Monday, April 30, 2007

The things we do for love

Or, in my case, for work.

My agency sponsors a number of morale-boosting annual outings, and one of them is a bowling party where employees who otherwise don't work with each other are thrown together on teams and expected to come up with a creative team name, a team poster (each team gets an art director) and costumes.

I was on vacation when our team's name was selected, but I gamely sported press-on ink and the world's largest, most unflattering white bowling shirt as one of the Tattoo Love Bowlers (a play on the semi-obscure song "Tattoo Love Boys"--I'd suggested The Devil Wears Bowling Shoes).

Let me tell you, putting on a huge white men's shirt and throwing gutter balls under black lights next to skinny, more racily dressed co-workers (other teams included send-ups of Desperate Housewives and The Girls Next Door) is not the way to feel attractive when you're 7 months pregnant.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Blond ambitions

As we were heading out to the ABC orientation, I walked across the yard to say goodbye to Z, who was playing in the wet sand in our neighbor's back yard. Our babysitter says to me, "Z just told me she's going to get older and be a Mommy and she's making soup."

Indeed, Z is stirring together a lovely muddy liquid. "I'm a Mommy to cook soup. It's hot hot! Don't touch my soup, Mommy! I need to stir in an ice cube to cool it off before you eat it."

And here I'd always thought I'd been quite sneaky about stirring ice into her food to cool it off. Nothing gets past this kid.

T-minus 11 weeks and counting

Josh and I attended the Alternative Birthing Center orientation at West Suburban Medical Center this afternoon, and I've got to give the place props. I don't much care for the crosses in every room, but the ABC birthing rooms are fabulous! They're the size of an Embassy Suites suite and feature a real queen-sized bed, a huge birthing tub, a bathroom with shower, a warming isolette and a wooden bassinet, a refrigerator and microwave, a birthing ball, a birthing stool and a rocking chair. And unlike every other hospital in the area, you're encouraged to bring and eat your favorite foods (you aren't limited to ice chips) and you can videotape the birth, if desired.

All this is yours, provided you make it to 37 weeks and don't require any medical interventions. Need pitocin to start your labor? Off to the regular L&D rooms. Decide you can't live without an epidural? You're outta there!

From what I've heard from friends who've delivered in the ABC, the postpartum experience at West Sub doesn't measure up. They move you out of the ABC about 6 hours after the birth, and the hospital food's mediocre, the staff isn't terribly attentive, and the intercoms blare pages all day and night.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Eating out in Oak Park

Food is one of my favorite things, and while I'm blessed with both a mother who gave me confidence in the kitchen and a husband who can cook circles around most people (and he only started dinner duty about a year or so ago), I still love to eat out.

Occasionally I'm asked for restaurant recommendations in and around my home base of Oak Park, Illinois, so here are my most-loved places.

Bar Louie
1122 Lake St., Oak Park
The most recent outpost of this Chicago chain, Bar Louie's only first on my list because of its placement in the alphabet. But it is a go-to place for gluttonous portions of well-prepared bar food, and it's right down the block from the Lake Theatre. I particularly love their fries and anything with wing sauce on it. And my daughter put away most of a trough of gooey, delicious macaroni and cheese.

Buzz Cafe
905 S. Lombard Ave, Oak Park
There probably isn't a more kid-friendly restaurant around. In addition to stocking toys in the back lounge, the Buzz offers healthy, yummy-if-not-gourmet fare and familiar kiddie foods like organic PB&J and Annie's mac & cheese. Live music on Friday evenings and political debates make this coffeehouse a community gathering place.

Blue Max
26 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park
Cute as can button, Blue Max is easy to miss. It looks like a regular house in a residential neighborhood, but this B&B without the bed scores big points for house-roasted coffee, homemade bakery goods and casual meals featuring local and organic ingredients whereever possible. The management is super-nice and Z appreciates the children's corner, which is well-stocked with toys (but closed during the lunch rush).

The Depot American Diner
5840 W. Roosevelt Ave.
A brand-new restaurant, this throwback diner brings back the good old days when menus stated the names of the dishes without any description. I got the BLT. Turns out it was one of the best BLTs of my life, which isn't surprising since everything they serve is house made. The turkey on Josh's open faced sandwich was from a real honest-to-goodness bird, not a smooth, preprepared deli slice. We've got to go there for breakfast next since LTH Forum is abuzz over their homemade doughnuts. The prices are pretty old-fashioned too: dinner for three cost us $21.

Freddy's Pizza
1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero
It doesn't look like much from the outside, but this tiny Italian deli in Cicero serves up the area's best fresh-baked bread, pizza and gelato, as well as a large assortment of entrees and appetizers that change daily. Much of their business is take-out, but you can grab your meal and eat it in the spartan dining area just next door. Family-run, their hours are not for your convenience, so don't go after 7pm or any time on Sunday.

