Meet Our Best of Bump Club “Chicago Real Moms” Panel

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We are so excited for our special “Chicago Real Mom” PANELISTS to be joining us at our 9th annual Best of Bump Club & Beyond on Saturday May 4!   These amazing women will be spilling it all as part of our exclusive BCB Panel presented by the Chaotic Commute: Real Chicago Moms Spill It All!  During the panel, you will learn all of their hidden gems, pearls of wisdom, tips and tricks to their motherhood journey.  

In addition to this exclusive panel at Best of Bump Club, we are featuring several more expert seminars throughout the day, including Gearapalooza with @thebabyguyNYC, Infant CPR, Potty Training, Sibling Preparation, Newborn Sleep Strategies, Toddler Sleep Strategies + SO MUCH MORE. You will meet our top experts including Janeen Hayward from Swellbeing, The Lactation Partners, Lara Field, RD from FEED, Rebecca Michi and Twiniversity + more!

The all-day event will include the BEST experts, the BEST resources, the BEST services, and the BEST brands for your family who will be on hand to showcase their product recommendations and their expertise.  Talk one-on-one with them and ask any questions! This is the PERFECT event with the BEST education and information for parents-to-be, new parents and parents of toddlers.

We can’t wait to introduce you to our CHICAGO REAL MOM panelists.  Make sure to join us at their panel to hear their expertise, stop by and say hi & keep reading below for a sneak peek into their lives!

We want you to meet…

1) Name: Jenny LeFlore

Age: 38

Kid(s) and Ages: ObieQ 2.5yo

Where do you live? Chicago, IL (Bronzeville neighborhood)

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Work life: I am the Mama behind Mama Fresh. I use the words community builder, advocate, influencer, and Mama to describe myself. Mama Fresh is a community where the diversity in motherhood is celebrated advice on exploring the city with your little one partnered with hosting unique programming. Mama Fresh is all about taking a Fresh Approach to Motherhood. We were women about town before and that hasn’t changed. We are living full social lives, running businesses and managing relationships with a baby on our hip and a community that has our back.

What has been the biggest reward of motherhood? When your child is kind to someone else. That’s the biggest reward. I want to raise a kind, curious son. When I see him being kind to others it warms my heart.

What’s your best “mom-hack” you think other moms could benefit from? (We all one at least one time or sanity saving tip that everyone would want to know…spill it!) Follow the lead of your child. It will save you so much time and heartache if you follow the lead of your child. As soon as you see a spark in your child’s eye dive in deep. Right now my toddler is into dinosaurs and outer space. We listen to songs, watch videos and do crafts all centered around these two topics. I funnel all of his learning through dinosaurs and planets. Also snacks. Have all the snacks at all time. That is my top mom hack 🙂

What is the best part about where you live? Chicago is such a perfect city to raise a family. We are one city comprised of 77 different neighborhoods. The diversity is our true gift. You can experience so many different kinds of food, music, and culture all within city limits.

Favorite thing to do with your kids in your hometown. Museums in the winter. Museum of Science and Industry is minutes from our house and we frequent often. In the summer you can find us at the lakefront or one of the countless neighborhood street festivals.

Favorite date night in your hometown. The food scene in Chicago is amazing! It sounds old fashioned but drinks and dinner are a great night for us. Recently we have been taking staycations to kick it up a knotch. It’s something about staying in a cool boutique hotel. Just the two of you. Not tripping over toys and no laundry haunting you!

What are 5 things that you could not “mom” without?   1. Apple Music- We listen to music all the time in our house and car. My son has his own playlists depending on his mood. 2. Amazon (my new obsession is Prime Now) 3. Yoga and quick meditation- my 2yo is learning to regulate his emotions. We use simple techniques to return him to his breath and cut meltdowns short. 4. Nutribullet-My son is determined to survive off of only chicken nuggets and spaghetti. I sneak veggies in everything 5. Pinterest- We are a big craft house. I use Pinterest to get inspired. There are times we nail it…there are other times it’s more “abstract”

What are your 5 must-have items in your diaper bag? 1. Essentials like diapers etc 2. Busy bags (full of stickers, crayons, etc. If you plan on having a peaceful meal, this is necessary 3. Portable potty training seat 4. Snacks for my son 5. Bar for me (no one wants a hangry Mama)

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do? I have decided to make things that make me feel good a priority. I have started working out, which is something I have neglected since having my son. I love listening to podcasts, I miss reading books so this gives me that fix

