Thursday, July 29, 2010

I love my job

Reason #1: I work as an advertising creative. My job requires little math and lots of creativity. (And it pays pretty well, too.)

But we also have fun, which leads me to reasons 2 and 3.

Reason #2: Today we celebrated our account director's 34th birthday with tiny cans of sparkling wine. With straws! And cupcakes! And remember how they celebrated my 34th? On the roof of the Wit. Summer birthday celebrations at work make up for a childhood without decorated lockers and cupcakes for the whole class.

Reason #3: For our team outing tomorrow, we're renting a tiki boat. If you see 10 girls and 1 guy on a ramshackle pontoon boat on Lake Michigan tomorrow, be sure to wave hello. I'll be the one wearing a Land's End tankini, a rat's nest of windblown curls, SPF 50 and a giant smile.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 foot 2, could it be true?

We took the girls to our family doctor for their annual physicals on Monday morning. Both of them measure in the 10th percentile for height. Z, our skinny girl, was between the 5th and 10th percentile for weight. A was about 25th percentile for weight. When I asked if it was too early to predict their adult heights, the doctor said no, she thinks they'll both end up about 5 foot 2. (For the record, I'm 5' 6.)

As usual, they received compliments for their cooperative behavior and advanced verbal skills. With one exception. Shortly after the doctor arrived, she confirmed that Z was due for 3 vaccinations (in 2 shots) and A would escape shot-free. Z turned away from us for a moment and I could see a couple of silent tears slip down her cheeks. She was a little less animated after that. A, on the other hand, repeatedly asked if "Her could give her some shots now."

When the doctor slipped out and the nurse arrived, needles in hand, Z lost it. I had to pin her down as she screamed and writhed. I'm sure folks could hear her all the way out in the waiting area.

Anyway, Z is now fully vaccinated for kindergarten. We find out on August 16th if she'll win one of the coveted 24 spots in the brand-new Spanish immersion classroom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flood, friends and film

My plan for this morning was to take Z and one of her friends up to Evanston for a free Chicagonista screening of Ramona and Beezus. But after last night's torrential rains, the highways and Blue Line trains were shut down and reports of flooding on roads under the viaducts was widespread.

When I picked up Z's buddy, I saw their pond-like backyard and learned their basement was flooded as well. Since I didn't want the girls to be too disappointed, I hung out with them making friendship bracelets for an hour or so and then took them to see Toy Story 3 in 3-D at the local cinema.

After the movie I dropped off her friend and picked up A and headed southwest to Brookfield, where we were going to visit the new home of an old friend. Remember how just last weekend I reconnected with 4 former Newcity colleagues? Well today I got to hang out with one of my favorite Newcity people, Alana. It was such a treat to catch up with her and meet her jolly 11 month old, Will, but getting there and back? Well, it looked like this.

Driving through a foot of water in your Honda CR-V is kind of fun, but finding out that a dozen of your friends are dealing with flooded basements and one is in dire need of a new apartment now? It sucks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My 5 year old reviews Kidz Bop 18

Yes, I let my kindergarten age daughter listen to Top 40 radio. In the car. Sometimes. I also let her listen to just about everything Josh puts on. And since he's a professional music critic, he's got music playing pretty much all the time. And it's virtually never the "radio-safe" version.

No biggie, right? Except when said 5 year old starts singing about "sippin' gin and juice" and wearing "Daisy Dukes with bikinis on top," I start channeling Tipper Gore.

Enter Kidz Bop 18, a CD compilation that's basically That's What I Call Music as sung by kids. I gave to it Z to review and she typed up the following.

Personally, I kind of like Kidz Bop myself. Same catchy pop tunes with decent production values and lyrics that are more grade-school appropriate than anything Katy Perry would write.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the CD for free.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A budget-friendly birthday party in Berwyn

Ice cream parlor birthday parties are pretty commonplace among families in our Oak Park community, but not one of the 5 families we invited to A's 3rd birthday party had ever heard of--much less been to--Over the Rainbow. Located 2 blocks west of Oak Park Avenue along the train tracks in Berwyn, Oak Park's blue-collar sibling suburb to the south, Over the Rainbow is a charming old fashioned Hershey's ice cream shop decorated with memorabilia from the owner's favorite childhood story, The Wizard of Oz.

