Sunday, November 30, 2008


A only speaks a couple of dozen words, but one we hear all day long is "tutu." She wants to wear it all the time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Proximidade Award

I'm thankful for all my blog readers, but I was especially touched to be honored by one of them this week. Shari from Two Times the Fun (can you tell she's the mother of twins?) awarded me this badge.
This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.
Perhaps something got lost in the translation? Anyway, I'm not going to nominate eight, but here are three of my favorite undiscovered bloggers.
Little Bigfoot, my sister, who is now expecting her second little bigfoot
Minding Mizz, my best friend from high school, who's now minding two boys
Su La Li, Chicago Moms Blog contributor and mother of two girls

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On the Thankgiving menu

Turkey with molasses butter from Real Simple
Smashed potatoes from Cooks Illustrated
My own fruited bread stuffing
Butternut squash souffle from Family Fun
Cranberry-apricot sauce
Julie's green salad
Pear cherry pie from Martha Stewart

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Men of Movember

I work with many of these guys, all of whom are growing moustaches this November to raise prostate cancer awareness and funds. Buy their calendar; it's for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My vagina smells like Teen Spirit

1After 20 months of period-free living (pregnancy and breastfeeding can do that to a girl), I welcomed home Aunt Flo. But Aunt Flo was a changed woman. No longer the unobtrusive house guest content to drop in for a couple of days, she was a bitchy, demanding visitor who required I stock my cabinets full of feminine hygiene products and my kitchen with copious quantities of chocolate.

You see, I got fitted for an IUD, and the hormone-free Paragardhas a well-earned reputation for causing heavy periods. So heavy, in fact, that I had to purchase my very first box of super tampons. But even the green wrappers weren't cutting it, so I stood in the sanitary aisle at Walgreen's, wondering if I dare try super plus.

I flashed back to middle school, remembering how horrifyingly giant my Mom's square-topped cardboard applicator Super Tampax looked to my 13-year-old virgin self. But I'm not that girl anymore. Hell, I pushed an 8 lb baby out of my hoo-ha. Certainly I can manage the orange wrapped super plus.

Only I grabbed the wrong box by mistake. I took home an 18 count box offreshly scented Super Plus Tampax, and didn't notice my error until bedtime. "Honey," I said as I crawled into bed, "if you catch a whiff of cheap perfume under the covers, it's coming from my vagina." Indeed, I could detect a faint scent, reminiscent, perhaps of Teen Spirit deodorant. Or toilet bowl cleaner.

Now I don't believe in artificially fragrancing my lady parts. I don't do it on the days when they might see some action, and I definitely don't see the point when Aunt Flo's spending the night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

We're not always this uncivilized

Spaghetti slob from almaklein on Vimeo.
Yes, she started dinner in a bib, I swear.

These are a few of her favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
A show. With singing. High school teenagers.
Tickets and darkness. A curtains and stage.
These are the things that my 4 year old craves.

With nothing much shaking Sunday afternoon, Julie and I took our older kiddos to a local high school production of The Sound of Music. We left at intermission (not that the girls were any the wiser) as 1 1/2 hours of singing Nazis in a warm auditorium had left them nearly comatose.

In all fairness, though, before she started nodding off in my lap, Z was transfixed. "Are they all high schoolers?" she kept whispering to me, wide-eyed with wonder at all teenagers are capable of. "Yes," I answered, "except for the four littlest Van Trapps and the head Nun." Who , incidentally looked an awful lot like a real Mother Superior. Trinity is a Catholic high school, but she could have been the lunch lady for all I know. In any case, she possessed perhaps the worst singing voice I've ever heard.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My daughter, the very busy creative director

Josh dropped Z off at my office yesterday afternoon around 3pm, which meant she got to experience ad agency cube life lite for 2 hours.

First, she stopped by people's cubicles to say hi. In Holly's office she was given an old Blackberry and invited in to color on jumbo Post-It boards with permanent markers! Tara regaled her with medical stories and Maggie and Rachel offered her Andrea's workspace, complete with computer and telephone. Mags also taught her how to call people's extensions, unleashing a new beast, the telephone dialing 4-year-old.

