Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm a gamblin' ma'am

As much fun as my solo dining experience was on Wednesday night, I was up for some dinner and conversation yesterday so I got ballsy and asked a someone out of a date. Sort of. I'm mean I'm married and she's married, but hell, we were two women at a marketing conference who kinda sorta know one person in common. What did I have to lose?

We ate at Wolfgang Puck's Trattoria Del Lupo, where a French waiter served us Italian goodies like wine, salad and a four cheese and prosciutto pizza. Then Theresa marched me over to the craps table and convinced me to throw away $20 on a little gambling. Between craps (which I still don't fully understand) and Blackjack, which I do (I mean, yes, I can count), I ended up doubling my money and walking away with $40!

Oh, and have I mentioned the people watching in Las Vegas? Where else in the world can you see hundreds of black-clad goth girls with asymmetrical haircuts (Paul Mitchell stylist convention) elbowing alongside the a bunch of slow-walking, slow-talking middle-aged white guys with oversized hats and belt buckles (MacDon agricultural equipment dealers)? I spotted a bridal party, some Harley toughs, extended families playing poker and a surprising number of crashed out babies dozing in their strollers as their mamas sucked down foot-tall frozen cocktails. Yes, there is no open container law in Vegas. Or dress code. Or taste, for the most part.

But there is excellent food, and for that reason I'm glad I'll be coming back next month.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

At THEhotel

Not just any hotel, mind you. I'm staying at THEhotel, the casino-free high rise adjacent to Mandalay Bay where everything is black and cream and smells like vanilla. My room is very luxurious. Three sinks (not including the bar), two toilets, a glassed in shower stall and a tub big enough for a dolphin. But the fancier the hotel room, the fewer the freebies. An internet connection costs $14.99 a day and there's no in-room coffee maker or hair dryer. There are, however, three flat screen TVs, so I can lounge in the tub and watch MTV if I so desired.

Here's the view from my window. Parking lots and the airport. And no, that's not a ghost stadium hovering over the concrete; it's a reflection from a lamp in my room.

I hoofed it north this morning and had a buffet breakfast at the Luxor hotel--mainly because at $12.99 it was cheaper than a bowl of cereal from room service. I loaded up on fruit, granola and eggs with chorizo, but couldn't shake the feeling that the place smelled more like latent B.O. than freshly brewed coffee. And yes, in case you were wondering, the casinos were fully operational at 7am. I even saw a man in shorts and a polo shirt sipping a Heineken while feeding the one-armed bandit.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doughnuts make everything better

Since the guys who used to prepare our taxes sold their business and parted ways with the accountant who used to work with us, we decided they weren't worth the haul up to Wilmette. I found a locally recommended office in Forest Park and Josh, A and I spent a full hour in a hot, windowless, drab office reviewing our piles of paperwork with our new CPA, Anna.

She seemed uber-thorough, bringing to light the utter slackness of our previous preparer. Whatever. I'm just glad she's nearby, on the ball and probably a bit cheaper than the old company.

I made to work halfway through our weekly status meeting, but since I brought a box of enormous and oh-so-delicious lemon, raspberry and apricot Paczkis, I was crowned Miss Popularity. I'm so glad Paczkis are only sold two days a year (they're a Fat Tuesday tradition), because they are irresistible.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Online dating, vicariously

One of my beautiful, single co-workers just joined an online dating site and watching her peruse her so-called "matches" before dumping loser after weirdo in the "fizzle" bin just might be the most fun way to waste time at work ever.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Theology from a 4-year-old

Z brought up G-d again this morning, which meant that as I was driving her to preschool, I was trying to explain that G-d is everywhere, but most importantly in our hearts. If we listen to the little voice inside us, I said, we're listening to G-d and we will know how to make the right choice and do good to others. For example, I said, if you listen to your heart, do you think it's better to push your sister or hug your sister?

"Hug my sister!" Z shouted. Great, I thought. But then she started her own little sermon on G-d, which I'm going to do my best to capture here.

"Everybody has a little G-d in their hearts. But G-d is also in the air. Is G-d a boy or a man?"

