Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Wishing all my readers a safe and happy New Year. We rang in 2007 12 hours early with a playgroup New Year's Brunch and a countdown to noon. Check out the pictures from today and our travels earlier this week here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

We're back

It wasn't quite a vacation, but our trip back East to visit friends and family was pretty successful. We're exhausted, yes, but it was nice to catch up in person with so many of our favorite people. And seeing our daughter connect with her relatives is even more rewarding.

That said, I have a few resolutions for next time.

1) Naps are holy. Honor and keep them like an observant Jew on the Sabbath. If you push the nap too far, it won't happen at all and an over-tired child means a cranky parent. Did I mention Z took a nap only 2 days out of 6?
2) You can never pack enough snacks. Especially those "special treat" snacks that your toddler loves more than anything. A little fruit leather on the teeth is well worth the peace and quiet. Especially after you've listened to whining for an hour straight. And subjected strangers to it too.
3) Each parent deserves a little me-time. A break from all the jolly togetherness and chaos involved in organizing an outing for multiple generations. We didn't figure this out until the very end of our trip. I sent Josh off to the movies and he came back a much happier, more patient man. I'll be sure to squeeze in a massage or just some quiet time on the beach with a book during our upcoming vacation in Akumal.
4) Eat at least a couple pieces of fresh fruit every day. With travel and eating out, I sometimes find my diet becomes a little too carb, meat and sodium-heavy. I feel so much better when there's a bowl of fruit available for snacking.
5) And keep that portable DVD player charged!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More people!

We've packed the past couple of days with friends and relatives, and Z's continued to astonish us with her capacity for recalling people's names. We spent the 25th in Harrisburg with Josh's aunt and uncle. In addition to us and Josh's parents and sister, his cousin Penny was there with her husband and three kids (one 3 1/2 year old boy and twin 3 month old girls). It was a typical Jewish Christmas in that we ate Chinese takeout. Unfortunately we'd already had Chinese food the night before in a typical Jewish Christmas Eve.

On the 26th we took Amtrak from Wilmington to Union Station in D.C. Z loved the train--no surprise there, but I was disappointed that our "reserved coach seats" were essentially meaningless. We walked the length of the train looking for two seats together, but every seat we passed had someone stretched out asleep on it. We finally found empty seats in the quiet car, figuring that if the conductor tried to throw us out, we'd make him find us seats together.

Since arriving in D.C., we've visited with my Grandma Marge, Rick's daughters (my Mom's boyfriend's college-age daughters) and Josh's Grandpa Reuben as well as his Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Gary and their family. The latter we met (along with my in-laws) in a private party room at Maggiano's, the perfect location for lunch when the invitees include an untamed 2-year-old, a frail 94-year-old and an autistic 14-year-old.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Old friends

Well technically they're all Josh's old friends, but having known my husband's high school buddies for about 10 years myself, I'm honored to call them my old friends as well.

We started this morning with a brief tour of the model trains at the Brandywine River Museum. Then Josh, Z and I headed into Center City to have lunch with his high school friend Erica, her husband and their adorable 1 1/2 year old daughter (and they've got another one on the way). Z was delighted to get to play with someone her own size, and she wasted no time helping herself to Adair's toy collection and sippy cups.

We headed back to West Chester for a late nap, which I took--even if Z didn't. And shortly after I woke up, Beth and twin brothers Courtney and Brandon dropped by. In spite of having plowed through two days without an afternoon nap, Z was in fine form, performing all of her tricks and generally charming the crowd. She hadn't seen Beth for about a year, but she instantly reconnected with her very first babysitter.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

West Chester

We arrived safe and mostly sane in Philadelphia around 5:30pm today. Z never did take her nap, so it wasn't too hard to put her to bed once we finally got to my in-laws and had dinner. The Philadelphia airport was an absolute zoo. I don't think we've ever had to wait so long to retreive our luggage--at least from a domestic flight!

The quote of the trip: I had taken Z to the ladies' room at Midway Airport for a pre-flight diaper change. As I was packing up the bag, I set her down on the floor next to me. She turned right around and peered through the cracks in the bathroom stalls and shouts, "I see a lady peeing!"

I told her it wasn't polite to look and when the woman came out she said to my curious kid, "You're totally busted." Thank goodness she was a mother herself.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Planes, trains and automobiles

And a 2 year old. That part makes it extra fun. I've spent the last couple of days weighing the must-brings against the nice-to-haves and the maybe-we'll-miss-it-but-it-just-won't-fits. It's easy to pack for a newborn. A couple of tiny sleepers, a handful of tiny diapers and my boobs, which I'd be hard pressed to forget. Maybe a sling or Baby Bjorn so I can keep my hands free for magazines or a smoothie.

With a toddler, the clothes are bigger, the diapers are bigger and the snacks and sippy cups could fill a carry-on. Plus there's the enormous car seat, the baby backpack or stroller and the toddler entertainment: crayons, stickers and paper. Books. And the portable DVD player, which is worth every penny and ever moment of guilt I've spent on it.

And because hope springs eternal, Josh and I pack books and magazines for ourselves. Hahahah.

But in spite of the controlled chaos that is air travel with a 2 year old, I'm looking forward to this trip. We're going to see four generations of relatives and meet Josh's cousins' kids and my Mom's boyfriend's daughters for the first time.

Eleanor, this is for you

Why every parent should blog. I'm giving you until mid-May.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Instant commercial, just add water

Dove just launched a promotion inviting consumers (women, presumably) to create a commercial for Dove Cream Oil Body ad that could run on the Oscars broadcast. They've provided an iMovie-like video editing program complete with stock photos, stock videos and stock music. And they're open to you uploading and using your own original music, video, photos and voice-overs.

Seems like a really fun--if time-consuming project. I wonder how many consumers will take the time and effort required to participate. I'm consider doing it myself, but as an Oglivy/OgilvyAction employee, I'm not eligible.

From the mouth of a babe

Notable quotables from 25-month-old Z:

"I don't wanna share my book. Because it's mine."
[After wiggling her plastic ladybug at me] "Don't be scared, Mama. It's just a ladybug."
"I want Weetabix wif peanut butter an' milk. Just like Mama."
"I want Grape-Nuts. Not hot. Warm."
[In the bathtub] "I'm a dolphin! I'm swimming around in da sea. I'm in da aquarium. I'm a man!"
[Shouted through a funnel, megaphone-style] "Don' touch Dada! Don' touch Dada! Don'! Touch! Dada!...Don' touch da candles!"
[To Daddy, while wriggling half-naked on the living room carpet] "I'm rolling around on the floor, Dada! Mama upstairs gonna get me a diaper... I need a wipe too, Mama!"
[After having a taste of Dijon chicken and spitting it out on my lap] "It's not yummy. It's yucky!"
[As Z and I were leaving for daycare this morning] "Bye-bye Dada! I wuv you! Don't come wif us Dada! Say home! Don't come outside wif us!"

And finally, her favorite phrase of all...delivered with a sneaky, naughty look:

"I wanna see it. Show me his belly button!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How popular is your birthday?

The NY Times story To-Do List: Wrap Gifts. Have Baby. is particularly topical given that Z's daycare provider will be induced on Friday. She's due next week, but her doctor doesn't want her giving birth on Christmas, when fewer doctors and staff will be around. I thought it was interesting that births spike around (but not on) major holidays and that a statistically significant proportion of babies arrive before the New Year, particularly among those upper income parents who best stand to benefit from an income tax break baby.

There's also a sidebar where you can see how your birthday and your children's birthdays stack up in terms of popularity. Lots of June, July and (most strikingly) September babies. I guess the cold weather and holiday merry-making put couples in a family way.

Here's why quotes don't work

I saw what I think was a Honda Element branded with Supermaid Cleaning Service today. The slogan on the side read "A more 'personal' kind of house cleaning." Now, maybe my mind's in the gutter, but when I see a word like "personal" called out in quotes, I start wondering if perhaps the Supermaid employees clean in the nude.

Judging from their website, I don't think the emphasis on personal was intentional.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SNL's Christmas Box

I know, I'm the last person on Earth to see this video. But the combination of JT and actual humor on SNL made my day.

Yummy Mummy?

If there was ever a trend I felt ambivalent about, it's this one. Chick lit gets married, knocked up and turns into Bugaboo-pushing Mom lit. I can see it now, pink book jackets with stilettos and strollers, Prada and pacifiers.

Yeah, I'm the basically the target (if a little younger and poorer than the late-30s lawyer-turned-SAHM with a preschool admissions complex), but I find something so icky about a bunch of publishers chasing a trend and a bunch of author-mommies cranking out cliched manuscripts while their beloved babies nap.

