Saturday, January 31, 2009

Truth is stranger than fiction

Images-1Turns out the 33-year-old California mother of octuplets already has six children under 8 at home. Home, by the way, is her parents' house. She doesn't have a husband--or even a father for her enormous brood, all of whom were reportedly conceived via a sperm donor.

Just when I think the news can't get any weirder, it does. Rich people from New York to Miami lose their fortunes in a Ponzi scheme. Illinois finally punishes a corrupt politician, impeaching Rod Blagojevich. Chicago's cold winter weather is really, really cold.

But seriously, where does a unmarried, unpartnered mother of six (including 2-year-old twins) get off signing up for fertility treatments? If she loves being pregnant so much, perhaps she should have signed up to be a surrogate. At least she'd net 20 grand and plenty of warm fuzzies for loaning out her womb.

Fourteen young kids. One mom. A grandmother on hand and grandpa in Iraq. How soon will we see this family paraded across our TV screen? Perhaps they'll get a TV show along the lines of Jon and Kate Plus Eight. And some other misguided mother out there will feel the multiple-birth bar's been raised. Can she be the first to give birth to nine?

Medical science is responsible for amazing advances in managing high-risk pregnancies and saving preterm babies, but it's getting a little ridiculous. You don't win by getting your birth story on the national news. You win when you give birth to a healthy, wanted child that your family can provide for. Financially and emotionally. Because even if this news-making family were millionaires instead of people just emerging from bankruptcy, there's no way any of those 14 young kids will get enough one-on-one time with mom.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Princess Vomit gets a morning with Mom

Z was unusually sedate yesterday afternoon--turns out she was running a fever. Josh dosed her with ibuprofen and let her eat a bowl of Grape-Nuts for dinner instead of the tacos he'd made for the rest of us. As we were clearing the table Z stood next to my chair, ashen-faced. At the same time, Josh and I asked "Are you going to throw up?"

"Nuh-uh," she replied. Fifteen seconds later, she was vomiting all over the floor.

She hasn't run a fever or barfed since, but she's home from school regardless. I'm staying home with her this morning, watching Curious George, playing Go Fish and coloring in her Charlie & Lola coloring activity book while Josh takes A to her parent-tot class at Temple.

So far, the only sign of sickness is a runny nose.

How long until this one catches it?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bronzed, but beautiful?

I went to this Women Who Wine event at HouseRed (a wine store) last night, a kind of face-to-face cocktail party for moms from the Oak Park area who subscribe to MomMail. Turns out I knew 3 women there in addition to the 3 friends I'd encouraged to come.

And aside from sampling wines, nibbling on appetizers and meeting a lot of fun, outgoing people, I got spray-tanned.

No, I didn't take it all off, but I did strip down to my bra before stepping into local esthetician Kristie's personal spray tan tent (imported from Australia!) and getting misted with tanning solution. Hey, it was free! I was curious!

Anyway, I now look about as gold as I've ever been in my life. I'm a slave to the SPF, so I don't think I've been this brown since I was a teenager. It's a little disconcerting, but I do think it disguises all my skin imperfections pretty well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Montessori night with Z

Tonight was "parent-child night" at Z's Montessori school, which meant a third of her class came in with their parents for an hour. Z demonstrated her emerging reading and writing skills and her knowledge of South American geography.

I'm always amazed by how tidy and organized her classroom is. It's large--about the size of two high school classrooms--and every space under four feet is filled with perfectly labeled boxes, trays, bins and drawers. The 3-6 year old students take such pride in treating the materials with care and putting them away just so. I asked her teacher how many different kinds of "work" her classroom has and she replied "thousands," because not only are there hundreds of activities, each one can be used in a variety of different ways.

