SAHM is a job

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I have been in the same job now for nearly 19 years. Through recessions, upticks in the economy, rainy days and long summers – my job has endured.

Like any interesting job no 2 days are exactly the same. It is a job that I love and am ready to quit at the same time. I have wanted to ask my boss for a bonus, a mental health day, some time off – but, unfortunately I am employed by 4 little (and not-so-little) selves.  Don’t dare ask me what I do all day, for you won’t want the diatribe of answers.

My job is a SAHM. (Stay-at-home-Mom for those not in the ‘know’).

I am sure by now, some other SAHM have read and shared the dad’s blog to end all blogs where he puts a price on a his wife’s value. I read it and applauded in my head, but this blog was no news to me. My husband and I have argued for some time over whether what I do is actually a job versus a ‘life choice’. He, afraid to insult me, always thought it was nicer to say ‘life choice’ to stay home with my kids. I, however, insist that this is a real job – one that is constantly changing and one that I am both proud of and ready to scream over, depending on the day.

Why is it so important for me that this gig is a ‘real job’? Well, I do have another gig. I am a writer. I write blogs, content for websites and pieces for a local magazine. That gig pays. Not tremendously, but it does. This work is more of a hobby, a passion, a brain challenge that I enjoy. But, my life’s work – my proudest work – is in helping my family grow and sustain itself.

No, groceries and laundry are not glorious. No, chauffeuring my kids from school to art class isn’t exciting or even life-changing. However, this SAHM job also affords me the opportunity to both impact and be impacted by 4 of the most fabulous people I’ve ever met. This job allows me the opportunity to speak to my partner about rich topics that affect lives, the economy, the future, the real estate market, and our community. No other job on the planet gives you all of that and more.

Being a SAHM is a blessing. It’s not something that every mother gets the opportunity to do or even to enjoy. I have friends who insist they couldn’t find value in doing it all day. I have other friends who insist that staying on their career path is their goal in addition to mothering. I do not judge. I do not begrudge anyone from following their life’s work or their passions. I just know that for me – just me – this is what I was put on Earth to do and do well.

I see that my job description is once again changing. Next fall, my youngest will be in school until nearly 4 pm. “What will you do all day!” I hear from others in my boat. A common freak attack we SAHMs have right about every August. (who’s with me?!)

Well, what will I do? I will grow my writing business focusing on the parts of it I love best and continue to make money while doing something I enjoy. I will nurture my passions and follow up on some lost threads I left dangling when I was too busy climbing up the ladder of SAHM with babies. And, in my new role my hours will change, not disappear.  I will continue to do projects that motivate me. I will get together with friends and reconnect after all the time we’ve spent hibernating in our houses with children. I will experience what days are like filled with empty possibilities and be ready to take a 1 am phone call from a teen abroad or answer a 3 am moan and groan from an ill middle schooler. My new hours will begin at 4 pm. I will continue to be available for school trips, sick days, phone calls from school and vacations. I will be present with my children when they talk (or text), instead of preoccupied with lists or wound up toddlers running amuck in my house. I will have time to provide nice, nutritious meals – those ones that I always look at and say I’ll make later in life. Now, is later in life.

Yes, my job is changing. I will be delivering my oldest to a dorm room this fall, instead of the steps of the first day of school. I will kiss his cheek and remind him about healthy food choices, watch him roll his eyes at me and beam with excitement. I will set my soon-t0-be-junior in high school on a path for college choices and dreaming big as she learns to drive a car, instead of waving to her on the school bus. I will watch my middle schooler braid her own hair, devise her own style and make her own sandwiches instead of me doing those things for her. And I will watch my baby sit at her first desk, get her first prayer book and continue to watch her learn and grow all over again.

These parts of my job – developing free-thinkers, do-it-yourselfers, chefs, drivers, motivators and contributors are the absolute best parts of my life. These are moments no other job can provide. These are my bonuses. My mental health days. My time-off. I have earned these hours to reflect, to write, to think and to be. As CEO/SAHM of this family – It’s time to reap the rewards of all the hard work.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Passover is My Favorite Holiday

 

As we’re all scrubbing, listing, shopping and for some, packing, I remind myself that Passover is actually one of my favorite holidays. For those who cannot see the rainbow in the cloud of chaos and money spending – here’s a gentle reminder of 5 reasons Passover is my favorite holiday.