Wondering why my daughter had no interest in hanging with Mommy, I went looking for her.

"Hi, Mommy! Mommy, pretend you're the girl and I'm the Mommy and you're visiting me at work."
"Hi, Mommy."
"Say, 'What are you doing, Mommy?'"
"What are you doing, Mommy?"
"I'm very busy on my Blackberry and my computer and my phone. Wait! My phone is ringing! Hello? What are you doing?" She puts down the phone. "Oh, wait! I need to order a pizza!"
A moment later...
"Okay, say 'Will you play with me, Mommy?'"
"Will you play with me, Mommy?"
"No, I can't play with you because I'm working. Now, pretend we're home. Say 'Mommy, I don't want you to go to work today."
"Mommy, don't go to work today. Stay home with me."
"No, I have to go to work so I can pay bills. Telephone bills. I have to pay bills on my computer at work. Now, little girl, if you go to school and have lunch and take a nap, your dad will pick you up and stop at home for 10 minutes and then he'll take you to my work. Okay?"
"Now you can leave. I'm going to stay here with Maggie and Rachel. Hey, what's inside this Hello Kitty cup?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A very sobering birth story

Unfortunately the author of this post didn't have the birth she'd always wanted. But she has her life; and she's thankful for that.

One point that frequently gets missed in the hoopla over home birth is that hospitals, as flawed as they may be, are equipped to save lives.

I wish more hospitals and OBGyns supported natural childbirth. I was lucky to have my VBAC in an alternative birthing center within a hospital, but I recently found out that the midwife practice I used has lost their coverage for VBACs. I guess I pushed out A just in time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Finally, some good parenting advice

Was I unreasonable to expect cheerfulness, cooperation and about two dozen fewer tears from Z this morning as I attempted to get her dressed, groomed, shod and next door to drop her little sister off at day care?

Apparently, yes. According to this Slate article, our expectations of our children's psychological abilities, even more than of their physical abilities, are typically much too high. Meaning Z became emotionally unhinged because she couldn't cope with having to share a toy with her sister and deal with pants that were too loose and practically falling down and share my lap with her sister and comply with my instructions to put on her damn coat already and stop standing in the doorway letting all the cold air blow in!

Must Watch: Campbell's vs. Progresso

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A girl and her automobile

Speaking of cars, no one is buying any. Do you think the government should bail out American car companies? Naturally my agency is pushing employees to support a bailout since GM is a major client.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Motrin debacle makes the NY Times

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but there's a very special circle in Hell for those who scorn the heaviest users of social networking: connected moms.

NY Times: Moms and Motrin

Baby A is 16 months old today

My not so little girl is off the bottle and off the boob (although not by choice) and sleeping better than ever. Last night (and I sure hope I'm not jinxing this by blogging), she slept from 6:50 p.m. to 6:20 a.m!

She's adding new words to her vocabulary every day and it's clear she understands most of what we're saying. She's also started mimicking her sister and other bigger kids. On Saturday she watched Z play hide and go seek with a couple of friends and she lined up against the wall and put her hands over her eyes as they counted to 20.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Motrin pisses of a whole mess of moms

Myself included.

Aside from wondering what bullshit agency put together an ad this moronic (hello, there are working moms in the ad world; you could hire one), I don't have anything to add to this momversation that hasn't been tweeted or blogged ad nauseum. I didn't check Twitter once this weekend, so I'm a little late to the game.

So read this from Her Bad Mother, this from Mom-101 (also an ad creative) and this from Ms. Adventures in Babywearing herself.

By the way, Motrin, I'd need a whole lot more headache pills if I didn't keep wearing Baby A. Half the time she on my hip or in the Ergo, it's because she'd started throwing an ear-piercing "up" tantrum at my feet!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A very granola holiday

This won't be the first holiday where friends and family will receive handmade gifts. In high school I was really into ceramics and everyone got a hand-thrown bowl or mug. In my twenties I knit, so elementary-level hats and scarves made their way into holiday care packages.

