Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Just outside NYC

Blogging will be light for the next couple days as I'm in Tarrytown for some training in integrated marketing communications. Fascinating stuff, actually.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From the mouth of a babe, part 2

Here are a couple of quotes from Z from the past few days.

“We’re going on a long trip! I’m helping Mommy. I pack da suitcase. I packing things all up!”

“I’m helping Mommy. I’m picking raspberries. ‘Dis one’s dirty! ‘Dis one’s not ready! ‘Dis one’s clean! Here, Mommy!”

“We’re going to restaurant. I wanna ask a lady. I wanna ask a lady for…for highchair!”

“I wanna drive a ‘lil bit.”

“Dat’s my stroller. Dat’s my black stroller. Dat’s a other stroller. Dere’s two strollers.”

“What’s dat, Mommy?”
“Those are coffee mugs for sale.”
“Don’t touch!”
“That’s right, we don’t touch them.”

“No pony, Mommy. No pony.”
“But Mommy wants a ponytail. I’m having a bad hair day.”
“Mommy have bad hair day!”

“Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the …bugs bite!”

What, she's not a genius?

In her Slate article The Infant Grammarian: The Genius of Baby Talk, Emily Bazelon sums up recent research into the development of infant language and concludes with what I've always suspected: that kids all end up talking fluently, no matter how quickly they pick up language. I consider myself lucky that Z is an early talker. She's not going to be two until November and she's already using multiple word sentences and pretty consistently good grammar. Sure, it's nice that I can glow with pride when strangers coo, "she has so many words," but the real luck is that I know what she wants (even if, as Bazelon points out, "I may not like what [she] has to say").

Parents can't help but compare their kids, and I've heard all kinds of theories about why some kids talk earlier than others: that they know sign language and thus are having their communication needs met, that they're exposed to older kids in day care who are already talking, that their parents are writers and thus they're genetically more verbal (wink wink)... the list goes on.

It's interesting to learn that actual research is going on in this field, even if it is probably more reassuring to moms and dads with kids more slow to talk. Now if they could only publish a reassuring book about tiny toddlers who don't eat!

We're back!

Our four day trip to Saugatuck, Michigan was relaxing and (mostly) a good time, but we definitely learned some lessons from our first trip alone with Z. (Since her birth, all trips have included relatives.) Here are the golden rules of traveling with a toddler, as I see it.

1. Don't count on your toddler napping in the car. Ours doesn't.
2. Buy a cheap portable DVD player and squash the guilt when you see your little tyke turning into a sippy cup-clutching vegetable in the car seat. It beats the alternative, trust me.
3. Book a room with a kitchenette. You'll make up the cost when you don't eat out three restaurant meals each day. And believe me, you're not getting that much enjoyment out of the restaurant meal when you're busy plying your toddler with crayons and books. We learned this lesson the hard way.
4. If possible, get a suite so you don't have to go to bed when your toddler does.
5. Stay at a place with a pool. Hours and hours of pure, shrieking fun for free.
6. Go to the beach. Z entertained herself for over 2 hours, busily moving sand from one part of the beach to the next.
7. Buy baby powder. It removes beach and playground sand like magic.
8. Embrace naptime. Keeping your kid on her schedule will ensure she stays an angel and you'll have some enforced downtime.
9. Keep it simple. I loved watching Z throw herself into the most basic activities: picking berries, taking a boat ride, swimming in the pool, playing in the sand and dancing to a zydeco band in the park.
10. Remember your mate. Z loves getting "mommy-daddy" time and attention, but she also loves seeing us enjoying each other's company. Or as she says, "Daddy kiss Mommy. Again!"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Off to Michigan

We're heading to Saugatuck, Michigan for a few days of R&R. Looking forward to the hotel pool, Oval Beach, chain ferry rides into town, cherry pies from Crane's Pie Pantry and a lots of down time with Josh and Z.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ben & Jerry get egg on their face

