Monday, March 31, 2008

07 Advice Cloth Diapers -Beyond the Baloney

Parents magazine recently had some guy write an article about Cloth Diapers and boy did he ever bomb. His “source” was some clerk at a baby store that didn’t help him much, and his research left much to be explained. So here’s what I think you need to know in one quick read, let’s call it Cloth Diapers – Beyond the Baloney.

If you are like me – i.e. you want to keep it simple, are willing to invest a couple hundred dollars to get the right stuff and not have to mess with it all, don’t want to break the bank, plan on having more than one child, and will be okay doing laundry every 2or 3 days – then this is how you do it. If you aren’t like me, this will probably be helpful anyway as you educate yourself about cloth diapers. And if you really don’t want to become an expert in cloth diapers, consider this the cliff notes.

Let’s begin.

There are all different types of cloth diapers and a whole new vocabulary to go with them. Here is what I feel you need to know.

Cloth diapers have 2 layers (for our purposes), an absorbent layer and a waterproof layer. One soaks up the pee and poo, the other keeps it in the diaper, hopefully. The absorbent layer (diaper) needs to be changed every time whereas the waterproof layer (cover) can be rinsed or just reused depending on its state post pee or poo. For overnight or long car trips, a “doubler” can be added to double the absorbency. A “doubler” is just an additional liner you put between baby and the diaper so they can wear it longer.

There are other options out there called All-in-ones (AIOs), Pocket Diapers, and fasteners. Don’t waste your time unless you have lots of money and aren’t doing your own laundry. They are one use diapers and so you need a lot of them and have to wash them constantly, not to mention they are expensive. There are also diaper services in which case you just pay them and tell them how much your baby weighs so they know the size to send to your home and you are done with it.

Pre-fold Cloth Diapers – These are sometimes called Indian/Chinese or Diaper Service Quality (DSQ). Who cares. Just go for the ones that are unbleached (Indian/more of a brown color instead of white) if you are given the option because they are softer and seem to be more absorbent. The difference between them is so minimal you should not stress it. Supposedly the bleached ones last longer. Flip a coin or get some of each. Oh, and the reason they are called pre-folds is because they have more layers in the middle for absorption. You’ll see them labeled as 4-6-4 meaning four layers on the sides, six in the middle. I think the more layers, the better so look for 4-6-4 or 4-8-4.

Covers – There are a ton of options in even more fabric/color/pattern options. I recommend the Thirsties PUL Covers (stands for polyurethane laminate if you must know). See "Why Thirsties?" below. I’ve also tried Bummis Super Whisper Wrap and they don’t have the inner leg gusset that prevents leaks except on the smallest sizes- but they do have cute patterns. Their Super-Brite might be better since it has the leg gussets.

My “Beyond the Baloney” recommendation is that you get at least 24 pre-fold cloth diapers and 6 diaper covers that will fit your baby for each weight phase they enter. Since I’m trying to make this as simple as possible, here is one option (Note: I’m not being paid by anyone to say any of this stuff but if someone would like to pay me, I’d happily accept.)

Get you credit card out.
Go to

Buy the following:
Diapers and Covers

For an infant 6 to 12 lbs:
6 X-Small Thirsties Brand diaper covers $10.75 each when you buy 3 or more. (Yes, that may seem expensive but again, if you are like me, you won’t regret it and if you do the research you’ll find that is pretty average for these things unless you buy the crappy ones.)

24 Chinese Pre-fold Cloth Diapers by Tiny Tush or from Cottonbabies (or another retailer or manufacturer)
Get the “natural” color cotton ones if possible as they are more absorbent and softer. I like the Indian pre-folds personally.