"G-d could be a man or a woman. G-d's not a person and since G-d's invisible, we don't know what he looks like."

"Well, his name is G-d and that sounds like a boy's name." What, because it rhymes with Todd?

"Oh, I know something, Mommy! Can I tell you an example? Girls and women have girl gods inside them and boys and men have boy gods inside their tummies. And we have to listen to the G-d inside us and do the right thing. Does that sound like a good idea?"

Sure, honey. It does.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lovin' on some babies

Could I have picked a cuter photo for my 1000th blog post?

Josh and I took the girls to visit Jodi and her 2 week old baby Eviana this evening. We brought soup, granola and two onesies that I'd personalized with iron-on letters. One with the baby's name and one with "Old School," since Jodi and Peter own and operate our favorite local record store, The Old School Records.

Z and A went bananas for Eviana. Z cradled the sleepy baby in her arms (with the support of a Boppy pillow) for a long time, and proclaimed that she wanted to hold a baby "all day, every day." When we finally made her give Eviana up so that Josh could have a turn, little sister A grabbed herself a Boppy and reached up with both arms for her turn with Eviana. We didn't let her hold the baby, but she got in lots of caresses and kisses. When she wasn't demanding her turn with the infant, A was terrorizing Jodi's dogs, reprogramming her television and secreting Eviana's bottle in our backpack. Sneaky kid.

Interestingly enough, on the way home, A popped out her paci and said, quite clearly "Ev-a! Baby!" I asked Z what she thought of the baby and she said "Her head is very, very warm."

They said it best: Kids will not save your marriage

Everyone knows nothing quite tests a marriage like a couple of kids, but comparing 1 and 1 makes 4 to Survivor and The Amazing Race? Kind of brilliant, really.

Go read Her Bad Mother: The Amazing Survivor Race Challenge: Parenting Edition

But before you do, can I add that this race lasts 18 consecutive seasons with no hiatus, costs an arm and a leg to enter and offers no million dollar prizes or free trips to exotic locations?

What? You've already signed the reality show release form and confidentiality policy? In that case, cheer up with My Funny, Funny Family: Babies Don't Necessarily Make You Miserable.

Monday, February 16, 2009

CoCo Key Water Resort: Or, how we wiped out the kids in 2.5 hours

Was CoCo Key worth the $93 I paid for 3 full-price tickets (kids under 2 are free and I saved $8 per ticket using the promo code PARENT)? No. Emphatically no.

There's nothing wrong with the place, which is located in a Sheraton Hotel just north of IKEA. It was packed and loud but not chaotic. The locker rooms and pool areas were very clean. There were plenty of fresh towels and attentive lifeguards, and there's plenty to do.

If you're big and brave enough that is. Z is not.

We arrived right before the park opened and spent another $5 to secure a locker. We were in the water just after 10, and we stayed wet until we left around 12:30. (By 12:35 both kids were sound asleep in the backseat.)

We spent most of the time in the tamer little kids area, which has lots of water sprays, dumping buckets, a mini basketball court and 3 easy water slides. A had a blast, but didn't like having water splashed on her face. Because of all the water works, it was tough to find a spot for her to motor unmolested by buckets of water on her head. Both Josh and I took the girls on an inner tube on the lazy river, which they loved. There were tons of wild and crazy water slides and a water play ground that we didn't even venture near--but it looked like the late elementary and middle school-aged kids were in hog heaven.

Basically, I need to get the kids to a pool way more often in the winter, but this water park was way more than we needed for more than I cared to spend. Perhaps we'll try a half-day pass to the even-closer Mayan Adventure next time. Carrie managed to take her family there for just $15 a head!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Girl, you'll be a woman soon (in 1.5 years)

We took the girls to the Garfield Park Conservatory today. That as after Z had a morning playdate, Josh and I took A to our new favorite grocery store, Tony's Finer Foods, and I had my weekly introduction to Hebrew class.

