Saturday, August 30, 2008

Taking down Sarah Palin

I'm a lousy political pundit, but I had say something about Senator John McCain's pick for VP.

Cirque Shanghai

"Mommy, they're not being safe."

Aside from Z's concern for the well-being of the Chinese acrobats in Navy Pier's Cirque Shanghai, we had a great time. It is an amazing show. It's hard to believe I struggle to pull of ten traditional pushups when these rubber-limbed performers can stand on one hand and spin their entire bodies--while balancing on top of 8 chairs--that are held up by another performer's neck!

Here's a shot of some amazing saucer spinning.

If you haven't seen the show yet, hurry! It closes September 1st.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just for my Oak Park readers: my favorite new places

I'm keeping my dollars in the neighborhood with these great businesses that I've been dying to plug.

Shoplifting with Permission beat me to the punch with her review of Oh Joy!, the new kids' consignment shop on Oak Park Avenue, just north of the expressway. A couple of months ago I hauled three wagonloads of clothes, toys and baby gear to the former cigar store (and yes, it still smells a little stale). With my store credit now over $60, I finally spent a little of it on two adorable long-sleeve knit dresses for Z. I'd asked her during Old Navy's $7 denim sale last weekend if she'd wear jeans this year and she said "no, only soft pants and dresses." So dresses from the consignment shop (and grandparents) it shall be.

Sushi's an expensive option for a family dinner (since we all know how taking kids to restaurants is no fun), but I've enjoyed the sushi, sashimi and maki at Sushi House, which opened on Lake Street this spring. Z still asks when we can go back and get the "sushi chicken" (actually teriyaki chicken) in the kids' bento box.

The Marion Street Cheese Market moved one block south from its original location on the Marion Street Court to a much larger space. Now, in addition to fancy cheeses, the market boasts locally grown fruits and vegetables, a meats counter, a wine bar and a full cafe. I've sampled the expensive cheeses and treated myself to some gourmet peanut butter, but I'm waiting for a date night to eat in the cafe. Again, so not worth it with kids.

Fine dining fans of the shuttered La Piazza will find a lot to like on the menu at Chef Gaetano's new eatery, Gaetano's. It's a little farther west on Madison Avenue in Forest Park, and the location is smaller and louder than the first, but the food is still amazing.

We're regulars at Hole in the Wall and the expanded Brown Cow ice cream parlor in Forest Park, but we've introduced gelato and Italian ice into our frozen treat repertoire with handscooped pints from Freddy's in Cicero and the brand-new gelateria Paciugo in Forest Park. A small seems a little pricey at over $3, but you get up to three flavors and unlimited tastes before you decide. I had sea salt caramel and dark chocolate, but the tantalizing olive oil and black pepper almost made it into my bowl.

Finally, we'll be first in line at Trader Joe's when their new location opens at Harlem & Ontario this fall. All the doubters can relax now; I saw Oak Park listed under "coming soon" on my latest email from Trader Joe's.

I guess I'm a real Midwesterner now

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
The Inland North
North Central
The Northeast
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Makes sense, I suppose. I moved to Chicago from Northern Virginia fourteen years ago, but I was raised in the D.C. area (and overseas) by a couple who met in high school in Omaha, Nebraska.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's birthday party season and I'm prepared

For whatever reason, we get loads of kiddie birthday party invites between September and December. Loads.

I hate Toys R Us. I can't afford to buy dozens of high-quality wooden playthings (that may never get played with) from Geppetto's. And I don't have the time or the energy to hand-select the perfect gift for every one of our children's playmates.

So today I spent 20 minutes in the Borders bargain books section and came home with a pile of presents my kids would be delighted to receive (but won't--hahaha). They ranged in price from $2.99 for a Disney Sleeping Beauty book with read-along CD to $6.99 for book with six 48-piece fairy jigsaw puzzles. But thanks to a kind cashier who applied my 30% off coupon
to the $6.99 item (technically it was for a $10 one item purchase), I walked out of there with seven gifts for $28.48 ($2.65 of that is tax).

My gift closet is stocked and we're ready to party.

Give your breastfed baby vitamins

If you're breastfeeding exclusively--particularly during the winter when babies get less exposure to sunlight--be sure to supplement with vitamin drops. According to the NY Times, rickets have shown up as an unexpected downside to the dramatic increase in breastfeeding rates. But don't give up nursing--just buy a cheap bottle of drops and make sure your baby is getting enough vitamin D.

Since Z was born in November, I was pretty religious about giving her those foul-smelling vitamins. I felt like I could get away with not supplementing Baby A since she was born in the summer and had started getting the occasional bottle of (vitamin-enriched) formula by the time she was 6 months old.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anti-vaccination movement hits a tipping point

I think it is finally becoming clear that forgoing childhood vaccinations isn't a personal choice. It affects everyone. Vaccinations work on herd immunity. And we'll be seeing a lot more preventable--and very serious--diseases as more and more parents opt out based on bad science.

