Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

Phew, I sure am glad the world didn't end last night.  

However, instead of cleaning the house and packing the car yesterday I decided to play with my babies all day.  

Because seriously, why would you spend the last day on earth cleaning and packing?  

Unfortunately, that means more work for me today.  

Since Clara decided it is nap time I guess I have run out of excuses and should probably get started.

Quick question:  ....Last night was the first snowfall here in Chicago (Yay!) Buehrle and I took a really long walk in it.  

When we came home he was really stinky.

(You know, like a wet dog.)  

SO how much do you judge people when you see them walking down the street with their dog who is in a raincoat?

Your answer will not change my mind of putting Buehrle in a raincoat.

  I hate wet dog smell.  

I just want to know a round about percentage of public opinion on this subject.

Have a great Holiday!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Phantom Lives Here....

In 2004 Hollywood and Andrew Lloyd Webber came out with a fantastic rendition of the classic hit show Phantom of the Opera.  In case you have not seen it before, it comes with a very handsome all-star cast that includes, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver and Emmy Rossum.  I went and bought the DVD right after it came out.  It was expensive (I think almost $30) and to be honest I really couldn't afford it, so for almost a whole month after that, when I wasn't working, I was at home watching my most favorite indulgence.

In 2004 Rhiannon was a whopping 4 years old.  

I'm pretty sure her favorite movie was some sort of Strawberry Shortcake, Finding Nemo or Barbie's Swan Lake.  However after watching this one time with me she was HOOKED.  It made my heart so happy to know that she loved a part of musical theatre, even if it came as a big box Hollywood sensation.

You gotta start somewhere, right?  And who was I to judge?  I loved it too!  

That year the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis had The Phantom of the Opera come through.  I bought the best tickets I could afford and made a Mama/Daughter date out of it. 

(Babies, I tell you!)

I have to be completely honest, I was worried.  

Rhiannon was only four years old.  I didn't want her to  

A. Hate it and ruin any chance of her going with me to see theatre again, or...

B. Have a meltdown and have us ruin the experience for the other patrons.  

I'm happy to report that she did beautifully!  

She was so attentive and into the storyline the entire time. 

She gasped, jumped and grabbed my hand when the chandelier fell.  

And, (one of my most precious memories of Rhiannon) at the very end, when Christine Daae is being rowed away from the Phantom, I looked down to find my sweet little baby silently crying.  

When the lights came up she looked at me and said, "I know I'm supposed to be very quiet and I'm not supposed to cry, but the Phantom was just so sad."  

What do you say to that?  All I could do was hug her tight as my heart melted.  

After that day it had became her favorite movie.  She burned through 3 DVD's before she moved on to her next phase.

Fast Forward to 2012.  The Mister and I have Amazon Prime.  A few days ago I was browsing through the free movies, desperately trying to find something else besides Diego and Dora the Explorer for Clara to get into, and wouldn’t you know it?  There was The Phantom of the Opera!  

I took a chance and told Clara that we were going to watch Mama's singing movie instead (with hopeful fingers crossed.)

Today we watched/had it on in the background for the fifth time in three days.  When she asks to watch it she says, can I watch mama's singing opera show?  Once again, this Mama's heart is happy.  (Even though I am shushed by a two year old when I try and sing along.)

(Clara's favorite part.)   
Snow, Mama!  It's snowing!

(Seriously, I think it might be mine too.  That cape is FANTASTIC!!!!!)


Happy Happy Tuesday To You All!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hold Your Babies Tight...

Things Children Should Think About:

  • What Mama is making for dinner.
  • If They will get to swing today
  • If Mom or Dad will cave and read them an extra book tonight
  • Why (everything) works (with in depth explanations)

Things Children Should Never Ever Think About:

  • A Crazy Ass Person with big scary guns coming into their school and hurting their friends and loved ones.


History has proven that sometimes people snap under extreme pressure and do something stupid, like take the life of their own child.  

But to open fire in a KINDERGARTEN classroom?

27 dead with 18 of those being children?  

This is one of many reasons why I will never be pro guns.  

This is a perfect example on why I silently hope they will not carry out the "conceal to carry" in Illinois.  

This is very very sad.

Hold your babies a little tighter today, folks.  I know I will.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Goodbye Gastroschisis!

Today is a huge day for our family.

I know that most people who actually read this blog know me or my family personally, however there are a few who don't.  Sorry to be a bit redundant for those of you who have heard this all before.

