Saturday, August 31, 2013

Doolins Chicago

I drove past Doolins Amusement Supply in Chicago today and commented out loud to my family about how well I'm treated there. The staff is always helpful and kind. I've been dealing with Doolins a few times each year for about four years. Always a positive experience. And they usually have what I want at a competitive rate.

That's all. My little personal review.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What a Day!

Not sure what all went down in 2nd grade today but the two on the ends are OUT!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shopping List

I like to have fun with my shopping list. Sometimes J and I use a shopping app on our phones, sometimes we scan bar codes, sometimes we use the Notes feature, other times we text a list.

Lately I have been snapping pics when we run out of something. It's quick and easy. I almost always have my phone with me. And it saves me from typing it in. I just select all the pics I need and send them to J. Easy peasy!

August Road Trip

We had to exchange a couple pairs of back-to-school shoes J found at the Converse outlet in Wisconsin. So, we hopped in out automobile after school on Monday and off we went!

We drove a bit further into Wisconsin until we found this delightful beach with a children's playground. The sand was super soft and warm. Perfect evening for the beach.

Even drove through a GORGEOUS liberal arts Lutheran college campus. This is where we would like for Motor mouth to go to college. We aren't Lutheran right now but we could be. I wonder if they offer swim scholarships....?

We found a local restaurant and enjoyed a most delicious meal. All four of us were so happy with our selections that we high-fived!

After a bit more sightseeing we made the trek home while I checked Motor Mouth's math homework and he fulfilled his reading requirement. It was just a five hour trip but it felt like a vacation. J and I talked about how much we loved the area and how we would like to either have a vacation home there or live there in our old age. Or while Motor Mouth attends that college as there is a residency discount on tuition if you live in the tri-county area. That college is really stuck in my head!

Free Book Lending Library

I kinda want to do this now that we live in a house again. It's a library that works on the trustworthiness of your neighbors. My dear friend, MAM, has one of these at her home in Oak Park. That's how I first learned of this.

I suspect there is enough foot traffic on our street to make this work. I'm just not sure about people returning the books. I mean, this is Widney Crib, not Widney Manor. But I guess I can just put out books we have read and likely won't read again. We have lots of children's books that I don't mind parting with. And it would mean I would have to buy myself new books and read them...Okay. I think I've talked myself into it.

Take Time to Remember the Fun Times

J and I were reminiscing about all the times we surprised our family members by showing up across the country - or in another country - unexpected.  Sometimes we get mired in the day-to-day and forget to remember the fun, crazy moments.

Like the time we surprised my sister for her 40th birthday. We flew to Canada and got Motor Mouth dressed in a cute little short pants suit. We hid in the corner at my brother's place as my sister was surprised by dozens of friends and family. Then we came into view and it was a whole new surprise all its own. It was the first time anyone in my family had met Motor Mouth who was 4 months old.

Once, we arranged it with my sister's assistant to pick us up at the airport. She drove us to my family's business where we surprised my sister and brother. Then it was off to our my parents' home to surprise them! Nothing like house guests you weren't planning on having!

When I had foot surgery, my mom came to help us. We drove to the airport, telling her we had to pick up J's dad to take him back to his offices. She didn't think anything of it because my father-in-law had his offices based at the airport at the time. Mom couldn't believe her eyes when she saw my sister sit next to her in the Jeep. LOL!

One time, we drove all night and got to my parents at about 4 am. We dozed in the car for about 45 minutes when I figured my mom would be awake. I called her and said, "Hi Mom! Can you please come downstairs to open your front door for us?"

You should know that my family was not spontaneous when we were growing up. We planned for a week if we were going to have a family picnic to Niagara Falls which was only about 45 minutes from our home. So me dropping in on them from Tulsa or Chicago is unexpected at the least. And oh so much fun!!!

(Surprise emoticon found on

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why do I blog?

