Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pityriasis Rosea update

I've posted off and on about my bout with Pityriasis Rosea, but you can read the whole sordid story over at the Chicago Moms Blog. As of this morning, my spots are about 60% faded and I no longer itch. I also no longer look like a freak from Planet Measles, which is a huge relief because I'm flying to Oregon to visit my high school bestie Franny tomorrow morning, and a spa visit is on our itinerary.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bead for Life: What a home-selling party should look like

My friend Deb invited a couple dozen women to her house (including many of my friends and fellow local blogger Emily) to buy beaded jewelry last night, but this was no ordinary home selling party. Yes, there was wine and snacks. But there was no rep hawking her goods. Deb wasn't earning free goodies with each of our purchases. No one was placing orders they'd have to wait weeks to receive. And I don't think anyone was feeling ripped off by inflated prices.

Deb was hosting a Bead for Life party, selling colorful paper beads handcrafted out of recycled paper by poor women in Uganda. It's a nonprofit, fair-trade enterprise, with 92% of the sales price directly benefiting women. We were shown a heart string-pulling video that explained how rolling and stringing beads allows women to stay in their homes, close to their children (instead of in a quarry, crushing rocks) and the global market for the jewelry ensures a decent pay that can be invested in school fees, home ownership and more nutritious food. I bought it, hook, line and sinker.

And it doesn't hurt that the beads are beautiful. I bought the three necklaces pictured for $65. Franny, avert your eyes. One of these is for you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I need to remember this

A has no trouble expressing herself. She's got an extraordinary vocabulary, speaks in complex sentences and usually at maximum volume. (Seriously, the girl does not have an off switch!) But she does have a few adorable 2-year-old quirks that I must capture before they vanish forever.

Pasghetti=spaghetti (doesn't every toddler say this?)

When she wants to play with me, she usually says, "You wanna be Note-sa? You can be the baby and I can be the Mom! Yeah! Isn't that a great idea?" Note-sa is her go-to baby name. The Mom's name is usually Sara. If I agree to play, she continues. "It's time for you to take a nap. Lie down! No, on the couch! Feet up! Close eyes. I gonna tuck you in."

She then positions her face thisclose to mine and sings me a broken version of "Rock A Bye Baby." She kisses me and walks in the other room. "Now call 'Mama!'" I dutifully say "Mama" and she runs in, "What's the matter, Note-sa?" I repeat one of A's excuses for not wanting to nap and she parrots me, saying "You need to take a nap" or "We all sleep in our own beds." I get one final kiss and then she announces, "Okay, now I can be the baby and you can be the Mom. Okay? Doesn't that sound like a fun idea? I gonna lie down and you can tuck me in."

Another variation on the game goes like this: "Let's play babysitter! You can be Adriana. I gonna bring my baby to you. You can take care of her. Now I go to work. I'll pick up Note-sa later, when I done working. I gonna take a train." This is said as she wheels a doll baby over to me and hands her off. Then she tosses a purse over her shoulder and blows kisses.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Check out this getup

In case you couldn't guess, A put together this outfit all by herself. Pink long-sleeved t-shirt from Old Navy (it's silk-screened "Deer to Daddy's heart), blue leggings, pink socks, sparkly shoes and Z's old ice cream cone nightgown.

And yes, she wore it to the park with pride.

Speaking of giving my girls the freedom to make their own decisions... Z's been telling me for two weeks that she's ready to get her ears pierced. For two years, I've told her she can get her ears pierced whenever she's ready, but that it will hurt. On Saturday we stopped at Claire's, we picked our a small pair of CZ studs and she sat in the chair. She asked to see the piercing tool and watched the manager pierce a demonstration ear.