But here's where my ambivalence crops up again. Women have written about motherhood for generations. I loved Toni Morrison's Beloved and I click over to daily. Motherhood is a shared experience and rich territory for writing. What I don't like is the entitled, spoiled-brat tone Mom lit owes to its chick lit predecessor.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Chanukah!

We hosted our Chavurah Chanukah party yesterday in the Temple youth lounge (read: basement). It was perfect for the event since the kids had lots of room to run around and plenty of communal toys to play with. And there was a kitchen, so we could keep the piles and piles of latkes warm.

We're lucky to have found such a great group of people within our congregation. And Z's perfectly positioned among the kids. There are four children older than her, one the same age, and five younger (including two 6 month old boys born on the same day!).

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Office

The best part of last night's hour-long episode of The Office (titled "A Benihana Christmas")? When tool Andy orders a "Nagasaki" at eggnog and saki cocktail. I almost wet myself.

My baby's not alone

"More Americans were born in 2004 than in any years except 1960 and 1990." This fact and many more are summarized in this NY Times article on the Census Bureau's 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States.

Angel baby returns

Z put up 10 minutes of fuss before retiring last night, but she slept solidly from 7:45pm to 6:00am. And she didn't wake me and Josh up until 6:20, opting to play with her aquarium (which, by the way, she has loved since she was 2 months old). When she finally shouted "Ma-Ma!" it was because, "I went poopy in my diaper. Poopy and pee-pee."


Thursday, December 14, 2006

I deserve a sleep refund

Last night was one of those nights. You know, one of those nights you think you're done with when your kid turns 6 or 7 months old and you've read Dr. Weissbluth cover to cover and done the sleep training thing and--by G-d--it worked?!?

Yeah? Well, last night our angelic 25 month old channeled her inner 2 month old, waking up every hour or so. Only, instead of whimpering for boobie, she would call out--in clear, increasingly loud tones, "Mommy! Ma-Ma! Ma-Maaaaaaaa! I wanna cuddle in the chair with Ma-Ma! I wanna cuddle in the dark! Da-Da! Daddymommy! Mommmmmeeeeeee!"

Overcome with exhaustion by 4:30am, I gave in and brought her to our bed, first eliciting a promise that she would "sleep quietly with no talking." A promise so quickly broken. I was poked and prodded. My hair was pulled and twisted. My pillow was stolen and returned damp with drool.

And then the cat went apeshit, tearing around the bedroom like there was a bonafide mouse in the house (which there wasn't). And so went any lingering hopes of getting Z to sleep. Josh was an angel, though. He took Z downstairs for some early morning PBS Kids so that I could sleep from 5:30 to 6:20.

Lucky Adriana. I'm sure Z will be a real treat at day care this morning.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Babble delivers

I'm happy to report that the new web journal for parents Babble is as good as I'd hoped. It's intelligently written, insightful and frequently funny. And it's really content-heavy; there's a ton to read. For starters, check out their essay on The Breastfeeding Conspiracy. It's a balanced piece by a mom who, like me, breastfed for a year, but still understands that the Boob Nazis from La Leche League need to be taken to task for guilt-tripping women for whom breastfeeding is impossible, physically or emotionally.

Babble's Health & Development section summarizes all of the experts on every imaginable topic, including hot button topics like cloth vs. disposable diapers, tummy vs. back sleeping and natural vs. epidural childbirth, and cleverly charts on a continuum from one extreme to the other.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

For my sisters

At the risk of turning this blog into the all-cheese-all-the-time diary, I have to mention that my sister Eleanor and sister-in-law Bethany share my love for a good bowl of macaroni and cheese . And with Eleanor in Australia and Bethany in England, I'm afraid their access to Annie's Homegrown Shells & Cheese (not to mention my homemade stuff) is severely limited. So for them, I present the UK's foremost macaroni and cheese review blog.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Babble is one day away

I've got high hopes for Babble, a new online magazine for parents that launches tomorrow. It's from the people behind Nerve, the sex and culture magazine that arrived to much hoopla a few years ago. Anyway, I guess all that sex talk did the trick, because now all the Nerve editors are blessed with babies. Anyway, they're promising an antidote to the all-pastel, moms-only, too-serious word of parenting pubs.

More cheese, please

Years and years ago, when I was a vegetarian, I would hear from pro-vegan/vegetarian sources that adult humans weren't meant to drink milk. I've always had a weak spot for cheese and dairy products in general, so this kind of convention wisdom made me feel guilty for diverting some poor calf's sole form of nourishment into cottage cheese, yogurt and brie.

But now I don't have so guilty. The NY Times has an interesting article on how four different human groups independently evolved the ability to digest milk. Swedes and the Dutch are uniformly lactose tolerant, but the new news is the discovery of pastoral groups in Africa who also developed lactose tolerance.

"Genetic evidence shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them...The survival advantage was so powerful perhaps because those with the mutations not only gained extra energy from lactose but also, in drought conditions, would have benefited from the water in milk."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy 59th Birthday, Mom

We knew Rick was showing you a good time in Gettysburg, so we helped celebrate Ania's 3rd birthday here in Oak Park. Click here to see a few photos from the party.

Friday, December 08, 2006

No more cheese

I didn't think I'd ever hear myself uttering those words, but I just might have had my fill of cheese today. You see, one of my clients is a major cheese brand and today I attended a four hour long cheese tasting.

We started with a blind taste test of the major players in the natural cheddar cheese category. I discovered that I'm a big fan of Cabot, Tillamook and Cracker Barrel, but Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar is my absolute favorite. And store brand cheese? Pretty uniformly terrible.

I learned that East Coasters tend to prefer white cheddars, but Midwesterners and Left Coasters like their cheese yellow. I also found out that, outside of the Pacific Northwest where everyone grows up eating Tillamook, it is a very polarizing cheese Those of us who ranked it high loved it and those who didn't rank it in the top three thought it was among the worst we'd sampled.

After we'd consumed 15 pieces of cheese, we moved to the test kitchens to prepare a variety of foods with a variety of cheese brands. My partner and I were responsible for making a pizza and a traditional homemade macaroni and cheese. Other teams made equally cheesy dishes like lasagne and enchiladas. All of the dishes were made three different ways--with three different brands of cheese. So we tasted and evaluated a lot of food, and after seeing how the different types of cheese worked in cooked dishes, I was able to conclude that while the brand makes less difference in dishes than it does straight up, it is important to choose a sharp cheese for cooking since the flavors get muted. And you really sacrifice a lot when you use pre-shredded cheese since the anti-caking agent keeps the cheese from melting as nicely.

Mystery package from MOMA

A toy from MOMA arrived in the mail for Z yesterday, and the card enclosed doesn't say who sent it. If you're reading this, please let me know who you are! (We're keeping the gift hidden until one of the eight nights of Chanukah.)

Baby it's cold outside

5 degrees this morning. Brr!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What it's like to "go on Oprah"

I promised a full recap of my Tuesday morning on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and here it is.

First, the tickets. For about the past year, I've been periodically checking the last minute tickets section of the Oprah website. It it used to fill out audiences, the topics never interested me. It was always "Do you have a diet question for Dr. Greene?" "Do you have the ugliest room in America?" or "Do you have a teen daughter who is out of control?"

Then, early last week, Oprah producers were looking for people who had seen An Inconvenient Truth and had a question for Al Gore. I wrote in and got a call from a producer the very next morning!

Fast forward a week to Tuesday. Gloria picked me up at 6:45am and we drove to Harpo Studios in the West Loop. Parking across the street is a steep $20, but there isn't really any alternative. We join the line outside the building a few minutes after 7am, and, in spite of the tent protection, it is bone-chillingly cold. The two groups in front of us in line don't strike us as looking particularly eco-friendly, and indeed, when one of them turns around to ask us if we know the show's topic, they roll their eyes and groan at the mention of global warming.

We make it inside the building around 7:45, but there is still bag check, ID check, metal detectors and purse inspections to make it through. We'd been warned to downsize our bags and leave cell phones in the car, but it seemed most of the audience members there had not. There was an organized system for checking big bags and electronic items, leaving the average Oprah fan with three different claim tickets.

From there we could make a pit stop and Gloria noted that there were two women's rooms and one men's. Apt, given the gender breakdown.

