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."