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She'sWrite: The Battle Against the Bulge Continues

Well, I’ve been trying to lose 30 pounds for the past four months. I told myself that after I dropped my first 10, I’d blog about it. If you follow this blog much, you’ll note that I haven’t really written about my weight loss.

Photo by GenBug on Flickr.It’s because I’m not really losing. I’d lose 10 pounds then gain back two. Then three. After a bit, the scale would start to drop again, but never the steady decline that I hoped needed expected to see. I’m down two sizes, which is great, but I still can’t fit comfortably into most of my wardrobe.

I’ve been doing OK on my workouts. I admit, I’m bummed about my shin splints, and when I bike ride or hit the elliptical, I don’t push myself as much as I do when I’m running. It’s a motivation thing, or lack thereof. I’m working on getting my mojo back.

Where I’m really lax is the eating front. I love food. Love it. And I’m a damn good cook. I was eating “clean” for awhile and Hubby and I were devouring Tosca Reno’s recipes. That was the problem. I’d fix a properly proportioned plate. Eat it with a glass of wine or two. Then, since dinner was so tasty, I’d decide to go back for a smidge more. That would be followed by more wine and a smidge more dinner. (I’m cringing as I type this because reading about my weight battle in black and white doesn’t seem as complicated as it feels.)

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Easy Outing: Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin

When my husband, daughter and I turned into the parking lot for the Fox River Trolley Museum, I was skeptical. It looked like a graveyard for unwanted, rusted-out train cars. But our visit was one of the most fun, unique family outings we’ve had in a while. Read on to find out why.

Name: Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, an outdoor museum devoted to electric trolley cars and featuring a 4-mile round trip along the Fox River.

Location: Along Route 31 in South Elgin, on the west side of the Fox River. The address is 361 South LaFox Street, three blocks south of State Street in South Elgin. The museum is on the east side of the road and is marked by flags.

This trolley was built in 1924 for what would become the Chicago Rapid Transit Co. Photos by Tara Burghart.Hours: On Sundays from Mother’s Day through the first Sunday in November, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturdays from the last Saturday in June through Labor Day, from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. (The last trolley leaves about a half-hour before the museum closes.) Also open on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. See the “Special Events” section below for info on holiday-themed events in October and December. Check the museum visitor's guide for more details, too.

Amenities: The museum has a number of shaded picnic tables and a vending machine that sells cold soda. In the ticket office, there are a few candy treats available for purchase, as well as souvenirs. There is no running water at the site. There are two portable restrooms. The museum says that County Park, a few hundred yards northeast of the museum grounds, features restrooms with running water, but I was unable to check those out in person. The trolley trip makes a stop at the Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, which features covered shelters with fire places and grills, as well as dry restrooms. Basically, don't forget your hand sanitizer.

Price: I suppose you could wander around the museum grounds for free, but the real highlight is the 4-mile round trip on a trolley along the banks of the Fox River. One ride for an adult on the trolley is $4. Seniors are $3. Children ages 3 through 11 are $2. Children 2 and under are free. If you’d like to ride the trolley twice, you can add just $1 to your ticket, but that decision has to be made when you make your initial purchase.

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Five Great ... Places to Build Sand Castles

The nearest ocean might be nearly 1,000 miles away, but that doesn’t mean you and your kids can’t build an awesome sand castle. Here are some of our picks for the best places to put your imagination, buckets and shovels to use.

Photo by Joe Dsilva on Flickr.Oak Street Beach in Chicago: If you’re up for a trip into the city, the famous “Dr. Beach” (known for his annual list of Top 10 Beaches) singled out this urban beach, along Lakeshore Drive, on his list of “Five Great Great Lakes Beaches” this year. 

Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia: This former stone quarry has a huge sand-bottom swimming area and lots of beach for building sand castles, along with a playground and plenty of picnic areas. It was one of Go West's favorite spots last summer.

Centennial Beach in Naperville: This beach, around since 1932, also operates out of a former quarry property. It’s a popular spot – attracting more than 135,000 visitors each summer.

Otter Cove Splash Park in St. Charles: One of the four play sections at this fun site is devoted to sand and water. When your kids get tired of sand play, they just have to rinse off to enjoy spray columns, dumping buckets, geysers and more.

Indiana Dunes: My friend Annie at {kidlist} provided this great guide to beaches along the dunes in northwest Indiana.

Go West Readers: Where’s your favorite spot to build sand castles?


Weekend Spotlight: Musicals, Movies, Frogs & Toads

Fourth of July fun might be over, but this weekend still has lots of fun activities to look forward to. Check the Go West Calendar for details, but here are a few that jump out as particularly special:

Poster courtesy of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival.FAMILY ROOM TOUR: Children’s musician and author Jim Gill will be performing at the Red Bandshell of Cantigny in Wheaton at 2 p.m. Saturday. The show is free, but a $5 parking fee applies.

PHONE HOME: You can revisit a classic from your youth (or at least my youth) by watching “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” in Elgin’s Meijer Park on Saturday night. Activities and concessions begin at 7 p.m. The movie will be shown at sunset.

MUSICALLY YOURS: The Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival’s Summer Theatre Production is “Bye Bye Birdie,” about a rock ‘n’ roll singer heading off to serve in the Army. It will be peformed at the Kaneland High School Auditorium in Maple Park on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., as well as July 15-17, too. I love that in addition to the per-person ticket prices, the festival offers a $23 family ticket.

SUDDENLY SEYMOUR: The Fox Valley Repertory Theatre will be performing “Little Shop of Horrors” – about an exotic plant with odd eating habits – on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. through July 15. You can also catch the show (at Pheasant Run in St. Charles) this Sunday at 7 p.m.

WARTS & ALL: The “Animals All Around” program at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora focuses on a different set of animals each weekend. This Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., your kids can learn about frogs and toads. It’s a free program.


Baby Makes Four: Introducing Ethan Zane!

Our guest contributor Stacia returns, and she'll now be regularly writing a column called "Baby Makes Four" about the changes that come along with adding a newborn to the mix. So far, it's going swimmingly.

Hey ya’ll!!! Did ya miss me?! Do you even remember me? I know it’s been a while but ya see I’ve been kinda busy growing a human and then having said human. SURPRISE! He came early: 4 weeks and 2 days early to be exact, and he’s perfect.

Meet Ethan Zane. Photo by Megan Abelard Photography.Remember all that talk about names? I do think I might have mentioned we finally picked out his first name but we were still undecided on the middle. Ahhh we can now check those things off the list! I would like to formally introduce you to my son, Ethan Zane.

His initials are EZE. Oh yes, we went all gangasta rapper. Ya know... Eazy E, the dead gangta rapper? No? Well some of you might know who I’m talking about. Actually we didn’t name him after a dead rapper, his initials just happen to spell it out, but we are calling him EZ as a nickname cause holy cow it’s the cutest thing evah! Zane was a strong contender for a first name but when we came across Ethan we didn’t want to throw away Zane either. And there ya go.

He is now four weeks old. I’ve had such an amazing experience this time around. With my daughter, Ava, I had postpartum depression, and she was also early (5 weeks and 2 days -- one whole week gestationally younger than EZ). Ava’s surprise birth and stay in the NICU threw me for such a loop that it took a long time for me to come to terms with it all. She was in the NICU for 13 days.

I started having contractions with Ethan early on. I just knew what was going to happen. I ended up laboring for four days. That was fun, but I was praying I could go for just one more day. One more day with him inside me meant, hopefully, one less day in the NICU. I knew he would immediately have to go to the NICU due to his gestational age, and this time I was prepared for it. I am a freakin’ pro at having babies and not having them come home with me right away.

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