Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Just then my Blackberry starts buzzing. It's Paula. "Oh good, you're back. I was so worried!" She races to tell me she's lost my house key and couldn't get in to feed Oscar that morning. She'd even had her mom (a well-known Oak Park family practice doctor) call some of our neighbors to see if they had a copy of our key.
I reassure Paula that Oscar's okay, she can come get her payment whenever and not to worry about the key. But that drama was small potatoes compared to what we were in for a few hours later.
Sunday night A wakes up, as she has been since campaigning to go Pull-Up free, at midnight. I take her to the potty, and then back to her crib. She hollers bloody murder, and after about half an hour of it, we bring her to our bed. She demands water, hogs the pillows and covers and kicks me in the face repeatedly. After a few stern warnings, Josh tells her the party's over and deposits her back in her crib. Hysterical crying commences and goes on for two bloody hours. At some point I close our door to minimize the damage to my eardrums and psyche.
Trapping Oscar inside.
Exhausted from the midnight battles, I sleep like the dead and don't hear the cat meowing and scratching at our door. Josh apparently does, but figures Oscar probably just wants to be fed.
Around 5:40, Josh wakes me up. "Um, I think Oscar might have..." I shift and find myself in the middle of a warm wet spot. How can A have wet the bed, I wonder, didn't we put her back in her room? Josh continues, "I think Oscar pooped in our room somewhere."
I dawns on me that the zoo like smell and the warm spot are probably connected and we start stripping our bed. The piss has soaked through our down comforter, sheets and mattress pad, but the mattress is still dry.
The good news is that our "dry clean or professionally launder" comforter comes our spotless and odor-free after a vinegar-enhanced trip through the washer and extended stay in the dryer (with a tennis ball). The bad news is that our room still smells. I sprinkle the carpet with baking powder, light candles and still the odor remains. I'm sniffing the mattress, wondering if somehow the cat piss has infected it when Josh discovers a giant cat turd in my walk-in closet. Gross, but at least he laid waste to my old Crocs instead of my new boots. And once that mess was cleaned up, the bedroom was fresh as a G-d damn daisy.
And we learned our lesson. Never keep a kitten from his litter box. And quit reinforcing A's bad habit of "sleeping in the big bed with Mama." Operation tough love began last night.
He didn't mean to be bad...
Friday, December 25, 2009
While the rest of America was unwrapping Snuggies and drinking hot cocoa, Josh and I drove the girls from Arlington, VA to West Chester, PA, home of my in-laws and resting place of my wedding dress, which I hadn't tried on in 10 1/2 years.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
While I've had brunch (and enjoyed the views) on top of the John Hancock Building a couple of times, until Monday I'd never been to the top of the Sears--nay, the Willis--Tower. Its taller, but due to its South Loop location, less glamorous than its Mag Mile skyscraping cousin.
But thanks to a tweetup organized by Kim Moldofsky, my whole family got to take in Chicago from 103 stories up. We were treated to free entry, oversized cookies, VIP line-jumping and unlimited photo-ops on the Skydeck Ledge, a brilliant example of tourist catnip if there ever was one.
Josh and I weren't scared. Z was a little cautious at first. And A wouldn't put her feet down anywhere near the glass.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Z with Evan, who she's loved since she was in diapers
Julia, one of Z's best friends, actually spent much of the evening leading A around by the hand.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Just a few days before Silver received her grim diagnosis, my friend Kirsten, a soft-hearted pet lover if there ever was one, rescued this kitten from an organic farm. It had been dumped on the property a few days beforehand and had been trying in vain to get into the farmhouse. The farmer didn't think he'd survive the winter as a barn/farm cat, so Kirsten and her equally soft-hearted mom scooped him up and brought him to Oak Park, determined to find the guy a home.
I just returned from a two week visit to Australia, where my sister lives with her Australian husband and their family. As far as foreign countries go, it takes a long, long time to get there, but it is pretty familiar territory once you land. A thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan city, Sydney kind of looks like Southern California, complete with tattooed surfers, texting teenagers, Target, McDonald's, Subway and KFC outlets.
But Australia isn't America Down Under, and they've got a few things I'd like to import.
1. Public Health Care
Yeah, this is a big one. No one in Australia goes uninsured. Everyone has access to the state-run Medicare plan. Yes, you might have to wait a few months to get non-emergency work done, but you won't have to mortgage your house or go bankrupt to pay for it. Once your household reaches a certain income level, you can pay a penalty (I believe it is $2000) to stay in the public plan or you can opt to buy private insurance. In my sister's case, private insurance cost about the same as the penalty but got her access to "fancier" care like a post-partum recovery suite at a local hotel where she had catered meals and 24/7 access to a private maternity nurse.
