Monday, December 31, 2007

Ending 2007 on a sweet note

After all the sickness and exhaustion of the past week or so, today offered a welcome respite. Z seems to have completely kicked her stomach bug and regained her appetite (small though it may be). And Baby A has perked up; she's smiling, babbling and much more alert and awake even though she's still got some lingering congestion.

A few other things made the last day of 2007 noteworthy...

As I pulled into our driveway around noon I saw a golden retriever on the loose. I jumped out of the car and approached the dog to see if it had any identifying tags. Since he didn't, I sweet-talked him into our backyard, which is fenced together with our next door neighbors. Their boys played with the friendly dog as we called the Oak Park Police (animal control was off for the holiday). Fortunately they couldn't get the animal control van to start and in the interim I figured out whom the dog might belong to. My hunch was correct and Buddy was reunited with a very relieved neighbor down the block. I only hope they'll put their phone number on his collar ASAP!

Just a few minutes later I heard a knock on our side door. Another neighbor was stopping by to try to lure our contractors to her house and I ended up spending an hour with her walking through her home, which she is hoping to update before she puts it on the market in February. She's lived there for almost 30 years and it was last decorated in the early or mid-eighties, so I advised her to strip off all the wallpaper (it's in every room), pull down the curtains to expose her art glass windows and update her bathroom, which is currently a vision in dark brown tiles (even the ceiling is tiled!). I also got to meet her daughter, a woman my age who lives in Texas.

Continuing a tradition we began last year, we joined our playgroup families for a fabulous early New Year's celebration (I contributed bacon-wrapped dates and spinach-artichoke dip). And just like every year since Z was born, I think I'll be asleep long before the clock strikes midnight.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Product Review: Disney Princess Sing-a-long Book

I'm going to be honest here. When Publications International asked me to take a look at one of their licensed character karaoke books, I had low expectations. As publishers go, they're pretty frickin' lowbrow and really, with 12 pairs of Princess underpants, does my 3-year-old need one more Disney Princesses item?

Need? Obviously not. But she loves her "princesses karaoke book" and has played with it every day for month, which is saying something as far as I'm concerned. It's decidedly not an "educational" item, but because she needs to enter in a 3-digit alphanumeric code to play each song, she's learned to read the codes on each page and type them into the keypad.

The book comes with a cordless microphone (batteries not included). We never bothered putting batteries in since Z is perfectly content with a mute mic. She simply picks up the microphone, holds it to her chin and wags her head in time with the music. And I think I know why: none of the songs are actually from the Disney Princess movies!

It bugs me that a Disney Princess Sing-a-long book wouldn't include the greatest hits of the Disney Princesses. Instead, they're just common domain tunes with new, more Princess-y lyrics printed on the book's pages. For example, "Where is Thumbkin?" is "Where is Flounder?" But since Z isn't reading yet, she has no idea. She just likes hearing the tunes and the follow-up encouragement from one of the princesses. In fact, she's convinced that Cinderella is going to sing a duet with her one of these days.

We're back

I'm still cleaning up after their snot, barf and diarrhea, but we made it home alive. Sick, but alive. I was so exhausted yesterday that I went to bed at 8 o'clock last night. The previous night I hadn't gotten more than 45 minutes of sleep at a time, so I felt positively jet-lagged. This trip may have us rethinking our decision to travel to Australia next winter.

This picture shows Baby A with her Grandma and Great-Grandpa Reuben (on his 96th birthday).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wish me luck

Tomorrow we head home on a sold-out Southwest flight. Not only did I miss the "A" boarding window, I've got a teething 5-month-old lap baby with a major head cold (fever, weepy eyes, wet cough and nonstop nasal drip) and a 3-year-old who threw up everywhere just after our food arrived at a Lebanese restaurant tonight. We hustled her home wearing nothing but her little sister's onesie unsnapped under my coat.

And yes, since he's all "I told you so" anyway, I'll issue my public mea culpa here. Josh warned me we were in for trouble if we took the girls out to dinner tonight. Z had been pissy and whiny all afternoon and she hadn't had much of an appetite all day, but I thought worst-case scenario would be a whole lot of pouting--not a bucket full of puking. So I packed crayons and stickers instead of a spare outfit.

I think my mom and her boyfriend will be pretty happy to see us and go. We've stunk their car up with the smell of french fries, used up all their Kleenex and put their new washer-dryer through its paces with 5 loads of laundry in as many days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday travel

We arrived in Arlington, Virginia around noon on Christmas after what just might have been the easiest flight we've ever taken with Z. And this trip involved two kids. Two sick kids, at that.

First of all, a comment on Southwest's new boarding policy: I've read a lot of complaints about how folks miss Southwest's old "parents of young children board first" policy. Now families with A passes board with the A group and parents holding B or C group passes board after group A but before group B. Having printed out our boarding passes about 20 hours before take-off, we were at the tail end of group A, positions 52, 53 and 54 to be exact. And Southwest's new boarding policy is very exact. They lined up group A by position number (with the aid of some marked posts) and everyone boarded in the order they'd printed out their boarding passes. It seems a little anal-retentive, but I don't miss the old Southwest pre-board hustle and jostle for position. I sat with Z and Baby A (we were able to squeeze on her car seat even though the flight was nearly sold out) and Josh positioned himself across the aisle from us. While the baby was napping and Z was watching a video I even read 30 or 40 pages worth of a book!

Since arriving in Arlington, we've seen friends, family (including Josh's 96-year-old grandfather) and sorta-friends/family. What am I supposed to call my mom's boyfriend's grown children anyway? I've pigged out on Thankgiving-type food from my Mom's kitchen, which has enough food in the pantry to see a family of five through a nuclear winter and more open condiments in the fridge than your average Fuddrucker's. And tonight we picked up enormous burgers and fries from Five Guys.

I mentioned that the girls are sick. Z's getting over a run-of-the-mill cold, but it's hit Baby A with a vengeance. She's got watery, gummy eyes and terrible nasal congestion. Watching her try to nurse I think she'd have better luck holding her nose and drinking from a fire hose. I have to give the kid credit, though. In spite of her condition, she's been napping well and smiling at all of her admirers.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The no-nap kid crashes

After three straight days of skipping her nap, Z finally reached the end of her rope. We were wrapping up at two hour visit to the Shedd Aquarium this morning when the whining began. She spent the walk to the parking lot grumping, "No snow. No snow. I'm cold. No snow. I don't like snow. Harumph!"

The ride home wasn't much different, punctuated as it was with "My hat/carseat/traffic/Daddy/breathing is bothering me!"

I took her straight up to her room and she asked to have a story read to her in bed. Then she rolled over and closed her bloodshot eyes, looking completely strung-out and exhausted.

In other news...Baby A's first tooth broke through!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My cleaning lady loves my children

Really. I think she spent her entire Christmas bonus on gifts for my girls.

Isabel isn't the world's best cleaning lady, but I can't imagine ever replacing her. She showers Baby A and Z with hugs and kisses when she comes to clean (every other week) and just today she stopped by bearing gifts for all of us, including an over-the-top present for Z, the VTech Learning Laptop. I'm embarrassed by her generosity, but I don't know what do about it about aside from saying a heartfelt thank you since it's obvious she gets great pleasure from seeing them and spoiling them. (Last year she bought Z a princess doll.)