That done, we were ushered upstairs to a giant waiting room that resembled nothing so much as a bus or train terminal. It was about 8:15am and all of the 250-odd seats were taken, and one of the ushers directed us into one of the standing room only lines. But we'd only been standing long enough to fill out our release forms before my name was called out over the loudspeaker. We joined about 10 other women who had e-mailed in questions for Al Gore, and we were "randomly assigned" seats in the studio. We ended up about halfway up the center right risers.

Oprah's studio seemed smaller in person that I had imagined it. It is immaculately clean, and the metallic accents, together with all the bright lighting, make it a warm, cheerful place. Producers ushered the rest of the audience in, occasionally giving priority seats to groups with the "best colors" on their clothing.

By 8:40 the entire audience was seated and the producers warmed us up a bit, coaching us to be ready to say "awww" when something was cute or gasp at awful truths. Oprah made her appearance while a producer was talking, so there was no grand entrance. She joked around with the audience for the final 10 minutes before the show was to go live, complaining that she was bloated from her breakfast of Shredded Wheat and mouthing the bad words we're not allowed to say on live TV.

I don't need to go into the actual show, since it was taped live for TV. Nothing was edited out and there weren't any re-takes. Oprah only invited one audience question, and that was at the very end (and not from a pre-seeded plant like myself).

As I mentioned before, I got to ask Al Gore my question during the after show, and I should be able to find out on Saturday whether I made it to TV.

The aftershow was over around 10:40am, and we were able to claim our coats fairly quickly. Everyone in the audience received a free copy of the DVD and I was at work by 11am.

Personally, I'd rather have water

Here's a great map that shows what folks across the country are calling their carbonated beverages. I grew up with my folks referencing "pop" while all my friends and neighbors guzzled soda.

Totally schticky

Check out GIANT Magazine's collection of the best commercials of the 1980's. I suspect by "best" they mean the best of what they could find on YouTube, but it's a riveting assembly of bad taste and memories.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I neutralized our new car

For a little more than the cost of a tank of gas I neutralized the CO2 emissions of our 2005 Honda CR-V. It's so easy. Please do the same.

More global warming news

The reports keep coming in. Now EU scientists are releasing a study showing that the Alps are experiencing record warmth--the hottest temperatures in 1300 years.

Let's not inconvenience Big Oil

Much of Al Gore's presentation on today's Oprah Winfrey show was a retread of the information on An Inconvenient Truth, but there was one tidbit he shared that really struck home with me. An older woman stood up during the after show discussion to say that she thought schoolchildren should see the movie and become a force for changing their parents--much as they helped propel the anti-smoking movement. Al Gore agreed wholeheartedly but pointed out that the National Science Teachers Foundation had just turned down 50,000 free copies of the DVD Paramount was making available to them as teaching tools. Their reason? Accepting the DVDs, would place "unnecessary risk upon the (NSTA) capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." Supporters, it turns out, that include Exxon Mobil.

Oprah, the quick recap

In spite of how much getting into the Oprah studio resembles getting onto an airplane (lots of lines, tickets, security, bag checks and waiting), Gloria and I had a great time attending today's live show. Oprah only let the audience ask one question during the main show, but she called on me in particular ("Is Alma Klein here?") during the after show, which airs on Oxygen. If anyone can Tivo it or download the show off the internet somewhere, I'll post a clip of myself.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just like Mommy and Daddy

This morning as I was packing my lunch for work, Z said "I need a cook too. I need a get a recipe from da cook book!" She grabbed an issue of Cook's Illustrated from the shelf, opened it to a recipe page and proceeded to busy herself in her toy kitchen. There was a great deal of bustling over the stove with pots and pans, faux vegetables, empty spice containers and a wooden spoon. She would run back and forth "checking" the cookbook and updating me on her progress. "I'm making pancakes and eggs. I need sugar, milk, broccoli and pizza! It's for you Mommy. Be very careful. It's hot hot hot!"

Z's budding sense of humor

It started when I was reading her first word books and misidentifying the pictures. I'd point to a chair and say, "That's an elephant" or "Elbow." And Z would look at me like I was insane and go, "No, dat's not Cookie Monster. Dat's a little girl!" But she quickly caught on that we were playing a game, and now she mislabels pictures herself and looks expectantly at me to laugh and correct her. She also thinks it's hysterical when I get the names of her body parts wrong or when I suggest we put her shirt on her legs, her diaper on her head or her hat on her belly button.

Tune in tomorrow

Don’t forget to watch Oprah tomorrow, when yours truly will be in the audience. The show is Global Warming 101 with Al Gore, and it will be broadcast live in Chicago at 9am. If you live elsewhere, check your local listings. I can't wait!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How to host a surprise party

Lessons from our good friend Andy, who successfully surprised his wife with a 40th birthday party to remember.
1. Throw the party three weeks before the actual birthday to throw off the scent.
2. If she's not a bowler, throwing it at bowling alley shouldn't raise any red flags.
2. Come up with a reasonable alibi for the evening--one good enough to warrant hiring a sitter for your new baby. In this case Andy told Deb it was a birthday party for a one of his friends' wives. Deb wasn't totally convinced it was a sitter-worthy event, but she needed a break and hired one without too much proding. She even brought a gift for the supposed birthday girl.
3. Get help. Andy co-hosted the party with his in-laws, and between the two of them they were able to track down and invite a wide variety of friends. I ended up bowling with a former co-worker of Deb's who has known her for 15 years!

Watching Deb's face as she realized what was going on -- and who was there -- was wonderful. She was obviously floored by her husband's efforts. Even her in-laws flew in!

And the party was a lot of fun even for those of us who weren't "bowled over" by the surprise...or our bowling scores. Well worth the cost of a sitter (hi Julia).

Friday, December 01, 2006

Got smell-o-vision?

The California Milk Processors are experimenting with a new scent strip technology that lets them bring the scent of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies into bus shelters, apparently in the hope that smelling the cookies will trigger a thirst for milk. If this works out, I think we can look anticipate more companies jumping on the fragrance bandwagon...which, BTW is already filling up with car dealerships, hotel chains and retail stores who've discovered how to manipulate us through our sense of smell.

Personally, I'm all for it. Chocolate chip cookies beat piss and B.O. any day of the week.

Snow day

We awoke to about 5 inches of white stuff--less that predicted, but more than enough to get Z demanding (at 7:20am) "I wanna go outside in da backyard an' make a snowman! With a carrot nose!" I told her that it wasn't time to go outside yet, that at the very least we'd need to wait until Daddy got out of the shower. And anyway, Z would need to be wearing clothes and a snowsuit!

"No clothes! No clothes! I don' wanna get dressed!" she tantrumed, erupting into tears. As I tried to wrangle her toward a pair of pants, she ran away from me and continued her "no clothes" tirade. I gave her a brief time-out for being uncooperative, but I was a little blown away by how much of an impression 30 seconds on the stool made in her mind. As we headed upstairs for a diaper change and dressing, she said, "I cry for Mama on the time-out."

"Why did Mama give you a time-out?" I asked

"No clothes," Z replied. And with that, she let me change and dress her without complaint. Although she did ask that I put her shirt on over her feet and legs. We're still working on how "pants go over your toes and shirts go over your nose."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dining room art show

Z's been enthusiastically creating works of art with stickers, markers, crayons and paint, and I've been looking for a tidy way of displaying a rotating collection of her work (you know, one that doesn't involve gobs of Scotch tape on my dining room walls). I think I may have found it with this solution from Pottery Barn Kids. I wonder if it's an online exclusive or whether it might be available in store (so I can save on shipping).

Link of the day

If you aren't already familiar with it, click on over to Thingamababy, a delightful toddler product review blog. The daddy in charge writes great toy reviews (largely based on his 2 1/2 year old daughter's interactions) and has recommended some of the better toys and books I've seen out there. In fact, he's responsible for Z's first magazine subscription (to the National Wildlife Foundation's Wild Animal Baby)! His blog is popular and influential enough that manufacturers are sending him free samples of their toys to review, but he seems to be maintaining his critical distance and isn't afraid to mock the stupid, the dangerous and those toys that limit imaginative play.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Even more on word of mouth

The NY Times profiles word of mouth research firm Keller Fay (the principals of which I met at a WOMMA conference) and offers some interesting tidbits on exactly how much each of us talk about brands in our regular, face-to-face conversations.

I'm going to be on Oprah!

Al Gore will be on the show discussing An Inconvenient Truth, and it will be broadcast live in Chicago at 9am next Tuesday. I found about about the show at, and I wrote in about my passion for the movie and the global warming cause as well as the questions I'd like to ask of Al Gore. They called me today to invite me to participate. Which means Gloria and I will be at Harpo Studios at 7am in less than a week. Gulp!

