Thursday, May 31, 2007

Now this makes sense

Fancy restaurants in San Francisco and New York City are taking the local and sustainable foods movement seriously and banning bottled water. As one restaurant owner tells the NY Times, “Filling cargo ships with water and sending it hundreds and thousands of miles to get it around the world seems ridiculous."

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who doesn't love a parade?

River Forest Memorial Day Parade 3
Imagine the ultimate home town parade. Now imagine that home town is an upscale suburb full of multi-million dollar homes. And there you have the River Forest Memorial Day Parade, an hour's worth of floats sponsored by local businesses, high school marching bands, community groups in matching t-shirts and youths representing their tumbling classes, Little League baseball teams and scouting troops.
River Forest Memorial Day Parade 7
There were vintage and current fire engines, ladder trucks and ambulances (with sirens blaring), antique cars, motorcycles, custom bicycles and a unicycle. There were stilt-walkers, jugglers, dogs and horses. Oh, and because apparently money is no object, there were planes flying in formation overheard! Z was utterly, completely enraptured, particularly with the drill team/cheerleaders ("Look Mommy, ballerinas!") and men on horseback ("Can I pet one?").
River Forest Memorial Day Parade 6
And the cherry on the sundae? A local homeowner is a train enthusiast who built his very own miniature railroad around his yard. And he was offering all the kids free rides.
Train in River Forest

Click here to see even more parade pictures.

Website review: Light Iris

Have you ever Googled "sore nipples" and come up with on overwhelming list of possible links--with maybe a few kinky sites thrown into the mix? I haven't. In fact, while Google periodically sends freaky searchers to my blog, I've never had any trouble finding answers to my parenting, baby care and personal health queries using everyone's favorite search engine. That said, when Parent Bloggers Network asked me if I'd like to check out a new search engine for expectant and new moms, I (both expectant and a new mom) jumped at the chance. Light Iris uses the Google search engine, but it optimizes the results for the swollen and sleep-deprived, providing users with a culled-down list in a clean, well-organized layout. And its pink and green! Because we're girls!

So I put Light Iris to the test, comparing its results with my old-standby Google's results. I didn't brainstorm possible searches, I just remembered to check in with Light Iris with I was doing a mommy-related search (sticking with Google when I needed to look up a restaurant address or find a Shoebuy promo code). Here's what happened.

Search: "Repeat Breech"
I've been borderline panicky as week after week ticks by and baby number two refuses to turn head down. My midwives and the OB who supervises their VBAC patients all assured me there was no reason to believe I'd have a second breech baby, but what mother can resist the pull of the Internet when it comes to medical self-diagnosis and treatment?
Results: Both Light Iris and Google results focused on repeat c-sections following a breech birth. Both included a couple of links to ways to turn the baby (yes, I've tried 90 percent of them) and highlighted a blog post from Life of an Albuquerque Mommy that reads "4% of women have a breech baby. The chances of having a repeat breech baby increases," an interesting tidbit that contradicts what I've heard and was unfortunately not backed up links to any study.
Winner: Light Iris by a hair; its results were better organized on the page

Search: "Potty training boot camp"

We've circled June 1 on the calendar, and we've spent the second half of May telling Z how many days are left until we say "bye-bye to diapers." Having determined that reverse psychology wasn't working with 2 1/2 year old daughter, we're under plenty of pressure to get her using the potty. Baby sister arrives in July and Montessori preschool starts in the fall. And yes, the school requires that kids be toilet trained.
Results: Again, the results were fairly comparable, with both search engines placing Sesame Workshop - Toilet Training as the lead result. Unfortunately, the article's "don't worry about it, maybe the preschool will accommodate some accidents" attitude wasn't what I was looking for. I found better results with some mommy bloggers' first-hand accounts, including a tip I plan to use: letting the kid play with a bowl of warm water with a special toy in it while sitting on the potty!
Winner: Google, for finding me an inspiring blog post.

Because Light Iris and Google are both using the same basic search engine, you aren't likely to find substantially different results. What Light Iris does is cull down the returns and organize them in a clean, less-overwhelming layout. Which is probably very welcome when you're looking up "projectile vomiting" at 3am. If you're hysterical, hormonal and sleep-deprived, it makes sense to turn to Light Iris. If you're an information hound with a few more minutes available to analyze Google's results pages, you'll have more to choose from.