I've experimented with layered cookie mix jars, iPhoto mini albums, boxes of cookies (driedels and menorahs sprinkled with blue sugar) and years and years worth of homemade rubber stamp holiday cards.

But my list is getting longer, my budget's getting smaller and I need a gift that Z can help me make.

So my goal this year is to gift granola. I'm experimenting with recipes (a little Epicurious and a little Mom) and a test batch is baking in the oven as I write this. It smells heavenly.

Share your homemade holiday gifts at this Klutz-sponsored blog blast from Parent Bloggers Network).

Friday, November 14, 2008

On the train with a drunkard

If only the 25 cent fare increase announced today would help remove crazy people with open, giant cans of beer from the CTA. I would mind so much, but he's been mumbling obscenities for the past 20 minutes.

In case you can't tell, I have a Blackberry now.

This post breaks my heart

Jill from the NJ Moms Blog posted today about how her experience being sexually abused as a child has shaped her parenting choices. She admits she's overprotective, but goes on to say she'd never let her daughter go to a friend's house if only the child's dad is home. Too bad if the kid's got a stay-at-home dad or a single father, she just won't do it.

Jill's story is devastating--she was molested by her (now late) stepbrother and received no support from her family when she finally came forward--but I believe she's sending the wrong message to her daughter. She's telling her no men can be trusted. All men are suspect. And she's making it hard for guys like Josh, who are the primary caregivers and playdate supervisors for little girls of their own.

Perhaps its my belief in the fundamental goodness of people, but I'd rather teach my girls to trust their instincts (while keeping the parts of their bodies covered by a swimsuit private) than fear the worst in every boy or man.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The View

News flash: women like to talk. A lot. I don't know that the daytime women's gabfest has shown much more depth this year than it has in previous, but the women of The View did earn some grudging respect for asking the Presidential candidates hard questions during the election. And daily clips of Elisabeth Hasselbeck losing her shit and/or getting yelled at by the rest of the crew meant that Americans beyond the SAHM target got to be on a first-name basis with Whoopi, Babwa, Joy and Sherri.

And when there's fame, comedy is sure to follow. I saw The Spew, an improv send-up of The View with a group of friends Sunday night at ComedySportz. It's funny--well worth the $10 ticket charge and its been extended for two more weeks.

And there's also this from Target: Women.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes, I'm finally weaning my baby

I never thought I'd end up nursing A until she was pushing 16 months of age, but time flies with number two and Josh and I were just too damned lazy to make the effort (at 5:30am, mind you) to wean her. But with some encouragement from my sister, we're finally doing it. For the past two mornings, Josh has picked our little early riser out of her crib and marched her straight downstairs for breakfast! Hopefully she'll forget about my boobs sooner rather than later and I can stop worrying about her angrily sticking her hands down my shirt in public.

But it's not just us parents who are hitting the milestones. A's had a virtual word explosion in the last week. After months of Mama, cat, dog, mine, bye, night-night, agua and not much else, A's been surprising us with all kinds of pronouncements. Among her new words are mine, bird, house, car, vroom-vroom, bag, brush, juice, woof-woof, baby, banana and snack. And she's named her beloved pacifier "nah."

Monday, November 10, 2008

BlogHer 2009

See that little badge to the right? Apparently my hometown's not just the place to be on Election Night; it's home to BlogHer 2009! As you might remember, I took 10 day old Baby A to BlogHer 2007 and had to miss 2008 because it was the same weekend as the Pitchfork Music Festival.

I think this is worth staying downtown for. Who wants to share a room at the Sheraton?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My kind of birthday party


Our afternoon birthday party at the River Forest Community Center went off without a hitch. Of the 21 kids invited, 20 RSVPed and 19 showed up (one was sick). Tina, our party coordinator, showed her teacher credentials; she was amazing. I didn't have to think up games, convince kids to participate or worry about some kid unspooling all the toilet paper into my toilet.

In addition to climbing around the playland, where the birthday party ostensibly was, the kids enjoyed about half an hour of classic childhood games and parachute play in the large gym.

