Saturday, June 27, 2009

One shitty moment in an otherwise lovely day

Today was practically perfect in every way. My kids benefited from some very awesome yard sales (A got a mini Radio Flyer trike, Z got a Disney Princess tee, and they both got new books). They got to listen to stories and dance with Miss Lori's Campus (minus Miss Lori!) at a WTTW Kids event in the Whole Foods parking lot. We hit the library for a restock of books and A took a 2 hour nap while I whipped up and delivered a mac and cheese casserole for a family that just had a new baby.

We hit the pool around 2:30 and scored a lounge chair (that never happens) right next to three of our neighbors (none of whom we'd even planned on meeting). Z had tons of friends to play with, but A didn't seem like her usual water baby self. She kept climbing out of the pool and asking for snacks, and after about an hour or so, she climbed into her stroller, asked me to set it recline, and covered herself up with a towel. Each time I went to check on her, she told me to "Go!" and she'd lay down with her paci, closing her eyes a bit.

I thought maybe all the sun and activity had worn her out, but she was hatching something much more sinister than a nap in her cozy, damp little stroller cave.

Something I discovered when she asked to go back into the pool, 10 minutes before closing. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I came face to face with my first ever poopy swim diaper. A blowout, I might add, that I first smelled and then saw, smeared across the right side of my waist.

Thank G-d I had so many friends nearby. I shouted for them to keep an eye on Z and I raced with A and the diaper bag into the locker room, where, in one fell swoop, I stripped off her swimsuit (thank goodness I'd just bought her a two-piece), removed her diaper and showered us both off. What I'd forgotten in my race to grab the diaper bag was a towel, and I couldn't very well put a diaper on a dripping wet baby, so I walked back out to the pool in my dripping (de-pooped, but not yet sterilized) swimsuit with a slick naked baby on my hip and a backpack slung over my shoulder. I had 3 minutes to get A dressed and Z out of the pool before it closed. Good times.

Things did improve after the shitty ending to outing. We had our friends from across the fence over for BBQ takeout and by dessert time we'd all joined our next-door neighbors in the backyard. The kids (and us grown-ups, for that matter) were having so much fun that I let both of the girls stay up an hour past their bedtimes.

Z sporting her new Belle tee, a jean skirt, rain boots and multiple weapons.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Making time for me

I felt guilty last night. I'd come home on time and met the family at Flat Top Grill for a dinner that was the opposite of leisurely thanks to an overtired A. I gobbled my free meal between time-outs at the coat rack that she'd earned by throwing forks, grabbing for plates and hitting me.

But that's where my good mommy behavior ended. We headed home and I put my cranky toddler to bed. Then, at Z's insistence I got out the water colors and sat down to paint. But my heart wasn't in it. I was impatient with her whiny demands and ready to head to a neighbor's house for a girls' night and plenty of wine (the good kind). I was glad I wasn't putting her to bed.

But I still felt guilty. She was crying "Mommy put me to bed!" and Josh had been with her since noon. He'd fed and put her and A to bed the previous night since I was stuck at focus groups until 8pm and out with my clients until past midnight. Was it fair for me to leave again? Probably not. But I desperately wanted to connect with friends, apply some alcohol to what's been a rough couple of weeks at work, and sit outside in the summer air--even it it meant getting eaten alive.

So I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to win the Martyr of Motherhood award. I'm too selfish. It might seem wrong to spend my time away from work away from my family, but I need a little me time too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My weekends are never boring

This weekend, inspired by This Week for Dinner, I picked up an extra quart of fresh Michigan strawberries from the farmer's market and made strawberry freezer jam. It is so delicious. And beautiful too, but I forgot to take a picture of it to post. Bummer.

I also made bran muffins to bring along to a playdate A had with her buddy Stella, who will be a big sister by the end of this week. Unfortunately, her mom just found out baby girl #2 has hydrocephalus, which means she and her husband will be juggling a toddler at home in the western burbs, a C-section recovery at Northwestern and a new baby in the NICU at Children's Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park (which doesn't allow sibling visits). It's times like these that I wish I was home during the week so that I can offer more than just moral support and the occasional tray of mac and cheese.