We can no more agree to disagree on this issue than we can on the creationism vs. evolution debate. There is a right answer.

Moved by Michelle Obama's speech

"All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be."

Did you catch the broadcast last night? I was actually clapping from the couch, tears in my eyes. These words mean so much to me as I struggle to remain an idealist, someone who wants the best for my country and refuses to believe it is too late to affect change.

Yes we can.

Unless, of course, haters like this Ann Coulter look-alike have their way.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Portland photos are up!

Check out even more on my Flickr page.

Yes, I just saw the Backstreet Boys

Reason #89 that I'm glad I'm a working mom? The Backstreet Boys just played a mini concert in an agency conference room. Because I want it that way.

iPhone photo by Andrea, art director extraordinaire.

Cabbage Patch Kids: Some things never change. And that's a good thing.

I get so bummed when I see toys I grew up loving get makeovers for our kids' generation. I'm sure my daughter would have adored the adorable imp that was Strawberry Shortcake. Now she's looks more like a strawberry-scented Lolita than a child's plaything.

Thank G-d the folks behind Cabbage Patch Kids know better than to mess with a good thing. They were kind enough to send Z a 25th Anniversary Cabbage Patch doll, and I'm happy to report the only difference between her Mary Jo my old Johanna doll is a more modern (read: less plasticky) diaper.

Z took to Mary Jo immediately, marveling over her long yarn pigtails, dimpled knees and perfect belly button. She also appreciated the ease with with her Cabbage Patch Kid's clothes and shoes came on and off.

With the 25th anniversary edition of Gen Xer's favorite doll reignite the frenzy of 1983? In this age of cell phones and social networks for fourth graders, that seems unlikely. But I'm glad one good thing hasn't changed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Z waved her magic fairy wand at me and said "I'm going to change you into something bad. I'm changing you into a dirty truck!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"I always have messy poops."
That's what Z told the cashier at Walgreens as I purchased a box of Lactaid. We're fairly convinced the girl's become lactose intolerant.

The Portland coffeehouse with everything...but coffee

Yesterday morning, before we needed to head to the airport, Josh, Z, Baby A and I tagged along with Franny and her 3 month old to Urban Grind, where one of her playgroups regularly meets. It's an ideal space for parents and tots to gather as it has two well-equipped playrooms and a cavernous main space furnished with couches, chairs and tables. The playrooms have toys galore as well as gliders and rocking chairs for the comfort of nursing moms. The bathrooms have changing tables. There's free wifi and computers you can log onto for free. There's even a ping-pong room and a conference room, but those were being used by people's whose job description does not include dispensing snacks and sippy cups!

Yet Urban Grind is not utopia in a coffeeshop for one simple reason. No coffee. That's right, there were "no beans" and the shop was not serving any coffee or espresso-based drinks. Which meant I settled for a prefab chai latte. And while Oregonians are in general a laid-back lot, I was a bit taken aback when an employee responded to Franny's request for a panini with "Are you in a hurry, or can it wait until after I have a cigarette?"

But put aside the amenities and the mysterious lack of coffee for a minute. There's a more important reason I will never forget my 45 minute visit to Urban Grind: it is the site where Baby A first walked. Yes, my chubby little 13 month old stood up and toddled 5 steps to a light-up steering wheel toy she'd had her eye on.

She was thrilled and probably would have loved to spend the rest of the day practicing her new skill. Unfortunately the rest of her day involved lots of being strapped into an airplane.

And that's a whole other blog post...

Standing at Mt Scott Park
Baby A, standing in the Mt Scott Park fountain just 2 days before she walked

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My, how our families have grown

I last took my family to visit Franny in September 2005. Here's what we looked like then...
Old Friends

Here's how we look now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dining out with 4 small children, what were we thinking?

Last night I was reminded for the 1023rd time why eating out with small children is no fun at all. We arrived at the Country Cat at 5:30 with reservations for 7: four adults, two 3-year olds, one 1-year old and a 3-month old baby.

The fight over crayons and water cups commenced immediately. The 3-year olds were separated. My kids, hungry and tired (it seems the time change caught up with them a day late) whined and cried and grabbed. Baby A stood up in her high chair, ripped off her bib and caught my wine glass, spilling half of Mommy's magic stay-calm juice over the table.

We were just about to flag down our server and get everything to go when our food arrived. I had the cast iron pan fried chicken and collard greens, which featured a tasty, fluffy honey biscuit that my kids stole from me. Baby A put away chicken, smoked pork, grits, carrots and green beans. Z had my biscuit and a few bites of chicken.