Rejiggering Inevitably it happens. I begin a simple cleaning of a space and next thing I know, I am moving a desk here, a rug there, pushing a bed across a room. Passover cleaning turns into a rejiggering of all my spaces. It’s sort of a literal and figurative refocusing. I toss old clothing, go through that shelf of old books and begin attacking that pile of papers I’ve been holding off touching. Yes, I am aware this is not the point of Passover cleaning. I don’t even recommend it to my friends. But, for me it’s cathartic and leads right to #2 below.

Payoff  There is something about Passover that always makes me feel the true meaning of ‘job well done’. When it comes to cleaning and cooking, I am often lazy. I’ll happily grab a shortcut. If I’m going to have to do hard manual labor well, there has to be a payoff – and it better be a good one. When I sit down at the Seder and look around my table I always end up so grateful for the gifts we have. I am surrounded by family, good food and a lengthy (sometimes too lengthy!) amount of tradition that allows me the chance to feel fulfillment in all those weeks of organizing hard work. I have prepped weeks for this and there is something in that moment at the first seder that I feel full – emotionally and spiritually. The key for me not to feel angry or overwhelmed is really in a learned mind trick.  I typically aim to be ready the day prior to the actual holiday. If I accomplish this goal that means the day of, I can just focus on a little jaunt out with my daughters to do our nails, setting up the table and sort of relaxing. There have been some years I did not accomplish the day before, and that has led me to a much more stressful and unhappy beginning to my favorite holiday.

Tradition Judaism is chock-full of every day traditions. But, Passover is the ultimate in hands-on. A tangible holiday that revolves around the children when so many revolve around shooing or hushing the children. I love to find ways to incorporate the fun in my fun-ctional Passover. As it is all about the children, I find myself being excited again as well. Maybe its the former teacher in me, perhaps its the Mommy in me or it could also be the dormant laziness I sometimes participate in other holidays – but, Passover revives me as a Jewish person. It’s out loud conversation about where we came from and how we got here. A time where talking about our history and connection to one another is discussed, analyzed and even sang about. A holiday where we are focused on enjoyment and freedom rather than the ‘do not dos’ and the ‘must not touch’.

Food No good holiday comes without a massive amount of food consumption. Like I said, I’m lazy when it comes to food and I love shortcuts. What shorter cut is there than deleting half of the ingredients I normally use! Creating simpler meals, a stronger focus on the green vegetables and the proteins, I find I actually eat healthier and happier on Pesach (minus my must-do matzo brie). I minimize my matzo intake (hello, stomach aches we not-so-lovingly call “Matzo babies”). It’s the one holiday throughout the year I tend to lose weight, rather than gain.

Family Although this will be our first Passover without our oldest, as he’s staying abroad, I am reminded of many years of all of us together as a family when I dig into our Passover boxes. There is something emotional about that moment I uncover those bins and find memories literally falling all over me. Projects each of my children made, the dozens of Matzo covers and cups of Elijah that come pouring out of their spots. Pages and pages of coloring, half-glued matzos hanging on by a thread from their construction paper. Each one a treasure only visited for a few days a year. The amassed Passover dishes and knick knacks I have collected and added to each year, remembering the fear of that first Passover I made myself. Even those memories of Passover as a child fighting over a treasured fork and knife. This is the reason, the true reason I love it. My family memories that are growing each year. Even if all of us cannot be together, there will still be remnants of them at our table and in my heart, forever.

So while Purim or Succot (and if you ask my kids, I’m sure it’s Chanukah) might be your #1, Passover for me is the ultimate. Bring on the Matzo brie!

