Family, Kids and Dawgs

Review: Legoland Discovery Center Chicago

This year, we decided to take a Spring Break staycation, after doing the Disney thing last year. We’d like to do Disney again but it just wasn’t in the cards this year…2015 hopefully! So we were looking for fun things to do close do home when coincidentally, we were offered free tickets to Legoland Discovery Center Chicago in exchange for writing this review. It was on our list of things to check out anyway, so, COOL. Let’s do it!

We headed down there from Milwaukee yesterday and it was an easy drive, about 90 minutes. I didn’t realize that the Legoland Discovery Center is located in the Woodfield Mall, but hey, cool, next to a Jamba Juice and a Starbucks for Mom. Bonus. :)

The entrance to Legoland Discovery Center Chicago…LeLa the Giraffe

Once you walk in, you walk past Lego Barack Obama (heh) through mini-land Chicago, which is kind of cool (“OK”, G says). Then you go through the Jungle Expedition, which we liked, enough to go through it a couple of times. The Lego tiger, a hippo with a mouth big enough to fit your head in, and moving monkeys are pretty neat. Then you’re in Star Wars mini-land which G says was “boring” and I’d have to agree. As much I do like me a Lego Vader, it had a lame death star game that held G’s attention for about three seconds and could be waaaaaaaaaay cooler.

Lego Darth Vader

Obligatory selfie with Lego Vader

Let’s face it…it doesn’t really matter what I think…this was not for MY entertainment. So here’s the rest of G’s review:

The 4D Chima movie was awesomeness. Pro tip: sit in the middle of the theater for maximum 4D effect. The Kingdom Quest ride and Merlin’s Apprentice ride were fine. (Editors comment: he liked these at the time. Enough that we rode Kingdom Quest twice.) The Factory Tour was not that interesting and the playground area was for little kids. The Lego shop was AWESOMENESS (yelled). (Also: duh. Of *course* the shop is the best part.)

Bottom line from the tough 8-year-old critic: totally worth the drive.

Bottom line from Mom: not really worth the drive/$18 cost of admission ($16 if you book online ahead of time) if you have big kids with higher expectations, but if you have younger kids and/or are in the area for other reasons, I’d recommend checking it out for a couple hours of good solid fun. You can follow Lego Discovery Center Chicago on Facebook too.

As for us, we’ll be looking forward to checking out Legoland Florida next year. I’ll need to work on my theme park endurance before that one…two hours at Legoland Discovery Center Chicago and I was WRECKED. We had fun. :)


Ode to the juggling working mom

Illustration by Stu Nami

To every Mom (or, yes, Dad) out there who has ever walked into an airport to leave on a business trip with a kid shrieking insanely in the car: I feel you.

To every Mom who has endured the massive day-before-the-business-trip-pleeeeease-don’t-gooooooooo, kid-hanging-on-your-leg guilt trip: blessings and peace to you.

To every Mom figuring out every day how to get ready for the business trip, write a meager 200-word blog post, walk your kid to school, walk the dog, get your work done, get to yoga class or the gym, get more work done, get to an appointment, get the rest of your work done, eat well, watch How the Earth Was Made with the kid, pack for tomorrow’s 6AM business trip, maybe spend 30 seconds with your spouse, ensure that the house is left in reasonable shape and the fundraiser invitations are taken care of: Godspeed.

No pity parties here…certainly there are people with harder lives. Just empathy and admiration, for you, and all you do. I see you handle your juggling act with apparent grace and am in awe of you. I also know you must have your moments, out of the public eye, when your heart is being torn out and stomped on. Even though you LOVE your work, and are uber-excited about the business trip. Because you love your kid more than all the rest of it put together.

I salute you.

How do you do it?

Faith, friends and a tweet saved Fletcher

There are days in life that shake you to your core and reaffirm your faith at the same time. Yesterday was one of those days. What started out as a hopeless, tear-filled day ended with tears of gratitude.