For an unbelievably affordable $70 fee (good for up to 10 kids), we had the run of the place for 2 hours. The owner organized games, read to the kids from a pop-up The Wizard of Oz storybook, and served hot dogs, chips, juice and enough ice cream cake to feed all the kids, all the parents and bring home leftovers. Everything was included except for the balloons and Tony was enthusiastic and animated, keeping the kids entertained the whole time. They tried on ice cream cone hats, played musical chairs, a ring-toss game and hot potato, and ended with a modified version of BINGO that everyone won simultaneously. Tony even handed all the kiddies a small goodie-bag of candy.

A had been looking forward to her birthday party for over a month, and she seemed a little overwhelmed by the excitement at first, but by the time the hot dogs were passed out, she was fully warmed-up and having a blast.

We had a fabulous time, and I highly recommend Over the Rainbow for an outsourced birthday party that doesn't break the bank.

Doing a disclosure statement when there is nothing to disclose is a little weird, but I want to make it plain that I received no compensation or consideration for this post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm just a little bit rock and roll

Did I mention I spent 4 hours at the Pitchfork Music Festival with Josh and the girls Friday evening? Oh right, I saved that anecdote for my first ever post at the brand-new collaborative mom-blogging site

I went back on Saturday night, without the kids, and ended up bumping into 4 co-workers from my days at Newcity (a decade ago).

But then I was all rocked out. Sunday I sacrificed the opportunity to see Big Boi live for a lazy afternoon at the pool and a laid-back Popeye's picnic at the weekly free concert in Scoville Park.

A few more photos from the fest...


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The limits of self-imposed happiness

In This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, Laura Munson recalls a what could have been a sad, sad summer. Her husband announced he didn't love her anymore. His business was failing and she was writing novels that never got published. The dream life they'd built in Montana was a house of cards in danger of tumbling down.

But it didn't turn out that way. Fueled by therapy and a pile of self-help books, the failed novelist journaled through her summer of discontent, determined that her husband was wrong--he did still love her--and he just needed a little space to figure that out.

And--if her book is to be believed--she was right. Her husband came back and her journal turned into her first published book. Go her!

Now, I think there's something to be said for taking responsibility for your own happiness. Life can serve up a lot of crap (death, job losses, financial difficulties and rocky relationships), and wallowing in our misery and playing the blame game are probably pretty poor choices. But I think Munson's Pollyannaish "serenity now" approach only works for the challenges of a pretty comfortable existence. I also just finished reading Sarah's Key, and it's pretty clear that the French who watched tens of thousands of Jews get deported to Nazi death camps probably should have gotten angry, spoken up and fought back instead of thinking, "Hey, those Germans will do the right thing if we just step back and give them a little space."

I received my copy of the book in exchange for my participation in the From Left to Write blogger book club.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy 3rd birthday, A!

As you've reminded me eleventy-hundred times in the past month, you're "almost big," "almost tree" and "a little bit big and a little bit small." Every time you bite into dinner, you ask me "does this help me grow big?" and if I answer in the affirmative, you sit up a little bit taller to show me how fast you're growing up.

You love the home daycare you've been attending twice a week since babyhood, beginning each day with "Am I goin' to Adriana's house today?" and sighing with disappointment if the answer is no. You are, however, very excited to start school this fall, and you already know your teacher's name and many of your Montessori classmates.

Your passions are swimming, swinging, riding your trike and playing pretend. You love Z's friends and they love doting on you. You are the willing "baby" in their games of house. You also love to play with your baby dolls, wrapping them in blankets, feeding them and pushing them in your doll stroller to familiar destinations (Fox Park, school, day care and the library).

At the pool your fearlessness elicits impressive gasps from other parents. You love to jump in off the side of the pool and disappear under the water. "Don't catch me!" you yell, "Back up so I can jump and go under the water!"

