Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Letters to Our Children - October 2013

Welcome to the October installment of "Letters to Our Children"

This month, dearest Liam and Lola, I would like to make yet another confession.  I know, most of my posts are about something I feel terrible about or feel guilty for - but I just can't help it!  There are many things about being a mother that come natural to me - but oh so many shortcomings too.  The point of this is this:  30 years from now when you're in therapy hashing up crazy things your mom did to put you in whatever position you are....just have them read these letters. Maybe it will give you some perspective - and help you give me some forgiveness!

Back to my confession:  I am a Helicopter parent.  A worry wart.  A Nervous Nellie.  However you want to call it - it sometimes when you do something that has even a minutia of physical risk, it makes my heart feel like it is going to beat out of my chest.  Its not that I don't think you can do things.....it is just that I'm terrified of you getting hurt.  Of breaking a bone.  Or breaking your neck.  

I know - its graphic....but that's where my mind goes sometimes.  Part of the territory from living with a lifetime of anxiety and depression, I suppose.  Right now, depression is pretty low.  Non-existent, or as non-existent as it can be - which is great!  But the anxiety  OH THE ANXIETY!!! Now that, for whatever reason, is sky high.  And I fight it in one vain or another every. single. day.  Its not bad enough that I need medication at this point, but it is on close watch.  

So, when you ask to do things that are fun (like, for example, jump on an old school trampoline with no kid-keeping net on it!), I have to fight every urge in my body that wants to tell you NO!  Instead, I say "Of Course!".  In my mind (or maybe outloud...) I say "Just don't jump too high.  And stay exactly in the middle.  AND NO FLIPS.  AND KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE!".


And what happens?  Well, for Liam, nothing.  Nothing but fun anyway.  For Lola - she fell and scratched her face trying to get UP on the trampoline.

Kids, I know my anxiety will always be trying to pull to keep you safe in a bubble. But I know there is so much to experience and explore in life.  I will do my best to step back, squash the fire alarms ringing in my head, let you learn and grow and explore.  After all, it is the only thing I can do so you can experience the wind whooshing through your hair as you bounce on a cool fall morning under a canopy of jeweled leaves!  It will be no easy battle, but the smiles and joy on your faces I know will be worth it :) 

Please follow the circle of fun and awesomeness to Tanya Karaman!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Family Mini-Sessions {Chicago Family Photographer}

Happy October to all!

Blink for a second and we will soon be in the throws of Holiday planning and parties and cards!  Wouldn't it be nice this year to have at least one thing already crossed off the list before Halloween even hits the door?

I'm here to help you do just that :) Schedule a 30 minute mini-session in October, and get your family photos Christmas Card ready!  Included in the $150 session fee:

5 digital images
30 minute session
Print release - for cards and up to 4x6 prints

This event will be held at North Avenue Beach - in the event of inclement weather we will duck inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  6 session times are available (from 8AM to 11AM on the half hour) - contact me at karin@karinobrienphotography.com or call 312-401-9979 to reserve your spot!

There will be one additional date for mini-sessions at an indoor studio on Saturday, October 26th.  Details for that event will be posted soon!

Cheers, and again, HAPPY OCTOBER!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letters to our children - September 2013

This is the latest installment of the blog circle "Letters to Our Children" - after reading my letter this month, please follow the blog circle around to Kimberlee!


Dearest Lola,

You and I were pretty fortunate during Liam's first couple weeks of school at the end of August!  We had some much needed alone time, since you didn't begin until September.  While I thought you were going to be sad and missing your brother, I was very much mistaken.  I remember on the first day we dropped Liam off, you told me how your WHOLE day was planned.  You said "We're going to get home, I'm going to dress up, and then we're going to make a project, and THEN I'm going to play PLAY DOH!

So, that is exactly what  we did!

It was pretty wonderful, just spending time with you and me.  I got some good snuggle time in, and also had an opportunity to just take a few steps back and watch you play and grow.  Turns out, that's one of my most favorite things to do!

A few things about you right this instant that I want to treasure for ALWAYS:

Your Favorite Things to Do: Make Projects!  You love to take things that you find (i.e. trash!) and save it for projects.  You love what I call "Mixed Media" art - crayons, marker, tape, sequins, old sucker sticks, leaves and acorns all attached together on a page.  This is one of your favorite pastimes at the moment.  Finding, creating, learning!  I love how you put things together and make something beautiful!

