Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sometimes Mom needs a little mothering

My mom was here this weekend, and thank G-d. I wasn't sick, I'm not pregnant and no major crises were looming, but I'd been burning my metaphorical candle at both ends for so long I just wanted to hang up my Supermom cape for a couple of days.

So I let myself be mothered. Mom got up with A and fed her breakfast. She helped with dishes and laundry, and ran to Trader Joe's for me (and paid!). She babysat for A on Monday, playing Play-Doh and choo-choo for hours. She even taught her her colors!

She cooked me my favorite meals on Sunday and Monday nights and prepared macaroni and cheese for us to eat after she and Rick left this morning. It was awesome.

There's nothing quite like being a mother to make you appreciate being mothered. Thank you, Mom.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I sent my child 3000 miles away

Z's in England with Josh, visiting his sister until Thursday. Check out their adventures over on Josh's blog.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The magic of CIO

This morning A woke up again at 5am with the insistent call of "Mama, Mama," but as promised I popped a pair of earplugs in and did my best to ignore her wails.

She cried for 10-15 minutes and fell asleep. She cried for me again, briefly at 5:25 and 5:40, before sleeping soundly until 6:45, when she woke up babbling happily. I never, in my wildest pre-child dreams, would have considered 6:45am "sleeping in," but I'll take it, thank you.

She was a delight all day--didn't fall asleep in the car or have more than a couple of unreasonable tantrums. She also let me put her down once in a while instead of clinging to me like the overtired basket case she's been for the past week. And it was good that she was on her good behavior because my mom and stepdad arrived this morning for a visit--and unusual visit in that Josh and Z just took off for England for a 5 night trip to visit his sister. So for three days it will be a 3 to 1 adult to child ratio. Heaven!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sleeplessness is a bitch

Have you read Hellhole in this week's New Yorker? Its a compelling, if awfully depressing article about how even short term stays in solitary isolation damage our brains. We're such social creatures that, if denied any human contact, we lose the ability to relate to others. POWs say solitary is just as torturous as bone-breaking physical torment.

At the risk of trivializing the subject, I want to talk for a minute about a different kind of torture: sleep deprivation. Our darling 20 month old has been moving her wake-up hour ever earlier, standing in her crib and calling "Mama" at 5, even 4am. We've been completely unsuccessful at soothing her back to sleep, and figuring that wretched rest is better than lying in bed listening to her scream bloody murder, we've brought her to bed with us for the last week or so.

But A does not curl up next to me and fall back asleep like a little angel. She climbs over me, tugs on and identifies my body parts, nestles her hard-plastic paci-mouth into my trachea and generally bugs the shit out of me until demanding "Down!" At which point Josh (bless his heart) takes her downstairs and rewards her bad behavior with an early-morning screening of Sesame Street. "Elmo!" I hear her exclaiming with delight.

Thanks to A, we're fried. Something's got to change, and I'm steeling myself for tomorrow morning, when I will be instituting "solitary confinement" in A's well-appointed baby jail. I will be strong. I will be ruthless. I will be buying earplugs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A quick account of my whirlwind trip to Vegas

Wynn Las Vegas, very swanky
Yesterday morning was one of my proudest moments. I joined Liz, Christine and Lynnae on stage in from of 750 badge-wearing conference-goers where we sat Oprah-style on upholstered chairs and talked about the economy, the relationships retailers and brands need to build with shoppers and why they should care about what we bloggers think and say.

We told them we're wise to the grocery shrink ray. We're worried about food and drug safety. We want to eliminate HFCS and reduce wasteful packaging. We want to know about the people behind the products and about how the company treats its employees. We want transparency and a two-way dialogue with our favorite brands. We listed examples of companies that are listening and responding to consumers and offered a quick crash course in social networking.

The audience was filled with raised hands during a 15 minute Q and A and feedback about the session has been overwhelmingly positive.