Earlier today I applauded Oprah for putting her money where her mouth is and donating time and money to schoolgirls in Africa. Now I'm scolding Ben & Jerry's for talking about supporting sustainable family farms and environmental causes while purchasing eggs from a company whose abuses of chickens has been documented by the Humane Society of the United States: "On its web site, [Ben & Jerry's] criticizes what it calls 'giant, industrial farming operations,' and it ends one of its commercials with the tag line, 'Ben & Jerry's: Join our fight for small family farms.' Of course, consumers viewing the company's public declarations of social responsibility might have a hard time swallowing the fact that Ben & Jerry's is responsible for keeping tens of thousands of hens intensively confined in massive industrialized factory farms."
As a marketer, I believe in the power of brands and I know that cause and green marketing can be powerful tools when properly used. And as a consumer, I chose brands for recycled content, fair-trade practices and the humane treatment of animals.
But brands need to understand the responsiblity that comes from putting a stake in the higher ground. Ben & Jerry's, you will be held to a higher standard. And if you can't fulfill your brand promises, you'll get your just desserts.

Forbes Insults Career Women

In its article Don't Marry Career Women, warns men not to marry women who work more than 35 hours a week or earn more than $30,000, claiming that professional women are "more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it."
I'm a professional woman and mother who works and earns more than the women Forbes warns against, and I'd hate to think women like me are going to find themselves alone because men who equal them in education and earning power are looking for meek, less ambitious women who will busy themselves with cleaning house instead of running off with a co-worker. ("When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they'll meet somone they like more than you.")
That said, I think marriages where both the husband and wife work full time in demanding professions are frequently strained, particularly with the addition of small children. I'm fortunate that my husband can freelance part time, allowing him up to help out with childcare and housework and freeing me of some of the burdens of the average working mother. Forbes makes a point that "husbands who are successful breadwinners give their wives the opportunity to make more choices about work and family--e.g., working part-time, staying home, or pursuing a meaningful but not particularly remunerative job." Why can't this be true of wives who are successful breadwinners? Does Forbes believe that only men read their publication?
And on an unrelated note, who picked the terribly generic stock photos used to illustrate this piece?

Update: Apparently I'm not the only one offended by the article. The Huffington Post is reporting that has pulled the article from its website.


I confess, I love Oprah. When I was on maternity leave, 9am was a sacred time. I'm a big reader, and I've enjoyed many of books she's selected for her book club. And while my husband isn't entirely offbase when he claims they're all about women overcoming triumph, why is that such a bad thing? Anyway, I wanted to give Oprah a little shout-out for putting her money where her mouth is. BBC News is reporting that she's named the first girls to be admitted to the South African school she's spent $10 million helping build.
For the record, this is the year I'm going to get tickets to Oprah. The phone lines open today, so wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I finished My Sister's Keeper last night, and I'm having a hard time deciding how heartily I want to recommend the book. It was a page-turner, sure. The subject matter (designer babies and medical ethics) is timely and Jodi Picoult does a convincing job of switching voices between the seven main characters. Still, I felt like she was racing to the finish line only shock me with a sudden reversal of fortune in the last 20 pages.

Next up: The Memory Keeper's Daughter, another story of siblings and sickness with "Keeper" in the title.

Flashback 1989

I wasn't in the U.S. to see Madonna's landmark Pepsi/"Like Prayer" commercial debut during the Cosby Show, but I heard the fervor and felt the backlash all the way over in Europe, where my family was living at the time. For those of you who don't remember, the actual "Like a Prayer" video scandalized the Catholic Church, who pressured Pepsi to drop Madonna like a hot potato.
Thank you YouTube, for the memories.


What do you do when your primary client abruptly decides to stop supporting a brand? When they let their marketing staff go and you, as an agency creative, suddenly have nothing to do?
You grieve. You grieve for the loss of clients you liked and respected personally and professionally. You grieve for the gravitational center that rallied agency team members around a common cause. And perhaps most of all, you grieve for the underdog brand -- the distant #2 -- that inspired your creativity.

Thank goodness the work is portfolio quality.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"I wanna see peoples"

Z got her wish this weekend as we squeezed in a whole lot of socializing. Saturday was playgroup at the playgrond, and on Sunday I made dinner for two women who recently gave birth. We delivered the food in person, getting to visit with the new arrivals. Both are baby girls with older brothers, both delivered in the water at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park.

So it wasn't any surprise when, as we were climbing the front steps of my co-worker's new home in Oak Park to present them with some farmer's market honey, Z piped up with "see 'nother tiny baby!" But since Justin and his wife don't have children, she settled for chasing after their cats and checking out the contents of their kitchen cabinets. As we were leaving, Z said, "Go back an' see more neighborhood!"

