Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fast food companies dish up the PR

First Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz scored a PR coup (and bumped up his stock price) by announcing that he's closing all locations for three hours of barista training on Tuesday, February 26. Then Dunkin Donuts stole his thunder by giving away free lattes in Chicago (and 99¢ lattes elsewhere) while Starbucks was shuttered.

Not to be left out, McDonald's is celebrating Leap Day today and tomorrow by giving away free McSkillet breakfast burritos with every morning drink purchase. (You can get a free small cup of coffee at McDonald's every Monday morning.)

The coffee wars are most definitely on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Supernanny in the exurbs

Is it just me, or do all of the Supernanny and Nanny 911 families live at the very edge of civilization? The hapless parents and their devil spawn dwell in homes so large they're half-devoid of furniture and so new they neighbor empty lots or farmland. I guess living in the ex-ex-exurbs is the key to owning a semi-luxury home on one garage door installer's income.

That's entertainment

I know I've been a bit lax about blogging lately, but but between a new job, two kids and icky winter weather that's had us trapped indoors, there's not too much to report.

But I do have a pile of recommendations to share! I just finished reading Love in the Driest Season and Choosing My Religion, both of which I'd borrowed from a friend and really enjoyed. The first is a memoir about race and adoption set amid the chaos of modern-day Africa and the latter is Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner's memoir of growing up Catholic only to reconnect with his parents' Jewish roots. His parents converted independently, married, and became very religious--cutting themselves off from their families.

Now I'm reading The World Without Us, a nonfiction book that proposes how the world might look should humans vacate the earth.

I'm also loving the eight o'clock hour as that means both children are in bed and Josh and I can crank up the DVD player. There are so many good TV shows on DVD that I don't at all miss having cable. We finished Season Four of The Wire and we're in the midst of watching a bunch of other great shows: AMC's Mad Men (about an ad agency in the 1960s), Human Giant, Flight of the Concords, and Battlestar Galactica.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Courtesy of SNL

Great send-up of the commercial for Seasonale, the once-every-three-months birth control pill.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Freecycling to weirdos

I started using Freecycle regularly to rid our home of promotional tote bags, outgrown kiddie gear and a plant too big to fit in our dining room. And I've picked up a few finds from other Freecyclers as well. (Just Saturday I scored a pair of new-to-Z toddler size 8 rain boots!)

But I have to wonder about one of the three women who emailed me about my offer of nursing bras, pads and this hands-free pumping bustier. She didn't want them for herself: she was requesting them for her pregnant daughter-in-law.

Because nothing says thank you for marrying my beloved son and giving me a grandchild better than a Menard's bag full of second-hand nursing bras that you picked up from a stranger.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It's not fair to compare...

But honestly, what parent can resist comparing her children? Baby A is now seven months old (holy crap, time flies!) and she now weighs what Z did at her 1 year checkup: 18lbs. Seriously, she's wearing clothes Z walked in. Since her Lands' End fleece bunting arrived yesterday, we're moving her out of her infant car seat and into a convertible one today. We lucked into a secondhand Britax Roundabout and I'm about to go outside and install it (or convince Josh to).

I was fretting a bit last month about how A refused to eat solids. But on my mother-in-law' s recommendation (she's a pediatrician), I officially quit stirring up bowls of nasty baby cereal and just put A in the highchair for mealtimes with us.

Well, lo and behold, she looked interested in real food, and I was soon sneaking her bits of sweet potato, banana and a bunch of other stuff that I never would have dared give my firstborn right off the bat. I know I'm risking hell from allergen-fearing mommies in the blogosphere by admitting this, but I'm feeding her nibbles of bagels, graham crackers, pancakes, pear--and she likes them! I guess if you wait long enough to introduce solids, you can skip right to the good stuff and skip the purees. Hell, she's got four teeth anyway!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Two dates with my daughter

It was a big weekend for one-on-one mommy-daughter time. On Saturday, I took Z to Millennium Park to see the Museum of Modern Ice.

She was more taken with the teenage ice skaters strutting their stuff on the rink and her favorite piece of public art, "the Big Bean" (better known as Cloud Gate).
There were family activities in a heated tent at the park, but we headed just south to the Art Institute of Chicago, which is free through the end of February and has a wealth of activities for kids (who knew?). We read books in their library, completed an American Gothic jigsaw puzzle, and stuck around for storytime at 12pm.
But it wasn't all for Z. I wanted to hit the AI because of this exhibit. Girls on the Verge is a photography exhibit that captures the physical and emotional lives of adolescent girls. I particularly liked the images of girls that demonstrated how much they can change in a year.

