Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Propaganda begins at home

Rumor has it my paternal grandmother (the non-Jewish one) is considering a vote for the dark side. Fortunately, Z made her this, which I will be popping in the mail tomorrow. How can she vote McCain now?

P.S. Have you entered for your chance to win a coupon good for a free package of Pampers? You only have one more day to comment!

Product Review: Vtech V-Motion Gaming System

In general, I'm skeptical of electronic toys and playthings that purport themselves to be "educational." Still, I can be convinced of a battery-operated toy's value. Parent Bloggers Network hooked me up with a Leapfrog Tag reader and books, and I was so impressed I actually purchased additional books for Z.

So when the opportunity came to check out the Vtech V-Motion Active Learning System (aka "The Wii for preschoolers"), I was all over it like a DDR board.

Set up was pretty straightforward. The system has child-friendly buttons and the controller is appropriately chunky. Z couldn't wait to play the included Action Mania cartridge (can you say "Wii Sports"?), but she had a lot of difficulty mastering the games. So much trouble, in fact, that she'd get frustrated and tearfully beg us to take over. And trust me, this is no Wii. I didn't want to take the controls! The graphics are very Super Nintendo, and while the driving game is probably the best of the bunch, even it only involves heading down a down a road (you can't crash) and aiming for extra points.

But there's educational value, right? Um, sort of. Perhaps the challenges get more challenging with higher levels, but Z's abysmal gaming skills had her stuck matching letters and colors, something she's far beyond intellectually.

I was surprised to see an electronic gaming system that didn't come with a power cord, but because my daughter showed so little interest in playing with the system, we didn't run down the batteries.

The Vtech V-Motion system retails for $69.99 and includes one wireless controller and a V.Link plugin for accessing online games and comparing your rankings with others, something we didn't try.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Someone brought crack to the 57th Street Children's Book Fair

A large, quite beautiful woman sat to the right of my children to watch a storyteller on the first fall-like day of the season. Do you think she could feel a breeze?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

She's scrappy

Now I know where my little sister got her feisty streak. Tired of watching helplessly from the sling or the floor as her big sister monopolized the toys and hogged all the snacks, the now-mobile Baby A has decided she's not letting anyone push her around.

Unfortunately that's translated into her doing some nasty, gleeful asserting of herself. The victim--captured here a second before she was knocked to the grass--did nothing to deserve her treatment.

And that was just the first embarrassment of the afternoon. Shortly after A pushed over my friend Gloria's youngest, Z shows my friend and her husband the sign of the horns and pipes up with "Rock 'n roll!" Which is followed with "And look, my middle finger!"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Find out how Pampers puts the Sensitive in Swaddlers and WIN FREE DIAPERS

Pampers' l asked me if I'd mind taking a look at their new Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive diapers. Since Swaddlers only go up to size 2 (at which point P&G figures we've quit swaddling and our babies have started cruising (or moving, anyway), I passed along my free package to my friend and on-again, off-again, on-again co-worker Hayes, who is both a new mom and new-ish mommyblogger and asked her to put Baby Will to work.

Hayes writes:

"Let it be known that I love the regular Pampers Swaddlers. However, while the "sensitive" version is deemed to be even better than the regular, I honestly can't tell much of a difference.

What is definitely noticeable is the "wetness line" on the exterior of the diaper to cue moms that baby is wet. Now, being a mom and knowing my child's diaper routine backwards and forwards, this is not something I found very helpful for me. On the other hand, I'm sure my husband may find it incredibly useful."

Get your hands on a coupon for a free package of Pampers (any size). Just leave a comment before midnight on Wednesday, October 1 saying how many packages of newborn sized diapers you went through before your baby outgrew them.

Feeding time at the monkey house

Dinner this evening. I give Baby A a handful of bite-sized pieces of chicken and some roasted carrot. She shovels three pieces in her mouth and flings the rest onto the floor. I pick up the pieces and return them to her tray. She eats another bite and sweeps the rest off her tray and across the room. None land on the splat mat. I try giving her fresh chicken from my plate and she pushes it away.