And then she changed her mind. I told her we'd come back when she was really ready. I'm not at all opposed to kids getting their ears pierced (although I've told her no dangly earrings until she's 12), but I'm not going to pressure her either.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bring your kids to work day

Yesterday was Bring your kids to work day, and bring them I did. A, at 2 1/2 years old, is really too young for this kind of experience. Even at the kid-centric activities we attended (a gym class, pinata-making and photo shoot), she was overwhelmed by the chaos and clingy. Good thing Josh picked her up at lunch time to take her home for her nap.

Z stayed all day, had a blast and impressed the hell out of everyone with her smarts and poise. She even sat through a 90 minute shopper marketing briefing (taking notes and coloring) and entertained herself by playing Dreambox on my computer when I had to leave my office to go present over a conference call.

Here she is enjoying a Coke float (yes, they're a client).

When told she was in a conference room with 6 real artists and shopper marketing specialists, she said "I'm a good artist too. I can draw a store environment." And then she drew this. An end cap. With adjacencies!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day: Getting greener every year

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Ordinarily that would mean dressing Z in a green shirt and dropping her off at Montessori, where she she would get to add a rock into the jar for biking or scooting to school. But tomorrow is also Take Your Kids to Work Day, so my girls will spend at least part of the day with me at the agency.

Honestly, Earth Day isn't that big a deal to me. Not because I'm a heartless peddler of petroleum products, but because I try to make responsible choices every day. Many of the changes we've made over the last couple of years have become so much a part of our daily living that I don't even think about them as "green" any more. But in honor of Earth Day and the National Geographic Green Guide for Families book club that I missed because of my skin afflictions, I want to share our not-too-crunchy but still earth-friendly practices in the hope that I can inspire one more family to do the same.

As I've blogged before, we reduced our usage of paper towels by mopping up spills with super-absorbent, washable microfiber cloths instead. We've also cut way back on our plastic bag usage, sending sandwiches to school in a washable box and washing and drying the baggies we do use (Josh actually scolds me if he finds a Ziploc in the trash). With a low-flow shower and toilets, we use less water than most inside the house and our rain barrel collects water for the garden. We've cut back on our gas-powered dryer, opting to line dry clothes on a folding rack next to the radiators. And I'm thrilled to say that thanks to early potty training, we've reduced our consumption of disposable diapers to zero!

Like most people these days, we drink water out of reusable bottles and shop with reusable bags. We reuse those plastic bags that sneak into the house as trash can liners and kitty waste disposal bags and I supply our art table with nonconfidential print-outs from work so that the girls can draw on the blank side.

Thanks to Oak Park's inclusive curbside recycling program, we can recycle almost all kinds of plastic, metal, paper and glass. Easy-peasy.

What else are we doing?
We avoid the use of toxic chemicals, cleaning the house with vinegar, baking soda and water wherever possible (even our twice-monthly housecleaners are chemical-free). When a stronger brew is required, we choose an earth-friendly choice from Method, Clorox Green Works or Trader Joe's. Most of our light fixtures sport CFL bulbs, our heat is on a programmable thermostat and we have newer window AC units that we turn off when a room is vacant. When we're on a de-cluttering binge, we Freecycle and donate instead of trashing. And after watching Food, Inc., we've also pledged to buy organic meat, dairy and eggs. Yes, it costs more, but I feel like we can afford "vote with our wallets" in favor of sustainable agricultural practices and humane treatment of animals.

What can we do better?
Although we've considered it, we haven't started composting. My friend Carrie bought a worm bin, and I'm waiting to hear how that's worked out for her before I commit to making my own soil out of food scraps.

We didn't join a CSA this year. I wasn't thrilled with our investment the summer we shared a CSA share with our neighbors; I'd rather buy my favorite fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market than figure out what to do with a bag of beets and turnips.

Although we've largely replaced book buying with borrowing from the library, we still get too many catalogs and magazines and we waste electricity. I can't get Josh to turn off the lights in his basement office or the laundry room, and I'm sure our electronics are responsible for sucking power when they're not in use (although we're about to remedy that with an iGo Power Smart Tower).