And, of course, there was cake.

Happy 4th Birthday from almaklein on Vimeo.

In case you were wondering, the party favors were a huge hit.

My strange Thanksgiving in South Bend

I've only spent one Thanksgiving in my life without my parents or my (now) husband, Josh. However, in November of 1997 Josh was on tour with Aden and my parents were living in Uzbekistan. A college friend of mine--let's call her Andrea (that's not her name, but I honestly can't remember what it was; we were not all that close)--invited me to accompany her home for Thanksgiving in South Bend.

South Bend's about a two hour drive from Chicago, and I headed east with my friend and my foil-wrapped cranberry-orange bread on a blustery cold Thursday morning. She drove a rusty old 1985 Toyota van and her kitten came with us, curled up on my lap or on the dashboard. Her van made the most distinctive sound as we rode as she had pebbly snow tires on them, something that was apparently illegal in Chicago but that she got away with because her car was registered in Indiana.

Her parents--or was it her dad and her stepmom?--lived in a nice enough suburban house, but what I remember most about the trip was that the turkey was smoked in the backyard, her mom required us to be totally silent as she worked on a massage therapy client in the living room and we followed up our Thanksgiving dinner with a late night visit to a local nightclub. A local gay nightclub. In South Bend. It was not a particularly happening scene.

I think we rounded out the weekend with some Black Friday shopping at the local mall, but I don't remember too much except for feeling uncomfortable and out of place imposing as I was on such an intimate family Thankgiving with a classmate I liked but honestly didn't know terribly well.

Although this post isn't exactly about my Thanksgiving cooking adventures, it was inspired by the Parent Bloggers Network Butterball Blog Blast.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

And I'm getting sick. I actually had to leave the movie early because the shaky cam was about to make me throw up.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More on election night

I expanded upon my election night blog post for the Chicago Moms Blog, and my contribution is being cross-posted to sister sites in cities across the country.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy 4th Birthday, Z

What do I say about you on your 4th birthday, Z? Now that you've graduated out of infancy, babyhood and toddlerhood and are a full-fledge preschooler--hell, a kid, recounting your milestones isn't as simple as noting your pincher grasp, your first steps, your budding vocabulary. You're so much more complex now. So much more a person. And so much more civilized than you were just six months ago. Potty training is a distant memory. I don't have even have to worry about nighttime accidents any more. You still like to eat pancakes with your hands, but you're tidy at mealtimes. No drips on your clothes, no crumbs on the floor, no spilled milk across the table. You've started saying "please" and "thank you." Sometimes you'll even say you're sorry!

And you're smart, that much is clear. Your teachers, your gymnastics coach, your friends' parents, even total strangers remark on what a bright little girl you are. You speak clearly, effortlessly, and you have a very extensive vocabulary. You reason well; your reading comprehension and memory is astonishing and you can write and spell a dozens of names and words. You've also got decent math skills; using your fingers, you can add and subtract figures under 10.

You are social. You have a tight little circle of girlfriends at school and you're also close friends with neighbors and long-time playmates. You make friends easily, playing with new kids after only a few minutes of quietly sizing them up.

You love to draw, sing and play pretend, and you have an active imagination. You're titillated by "bad stuff" and insist I make up an "Eleanor and Abigail story" every night before bed (think Goofus and Gallant for girls).

You're a born negotiator. According to you, everything is up for negotiation: bathtime, bedtime, the number of books read at bedtime, dinner entrees, the number of bites you'll take before dessert becomes a possibility, etc. etc. It is not your father and my favorite characteristic, but I admire your reasoned arguments and recognize the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

If I had to make a prediction on what the next 365 days will bring, I'd guess you will learn to read, you'll endure some playground cruelty (even 4 year old girls can be catty) and your relationship with your sister will blossom.
This is you, today.

I was there

AlmaI had planned to throw a pizza party on Election Night, but on Monday two of my coworkers volunteered their plus-one passes to the rally in Grant Park. I spent my lunch hour finding a babysitter, retracting my party invitations and logging onto CNN and Huffington Post for the latest news.