When I started this blog it was a way for me to get my thoughts together, however silly they may be.  Since then it has grown into a documentation of our girl's lives.  A place where they can look back and remember how loved they are and all of our stumbles along the way.  I would be remiss to not add todays events here.

When the Mister, my sister, Rhiannon and I went in for my 20 month check up, excited to see what kind of baby we were going to have, we were instead told that our daughter had a very serious birth defect called Gastroschisis.    (If you want to learn more, click the link.)  It is a horrible terrible defect where the babies are born with their insides out.  It causes many problems with the pregnancy.  The children born with this are often hospitalized for months and endure many surgeries and life changing complications.  When Clara was born she was only 4 lbs.  She was so beautiful and SO tiny she didn't look like a real baby.

Right after Clara was born I was able to glimpse her from across the room before she was whisked away to be prepped for her first surgery, which took place a mere 2 hours after she was born.

I've always been very protective of her first pictures we took of her, as they are quite graphic.  Children who were born with this condition 20 years ago pretty much just died.  It is so amazing how far doctors have come when it comes to gastroschisis.  I'm actually writing this post now for the women in the support groups I joined that were my lifeline when we were in the thick of all of this.  

After our diagnosis, I immediately googled the condition, read all the horror stories, and wept my eyes out.  The pictures were horrific.  The outcomes were bleak.  There were babies that were dying left and right.  We met with our amazing doctor, Dr. Erin Rowell from Childrens Memorial Chicago, and I told them of all the horrible terrible things I had learned from Mr. Google.  I was very firmly told to STOP GOOGLING! Every case is different.  Stay positive and be the best you can for your baby.  If you are going through this now, please take heed from this advice. 

Clara's Gastroschisis

This is how Clara looked th first time I was allowed to touch her.

Clara had two surgeries and was in the NICU for 82 days.  This next picture is on Easter Sunday of 2010.  She had her second surgery the day before.  

She was in so much pain.  Everyone around me kept telling me how great she was doing.  All I could see was how bleak it looked through a mothers eyes.  

But you know what?  

They were right. 

(This picture was taken on April 2.  We went home on April 23.)

Today we went in for our yearly visit.  Clara is supposed to have these visits until she is 5 years old. 

However, today Clara was officially released from the care of the Pediatric Surgery Team.  

We are done.  

She is healed.  

I am so happy from the inside out.

If you are dealing with a pregnancy/child who has been diagnosed with Gastroschisis and would like to talk to someone who has gone through it as well, please don't hesitate to contact me whether it be through my email or comment section on here, or even Facebook.  I would be happy to give my personal insight to you.

Also, Congratulations Clara!  You are one tough cookie.  Love, Mom & Dad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hide and Steal

Do you remember this post here?

Where my sweet little baby stole my one and only set of car keys and we couldn't find them for weeks?

Well guess what I did since noon today?  As I was attempting to go to the post office to send off some birthday presents for my sweet little niece, I realized I couldn't find the car keys anywhere.  So I started looking around.

Three hours later my looking became very frantic.  Our car was in a spot that becomes a tow away zone during rush hour.  I had exactly one hour to find our keys and there wasn't a hint of them anywhere!

I tore the house apart.

I put the house together.

I tore the house apart.

The Mister came home.

We put the house together.

We tore the house apart.

(Break for supper.  Okay time to get at it again.)
We noticed the flashlight he was using before supper mysteriously disappeared as well....  

Then, the Mister found Clara hiding the ipod behind the couch.

Our suspicions grew....

We emptyied out Clara's toy-box and started going through her toys one by one.

We found the missing flashlight.

We found a rock we brought back from death valley that was sitting by the keys earlier in the day... but no keys.

Then, as we were talking about how hopeless the case of the missing keys were, (at this point it was 8:30 pm) I saw a glimmer out of the corner of my eye.

Do you see them?

How about now?

We called Clara in to her room to have a serious talk about how it is never okay to take things that don't belong to you as well as how the keys are never to be touched.

She responded and apologized in a normal two yr old way.  

By asking for candy. 

At least we got a hug.

You win, Clara Marie.  You win.  However that awesome pricey ticket?  Its coming out of Santa's pocket.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I haven't posted in quite some time.  This is mainly because we haven't done anything interesting or out of the ordinary lately.  Most days look a lot like this.....

(Not sure whats going on in this picture?  Clara's pretending to be a puppy.  When Clara is a puppy she kicks Buehrle out of his bed.)

Or this happens a lot too.....

(Look past the two cuties and look at the tornado that has destroyed the house!)