This year Isabel brought along her young son and I was able to reciprocate somewhat by giving him this SpongeBob Squarepants MP3 Player and Book from the same publishing company that makes the Disney Princesses Sing-a-long book (to be reviewed shortly).

Now if only there was a way to say to her that cleaning fingerprints off my windows and vacuuming under the furniture would make me far happier than a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is it really so hard to say "I'm sorry?"

Why can't my daughter just say "I'm sorry?" I don't demand apologies from her when she's spilled milk or accidentally jostled her baby sister, but if she says something hurtful or uses what we call "rude language" (shockingly blue words like "stupid" and "stinky"), I'll tell Z that those those words hurt people's feelings and she needs to say "I'm sorry."

"I can't say it," she pouts.

"Yes you can."

"You do it, Mommy."

"I'm not the one who used rude language!"

Tears ensue. She's obviously remorseful, but she's can't get her mouth around those two magic words, words so critical for survival in polite society. I'm glad she's not a pathological kid who for whom "I'm sorry" is an empty statement, but I sure wish she could express her apologies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Product review: HP Photosmart Compact Photo Printer

Once upon a time we took pictures with our cameras. We looked through the viewfinder, located our loved ones and snapped a photo. We didn't know what the picture looked like until we'd finished a whole roll of film (35mm or disc--remember those?), packaged it up in a York mailer and waited for the pictures to arrive in the mail ("Didja get doubles?").

How things have changed. My 3-year-old daughter knows to look on the back of a camera to see a photo immediately after it's snapped, and she loves watching our desktop computer's photo slideshow screen saver. She's familiar with Apple's iPhoto books since I've ordered half a dozen since her birth, but actual photo prints? Not so much.

I'm typically too busy to stop at Wolf Camera or Walgreens to print out photos and it isn't worth the ink to print pictures out on our regular print only to screw them up while trying to trim them into standard print sizes.

Which means too many adorable pictures are hidden away on our hard drive, safe from toddler fingerprints but too rarely enjoyed. But hey, at least they make it to the computer. I've got friends with hundreds of shots still stored on their camera's SD card! So while I'm a pretty savvy amateur digital photographer and a flickr photo-sharing fiend, too often I've neglected to make prints to glue into baby books and share with older, less digitally-inclined relatives.

Enter the HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer. You don't need it, but let me tell you why you want it (and will get more use out of it than you might think).
  • It's idiot-proof. Plug it in. Slide ink cartridge into place. Then insert your camera's memory card and you're in business. The large color touch-screen is as intuitive as any photo kiosk's. I haven't cracked open the manual yet.
  • The prints are surprisingly good. While probably not heirloom quality, they stand up to drugstore photos and are only a hair worse than Wolf camera's pricey prints. You can print onto standard 4x6 or 5x7 photo paper (both widely available), so you won't need to mess around with scissors or an X-acto blade.
  • Instant gratification, baby. My sister was in town, and while our cameras' USB cables weren't compatible, I could print my favorite photos right off of her camera's memory card with the HP. When I returned to work I wanted some snapshots of the kiddies for my office. Three minutes later, they were ready to hang in my cubicle.
The printer comes with stylus and a very basic suite of photo editing tools. The cropping and red-eye reduction were easy to use and worked well, but beyond that I'd rather edit my photos with iPhoto and print from my computer. HP's also included some really basic scrapbook-inspired functions. I liked the frames since they let me group two or three related shots on one print, but the caption fonts and clip art are cheesy with a capital C.

HP also sent me a couple of their photo books, which consist of a hard cover album and photo paper. You can create an album directly from the printer by selecting all the photos you'd like to include and an appropriate theme, but the software is far too limiting for even the modestly creative type. You can't even change the order of the photos within the book! And unlike all the other photo books available out there, this one only has images on the right hand side.

So the HP photo books are a bust, but I still like the HP Photosmart compact photo printer a lot. It's tiny (about the size of loaf of bread); it's easy to use. The prints look great and the ink lasts a relatively long time (you can further stretch your dollars by getting the cartridge refilled). My only complaint is that it doesn't come with a USB cable. After a nudge from Parent Bloggers Network, HP mailed me one and I was able to print directly from my iMac with no trouble, but I think it should be included in the box. That said, while USB cord-less I came up with an easy work-around. I saved photos I'd edited with iPhoto to a memory stick and printed directly from it.

Amazon sells the HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer for around $150 with free shipping. Save 20% on HP photo books at the HP store with coupon code AC8595.
Read more parent-tested reviews here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just feeding our babies...

I'm a lucky, lucky girl

Until about a week ago, I could honestly tell you that I'm never won anything from a sweepstakes, contest or giveaway.

Oh my, how my luck has changed! I won this adorable ModMum sling from MomViews, a Diapees and Wipees Diaper Wallet from MumsTheWurd and this cool Blik wall decal set (my third!) from GoodyBlog.

So it's official. Mommyblogs are the place to be for free stuff. Get your hands on some goodies here:
No-Guilt Holiday Giveaway

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The bag's the thing

Check out this NY Times article on the rise of the indestructible shopping bag. No, not the canvas or string eco-shopping bag we're encouraged to take to the grocery store...

Apparently there is a parallel trend of mid-to-upscale specialty and department stores competing to offer the most save-and-reuse-worthy shopping bag on the market. Why? Because if you're toting your paperback and yogurt to work in a Sephora or Victoria's Secret bag (guilty!), you're a walking billboard for the store.

Hello snow

We've got about a foot of snow on the ground. Perfect for testing out Z's new snow boots and puffer coat from the Children's Place ($11 and $10, respectively).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Baby A's almost 5 months old

Josh took Z to a birthday party this morning, leaving me free to conduct a little baby photoshoot! If the slideshow photos aren't clear enough, click on my flickr badge.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I saw my colleague kissing Santa Claus

Top three ways Marketing Mommy knows the holidays have arrived at work...

1. Fattening food gifts begin arriving from photographers, sound studios, photo retouchers and other vendors. And 99 percent of the goodies goes to art directors.
2. No one's at work. Even though the whole agency shuts down from December 21-January 2, half of my coworkers will be out next week.
3. The agency's youngest, singlest girls don Santa hats and push a drink cart around the agency. Have a mudslide and benefit the Off the Street Club. How's that for guilt-free indulgence?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kandoo damage to your plumbing

You know those lovely melon-scented flushable wipes designed for the newly potty-trained? Turns out they're not so flushable after all. At least not if you've got an aging sewer line full of Kadoo wipe-trapping tree roots.

$1000 later our line is as clean and free-flowing as can be (we got to view the proof via a live sewercam). And I have resolved that Kandoo wipes are joining Tampax ("white mice" in plumber parlance) as officially banned from the can.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Aging gracelessly

Not exactly hard news, but the Chicago Tribune has a fantastic slideshow of unflattering celebrity faces. Do these plastic surgeons have any training at all?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Must every sentence begin with "Pretend..."?

"Mommy, pretend you're the big sister and I'm the mommy and I just said 'you're going to be a big sister because there's a new baby at your house.'"

"A new baby sister! I love babies. Can I hug and kiss her, Mommy?"

"No, she's sleeping and you can't wake her up. If you wake her up I'm not going to be happy. Mommy? Pretend you're the big sister and you want to stomp around and wake up the baby."

"I'm stomping around and I wake up the baby. Oops."