I voted early Tuesday morning and spent the day at work giddy with excitement and the caffeine from my free cup of Starbucks coffee. My downtown office closed early so I was able to spend time with my kids before begging our neighbor's teenager to come over soon so we could make it to the rally. We'd planned on meeting my friends at 8:00 since the gates were scheduled to open at 8:30, but the rally organizers started letting supporters in a little after six.

Josh and I jogged to the El and made it downtown around 7:30. Finding Casey, who is 6 feet tall, is usually a cinch, but we struggled, text-messaging and calling, through the tightly packed throngs before finally meeting up near the front of the line.

Security wasn't as tight as we'd heard it might be. Although we were asked to have them out and ready, IDs weren't given more than a cursory glance as we moved from one gate to the next.

AlmaaAt 8:30 we were in Grant Park. The mood was celebratory as we'd just heard Pennsylvania had gone blue. When the news from Ohio came in, spirits lifted even higher. Strangers were updating each other with news feeds from their iPhones and admiring each others' Obama apparel. The jumbotron was tuned to CNN and as the crowd watched, cheering as projections came in for Obama and jeering states that went for McCain.

At 10 o'clock Chicago time the polling places in California, Oregon and Washington closed and Barack Obama was declared our next president. The crowd went wild, hugging, kissing, clapping and crying before quieting down to listen to John McCain's concession speech.

I haven't recited the Pledge of Allegiance since the fourth grade, but at 10:30 PM I was saying those familiar, sober words alongside 200,000 others on a crisp, beautiful evening in my favorite city. There were tears in my eyes, but they were tears of joy.

I've never felt so proud to be an American.

Alma_3_3Since we'd promised our babysitter we'd be home before midnight, Josh and I left Grant Park midway through Obama's speech. We could still hear his inspiring worlds as we walked toward Michigan Avenue, passing the opportunistic vendors of bootleg "Obama, Commander in Chief" and "Yes He Did" t-shirts, buttons and posters.

As we headed for the El, I felt like I was leaving the frustration and turmoil of the Bush years behind and entering a new era.

I felt hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No voting hiccups here

I woke up at 6:15 this morning, before either of my children had greeted the dawn. By 7am, Josh and I were both showered and downstairs eating breakfast with the girls. I biked over to my local polling place at 7:30. No line, no waiting. I Baracked the Vote and cycled home (slowly, my back tire is almost flat) before 8am, leaving me just enough time to pack a lunch and train it to work, getting in before 9.

If only every morning could run so smoothly...

Monday, November 03, 2008

One more day

I feel like a kid on the day before my birthday, I'm that keyed up about tomorrow's election! I'm going to vote first thing in the morning, and I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep a wink tonight.

And here's the best part: I will be in Grant Park watching America's first Black president deliver his (knock on wood) acceptance speech. Three of the women I work with managed to score tickets, and each ticket is for two. I don't know yet if we'll get a babysitter and Josh will come downtown with me (he should, given his dedication to the cause), but I will be joining my friends and about 1 million other celebrants tomorrow night on the lakefront. Woo-hoo!

I wouldn't be Marketing Mommy if I didn't pause to tell you about the promotions companies are offering on Election Day. You can show your "I voted" sticker to the baristas at Starbucks and get a free tall coffee. Krispy Kreme is offering free doughnuts and Ben & Jerry's will be giving out free ice cream cones after 5pm. My jewelry-loving Oak Park peeps can head over to Team Blonde's new location in Forest Park for 10% their purchase.

The day we took a dollhouse to Hephzibah House

When Rookie Mom Whitney wrote to me asking if I'd like to accept two Mrs. Goodbee Caring Corners Dollhouses--one for my daughter and one for us to give to charity--I immediately accepted. I'd already decided to get Z a dollhouse for her fourth birthday, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

The dollhouses arrived in October and Z was thrilled. Caring Corners is a three-story plastic dollhouse with plastic dolls and furniture, but it isn't hideously tacky. And while it does "talk" and make noises, the battery-powered interactivity cheerfully encourages good manners and good habits: "If you're looking for something to eat, fruits and vegetables make a tasty treat!" chimes Mrs. Goodbee when you open the fridge.