Who are your “mom idols?” I have 3. My Mama. My mama and are a completely different but she was flexible with her parenting the entire time. I admire this. Famous Mom: Chrissy Teigan. Being open and honest about life post partum. Pics of her pumping in the car after award shows. Finding balance between her personal identity, career, marriage and kids. I love it. My last mom idols are the Fresh Mamas that I talk to everyday. Real life day to day Mamas who are making it all happen.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? My mom tribe is full of

How do you balance it all? Breaking News: I don’t. I juggle. It’s a constant dance. There are days when I am killing it as a Mom other days I am knocking it out as a momprenuer. I don’t let it get me down. I focus on what is in front of me. I always make sure there is time with ObieQ and myself, no phone no email just connection.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? “Grown Woman” by International Star and Mom Beyonce

Tell us a little bit about your blog/IG account/online persona and what is your mission behind it: Follow me on IG @MamaFreshChi. My mission behind my content is to be that Mom friend you didn’t know you need. I want Mamas to know they aren’t alone!

We want you to meet…

2) Name:  Suzanne Warye

Age: 38

Kid(s) and Ages: Harper (4), Evy (2) and a baby boy due in September

Where do you live? Glencoe, IL

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Work life: I’m a stay at home mom, turned into a work at home mom. I have a blog, My Kind Of Sweet, which has turned into a small business.

What has been the biggest reward of motherhood? So many. Feeling that this is who I was meant to be: mama to my two girls and my boy on the way. Watching my girls grow, learn become who they’re meant to be.

What’s your best “mom-hack” you think other moms could benefit from? (We all one at least one time or sanity saving tip that everyone would want to know…spill it!)  I practice my self care when my girls are in the tub. Whether it’s a shower (I can still see them) or my favorite face mask, it’s time that I get to do something for me while they play.

AND, I wake up before them each day. That’s essential for my sanity!

What is the best part about where you live? It’s close enough to Chicago, but still has the small town feel that we love.

Favorite thing to do with your kids in your hometown. We love going for bike rides as a family, getting lunch at Foodstuffs and then having a picnic by the beach.

Favorite date night in your hometown. A dinner at Guildhall and then home in bed early. 🙂

What are 5 things that you could not “mom” without?  (Products, apps, anything that helps you to be a better mom.)  COFFEE. (That’s a no-brainer), a reliable and trustworthy babysitter.

What are your 5 must-have items in your diaper bag? A change of clothes (for all of us), diapers, so many wipes it’s obscene, easy on-the-go snacks and water.

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do?  I prioritize getting a good workout in (usually at Shred415), and then getting some work done. It’s my escape.

Who are your “mom idols”?  My mom is my biggest mom idol. Also, any moms who are honest about not having it all together and the real mom life struggle. My celebrity mom crush/idol is Kristen Bell.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? I’m lucky to have so many strong mamas around me who are an incredible support to me. Most of them I met when our first kids were babies, and we’ve grown together as moms. My best friend is a mom of three – and we met when we were 6 months old.

What is one piece of advice for new moms that you wish someone told you before motherhood? It’s not easy. It might be the most natural thing in the world, but that doesn’t mean that it will come without struggles. And that if most days you feel like you’re failing, chances are you’re doing it right.

How do you balance it all? Ha! I don’t. It’s a constant juggling act, every day all day. But, I try to look at it as a blessing. I’d much rather have a full (and fulfilling) life, than feel like something is missing. Striving for balance is just a part of the journey.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?  This was so hard! I’d have to say Run The World (Girls) by Beyonce (but I will probably need a new one as soon as this boy gets here!)

Tell us a little bit about your blog/IG account/online persona and what is your mission behind it: I started my blog in 2014, when my first baby was 6 months old. I was suffering from Postpartum Anxiety, and I needed to quiet my mind and be creative. I was also yearning to connect to that person who I was before I became “Mama.”

I shared style, but also was open about my struggles in motherhood. I found that I connected to moms all over the country by sharing my story, and by being raw and real.

I still try to do that today. I share a lot about my style, because that’s what was important to me before becoming a mom. Even now, I feel better when I put a little bit more time into my daily outfit. It helps me feel like ME.

I also continue to share about the challenges I face – whether it’s the small daily hiccups, or big motherhood struggles.

I’ve found that when I’m open about where I fall short, other moms step up and say, “Hey, me, too!”  That’s the best feeling ever.