"Big sister! You woke up the baby. Now I have to rock her and nurse her. Look! She's all better. But you shouldn't stomp around so time out. Time OUT. TIME OUT!!"

"I don't want a time out. I'm sad. You're a mean mommy."

[Big grin] "No, I'm not. Mommy? Pretend you're the big sister and I'm the baby and you want the baby's crib and Mommy says, 'No, that's the baby's things now.'"


"No! SAY IT! Pretend you're the big sister and you want to the baby's crib because it used to be your crib and now it's the baby's and Mommy says, 'No that's the baby's crib now.' Now say it!"

Could my daughter have a future as a tyrannical Hollywood writer/producer?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Biting off more than I can chew

Selfmademom calls them the Hellidays, and I think she may be onto something.

I've always felt that one of the perks of being Jewish is getting to opt out of the insanity that is the run-up to Christmas. Sure, I'll send out some holiday cards, buy Chanukah presents for my nearest and dearest (I keep the list very short) and light the old menorah, but I get a giant star-of-David-shaped pass when it comes to hauling and trimming a Christmas tree, installing an electric Santa on my roof or assembling gingerbread houses for all the shut-ins in the neighborhood.

But still. Having kids does up the ante. Instead of just lighting the candles at home, I felt like I should take the girls to the Chanukah family service at Temple. After Baby A's bedtime. By myself. (Josh been at a concert every night this week.) What was I thinking?

Today we attended the holiday party at Z's Montessori school and our Chavurah's Chanukah party, where I ate way too many latkes. I volunteered to make cookies for both which meant three hours of my day was dedicated to rolling, cutting and glazing six dozen menorah, dreidel, star and hay-shaped sugar cookies. With Z "helping" (read: aggressively dumping blue sugar crystals, breaking the tops off of the dreidels and asking if she could eat more dough).

Tomorrow we've got two kiddie birthday parties, and next weekend there are two more. Is it just me, or are there a lot of December birthdays? (Mom and Beth, if you're reading this, happy birthday to you, too!)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Push presents? Oh, puh-lease!

The most e-mailed story on the NY Times website is A Bundle of Joy Isn't Enough, an article on the growing popularity of so-called push presents, sparkly baubles given by the father to the mother who has just birthed their baby.

Now I love presents as much as the next gal, but I never felt like Josh owed me a gift for delivering either of my babies. Whether I was cut open for a c-section or panting through 25 hours of drug-free VBAC labor, meeting my beautiful girls was reward enough.

Perhaps I would feel differently if Josh had to twist my arm to get me to want to have babies, but like 99 percent of the moms I know, I did the "honey, let's get pregnant" cajoling, and he finally acquiesced.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Let's talk about breasts, baby

It's breastfeeding topic day on the Chicago Moms Blog and all of our sister sites. See what I and all my mommyblogging sisters have to say about the joys and challenges of nursing, pumping, bottle-feeding and breastfeeding well into toddlerhood.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ghetto mocha

Sometimes, when I'm craving a tasty beverage from Starbucks but I can't justify the $4+ price tag, I mix an envelope of Swiss Miss hot cocoa into a mug of office coffee.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

We're marking the first night of Chanukah with 6 inches of snow here in Chicago.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Do you like my new look?

My new blog header's been up for almost a week... do you like it?

It was designed by my friend and former colleague Samantha McDermott, a designer who brings together amazing creativity with unrelenting perfectionism and ambition. She's a force to be reckoned with, for sure.

On sisterhood

I was saddened to read about one woman's inability to trust other women in this article in the NY Times Style magazine. The author was cruelly betrayed by her sorority sisters 20 years ago and to this day she feels the outcast among groups of women, be they other mothers or female colleagues.

In general I haven't shared her experience. I've found support from other mothers (as well as childless women) at the office and I am lucky to be a part of a playgroup full of moms I can call on for anything. I've also found that, for the most part, the women I've connected with through blogging have been welcoming and warm.

Is my perspective so different because I never considered pledging a sorority? Because I was one of the original two members of my playgroup? I think difficulty arises when women join a social group that already has an established culture. Looking back, there are sisterhoods I considered joining but ultimately walked away from. A book club at my synagogue where I was the youngest by 10 years. A Hadassah meeting of young women (this was years ago) where I was the only one who didn't grow up rich on Chicago's North Shore.

It's a shame female friendships are so charged. We can share an intimacy that men wouldn't dream of, but too many of us live in fear that we'll be betrayed by our secrets.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Google for giggles

Here are some of the search terms that have brought people to my blog this weekend:

Grandpa martini's I didn't drink it, I swear. Now learn some grammar.
Mommy changes my cloth diaper photo blog Wow, let me bookmark that one.
Personal lubricant dominick's Yes, they sell it. Or are you looking to buy generic?
Men thongs tulum I'm happy to report I didn't see any men in banana slings when I was in Mexico.
Nutritional infomation hanukkah gelt Something tells me it isn't high in Vitamin C
How much money is milk More than gas, less than wine.
Bah humbug Right back at you, baby.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hungry for chicken?

This is an actual restaurant on Chicago's West Side. A customer went in as we drove by. Bon appetit!

Friday, November 30, 2007

When fake news happens to real people

A photo of my college roommate Tina Cheuk illustrates this article in The Onion. And yes, she was (and still is) a high school educator.

I'm doing all my holiday shopping online

I don't think I'm going to buy a single thing in a traditional bricks and mortar store this year. And why should I? I hate shopping with kids. I hate standing in line. I hate bumping into frazzled shoppers or tailing package-laden consumers in the parking lot.

And honestly? There's nothing at the mall that I can't get faster-cheaper-better online. So, without giving away too much, here's where I've been spending wearing out my credit card.

Amazon, the biggie. They sell everything. Free shipping is a given (I don't have to troll around or looking for codes), and I save by not paying Illinois' sky-high sales tax. I've been an Amazon customer since 1997 (when it was just a bookstore) and I've never had a problem with their customer service.

Etsy. This fabulous shopping site is Ebay meets the Renegade Craft Fair. I can buy handcrafted jewelry, bags, dolls and so much more direct from the artisan and pay with Paypal. Prices range from ridiculously cheap to moderately expensive, but you can easily score a one-of-a-kind necklace for $25.

Not content with unique, handcrafted goods, I felt the need to get crafty myself. But not too crafty, mind you. I don't have time for that! So I created custom photo holiday cards at Tiny Prints and designed a t-shirt for a deserving recipient at Zazzle while munching a sandwich at my desk.

And don't think you can't surprise distant friends and family with gift certificates to independent places in their town. I've found restaurants, boutiques and spas (even those not part of a large chain) sell gift cards from their websites, so I didn't even have to pick up the phone to buy my BFF a gift certificate for a prenatal massage from Zenana Spa in Portland.

Has anyone else sworn off traditional shopping?

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Product Review: Ready Set Learn Radio Control Fire Truck

Sit back and imagine you're in the market for a new toy. Perhaps you have a niece or nephew on your holiday shopping list. You want to impress your sibling by purchasing their kid an "educational" toy, but you don't want to saddle the poor child with (yawn) yet another painted wooden Euro plaything. No, you want the kid to tear open the package, panting with excitement at what his favorite auntie or uncle brought just for him.

It needs to be BIG.

It should NOT contain lead paint or date rape drugs.

