Thursday, January 31, 2008

A fresh marketing idea from Salad Spinners

Last Friday, evening commute. I finished my book just a few minutes into the trip, so I looked up to check out the train car's ads. I saw a cute one for Salad Spinners, a local chain of create-your-own salad lunch spots, but while the headline and visual were nice, what really intrigued me was ant copy underneath. It congratulated me for reading the fine print and offered a word puzzle. Solve the puzzle, the ad promised, and you could qualify for a prize.

The puzzle was pretty simple, and I emailed Rich Levy the answer from my Blackberry. Yes, the CEO's personal email address was listed on a subway ad.

Before the weekend was over, I'd received a reply from Rich saying that his marketing team would get me the first of my rewards early in the week.

True to his word, I received a reusable $1.00 coupon Monday morning. And today I got another email from Rich:

Thank you for solving our puzzle on the CTA. In doing so you have identified yourself to me as someone who is in the know and pays attention to whats going on in this city - and someone I would like to seek more advice from in the future.
This has been a very fun marketing experiment. So far we have had over 300 people that solved the puzzle and emailed us.
And in addition to the re-usable $1 bill that we sent you, I would like to buy you lunch. All I need you to do is complete this short survey and shortly thereafter (less than 3 days) I will email you a code that you can use at any Salad Spinners location for a free salad.

Warm Regards (especially this week)
Rich Levy
Head Tomato

Now, I've always liked Salad Spinners. They seem committed to American farmers and theirfood is fresh and tasty (although they've been known to get my order wrong on occasion). But I've never talked about their restaurants.

Until now. By adding a spark of creativity (and interactivity) to an otherwise standard transit campaign, Rich Levy and his marketing team have found 300 new brand ambassadors for their brand.

Kids say the darndest things

Last night, as I'm running the bath for the girls (yes, they bathe together now):

"Mommy, I picked out my clothes for tomorrow!"
"Good job. I like how well they match."
"I picked sparkawy pants and a sparkawy shirt."
"You like sparkles, huh?"
"Yes! And stars! But I don' when I'm bigger...when I'm older...Maybe then I'll like the Cheshire Cat... Did you know he takes his head off?"

I think it bears mentioning that Z hasn't watched Alice in Wonderland for at least four months.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The day the hair fairies came to school

"Mommy, the Hair Fairies came to my school today. They checked our hair for head lice!"

Can I just say how awesome it is that someone has created a business around going to preschools and peeking at all those tiny little scalps in search of nits--and then charging parents to get rid of said creepy crawlies? According to their website, they treat lice infestations with nontoxic shampoos, a far cry from the chemical Rid treatments I endured once or twice in my own childhood.

In case you're wondering, Z was (and is) lice free.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Great moments in customer service (not)

Okay, so the spending ban isn't working out so well.

But Josh encouraged me to shop for some new clothes to celebrate my new job. So I hit State Street over lunch today. Picked out some really cute stuff at H&M--I can't remember how long it's been since I bought something trendy! I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then I hit Nordstrom Rack and found a dress to wear to our synagogue's gala event this weekend. I'm at the checkout and the cashier's bagged my dress, stockings and socks. As she swipes my credit card, she looks at my midsection and asks, "Are you having a boy or a girl?"

I guess I'm better make sure those stockings are control top. Sigh.

Dreading the dentist

Since she acted like she liked the experience last time, I haven't hidden from Z the fact that today she's going back to the dentist for her 6 month check-up. Every day for a week now she's asked me, "Is today Tuesday? Do I go to the dentist today?" No sign of fear. A few mentions of stickers and tattoos...

Until last night. After her bath, Z asked, "What day tomorrow is?" She was trying to figure out which Disney Princess day-of-the-week underpants to put on. When I said Tuesday, she said "Tuesday is Snow White." But no sooner had she put them on she realized that Tuesday=dentist and the water works began. "I wanna skip the dentist," she whimpered, as if a dental exam was negotiable as an evening bath. When she realized I wasn't budging, she took matters into her own hands:

She took off her Tuesday underpants and put on a different pair. Yeah, because apparently when you're a preschooler the whole world doesn't just revolve around you, the days of the week are determined by your underwear.

Update 1/30/08: Z was a total champ at the dentist. Excited, even. She got a bag full of stickers, toys and a light-up toothbrush. And now she lets me floss her teeth!

Monday, January 28, 2008

My momentary lapse of judgement

Or, the tale of the world's tiniest glass slipper.