Z was so pleased to have us as her guest and demonstrate her "big work" for us. She asked me to come back tomorrow and watch her color and label a map of Australia.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Inadvertent use of the term "bloodbath"

In the process of explaining to Z why it wasn't a good idea to jump off the step stool into the bath, I said that she would likely crack her head open on the side of the tub.
"And then blood would swoosh all over and it would be a bloodbath?" she responded, oh so innocently.
"Yes, it would be an utter bloodbath," I replied.

Book review: Who By Fire

If you've friended me on Facebook, you know I read a lot of books. My 30 minute commute is perfect for that. In the past month I finished Beautiful Boy, A Mercy, Jesus Land and Factory Girls, loving all but the last one. But I'm reviewing Who By Fire since it is the only book I read for a book club, and my book club is a bloggers' book club. Which means you don't have to take my word for it; you can see what a dozen or more women across the country have to say about Diana Spechler's tale of a family still reeling from the childhood abduction of its youngest member.

Who By Fire tells the story of a family torn apart by kidnapping from the perspectives of its two surviving children (both are now young adults) as well as their mother. Bits, desperate for affection and attention in the face of her family's loss, is self-destructive and promiscuious. Her younger brother Ash deals with his guilt by becoming an Orthodox Jew and fleeing a yeshiva in Israel. Their mother, in a desperate attempt to reunite the family, spins a web of lies and gets mixed up with an unsavoring guy who promises to "deprogram" her overly pious son.

The book reads like a mystery, something I wasn't expecting from a piece of modern Jewish literary fiction. As the plot thickened, I found myself sucked into the dramatic, if somewhat far-fetched story. I sped right through to the happy ending, which strained the limits of believability, tying up all the loose ends into one perfect bow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trust me, Trust Me's good

I don't have cable, but if I did, I can tell you what I'd be watching Monday night on TNT: Trust Me, a new drama/comedy set at a large Chicago ad agency based on the very place I work. I was lucky enough to preview the first two episodes and attend a lunchtime meet and greet with Monica Potter on Friday; she plays an award-winning yet highly insecure divorcee/copywriter on an otherwise all-male creative team.

The real Monica Potter is nothing like her character; she's a down-to-earth mother of three eager to dish off-the-record about the foibles of raising two teenage boys and a 3-year-old girl with a roomful of female bloggers.

As a female copywriter at a large advertising agency, folks want to know if I think Trust Me has any basis in reality. To which I'd reply yes, as much as any TV show is an accurate representation of life on the job. It's a glamorized, simplified version of what I do that highlights only the interesting bits. Just as the nail-biting moments on The Shield (my current addiction) and The Wire are probably based in truth, the reality of being a police officer probably includes a lot more interviewing of pickpocket victims and filling out of paperwork. But really, who wants to watch episode in which everyone attends a process meeting or brainstorms 25 ways to say "Now more absorbent than ever?"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How I stopped the bedtime battles for just 3 cents a night

Once in a great while I have to stop and give myself a great big parental pat on the back. This is one of those times. For months I've been driven slowly crazy by 4-year-old Z's ability to streeetch out bedtime with requests for fresh water and fixed blankets and the complaints that she's too hungry/lonely/not tired to sleep.

Finally, I called bullshit on her bullshit and instituted a financial incentive program that not only quiets our evenings (and my nerves), it teaches her a bit about saving money and delayed gratification.

Here's how it goes. Every night I place three pennies on Z's bedside table. (It is very important that she is in possession of the pennies; promised pennies do not work nearly so effectively.) Z loses a penny every time a parent has to come upstairs. Once in a while Z decides that a bedside visit from Mom or Dad is worth a penny, but she rarely gives up more than one cent a night.

In the morning Z places her pennies in her penny jar. She likes to take them out and count them up, knowing that when she gets around 70¢ she can buy a candy bar or some gummy bars and pay the cashier with her very own money.

We've been using the pennies for over two months now, and I'm honestly a little surprised it's still working so well. Hopefully I won't jinx myself by blogging about it!