Enter the Ready Set Learn! Radio Control Fire Truck from the Discovery Channel Store. It's educational...if you consider teaching your toddler how to operate a radio control vehicle a valuable lesson.

Now here's the deal: Do you like the sound of screaming sirens filling your living room? How about the crash of an oversized toy truck slamming into walls, furniture, pets and and small children? No? Then by all means do not buy this toy for your child. Buy it for someone else's kid. (You'll piss off that child's parent, but not as much as you would if you'd bought the kid AquaDots.)
Now I'm pretty lucky. Z isn't all that into annoying battery-operated toys. She'd rather play dress up or let's pretend than operate a remote control vehicle. She (quite rightly) demanded to know why only one of the included fire fighters fit onto the truck (a design flaw in my opinion), and after figuring out how the two button remote worked, she lost interest.

Which I can't say for her playmates--particularly boys. They pretty much went ape shit for the fire truck, setting off its irritating alarms and running it into the dining room chairs until I quietly flipped the power switch and proclaimed the toy "broken."

One final note: if you stop playing with the fire truck but you neglect to flip it over and turn it off, it will act possessed, powering itself up and vrooming short distances on its own. This scared the crap out of me (and my cats) until I figured out what was going on.

Disclaimers: This review was made possible by Parent Bloggers Network. The ladder pictured in the photos is from another toy. Z decided that every fire truck needs a ladder and added it of her own accord.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mommybloggers in the media

A bunch of Chicago Moms Blog contributors (including yours truly!) are quoted in this Daily Herald article on the rising role of mommybloggers in spreading word of mouth. (Jessica and Amy, you both look fabulous!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tales from the pump: I'm an inventor!

My breast pump came with an ugly black tote bag (which I don't use), but it didn't come with a good solution for toting all of the pump's parts and accessories, the horns and valves that come into contact with milk and have to be cleaned between pumping sessions.

Since I pump twice a day, I was washing those parts with dish detergent and hot water and giving them a cursory drying with paper towels. But they never seem to get really dry.

I'd been keeping them in a gallon Ziploc bag in my backpack, but I didn't like how fogged up the bag would become and I hated using damp parts. Also, I found that cleaning the Ziploc bag even once a week was a pain in the butt. And I was never positive that it was really clean.

Enter the Pump Parts Terry Bag!
This velcro-close bag, designed by me and sewed from an old towel by my sweet mother-in-law, holds all of my pump parts and doubles as a lap pad for me, protecting my work pants from inadvertent milk drips.
No more damp horns and I can throw it into the wash every couple of days!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This moment is brought to you by Hallmark

Today a friend of mine stopped by with her 9-year-old daughter Lily. Lily was holding Baby A, who was a little overtired and squirmy. So my friend says to her daughter, "Let me know when you're done holding the baby and I'll take her... When you're ready, I'll take the baby."

Tears welled up in Z's eyes and she said, "I don't want them to take Baby A because I love her."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving with friends

This year marks the fourth year we've refused to travel on Thanksgiving but it's the first time since my senior year of college that we haven't celebrated with any of our parents. Instead, four families from our playgroup gathered at my friend Gloria's house for a fabulous turkey dinner. Eight adults, eight kids under four and absolutely no stress!

Here's what we ate (my contributions are in italics and I've included links where available)...

Smoked Gouda and Guinness cheddar cheese, crackers and grapes
Pumpkin cheese ball
18 lb Roasted Brined Turkey with Reisling Gravy
Mixed greens, pear and cranberry salad
Sweet potato casserole with pecans
Cranberry-apricot sauce
Jellied cranberry sauce
Rice-sausage stuffing
Fruited bread stuffing
Carrot souffle
Butternut squash souffle
Honey whole wheat rolls
Red and white wines
Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin cream-cheese praline pie
Pear and dried cherry pie
Fresh whipped cream

Eight adults and eight children aged three and under, one 18 pound bird (brined and roasted to Martha Stewart's specifications by Eric), countless side dishes, three

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Where you can find me on Black Friday

I'll be on the Magnificent Mile on the day after Thanksgiving, but I won't be clutching an armful of shopping bags. I won't be scanning the ads for doorbuster sales or wearing out the magnetic strip on my credit card.

Instead, look for me (and perhaps some other Chicago Moms Bloggers) at 10 a.m. outside the original Water Tower (806 N. Michigan Ave). I'll be wearing my "Get the Lead Out" t-shirt and handing out stickers and coupon booklets to passersby as part of the Consumers Union Chicago rally to kick of 12 Days of Safe Shopping. We'll be encouraging shoppers to hand a "Not in My Cart" coupon to the cashier as they make their purchases, letting store managers know that consumers are demanding higher safety standards for toys and prompt compliance with recalls.

Learn more about the Consumers Union's efforts at

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Four month checkup

Since I handled her 2-month checkup, Josh took Baby A in for her 4-month jabs and examination. She was declared in perfect health despite her prolific pooping (the kid goes at least 5 times a day!) and she quickly recovered from the trauma of her three shots and one oral vaccine.

She's dropped a few percentiles on the growth charts, but that's no surprise. We're not particularly large people so we were pretty amazed she stayed in the 75th percentile as long as she did.

Weight: 13 lbs, 13oz (50th percentile)
Length: 24 inches (30th percentile)

The food drive that drove me to tears

Today is Sharing It Day at the Merchandise Mart, where my agency's offices are located. I participated in the annual food drive, as I have most years, lured as much by the promise of a free Potbelly sandwich and a slice Eli's cheesecake as I am by altruism and the desire to rid my cabinets of too much elbow macaroni and canned lentil soup.

I dropped off my grocery bag of goodies on the way to work and received my Potbelly gift card and prepackaged slice of cheesecake. Which, incidentally means that the nutrition information was readily available to me. I think I'll take home the 300 calories and 22 grams of fat for Josh and save my calories for Thanksgiving Thursday.

But none of this is what inspired me to post. You see, I passed by the South Lobby again on my way to the Chase ATM (which was broken, again) and caught a performance by the Kenwood Academy Concert Choir. I don't know if it's my nursing mommy hormones or what, but I stood there weak-kneed and slack-jawed, moved to tears by their four part harmonies. These kids can sing. It brought back memories of singing in my own high school choir, although neither I nor the choir had any particular vocal talents.

Incidentally, Kenwood Academy is located in Hyde Park, where I went to college. And both Hyde Park and the U of C have been in the news this week due to horrific crime spree that occurred Monday night. And hearing about dangers that lurk around the University reminds me of a dark chapter from my undergraduate days. A fellow student was grabbed off the sidewalk and raped. She committed suicide shortly after her attack by jumping in front of a Metra train. I remember being so shaken I signed up for a self-defense class.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mommy smartypants

There's a little web program that judges the reading level of your website or blog (thanks Mommy Bits for the link). It looks like I must have some very bright readers because my blog is genius!
cash advance

I'm blushing now.

Product review: Ravensburger puzzles

I played with Ravensburger board games and puzzles growing up. We lived in Berlin for a few years, so quality European toys were easy to come by.

I knew I was getting a well-constructed puzzle when I purchased this super-sized 24 piece jigsaw puzzle for Z for her third birthday. And indeed, the pieces are large, sturdy and easy to wipe clean. It's been such I hit I used the $10 birthday certificate our neighborhood toy store sent her to purchase two more puzzles (another 24 piece one for now and a surprise 36 piece puzzle for later).