But Las Vegas wasn't all stage lights and cordless mics. I got to hang out with Liz (of Mom-101 and Cool Mom Picks fame), who is even funnier in person than she is online. She regaled me with stories of her glamorous life as a high-powered NYC creative director at Deutsch in the 1990s and taught me how to play Blackjack (I was doing it all wrong). And as if it wasn't cool enough that we're both started our careers as big agency copywriters, we're also both partnered with guys with nontraditional careers and mothers to girls the same ages.

Liz in front of one of the Wynn waterfalls
Last night Larry took all the mom bloggers out to eat at Switch, a restaurant in the Wynn complex that uses some magical stagecraft to change d├ęcor every 30 minutes. I had a lobster salad, lamb chops and a peanut butter chocolate lava cake with bananas. It was fabulous-as it well should be for the price!

Lamb chops
After dinner we went to the nightclub Blush for complimentary champagne and a chance to feel really old and modestly attired.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We're like a secret tribe

Since I started at my current agency, two of my fellow P&G creatives started personal blogs. I'm going to go ahead and take some credit for that. Megan Boley started MegaGood, a beautifully photographed site that celebrates good food, great design, the beauty of our city and the loveliness of being a newlywed with no kids. Seriously, I think she and her husband eat waffle breakfasts in their beautifully made-up bed--with their cats--every day.

Bobbi Bowers is an even more recent addition to El Blogosphere, and I was thrilled that she discovered my copy room commentary and submitted it to Failblog! It was so meta to see my handwriting on her blog while I'm out of the office.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Viva Las Vegas (again)

I'm flying to Las Vegas tomorrow (and staying at the swanky Wynn!) where I'm going to be on the Mom Blogger Panel at the CPG Summit. I'll be in the company of three top bloggers, Liz from Mom-101, Lynnae from Being Frugal and Christine of From Dates to Diapers, as we tell 750 men (and yes, they're mostly men) why consumer packaged goods companies would be wise to pay attention to mom bloggers. Just like other mothers, we buy breakfast cereal, detergent, crackers and juice--but we talk about it more than anyone else and our conversations are linked to, Twittered and forever Googleable.

Beware the brand that pisses off a blogging parent. We can use our power for good (Z Recs raised awareness of BPA in baby bottles and now they're going bye-bye for good) and for bad (the ongoing hysteria regarding vaccines and autism), but you can't ignore us. Make that shouldn't. Portillo's continues to ignore me even as my old blog post gets 50 hits a day from folks looking for nutrition information.

Incidentally, I logged into Southwest's website to print out my boarding pass just 6 minutes after the check-in process opened this morning and I'm 22 bodies into Group B for my flight. I know my fellow SWA flyers are a pushy lot, but 82 of them set their alarms for 9:40?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm 99 percent sure our house isn't haunted

Nothing says "welcome to the neighborhood" like "your house was the scene of a brutal crime," which may explain why it took nearly 6 years for someone to tell me that a mentally unstable man killed his 70 year old mother, hacked her to pieces and lived with her decomposing body parts back in 1976. Apparently it took 4 days before a next door neighbor got suspicious and called the police.

I finally got the story from the youngest daughter of my recently deceased elderly neighbor. She and her husband have been cleaning out the house, which has been in their family since it was built in 1910 (the same year our house was built).

Now that my curiosity has been piqued, I'm going to try to find out more about the crime. One of my neighbors moved across the street just 4 months before the murder and she's promised to sit down and tell me what she knows. I'll post any updates here. And, in case you're wondering, I've never gotten any bad vibes from the house. I've always felt very safe here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Evolution of a child artist

I never really saw the allure of kids' art until I became a mother. Now I'm one of those moms with my child's drawings up all over my office. Here's a taste of Z's oeuvre today.

She described this as a picture of herself "singing like the Little Mermaid in a dress covered in diamonds and ruffles." All of her pictures of girls include a long, long hair and a crown. Princess fascination, anyone?
In think she's come a long way since this February 2008 picture of our family.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Idle threats

I give Z a nightly massage, and she likes me to tickle her stomach with my fingertips. "Mommy, tickle me with your fingers and don't let your hands come down. If your hand touches, I'm going to take away all your earrings and all your necklaces and all your bracelets."

