Friday, October 31, 2008

I feel like a kid again

After sneaking out of work an hour early, I joined a few neighborhood families for a round of trick or treating. Our block has three amazing houses. The token Republicans (who, incidentally, don't have a McCain sign up this year) give out full-sized candy bars. The local Democratic organizers were giving out candy to the kids and margaritas and Obama lawn signs to the grown-ups. And another family brings a carnival atmosphere to their front porch with a rented treat machine every year. On previous Halloweens it's been a cotton candy machine; this year it was popcorn. Which, incidentally, was the only treat A indulged in. (Yes, I know popcorn isn't recommended for one year olds.)

We headed west two blocks to Kenilworth, which was hopping with costumed kids and a house completely tricked out as a hillbilly haunted house, complete with a slack-jawed brothers (one of whom was wielding a chain saw) and their wife/cousin, who was sporting a homemade Palin for President button.

Speaking of politics, we saw a man dressed as Michelle Obama, my friend Nancy's daughter dressed as Sarah Palin and local mom dressed as the crazy McCain lady from SNL.
After trick or treating, playing with her friends, passing out candy and spreading her Halloween haul out on the living room carpet to admire, it was time to wash the chocolate off her face and the glitter out of her hair (thanks, Sharon!) and get ready for bed.

As soon as I'd tucked her in, I headed to Toys R Us to pick up a USA puzzle--a gift from the Halloween Fairy in exchange for the bulk of Z's candy.

Happy Halloween!

Here's Z, ready to suck your blood!

With Halloween celebrations taking place for a whole week before the big day, she's already been Tinkerbell (this year's costume), a cheerleader (dress-up clothes) and Sleeping Beauty (last year's costume). Who knows what she'll wear for trick or treating tonight...

I'll post photos of our pumpkins after we light them tonight. Josh carved an Ooobama jack 'o lantern and I drilled a bunch of holes into mine for a polka-dotted effect.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

She's lucky she's cute

There is no better recipe for family discord than two irritated, sleep-deprived parents and an overtired, overwrought toddler.

Josh thought keeping A up a little later might encourage her to sleep in a little later. Seems logical, right? Well, his experiment backfired massively. Now, instead of hearing her call out at 5:50, she's screaming her head off at 4am. Nothing soothes her except joining us (read: my boobs) in bed. And frankly, I'd like to quit the early wakings and wean the kid in one fell swoop.

I'm tired.

I'm done.

So, per Dr Weissbluth, we're reversing course and moving her bedtime up tonight. And again when we turn our clocks back this weekend. If she can sleep until a halfway decent hour, Josh and I will be happy to get up with her and keep her from obsessing about what's under my shirt.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Which tax cut will work for you?

Josh and I would save $1000 a year under Barack Obama's tax plan and $120 a year with John McCain's. Figure out who benefits you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Halloween block party, then and now

Z and Gia in 2007...
And again this year.

Another overly full weekend

I kicked off the weekend Friday night by sharing a couple of pitchers of Lalo's margaritas with my girlfriends in the neighborhood. I went to bed a little drunk at 11:30, and was up again at 12:30 when Z insisted their were "noises" that required she move into our room. I made her sleep on our floor, which she complained was uncomfortable for 15 minutes before falling asleep on it. Then A had us up (screaming bloody murder) from 2:30 to 4, at which point I brought her to our bed and she passed out with her feet in my face.

So I was in fine form for our jam-packed Saturday.
9-12 and 3-4: Cold, damp Halloween block party. Z was Tinkerbell, chilled to the bone. A muddied her Piglet costume and hugged dogs.
1-3: The kids napped while I laundered Piglet.

4-6: Montessori school Halloween party. Z decides to wear the cheerleading outfit from her dress-up box. A, while now a clean piglet, is completely overwhelmed by the chaos that is a gym full of 75 sugar-fueled, costume-bedecked preschoolers. I can't keep track of which boy is which since they are ALL dressed as superheroes or Power Rangers.
6:30-10:45: Josh and I leave the kids at home and head out for Korean barbecue with Althea, who like Josh is a freelance music critic, but unlike Josh is the most outgoing, social creature on the planet. We hit San Soo Gab San and let Althea order her favorite cuts of beef, which we grilled at our table and combined with the varied flavors in the 25 tiny bowls of salads, vegetables, sauces, noodles and mystery items crammed onto our table. I've never had Korean food before, but count me in as a huge fan. Everything was delicious.

We reeked of smoke, marinated meats and pickled vegetables, but decided to stop by a party one of my coworkers was throwing nearby. I was too full to sample the goodies she had out, but Althea and Josh managed to find room for a Sweet Mandy B's cupcake. Yes, it is still Saturday when we get home.