Jimmy's Place
7411 Madison St., Forest Park
I've been kicking myself for taking so long to discover Jimmy's Place, which I ignored for years as it is surrounded by other good Italian restaurants. But it deserves recognition for fabulous pasta dishes and for being a great value (entrees include a soup or salad). We found the service to be super-friendly and happy to see kids. Jimmy's has a true neighborhood feel; don't be surprised if the owner, Jimmy, shows you to your seat between chatting up the regulars.

La Piazza
If Jimmy's is the Italian place to take your family, La Piazza (just down the Madison strip) is the place to bring a date. Chef Gaetano Di Benedetto serves inventive Sicilian cuisine in a cozy three room restaurant painted with trompe l'oeil murals. I've never been disappointed by their pastas, risottos or desserts. Although they'll accommodate you with a high chair, La Piazza's not the best place to bring little kids. If you can't get a sitter, get take-out.

733 Lake St., Oak Park
Stop here for Greek food as good (or better) than anything you'll find in Greektown. I find some of the dinner entrees a little too heavy, but that could be because I've filled myself up on their delicious mezedes.

7215 West Lake St., River Forest
Another local chain, Pompei keeps us happy with good-quality Italian-American fare in a cafeteria-style setting. Check out their salads, deep dish pizzas and stromboli-style pizza rolls, but don't miss my favorite dish, the 8-finger cavatelli. Z and I can work together to polish off an enormous bowl of the dumpling-noodles. It probably doesn't bear mentioning, but this place was built for families: short wait times, familiar foods and free balloons.

Khyber Pass
1031 Lake St., Oak Park
The only Indian restaurant in the area, but at least it's really good. Live music and dancing (usually by aging Peace Corps types) lends a nice atmosphere to this restaurant were seemingly everyone is getting the buffet.

Sagano Sushi
731 Lake St., Oak Park
It's not the absolute best sushi I've ever had, but it's fresh and it's local (the restaurant, not the fish). A tiny storefront, sleekly decorated in blond woods.

6611 W. Roosevelt Rd, Berwyn
Can I tell you how overjoyed I am that one of my (and Oprah's) favorite restaurants opened a location at FitzGerald's, just 5 minutes from my house? Serving "Southern Reconstruction" foods, Wishbone is rightly renowned for its breakfasts. Get the Red Eggs, two eggs served on top of corn tortillas and covered with black beans, cheese, chili ancho sauce, scallions, sour cream and salsa.

I promise I'll dedicate a future post to my favorite ice cream parlors, but until then, get your fix at Brown Cow, Hole in the Wall Custard and Oberweis.


Said Z this morning, "When cars get sick, they go to the dentist!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Buzzing books

The NY Times has an interesting article, Mommy Books: More Buzz than Buyers, that reports that all of the lively blogosphere and TV chatter around Leslie Bennetts' The Feminine Mistake hasn't translated into book sales for the $25 hardback. And I'll admit it, I haven't read the book either, but I've delved into the book's premise--that mothers who opt out of the workforce altogether risk financial ruin should divorce or death end their marriages--through reading book reviews and blogs as well as the excerpt in Glamour magazine. I've talked about it with friends.

Motherhood and the choices we make make for endlessly interesting topics when you're right in the think of it. It's emotionally charged stuff. I think working moms are happy to hear they're not ruining their children's lives and stay-at-home moms are outraged and insulted by Bennetts' argument. Mommy buzz for a nonfiction book can't be compared to mommy buzz for a consumer product like diapers. It's about the exchange of ideas, not the recommendation of one brand over another or the word-of-mouth a new product innovation might generate. And honestly, hardback books are a pricey investment. I'm a pretty big reader, but 90 percent of the books I read I check out from the library. And I don't feel bad for Bennett. By triggering such a tsunami of talk, she's got her career made.

Bookshelf: Kabul Beauty School

Wow, you just can't make this stuff up! Imagine an memoir written by a spunky hairdresser from Michigan who is married to an abusive minister. Okay, that sounds pretty boilerplate. But here's what happens next. 9/11. And Deborah Rodriguez leaves her kids and no-good spouse behind and heads off to Afghanistan to do a little Christian relief work.

She ends up founding a beauty school in Kabul, a place that not only offers women a private sanctuary to look pretty and connect with others, but the opportunity to make serious money in a city where women are largely unemployable. Kabul Beauty School is a beautiful, touching, and sometimes hilarious look at women's lives behind the veil in modern Afghanistan. We meet her friends and students and learn about the immense--sometimes insurmountable--challenges these women face in a patriarchal, traditional and very religious society. Deborah marries into the culture (she basically lets her friends arrange a marriage for her!), giving her the kind of intimate access travel writers and journalists just can't match.

And here's an interesting tidbit about me: I lived in neighboring Pakistan during my middle school years.

Mother Knows Tech

Google Chicago invited local mommy blogger Selfmademom to a marketing to moms mini conference, and she live blogged some useful insights. As both target audience and a CPG marketing creative, I eat this stuff up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pictures from Portland

Check out a few of the snapshots I took on my trip.