I'm not sure about you, but sometimes, it makes me feel normal when I walk by a kid crying its head off for a piece of candy the parent said 'no' to. That's what this blog is. It's a place for people to look at the series of accidents and crazy mishaps that form my life and to feel normal. To feel like, 'If Widney Woman can do it, I sure as heck can!'

I love helping people. My personal motto since grade 6 has been to 'give more to my community than I receive'. To me, that means volunteering. But it also means sharing of my life. If reading my blog helps a mother feel normal, I'm happy. If reading my blog helps someone on their infertility or adoption journey feel less lonely or give them hope, I'm thrilled. I honestly believe that we go through rough spots in life to learn and grow but to help others as they experience what we did.

There are those in my life that don't understand why I put myself out there. They think I tell too much. But that's okay. Because I'm not writing this blog for them. I'm writing it for me. I'm writing it for my kids to have a memory of their lives. I'm writing it to help the people that meet me in person or send me a private message and thank me for sharing my struggles. I'm writing for the 85,000 people who looked at my "Husband Hat" crochet pattern post, for the 10,000 people who looked at my "Motor Mouth Hedgehog Birthday Party" post, for the 1,000 people that have read "Our Adoption Story." That's who I write for. I write for you.

At What Age?

I was going through my Drafts when I came across this draft post from June 2010. It was started because I read someone's blog post asking if parents would leaving kids in a hotel room alone. Here is my response. I'm going to give an update at the bottom....

Personally, no, I would not leave my kids alone in a hotel room. I don't like leaving my stuff in a hotel room, much less my babies!! My kids are 7 and 4 though. When they are 12 and 9, I'm sure I would be okay going to the pool or something for less than an hour while they sleep. I know some hotels we've been to offer babysitting services. I'm sure it's fine but to me, it seems like asking someone to molest my kids.

At Home
A handful of times, I have left the kids in the condo while I ran down the 4 stories to the parking garage to bring up the rest of the groceries or to throw out some trash. Usually this was because Mini Me had fallen asleep and it was that or let my frozen foods thaw for 2 hours.

Ultimately, depending upon what state we are in would determine what age I leave my kids alone for an extended period of time. I have no fear that my kids won't be mature enough to be alone and not get into anything crazy or kill each other. They are good kids and we teach them to be independent whenever possible.

I've been training the kids to be independent. Motor Mouth likes to run up the stairs to try to beat us in the elevator. That is a step in the direction of independence. It's little baby steps that I will help them take to ensure they are ready when the time comes.

While a lot has changed in the children's sense of independence, not much has changed about leaving them home alone in three years. Motor Mouth is 10 now. Mini Me is 7. Both Motor Mouth and Mini Me would race us up the stairs at the condo building. I became more comfortable with the kids being in the loft while I ran down to the car or to the mailbox. I started letting the kids go down to meet friends coming to the building.

I checked our state laws. Motor Mouth can stay home with Mini Me alone for short periods of time. So if I needed to run out for less than 20 minutes to drop J at work at 5:30 am so we could have the car or pick J up from the L station at 11:30 pm. The kids have iPods now so they could text us if there is a problem. In fact, we are in regular contact when they are home with a babysitter. There were times I gave a neighbor the baby monitor to listen for the kids if they woke up when J and I were out past their bedtime. Usually, when the kids had a babysitter or a neighbor on monitor, we had the kids sleep in the same bedroom. You can't be too safe.

Never have I ever left the kids home alone to fend for themselves for more than 30 minutes. Nor will I any time soon. We will see what happens in 1-2 years. But for right now, I am with our kids 24/7. Literally - I still work at their school.  And for the record, I'm not a helicopter parent. I just feel that their safety is our priority and we do what we feel will keep our kids as safe as possible.

Monday, August 26, 2013


There are people in our lives that we think we need to be there. It could be a parent, a sibling, a friend, a spouse. But in fact, our lives would be better if we limited or ended their involvement in our lives.

My mother has always said that "people only know what you tell them." She is right. If I keep sharing my life challenges with someone that filters everything through a lens that makes me feel marginalized then I need to stop sharing my life with that person.