Z doesn't get tired of putting them together, and each time she opens the box she needs less and less parental guidance. Which is almost too bad, because while I get sick of reciting my lines in "pretend you're the big sister and I'm the mommy," I kind of enjoy putting together puzzles!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blik: Check out the jungle room

It's not Graceland, but Baby A's room finally looks like it belongs to a kid! I took the wedding photos down (it was previously a guest room) and decorated the nursery with monkeys, vines and a lion from Blik's Jungle Re-Stik, one of the company's stick-and-restick decal collections designed specifically for children.

It's the second time I've purchased from Blik. We have the birds from Fly soaring over our headboard. However, unlike the original decals, the decals in the Re-Stik collection can be pulled off the wall and rearranged. Since the placement of your decals is up to you, I loved knowing that I could moved them around until I was happy with the effect.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I joined Facebook

Am I the last to sign up? Cool.

I'd resisted joined yet one more social networking website that I won't log onto and that will languish in cyberspace, advertising to the whole world what bands I liked three years ago, but I bit the bullet and became another face on Facebook today. (And yes, I finally did cancel my dormant Friendster account.)

I had to do it. For work.

I'm developing concepts for some high-tech devices aimed at 21-year-old guys, so for me not to know how Facebook applications work...well it just wouldn't do.

So go ahead. Friend me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One mighty wish list

There's one website I turn to again and again for toy reviews, and that is Z Recommends. So I was thrilled to find they've published a gift guide jam-packed with playthings another 3-year-old Z has deemed brilliant.

My Z is totally getting her own digital camera for Chanukah...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dove does it again

Dove's Evolution was an Internet sensation. Check out this sequel, entitled Onslaught. A perfect marriage of social consciousness and brand. Go Ogilvy Toronto!

Teenage wasteland

Give the girl a faux microphone (thanks Megan!) and she tunelessly improvises The Who's "Baba O'Riley."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Book review: ScreamFree Parenting

I just road-tested a parenting book I haven't even finished. I'm 126 pages into ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, so I'd absorbed enough of Hal Edward Runkel's theory to give it a whirl as I tried to put an overtired-to-the-point-of-hysterics Z to bed tonight.

"The only way to retain a position of influence with our children is to regain a position of control over ourselves."

Translation? Even though my three-year-old threw the fit to end all fits over Sleeping Beauty underpants, I was not to yell, threaten or force her to put on another pair, any pair, and get in the damn bed.

Instead, I explained the situation (both of her Sleeping Beauty undies were dirty and in the hamper) and asked that she pick another pair. When she refused, wailing "Sleeping Beauty...Sleeping Beauty" over and over, I gave myself a time out. I closed her door, walked downstairs and took a few deep breaths. I checked in on her every 10 minutes or so, asking if she was ready to get dressed for bed and and if needed any help. She was a sight to behold: sanding butt naked in the middle of her carpet, her face blotchy and streaked with snot and tears. Inconsolably crying out for her favorite licensed character underwear.

Finally, after a very long 30 minutes, the cries died down to hiccups, and I returned.

"Sleeping Beauty..." the howling began again. Runkel calls this "throwing down the gauntlet."

"A ScreamFree Parent never picks up a gauntlet."

I decided to try empathy (page 101). I told Z how sad I was that there weren't any more Sleeping Beauty underpants in the drawer. I told her I felt a little bit like crying too, and I asked her what she thought we should do since all of the undies were in the wash. She pointed to the hamper and I asked her if she'd like to wear a stinky pair. She nodded and I handed them to her. Heck, what's an extra 12 hours in a pair of panties when you're three years old?

I brushed her teeth and asked her to please use the potty. She refused.

Another gauntlet. This time I employed Runkel's choices and consequences speech (page 106). I told her she could use the toilet and I'd read her books or she could not use the potty and go to bed without stories. It was up to her. She crossed her legs, pulled up her pajamas and I put her to bed, whimpering. She cried "stories, stories..." for about 5-10 minutes before she finally fell asleep.

It was an exhausting and frustrating hour, but I'm glad I didn't lose control. I didn't really get exactly the compliance I was hoping for, but ScreamFree Parenting stresses that obedience is for dogs, growing responsible, loving adults is the purpose of parenting.

"Your number-one leadership role in the family is that of a calming authority."

By staying consistent, even-tempered and cool, I modeled good behavior. By leaving Z's room, I gave her space, and by empowering her to make her own choices, I showed her respect without giving up discipline.

Santa who?

This is the Christmas I've dreaded since Z was born. She's three. She's a preschooler. And she's got friends with chimneys, stockings and jolly fat men on their minds.

Friends who believe. In Santa Claus.

Last week we were speeding down I-294 when I heard, "Mommy! Mommy, there's Santa!"

She'd seen the man in red on a carpet billboard.

"I'm going to look for more Santas, okay Mommy?"

She didn't see any more (it was the first week in November), but I felt the first twinge of Xmas anxiety.

How long until Z finds out that Santa's not just another colorful cartoon character like Frosty the Snowman, but the bearer of gifts? I can't just tell her Santa's a fake and let her spill the beans to all her little buddies. After all, I remember telling a first grade friend that in fact her parents were putting presents under her tree. She burst into tears and I'm sure her mother had words with mine.

Growing up in an intermarried family with a Jewish mom and formerly Methodist dad, we celebrated Chanukah and a sort of improvised Christmas. We'd hang our socks (or tights if we were feeling greedy) up and wait for my mom to stuff them with oranges, Chanukah gelt, bath cubes and the toiletries she'd collected from airline flights and hotel rooms. Then we'd sneak downstairs and fill our parents' socks with pennies and homemade gift certificates. If I ever believed in Santa, I don't remember it. But I liked raiding my stocking for treasures.

Now that I'm married to a another Jew, I don't feel comfortable celebrating even the most secularized of Christmas traditions at our house. Which means there's no reason to indulge in any Santa Claus fantasies.

So what to do? My instinct is just to explain to Z that Santa comes to some houses, but not to Jewish ones. I'm hoping she'll understand that different families have different traditions, and while her friends might decorate a tree and wait for presents from Santa, we light a menorah, eat latkes, play driedel and exchange gifts with our friends and family instead.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

Morbidity and nursery rhymes

Z and I have been reading There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly before bed this week. Yesterday afternoon she said to me:

"Grandma Lorraine was old, right?"
"Grandma Lorraine was old and she died, right?"
"That's right, she was very old when she died."
"Just like the old woman who swallowed a fly!"

Perhaps she'll die.

Vote for him? I've barely heard of him!

I took this survey to find out which Presidential candidate's platform best aligned with my political views, and it matched me up with Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. I only know of him because I heard an NPR story last week about how he was left out of a recent NBC Democratic debate because he hadn't raised his profile or enough money (or both).

Anyway, both Gravel and Ohio Vegan Dennis Kucinich support over 90 percent of my views. Hillary Clinton shows a 78 percent match and local favorite Barack Obama matches up with me 73 percent of the time.

The more I read about Mike Gravel, the more I admire the guy, but I'm not going to vote exclusively on platform. I also consider personality, electability and how each candidate might be perceived in other countries, both friendly and hostile.

Remembering Pakistan

I've been following the news coverage of Benazir Bhutto's return and the chaos consuming Pakistan with interest. You see, I lived in Pakistan from 1988 to January 1991, leaving on a 747 packed with American and Canadian evacuees the day George Bush the Elder started the first Gulf War.

