Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Book review and giveaway: The Rookie Mom's Handbook

Once upon a time, I was a rookie mom. Not one of the Rookie Moms, mind you, but a freshly c-sectioned woman with a squalling lump of baby to call my own. I filled those early winter days of maternity leave by breastfeeding to season after season of the Gilmore Girls and The O.C. on DVD, unaware of the other, more interesting, ways I could be spending time with a baby.

Not Heather Gibbs Flett and Whitney Moss. The two Berkeley friends were so committed to leaving the house every day that they started a spreadsheet tracking all the fun stuff they could do with their new babies. That spreadsheet turned into a blog, and that blog's just been expanded into a highly-giftable book, The Rookie Mom's Handbook: 250 Activities to do with (and without!) your baby.

The entries range from basic (#2 get to know your gear) to moderately ambitious (#60 design your own baby clothes), but my favorite suggestions include step-by-step instructions for basic functioning that seem incredibly obvious now but highly intimidating at the time. Stuff like how to take a hot shower when no one's there to hold your child. (Answer: Strap baby into a bouncy seat or shower at the gym while junior's in child care.)

My top five favorite activities from the book are...
#43 go on a little date with your mate while baby's small enough to nap in her car seat (seriously, I tell this to every new mom)
#114 use the Internet for errands (I don't even set foot in shoe stores anymore)
#148 meet friends for brunch at a restaurant (it really is the best meal to eat out with kids)
#165 make a cheap-o rattle (done it!)
#179 save old sunglasses and dead cell phones to distract baby from the real thing (I've even bought uncut keys from Ace Hardware and put them on a keychain)

Rookie Mom Whitney was kind enough to send me an extra copy of The Rookie Moms Handbook to give away. Want to win it? Leave a comment before May 6th. If you don't have a blog where I can find you, you might want to also send me an email with your contact information.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BPA concerns go mainstream

I've been concerned about BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups for quite some time, but it looks like our government is finally paying attention. What shocks me is that a large segment of the population (including many moms) are still oblivious to the risks of this plastic, which research shows causes cancer in lab animals and acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking estrogen. Every day I see someone feeding their baby from a clear plastic Avent or Dr. Brown's baby bottle.

Still, enough of us are concerned that manufacturers and retailers are paying attention. Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and CVS are promising to pull BPA products off their shelves, and Playtex and Nalgene promised to phase out BPA completely.

Get involved. Sign this Moms Rising petition and demand BPA be removed from all children's products.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A trip down memory lane

In August of 2005, I took this picture of 9-month-old Z with her playgroup buddies Annelise (left) and Lia (center).
Playgroup girls
Here they are now at 3 1/2...
First born girls
And here are the second-born babies.
Second born babies
A is 9 months, Abby is 10 1/2 months and Charlie is 17 months old.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I drink because you cry

Friday afternoon around 4pm: Josh calls me at work to warn me that the kids have barely napped, Baby A won't let him put her down, he doesn't feel like cooking and Z's ready to snap.

I get home at 5:45pm and Z snaps.

Tantrum #1: I don't place the tall kitchen chair close enough to the hot stove for her to finger the pan in which I'm browning ground beef for spaghetti sauce.
Tantrum #2: She doesn't want to be in time out.
Tantrum #3: She wants me to hold her while I'm balancing Baby A on one hip, mincing garlic and setting the table.
Tantrum #4: She doesn't want to eat any dinner. She'd rather go straight to bed.

So I put Z to bed while Josh changes a howling Baby A into her jammies. As soon as Z's tucked in, A's ready to nurse and conk out. Both of them are sound asleep by 7:30, which is pretty much unheard of around here.

And at 8 o'clock I head out for margaritas and a movie (Baby Mama) with my friend Julie. As a result I didn't get much sleep last night, but it was so worth it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What? No salad bowls at Cosi!?!

I love Cosi's Signature Salad and get it about once a week. Today was going to be one of those lucky days. I headed over to the Clark & Lake location around 1pm and stood in line behind 4 or 5 other people.

The line didn't move. And didn't move. Soon there were 10, 15 people lined up behind me. Finally, the line in front of me started breaking up.

"No salad bowls...They're out of bowls," reported one of my fellow customers. No word from the staff. No apologies. No offers of alternative options. No coupons toward a future visit.

I left, bummed that I'd have to find lunch elsewhere. And I was even more bummed by that "elsewhere salad," a too-lightly dressed, mostly iceberg Cobb salad from Tuscany.

UPDATE! I received this email on Friday, April 25th from John Ahem, Cosi District Manager:

"Hello, I apologize for the disappointing experience that you had at our Clark and Lake location. We had a supply issue with our salad bowls in all of the downtown stores. While there is no excuse for this, it should have been communicated to all guests by the staff. I am terribly sorry about this and this will not be an issue moving forward."