P.S. Anyone remember this post? I guess it pays to write down your goals.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Word of mouth at work

Anyone who works with me knows I've got a bit of passion for word of mouth marketing. I've learned a lot about the field from the WOMMA conferences I've attended, and just last week I presented an overview to interested folks at the agency.

So it's a happy coincidence that I've got a personal plug for the power of word of mouth today. You see, I recently signed up to be an Angie's List member, and I used the recommendations of other members to select a contractor to up the insulation in our 1910 frame house. I picked the top two companies and both came out to do estimates. Their prices were close, but I went with the more expensive company because I thought they were slightly more thorough and they suggested bringing our attic R-number up the recommended level for our region. I mailed in my 25% deposit on Friday and they called on Monday to ask if they could install at 12:30 Tuesday. They arrived at 12. I haven't seen the work myself since Josh is at home, but all signs point to an efficient operation. I'll do my duty and add my feedback to the Angie's List site.

Wouldn't it be great if there were word of mouth forums for everything we ask our friends, neighbors and co-workers about? A convenient, comprehensive resource for researching preschools, day care providers, doctors, hospitals, retirement communities and more? I suppose it's just a matter of time. We can access product reviews on most e-commerce sites and peruse vacations from heaven and hell at TripAdvisor, but I'm more emotionally and physically invested in the quality of a medical specialist than I am in an digital camera.

Thanksgiving photos are up

I've posted a handful of pictures from Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Furry bedfellows

I was putting Z to bed tonight, and I asked if she needed any animals. She said no. I asked if she wanted her blanket. "Yes, please."
I opened the door to leave and she whimpered, "I need an animal." So I offered her a dog. "No, I don't want a dog!" A sheep? "No! No sheep!" A different dog? "No!" Stumpy giraffe? Musical giraffe? Other sheep? "No, no, no!" Her dragon, like Ben from It's Bedtime?
"No! Take him away! I want my teddy. My small teddy."
Uh-oh. I'd emptied out her toy basket looking for acceptable animals, and I hadn't seen her favorite teddy. "I don't know, Z. I don't see your small teddy here," I said.
"It's downstairs," she replied.
I raced down the stairs and saw her small white teddy on the living room floor. Crisis averted.

Four under three

One of Josh's oldest friends and his wife have a little boy Z's age. We just found out last night they're expecting again. Only this time it's triplets. And no fertility treatments, spontaneous triplets. I can't even imagine.

Unschooling in the news

The NY Times profiles proponents of unschooling, a child-led homeschooling movement that's catching on in the Midwest, particularly in Chicago. I first heard of unschooling a little less than a year ago when I sold a Japanese-style baby carrier on Craigslist. It was a beautiful piece of baby gear, but one Z refused to be carried in and which was, frankly, a pain to use anyway.

The woman who answered my ad asked if I was, by any chance, the same Alma who once worked at Newcity. Turns out she was someone I'd hired to be Newcity's receptionist six years prior. She was three months pregnant with her new boyfriend's baby at the time, and she never came back to work after giving birth.

Fast forward to the present and she was living in Oak Park with her husband (same guy), their six year old and a one year old girl in need of a new carrier. We hung out in my living room for about an hour catching up, and it came out that she belonged to a group of parents who believe letting kids follow their interests beats the structure and pressure of regular schools.

Sounds nice in the abstract, but if I only studied what I wanted to, I might have spent my elementary school years doing nothing but reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and learning the names of poisonous snakes. I might have figured out fractions while baking, but I definitely wouldn't have learned my multiplication tables or long division.

What's more, for the most part I loved school. And I'm pretty sure Z will too. She's already started asking to go.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Holiday weekend update

This may be the longest I've gone without updating my blog, but I've been pretty much offline since Wednesday morning. Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, and Z loved having her "Gamangampa" here. In addition to showering her with attention, they bought her a fabulous farm from Geppetto's Toybox in Downtown Oak Park. It's from a company called Danny First Toys. Their playsets are a refreshing alternative to Dora and Little People--no hard plastic pieces to step on in the night and no battery powered sound effects.
I did my American consumerist duty and hit two stores mid-Black Friday morning with my M-I-L. I scored some deals, including a bunch of Z-friendly arts and craft supplies and a $10 pair of comfy pajamas for myself. Today we enjoyed the balmy weather at the Morton Arboretum Children's Garden, where Z partook in a children's nature walk that involved searching for stuffed animals in nature and determining if they survived winter by "snacking, napping, sleeping or flapping," and ended with free hot cocoa for the kids.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hell hath no fury like a nursing mom scorned

I'm seeing a fair about of media coverage for Tuesday's nationwide "nurse-in" in support of Emily Gillette, who was removed from a Delta Airlines flight when she refused to cover her 1-year-old child with a blanket. Check out the articles in USA Today and the Chicago Tribune.

UPDATE: If you haven't already, please join me in signing this petition is favor of the Breastfeeding Promotion Act before Congress. Over 20,000 women have already signed on.

This makes me mad

Our dumb president has appointed right-wing idiot Eric Keroack to lead the nation's family-planning program. The Title X family-planning program has a federal mandate to provide information and access to birth control, pregnancy tests and counseling (but no abortions). Yet Keroack doesn't believe in birth control. The abstinence-only nutcase has previously served in organizations that spread misinformation about condom reliability and abortions, and he claims that premarital sex disrupts brain chemistry, creating a physiological barrier to happy marriage.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Will Times Square smell like piss again?

Hardly. Charmin's coming to the rescue of grande latte-drinking tourists by offering spotless bathrooms. I swear I pitched this very idea to a certain bathroom cleaner brand years ago. Anyway, they're getting lots of media pick up on it.


This post is for Eleanor, my once vegan-but-now-omnivorous sister. Slashfood has a fascinating review of the frequently (and apparently fairly) derided vegetarian Thanksgiving staple Tofurky. Seems Tofurky is pretty Tofunky.

I seem to recall Eleanor saying she made or ate Tofurky once or twice, but I also remember the more famous family story of the Thanksgiving she spent with Grandma Lorraine in Orange County. It seems the two of them decided Turkey Day would be a good day for craft shopping just over the border in Mexico. They'd packed sandwiches for the trip and a concerned woman took pity on them when she saw the two eating PBJs at a bus station on Thanksgiving. I think they were offered a turkey dinner at a local church.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Countdown to Turkey Day

This was the last shopping weekend before Thanksgiving, and we are 80 percent prepared for our small feast. We'll be joined by my in-laws and hopefully new parents Stacie and Bob will let us bring over some food and pie. Here's the menu: Roast Turkey with Herb Butter (we're using an 11 pound organic bird), Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry and Dried Cherry Sauce, a tossed green salad, fresh-baked rolls or corn bread, and a stuffing recipe I adapted from a newspaper article a few years ago. Dessert will be Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake and Pear Cherry Pie.

My Fruited Thanksgiving Stuffing

1/4 to 1/2 cup each prunes, raisins, dried peaches and dried cranberries, chopped
1 loaf sourdough bread, stale and cubed
1 cup chicken broth
dried onion (you could use fresh, but I'm not an onion lover)
2 stalks celery
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup butter
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Saute onions and celery in butter 5 minutes. Add all fruit and cook until soft. Pour broth over bread, toss with fruit mixture and pour into a greased pan. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Potty training update

Z had been resisting our suggestions to try using the potty, so we decided to give the whole issue a rest for a while. And low and behold, that (or possibly the Mr. Rogers Potty Book from the library) immediately reignited her interest in the subject. For the last two days, she's been asking both of us to take her to the potty and she's been pulling her pants down and helping us unfasten her diaper. She talks the talk and flushes with glee, but no production of numbers one or two. Yet.

Anyway, she amused herself (and me) for about 45 minutes this afternoon pottying her teddy bear. With Z's help, Teddy "used" the potty about 15 times, which was cute enough after I convinced her she could "pretend flush for pretend pee." But what really cracked me up was when she announced that "Teddy had a accident on the floor!" She'd grab a Kleenex and scrub the carpet with it while exclaiming over "Teddy's accident! I wipe up the mess! It's okay, Teddy!"

Welcome Charlie

My friends Stacie and Bob welcomed baby Charlie early Friday morning, making Z's buddy Annelise into a big sister. I had the pleasure of visiting the new addition this afternoon at West Sub, and both he and mom looked great.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Squeezing in a baby

The NY Times Home section includes a profile of a couple who modified their very compact 265 square foot apartment to make room for a new baby. The article includes some fabulously inventive design ideas, but no mention of what might happen when the newborn outgrows the basket bassinet, much less starts running around.