See what other new and expectant moms are saying about Light Iris here. Or click here to learn how you could win a free 2-day pass to the BlogHer Conference right here in Chicago.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Just half of our Memorial Day weekend fun

Niki in the Park 1
I posted to the Chicago Moms Blog about our adventures at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Chicago Antique Market. What I left out was that after the antiques market we headed to Crust, the Midwest's first certified organic restaurant. When we arrived in Bucktown, we noticed a leak on our back left tire. We called USAA Roadside Assistance, which arrived to change the tire for our spare just as we were finishing lunch.

Josh planned on getting our tire repaired on Tuesday, but wouldn't you know it? Today, as we were leaving a BBQ at our friends Stacie and Bob's house, our spare was completely flat! What are the chances?

Anyway, with Bob's ability to change a tire and Eric's portable air pump, we were able up get enough pressure in the tire to make it home. I guess we'll be getting two tires repaired tomorrow.

Update 5/29/07: Turns out we're just plain unlucky. Flat #1 was from a big piece of jagged metal. Flat #2 was from a nail. Just so happened that they were 2 days apart after years of no flat tires.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Consumer generated drivel

I've blogged before about how I think consumer-generated advertising is a flash in the pan, and it looks like the venerable NY Times is ready to back me up. In today's article, The High Price of Creating Free Advertising, Louise Story reports on the Heinz ketchup contest currently running on YouTube.

Shockingly, the American public is not creating the caliber of advertising brand managers are used to seeing from their ad agencies. The average joe with a camcorder is on a mission to amuse his friends and hopefully score a cash prize, but he doesn't have access to the high-end equipment, lovely models, food stylists and location shoots that make traditional commercials look good. Never mind throwing strategy to the wind.

Instead, Heinz is spending an arm and a leg promoting a contest that is netting them images of consumers brushing their teeth and shaving with the famous condiment. And now they've got to wade through the drivel and find a few entries worthy of showing on TV (which will cost money too).

Want to see exactly how bad these entries are? Check it out.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Countdown to number two

Someone at Rookie Moms is reading my mind. Today's post, Prepping for Baby #2, lists the must and nice-to-haves on hand before the arrival of a second child. Here's her list, with my comments in italics.
  • Car seat: cleaned and installed (Due Date - 4 weeks) Check! We'll just need to pull it out of storage and strap it into the car.
  • Breast pump: parts and bottles cleaned, pump assembled, tubing replaced. I've got to order some new valves and tubes for my trusty Ameda Purely Yours. Plus, I'll probably want to get new parts for the Medela PIS a friend is loaning me so that I don't have to tote the Ameda pump back and forth to work every day.
  • Baby clothes: cleaned and installed (DD - 4 weeks); I liked knowing that all the mini clothes were in their proper size designations so I could see if there were any gaps in coverage. We've got the holes plugged, thanks to a generous bag of hand-me-downs. Now I just need to wash 'em...Oh, and buy a dresser to put them in!
  • Newborn diapers: (DD - 3 weeks); [This] was something else that I felt like I really needed in order to be prepared. I asked Josh to pick up some newborn diapers at Target using the Huggies coupon from the Sunday paper, but I don't think he feels any urgency whatsoever.
  • Stroller for two: purchased and on hand (DD - 2 weeks); I would now hold out as long as is humanly possible. A pregnant woman cannot possibly evaluate a stroller properly, largely because she can’t fold and lift it well. Now I completely agree with Rookie Moms' advice here. I'm going to borrow an aging Graco Duoglider and shop for a double stroller when I'm up and about and looking for an outing (something tells me we'll be running to Target and/or BRU once or twice in those early months).
Me again. My other must-have is a bassinet or bassinet-equipped pack-and-play so that #2 can sleep in our room for a while and/or nap downstairs where I can keep an eye on her. Nice-to-haves include a new, lightweight sling, Avent bottle nipples, pacifiers, Infant Tylenol, diaper rash cream and more burp cloths.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Say what?

Z: When I grow bigger like a big boy to be a Daddy, I’m going to have brown eyes.
Me: Do you think you’re going to grow up to be a Daddy or a Mommy?
Z: A Daddy.
Me: Um, OK. What are you going to do when you are a Daddy?
Z: I’m going to start the bath!
Me: Your Daddy usually starts the bath, doesn’t he? What else are you going to do?
Z: I’m going to pee with my Daddy penis.

Rosie vs. Elisabeth

Although it is amusing to see lame-duck Rosie and lame-o Elisabeth lose their tempers on The View, this clip also worth watching for Joy Behar's litany of outrages our President has committed since coming into office.

What kind of Playground Parent are you?