He didn't address me by name (even though I'd left it on their website form), but he did offer to send a coupon for a free entree if I wrote back with my mailing address, which I did.

Acknowledging her feelings

This morning, when she saw that our daycare provider was wearing a t-shirt featuring Dory from Finding Nemo, Z said, quite calmly, "I'm feeling frustrated that I don't have a Finding Nemo shirt."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This (chest) space reserved for Obama

"Nice t-shirt."
"I like your shirt."
"I almost wore my Barack button today."
"Right on."

I've been hearing compliments like these all day. Strangers have smiled at me. People have rushed to open doors for me. I've gotten the thumbs up. Twice! Good vibes seem to follow me wherever I go as I rock my Obama '08 ladies t-shirt. Has anyone else had this happen to them?

We can only hope things go as well for the candidate today in Pennsylvania.

Vote for my slogan

"Raising Children. Raising Consciousness." was my contribution to the Mother's Day t-shirt contest, and it made it into the top 10! But only three slogans will get printed.

Vote for mine, won't cha?

48 hours in LA

Farmer's Daughter
This is where we stayed. It is right across from the Farmer's Market, where we gorged ourselves on pulled pork tacos, agua frescas, crepes and the world's greasiest apple fritter from this place.
Greasiest doughnuts in the world
The wedding and reception were at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens. Here's a picture of the happy couple, Amy and Courtney, 15 years after he first crushed on her, a fellow Columbia University student.
Just married
Here's a shot of Josh's first girlfriend--now the lovely mother of four--Carrie and her husband Jeromy.
Jeromy and Carrie
And here's the famous Cantor's Deli, where we got matzo brei Sunday morning before heading to Santa Monica.
Canter's Deli

The rest of the photos can be seen here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

We didn't survive, we thrived!

Josh and I returned home from our trip to LA late last night, and I've got to hand it to my mom and Rick: Not only were our kids happy, healthy and adequately fed while we were away--but the house was immaculate too!

A apparently spent the weekend working out her little baby muscles. She's still not quite crawling, but she can maneuver herself across the floor in search of toys and food. Z missed us but enjoyed the novelty of having her grandparents around instead of her folks. Particularly since that meant umpteen trips to the local park and a visit to the ice cream parlor at 10:30 on Sunday morning.

It was great to hear my mom and Rick's impressions of our kids--mostly because they line up pretty much with our own opinions. In a nutshell? Z is smart and creative, but too often puts those skills to use with truth-stretching and elaborate negotiations. ("Mommy says I don't have to drink milk. I drink juice instead." and "It's okay if I wear my sparkly shoes to the park; I'll take them off before I go in the sand.")

My mom described Baby A as a jolly, giggling and "a gaping maw," always hungry for whatever was on everyone else's plate and able to suck down a bottle in two minutes flat!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Leaving my babies behind

At this time tomorrow, Josh and I will be hurling westward at 30,000 feet, putting 2200 miles between us and our children. It's for a wedding, and I'm sure the girls will be fine. We'll put Cinderella on the DVD player on repeat, scatter cat food and Goldfish crackers over the dining floor and draw pictures to help our three year old remember the mechanics of mixing a bottle of formula for her baby sister.

Actually, we're leaving the girls in the experienced hands of my mother and her fiance (yes, they're getting married in 2 months!). Sure, their child-rearing experience is 25 and 15 years old, respectively, but how much has changed since the 1970s anyway? (Aside from expensive, complicated double strollers, 5-point harness car seats, a reversal on sleeping positions, nutritional guidelines, poisonous plastics...okay I'm stopping now.) Anyway, how much damage can a grandmother do in three days?

I'm so confident in her and her future husband's abilities, that I'm meeting them at the airport to hand over our house keys, our car, and a little sheet of child care tips. That's eight pages long. Single spaced.

Photo by Scott Beale|Laughing Squid

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Like mommyblogging, only not

Click over to the Chicago Moms Blog, where I've written a piece inspired by my Sunday night dinner with some ladies from the neighborhood.

Mrs. McCain's no cook

Apparently the "McCain Family Recipes" featured on John McCain's campaign website were direct lifts from the Food Network. For shame!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I'm home sick today, sleeping off and on and surfing the web from my bed. I started feeling a little off around 4:30 yesterday afternoon haven't eaten more than a bowl of Grape-Nuts in the last 23 hours.

I'm lying perfectly still and yet I still feel perpetually carsick. Ick.

