Friday, May 30, 2008

Product review: Maiden America barrettes

You've heard of the Texas-sized island of trash swirling in the Pacific? I'm sure there's at least a Delaware-sized dump of single socks, lost mittens, sunglasses and tiny baby barrettes out there somewhere too.

I've never had any luck getting hair clips and barrettes to stay on my daughters' heads. If their hair isn't too fine to hold a clip, their motor skills are fine enough to yank them right out, thankyouverymuch.

And obviously I'm not alone in my struggles. My neighbor told me about some crafty Oak Park moms who avoid the endless repurchase of barrettes by getting together and making their own, and Parent Bloggers Network hooked me up with Maiden America, an unfortunately-named Momtrepreneur company that sells wonderful non-slip barrettes from an absolutely awful website.

The barrettes aren't cheapy made-in-China plastic dohickies. The are quite durable, lovely hair accessories that are hand made by housewives in the Pacific Northwest. In the photo, Baby A is modeling the oddly-named A Macy Spike Ladybug, which sells for $6.99 and has garnered lots and lots of compliments. The barrettes really do stay put all day long, and as soon as I master the art of putting a barrette on an angry 10 month old, she'll have all of her bangs out of her eyes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This haircut made me cry

I walked into XEX Hair Gallery with the highest of hopes. It was my lunch break; the salon is in my building and I had in my hand a "50% off your first haircut" card. My stylist was friendly and seemed to know what he was doing. I'd asked when making my appointment for someone who is good with wavy and curly hair, and I discussed with him my desire for a fresher, shorter look that I could wear with minimal fuss (no blowdrying). I brought along a picture for reference. Everything seemed to be going well as he scissored away, and my cut definitely looked cute wet.

But then he turned my chair away from the mirror and started scrunching, twisting and drying. I snuck a few glances as he was working, and my hair was looking a little big and frizzy, but I figured it was a work in progress.

Yeah, but by the time he was done it was awful. I'm talking frighteningly big with one giant S-wave poking my hair outwards at ear level. Imagine mountain-folk Grandma hair circa 1978. It was that bad. It was clear my stylist was no more pleased than I was. "Your hair is a lot curlier that I expected. I'm not really great with curly hair," he said and stepped away to check the appointment book. When he came back he guided me over to another stylist. "She's super at styling curly hair, " he assured me before attending to his next client (a woman with long, curly hair).

The second stylist re-washed my hair and spent some time thinning and evening out my haircut, soothing me the best she could with comments like "this is a really versatile cut, you can wear it however you like." She brought it from a truly horrifying F to a presentable B-/C+, but I felt like I'd made such an enormous mistake that I burst into tears anyway.

I'd been in the salon for an hour and forty-five minutes and was late for a meeting upstairs, so I headed to the front desk, trying to figure out what the etiquette was regarding tipping for a bad (but somewhat salvaged) haircut. Turns out I didn't have to worry. Before I'd said a word, XEX management told me I didn't owe them anything. And on top of that the manager (owner?) handed me a gift certificate for another hair cut "when your hair grows out a bit."

Here's the damage (photos taken with my computer's built-in camera and lovely florescent tube lighting). I'm going to wash my hair and style it myself tomorrow morning. If the back and sides don't behave, I'll head back into the salon for a little more work.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Crying it out

I know sleep training works. I know. It's just so damned hard to listen to her cry. When I'm tired. And Josh is a stone. And Z might wake up. And require me to change her sheets.

It's so easy to head across the hall, half-lidded to re-paci/pat/rock/nurse her back to sleep. To tell myself she's just a baby. It's fine. It's only once a night.

Until it's every 25 minutes. All f-ing night long. The kid's got us trained. I cry, they come. So tonight I put her to bed awake. I read her a story after she fell asleep on the boob and placed her into her crib sleepy but not asleep.

And she cried bloody murder. Josh, Z and I retreated to the basement with the baby monitor. I'd turned the sound off, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the bouncing red light that indicated major sound in the nursery. The angry red lights flickered for 25 long, heart-rending minutes before the poor baby gave up and went to sleep.

Here's to hoping she stays asleep ... or at least doesn't cry quite so long at 2am tonight.