In happier news, I got to take the girls to the pool twice this weekend. Halfway through our Sunday visit, A figured out how to stay upright on her own in Z's old swim vest, and she bicycled her chunky little legs like mad, propelling herself around deep end of the pool without holding on to me! She also practiced climbing in and out of the pool, jumping in and putting her face in the water and spitting out the chlorinated water. What a water baby! Z is also doing well in the water, but she's going to need more than 8 swimming lessons before she's ready to give up her water wings. She panics easily and--given the fact that she has zero body fat--she sinks like a stone.

For Father's Day I gave Josh a copy of Watching Movies and a rash guard shirt--basically a top he can wear at the pool. I also took him out to eat at Takashi, which was very good...kind of like Mado with a Japanese twist. The guy deserved it, he's a spectacular dad.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My early reader

And now, for an animated rendition of There is a Bird on Your Head.

Z reads a book from almaklein on Vimeo.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My yummy new nephew

One of my birthday presents arrived 4 days early! Eleanor gave birth to a great big Australian-American on June 13th. Samuel John arrived a few days late and weighed in at a mighty 8lbs 13oz. But the birth wasn't just exciting for its speed and intensity. As the OB offered my brother-in-law the scissors to cut his son's umbilical cord, Simon passed out and was rushed off for an MRI!

Mom, baby and Dad are all home and well and 2-year-old Eliza is apparently enchanted with her new brother--a real, live baby doll. I got to talk to Eleanor a couple of days ago and she gushed, once again, about the wonderful Australian medical system. Even though she had a great experience with public health care last time (visiting baby nurses, sleep training sleepaway camp and all that), this time she had private insurance and got to stay at a cushy hospital-hotel with a beach view, a lactation consultant on call and 24 hour room service. I don't know anyone here in the States who was offered a 4 day stay after a normal vaginal delivery, but with the food and comfort levels in our hospitals, I don't know anyone who'd want to, either.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

33 years ago...

Thirty-three years ago, in Arlington, Virginia, my mom was 17 days past her due date. She marched into her OB's office and demanded my prompt removal. I was delivered--sometime in the afternoon--via C-section. My mother still bears the zipper-like scar down her belly.

I'm sure she bears other scars too, less visible. After all, it takes becoming a mother to know how difficult it can be to raise children. To instill good behaviors and values. To quell tantrums without losing your cool. To come up with new craft ideas, disciplinary tricks and dinner recipes. While holding down a job or two. And packing up and unpacking a house every three years. To do it every day, all day, until I turned 18 and you said, "Good-bye now. And never come back!"

Thanks, Mom.

Now tell me what it'll take to get you to move to Chicago!

This photo was taken in Bonn, Germany. I'm either 2 1/2 or 3 and my sister is 1. My mom is 31. Nothing makes raising two small, closely spaced kids easier than moving overseas, right?

Updating at 4:20 to include this picture my mom just scanned for me from my 2nd birthday party.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trusted advice

Yes, my friends--both IRL and online--are wonderful sources of advice. But sometimes a girl needs to do a little independent research. And I've found two wonderfully independent resources.

I initially thought Common Sense Media just a website that told you which movies had naughty words, but it is so, so much more. It's a guide to all kinds of media and a helpful tool for parents who know what their kids are and are not ready to consume (or want guidance by age). I've used it to help select library books on specific topics as well as early reading titles Z can manage without too much frustration. My favorite feature is a parents review section that tells me if the book is a good one--something I'm going to enjoy sharing with my daughter as opposed to some of the horrible stuff out there (My Little Pony, I'm looking at you). There's really a wealth of information, and it gets better as you register and plug in your kids' ages.