MetroDad has a hilarious post up called The Eight Types of Playground Parents, in which he details the stereotypical behavior of The Executive Dad, The Peter Pan Dad and the Crazy PTA Mom, among others. As many of the comments have pointed out, he only forgot one major group--the vegan/anti-vaccination/LLL moms.

My husband spends a lot more time at the playground than I do, so I'll have to see how accurate he thinks these personas are. I suspect the female stereotypes aren't as accurate away from the coasts. Midwesterners are just a lot more chill. But I think the male stereotypes are right on target. And I I'm going to go ahead and say that Josh is about equally divided between Hipster Dad, Peter Pan Dad and The Hoverer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I've got something new to read

Check out Gawker's new blog for women, Jezebel. It's like Cosmo without the lobotomy, US Weekly without the copious drool and BUST without the self-righteousness.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So many calendars, so little coordination

I've got my work calendars. One's on the cube wall. And one's electronic, hooked into Lotus Notes. I've got my Crackberry, which is connected to my Lotus Notes calendar. None of my work calendars correspond to the kitchen wall calendar. And it has no relation to the wipe-clean "countdown to no more diapers day" calendar outside of Z's room. Which makes me an excellent candidate for the BusyBodyBook Calendar giveaway announced on Chicago Moms Blog.

Digging for diamonds

Z figured out how to pick her nose this week. I've caught her with her finger up a nostril a few times in the past few days. The first time, I tried sounding casual, "Hey sweetie, what are you doing?"

"I'm just taking out boogers, Mommy," she replied, wiping one on my husband's side of the bed.

"But we don't put our fingers up our nose. You can get the boogers with a Kleenex."

"It doesn't work as well," she said, pointing out the obvious as her finger headed back upward.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Waiting for the train

Clark & Lake 2
Clark & Lake 5
Clark & Lake 6
After a week of working late, I left the office right at rush today. Naturally, my train was delayed. But I had fun playing with my camera in the Clark & Lake Blue Line station.
Clark & Lake 8

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Is this the life?

Only until Z wakes up from her nap. Even our bed is no longer a safe haven for our 10-year-old tabby Silver. The birds on the wall are from Blik. Real birds, like the ones outside our now-open windows, are much more exciting.


My father died five years ago yesterday. I remember receiving the call from my mother. She dialed me from a satellite phone from a fairly remote area in Albania, the country where my dad was serving as the U.S. Ambassador. I was shaken by the news--he was only 55 and seemed to be in good health--but I didn't grieve, not just then. Like so many others in shock by the loss of a loved one, I was distracted by the work that needed to be done. Family members needed to be called. A memorial service needed to be planned. My mother's life was suddenly without direction; while she usually managed to stay employed full-time, she'd uprooted herself (and us) every few years as Dad's assignments took us from place to place.

As it happened, my mom stayed in Albania to oversee a local memorial service (Joseph Limprecht was something of a celebrity there) before accompanying Dad's body home to Washington. My sister and her fiance flew in from Australia, and I helped the State Department coordinator plan a memorial service in D.C. We ended up choosing to have the service at the DACOR-Bacon House, where I'd been married just 2 years earlier.

It wasn't until a few months later that I really came to grips with my Dad's death. I was never terribly close to my father--if anything, I regret we didn't have the chance to deepen our bond. But I often wonder what Grandpa Joe might have been like.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Z says

Z was looking over my shoulder at the NY Times website, where there was an inset photo of Shrek.
"Do you like Shrek?"
"No," she replies. "I just like sprinkle cookies."

I guess licensing pays off even when the kid doesn't care for the property.

Friday, May 18, 2007

When the clock strikes midnight...

Last night. 11:56pm. I hear my daughter call out from across the hall, "I need to throw up." I'm out of bed in flash. She seems cool and comfortable as I pick her up for a hug.

"Do you want to rock on the chair or go throw up in the toilet, Z?"
"Throw up in the toilet."

She leads over the can, dipping her head in so far I can hear her bangs swish in the water. I pull her up to wipe off her face and... she vomits all over herself, me and the bathroom floor. Bright red pomegranate juice and pizza puke. I strip off her pajamas and we sit on the side of the tub. She's got her head resting on my shoulder when the second wave hits. I catch some of it in the bowl we use for rinsing off shampoo.

A cool sponge bath and fresh pajamas and she's back in bed.

12:36. "Throw up. Throw up, Mommy." This time Josh races to her room. Only she's already soaked her pillow. As Josh wraps up the sheets with the clothes soiled earlier and heads downstairs to start a load of laundry, I encourage Z to drink a few sips of water. We cuddle, clean off her face and read a story. She willingly lies down in bed.