2. Enforcement of Driving Laws
Obviously regulations vary from place to place in the U.S., but at least in Chicago it takes a lot to get yourself pulled over and a whole lot to lose your license. In Australia traffic fines are high, enforcement is constant (traffic cameras and random roadblocks with breathalyzer tests are common) and it isn't uncommon to meet someone who has lose his or her license for 6 months for accumulating too many points. Yeah, there's a little less freedom on the open road, but I didn't see anyone speeding, talking or texting while driving. In general, drivers were courteous and pedestrians respected.
3. More Natural Foods
I couldn't find a single processed food item in Australia with high fructose corn syrup. Not Heinz ketchup, not Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail, not peanut butter, jelly or crackers. The candy Smarties (basically Nestle's answer to M&Ms) was running an outdoor campaign touting "no artificial colors." Even Kraft Singles were a natural shade of white instead of orange. The egg selection at the store was a revelation. Each package described not only whether the eggs were organic or free range, but whether they were raised in a barn or a field. And they were delicious.
4. Dual Flush Toilets
It doesn't take a genius to know that you don't need the same amount of water to wash away number 1 as you do for number 2. In Australia, whether you're at a public restroom or at home, you select your flush. It just makes so much sense. Can someone please explain to me why dual flush toilets haven't taken off in the U.S.?
5. Parents with Prams Parking
I was astonished to find that my sister's local shopping center, an indoor mall with a Target, Big W (Walmart), a bunch of mall-type boutiques and a food court, had an entire section of the parking garage dedicated to "parents with prams" (that's strollers to us Yanks). Those not headed to family parking don't even pass through! Imagine how wonderful it would be to park close to the entrance in a special lot where every other driver is on the lookout for small children on the loose and no one will impatiently tap their steering wheel as they wait for you to fold up your stroller and buckle two wiggly kids into their car seats.
There are lots of other things I'd like to bring home from Australia, like warm weather, sandy beaches, roundabouts, flat white coffees and honeycomb as an ingredient in indulgent treats (ice cream, gelato, chocolate bars and butter). I'll pass on the harsh sun, rampant wildfires, poisonous snakes, enormous spiders and roaches and Vegemite.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
I've mentioned my beloved flat white (espresso with milk), but did I you know Aussies call bell peppers capsicums and raisins sultanas?
That strollers are prams, cribs are cots, sweaters are jumpers, preschool is kindy, diapers are nappies and pacis are dummies? Also elevators are lifts, drugstores are chemists and friends are mates...
Incidentally, I packed two boxes of regular (yellow box) Cheerios for my sister since the only kind they sell are these presweetened multigrain Os.
I also found it interesting that, while Gerber dominates the American baby food market, Heinz has it cornered in Australia, selling everything from jarred purees to toddler snacks.
Even fast food outlets are a little different. Subway was heavily promoting its new Chicken Tikka sandwich and I'm guessing you'll recognize this fast food restaurant...
Apparently someone had already trademarked Burger King down under.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
She complained she couldn't sleep, so understanding mom that I am, I let her drag her comforter and pillow to our bedroom floor. And that's when the fun really started. A, who'd been moaning for Mommy off and on for about an hour, escalated her demands to a full-throttle holler. So I brought her to bed.
Fifteen minutes later Z was standing next the bed, tears running down her cheeks. She wanted to snuggle Mommy too. Since A seemed mostly content and our bed really isn't build for 4, I led Z back to her room and promised to lie down with her there.
Minutes later A was crying for Mommy and Z's telling me she "doesn't want A to lose her voice." So the two of us headed back to my room. Two small children in mom and dad's bed in the middle of the night -- two small children whose brains think it is the middle of the day even though it is the middle of the night... it was a party that had Dad running out before midnight and them keeping me up until after 2.
I've got my fingers crossed that an early morning plus melatonin at bedtime will mean a more rested me as I head back to work tomrorow.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
My last flat white of the trip
Friday morning in Sydney we awoke--as usual--around 6am. I fed the kids a light breakfast, showered and finished packing. I hit Big W (the Australian Walmart) for new coloring books and snacks for the plane while Josh kept an eye on the kiddos at the mall playland (big box and grocery stores are frequently located inside malls in Oz) and then we met up with Eleanor, Simon and Sam for breakfast at Bill's, the first place we'd gone to in Australia when we last visited in 2004, and the chef/cafe behind a couple of our favorite cookbooks.
From left: Josh, A, me, Z, Eleanor, Sam and Simon
After sharing plates of scrambled eggs, ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and corn fritters, we headed over to Centennial Park (the Sydney equivalent of NYC's Central Park) with Eleanor and Sam (Eliza was at daycare) for a final hour under the intense southern hemisphere sun. I hadn't brought a hat or sunscreen, and my skin was starting to turn pink in 15 minutes. The stay-at-home moms were out in force and far more prepared for the heat and UV rays--they'd all set up picnic blankets in the shade and were laying out hats, suncream, umbrellas and water bottles.