You're incredibly silly and you love to clown around for an audience. If something you do makes someone laugh, you'll do it again and again. You love to dance and you like your music "big." You've got a few signature dance moves, including one ripped straight from the Beyonce "Single Ladies" music video and one that involves you bending over to touch the floor and wiggling your bottom in the air. Dancing, according to A, is best done in a spinny "Princess dress" or in your underpants.

You're a cuddly kid and very attached to your mommy. You behave better for Daddy, but you've also hurt his feelings by saying "I hate you" and "I only love Mommy." You complain when we hire a babysitter, but you're always an angel after 5-15 minutes of fit-throwing.

Speaking of fits, you don't shy away from a good temper tantrum. You are a child who feels passionately--both positive and negative emotions. You've recently quit spitting in anger, but you will push and kick me and your sister to get a rise out of us.

But most of the time you're a pretty great kid. You hug, kiss and tell us all how much you love us every day and you adore your wide circle of friends. You love to hold hands with and be carried by me, Daddy, your sister and the child you met 2 minutes ago. You sing nursery rhymes with me at bedtime and listen, rapt, as Z reads to you on the couch. You are quick to apologize when you spill your milk, pinch your sister or stand on the cat. (But we know you'll do all of the above again the very next day.)

We'll celebrate your birthday tomorrow with a small party at Over the Rainbow ice cream parlor.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My day ended with poetry

Have you ever had a day when you go to work and work through lunch and two people cry in your office and you rush home because you're having your neighbors over for dinner and your kids barely eat but they have so much fun playing that they throw a fit when the evening's over and one is still tantruming in the bath as you leave for your Hebrew lesson? And you go to Hebrew and then to the grocery store and come home and check Facebook and then, just as you're about to plug in your phone and go to bed you find The Book of Poems!!!

Here are a couple of selections, Z spellings and all...

If you have a dog
don't let him in the fog
Why don't let him in the fog
Becuse you cant see him

If you have a cat
Don't let him wear a hat
Why cant he wear a hat
Becuse it looks silly

Once there was a cat
Who wore a hat
Why did he wear a hat
Becuse he had no hair.


We've been working through our summer bucket list, roadtripping, picnicking and going to the pool multiple times a week. But we hadn't yet made s'mores. So I took advantage of the hot coals left over from the Rachael Ray magazine beef-lemon-tomato kabobs (which I highly recommend, especially if Josh grills them).

Nom nom nom.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Married life is great (if not quite what I expected)

When the 18-year-old me was imagining her future husband, she pictured a guy who was tall (at least 6 foot), Jewish, artsy (preferably in a rock band) and made a good income doing good things that made the world a better place. Bonus points if he was rakishly good looking and a vegetarian (as I was at the time).

Josh and I started dating when I was 19. Yeah. While he's a good 5 inches shorter than my requirement, he was Jewish (check!) drummer in a rock band (double check!) when we met and has morphed into a good-looking guitarist/rock critic extraordinaire (yes, he's one of those guys who gets better looking with age). His earning power is easily eclipsed by my own, but by staying home with our kids I trust he's doing his part to make the world a better place.

Plenty of people are surprised to hear I've been with Josh my entire adult life, but there are advantages to meeting your mate before you've grown up. The biggest being that we weren't too set in our ways when we met. He lived in a filthy shared apartment and washed his laundry once a quarter (all together on cold in an extra-large washer) when wet met at the University of Chicago. His idea of cooking was something called Beef Stroganoff a la Rudy, which consisted of browned ground beef mixed with noodles and a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup. Now he does 5 loads of laundry a week and has grown into something of a foodie--a lucky strike for me since he makes dinner most weeknights!

Thanks to Josh I have watched a good chunk of the "worthy" movies of the last 50 years and my taste in music is far broader than the indie rock I adored in the mid-90s. And thanks to him I've met two of my favorite people in the whole world.