This time Z sleeps peacefully through the night, but we don't. We're too tense, listening for the next summons.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Come on baby, let's do the flip

In the past week and a half, I've held frozen peas to my belly, shined a flashlight on my pelvis, laid on the bed with three pillows under my butt and watched TV perched on a stability ball. I visited a chiropractor. I closed my eyes and visualized a tiny backflipping baby diving down toward my pelvis. I've drunk glass after glass after glass of water.

And every few hours I touch my belly, hoping not to feel the telltale bump that is baby's head. It moves from the left side to the right side, and sometimes it's just over my belly button. But it's never where I want it: head down. It sounds crazy, but I just want a kick in the ribs... instead of a push to the bladder.

Yup, my baby's breech. At 31 weeks. Intellectually, I know I still have time. But because my first kid never turned vertex, I'm freaking out a little bit. With Z, I tried everything to get her to turn. Handstands in warm water. Hypnosis. A touch of moxibustion (which we quit doing because it made the house reek of pot). I even signed up for an external version at 37 weeks, and trust me when I tell you that was no picnic!

Because she was breech, Z was delivered via a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks. I never experienced labor. I was rolled into an overly bright, freezing OR at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 3:20pm and I heard my daughter cry out at 3:44. I didn't have the natural birth I'd hoped for, but I got a healthy, beautiful baby who's been the light of my life. My recovery was quicker than expected, and aside from some side effects form the anesthesia, it wasn't a bad experience altogether.

But I figured I'd paid my dues. I did the ultimate-intervention birth and now it was my turn to have a minimal-intervention birth. For a variety of reasons, location being a big one, I switched to West Suburban Midwives in Oak Park and planned a delivery at West Suburban Medical Center's Alternative Birthing Center (aka the ABC). I found a doula-in-training to give me confidence. I've been taking a prenatal yoga class and I even remember to do kegels once in a while.

I want a VBAC so badly, but I feel selfish and whiny for caring so much about how my second daughter enters the world. My sister just gave birth on Mother's Day, making her the first woman in two generations to deliver the old-fashioned way. I want what she had, and what so many of my friends have experienced. I want to nod along knowingly when women talk about labor and pain and childbirth.

Hell, I want this baby to flip over before I flip out. Because obsessing is not productive. And frankly, it's not my style.


Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog, where you can read the rants of raves of plenty of other mothers.

The break up

This great video for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions showcases how little advertisers are listening to their consumers. I'd like to think the below-the-line work my agency does is less about shouting at consumers and more about fostering a meaningful dialogue, but we've done our share of couponing too.


Last night, as I gave Z her bedtime snuggles in the rocking chair, she gave my belly a hug and a kiss and asked, "When the baby comes out, can we all cuddle together?"

"Yes," I said.

"And is she gonna come out your belly button, Mama?"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fickle, fickle Z

This weekend we'd purchased an adorable tent-like canopy for Z's toddler bed. Josh hung it up today while I was at work and Z at daycare, and it looked absolutely lovely. The white mesh matched her bed and the sage green leaves coordinated with her walls.

Z was over the moon with excitement over her little "fairy princess house where no one can come in!" That is, until lights-out time. Then she decided she was "too scared" and asked me to take it down.

C'est la vie. We should have known better than to try to change anything.

Speaking of fairy princesses, we watched the first half of Pan's Labyrinth tonight. Dividing movies in two drives my film buff of a husband nuts, but since I'm only able to keep my eyes open until 10pm, it's the only way we're going to see anything. The last two nights were dedicated to Little Children, which was very faithful to the book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A second moms blog

The Second City is now home to the Chicago Moms Blog, the Silicon Valley Moms Blog's very first sister site. Beating NYC to the punch? That's good news for Chicago. Getting invited to contribute my own thoughts on raising a kid in my favorite city? That's good news for me!

I'm proud to be sharing space with a talented pool of mommy bloggers, a diverse group of working, work-at-home and stay-at-home moms. Moms who wear fabulous shoes and moms who wear their babies. Moms who write for a living. And moms who live to write.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Death by Popsicle

Is there anything more torturous than watching a toddler eat a Popsicle? The mercury hit 90 degrees in Oak Park this afternoon, so I gave Z a Popsicle Scribbler (basically a smallish Popsicle "made with fruit juice") for dessert for dinner. We headed out to the back steps to enjoy our frozen novelties in the fresh air, but the torture of watching Z slooowly take a little lick of the top of her pop, scoot down all 10 of our steps, scoot back up, and take another tiny lick sapped all of the fun out of it for me.