If I have been saying for years that I need "X-y-z from you and not 1-2-3" and all you do is laugh and joke about me saying what I need from you then I need to stop sharing my life with you, regardless of the title you hold in my life.

A friend of mine has been telling her husband what she needs from him for years. She has asked him to go to counseling together, gave him the numbers for his own individual counseling and still no change. He loves her dearly and she loves him dearly but their marriage is ending.

If we really want the honor of being in someone's life, we have to do our work just as much as they have to do their work.

When we finally take the leap to release someone from our lives it can be liberating. At first it may be difficult to hold back from calling that person. But I can tell you from personal experience that it is refreshing.

There are family members I have not spoken to in years. These are people I loved dearly. But since cutting them out of my life, I have had greater peace and freedom. I don't have to hear about their gossip. Interestingly enough, the latest dumb ass thing that Cousin Dumb Ass did does not add to my life and I don't need to know about it. I am happy to live in blissful ignorance of their dumb ass antics. It is a liberating place to be.

I think it is harder to limit the interaction with people you have to deal with. For example, a co-worker or former spouse, or just one parent. Especially if it is someone you honestly love and want to be in relationship with but for your own protection, you can't. Each interaction after that initial one has to be well thought through and each interaction you hold back a little more and a little more.

The art of deflection becomes key. On Monday, when your co-worker asks about your weekend you say "It was great! Tell me about yours." That way, they think you have shared when really they did. Or if your mother asks how you are all doing, you say, "Everyone is well on this end. How are things going at your job (volunteer work, church, etc.)?" Again, she thinks you shared when you didn't.

Good luck with your weeding!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Raising Children with Character

Our kids live amazing lives. Just looking at this 3-year review is proof that they are lucky kids to dress cool and have cool hair and live in a cool city.

More than that, they have already had amazing experiences. The kids go to world class museums every few weeks. They live in a world class city that they have explored on foot, car, and public transit. They attend a great school that is as diverse in its teaching as it is culturally, socio-economically and ethnically. They have experienced eating foods from around the world.

The kids have family in Tulsa where they experienced mid-America to the fullest with cousins their age, doting grandparents, horses, 4-wheelers, boats, fishing, etc. and family in Canada where they experienced older cousins that treat them like a niece or nephew, swimming, hot tubs, church with Granny and Pappa, Trinidadian food and culture.

While we know our children are beautiful on the outside, it is the inside we are most concerned about. We want our kids to be beautiful on the inside. To have strong character. To make choices based upon a strong moral and ethical standard instilled in them.

They are adopted. We want them to have a strong sense of self and family belonging. They have been told: "You are a Widney and Widneys tell the truth (don't steal, work hard, don't litter, etc.) They have open adoptions with their birth families. Knowing where they came from and their people of origin is important in self-awareness. As is knowing their birth moms loved them SO much they chose us to be their parents.

We are Christians. We strive to be honest with our kids about what it means to be a Christian. That when we say all people are equal, we mean all people and not just a chosen few. When we say love your neighbor we mean their Muslim and Hindu friends, the gay couples that are like aunts and uncles to our kids, and understanding that the beggar on the street could be any one of us.

We teach our kids about sex when they are developmentally ready. First, we let them see us kissing and hugging. The best thing we can do for our children is to love each other and let the kids see that love modeled in a healthy, daily setting. We want to be our children's experts so we don't shy away from their questions and we answer them honestly and directly.

We have trained our children to be polite and respectful from the time they could wave "Bye Bye." And blow kisses. As toddlers they were taught to look someone in the eye when shaking hands. Shyness and hiding behind our legs upon meeting a stranger was not acceptable. And we used big words like "inappropriate" and "unacceptable" and "incredible" with them from babies because kids are not dumb and can process tone and manner as part of language.

Somewhere in there we strive to let our children be who they are. One is a conservative and the other is a free spirit. They have individual interests and we try to foster those interests and be supportive of them.