My little scholar

Z aced her "interview" at the local Montessori preschool and is being offered a place in this fall's incoming class. Watching her interact with the head teacher and try her hand at the "big work," I thought I was going to explode with pride.

Going places, meeting people

Josh talked me out of taking the nonstop red-eye home from Portland, but my miles-only alternative was a 1-stop flight from Portland to Chicago via San Francisco. Which means I spent a good deal of yesterday en route (takeoff was at 1:50pm PST and I didn't land until 10:30pm CST). But I met a few interesting people along the way.

Jet Set Jordanians
This family of five included dancing, Doritos-munching boys about 4 and 5 and an 18 month old little girl who whimpered "baby, baby" as stroller after stroller wheeled by. They had already been traveling for 20 hours when I sat across from them in the PDX departure lounge. Their torturous route home was Amman, Jordan to Frankfurt, Germany, Frankfurt to Portland, Portland to San Francisco, and finally San Francisco to Marin County.

Full-Figured Father of Four
He gamely squeezed into the middle seat between me and another woman about my age and
congratulated me on my July due date. Apparently most of his large family celebrate their birthdays that month. We both carried on sandwiches from SFO's Boudin Bakery. He bailed on The Holiday to play Brick Breaker on his Blackberry for the remaining 2 1/2 hours of the flight.

Drunk Chick
I groaned inwardly when the 40-something redhead in a belly shirt, rhinestone-studded hip huggers and flip flops sat down in front of me and reclined her seat to its maximum before takeoff.

It sucks to have inches between your mouth and someone else's hair, but I buried my face in a book and made the best of it. That is, until an hour and a half later and I couldn't hold it any longer. It was virtually impossible to get up out of my seat with a 7 month belly and minimal clearance. But I'll give the bedazzled barmaid credit, when she saw my girth she eased up a bit on the recline and found relaxation in a can of Heineken. Which she managed to spill into the aisle (and splash across my right side). So she ordered a replacement can. And spilled half of that. Then she dropped her sunglasses. Her earrings. And so on. When the flight attendant joked that she'd smell like a brewery on the way home and she slurred something about "I always do. I own one."

My Ancient Cabdriver
If I tried to recount everything I learned about the greasy hair-smelling 67-year-old retired truck driver who claimed his shaking hands were a result of nerve damage from biting his nails to the quick, I'd be blogging all day. But highlights included learning that my cab driver drove a J.B. Hunt big rig most of his life, stopping at home to see "the missus" and her three children from a previous marriage (the first husband fell off of construction scaffolding and plunged to his death) for a few days every six weeks. He was proud of the three boys he'd helped raise, particularly the son who drives a garbage truck for the City of Chicago for $26 an hour, double that on Sundays.

His words of wisdom:
"Go to big rig driving school. They'll teach you a lot in 10 weeks. You'll graduate knowing how to fix your own brakes and brake shoes. Materials only cost $60. Save you a lot of money on repairs."
"If you're ever laid up, you can call Blue Cab to get your prescriptions and groceries picked up." (This was followed by detailed instructions on what to say to the druggist and a tale of a Park Ridge Realtor who apparently orders $300 worth of groceries every month from the River Forest Whole Foods and has them delivered to his office.)
"Always take the Mannheim Rd. exit when you're driving east on I-290. That way you'll avoid getting trapped in traffic in the middle lane. You can exit at Mannheim if traffic gets bad beyond the curves. And if you're ever in Oak Brook at rush hour, don't try to get on the Eisenhower at Roosevelt. They close the entrance ramp. Take Cermak to Mannheim and get on there."

Monday, April 23, 2007

About to leave Portland

I've had a wonderful time visiting with Franny in one of my favorite cities, but I miss Josh and Z something terrible. I didn't realize how torturous it would be to see mothers and toddlers in every direction. And every place we visited I wished I could share with one of them.

We got pampered at Zanana Spa and went to the OMSI, sort of a small, more kid-oriented version of the Museum of Science and Industry, and I saw so much I knew Z would get a kick out of. Personally, I thought it was neat to see a thermal scan of my body and visual proof that my hands are hotter than Franny's (always have been). Z would have also loved romping through the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, where I took 90 percent of my photos.

Restaurants and coffee shops made me wish I'd brought along my foodie husband. We had takeout from the Delta Cafe (including some raw BBQ chicken), coffeecake and muffins from Arleta Library Cafe, decent neuvo latino at OBA and an enormous breakfast of Grand Marnier french toast at Everett Street Bistro. One evening I cooked for Franny and Dave, demonstrating how ridiculously easy it is to roast a chicken and make your own vinaigrette.

I also got in more (tax free!) shopping than I've done in months, scoring gifts for my much-missed family and some goodies for myself, including a crocheted hat from the Saturday Market, robin's egg blue mary jane-style Crocs, two headbands and a new pair of sunglasses that Josh is going to hate (they're fashionably BIG). And I helped Franny shop for a pair of jeans to show off her new skinny self.