Learn more about Suzanne at: Blog: https://mykindofsweet.com/ Instagram: @mykindofsweet Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mykindofsweetblog/

We want you to meet…

3) Name: Natalie Monterastelli Age: 38 Kid(s) and Ages: Mira, age 4

Where do you live? Bucktown, Chicago

Photographed by Sam | © 2019 TK Photography | www.tkphotographychicago.com

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Work life:  I am the Co-Owner & Executive Director of Bubbles Academy, an early childhood arts enrichment center and preschool. We are passionate about the arts, brain development and child directed play. We offer a myriad of class opportunities, each with the goal of encouraging children’s confidence, curiosity and creativity as they prepare to be life-long learners and empathetic members of our community. Bubbles Academy is here for families as a caring community to help guide and support during the magical and messy first years of a child’s life.

I am also the Founder & Director of our sister non-profit organization, Whole Child Arts. Whole Child Arts is dedicated to bringing transformative arts education to children from birth to five years in underserved areas of Chicago and beyond.

What has been the biggest reward of motherhood? After working with children for the past 20 years (and loving it), it is so amazing to experience being a parent, myself. My daughter surprises, delights, annoys, tests and helps me grow daily.

What’s your best “mom-hack” you think other moms could benefit from? (We all one at least one time or sanity saving tip that everyone would want to know…spill it!) I’m a big believer in the “Done is better than perfect” and a “YesAnd” approach to life and parenting. Keep moving forward. There are so many choices and decisions to be made in each day, trust your instincts and reach out to build and accept support from your village!

What is the best part about where you live? I love living in Bucktown (Or the Webster Kids Corridor, as we call it)! We’re steps away from Bubbles Academy, Little Beans Café, Green Bean Day School, Marianos, Webster Place and ALL the amazing shops and restaurants on Damen Ave between Fullerton and North Ave.

Favorite thing to do with your kids in your hometown. I am so grateful for all the multicultural events my daughter has been able to participate in at Bubbles Academy and beyond! This community provides a wealth of diverse experiences for celebrating the Arts and culture as well as getting creative about ways to give back with your little ones. We also love seeing theatre for young audiences and enjoying all the street fests and beach time in the summer.

What are 5 things that you could not “mom” without? I’m a better mom since I started taking time to work out at Shred415. I love their challenging and efficient workouts that give me more energy for every day! Haha I love my hair stylist and colorist, Thomas Mahoney at Asha SalonSpa in Bucktown. He understands that I don’t have hours to spend at the salon and always does an amazing job in less than two hours. I’m obsessed with my daughter’s Dohm white noise machine. It helps me sleep better now than before I had her!

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do? I love to read, write, paint, sing, dance – just about any creative pursuit!

Who are your “mom idols?” My mom, Janet Nelson, is my #1 role model. My father died when I was young and she was a single parent for seven years, balancing her full time job as a teacher, then principal, volunteer projects and always making sure I had every opportunity. She showed me what it looks like to live a life dedicated to serving others and modeled how to always be grateful for every adventure and challenge life presents.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? Over the years, I watched so many friendships blossom at Bubbles Academy and since my daughter arrived, I’ve had fun developing a Bubble Mom Squad as well! I adore the mamas in my daughter’s preschool class. Not only are our kiddos the same age, but we all share similar interests, goals, parenting and education philosophies (and food and cocktail choices)!

What is one piece of advice for new moms that you wish someone told you before motherhood? You may temporarily lose a part of yourself in this tiny human. It’s a beautiful and miraculous gain, but a certain loss of your previous self. It’s ok to miss that person, to grieve her and know that she’s still there and will resurface over time. It benefits you and your baby when you have space to be your authentic and healthy self.

How do you balance it all? I 100% don’t! It’s so helpful to have a great support system and open communication about parenting expectations and roles with your partner. Know that you do not have to do all the things! Start with your strengths – What can you do quickly, easily and joyfully? It’s ok to drop, delegate or outsource things that are time consuming or just not up your alley anymore. Focus on what you love to do and what can free up time for you and your little one.