To Z's delight, we weren't done socializing. Our friends and Old School Records proprietors Jody and Peter came over for dinner. I made a rosemary chicken and potatoes recipe from the new issue of Real Simple, but unable to believe the recipe didn't call for any garlic, I added a clove. It was a good dish, but it could have stood even more garlic.

Z had been playing with Jody's keys during dinner, and Jody realized after Z had been put to bed that they weren't on the floor or in any obvious location. So around 10pm all four of us spent half an hour on our hands and knees, scouring the first floor for a giant ring of keys. Jody eventually found them: in the "trunk" of Z's ride on car, which was parked on the front porch.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Birthday dinner, 2 months later

My sister and her husband surprised me on my 30th birthday with an incredibly generous and thoughtful gift--gift certificates for dinner at MK, one of Chicago's top restaurants. Even more thoughtful when you consider they're not from Chicago--they're Sydneysiders who chose the restaurant while we were on a family vacation in Alberta, Canada!

Anyway, we finally got to put them to good use tonight. My meal included a proscuitto-melon-ricotta salad, Kobe beef on greens, pomme frites, a glass of MK's own Pinot Noir. I concluded with a cup of coffee and a dessert called mint-chip, which was a baked Alaska-like creation of chocolate souffle, mint-chip ice cream, hot fudge and meringue. A lovely, lovely meal. Josh had a caipirinha, "tomatoes in all their glory," the pork tenderloin, and the "two banana" dessert. Yum.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A most crap-tastic post

I didn't realize how much I treasured a little peace and quiet in the bathroom until just recently. You see, Z has started showing a real interest in the potty process, and this morning she pestered me with "What are you doing Mommy?" and "Where is the poop Mommy?" while trying to pry my knees apart and peek into the bowl. When I didn't perform fast enough (and trust me, it's not easy with such an audience), she leaned against my thighs and said, "Move Mommy! I wanna throw paper in dere! I wanna flush the toy-et!"

But perhaps my lack of privacy is paying off. Because she is learning something. After she flushed, she pointed to the potty and said "That's dirty." Which has me hoping I won't find her giving her dolls a dip in there anymore.

Hire a copy editor!

The CTA is out $75,000 and hopefully feeling a little humiliated for ordering and putting up 3,000 new maps full of glaring errors. Not only did their "facilities department" spell Belmont two different ways, they forgot to let commuters know about the free transfers available at Fullerton and they got their own phone number wrong! How does this happen? I know I'm more of a stickler for spelling and grammar than most (it's part of my job), but if we're going to be a semi-literate society, can we at least admit to our need for copy editors? Read the whole story here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What a girl wants

Fudge Pop
Originally uploaded by marketingmommy.

Skinny Cow Fudge Bars, they're a hit with more than Mommy. Seriously, Z has a real sweet tooth. She's not much of an eater, but "tookie" was one of her first 10 words. And apparently she demanded "mas ice cream" at daycare earlier this week. We don't ply her with desserts more than once or twice a week, but I don't believe in trying to enforce a treat-free zone at home either. I grew up with ice cream, Cheetos, Fritos and the heart attack on a plate my folks called "Gashouse eggs," and save a few months after Z's arrival, I've never been overweight.

Note to concerned parents: Z shared her fudge pop with Daddy, who ate at least half.

Summer in the city

It is days like this--71 degrees and sunny--that remind me why I love my beautiful city. This is why February in Chicago can be endured. I snapped these photos on my way to work this morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pillow talk

Here's what Z had to say this evening as I was putting her to bed.

"Mommy? Mommy? I take the choo-choo."
"Really? Where do you take the choo-choo train to?"
"I take choo-choo train work! I take mommy's purse!"
"That's nice..."
"I pack a snack!"
"Oh, to eat at work...just like Mommy does. And what do you do at work? Do you work on the computer and talk to people like Mommy does?"
"Yes. Yes. Yes!! I use computer. I want Daddy's computer. Where's Daddy? I play P B Kiz [the PBS Kids website]. Play Dragon Tales. Mommy? Mommy, sing Dragon Tales."
"I don't know that one, honey. How about "'Rock-a-bye baby?'"
"Sounds good."


I can't put this book down.