However this weekend was exceptionally fun.  My Folks, little sister and nephew came to visit us!  This was Laynes first time in the city.  The way that he and Clara play together warmed my heart!  I told him he has to come back to the city when it is warm so we can go to a Cubs game and the beach.  He agreed, but only if his mom could come too.  (Fair enough.)

This weekend was also Rhainnon's first dance recital.  It was originally going to be a flash mob, but due to the astronomical price it was going to cost the dance studio to perform in the park they decided to instead have it on their property.  It was COLD outside this Saturday but all the kids performed really well!  I only wish we could see Rhiannon better!  She was in the back and since she is a wee bit short she was covered up most of the time.

She was, however, the cutest one out there!

Here is the video the dance studio shot.  She is in the back row, three right from the very center.  You can see her about 1/2 of the time...

Regardless if you can see her the whole time or not she did fantastic and I am so proud of her!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Car Conversation

 The girls and I went for a quick trip down south this weekend.  This means we spent the majority of our time in the car.  Here are some tidbits of our conversation that I need to share.  Feel free to try and figure out who said what.

"Do you know who Tina Turner is?"

"Yeah, she is a singer who has an abusive boyfriend and great legs.  And she's 60."

"Mama!  Buy me a pony! Now!"

"OMG! You have SUCH TERRIBLE taste in music!  How can you NOT LIKE 3 Doors Down AND Nickleback?  They're SOOOO good!"

(After that last little bit I immediately put in my Man Man CD.  One of my children couldn't get enough.  The other was pretty unimpressed and embarrassed.)

Although it was a short visit I was able to see some good friends and a few family members.....

  Clara got a few play-dates in with some "baby-friends"...

And my very talented Mama made me a beautiful blanket!  

It was a fantastic weekend!  However I must say I am very happy to be back home with my boys.  
I have missed them so!  

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Open Letter To Those In Charge Of The CPS Strike

nothing to do nothing to do bored bored bored.

Dear Rahm Emanual and CPS Teachers,

First I want to begin by letting you know I deeply respect both parties involved.  I also want you to know that I do agree that some parts of the contracts are flawed and should be hammered out.  I also have been enjoying this random extra time with my baby.  So far on this mini vacation we have completely remodelled, wallpapered and painted her room, signed her up and went to her first hip hop dance class, and today I even had a helper with sweeping and mopping my floors (which she LOVED to be a part of.)

 However, I feel I must tell you that this strike is complete and total horse shit and it is time for her to go back to school. 

Now before anybody gets all up in arms about this let me explain a little deeper why I feel this way.  When Rhiannon was in kindergarten I had a few issues with the school she was enrolled in, (with the school just generally sucking.)  Although I knew it wasn't that big of a deal at the time, I also knew that in the very near future I would have to either deal with their ignorance or move on to bigger and better places.  I chose the latter.  As with most parents, every decision I make is made to be in Rhiannon’s best interest.  I knew that I would not send her to the schools I was in nor did any of the other schools around that area impress me at all. 

(True story:  While registering for my high school classes my guidance counselor took one look at my math scores and told me that "Math isn't that important in life anyway.  She then told me of this system that lets people like me take two semesters of Algebra 1/2 and two semesters of Business math in order to get all of my credits for graduation.  Talk about not slipping through the cracks, but being shoved out of the way.)   

However, while doing my research I found many schools in the Chicago region to be exceptional.  I wanted to go to school here myself anyway, so I packed my bags and came to what Rhiannon and I called the "city of dreams".

This move didn't come free.  I payed a steep price to give her the phenomenal education she has received as to date.  In order to move here I had to legally give up every single holiday and summer vacation to her dad.  From the time she was six years old I have never shared a Christmas, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Easter or even Birthday with Rhiannon.  To put it a little more in perspective THIS is what Rhiannon looked like last time I had her for Christmas....

Yes, I know, Awwwww.  

And here's the thing, I don't mind giving up all these things if it means Rhiannon is getting a great education and an opportunity to be so much more then I could.  I want her to learn as much as possible and be able to do whatever her little heart desires!  So you see, having her only get to experience four days of 7th grade this year is making my sacrifices feel like they are all for not!  I 100% agree with Rahm when he says this strike was avoidable.  I understand that striking after school starts feels like you have more of an upper-hand in this situation but the reality of it is this.  400,000 kids are the ones who are suffering.  You knew that your contracts were coming to an end.  You should have been working on new ones all summer instead of waiting till now.