How old does a kid need to be to understand that enjoying ice cream on a stick means battling against the forces of time and temperature? The Popsicle was glistening in the heat, and Z would grab it by the frozen center to get a better hold on the stick. Did I mention she was wearing a really cute skirt? Well, I pulled it off after the first drip landed.

I was cajoling her to take a little bite...lick the sides...anything to get the show on the road, but she blithely ignored me, happy instead to spy on the neighbors as Popsicle juice ran down her chin and cascaded over her fingers. Her remedy? Once again, she grasped the Popsicle around the middle so she could lick the sticky runoff from her fingers and inner arm. Kind of defeats the point, doesn't it?

Finally, after 10 minutes of this torture, she handed me the remainder of her Popsicle with an "I'm done." I tried to figure out what was more urgent: throwing away the melting mess or getting my messy kid under some running water.

Weekend highlights

On Friday, five mothers, three of us in our third trimester, hit Emilio's Tapas in Hillside for plate after small plate of delicious Spanish cuisine. The other two got to wash their bacon-wrapped dates, grilled calamari and garlic potato salad down with a pitcher of sangria.

Saturday morning was kind of a bust (all of us were in bad moods and feeding off each other's negative energy), but the evening was spent with our Chavurah. Nothing like a bunch of Jewish families cooking up an Asian-themed potluck!

That night I curled up with National Geographic's In the Womb, only to be surprised three-quarters of the way through the movie with the news that my sister had just given birth (it was already Mother's Day Sunday in Australia).

I had modest hopes for Mother's Day, having only requested breakfast out. We eschewed the brunch crowds and returned to The Depot American Diner, where we dug into fresh, made-to-order doughnut holes with chocolate dipping sauce as well as more traditional fare (pancakes, apple pancakes and an eggs-potatoes-bacon platter). Josh and Z surprised me with not one but two generous Mother's Day presents: a lime green TOKYObay watch and a gift certificate for a prenatal massage at Urban Oasis! And the day got better yet. We headed to out to IKEA, where I scored a summer-weight duvet and wooden folding chairs for our backyard for $14.99 a piece, and Z was so well behaved we rewarded her with a 50¢ hot dog. She ate the whole thing, bun and all, "like a big girl."

After naptime, Z and I headed over to my friend Stacie's house, where our girls gave us a break, entertaining each other for almost two hours. I can barely believe our 2 1/2-year-olds are big enough to play pretend and (a very primitive version) of hide-and-seek.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To all the moms in my life, but particularly to my little sister Eleanor, who became a mother to a little girl for the first time today.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Book review: Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box

If you've ever grumbled that you wish your kid came with an instruction manual, mosey over to the Parenting & Family shelf in any bookstore. There, you'll find a six foot tall shelf of pastel paperbacks promising to show you the way. Advice from parenting book authors is a lot like advice from family members, friends and neighbors. It can be colored by an combination of religion, science, personal experience and wishful thinking. And whether you've picked up a general parenting guide or a sleep/toilet training/sibling-rivalry bible, what you won't hear much of is reassurance that you're probably doing just fine already. Heck, you're probably worrying, obsessing and simpling doing way too much. And your kids aren't likely to benefit.

Enter Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box. At 300 pages, it's a bit padded with the kind of self-help quizzes and summary pages I hate (I'm so not the self-help type), but the premise is sound: be a good-enough mom. Don't overschedule your children and overextend yourself. Don't make your life so child-centric and self-sacrificing that you end up running on empty. There are no gold medals in the Mommy Olympics, so you might as well walk the marathon and enjoy the scenery. Remember that if mama is happy, everybody is happy. And that means you need to take care of your needs too.

It's a message I already believed in, so perhaps this books wasn't written for me. I worry a little about the big issues (instilling values like respect and manners and, I'll admit it, potty training), but I'm too cheap to buy fancy baby shoes and too lazy to prepare and freeze my own organic baby food cubes. With work, friends and everything else on my plate, I don't have the time and energy to "do it all," and it's never occurred to me to engage in the kind of playground oneupmanship that author Ann Dunnewold says pushes mothers into the Extreme Parenting trap.

Dunnewold suggests cultivating a circle of like-minded parents as an antidote to the mommy madness, and once again I'm a step ahead of her. I've got a wonderful group of mom friends, and they've never judged me or made me feel inadequate when I ask for advice or blow off a little steam. With my girlfriends, I can safely confess my sins of motherhood, be it skipping a bath, using a video to grab a moment of peace or serving cold cereal for dinner.