Peace, love and Gap

No red and green. No mistletoe or Christmas trees. Just Chicago native Common rapping about the spirit of the season...and doing a decent job of selling Gap hoodies. Nicely done commercial.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Flags of the world, with client comments

A consulting group came up with this funny slideshow that shows what might happen to various national flags if "client comments" were part of the equation.

I'm famous!

My day is made! A well-known business writer has blogged about my Equal packets (my idea AND my slogans for the Equal Campaign for Flavor) as the coolest sugar packets he's ever seen. What's more, I found his piece on my hero Seth Godin's blog!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I just finished The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape, and I feel cheap and used. Did Robyn Waters write this easy-peasy book of off-the-cuff anecdotes on her BlackBerry while sitting through tedious marketing meetings?

Because she certainly didn't bother getting an editor or fact-checker to read over her work. In addition to an embarrassing number of typos, Ms. Waters claims the "technological revolution" that was The Polar Express took "an express ride to profits at the box office" (um, I think it had disappointing ticket sales and press). She also raves about how "consumers are flocking...[to] oxygen bars" (oxygen bars are the day before yesterday's news). And my favorite oopsie: saying McDonald's was "practically shamed into offering salads on their menu and removing the Big Gulp from their drink lineup by media attention on the childhood obesity epidemic and the fallout from the movie Supersize Me." Here's the deal Robyn: Big Gulp is a 7-11 trademark; McDonald's quit offering to supersize--get it, supersize me? It's in the movie's title!)

But as if her lazy fact-checking weren't bad enough, Robyn Waters has a grating habit of ending every one and a half page chapter with a cutesy zinger that "sells in" the brand innovation or trend. About a company that offers custom lip color: "The options have customers smacking their lips in satisfaction." About Cold Stone Creamery: "If you don't want to be left out in the cold, figure out how to give your customers what they want, their way."

The buzz on a new brew

I signed up with BzzAgent, a word of mouth marketing organization, a few months ago, largely because I was impressed with the presentations they'd made at the two WOMMA conferences I'd attended, but also because I like trying new products and I'm not shy about sharing my opinions.

Anyway, I didn't qualify for any campaigns for quite a while, but yesterday I received a free 1/2 pound of Storyville Coffee in the mail. Josh ground and brewed it in the Chemex this morning, and we found it to be a very good basic cup of coffee. A nutty and mild blend of beans from around the world, but not as interesting as the single origin coffees we've been enjoying from Intelligentsia. The beans were very fresh since it had only been days since they were roasted, and I think that most consumers will be impressed with the difference fresh roasted beans can make. But we're jaded. We've been using fresh coffee beans from the Intelligentsia roasting plant in Chicago for a year. And the price for Storyville is $16 a pound, $20 if you include shipping. A little too rich, if you ask me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

From the mouth of a babe

We were in the car driving to last night's Chavurah potluck when Z piped up with "Look at me! I'm a snowman! I'm a snowman!" And, indeed she was. Despite being strapped into her carseat, she'd placed her hat on her head and stuck her arms straight out to the sides in an irresistable ode to the season.

My 2-year-old on current events

Z saw this issue of the New Yorker and pointed to the man on the right, saying "He's mad." Then she pointed to George W. and said, "He made a mess. He's getting a time out."

Friday, November 10, 2006


Apparently somebody finally got the message. One week after I posted about the cell phone store with Verizon spelled "Varizon" on the front window sign, the sign came down. Now the sign is back up, with black tape not-so-artfully covering up the offending typo.

UPDATE on 11/15/06: The sign is down again!


Thursday, November 09, 2006

What I did on my lunch break

It is a stunningly beautiful day in Chicago. Temps in the 60s and unlimited sunshine. And since I didn't pack a lunch for the first time in weeks, I had the perfect excuse to get out of the office. I walked south on Wells to Hannah's Bretzel, which has been receiving raves since in opened. The line was short, and I had my Bretzel Sandwich with Bousin Herb Cheese and homemade black pepper and salt potato chips in no time. Hannah's is Chicago's first organic carry-out eatery, and reading the menu you can't help but notice that every meat and cheese is prefaced with the place where it was grown or produced. I'll be back for one of their more elaborate sandwiches in the future.

Interestingly enough, on the way to and from Hannah's, I passed two Subways (the sandwich shop, not the CTA) and two Dress Barns! Obviously Loop office workers have a pressing need for cheap rayon dresses and Jared's favorite food.

I also passed by a Lavazza coffee shop, and I was tempted to try the Espesso, a mousselike espresso sprayed straight from a can. It was just nominated by TIME magazine as one of the best inventions of 2006. I resisted the temptation, for now.

Hello 1979!

Not only does my little girl get handmade sweaters from her one and only Mommy, she gets to model sweaters hand-knit by her Grandma for her Aunt Bethany about 27 years ago!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Doctor says what?

We took Z to see Dr. Hutton last night for her 2 year physical. She passed with flying colors, naturally. She's up to 24.7 pounds, putting her in the 25th percentile for weight and the 10th percentile for height. Dr. Hutton praised her verbal skills and dropped a bombshell on us.

"I think she's ready for potty-training."

The good doctor advised picking a long weekend and putting the girl in cotton training pants (as opposed to the diaper-like Pull-Ups). She recommended feeding her bran muffins so she "can't hold back her stool" and lots of liquids ("Buy twistie straws, fun cups, whatever it takes."). She also said we could plan to spend "a lot of time in the kitchen" and that we should "make a really, really big deal if she can produce a few drops in the potty chair."

I'm thinking Thanksgiving weekend might be a good time to try, but Josh thinks that might be a damper--so to speak--on his parents' visit. I say that, with two doting grandparents in the house--grandparents who also happen to be pediatricians--the timing couldn't be better.

In the meantime, I let Adriana know this morning, and she's promised me Z will be accompanying the almost-3-year-old Lily to the potty all day. Plus, there will be a showing of "the potty video."

I'm also preparing a Target shopping list for Potty Weekend, whenever it should happen. I'm thinking plenty of training pants, a new cup or two, flushable wipes and a bag of M&Ms. If things go well I may have to add a travel potty since we'll have to leave the house eventually.


I woke up this morning to find my faith in the political process and the American people partially restored. The Democrats swept Illinois and didn't do too shabby elsewhere. We've regained control of the House and Democratic control of the Senate isn't out of the question yet.

Now I can only hope our elected representatives take action on the issues I care about most: limiting greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy; repealing the No Child Left Behind Act; and withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. I'd also like to see the leadership take real, intelligent steps against terrorism rather than reactionary, pointless ones (e.g. banning water bottles and hand cream from airplanes).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I voted

None of the candidates I voted for were in much danger of losing since I live in a strongly Democratic district in a strongly Democratic state, but I felt good about voting in the referendums to pull out of Iraq, raise the minimum wage to $7.50 an hour and ban the assault weapons.

Also had a pleasant lunch with Josh today. He's reviewing coffee shops around the city for Time Out Chicago, and I got to weigh in on two of the top contenders in Pilsen. We shared a tasty chicken tamale and beef flautas as well as a mug of cafe con leche at the socialist/activist Cafe Mestizo, and followed that up with Mexican hot chocolate and an enormous peanut butter chocolate chip cookie at more traditional, welcoming Cafe Jumping Bean.

Work is quiet after the craziness of the last few days. Hopefully I'll be able to sneak out a few minutes early since Z's got her 2-year doctor's visit scheduled for this evening.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Birthday party report

Everyone in Z's playgroup came to her birthday party, and she had a wonderful time surrounded by her favorite people. I lined up all 8 kids on the couch for a photo only to misplace my camera at the crucial moment. I'm waiting for a friend to forward the snapshot, but in the meantime, here's a picture of Z "tending" to Julie's four month old son, Reid. Julie, knowing Z's reputation as the paci police, brought her a baby doll that cries until you pop in its pacifier. But Z preferred the real thing.

And as a side note, that's the green and yellow sweater I just finished in time for her birthday. It fits!
Importance of a 5-Point Harness Carseat

Wow. I'm working on a cause marketing plan for a major food company, and one of ideas I sold in was a contest inviting consumers to create their own PSA (public service announcement). And only days later I come across the most moving user-created PSA I've ever seen. Get the Kleenex ready.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Dear Z,
You turn two tomorrow. You're not a baby. Well, you'll always be my baby, but you're barely a toddler anymore! You're a little girl. A running, dancing, galloping, hopping little girl who can speak in full sentences, sing a dozen nursery rhymes and count past 10. You can say your ABC's, drink out of a big girl cup and help take your clothes off. You can build a Lego tower 15 pieces high and help assemble a wooden train track. You're mastering more each day, "reading" me stories from your favorite library books and putting together puzzles. You can help in the kitchen and you love to play pretend, taking me on adventures "to the grocery store" and "to the library."