As we moved through the gallery, an obviously childless guy in his 40s took it upon himself to correct Z's observations of the prints and video installation:

Z: "Why is that girl sad, Mommy?"
Guy: "She's not sad. She's self-conscious."
Z: "Look, that girl is singing a song."
Guy: "She's not singing. She's lip-synching to the Bee-Gees."
Me: "Actually, that's not the Bee-Gees. That's the Backstreet Boys. The Bee-Gees for a new generation." Boom!

On Monday morning I took my fairy tale obsessed girl to a Chicago Kids' Company performance of Sleeping Beauty at the Beverly Arts Center on the far south side. I wanted to drop off a meal for a friend, so I was able to combine that errand with our outing.

We rounded out the weekend with playdates. On Saturday afternoon our four moms and seven kids from our playgroup met for pizza and playtime at Gloria's house and on Monday we hosted three kids here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Z's first Valentine's Day

When I got home from work last night, Z upended her "goodie bag" onto the living room floor. Out spilled 32 valentines and an assortment of glittery pencils, heart-shaped note pads, candy and other Party City gewgaw. Now keep in mind that Z is only 3 and she can't read. Yet she knew exactly who gave her at least 75 percent of the cards and gifts!

The prize for most creative item surely should go to the boy (I'm assuming he is one of the 5 year olds) who constructed a bi-wing airplane out of gum, 2 Lifesavers, a roll of Smarties and a rubber band. "It's very fragile," Z kept reminding me.

I'm a lazy preschool mommy. I just sent Z off with a box of Princess valentines. Nothing homemade. No extras.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm hanging up the horns

Today I didn't pump.

I. Just. Didn't. Pump.

I'd planned to, I just let the hours slip by, thinking about the breast pump in my desk drawer, peeking at it, and closing it away. Part-weaning on a whim, you could call it.

Why? Well, I really don't care for the grimy, distant, sink-less mothers' rooms at my new place of employment, but I know women have pumped in much more undesirable locations (supply closets, airplane bathrooms, conference rooms).

But with a lousy place to pump and dwindling commitment (Baby A is almost 7 months old), I just said to hell with it. I want to stop shlepping. Stop cleaning parts. Stop planning for the break in the middle of the day. I want to start working out over lunch, and I'll feel less guilty about that if I'm not also breaking to pump.

So, no, I don't feel too guilty. After all, I nursed exclusively for six months. And now that I've found a brand of formula that Baby A will drink, I'm going to put away the pump for good and have the nursing relationship I enjoy (baby vs machine) in the morning, evening and at night.

Cross-posted to the Chicago Moms Blog

Book review: The Sky Isn't Visible from Here

I'd long held up Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle as the ultimate oh my God do these things really happen? tale of extremely bad true-life parenting, but she's got some competition from Felicia Sullivan, author of The Sky Isn't Visible From Here.

Sullivan recounts a Brooklyn childhood spent in the company of host of unsavory characters, most notably her mother: a drug addict who lies, cheats and steals her way through deadbeat men and dead end jobs while subjecting her daughter to verbal attacks and leaving her vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Not surprisingly, the author doesn't come through unscathed. She recounts her own struggles with drug abuse, alcoholism and unhealthy relationships. And you've got to give her credit: she comes across as a pretty unlikeable person in her very own memoir.

But it isn't all bitterness and sorrow, and the lack of a ghost writer credit on the jacket offers a clue. Felicia Sullivan triumphed over the bad hand she was dealt and achieved success as a journalist and essayist. Even as she watched her mother survive on life's fringes, homeless, sick and unrepentant.

Other Parent Bloggers Network members are reviewing this book...see what they have to say.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Date night drama

Think regular date nights are the key to a happy marriage? I did. But apparently it's not enough to book a babysitter and enjoy a simple evening out with your spouse. If you want to ensure long-term romance, dinner and a movie don't cut it. According to a study cited in the NY Times, married couples who get out and do something different, experiencing something novel and exciting, are more likely to rekindle their romantic feelings for each other.

It makes a lot of sense, and I'm going to try to plan a different kind of date (although trying new restaurants has always appealed to both of us).

So what should our next date night be? A cooking class? Stand-up comedy? We saw a play recently and concerts are out because that's what Josh does for a living. I'm open to suggestions...


I am thrilled to read that Barack Obama swept all three D.C. area Democratic primaries.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My first day on the job

After spending the whole morning in a very thorough orientation with 10 fellow newbies, I got to spend a brief 45 minutes with my manager. She apologized profusely for not being able to take me out on a first day lunch as instructed by HR, but she did have a plane to catch. Since she and a few other team members will be traveling until Thursday, I've got a couple of days to familiarize myself with the office (we're spread out on multiple floors and there are at least two elevator banks) and the technology (always a treat).