Anyway, big shout-outs to both of the husbands for letting us have four days of virtually uninterrupted girl time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I've arrived

When I checked in at, I wasn't able to get a seat assignment, and I wasn't too thrilled to be handed a B (read, center aisle) boarding pass at the gate. The good news, however, was that my center seat was the very first row of Economy. Economy Plus, to be exact. Which means that I wasn't climbing over anyone any of the five times I got up to pee.

Other bonuses, aside from the fact that none of the toddlers on board belonged to me, included an in-flight showing of The Pursuit of Happyness, which I hadn't seen yet, and the fact that the memoir I brought along is a real page-turner.

Franny picked me up at the lovely Portland Airport (did you know their parking garage tells you which aisles have spaces available?), and we spent the afternoon browsing at Powell's and some of the other boutiques in the area. I met my craving for good, chewy crust pizza at Pizza Shmizza, where I inhaled two NYC-sized cheese slices. Why oh why can't Chicago duplicate the pizza by the slice experience?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Potty training theories abound

As I've mentioned before, my 29-month-old daughter has total control of her bodily functions and talks the potty talk like nobody's business, but she'll only do her business in a diaper.

Josh and I read Toilet Training in Less than a Day and The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Potty Training Problems, and we agreed that the old-fashioned approach of the former probably wouldn't work for Z since it was largely focused on potty education and avoiding accidents--two issues we don't need to address. The second book pointed out some mistakes we'd been making. It recommends against talking about "being a big girl" and "making Mommy proud," since sometimes kids don't want to grow up so fast--they want to hold onto some of their babyhood. Instead, we let Z pick out a nice new potty chair from Target and gave her lots of opportunities to practice going on it. She taught her teddy bear how to go and spent lots of time pulling her underpants up and down. She wore panties most of the time, only switching to diapers for naps and bedtime and the occasional "I need a diaper" gotta-go-right-now emergency.

But as much as she enjoys showing off her underwear and her potty, we're not seeing any progress in the actual use of the potty. So we asked my midwife (a mother of 5) if she had any insights. Her advice? Tell our daughter that she isn't ready for underwear. Say she's still "a bit of a baby who needs to wear diapers and as such, we're putting all the potties away until she gets bigger." No more taking her special potty to daycare or showing it off to friends and family. She can't have it until she's ready to really use it.

Basically, Hillary recommends a healthy dose of reverse psychology. She says all the hard work is done: Z knows how to sense an urge and control the flow, and she's got the mechanics of flushing and hand-washing done. We just need to wait for her to decide she's ready to pee in the potty and we should be home free.

Anyone want to take bets on how long that'll take?

Portland here I come

Tomorrow morning I'm boarding a plane by myself. There will be no car seats. No sippy cups. No snacks. No portable DVD player showing potty movies.

Just me, a Luna bar, Kabul Beauty School and the most recent issue of The New Yorker. And as much as I'm looking forward to flying solo, what I'm really excited about is the destination. I'm headed to Portland, Oregon to visit my BFF and her family. We've got a fabulous girls' weekend planned. A spa visit, the Saturday Market, Powell's Books, the Pearl District, great restaurants and the Portland Art Museum are all on the agenda.

I feel a little guilty about leaving Josh alone with Z for four days--but, sweetheart that he is, he encouraged me to get in this last trip before we're both stuck at home with two small children.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Go ahead, crack my back

I received my very first chiropractic adjustment this evening. I'd been hearing good things about the chiropractor down the hall from my midwives' office, so when I started experiencing lower back and pelvic pain, I made an appointment for an evaluation with Dr. Manning. He specializes in prenatal chiropractic care, and while I've seen a couple of male patients there, most of the people I saw there obviously with child.

The evaluation was thorough and I liked Dr. Manning personally. He pointed out the scoliosis I'd been diagnosed with during an elementary school screening, showed Josh how one of my legs was slightly longer than the other and said my pelvis and sacrum were out of whack. (No surprise there: my yoga teacher's pointed out my back problems before.) He also took a bunch of measurements with a weird little scanner and told me to come back the following week for my results.

And that's where things got a little weird. The results one-on-one were preceeded by group orientation with two other new patients. He showed this terrible Maximize Your Potential PowerPoint presentation full of New Age mumbo-jumbo about the miracle of chiropractic care. It sounded so Scientology-esque I began to worry the guy was going to pull out a Tom Cruise-approved e-meter.

I made an appointment, but reached out to my primary care doctor to make sure I wasn't being taken in by a quack. She recommended I go forward with the treatments, and that's why I showed up today.

And you know what? I still don't buy all the hocus-pocus, but I feel great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lovely or just large?

Said one of the cute young things in my agency this morning, "Wow! You're getting really close, huh?" And one of the 20-something guys a few days earlier, "You're just about ready to pop!"

Um, no. I've got three months to go. Thanks anyway.

It seems that my pregnant belly is a popular conversation starter at the office. I don't mind, honestly. But I prefer that comments given with a little more grace and style.

