Bio: Toni

Toni, husband Dan and their sons Nolan, Aaron and Jackson
  • Age: 39
  • Spouse: Dan, 41, married for 10 years
  • Kids: Jackson, 7, Nolan, 4, and Aaron, 2
  • Pets: Birdie (Nolan named him), a blue budgie ("parakeet") who says "Shake your booty," among other phrases
  • Hometown: We live in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago, a small town with a quaint Victorian Square and family-friendly activities continually in the works. It's also the site where the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day" was filmed.
  • Writing: I'm a freelance writer, toniwrites.com and co-founder of From Diapers to Deadlines, diaperstodeadlines.com.
Greatest inspiration: My mom, who struggled so my siblings and I wouldn't have to, but still made time to play great practical jokes on my dad.

The movie that best describes my family life: "Parenthood," with Steve Martin and Mary Steenbergen. We rented this the night we brought our first son home, laughing through our shell-shocked sleep deprivation.

Favorite time of day with my kids: Any quiet times when we just hang out and talk

Most Proud "Mom" Moment: Seeing any of the boys be spontaneously loving toward each other without being reminded to do so.

Least Proud "Mom" Moment: My oldest boy wanted a toy, and it came in a set of two, so I ordered them. All three boys surrounded the box when it came, and big brother Jackson grabbed one from the box, cheering. Middle brother Nolan grabbed the other from the box, cheering. Aaron, the baby, stood there, shuffling from foot to foot, his hands open to grab his toy, but there wasn't one. I still tear up when I picture this.

Biggest fear: Dying before getting to see the boys grow up. I need to see how they turn out! I also need to nag my firstborn for several more decades about the time he jumped on the couch after I told him not to, and then fell and broke his nose on the coffee table.

Favorite part of getting older: I have so much more patience and life experience to build upon now. I really like who I am, and I think that's reflected in my parenting and family life.

Funniest thing my kids have said or done lately: We were driving somewhere and I remarked, "Hey guys, look! A purple car! You don't see that every day." My oldest son, Jackson, deadpanned, "You do if you own a purple car."

Most embarrassing moment: Oh gosh, I have a rough time choosing between the time I walked around with the flaps of my nursing bra open for half the day or the time I simultaneously barfed and peed my pants in my driveway while pregant with my third son.

My Philosophy of Parenting: Be consistent and respectful, show a united front with your partner, laugh, listen, and spend time alone with each child.

TV mom I'm most like: The first one to come to mind was Lois from "Malcolm in the Middle." The second was "Roseanne."

TV mom I wish I was like: Lorelai Gilmore or Allison DuBois, minus the "seeing dead people" stuff. (We're too tired for a a social life, so we have TiVo).

One true thing my Mom taught me: "If they're quiet, they're up to something."

Best thing about my husband: He's really funny, and makes me laugh every day. He's also patient and kind and really committed to being a hands-on, involved dad.

Biggest parenting challenge: Keeping my cool when things are chaotic or stressful.

Least favorite household chores: Besides "All of them?" Scrubbing that nether region behind the toilet seat, dusting, and vacuuming.

Favorite family dinner: Build-Your-Own-Burrito Night, where we all marvel at 4-year-old Nolan's sour cream and onion burritos.

Childhood tradition I'm continuing with my kids: April Fool's Day pranks. This year, I told my 7-year-old he's reached a special age and to check his bedroom for his traditional Easter dress and matching purse. He flew upstairs while my husband and I waited at the bottom, grinning.

Most stressful holiday: Halloween. Buying 3 costumes for a few hours per year gets expensive, but I can't sew. Next year they'll probably all be "men on the street."

The biggest lesson I've learned from my kids: Go with the flow. It sounds so trite, but kids really force you to keep their pace, which is often manic physically but tortoise-like in terms of efficiency, which can be maddening. Letting go of the reins seems harder, but is actually very freeing.
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