Monday, August 31, 2009

Z's artwork (an underwater scene)

I love this picture so much, I want to create a t-shirt out of it. (I was inspired by this Rookie Moms post). Only it turns out I need to have Z draw with markers instead of crayons if I get that cool reversed-out effect.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A little surgery to keep things interesting

If you have a plantar wart, take a tip from me and don't ignore it indefinitely. Yes childbirth, a new baby, a second pregnancy, the chaos of two small children and a job change can get in the way of preventative health care, and a little discomfort on the bottom of your foot is awfully easy to ignore (except when you're required to stand or walk for a long time), but let me share the alternative.

Laser surgery. It's a dramatic solution for those now 5 little warties, but it's all but guaranteed to work.

Here's how it went down...

10:00 p.m. yesterday - Enjoyed a last meal of cheese, crackers and wine while watching There Will Be Blood

6-8:30 a.m. - Prepared at least 4 different breakfasts and smelled Josh's coffee, stomach grumbling.

9:15 a.m. - Checked in at the Sameday Surgery center, where I traded my yoga pants and tee for a hospital gown, slippers and something that appeared to be a shower cap made out of a paper napkin. Got hooked up to an IV and signed a sheaf of consent forms without really reading them.

10 a.m. - I walk into the OR, which is just as bright, ice-cold and scary as the place where I had my C-section. As they're strapping me down to the operating table, I briefly consider chickening out. A minute later they put something in my IV to "help me relax" into something called "twilight sleep." I say "But I'm not sleepy" and then next thing I know I'm being awakened in the recovery room.

11 a.m - Twilight sleep my ass; that felt just like general anesthesia. The only difference is I was a lot more with it when woken up. The nurse gives me a snack, and I suck down my cranberry juice and feast on the most delicious four Ritz crackers ever. Then Josh walks in with the girls and Z begins her daylong quest to examine my bandaged foot, which is promptly Velcroed into a gimp shoe.

I've been doing my best to follow doctor's orders and stay off my feet today, but that's hard to do when your husband leaves for a concert at 5:30. It took Z about an hour to realize that it really hurt for me to hobble around meeting her various requests, and she actually starting pitching in and helping me. A--not so much.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A is 25 months old

A is growing by developmental leaps and bounds. Just this week, I've...
Removed all three baby gates from our stairways
Witnessed multiple poops in the potty
Heard her sing snippets of songs
Seen her grasp of colors improve (her favorite color is yellow)
Watched her pick out her own clothes (dresses are preferred/demanded and nothing can be "too tight")
Listened as she "reads" her favorite books

Her personality is coming into focus as well. This morning she accidentally bumped into Z, who acted all put out and injured. So A started chasing Z, chanting "I kiss you! I kiss you! Make better!"

And last night I was in the basement, letting A "cook" for me using her play kitchen. "You hun-gee Mommy? I make you boc-li an stawbries. I cook dem in da oven. Almost ready... Here you plate. Geen plate. Put on your lap. Okay?"

I decided to play a little child psychology. I scrunched up my face into an A-like scowl and threw my play broccoli on the floor.

A did her best to look stern, but her eyes were gleeful as she saw our roles reversed. "No throw food, Mommy! Dat's not nice. Put on plate and eat. No throwing."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our last trip to Kiddieland

Since the amusement park is closing in early October, my in-laws were in town and the weather was damn near perfect, we went to Kiddieland on Sunday afternoon. Along with every other family in the greater Chicagoland area. It took Josh half an hour to park, and that was on grass, in an auxiliary parking lot we didn't know existed. We paid full price (well, Josh's parents did) and our tickets didn't even benefit our preschool!