Other women--particularly other moms--will ask how I'm feeling and dig for names (we're not sharing). They'll ask if Z knows there's a baby coming and is she excited? If I've got a particularly cute outfit on, someone will likely notice. And heck, I'll admit I dress for my girlfriends--my husband couldn't care less.

And then there's this tattooed creative director who's raising two kids on his own. He never fails to say I'm looking wonderful/great/amazing. He never complimented me before I sprouted a full-frontal basketball, but I wouldn't have expected him to. In fact, under normal circumstances it would probably be weird, but now that I'm in a family way, his kind words never fail to give me a lift--and a touch of that pregnancy glow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sadness touches close to home

This weekend one of my friends received word that her sister-in-law passed away in her sleep (they don't yet know why), leaving behind a husband and three small children. Then, in a unexplainable act, a gunman goes on a rampage today at Virginia Tech, my sister's alma mater. I forwarded her a news report early this morning when the death toll was one. By the time I'd checked CNN again, it was up to 22. Half an hour later and we're at 31. It's horrifying. I can only hope they don't raise the number again before the sun rises in Australia.

My heart goes out to the students, their families and alumni who surely never hoped to see their university garner this kind of international attention.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's not twins

I was paying for my purchases at the West Suburban Mothers of Multiples rummage sale this morning when I overheard this exchange between one of the volunteer cashiers and the very, very large bellied woman next to me.

Cashier: Expecting twins?
Mom: No, I have a one year old and I'm due any day now.
Cashier: Did you sign up for our mailing list?
Mom: I'm not having twins!
Cashier: Oh not that. It's just to receive notice of our sales.
Mom: I found this one, didn't I?

It was somewhat insane, as all of these sales are, but pickings were really good. I didn't bother fighting over the most coveted baby gear (bouncy seats and swings), heading straight back to the clothing tables while Josh and Z test-drove the toys. Our best scores: a Talbot Baby layette set for #2, Merrell beach shoes for Z and a wooden tool box filled with toy tools.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mommy angst

I was so excited to get my review copy of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box in the mail yesterday. I'm only a few chapters in, but the book argues that mothers need to maintain their sanity--and themselves--by aiming a little less high. In this age of extreme parenting, internal and external expectations for moms are so elevated and unrealistic that we're setting ourselves up for failure. Society expects us to do everything right: Breastfeed exclusively. Practice babywearing. Make our own organic baby food. Put our families before our careers. Sign our children up for the right enrichment activities. Buy them the right toys. Send them to preschool, ensure they get into the right college. Keep them happy and entertained at all costs.

And most importantly, love every minute of it. Find utter fulfillment in being a mommy.

But guess what? Motherhood isn't a primrose path. It's one of the best choices I've ever made, don't get me wrong. But while it's cool to bitch about being stressed out, it's not socially acceptable to admit that playing with Play-Doh is boring, that we miss staying out or sleeping in...that as much as we'll always love our children, sometimes we don't like them very much.

Enter True Mom Confessions, an anonymous website where mothers can unload their mommy guilt. Some of the posts are funny. More than a few are sad. But what's even sadder is knowing that women need a deep, dark corner of the Internet to share their insecurities.

More on the potty

Said Z last night...

"I need to go potty! I need my privacy. Mommy, you wanna watch?"

And no, she didn't really go. My kid should get an Oscar for Best Performance on a Potty. She sets up. She sits. She waits. She wipes. She flushes and washes her hands. She narrates her every move.

But it's all pretend. I'm picking up my library's copy of the 1974 classic Toilet Training in Less Than a Day this weekend. Maybe they'll have some tips for training a kid who shows every sign of readiness except for the ability to pee with her diaper off.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Best of Marketing Mommy

I feel a little narcissistic doing this, but my blog has grown a lot since I started over 330-odd posts ago. Friends and family are still checking in for Z anecdotes and book recommendations, but I've also found a few like-minded souls out there in the blogosphere. And apparently Marketing Mommy comes up in Google searches. Searches like "my toddler threw up milk," and "balance beam gymnastics boobs."

So for those of you who haven't been around since the very beginning, here are a few of my favorite posts.

What it's like to go on Oprah
The not-so-secret-society of parents of young children
If toddlers went to work
We're back! (a handy guide to traveling with small children)
Happy 2nd birthday
Dinner in the nude

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus: Don't make us mamas mad

If, like me, you believe Don Imus deserves to have his mouth washed out with soap and worse for his offensive description of the Rutgers women's basketball team, join MomsRising and sign this petition to have him fired.

My cluttered bookshelf

I've just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, which solidified my commitment to be more conscious about our food choices--particularly in the meat department. We joined a CSA with our next-door neighbors (vegetable deliveries are scheduled to begin in mid-May) and we're only purchasing naturally-raised meat and cage-free eggs. I still don't stress organic fruits and vegetables since Michael Pollan emphasizes that large-scale organic agriculture is still industrial monoculture with its own problems and sustainable, local agriculture is the model we should be supporting. There is a Wisconsin farm that sells pasture-raised beef, pork and chicken, and we're going to fill our basement freezer with an order from them soon.