 

Super Bowl Fun For Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For years, I fought the sports circuit in my home as I slowly accepted becoming a football widow. After nearly 20 year of marriage I finally figured out that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Anything fun deserves good food and good people – so I have worked on some ideas that can keep all of us munching and engaged (sort of) all game long. Check out the end of this post for a free printable!

Here are some yummy snacks and ideas you can prep with your kids to make Super Bowl Sunday almost as exciting as Daddy makes it out to be… If you’re on a diet, don’t ‘do’ calories or just like’ fork and knife’ food, you can stop reading right now. Otherwise, carry on and wait 3 days before stepping on a scale.

Table ambience sets the tone for any party. A football field tablecloth is a great idea and makes clean up a breeze. The kids could have a lot of fun with this project.

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Chips & Dip No party, football or otherwise, is complete without a good chip and dip. Here we have an easy to do, yet impressive, 7-layer dip. You can easily sub Tofutti Sour Cream for the dairy here. Cheese can be subbed with non-dairy or skipped altogether.

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Here’s 1 more way to serve your chips. This one would be a great project for the kids earlier in the day. All you need are lunch bags and duct tape (leftover from your tablecloth project!). They could even personalize the bags for their guests.

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Wings are a must-have at any football occasion (see sweetie, I learned well!) and these will not disappoint. Pop em under the broiler for a last second to give them an authentic browning on top. You can adjust the heat to do half a batch for the kids and then pop in more hot sauce after for the real men at your party.

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Pulled Chicken Sammies are delicious and so easy to make. I have used a lazy rotisserie chicken and some BBQ sauce in a pan. Plop it on yummy buns and you’re good to go. Wanna a fancier version? This one is also super yummy and crockpot friendly.

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Facon – Let’s talk Kosher Bacon. Some think it’s gross, others think you will die from the fat content. I, however, think anything wrapped in facon just tastes Mmmmmm. So here is a yummy little recipe for Chicken wrapped in Facon. Use either mayo or Tofutti cream cheese in place of the dairy here. You will not be disappointed.

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Corn Dogs are one of our all-time favorites. But, they are super fattening and a pain to make. That’s where these little guys come in a win the vote for best little corn dog muffin, ever. Did I say, ever? Seriously – these are always a hit with the kids and adults alike. I use soy milk in place of dairy here.

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Drinks like beer and kid’s root beer are always on the menu. But, if you’re in the mood for a kid-friendly project here’s a great one. You can easily use Mountain Dew, green Gatorade or any green drink you’d like.

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Anything covered in chocolate is my friend. Add in a football and you’re superbowl ready to go. Here’s 2 yummy looking football desserts to throw on your table.

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If you are insane, like some of my ‘fancier’ friends you can give one of these Buzzfeed ridiculous stadium snacks a try. They are really for the artsy fartsy football wives and I refuse to ever give in that much. But, if you make one please do send it to me J Here are directions for an easy way to make this if you’re really needing the ooohs and aaahs of your guests!

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Printable Bingo Keeps things fun and interactive for bored little kiddies that could whine during the game. Print this out prior, get some football stickers at the party store and let them have fun! Click here for the printable.

Go Pats!

 

 

Learning From Your Children

In sending off my son to his year abroad and with his 18th birthday coming this week, my mind has been swirling with many thoughts and memories. In all this nostalgia I have come to a realization – our children teach us nearly as much, if not more than we teach them.

I have had many conversations over the years with one of my best friends about our two oldest. As I’m 2 years ahead of her in parenting, I have discovered that much of parenting children is figuring out their ‘story’. They don’t come with a chapter list or a prologue or any much direction at all. It is often up to us to wait and see how they act, how they interact, how they grow. You have an image in your mind how you’d love them to turn out and then, surprise! They make different choices, don’t like what you expect them to and of course, they reserve the right to even change those things you thought you’d figured out.

My confident oldest has taught me tremendous patience and understanding. Living life with a non-conforming attitude he has always been his own person. So wickedly smart, he often has proven my wrong on more than one occasion. A practical, minimalist personality – my oldest has tenacity and dedication to living life to its fullest without hesitation or anxiety.