Everything was delicious, and while we ate a sort of peace prevailed. But then the kids got antsy again so we cleaned our plates, split the bill (all the kids meals were free!) and did a preliminary courtesy sweep of the area under Baby A's high chair.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I saw the ocean

We drove from Portland to Cannon Beach today, and the napping gods were watching over us. We left Franny's house at 8:20 and Baby A was asleep by 8:30. Z watched videos on her portable DVD player for an hour and a half. A woke up 3 minutes from the beach, where we met our hosts, who'd beaten us by 5 minutes. We had coffee and pastries as we waited for the fog to break and let the kids frolic in the sand and cold, cold water until lunch. Baby A squeal after and hugged 5 dogs, making her day.

We left the beach at 1:30 and both kids fell asleep shortly after we got on the road. They stayed asleep until we got back into Portland and we headed straight to the Portland Children's Museum.

Our perfect day was capped off with takeout Vietnamese food and Tillamook Marionberry Pie ice cream.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How I scored a play kitchen for $12

I'm scored plenty of kid-related bargains by shopping yard sales and Craigslist and staying active in the Oak Park Freecycle group.

But while Freecycle's netted me free swim diapers, a high chair, nursing bras, a boppy pillow and rain boots, my best bargain find of all time is the Talking Chef Magic Kitchen I found at the Oak Park Temple rummage sale in October of 2005.

Having always yearned for one myself, I was hoping to buy Z a play kitchen for her 1st birthday. So I was over the moon to find a like-new one (with batteries included) at a rummage sale just 2 weeks before her birthday. For $12! Equivalent kitchens cost close to $100 at Toys R Us and deluxe, non-plastic kitchens (like those sold by Pottery Barn) ran a lot more than that!

The kitchen has moved from our real kitchen downstairs to the playroom in the basement, where it still gets played with almost every day, by both of our girls.

This post was written in response to Parent Bloggers Network and, who are asking bloggers to write about their greatest bargain-hunting success.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Retail Therapy: H&M and Forever 21

It's rare that I have 2 full hours of uninterrupted time to shop for myself, but that's exactly what I got yesterday. I hit H&M on my lunch break and picked up a casual jersey dress with a sort of Japanese-inspired floral pattern on it and a cute, 1950's inspired outfit consisting of a polka dot blouse and shorts (it's far more flattering than it sounds).

Then, since I was going to a GM-sponsored event for mommybloggers at the Marriott on the Mag Mile at 6pm, I popped into Forever 21. For the very first time. Whoa, that place is huge. It's in the old Virgin Megastore, but I swear their retail footprint is even bigger than Virgin's. And aside from the moms accompanying their teenage daughters on their search for the perfect lime green tube top, I might have been the oldest person there. I looked like a washed-up ho in every top and dress I tried on, but I hit paydirt in the denim department. For under $30, I scored a super-comfy (and I dare say flattering) pair of skinny jeans. Now, I've been trying on jeans at Old Navy, Loehmann's and H&M for months and this is the first pair I've found that fits me in length, gives me a decent butt and doesn't puff my muffin top every time I sit down. The only rub is that I had to buy the largest size in the store--a 29. Are fatties forbidden at Forever 21 or something?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Packing for a trip with two young kids

We're leaving for Portland to visit Franny and her family on Friday, and I've been mentally sorting the must-packs from the can-do-withouts. Fortunately Franny's got two little kids of her own and is thus owns a crapload of baby gear we can borrow. Unfortunately, that doesn't include car seats, my least favorite item to travel with (unless, duh, it's a car trip).

So we're bringing two monsterous car seats. Z's will be strapped to Josh's back with our Pacback carrier and checked with our luggage. Baby A's will be hooked onto our neighbor's Gogo Kidz, which converts your car seat into a stroller that you drag behind you like a pilot's suitcase. We'll wheel her right up to the plane and cross our fingers that there's enough room for us to bring the car seat onto the plane. We didn't buy a seat for her, so if the flight's sold out the car seat-on-wheels will be gate checked and I'll be testing out the infant safety vest Baby B'air so kindly sent me on my lap baby.

Since the car seat will be wheeled, we're not bringing a stroller. If Z whines about the walk, she can sit in A's car seat and I'll carry A in my Ergo. We're also not bringing a diaper bag. I've given up on diaper bags and prefer to throw this SkipHop Pronto into a regular backpack.

We're not bringing a Pack N Play, booster seat, baby utensils or sippy cups. Hell, we're barely bringing any toys! But we will tote along snacks, stickers, markers, a coloring book and a portable DVD player that's seriously on the fritz. If Z's lucky, we'll replace it tax-free in Oregon. In the meantime, Princesses with lines through them are surely more distracting than no Princesses at all.