WED. MORNING UPDATE! A woke up briefly at 10pm and fussed for about 30 seconds. Then there wasn't another peep from her until 5am. And she slept without her beloved paci!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Return of the no-nap monster. Or, why mommy needs a cocktail.

We really did have a wonderful weekend. Look, here's proof! But too much excitement coupled with hot, humid weather and two naps too few ignited a four-day weekend-ending meltdown.

I love being a mom to small children, but I gotta tell you: I'm looking forward to meals that don't end with food on the floor and in the hair, outings that don't require bottles, juice boxes, pb&j sandwiches, cut-up grapes, sunblock, sun hats and baby wipes. And I can't wait to just point to the staircase and say, "Upstairs, bedtime," to a couple of kids who can brush and floss their own teeth, use the potty without prompting and read their own books before bed.

Other mothers have told me this is the hardest time, but that once Baby A is 15 months old the girls will be able to play together without so much assistance and monitoring on my part. I can't wait.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A taste of a whirlwind weekend

We're three days into a four day weekend, and so far it's been a real kidapalooza around here. Well, after Friday morning's massage anyway.

On Friday afternoon I headed to Rehm Park with the girls to meet fellow Oak Park blogger Carrie and her two adorable, very outgoing daughters (each about 6 months older than my girls). There we were harassed by a warty Russian nanny (who, incidentally, shoved her two charges into a single stroller as we were leaving). If you're interested in learning how to game CVS's ExtraCare Bucks system, check out Carrie's frugal living blog, Shoplifting with Permission.

Saturday morning we hit the first Farmers' Market of the season, were we noshed on charity doughnuts (now 75¢ a piece) and chatted up bike trailer owners. I spend most of Saturday painting our front steps, and that evening Z and I saw a local production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with friends.

Today Z had her friend Lia over for a couple of hours and I had the girls help me make monkey bread. It's a fun but messy preschooler activity. I rolled balls of sweet bread dough that they dunked into melted butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar before placing in a bundt pan.

After Lia left we headed to FitzGerald's for the Constructor Craft Fair, where Josh bought a guitar strap and I ran into a woman who had once been my chiropractor's receptionist. She's now selling beautiful children's portraits and wedding posters.

After lunch and naps we headed north to the recently completed Field Park (now my favorite Oak Park park), where we met Deb and her family. The big kids got wet on the splash pad and Baby A did a little swinging, a fair amount of snacking and a whole lot of crawling, pulling up and squealing. She also spent a fair amount of energy sticking her tongue out at people and waving and saying "hi" to perfect strangers.

Tomorrow we'll be hanging out with Julie's kids in the morning, then watching the River Forest Memorial Day Parade and having an afternoon cookout with the neighbors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can you guess the animal?

"I'm thinking of an animal that lives in Africa and it's a kind of a cat," I say to Z.
"A giraffe? An elephant?" she guesses.
"No," I say, "Those animals live in Africa, but this one is a big cat...that roars."
"A lion!" she exclaims, "Now my turn. I'm thinking of an animal that lives in Australia. It has a pouch on its tummy for a baby." I guess kangaroo and we play again.
This time Z says, "I'm thinking of another animal from Australia. It has legs and eyes and it's red!"
I'm completely stumped.
"It's the Wiggles!" she cries.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cosi salad or Chipotle burrito: which is worse?

The battle of my two favorite chain restaurant fast food dishes. In one corner, the Cosi Signature Salad with Shallot Sherry Vinaigrette. In the other corner: Chipotle's Barbacoa Burrito Bol with cheese and sour cream. Which is worse for me? Using Cosi's Nutritional Information and Chipotle Fan's nutrition calculator, I tallied up the results.

Turns out I should pack my lunch more often.

Cosi Signature salad with dressing packs 683 calories, 51 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 749 mg of sodium inro one delicious take-out bowl (when in stock). The whole grain flatbread costs an additional 270 calories and 4g of fat for a grand total of 953 calories and 55 grams of fat.

The Barbacoa Burrito Bol with rice, black beans, tomatillo salsa, cheese and sour cream weighs "only" 710 calories, but it has 31 grams of fat, a generous 46 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber, and a heart-attack worthy 1575mg of sodium, 66% of my daily allowance of salt.