Like I said at the beginning, I respect all parties involved.  I appreciate all the men and women who are teaching my daughter and helping me mold her into the wonderful young lady she is becoming.  But god damn.  It is time for this strike to end and for these children to go back to school.  I can't speak for anyone else's kids but mine is starting to bounce off the walls with boredom.  


Everyone who lives in the Crystalstew household

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Baby's Got A Brand New Bed

Yesterday, shortly after I put Clara down for her nap, I heard her yelling to me in pure excitement to "Come Look Mama!!!  Come Look Mama!!"  When I saw what she was doing I laughed and asked her to do it again so I could document it for the Mister, whom as expected, had a mini heart attack.


She was so damn proud of herself until a few hours later when she tried it again and became really scared.  So Mama to the rescue!  (The mister wanted to get her a "bigger crib".)  While his beloved white sox were playing I got to work in converting the crib to a real big kid bed.  

My baby is getting to big way to fast! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Self pity.  Every single person experiences this.  I do as well.  I get wrapped up in feeling overwhelmed at being mother, wife, house cleaner, meal planner-shopper-cooker, "bus" driver, etc. etc. and I  then feel overwhelmed.  Like things are bad.  Then I am brought back down to earth at how ridiculously lucky I am.  For not having a want in this world.  For my Mister, who always puts up with my ridiculous ante's and is a solid rock each time I need him.  For my children, whom are both brilliant, beautiful and HEALTHY.

I read this in its entirety today and wept.  I can not imagine going through this.  My Aunt and Uncle lost their first born son to brain tumors when he was around this little girls age as well.  I was to young to really comprehend just how they felt while going through this.  My heart breaks for you, for this woman and for every other parent who has to deal with this horrible disease. 

I hope you take time to read this story and perhaps give to their little girls organization.

Today I am reminded of how beautiful life is.  I hope you all have such a wonderful day.  As for me, I am off to take my baby to swing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


(This definition is for my beautiful, dear friend Julie Lyn, who informed me I was "Doing it wrong" when I sent her a picture of our "Campground".)

Taken from  Camp:  tents, cabins, etc, used as temporary lodgings by a group of travellers, holiday-makers, Scouts, etc.

That being said I must also say that I don't do tents. 

I don't do sleeping on the ground.  

I definitely don't do cohabitation with bugs. 

 Or bears.  

Or racoons.  

Or anything else that isn't human, dog or cat.  

Now don't get me wrong, I have done my fair share of camping in my life.  My folks used to take us to Lake Shelbyville every year where we did the whole cooking over a fire, sleeping in tents and swimming in a lake you can't see the bottom of.  (Another thing I don't do.)   

I vividly remember the last time I did go camping like that.  I believe I was 24.  My then very outdoorsy boyfriend suggested we go camping in Southern Illinois over Thanksgiving weekend.  We visited with my family beforehand and told them how we planned to go camping to see some waterfalls and such.  Every one of my family members told me that I wouldn't last and I would be back at my mom's house before the weekend was over.  I was very offended and defiantly told them they didn't know what they were talking about, I was tough enough and to shove it.

(Very important side-note:  I am the most stubborn bullheaded person you will ever meet.) 

So off we went on this camping trip.  I made it through the entire thing.  However it was so cold it never got above 20 degrees the entire trip.  It was so cold, in fact, the freaking waterfalls we went to see were FROZEN.  In the evening we made a fire, drank a bunch of whiskey, I made a stew with 1/4 cup of pepper.  I had on coats, hats mittens and blankets.  

Even after all that I still couldn't feel my feet.  

So we went to bed.  I was wearing three pairs of woollen socks, two flannel pants, a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt and a hoody all while wrapped up in one of those mummy sleeping bags that is supposed to keep the crazy people who like camping in the mountains in winter warm and had it completely zipped up.  Still I froze my ass off.  For two whole days.  But I did it.  (see side note.)

Luckily, the Mister agrees with me and my camping ideas.  So when we took our family camping this is how we approached it.  I must say it was quite lovely.



Baby Backpack!!!!

 And when we were done exploring the beautiful outdoors this is where we slept.....

 Our little cabin getaway in the woods!

The Mister even made me a fire........(sans bugs!)

 And every morning after we rolled out of bed we stumbled out to the deck overlooking the lake to bird watch and sip on our coffee.  That was made over a fire.  From the gas stove.

Most perfect camping trip.  


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wata Pak

I hope everyone enjoyed their long holiday weekend.  We are very excited to be starting school this morning!  In fact we are so excited we all were up before or right at 5 am!  I hope we can keep this momentum going through out the year!