When you want something, you have an engaging way of asking for it. You cock your head to the right, raise your voice an octave and say, with rising intonation, "You wanna go to the park with me?" "You wanna a drink of my apple juice?" or "You want me brush your hair, make it pretty?" When you want other children to bend to your will, you'll occasionally treat them to the cocked-head question, more more likely you'll turn to the closest adult and say something like, "Leo wants water, Mommy. He wants me feed him water from his cup."

You still don't have lovey, instead giving affection to a rotating cast of dolls and stuffed animals. You play with all of your toys, but your vintage Little People house, Aquadoodle, markers and Play-Doh dominated this year.

Your Daddy's daughter, you absolutely love music, and you can identify "rock 'n roll," "pop," "lullaby," and "reggae" accurately. Today we took you to see Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players at a concert at FitzGerald's, and you've refused to listen to your nursery rhymes CD before today's nap or bedtime, instead demanding "Justin Roberts," which we don't yet own. I'll download some songs from iTunes tonight, I promise.

You're a social butterfly. You remember names better than either of your parents and you ask after your friends frequently. You like it when we tell you a story about one of your friends before bed.

Speaking of're a decent sleeper, going to bed between 7:35 and 8pm and rising between 6 and 6:30am. You've only missed two or three afternoon naps this whole year. Usually you're down for two hours in the early afternoon.

Since you turned one, you quit eating fresh fruit. You'll only stand for dried fruit or applesauce. Bananas are the only exception to the rule. You like vegetables, particularly corn and french fries. For breakfast, you'll have milk, diluted OJ and frozen waffles or most any breakfast cereal, but Cracklin' Oat Bran and Weetabix are your favorites. You love spaghetti, mac and cheese, quesadillas, hot dogs, chicken, ketchup and lasagna. For snacks, you like yellow cheddar cheese, peanut butter off a spoon, cereal bars, animal crackers, dehydrated strawberries and dry cereal. Juice boxes have not ceased to thrill you with their unadulterated sweetness. And you'll never forget a business that hands you a lollipop.

You're not toilet trained, not even a little bit, but you can tell us what you're doing and when. And watching Mommy use the toilet, heck, that's even better than "Caillou!"

Z, you're the cat's pajamas. The cherry on my sundae. The reason I go to work every weekday and wake up early every weekend morning.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Yes, it really is like that

AdVerbatims, a new website I came across thanks to AdFreak, is collecting actual moronic quotes from real agency life. It's kind of like Overheard in the Office, only it hits so much closer to home. My favorites:

#143- "Quit asking smart questions and just do what the client says."
(Agency, Account Executive to Copywriter, discussing idiotic changes to an ad)

#196- "We should not aim to be conceptual or creative."
(Agency, Account Executive on the brief)

#145- "We are a small company. If we were a big company we would worry about what is best for the brand. Since we are small, we need to worry about the budget."
(Client, Marketing Manager)

#153- "I like it, but I just don't think a multinational company should be doing ads in felt tip."
(Client, on first presentation of a line drawing concept scamp)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I wish my Dad was still around to see Borat.

The former DCM to Uzbekistan, he was very familiar with the swarthy, leather jacketed, mustachioed men of Central Asia in the late 1990s. And his diplomatic side was tempered with a healthy respect for the politically incorrect. He'd appreciate the cheap shots at Kazakhstan as well as the statement Sasha Baron Cohen is ultimately making about globally-ignorant Americans.

I can't wait to see the movie myself.

This is scary

Scientists are predicting that, in just 50 years, there will be virtually nothing left to fish in our oceans. And what are we doing about it? Not a damn thing.

Slate Green Challenge

My family's annual carbon emissions are 24,705 lbs, the equivalent of 2.43 passenger cars. That's a little over half of the U.S. average of 44,312 lbs. What's yours? Find out at Slate Green Challenge and see what you can do to lower your output. (Thanks Eleanor for sending. I expect you to be the first to comment!)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Seeing pink and blue

Mazel tov to my little sister Eleanor and her husband Simon -- they're expecting a baby in June! I'm going to be an aunt! Yipee!

Eleanor and Simon will make great parents. But I wouldn't be a big sister if I didn't start in with a few pieces of advice--for her and any first-time mother.

1. Buy an electric breast pump and plenty of disposable milk bags. Lansinoh makes the best ones. If you're going to pump a lot, get a hands-free halter.
2. Accept any and all offers of help for the first month. You'll want to hold your baby at all times, so let someone else cook, clean and shop.
3. Don't worry about putting baby on a schedule for the first two months. Take him with you everywhere and let him nap in the carrier, car seat or stroller. But after that, hold sacred the naps!
4. Take a lot of pictures and write down memories and milestones every month for as long as you can. The first year is a blur.

But most importantly, lay off the Internet (the new Book of Fear) and enjoy your pregnancy! Your hair will never again be as thick, your skin as radiant, or your boobs as voluptous.

That's my girl

Franny took this photo of Z when she was in town a month ago. It so perfectly capture's my almost 2-year-old's blossoming personality!
And here's the Pepto spot

Nothing reinforces your street cred like rapping about stomach ailments.
I'm not dialing Domino's

I think this ranks as the most repulsive ad I've seen in a long time. Even more icky than the Pepto-Bismol spot where the dancers point to their butts and sing "Diarrhea!"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

We're taking Z treat or treating for the first time late this afternoon.

UPDATE: Gloria and Eric brought over Lia and the girls treat-or-treated together up and down our block. They were really cute, screeching with glee and saying "Trick or treat," "Thank you," and "Happy Halloween" with some consistency. Josh wanted to come along, so we placed a bowl of candy on our stoop, expecting our neighbors to respect the honor system. Unfortunately, we'd only gone down about three houses before we bumped into a group of ill-mannered boys who weren't from our block or in costume. Our neighbor chastised them for trick or treating without a get-up, and they practically knocked Z off her porch as they reached into her candy bowl regardless. (Z said, "I want those boys go away.") Anyway, they headed to our house next and ripped off all of our treats. Nice.

On a more positive note, a few of my neighbors brought back memories of my childhood's "best Halloween houses." There's the guy who gives out full size Hershey's bars, but also the family making fresh cotton candy and the guy with margaritas for the chaperones.

Our friends stayed for dinner, much to the girls' delight.

And by 6:30 all of our back-up candy was gone.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another post about Omaha

This is for my Omaha relatives. Aunt Susie, feel free to share it with your friends at the Omaha World-Herald.

Calling customer care

This morning I dialed Chase's customer care line and pressed 0 until I got an operator.

"Hello, I'm calling because the ATM at the Merchandise Mart has said 'Unable to dispense cash' virtually every time I've checked it for the past 6 weeks."
"Does the supermarket have a branch bank?"
"It's not a supermarket. It Chicago's Merchandise Mart. One of the biggest buildings in the country. It has its own zip code. And it doesn't have a Chase bank branch in it."
"Oh, and what city and state is it in?"

To her credit, she did ask for the zip code and said she'd "make a note of it."

Hail to the purse

The NY Times has a great story reiterating what we marketers have been saying for years: women make purchasing decisions. Still, it's gratifying to see so many companies sit up and pay attention (even if it is in their own self interest).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Did I really gain an hour?

We "fell back" last night as Daylight Savings Time came to an end, but no one told our toddler. She awakened at her usual hour, but instead of it being 6:20am, it was 5:20. And since we'd been out for almost 8 hours for a wedding near Lake Forest Saturday night, we could have used the sleep! It was J. Niimi's nuptials, and the gathering was thick with indie rockers. At our table of eight, six were musicians either currently or formerly in bands. And how often can Josh and I go anywhere and find at least three other music critics?

Julia babysat, and Z escorted her around the Halloween block party where apparently some of the neighbors I don't know very well thought she was the mommy. Did I mention she's in high school? Anyway, it must have gone well because the first thing Z said when we came downstairs this morning was, "Hey! Where did Julia go?" Then she asked where Fred and Jeff went. They, plus one other former Aden bandmate, crashed here Friday night and Z got plenty of time to bond with the guys--Fred in particular.