Sunday was a little slower paced. I put the kids in babysitting at Temple and rummaged through the rummage sale, which had been seriously picked over. My only score was a pair of adorable toddler size 4 brown and pink Stride Rite shoes in mint condition for $1. After our morning at the synagogue I took Z to Boo at the Zoo, which was fun until we left. The zoo was giving away Halloween goodie bags at the exit, but Z was so disappointed with the contents that she threw a mini-tantrum. "This bag is dumb! There's no toys in it! There are no treats in it! It's just paper!" And really, she had a point. Aside from a tiny bag of Lemonheads, it was stuffed with coupons and a Fisher-Price toy catalog.

There was also a drop-off birthday party, a trip to the library, laundry, chores and more, but all I want to do now is watch The Amazing Race (which is available online here) and sleep.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hit the showers, kid

Z's decided she prefers showers to baths, particularly baths that include her little sister hogging the faucet and belly-flopping around like an ill-trained seal. She's pretty independent too, singing, stomping and splashing until I come in and squirt some lavender-scented baby wash on her hand and instruct her to wash herself, "stinky parts first."

I'm fortunate to have a such water babies for kids. Not only does Z enjoy her independent showers, A is crazy for baths as well. For weeks her only bath toys have been a pitcher and a cup, and it's still all I can do to get her clothes and diaper off before she's climbed in and started filling cups, pouring water, drinking it and blowing bubbles.
There's no taking her out until every last drop has drained.

Apparently my blog wasn't taking comments on the day this posted, but I got an interesting email from Kim, who said "I think you have stumbled upon the solution to your cranky mornings with Z! I, too, had cranky mornings with Big T (he's 10) until we began starting each day with a shower. The warm water spray seems to revive him and his good humor and we actually enjoy breakfast and the ready-for-school routine. This wisdom was passed along to me by another Mom. You might try sending her to the shower first thing. Good luck!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day one of the M2Moms Conference: who we're NOT marketing to

Everyone's marketing to moms, but three key groups of mothers are being ignored: moms of special needs kids, second-time moms and grandmas.

Nadine Vogel of Springboard Consulting emphasized that reaching mothers of special needs kids requires sensitivity and etiquette (i.e. don't kneel or stand when you're talking to someone in a wheelchair; sit down next to them), but they're fiercely loyal to the companies that reach out to them with solutions and communications that demonstrate compassion and an understanding of their and their children's particular needs. She was followed by Gianna Locasto, Sephora's Director of Store Marketing, who shared with us the beauty emporium's outreach to the disabled community. They gave the moms of special needs kids some much deserved pampering and treated disabled teens and adults to make-up lessons and beauty consultations in a private, supportive environment. What they got, in addition to the warm fuzzies, was new, loyal customers.

Norma Blatto of American Baby talked about second-time moms. Even though they're spending big bucks on cars, home improvements, home electronics and additional baby gear (double strollers, clothes for a child of a different gender) and their established status in the mommy community means they're responsible for generating a lot of word of mouth, most brands are so wrapped up in their efforts to reach the first-time mom that they miss out on the opportunity to make a connection with this bigger community of women pregnant for the second, third or fourth time.

The award for most memorable speaker of the day (at least in my book) goes to Jerry Shereshewsky. The CEO of, he made the point (which I can anecdotally support) that today's Boomer grandmas and grandpas are healthy, wealthy and very generous with their grandkids. They're funding 529 college savings plans and helping their children furnish nurseries and buy clothes for the babies. Not only that, they're buying high chairs, pack n plays (even Wiis!) for their own homes to make the grandkids feel welcome. Yet aside from a handful of companies who are embracing this demographic (one standout example was Pepsi, who encouraged members to give their free Pepsi song downloads to their grandkids) -- most marketers leave this group to the drug manufacturers. And that's a shame since, unlike Gen X and Gen Y moms, they're easy to connect with: just address them as grandparents.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Methinks she's not a morning person

Z's taken to waking up with a growl. The kind of whiny growl you might expect to hear from an unfed lion cub. This guttural noise is accompanied by squinty glares, put-upon flops from one side of her bed to the next and pointy grunts that I'm supposed to translate to "I'm cold. Get me something with long sleeves. Nooooo, not a sweater!!! A long-sleeved pajama top. Not that one!!! Now put it on me because I've lost the ability to move my limbs overnight."