Best friends

I've read that children only form real friendships at age 3. Try telling that to Z and L, 21 and 23 months.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Date Night

Tonight's Dixie Chicks tickets fell through, but having a babysitter already booked, we leapt at the chance to go out to dinner as a couple. We chose Opera because we'd enjoyed their Tuesday night deal once before. For $25 per person, you can choose any appetizer, entree and dessert on the menu--including their $30 Peking Duck 3 Ways special (which Josh got). Our meal was spectacular and the service was great. And to top it all off, our server presented us with two $50 gift certificates to Marche, which is owned by the same people as Opera. Somehow we ended up ahead!

Only one thing dampened our evening. When we returned home, Julia informed us that Z cried off and on all evening. Which she's never done for a sitter before. I'm guessing she just didn't get enough Mommy and Daddy time before we took off. Today was a daycare day and I'd only been home for a few minutes before the babysitter arrived.

I was actually a little glad that she sensed our return home and called out for a reassuring hug. I even broke protocol and lifted her out of her crib. Guess Mommy needed that hug too.

What's in your toybox?

When Z turned 1, she simply wasn't that into her toys. She liked baby dolls and would happily spend 10 minutes throwing blankets over them and shouting "night-night," but that was about it. Books were her thing.

Now she loves toys. Which means I love yard sales. So if you're in the market for a birthday present for a 1 or 2 year old girl, here's Baby Z's top ten indoor toys list--ranked roughly in order of how long each toy will keep her occupied.

10. IKEA train set
With help, Z can build a track and push the train cars along it. But the real triumph is building a circular track and sitting in the middle of it. I've heard this is compatible with the much pricier BRIO set. Under $15

9. Plastic milk jug and wooden clothespins
You know, you can drop the clothespins inside the jug, dump 'em out...and start again. This low-budget toy nearly always starts a fight when multiple kids are at my house. Total cost: about 50¢

. Megabloks
Don't tell the brand manager, but we call them Legos! Purchased for 75¢ during the neighborhood block sale.

7. Washable Crayola Markers
Check out the back-to-school sales going on now. They can be had for $1 or $2 a box. Z has been known to create works of art on the back sides of PowerPoint decks.

6. Play-Doh
You can make it yourself, but $3 worth lasts us 6 months if we take care of it.

5. Baby Doll Stroller
$9 at Toys R Us and worth every penny.

4. Little People house with people and accessories, circa 1983

The little people do a lot of going to bed, eating breakfast (Weetabix) and "going food shopping at the store." Cost: $1 at a yard sale

3. Cardboard box, large enough to climb inside


2. Mommy's Purse
Stocked with a cell phone, a wallet with "moneys," Kleenex, lip balm and--once a month or so a "noodle" [Tampax], this is a helluva toy. Technically free, but that means I'm combing the house for my lipstick and worrying that a co-worker will get a call like this: "Hi! I'm talking tel-phone! How are you doing? I got Mommy's phone! It's mine!"

1. Naked plastic baby

It can be diapered, bathed, kissed, hugged, fed and put to bed. It can go for walks in the doll stroller (see #5). It can go for rides in the doll carseat/swing (not rated). It is not allowed in the crib. It's name is Z.

Movin' on Up

As I was putting her to bed last night in her crib, Zoe told me she wanted to sleep "in da big bed." I told her we were done playing on Mommy and Daddy's big bed and it was time to go to sleep. She insisted, saying "I wanna big bed!"

"Do you think you're ready for a big girl bed, Z?"

"Yeah, I wanna big girl bed. Big girl bed."

"We'll see," I replied, "Maybe you'll get a big girl bed soon. But tonight you're sleeping in your crib."

Now I'm not sure I'm ready for Z to be out of her crib and into trouble. One of her little friends moved to a toddler bed at around 15 months, but everyone else is happy to sleep in their safe little baby cages. So I'm hoping this is a passing fancy.

But when that day does we just remove one side of her crib? Do we buy her a cheap toddler bed or go to a twin bed straightaway?

Monday, August 14, 2006

From the mouth of a babe

As we were eating our dinner this evening (a lovely penne with vodka-cream sauce, salad and garlic bread, BTW), my 21 month old daughter looked up, pointed toward the ceiling and said, "I go over the moon."