I took my older daughter to Target Sunday morning. We had an enormous list and in spite of my best organizational efforts, we kept having to criss-cross the store in search of goods. I'd promised Z a coloring book and the opportunity to pick out a toy for her little sister if she was good, and she was really good. So good other moms were pointing her out to their rambunctious children and saying "See how she's walking right next to her mommy?"

Now early on in the trip Z reasoned that since she already had two coloring books, she'd rather have a package of Little Mermaid underpants instead. Fine, I said. They were cheap and you can't have too many Princess panties, right?

Anyway, after an hour or so of shopping and a cart so full of bulky items that Z had lost her seat, we headed to the dreaded toy section to pick up Baby A's present.

What was I thinking?
You can't get to early childhood toys without first passing the dreaded Princess aisle. She was rapt. I tried to lure her out of there with a $2.99 Princess Jasmine jigsaw puzzle, but she was already transfixed by some $50+ castle playset monstrosity. Desperate to get the hell out of dodge, I agreed to a Cinderella dress-up set, not examining it closely enough to realize that not only was it phenomenally ugly (rubbery dresses with glitter that comes right off on your hands), but it came with four pairs of the world's teeniest, tiniest slippers.
Tiny princess shoe
See? I'm not kidding. At least this shoe is pink. The set also includes clear plastic shoes this size--not even a centimeter long!! If there was ever an argument for having your children young, it is so your vision can handle placing said minuscule slippers on tiny Cinderella feet and scouring the brand new basement carpet for lost, colorless doll shoes.

And worse of all, the Princess dress-up set from hell cost almost as much as this awesome baby overstimulation ball.

What toys do you most regret buying?

Cross-posted to the Chicago Moms Blog

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Feed me processed food, Mommy!

I've tried feeding my six-month-old rice and oatmeal baby cereal mixed with breastmilk. No dice. I've tried spoon-feeding her lovingly prepared banana, sweet potato and carrot purees and she's choked down one bite out of five. But a graham cracker that she can feed herself? Two very slobbery thumbs up!

A more disgusting photo can be seen here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Break a world record on Oprah?

According to her last-minute tickets page, Oprah's looking for Chicagoans to help her break a world record. I filled out the form and got a call from a producer a few minutes later. But when I heard I'd need to be at Harpo Studios by 5:30am next Wednesday? Well, that's kind of a deal-breaker for a mom who's still waking up twice a night to nurse.

But it looks like there are still spots available...and you'll get a set of audience tickets for a February taping if you participate!

Cross-posted to the Chicago Moms Blog

It's all about the Benjamins

Josh and I are really good about living within our means, but that has been more a function of our inexpensive taste than any smart system for tracking our spending. But I'm on a bit of a self-improvement/get-organized blitz (new baby, new year, new job), so I decided it was time to spend a little less and hold ourselves a lot more accountable. And with that in mind, Josh is helping me institute the following changes.
  • Track wants and needs over the course of a week so that we can consolidate our shopping trips and avoid running to the store every day. (The chalkboard is quickly filling up!)
  • Set up a money-management system to track income and spending. I'm using Mint, which is easy to use, web-based and free.
  • Go on a financial fast: no non-essential purchases for a month. (I got a high chair from Freecycle, score!)
Having just finished finishing our basement and powder room, I'm itching to buy the accessories necessary to complete the spaces, so this spending freeze is tough on me. But while I'm not buying (at least not yet), I am shopping around. For the best items. The best deals. And printable coupons to make them an even better bargain. Having a mandatory cooling-off period is probably going to keep me from making impulsive, less necessary purchases when the time comes to finally buy the wastebaskets and closet organizers I'm dying to get.

Once I get a handle on the spending, my plan is to squirrel away one-half to two-thirds of the "saved" money into our savings account for practical expenditures (car and home repairs, for example) and the remainder into a fun money slush fund that we can use to reward ourselves for being thrifty.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today I gave my notice

This morning I resigned from the agency where I've spent the last 7 1/2 years. I started here as a copywriter and I'm leaving as an Associate Creative Director. I've learned a lot, worked on wide variety of businesses and made great friends.

Leaving is bittersweet, but it's time to move on. I've been given an opportunity to work on brands that excite me and become an expert in a rapidly emerging field of marketing at another agency in Chicago.

I'm energized.
And terrified.
But I'm confident this change is good.

And since this is only the second job change I've made in my adult life, I'm curious: how long did it take for you to feel competent at a new job?

Monday, January 21, 2008

I've given birth to the Energizer bunny

Z's energy level is boundless. Nap or no nap, sunshine or bitter cold, she just keeps going and going and going.

