hello, handbags

One of my favorite things about my husband’s trips to China… hang on a sec… I meant to say, The only thing I like about my husband’s trips to China is when he goes shopping for me at the Ladies’ Market.

He has started bringing me purses.

This is the one he got me on his most recent trip.


It’s really soft leather. And the inside is super soft, too.

Usually, the Ladies’ Market has the latest styles that will be making their way to America. So, I’m hoping that my new purse is really hip and cool. I’m just not sure yet.

I keep wishing someone in her 20s would come up to me and tell me she loves my purse! This morning at church, a high school girl and her mom were poking each other and pointing at it. The mom told me she got one that was similar at a flea market.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.


This is the purse he got me last year. My fake Coach. Why do I feel the need to tell everyone, “It’s fake” when they say they like it?

Maybe I’m more proud of the fact my husband got me a fake Coach for $10 off the street in China than I would be if I had paid for a real Coach. Yep. I’m proud of my cheap-o-ness.


The purse purchases started a few years ago when my husband came home with this purse. It was for my 2-year-old daughter.


“Where’s mine?” I asked.

“I thought you had a purse.”

Oh my. That was the day my husband learned that just because a woman has one purse does not mean she doesn’t need six more. I guess he wasn’t that good at math.


While I’m on the topic of purses, this is the bag I picked out for myself for Mother’s Day. Bass Pro Shop. Go figure.

I thought it was kind of nice for summer.


It love using it to carry around all of my junk when I’m going to be stuck sitting somewhere for a while. It’s the perfect size for my everydayMOM planner, too.

Maybe I should start selling it as an accessory?

What do you think? Does a new purse or handbag make you as happy as it makes me?

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happy endings… or maybe not so happy

How many people, SERIOUSLY, would start crying a full-blown cry at the hair stylist?! Really?! This is not normal behavior.

And yet, sad to say, that IS what happened to me today.

It all started when I went to pick up the 30 Little Caesar’s pizzas for the last time for the last hot lunch of the school year.

The funny thing is, we have been anxiously awaiting this day for WEEKS, maybe even MONTHS! It’s the last day of school! Summer is here!

I was feeling quite sentimental as I set up the pizza and got everything ready for lunch.

Then in the middle of lunch, the other hot lunch moms called me out of the kitchen and presented me with a big bouquet of flowers in appreciation of my job coordinating the lunch every week. All of the little kids were clapping and cheering.

And it just hit me how bittersweet that last day really was. As I mentioned in my last post, my boys most likely will not be returning to their school next year. (I WILL write more about this soon.)

My second grader has been with his same class of friends since kindergarten. And my kindergartner has enjoyed a year of developing his own friends apart from his older brother. We have loved the school, loved the families who are such a community and loved the teachers.

I also have loved hanging out with the other moms during hot lunch or play dates in the park or whatever brought us together.

So, it was a tough day to say good-bye, realizing that this would be our last day at that school. I was trying so hard to fight back tears that it got to the point I had to just stop people from saying their thank-yous and good-byes. “No, no, no…. I don’t want to start crying again!”

I had a haircut scheduled right after lunch, and fortunately, I was running late this morning and had put my make-up bag in the car. Boy, did I ever need it!

I pulled myself together and reapplied my make-up so I could behave like a normal adult in the swanky hair salon where Amy, my stylist now works.

During the last four years, I have followed Amy to three different salons and even trekked 40 minutes to her house to dunk my head in her kitchen sink when she was between jobs. When I first met her, Amy’s hair-cutting name was Shea because another Amy already worked at her salon. I have only recently been able to train my brain to ask for “Amy” when I make my appointments, since they haven’t heard of “Shea” at her new gig.

I sat down in her chair and Shea, I mean Amy, told me the bad news.

“Today is the last time I can cut your hair.”

What?!

I was speechless.

I knew this day was coming. When she took the new job, she was hired as a colorist. They made an exception and let her cut my hair, too, for the past six months. But I was not prepared for this news.

Amy is the only hair stylist I have trusted so fully. She has a way with scissors. She is creative and intuitively knows how to cut my hair. She gives me suggestions to try new styles. And she has corrected several haircuts when I couldn’t find her and had to go somewhere else out of desperation.

She introduced me to “Mo” who will be my new stylist.

“Amy has been cutting my hair for FOUR YEARS!” I explained to Mo, hoping to let her know that she was an unwanted intruder in my hair affair with Amy. Then, I burst into tears.

Both Amy and Mo had tears in their eyes as they ran to get me a box of Kleenex. We all cried and hugged for a while before I could compose myself.

“It’s my kids’ last day of school, and now THIS?!?” I tried to explain.

Mo does look like someone I can trust. She is a little more mature than many of the other stylists so she can probably ignore some of my fine lines and wrinkles. And she has a very short haircut herself, which gives me hope she might be able to cut mine just right.

