Thursday, September 30, 2010

Like mother, like daughter

I'm a copywriter. So, apparently, is my 5 year old. Take a look at this note she penned for her new friend Rachel. The cover of this inspired "direct mail" piece says "Rachel!!!"

Dear Rachel, I am telling you that I am mailing you a Amercin girl catalog. It is super fun. It is ful of Americin girls. It sells Americin girl coloths and fumicher [furniture]. It is so fun!!!!!!! Love, [Z] Klein.

A Julie is amasing. you shood get her but they are 100 dollers. This is Julie the Amercin girl.

The back story here is that Z desperately wants 3 historical American Girl dolls (the mix changes periodically, but I think Kaya and Kit are in the lead). I told her I'd request an American Girl catalog so we could pick one out for her upcoming birthday, and I did. It was supposed to have arrived a week and a half ago, but much-anticipated catalog hasn't shown up yet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Updates! Updates! Updates!

The Eyes
It's the question on everyone's lips: How are the eyes? So, 1 1/2 weeks post-PRK laser vision correction, I'm pretty happy with my results. There's no pain or discomfort and I can see 20/25 in both eyes. That said, I'm having trouble focusing, which means everything is just a little blurry. This makes working on a computer and reading a lot more challenging, but I'm managing. If anything, the temptation to read and comment on blogs and otherwise while away the hours online is completely gone and I've found myself listening to my iPod a lot more (music, podcasts, NPR radio, etc.). I've also picked up my knitting and am making good progress on a cabled slouchy hat I'm making for myself.

I've been reassured many, many times by Dr. Kraff and his staff that gradual improvements are the norm, that I'm healing beautifully, and I should expect to marked improvement in 1-4 more weeks.

Sleep "Training"
Thanks to the empathy and advice I got from my blog twin Whitney of Rookie Moms, whose 3 year old daughter Scarlett also had a sleep regression lately, we've made progress. A's been tucking a doll into a doll bed every night and letting me know in the morning if "she sleeped all night." We still sit with her as she falls asleep, but we've gradually moved from the glider in her room to a chair in the hallway. The hope is that we can then move from a chair in the hallway to general visibility on the second floor and then back to a kid who can fall asleep on her own. In the meantime, setting up camp in the lighted hall means I can knit, listen to my iPod, mess around on the computer, read a magazine or pay attention to Z as she quietly reads a Rainbow Fairies book aloud from her doorway.

Most nights A's slept through, but the few times she's awakened in the middle of the night, it's only taken a brief sit on the hallway chair before she falls back asleep and one of us parents can tip-toe back to bed.

Work and Travel
I spent 2 nights in Cincinnati last week and had the most amazing sushi. Fresh and authentic, Jo An Japanese Restaurant is located in an unassuming office park near the airport and it supposedly opened for the Japanese executives of the nearby Toyota plant. If you're ever in Cinci, go there.

Even though my team only moved from the 14th to the 20th floor in January, we're movin' on up again on Friday--this time to the 24th floor. They're packing us in like sardines, which means I'll be sharing an office with my account management counterpart. Good thing I like her!

In other work/travel news, I am moderating a panel on how moms use social media in mid-October in NYC. I'm bringing the whole family along for a long weekend of sightseeing, friend-visiting and food. Delicious New York food.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pinkalicious: Sweet as can be

I was a little late to the Pinkalicious phenomenon, but the book is a delightful read--one that speaks directly to my 3 year old and still appeals to my 5 year old. So when Chicago's Emerald City Theatre mounted a "direct from Off-Broadway" revue of the stage production, I snapped up* tickets.

Josh and I took the girls to the Saturday morning show. Unlike most of the small children in the audience, mine weren't wearing fancy pink tulle dresses or toting pink cupcake purses, but A had slipped on her favorite brown cupcake t-shirt, and Z refused to take off her pink jacket, so we didn't look like total misfits.

The crowd, not surprisingly, was young and partial to pigtails. Most of the little girls appeared to be in the 3 to 4 range--which makes a lot of sense, really. There isn't much theatre appropriate for preschoolers.