My next in line, beautiful and sweet has taught me that you should never underestimate your child. She had always been a shyer, quieter little girl. She barely said a word until 3. She did not speak much at school to the point where I had her teachers log when she did actually speak. I have a notebook filled with one-word answers and short questions to prove to myself there was nothing wrong. I had expected that when it came time to speak at her Bat Mitzvah she would shy away from the opportunity. Surprisingly, she stepped up to the plate. She prepared a beautiful speech delivered with such poise and confidence both my husband and I were blown away.

Our middle daughter, the one with the dimples that could make any heart melt, has taught me empathy. In the third grade her teacher called me with a lump in her throat as she read a beautiful letter my daughter had written in class. The assignment was to share what one would do with a million dollars. My daughter wrote that she would give it to a little boy in the first grade that she barely knew. She wanted to give it to him because he has autism and she wanted him to buy new toys and things that would make him happy. She notices when others are sad and feels deeply.

Our baby. Our precious icing on the cake, has taught me that no matter what the ‘norms’ are you can and should buck them. A raven haired and green eyed beauty that has a passion for Tonka trucks, race cars and Ken dolls seems to be the life of the party with the boys in Kindergarten. While I spent much of preschool a nervous wreck that she wasn’t wearing sparkles and pink like the other little girls, I have come to love her will to do what she loves – regardless of what a ‘pink toy aisle’ represents for the girls.

These are just the very tip of the iceberg, of course. Parenting is a constant teaching tool that doesn’t end when they leave the nest. I am now learning how to let go, give space, step in as needed and love from afar. I am excited to see how parenting will continue to grow and change and affect our lives. In the meantime, I’m just sitting back and enjoying the textbook lesson by lesson.

 

Summer Fun in & around Chicago A to Z

I’m SO bored! No Mom ever wants to hear those words. Especially not in the summer.

Chicago after 14 years seemed like a big ole been there, done that. That’s when I started scouring online to find activities that appease the crowd. Faced with a full day and literally no clue where to begin, I remind you we live in a pretty great city.

Imagine…

A list so massive and so comprehensive you only need to bookmark it once and go through it!

Well, your wish is my command.

I happen to have amazing Mom Friends who actually do awesome activities with their kids. Whether you have a week to kill or all summer long to fill, we’ve got you covered.

Here is your go-to collection of summer fun in and around Chicago, tried and true by moms trying to keep em busy. We have gathered all these places together, links included, with an asterisk for the older set as those are often harder to please. A special thank you to Orah and Neeli for their amazing lists, advice and ideas. You guys are Super Moms with a  Capital “S”.

Please follow our adventures this summer break on #CampKutliroff on Facebook or feel free to visit our crafty page on Pinterest for inspired ideas for tweens and teens. Please also email me or message below to add to our list! Hoping to add reviews from our own parent-testers. So if you have anything to say about these off-the-beaten-path trips please message me and your review can be featured on the official Stretching My Limits Facebook Page!

May we all soak in the sun before school is on the horizon again!

*Adler Planetarium

*Air & Water Show

*Apollo Theatre/Emerald City Theatre

*Aqua Parks

*Architecture River Cruise

Art Institute – Stop in the gift shop first. Grab a postcard and find your art!

Atcher Island

Aurora Regional Fire Museum

*Beaches in and around Chicago

*Big Surf Wave Pool

Boat Tours – Wacky Pirate Cruise

*Bookstall at Chestnut Court – They often have children’s authors or events

*Botanic Gardens – Bring a picnic! Make it a scavenger hunt!