But she’s no Shea, or Amy, or Sheamy, or whatever the heck her name is!

We still have to go to a school function tonight. I’m sure the tears will be flowing freely as the kids recite their poems and sing their little songs.

But at least my hair will look hip. Maybe for the last time.

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perhaps i need an suv or a semi-tractor trailer

Just so you know, I do have some very informative posts that I am planning to write in the next few days on important topics that I know will be highly interesting and possibly even award-winning.

For example, I have been trying to find time to write about the new purse my husband bought me in China, as well as my new nail polish color — which I consider to be next to perfect — not to mention an explanation of WHY my husband took his power tools and sawed our kids’ swing set in half over the weekend.

But, alas. Those will have to wait another day or more because so many other awe-inspiring events happened today that I really need to unload on you right now.

They mostly have to do with shopping, which was the inspiration for the title. My mini-van was barely large enough to hold everything and I couldn’t think of another title.

For starters, tomorrow is Field Day at school. And for the second year in a row, I signed up to be in charge of purchasing all of the food that we will cook and serve for lunch for all of the students, staff and volunteers during the day-long team competitions.

Buying the food for Field Day is a lot like childbirth. If the pain of the experience from the previous year didn’t dull in your mind, leaving you with only the memory of the children’s smiling faces when they were consuming their hot dogs, you would never do it a second time.

I should point out, though, that this entire school year I have been the hot lunch coordinator, which means that every Wednesday, I order, bill, and serve hot lunch to the entire school. I also have to collect all of the orders from every student each trimester, print out color-coded tickets to tell the hot lunch moms who gets what, negotiate prices with local restaurants and make sure the school office gets all of the invoices.

So, how hard could it be to go to the store and buy enough hot dogs, buns, chips, applesauce, bottled water, mid-day snacks and popsicles for 150 people? (It’s a tiny school. Good thing.)

Actually, this year’s shopping experience was a piece of cake compared to last year when I didn’t have a Sam’s Club membership and drove to about 9 different Wal-Mart and Meijer stores trying to collect enough of everything at a reasonable price.

Sam’s Club had it all. And it was all cheap. But pushing the cart was another story. Who knew that much food would weigh as much as a couch and take up nearly as much space? Half way through the store, the two little kids and I had to ditch our regular, mega-sized extra large Sam’s Club cart for that big flatbed trailer shopping cart that most people use to buy furniture.

Part of the reason I signed up for all of the food-related jobs was that until this year, my child was the only one at the school who had any food allergies. About halfway through my shopping, I realized that there also are kids this year at school allergic to eggs and milk, plus another family that restricts all artificial flavors and colors.

Believe it or not, I only had to make a few exceptions and I was able to buy everything that fit into those criteria. I was so happy.

Next, we were off to find a purple shirt for my oldest son because his team on Field Day is the Purple Gems (or something like that). We do not have a speck of purple boy clothes in our house. And it turns out that most major retailers don’t carry purple boy clothes either. We finally landed a bright purple polo at Wal-Mart for $4. How great is that?

Oh, I forgot to mention that before all of this happened, I popped by lunch to drop off 150 popsicles in the freezer for tomorrow. A LOT has happened this year and we are nearly sure that the boys won’t be returning to their school next year. (This is ANOTHER post that WILL be written shortly.)

When I went over to say hello to my son and all of his 2nd grade lunch buddies, a couple of the little boys had tears in their eyes. “I didn’t know that (your son) isn’t coming back next year,” one said to me plaintively.

“Gabe said he’s going to cry,” my son told me.

“Me, too,” I told his sweet little friend. Then I rushed out of the lunchroom and did cry, somewhat hysterically, for the next 20 minutes.

By the time we got to Panera Bread for lunch, my eyes were so foggy with tears that I ordered the Forest Mushroom Soup. I just wanted to mention this because it was the WORST CHOICE EVER. Please don’t be tempted. Unless you like eating a big bowl of brown gravy with mushrooms in it. If I had a side of mashed potatoes and some turkey to absorb some of the soup, it might have been delicious. Otherwise, no.

While I was running around town on all my shopping adventures today, I noticed that a new Wonder Bread outlet store had opened. I think it might be on North Aurora Road? Anyway, after reading this post on my friend Lara’s blog, I just wanted to let her know. I realize I could call her, and I almost did, but I thought it would be more fun to just tell her this way. Plus, I’m super lazy.

Finally, I decided that because my kids don’t know the names of half of the vegetables on this planet and the new revelation this week that my son thought ALL cherries were MARACHINO cherries, we should start a new program at our house of trying new fresh veggies every week. I started tonight with a green pepper.