Monday, July 05, 2010

This was our 4th of July

Independence Day is the smell of sunblock, the plasticky-tart taste of melted Fla-Vor-Ice, diving for candy at the hometown parade and hitting a "home run" at wiffle ball. It is the company of good friends, the fuzzy mojito headache and a stomach stretched taut from too much barbecue.

Even skipping the fireworks, we had a fantastic Fourth.

Hurray for liberty, loved ones and keeping an eye on the ball.


Road trippin' part 2: what didn't work

What Didn't Work:
1. Expecting children to eat a balanced diet on the road. If a restaurant offers a kids menu, you can pretty much expect your little ones to eat a carb and salt-heavy meal (that is, if they haven't stuffed themselves with car snacks and destroyed their appetite). Think chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches, plain noodles, mac and cheese, hot dogs, pancakes and fries washed down with chocolate milk or apple juice. I knew we were in trouble when, at our last stop of the trip, A announced "I love bacon and french fries!" The good news is that our 2-day road trips were bookends on a week at a vacation rental home. Which meant that breakfasts consisted of fresh fruit and bowls of Grape-Nuts and evenings included carrot sticks, peas and a bowl of apple sauce.

2. Taking turns driving. I enjoy a turn behind the wheel, but it is much less fun when your 2 1/2 year old is screaming bloody murder because she only wants you to pick her toy up off the floor, unwrap her snack, take her trash or play telephone.

3. Listening to the radio. Thank G-d we packed four iPods full of music because commercial radio stinks. Especially in the South, where 3 out of 4 stations are Christian and the other quarter play nothing but car dealership commercials, even when the mountains didn't mess up reception. There was one exception to this rule, and that was an awesome classic country legends station in Louisville (think: "Take This Job and Shove It"). But even it played far too many "Come one down and we'll make you an offer you can't refuse!" commercials.

4. Sleeping in our own beds. My hats are off to any parents of small children who are able to keep the bedtime routines 100% intact while traveling. Josh and I spent exactly 1 night in the same bed during this trip. Instead, we played musical beds, lying down with and even sleeping with our kiddos in separate bedrooms. I'm looking forward to the time when our youngest won't treat a night in the same bed as her big sister as an open invitation to an all-night wrestling match, or a night's sleep that doesn't end with getting kicked awake ... in the face.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Road trippin' part 1: What worked

What worked:
1. Dividing the 11 hour drive into two roughly equal halves. Six hours buckled into a car seat is plenty for one day.
2. Giving Z my hand-me-down iPod. She was plugged into audio books, Taylor Swift and ABBA the entire time and happily zoned out, looking out the window and listening. Once in a great while she'd take off her kid-sized earphones and read a book, color a picture or provoke her little sister, but mostly she was content to sit quietly.
3. Packing a decent variety of snacks, from the familiar crackers and carrot sticks to the super-special/exotic Pringles, animal crackers and Fruit Roll-Ups.
4. Stopping for good food. Thanks to a little advance planning, a GPS device and Twitter access from my Blackberry, we only stopped once for chain fast food (and we only bought a Happy Meal so we could access the PlayLand guilt-free). Instead, we enjoyed the best bad-for-you food at places like Triple XXX Family Restaurant in West Lafayette, IN and Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, KY. We even ate semi-healthfully at the Alfalfa Restaurant in Lexington, KY.
5. Driving in the morning. Our kids are much better behaved in the a.m., so leaving after breakfast let us get most of the driving done before prime meltdown time and ensured enough time for a dip at the hotel pool before dinnertime. Speaking of hotels, I can't praise Staybridge Suites in Lousville enough. For $100, we got a 1-bedroom king suite with full kitchen and a very nice bathroom. The staff was helpful, the pool was immaculate and well stocked with towels and new deck chairs and the breakfast featured real foods (as opposed to the thawed, plastic-wrapped Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits and Pop-Tarts disguised as a "continental breakfast" at Ashley Quarters hotel outside Cincinnati [which was a rip-off at $150]). And did I mention the pillows? There were 8 just for the king size bed!


Stay tuned for part 2: what didn't work.