The dollhouse folds closed for storage and opens wide to reveal 11 rooms, far more than most dollhouses I've seen. There are five to six rooms on each side, making it easy for two kids to play at once without bashing elbows and fighting over of the furniture.

And speaking of furniture, while it includes basic furnishings built into the home, you'll probably want to invest $20-$40 in additional playsets--for the furniture and the people. The dollhouse alone only comes with a girl, a baby, a dog and a chair.

But enough with the product review, on to the dollhouse giveaway. I wanted Z's first experience with charity to meaningful and memorable for her, something far more personal than the Salvation Army truck. So I called Oak Park's own Hephzibah Children's Association and made arrangements to give the dollhouse to a six year old girl who lives in their group home for neglected and abused children.

On Sunday morning Z and I drove over to Hephzibah House and met M in the front room. Z showed M all of the cool things the dollhouse can do, flushing the toilet and turning on the radio while I learned more about the organization's 120 year history from their volunteer coordinator, Maureen McGoorty.

When it was clear the girls had hit it off, we took a tour of the home, seeing their playroom, library, kitchen, dining room and living quarters. M even showed Z her very own room before we headed outside. Z marveled that their backyard was "just like a park," furnished as it was with a playground, a treehouse and a gazebo. It's an amazing place, full of caring staff and kids (the average age was 8) who seemed well-adjusted and happy. Maureen told me that, while they have to find foster care placement or another environment for their children when they turn 12, they remain involved in their lives and over 90 percent finish high school--far better than the DCFS average. I wish they could care for every ward of the state, but they have room for only 27 children at a time.

I'm grateful to Whitney and to Learning Curve, the maker of the dollhouses for inspiring me to help Z learn to be grateful for all she has and about the importance of giving back. I plan to make giving a gift to a child at Hephzibah House an annual birthday tradition.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I'm not doing goodie bags

2There, I've said it. My children are young enough that I still love birthday parties, but I really dislike the party favor bags given away at the party's end. As much as I appreciate the effort and the generosity, my kids don't need another cellophane bag full of crap from Oriental Trading or the dollar store. Sure, my daughter is initially thrilled to get something on her way out, but frankly she doesn't need to be eating candy after downing all that cake and juice and the novelty items lose their novelty by the time we make it home.

As disposable as goodie bag junk is, I'm loathe to throw away the foam visors, unsharpened pencils, cheap sunglasses and battery-less mini flashlights. So they sit, gathering dust atop my refrigerator. A more "together" mom might bundle party favors into zip-top bags and bring them along to restaurant meals, but it's all I can do to remember the diaper bag, my phone and the house keys.

Anyway, my daughter's fourth birthday is rapidly approaching and we're throwing her a party at the local community center. I didn't stress about the guest list, the Costco cake or the invitations, but figuring out what to do about the damn party favors was keeping me up at night! I didn't want go mean mommy and cheap out completely, but I wanted to do something green. Something that didn't involve buying ugly plastic crap that was made in China (laced with lead?), shipped around the world and would only be played with for moments before becoming more landfill. Had money been no object, I would have purchased a Sigg water bottle for every attendee. But since we've got 20 RSVPs, I would have spent more on the bottles than I did on the room rental!

Finally, a solution came to me: gift certificates. I bought 20 certificates good for a free kid's ice cream cone at my favorite ice cream parlor, the very place that hosted my baby shower exactly four years ago. Each certificate cost $1.85, but I got 1 free for every 9 purchased.

I'm pretty pleased: I managed to find a party favor that's green, affordable and supports a local business. Yes, it's not all that healthy, but what do you want, a coupon good for a bag of carrots?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wherein Z hogs the spotlight

Here's a clip of A playing peek a boo by pulling Z's hat over her face. But it's hard to pay attention since Z keeps darting into view, filling the air with a bunch of nonsense. And she's typically pretty articulate...

Ah, sisterhood.

Untitled from almaklein on Vimeo.