Demanding that she frame her requests in clear English (preferably preceded by "please") transforms the angry lion cub into something far worse: an incoherent, inconsolable pillow-soaker. If I close the door so that my eardrums don't split and I don't lose my temper, she ratchets it up a notch, hyperventilating and hiccuping her misery. Over what, exactly? That never becomes clear. Perhaps waking up to the sounds of me dressing her sister in the next room awakens the green-eyed monster within ("Mommy's spending time with my little sister instead of me. And it's not fair!!!)

After 5 minutes of howling (and a sharp rebuke from Josh that only accelerates her tantrum) I go back in, give her a hug and help her into a long-sleeved pajama top. She skulks around upstairs while I shower (baby sister and Daddy are downstairs having breakfast), and by the time we come down she's totally fine.

If this is what wake-up time's like for an almost 4-year-old, I can't wait to see what the morning rush will bring when she's 14.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Leapfrog Party. Or, how I lost my purse and still made out like a bandit

Being a blogger has its perks, but I've never been as blown away by corporate generosity and thoughtfulness as I was yesterday at the Leapfrog party hosted for Chicago Moms Blog contributors.

To crib from the Passover seder, had they invited our kids over to run riot in a KinderCare indoor playground but not painted faces, that would have been enough.

If they'd painted faces, but not hired a caricature artist to draw their faces, that would have been enough.

If they had hired a caricature artist but not served us pizza and salads, brought in developmental experts to talk with us about choosing toys for our kids, let us schmooze with our bloggy friends and interact with all of their electronic playthings, that would have been enough.

But we got all that an an armful of toys to take home! Z added two new books to her Tag Reader collection and our beloved Fridge Farm now has neighbors, the FridgeTalk Wordplay Recorder and the FridgePhonics Magnetic Set (which we had borrowed from a neighbor years ago but had to return). Plus, Z asked one of the representatives from Leapfrog to send her a pink Leapster2, the Gameboy-like handheld you see her playing with in the photo.

Yes, that's my child using a stylus. And I don't mind. You see, there was some spirited discussion among the moms about the appropriateness of electronic learning toys. In general, the moms of younger kids fell into the "all wood, Montessori or Waldorf for my child" camp and the moms of older kids threw up their arms and said they'd surrendered to the computer, the Internet and the Wii long ago. Resistance is futile; particularly when you kids reach school age.

I'd like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. Z gets heavy does of hands-on, all-natural learning at her very traditional Montessori school, but as long as she's reading real books, drawing her own pictures and acting out her rich imaginary life with dolls and cardboard boxes, I'm happy to mix things up a bit with an interactive toy that reinforces her critical thinking and phonics skillss. Unlike the Vtech video game system that I dissed for throwing a letter-match challenge over a driving game, the Leapfrog products don't use "educational" as window dressing to make mom feel better about buying her kid a video game. They seem genuinely designed to keep small minds challenged and engaged. And if you don't believe me, check out the online Learning Path, where parents can see how often their kids are playing with toys like the Leapster and Tag reader and how well they're doing on the interactive games and quizzes.

So it was a great party. We had fun and scored toys. But somehow I managed to leave with two kids, two coats, my backpack, my cell phone, my car keys, the Ergo carrier and an armful of
free toys. Leaving behind my purse. Yes, again.

Fortunately one of the lovely ladies from Leapfrog drove my purse to my house (!!!), thrilling Z, who thought she'd come to deliver her Leapster.

If you're in the market for a Leapfrog toy, save $10 on a Leapster 2 or Didj orders of $50 or more. Use code HY8BHPR at the checkout before 11/15/2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I lost my mind today

Now I may misplace my keys once in a while, but "flake" isn't the first adjective that comes to mind when I'm describing myself to others. That may have to change if the last 24 hours are any indication.

Friday, 7:00pm: I leave my purse at the bar where I'd gathered with coworkers for Happy Hour. I realize, upon reaching the El station 6 blocks away that I'm without CTA card, wallet, cell phone--you know, everything important. I run all the way back to Cleo's and retrieve my bag from the back of a chair.

Saturday, 7:30am: After promising Josh an easy morning, I nod off on the couch while "playing" with the kids in the basement playroom. Don't know why I'm so tired--except that A woke up raring to go at 5. Maybe that had a teensy bit to do with it.

8am-ish: I nap for 20 minutes while Josh, who's taken pity on me, takes the girls to the Farmer's Market. I follow my power nap with a trip over to the local coffee shop where I buy a cup of caffeinated joe (Josh has switched us to 100% decaf at home).

9:30am: In the hustle to get the girls out the door for Z's gymnastics class, I forget my still-warm, mostly full cup of coffee.