We set rules and boundaries and give rewards, accolades and encouragement. They are disciplined in an age appropriate manner because tapping a toddler's hand when touching the outlet works the equivalent of taking away electronics usage works from a 10-yr old. They have set activities they need to do every day to make life run smoothly for themselves and our family unit.

We spend time together. Eat dinner together. Ask about each other's day, the "Top 3," and "How could you have made someone's life better or easier today?" We go everywhere together. Scare each other whenever possible and have special memory building activities like Pizza Monday and Family Friday.

All this and yet still we know that one day, our kids will talk to their therapist about how we messed up their lives and childhoods. Sigh. Still, we trudge on in our effort to raise children of character with lots of character.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Children's Eye Dr

Mini Me and I like to make faces and do silly stuff behind the doctor's back. So much fun.!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Kit Kat Cake with Smarties

Happy 1st Day of School!!!

School started today, on a Wednesday, so I thought I should bring back our Widney Wednesday tradition with this back-to-school trait.

I have been wanting to make this cake for months! Tonight, all things combined to make it a reality. The kids were ecstatic when they saw the cake. It made it so worth it!!!

These Smarties are like M&Ms but better. They are from my homeland, Canada. My BFF, Usher, brought a bunch back for me after his last business trip up there. (Thanks, Usher!) No BFF? Use M&Ms. 8 King-sized boxes.

Kit Kat
I used King-sized bars. The bars automatically break at the 4-piece mark which is handy. 5 King-sized bars.

Cake and Icing
Normally I make cakes from scratch. I asked J to bring home a cake mix and icing last week. (Thanks, Babe!) I don't like chocolate cake or icing so I used vanilla. But do what makes you happy.

I used two round cake pans (square would be easier), let them cool, cut the tops off to get a smooth top. I put the bottom cake on a vintage white Ikea plate (that just means I've had the plate set for 21+ years). Icing. Flip the top cake so the bottom becomes the top of the cake. Icing the top and sides.

Layer Smarties on top. I didn't do this but wish I had - put Smarties on the sides of the cake. Warning! Don't overload the top with Smarties. They will fall everywhere when you cut in to it!!!

Put Kit Kat bars on the sides. Might need a second person if you put Smarties on the sides.

Get your incredibly creative and artistically gifted husband to tie the ribbon around it all to hold it together.

Remove ribbon before cutting.


Truth Time
As I sat down to eat my dessert while watching a documentary with J, I accidentally hit J's knee with the hand holding my cake. It went flying everywhere!!!!

1st Day of School 2013-14

Mini Me = Grade 2
Motor Mouth = Grade 5

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good Night and Good Bye

Is it just me or do you make sure you kiss your kids goodnight and goodbye and tell them you love them in case they die or you die?

I mean, I do it because I really do love my kids and want them to "have sweet dreams, sleep tight and not let the bed bugs bite" and to "have a great day at school/camp/etc." But I also look at them a moment longer in case it is the last time I see them. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one that does that because I'm insane and maybe a bit superstitious.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Merit Badge

I'm going to start embroidering these and handing them out when people earn them.

IKEA Hack - Borgsjo

When we moved in to our new place we realized pretty quickly that there was not enough storage for our base kitchen needs as a family of four.  

We planned to get 2-3 upper kitchen cabinets like the ones that were installed during the kitchen rehab. We figured the upper cabinets would be perfect lower down as they are tall for ease of working on counter space and narrow so as to not take up lots of floor space. Excited, we ordered a custom butcher block counter. The warmth of the butcher block would warm up the kitchen with it's stainless appliances, white and black granite counters and white backsplash with stainless tiles

Then we went to order the cabinets and got sticker shock! For months we tried to come up with creative solutions that were not outrageously expensive. Nada. Nothing. Zip. We had specific dimensions because the butcher block was cut and paid for! Tall (at least 32"). Narrow (max 18.5"). Wide (less than 72"). 