But you don't want to hear about the good stuff. About how close my new gig is to the Blue Line stop and how I don't have to go outside to buy lunch or go to the bank. You don't want to know about the cheap private gym across the street and the lunchtime Pilates classes that are going to kick my butt into shape.

No, you'd rather hear about how I asked 5 different people where the mother's room was and they all said "We don't have one," even though I'd been assured at least two exist. Finally, reception pointed me to a small room 9 floors up marked "family resources" where I pumped in an armchair and hoped no one barged in (there was no lock on the door). There also wasn't a sink in the room, so I tucked my milky "horns" under my arm and figured I'd rinse them in a nearby ladies' room. Which I circled the floor twice trying to find! I'm just glad I don't know anyone who sits up there!

Then, at 2:15 I finally got a chance to grab lunch. I headed downstairs to a little sandwich shop and they must have misplaced my order because I waited over 10 minutes as everyone who'd lined up behind me picked up their food.

After those minor debacles, though, it's been smooth sailing. I spent the afternoon familiarizing myself with the work with one of my teammates and I'm actually excited about getting down to business.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Barely blogging

I've had two days as a SAHM, and I can't tell you how many times I wanted to answer the inevitable, "Hey, it's surprising to see you here in the middle of the day...why are you home?" with a sly "I'm between jobs."

Which is true, technically.

I start my new gig on Monday!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Someone's been showing my 3-year-old a world map

"Do you love Papua New Guinea?"
"I've never been there."
"What do they have there?"
"Um, they've got jungle. Monkeys, snakes, birds..."
"And spiders?"
"Yes, I think they have big spiders."
"Papua New Guinea is Evan's favorite place."
"That's interesting. What's your favorite place, Z?"
"Why's that?"
"Because Nanny lives there. And I love Nanny. But I think I'm going to call her NAN-cy."

"Mommy? Where do you usually keep the Big Bean?"
"The Big Bean? It's downtown."
"In South America?"
"No, in downtown Chicago."

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Yesterday I had conversation-filled dinner with three fabulous fellow bloggers, the mommy guilt-free Devra Renner, fellow U of C grad and erotica author Mary Anne Mohanraj and MOMformation czar Kim Moldofsky. We met at the Moroccan restaurant Andalous, where I had a dish that resembled nothing so much as a giant chicken baklava. Seriously, it was a nutty chicken dish wrapped in phyllo pastry and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Today I cast my vote for Barack Obama. While he and Hillary Clinton don't differ dramatically on policy, I feel strongly that Obama can provide the inspiration and leadership we're hungry for in this country. I also feel that electing a fresh new voice, the son of a Kenyan man and a Kansas farm girl, will help redeem America in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Tomorrow is my last day at Ogilvy.

Photo from Mary Anne's iPhone

Monday, February 04, 2008

If the Irish can do it, so can we

Motivated by a 33¢ tax, the Irish have cut their use of plastic sacks by 94% in a year. Let's get with the program, America.

My fabulous gay cousin

Doesn't every gal want a fabulous gay cousin? A swishy BFF who can swoop into town for a weekend of gourmet meals, sage interior decorating advice and shoe shopping? Someone who can cast a queer eye at my closet and pull together 10 adorable outfits with the clothes I already own?

Yeah, well I've got a gay cousin. Two, if you count Mike's husband/life partner, Dave. And while the two of them are the least fabulously-dressed gay boys you'll ever meet (think jean shorts, tee shirts and a fanny pack), they are fabulously funny, as they prove in their new column for a Lawrence, Kansas magazine.

And while I'm not letting Mike or Dave near my wardrobe, they can give my computer a makeover any time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Still not pregnant, thank you very much

Here I am at Saturday's synagogue fund-raising event in the dress I was purchasing when the cashier asked me if I was expecting a boy or a girl. Thank you Assets for allowing me to visit (and revisit) the bar without getting any suspicious looks from the Sisterhood ladies.

The food and the silent auction were really impressive, but unfortunately I spent more time chatting than eating and I got outbid on every last thing I tried to win!

I broke in my new royal blue H&M dress today. We attended a neighborhood farewell brunch for a family that's moving off the block (but staying in OP). Imagine 30 adults and at least that many children in a house the size of ours. And we all posed for a photo in her living room. I'm surprised her couch didn't give way.

As a contribution, I made a quiche for, oh, maybe the second time in my life. It was a huge hit, not only because it was delicious (if I do say so myself), but because it was the only savory dish on a table full of sweet rolls, cakes and muffins.