1:00pm: After reading Z a book, she proceeds to "read" it back to me. I fall asleep on the couch.

2:00pm: Josh sends me to Target to exchange a couple of items and pick up some necessities. I forget the bag of returns but manage to remember everything on my list, which is impressive at this point.

3:30pm: I change A's diaper before taking the girls to the park, but forget to put a clean diaper on her. This doesn't become clear to me until 5:30, at which point her pants are damp and her onesie has a turd in it.

I'm hoping I'm just a little (make that a lot) off today, but naturally the little hypochondriac on my shoulder keeps whispering "brain tumor!" Of course my absentmindedness of the last 24 hours might in fact be due to my having a lot on my plate right now. Work's busier than it's ever been, our social calendar is packed and I'm trying my best to remember birthday parties, dentist and doctor appointments, nights out with friends, date nights with Josh and which sitter's babysitting when.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Myers-Briggs results

I am an ENFJ.

ENFJs are the benevolent 'pedagogues' of humanity. They have tremendous charisma by which many are drawn into their nurturant tutelage and/or grand schemes. Many ENFJs have tremendous power to manipulate others with their phenomenal interpersonal skills and unique salesmanship. But it's usually not meant as manipulation -- ENFJs generally believe in their dreams, and see themselves as helpers and enablers, which they usually are.

ENFJs are global learners. They see the big picture. The ENFJs focus is expansive. Some can juggle an amazing number of responsibilities or projects simultaneously. Many ENFJs have tremendous entrepreneurial ability.

You can read more if you click through. I think it's pretty accurate, particularly the part about being somewhat thin-skinned. Those of you who know me well, do you concur?

Take the test yourself here.

15 months old

A, you're more of a toddler and less of a baby with every passing day. Crawling is a mere memory now. You're a multi-tasking marvel on two feet, juggling your sippy cup, snacks, toys and my purse as you careen from room to room.

Your vocabulary includes cat, dog, ball, Mama, Da (Dad), nice, no, yum, nana (banana), agua (water), up, down, nuh (nurse), a (paci) and probably a handful of other words that escape me at this moment. But what you don't utter you certainly understand. For example, if I say "It's bathtime," you pivot away from whatever trouble you were up to (putting toys in the kitchen trash, scribbling on the art table, standing on chairs) and head for the stairs.

Once up, you try to fling yourself into the tub before I remove your clothes and shoes. Then as the bath winds up, I say "Bathtime's over. Ready to get out?" To which you laugh and lie flat in the tub, blowing bubbles in the water. You'll even replace the plug if I fail to stash it out of reach. Did I mention you like water?

Your other loves are Mama (sheesh, are you ever a Mama's girl!) dogs, cats, being outside--particularly at the park and wrestling with your sister. You adore Adriana and Vero, your caregivers at daycare and you'll even ignore me if the grade school-aged boys next door are paying attention to you.

Other milestone updates? We took away your daytime bottles around 13 or 14 months, but we still let you have a paci in the crib, stroller and car. And the big news this week: you've dropped your morning nap and are consolidating your daytime sleep into one big 2 1/2 hour afternoon nap.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Five Guys is coming to Oak Park

Wiping the drool from my chin...

Northern Virginia's very best burger chain isn't just coming to Chicago, they're coming to Oak Park! Five Guys Burgers and Fries is opening a location on Lake Street early next month. No longer will I have to meet my craving for greasy/gourmet burgers, supremely delicious french fries and free shelled peanuts during our once-yearly pilgrimage to Arlington.

And on that note, it's off to the gym for me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where Z's going on Monday

This from my almost 4-year-old.

"On Monday, a weekday, me an' Julia are going to Disney World. We're going to sneak out of school and Mrs. B is going to say 'Hey, where did those girls go!' We're going to pack so much stuff! First we're going to buy a big, sharp scary knife and pack our markers, our much! We're going to take our great big knife on an airplane and when we get to Disney World we're going to find the Stepmother an' Stepsisters and we're going to put our big knife right in them until they die! We're goin' to rescue Cinderella from their treachery and then we're going to take our markers and scribble 'em out!"

Woot! Whole Foods coupon!

How much to I love WantNot for her timely updates of sales and links to coupon codes? Now she's got a Whole Foods coupon good for $5 off a $25 purchase. Go buy some of their private label goods; just look for the 365 label.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do I look like a football mom?

I got this in my email box this morning.

Hello Alma,

Football season is here. Your kids are excited. They have their equipment, they've been practicing and now it's game time. One problem: you're kind of fuzzy on the rules of the game. What's the difference between a punt and a kick? Who does what on the field?...