Kind of like her baby sister's nose. It keeps running and running and running. We made it exactly three weeks between colds, which in my mind is not nearly long enough. The drippy nose, together with teething drool and the constant blowing of raspberries and sticking out the tongue mean that my baby girl's one very leaky faucet.

So yes, I'm exhausted. But I'm also a bit exhilarated. This weekend I saw a play, baked pretzels from scratch and started setting up our just-finished basement (IKEA and Complete Construction, I love you).

I've got more exciting news to share later this week, so stay tuned.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Now everyone knows what's in my pump bag

Two of my all-time favorite blogs have linked to my post about creating a terry bag for my breastpump parts. Thank you Rookie Moms and Parenthacks. I'm so tickled.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy half-year, Baby A

It's hard to believe you're halfway to one. I promised I'd write in your baby book every month, but blogging is going to have to suffice. You are the second born, I'm afraid. Anyway, let it be known that at six months you are:

The happiest baby on the block. Seriously, you've only had two tantrums ever. You fuss a little when mommy walks in the door and deigns to glance at the mail or wash her hands before ripping off her top and giving you the boob, but you don't cry when you're alone in your crib, when you're hungry, when you're chilled in the bath or when your big sister crushes you with her love.

Lunging, grabbing and putting everything in your mouth. Well, everything but baby food anyway. You're a bonafide milkaholic, but the few tastes I've given you of rice cereal, oatmeal, banana and pureed pears? Notsomuch. You do, however, enjoy gnawing on hunks of bread.

Almost sitting up.
With the support of a Boppy, you can stay upright for about half an hour!

But completely uninterested in rolling over.

And currently obsessed with blowing raspberries.

1/25/08 update: At your six month well-baby check up you weighed in at 16lbs (50th percentile) and stretched 25 1/2 inches (30th percentile).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Badvertising: KaBloom thinks we're cheap

Those roses your sweetheart is getting you for Valentine's Day? According to this piece for KaBloom florists, it's just a keep ploy to get you in bed. In case you're having difficulty reading the headline, it says "Make her day. And your night." And you thought he really loved you.

Now, I'm not saying this isn't a compelling message for certain audiences. If it was a print ad in Maxim magazine or up on the wall in the men's locker room at Crunch, it wouldn't qualify as Badvertising.

But in the Merchandise Mart stairwell? Where thousands of workers and El riders walk by every day? Most of them women? (This is a building full of PR shops, ad agencies and furniture showrooms, after all.) Somebody wasn't thinking.

I'm curious, is an overpriced bunch of red roses all it takes or do you have a different set of expectations? And who wears skirts that short anyway? Tramp.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The youngest mom in the room

Now I'm no Jamie Lynn Spears, the Nickelodeon star knocked up at 16, but Josh and I did start a family earlier than most. I was 28 years old when Z was born, and according to the Washington Post, only 31 percent of college-educated women 25-29 have kids. The article interviews women in their late twenties and early thirties who feel alienated by older moms and shut out by their childless friends.

I don't regret starting motherhood relatively young. Conception and pregnancy were trouble-free and I've got the energy necessary to deal with sleep deprivation and hyper young children. And while there's always the danger of being mommytracked, I feel that motherhood at this stage is good for my career. By the time I'm promoted into positions requiring more responsibility and travel, my children will older and more independent. I won't be a VP with a newborn.

Still, I'm usually the youngest parent in the room. Unlike many of the other moms and dads at Z's preschool, I wasn't born in the sixties. I didn't plaster my bedroom walls with Duran Duran posters, and I don't have fond memories of my 20th high school reunion. But I do have a few very close friends in their forties. And for us our relationship is less about a shared history and more about our present: We can relate to each other because we have kids the same age.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog

Monday, January 14, 2008

Late-night parenting


I looked at the alarm clock: 10:50pm. Maybe Z's eyes crusted shut again? I pulled on my pajama pants and headed into her room.

But her bed was empty. She wasn't on the floor next to her bed either! I panicked for a nanosecond before my eyes registered her form against the chair in the corner. She was kneeling on the floor with her head resting on Tallulah, who was curled up in the chair, sleeping as she always does in Z's room.

I picked Z up and asked her if she needed to go potty (she's back in Pull-Ups after wetting the bed for a week straight, but that's fodder for a future post). She murmured no and lay limp in my arms as I carried her back to her bed and pulled a blanket over her.

