Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Losing my mummy tummy

Thanks to skating 4 hours a week and generally staying active, I'm in about the fittest shape of my adult life--certainly post childbearing. But I hadn't been able to lose the dreaded "mummy tummy," a stomach that protruded slightly  and was a very unsightly distraction from a figure I'm otherwise quite happy with.

On the recommendation of a fellow Derby Lite skater, I decided to enroll in Bonnie Wayne's Tupler Technique workshop with the goal of reducing my stomach roll by shrinking my diastasis recti (the space between my separated stomach muscles). Bonnie took before photos and measurements, demonstrated exercises (none of which are very taxing; think more like kegels for your abs) and fitted us with splints. I wore my splint every night and while exercising and I was reasonably good about doing the exercises. I definitely didn't do the recommended number of sets, but I did do them correctly.

It paid off! You can see my belly is a bit more toned in Bonnie's after photo of me. (I'm not sucking it in because I didn't want to give her program any undue credit.) I've also had my consciousness raised; thanks to Bonnie, I've gotten in the habit of standing up straighter, rolling my shoulders back and pulling my belly button toward my spine, all of which make me look less frumpy and fat. Now if only I could convince my 4 year old to stop patting my much-flatter stomach and saying "There's a baby in your belly, right Mom?"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camp: struggling with silence in the information age

UntitledI dropped off Zoe at her first sleepaway camp on Sunday around 1:30pm, and I've been thinking about her ever since. I spent my 90 minute drive home from Indiana wondering how she was settling in. As we picnicked with friends at the Sunday night concert in Scoville Park, my thoughts turned to her dinner. Was my woefully picky eater eating? Did she pass her swim test? Did she manage to rinse the shampoo and conditioner out of her hair, reapply bug repellent and hang up her towel to dry?

As I read Ada another chapter of Beezus and Ramona, I imagined Zoe settling into Josh's old sleeping bag, perched on a creaky cot in a clapboard shack. Was she talking to the other three girls in her cabin? Were they scared to venture out in the dark to pee? Were the counselors prepared to deal with the giggles, shrieks and possible tears of 12 seven and eight year old Brownies?

I've let Zoe out of my sight plenty of times before, but leaving her in the woods in the care of strangers? That's a new one. As confident as I am in the Girl Scouts organization and my daughter's independent spirit, there was no newsy email from her counselors like I could expect from her grandmother every night she spent in Virginia. No texts, no phone calls, no photos, no Facebook updates. No communication at all until her friend's mom picks her up late Tuesday evening and drives her and her duffle bag full of labeled belongings back to Oak Park.

It shouldn't be such a big deal, but in this age of oversharing (and believe me I'm guilty), it's hard to let go so completely. I can't wait to hear all about her experience--to count her bug bites, hear her camp songs and learn the names of her new best friends--but I'm going to have to. And perhaps her stories will be all the more special simply because they'll be her memories...and they won't be told in real time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Greening my period with the Diva Cup

Disposable plates are clean, relatively cheap and convenient, but you wouldn't eat off disposable plates every day, would you? It's just too wasteful.

Well, using tampons has made me feel like the environmental boor who uses disposable plates and drinks bottled water for breakfast, lunch and dinner (at least for 5 days out of the month). So I finally switched to the aluminum water bottle of the femcare world, the menstrual cup. The Diva Cup, to be precise.

It arrived in a package that included a cute little cloth drawstring bag and a "Diva" lapel pin that I'm absolutely never ever going to wear.

I'm not going to lie--there's a bit of a learning curve. But aside from one unfortunate retrieval attempt (the one before I thoroughly read the instructions), it was really no more difficult or time consuming than using tampons. And you don't have to worry about carrying enough with you because it's reusable!

In terms of effectiveness, I found the Diva cup wasn't leak-proof, but it did leak less than tampons. And the spotting I experienced was likely due to user error--not getting the cup in precisely its happy place. Comfort was equivalent to a tampon. Sometimes I felt a little "have to pee" pressure on my urethra shortly after putting it back in, but the more I inserted it, the better I became at putting it in exactly the right spot (and opened all the way).

There is the matter of emptying and cleaning the Diva cup, which is definitely best done in the privacy of your own bathroom or at least a bathroom with a private sink. I'm not going to lie: you will see blood. A lot of blood. Some women recommend carrying a sport bottle of water into a public stall and others say a quick wipe with TP is good enough, but fortunately the Diva cup can hold more than even the most super absorbent tampon, so I didn't have to deal with that challenge at work.

Now if I was going to be at an all-day rock festival and dealing with port-a-potties, you can better believe I'd use tampons instead...but I'd also be eating off disposable plates without feeling too guilty about it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My $13 prescription eyeglasses

$100+ Jessica McClintock
I got PRK laser vision correction about two years ago. I have 20-15 vision and I love it. But I'm getting older and 9+ hours of sitting in front of a screen every day was giving me headaches.

So I got a pair of reading/computer glasses. They're about as strong as the cheaters you see sold at the drugstore, but since each of my eyes are slightly different, the cheaters weren't quite doing the job for me.

I used my vision insurance plan to get fitted for a traditional pair of glasses. Yes, insurance paid for more than half, but these glasses cost about $150. They're on an off all day long and I was afraid I'd lose them. I feared a day at the office without them, so I was reading on the train and at home without their benefit.