Growing up in the Foreign Service, I heard a lot of talk about how "home" is where your family is, it's a feeling of belonging, not a town where you put down roots.

But I never felt like Islamabad was home.

I was a boy-crazy middle schooler when we arrived in the country, and the first week we were there the U.S. Ambassador and the President of Pakistan, Zia, were killed in a suspicious helicopter crash. We couldn't tell anyone we were Jewish. I turned 13 without having a bat mitzvah. We had a chowkidar, an armed guard who was stationed at the end of our driveway. The skinny guy in a shalwar kameez may have made us safer, but I hated him for throwing rocks at our dog.

Occasionally my sister and I would venture to the local market alone, but even dressed in modest local clothing, we were always gawked at, leered at, hissed at.

Outside of Islamabad, it was even worse. I was overwhelmed by the poverty and disease that surrounded us. There were so many people with so little, and it was always a crowd, a crush of humanity. I still remember the smell, ripe with the scent of rotting mangos, chicken blood, slaughtered sheep, unwashed bodies and open sewers. And everywhere, the smell and haze of burning trash. Even the more inviting smells of fresh chapatis, fried snacks and curry couldn't compete. I began to think women wore shawls to cover their noses when they went outside.

Just outside the capital, children with wide, kohl-lined eyes and filthy, tattered clothes would bang on our car, crying baksheesh, baksheeh, begging for rupees. Flea-ridden dogs dug through open piles of trash, but even the open sores on their backs and bellies couldn't keep us from scratching their heads.

There are good memories too. I loved seeing the elaborately decorated buses and trucks along the otherwise terrifying highways. I remember the blare of music that invited me into yet another stall of pirated cassette tapes. I recall glimpsing Pakistani women at an in-home hair salon, dressed to the nines, gilded with gold jewelry and elaborately made up.

But mostly I remember a country teetering on the edge of chaos. A crowded place where the young male policemen held hands and demanded bribes. And where being born a girl is a curse.

Bah humbug!

The FBI is warning Americans that Al-Qaeda may be planning to bomb shopping malls in Chicago and LA. Fisher-Price is recalling yet another batch of toys for toddlers. And Aqua Dots, a toy on Wal-Mart's top 12 toy gifts list, are being recalled because they contain a date rape drug. It's so unbelievable you'd think it was an Onion headline.

So what's a mommy to do? I've already got a short-than-usual shopping season ahead because Chanukah is early this year. Last year I said the hell with presents and made donations to Heifer in honor of all of our adult family members, and I'm tempted to do the same this time around. As for the children on my list, I will be shopping for quality books and toys online and at local mom-and-pop shops like Geppetto's Toy Box and Berwyn's Toy Trains. I'll look to the Cool Mom Picks Safer Toys guide and the Lead Free Toys list maintained by fellow Chicago Moms Blogger Marcie Pickel.

And I just may join the Consumers Union's Get the Lead Out Advocacy campaign, which I heard about from my friends at Parent Bloggers Network. This grassroots effort is designed to let store owners and Congress know after a year of scary recalls, we need to get serious about toy safety. And food safety too, but that's a whole 'nother post!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Holding my stomach in and my head high

After spending my maternity leave in yoga pants and soft jersey t-shirts, I'm rediscovering how control top tights feel by the end of the day.

Tight. Kind of like sausage casings.

But thanks to those sausage casings, I look pretty darn good for a woman who only had a baby 3 1/2 months ago and has had neither the services of a personal trainer or a nutritionist/personal chef at my disposal. I'm 7 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight and I can get back into 95 percent of my old clothes.

I was surprised to discover this when, on Monday afternoon, I hauled up a big pile of work clothes and tried to figure out what I'd wear for my first week back and what needed to go to the dry cleaner for some professional ironing.

And guess what? It's fun to get dressed to work (provided I plan my wardrobe the night before and not while washing my hair or changing the morning's third poopy diaper). I feel better about myself when I'm wearing something cute (my new Privo Tip mary janes are so very adorable!). And I love knowing that I can wear the same clothes for 10 hours straight without getting spit up on the shoulder down my cleavage. I can accessorize with a tote instead of a diaper bag, and if I dare to wear lipstick, I don't have to worry about leaving sparkles on my baby's scalp.

That said, I'm stripping off these tights the minute I get home and slipping into something a little more comfortable.

Hello yoga pants.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Back to work

Returning to the office after a four month maternity leave was a piece of cake.

Probably because there wasn't any real work for me to do. I begged IT to help me crack the passwords on my new iMac, attended to informational meetings, raided the office supply closet for pens, pencils and staples, said hello to a bunch of people (3 of whom are pregnant!) and pumped 12 ounces of milk. Not exactly a model of productivity, but the day went by in a flash.

The agency is in the midst of a massive reorganization, so I don't know who I will be working for what I'll be working on. Apparently everyone will know more by week's end.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happy 3rd Birthday, Z!

Dear Z,

What a year! In November of 2006, you were a doll, but you were still sleeping in a crib and pooping in your pants.

Now you've moved into a big girl bed, said goodbye to diapers and thrown your sippy cups to the wind. You've ridden a trike, become a big sister and started preschool. You finally started using fluoride toothpaste.

And you've become quite the conversationalist. You remember names, places and our plans for the week. You tell jokes. You even lie once in a while (but your face gives you away).

You love movies. In addition to the Disney Princess greatest hits (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty), you're a fan of Toy Story 1 & 2, The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Alice and Wonderland and The Muppet Show.

You like to play with dolls and act out scenes from your favorite fairy tales and our own lives. Sometimes it seems like every sentence you utter begins with "Pretend." As in, "Pretend I'm the mommy and you're the little girl and you don't want to go to bed," or "Pretend I'm the Cinderella and you're the Prince and we're marrying. Where's your ring?"

You collect small treasures and squirrel them away around the house. Acorns, pennies, plastic spider rings and ugly rocks you find along the sidewalk--you horde these little items, inventory them and... then usually forget about them a week later.

I could go on and on, but I'm returning to work tomorrow and I need my beauty rest. This past year has been a joy, and I've loved being home with you and your little sis for the last four months of it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The pajama jammy jam

Z's third birthday party went off without a hitch. All the kids (most of whom are pictured here) wore their PJs and chowed down on whipped cream-laden pancakes and Hello Kitty waffles before we brought out a coffee cake with candles and sang Happy Birthday.

Our amazing babysitter Paula helped the kids create necklaces with Fruity Cheerios and stamp designs onto pillowcases, which they got to take home.

What worked? It was early, so all the kids were at their best. The novelty of wearing their jammies out of the house was really appealing to these 2 and 3-year-olds. The food was easy to prepare and kept everyone happy. I didn't waste any money on the Made in China goodie bag crap I hate so much. And it was all over by 11:30!

Friday, November 02, 2007


My sister Eleanor is visiting from Australia with her darling 5 month old daughter Eliza, pictured here with Baby A.

Z is really into Eliza, particularly since Eleanor's let her help spoon feed her!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Making progress at Montessori

Today was our very first parent-teacher conference. But since Z is enrolled in a traditional Montessori school, it was called "Observation."