So not only does the Signature Salad turn out to be a bigger diet no-no than Chipotle's Burrito Bol, but it is less filling. I always finish my salad and flatbread, but I've never finished a burrito bol.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Preschool's almost over

Z's learned a lot at Montessori school this year, but the most valuable lesson of all has been making and keeping two best friends. Here she is with Julia and Sophie. And here are some more photos from today's preschool graduation picnic.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Killer Queen

Josh and I saw Tributosaurus pay homage to Queen last night at the Park West, and they brought the sold-out house to its feet with five guitarists, three faux Freddys and a 20 person chamber choir. Josh takes guitar lessons from curt Morrison, Tribute's lead guitarist, but that isn't our only single degree of separation from the the band. The bassist plays in the Lincoln (Elementary) Dad's band with our next-door neighbor and is married to a woman who works at my agency--on my floor. (I haven't met her yet.)

Today we had a picnic lunch while watching our neighbors' boys play T-ball (they were on opposite teams). And you know what--there was another Arc employee there (I hadn't met her before either). It's funny how my suburban preschool-and-playground life is continually intersecting with my corporate life. I scraped paint off my front steps during the girls' naps and I met up with two of my best friends and their kids at the park in the afternoon. On a whim, I invited everyone's families over for dinner and we brought our grill out of hibernation for grilled garlic-lime chicken legs, hot dogs, corn on the cob, canned baked beans and some cookies Z and I baked Thursday night. It turned out pretty good for no planning. So good that after finishing all her "baby food" dinner (cheese, sweet potato, carrots and Cheerios), Baby A put away about half of a chicken drumstick.

You can also find me here

Check out my post on Z's trip back into diapers on the Chicago Moms Blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I got my free iced coffee, did you?

What does Dunkin' Donuts put in their coffee to make it so damned addictive? Get your free small iced coffee today before 10pm. And if you're so inclined (I'm not), McDonald's is giving away free Southern Style chicken sandwiches with a drink purchase all day today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm wishing...

"Show me when on the calendar your birthday is, Mommy."
I flipped forward to June and pointed to the middle of the month.
"It's after Abby's birthday and after Nanny and Rick's wedding," I told her.
"We're getting a bike trailer for Mommy's birthday!" she bragged to our new neighbor, who was over for a playdate.

When I let Josh in on my birthday wish, he said it was too much of a family gift and not nearly selfish enough. So I told him he can buy it, assemble it, and get my bike tuned up too. Perhaps he's wishing he didn't open his mouth.

I have other wish. It's also an all-family affair, but decidedly less practical: a tasteful* family portrait by this guy.

*Tasteful=black and white, no matching outfits

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"The fire has been extinguished"

We're now free to go.

An incident on the 36th floor

My building is on lockdown and ambulances and firetrucks are visible on the street below. Pedestrians are looking up. Don't know yet what's going on, but the fire department has made announcements saying, "This is not a drill. We are investigating an incident on the 36th floor. Please stay where you are."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Product review: The best in bibs

If there's one thing I've learned as a second-time mom, it's don't cheap out on the bibs. Bibs are like diapers: they are designed to catch and contain baby messes. And like diapers, you get what you pay for. A store brand diaper can handle a little wetness, but when shit happens, I want Huggies in my corner.

Similarly, a cheap terry bib (I like IKEA's) is adequate for bottle-feeding or catching drool, but when it comes to feeding solids, you need to pull out the big, quality bibs. Don't buy cheapo vinyl bibs from Target and Babies R Us--they're stiff and itchy and baby will pull them right off. I'm a big fan of Bumkins nylon bibs. They attach securely, cover a large area and include a food-catching pocket. Best of all, they rinse clean under running water and dry super fast.

They some folks from Da Bib came calling. They've designed two ultra-premium bibs and they sent both to Baby A for testing. Hugs, with its microfiber terry front and waterproof nylon back, is decided for "wet" eaters. The terrycloth absorbs yogurt, soup and pureed foods nicely, so it's a good choice for parents who are still doing a lot of spoon-feeding. Interesting enough, Josh didn't realize that the terry was supposed to face out, so he used it backwards (as a food repelling bib) and it functioned just fine.