If Dunnewold's to be believed, I'm one of the lucky ones. Apparently this Extreme Parenting thing--whether an invasion of the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex, the uber-boobers or the sanctimommies--is reaching crisis levels in some communities.

No wonder some folks are flocking to the cocktail playdate.

Blog Blast: What Makes a Mother

In honor of Mother's Day, Parent Bloggers Network and Light Iris are sponsoring a blog blast, an invitation to moms across the blogosphere to answer the question, "What Makes You a Mother?"

Is it going to move?

What makes me a mother? Not pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding, although all of those things made me feel motherly. Not sacrifice, sleeplessness or worry, hardships common to moms but not our exclusive domain.

What truly makes me a mother is my daughter. My name is the first thing she says in the morning, and it is me she wants for goodnight stories. At least for now, Mommy is best at just about everything: making snacks, pouring drinks, pushing the stroller and driving the car. Her face lights up when she sees me, and I am comforted knowing my embrace can soothe away boo-boos, worries and tears.

The day she was born, my identity changed forever. I was no longer just Alma; I was Z's mommy. I was no longer a wage-earner; I was a provider. I was no longer my parents' child. I was my child's parent.

Z has deepened my commitment to leading a certain kind of life. My neighborhood, my friends, even my religion are elevated in importance because I want the best for her. Being her mother makes me want to be a better person because I want to set a good example for her. As her mother, I have a vested interest in the environment and politics. I vote because I want a just world for her. I make green choices because I want a livable world for her. I nurture friendships with other families because I want her to grow up with life-long friends.

My daughter, only 2 1/2 years old, has made me a mother. And I couldn't be more proud.

What makes you a mother? Join the blog blast before the end of the day Friday, and you could win a SpaFinder gift certificate.
Cross posted to Silicon Valley Moms Blog

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Restaurant review: Kitsch'n

It is absolutely gorgeous today in Chicago. The sun is shining, the air is clear and the temperature is about 72 degrees. The perfect day for lunch alfresco with Josh. We picked Kitsch'n for the outdoor seating and cheap validated parking.

The service was friendly, if a little absent-minded, but the food...not so great. My macaroni and cheese was a Velveeta-eque gloppy orange goo with cold cheddar shredded on top. A little too retro, if you ask me. Josh was unimpressed with his hamburger, but he did clean his plate.

But one thing blew me away (literally). The hand dryers in the bathrooms are too cool. They are Dyson Airblades, and look like this.

Dried my hands in seconds without hot air and with no shake-shake-wipe-on-pants finale.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Little night owls

I just returned from a late evening run to Target, and I was surprised how many toddlers I saw up and about, running errands with their parents at 9pm. I would understand if the kids were with a single parent since it probably doesn't seem worth the money or hassle to pay a babysitter for chance to buy laundry detergent in peace, but all of the kids were with both of their parents.

Do these children sleep in? Do their parents have jobs that make sleeping in late a possibility? Do they make up for their late nights with long afternoon naps? I know that children's bedtimes are dictated by culture, and many folks have told me that in Italy and Spain, kids are out at restaurants with their parents at 10pm. But given how many jobs, preschools and daycare centers open for business between 8 and 9am in this country, I wonder if burning the midnight oil is such a smart move for such small children.

I can see clearly now

We had our windows professionally cleaned yesterday and I am kicking myself for not doing it earlier. We've owned the place for almost four years and it only occurred to me last month that I could pay people to climb ladders, pull apart our vintage storm windows and squeegee everything to a sparkling shine. Our glassed-in front porch is completely transformed, and I feel like I could put my hand through the handful of windows that don't have screens.

My next Angie's List project: find a carpet cleaner to restore my stairs, which are still bearing witness to the great mother-in-law candle wax incident of 2006.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Judd Apatow's knocked up

I liked The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Undeclared and I loved Freaks and Geeks, so I'm more than a little excited to see director Judd Apatow and so many familiar faces in a new summer movie, Knocked Up, about a couple who conceive a baby during a one-night stand. Click here to see the preview.

One more reason not to diet

The NY Times has a fascinating article about weight-loss research that is sure to surprise a lot of folks and piss off those companies who make money pushing diets and diet foods.

Researcher Dr. Jules Hirsch has devoted his life's work to studying the differences between obese and normal-sized individuals, and what he had discovered is that all of us have a natural normal weight range of about 10-20 pounds. It can be heavy or light, depending on our genetics, but it can't be permanently altered. Which means that the rare obese person who is able to keep the weight off is in a constant state of semi-starvation, a state that takes iron will to maintain.