Hello, Shelby! Thanks for reaching out to me. My 14 month old is a real football nut and wow, I'd love to be able to keep up with her on the gridiron, but I have so much trouble remembering the rules of the game! There's just not room for complicated sports rules when I can barely remember how many minutes to bake the Tollhouse cookies.

Now to fair, there are a lot of competent PR folks out there who send me nice, friendly emails about products I happen to have zero interest in (a wearable sleeping bag for adults?); and there are lovely people who set me up with free stuff that my kids and I enjoy and I sing about right here on my blog (which is what they're hoping for). But what's with the lazy agency folks who haven't figured out from--oh, the photos and stories all over my blog--that I'm the mother of little girls.

So I don't want a copy of the football mom's handbook (or, G-d forbid, the hockey mom's). I'm too busy enjoying our free K'NEX Cookie Monster Building Set, Mrs. Goodbee Dollhouse and Aquadoodle (which, incidentally, has been my 1st birthday gift of choice for 3 years running).

Monday, October 13, 2008

My evenings are my own again

I've discovered a silver lining to the dreaded nap-dropping. Now that Z's not sleeping at 1pm, I'm putting her to bed an hour earlier. Which means she's still happy and well-rested (see left) and the house belongs to me and Josh from 7:45 on! Mwahahahah!

Everyone's talking about the economy

It's topic day on the Chicago Moms Blog and its sister sites, and we're talking about the economy. Here's my contribution to the conversation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The disappearing nap

We're in the Neverland between naps. Our oldest is dropping hers and Baby A, now 14 months, doesn't quite need two, but can't manage to stay awake until 1 for one. Since we headed out to the pumpkin patch before 10am this morning, A fell asleep in the car on the way there. Which meant her afternoon nap was pitifully short. Which means Josh and I have been functioning without a nap break for two straight days.

I'm too tired to blog about my very busy weekend, but suffice it to say it included one pumpkin patch, a stack of homemade pumpkin pancakes, two playgrounds, one playdate, gymnastics, the farmers' market, Freddy's and a double-date at Marion Street Cheese Market.

At the top is a picture of A shouting "Daaaack" at the duck at Children's Farm. Here are some more photos from today...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Where's the good news?

I know our retirement investments are tanking, but I've been saved from knowing exactly how much we've lost because we're in the process of moving our accounts from Merrill Lynch to a new company.

I was dumbfounded for a second (before my blood hit the boiling point) when I read that AIG executives treated themselves to a $440,000 spa retreat after the government floated them $85 billion in taxpayer dollars. That's $200,000 on rooms, more than $150,000 on meals, $23,000 in spa charges and $7,000 on golf. It might seem like tiddlywinks when we're talking about a multi-billion dollar bailout, but that total could buy a lot of gas and groceries for hurting Americans.

The election is less than a month away, and in spite of the economic crisis, a pointless and very expensive war and the rising costs of food, gas, utilities and health insurance, right-wing nutjobs and closet racists are still trying to smear Barack Obama. Who, by the way, struck me as downright Presidential in last night's debate.

And closer to home, Oak Park is in the midst of a crime wave, with armed robberies way up.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our weekend was jam-packed...

...But wonderful. My mom arrived on Friday morning and by the time she left this morning I'd determined that parenting two is much, much easier with three adults on hand!

We crammed the farmer's market, Z's gymnastics class and Kiddieland into Saturday and visited the Chicago Botanic Garden before spending the evening at a neighborhood BBQ on Sunday. The kids were so wiped out with all the excitement that they slept until 7am! I'm knocking furiously on wood as I type this as I know that by blogging it, it shall no longer be so.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Welcome to Whine Fest

Today at Marketing Mommy we're sampling whines. Red (faced) whines, why whines, everyday whines and the rare corporate whine.

Is it cool to drink at 5:25 am? Because that is when the whining (for dining) began. Fortunately I'm still nursing, so Baby A was able to sip as I slept--in bed. As I showered and dressed, I could tell the kids were dishing out whine with breakfast (not a happy combination), and by the time I'd come downstairs and scrambled my egg, the whining had been drowned out by Josh's 80 proof yell. Like wine and shots, whine and shouts don't mix, and everyone at Whine Fest was cranky and worn out by 8am.

You'd think work would be a welcome respite, but there's plenty of whine to go around here at the office.

I need a beer. And a cupcake.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Even our cats are female

Just so you don't think our art table is a sweatshop for political posters, here's a shot of Z's self-directed art. It's a "lady cat."

Like Silver and Tallulah, come to think of it.