Josh and I were invited to silently observe Z's classroom for about 45 minutes, after which we joined her head teacher for a conversation in the gym. We watched her do her "big work," which ranged from practical to sensorial to math. For each project, she'd unroll a carpet, carefully bring the materials to her carpet and ask the teacher to check her completed work. Then she'd diligently clean up and put all the materials and roll up her rug. When she was ready for her snack, she washed her hands and set her place with a china dish and a napkin. She served herself a handful of Cheerios and a cheese stick and poured herself a glass of apple juice from a small glass pitcher. It's amazing how capable and reliable preschoolers are when they're shown how to do something. Z beams with pride at her accomplishments.

We knew she'd been enjoying preschool, but now it is clear to us that she is thriving there. She's the youngest student in the school, but apparently she's keeping up with the rest of the 3-year-olds. Her teacher said she's always on task, very verbal, well-mannered and making friends. She even has a best friend, Sophie, who is coming over for a playdate tomorrow.

I'm so proud of her and glad I enrolled her. I'm already a Montessori true believer.

Halloween burnout

I heard my almost three-year-old say the following while trick-or-treating Halloween night:

"Does this candy have nuts?"
"My treat bag is too heavy."
"Can I have a lollipop now?"
"Can I have a chocolate bar at home?"

And, after we'd visited maybe 10 houses on our block...

"I'm done. Take my costume off."

And when I asked her if I could have a piece of candy...

"No, Mommy. It's bad for your teeth."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have a baby, take the summer off

WSJ's The Juggle blog asks if parents planned their pregnancies so they could have a spring or summer baby and take their maternity leave when it's nice outside.

In a word, yes. I didn't plan ahead with baby #1. She was a planned pregnancy, but it was more like yes, we're ready to get pregnant. We didn't think about when that baby might be born. So Z was born in November, which I learned from the folks at Prentice Women's Hospital (aka Chicagoland's Baby Factory) is their slowest month for deliveries. I guess couples aren't all that swept away by the romance of Valentine's Day.

My first maternity leave took place during Chicago's coldest months, so save for a trip to Hawaii, we spent it largely indoors, cuddling on the couch and watching DVD marathons of The OC and the Gilmore Girls.

Knowing that I'd have a toddler to entertain while I cared for a newborn, I decided maternity leave #2 would need to take place in the playground months. We aimed for May and scored a July baby.

And it turned out even better than I hoped. We've put lots of miles on our double stroller, we're regulars at our favorite parks, and I got to be around for Z's transition to preschool. We never felt cooped up at home and I didn't have to resort to videos to keep Z out of trouble as I nursed, burped and wiped my way through the last three months.

I return to work in a week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Some like it hot (stone massage)

Warning: this blog post may inspire fits of jealous rage.

Are you ready for this? My husband bought me a hot stone massage at Urban Oasis. I've had massages before (love them!), but they've always been of the classic Swedish variety. And usually they are 30 minutes long with my clothes on and a co-worker lying 5 feet away. (Yes, Ogilvy brings a massage therapist into the office and subsidizes the cost, thereby buying my eternal loyalty.)

So this was new experience for me. First of all, because I had to tote along my trusted breast pump. The reception staff was super accommodating, though. They assured me that plenty of other moms have needed to pump on site and they led me to an empty massage room to get the milking out of the way.

If you've never had a hot stone massage, it involves being greased up with oil and then stroked with blazing hot (okay, really really warm) volcanic stones. I freaked out a little at the very beginning, thinking there was no way I could endure an hour plus of intense heat, but I quickly adjusted to the hot rocks and within minutes I was loving it. I felt like my flesh was melting into the table. In a good way. By the time my massage was over I wasn't sure I'd be able to stand up, I was that relaxed. My limbs felt like pudding. Warm, chocolaty pudding that would surely puddle onto the floor of the post-massage rainshower and swirl down the drain.

I lingered in that shower, knowing that no one was standing outside the door, impatiently awaiting my emergence from the steam and demanding cereal, boob or the boob tube. Then, after settling up with the receptionist, I walked out in their spa sandals. I turned around, put on my boots and called Josh to thank him and let him know I was heading for the subway.

But my sweetheart didn't want the CTA to sap away all my bliss. He was on his way to fetch me. What a guy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

She's a self-soother

If you had told me 2 1/2 years ago that, come nap or bedtime, I could just set my baby down in a crib and walk away--without even turning on the Ocean Wonders Aquarium--I would have laughed you out of the nursery. But Baby A is one chill child.


Product Review: Sequoia Vehicle Survival Kit

A couple of weeks ago I picked a friend up at the airport. I'd gotten there a few minutes early, so I decided I'd change Baby A's diaper and sit down in a quiet area of the baggage claim to feed her and wait. So I changed her. Nursed her. Hugged Franny hello. And then I heard it. Poosplosion. A diaper blowout of tremendous proportions. And I'd just used my last diaper.

Fortunately, I had a zipper storage bag in my trunk with three spare diapers in it. Three spare size 4 diapers from before Z was potty trained, but hey, better too big than too small!

Lesson? It pays to be prepared.

But can you pay to be prepared? Why, yes you can. For a steep $99 , the preparedness experts at Sequoia Survival will assemble for you the ultimate vehicle survival kit, a tiny red duffel jam-packed with emergency items from the obvious (first aid kit, light sticks, thermal blankets, rope) to the ingenious (duct tape and playing cards). I was thrilled to find a hand-crank radio/flashlight with a built-in cell phone charger, rain ponchos and a multi-function tool.

Add a few fresh diapers, a package of baby wipes, a jack and a set of jumper cables, and I'm ready for virtually any roadside disaster. Plus, having these items in my car makes me feel more safe at home. I'm more prepared for our next massive power outage and ready to hit the road should we be faced with an emergency evacuation order.

Which has me thinking, perhaps I should add a list of emergency phone numbers (insurance company, credit card issuers, family members) to the Sequoia kit notebook...

Read more real-life reviews of the Sequoia Survival Kit and plenty of other cool stuff at Parent Bloggers Network.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No more little monsters

They're cute, but I've already had my fill of over-sugared, under-napped, screechy-voiced three-year-old princesses. I'd share my pics of Z's preschool Halloween party as well, but (oops!) I left my camera there.

Here's a treat. Check out Z at Halloween last year...
Halloween 2006

And two years ago...
Halloween 2005

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's not just the icky she's picky about

My daughter does not eat fruit.

She'll eat dried fruit, dehydrated fruit, fruit jams, fruit muffins and fruit juice, but she won't touch an apple, orange or peach in its original format. Is there another kid alive who doesn't like strawberries? The only fresh fruit she deems acceptable is the banana.

Now I know plenty of kids (I was one of them) who turn their noses up at green vegetables, but Z will happily eat baby trees (broccoli) and peas. Corn, black beans, sweet potatoes and chick peas (in hummus form) are among her favorite foods, right behind the standard kid faves of quesadillas, macaroni and cheese, pizza, tacos and spaghetti.

And then there are her favorite foods that catch others by surprise. Every day she asks for African Peanut Soup and Weetabix with peanut butter. Not only has she inherited my addiction to peanut butter, she shares my love for the kitty-litter of cereals, Grape-Nuts. But can she blame her distrust of fruit on mommy dearest? No way.

This entry is part of a Parent Bloggers Network blog blast about children's food fetishes. It's sponsored by Deceptively Delicious, which I reviewed here.