The researcher came to his conclusions by forcing fat people to diet and normal-sized prisoners to become obese. As soon as his subjects were released from his studies, their body mass reverted to its previous state. He also compared the body mass indexes of adoptees and twins to determine that nature, not nurture is responsible for our size.

My personal experience supports Dr. Hirsch's conclusions. Both of my parents maintained normal weights without much trouble and--pregnancy excepted--I've never strayed far from 134-140 pounds, no matter how much or little I'm exercising.

But we don't get to pick out parents, and some people won't win the genetic lottery. For that reason, Dr. Hirsch suggests that our anti-obesity efforts might best be directed at those whose overweight parents put them at an elevated risk of obesity.

I say bring back recess and daily P.E. and use taxation and incentives to decrease our reliance of cars and encourage walking, biking and mass transit. No matter what our size, we'll be in better health. And so will our planet.

Monday, May 07, 2007

DVD review: Go Potty Go!

If you've got small children, I know what you're thinking. You want to skip to the bottom of this review and find out if the video really worked--if my just-barely 2 1/2-year-old daughter has magically been transformed into a potty champ. Well, I'll save you the agony. She's not.

Yes, she talks the potty talk like nobody's business, but she's all talk, no plop (IYKWIM). So, following my midwife's sage advice, we've put all potty paraphernalia away for the time being. And that includes potty movies.

Fortunately for you, I endured a full month of Go Potty Go! before we decided to take our little bathroom break. Okay, endure might sound a little harsh; I put up with four weeks of insidiously catchy songs about going to the potty and marching in the "big big kids parade!" I suffered the embarrassment of humming these ditties to myself as I hauled my pregnant butt across the office and down the hall to the ladies' room, oh, six to eight times a day.

But my toddler loved watching and re-watching Paige and Parker Panda put on their "big kid underwear" and "go potty, go potty, go potty go!" She learned all the words to the songs and narration, mouthing along through the whole 20 minute DVD. She even brought the movie to daycare, where all the other two and three year olds gave it their own tiny thumbs-up. But best of all, Go Potty Go! is motivational: nearly every time it ended, Z would pull her pants down, unfasten her diaper, and bolt upstairs to get a pair of underpants.

What's most interesting about Go Potty Go!, is that unlike the toilet training classic Once Upon a Potty, it doesn't really delve into the physical mechanics of toileting. There are no money shots of pee and poop, like we get to see both inside and outside (oops!) of Prudence's potty. The focus isn't on recognizing that "feeling in your poo-poo is ready to come out" -- rather, Go Potty Go! is chock-full of Up with People-positive peer pressure, musical numbers that reinforce how wonderful it is to be a big kid and "say good-bye to diapers."

At least for now, Z isn't buying it; she'll sleep in a big girl bed and drink out of a big girl glass, but she'll take diapers over big kid underwear, thank you very much. It's one part of babyhood she wants to hold onto a little bit longer. Might have something to do with the upcoming arrival of her baby sister.

See what other parents are saying and enter to win a copy of the DVD at Parent Bloggers Network.

Friday, May 04, 2007

From the west coast to Chicago

The Chicago Moms Blog, a sister site to the uber-successful Silicon Valley Moms Blog is coming to Chicago, and I'm going to be one of the first six contributors! Until our local site gets up and running, I'll posting periodically to the original. Check out my virgin contribution here.

Want to see who else is representing our fair city? Click on the lovely and talented mamas behind Self Made Mom, Foodmomiac, Adventures in Babywearing, Want Sugar and Sassafras.

Wedding dresses from Target

Target locked up my loyalty long ago, but I have to admit I'm a little miffed that Isaac Mizrahi wasn't creating dirt-cheap wedding dresses for the discounter when I got hitched back in 1999. According to this press release, the masstige designer will debut a line of wedding gowns priced from $9.99 to $159.99 (I'm guessing the $9.99 is for a veil).

Now I know only the best will do for some brides, but I've always been of the opinion that this is one dress with a really limited shelf life. Off the rack is fine. Polyester is perfectly acceptable. After all, it only has to hold up for about 6 hours.

If you're interested, I wore a $300 ivory Jessica McClintock dress with an embroidered, fitted bodice and a frothy tulle skirt. Anyone willing to share what they wore and what they paid to play princess for a day? Would you have shopped Target for your bridal wear?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Helzberg gives one mom a month off

In honor of Mother's Day, Helzberg Diamonds wants to pamper one mom with a $10,000 prize package that includes a month's worth of maid service, laundry and dry cleaning service, spa treatments, a personal chef and limo service. Plus diamonds, naturally.