Was she sleepwalking? Did she wake up and decide she wanted to read a book or visit the cat and then fall asleep mid-trip? I'm not sure I'll ever know, but she was still sleeping soundly when I got up to feed Baby A at 3am and get up for the day at 6. In fact, I had to wake her groggy, cranky self up at 7 so she could be dressed and fed before preschool.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Neither silent nor deadly

World's Least Threatening Ninja from almaklein on Vimeo.
Lest you think my daughter makes the world's worst ninja, she did at one point make a "bad guy face" and say "I'm swording you!"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I washed my sinuses today

After reading this NY Times piece on neti pots, I decided I had give this increasingly trendy form of nasal irrigation a try. I suffer from spring and fall allergies and with two small children bringing home viruses on a daily basis, it seems like I'm perpetually congested.

So I sent Josh out to CVS to pick up a pot. He came home with SinuCleanse, a cheap-looking plastic pot and little envelopes of nasal wash powder to mix with tepid water (you can also use table salt). It definitely looks freaky, but it works. I've never taken such clean, fresh, deep breaths! I can see why folks are so attached to their neti pots.

Los Angeles 2002 is calling...they want their clothes back.

No kidding, I saw a woman at Starbucks wearing a royal blue velour sweatsuit. Her pants were tucked into furry white boots that looked like small yappy dogs and she was wearing J.Lo sunglasses. She ordered--and returned--a grande green tea latte, which the barista let sit on the pick-up counter. After three minutes of staring at her lipstick stained to-go cup, I'd totally lost my appetite.

I'm so mainstream now

According to a Deloitte & Touche survey, half of American consumers now post content online. Obviously they're not all starting blogs, but sharing videos, photos and personal information is frankly ordinary now. Which may explain why I'm no longer getting sideways looks from clients when I suggest consumer-generated content be a part of their marketing plan.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Diaper Bag Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Launa, Lisa, Andrea and Noreen. Your Lands' End Diaper Bag Totes will be in the mail as soon as I get your addresses.

And here, as promised, is a shot of Baby A in her free Lands' End Baby outfit. The dress, long-sleeve shirt with Peter Pan collar and ruffled bottom tights are Lands' End, and while they also send an adorable pair of suede Mary Janes, the shoes don't fit yet so she's wearing her Vincents.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lands' End Diaper Bag Giveaway: The Last Day

Today's your last opportunity to enter for a chance to win one of four Lands' End Diaper Bag Totes. Send an email to almaklein (at) and let me know if you'd prefer a navy bag with green frogs or a pink floral bag. Because heaven knows your diaper bag needs to herald your child's gender! You'll get an extra entry for mentioning my giveaway on your blog or emailing your friends about it (just cc me so I know).

I will randomly select winners and announce them tomorrow. Good luck!

Monday, January 07, 2008

More whoring for Jezebel

Wow, this video is perhaps the funniest thing I've seen all year. And I'd say that even if we weren't just on day seven. See what happens when normal chicks try to wear American Apparel.

A little connoisseur of milk

My daughter is nearly 6 months old and frankly I'm tired of pumping twice a day at work. I've resolved to drop a pumping session and provide just two 4oz bottles of breastmilk for her to enjoy while I'm away. I figured Daddy or her daycare provider can give her a bottle of formula once a day as a supplement. Sounds like a plan, right?

Not when your daughter can smell the Enfamil a room away. We've tried giving her bottles made up of half expressed milk and half formula, but she gags, bawls and pushes it away. Today my husband called me to report she'd refused a bottle made up of 3/4 breastmilk to 1/4 formula. I could hear her wailing in the background. We're dipping into my frozen stockpile of milk to get through this transition, but my hopes of part-weaning her at 9 months so that I can give up pumping altogether are fading fast.

Have any other mothers dealt with this? Do infant formula brands taste substantially different? Is it true soy formula is sweeter than the regular cow's milk stuff? I want to continue the nursing relationship, but on my terms. I don't want to be a slave to flanges, valves and cold packs--particularly as I'm finding it harder and harder to duck out of meetings to pump.

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Can Clorox go green?

If you were outraged to hear Burt's Bees sold out to Clorox, read this article in the NY Times. Perhaps we should be encouraged that big consumer products companies are embracing eco-friendly practices. Personally, I think it's great that these big CPG organizations are stepping beyond greenwashing and focusing on the potentially profitability of sustainable products.

A well-loved fairy tale collection

I can not overstate how much my daughter loves this fairy tales book. It's not bordering on obsession. It is an obsession. She easily spends two hours a day "reading" this collection of classic fairy tales out loud to herself or badgering one of us to read a story to her.