I toughed it out for the kids last night and this morning, but I'm glad they're both at daycare today. I'm not sure I can handle any small children dive-bombing my midsection until this passes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I don't hate Starbucks coffee (anymore)

Married as I am to a coffee snob, I get my mid-morning caffeine boosts from the friendly folks at Ethel M's. They sell a lovely, smooth brew from my favorite roaster, Chicago's own Intelligentsia.

But this morning I remembered I had an old Starbucks gift card with some funds left on it in my wallet. So I trotted downstairs to try the new blend Starbucks introduced as a response to my (and everyone else's) complaint that Starbucks coffee tastes bitter and burned.

I ordered a $1.50 short (hurray for the return of a decent-sized cup!) of their new "everyday" Pike Place Roast and--lo and behold--it was huge improvement. Not as good as Intelligentsia, mind you, but very drinkable with the addition of whole milk. Props to Starbucks for listening to consumer complaints and making real, substantial changes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Charmin, I'm sure

I just got off the phone with Josh (a.k.a. the playdate master). He had brought Z's friend Julia home with her from preschool and after lunch the two of them disappeared upstairs. Josh thought it was a little too quiet up there to he headed up to investigate.

The bathroom door was closed. When he peered in, he saw Z on the potty. She'd pooped and was "practicing wiping" with Julia as audience. Apparently she'd been practicing quite a bit as half the roll was in the toilet.

But Josh--who wasn't always the world's most patient person--cleaned her behind, supervised some very thorough hand-washing and unclogged the toilet without complaint.

Quite a guy!

Gender roles? What are those?

Parent Bloggers Network is asking mommybloggers to write about the traditionally male pursuits at which they excel. Could there be any easier blog topic for me? I mean, Josh and I have been flipping gender roles like buttermilk pancakes since Z was born over three years ago. I work full time. He freelances part-time. I bring home the bacon. He serves it on top of balsamic chicken breasts and spinach salad.

Sure, I still breastfeed the babies, push the stroller and ride shotgun (when I'm home), but he's doing the preschool pick up and drop off, scheduling weekday playdates and pushing the swings alongside the nannies and SAHMs at the local park.

And while I don't take out the trash or clean gutters, I mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, pay the bills, handle our taxes (with help from a paid professional) and negotiate large purchases. Remember when I haggled with the dealership for 6 hours before bringing home our CR-V?

Are you a gender role switch-hitter? Blog about it for your chance to win this cool auto diagnostic tool from AskPatty.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pissed off and inspired

I watched the Iraq war documentary No End in Sight with Josh this week and it made my blood boil. Every single time the Bush Administration had to make a critical decision, they made the wrong one. The arrogance is truly astounding. The tragedy is monumental. And the cost is absolutely astonishing. Please buy or rent this DVD.

But lest I spend this week shaking my head and thinking we Americans can't do anything right in the Muslim world, I'm also reading Three Cups of Tea--what an inspirational story! It chronicles the adventures of a mountain climber/emergency room nurse who, barely escaping death, stumbles into a remote mountain village in Pakistan and ends up building schools for the poor (including girls) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's a true chronical of international development, but it is also intensely personal and a gripping story complete with wily criminals, religious zealots, wise but illiterate village chiefs, a kidnapping and a whirlwind romance (Greg Mortenson meets and marries his soulmate in 6 days).

Monday, April 07, 2008

A new way to fish

We eat a lot of salmon, but Josh and I were getting tired of the same old sauteed salmon and couscous that'd we'd been eating--oh, at least twice a month for the past 6 months. So I volunteered to cook Saturday night and made this Real Simple recipe for Roast Salmon and Vegetables with Barbecue Sauce that I had ripped out of the magazine over a year ago. It was the first time I'd ever cooked fennel and even though I used less salmon than called for, the results were outstanding.

I brought a pile of magazines home (I can get free unclaimed subscriptions from the agency mail room) and flagged a bunch of yummy-looking recipes. At the very least we should be able to get out of the same-old, same-old rut and perhaps we'll find a few more keepers for my go-to binder of favorites.

I can't blog while the sun is shining

Spring arrived in Chicago and we spent virtually the whole weekend out of the house. I attended only the second home party of my life (CAbi clothes, if you must know), raked my yard, met my neighbor Amy's new baby boy, hit the Brookfield Zoo with Gloria and her family, pulled boxes of summer clothes out of storage and reacquainted myself with tee shirts I haven't worn in two years.

We also spent hours at our local playground, chatting with neighbors and watching our kids coat themselves in the sandy grit that translates into daily baths from now through September.

We capped a wonderful--if exhausting--weekend with a Chavurah adults-only dinner at Opera. The South Loop Chinese-fusion restaurant has a great Sunday night deal: any appetizer, entree and dessert on the menu for only $28.95 a person. Considering many of the entrees cost that much alone, it's a bargain.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Diaper Goop Product Review: It's Tops on Bottoms

Back in September, I was so moved by the rash-fighting wonder that is Boudreaux's Butt Paste, that I sang its praises right here on this blog. So when I was given the opportunity to tush-test a tub of another whimsically-named caboose cream, I doubted it could live up to its much-loved predecessor.