Z and A ate it up. I was curious how anyone could stretch a fairly short picture book into a 1 hour musical, but Pinkalicious manages with lots of songs, a sprinkling of audience interaction and the kind of slapstick humor that doesn't really tickle my funny bone, but gives my daughters fits. The fact that even my youngest could recite the plot points on the drive to the theatre helped a lot too: I didn't spend the entire 60 minutes fielding "why's that man doing that?" questions. Instead, knowing roughly what was coming next, their faces positively glowed with anticipation.

Tickets are $13 a child. Adults are $16.

*By snapped up, I mean I responded to the press relations agent who'd been sending me near-daily releases on the show with a polite request for review tickets.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My school kids

The chameleon rests in his tree. His skin has peaceful colors. He wakes up hungry for a juicy insect. He looks this way...And that way. No food! No food! He must find a new tree home. What's this a scorpion[?] Watch out chameleon scorpion's stinger is poisonous. Carefully the chameleon creeps past.

Z's been writing up a storm since school began, declaring her love for her teacher, issuing invitations to friends to elaborate themed events, penning pleas for American Girl dolls and planning her birthday party down to the minute. She also writes stories, which I really treasure. I checked in with her teacher this week to see how she's adjusting to 1st grade, and it seems that aside from her tiny size she fits in perfectly. She's working above grade level and making friends.

A started Montessori preschool this week and the report from her teacher read, in part:

"[A] is always busy! Her main focus has been practical life. Flower arranging and cloth washing are her favorites. Today she was shown banana slicing and stayed focused throughout the entire process. We tend to lose her during the clean up stage of a longer sequence but today she followed through until every item was cleaned on back on the shelf. I think it helped that she was able to wash the items in the sink! She is very vocal and able to stand up for herself and her work. It is great that she isn't timid with all the new children or wary of the new environment. She is a very confident girl!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Shopping Report: Eye drops

What do you buy when your eyes are recovering from Lasik PRK? Well, you don't shop online, because focusing on a computer screen is damn near impossible. (At one week post-laser, it is much better, but since I still need to look away from the computer every few minutes to rest my eyes, I'm not tempted to cruise the online sales listings on my lunch break.)

Instead, you try and buy eye drops. A lot of eye drops. Here's my take on the OTC varieties I've tested in the last 7 days.

Tears Naturale Free I went through a big box of these pretty quickly post-surgery. They are individual one-use vials, but I found that each vial is actually more like 3-5 uses. They feel like tears. Walgreens makes a knock-off version that lists for about a dollar less.

Systane Ultra Preservative Free Eye Drops are very similar to Tears Naturale Free: individual vials that feel like soft tears. At least at Walgreens, they cost a bit more than Tears Naturale Free, but since I had a coupon that came with the starter kit from Dr. Kraff, the cost difference was negligible.

Refresh Optive Sensitive Lubricant Eye Drops I got a few of these as samples from Dr. Kraff, and they're also similar to the Tears Naturale Free individual vials, but they are slightly more moisturizing and the moisture does seem to last a bit longer. This helps make up for the fact that there's less solution in each individual vial (more like 1-2 uses), but the product performance isn't so much better that these are worth their premium price.

By far the most interesting eye product I've tested is GenTeal Eye Gel. Now that my eyes have healed, I'm supposed to apply it just inside my lower lash line and blink until it's coated my whole eyeball in soothing squishiness. I do this before bed so that my eyes can stay tucked under a sheet of moisture all night, but the box indicates for daytime use as well. It does feel good. I purchased the GenTeal brand on my doctor's recommendation, but I saw a lot of similar eye drop gels and eye gel products, and given how similar the tears are, I doubt I'll remain brand-loyal in the future.

Immediately after getting PRK, I couldn't wear any eye makeup. But since I've now been giving the go-ahead to do so, I picked up a waterproof mascara, Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof. It's a pretty basic mascara (and was on sale for under $4 at Walgreens), but it is doing a decent job of staying on even under a near-constant shower of artificial tears.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Lasik, PRK

When I showed up at the doctor's office for Lasik on Friday afternoon, they took some measurements and determined I wasn't a great candidate for Lasik after all. So I ended up getting a procedure called PRK, which involves a longer, harder recovery (but costs $1000 less).