As I was giving each of them a slice, my mouth, on it’s own, told the children that we were going to have a vegetable-tasting contest and at the end of each week we would rank all of the vegetables and choose the best-tasting veggie.

I amaze myself sometimes. I really don’t know where I come up with this stuff. But it totally worked. They got very excited and they all wanted to make sure they tried their one little sliver of green pepper. I couldn’t convince anyone to eat a second slice, but at least they have a miniscule amount of whatever vitamin resides in a green pepper in their system. And for that I’m grateful.

However, I realized my plan to put the family on a gluten free/casein free diet with no artificial flavors or colors could be even more difficult than I even imagined.

Before I started writing this post, I set out a Hershey’s chocolate pie from the freezer (since the diet hasn’t started yet and we need to celebrate the fact that it’s Field Day tomorrow). The instructions said to defrost for 7 minutes. And then, “CONSUME IMMEDIATELY”.

So, I guess that means I better run.

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allergies, asthma, adhd and autism

Whenever I start talking to someone about my oldest son’s severe peanut allergy, the inevitable question always arises: Why do you think so many kids today have allergies? We never heard about allergies when we were growing up.

I have mentioned in my last two posts a book that I am reading, which, for the first time, answers that question in a way that makes sense to me. The book is called Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Kenneth Bock.

Bock asserts in the book that the dramatic rise in the incidence of all of these 4-A conditions began at about the same time. He believes that the same factors that contribute to the increase in autism also could be causing the other “A” conditions that are plaguing this generation of children: toxins in the environment, immunizations, weakened immune systems, as well as genetics.

And if the causes are the same, could it be that the cure also is the same? The author definitely believes this is true.

And for the first time, I feel like some of those motherly instincts I have had for the last eight years are validated by an independent source.

I mean, why is it that only one of my three children has allergies?

He not only is allergic to peanuts and nuts, but also to EVERYTHING outdoors: trees, grass, mold, pollen, ragweed, dust mites, cats and dogs. If your child has ever had a prick test on his or her back or arms, just imagine if every single one of those little dots turned into a bright red welt and came back positive.

I also have wondered if all of this goes back to his first day of life outside the womb. The day when I pushed for two hours, but he didn’t move an inch down the birth canal. The day when his heart rate started dropping and they rushed me to the emergency room. The day he was born almost blue from lack of oxygen and had an APGAR score of 2. The day they placed him in an oxygen tent and fed him through a tube in his nose.

Now, I’m reading that on THAT day, the first day of life, doctors also give newborn babies their first vaccine. I don’t know if that happened to my son. I was out stone cold after the doctor sliced me open before I was fully anesthetized. They had to put me completely under, and I didn’t see my newborn baby for about 12 hours.

Before I go on, let me just tell you, that this kid is a delight. He is truly one of the sweetest, most caring, compassionate kids you will meet. He is highly creative and can run like the wind. He is a leader in his class and has a great group of friends.

But I have always suspected that the same forces that are causing his allergies could be causing some of the other struggles he has had throughout his life. When he was little, these played out in the form of constant crying as a baby, followed by uncontrollable tantrums as a toddler.

Then came the fears of swings, slides, bike rides, tunnels, anything at an amusement park. He couldn’t handle loud noises. He actually refused to go in our back yard for an entire year because he was afraid of the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking. He hated getting his hair cut, new shoes, brushing his teeth and even at 8 years old, he has never put his head underwater. This kind of makes swimming lessons impossible.

Although he is very intelligent in his school subjects, he also has problems understanding certain concepts or figuring things out. We have been on a journey the past few years to determine what is causing this. He has been to therapists, reading specialists, an audiologist, an eye doctor and an occupational therapist, but we still don’t have a good answer.

Could it all be related?

Could it be that the author of this book is correct?

He says that whether your child has autism, ADHD, asthma or allergies, the root of the problem lies in what is inside their bodies. Maybe it’s a high concentration of metals. Maybe he is eating foods to which he is allergic, and we don’t realize it. Perhaps he needs supplements, such as Omega-3 or Amino Acids.

When my son was first tested for allergies five years ago, the initial test showed that he was allergic to wheat and soy. His allergist told me not to worry about those. She said the levels weren’t high enough to eliminate them. So, my son lives on a diet of bread, pasta and cereal. But this book also says that kids tend to crave the very food to which they are allergic.

Could we be filling his body with foods that are irritating him from the inside out?

I have a lot more research to do to determine our next step. If anyone has any experience with alternative medicine or holistic doctors, I would love to hear what you have found, both good and bad.

We have been on a journey the past eight years. If it were a marathon, I would say we have made it to the one-mile mark. But I am excited about this new information and where it might lead.

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autism and vaccines

After writing my last post about the autism conference where I had a booth this weekend, I wanted to go into a little more detail about what I have learned about the link between autism and childhood immunizations.

