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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

11 Things I Learned About ME after Being Married to Dave Ford for 11 Years

Today is my wedding anniversary. 11 years ago Dave Ford and I were married in a small Episcopal church, Saint Alban’s in Central El Paso (I could see it from my bathroom window), by Father Louie. Father Louie was a nutjob of a priest, from England, who lived outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, on several acres of land that he dedicated to saving abandoned animals of all kinds. He is dead now; our second son is named after him and several other awesome versions of the name Louis from relatives and friends.

I can safely that after 11 years of marriage the one thing I have become a total expert on is ME. When you spend every minute of every day of every year with the same human, experiencing endless amounts of experiences together, you get a fulltime commentator on your behavior and reactions to your life. In REAL time. (Of course this is assuming you’ve married an honest human.)

Instead of posting about how much I love my husband (barf) and how awesome our marriage is (it better be, considering how hard we work at it) and how I grow every day in my love for him (more like my love of wine), I thought I would post 11 Things I Learned About ME after 11 Years of Marriage, which is so much more my speed. (And of course I've learned more than 11 things about ME in the last 11 years but the number had to match the anniversary!) Here goes;

1. There are numerous facts about simple things (i.e. the temperature that water boils) that never stuck to my brain, making it essential that I raise children with a partner who has a brain that holds facts.
2. I am a connector.
3. I am a collector of experiences not things.
4. Moving and geographical exploration is in my DNA.
5. Physical activity is essential for my spirit.
6. Water is something I need to live by in order to feel connected to the earth.
7. I love meeting new people.
8. In new social situations, I ask more questions than I answer.
9. Fast and furious is my speed.
10. I’m a great teacher.
11. I’m a consistent and disciplined mother.

Now of course you probably expected that list to include a few more negatives than all those positives but I attribute my positive self-awareness to the genius choice I made in my life partner Dave Ford. My husband is a very honest man, who keeps it real at all times. And although I truly believe he loves me more than ice cream and pizza, I also believe that he loves me honestly and isn’t afraid to always provide me honest reactions to my life and my life decisions. Plenty of people surround themselves with “yes” people and people that adore them blindly. But I’ve got a hunch that if you are going to work with someone for a bunch of years through a bunch of experiences, the basis for that partnership should be honesty and real-ness.

I texted Dave this morning that marrying him was and still is one of the “best decisions of my life” and I meant it, for real.

Monday, July 30, 2012

It brings me great pleasure to purchase my brother’s music on iTunes

If I weren’t so busy bragging about myself on this blog, I’d take the time to brag about my brother Mark degli Antoni. Yes, he spells his name differently than I do (Degliantoni) and yes, he is the famous keyboardist from Soul Coughing and most recently David Byrne’s world tour.

He is also an incredibly gifted composer who does film scores for the likes of William Wegman (Hardly Boys) and Werner Herzog (Into the Abyss). In fact just today I opened my email to find a link to his most recent score for Into the Abyss on sale on iTunes. How fun it was to buy my brother’s work and support his artistic endeavors, with just a few clicks.

I always complain that the Internet and Apple products were created only to shop but that’s so not true. One of the most exciting manifestations of the World Wide Web is the ability for artists to collaborate and present their works to a global audience for little to no cost.

Visit iTunes here and give a listen to Mark’s haunting score and visit to listen to more of his work in a variety of styles.

And don’t worry, I’ll be back to bragging about myself soon enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Humbled by a Woodpecker

Last night walking home from the beach with my older son Miles, we saw a male Downy woodpecker eating ants off the bark of a tree. With his red hat of feathers, he jackhammered his head into the bark; too busy eating to fly away as we gawked at him from inches away.

I was so excited and in a hushed hurried tone told Miles, “Oh I wish I had my camera! Last time I shot a picture of a female, she doesn’t have the read feathers on her head. And I posted it on my blog and you wouldn’t believe this, but more people have read that post that anything else! It’s amazing the traffic that a little post on a woodpecker gets!”

Miles looked at me in utter disgust and said “Mom, that’s awful. People don’t even come to your blog to read about you? They care more about a dumb woodpecker? That’s weak.”

I was about to challenge his scathing judgment on my reader’s lack of interest in me but I let it be.

Parents have to pick their battles with their children (and all children for that matter) very wisely.

And part of me thought, “Go right ahead, child. Believe that people think a woodpecker is more interesting than your mother.”