Since our vacation extravaganza, Little Miss Clara has demanded to go to a "wata pak" every single day.  Since yesterday was the last day we could I looked for the most fun + closest one to us and had a swim day with the girls!

(This was taken at Mt. Olympus in the Wisconsin Dells.  We are waiting for a 9 ft wave to crash into us.  If you ever get a chance to go there please do not pass up on Poseidon’s rage.  It was AMAZING.)

"Now it's back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool, I got my lunch bag packed and my boots tied tight, sure hope I don't get in a fight......."

Happy first day of School to all you crazy kids out there!  

(Especially to my favorite 7th grader!)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Family Vacation

So an over worrier, a perpetual planner, a tween girl, a toddler in the midst of her terrible two's and a puppy went camping for a week in the backwoods of Wisconsin......

That's it, folks.  That's the entire joke.

But seriously, the Mister and I took our entire brood to a little place called La Valle Wisconsin last week to have our very first family vacation before Rhiannon starts 7th grade this year.  It was a smashing success, for the most part.  

This right here was my absolute favorite part of the week. 

I swear this porch was made just for me.  I actually made the Mister take this picture so he could recreate it for me someday.

The book I'm reading in that picture?  It is called The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love.  I finished it in 4 days.  I loved it and highly suggest you read it.  Yes it is about a couple who put their entire life savings, blood sweat and tears into starting their own "whole diet" farm.  But it is much much more then that.  It is also about her personal struggle with whole heartedly accepting her new life as a married woman.  

As someone who has always been a fiercely independent woman, this speaks to so many emotions I am having right now in accepting this strange new role as Wife I have taken recently. I have been secretly wondering if everyone had a feeling of losing a part of themselves after they wed and it was just something that wasn't talked about, or if I was just a horribly selfish person.  I am glad to learn at least one other woman felt the same way almost to a T.

I know this rain we are getting is probably ruining some of your Labor Day plans but I am loving the pitter patter on the windows mixed with my old scratchy records!  I hope you all are having a safe and happy weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Friday night in Good Ol' Clinton County...

Just another Friday night.  Sitting with a Busch watching the babes run through Grandma's sprinkler.  Nakee.  

Country living at it's classiest.  

In other news....Check out my Mama's garden!  

Happy Weekend Folks!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Potty Training Woes

Truth time.

I am in potty training hell.  

I've tried naked potty training.  

Doesn't work.  

I've tried just putting her in undies and asking her if she has to go potty/putting her on the pot every twenty minutes.  

Doesn't work either.  

She will actually sit on the pot for twenty minutes and then go right after I put her pants back on which equals me doing ridiculous amounts of laundry. 

Is it normal for a kid to not care about having wet pants?

I really really want to put this kid in preschool.  I'm really really tired of changing diapers.  She is old enough and smart enough to do this!  

What can I do to help her understand that going potty in the big girl chair is fun????  I'm pulling my hair out in frustration!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Visits with Verna

We had a fantastic weekend filled with travelling, birthdays, running, paint, and spending a little time with my all time favorite woman in the whole wide world. 

I love you Grandma!  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to hang out with me and my brood!

Happy Monday, Folks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Birthday snapshots

Last night we decided to drive out to the suburbs to go to the one and only Joe's Crab Shack in the greater Chicago are for their Cajun Crab Boil.  However, with the weather as it was, (rainy rainy rainy,) google had predicted it would take us over an hour to even get there.  The Mister proposed we just make it at home.  After looking up how its made I couldn't believe how easy it actually was.  You literally just boil everything.  So off to the grocery we went and about an hour later we had the most delicious meal one could ever imagine.  Here are a few snapshots of the night.

*If you are a novice at eating/making seafood boils please be warned.  We have enough leftovers to feed a small army.  2 lbs of crab and 1 lb of shrimp doesn't sound like a lot of food.  It's a boatload.

 Here the Mister is "popping" open the first bottle of wine, only to find it was a twist off......

The delicious vegetables....

Taking all the goodness out of the pots....

 At this point we tried calling all the friends we could to see if anybody wanted to come over for a last minute meal.  The amount of food we made was beyond ridiculous. 
One of the best part of this meal?  the 29 cups of stock that I now get to use to flavour all sorts of delicious dinners in the future!

I wouldn't be a birthday without the cake, right?  

This is a triple chocolate mousse layered cake complete with white and dark chocolate shavings.