By Stefanie McLeese
In my sister-in-law’s quest to get her big brother back home to the Champaign area from Texas, she pushed Chambanamoms.com on me years ago as proof of the “awesome network of supportive and connected moms.” I’d actually say it played a pretty darn big part in making me feel comfortable leaving my beloved Lone Star State for life as a Yankee (because that’s what we Texans call anyone living north of Oklahoma).
I read about the indoor playgrounds, where kids can eat free, the lists of, well, anything a mom could want. The fish frys, the summer camps, the birthday party guide, etc.; it’s all there. But there are a few things that don’t exactly translate into neat little lists. As a mom of three kids, knowing these things sooner would have made the transition easier for our family in a variety of ways. Maybe you can relate?
- The difference between Champaign and Urbana. I’m still figuring this out, but clearly there’s Champaign and there’s Urbana. There’s Schnucks and there’s Common Ground. There’s the Virginia Theatre and there’s Station Theatre. The differences are probably not even something townies consciously consider, but for a newbie, it has been an experience discovering the distinction in the two. From shopping, entertainment and dining, to parenting styles, housing, schools and everything in between, the differences are very real. Our family has certainly found things to love about both.
- The cultural diversity in C-U is awesome. Giving our kids exposure to as much as possible outside of their immediate bubble is important to us. I had a blast with some colleagues taking an Ikebana class at Japan House and look forward to taking my kids when they’re a little older. The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies has a fantastic children’s outreach program. My 4- and 5-year-old kids regularly chant something in Portuguese – I think – that they picked up during their Capoeira Angola lessons from Ms. Aiesha at The Capoeira Angola Centre of Mestre João Grande in Urbana. The mix of people with different backgrounds and opportunities for cultural enrichment is definitely here.
- The list of “bad moms.” OK, so this really isn’t a thing, but it should be. Making friends as a grown up – as a busy mom – is hella-hard. I think we all have a little “bad mom” in us, but we’re too afraid of being judged to let it shine. So let me top the list of “bad moms” who don’t read every school note that comes home, forget it’s picture day until the morning of said day, doesn’t do Elf on the Shelf or send a family holiday card, yells more than she should, prefers liquor over wine, says “potty words” and believes it’s OK to leave screaming children behind to meet up with girlfriends for a night out to feed her soul. Anyone want to add to the list? On that note … Girls night with Brushville at City Center anyone?
Stefanie Santos McLeese is a native Texan, an independent public relations advisor and the mother of three children (5, almost 4 and 2) who are her “toughest clients.” She met her Monticello-native husband playing rec league flag football in Dallas where they married and had their children before moving to Illinois in June 2015 for a wholesome, Midwest, child-rearing experience, and near retired, babysitting-in-laws who live seven minutes door-to-door.