I offer her bread with butter. She spends five minutes greasing her palms and hurls the bread across the dining room table before howling to be released.

Welcome to feeding time at the zoo.

While the smaller monkey flings food and communicates her needs through a series of grunts, the slightly-less-small monkey refuses chicken and carrots and pushes her sweet potatoes around for 10 minutes after having her plea for a spoonful of butter denied.

Feeding time was followed by indoor exercise for the animals. This consisted of taking all toys out of their places, disassembling them, and abandoning them to climb the furniture.

Before the zoo closed for the evening, visitors got to see the monkeys perform tricks. Tricks like shaking milk out of a supposedly leak-proof sippy cup onto the carpet, upending a bowl of Cheerios and unzipping Mommy's purse, removing her mobile phone and dialing the last number called.

This post is inspired by the Parent Bloggers Network's "I Live in a Zoo" Blog Blast, sponsored by iKnow Letters, Animals and Sounds.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Silvermans for Obama

Lovely Lorraine Silverman, how I wish I could fly down to Omaha, pick up a shovel and unearth you today. Then we'd sit down with our gin martinis and our salted cashews and have a really good laugh together.
Grandma, this one's for you. You tracksuit-wearing, oy-swearing, thank G-d far left McGovern supporter, you!

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The new dollhouse

I've gotten to review a lot of cool kids stuff as part of this blog, but aside from the Leapfrog Tag reader, nothing has enthralled Z quite like her brand-new dollhouse. It arrived yesterday and she first laid eyes on it after breakfast. How she failed to notice the 2 foot tall beach towel-covered lump on the landing is beyond me, but she was so engrossed in playing with her new toy that she stayed home with Josh (who was in the shower) instead of walking next door to drop off Baby A at daycare. This is the first time she's stayed home. And it was the first time A didn't cry at my departure. But back to the dollhouse!

A few early verbatims...

"Hey, the radio plays music!"

"The Mommy has the biggest, hugest bed. And the child has bunk beds and the baby has an itsy-bitsy cradle. The baby likes to stand on the table. Like my sister."

"I think this is the biggest dollhouse in the whole world. But why are there 10 rooms for playing with because that is so many for having fun?"

""Where's the Daddy? There's isn't a Daddy. There's a Mommy and a children and a baby, but there's no Daddy. I think he's dead."

Too preoccupied with politics to write about poop

I'm too distracted by the political circus to write down any witty thoughts, but I thought I'd share a few articles and rants that capture my feelings on the election and the economy--now so solidly intertwined by McCain's suggestion that the debates be postponed to hammer out the Wall Street bailout.

Truthiness Stages a Comeback (a round-up of Republican lies)
David Letterman Mocks John McCain
Sarah Palin Sounds Out of her Depth with Katie Couric
Devra and the MomsRising Gals Get Snubbed by Sarah Palin
How Sweden Solved Its Bank Crisis (A smart solution from the nice people who brought us IKEA and H&M)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I did it, I tweeted

Last week I heard an intriging NPR story on the power of Twitter, and today Shannan's Mommy Bits post sealed the deal. I'm on Twitter. You can follow me.

Won't you join me in this brave new world of microblogging?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Target: Cleaning Products

Sarah Haskins is my hero.

It wasn't a major league disaster after all

Despite skipping naps, taking public transit and attending a Cubs game full of fans high on World Series fever, our trip to Wrigley Field with two small children was actually a lot of fun!
Here I am stuffing Baby A full of snacks on the Blue Line into the city.
And here's a shot of Z (with Grandma in the background).
Josh and I left with A after the seventh inning stretch, but Z stayed until the end. She also insisted on wearing her new Cubbies hat to school today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Cubs nightmare looms

Today the Cubbies clinched their division.

Tomorrow we're going to a Cubs game. On the train. With my in-laws and my two children. The opening pitch will be thrown just after 1pm. Also known as naptime.