To keep my marketing brain fresh, I plowed through Trillion Dollar Moms and Chocolates on the Pillow are Not Enough. The former dispels many widely-held myths about how to market to moms and the latter uses a hospitality industry model to illustrate innovative ways to connect with consumers and build lasting relationships. The most interesting take-away from Trillion Dollar Moms is the obvious-in-retrospect insight that moms connect with each other and with products based on their children's ages. Meaning that two mothers of 4-year-old boys will have plenty in common even if one mom is 28 and the other is 40. Mom demographics take a back seat to kid demographics. Which makes sense if you think about how the interests and concerns of a new mom differ from those of a mom with a preschooler or school-aged children.

On my boss Renee's recommendation, I skimmed through The Five Faces of Genius, a guide to creative thinking. I scored pretty well in the power to image, notice details, celebrate weakness and simplify, but I need to work on my Alchemist skills--the ability to make connections.

And since Josh is trying to read The Omnivore's Dilemma before it comes due at the library, I've stolen the book I gave him for his birthday: Alternadad. Funny stuff, and it really hits home (except for the excessive pot use).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Going all night with Huggies

Since Z turned one and her output changed from mustardy baby smears to compact, flushable toddler turds, our diaper dramas have been few and far between. The up-the-back blowouts are but a distant memory (one I'll be replaying in 14 weeks or so), but nighttime can stretch even our beloved Huggies Size 4s to the limit. Some overnight leaks were change-the-sheets and wash the jammies large and many more were just-a-slight-dampness small, but Z would wake up most mornings with a diaper inflated to the limit. Bulging with pee, it would have a yellowish cast and a powerful odor. I couldn't wait to get her out of bed and onto the changing pad--no cuddles in the big bed until the kid smelled less like gerbil cage.

I guess that's what you get for letting your toddler go to bed with a full sippy cup of water.

So when Parent Bloggers Network gave me the opportunity to try out a month's worth of Huggies Overnites, I jumped at the chance. And the timing couldn't have been better. Just as the package arrived, Z started spending daycare afternoons in big-girl underpants (she's more into impressing Adriana than Mommy and Daddy). She was keeping Tinkerbell and the Princesses dry from 3:30 to 7:30pm, but she wasn't peeing in the potty. Translation: a tsunami warning was issued for the nighttime hours.

But thanks to the extra-absorbent nighttime Huggies, we survived without any flooding. Although the diapers I removed in the morning may have been the heaviest diapers ever filled by one small girl.

In many ways, Huggies Overnites resemble regular Huggies. Although they're ultra absorbent, they have the same stretchy, comfortable fit and are similarly emblazoned with characters from The Lion King, but the animals are snoozing and a moon is overhead. Z immediately made the connection and would ask me for "night-night diaper" at nap time as well as bedtime. Yeah, like I'm wasting the Hoover Dam on a backyard creek.

Net net, Huggies Overnites perform as promised, delivering maximum absorbency for the long haul at a slight cost premium. If you want to save the cash, buy your regular diapers one size up.

Find out what other parents had to say about Huggies Overnites and leave a comment for your chance to win a free package for your nighttime pee machine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Oh no you didn't

Two young mothers boarded the El this morning with five children between them. The oldest kid was about 8, the youngest, 1. The boys were obviously excited and a little rambunctious, but I was completely unprepared for the way one mother reacted when her son stood up briefly. Her loud string of invectives was so vile, so profane and so shockingly hurtful, you could feel the whole train tense up. It involved four letter words up to and including the big F and promised a beating should the kid dare not obey.

The fifty-something woman in front of her turned around with a disapproving, "Now hush," which I think was more than appropriate, but I was left shaking. I suspected from the family members' ages and clothes--as well as the fact that they boarded the train on Chicago's West Side--that they were likely not well off, but living in poverty has got to pale in comparison to living with a hair-trigger temper like that. My heart goes out to those kids.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

26 week belly

26 week belly
Flowers and plants aren't the only things growing at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Check out more photos from our Sunday morning adventure.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Can you hate a car seat?

Yesterday afternoon we unhooked our Evenflo Triumph convertible car seat for the last time. Read on to learn why I hated it so, and find out which car seat has replaced the bane of our existence--a car seat which, I may add, retails for $30 less.

First, I'll tell you why I bought it. It was one of Consumer Reports' top-rated convertible car seats at the time I was on the market--about two years ago. I knew Z wouldn't fit in her wonderful Graco SnugRide forever, and I wanted to shop around for a good price on a new car seat before she hit the SnugRide's height limit. I didn't want to blow $200+ on a Britax, but I felt my precious cargo was worth more than a bare-bones economy model. A few of my new mom friends (not experienced moms, I should point out) were also reading Consumer Reports, and one gal noticed that BabyAge was offering the Triumph on sale for $99 (it's regularly $119) and free shipping, we all pounced.