Butt (nyuk, nyuk), I gave Diaper Goop a go. I laid off the preventative smearing at diaper change time and let Baby A's undercarriage get a little rusty before slathering on a fingerful of Diaper Goo at bedtime. It's got a color and consistency kind of like soft, slightly sticky Vaseline, and it smells slightly medicinal, but not horrible old man medicinal like Desitin. It's more of a vitamin aisle at Whole Foods kind of smell. The stickiness likely comes from lanolin, one of the product's main ingredients and one more typically dabbed on boobs than behinds.

Bottom line? It works. By morning Baby A's diaper rash was gone. And for the past month I've been using Diaper Goop exclusively and still no rash. Which means that functionally, it is Butt Paste's equal. It doesn't smell quite as nice and costs a bit more ($6.95 for a 2 ounce jar), but it will be heard to go back to using diaper cream in a tube after seeing how much more convenient a tub can be.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Taking a walk in my shoes, sort of

"We're both grown-ups, right Mommy?"
"Well, I'm a grown-up, but I thought you were still a child."
"Pretend I'm a grown-up. We're grown-ups and we wear sparkawy shoes."
"But I don't have any sparkly shoes!"
"Pretend your high heels are sparkawy, okay Mommy?"
"All right. What should we grown-ups do?"
"Talk about grown-up stuff. Things only grown-ups do."
"Like what?"
"Feeding babies. Changing diapers. Um..."
"Going to work?"
"Yeah, going to work. And going to Ohio..."
"Sleeping in a big bed?"
"And wearin' bras..."
"Drinking wine?"
"Yeah, and drinkin' coffee... and eatin' salad!"

Find your inner copywriter is looking for a winning slogan for its Mother's Day t-shirt. See what I wrote and submit your own ideas here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Save me from my 3 year old

Z is usually a sweet kid. Who loves her sister. And listens to reason.

But not tonight! From the moment I walked in the door until 10 minutes before bed, I played mother to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. platinum blond curls. Mostly Dr. Jekyll, what with tear-streaked face, the screaming "I don't want you to nurse Baby A! It takes too long!" and "Put her down, hold me!" and the "Put me to bed first!" and the "Read me stories! Now! No, on this couch."

Throw in some not-so-gentle squishing of her baby sister's head, kicking of mommy's shins and excusing herself from time-out before she'd cooled off, and you'll know why I'm doubly thrilled that at least she didn't protest bedtime.

I don't know if she was overly hungry, reacting to something she ate, or just in a foul mood, but I'm hoping she'll behave better tomorrow. Someone once told me that kids tantrum for their parents because they're comfortable losing control with them. Cold comfort indeed.

Perhaps it's time I read Ask Moxie's recommendation: Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy.

Women go commando? I didn't know!

Place: The women's locker room in my corporate gym
Time: Around 1pm
Spotted: A tattooed 20-something, shimming out of her workout wear and into a pair of jeans--without so much as a thong on. And no, she didn't shower either.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Feeling a little sorry for myself

I've made peace with the fact that I'm not going to BlogHer, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little jealous of all the mommybloggers headed to Johnson & Johnson's Camp Baby (aka Camp Controversy). I was honored as hell to be included, but I turned down the invitation because I felt selfish missing work and taking three whole vacation days just for myself. And what with Josh's grandfather's funeral planned for Thursday in Virginia, it is just as well. I'll be on my own with the girls here in Chicago.

But when Josh gets back, I'm going to need a break. I haven't had a moms' night out with my girlfriends in two months. I haven't had a manicure or pedicure since December. I haven't even read the Sunday newspaper in weeks! What I need is a relaxing moment to myself. One hour--or two!--with no chattering children. No table wiping, floor sweeping, laundry folding, bath running, story reading, pretend playing, bill paying, check writing, lunch packing or diaper changing. With no voice mail leaving, emailing checking, status meeting attending, timeline charting, idea brainstorming, headline writing or elevator waiting,

Sometimes I feel like the curse of the career mom is that since work provides a welcome break from the drudgery of housework and small children, I rarely give myself a moment away from the daily grind. And I need one. My batteries are in desperate need of a recharge.

April Fool's Day

Link: 5 Pranks to Pull On Your Kids

Fooling your kid is just too easy. I watched Josh tell Z she had ketchup on her shirt 5 times in a row. And she looked down every time. So I told her that her shoes were untied. While she was barefoot.

A long, long life

Josh's Grandpa Reuben passed away last night. He was 96.