Apparently pennies are a popular incentive. Check out Make and Take's Going Potty for Pennies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Worth reading now

I've been seeing the tacky Obama commemorative tchotckes in the Sunday coupon inserts for some time, but I'd missed the "Party like a Barack star" thong. See all the hideous merch in this
Slate slideshow.

With overstuffed racks and the smell of mildewy books, thrift store shopping can be a little overwhelming. I like Simple Mom's tips for thrifting successfully.

Hungry for more smart shopping tips? Fellow Oak Parker Carrie from Shoplifting with Permission puts all of her frugal shopping know-how in one bookmark-worthy post.

Now, I'm off to read Rob Walker's new book, Buying In.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A very, very good day

Not only was my heart filled with hope (and my eyes with happy tears) as I witnessed the swearing in of our new President this morning, I came home to find $70 in free money in the mail!

sent me a $20 Visa card to thank me for my continued patronage (I've been with them since the old days of Voicestream). And USAA wrote me a letter apologizing for my poor experience with their Roadside Assistance program that came with two $25 American Express Gift Cheques!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The economy hits Twinkle Toes enrollment

Not only are Americans cutting back on hair coloring, house cleaning and dog walking services, it appears they're cutting back on their kids' extra-curricular activities as well. The Oak Park Park District called me today to say that only 2 children enrolled in the Thursday session of Twinkle Toes, the preschooler dance class at our local park district building. The woman on the phone said she's never had a Twinkle Toes class cancel for low enrollment in the 8 years she's worked for the district, and she went on to say that a lot of classes in the park district and elsewhere are seeing very low enrollment thanks to the slumping economy.

For a moment I considered pulling the plug on the class, but I ended up moving Z to the Wednesday session. Until this brutal winter weather improves, I'm willing to pony up for a little indoor activity and excitement--even if I won't get to witness any of the leotarded cuteness.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Damn, it's cold

It was -10 with a windchill of -25 during this morning's commute. So cold my toes stiffened under tights, socks and winter boots and it hurt to breathe. So cold I put A in a snowsuit, scarf and hat to walk 2 doors north to daycare. Z was similarly bundled for her trip to the car for preschool drop-off.

I'm so tired of this weather.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I don't miss my breast pump

Reading Baby Food in the New Yorker brought back memories of my days in the Mothers' Room.
How I don't miss the days before I hung up my horns for good. The article's got some interesting history on the rise and fall of breastfeeding rates from the mid-1800s to today, and it raises some interesting questions about how family-friendly all those breast pumps and lactation rooms really are:

"No one seems especially worried about women whose risk assessment looks like this: 'Should I take three twenty-minute pumping ‘breaks’ during my workday, or use formula and get home to my baby an hour earlier?'"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Worth reading now

Finally, a Book is Rallying Resistance to the Autism Crusade. Also in the NY Times, A Pediatrician's View of Rude Children. Apparently good manners come from setting limits. See how the mommyblogger elite are disciplining their children on Momversation.

What a difference an hour makes

We're were a smiley, happy family this morning. Having Z wake us up at 6:40 with a chirpy "Mommy, is it okay if I turn on the bathroom light?" is so much more pleasant than being jarred awake by Baby A hollering her head off at 5:30 so that fill an extended morning with food-throwing, parent-slapping and "no-no-no-no-no" shouting.

Even though we had exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes to clean, dress and feed the family, shovel the walk, drop off A at daycare and pack lunches for me and Z, we were all cheerful and calm. There was not a single temper tantrum.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

They look sweet and innocent. Don't be fooled.

Two adorable preschool girls enjoying an afternoon playdate. One's 4, the other just turned 5. My husband's home "supervising."

How much trouble can two little girls get into in 5 minutes alone in the bathroom?
Let's see...
A sealed carton of Epsom salts, opened and perhaps tasted.
Half a container of liquid hand soap, spilled on the floor.
A bottle of nail polish remover, splashed into the bathtub.
Josh's razor, broken.
Z's butt, incompletely wiped.