Please, pray for me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Checking off my list

The last couple of days have been pretty productive. I'm writing headlines and doing planning-type research at work. I'm helping organize the 20th anniversary celebration for Z's preschool and I've stepped out of my workout rut by taking two classes at the gym, including my very first Spinning class (which kicked my ass)! I've uploaded (almost) daily photos of my outfits to the Working Closet Flickr pool, I've brought my lunch to work every day this week and I've had fruit for dessert every night. I'm on a roll.

I'm celebrating with drinks this evening with a group of women from my neighborhood. That I organized!

Steal and deals on baby stuff

I compulsively check the daily deal at BabySteals.com and this weekend they're offering a whole bunch of cool baby things for half price--usually it is just one item per day. And it is consignment sale season in Oak Park. The Mothers of Multiples sale is this Saturday at 9am at the Oak Park Arms and next Saturday is the Parenthesis sale.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What's the difference between Sarah Palin and McDonald's?

Nothing. Their anti-intellectualism has them both as proud as heck.

This baby formula is poison

Even though I've officially joined the ranks of those moms practicing "extended breastfeeding" (that is, if nursing once a day counts), I cringe every time I hear someone call formula "poison." It's not poison; while it isn't an exact replica of breastmilk, kids thrive on the stuff.

Except in China, where at least 6000 infants have been poisoned by melamine-laced baby formula. Remember the pet food scandal that caused kidney failure and killed thousands of dogs and cats? Same stuff.

Have you spotted the grocery shrink ray?

It's hard to notice at first, but many products on your grocery's shelf are shrinking while the price stays the same. Not as big as the news coming out of Wall Street, but it affects a lot more everyday Americans.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Salty and sweet

Garrett's Popcorn can go a long way to improving a bad day. You can tell the locals from the tourists by seeing who orders it "mixed." Out-of-towners just don't get it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where's my ark?

I've never seen so much water! And neither has the rest of the Chicago. This weekend brought us the worst rain our city's seen in 137 years. Yes, you read that right.

We tried to go to the zoo this morning so that the kids could play in the indoor Hamill Play Area, but flooded roads kept us away. So we went to the Garfield Park Conservatory, where leaky roofs brought the outside inside. We followed our rainforest adventure with lunch at The Brown Sack, which is so kid-friendly the staff played children's music and asked if we'd like to have the paprika left off our mac and cheese. I also had the best milkshake of my life. Chocolate peanut butter.

If the rain slows to a sprinkle, we'll be heading to the Renegade Craft Fair this afternoon. Because I'd rather be wet than stir-crazy.

Learning the value of a dollar

Josh and I are fairly frugal people. Scratch that. Compared to our grandparents (and to a lesser extent our parents), we spend money like it's going out of style. But compared to the rest of our generation, we're pretty damn thrifty.

Aside from the 30-year mortgage on our house, we live debt free. I put 15% of my pretax salary in a 401K and Josh funds a retirement account for the self-employed. We shop sales, clip coupons and stock up on kids' clothes and toys at rummage and consignment sales.

But have I instilled any money sense into my preschooler? Z's almost four, and while she can count and do basic addition, she has very little grasp of the value of a dollar. She doesn't know if a candy bar costs more than a dress, but she's pretty sure cars, bikes and houses cost "a lot of dollars."

Z's also learned that unless it's "on sale," it isn't definitely isn't going into our cart. And since she's not reading, it's up to me to determine what's on sale!

And while I'm not technically telling her the truth every time I say "Mommy doesn't have enought money to buy ______," it would certainly be true soon enough if I caved to every demand.

As she gets older, I plan to introduce an allowance and encourage Z to save. I'd like her to experience the satisfaction of saving up her allowance to purchase something she wants "with her own money," and I also hope to encourage long-term saving by matching any funds she puts in the bank.