Speaking of Hebrew, I've pretty much mastered the aleph-bet and can stumble my way through most of the words in my workbook. So I'm taking the next logical step (ha!) and signing myself up for at least a year and a half's worth of preparation for my Bat Mitzvah. Yes, I'm crazy. I just mastered my Hebrew ABCs and now I'm going to be learning how, not just to read Torah, but to chant it. On top of working full time, raising two little girls, blogging and everything else, I'm going to learn to read Hebrew fluently and master the marks of cantillation (basically an ancient form of musical notation). There's no way I'd take this on if my friend Nancy wasn't doing it alongside me. She's a single mom of two who also works full time in advertising and teaches fitness classes on the side, so if she can squeeze this into her life, I can too. And believe it or not, I'm not the only Chicago Moms Blog contributor embarking on an adult Bat Mitzvah.

My office is closed tomorrow, so I'm taking the family on a one day pretend vacation. We're heading to CoCo Key, an indoor water park in Arlington Heights.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Valentine's Day that wasn't

I finally got wished a "Happy Valentine's Day" today at 7:36pm, just as Josh was heading out the door to a concert he's assigned to review.

No flowers. No cards. No chocolate or lingerie.

No surprise, really. Fortunately for him, my expectations were pretty darn low. Sure, I didn't do anything for him, but I feel like I get a pass because 1. I'd fully feted his birthday just three days ago and 2. I'm the girl. Doesn't that count for something?

Anyway, it's a stupid Hallmark holiday so I can't get the lacy red panties I didn't get in a bunch. If Josh is smart (or reading this), maybe he'll surprise me later with a heart-shaped box of candy from the Walgreen's clearance aisle or flowers on a day when they're not marked up 50%. That would be a man after my own heart.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You shouldn't do laundry on your birthday

Today is Josh's birthday. In his honor, I took him out to breakfast at the Depot American Diner and then bored him nearly to death at Target. I was combining a typical stock-up trip (diapers, contact solution, laundry detergent) with a store check for work, which means I spent a good deal of time taking stealth photos of beauty displays.

Tonight I'm taking Josh out again, this time to HotChocolate, and we'll also be swinging by the Alliance Bakery, where there's a lemon and fresh raspberry cake with his name on the buttercream. I'm also helping him pick out and buy a new suit at some point. He bought his current one for our wedding, almost 10 years ago!

But I think my nicest present of all is going to have to be my forgiveness. Josh threw a never-been-washed-before green throw rug into the laundry with a white load today and ruined every last item in the wash. But since it's his birthday, I officially don't care.

Update: I had a glass of wine and the cheddar melt, which was amazing: pumpernickel bread, artisanal cheddar, local honey and a side of granny smith apple slaw. Josh had mixed greens with pomegranate seeds and the duck cassoulet, which looked very rich. We split the peanut butter cup milkshake and went home for teeny weeny slices of his birthday cake. I swear I went to bed looking 5 months pregnant with a food baby.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pictures of the Goony Sisters


Excuse me neighbor, your dog doo is a don't

AlmaAs any Chicagoan knows, there's a dark side to any thaw in the weather: dog poop. As the snow melts, it reveals piles of piles that unscrupulous dog owners have "buried" beneath the white stuff. I don't appreciate having to navigate all the newly-exposed crap on my walk home from the train station, but keeping my small children and their strollers, bikes and small feet away from it, that really gets under my skin.

So imagine how delighted I was as I took my kids for a walk yesterday to watch a dog take a dump--not on the frozen tundra--but on my neighbor's newly exposed grass. And the woman walking the dog just walked away.

"Excuse me," I called after her, "aren't you going to pick up after your dog?"

"Not with my bare hands," she replied.

"You don't have a bag with you?" I asked, incredulously.


"So are you the reason I've been picking up so much dog poop from my front yard for the past couple of months?" I asked.

"Probably," she said, and continued walking away.

This woman's got me steamed. She lives in an apartment building around the corner from me and she knows I know where she lives; I'd just seen her leave her building! She didn't even pretend she'd "just forgotten" a plastic bag or say she'd "be right back" to clean up her dog's mess. I guess some people have no shame.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I've got a friend in the NY Times

If you've ever thought for a moment that women with a minivan full of kids are cockoo crazy, religious nutjobs or both, meet fellow Chicago Moms Blog contributor Meagan Francis. I've had the pleasure of meeting her and her four well-behaved boys (she's pregnant with her first girl) a few times in the past couple of years, and I'm thrilled to see she's representing for larger families in the New York Times.