I nominated my mom. Now who's going to nominate me?

Consumer-generated content: marketing flavor of the week

Consumer-generated content is the buzzword of year at my agency. Now that other brands have embraced the promotion of the moment--the consumer-generated TV ad--our clients are trying to decide if they should climb aboard the bandwagon.

And it's already a crowded space. The word-of-mouth gurus behind the Church of the Customer blog have assembled a great recap of some of most recent (post-Super Bowl and Oscars) make-your-own-commercial promotions. The bar for participation is set pretty high, so it's not surprising that most of these contests attract a mere 200 entries, peanuts in the land of consumer promotions.

My gut tells me this is a fad on its way out, which makes me happy, because the last thing a good creative wants to do is retread someone else's work. But there's been some positive fallout from this consumer-centric approach to marketing: brand marketers are learning to cultivate a dialog with their consumers. And trust me when I say there are much more compelling, customer-service oriented ways to reach your target audience than a contest that invites the most computer-savvy, driven ones to throw together an amateur commercial. Yes, there are a few diamonds in the rough, but they tend to be budding ad creatives themselves (like the Doritos' winner).

What do you think? Do you see yourself filming and editing a commercial for one of your favorite products in the hopes of winning a fame and a fabulous prize?

Fake bake in a bottle

No less than the venerable NY Times is writing about self-tanners, worrying that these supposedly harmless bronzers are reinforcing the unsafe tan as a beauty ideal. I'm a fair-haired, pale-skinned gal myself, and I'm pretty vigilant about using SPF. Hell, I use a face moisturizer with SPF 15 even in the darkest days of the Chicago winter. But I'll admit I own a tube or two of Jergens Natural Glow. I like the way it give my face a hint of "healthy" color and makes my legs look a teensy bit thinner. But I hate the smell and the potential for tan palms, so I'll only use it in the summertime, when my ghostlike complexion becomes an issue.

So I'm asking you, of the dozens of moisturizers with gradual self-tanner mixed in, has one of them managed to mask that unmistakable self-tanner smell?

And more philosophically, do you think that self-tanners are perpetuating our preoccupation with suntans? Will we ever embrace ivory skin?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

31 cent scoop night

Get your ice cream for next to nothing and show your support for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation during this evening's 31¢ scoop night at Baskin-Robbins. May I suggest the Heath Bar Crunch, one of their new Hershey's flavors? The deal's good from 5-10pm tonight.

Toy envy

Parenthacker recommends this toy Animal Hospital, and I gotta say, it looks like it brings together all of the elements Z loves best: keys, animals, doctor equipment and little places to put things.

I kind of want to play with it myself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Restaurant review: La Cocina

Dear La Cocina,

I'm torn. I love seeing how successful you've become, but today's wait for a burrito positively turned my legs to jelly. I've told countless coworkers about the "little Mexican place across the street from Chipotle," because your staff is sweet, the basket of fresh tortilla chips (eat-in only) is addictive, and the imported sodas come in glass bottles (and they're made with real sugar instead of HFCS).

But today I stood in the back of your un-airconditioned storefront, the fans whipping stray napkins around my legs and the stereo blaring club beats (perhaps you should name your place Disco Taco?) as you called numbers 84-93. Then you called 99, 98 and 96. My number was 94. Hello, customer service? I'm not expecting special treatment because it is hot and I am pregnant, but throwing my order to the bottom of the priority list is making me reconsider my love for you.

You're lucky that the burrito really hit the spot. Figuratively and literally, as I am now sporting an orange grease stain on my belly.

La Cocina
45 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL

It was a zoo

A beautiful Sunday morning and every family in the Western Suburbs seemed to have the same idea: Brookfield Zoo. There was a traffic jam 20 minutes long just to get into the zoo 30 minutes after opening, and by the time we left, the zoo police had closed the entrance altogether.

Here's a shot of the ticket taking counter. Everyone waiting here has a zoo membership or has already paid for their single day ticket. Zoo management, is this step really necessary? It seems a little insane to me.
It's a zoo at the entrance

Inside the zoo, things weren't much more spacious. I've never seen so many strollers and wagons in my life! But at least we could say no to snacks and the merry-go-round on account of the lines.

Did I mention we went with friends? Yes, four cars worth of mommies, daddies, toddlers and babies faced the crowds and came home smiling (if exhausted).
Stacie and Charlie
Gloria and Lia
Four little girls