$13 no-name
So I went online to Zenni Optical (famous for their $6.95 glasses) and ordered a second pair. Same prescription. Same wait time (about a week). These ones were $12.95 + shipping. And I think I like them a little better!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The battle of the Readers: Ruckus vs. Leapfrog Tag

Reading time in the House of Klein
As an avid lover of books, I feel lucky that both of my girls learned to read before age 5. I give their Montessori preschool most of the credit for teaching them phonics, but it can't hurt that that we read to them, read a lot ourselves and as two writers probably passed along some kind of genetic predisposition to verbal skills.

What I don't credit is educational toys. I doubt either the Leapfrog Tag Reader instrument and books (which we've had since Zoe was 3) or the brand spanking new iPad app Ruckus Reader (which I was given trial access to) will teach any kid to read. But I do believe they support literacy and reinforce verbal skills through entertainment and play. And more importantly, they will read your children books when you're too busy. Or driving. Or not yet awake. 

Both Leapfrog Tag and Ruckus Reader offer a wide range of titles, from classics to crappy TV and toy tie-ins. And both companies will monitor your child's interactions with the toy and send you email updates or showcase progress online. 

Assuming you already own an iPad, however, the Ruckus Reader is more affordable. At least upfront. For $24.99 you get 6 months of unlimited access to classic narrated books, interactive but lamely written titles from licensed characters like My Little Pony and Cars and some Reading Rainbow-eque animated books. (The app itself is free and you can download select books for free.)

Compare this to the Tag Reader, which is $35 plus the cost of books. Even if you've got younger siblings who might inherit the Tag collection, given the pace of technology and the short attention spans of children, I think Ruckus Reader has the advantage here.

Although nothing's better than a big tote of new library books, my 4 1/2 year old likes both systems and plays with each about once a week. She tends to favor the Tag Reader because she doesn't have to ask for permission. I still monitor and limit access to the iPad as I think it counts as screen time, no matter how "educational" the content. Also? It's expensive as f--- and I don't want her to break it. I will, however, happily bust out the iPad loaded with Ruckus Reader titles on lengthy car and plane trips--it packs a lot of reading material and distraction without taking up any space or weight. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Locks of Love

Ada's been telling me she's ready to cut off her long, beautiful hair for about a month. Shortly after Zoe cut off her hair, unsurprisingly. I finally took her seriously and booked an appointment. Fortunately Sandra Ross, the salon where I typically take the girls, participates in Locks of Love (although the haircuts aren't free).

I figure someone should benefit from Ada's beautiful hair and the girls were excited to contribute to a cause that helps kids with cancer ("Like Meera," Zoe exclaimed, thinking of my friend's 3 year daughter who is currently undergoing chemotherapy).

Anyway, she did a good deed. She looks adorable. And Josh won't have to deal with long, tangly hair at swim lessons, which begin next week.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier

In general, we avoid Navy Pier. It's basically the Times Square of Chicago--cheesy, expensive and universally beloved by tourists while largely ignored by locals like us who balk at the $20+ parking fees. 

But along with the mediocre food, tour boats and amusement park rides, there are some real treasures: WBEZ, our local NPR station; the Chicago Children's Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and now, Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon, which is appearing at the open-air Pepsi Skyline Stage this summer. 

I took the family on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we were blown away. Each act outshone the last, and by the time the Wheel of Destiny (pictured) arrived, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up and 7-year-old Zoe was gasping at the danger the acrobats were putting themselves in. Little Ada's mouth was agape for most of the performance, but she was just as excited by the pretty, sparkly costumes as she was by the amazing feats of flexibility, balance and juggling.

Speaking of costumes, a few of the outfits had a stylized Pepsi logo emblazoned onto the legs in sequins. And, even though it was only half the "Pepsi smile," my older daughter immediately recognized and called out the relationship to the stage name and the fact that "a whole lot of people are drinking Pepsi here."

But that's not all she noticed. Zoe was so excited by the show and the fact that I was going to be writing about it on my blog that she begged to write her own review. And here's where I hand it over to her...

Today I went to a circus called Cirque Shanghai. It was called “The Year of the Dragon.” First there was an opening finally. Next some men got a hoop and they did flips and dive rolls through it. Then the men called out “Ho!” Next some women in really pretty pink dresses did contortion, and they bent their bodies in really hard positions! One lady even touched her foot on her head and bent it to the front of her body!

Next a man did slack wire. He did lots of rolls on the slack wire and he even unicycled on it! Then some girls lay on a chair in a position called candlestick. They put balls on their feet and made cool juggling motions. My favorite was when they put one ball on each foot and passed them around to the other girls using only their feet! It was pretty amazing.

Next a girl climbed up a long red silk and did cool tricks on it. She hooked up her feet to the silk and did the splits in mid air with only her feet hooked up to the silk! Then a man did cool juggling where he did plain old juggling except he bounced 7 balls up and down stairs in a form of juggling. He probably practiced a lot! Next a woman stood on a stack of chairs and helped another woman onto a chair and that woman helped another woman and so on until there was about 8 women stacked all the way to close to the ceiling!

Zoe got distracted before she could describe the most incredible part of the show, Imperial Thunder, a death-defying stunt in which five motorcyclists (including one gal in pink!) ride their motorcycles in carefully choreographed circles inside a steel globe.

Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon will perform through September 3 with regular matinee and evening performances. Tickets are $15.50-$29.50.