If you saw my post about the short, happy life of Fletcher Trouble Macgonagall Moorhead yesterday, you know that our dog Fletcher was on death row for aggression issues that were unmanageable and dangerous for us, as parents of a very unpredictable small child. As I wrote the post and afterwards, I cried for literally four hours straight, with my son telling me not to cry and to look on the bright side (having another dog to snuggle). With no real sense of hope whatsoever, I started to get in the shower in hopes of reviving myself enough to play with Fletcher and my son and prepare for the worst.

Then, I got a text from my friend Katie Klein with love and telling me to hang in there. If you know Katie, you know she is a catalyst and is also one of those people who can – and will – do anything to help a friend when needed. So on a wing and prayer, I asked her to tweet #savefletcher with a link to my blog post. We debated whether or not to do it, because of a really hateful comment I had gotten on my blog recently.

We agreed that hate cannot win. So Katie (@bootyp) posted a tweet that said: Awesome dog who’s a little on the aggressive sideneeds a home. It’s life or death. Please. #SaveFletcher

Not long after, I got a DM from a kind, lovely soul who has taken in “the broken, the beaten and the damned” before and has experience with dogs with aggression and other issues. She asked to talk to the trainer that evaluated Fletcher. They talked, and we talked, and the trainer and I talked. And, in an absolute gift, this kind soul – who wants to remain more or less publicly anonymous in case Fletcher doesn’t make it in his second chance, which is totally understandable and appropriate - agreed to give Fletcher a second chance.

*cue tears* So, thanks to some amazing and generous people, armed with Twitter, and the shared belief that it might – just MIGHT – be possible, Fletcher was saved five hours before his scheduled demise. I have no words. None. *cue more tears, of happiness and gratitude*

FAITH, everyone. You have to believe in something for it to be possible.

THANK YOU, to Katie, and Fletcher’s new guardian, and to all of you who offered your love and support over the past week and especially yesterday.

So much love. Spaight

The short, happy life of Fletcher Trouble McGonagall Moorhead

Well I resolved not to blog here until the new design is ready. But that’s taking longer than expected and sometimes, you gotta write when a wound is still raw. This is a story I was NOT expecting to be writing. Not at all.

Sadly, today is likely to be our dog Fletcher’s last day of life. Unless, at his 5:00 vet appointment, they find something medically wrong with him that results in a stay of execution, which is of course highly unlikely. Or unless some kind soul with a lot of land and a lot of expertise in training aggressive animals reads this post and says “I’ll take him!” which is even less likely. (#saveFletcher?)

Some of you know the story of Gomer. We used to joke about Fletcher being Gomer’s reincarnation. Not so funny anymore. I seem to have quite the knack for picking dogs (and, occasionally in the past, men) with aggression problems. Fletcher’s former food aggression turned dog aggression turned object aggression turned human aggression quite suddenly over the past two weeks.

Last night, Amy Ammen from Amiable Dog Training came in for a professional consultation. I’ve taken Amy’s classes for years and she knows her stuff. She ran Fletcher through a bunch of aggression tests, the conclusion being like a boot to the stomach: bad genetics. You shouldn’t keep him in a house with a child, and you can’t rehome him. Which leaves us with only one alternative: The Rainbow Bridge.

Yes, I of course know the Rainbow Bridge is something a grieving dog owner made up to help the rest of us through times like this. But still, I must try to take comfort and amusement in the imagined scene of Fletcher meeting Gomer there, and all hell breaking loose. And I must try to celebrate Fletcher’s short-but-happy life.

Fletcher loved him some snow, and finally, finally just learned to drop a retrieving dummy and sit on a hand signal.

He was a pain in the ass. And we love him. And saying goodbye sucks. And I hate that Griffin has to go through it at only six years old.

But life happens. Someone said, Don’t cry that it is over. Smile that it happened. Imma try to go with that.

In memory of Grace: Mother’s Day, miscarriage and Misoprostol

WARNING: this post is not for the faint of heart. You should not read it if you are 1. a coworker who may already think I come on a little too strong or just doesn’t want to know a LOT about me personally 2. a client or prospective client who wants to see my professional side 3. anyone who doesn’t like to keep it really, really real and just wants me to be all professional and stuff. 4. one of my haters (yes, I have a few. If you are among them, you can please fsck off right now. This is not for you.) Many would say that, professionally, I should not publish this. I have my reasons, and the biggest one is a belief that I owe it to other women to share a horrific experience that I don’t want them to ever have to go through. Also, more selfishly, I have never talked about this and think it is really healthy to do so. There’s a secret club out there of so many women who have suffered through miscarriage and never talk about it until they know you are in the club, too; it’s time for us to come out and support each other. Or at least for me to offer my advice, support, and prayers for you.