I'll write more about my experience later, but right now my vision is too blurry to be working on a computer for more than a minute or two.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday shopping report: New eyes, new body

New eyes
flickr photo of Lasik by Space Pirate
Queen (Creative Commons)
As I write this, I'm just a couple of hours away from LASIK surgery. With my employer discount, it is working out to $4100. And my very generous mom is kicking in $2000 (Thanks, Mom!). Yes, I'm nervous. Also, excited.

New body
Did I mention I signed up for Derby Lite, a roller-derby inspired workout class? Well, in addition to the park district fee, I had to shell out for a helmet and knee, elbow and wrist pads ($108), roller skate rental ($50) and a boil-to-fit hot pink mouthguard ($39.99). Now all I need are some fishnets knee high tube socks.

Also, a Groupon
I couldn't resist the $10 at Oak Park's Jerusalem Cafe for just $5 Groupon* offered earlier this week.

We didn't buy
I found a pair of skinny 5-slim jeans on sale at Gap Kids for just $9.99, but even rail-thin Z deemed them too tight and uncomfortable so they went back.

*Affiliate link

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unfit to parent after 11pm

Something horrible has happened to A, a champion sleeper for most of her short life. With little warning, she's started resisting bedtime, refusing lullabies and making sure she's not the only one awake and unhappy in the wee hours.

Let's take last night. She didn't nap at the babysitter's house, so Josh put her to bed around 7pm. She asked him to stay in her room (this is a new development), and he watched her fall asleep, exiting the room at 7:20. (I was at a preschool board meeting.)

Josh and I turned in around 10:15, and at 10:55pm, I heard A calling--nay, yelling--for me. I went into her room and sat quietly on her chair as she tossed and turned. Her eyes closed within 10 minutes, and after 25 minutes, I began my stealthy creep out of the room.

The floorboards creaked. I was busted. "I'll come back and check on you in 10 minutes," I assured her, hoping she was close enough to slumber that she'de fall back asleep before then.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kid art, kid psychology

More and more, Josh and I have noticed how troubled big sister Z gets when A is upset. She hates to see (or hear) her cry and frequently demands we just "give in" to A's requests to get her to feel better faster.

She's also taken to cheering up her sister herself, hugging her, patting her back or head, giving her toys and drawing her pictures of happy scenes, like these of Chanukah and a birthday.

But lest you think Z's some kind of perfectly thoughtful sibling, realize that her kindness only goes so far. She'll only work at making A happy if she is not the cause of the distress. If she's snatched a toy away, refused to play with her or called her "a baby," she shows little regret.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Screw fear, I'm getting Lasik!

I've considered getting Lasik every fall for the past 12 or so years, but this year I'm finally gathering up my nerve (and $4100!) and going under the knife laser. My ragweed allergies have become so unbearable I can't wear contacts at all and I hate wearing glasses.

I had my initial screening at the Kraff Eye Institute during my lunch hour today, and because I'm never one to move slowly, I immediately canceled last week's contact lenses order and booked my Lasik procedure for this Friday afternoon!

For those of you curious about the process, I have a 2 hour pre-operative appointment tomorrow and a 2 hours surgery appointment on Friday at 1:30. I'll be given Valium and numbing eye drops before the operation and should be ready to walk out of there by 3:30pm. I may miss Kol Nidre services that night, but I should be fully functioning for Saturday morning.

It kind of blows my mind. Not unlike looking up and seeing Z at the top of her elementary school climbing apparatus. Or can I still call it monkey bars?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Living History: Naper Settlement and American Girl Dolls

Saturday afternoon I took Z and A to Naper Settlement, located about 45 minutes away in Naperville. Z has become consumed by an interest in history recently, her interest stoked by the historical American Girl novels she checks out from the Oak Park and elementary school libraries by the stackful.

At Naper Settlement, we went back in time to the 19th century, sitting in on class in a one-room schoolhouse, touring modest and grand homes and watching demonstrations by a blacksmith and printing press operator. Z peppered all of the docents (some of whom looked to be high school students) with questions and remembered a lot of details about the workings of old homes and covered wagons from books and her visits to other historical sites like Vance birthplace and Living History Farm in Iowa.