But even with the capacity crowd, we never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get in a car, swing, boat or flying saucer (or enjoy an ice cold free Pepsi). And, at 2 years old, A was finally big enough to enjoy quite a few attractions herself, picking out the car or boat she wanted to ride in by color as she waited to board.
And, like previous trips to Kiddieland, this one was not without great tattoo signings.
She must have been some Grammy
But there's more! Over and over, we ended up with a family composed of a morbidly obese mother, a balding dad in a dark suit and two girls, probably 9 and 10 years old, who were wearing old-fashioned one-piece toddler outfits, complete with matching hats, socks and white gloves. I couldn't stop wondering about them. Did they come straight from church? Are the kids homeschooled and unaware of how out-of-place their too-small clothes are? How does a woman of that size take care of her--ahem--toileting and personal care needs?
Do sweaty gloves help you steer?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Money doesn't grow on trees, but gifts come from Grandma

I'd like to think my kids aren't spoiled, but I'm probably wrong. After all, Grandma and Grandpa arrived for a rare weekend visit today, and after Z had emptied a duffel bag full of new fall clothes from Carter's for her and her sister (but mostly for her), she had the nerve to ask if they'd brought her anything else. Toys, specifically.

Z knows the rules around our house. We only buy stuff that's on sale. Preferably with a coupon.
Presents come at birthdays and Chanukah. And on those occasions we rarely buy them anything ourselves because between family, friends and neighbors, they get plenty. Unbirthday surprises don't come from the toy store, and certainly not by request. But once or twice a month--in the summer, at least--I'll take them "shopping" at yard sales. There, I don't mind dropping a couple of dollars on a new doll, a lacing set or books. I can rationalize it because I'm not bringing any more plastic crap into the world, it's costing me pennies on the dollar and really, it's fun to see my kids so excited about getting something "new."

So do my kids understand that money doesn't grow on trees? Sort of. Z knows I have to go to work to earn the money we spend, and she knows I won't buy something if it's "expensive." But the gimme beast inside her? Alive and well.

This post was inspired by a Parent Bloggers Network blog blast sponsored by Capital One, which is promoting their Moneywise eLearning Tool.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In case you think my children are perfect...

Last night Z threw a fit when, after reading her a story of her choosing (a crappy self-published book about a waltzing grandma that my very own grandmother no doubt purchased from directly the author at her retirement home), I let Daddy take over. I had to call T-Mobile about my Blackberry Curve breaking. Again.

She begged for a made-up story--her favorite part of our nighttime ritual--and Josh promised her he'd make one up. She put her hands over her ears. Because, you know, how can Josh possibly replicate the awesomeness of last night's twisted retelling of Alice in Wonderland?

Screaming commenced. Screaming I could hear all the way down two flights of stairs. Then I heard footsteps. Heavy, stompy man-sounding footsteps coming down the stairs.

"She flipped me off. And I'm pretty sure she knew what she was doing."

I still remember learning about the middle finger. In fact, I'll never forget my first day of kindergarten. My dad asked me what I'd learned on my first day of school, and I carefully folded down all my fingers save one. Daddy was not amused.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pretty much potty trained

A, drinking water at a restaurant in Iowa. We visited that toilet at least twice.

Now I finally understand pull-up diapers. When Z was being potty trained, it was a parent-led affair. We waited until she was 2 1/2, circled a day on the calendar and called it "no more diapers day." We literally gave away Z's diapers and offered her Princess Pull-Ups only at nap and nighttime. There were tears. There were bribes. There wasn't any turning back.

A, on the other hand, started showing some interest in the potty exactly one month ago, a day after she turned 2. We were at Irazu, remember? Since then, she's been going with more and more regularity. No trip to the park or the pool or someone else's house is complete without a "pee-pee in da potty."

Since our trip to Omaha was chock full of OPP (other people's potties), A only wet her diapers at night. And with all those trips in and out of unfamiliar bathroom stalls, and all that undressing and balancing and redressing, I really learned to appreciate the pull-up diaper. Since we've been home, I think it's fair to say that A's potty trained. She can't pull down her own clothes, pull them back up or reach the sink, but she's got pretty darn good control of her toileting.

But here's the rub: I haven't actually put her in big girl underpants yet. I've shown the dorky hand-me-down training pants to her and she always shakes her head no. Doesn't seem interested. And I'm reluctant to push the issue because I'm just not that excited about cleaning up the eventual accident mess. But the day is coming.


