Archive of ‘Gratitude’ category

Vows to Myself On The Occasion That All The Kids Are In School

Vows to myself on the occasion that for the first time since 2004, for just one morning a week, all 3 kids are in school at the same time:

1. I will not go buy a tennis skirt and hang out at Starbucks.
2. I will take a nap.
3. I could become one of those people who make menus for the week and grocery shop accordingly. But that would interfere with my nap.
4. Maybe I’ll figure out whatever happened to Regis and Oprah and learn who Hoda is.
5. My house will be more organized…until they all get home.
6. Ok, I might go to Starbucks..once in a while….but only for half-cafs and only if I really like the other moms and feel like they have some really important information that I must know now.
7. Still no on the tennis skirt. Maybe yoga pants. But no tennis skirt.
8. I’ll volunteer my time to school and community…enough time to be helpful, but not so much time that I become insane.
9. Lets be honest, I’ll probably pitter away most of my 2 hours and 45 minutes of freedom on social media.

Ooops, there we go…time to go pick up the kids.

You Should Know Me (apparently).

Over the summer a local web site run said I was a woman you should know and featured this piece in the month of July.  Its a great site and resource to the community so I was honored.  Not only that, this distinction gave my husband a lot of joke material.  Here’s some of the information they shared:

NAME: Carissa 
FAMILY: Husband, Chris; kids, age 8, 4 and 22 months, plus, a daughter (born/deceased 2006), 
> Burns Field….I love its consistency and how it helps me mark the seasons with the ice rink and lighted paddle courts in the winter, buzzing playground and practices in the spring, busy camps and tennis courts in the summer and football team conditioning and sounds of the locusts in the fall.  (and its really fun to meet up with another family there in the evenings and order a pizza to the park for dinner).
> Fullersburg Woods…it’s so great to hike, bike, run or explore there.
> I-294…I love this town, but I also love getting out of Dodge and traveling.  If I’m on I-294 it means I’m on a roadtrip to my home state of Ohio or to O’Hare for a vacation.
> Finally, two of my favorite, quiet spots in town….the rocks under the trees near the Living Classroom at my son’s elementary school.  My kids love to picnic there with friends or just ourselves.  And the best place in town…my front porch!  Sitting in an Adirondack chair with a glass of wine on one side and a good friend and conversation on the other side.
We chose this town because of its walkability.  The best thing I did was get out of my car as much as possible and walk to various things around town (I have to remind myself of this now).  When we first moved here I remember not knowing a soul so I loaded my son up in his stroller, opened the Village parks map and picked the farthest park I could find.  I walked there and back just hoping to meet a friend along the way.  You can’t help but bump into people and strike up a friendly conversation when you’re out and about.
Over time casual initial friendships formed on the sidelines of kids’ sporting events, committee work and preschool/elementary school pick-up/drop-off areas.  I met one of my best friends, who is now not just a Mommy-friend but a life-friend, at a toddler class through the Parks and Rec program.  
Growing those casual relationships to a deeper level requires a bit more effort but I was able to do so by running with fellow moms on Saturday mornings (nothing like bonding over a good workout and sweat).  As a couple we found ways to connect with other parents outside of school by doing things that make us laugh like whirleyball, bowling, fun adventures in the city or playing Euchre in someone’s garage.  I also found a book club and moms-night dubbed MLH (Mothers Little Helper), which is just an excuse to get together one evening a month without kids.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.  It took me too long to realize that everyone else was looking to make friends just as much as I was.  That and I think the big key for us is keeping it all low-maintenance and making it about the friendships, laughter and conversation…..not the fancy attire or venues!
Keep it in perspective and have a healthy sense of humor!   We all only get one childhood and I’m privileged enough to accompany my children through theirs.  But with that privilege comes responsibility.  No doubt, they’re maniacs and they make me bonkers….but I try to do what I can to keep their childhood magical for them by recognizing how funny it all is and being aware of those special life moments or memories-in-the-making that are presented to us everyday.
Life may not go exactly according to plan, and life may not be perfect.  But if you embrace it and just go with it, it can still be perfectly wonderful!
Be grateful. Be happy.  Be nice….be nice, to everyone.  Play hard and….give.  Whatever it is, give it your all.  Give forward, give back, give of yourself and give to yourself.
All of that time you spend working crazy hours, making lists, eating dinners from a vending machine, juggling multiple projects and negotiating your way through various personalities….it may not always feel like it, but you really are conditioning your work ethic and fine tuning your skills like resiliency and flexibility…..and that’s perfect training for motherhood!