I was surprised that, aside from one other visitor, we were the only patrons there on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon. With admission prices comparable to a movie ticket and all of Chicagoland a short car ride away, I was surprised to be so outnumbered by costumed reenactors.

Only 3 years old, A didn't show as much gusto for the past as her big sister, but she patiently visited all of the sites, filling my purse with a natural history treasure trove of "chestnuts, acorns and rainbow leaves" every time we stepped outside.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday shopping report: 4 pairs of shoes and more!

Shopping on State Street
I took Z on a special "just the two of us" outing on Labor Day, and in addition to checking out the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Model City, we shopped. And shopped.

I'd promised Z a pair of shoes, but locating just the right pair took stops at Macy's and Nordstorm and the Sketchers store, were we scored this none-too-subtle pair of glittery, light-up kicks. They are regularly $40, but everything in the store was 20% off. I also picked up a pair of leather sandals for Josh for a remarkable $15!

At TJ Maxx, Z picked out a Halloween costume. She'd been talking about going as Strawberry Shortcake, but she changed her mind and selected a spider witch getup. We'll keep our eyes open for plastic cauldron for collecting candy. I also found a lovely new tablecloth ($16), an iPod charger for the car ($8) and a paint-your-own-birdhouse kit ($7) to add to the birthday closet.

I was shop-weary, but Z didn't want to go home without something for her little sister. At first she insisted on getting A a matching pair of Sketchers, but I explained the folly of spending a lot of money on shoes for a kid who refuses to wear anything but Crocs (no socks). She felt strongly we couldn't come home without any presents for A, so we walked over to Old Navy and found a cute hot pink tulle tiered skirt on clearance for under $8. Z convinced me to buy her a matching one, and a 97¢ sport-cap metal water bottle made it into our cart as well.

Did you say Crocs?

I would not be surprised if I am one of's top customers. This week alone I bought warm, wooly Crocs ($12) for my shoe-averse 3 year old (so far she refuses to wear them) and new, larger classic Crocs ($10) for Z (who actually wore the tread off a pair she's had for almost two years).

Just the thing to warm up in before I lace up my roller skates, right?
I also ordered a pair of retro-fabulous New Balance sneakers ($30) so that I won't have to worry about toting my sole pair of athletic shoes back and forth between my work gym (where I keep them) and Oak Park, where I am about to start roller derby workouts with Derby Lite. Stay tuned for that shopping report next week!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

This class fits just right

We attended the open house/curriculum night at Z's school yesterday and got a chance to meet her new 1st grade teacher and many of her classmates, and we came away with a major case of the warm fuzzies.

We were pleasantly surprised to find 3 familiar faces among the girls in the class--1 neighbor and 2 children who used to attend Z's Montessori school. The teacher seems energetic and very well qualified and the academic challenges are just what my daughter's hungry for. She's actually excited to be responsible for completing homework, writing in her weekend journal and diving into math, social studies and reading. The G&T teacher introduced himself to us and said he'd be working with the 1st graders (including Z) four times a week.

It looks like this will be a smooth transition and it makes my heart swell to know how many people are already looking out for Z--her new teacher, her kindergarten teacher and the gifted and talented teacher are all checking in on her today to see how she's adjusting. We're blessed to have such a great school in our neighborhood.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Our adventure on the North Shore

Despite A's tearful protests against getting in the car, we headed north to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe early this morning, were we met up with our friends Jay and Kate and their 2 (but soon to be 3) kids. The weather was glorious. If it weren't for my horrible, no-good ragweed allergies, I'd ask for 72 degrees and sunny every day of the year.

Fortunately, taking double the dose of Zyrtec + saline spray/Neti pot + wearing my glasses instead of my contacts = I can see/breathe. Sometimes.

We wandered through the beautiful gardens, gawking at a Hindu wedding and admiring heirloom tomatoes, local apple varieties, fragrant roses and immaculately groomed Japanese gardens. The kids clamored for snacks, hopped in and out of their strollers and made their own kites.


A was pretending the manicured shrubs were giant scoops of ice cream
After the gardens, we took a quick drive over to Highland Park for NY-style slices at New York Slices and Blizzards and cones at DQ.