Z's not the mischievious type, but apparently she's highly suggestible. She's the girl from those afterschool specials on peer pressure.

"What did you open Mommy's things and do stuff you knew was wrong?"
"Because my friend said we should."
"What did she say, exactly?"
"She said 'Let's make a disaster.'"
"And why didn't you say no?"
"I don't know," she shrugs, "but I promise I'll never do it again!"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

On the cusp of reading

Z, who turned 4 in November, is showing more and more signs of reading readiness. She can sound out a lot of words and yesterday she wrote MGAZEN and said "Look mommy, I spelled magazine. I just sounded out the letters!" Before MGAZEN, all the words Z's written have been memorized, and most of them are the names of her family members or friends.

Check out this Slate article on how you can help your infant, toddler or elementary school child build his or her reading skills.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bleeding red and seeing purple

Facebook is more than a just a virtual watercooler; it's like the corner bar where old colleagues can gather to hear the gossip and say goodbyes. And it's where I heard a lot of sad news coming from my old employer, Ogilvy. It seems at least 6 of my former co-workers got laid off today as Big Red bled off 10 percent of its workforce. I've know so many people who've lost their jobs in the past 6 months I've lost track.

It's a very tough economy in which to find yourself jobless, and I'm feeling so thankful right now to have a job. And one I really enjoy at that.

If you know of any agencies looking for copywriters, art directors, creative directors or planners, I'm LinkedIn with a bunch of superstars.

Speaking of jobs, do me a big favor and watch the People's Choice Awards Wednesday night at 9/8c on CBS. I've been working hard on the CVS/CoverGirl program integration, a surprise makeover that will happen backstage during the broadcast. And if you can't stay up to see the whole show, go to CVS and check out the beauty department for our People's Choice Awards displays and coupon booklets.

Monday, January 05, 2009

#1 Step-Grandpa

When my mom got married last summer, everyone followed up the inevitable "Well, do you like the guy?" with "Do you consider him your stepfather?"

Yes and no, in case you're wondering. Rick's an amazing guy. He treats my mother like gold, which is really all I require of him, but he's also personable, caring and loves to laugh. But my stepfather? I'm in my thirties, thanks. I'm not in the market for a father figure.

But for the past few days I've watched the man-who-isn't-Dad gracefully step in to a grandfather role my own dad never got to play. During our stay with my mom and Rick, the girls really bonded with the man their Nanny married. He cheerfully carried them around, read books, played with toys and told elaborate bedtime stories. The girls couldn't get enough of him. Every time A saw him, she's raise her arms and cry "Up!" Z pestered him nonstop, begging him to let her crawl on his lap, help him care for his fish tank, play ping-pong and read yet more stories. Never once did he seem to tire of their antics or reveal the slightest annoyance as my two rugrats scattered toys across the living room floor, spilled food in the kitchen and generally made a racket wherever they went.

I was fond of Rick before, but through my children he's found a permanent place in my heart. He might never be my stepfather, but he'll be my kids' maternal grandfather for life.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to my stepsisters--though I'm loathe to call them that since we never had to fight over the bathroom or the car. Ella and Emily are now Aunts Ella and Emily. Welcome to the family.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

In Arlington

As far as travel with two small children goes, today's trip from Chicago to Northern Virginia was a piece of cake. Our Southwest flight had plenty of room to spare and Josh and I divided and conquered. He sat with Z (and her new Leapster). I entertained A with board books and snacks before she finally fell asleep 30 minutes before we landed.

The girls took exactly 0 minutes to reaquaint themselves with my mom (Nanny) and her husband, Rick, and we spent an easy afternoon reading books, romping around and playing the handful of toys my mom keeps around for their amusement.

The girls are sharing a bedroom for the first time tonight. A's been asleep for about an hour, but Z's in there "reading" books by faux candlelight. Hopefully we'll all get some rest tonight, but I don't have my hopes up.