Allright if you’ve made it through that warning and are still here, God bless you, I love you and thank you for your support. First off, I have to say God bless my mother in heaven, who had THREE miscarriages and a STILLBIRTH before she had the perseverance to have my two older brothers and me. I cannot imagine how strong she must have been. Then, I have to say how incredibly grateful and blessed I am to have my wonderful son, Griffin, and how much my heart bleeds for women who want to have children but cannot, including one of my very best friends. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.

Oooooookay then. Finally. Here’s my story…

My son was born five and a half years ago. I am often asked why we only have one child, and every single time, it shatters my heart all over again. (So, uh, think twice before you ask people that question, K?) We, like many couples, envisioned having two children. I would have been delighted whether the second was a girl or a boy. But, the girl had a name, and her name was to be Grace. Griffin and Grace…that was the plan. Sadly, plans don’t always go how we want them to.

Just over two and a half years ago, in the summertime, I found out I was pregnant for the second time. I was, of course, delighted. Exhausted and sick as hell, but delighted. They gave me the big binder on healthy pregnancy, scheduled my ultrasound for the next week, and sent me on my happy way to tell my husband and son that we were having another baby.

They had suspected a possible miscarriage the summer before, but it was so early in the pregnancy that they couldn’t be sure. Basically, while trying not to be TOO disgusting (and failing royally at that), some tissue had fallen out of me into the toilet that looked like it might be a very small person. OK, that’s so disgusting that it’s making me laugh…stay with me here…so, uh, they wanted the ultrasound to happen right away. At 39 I was no spring chicken, and at 53, neither was my husband. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

They did the ultrasound. And the heartbeat we were so anxious to see…wasn’t there. There was a well-developed amniotic sack…with nothing visible in it. They said there was a 90%+ chance that I had miscarried, but we’d wait another week to be sure. Try going to work every day with a smile on your face knowing that you probably have a dead baby inside of you…awesome. A week passed miserably, they repeated the ultrasound…still nothing. Definite miscarriage-in-the-making.

After my sobbing subsided a little, they gave me three choices: 1. wait for the miscarriage to complete itself on its own, which could take weeks or months. In other words, keep going to work every day with a fake smile on your face, knowing that you have a dead baby inside of you that might choose to come out at any time. Mmmm…no. No thanks. Not a great option. What else you got? 2. Have D&C surgery. Mmmm…I get massively sick from anesthesia. What else you got? 3. Take a drug called Misoprostol, aka “the abortion pill”. This will cause you to miscarry at home. From my vantage point now, I don’t know WTF I was thinking at the time, except probably just wanting to be curled up, at home, in the (irony) fetal position. I chose option three, the Misoprostol.

I scheduled some time off work, picked “the day”, and crammed some tablets up my vagina periodically as instructed, every few hours. (“Not now, Griffin…mommy is busy…”) It took seemingly forever, but I started cramping and, uh, “stuff” started coming out. I’ll actually spare you the details of that…suffice it to say that it was long and protracted and disgusting and painful and heartbreaking and there are no existing words that can describe it.

When that part was done, I started bleeding. Profusely. Like, WTF am I doing at home right now,  why would they let me do this here, profusely. Soaking through pads in a matter of seconds. It was evening. I called my doctor’s office, and there was no one available to talk to me. Umm…I kinda think I’m bleeding out here…”we’ll have the doctor call you back.” Yes, thanks, that’d be swell. I called my friend and asked her to come over right away and watch Griffin so we could go to the E.R. The doctor called me back, and said yes, yes, that would be the right thing to do about now. And just as my friend arrived…the bleeding stopped.