For a baby 12-20 lbs
6 Small Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

For a baby 18-27 lbs
6 Medium Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

For a baby 25-40 lbs
6 Large Thirsties Brand diaper covers, 24 Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

Wet Bags
2 Small Wet Bags :A small wet bag for each diaper bag and a backup in case the one you need is in the laundry. (Ziplock Gallon bags work too but we’re trying to save the environment here so at least label and reuse them a few times if you do have to go that route.) I like the Bummis Wet Bags way better than the Mommy’s Touch but I’m sure there are better bags out there. Bummis have a drawstring closure whereas I’d recommend a zipper closure but the Mommy’s Touch fabric feels slimy and feels wet to the touch. I don’t think either of them are all that “waterproof” for long periods of time but they both wash up nicely and really, they don’t have to be perfect for Pete’s sake. They are just keeping the poo enclosed until you get home.

2 Extra Large Wet Bags: These go in the diaper pail to hold the stinky dirty diapers until you do laundry. One will be in the wash with the dirty diapers so you need two.

6 Diaper Doublers
For overnight to prevent leaks, add a diaper doubler to baby’s diaper for extra absorbency. I found some at a local store on clearance. If you need a specific recommendation because you really want me to do all of the work for you… Kissaluvs Diaper Doublers are what I have and they work fine. I have four of them but would prefer to have six or eight since you never know when the last change is before the baby goes to bed and it is good to have a few backups in case you guess wrong.

Why these items you ask?
A) Because I said so.
B) To make little girls/boys like you ask questions (My father’s answer to everything.)
C) If you must know, these covers are the best in my opinion because they are high quality, have the Velcro closures(no pins, no snappis fasteners, no pulling the darn things up/down when they are covered in poo), have a fold-over laundry tab to latch the Velcro when you wash the covers so the Velcro lasts longer and doesn’t get stuck on other laundry, and if you look at the leg holes, they have an inner elastic that holds snug to your baby’s legs to prevent leaks, unlike other covers.
D) Because I married an architect and DESIGN MATTERS DARN IT. Pay the extra couple of bucks to get something that doesn’t suck. And just think about the money you’re saving by not running to the store every other day for a pack of disposables.

Why 6 of each diaper cover?
It turns out that’s how many I’ve needed or wanted to have. More would be great and I’ve tried to get by with less but when baby has a poop filled day with five blowouts that slime each cover, you’ll be glad you have six covers. And only six covers should do as long as you are lucky enough that baby doesn’t have a lot of blow outs and you can reuse them. I tend to alternate them so that if she is wet, I switch to a different cover when I change her so I can let the wet one air dry and use it again next time. If you aren’t cool with that, buy more covers, do laundry more often, put the baby in the next size up while you wash and dry one, or go rinse and dry them out between uses.

How do I wash them?
And I recommend Charlie’s Soap. You’ll read once you get these that you shouldn’t use Dreft or other detergents as they will build up on the diapers. You can use Oxiclean once a week to strip them of any build up but don’t use it more than that as it is said to strip the fibers. They also recommend Bio-Kleen, Seventh Generation, Ecover which can be found in grocery stores like Whole Foods. Don’t bleach them as that will weaken the fibers and shorten their life span.

Why or
They have been good to me. My orders have been correct, timely, and they called to confirm something that was confusing on my order. The website is pretty good for a diaper website, and they have reasonable pricing, free shipping on orders of $100 or more and quantity discounts. I don’t know Kelly, I don’t have any affiliation with them. I found her site in the “Baby Bargains” book and liked it. Same with Feel free to shop around of course.

And when you are done having kids, consider selling your diapers and covers back to them or passing them on to a friend or someone in need. That’s the true spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Moral of the story: Cloth diapers take some getting used to, you need to educate yourself about them a bit, and the investment is upfront, but they make you feel good for keeping the disposables out of the landfill and that makes it all worth it. And they are really cute on baby’s bottom.

06 Rant Easter Travels

Talk about exhausting. I thought traveling from my hometown of Sycamore to Macomb each holiday was tough, and I typically wasn’t driving. But doing it with a three month old was excruciating. What is normally a three-and-a-half to four hour drive turned into five hours of “Take the next exit”, “Wahhhhhh”, “No, don’t take the exit, she’s sleeping”, “Damn, take the next exit. She must be wet.” “What? Now we need gas? Seriously? But she’s asleep. Can’t we just coast on fumes for awhile and wave our arms out the windows?”