Photo credit:


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to tell stories about my new life in Evanston. You can also find my stories on

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Collecting dead bugs for the dudes, spending way too much money on summer fun and thoughts on how to raise grateful children

Pictured above are two Cicada carcasses I recently collected off the sidewalk for my children. Ask yourself, “do I know anyone who collects dead bugs for their children?” Now you do.

These dead bugs represent the tip of the iceberg on my recent obsession with raising grateful children. But first to understand the depth of this obsession we’ll go back, far back, to the days when my kids were really young. Back in the day in our house, if I bought a bag of M&Ms, I doled out as many pieces as the children were old. If you were 6, you got 6 M&Ms candies in your hand AND you were psyched you weren’t 2 years old. Peers without children thought this practice was cruel, peers with children felt intense pity for my boys.

But I come from the lonely school that only deprivation can make the emotions of gratefulness come to life. And I was determined to raise children who were grateful for anything I gave them to include pancakes or a college education. Ungrateful children are at the top of my list of children I abhor. I also abhor children without self-control and bad manners, i.e. children with LAZY parents.

So as this summer approached and I found myself writing large checks to Evanston Parks and Rec for summer camps and a super cool babysitter who would take my boys to the beach everyday, I became totally obsessed with this single thought “those boys better be grateful for the massive financial sacrifices we are making for them this summer! My parents didn’t send me to camp! I had to sit and stare at the wall all summer! Kids these day!!!!” My boys’ were out of luck before summer even started, as I just knew they’d be ungrateful!

The best piece of advice my mother ever gave me was “If you have a problem with your husband, take it right to him, don’t sit around and talk about it with your girlfriends, there’s nothing they can do about it.” So, I jumped the gun and went straight to my children before they could even display an ungrateful attitude for one second. I sat them down and gave them a big talk and told them how much work it was for us to produce an amazing summer and that I expected them to be grateful for summer camp, their awesome babysitter AND Lake Michigan. Throughout my speech, they just stared at me and said, “Thank you mom, we are very grateful for summer camp.” I couldn’t have scripted a better response!

As I read books like Willpower and Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I marvel at Chinese-American parents who are able to raise grateful, disciplined and high performing children with the sheer premise that it’s just what’s expected. I want kids who understand what’s expected of them and that includes being grateful for the sacrifices I make as a parent, everyday of my life. It’s my job to communicate that, which is why we’re reading this blog post as a family after dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday Breakfast: 6 boys, 24 pancakes, 3 minutes, 1 HUGE milestone

Warning: For those of you parents reading this who used to attend Pancake Saturdays, you are going to cry big crocodile tears mostly because like never before, you are going to miss ME and those quiet hours on Saturday morning when I would take your children off your hands for several hours and leave you to do laundry, nurse a hangover, make out with your partner, whatever you used to do. Know that I miss YOU too, and am crying with you.

When we lived in El Paso we used to host a Saturday morning social event for neighborhood kids called “Pancake Saturdays”. Adults were invited to drop off their children around 8 a.m. and pick up them up around 11 a.m. (that same day) and were discouraged from coming inside for coffee, as it was a “’kids only” thing. Between 8-11 a.m. (in no particular order) my children hosted up to 8 friends in our home and without any adult supervision (aka micromanaging) they played games, watched cartoons and hosted a pancake breakfast, all I had to do was make 40 pancakes on the skillet in my kitchen in my jammies.

Some of our fondest memories of El Paso are of Pancake Saturdays. Of course now that they don’t take place anymore my children have romanticized the breakfasts talking about the hundreds of children who attended and the buckets of candy I distributed. But the truth is, Pancake Saturdays were always small and totally sweet and catered to the neighborhood.

Our last year in El Paso the breakfasts didn’t occur as often as Saturday mornings got eaten up by organized sports. We talked a lot about having Pancake Saturdays but they just sort of stopped and me and my children missed them and then we moved. Would we ever have them again?

The first thing you need for Pancake Saturdays is a group of friends then you need the space to feed the friends breakfast. Upon arriving in our teeny tiny apartment it was obvious hosting more than 2 children for breakfast was out of the question and we really only had one friend who was a kid and her mom didn’t like her eating the pancakes I made and instead wanted us to try the healthy kind. We decided to table Pancake Saturdays.