The first time I heard anyone mention this link was in the early 90s when I was a reporter for a chain of newspapers. I spent about five years covering state government in the capitol building in Springfield and then later became the Chicago bureau chief, where I also covered state government.

Honestly, this experience made me highly skeptical. That can be both good and bad. I don’t take anything at face value. As they say in journalism school, “If your mother tells you she loves you, ask a second source.” I tend to over-analyze things, think about them obsessively, research and look for second opinions.

So, I was skeptical when a tiny band of parents and advocates came to Springfield to hold a press conference, asking lawmakers to make changes to the number of vaccines required for young children to enter school.

This small group asserted that immunizations were the direct cause of autism. I also remember the public health department denouncing this claim, as if it had absolutely no basis and was a bit crazy.

The issue continued for several years after that. Studies were released showing no link between vaccines and autism, and it became a national issue.

I don’t think I ever developed an opinion one way or another on that issue. I could see both sides. The claims of this group made sense to me. But could it all be coincidence? Regressive autism usually sets in around 18 months of age. That is right when most kids are getting a major round of immunizations.

I didn’t think about it much until I had to start taking my own children in for their immunizations. I remember one time in particular when I questioned my doctor about the number of shots she wanted to give my daughter. She became visibly agitated, as if she had just had enough of arguing with Crazy Moms over this issue.

She started raising her voice and gave me papers and reports showing these claims were completely unfounded. We finally reached an agreement that she could give my daughter one shot that day and we would come in later for the others.

At Autism One, there is no debate over the link between vaccines and autism. To those parents, it is a proven fact.

A couple of years ago, my booth was next to that of some young ABA therapists. Their job is to do therapy with children with autism to help them learn to modify their behavior. By the way, this job that was barely even heard of a decade ago is now a hot field and services are much in demand.

These women told me about one of their clients. He was a boy adopted from South America when he was 2 years old. He came to the United States with bright eyes and a playful spirit. Because he had not had any immunizations, he got all of his shots at once. I think he had around 10 vaccinations at one time.

These ladies said that when that boy went home, he immediately sank into the dark hole of autism. The sparkle in his eyes was gone. He no longer made eye contact. He lost his ability to communicate. HE disappeared into the darkness called autism.

I don’t know if this story is true. But it sunk into my brain and has stayed there for several years.

When I talk to the parents at Autism One and ask them when their child was diagnosed with autism, every one says that it was right after their big round of immunizations at about 18 months to 2 years.

This year, I decided it was time for me to gain a better understanding of the basics of autism and what these people believe.

I purchased a book called, “Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies”. I am so fascinated by this book for several reasons, which I hope to write more about this week. You could say that I’m completely obsessed with this book now.

Anyway, the author, Kenneth Bock is a holistic doctor who writes about how he has used a biomedical approach to cure children of autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies.

He also explains the connection between autism and immunizations. I will attempt to explain that here, but if you know more about this, feel free to correct me.

First of all, I learned that there are two forms of autism. Classic autism is mostly genetic and passed down through generations. That’s why you sometimes see a parent with autistic tendencies who has a child with autism.

Regressive autism is when children are developing normally as babies, but around 18 months to 2 years, they start regressing into the world of autism.

He says that many factors contribute to this. A few of those include:

  • Genetics
  • A mother’s health when she was pregnant (maybe she got a flu vaccine or other harmful medication, or maybe she had Lyme disease)
  • The toxins in the environment. Some highly polluted areas of the country have a much larger population of children with autism.

So, factors like these are the “gun” and immunizations are the “trigger.”

Did you know that over the last 20 years, the number of immunizations our children receive has skyrocketed? Back in the 80s and early 90s, pharmaceutical companies used a preservative called thimerosal in the vaccines so that doctors could give several at once. (The most common example is the MMR.) Thimerosal contains mercury, which is one of the most deadly chemicals on the planet, and this was being injected into children.

The early 90s also is the time when the cases of autism skyrocketed to about 1 in 150.

Thimerosal was eventually banned from vaccines. (This book states that it is still used in the flu vaccine. I don’t know if this is true, but I am not taking any chances.)

Even though the chemical isn’t used in the vaccines anymore, Bock said he has seen that children with a weakened immune system at the time of their vaccines, or children who are subjected to an unusually high number of vaccines at one time are the ones who usually have an adverse reaction.

These kids also have some of the factors I listed previously that make them more predisposed to getting autism in the first place. So, they had a weakened immune system for another reason — genetics, illness, toxins, environment. And when they got the shots, their immune system basically crumbled.

That is my understanding of the process. This book also gives a guide for parents to safely get their children vaccinated.

I am hoping to write another post about how this book is changing the way I think about allergies. Stay tuned…

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