The illustrations are horrendous third-rate Disney cartoons. The stories are simple and short enough for a young audience (about 10 pages long on average), but they differ enough from Walt Disney's movie versions that Z can point out all of the inconsistencies. And the illustrations are horrible: imagine third-rate cartoon images of Cinderella, Rapunzel and all the rest.

Z's copy of A Treasury of Fairy Tales is being loved to pieces, but we're not worried. It seems to be a permanent fixture in the Borders bargain books section.

Good news

1. My pink eye is gone and I've got contacts in for the first time since Wednesday.
2. We took advantage of the springlike weather for a trip to the zoo, Trader Joe's and Baja Fresh. No one yelled, cried, whined or threw a tantrum.
3. There are still two more days until my Lands' End Diaper Bag Giveaway ends. I've had a great response, but your chances of winning are still about 1 in 20. That's great odds!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Lowes, you're no friend of mine

I shopped at Lowe's for my bathroom remodel because I've had such terrible experiences with Home Depot. But now I don't know where to go for my big box home improvement needs.

You see, not only did they screw up my pick-up order by giving us the wrong toilet tank and the wrong vanity cabinet, they've treated us like criminals when we come in to exchange the items for the ones we actually purchase (with a receipt, mind you)!

Trying to make the exchange of the vanity go as smoothly as possible, I called ahead and was assured by customer service that the exchange would be approved. I talked to the plumbing department to verify that the correct vanity would be in stock. I arrive at the customer service desk with my return and my receipt and there's no line. Yet it still took them 40 minutes to process my exchange! An exchange that never should have been necessary since they gave me the wrong item!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I hate keeping secrets

Two friends, both fellow mommybloggers, have big big news to announce, but neither of them have updated their blogs yet. I'm keeping my lips sealed for now, but congratulations to both of you!

As for me, I'm miserable right now. I've contracted pink eye in both eyes. It's very fourth grade and not at all cool for a contacts-wearing gal who hasn't purchased new eyeglasses in five years. I'm taking solace in the fact that my inbox is crammed with entries for my little diaper bag giveaway!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Lands' End Diaper Bag Giveaway!

Maybe Santa and the Hanukkah Fairy didn't come through for you, but Marketing Mommy will! Lands' End has generously provided me with four, count 'em four, diaper bags to give away to my readers.

My very first diaper bag was a wide-mouth workhorse from Lands' End, a bag that still travels back and forth to day care three times a week. It's too ugly for me to be caught dead carrying, but Lands' End has made some progress on that front. The bags I've got for giveaway are these Pattern Diaper Bag Totes, but instead of a nautical look, I've got two girly floral totes and two boyish navy bags with little green frogs on them. They're decidedly not hipster cool, but they won't get you laughed out of Mommy and Me class like a Winnie the Pooh or free formula bag. They're just classically square. The mock turtleneck of diaper bags.

They're modeled after Lands' End's popular tote bags, but they've been pimped out with countless pockets and a changing pad. And let me tell you something about the Lands' End changing pads. They're awesome. They're big and long and they have hidden waterproof zipper pockets where you can stash a couple of diapers and some wipes. Just this week I put a diaper and some wipes inside the changing pad and headed off to the airplane restroom without the bulk of our snack and toy-filled diaper bag. And unlike the flimsy pad inside my old Skip Hop diaper bag and the sweaty plastic pad that came with my Pottery Barn diaper bag, this changing pad folds up easily every time.

To enter to win a Lands' End Diaper Bag, send an email to almaklein@yahoo. com with your name and style preference and "Diaper Bag Giveaway" in the subject line.

Get an extra entry for mentioning the giveaway on your blog (include the link in your email) or emailing 5 friends about it (cc me). Contest ends Tuesday, January 8, after which I'll post the names of the winners as well as a photo of Baby A modeling her new Lands' End Baby outfit.

Fake babies

Usually the snark on Jezebel is too much for even me to take, but this clip of a documentary about childless British women who buy realistic baby dolls and treat them like actual infants? As horrifyingly it's awful-but-I-can't-stop-gawking as a highway crash.

If Lars could just dump his real doll and get one of these sad sacks in the Spears family way, the world would be a little less creepy.

You must see this movie

This post is long overdue since I saw Juno on December 23rd, but I need to make sure that everyone I know goes to see this film. It is the most honest, touching and yes, even quite funny, movie about teen pregnancy you'll ever see.

Not only was it worth the admission price, it was worth the $20 we spent on the babysitter, too!

Said my daughter as dinner ended

"My arms are tired of eating dinner. My mouth is ready for chocolate."