I Am The Third Child

I am the Third Child. Sometimes my parents call me “the sweet one”, other times “the rascal”.

They probably carry me on their hip more than they need to, or spend an extra second trying to soak in that sweet baby smell behind my neck. And they probably always will…because I am the baby…the denouement. They are tired and yawn a little more with me….but they are relaxed and smile a little more with me.

At 22 months, I’m hanging out somewhere between babyhood and childhood. They say I’m a toddler, but I don’t toddle…I just run…I’ve got older kids to keep up with.

I am the Third which means I spend most of my time in a car seat shuttling around to siblings’ school or sporting events. Unlike those before me, I don’t know a nap schedule or routine.

I probably won’t have a real birthday party until I’m 10. They forget to video my first steps or haircut. I have a feeling my mom will never get around to making me a scrapbook, and most of my clothes were someone else’s first.

But on the upside, I’m easy-going, traveled a lot, really friendly ….and I get to steal moments like these when I have my parents alone at 6 am while everyone else is asleep. And as the Third Child, I’m skipping the tri-cycle and going right to the big girl bike in life!


Ponderings of an 8-year-old boy on his third day of summer break:

7:00 am: “Today I’m going to work on my golf game by practicing my ‘relaxing skill’ (see photo below), because everyone always says if you want to have a good golf swing,you just need to RELAX!”

1:00 pm: “Hey!! What am I doing still wearing my swim suit!?!? I must have thought it was underwear all day because I forgot all about it!”

3:25 pm: “Now, is it the morning or the afternoon? Because it sure feels just like morning”

Ahh, summertime!!


Reflections on the Last Day of School

Everyone tells you, it goes by in a blink of an eye.
 you hear that, and know that, and try to abide by it.

But its busy and its not often that you stop and take stock and indulge in a moment of reflection.
Yet during those rare moments when you pause and look around, you realize that standing before you is a big kid.  And you wonder, when did my little kid become a big kid? A big kid!!

And its not just your kid…its neighbor kids, babysitters, family friends near and far.
Celebrations of graduations…photos with captions like “off to high school, college, 5th grade…”

It continues. With more experience than me and a generation to boot, my friend’s parents acknowledge the same thing but with bigger milestones like weddings and grandchildren.

So at this time of year, you vow to yourself…I’ll pause more, I’ll absorb more, I’ll be in the moment more (…after you figure out what that means exactly). And you’ll try, you really will, but it will get busy again.

So all you can do is be busy. Busy and grateful! And when you can (and you can’t everyday), try to see through the rest of the clutter and into that little life moment, that nugget of a special memory-in-the-making. Because those moments really are presented to you on a daily basis…if you notice them.


My daughter is playing “Mommy”. She goes to lots of meetings with her friends where they play Yahtzee. Yahtzee?!?! Come on, my “meetings” are a lot more complicated than the game of Yahtzee…then again, not at all.
What are those meetings, really? When I leave the house, I tell my kids that I’m going to a meeting.  Sometimes its a meeting for a parent organization, sometimes for church.  Sometimes it just a mom’s night out.  Sometimes for professional development.
At this stage of life, these meetings are mostly my way to connect with friends and hold on to some ounce of life pre-children. Those friends are all other moms…we are all somewhat defined by our children. So perhaps these meetings are our way to define our own selves..not just “Tommy’s mom”.
So am I pleased or concerned that my daughter chooses this as the activity of mine to imitate? Sure, its better than eating, or shopping, or even talking on the phone. I’m glad those meetings have captured her curiosity. Because what I want most for her as she gets older is to know herself, be true to herself and be happy doing whatever it is she chooses to do…and since these “meetings” help me to be the most happy version of me in my chosen life, then I’m glad she is admiring them.

My 25 Things

Remember the old facebook 25 Things back in 2008 when everyone was just joining facebook and getting reacquainted with one another?  I found mine and thought I’d use them here as an introduction (I know…real creative).  Hi, I’m Carissa, and….

1. My favorite time of the day is about 6 am when you beat everyone else up and the world is still quiet and the day full of promise. My least favorite time of the day is about 5 pm with kids screaming, food being thrown while you wait for your spouse to return home from work. This is a difficult hour for most parents, I believe.