Right now, you also insist upon having "collections".  You find rocks every place we go - and so we've designated an official spot in your room to keep them in a nice little bowl.  You also love to collect sticks, acorns and pinecones, but Mommy is a little too paranoid about bug infestations, so they live in your "treasures" box outside :)

Your Style - girl you have GOT IT :) I love watching you every day decide what you are going to wear, and especially what you are going to accessorize with.  You have VERY specific thoughts about matching (not necessary), pretties (more than two in your hair are encouraged) and where your piggies and or braids go.  It never fails to make me smile when you strut around proudly with your latest look.  This is so important to me to foster your own individuality and self confidence! I'm hoping building a sturdy foundation for you now will make it that much harder for those people to knock you down later in life.

I love you, sweet little girl.  Or, Honey Bunny Sugar Pie Buttercup, as you insist upon being called as a pet name :)  I'm so thankful for your spunk and spirit!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Letters to our Children - August 2013

Welcome to the August installment of "Letters to our Children"!

Well Buddy, 

Its official.  You (and by you I mean me) survived your first day of Kindergarten.  You woke up this morning at 5:30 AM, clothes and shoes on and ready to go!  I don't think you could have been more excited.  You said you were a little nervous, but mostly excited.  I know you were ready for some learning and fun - there's only so much your ol' mom can teach you.

For lunch I tried my hand at a Bento Box and packed sunflower butter / apple / honey pinwheels, along with freshly picked yellow pear and cherry tomatoes, and cucumber from our garden.  I also included some of your favorite, homemade hummus. But, since it was buried underneath the cucumbers you didn't find it until all your veggies were gone (I'll remember to put it on top next time).  You devoured everything!  You are such a veggie monster - that makes my heart happy that you love things that are healthy for your body.  I can't promise all your lunches will be this fun, but I will promise to always try my best :)

A few things about this day that I want to treasure for always:

Favorite Color: ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE.  You also like red and yellow because mixed together they make ORANGE!  We found this shirt and another just like it at Kohl's.  I don't think it mattered what it said on them because they were so orange.  You noticed that you matched the crossing guard's safety vest.  Yup.  Pretty orange.

Favorite Toys:  1st place goes to HOT WHEELS!  Cars have long topped your list of favorite toys, pretty much since you were around 18 months old.  We've tried to get you interested in trains, superheros or other genres of toys, but they don't hold your interest like Speedy Vehicles.  This is represented by your backpack and shoes - which have flames, wheels on the sides, and flashing, blinking lights.  You were beyond excited we let you pick out the flashing shoes, and I must admit, they are pretty snazzy.  Dad and I did not share your enthusiasm running into our dark room before 6:00AM....but I digress.

Favorite Character: The Minions.  You didn't so much like the movies, but you LOOOVE the minions. I don't blame you - they are super cute!

We had a celebratory Liam's Choice dinner tonight - and although I was hoping for something like Wildfire or Fogo de Chao -  you chose Culver's.  During dinner you told us all about your day - learning new rules and telling us how you loved to make the girls laugh.  You summed it up pretty well; when I asked if you had a good day, you corrected me and said you had a GREAT day.

I know you may not always have that sweet crinkly nose smile, nor always tolerate my "First Day of School" photoshoots - but I will enjoy it for now :) I'm so glad Dad, Lola and I could be there to take you and pick you up for your big day!  Hooray for School!

Please follow the blog circle to the ├╝ber talented and fellow Go Blue alumni - Lauren Bauerschmidt!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Letters to our Children - July 2013

Dearest Liam and Lola,

One of my most favorite things to do with you both is to stroll around the Chicago Botanic Garden.  I love teaching you how to be still (regardless of how fleeting it might be) and how to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature.  We go at least once a month, and this month we packed a picnic lunch with two of our favorite people, Tia Adrian and Cousin Serene, and caught a free concert on a perfect, warm summer night.  It was pure bliss!  I hope you continue to let me fill your soul with good music, great surroundings and most importantly, good company.

Lola, there is so much I love about you right now.  I love your wardrobe choices, and I love the simple things that totally captivate your imagination.  The one thing you want most in the world is for a butterfly to rest upon your finger.  When we walked through the butterfly house, you had your arm outstretched nearly the entire time, even though it must have been tired.  You are very persistent :)

Another thing that made my heart smile so much is when you decided you did NOT want to be Lola anymore, but preferred the name "Honey Bunny Sugar Pie" - that lasted a good two days :) Child you never cease to find new ways to make me smile!  Even when your persistent (i.e. stubborn) nature is challenging me in other ways.