She also threatened me with the following in an attempt to keep me from leaving her room and going downstairs: "If you leave me, I'll be very upset and I won't let you put me to bed ever again!" She must have caught the glint in my eye, because she followed that up with "And I won't draw you in any of my pictures!"

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I don't have any rants today, so you may wish to close your browser and nuke yourself a refrigerated Oscar Mayer sandwich. If you're going to stick around, though, lemme tell you the headlines from the House of Klein.

ITEM! We purchased tickets to Australia. All four of us will endure 20+ hours of air travel in United economy class for the pleasure of seeing my sister, brother-in-law, niece and yet-to-be-born nephew. The trip's not until November, and I'm having some difficulty imagining what it will be like with a 5 year old and a 2 year old, since I don't even know what regular life will be like with kids that old! I'm really looking forward to seeing my sis and her fam, whom I won't have seen in a year and a half, and watching the cousins run wild in her shared backyard, which was apparently equipped with consultation from Pee-Wee's Playhouse: trampoline, sandbox, garden, chickens and a dog. Oh, and they live 2 blocks from the beach. Woo-hoo!

ITEM! I saw Coraline in 3-D last night, and it was a triple-decker ice cream cone for my eyes. I tried not to get too wrapped up in the plot and surrendered myself the magical art direction and 3-D effects.

ITEM! I'm throwing a clothes swap party early next month. I picked a day when a lot of people are out of town for spring break, but I think I'll get enough yes responses to ensure a lively evening of wine, food and free wardrobe upgrades. If you read this blog and live locally, drop me a line and I'll send you the Evite.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A chip off the house

The junk truck that's been emptying out 40 years of accumulated stuff from our recently deceased neighbor's house took a softball-sized chunk out of our house on Friday. The guy who owned the truck, a small-time guy who looks well past retirement age, has acknowledged the mistake and promised he'll fix it up as soon as the weather improves. I hope he's as honest as he sounds because all I've got is his name, his telephone number and his word. I'm excited and a little nervous about the possibility of having new neighbors to our south. Clem, the woman who passed, was in her early 90s and barely there. Needless to say, we haven't had to share our shared driveway much. I'm hoping another young family moves in since the connected backyards get treated as one big playground in the summer months.

Speaking of summer, it did warm up quite a bit this weekend. After wearing silk long underwear to fend off a 17 degree chill on Wednesday, I hit the park in just a long-sleeved tee and jeans today. The kids are delighted with the spring-like weather. Z biked nearly 2 miles each day and A learned the joys of the teeter-totter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Evolution of a night light

Z does not like to sleep quietly in the dark, that much is clear. She's a door open, lights on and music playing kind of kid, and for a few years she's supplemented the hall and bathroom light spillover with a low-wattage red plastic table lamp from IKEA.

There was something wild and a little spooky about checking in on your little one only to see her bathed in blood red light, but it worked. Still, Z didn't always go right to sleep and I worried that she was straining her eyes as she "read" books by crimson glow.

So I was delighted to replace the IKEA lamp with the woefully-named but wonderfully designed Sylvania PalPODzzz Portable Night Light. (Seriously, who named that thing and what were they thinking?!) This little light-sensitive rocketship now sits on Z's dresser and starts glowing as her room gets dark. Pick it up off its cradle and it's a powerful LED flashlight for looking at books and scaring away monsters after lights out.

Did I mention its rechargeable? Z, like all kids, loves flashlights, but since I don't like the cost or environmental consequences of buying batteries in bulk, I've limited their access to flashlights. But since this one is rechargable, there are no batteries to run through. Plus, since Z always puts it back in the cradle to glow, hers is the one flashlight in the house that I'll be able to find when the electricity goes out.

See what other bloggers has to say about the Sylvania PalPODzzz Night Light over at Parent Bloggers Network.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The case against breastfeeding?