And then just last month we moved into an apartment with room to host more than 4 diners in the kitchen or the dining room – my spirit lifted at the chance to host anything! And what did we host first? A pancake breakfast! It was totally on the wrong day (Sunday) and was part of an all-day Axis and Allies tournament that catered to 10-year old boys not necessarily neighbors, but we finally hosted a pancake breakfast and it felt so awesome. As is the case with the most of the milestones we experience in our new life, I find myself over analyzing and obsessing about every detail. I ask myself questions like “How does today’s milestone compare to the one in El Paso?” “How are these children different than the children in El Paso?” “Are my children looking homesick and sad?” “Do these pancakes seem dry?”

And as I sit and obsess, I look at my children for guidance and they seem to be so calm, not at all carrying the burden of overanalyzing every minute. But who knows with children! Sometimes they don’t talk about a thought or feeling for several months or even years. Sitting there eating pancakes at our kitchen table with 6 friends, my children looked calm and didn’t at all seem to be picking up the screaming message in my head that was blaring “THIS IS THE FIRST PANCAKE BREAKFAST WE’VE HOSTED IN OUR NEW CITY, ISN’T THIS INSANE?!?!?!” (Could you for one minute imagine being my child?)

Of course I learned a few things about my children and their new friends despite all the over-analyzing I was doing. Here are just a few things I picked up on;
1. Both of my children are so much more patient than I am when it comes to making friends
2. Boys do talk, they talk so much
3. When left alone, children problem solve with words (I sort of knew that already)
4. Six children can play together for up to six hours without video games. Imagine?!

It feels so great to still be learning so much from our move, I didn’t anticipate that would be such a huge part of it. And it also feels so good to carry over old traditions and make them new and unique to our new city and life. I am grateful to have children who are open and patient, they are both making me that way every day. And who knows, maybe we’ll switch it up and host Pancake Sundays from now on, we had such an amazing first run.


Thank you for reading my blog "Evanston Newbie", a project that I am using to chronicle my new life in Evanston. Do you have favorite Evanston bakeries, bike shops, events that you can recommend? Send me an email at and I will post my review on this blog. -Lisa Degliantoni

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wildlife sighting: American Goldfinch

There's a new bird in town and everyone's talking about him! The American Goldfinch has been spotted flying around Evanston this June and July, and the yellow feathers make this an easy bird to spot.

The image above is from the Cornell Lab of Orinthology ( as I never seem to be quick enough to catch one of these birds with my camera.

I'm thinking about putting out a bird feeder to see if I can attract any of these to my back porch, but the robins might scare them away.

I'm off to do my homework on the migratory patterns of the American Goldfinch, also known as the Eastern Goldfinch and Wild Canary, to see if I can officially name this bird my summer bird.

Other Wildlife sightings:

Female Downy Woodpecker

Red Fox

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Just like the Jeffersons, we’re moving on up!

One fun fact about El Paso, TX, (my previous hometown) is that Sherman Hemsley from The Jeffersons lives there. Sherman and I used to live in the same town. And like Sherman, my family recently moved on up from a two bedroom to a three bedroom apartment. It’s not every day that you can find things in common with a celebrity! But I digress.

The transition from a house to an apartment was big enough for my family, but for the last year, we have been living in a space ½ the size of our home in El Paso and it has been a challenge. Or should I confess that mainly it was a challenge for me as I couldn’t have anyone over for dinner, also I had to walk around the neighborhood to have private phone calls. Now that I think about it, more walking and less eating socially is probably why I lost 41 pounds in a year.

What our new apartment affords us is space to host guests (comfortably) and the luxury to entertain guests in our dining room! “It’s so nice not to have to eat in the kitchen” said my son during our first dining room meal! And it’s true!

We’ve spent the last year working on being appreciative of our apartment and living space and learning to just be grateful in general (all part of my personal Happiness Project thanks to Gretchen Rubin). How wonderful then to transition to a bigger apartment exactly one year after our arrival in Evanston, one year more grateful and ready to really appreciate a bigger space.

What does this have to do with you? Buy the furniture we no longer want! After making yet another living transition, we’re getting rid of all kinds of furniture and are totally willing to haggle. And because we don’t have a driveway to host a garage sale in, everything is for sale on!

China Hutch, $500

Desk Lamps, $40

Bathroom Hamper & Shelves, $75

Bathroom Shelves, $50

Bookshelf, $75

Metal Kitchen Shelf, $40

Espresso Machine & accessories, $75

Thank you in advance for your help lightening our load and for reading this blog!