"You jump over the moon, like the cow jumps over the moon?" I replied.

"Yes. On the moon!"

"What else do you do, Z?"

"I...I painted a camel!"



I'm not well known for my patience, so I kept this blog a secret for 3 whole hours before sending a link to my BFF. Hi Franny!
Since she's usually the recipient of my reading lists, she suggested I post my book recommendations for all to see. So here's what I've read in the past month or so:

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
This is perhaps the best book I've read since The Time-Traveler's Wife, which was my favorite book of last year. It was so good I couldn't put it down. And when I was up late reading in bed, every little bump in the night would start my heart pounding. For fellow non-fans of fantasy, don't read the book jacket. Just read the book. Trust me.

I Didn't Do It For You: How the Whole World Betrayed a Small African Nation
Before reading this, I knew a lot more about the Rwandan genocide (We Wish to Inform You...) and the colonial struggles of Rhodesia (Alexanda Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Scribbling the Cat) than the struggles of Eritrea.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
My friend Tim loaned me this book a couple of months ago, but I put off reading it until I was done with the previous two. Turned out my timing was perfect as this is a great accompaniment to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
It shows that while human societies have encountered climate change before, they usually don't survive.

The Smallest Superfan

Seeing as how I married a musician and music critic, it is no surprise our daughter is an avid concert-goer. No, we aren't taking her to late-night shows at the Empty Bottle. We're joining other parents-of-small-children at free outdoor concerts at Chicago's Millennium Park and in Scoville Park in Oak Park.

Last night we had dinner with friends as we took in a swing band. Z had a grand ole time as always, twirling, rolling, and inventing new yoga poses for attention. But more charming than her attention-grabbing tricks was a moment when she stopped performing and said, "Somebody's crying."

"Does somebody need a hug?" I asked.

"Yes. Somebody's crying need a hug."

Then she got up, surveyed the crowd and found a somewhat morose-looking 10 or 11 year old girl sitting about 20 feet away. She toddled right up to her, gave her a hug, patted her head and sat down in front of her for a "chat." What I wouldn't give to know what Z was saying!

And in further demonstration that I have given birth to a confirmed extrovert: Z tried to buy the friendship of an elderly couple with the offering of plastic cutlery and Teddy Grahams, she petted the gray dog belonging to a family of long-haired bookworms (seriously, 4 out of 5 of them were reading library books during the concert!), and she "borrowed" the baby-doll stroller of another little girl and pushed it 100 feet away before I caught up with her.


I no longer listen to the radio much. Between NPR pledge drives and Z's demands for "The Happy Song," I can't focus on it. Except during my commute. And for that, I love podcasts. I enjoy NPR's Most E-Mailed Stories, Shuffle and Business Story of the Day podcasts, and I've recently discovered the Manic Mommies. Who had me laughing (and nearly crying tears of laughter) all the way home from work.

Crib Notes

I love listening to Z over the baby monitor as she wakes up in the morning or from her afternoon nap. This morning I heard "Hi Tu-wah [Tallulah, the cat]. Hi Tu-wah. Tu-wah, come back! Tu-wah, come here! Hi Tu-wah. How're you, Tu-wah? I'm fine."

I went into her room and said hello. Z responded with "Go downstairs, eat breakfast....First... get changed." I lifted her up and onto the changing pad on the dresser and removed her soggy diaper.

"Dat's dirty!" she said, pointing to the diaper as I manipulated the plunger-thingie on the Diaper Champ. "Get fresh diaper." I wiped her, diapered her, and turned my attention to her clothes drawer. I picked out denim overalls [the ones in this picture, in fact], but Z had something else in mind.

"Wanna wear skirt!"

Yesterday's post-nap monologue was "My turn. My turn. My turn. Mommy? Mommy? Mom-meee!" When she saw me peeking through the doorway, she exclaimed "Dat's funny!" I went into her room in shorts and a tankini top and asked her what I was wearing.

"Dat's a shirt, Mommy."
"No, it's a swimsuit. Do you want to go to the pool?"
"No! Wanna stay right here!" Zoe exclaimed, pointing downwards and jumping in her crib.
She paused for a second and then said "Get swim diaper. Go pool. Get all wet!"
"Do you want to bring your shark and walrus?" I ask, gesturing at the squirty toys she'd taken with her to bed.