perpetrators are. Hint – The Amish!!!

Well I want a puppy from a breeder who owns both parents, where the puppies are brought up in the home, preferably with kids to play with them. Puppies need to learn from their parents and siblings to become good doggy citizens later, I’ve learned.  I want responsible breeders who love and care for their dogs. It’s not too much to ask but it’s a lot of work to weed out the mill breeders who aren’t exactly advertising themselves as such.

It’s a good thing we’re going to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks. The forced wait is giving me time to really figure out what we’re doing, although knowing us (me!) in the end, choosing a puppy will be a purely emotional decision.  At least I’ll be armed with knowledge, whether I used it or not…

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Zombie Novels and Baby Fever

Blah blah blah

So I’ve been feeling guilty for ignoring my blog but I’ve just lacked inspiration. We’ve been busy, of course, we always are. But motivation to commit words to “paper” has been in short supply.

So what’s new? I haven’t been juicing lately. No good reason.

We’re still on the waiting list at the Lycee.

Coco and I have been decorating bird houses together. Woo hoo.

I’ve sewn a bunch of stuff you haven’t seen and I can’t get my kid to wear and can’t photograph anyway because the weather has been really, really crappy. And that’s really the crux, I think. The weather has crushed my spirits.

Lake Shore Drive

An Average Winter Day?

I’m not special. Chicago weather gets everybody down. When I first moved here I couldn’t believe anyone lived here full-time. I mean, WHY would anyone CHOOSE to live in a city where winter lasts six months??? But over the past four years I have come to love Chicago and all this awesome city has to offer. I’ve made my peace with it.

And this year, for the first time, I kept a positive attitude the entire winter. I was the one saying, “It’s supposed to snow in February. Relax!” But when mid April rolled around and the sky was still endlessly gray, the temperature still in the low 40s and reports of possible snowfall hung over our heads, I just lost my sense of humor. And then I lost myself in books.


World War Zed

Now if you know me you know that zombie novels are not… novel for me. But lets just say April was one long apocalyptic marathon. Day and night, in the bath, while cooking, during drop off classes, once or twice at red lights… I read and read every zombie novel Amazon has to offer. I can’t even say I’m sick of them now. I only stopped because the forward thinking part of my brain really wants to remain married and because my kid complains a lot when I forget to feed her.

So I stepped away from the Kindle and tried to refocus my energy. My neighbor Lori and I joined World Gym which is less than a block away. We both realized that exercise would help our moods but that working out alone sucks, so now we have a standing date two mornings a week and the kids play together in the kids’ room for $2 per session. I’m also climbing at least once a week with Stephane, which isn’t enough if I’ve ever to achieve “project 5.10” climber status. (Who am I kidding, a 5.8 kicked my ass Thursday night. So frustrating!)

Then the weather improved (a smidge) and some sort of Spring / Baby fever hit me hard and totally out of the blue. I know what you’re thinking, “Really Mandy? BABIES? After that last post?” And yes, I tell you, it’s true. I want a baby and I want it bad.

Ragdoll Doll Puppies

Tell me you don’t want one of those angel faces! I’m obsessed. I think it started with wanting to get a cat to keep Chloe company when we take off on trips, and for Coco to play with since Chloe is not exactly child friendly. It was a good idea and we are getting a rescue kitty within the next few days. I’ve “been approved to adopt” by one of our local rescue agencies. (Who knew it would be so hard to save a pet from death row??) I’ll introduce her when I get her but here’s a tease – she was advertised as “schmooshy” which is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Not mine but that's one scary looking cat, right?!!

I hate that Coco is uninterested in cats. Chloe scratches and will even bite if you bug her enough but the scratches break skin so they’re usually enough. I constantly have to warn kids to leave her alone and the ones who won’t listen have gone home with painful souvenirs. So we took Coco to a shelter a couple of weeks ago to look at “nice” kitties and while she thought many of them were pretty, she wasn’t enthusiastic about bringing one home. I offered to take her again the following week and she outright declined. (!!!)

Wait, what's that in the sky?

I, of course, was in heaven. I snuck into the dog area while Stephane was parking the car and it was like the sun was suddenly shining on me. I felt warm again. And that was it. I want, no I NEED a puppy. My arms want to cuddle a furry little baby and smell that delicious puppy smell.

Because somehow, potty training Coco wasn’t enough. And I’m just DYING to walk a dog at 6 am in the freezing cold for months on end.

Oh well, there are sure to be new zombie novels to cheer me up by next winter.