Just reading the title, The Case Against Breastfeeding, raised my hackles. But the more I read, the more I found myself nodding along with Hanna Rosin's article in the most recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

Like me, the author nursed all her kids for a year, so hers isn't a defensive stance. What she's raising are a couple of interesting counterpoints to the breast-is-best-formula-is-poison blitz. She starts off as a heretic, saying that a close reading of various scientific studies doesn't support most claims that breastmilk is better than formula in terms of a child's IQ, BMI or general health.

Then she says that we're doing mothers a disservice by pressuring them to breastfeed at all costs. If nursing interferes with a woman's ability to work or makes her miserable, is a small potential benefit to her child's health worth making her suffer? Should we make women who are unable or unwilling to breastfeed feel like unfit mothers?

And she highlights a unexpected feminist argument too: if nothing can replace breastfeeding and only women can breastfeed, are we setting up an unequal balance of duties between mothers and fathers? Who's going to wake up at night to feed the baby? Who should stay home to raise the child? Are the answers to these questions going to be colored by one gender's mandate to breastfeed?

Obviously I made breastfeeding work for my kids while maintaining my status as the family breadwinner. But I was able to do so precisely because I didn't view formula as the enemy. There's no way I could have pumped enough milk to feed my children without seriously jeopardizing my career and my sanity so I supplemented. Also, I didn't nurse my kids to make them into superbabies--I did it because it was convenient, cheap and natural. A price and eco-conscious choice to be sure, but one that gave me and my girls enormous pleasure.

I want more women to breastfeed because it's wonderful, it's natural and it's priced just right. But it's apparent our culture needs find a way to support and normalize nursing without equating bottle-feeding with child abuse.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New York: I kind of miss my Grape-Nuts

Josh and I love to eat and NYC is home to much of the best food in the country, so the last few days have been organized around restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and ice cream parlors. Everything has been delicious, but I'm not exactly enjoying the balanced diet I've grown accustomed to and my body is starting to beg for a bowl of Grape-Nuts with berries and a nice glass of OJ.

Instead of lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereal, I'm eating lots of sushi, pizza and pastries. Yesterday we spent the day with old friends from college and their better halves, including the entire original line-up of Josh's band Dingle (eventually renamed Aden). We breakfasted at Le Pain Quotidien before heading to Brooklyn, where we visited the New York Transit Museum, which is underground in a now-closed subway station. The museum was followed by Vietnamese sandwiches, local, organic, cruelty-free but definitely not fat-free ice cream and stops at friends' apartments. We concluded the evening with very good sushi, including a "Brooklyn roll."
Today's entertainment consisted of a shopping spree for me at the Japanese retailer Uniqlo (kind of a cross between Old Navy and H&M, but with more of an emphasis on basics and high technology) and a visit to the Jewish Museum. We got our food fixes at Lombardi's pizza, one of the last of the coal-fired pizzerias, Two Little Red Hens bakery (cupcakes) and Matsugen, where we enjoyed a fabulous 6 course prix fixe Japanese dinner for $35 each.


We head home to Chicago tomorrow afternoon. I'm looking forward to seeing my girls (and rescuing my in-laws from 5 days on non-stop babysitting).

Saturday, March 07, 2009

New York: Standing Room Only

We're 2 days and 1 night into our 5 day, 4 night trip to New York City without the kids, who are at home in Chicago with my in-laws, who flew in to babysit them.

We left the Upper East Side this morning at 9:30am and I'm just now sitting down, on a chair, for the first time at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Josh and I stood on the train to the Lower East Side and walked to Clinton Street Baking Company, where we'd hoped to indulge in the city's best pancakes. But just 15 minutes after the place opened, waits were being estimated at 45 minutes. So we got coffee and muffins to go and walked around the neighborhood until 11:30 or so. The Orchard Corset Shop, which I'd hope to visit, was closed, but we did poke around in the Economy Candy Shop.