2. Walkability is key any place that I live. I must be able to walk to a grocery store, bank, park or school. 

3. I need space and husband needs affection and attention. Hopefully this will be our only major issue as we grow old and gray together.

4. Running has played an important role in my life since my freshman year of college. I’ve completed a marathon and several 10-milers and other races. I believe running is a fantastic way to explore a new city and has created some of my best memories of places I’ve lived and visited. If only I had the runner’s body to accompany this hobby.

5. I spent a year in Detroit, MI and one in Boston, MA before moving to Washington DC (Arlington). I lived there for 7.5 years and it still feels more like home than any other place. I miss it dearly although I live in Chicago now.

6. I have four children and they have each shaped and molded me into the woman I am in ways unique and specific to each one.

7. I feel very familiar with tragedy having lost my aunt and uncle in a shocking accident at a young age and two close friends in college. It may sound strange, but I feel very well equipped to deal with shock and sadness. And because of this I’m also very good at savoring the good times and know all about perspective.

8. The greatest loss of my life will always be the death of my baby daughter, Annabelle, unexpectedly when I was 39 weeks pregnant. Delivering her was the most challenging thing I ever have and will ever do. She was a beautiful and perfect baby who died for no good medical reason. I can not wait to meet her someday and learn more about what a great kid she would have been.

9. I live with the following mantra and use it to get through any tough day: “anyone who has lost a child has been given a unique gift and that is the knowledge that you’ve already experienced the worst day of your life”.

10. The one and only reason I am living in Chicago is my husband’s job. It was a bit of a blow to move here..silly and petty as it sounds, its true. I know it was the right decision for us as a family and I’ve tried to embrace it and found many good friends and positive aspects about the city.

11. People amaze me and people annoy me. I learned a few years ago to try to surround myself with positivity and only the people who amaze me as much as possible.

12. I believe in forgiving but NOT forgetting. Memory is important for self-protection and to avoid a chronic situation. 

13. I love Diet Coke. I really strive to have just one a day..first thing in the morning. No coffee – just my soda, preferably from McDonald’s fountain, but if not a can is fine.  I’ve been giving it up (unsuccessfully) every New Years Day or Lenten season for the last three years.

14. My family is very important to me – but my friends are extremely important to me. One of the best lessons my parents taught me was one they taught by example..and that is to have a lot of friends who you find interesting and inspiring, neat people. I love not only my friends, but my friend’s spouses and siblings and parents and cousins. I need to see my friend’s houses, their grocery store and town. I thank all of the people and experiences who help shape my friends into the people they are.

15. I’m most comfortable in a fleece, khaki’s and sneaks. I don’t know much about designers and would be happy if I could only shop at Lands End, Ann Taylor Loft and Target.

16. My husband and I have been married 13 years and went to Ireland for our honeymoon. That destination says a lot about us as individuals and a couple: we enjoy exploring new places, laughing, discussing and having a beer together.

17. Speaking of which my favorite place to be is either in an Irish pub on a cozy winter day with music, fish-n-chips and a cider or at the Quarterdeck in Arlington on a sunny spring day with crabs and pitcher beer…both places with Chris.

18. I spent a semester studying in Luxembourg in college and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to so many places and meet so many good friends. 

19. I was one dental appointment away from joining the Peace Corps after college…my assignment was forestry in West Africa. My best friend Sarah and I were looking at margarita glasses in Target when I decided to take a job in Detroit instead. She later introduced me to my husband.

20. If I could live anywhere it would be Seattle. But I hate to fly which poses a problem with that destination.

21. My son was rushed into emergency surgery to repair his intestines when he was 3 days old. Having him baptized and preparing for his surgery over a panicked few hours was the second biggest challenge of my life. However, it was our finest hour as a couple and I often say “we had a baby on Tuesday, but we became parents on Friday”.

22. Nursing my children in the middle of the night is the sweetest time. I don’t say this to endorse breastfeeding for anyone other than myself. Whatever anyone does with their own kids is their own business. But for me, it has been a true gift.

23. I feel grateful to work from home part-time which allows me to be with my kids while keeping my mind professionally challenged. It isn’t easy, but I know I’m lucky for the opportunity and I work very hard at making it work for all parties involved.

24. I used accupuncture to help get pregnant with my third child and loved it. I wish I had the funds to do it regularly.

25. If there was one quality I hope to pass on to my children it is a sense of responsibility to give back to community and make your world a better place (in small or big ways). I feel passionately about supporting what you believe in and standing up to make a difference.

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