Even though I want one more than words, I'm too cheap to buy an iPhone. But I want to win one, which is why I participated in this Money Doesn't Grow on Trees blog blast, sponsored by Capital One.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Target: Sarah Palin

My aunt's heart surgery starts at noon

My dear Aunt Susie (regular reader and occasional wacky commenter on this blog) is undergoing a quintuple bypass today at noon in Omaha. She felt some shortness of breath and an ache in her jaw on Monday and fortunately recognized those symptoms as the early signs of a heart attack that her cardiologist said she wouldn't have survived.

Please keep her in your thoughts and take a couple of minutes to educate yourself about heart disease.

Working Closet: Now here's an office pool I want to participate in

In an attempt to climb out of my style rut, I'm participating in the Working Closet Flickr pool, uploading daily photos of my outfits, checking out other gals' office attire and soliciting advice. It's pretty inspirational, actually.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How I came to look forward to bedtime

Stage one: board books. Baby chews it. Mommy snoozes.

Stage two: fairy tales. Classic stories usher in the Princess stage.

Stage three: library books. A full bag every week means fresh stories every night. A big improvement, even if escapee tones result in the occasional library fine.

Stage four: chapter books! Mommy cheers the return of her favorite childhood characters and marvels at how dated the Ramona books have gotten (Beezus reacts to Mrs. Quimby's announcement that she's gotten a part-time job with "Now you're liberated!). We finished Ramona the Pest this week and now we're two chapters into Ramona the Brave. But since Ramona's getting a older a lot faster than Z, I need to switch gears and find a more age-appropriate book or series. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Shuella: How do you like my shoe umbrella?

I've been meaning to splash around in my trial pair of Shuellas, and today the weather finally cooperated! I'd worn black leather sandals to work, and by 5pm it was raining buckets. So, feeling a little excited and more than a little self-conscious, I sat down and slipped on my size 8 hot pink "shoe umbrellas."

Designed by a local Chicagoan, Shuella promises to save our sandals, our kitten heeled peep toes, our precious suede pumps from certain ruin. (They may even save a few of us from finanical ruin at the hands of Zappos and Piperlime!)

Shuellas come in a zippered pouch about the size of a cosmetic bag. Stash it in your purse whenever there's a chance of rain. Then, when the sky opens, unfold and put them on--right over your regular shoes.

I felt conspicuous as I headed west on Lake Street. Was everyone looking at my floppy rain boots? Why did I choose pink? They're so bright! Are they falling off? I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window, and my humiliation subsided. At least sideways, they looked halfway normal. A little bit cute even. And my feet were dry and comfortable. As long as I didn't shuffle too much, walking in my Shuellas was no different than walking in any other pair of boots. There's even a no-slip sole!

Practically speaking, Shuella is a home run. Stylistically, I need more input. So take a look at my feet in the picture above and tell me, are you laughing with me...or at me?

Shuella retails for $49.95. You can find them online (with free shipping) at Shuella.com or at Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

On a Sunday afternoon

We had fun playing and feeding the ducks at Proksa Park before meeting Kara and Jeff and their kids for some delicious Mayan food at Xni Pec in Cicero and icy Mexican ice cream at Flamingo's. Our adventure kept Baby A up an hour after her bedtime, but she was so thrilled with her new ability to walk and the attentions of three big kids that she didn't fuss at all.

On a completely unrelated note, this morning Z woke up crying that her left ear hurt. She was completely out of sorts until I got her to drink some cranberry juice that I'd spiked with Motrin. Twenty minutes later she was herself again, but I still took her to the Take Care clinic at Walgreens, where the CNP diagnosed her with an ear infection, her very first.

I'd never used one an in-pharmacy walk-in clinics before, but I was pleasantly surprised with how thorough the nurse was and with her warm, caring manner. We walked in when they opened at 8, we were seen at 8:07, and we had our prescription in hand by 8:30. I wasn't even late to work.

Here's another video of A walking.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My bag's packed with snacks

Snacks irritate the hell out of me. I feel like I'm always packing a snack, getting pestered for a snack, or shaking snack crumbs out of the diaper bag/stroller/car seat/diaper. But I'll share my snack secrets for a chance to win $250 in grocery money, so here's what's in our stash.