I'd also like to do a better job of saving and organizing craft-worthy materials like old socks, toilet paper rolls and food containers. I hate watching clutter pile up on my counters, so I'm more likely to just recycle stuff that could first be repurposed.

Photo courtesy of NASA

She's her father's daughter

Z this morning: "Mom, put on that 'Hot 'n Cold' song!"
One minute later: No, turn that off. How about The Who's 'I Can See for Miles?"
Me: "It's not on iTunes."
Z: "Okay, how about some Led Zeppelin, then."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dentist: don't pull my baby's teeth!

About 6 to 8 weeks ago A launched herself off the couch and landed on a wooden trunk that we use as a side table. She howled with pain, and upon examining her mouth, I swore that her two top front teeth looked like they had moved slightly. I also found a small 2 tooth indentation mark on the side of the trunk. I suggested Josh take her to the dentist "just to check her out," but by the next day A seemed fine and we forgot all about the incident. It didn't even register as blogworthy. Bad, neglectful parents.

Anyway, it all came flooding back yesterday at her 6 month checkup. The dentist noticed some discoloration on one tooth and took an X-ray to evaluate the damage. Apparently there's some danger an abscess could form and damage her adult teeth. Which means that if things don't look good when the dentist checks again in 6 weeks, they're going to pull one or both of her two front teeth. Gah!

Can you imagine my adorable ragamuffin with no front teeth for years? The alternative (expensive, I'm sure) is some kind of kiddie veneers bonded to the neighboring teeth.

Z also had a check-up and was determined to possess a healthy mouth, an inquisitive brain (she peppered the dentist with questions and impressed her with her knowledge of teeth and gums), and a 100 percent chance of needing orthodontia.

Anyway, it looks like I'll be wiping out my FSA account before the year is halfway over.

If there's one bright side to all this news, it's that my kids were complimented on their excellent oral hygiene and cheerful, cooperative dispositions.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I have a diagnosis

I was able to see a dermatologist this morning, who immediately diagnosed my rash as Pityriasis Rosea. He gave me a stronger topical medicine and told me that lying in a tanning bed might help speed my recovery.

I'm still pretty uncomfortable, but it feels good to know what I've got and that it is treatable, it won't return and shouldn't leave any lasting marks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bathing beauties

I'm trying to keep my spirits up, but my mystery rash isn't getting any better. My MIL suggested it might be something called PLEVA, which is rare, little-known and has no cure. Fan-f-ing-tastic.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The itchy and scratchy show

After going to the Walgreen's Take Care clinic on Sunday morning (because OMG I can't go to the Chicago Moms Blog mixer with pinkeye) and walking out with prescriptions for Nasonex and antibiotic eye drops, I still felt shitty with a capital S on Monday. I added too much water to Z's instant oatmeal. I forgot to put product in my hair. I couldn't find my Blackberry case. There was no way I could go to work until I'd seen a physician.

So Monday morning I saw our family practice doc and she told me to keep up the eye drops and add oral antibiotics to the mix. She blamed my fogginess on the antihistamines, calling it a "Benadryl hangover." The wicked congestion, sore throat, cough and headaches I'd been suffering from were due to a sinus infection. Oh, and I had broken out in a head to toe rash of red dots all over my body. But she didn't seem overly concerned with them.

Wednesday morning I felt well for the first time in weeks. It was a glorious feeling, breathing through my nose, putting in my contact lenses. Except the rash wasn't getting any better. It was a glorious summer-like day and I couldn't bare my legs. Hell, I couldn't even shave them! Oh, and without my Benadryl fog, the itchiness has gotten to be almost too much to bear.

So tomorrow I'm going back for a follow-up visit. I'll keep you posted...

4/16 Just got back from my doctor appointment. Her reaction: "This looks like chicken pox, did you have a confirmed case as a child?" I told her I was pretty sure I had it in the 5th grade, but when I called my mom to check afterwards, she said she thought I had it as a baby or toddler. Anyway, the doc thinks that whatever it is, it's viral and it will have to get better on its own. In the meantime, I am to rest, rest, rest. And not stress. Which means I'm staying home and taking lukewarm oatmeal baths and trying not to to look at myself because, OMG, I'm covered in hideous spots!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning to live Montessori at home

Does your kindergartener make her bed this neatly?

Although I didn't know squat about Montessori before I had children, I'm a huge advocate for it now. My 5 year old has almost finished her 3-year cycle in Primary, Montessori's term for a mixed age class for 3-6 year olds, and she's graduating with a mastery of reading, basic math, geography (she can identify more countries on a world map than I can) and lots of other skills, academic, practical and social. I'm a passionate supporter of Z's teachers and of her school as a whole. Heck, I'm volunteering as Board Co-President this year, I love it so much.

But while I'm a Montessori preschool mom, I have a ways to go before I can call myself a true Montessori Mom. This became clear to me when I attended the most recent Parent Ed night at Z's school. We watched a video, At Home with Montessori (you can find it here), which featured kids 3-6 accomplishing tasks most American parents would never consider their small children ready to do: loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing dishes by hand, flipping pancakes and cooking an omelet unaided. One father talks about how nice it is that his son has a hot breakfast ready when mom and dad come downstairs in the morning.

We came together after the film to discuss what jobs we let our children do themselves and what we could do to give them more opportunities for responsibility. According to Montessori philosophy, children want to help out the family and do "real work" -- it gives them a sense of contributing to the family welfare. But there's a side benefit as well: mom and dad have less work to do when small children are setting the table, helping fold laundry and cleaning up their own spills.

I'd already installed low hooks and baskets so that my children can hang up their own coats and put their shoes and dirty clothes away, but the day after Parent Ed I cleared out a low drawer and filled it with smaller plates, cups and bowls so that my children can access them with ease. Next up is an accessible snack drawer and a second kitchen step stool. I may even purchase a few light switch toggles so that my 2 year old can turn off lights when she leaves a room.

The teachers gave us a couple of tips on how to teach small children new tasks. Whether its putting on and zipping up a coat, matching and folding socks, sweeping up or making a beds, break the task down into individual steps and demonstrate them, slowly, and without talking. Then let your child try. It's only been a couple of days, but this method really works! We've taught our 5 year old how to squeeze toothpaste onto her toothbrush, brush thoroughly and floss, and our 2 year old has wiped up her own spilled milk and mastered putting on and taking off her own clothes. It's tough to put yourself in their shoes and figure out exactly which steps go into something as natural and mindless as pulling your shirt off over your head, but once you do, you can teach your toddler. And the pride you see in their eyes--it's so worth it.

Originally published to the Chicago Moms Blog.

Chicago Moms Blog updates!

Check out my latest Chicago Moms Blog post, inspired by Parent Ed night at Z's Montessori school.

And speaking of the Chicago Moms Blog, I drugged myself up with Zyrtec, Sudafed, Nasonex and some antibiotic eye drops and hit the Brands and Bloggers party at the Hard Rock Hotel yesterday. There was an interesting roundtable discussion of the future of marketer-mom blogger relationships (also the subject of my presentation next month) and a cool mixer afterwards.

I got to hang out with some of my favorite bloggers, Carrie the Frugalista (my ride), Caitlin from A Hen and Three Chicks, Kim from Hormone-Colored Days, Shari of Two Times the Fun, Lisa from Hannemaniacs, Farrah of Baby Love Slings, Cynthia the Nap Warden, Self Made Mom and slow-blogger Sara, and newcomer/fellow OPT-member (she recognized Z from the tots class years ago) Emily from West of the Loop.

I also got to meet with brand representatives and take home bags of valuable swag and coupons (you'll hear more about it later as I try stuff out). It was a good day to be a mommyblogger. (Just not such a good day to have a sinus infection.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

She's mastered the 2-wheeler

Z rides her bike for the first time from almaklein on Vimeo.

After spending a couple of weekends working on balancing her bicycle like a run-bike (not using the pedals), Z picked up her feet and put them on the pedals. She's a natural!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Art milestones: First face, first family

A drew her first recognizable face and family portrait this morning--although the latter probably resembles a family of jellyfish (or perhaps nothing if you're not her parent).

For comparison's sake, here's Z's first drawing of a face. Fascinating that both girls drew their first portrait at 33 months of age!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Around the house: from disaster to delicious

We're having our front porch roof replaced and new gutters hung today. This is what the house looked like this evening around 6:30pm.
And then on the backporch, a much more tranquil scene door: A and Adrian, her daycare provider's son (they live 2 doors down).
They've become very good friends.

This is the show the littles were watching.
Next door neighbor Ethan and his friend Chris, Adrian's older brother. Note the spaghetti of ladders in the background. We have very nice, patient neighbors. The kind who don't roll their eyes when your construction workers block their driveway, throw roofing materials on their lawn and work until 8:30pm (yes, they're still here, cleaning up in the dark).

Tonight also marked our inaugural trip to Hole in the Wall.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Our first Easter egg hunt

We were so fortunate to be invited to an Easter egg hunt and brunch. Laura and John were our downstairs neighbors in our condo building in Lincoln Park 6 years ago, and they recently moved to Oak Park themselves. Aside from being some of the nicest, most genuine people you'd ever meet, their children are exactly one year older than our kids--right down to the month.

Anyway, Z and A had a wonderful time scouting for eggs and playing with the dozen other kids. It was sunny and in the 70s and there were nice people, mango mimosas and Bloody Marys. What more can you ask for? Since Josh and I keep Passover, I brought this delicious Apple-Matzoh Kugel, which was variously identified by the others as "apple turnover," "cracker French toast" and "strudel." One person said, "I don't know what this apple dish is, but it's the best thing I've ever eaten!" Rare words for a kosher-for-Passover dish, right?

If you have a moment, click over to Devra Renner's post on going to the White House Easter Egg Roll. She includes a wonderful allegory that helps explain to kids how and why we share others' traditions.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The family that clays together...

I signed Z and myself up for Family Ceramics, offered through the park district. Today's project: frogs--an unintentionally appropriate Passover choice.

With a few minutes to spare before the end of class, Z also made the face on the lower left.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fresh Cannabis Rose: I've found my scent

I am not a perfume gal. My tweenage years of Electric Youth and Love's Baby Soft excepted, the only name-brand scent I've ever purchased has been the Body Shop's White Musk. And after 12+ years of wearing it--albeit sporadically--I'm bored.

Anyway, I'm working on some beauty concepts for Spring of 2011, so I decided to take advantage of today's exceptionally Spring-like weather and walk down State Street in search of some inspiration. I wandered into the new Sephora and somehow found myself in front of the Fresh fragrance display. The Cannabis Rose label called out to me. I sniffed the bottle and liked what I smelled. I spritzed a little inside my left elbow, smiled and left.

The scent stayed with me all day, and I was increasingly intoxicated by it (and not, I'm sure, because of the name). I couldn't stop smelling my arm. A colleague sat next to me and asked me if I was wearing perfume. "It smells amazing on you," she said, "You must buy it."

I went to the dentist, played in the yard with the kids and had barbecue chicken for dinner. Then I sniffed my arm again around 7:30pm. The scent was still there. "Josh," I called, "come upstairs and smell something." He dragged his feet, no doubt sure I was going to ask him to sniff out some horrible smell, but even he agreed I smelled really good.

Of course, I couldn't fall for a cheap cologne. This stuff costs $85 and isn't available from any discount outlets. But I bought it anyway, getting the best deal I could by clicking through to through the USAA Membershop. It's still a totally unnecessary luxury item, but at least I earned 6 points/$1 and got $10 off and free shipping.