Giggles, which A is modeling in the picture, is more like a Bumkins bib--nylon and pocketed. Both Hugs and Giggles feature DaBib's major selling point, an adjustable high-neck "scrunch collar" that ensures no food dribbles down the chin and onto the shirt below. It is a great feature, but it means that the bibs take a lot longer to dry that my beloved Bumkins. Which makes me more likely to save these bibs for extraordinarily messy meals or protecting exceptionally special outfits.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

So many milestones, so much frustration

Baby A is madly trying to figure out how to crawl and it's making her mad. I'm beginning to suspect she may give up altogether and focus to learning to walk as she's more intent on pulling up than getting on all fours. Right now her major form of locomotion is a kind of an upright scoot. When she does get into the crawling position, she ends up going backward and trapping herself under furniture. And that makes her even madder.

When she's not scooting around the house in search of doors to open and close, containers to empty and fill and drawers to open and shut (on her fingers), she's waving hello and goodbye and teaching us her emerging vocabulary. Mama and Dada are clear (and expected), but she's also saying hola, hi, bye and "yaht," which pretty clearly means cat. And dear God does she want to get the cat. Tallulah, who's come to love and accept Z, doesn't seem to understand that Baby A means her harm. She doesn't budge even as the baby lurches at her, squealing with glee as she yanks herself a slobbery handful of fur...she just swats at her. We're going to have to keep kitty's claws trimmed before A learns a painful lesson.

A light at the end of the tunnel

After days and days of sleepless nights tending to a feverish baby and a bed-wetting preschooler who refused to wear a Pull-Up, we've finally found some peace. Josh and I went to bed last night at 10:00 and didn't deal with our children until 4:30am, when I brought A into bed to nurse and doze with us until (almost!) 6. The baby had cried out at 2:30, but once Josh realized that trying to re-binkify her was only making her mad ("Where's Mama and her lovely ta-tas?"), we let her fuss herself to sleep. It took less than 10 minutes, so it wasn't too torturous.

Today my fairly well and well-rested family honored Mother's Day by treating me to the decadent monstrosity that is the Original Pancake House's Apple Pancake. The weather was God-awful all day, but the kids took nice long naps and kept the whining and crying to a minimum in spite of being cooped up all day. A playdate with a new neighbor kept the pre-dinner hour lively--and judging from the gigglefest coming from inside her tent, it looks like Z has a new playmate.

And best of all, Z has agreed to wear a Pull-Up in exchange for keeping her water bottle with her at night. The ironic thing: she's kept it dry.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Congratulations, Franny!

My best friend and her husband Dave just welcomed their second son into the world, and I'm over the moon. Mother's Day really came early for you, Franny!

Her first word in Spanish

In spite of suffering from a fever, nasal congestion and viral conjunctivitis, Baby A has started waving in earnest and accompanying the wave with what sounds like "hola!" Which isn't terribly surprising since Adriana has been telling me A's been trying to wave at daycare, where they mostly speak Spanish.

Interestingly enough, her wave isn't the typical up-and-down "bye-bye" wave most babies do, but more of an over-the-head, side-to-side, getting-down-in-the-club wave.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mother's Day came early

My Mother's Day present arrived a few days early: Sleep, sweet sleep. You see, no one woke me up last night.

No one under the age of 30, anyway. Josh came in twice before midnight to update me on the Indiana Democratic Primary returns, but 3-year-old Z went to bed without whining, crying or stalling and 9-month-old A slept from 7pm to 5:30am in spite of her runny nose and goopy eye. My inspired parenting skills were partially responsible for Z's bedtime bliss. I explained to her that we were changing the night-night rules so that after two book stories and one made-up story I would be leaving her room and not coming back except to turn off the light and tuck her in. She could read books and sip water as much as she'd like, but she had to get them herself. Furthermore, there were two additional (whine-preemptive) rules so important that I'd written them on a piece of paper and stuck them to her door: "Everyone sleeps in their own bed" and "No monsters allowed."

Z agreed, and when she finally called me upstairs to tuck her in, the pile of books on the floor by her bed was a foot tall. She gave me a kiss and a hug and rolled onto her side, hugging her sleep cloud.