Cheese sticks. Once a grocery item I scoffed at ("Who's too lazy to cut cheese themselves?"), now a staple snack in our household. We usually buy the individually wrapped cheddar or jack sticks from Trader Joe's, but now that Z has learned to appreciate string cheese, we'll pick 'em up wherever they're on sale.

Cheez-Its. Sometimes the genuine article, but more frequently a natural or organic version of the ubiquitous cheese cracker. Occasionally disguised as a bunny or goldfish.

Juice boxes. I feel guilty about the waste, so I'm cutting back on the 'boxes, but they're so convenient and they're such kid-pleasers that I haven't given them up yet. For health's sake we stick with 100% juice or the watered down juices, and try to buy the smallest boxes we can.

PB & H. A peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread, usually split between the two kiddoes. Sticky, but fairly wholesome.

Bananas. They're pre-wrapped and nutritious, but there's nothing I hate more than finding a half-eaten banana smooshed up inside the diaper bag (although a smooshed up PB&H comes close). Josh, I hope you're reading this!

When I'm feeling a bit more ambitious:
A snack trap filled with Cheerios, raisins, cut-up strawberries or blueberries. And a new discovery (that's incidentally also the sponsor of this blog blast!), Brothers All Natural freeze-dried apple and pear slices.

She's a walker!

A walker for 1 week from almaklein on Vimeo.
Baby A started walking for real on Labor Day. Here's a little video documentation of this milestone, taken yesterday in our basement.

Friday, September 05, 2008

With neighbors like mine, who needs friends?

One of my neighbors fell and broke her kneecap and is supposed to stay off it for four to six weeks. A fellow neighbor decided it would be nice if we provided 3 meals a week for the next month and sent out a list of dates via email to around 20-25 families. We were asked to pick a date, write our name next to it and hit reply all.

My email box lit up all day long as families from the block signed up to help. Every date was spoken for by 5pm, disappointing a handful of people who will now no doubt find some other way to be of assistance.

My turn is in two weeks. What should I make?

This is why I changed my shirt before I left for work

I was wearing what I thought was a fairly cute short-sleeve sweater with an empire-waist cut.

Until Z piped up with, "Mommy, I think there's another baby in your tummy going come out."

So I ask Josh, "Does this top make me look pregnant?"

"Um, I wasn't going to say anything, but..."

That's all I needed to hear. I handed him Baby A and headed upstairs for a wardrobe change. Because I am not pregnant. But she is and she wants to be.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Target: Women takes aim at bad ads

What, internet content can be funny and smart? Well, the Target: Women series is. I can't decide which one I like more, this send-up of birth control ads or her episodes on yogurt and wedding shows.

Hockey moms don't always play fair

I watched Sarah Palin's speech last night. She was articulate. Her kids were adorable. But in addition to building on the convention's xenophobic tendencies with lots of talk about "America this" and pauses for "U! S! A! U! S! A!" and "Drill more oil, drill more oil!" that she placed fast and loose with the truth.

Book review: Sleep is for the Weak

I haven't had a Blackberry since I left my old job in February, but I spent last week reading mommybloggers on the train.

How's that? Well there's this thing called a book. It's made out of paper and it's kind of like a blog in that you can read it and relate to it. But while there are plenty of funny anecdotes about potty training and the cute things kids say, there are no distracting typos, comments or linkydinks dragging you off into that black hole timesuck of cyberspace.

Sleep Is for the Weak is--dare I say--an essay collection on motherhood. It just happens to be an essay collection published by BlogHer and penned by A-list mommybloggers like Finslippy, Mom-101 and Three Kid Circus. And not since The The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy have I read such a funny, honest, shot-from-the-childbirthing-hips truths of motherhood, hemorrhoids and all.