My dear sweet Liam, you are growing into such a sweet little man!  You love your sister (even when she shuns your affection) and are getting to be a little bit of a police man with her - trying to keep her safe, enforce the rules, and mayyyybe emulating me a little bit.  I'm working on trying to not be such a drill sergeant, I hope you'll learn from that too.  Also - you pulled out your SECOND tooth the other night...where I once saw my little baby, your face is turning more and more into a spunky boy.

And man, you are on the MOVE!  You are really enjoying learning how to ice skate right now, but every minute you are trying to balance or climb or something else to make my heart jump.  I'm pretty sure gymnastics is up next to try to channel some of that daredevil energy :)

What I love most about you right now is how much you love me.  I'm a lucky mama to frequently (and without prompt!) hear your sweet voice say, "Mama, I love you SO much", or "You are SO SO beautiful!".  It certainly makes me light up and my heart soar.  Thank you for being so kind and sensitive, my love.

The best thing about this whole parenting thing, is when you very clearly and unexpectedly teach me something.  As delightful as the butterflies were - even more impressive was the perfect rolling hill you discovered on our way back to the main garden.  It was wonderful to choose to not be rushed; to be able to let you both enjoy and discover; and yes, it was nice to feel the world turning upside down and topsy turvy as I let go of my decorum and rolled down the hill.

I hope through the hustle and bustle of summer we will be able to enjoy another night like this one - but for now, I will keep the memory of this night tucked close to my heart.

I love you, sweet boy and girl!


Follow our blog circle to Tanya Karaman!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Letters to our Children - June 2013

Happy June!  Another installment of Letters to our Children is here :)

Dearest Liam and Lola,

I'm so excited summer is finally here :)  We've been having a lot of fun at our gym pool, and oodles of time with the sprinklers in the backyard, but today we decided to spend some time with our cousins (one of only two sets we have in Chicagoland) and spend the day downtown.  Granted, we only live about 10 miles outside of the heart of the city.....and we're probably there in some form or another every other week....but we don't often take the time to get on a train with you two and just bask in all of the great things Chicago has to offer.

If there is any time that is a "good" time to jump back into stay-at-home mom-dom, then summer is IT!  I was reminded of that today - of WHY I am thankful to get an opportunity to BE with you two again.  Spending the day trekking into the city was indeed a little exhausting - but we got to see so many things and enjoy so much of what makes our city great!  Lola, I loved watching you discover in real life what we've read about in our 1-2-3 Chicago book!

The majesty of public transportation, live music at all around; art interspersed with water and foliage and all the other people out enjoying the same things together.....it was magical!  The best part though - was not having a schedule, being and running around with people we love, and soaking up the rays outside.  It sure is hard to beat a day like this!

Side note:  A few things I would like to remember about you, right now.  Liam: you lost your first tooth!  That toothless smile makes you look so grown up :) Lola: My sweet girl - you are all bumps, bruises, and band-aids.  You're still trying to find your footing at times, especially keeping up with big brother...but until that happens I'll have unlimited kisses and bandages to help heal your owies!

Liam, you came to me as we were standing waiting to head back to the El station.  You said simply, "Mom - I'm glad you're here with us." 

I'm not sure if it is because we had such a fun day, or if it is because you are thankful that I'm present.....but either case, I'm glad too, honey.  So, very, glad!

Please follow our blog circle to Theresa Rose Photo!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Letters to our Children - May 2013

Hi Kids!

I'm hoping for something a little less deep this month...since I feel like the past two months have been nothing but pouring my heart out!

I wanted to talk to you both a little bit about fear :)

I'm a very proud Mama - of course you know I always am!  But recently, you both surprised me a little!

Liam, when you walked into your bedroom today and saw Lola with a bloody nose, you reacted quickly, came to get me, and helped as I cleaned her up!  You were scared, sure, but you also helped and even made a couple suggestions (based on what your friend at school, who also had bloody noses, did).  Thank you so much for being a great helper even when it was a scary situation!

Lola, I know it was SO SCARY to go up on that stage for dance!  You were tired, clingy, and cranky, but you managed to get out there. You weren't very happy about it, but YOU DID IT!!
Working on my ROAR!

Liam, I know you were a bit nervous about dancing too - but you remembered all your moves, and were so brave!  You are such a hip-hop Jungle Boogie superstar :)

There will be many times in our lives when we are a little bit scared - but know that you will always have loving arms to celebrate with you and to support you if you do not succeed!  I love you both :)


Follow the Letters to Our Children blog circle along to Theresa Martel!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letters to our children - April 2013

My sweet Liam and Lola, this month has brought many, many ups and downs.  The biggest change, is that I was let go from my full time engineering job three weeks before I was scheduled to take my Professional Engineer Exam (I wrote about in my letter last month).