OK, it’s over. Except, it’s not. Not everything came out. So I kept bleeding, and ended up having to go in a week later for the D&C surgery that I should have had in the first place. I had to give the hospital permission to bury my baby’s (I am sorry, I cannot bring myself to call her a fetus, and if you do I will punch you in the face) remains in a cemetery. And they gave me this, which still makes me sob, two and a half years later, every time I see it.

I have no way of knowing, of course, whether that baby would have been a boy or a girl, but in my heart, I know that was my Grace. This experience was so devastating, I was never strong enough to bounce back to the point where I wanted to try again. I wish to God I had been as strong as my mother was. So, we’ve never really tried, and we’ve never really tried not to.

And now, as I write this, I’m 42, and my husband is about to turn a very young 56. I’ve bounced back to the point where we could try again, but pregnancies at our age are risky and very unlikely to succeed. That doesn’t mean I am not open to it…I would be thrilled.

The moral of the story…if, God forbid, you are ever presented with this choice, and I pray to God that you never are, I would strongly encourage you to just have the D&C and move on. Misoprostol sucks beyond expression.

This Mother’s Day, God bless all Mothers…and all who want to be. In my view, if you ever had a baby inside of you, then you are a Mother.

Thank you for listening. Please share your experiences here if you’d like to talk about them and get some support.


Less Wii. More wheeeeeeee! Better parenting in 2011

Parenting is hard (to any parent, I am stating the obvious). Much harder than most people imagine, before they are up to their eyeballs in it. With work, and exercise, and keeping a (reasonably) sane house, and pets, and maintaining some friendships and yada yada yada, being “The Good Enough Mother” (or father) is elusive. Research says we’ve given up on being “The Perfect Mother”, thank God; it’s now evidently considered enough to be “The Good Enough Mother.” Yet, even that seems like a high bar many days.

My son is five, and now, we have a new-ish challenge. This year, 2010, he truly discovered THE GAME. The computer game (Lego Harry Potter), the iPad game (Lego Harry Potter), the iPhone app (Harry Potter Spells) and now, thanks to Santa, the Wii game (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is too hard, so Lego Indiana Jones). He also writes his own code for Harry Potter games he is inventing, but that’s another story altogether. And already, he’s gone from a kid who uttered “outside” as one of his first few words to a kid who whines incessantly about turning the game off and going outside.

Just this morning, an unusually warm day for December 31, we told him he could not play any games until we all took the dogs for a nice long walk to the park. The excuses came spewing forth immediately: “Can’t Dad just do it?” “I don’t like walks.” “I’m tired.” Halfway to the park: “Can we go home now?” “I’m tired.” Translation: I just want to go home and play the Wii. We continue the forced march to the park, and get on a swing. And, wait. What’s this? Who is this child hollering “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” and “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!!!” Happy kid, happy dogs, happy parents. For a little while.

But then we get home. And I’m the one whining about being tired, and having a headache, (all quite true) and taking him for a bike ride later instead of now. And somehow The Good Enough Mother has gone AWOL. And, as I sit in bed planning menus for the holiday weekend with my 87-year-old father and writing this, what’s he doing? Playing the Wii.

Yes, yes, no one is perfect and no one has energy all the time. And even I have to admit that I’m not, generally, a slacker parent. When I get home from work typically around 6:30PM, we do art projects and science experiments, when we can. Or we read Harry Potter books. Or, if my energy fails completely, we watch Harry Potter movies and snuggle off to sleep. Now, we might play Wii bowling when I get home, my personal favorite because it’s the only one I don’t completely suck at. On top of the many other resolutions for 2011 (More laughter, less drama; Lose the same 10 pounds I lose every Spring; Write more.) I’ve got one more to add here and it’s NOT getting better at video games.

I like games as much as the next person (though I am a hold out against Angry Birds because I don’t need another addiction). To me, it comes down to this. Compare the vacant stare in a kid’s eyes when they are playing a video game, regardless of platform (Helloooo? Junior? I’m talking to you.) to the light in a child’s eyes when they are fully engaged IRL. There. Is. No. Comparison.

Therefore, I believe we have an important resolution to make for our children: Less Wii, and more “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” Let’s go into 2011 with that top of mind.

Do you agree? Can you relate? Do you have similar challenges with your little people?

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