For months we searched online and locally, home stores, closeouts, etc.  I even found this amazing blue cabinet on Craigslist that was almost perfect. One day, we went to Ikea for a nightstand. I came upon this brown cabinet and said "How about this for the kitchen?" I fully expected there to be some reason to keep moving on. 

But this Borgsjo cabinet was perfect. Especially the price!!! We got quickly snapped up two cabinets and decided to get the plain doors.  There are options for glass inserts.

We painted the kitchen wall in chalkboard paint. Let it sit for three days like the can says. I put together the cabinets. I held the cabinets together while J used a screw gun to screw the cabinets to each other at the top and bottom on the inside. And I held it steady while J screwed the tops of the cabinets to the bottom of the butcher block. 

The Borgsjo cabinet doors come with round brown knobs. The Ikea online catalog makes it look like the knobs are silver. Maybe they are but the floor model and the package we brought home had brown knobs. I had stainless drawer knobs leftover from another project - they match the main cabinet pulls perfectly - so I used those and tossed the brown ones. 

There is so much storage now! One side has all of our pots and pans, mixing bowls, and juice jugs. The other side has all of our party plates, glasses, and even a few appliances. I'm amazed at how much I am able to store in the cabinets and still have them look neat and tidy without being cramped or hard to access.

We are pleased with the finished results. The doors even match our existing cabinets. We got it all for less than we would have paid for one set of cabinets. Thanks, Ikea!

The bar stool is great for friends or kids to keep me company in the kitchen. But we are planning to build a wine rack there instead one day. Until then, we are enjoying our Ikea Hack!

Summer Party 2013

I promised the kids a summer party. They invited a bunch of friends and they had a blast for four hours one Saturday evening. Clearly, one group was more free-spirited than the other...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chalkboard Paint in Kitchen

I love this frame! We painted one wall in our kitchen with chalkboard paint. To add a bit of oomph, we repurposed this frame. 

About 12 years ago, we were driving through Catoosa, Oklahoma when I spotted an old bronze-ish, gold-ish frame with a '70's landscape scene inside. I yelled for J to "Stop the car!" I don't think I paid even $10 for it. 

J spray painted the frame gold. We had a mirror installed in it. The new framed mirror adorned the wall in our guest bedroom at Widney House in Tulsa for years. 

Then we moved to Widney Loft in Chicago. The mirror came apart from the frame in the move. It is actually a hollow plastic frame that just barely handled the mirror in the first place. J spray painted the frame gray and hung the empty frame on an orange wall next to white accessories. 

Then we moved to Widney Crib (in Chicago still). Once we painted the chalkboard wall we knew just the thing it needed - the frame! J spray painted the frame blue. And now here it sits on our kitchen wall. 

One frame that has been reinvented three times. Gotta love spray paint and garage sales!

Regional Meet

Motor Mouth made it to the Regional swim championships! He made it to Regional and State and did great. So proud of the hard work he has put into swimming this past year. 

Motor Mouth on podium for 2nd place finish at Regional swim meet! He is the one in the gray t-shirt and black swim trunks and red ribbon. He won a few medals at the meet.

The Boy Made State!

Here are the events our boy qualified for at the State meet. Five individual and two team events. Going to state was a great experience. Really proud of Motor Mouth!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Evening Entertainment

Why don't more people leave their curtains open?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Do

Mini Me has been asking to have her head shaved for months. J finally obliged. She LOVES it!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


J and I were married 14 years ago today. We went from being best friends for 3-1/2 years to being engaged on a phone call.

While being best friends, people - family, friends, strangers - often told us we should get married. We resisted their suggestions. Finally, after about three years, we realized we both had stronger feelings for each other. It took another six months (five of which we refused to talk to each other) for us to get on the same page.

Interestingly enough, those same people that said we should get married suddenly had a change of heart. J was told that if he married me he would be out of God's will for his life. That marrying me would be the worst thing for J to do. That I was going to be the downfall of J. Friends of J refused to attend our wedding. My Canadian friends were not at all sure about this American I was marrying so suddenly.