Scary and unexpected, this is really a blessing and great news!  More importantly than that, I am SO happy to report even though I am officially unemployed - I stuck with it, and studied my hardest, gave that test 100% of everything I had.  It is done.  I will not know the outcome until July, but I feel so good about how it went, the outcome is inconsequential.  I am completely and entirely proud of myself.

Now, back to our big life change.  Now that the exam is over, we left your amazing daycare (or "school" as you like to call it) and you will be staying home with me.  This brings a whole other set of challenges, most of which we will discover as we go along.  Fears about money, and if I'll be good enough at keeping you engaged and entertained, and the like; but that is not what I'd like to focus on the message for the month.

I'd like to just take a few moments and tell you both about the things we've learned this past month.

1.  Our elders are our treasures.  Grandma Dora (my grandmother) came to visit when Mema and Papa came for a week before the test. She is officially a prayer warrior, and prays every morning and every night.  She has lived on this earth for over 90 years (and still going strong).  I am so in awe of her faith, and her love, I am so blessed we had a chance to live with her for a week and you two got to see it first hand :)

2.  Faith is a treasure.  Every night we say prayers for everyone we love, and extra prayers for those in our lives that need it.  Recently, we pray nightly for my cousin Mamie, who awoke from a coma after 11 days and is well on her way to recovery.  It is nothing short of a miracle.  We all did our part together to help in that.

3.  Family is a treasure.  Heartache.  Pain.  Hurt and death.  These things will always exist in the world.  But so will family, close at hand to lend a shoulder to cry on, an arm to steady our walk, or far away and close in heart with kind words of "I love you" even across the country through email.

4.  Helpers are a treasure.  Scary things happened in Boston, and Liam, you had a lot of questions because you've been to races with me and somehow you know what bombs and explosions are. But we focused all those questions around all the helpers we saw on the news: firefighters, policemen, volunteers.  In tragedy (see number 3)  somehow humanity shines and gives hope....pulling together and fighting back when fear and hopelessness try to overcome us.

5. Storms are scary.  Sometimes its the mess after the storm that is hard to deal with too.  We had so much rain and as you both said when looking downstairs; "WOW!  THERE IS A LAKE IN THE BASEMENT!" You both noticed that Mom and Dad worked as a team to clean up the mess, and you both helped with the final mopping.  Because we are family, and we work hard together to keep our house running....through ups and downs, storms and sunny skies.  Even when we had to toss out some stuff that we couldn't save, at the end of the day it is just stuff.  The stuff doesn't really matter.

What does matter, is us.  We will figure it out and weather through it all; with God, and each other.

Please follow the "Letters to Our Children" Blog circle to Heather Rodburg!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Letters to My Children - March 2013

This letter, my dear children, is a story, an apology, and a thank you note, all rolled up into one.

Across the course of our lives, we have to make various difficult choices.  There are always a variety of reasons, limitations, circumstances; and this is no different.  I had to make a choice.  Did I want it? Or did I want to give up? 

Am I headed in the right direction?
It was strongly suggested that I take the PE (Professional Engineer) exam for work.  I didn't want to.  I drug my feet.  I kicked the dirt.  I thought it was dumb for a Chemical Engineer to have to do what Civil Engineers do.   I thought it was dumb that I had to learn for the first time Civil fundamentals which I explicitly did NOT want to study in college.  I despised the fact I was supposed to master concepts like Momentum and Reactions and Trusses and such.  Most of all, I didn't want to divert what little energy I had away from you both and Dad.  But, that's what they wanted me to do, so with a lot of preparation in the first quarter of 2012 I begrudgingly did it.

And in June, I found out I failed.

I was angry.  I was upset.  I was so disappointed in myself.  I didn't know if I wanted to go through that grueling 8 hour piece of hell (in addition to the 250+ hours of preparation) again.  But in hindsight, I realized I spent so much energy fighting the fact that I didn't want to take the exam, that I didn't leave much on the table available for actually succeeding in taking it.

Not the happiest camper....

So I made another big decision. I wanted to show you, my sweet boy and girl, that even though life is difficult, and some tasks appear to be insurmountable, that if you believe in yourself and give yourself a little focus you can achieve great things.  Even if (or especially if) you've failed before.  I chose to plow through the swamp of preparation and forge ahead.  It meant temporarily but actively shifting the focus away from my most important and most precious treasure....my family.