If you had a theme song, what would it be? Get Back Up Again – from the movie Trolls

Tell us a little bit about your blog/IG account/online persona and what is your mission behind it: Find more about Natalie at the following: @nataliemonterastelli is my personal page where I share snippets of daily life and art with my little one @bubblesacademy is where you can find the scoop on all the amazing classes, events and parenting support at Bubbles Academy @wholechildarts shares our progress providing early childhood arts education throughout Chicagoland and beyond

We want you to meet…

4) Name: Dana Harf

Age: 34

Kid(s) and Ages: Brody, 4 and Levi, 2

Where do you live? Highland Park, IL

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Work life:  First and foremost, my most important job is taking care of my 2 boys! In my past life I was an elementary school teacher for many years but now I stay home with the kids 24/7. It’s definitely my favorite title that I have!! In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, I am also a blogger and Instagram content creator. Some would call me an influencer, which I take as a huge compliment! My blog is called ‘I Adore What I Love’ and the basis of it is to share easy & quick recipes, style ideas, life hacks and mom tricks all intertwined with my everyday life! My Instagram page {www.instagram.com/danaivy} is an extension of that, too! I also run the social media for a local restaurant and teach Jewish Sunday School at a local temple. I am busy!!

What has been the biggest reward of motherhood? Definitely seeing my boys grow up to be kind-hearted and good-natured. They are both so sweet at their core and it makes my mama heart the happiest.

What’s your best “mom-hack” you think other moms could benefit from? (We all one at least one time or sanity saving tip that everyone would want to know…spill it!) I make dinner for my family most nights of the week but with the kids, I know it has to get on their plates quickly or else they’ll become hangry!! {anyone else??} My mom hack is that I cook for the whole family, and my husband and I will eat what I’ve made that night while my kids will eat what I made the night before. For example, last night I made 4 pieces of salmon – my husband and I each had a piece for dinner and Brody and Levi will eat it tonight! Of course, they love a good kid’s menu {chicken fingers, hot dog, fries, etc} but for dinner they will always eat what we eat mainly because they don’t know any different!

What is the best part about where you live? I am obsessed with Highland Park and the amazing community of mom friends that I have made here! I have found my “tribe” and am so grateful for that – I love how inclusive everyone is and how we are all there for each other when there’s a bind! I feel so lucky to live here!

Favorite thing to do with your kids in your hometown. We love walking around downtown Highland Park on nice days and last summer, a new park was built steps away from our house!! My kids are obsessed with it!

Favorite date night in your hometown. We love discovering new restaurants in Highwood and going back to our favorites, like Greenwood, time and time again. I feel like we are back in the city whenever we have a date night at a Highwood restaurant and you can’t go wrong with that!

What are 5 things that you could not “mom” without? Fun question! I would say The Honest Company wipes which we use for EVERYTHING, my Starbucks app because it allows me to order my coffee in advance which makes my trip inside quick and easy, our video monitors and sound machines because both of these technologies are life-changing in the parenting world {though I choose not to use a monitor that also has an app because I know myself and know I would be looking at it non-stop when out and that’s the last thing I want to be doing}, my mom friends who let me vent when I need to, and Daniel Tiger!! We loveeee Daniel Tiger in this household and sing his songs whenever the opportunity arises.

What are your 5 must-have items in your diaper bag? My diaper bag is way too large for my own good! I always have some sort of teether in there, a few small toys {train, truck, transformer – remember, I have boys!}, our favorite wipes {see the previous question} which I use for everything, a change of clothes because again, I have boys {insert laughing emoji here}, and diapers because I still have a son who needs them!!

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do? Lay down on the couch and watch reality TV!!! Bravo is my fave – huge Housewives fan here!  But I also love my share of HGTV shows too! {And all the Bachelor franchise shows, obviously!!!}

Who are your “mom idols?” My mom idols are the ones who keep it real. The moms who don’t always seem to have their act together non-stop, the moms who struggle and admit it, the moms who ask for help, and despite all of that, they’re the moms who just LOVE being moms.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? My best mom friends are the moms of my kid’s friends. I am the luckiest to have them and I genuinely love them all! Like, even if they weren’t my kid’s friends’ moms, I’d still be friends with them. My husband and I just went to Italy for 8 nights sans kids and every single one of my mom friends helped with the boys while we were gone in some way. It made leaving so much easier and I am grateful for that!

What is one piece of advice for new moms that you wish someone told you before motherhood? The baby stage is the easiest stage so soak up that new baby smell and snuggles as much as possible. Your child will walk, your child will talk, and you child won’t go to college {let alone kindergarten} wearing diapers. Just enjoy every single day of that first year because life gets harder as they grow older.

How do you balance it all? It’s hard!!! Parenting is hard. I can’t tell you how many times I forget things but my calendar is my lifeline and I literally have to build in carpools, date nights and babysitter days {I have a babysitter who comes over every Wednesday so I can have some ME time, run errands, and take blog/work meetings}. Also, my husband is the best and really helps when he’s home!!