And we'll see if it turns out to be huge mistake, but I'm packing clothes for all four of us in one wheeled suitcase. Less stuff to maneuver, but we'll be a creek with no paddle if Southwest loses it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I hate health insurance

After seeing that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois hadn't paid dime one of our last three doctor's appointments (the kids' well child visits and Josh's laceration follow-up), I called them to ask what was up.

After 15 minutes of hold music, this is the answer I'm given:

"Do you have any other health insurance policies? Okay then. We're withholding payment in case you had another policy. But since you don't we'll take care of those bills now."

WTF? I have to prove once a year that I haven't bought an additional policy?!? I can't think of any reason I would want to shell out more for coverage when the good-enough BCBS EPO policy that I have through my company is already costing me $300 a month.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My cup overflowth

It's raining
It's pouring
My children are snoring
The gutters fill
Our new rain barrel
With water for the garden

I know it's a crappy rhyme, but rarely have I been so happy to see rain on a Saturday afternoon!

In other oh-boy news, Z is taking her 6th straight nap of the week. Baby A took two steps today. And I got a bunch of goodies in the mail yesterday! I won a big box of awesome BlogHer swag from Robyn at Who's the Boss (including a dress in Z's size and a UV jogging suit that fits Baby A!) and got some overflow goodies from Blue Suit Mom's BlogHer swag suite. And in more mommyblogging goodness, I received my review copy of Sleep is for the Weak.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Will Fairies be the new Princesses?

I bought Z a Tinkerbell costume from Disney Outlet as she's pretty much outgrown the Sleeping Beauty gown we got her for Halloween last year (a dress she's worn at least once a week since!). I chose Tink because a) she likes Peter Pan and b) it was available in her size.

Little did I know the Disney Corporation is angling to make Tinkerbell the new Cinderella--star of her own movie and leader of the soon-to-be-huge Fairies Franchise (for girls who've outgrown the Princesses but aren't yet ready for Hannah Montana and her ilk). Yikes!

Inflation bites

I just spent over $8.00 on a Cosi salad. I know the cost of doing business is rising and restaurants are fully within their rights to raise prices, but I am going to have to redouble my efforts to bring lunch to work!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What a night

Even if you don't live in Chicago, you probably heard about the massive, terrifying storms that hit last night at 8:00 and again at midnight. The village's storm horns were blaring, the rain was coming in sideways and the winds whipped up to 75 miles per hour. Not exactly the ideal atmosphere for putting to bed a 3 1/2 year old with a vivid imagination!

But while my street suffered some downed tree limbs, we got off lucky compared with Catherine, a friend of mine from the Chicago Moms Blog.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Dear G-d, please make me into a boy

"Mommy, I want G-d to change me into a boy."
"Because... I just want to...I talked to G-d about it, but he didn't answer back. Mommy, how do hear G-d?""
", uh, listen inside your head...But, I don't think G-d is going to change you into a boy. G-d made your body and it's perfect just the way it is."
"No it's not!"
"Honey, why do you think you want to be a boy?"
Embarrassed silence. She glances toward the bathroom.
"Z, is it because you want to pee standing up?"

Since I feel poorly qualified to answer Z's questions about G-d and Josh is a Jewish atheist who has no patience for discussions of this nature, I am ordering up some propaganda.

Proof I went back to Lollapalooza

NIN at Lollapalooza 2008 from almaklein on Vimeo.
But this time I didn't bring the kids. I had gone all the way up to the front of the stage looking for Josh only to eventually find him way back behind Petrillo Music Shell, where I shot this.

Baby A loves her some doggies

Saturday, August 02, 2008

No Lolla today, thanks

After Baby A suffered through last night with a fever that made her cranky and clingy (and me sleep-deprived), I threw in the towel on Lollapalooza today. Now, I don't know if my youngest is allergic to rock fests, but her temperature and behavior seemed a whole lot like the 24 hour fever that afflicted her the day after the Pitchfork Festival.

But even without pushing my stroller through throngs of teens, I had an eventful day. Z and I biked to the farmers' market and Dominick's while Baby A napped and Josh filed his story. Then Josh left and I took the girls to our local playground. We returned home for a lunch of quesadillas and both of the kids napped (!).

We met Stacie's family at the pool in the afternoon and I cooked Linguine Carbonara (re-titled "cheesy pasta with bacon") for dinner.

As I type this, Baby A is sacked out and Z is watching Return to Neverland (a Peter Pan sequel).

Lollapalooza: Day One

See what I thought of schlepping two tots to Chicago's annual rock show on the lakefront over at the Chicago Moms Blog.