On paper, the Triumph seemed like a great choice. Good crash test ratings, plush fabric, lots of cushioning and various recline levels. What they didn't tell us was that every time the fabric got soiled, we'd have to get out the screwdriver and disassemble the car seat to clean it! That means sticky messes got babywiped clean and puke and poop explosions got Daddy pissed off. And since car sickness and road trips go together like gas stations and cherry deodorizers, we spent many a trip begging screw drivers off of hotel clerks.

With all of the mess that accompanies early childhood, that defect alone should be enough to condemn the Evenflo Triumph, but there's more: the straps are damn near impossible to adjust. And in shoulder seasons, when coats are on one day and off the next, I need to be able to make adjustments. I initially blamed my weak wrists, but Josh had the same problem.

And the straw that broke the camel's back? This car seat is a monster, weighing in at 19lbs. No biggie when it's strapped into the back seat, but huge pain to haul through airports, even when strapped to this.

But all that's history. Because we are now the very pleased owners of a brand-new $79 Graco ComfortSport. It's at least five pounds lighter, the straps are a breeze to adjust, and the cover slips right off for washing. It also seems like it took Josh a lot less time to configure. It's a tad narrower, so it takes up a little less room. And the cherry on top? It has a cup holder and snack tray, which Z thinks is tops.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Before I was Marketing Mommy

Well, I've been in marketing and promotions for much longer than I've been a mother, but I held down a whole lot of unrelated jobs before getting my current gig. In chronological order, here's my CV.

Babysitter (12 - 18 years old)
Cash money! The best gig of all was getting paid to keep an eye on the younger kids as I worked on my tan and ordered pizzas at the American Embassy pool in Pakistan.
Bus girl (13)
I cleared tables and made peanut buster parfaits at the No Name Cafe in Islamabad.
Sales girl (15)
I lasted one week at a creepy, bug-infested candy stand at the dilapidated 7 Corners Mall in Falls Church, VA. Turned me off of chocolate covered peanuts for a year.
Sales girl (16-17)
I sold pricey baby clothes and personalized kiddie furniture at boutique called Hoohobbers in the Pentagon City Mall. It seemed like every kid born in 1992 was named Ashley.
Cashier (17)
Nothing turns you off of deli sandwiches like working the register at Stuffin' Turkey, a food court favorite of the Army recruits who frequented Pentagon City. Every day some guy would answer my "Can I get you anything else?" with a "Yeah, your phone number." I was the only white employee aside from the manager, and I was also the only employee who never rotated onto sandwich making or refrigerator cleaning duty. I only worked the register. Coincidence?
Sales girl (17-18)
Back up to the second floor of the mall! I sold humorous tee shirts and jeans at Aussie & Co. and ended up dating one of my co-workers. My manager was a petite curly-haired 20-something from the Boston area, and I was completely in awe of her.
Office Assistant (18)
I learned to file under the patient tutelage of a woman with hair down to her butt in a freezing cold office squirreled away in the SSA building at the University of Chicago.
Camp Counselor (19)
I gained 25 pounds in 10 weeks and got yelled at by really rich New York parents at a terribly-run private Jewish camp in Maine. For a measly $900. My favorite memory: Being told by one mother that her fourth grader wouldn't be doing bathroom chore rotation because she didn't know what kind of sexually transmitted diseases "you counselors brought in from who knows where." And the mosquitoes were fierce.
Office Temp (20)
I worked in a bunch of different downtown offices, answering phones and doing data entry. This was before every office had internet, so I was usually bored out of my mind. And sometimes I had to wear hose.
Public Relations Intern (20)
I don't have many memories of my time with Performance Chicago. I just remember really primitive copy machines and computers and a fax machine that still used that horrible roll paper. I got to see some cool shows for free, though.
Bank Teller (20-21)
I was a special services teller at the very old-school Hyde Park Bank, which means someone trusted me to hang onto the $15,000 in my drawer. I wired money, issued money orders and took large cash deposits from local drug dealers. I also remember processing a deposit from dinosaur expert Paul Serrano. Both of my co-workers--single moms in their 30s-- had been with the bank for seven or eight years, and they seemed to spend a large portion of their $9/hour wage on elaborate manicures. They lived with their mothers.
Assistant to the Publishers/Marketing Coordinator (21-24)
This is where my career really began. I had way more responsibility than any 21 year old should as I did a little bit of everything at a local alt newsweekly. I did accounts payable, helped figure out where to put the ads, recruited, trained and covered for receptionists, and planned parties, movie screenings and other promotions for the paper. I even got to plan an author roundtable for the Printers Row Book Fair.

I decided I liked the creative side of promotions and marketing better than the schmoozing/financial side, so I decided to become a copywriter. I put together my portfolio and two weeks later I was hired at my current agency. That was almost seven years ago.

What random/horrible/unusual jobs have you held?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Zima wants to Mom my Ride

The alco-pop of my youth wants to reconnect with me. Pretty funny viral video, actually. And sent to me by a recovering minivan mom. Thanks Nancy!