Her sweetness spilled over into the morning, as she ate all her Grape-Nuts, re-read the foot-tall stack of books and stuffed, addressed and stamped some utility bill envelopes I'd saved for her. If this lasts all week, I might be able to stay awake past 10pm on Mother's Day. And that's a gift!

But I still want to be taken out to brunch, okay?

I wrote this post as part of Parent Bloggers Network's Mother's Day Blog Blast, which is sponsored by Johnson's Global Charity Program.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Last chance to win!

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of the awesomely inspiring Rookie Moms Handbook! All it takes is a comment and your next baby shower gift is taken care of.

Jetlag, without the travel

I caked on the undereye concealer and I'm on coffee #3, but I think I need toothpicks to keep these peepers open.

Z had a bed-wetting accident last night around midnight. She couldn't fall asleep again, and Josh and I took turns comforting her from midnight until 1am. Well, I comforted--he lectured, cajoled and yelled at her to quit crying and go to sleep already. Eventually we caved and let her join us in the big bed, where she kept me from sleeping until around 3am. I slept beautifully from 3 until 4...when Baby A woke up. I couldn't take her to our bed to nurse since it was far too crowded, so I fed her in the rocker, changed her and put her back in her crib. I caught a few more winks between 4:30 and 5:45, when the baby woke up for good.

I'm seriously feeling it today.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Monkey Island: 41,000 square feet of madness

Imagine purchasing an enormous warehouse in the middle of a desolate industrial district and filling it with a super-sized McDonald's PlayLand climbing apparatus and a bunch of over-the-top inflatable bounce houses. "Decorate" the place by hanging a handful of second-hand stuffed animals from the ceiling (by their necks!) and painting the walls with unlicensed portraits of Dora and company.

Then charge $8 a kid, $4 per adult and $300 per birthday party. Sounds like a license to print money, huh? Especially if you can reduce overhead by not hiring any staff to walk the floor and ensure no big kids are trampling the small fry.

I'd never heard of Melrose Park's Monkey Island until recently, and we finally made it out there on my friend Stacie's urging today (we met her family there).

Naturally, Z went apeshit. It's a rainy day kid's dream come true. Even with six birthday parties in full swing and a completely full parking lot, there was plenty of space to play. For a while there, we even had one bouncy castle to all ourselves. Meaning Momma got to jump. Aw, yeah! I was a little irritated to see so few parents keeping an eye on their children--the management tell you you must watch them when you enter, but then they offer chairs, tables and free wifi--go figure.

They claim no outside food is allowed, but no one confiscated our crackers. I don't think I'd touch their offerings--warmed over hot dogs, pretzels and movie theatre nachos. Most of the parties seemed to be getting pizza deliveries from a Monkey Island-affiliated pizzeria. The pies did not tempt me.

Decontaminating the diaper bag

Items I have found in the diaper bag on Saturday mornings, when it's transferred from my husband's care to mine:
A black banana peel with 1 inch of mushy banana still in it
Half a baby bottle of curdled milk
A half-eaten cheese stick covered in lint and miscellaneous crumbs
Loose Cheerios
A stale graham cracker
A crusty, food-splattered bib
A crusty, barfed on burp cloth

At least I know he's feeding the kids!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Measles makes a comeback, thanks a lot!

Once and for all, could parents please stop withholding vaccines from their children and get them their shots? They don't cause autism! Learn more about the recent measles outbreak that's affecting babies under one and kids over a year old who haven't been vaccinated.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Encouraging news: more moms are breastfeeding

Seventy-seven percent of new moms are breastfeeding their babies--at least at first. This is a huge increase since the early 1990s, when only 60 percent of new mothers tried nursing. The most dramatic increase has been among African-American women; their rates rose from 36 to 65 percent.

The lowest rates were among very teenage moms and the very poor. Not surprising when you consider they likely can't afford to take three months off and probably don't want to figure out where to pump at high school or a low-wage job. Still this research reflects what my mother-in-law has been saying. She's a pediatrician at a low-income clinic, and she said she's been seeing a lot more women conscious of the health benefits of breastfeeding and putting off the introduction of baby formula--even though they can get it for free through WIC.