Want to be thin and rich? Learn to cook.

The news that high fructose corn syrup has mercury in it didn't shock me. It's a substance I avoid. After all, no one cooks dinner for the family or bakes a batch of cookies for the preschool class with pantry bottle of HFCS. It's an industrial ingredient in processed foods. (You can learn more about HFCS from Mothergoosemouse.)
You see, processed foods aren't good for you. Or me. Or anyone else, really. I haven't read In Defense of Food, but I know that the more we eat factory food and restaurant food, the fatter we get because we really don't know what we're eating. Want shocking proof? Check out Men's Health's 20 Worst Foods in America.

Fortunately, this economic downtown might result in a healthier America, and not just because the Obama Administration favors health care for all Americans. I'm talking about people saving money by pulling out their dusty pots and pans and opening a cookbook. (Interestingly, I just read in Rob Walker's Buying In that 80% of Viking stove owners don't cook.

Get Rich Slowly: How to Feed Yourself for $15 a Day
Simple Mom: 18 Everyday Hacks for Cooking from Scratch

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mommyblogging for fun or profit

I mentioned earlier this week that my blogging and professional life were coming together nicely in the form of a trip to Las Vegas to sit on a panel with other, more famous mom bloggers (to be named later) and talk to corporate leaders about what moms want from them. But that's not all. I've also working behind the scenes at my agency to help them and my client understand how to better partner with the mommyblogging world. Mom bloggers are influencers in real life and online, and because their influence is Googleable from here to eternity, courting them is going to be a priority to marketers--at least in the short term.

But here's the rub. One of the questions I've been asked recently is whether so many mommybloggers have embraced companies, going on trips and accepting freebies, that they'll been seen as sell-outs and lose their credibility. I maintained that the best bloggers are sensitive to the issue: they know that if they sacrifice their honest voice to become corporate shills they'll alienate their readers. And what's a mom blog without any readers? A diary, basically.

Mocha Momma put up an interesting post on a related topic this week, railing against women whose motivation to start a blog is getting free stuff from companies. Which, if you think about it, makes very little sense. If readers what to know about your favorite hand cream, it needs to be in the context of your life. And if you don't have a readership to start with, no company worth its salt is going to send you free hand cream.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A very, very good hair day

I'll probably never again replicate my hair stylist's meticulous flat-ironing, but I Linksure feel glamorous today!

And, I got some very exciting news...I'm going to be on a panel of mommybloggers
before an audience of retail and CPG (that's consumer packaged goods) bigwigs
so I can help them understand what moms want from brands and stores. It's the perfect opportunity for me since I've been on both sides of the shopping cart, so to speak.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I'd lose my head if it wasn't screwed on

Today I set a record for things lost or forgotten in 8 hours.

My hat. I'd only just bought this hat to replace the hat I'd left on the El train 2 weeks ago. And if you guessed I left it on the train, well, you'd be right. Bonus points if you also know that I managed to lose the hat a friend had so kindly loaned me while I was hatless. Which basically means I'll have spent $32 + $32 + whatever it costs to reimburse my friend and I'm still without a hat. In Chicago. In February.

What else did I forget? My workout clothes. I made it to my favorite weight-training class at noon and grabbed a spot only to discover my shorts and shirt weren't in my locker. Did I take them home or leave them in the changing room last week? Honestly, I have no idea.

So I decided to use my lunch hour to look for a dress to wear to a NYC wedding I'm attending next month. I didn't find a dress, but I did leave my necklace in the changing room. (I've since returned to claim it.)

I also forgot my period starts today. Which means I forgot to bring Tampax.

So I can't keep track of my clothes, accessories or monthly cycle, but I did reach into my coat pocket to discover that, in addition to remembering my house keys, I brought a pacifier to work.