I smiled at Rita Arens' account of pulling a turd out of a constipated kid's ass because I've so been there. I laughed at Tracy Gaughren-Perez's "Pity the Parents," a cautionary tale about how dining out with kids is a recipe for disaster. And I very nearly busted a gut giggling over Eden Marriott Kennedy's "This is Motherhood." (I'm linking to the original because it is that funny!)

Online, my favorite blog posts are humorous or humiliating. Preferably both. I'm not big into aw, ain't my kid the cutest? and isn't being a mom just the best? stories and I carry that prejudice offline. So while I wasn't all that keen on Mariam Kamin's recollection of her "Most Handsomest" son's preparations for picture day, I just about pissed my pants when Eden Marriott Kennedy's little boy blithely confessed that "sometimes I like to hurt dogs."

Lucky for me Sleep is for the Weak is more piss and vinegar than sap and saccharine. Get it for your friend who's still thinks blogging has something to do with those AOL chatrooms and doesn't understand why you'd want to expose your kids to internet predators.

This review was made possible by the friendly folks at Parent Bloggers Network, who probably know all of the contributors personally.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My child fell down the stairs

I looked up when I heard the scream. Nothing quite prepared me for the sight of my child's dress flipped over her head and her long, thin white legs stretched upwards as she cartwheeled down the staircase.

I swear t i m e s l o w e d d o w n.

"Catch her!" I yelled to my husband. He spun around, arms full of blankets and a pillow (I kid you not) and broke her fall before she could hit hardwood.

Z cried. My heart raced.

And she was totally fine.

Today's lesson? Only let your child fall down the stairs when one parent is stationed at the bottom with an armful of soft bedding.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monday, September 01, 2008

i brought my babies to Lollapalooza

Img_2827Just because you can bring your kids to Lollapaloozadoesn't mean you should. Yes, there is Kidzapaloozaand it is wonderful (more on that in a minute), but you don't need 75,000 grungy boys and bikini-topped babes in 90 degree heat before 8 stages of very loud music and row after row of ripe-smelling port-a-potties to expose your kids to your favorite music.

Here's what we loved (all free):
- Body painting "tattooz" and freshly silk-screened t-shirts and tote bags by artists from Small Paul.
- Playing with the real rock band instruments in the School of Rock Petting Zoo
- Designing a CD cover with the nice folks from Crazy Kids Chicago and Art & Soul
- The Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars. I didn't spy any pre-pubescent guitar protegies, but the world-touring band of teens did some great covers of rock and roll classics.

Here's what we hated:

- Getting there took 1 1/2 hours door to gate--and thanks to press credentials, I didn't have to wait in line at the gate--a line that lengthened to several blocks by early afternoon! With three hours of our outing committed to Blue Line riding and stroller pushing from Dearborn to Grant Park, I didn't feel like I had much time to enjoy the show(s).
- The sun and heat! The allowable two bottles of water don't last long and the lines for the water fountains were longer than the lines for beer. And, while there are first aid stations available, the responsible parent in me didn't want to see either of my kids have to endure a sunburn or heatstroke.

And here are some tips for the rest of you heading to Lolla with kids in tow (after all tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday):
- Go early--like, right at 11am and leave before your kids melt down.
- Fill your kids up on healthy snacks and water before you reach the festival gates. Bury additional kiddie snacks amongst diapers, wipes and baby hats (or under the stroller) where they likely won't be discovered.
- Refuel the children (and yourselves) on the cheap. Hit the Whole Foods area for samples of their fruit strips and sorbet. In the kids area you'll find free gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, Lifeway Kefir ProBugs (a whole milk drinkable yogurt) and lemonade (for a donation). If you need something more substantial, you can get a hot dog for $3 or chicken strips for $6.
- If the call of nature hits, use the extra-large port-a-potties in the Kidzapalooza area. Not only do they offer room for two or three, they see a lot less use and abuse.
- If you've got it, bring ear protection for the kids. It is loud. Ear-shatteringly loud. So loud your kid won't pick up any new, colorful vocabulary--and you won't be able to hear him whine.