If you had a theme song, what would it be? Is it corny if I say the Toy Story song – “You’ve Got A Friend in Me”?? My most favorite part about what I do is connecting with others through social media. I think I’ve built an awesome community of like-minded moms and I feel like I really know most of them! We DM all the time and sometimes it even transfers to a real-life friendship. I am so thankful that my followers want to chat and talk to me because I love being there for them!!!

Tell us a little bit about your blog/IG account/online persona and what is your mission behind it: I started blogging because my peers would continuously text me and ask me about my favorite things – makeup, restaurants, etc. I adored sharing my opinions with them and they loved what I was dishing out! I figured if I was sharing all my favorites with my inner-circle so often, why not share with the internet too! So, I started blogging and it’s only become a greater passion of mine as the years have gone on.

I touched on this earlier, but my blog, I Adore What I Love {www.iadorewhatilove.com} is a destination for moms who want to be in the know about fashion & beauty, food & recipes, travel & leisure, health & fitness, tech apps & electronic gadgets as well as baby & toddler.

My Instagram feed {@danaivy – www.instagram.com/danaivy} is an extension of that, and now with IG stories, I share a lot over there! Intertwined with anecdotes about my own life, I share about local openings, recipes and restaurant reviews, special-occasion gift guides, style ideas, product reviews, life hacks and mom tips & tricks. My mission is for my blog and Instagram feed to be your one-stop-shop for all things to adore and love.

We want you to meet…

Name: Diana Vdovets

Age: 33

Kid(s) and Ages: Asher (4), Olivia (2)

Where do you live? Glencoe, IL

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Work life: I’m the Operations Director of Chicago magazine and Splash magazine. With this role, I oversee national advertising sales and directly manage the magazines’ event and marketing departments.

What has been the biggest reward of motherhood? The unconditional love that my little ones have for one another. They are the best of friends and hearing them say “I love you” to each other– just melts my heart.

What’s your best “mom-hack” you think other moms could benefit from? (We all one at least one time or sanity saving tip that everyone would want to know…spill it!) Buy birthday gifts in bulk! Birthday party invites fill up my kid’s weekly social calendars so to avoid making last minute or multiple trips to the toy store, I buy gifts in bulk and store them in a closet. So once the party date rolls around, I have a number of gifts to choose from!

What is the best part about where you live? The people that I’ve met. We recently moved to Glencoe from the city and the welcoming community is the absolute best part.

Favorite thing to do with your kids in your hometown. Exploring the town, beach and then grabbing a green juice (for me) / cookie (for them) at Hometown.

Favorite date night in your hometown. Drinks and apps sitting at the bar at Guildhall.

What are 5 things that you could not “mom” without?  1. Coffee – does that count? 2. My amazing nanny 3. Cozi Family Organizer. It helps me track EVERYTHING – from everyone’s activity schedules to separate grocery and to do lists– this app keeps me sane. You can also assign calendar entries and to-do lists to a specific family member. The best part – it syncs to my outlook calendar. 4. Instacart. I have zero time to go grocery shopping. Instacart allows me to spend more time with my kids vs spending my Sunday morning at the store and as an added bonus – I spend less! 5. More coffee ……

What are your 5 must-have items in your diaper bag? 1. Hand Sanitizer – my kids touch everything. It grosses me out – so I sanitize 2. Lots of snacks 3. Change of clothing 4. Wipes 5. Diapers

When you have time to yourself, what do you like to do? Workout, get a mani/pedi, or grab coffee with friends.

Who are your “mom idols?” My mom is the best role model. She is an entrepreneur and owned her own successful business, while still making it to every dance recital and volunteering at my school. She put her life on hold and moved across the world to support my father’s businesses (twice). And despite the miles between us, she was and is always there when I need her. I can count on her without hesitation.

Who is in your mom tribe and how did you meet them? I feel so lucky to be surrounded and supported by the most incredible mom tribe. Some I met before I had kids and other friendships developed in different stages of my life.

What is one piece of advice for new moms that you wish someone told you before motherhood? Don’t stress about everything, it’s usually a phase that will pass.

How do you balance it all? I don’t. Not even close. But my amazing nanny, husband and mom tribe help me stay sane.

If you’re an expectant or new parent in the Chicago area, Best of Bump Club & Beyond is an event you do NOT want to miss!  Join these fantastic Chicago moms + us on Saturday, May 4 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Swissotel!  We’re bringing you the BEST baby gear, products, services + safety information in one action packed event!  For more information and registration, CLICK HERE.