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The French School and Everywhere Babies

Everywhere Babies, one of Coco's favorite books

Ellie’s mom Katie had a baby today. Felix’s mom Kris had a baby over the weekend. Wendy, Isa’s mom had a baby last week. Margie, Francesca’s mom, had a baby in February and Chiara, Emma’s mom, had a baby in November.

Congratulations to all my wonderful friends and their growing families. I’ve met Stella and Luca and I really look forward to meeting Noah, Nova and the today’s Twinkle Lemonade which is hopefully a temporary name. I send you love and healthy vibes, especially for Nova and Noah who are in need of some extra help right now.

But here’s the deal. Whatever super juju beans you took or special fertility dance you did to get preggers? Keep it to yourself please. Last week’s pregnancy scare was enough to put me off sex til menopause. I’ve never been so happy to see two parallel lines in my life.

And not just because navigating the preschool thing is such a nightmare, but that would be enough! We toured the French School in Winnetka yesterday.

French School

I can’t tell you how lovely it is. Well, I’ll try. It looks just like the picture above. And downstairs its decorated like a French salon, sort of Louis XIV, I guess. The director is from Milwaukee but she is all Parisian chic without any of the attitude. Her daughter is in kindergarden there and is fluent in four languages. The classes were tiny, less than sixteen children each. The projects they were working on blew my mind.

Unlike the Lycee, the French School is only half day for four year olds. It also costs half as much. Unfortunately, rather than five blocks away, it’s a 45 minute drive. Each way.

On the plus side, I could take French courses at the same time, a couple of days a week. Then I could work out and run errands the other days. It would drastically change our access to our friends but I suppose we’d make some new ones there.

Sigh. We just really need to get into the Lycee.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

In the afternoon we had our first Creative Drama class at Chase Park. Coco knows the teacher from previous classes and we even attended a performance of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” there over the weekend. Thankfully the performance was only thirty minutes long because as it turns out, eight year olds lack skill. They were cute, though, and afterwards the princesses brought the little girls in the audience to dance on stage with them. Coco was in HEAVEN.

Today we had our last art class together at Horner park.  As of next week, Coco graduates to be with the the four and five year olds and tragically, it’s a drop off class.  I really can’t stand it! I love and adore Miss Cheryl, the wonderful art teacher Coco and I have been with for over a year now.  All this growing up stuff has got to stop.

And speaking of growing up, check out this stylish babe.

New hairstyle

C'est tres chic!

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Filling up our week

It’s break week for Park District Classes but not for Chicago Public Schools so we are trying to fill our time with fun stuff but also finding ourselves spending a lot of time alone. Monday we hit the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier.

Water Ways Exhibit

Music Room

Tuesday, it was the Nature Museum with Katie and Ellie.

Nature Museum

Judy Istock Butterfly Haven

Today we are alone again, checking out the new Little Beans Cafe on Webster & Elston.

House on fire!

Grocery store at Little Beans

Coco has been playing for a couple of hours but from her demeanor, she’s making do. The children are generally younger and she’s asked me several times now if there are “any more rooms to see.” She’s lonely for her friends but she’s also gotten picky about who her friends are. I think preschool will be good for her.

We got wait listed at the Lycee Francais and frankly, I am devastated by the news. I didn’t have a back up plan because I’ve only ever wanted her to attend the French school. I haven’t considered other schools at all. We found out over the weekend so Monday morning was a panic until I found out through a friend that there’s a French school in Winnetka, a gorgeous Chicago suburb about 30 minutes north of here. We have an appointment to tour the premises and meet the administrators tomorrow.

I still have hope we’ll be invited to attend the Lycee. It’s a few blocks away and two of Coco’s closest friends, Emma and Arielle are both there, as well as two more children she knows from across the street. I love the people I’ve met there and I think it will be a fantastic education for my very verbal, communicative child. I am a French citizen and my husband is French Canadian. We are diehard Francophiles and are both committed to global citizenry. The Lycee awards an international baccalaureate which will increase Coco’s opportunities to attend university anywhere in the world. Oh, there are a zillion reasons we want her there, and only three or so slots available. So wish us luck.

Last night we tried some entrees from Appetite for Reduction. I made the Chile Lime Rubbed Baked Tofu, the Butternut Squash and Coconut Brown Rice and the Jerk Asparagus. I could pretty much live off the rice dish but I loved everything. The bigger test was Stephane. He even loved the tofu, spice and all. It was a great introduction and now he’s on board with my picking up some pantry staples needed for a lot of the recipes. I’ve never heard of some of them but if the flavors are anything like last night, they’ll be worth the investment.

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