Finally, at 11:45, we took a tour at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which was really great and an absolute must-see for anyone visiting New York. I think even Z would have appreciated a peek into the lives of people living in New York 100 years ago.
After our tour we stayed on our feet, wandering over to Russ and Daughters, where we got an onion bagel with green onion cream cheese and lox, couple of hamentashen and a Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda to share on the way uptown. We walked and walked and walked some more, stopping into a few vintage clothing shops and the Virgin Mega Store and getting $4 soft serve at the famous Momofuku Milk Bar. Good, but not $4 a cup good, if you ask me.

Despite my comfortable boots, my feet were aching by 1pm, but I toughed it out. Sort of. Flipping through racks of 1960s cocktail dresses was definitely a better distraction from the pain that hanging out at Virgin, waiting for Josh to pick out just the right $10 DVD.

Tonight is wedding that is the reason, ultimately, that we are here. Tomorrow my goals include eating sitting down and visiting the New York Transit Museum.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Has mommyblogging jumped the shark?

-9Last week I almost disconnected my Twitter feed. I even, for a moment, considered shutting down my blog. I couldn't bear reading another "I've got a giveaway," "I'm on a trip to Brand X headquarters" or "pleaseDigg my latest post" tweet. I was saddened every time I turned to one of my favorite blogs and saw the personal, heartfelt content that had made me a loyal reader displaced by posts about Campbell's soup or how much fun it was to go to a blogger conference and shill for the sponsor who paid for the trip.

Far be it from me to begrudge another mother the chance to do something fun for free (particularly in this economic climate), but I worry that mommyblogging is evolving from its warm, wonderful beginnings as a sort of hybrid online diary-support group into a crowded, commercial enterprise withtoo many bloggers competing for share of voice and corporate hand-outs.

Don't get me wrong, I don't see marketing and blogging as mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite: I've worked both sides and been instrumental in bringing brands and bloggers together for mutual benefit. Mothers who blog are connected people both online and off and their recommendations can be a powerful source of trusted word of mouth. But the key word here is trusted. And a mommyblogger who spends more time marketing her blog, promoting products and chasing corporate sponsorships than she does writing about the ups and downs of being a mommy is going to lose that trust. Quickly. When trust goes, so does readership. And if you're in it for the money, well, you're not going to get any from a blog with no traffic.

I'm not in it for money or fame; I maintain my blog as a digital scrapbook of my life as a working mother of two, but if I were, I'd take a cue from the best brand marketers and keep it real. Successful brands, be they Coca-Cola, Apple or Tide, have one thing in common, and that's a sense of authenticity. Mommybloggers, of course, don't need to seem authentic. They are authentic, real people. Pleas stay that way.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Should I get this haircut?

Please vote in the comments. I tried to embed a poll, but it doesn't seem to work with a photo.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Food and my 19 month old

A only wants big pieces of fruit. Do not cut her fruit! She is undaunted by the size of this apple, but she will not finish it. It is, after all, approximately the circumference of her head. Instead, she will gnaw on it until it looks ravaged by a rabid squirrel and summarily hand it to me for disposal.

She demands "snack" 20 times a day. She has a snack in mind, perhaps, but any suggestions Josh or I make will be met with an angry "No!" Unless its a cookie. The girl also loves her "milk," "juicz" and "wa-wa" and demands them only slightly less often than "snack." She prefers her beverages served in an open-topped cup.

A has a pretty broad palate and many of her 75+ words are dedicated to foodstuffs, including: Cheerios, crackers, cookie, apple, peach, banana, peanut butter, bread, cheese, peas, apple sauce, beans, ice cream, hot dog and fries. She'll spoon up a bowl of Grape-Nuts or Cheerios and eat a PB&J with some measure of daintiness, but she prefers to feed herself oatmeal and spaghetti with meat sauce with her bare hands.

She does, however, punctuate every meal with a request for "nap-kin." She wipes her hands, face and the food-splattered tabletop in front of her, slides down off her chair and places the soiled napkin in the "tash." And yes, she quit using a booster seat at 18 months of age. To my eternal dismay.