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Simon family reunion and road trip

Until I received a save-the-date letter many months ago, I didn't even know I was a Simon. But the leadership of the Omaha Steaks Company, two Simon brothers, organized a large family reunion for all of the decendants of my great-great-great-grandfather Lazar, a Lithuanian Jew who married three--possibly four--times and whose grandchildren moved to the Council Bluffs-Omaha area around 1905. Two of his grandkids, cousins even though the didn't share the same grandmother, married each other and raised my great-grandma May, whom I was named after (I was Alma May before I married).
We just got back from the family reunion, which was a pretty classy affair. Instead of a picnic in the park and matching t-shirts, we were treated to two breakfasts at the Marriott and an after-hours (steak) dinner at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. I got to meet 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins from California, Boulder, Israel, Virginia, New York, Illinois and Texas--plus a whole lot of Omahans. In fact, it appears I'm related to a sizable chunk of the Omaha Jewish population.

My Aunt Susie put us up in her basement since my mom and Rick were also staying there for the reunion. It was surprisingly comfortable, but my kids never settle down well when we're traveling, so we played musical beds for three nights, exploring every combination of sleeping companions and not sleeping all that well thanks to whining, kicking and A falling out of bed and biting open her lip. I think Josh described sharing a bed with A akin to sleeping with a hot, sweaty, urine-smelling leech, and he's pretty much on the money.

We also learned a few things about long road trips with kids, this being the first time we've driven both kids more than 150 miles from home. Lesson number one: if you've spent 30 minutes pre-packaging healthy-ish snack foods into a grocery sack, you shouldn't leave it on the kitchen counter. Lesson number two: the keys to backseat contentment are snacks, toys, books, The Wiggles, and a 2-screen DVD player. But mostly snacks.
On the way to Omaha we drove slowly, stopping in the Quad Cities to visit a playground along the Mississippi River and overnighting at a hotel with a pool just outside Iowa City. We had the world's largest cinnamon roll at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, which is just outside the entrance to Living History Farms, an amazing site with working farms from early Iowan history and a restored town from 1875. I wish I could have spent all day there instead of 3 hours.

We drove straight home after brunch on Sunday, only stopping to visit the Des Moines Botanical Center and eat a lunch of coal-fired pizzas and salad at Centro. When we were less than an hour from home, we pulled off I-88 in North Aurora. There we stepped into what might be the biggest grocery store I've ever stepped foot into to pick up some basic groceries and put the kids in their pajamas. Seriously, the place was the size of a Home Depot. It took 10 minutes to walk from the entrance to the dairy case. And there were three aisles of breakfast cereal!

More photos from our trip can be seen here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Midwestern public toilets: here we come!

Our truck in packed with 2 suitcases, 1 pack n play, 1 stroller and some beach towels. To the main cabin, we've added a dozen books, a bag full of My Little Ponies, Happy Meal and Strawberry Shortcake dolls, an iPod full of music, a gajillion snacks and a 2-screen DVD player on loan from friends.

We're hitting the road after lunch. We plan to be in the Quad Cities for dinner and ice cream and Iowa City by bedtime. A should be thrilled. The kid loves using public toilets so much that we may very well hear "I go pee-pee potty!" more than "Are we there yet?"

This is our first road trip with the kids, so pretty please, leave a comment with your best-- or, better yet, worst--road trip memories. I'll have my Blackberry with me in the car, and I promise to read aloud every last word. At least while Josh is driving.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Welcome Channel 2 viewers

If you're interested in a more in-depth discussion of my views on mommyblogging with integrity, check out these posts:

My CBS News interview: a preview
BlogHer left a bad taste in my mouth (but there was good stuff too)

I've been writing almost daily for 3 years, and the vast majority of my 1000+ posts are not about the politics of blogging. I'm more likely to capture the funny things my kids say and do or write about our family adventures. Here are some examples of more typical topics.

The birds and the bees...over breakfast?
Starved Rock State Park: Maybe next time we'll make it a day trip
I hosted a clothing swap!
From jealousy to fantasy in 8 seconds

Two kinds of births

When it comes to birthing babies, I've done it both ways: super-duper medicalized and the as-crunchy-as-it-gets-in-a-hospital. Both of my babies were breech, and since #1 (Z) didn't turn head-down, I delivered her via a scheduled C-section. Pretty much no one delivers breech babies the old-fashioned way, and as much as I wasn't into the knife, I also wasn't interested in pushing the boundaries of safety only to suffer through a breech delivery.