Speaking of which, Fred brought Z one of the cutest, most thoughtful gifts she's ever received. Fred, who is a single guy in his early thirties who writes print ads for Howard Stern, picked out a tiny plush backpack with butterfly wings. Z was enchanted.

Lots of other stuff was packed into this weekend too: I braved chilly winds to march with Z in the block's Halloween parade. I don't know if it was the weather or the bad night of sleep she'd had the night before, but she proved to be a very cowardly lion! I finished Z's green and yellow striped cardigan. I hit the Oak Park Temple Rummage Sale and scored a bed rail, an extra booster seat, a spare umbrella stroller, two kiddie books, a pair of children's sneakers and a Little People barn (which is short a few animals) for a grand total of $12. I ate delicious barbecue at Sweet Baby Ray's in Wood Dale. And I endured a napless Sunday.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The perfect cup of coffee

As I mentioned, Flavia and Keurig would be nice improvements to the coffee situation at work, but I get a real fine cup of coffee every morning at home. I'm lucky enough to have married a budding coffee geek, one of the country's rare Chemex owners. For the last couple of years, I've indulged his love of good beans with a coffee of the month membership to Peet's or Intelligentsia, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I've benefited from my own largess.

Everyone should know how to make a great cup of joe. And now the LA Times has a great story on exactly that. Because you never know when we might come for a visit.

Barack Obama

I'm thrilled to see our country so excited about a presidential run by our junior Senator for Illinois and former Hyde Parker Barack Obama. I read (most) of his first autobiography, and untell someone can prove otherwise, I believe he's one of the rare politicians who is in this for the right reasons. He's a dyed in the wool progressive liberal, but because he can talk about Jesus he's willing to play nice with Republicans, conservatives don't hate him. Is he electable? Slate's Jacob Weisberg thinks so.

And while I last heard it before he was elected, I'll never forget his uplifting 2004 campaign theme song.

Over 100 posts

This week I passed the 100 post mark and yesterday I had more site visitors than I typically get in a week, thanks I'm sure to the Verizon story I shared with Consumerist. It's all making me feel a little like a genuine blogger. I love having this site as an outlet, and it makes me all warm and fuzzy knowing someone's out there reading what I have to say.

So, if you like what you've seen so far, share this site with a couple of friends. Let's demonstrate the power of word-of-mouth!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just don't

Why is it cute to call Diet Coke "DC?" You're not saving any syllables. You and your Diet Coke-swilling friends aren't part of some secret society. It's the number one selling diet cola in the world!

Or maybe it's me. Maybe I'm harboring some underlying resentment that Diet Coke is the only beverage option at most of the working lunches I attend. Like, G-d forbid a woman in this industry drink anything else! Tap water, for instance. (Or, if I have any credit left on the Starbucks gift cards I'm periodically awarded, an IZZE soda. Mmmm.)

Something's brewing at work

This morning our office manager coordinated a taste test with our regular beverage vendor, and the kitchen with filled with art directors, web designers, account execs and accounting staff sampling coffee and teas from Keurig and Flavia.

Honestly, any single serve coffee machine will be miles better than the industrial sludge available in the seldom-washed, truck stop-style drip machines this agency has currently got, but I'm pushing for the Flavia since it offers so many tasty choices. I had a cappuccino this morning, but the machine can also make a decent latte, mocha, hot cocoa or tea (although they're scorchingly hot). The other major thing the Flavia's got going for it is that it includes milk pouches for the aforementioned espresso drinks. I'm not a fan of Coffee-Mate, and that's the closest thing we've got to moo juice right now.

Why I'm needed

I saw this point-of-sale poster at a cell phone shop in the Merchandise Mart. Did the agency (or in-house shop) that created it forget to hire a copywriter? A proofreader? An account executive capable of spelling his own client's name correctly? And the best part is that Verizon is misspelled right underneath the Verizon logo!

I realize this picture isn't the best quality, but I took it with my Samsung phone (from T-Mobile).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


As if the spinach recall wasn't enough, now Consumer Reports is telling us that avoiding bagged salad won't just save you a pretty penny--it could save you from serious gross-out. They surveyed "ready-to-eat" salads and analyzed them for brown, gooey leaves and icky odors. The percentage of inedible greens ranged from a low of .5 percent to a whopping 83 percent! I think I'll stick with washing and ripping up my own lettuce. It's really not that hard!

I want it

Blik, maker of the birds gracing the wall above my bed, are getting into car customization with their new Autographic line of decals. Can I tell you how much I want this for our new CR-V?

Are you a hot mom?

Well, I'd loathe to be seen in Mom Jeans, but I'm not sure I'm up to today's standards. And apparently I should be concerned. What with with Suave telling me to put beauty back on my to-do list and a new reality TV show searching for the Hottest Mom in America, it seems just looking presentable while juggling diaper changes, toddler mealtimes and a full-time job isn't enough. Now we moms need to stop traffic in the car pool lane. We need to push up our lactating breasts and squeeze our post-partum bellies in low-rise denim (hello muffin top!).

I'm all for looking my best--hell, cute clothes and a good hair day can make my day. But all this focus on MILFs makes me feel we haven't come very far in 30 years. Check out this TAB commercial for proof.

I've also come across the Hot Moms Club, but while it claims to be a website for "Moms who refuse to check their sense of style at the white picket fence," their content isn't beauty or fashion-focused in the least. In fact, it is kind of interesting, in an upscale, Cookie-kind of way.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A woman I admire

Glencoe, Illinois mom Lynn Romanek was so moved by An Inconvenient Truth, that she decided to start a grassroots campaign to reduce emissions in her suburb. She's posting signs at schools and temples asking drivers to simply turn off their engines, reducing the emissions caused by careless idling. And it's such a simple, painless change that drivers are doing just that.

My hat's off to her!

Baby likes books

Josh picked up some new books from the library for Z today, and I showed them to her about 45 minutes before bedtime. Surprisingly, she didn't care at all for Sandra Boynton's Doggies, but Pumpkin, Pumpkin and Lost and Found were big hits! So much so that after one Mommy read-though of each, my little girl decided she would read the books to me.
Here's her version of Pumpkin, Pumpkin: "Pumpkin, Pumpkin. Pumpkin seed. And it grow. And grow. And grow. And grow. The end!"
The sappy underpinnings of Lost and Found were largely lost on her: "Lost and found! Penguin at the doorway. There's the moon! Those are star brights! Do you wanna see the thunder? There's thunder! And rain! And a cave [iceberg]. The cave is where the penguin live. And water. The end!"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting back online

Sorry the posts have been few and far between these last couple of days. Having my mom and Rick in town, combined with having the only Internet-ready computer in the basement (the wireless connection on our iBook is on the fritz), has made updating my blog a low priority.

Anyway, everyone's asking "So, how do you like your mom's boyfriend?" And the answer is, honestly, we like him a lot! He's a laid-back, jolly sort of guy...intellectually curious and with varied interests. He's able to keep up with Josh in conversations about movies, music and comic art (my mother's interest level in those departments is sub-low), and he seems genuinely into Mom. In fact, the two of them are a little puppydoggish, which is a little weird to see in a parent, but heartwarming nonetheless.

I'm really hoping this relationship sticks since Rick seems to be really good for Mom. He softens her sharp edges. Also, since she's been with Rick she seems more comfortable in her own skin than I've ever seen her. Maybe it's easier to be at ease with yourself when you know someone else thinks you're the bomb.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

21st Century Family

My mom and her boyfriend Rick are here for a weekend visit. I'm glad Z's young enough that I don't have to explain his relationship to Nanny (her grandmother)!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Green Chicago

A Fresh Squeeze is a new Chicago website and e-newsletter with ideas for healthier, more organic and less polluting living in Chicago. I've enjoyed their first few emails and I'm bookmarking the website.

What I believe

It is rare that I'm given the opportunity to do good as a marketer, but I am so excited about a program idea I've developed for a new business pitch. We were asked to come up with a cause marketing idea that would appeal to moms and focus on health and wellness for kids. I won't give away the specifics of the idea, but it is something I really, truly believe in. I'm hoping that the marketing muscle of this powerful brand can help start a movement for play. As I mentioned a few days ago, the AAP has released a study that says child-based, unstructured play is under threat from parents' desires to create superkids and the pressure schools are under to raise academic test scores. I read the report (click the PDF link within the press release), and I strongly urge every parent and educator to do so also. It reinforced my commitment to give Z the same long afternoons of creative playtime I enjoyed as a kid.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Science fiction?