Exploring Maya's Mom

So I'd heard some good things about the Maya's Mom online community, and I joined a couple of days ago. With work and Z being sick, I haven't had to much time to explore my new surroundings, but it looks like a great site--kind of a MySpace for moms that brings together the best of message boards (way less overwhelming that those on BabyCenter) and blogging (you can browse new journal entries). Plus, you can make friends and join interest groups. And just like MySpace, there seem to be a few friend-collectors out there--I got a friend request before I'd even finished setting up my profile!

If you're a member of Maya's Mom, let me know or look me up and link me up. There, like here, I'm Marketing Mommy.

Bye-bye rotavirus

From my phone conversation with Josh around 5:15pm yesterday, I was pretty sure I'd be home taking care of a sick kid today. She was crying for Mama nonstop and refusing all food and drink, and it was clear my husband was at the end of his rope. But from the moment they met me at the train station, Z was her happy-go-lucky regular self.

We got home and she decided she'd like some orange juice, which she sipped as we played Cariboo, her very first game. After playtime, she willingly undressed herself and hopped into the bath. She even let me give her a shampoo, so I was able to finally remove the lingering scent of barf from her hair.

We returned to our night-night routine, putting on clean jammies, brushing teeth, reading library books on the rocking chair and cuddling for a few minutes in the dark. When I brought her to her bed, she asked for song, which is also pretty typical. But in a new twist, I am no longer allowed to sing any familiar tunes. I have to make up a song based on her request. "Sing a song about Z and sippy cups," was last night's demand. So, to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," I sang the tale of Z and her Magic Sippy Cup.

The girl slept all night and woke up with a plain old wet diaper, a healthy appetite and a very strong desire to go to Adriana's house (day care). I can't tell you how relieved I am to see her back to normal, and I've got my fingers crossed that she stays that way.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A sick way to start your day

Z collapsed into bed around 6:30 last night and we didn't hear a peep all night. That was the good news. The bad news came at 5am when she began shouting, "Mama! Mama!" I went into her room and the smell of vomit hit me full in the face. Eyes watering, I turned on the light to see that my little angel had been sleeping in a puddle of puke. And she had a diaper full of diarrhea.

Am I scaring away my readership yet? If you've got a weak stomach, come back in a couple of days. I swear I'll start writing about something else soon.

I cleaned her up, wet combed her sick-smelling hair and deposited her in our bed so that I could tend to the bed linens and pajamas and start yet another load laundry.

I believe Z's first words to Josh were, "Don't touch my hair, Daddy. It has throw-up in it."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Recovery in progress

Last night was rough. Z had a temperature above 103 degrees, and she was so miserable she was reduced to a pitiful little whimper-cry. At least I was able to provide her with some comfort. About every hour or so. All night long.

Josh took the morning shift of watching DVDs on the couch with our little hot potato, and I made it home around 2pm to take over. By late afternoon, Z was able to hold her head up and keep liquids and a few bites of food down. She still has pretty loud, frequent and frightening diarrhea, but I think we're over the hump. Her fever is way down and she's taking an interest in the world outside. We even ventured onto the back porch to watch the neighbor kids run around.

I'm sad we missed out on having a Passover seder with our friends Julie and Steve and their kids, but we had a nice traditional meal while Z watched Alice in Wonderland for the second or third time today.

Tonight I'm going to go to bed early to make up for last night's fitful rest. I guess women who space their children really closely are pregnant before their first is sleeping through the night, but I'm not cut out for it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Things fall apart

Yeah, it looks like the rotavirus has made itself at home in our house.

Z woke up feverish, listless and thirsty, and she threw up the apple juice-Pedialyte cocktail I prepared for her shortly after we made it downstairs. But in a big improvement over yesterday, she barfed in the plastic basin I'd given her and not all over the couch.

As the morning went on and Cinderella turned into Calliou, vomit made way for diarrhea, which has been plaguing her all morning, but she has been able to keep down successive doses of the Pedialyte cocktail as well as some Infant Tylenol lemonade I mixed up. That and two bites of a bagel and maybe six squares of Life cereal. The kid is pitiful. She can barely stand up, and if I put her down for a moment, she sinks down on the floor. She whimpered through my 10 minute shower in spite of Josh's efforts to soothe her. I guess when you're that sick, only Mama will do. Mama and a stack familiar DVDs.

Unpleasant but manageable, right? Wrong. While I was tending to the nasty liquids spewing forth from our daughter, Josh was stuck dealing with our vomiting kitchen sink. I don't know exactly what's wrong, but it's involved lots of plunging, a little cursing and virtually all of the pipes removed from under the sink. Hopefully the friendly folks at Ace Hardware--together with some advice from our friend Eric--will keep us from having to call a plumber tomorrow.

If we're out a functioning sink, we may need to downgrade our Passover seder plans yet again. I already backed out of my friend Julie's seder on account of this virus, but if the sink isn't working, I'm not sure we'll be able to cook anything!

At least our washing machine is still going strong...