We had the support of the people that mattered. Our immediate family. They knew our truth.

The plan was to get married in October. Then September. Finally, we looked each other one Monday in August and said: "Why are we waiting? Let's just get married this Friday if we can get it worked out." And we did.

That's when we were asked, repeatedly, if I was pregnant. Nope. Not even overly horny. An immigration attorney laid out my options. Elopement was one of them. So we did. Funny thing is, as we found out years later, J is sterile. Ha! Proof we weren't pregnant when we eloped. ;-)

I never wanted a big wedding. The thought of walking in front of 100+ people staring at me was immobilizing to me. It still is. I can give a speech to 500 people but make the whole event about me? No but thank you.

Eloping with the blessings of our parents and siblings and then having a great big reception at Widney Manor three months later was perfection.

Have the last 14 years been perfection? No. Did we think we were riding off into happily ever after land when we got married? Nope.

We said before we got married that there would be times when we wouldn't want to look at each other. That we would not always be the lovey dovey couple holding hands and sitting next to each other.

There have been hard times for sure. Times that made us question if we would last. But at the core of our marriage is our friendship. We are best friends. Even if we could live without our spouse, we can't live without our best friend.

We still hold hands when we drive together and walk together. We still hug whenever we get a chance. And we still sit next to each other. Unless we have been on a long road trip, we still have a lot to say to each other.

It's been 5,114 days together as man and wife. We are pretty sure we have said "I love you" to each other at least 20,000 times because there is seldom a day that goes by that we don't say or text that we love each other multiple times.

So what do I say to the naysayers? The people that doubted our marriage? They have almost all apologized. Years ago. I've been told that I'm the best thing that ever happened to J. I needed to hear that. But you know, so far, we are the best thing that has happened to each other. I do think that we could get divorced now and our marriage would still be considered a success.

14 years! Cheers to us!

14 Years!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family Shift

You'd think that with their own bedrooms, a new playroom and an upstairs living room to themselves we would never see our kids in our new home.
Kids' Play Room

Nope! In fact, they hang out with us more than when we lived in Widney Loft! The kids seek us out to spend time together. It could be cuddling with me on the sofa while I watch a classic movie or playing their iPods while J is on his laptop in the master suite. Not complaining! Just loving the family shift since moving to Widney Crib.

Master Sitting Room

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stacy Was Here

"Stacy Was Here"

Seems Stacy felt the need to leave her mark on the world. On a bathroom stall.

Reminds me of a line in one of my all time favorite movies "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In it, Kathleen, played by Meg, says "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small."

Personally, I have no desire to write my name on a bathroom wall to signify my existence. But I think that, on some level, most of us feel a need to signify that we existed. That somehow, our lives, regardless of how small, are valuable and matter. That we matter.

We all have our own way of making our lives count. Being a wife and mother is my main way of making my mark on this world. Training my children to be strong, knowledgeable and contributing members of society is my version of writing my name on a wall. Blogging, volunteering, my work are other ways I make my mark.

How do you make your mark on this world?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trash Breakfast

Last week I saw a lady quickly reach into the trash, grab something and start to eat it. I was shocked. Then panicked.

I was stopped at the light right at the corner of my office building. I wanted to jump out of my car and tell the lady to go to the coffee shop in our building and ask for a meal. To tell them I'm parking but I would be in to pay for her meal.

But she moved down the street too fast. There were cars behind me and the street was too narrow for me to pull over. By the time I turned around she was gone. I wish I could have helped her. The images of that lady eating out of the trash will haunt me for years.

When I see situations like this I often think: "There but by the grace of God go I."

I Love Technology

I was meant to live in this age of technology. It makes me so happy to be able to turn off lights with my iPhone.

This Thing I Made

So....I did this little thing at work...I ummm...created a website.

Normally I don't talk about my work on here but I kinda like it. Feel free to go to the actual site at:

I even took most of the pics throughout the site (but not the professional looking ones of kids like on the main screen - J did those and the complex graphics).