Another great resource--albeit one I haven't spent as much time with--is GoodGuide, a consumer guide to all kinds of goods, from sunscreen to packaged foods to kids' toys. Learn about the products' ingredients (and whether or not they are safe) as well as the corporation's environmental and social records. If you're trying to make conscious choices as a shopper, this site will help you see past any greenwashing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Family time

We were out of the house at 8:15 this morning so we could have breakfast at Sweet Maple Cafe (mmmm...their egg and cheeser biscuit is divine) before driving to the House of Blues for Ziggy Marley's kids concert, Family Time. Ziggy took the stage after an interactive drum circle and played a 45 minute acoustic set of classic sing-a-long reggae songs like "Three Little Birds (Don't Worry about a Thing)," as well as a few originals, like "A is for Africa, B is for Brother" and "Family Time."

A was wiggly and a little fixated on snacking, but both girls enjoyed the concert tremendously. I think it was just the right length and volume for the young audience.

We got home before lunch/naptime and filled the baby pool we'd scored from a Freecycler. Z put on her swimsuit and A was wearing her birthday suit and a slathering of sunblock. Which made it particularly easy for her to "drop a kid off at the pool," if you know what I mean.

This evening we're going to take the girls to live musical performance, the first of the free summer concert series in Scoville Park. So tonight we'll be picnicking with friends to the sounds of an 80's cover band. Will we hear Taco's "Puttin' the Ritz?"

Updated on 6/15 to include this picture of Z and A dancing.


This is why I love my street

A was taking her afternoon nap and Z was playing on the sidewalk, singing to herself and waving at passersby when B, her friend from a few doors down ran over.
The two of them launched into an elaborate game loosely based on the characters of The Wizard of Oz that involved lots of running up and down the block, delivering "brains, hearts and courage" to imaginary Scarecrows, Tinmen and Lions.
Playing make-believe
It wasn't long before our next door neighbors arrived home and L joined the fun.
Kids on the block
Yes, we still arrange playdates and call/text to meet friends at the park and the pool, but as often as not kids in this neighborhood make their own fun with the kids next door. It's been going on since time immortal, but from what I've heard it doesn't happen everywhere anymore. I'm glad it happens here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Restoring my faith in humanity

Remember back in March, when my neighbor's junk truck took a chunk out of my house? I decided to trust the truck driver, whom I'd never met in person, when he said he was very sorry and he'd take care of fixing the damage.

A loyal reader who is now a lawyer (hi David!) emailed me lots of helpful advice about estimates and estates and probate and claims and--after a moment of heartburn--I decided I'd throw caution to the wind and put my faith in this guy on the phone.

Well, it took a while, but the house has been repaired. Thanks to a few years of grime and sunshine, the paint isn't an exact match any more, but the difference is subtle and it's certainly not unusual to see patch jobs on old stucco houses in Oak Park.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birthday freebies

Yes, I'm turning 33 and I still get jazzed about my birthday. I'm a grown-up, so I won't throw myself a party or expect a gift from anyone but my immediate family, but freebie whore that I am, I've signed up with enough companies to ensure I'll be rolling in birthday presents.

My big day is exactly one week away, and I've already gotten an email entitling me to a free stir-fry from Flat Top Grill. For dessert I can head west on Lake Street and indulge in a free Like It Creation from Cold Stone Creamery. I'll probably pass on the "free dessert with any meal purchase" coupon I got from Boston Market.

I got a couple of birthday shopping discounts too: Loehmann's is offering me 15% off any purchase and Old Navy wants me to save $10 on a $15 purchase.

If I receive anything else--aside, that is, from the annual offer-free birthday card from Southwest Airlines, I'll add to this post.

And so the terrible twos begin

A's second birthday is a little more than a month away, but she's acting more like a two year old every day. She's talking up a storm, dedicating much of her language acquisition to mastering demands and negativity like "no want that," "no like that," "no go bye-bye," "yucky," "messy," "poopy," "pee-pee," "cookie!" "dance!" "no, other one" "cat down!" "uppy!" "help you" (help me), "mocos" (snot), "[Z] come," and "dat's mines!"

When she doesn't get what she wants immediately, she screeches her demand louder and louder. When we calmly inform her that she's not getting a cookie while she eats her noodles or another fruit bar to smear across her face while in the stroller, she scowls fiercely--all big eyes and tucked chin--and lets a small stream of drool fall off her pouty lower lip. If she's pissed enough, she'll lock eyes, narrow them ever so slightly and then throw or drop something in an act of sheer defiance.