Anyway, November 5th arrived and with it no labor and no pushing. I just showered, dressed and showed up at the hospital, where they took gave me a nightgown, took my vital signs and wheeled into the OR. Forty-five minutes later: baby!

It wasn't what I wanted, but it was fine. The operation went off without a hitch and my scar is nearly invisible. I endured a rough couple of days in the hospital since I had a bad reaction to the spinal anesthesia and my sleepy newborn lost enough weight that breastfeeding her involved taping formula to my chest for supplemental feedings. Still, a week later I was pushing her stroller around the block and she was nursing like a champ.

When I was pregnant with A, I knew from the start that I'd want a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Only my second born also favored the heads-up position. Fortunately an external version got her turned vertex and my midwives gave me the go-ahead to wait for labor to kick in.

A couple of days past my official due date, labor started. My first contraction hit at 9:40pm, just as I was going to bed. I stayed up all night, groaning, rocking on a ball and hugging a huge pile of pillows. At 9am, Josh and Trisha (my doula) accompanied me to the midwives' office, and since I was at 7cm, they waved me on to the hospital. You can read the whole birth story here, but suffice it to say I had enough time left to try every non-pharmaceutical labor enhancer and pain reducer before A finally showed her head--a full day later.

Natural childbirth was everything I'd hoped for and more. A whole lot more. I knew the pain would be intense, but I didn't know it would last. So. Long.

An epidural might have helped me since it might have provided me with enough relief that I could have rested a bit before pushing. But I didn't want an epidural because so many women have said yes to the epidural only to have their labors stall. Stalled labor is treated with Pitocin, and those Pitocin-driven contractions call for more pain relief. Intervention follows intervention and too often ends with a C-section. I'd had a C-section and I didn't want another. Particularly after I'd already done so much of the hard, physical work of labor.

What I'd wished for then was just a little relief--something to help me get through that awful period of transition. Something like the nitrous oxide that got my sister through her labors nearly medication-free. Nitrous is a common pain relief medication for laboring mothers in England and Australia, but it is virtually unknown American birthing centers.

Dr. Mark Sloane, author of Birth Day, advocates for the adoption of nitrous oxide and doulas in the delivery room, describing this country's overwhelming reliance on a single kind of pain relief an "epidural monoculture." I read Birth Day as a part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group Wednesday book club. Head over to my local Chicago Moms Blog tomorrow to a wrap-up of posts inspired by the book.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A few more firsts today

1. Z held her very first lemonade stand today, the first hot and humid day this summer. She only netted two customers and 50¢ since there way pretty much no foot traffic. Z wants to try again tomorrow, when the next block is closing their street for a block sale.
2. Z also has her very first sleepover tonight. I dropped her off at 5:30 and won't see her again until after breakfast.
3. A decided to shed her swim vest (and bikini top) and jump into the pool on her own. I let her go "unda-wawa" each time before grabbing her up and letting her do it "again! again! again!"
4. Not to be outdone, Z took off her water wings and demonstrated her fledgling swimming skills. She can doggypaddle a few feet, something I hope she'll be able to improve this fall when I enroll her in more swimming lessons. I asked the MomMail readership for recommendations and heard good things about the Y and raves for the Concordia University swim program.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Let's go back in time today

Eleanor, Nancy, Alma 1989 U of Chicago visit
How many sartorial tragedies can you find in this 1989 photo of me with my mom and sister? Let's see... I'm wearing loud capri pants, orange socks, fake Keds... and a fanny pack! Fortunately, my sister is showing equally bad taste with her high-waisted acid wash gianto jean shorts and tucked-in beefy-T.

As for Mom's clothes? I'm pretty sure she still has (and wears) both the tee and white pants.

Incidentally, this photo was taken on my first trip to Chicago. Mom and Dad showed us around their alma mater, and we ate lunch at the Med.

Five years later, I would be a first year.
Alma and the people on her floor 2nd day of O week 1994

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

She'll be her own stepmom

Last night, I kissed Josh in front of Z.

Z: "Kiss me, Daddy!" Josh kisses her on the cheek.

Z: "No, on the lips!"

Josh: "Uh, no."

Me: "Daddy kisses me on the lips because we're married, honey."