World's cuddliest little boy makes himself slightly less huggable by frosting himself in soft serve

Friday, September 03, 2010

Next week: 1st grade

Josh and I suspected Z's kindergarten teacher was going to recommend advancing her to 1st grade during today's parent-teacher conference, but we didn't expect to hear that she scored in the 99th percentile of the tests administered to her by the gifted and talented teacher. And we were floored to find out our tiny, 37lb 5 year old is reading at the 6th grade level.

I had been telling myself for weeks to be patient with the public schools, reminding myself that in good time they'd come to see Z's abilities and provide her with some extra enrichment. It turns out I didn't have to be patient -- Z's teacher was nothing short of amazing. It is thanks to her that the G & T teacher was brought in early and a social worker evaluated her social and emotional readiness. She even spoke with the principal, selected the 1st grade class she thought would be best for Z and spoke with that teacher about her new student. She let Z get in her (much-anticipated) turn as class helper today and told me they'll have a little send-off celebration for her on Tuesday. Wednesday will be her first day in 1st grade.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my original post; your thoughts were very much on my mind this week as we deliberated our options. I also read my friend Kim's post Parenting Gifted Children: Do Kindergarten Students that Start Ahead Fall Behind and contributed to a discussion of redshirting on Ask Moxie (since redshirted classmates will be 2 years older than my child).

In the end, however, our instincts lined up with the recommendation of the school. They've only skipped 3 kids in 8 years, so this isn't a decision they take lightly. And while even 1st grade will probably come easily to Z, she's now very much on the radar of the G & T program and I feel pretty confident they'll keep her challenged and engaged.

Friday shopping report

I was so good this week. The only thing I bought was a copy of Laura Lippmann's What the Dead Know (using store credit, no less!). I haven't started it yet, as I'm still reading last Friday's book as well as a library copy of the child development book NurtureShock, which is sure to be the subject of an upcoming blog post. I'm only 75 pages in, but it reads like Freakonomics for Parents; it's a research-based but highly-readable book that turns conventional wisdom on its head.

I didn't buy
Since I'm embarking on something of a diet plan, I didn't eat out at all this week. Instead, I packed my lunches and kept a meticulous food diary, both on paper and at MyPlate. I plant to keep this up until I'm back in the mid-130s, weight-wise.

I flipped through Boden and Lands End catalogues, but I'm going to try to hold off on purchasing any fall or winter clothes until I audit what's currently in storage.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On finding the right classroom for my child

Today Z is in kindergarten. She didn't luck into a spot in the Spanish immersion classroom, so she's in a regular class of 18 with a wonderful, experienced teacher. They line up for lunch, recess and their extra-curricular classes and they work on their letters. The goal, by the end of the year, is for each kindergartener to tie their shoes, recognize 20 sight words and write 2 simple sentences about a picture.

If you know my daughter, you know she's already reading chapter books.

I'm fortunate that her school has recognized her gifts early in the year and they're having her assessed by the gifted and talented teacher this week. We have a meeting scheduled with her teacher for Friday where they'll tell us our options, but it looks like they're going to recommend skipping her ahead to 1st grade.

After much soul-searching, I think moving her ahead a year is the right thing to do. Z conquered the kindergarten curriculum (and more) in her third year at Montessori preschool and she's the kind of kid who craves new challenges. She's already complained about being bored by "sitting and coloring" -- she'd rather read or just play with the great toys in the classroom. She knows a handful of 1st graders and her teachers agree she's ready socially.

The only drawback is her size. In the 10th percentile for her age, she'll look positively puny next to 6 and 7 year old 1st graders. Once again, she'll complain about "always being in the front row for the class picture." Yes, I'll be swimming against the cultural currents, which seem to favor "redshirting" children so that they'll be the biggest/strongest/smartest.

It's been interesting going through this process while reading Monica Holloway's parenting memoir Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story. Although on the face of it the challenges Monica Holloway deals with raising a son with high-functioning autism are quite different from mine, we both see the incredibly important role school (as well as the companionship of a wonderful dog) plays in a child's success.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I received my copy of Cowboy & Wills for free as a part of the From Left to Write online book club. The link to the book is an affiliate link.