*Brunswick Bowling

*Bowling at Pinstripes

*Brookfield Zoo

*Bughouse Studio

Burpee Museum of Natural History

Busse Woods Forest Preserve

*Canon Tour in Cook County

Cantigny Park

Charles Dawes House Tour

Charnley Persky House Museum

*Chicago Bandits Game

Chicago Children Museum @ Navy Pier

Chicago Federal Reserve Money Museum & Tour

Chicago Fire Soccer

Chicago History Musem

*Chicago River Canoe & Kayak Rental

*Chicago’s Sightseeing Tour Hop on/ Hop off

Chicago Kohl Children’s Museum of Glenview

*Civil War Museum

Clarke/Glessner House Museum

Color Me Mine

Cosley Zoo

*County Line Orchard – Apple Picking

Cubs

*Dave and Busters

*Dave’s Rock Shop

*Didier Farm

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

Discovery Center Museum

*Drive in Movie in Kenosha at Keno Drive-In 

Dupage Children’s Museum

*Eli’s Cheesecake Factory Tour

Elk grove park district pavilion community center

Elmhurst Historical Museum – Currently have a baseball exhibit

Emerald City Theatre

Emily Oaks Nature Center

*Enchanted Castle

Exploratorium

Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana

*Fairs & Festivals in Chicago

Field Museum

Fishing and Fun at Northerly Island

*FREE Movies

*Frontier Day’s festival in Arlington Heights JULY ONLY!

*Fun Zones 

Garfield Park Conservatory

*Gilson Beach, Wilmette

*Glazed Expressions Pottery

Go Bananas

Goebbert’s Farm

*Haunted Trails

*Hidden Creek Aqua Park

*Hoosier Bat Company Tour ages 8 and up.

*Illinois Holocaust Museum

Illinois Railway museum in Union, IL

Independence Grove

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Janesville, WI Newspaper Tour

JCC Garoon Science Garden

*Jelly Belly Center Warehouse Tour

John Deere Tour

John Hancock Observatory

Jump Zone

Kenosha Public Museum

Kiddie Kingdom

Kids Bowl Free

Konow’s Corn Maze

Lake County Discovery Museum

Lamb’s Farm

Legoland Discovery-Schaumburg

Libertyille Sports

Lincoln park conservatory and trains

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Square lanes

Little Bear Garden, Glenview

*Long Grove Confectionary Tour

*Marriot Lincolnshire Theater

Michaels Store Craft Events & Weekly Camps

*Millenium Park

Milwaukee Public Museum

*Mini Golf indoors, Glow in the dark at Hawthorne Mall, Vernon Hills

Morton Arboretum-Lisle

*Movies in the Park, Skokie

*Movies in the Park, Chicago

Mr. Singer’s Performances

*Museum of Science & Industry

*Mystic Waters

Naper Settlement, Naperville

Naperville River Walk

*Navy Pier

Nickel City

North Park Village Nature Center

North Point Lighthouse

*Oakton Water Playground

Old Town School of Folk Music – Kids Concerts & Classes

*Paper Source – Create a Summer Scrapbook!

Peggy Nothebart Nature Museum

*Peoples Choice Family Fun Center

Pirate’s Cove

Planet Esme

*Ravinia Family Concerts

Richardson Farm

River Trail Nature Center

Robert R. McCormick Museum, First Division Museum

Robot City Workshop

Roller Skating

Roosevelt Collection park & shopping outdoor seating area just south of the loop

Schaumburg Airport Tours

Sci-Tech Aurora

*Second City Improv

*Segway Tours

*Shakespeare Theater

*Shedd Aquarium

*Six Flaggs

*Skokie Lagoons

Sky Deck at Willis Tower

Splash County

*Splash Landings

*Sprecher Root Beer Tour (pm only)

*Strawberry Picking – Thompson Farms

*Strawberry Picking – Stade Farms

*Starved Rock

*Subaru of Indiana Auto Tours (10 and older)

Sunset Park

Surgical Museum

The Grove

*The Glen – Sprinkler Park, Shopping, Fun

*Tipsy Paint, Glenview

Treehouse Indoor Playground

*Vertical Endeavors

Volo Auto Museum

Visit a Farmer’s Market – Let the kids make dinner with their finds!

Wagner Farm

*Waterworks Schaumburg

*Wendella Boat Rides

Wheeling Aquatic Center

*White Sox Games

Wiggleworms in Millenium Park

Wild West Town

Wonder Works in Oak Park

*Xtreme Trampolines

 

*Denotes Teen/Tween Friendly 🙂

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