An evolutionary theorist is predicting that humanity may split into two distinct sub-species in 100,000 years and that just 1000 years from now we'll be well over 6 feet tall. Our lifespan will have been extended to 120 years and everyone will be coffee-colored and better looking. The question is: will we survive that long or destroy or planet first?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More teddies!

In addition to the teddy bear, musical giraffe, sippy cup of water and book already in her crib, Z demanded "baby" (a plush Japanese-alien thing from Aunt Bethany that now wears a diaper), "another teddy" and "my elephant" (also diapered) before submitting to the nightly tuck in. This is getting ridiculous!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In the work-life balance, housework suffers

A new study reveals that married and single parents--even working moms like me--are spending more time on child care than women of previous generations. Since we're also working more outside the home something had to give. That something? Housework. We're either asking our husbands for help, letting the dust bunnies run wild... or we're outsourcing. Considering I only know one mom (working or stay-a-home) who doesn't have a cleaning lady, I see anecdotal evidence to support the study. Another interesting tidbit from the study, which is detailed in this NY Times article, "Many couples delay having children to 'a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.' People who are uninterested in raising children can 'opt out of parenting altogether,' by using birth control."

The Evolution of Beauty

The Evolution Of Beauty

I'm a huge fan of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, but this video really takes the cake. I could point out that Dove is a beauty brand and it isn't like they never retouch their ads. Or that Unilever, Dove's parent company, is a major advertiser (and a client of my agency). But that doesn't keep me from loving this. Talk about forging an emotional connection to the brand!

Preschool puberty

Puberty has been moving up in children, and many people blame the hormones in dairy products. We try to limit Z's exposure to bovine growth hormone by choosing dairy products that are rBGH-free. But it looks like the increasing prevalence of certain drugs, cosmetics and endocrine disruptors are causing breast growth, pubic hair and other symptoms of puberty in children as young as five. This NY Times piece details one case in which doctors realized that, through normal skin contact with her father, a girl absorbed the testosterone from a topical skin cream her dad was using, elevating her testosterone level to 100 times the normal level.

Scary stuff.

She's got a point

A conversation Josh and Z had yesterday:
Z: Where did Silver go? Where is he?
Josh: Where did she go? She went downstairs to the basement. Silver is a girl.
Z: No, Daddy! Silver's a cat!

Monday, October 16, 2006


Having finished The Overachievers and bailed on Irvine Welch's The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs halfway through (I hated all of the characters and I was tired of trying to decipher Welch's prose), I've started Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. I never considered myself the graphic novel type, but Josh got me hooked with Marjane Strapi's Persepolis books about growing up in Iran during the revolution0.. I also enjoyed Art Spiegelman's Maus, so I guess my growing appreciation for graphic novels is less of graphic novels than of graphic memoirs. Anyway, Fun Home is the rollicking recollection of a young lesbian raised alongside two younger brothers by a not-so-well closeted father and a tense, tight-lipped mother. The father, who committed suicide when Alison was 20, spends his days teaching high school English and his nights running the family funeral parlor. His spare time is dedicated to restoring to its ornate former glory the Addams Family-style gothic mansion which the family of five calls home.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The accidental artist

While we were finishing dinner (Penne with Tomato-Vodka Cream Sauce, garlic bread, a green salad with avocados and sundried tomatoes and a glass of Shiraz, in case you were wondering), Z grabbed some construction paper and markers and set to work. Minutes later she piped up with, "I drew picture of a horse, Mommy." You could have knocked me over with a feather, her picture looked that much like a horse.


She keeps upping the ante. Tonight Z required the presence of two teddy bears, one music-playing giraffe, one sippy cup and one book before going to sleep. How she can hold on to so many items while sleeping facedown in the corner of her crib is beyond me. And I'm not so thrilled with her sleeping with a sippy full of water since it inevitably leaks into a giant wet spot and dampens her pajamas.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Now with pictures

I've added a link to my Flickr photostream on the right hand side. I've posted the rest of the photos from the Thompson family visit.

Old Friends

Today we reunited with old friends and the children they've had since we were all last together. See if you can keep this straight: I used to work at Newcity with Frank. Frank married Beth, who lived briefly on the first floor of our old condo building with her sister Laura. Beth moved out of the condo and Laura married John, who moved in. John, in addition to being Frank's brother-in-law, also happened to be his cousin. I left Newcity to work at my current job. Frank left Newcity to work at Time. John and Laura moved out of their condo, and then we sold ours to move to Oak Park. I bumped into Frank once or twice on the street (and it turns out we know plenty of people in common) and Josh would see him periodically at concerts, but we were largely out of touch.

By the time we could all arrange to get together for brunch, Frank and Beth had two girls, four and two, and John and Laura had a three year old girl and a newborn boy.

Needless to say, Z had a blast playing with the kids and we had a great time catching up with old friends. (I find it fascinating that you can throw any kids of approximately the same age together and they'll automatically become friends; at what age do outgrow that and why?)

Dinner by Design

Last night I got together with five friends for a private "meal assembly" party at Dinner by Design. For just over 100 bucks, I assembled 6 meals, each of which was then divided in two for a total of 12 dishes (each serves about three people). The ingredients seemed to be of good (but not great) quality, and the staff was very helpful and friendly. The proof, of course, will be in how the dishes taste. Most of the food is in our spacious new basement freezer, but I decided to leave the Tropical Cod and Apple Caramel Crisp in the fridge for tonight. (Most promising among the dishes I prepared are the Garlic Herb Chicken and Italian Beef Sandwiches). If we all agree the food is as good as the convience and companionship (envision six women chatting, snacking and drinking wine while putting together meals that someone else planned, shopped for, diced and cleaned up after), we'll be back for more.

UPDATE: The Tropical Cod was a B/B-; it was a well-seasoned, flaky piece of fish with a sauce that mostly tasted of mango puree (I may have added too much puree when I made it). Tasty enough to pass as home cooking, but nothing I'd serve to guests. The Apple Caramel Crisp gets an A-. It's delicious, but I prefer the heartier oatmeal-brown sugar crunch of the Moosewood Cookbook recipe I typically use. The crumble on this one was a mixture of oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla wafers and almonds.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


The good news: I don't have strep throat.
The bad news: I might have a sinus infection.
In the meantime, I've got the standard advice to follow: rest and drink plenty of fluids. If it doesn't get better, get antibiotics.

Did I mention it is snowing? We put Z in the purple parka I'd found at a yard sale this summer, but the zipper pull popped off. Maybe I'll see what I can find at

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Getting swabbed

Turns out Franny tested positive for strep throat. Given that we were in close quarters and my throat has been sore for three days, I'm going to the doctor tomorrow morning to see if I've been exposed. I'm not suffering nearly as much as Franny, but I would like to stop abusing the Chloroseptic spray.

Interesting...when I Googled strep throat, I saw on a few health sites that a rash with small red spots is a common symptom of strep in kids. And Z had just such a rash along with a fever, hoarse voice and lack of interest in food a week or so ago. Is it possible she had strep and we didn't even recognize it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mommy's new dress

Remember my last post about new clothes, when I went nuts at Ann Taylor Loft and scored a bunch of $25 savings certificates? Well, Franny and I bought a dress each at $79 and put those $75 in savings certificates to work. Which means our dresses were 50% off. And I still have the 15% off coupon that sent me in there in the first place (I fell in love with the draped front dress when I saw it on the direct mail piece)! Anyway, I wore my new dress to work today and scored a bunch of compliments, so that lifted my otherwise sleepy spirits.

Of red eyes and sore throats

I'm so tired I can hear my bed beckoning me from two stories up. Franny, Dave and Mizz left this evening to return to Portland. It was wonderful having her and her family here for a visit, but since this is life, not everything went exactly as planned. Sleep schedules were thrown off, Franny caught a debilitating cold, and our grand plans to see the sites (or at least the zoo) went out the window. Still, even though the sudden onset of Franny's illness cut our adults-only dinner short (we got the food to-go) and our outings were limited to local playgrounds, I got what was most important: face time with Franny and family.

The memories I'll cherish are of seeing Z and Mizz race around the house screeching with glee. Splashing in the bath. And bustling in the play kitchen. Of Z telling me all the things her little friend needs ("He needs milk." "He's hun-gee." "He wants to pay wif my toys." "He wants to go outside." "He wants to go on da swings." "He's all done swings." "He needs a nap."). And the moment when Z showed Josh the Dora sticker I'd given her for sharing nicely, saying "I got sticker from Mommy. For good sharing wif Mizz."

Get well soon Franny!