Z: "Guess who I'm going to marry when I grow up?"

Me: "Who?"

Z: "Daddy!"

Me: "But I'm already married to Daddy."

Z: "Yeah, but when I'm old enough to marry Daddy, you'll be dead!"

This last line was delivered a little too gleefully, if you ask me.

Chicago's lakefront: a 5 hour staycation guide

Yes, Chicago has a lakefront. And yes, I'm embarrassed to admit August arrived before I finally took my family to the beach. Check out our day in the sun over at the Chicago Moms Blog.

From the Chicago Moms Blog:

This past weekend I took my family to the beach. Foster Beach, to be precise. It is the first time this summer that I've taken my family to the beach, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that the last time my girls dipped their toes in Lake Michigan we were 90 miles away from Chicago--in Michigan!

We left Oak Park at 8:30am for breakfast at Andersonville's Tre Kroner. After washing down our Swedish pancakes, French toast and a Stockholm omelets with goblets of too-weak coffee, we drove east on Foster Avenue to the sprawling Margate Park, named one of the country's best playgrounds by Cookie magazine (although they get the address wrong). My 4 year old loved the imaginary fishing pier and monkey bars while my 24 month old monopolized the truck--which is fortunately equipped with two steering wheels.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, we loaded the stroller up with beach towels and rolled under Lake Shore Drive for the walk south to Foster Beach. We passed families setting up elaborate picnics, couples on blankets and lots and lots of dogs. Which makes sense when you see that the entire north end of the beach is a dedicated dog beach. We abandoned our stroller and shoes just south of the doggie dividing line and headed across the sand, shovels and buckets in hand.

You'd think I'd taken my kids to the Bahamas, they were so excited. Waves to jump in! Sand to squelch! Water to carry! They wore themselves out with delight, working up an appetite for more food.

Lunch was coal-fired pizzas at Spacca Napoli, about 10 minutes away by car. My toddler put away two pieces of Pizza Margherita and acquainted herself with the restaurant's restrooms, which she visited three times in 40 minutes (two pees and a poop, for those who care).

By 1:15 we were on our way back to the western suburbs, two kids dozing off in the backseat. We'd had a morning filled with good food, good fun and zero temper tantrums. If Z hadn't skinned her knee tripping over the curb on the way back to the car, we could have claimed no tears as well. I looked over at my husband as we merged onto the Eisenhower. "That was fun."

"Yes, it really was," he agreed.

A note for fellow suburbanites: One of the great things about Foster Beach that there is plentiful free parking. There's also a parking lot next to Margate Park, right behind the Field House. We had no problems finding street parking within a block of Tre Kroner or Spacca Napoli and both places welcomed our kids.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Looking back on Pitchfork

This weekend mega music festival Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park, but I won't be taking the girls again this year. I did, however, take them both to the Pitchfork Festival for the third year in a row. (Year one A went on her due date, but she was still safely in utero.)

Anyway, I could brag about how much more Chicago and indie cred Pitchfork has over Lolla, but that ink's been spilled before.

Instead, I'm going to insist you check out photographer Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee's latest issue of Urban Nature, which includes lots of beautiful, moody pictures from Pitchfork. And, if you check out the outtakes, you'll see this picture of A, backstage in the rain.

Compare, if you will, with my photos from the fest.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Playing with the Playmobil port-a-potty

Although my mother would likely disagree on this point, I don't feel like our kids have a whole lot of toys. More than they need, certainly, but it isn't obscene.

There is one kind of toy we've purchased with some frequency, and that is Playmobil. I loved Playmobil sets as a kid, and even as an adult, I take pleasure in setting up the RV or the school house--each complete with lots of tiny, surprising details. Most kids don't take good care of their Playmobil sets, so finding a decent set at a yard sale is pretty rare. Which means we usually get our Playmobil fix from Berwyn's Toy Trains & Models. But even our local Playmobil source didn't stock the now discontinued construction worker/port-a-potty box. So Josh shelled out something like $30 to buy it online. Because we need a Playmobil port-a-potty.

Fortunately, it's been a big hit with both girls. Here's A playing with it. Shhhh...don't tell Z.

Potty Talk from almaklein on Vimeo.