Bumbo Baby Seat Recall

I was just about to buy the Bumbo Baby Sitter seat for Baby A. Perhaps that's not such a good idea given this recall.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sayonara sippy cups

Confession: Z's nearly three and--until earlier this week--we let her drink from sippy cups. Milk, water, even juice (typically watered down, but not always).

She's too big. It's bad for her teeth. And she's gotten spoiled, expecting a beverage in the car, in the stroller and with her on the couch as she watches The Wiggles.

So I told her we'd be saying bye-bye to sippy cups by her third birthday. And you know what? She didn't even bat an eye. Two days later and she's drinking juice and milk at the table, with meals. And if she's thirsty at night or when we're out and about, she's got her brand-new, BPA-free SIGG water bottle.

On a related note, Z decided she's night-trained. She didn't care for the Target-brand training pants I'd purchased (no Princesses), so she told me she'd wear underwear instead. No biggie.

The world's smallest pumping mama

Hey Fisher-Price, how about a My Little Breastpump? Z demanded I craft her one so that she could pump milk and feed her doll, just like mommy. It's amazing what you can do with construction paper, tape and a cigar box.

Book review: Kids are Americans Too

Remember that obnoxious know-it-all boy from the 8th grade? The one who panted "ooh-ooh-me" as he raised his hand and parroted his right-wing father's views during Social Studies discussions?

Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly wrote a book for just for him. If you can call it writing. Kids are Americans Too purports to be a guide to legal rights for kids, but it's really a smarmy overview of the legal process dumbed down with horrible raps (yes, raps), smug multiple choice quizzes and mock Q and A's between the kid reader and O'Reilly himself.

You might think that a book about rights would at least pretend to come from a "no-spin zone," but O'Reilly dismisses any opinion that doesn't line up with his worldview as idiotic or stupid. Every chapter includes a dig at the ACLU. Ironic, given they're all about guaranteeing our civil liberties (aka our rights).

Now here's where I try to give Bill O'Reilly the benefit of the doubt. He does emphasize, again and again, that the best way to get what you want is to negotiate calmly and use tact. Tact, huh O'Reilly? Is that what you were using when you sexually harassed a Fox News producer? What O'Reilly doesn't recommend is taking your complaints to court. Which might explain why he agreed to settle that nasty little harassment suit.

I'm not the only member of the Parent Bloggers Network to review this book. Click here to see if anyone had anything nice to say.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is there a word for this?

I need to describe a particular condition. You see, Baby A usually falls asleep with a paci in her mouth. At some point during the night (or nap), she spits out her pacifier. And by the time we go into her room to fetch her from her crib, the paci is in her ear.

So what shall I call this oral invasion of her aural space? A rubber willy? Paciphone? Bluetooth binkie?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Product review: Vincent Shoes

What, somebody besides Robeez makes baby shoes? Are they any good?

Thanks to the kind folks at Parent Bloggers Network, I got to find out for myself. I mean, for Baby A.

Now, let me preface this by saying that there really isn't any compelling reason to put shoes on a 3-month-old. She's not walking. She's not crawling. She's mostly wiggling on her back like an overturned stinkbug. But winter's a-coming and I'm all in favor of keeping her tiny socks on and her sweet tootsies warm with a pair of buttery soft leather slippers.

So I gave Vincent Shoes a try. A Swedish company, they've got a huge variety of Euro-stylish shoes for little ones--a lot more to choose from than Robeez, which are pretty standard pull-on kicks with themed decorations. I chose the formal black leather Mini Angela and the charming pink Mini Betty mary janes for my little girl. They recommend Prewalker Size 1 for two to five month olds and Prewalker Size 2 for four to eight month olds. Since Baby A's on the big side, I ordered the Angela in a 1 and the Betty in a 2. Turned out the 1 fit perfectly and the 2 is enormous. It fell right off.

Which is too bad, because I much prefer the soft, adorable Mini Betty to the too-fancy Mini Angela, which is too fussy and way too stiff for my taste. The patent leather trim interferes with the leather's softness and the shoe has a lot less give than the Mini Betty or the broken-in Robeez I'm using for comparison. Still, if I had an occasion appropriate for dressy baby shoes, I'd put her in them without hesitation.

I was a little disappointed to see that the shoes weren't actually made in Sweden. They're manufactured in China like everything else. But I feel like the quality is there. Vincent Shoes have the soft leather sole of a Robeez slipper, but unlike Robeez, they have a terry lining to help absorb moisture (baby feet seem to sweat a lot).

And since Vincent loves Mommybloggers and their readers, they're offering us an exclusive discount code and they're giving away two $50 gift certificates. First-time purchasers can enter code "OCT-20-OFF" for 20% anything in the shop through 11/11/07. To enter to win a $50 gift certificate, check out the Vincent Shoes website and leave a comment on the Vincent post at PBN with your favorite style and why (it does not need to be a prewalker).

Monday, October 22, 2007

The pumping puzzle: how much is my milk really worth?

Breastfeeding isn't just "best for baby," it gets me the most bang for my buck. Right? Well, yeah. But the cost savings aren't as dramatic as I'd hoped.

I'm returning to work in two weeks and planning to pump for at least a couple of months. I'm dedicated to nursing, but my breastpump doesn't engender the same warm fuzzy feelings as my baby, so I decided to calculate how much I'm saving by pumping versus supplementing while my child is in my husband's or daycare provider's care. I figured that putting a dollar amount to my efforts would solidify my commitment to pump. I could add up the savings and treat myself to a little shopping spree with the cash I'd saved by not buying formula. (And in case you're wondering, I'm not figuring in the cost of the pump since it already paid for itself with baby #1.)

So here goes. The first real math I'd done since high school calculus.

First, let's assume Baby A will drink three 4-ounce bottles while I am at work, for a total of 12 ounces of milk while I'm away. A 25.7oz (large) can of Enfamil or Similac formula costs $22.99 on sale at Walgreens. You can prepare 160 fluid ounces per can, and assuming none gets wasted, that works out to 13 days worth of daycare/daddy care supplementation. Which means I'm saving a grand total of $2.00 per workday by pumping. Yikes, I don't even earn a latte for my efforts!

Depressing, huh? It gets better. In my efforts to make sure Baby A accepts a bottle when I return to work, I've been pumping at home and saving the excess. I've got a freezer full of expressed milk in zipper bags--probably 250-300 ounces worth. I, like many moms in my position, like to refer to it as liquid gold, but it's probably only the nutritional equivalent of $40 worth of powdered formula.

Now I have saved a significant pile of money by breastfeeding Baby A exclusively for the first three months of her life: $400 by even the most conservative estimates. And that doesn't account for all of the breastmilk she's drunk, spit-up and demanded more of. That'll buy me a new winter coat and some cute cashmere cold weather accessories, but no luxury vacation.

Yet, while I'm only earning about $4 an hour for sitting in a windowless, featureless room with a mechanical milking machine hooked up to my boobs, I still feel a compulsion to keep it up, at least for a little while. Maybe I feel like I can't supplement my second kid more than I did my first. Maybe I'm doing it for the feeling of accomplishment I get from nourishing my children, even when I am away. Surely a big part of it is my desire to keep my supply up enough that I won't have to mix up and and warm up a bottle of formula in the middle of the night. (I'm lazy like that.)

But can I say I'm doing it to save money? Not so much, unfortunately.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog