Monday, May 31, 2010

Rain on my parade

I don't have any pictures from today's River Forest Memorial Day parade (one of my favorite events of the year) because I was afraid to expose my camera to the torrential downpour. My in-laws are in town and our car only seats 5, so I took my bike to the parade (with A in the bike seat). Just as we arrived it started raining and by the time the first fire trucks came blaring down Ashland, thunder was booming, lightning flashing and we were soaked to the bone by sheets and sheets of pouring rain. Josh's parents wanted to stay and see the whole parade, but not even the free candy could keep my wet, chilled children amused for another minute. We bundled them up in the car and I raced Josh home on my bike. At that point I just had to embrace the soaked sensation and focus on trying to see--which was tough, as anyone who's ever showered with her contacts in and her eyes open can imagine.

But while our Memorial Day was kind of a bust, the rest of this weekend's been great. I had Friday off, which meant I got to do the pick up and drop off on Z's last day of school and take A to get a haircut.
Saturday morning we biked to the farmers market and cooled off at the just-switched-on splashpad at our local park. Josh's parents babysat on Saturday so that we could have dinner at the Chew Chew in Riverside. On Sunday Josh, his folks and Z went to a Cubs game. A wouldn't nap, but we were able to join the rest of Oak Park at Rehm pool for our first swim of the season. We then drove way north to meet the rest of the family at Sun Wah BBQ for dinner. I'm not a typically a huge fan of Chinese food, but the Peking duck, soft-shell crab and the shrimp dumpling soup with noodles were all amazing.



Friday, May 28, 2010

3 years of Montessori

In September 2007, we brought Z to her Montessori school for the first time. At 2 years and 9 months, she was the youngest child in the school. (Younger even than A is today.)

First day of school
Three years later, she's a graduate. She brought home three folders bursting with maps, creative writing, pictures, math workbooks (including 4 digit subtraction problems!), anatomy diagrams and more.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Then and now

One year ago...

And yesterday...

Pictured in both of these photos is Z with her beloved teacher Mrs. B and Hank, one her best friends. (We're very glad she's friends with Hank as we like his parents a lot.)

Last night all of us--our family, Hank's family and Mrs. B--had dinner together. A farewell dinner as Mrs. B moving to Canada to be closer to her family.

Which is kind of too bad, because I know at least 2 more children who'd learn a lot from her.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grandma envy

My colleague's phone buzzed. She glanced at the screen and melted into a smile. "My mom just sent me another video," she explained, "She sends me pictures and videos a few times a day so I don't miss my baby so much."

My coworker is a new mom, back at work after a too-short maternity leave. It's never fun to leave a 3 month old baby in someone else's care all day, but she's got a pretty sweet situation. Her parents moved to Chicago specifically to care for her newborn and they're doing it all day, every day, for free. Because they want to. Her precious daughter is in Grandma's loving arms 9 hours a day, and my coworker can be completely confident in the quality of her child care. ("She did a good job raising me!")

I'm happy for my friend, but jealous too. My mom and stepdad and my in-laws live on the East Coast, and they're all professionals at least a year away from retirement. Neither set of grandparents has shown any interest in moving closer to us or visiting more than a couple of times per year. I've never dropped my kids off at Grandma's house for the afternoon, much less the weekend. My children's grandparents have never attended a birthday party, preschool event or dance recital. I can't rely on mom to swoop in and help out when I'm sick or overwhelmed. And I don't have the luxury of calling up a babysitter who loves my children dearly and doesn't charge by the hour.
flickr photo by Baron Von Horne, used under Creative Commons license
Originally posted to Chicago Moms Blog.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Good (and good-ish) things

A few things I learned this week, when I wasn't working my ass off at the office or worrying myself sick about the BP oil spill in the Gulf:

1. I'm much happier to hear A's 5:50am wake-up call when the previous night had her up at 2:30. Why, you might ask? Was she sick? No. "I done sleeping."

2. Installing the 50 pound window A/C in the dining room window is shockingly easy when you're doing it for the 6th time. It's hard to believe we've been living in our Oak Park home for 7 years next month. Oh, and happy 100th birthday house! We love you even you were the scene of a bloody murder.

3. It pays to be patient. Not only did I find Z's new bicycle on Craigslist, my dream dining room table was listed in the most recent for sale edition of MomMail. I've been looking for a heavy, rustic-looking rectangular table for 8 for about a year, but I've been combing the classifieds in earnest for the past 4 months or so. I finally found it--it's a Rustica table from Room & Board--and a mover is delivering it and 8 Room & Board chairs early tomorrow morning.

We've got an exciting weekend ahead: Z and my last ceramics class, Z's first gymnastics show and her Montessori school's graduation picnic.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle

Z barely took her helmet off this weekend. She rode back and forth to her school, where she "helped" transform the schoolyard into a fully functional playground with raised gardens. (It was a huge community undertaking, with about 25 volunteers hammering, shoveling, hauling and raking for hours.)
Here are my girls, digging for earthworms as Dad works the wheelbarrow and Mom visits the donut table

When digging for worms and climbing the mulch pile got old, we went to Rehm Park. There Z commandeered her friend Meredith's bike and circled the playground.
Although the two BFFs did pause for a quick photo

When we came home I removed the training wheels and lowered the seat on her new, bigger bike. It's a purple Schwinn Stardust with 16 inch wheels that we bought off of Craigslist for $45 and Z is in love. She rode around the block with her friend Aria and then by herself, again and again and again, refusing to stop even for a glass of water.

On Sunday she rode through the neighborhood to a new tot lot and implored me to drive her bike to Field Park, which she wheeled around before we met Megan and Bruce for a fabulous brunch at Longman & Eagle (Bruce is a partner).

Z took a brief break to swing, but didn't bother removing her helmet

If you look closely, you can see Z's new bike parked below A

The only places Z didn't bike to this weekend? She didn't get to bike to ceramics class or to the Irving School Yard Sale (where I scored a toddler bike seat and a bunch of kid clothes and early chapter books). She didn't get to bike to Deb's house for our Chavurah Spanish potluck or to Kohls to buy a gift for her teacher on behalf of the school (this is her last year).

But that's about it. The rest of the weekend? All she wanted to do was ride, ride, ride.

I finally got the photos off my Blackberry. Here's one of Z on her bike.
And here's one of the kids on the top of the mulch pile.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BP: Beyond the Pale

I realize there are other news stories worth caring about--tornados in the Oklahoma, flooding in Nashville, the financial mess in Greece and crazy hatchet-men killing kindergartners in China--but I can't tell you how frustrated I am by how the news media's coverage of BP's disastrous oil spill in the Gulf fails to measure up to the size of the tragedy. Right now there is no mention of the oil spill on the front page of and only a tiny text link entitled BP knew of problems on CNN.

Aside from this amazing set of photographs from, I have seen surprisingly little in the way of photo journalism, news updates and commentary on what this environmental disaster means for our energy policies.

I say show us more leaking oil pipes. More blackened birds. More stranded fishermen. More poisoned fish. Show us more spoiled beaches and estuaries. Get Americans angry with BP and its hollow, cynical "Beyond Petroleum" greenwashing campaign.* I want otherwise complacent citizens to realize that this is our wake-up call. It's just not about reducing our reliance on foreign oil. It's about reducing our reliance on oil, period. Yes solar is in its infancy and wind farms make noise and interfere with your otherwise perfect view, but they don't foul the land and water for thousands of miles. President Obama is looking for ways to kick-start our economy and investing in green energy seems like a great place to start. For my part, I'm going to do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint. Biking and walking more. Fueling up less. And never again at BP.

*That link is to an op-ed article by one of the creatives who worked on the "Beyond Petroleum" campaign. I feel fortunate that none of the big companies I've helped market have done anything I'm truly ashamed to be associated with. In fact, right now I'm kind of proud to work for P&G, which pretty much invented cause marketing 20+ years ago when Dawn helped wash Exxon Valdez oil off of wildlife.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Health care reform can't come fast enough

The good news is that my pityriasis rosea spots are much faded and no longer itch. The bad news is that I've gotten a front row seat to our outrageously stupid, money-squandering health care system. This is the Chicago Moms Blog post I wrote about it.

"Your insurance saved you $260."

My eyes just about popped out of my skull reading that. I'd just picked up a topical foam I'd been prescribed to deal with a skin condition. I'd paid around $30, using my flex spending card. It would have been closer to $50 or $60, but my dermatologist had ever so kindly passed along a prescription discount card (basically a reusable coupon) from the drug company that made the product and that had brought the price down.

Basically, I was fighting a rash with $300 worth of name brand steroid-enhanced hair mousse. Steroid-enhanced hair mousse that left my skin less rashy, but as parched as the Sahara.

Since I was instructed to apply the product twice daily (and my rash pretty much covered my body), I finished off the foam in just over a week. So I called theWalgreen's prescription refill line. The pharmacist called right back: "Your insurance company is only going to pay for this once every 30 days. How is it possible you are done with it already? And how are you using it, exactly?" she asked.
I replied that I was putting the stuff all over, as directed by the doctor. "And are you, um, particularly, um, hairy?" the pharmacist inquired.

Turns out the $300 mousse was a proprietary alcohol-based formula designed specifically for scalp conditions. You know, cause people don't like to put greasy creams on their hair. In fact, the pharmacist told me the exact same active ingredient was available in generic in a cream or liquid formula. Which, aside from being a lot less expensive, would also be less drying to my skin.

Which got me thinking. Why would this dermatologist specifically prescribe a name brand product (instead of the generic) and hand me a coupon for the name brand product? Is his relationship with the pharmaceutical company that cozy? What exactly is the profit margin on a 100 gram can of topical steroid foam?

And what if I didn't have excellent, employer-sponsored health care coverage? Would I have shelled out $300 or just taken my chances? And what if I didn't have $300?

Overhauling our health care system is fraught with challenges, but it's clear to me that what we've got now--a profit-driven system that rewards costly care over quality care and neglects those who can't afford to buy in--is clearly broken.

My Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day is watching your children swing "spider-style," with your firstborn's arms wrapped tightly around her little sister's back. It's seeing your oldest teach her sister how to swing sideways. It's listening to your girls shriek with delight as they bash into each other again and again.

Mother's Day is a bike ride to the park with Z proudly leading the way on her two-wheeler, streamers a-flying and A singing in the trailer behind me. It's a morning of seed-collecting and silly dancing. With no whining. No tears. No threats of time outs and early trips home.



Mother's Day is A taking a long nap while Z and her dad see How to Tame Your Dragon in 3-D. It's meeting up with friends at the park and laughing over Five Guys burgers in their dining room while the kids slurp popsicles and whisper secrets in each others' ears in the yard.

And it's getting home by bedtime and washing off the sand, dirt, juice, ketchup and snot off their faces so their sweet cheeks are ready for bedtime kisses.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I just want a little fresh air, Mom

Ah, isn't it lovely to fall asleep in the cool night air...while making sure the neighbor kids aren't having too much fun after your bedtime...?

This is exactly how I found Z last night Josh and I were heading to bed. Her head and pillow are on the window sill. And so is Oscar.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Happy heart, happy belly: My weekend in Portland

My 48 hours in Portland were not wasted. We largely left Franny's children at home with Dave as we shopped, walked and ate our way across the city, sharing food from restaurants, diners, food carts, hole in the wall doughnut shops and the Farmers' Market.

I ate...
Tomato soup, grilled cheese and a butterscotch milkshake at Blueplate
Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Kettleman's
Marionberry scone and cookies from the Farmers' Market
A glazed doughnut and Stumptown coffee from Voodoo Doughnut
Assorted Japanese bar snacks and udon noodle soup at Biwa
Spinach, sundried tomato and feta pizza from Oasis Cafe
Lettuce with green goddess dressing and a soft boiled egg followed by a very rare cheeseburger at The Country Cat
Egg, sausage patty and cheese biscuit sandwich from Pine State Biscuits
And a coconut and wicked chocolate ice cream cone from Cool Moon Ice Cream (and since we're not completely heartless, we took the kids there)

I bought...
Dansko sandals from Clogs N More, a pair of earrings and an earring organizer from vendors at the Saturday market, a miniature box of Alma Chocolates, 2 pounds of Stumptown coffee, a folk songs book from Powell's Books for Home & Garden and a half dozen secondhand cloth napkins from SCRAP, a shop that rescues potential landfill and resells it as crafting supplies.

And because we eventually did get shopped out, we also visited...
The Oregon History Museum and the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, where we had fun taking pictures.
Friends & Flowers
You can see more here.