Fair Z knows how to avoid a sunburn
At 12:30 we returned to Eleanor's and changed into our air travel clothes. It was 32 degrees celsius as we arrived at the Sydney airport--driven, as it turned out, by the most incompetent cab driver in the world. We should have known something was up when her words, after we'd belted in our kids, were "So you know the way, right?" We--the out-of-towners--had to guide her to the airport as she braked and signaled randomly through intersections, causing the usually polite Australian drivers to lay on their horns. As we approached the airport, she asked, 5 times, which airline we were taking. Each time we said "United" and she replied with "Okay, American."
We boarded our plane at 2:40 and took off, on time, at 3:30pm Sydney time. After 13 hours in the air, we arrived in LA at 9:30am. Nothing like flying over the international date line to get you to move backwards through time. LAX was a nightmare of standing in line after line with cranky kids, but our four hour 12:30 flight to Chicago was a (relative) piece of cake. We got home at 7:30pm, completing the world's longest Friday when we collapsed in our own bed at 10pm.
20+ hours of travel with two kids is really not much worse than 10 hours of travel with young kids, but the lack of sleep and constant catering to their whims is a real brain draining. I woke up this morning to the realization that, after paying our cabbie last night, I left my wallet in the taxi. Which means that, in addition to leaving Z's Leapster 2 (and all of its games) on a Jetstar flight from Byron Bay to Sydney, I lost my drivers license, ATM card, one credit card and $250 in cash coming home.
Oh well, I'm still calling the trip a success. More Australia posts to come. Soon. And more pictures can be seen here.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I'm typing this from Byron Bay, at the very easternmost point in Australia. We're sharing a beach house with my sister, her family, and her mother-in-law. We're swimming in the ocean, building sand castles, napping in the breezes and eating really, really well. (My sister married into a family of foodies.)
Z's shaken her sickness. It appears that despite her double vaccinations against the flu and H1N1, she caught one of the two viruses (the latter, most likely).
I think I'll try handgliding before the week is out and we return to Sydney. Then get ready for a more in-depth update and PHOTOS.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I pride myself in being an excellent juggler. I can't literally keep three balls in the air, but I somehow manage working full time, being an involved mother to two little girls, serving as co-president of our Montessori school and studying for my Bat Mitvzah.
So it was inevitable that something would fall through the cracks.
My sister, who lives in Australia, called me at work on Wednesday afternoon.
"Are you all packed and ready to go? Do you leave tonight or tomorrow?" she asked.
"Oh, we don't take off until Friday night," I responded.
"Um, it takes two days to get here and I'm picking you up at the airport on Saturday. Are you sure you leave on Friday? Check your itinerary."
Gulp. I leave Thursday. In just over 24 hours! My stomach dropped and I start furiously sending emails--while still talking to my sister, who lives in Australia. Tell husband. Tell the housesitter. Find alternate transportation to the airport. Cancel daughter's haircut. Finish up at work a day ahead of schedule. My multitasking skills shot into overdrive as I tried to figure out how I, planner extraordinaire, could screw up the day of our flight--for a trip I've been planning for 6 months.
Thanks to my sister's phone call, we got out right on time. I can't bear to think about what would have happened if we'd shown up at the airport on Friday.
Originally posted to Chicago Moms Blog
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
We finished our morning with lunch at Katy's Dumpling House, and as we drove home, windows down and A drifting off to sleep, I felt so, so lucky. Fresh air and time spent with good friends--it was exactly what I needed.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tomorrow is Z's birthday, so tonight I wrapped and hid presents around the house and wrote clues for her to follow. I also made Smitten Kitchen's Brown Butter Crispy Treats. Because I love Rice Crispy Treats, brown butter and salt.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
A promptly stripped off the pirate costume and pulled on the Tinkerbell dress from last week (which, if you recall, replaced the bumble bee costume we'd originally agreed on). Here she is freezing her tushie off with her BFF Stella.
Z unzipped her furry, warm monkey costume because she was self-conscious about the big belly (really? does this need to start now?) and put on the 2T pirate costume previously modeled by her little sister.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The granite and deep stainless steel undermount sink are by Granite Design. Andy from the Good Handyman is coordinating the work.
Up next: bone white subway tile backsplash, new cabinet pulls, enhanced under cabinet lighting over the sink and some touch-up painting.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Still, as soon as we got to Z's school, A shouted "I'm a scary bumble bee!"
Tink got her face painted and then spilled water down her dress, rendering it too uncomfortable for her to bear. For the last 45 minutes of the event, my youngest was clad in flowery underpants, Crocs with socks and a Dora t-shirt from a friend's box of spare clothes.
Z wore her Cinderella costume, as planned. As did her friend with the same name. Two Zs, two Cinderellas. (Actually, there were at least 3 Disney Cinderellas wandering through the gym.)
And here's Evan, Z's friend since her pre-walking days at daycare, as sweet and photogenic as ever. That kid kisses more babies than your average local politician.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Speaking of vaccinations, this month's Wired cover story has a pretty good cover story called An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endanger Us All.