The good news is that her tantrums, while overly dramatic, resolve themselves quickly if ignored and moments later she's giggling gleefully as she strews toys across the floor, launches herself from the ottoman onto the couch or stands up on a dining room chair and shakes her tushie. Yeah, she's kind of a little terror.

Friday, June 05, 2009

If you're going to F-up, F-up with USAA

No, I didn't get into a car accident. But I did do something colossally stupid. Last month I paid my USAA Mastercard bill. Only, instead of directing the online bill payment to USAA Credit Card Services, I directed it to USAA.

I didn't realize my mistake until I received this month's bill, which was twice as high as I'd expected and included $19 in finance charges! I sat down to call USAA, expecting it to take hours, if not days to get everything sorted.

It took 5 minutes. Cheerful and enormously helpful, the credit card rep connected with the home and car insurance side of the business and they transferred the funds and refunded the finance charges.

I love USAA.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My night at the Roxbury

Where was I at 1:30am Tuesday night? I was in Dallas, at what just may be the world's most horrifyingly cheesy nightclub. It was in a strip mall, along the the second-floor balcony above--I don't know--a nail salon and a mattress discounter, I think. The parking lot was full of valets and idling SUVs, each one a clown car from which stiletto-shod strumpets spilled forth.

We had bottle service, which basically means we paid $300 to mix our own drinks and lounge on a black futon as the most hair-gelled, bleached-blond and spray-tanned residents of Dallas paraded past. I was wearing the same cotton Boden sundress I'd been in all day--and yes, our trip to the bar came after 12 hours of focus groups and a leisurely seafood dinner. It's not a frumpy frock, but the hemline, which reached just past my knees, was at least a foot and a half longer than anything anyone else outside our party was wearing that night. I mean really, when your dress resembles something Grandma wore to the pool, you might want to invest in an extra couple inches of fabric. Or just tramp it up wholesale, like the cocktail waitresses. They were wearing--I kid you not--push up bras, boy shorts and fishnets.

I was relieved and a teeny, tiny bit disappointed that my mom dress, suede pumps and giant laptop bag rendered me invisible in the midst of such bow-chicka-wow-wow. I'm only turning 33 this month, but I felt old. My certifiably hot coworker Holly did only slightly better: as we were beating our way to the exit, a guy asked her for her number. "I'm from out of town," Holly replied. "Well I wasn't going to call you anyway," he shot back. Huh? Is that what passes for flirting in this town?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In the dark, eating M&Ms

If you've ever been in a focus group, sitting around a table discussing diapers or deodorant or a new drink with a few other women, you probably noticed a big wall of mirrors.

This week, I'm behind the mirrors.

If you're not in marketing or married to a marketer, sign yourself up with a research facility. You can share your opinions and get paid enough money for a new pair of shoes (how about these?). It's easy and fun, particularly if you're the opinionated type. If, on the other hand, you are in advertising, you might recognize my Top 5 Truths About Focus Groups.

1. Every group has a hater, a real Negative Nelly.
2. Someone in the room is an aspiring creative, someone who volunteers to re-write or art direct your material.
3. Sitting in the dark, eating M&Ms, Goldfish and pretzels all day does not make you feel good.
4. Eating junk food in the dark while listening to a live-translation of Spanish-language focus groups sucks.
5. You will thank the Lord for wi-fi.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Our first American Girl Doll

"Mommy, before I come downstairs, I need to dress my D-O-L-L."

Z was spelling for the benefit of her little sister, because both girls are completely enamored with the Klein household's very first American Girl Doll, Nicki. I found the doll at a yard sale on Saturday, and paid $23 for her. A carried her home and spent 2 hours changing her and taking her to the potty. Nicki is supposedly a 10 year old ranch girl, but apparently she had a "mas poopies."

Since American Girl Dolls are really for a older girl audience, I told Z she could keep the doll sequestered in her room and out of A's sight. Hence the spelling.

Will the next step be a trip to that commercial shrine to girlhood and pricey playthings, the American Girl Place? I'll leave that to the grandparents.