I still harbor some pretty strong guilt about doing this.  Why?  Well, when Dad isn't travelling, I quickly eat dinner and am downstairs at 6PM to work problems or watch one of the online classes (which you both like to peek in and see "the guy in the computer").  On weekends, I'm off in the morning to study at Panera (since the library isn't open too early) and come home late in the afternoon.  When I do come home, I'm exhausted  and generally not much fun to be around.  I don't have a lot of extra energy to put into meal planning or cooking, and that means we're all not eating as well as I would like, and forget about housecleaning.......  I'm leaning a lot on Dad to help carry the load, and although he is more than happy to support me through this mess (since he's been there himself, 10 years ago) sometimes that makes him not in the greatest of moods either.

When Dad is travelling, I don't sleep very well.  Which means I'm short tempered, angry, tired and upset that I'm tired and angry and upset. I'm left with not much energy to be a good mom, let alone to study.  Which again, makes me generally not much fun to be around.  I see you, Liam, walking on eggshells doing your best not to make me upset, or rushing to help Lola put toys away.  I see that look in your eyes - searching my face to see if I'm going to explode or yell or cry from being at the end of my rope.  And it breaks my heart.  But then, you'll ask after a hard day of studying, "Mom! Did you learn lots of things so you can get all the questions right?"  My answer is always the same, "Well, I'm sure trying my hardest, and I will do the best I can.  But yes, I think I will get them all right."  Liam, you make me believe in ME!

I'm trying so hard to let go of the guilt, to let it be OK that I want this PE. SO BAD.  To let it be OK to lean on you, my family, to support me in my crazy endeavors.  Even though I am paralyzed with fear that I might fail again, I want to be strong enough to admit to you both and to Dad that I want to be smart enough, to prove myself, to equalize my playing field at work.  But it is so, so hard.

Liam and Lola, I am so so sorry to drag you all through this.  But it is only temporary.....

Waving goodbye to the bumpy, prickly road, and looking forward to happiness!

One more month, and I'll be free again.   I can't say that I will get to make it all up to you.  Chances are, I'll just collapse in a big  heap of goo, and hopefully be able to gain back some resemblance of normalcy in a reasonable amount of time.  I'll probably still be short tempered and irritable at times....but I will be so so thankful that you all supported me when some days even I didn't think I could do it myself.

We'll be OK as long as we have each other.

 I'm sorry.  Thank you.  And I love you both, so very much.


Follow our Letters to Our Children Blog Circle over to David Villano!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Letters to our Children - February 2013

I'm embarking on a new project for the next year with some of my cyberfriends - a monthly letter to our children.  This is my first stab at it - and I think its going to be rather fun :)

My dearest Liam and Lola,

I don’t think I can even begin to describe how much I adore watching the two of you interact.  It is the ENTIRE reason we wanted more than one child, and frankly, the best gift we could have given you.  Each other.  Yes, there are battles…sometimes hilarious, more often than not just plain irritating.  But this, oh this kind of moment.  Sitting together, sharing, talking, learning, coloring, laughing as only siblings can….this is bliss.

Don’t even get me started about how much I LOVE your drawings.  Liam this is a relatively recent development for you.  You never really enjoyed coloring, and weren’t really interested in drawing pictures (of course, paper does not have wheels, so I understand why).  But in the last month there has been an EXPLOSION of drawings.  Drawings of your family, of your favorite subject (angry birds, star wars, or a combination of the two), drawings of your friends’ names – little scribbles where you decide you want something different and turn it into something else.  I love EVERY little piece of paper that you bring home and insist you HAVE to display it somewhere on a wall.  In the hallway.  In the livingroom. In the bathroom.  In ALL of our bedrooms.  Sometimes you make a picture for someone special, sometimes you get “tired” of a subject (like houses, or angry birds) and move on to something else.  Every picture you bring home is like looking directly at the synapses firing in your brain.  I love the creativity, I love the back stories, and mostly, I love how proud you are of your work.  Being proud of yourself is something that isn’t always easy to do (for me, anyway) – I  hope you hold on to that forever!

R2D2's - Liam 2013

Now, Lola is beginning to see your pictures and as little sisters do she is following your lead, drawing, creating, learning and showing us her “stories”, too.  
Our Family - Lola 2013

Lola, I love all your colorful people – but my favorite thing is when you bring home a paper with all of our names written clear as day.  Our little family.  Those four little words, Liam, Lola, Mom and Dad, show me that we are the most important thing to you, sweet girl.  And that tells me that despite all the chaos that is our life, Dad and I must be doing something right.

And I couldn’t be more proud.


Follow the circle around, to my dear (and very missed) friend, Holly of Holly Burkholder Photography!!