Our trusty blue Honda Civic did a beautiful job of transporting my family (Me, my husband and my three-month-old daughter Ada) to see my Mom’s side of the family for Easter. It was baby Ada’s debut to the relatives on that side and boy were they ready to meet her. After five grueling hours in the car, for which we had to stop numerous times to change her in the front seat, fill up the gas tank, nurse her so I didn’t explode, take food and bathroom breaks, and just plain stretch, we finally arrived at my aunt’s house. She was waiting patiently on the porch in the cold to get a glimpse of the baby.

It was a calm but eager excitement. I unpacked Ada from the car seat and passed her off for the oohs and ahhs. Then came the necessities-- change her diaper, feed her, and put on her Easter dress. We went with disposable diapers for this trip since we have a bag of size ones to use up before she outgrows them. But I’m a firm believer in the cloth diaper. (More on that later.) So we changed her, and changed her again.

Finally we head over to my other uncle and aunt’s house for Easter spaghetti dinner prepared by my grandfather. Again, oohs and ahhs and ogoling. She was great and dinner went well. She posed for the paparazzi that is my family and my aunts took turns holding her during dinner. What a nice relief to be able to eat dinner at the same time as my husband while the food was still hot. Overall, the evening was pretty uneventful.

We stayed at my cousin’s house. Ada started out in her pack and play but magically spent most of the night in our bed since she was gasey from what I can only guess was the mushrooms, garlic or tomatoes. I can never tell what foods I eat that will make her unhappy later but my grandfather’s spaghetti is definitely up there at the top of the list. But it was so good. Probably not worth losing that much sleep for but oh well. I’ll know better next time.

Morning rolls around and it is trying to snow. Some silly family member thought 9 am was an appropriate time for Easter brunch. We arrived fashionably late at 9:30 after asking my cousin to load all of our stuff in the car, brush off the snow and give Ada her bottle while we frantically got ready. He’s such a great guy (he’s single ladies…).

At brunch we ordered and things were going well until Ada got fussy and had to be changed. My husband took the first shift. He returned to say, “At least the bathrooms are big so I had enough space to change her on the floor.” Great. One of those. For those of you who have never had to change a baby on the bathroom floor of a restaurant, it’s never good. You never know what is on the floor. You try not to let the baby touch the floor at all but the changing pads that come in diaper bags are not very big and with the way babies squirm it is difficult to avoid. Overall, it is a nasty experience and one that should be avoided. Just trust me on this one.

After five hours in the car ride home with more of the same wet, hungry, uncomfortable, sleepy, cranky baby, we made it back to the city just in time to park the car, unload all of our stuff, and pickup the house before heading to bed. It’s unfortunate that my mom’s family is so far away. I’m thankful we get to see them a few times a year and even more thankful we don’t have to do the drive very often.

Moral of the story: Avoid traveling with small children, avoid changing babies on the floor of public restrooms, and avoid marrying someone with a big family that is spread out all over the world if you plan to procreate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

05 Rant Stupid Keys

In each of my previous rants, I have made mention of the inner and outer vestibule doors in my building that are a giant pain in my backside since they make getting in and out of my building extremely difficult with a child. I wish that was the case this time.

Today started out well. Ada had her first transition day at day care. She was there until 2 pm and decided she wasn’t interested in having an afternoon nap. Once we arrived home, she was still fighting the idea of a nap so I fed her a bit. Normally that is a simple task but I was pumping and feeding her a bottle at the same time since she wasn’t hungry when I started – crazy I know.

So, here I am sitting at my computer desk, Ada in the bouncy seat next to me. The pump is at my feet. I have a tube top on that makes the pump hands free. I’m pumping and have prepared a bottle for Ada in case she decides she is hungry mid-pumping. As she bounces away, the hunger cry begins. I grab the bottle and start feeding her. I make the mistake of picking a burp cloth up off the floor to catch her dribbles and to my surprise, both pump containers start to leak all over the floor. I lost about an ounce of milk because these stupid pump containers were not designed to resist gravitational forces when you lean over. (see rant 01 for more design issues involving breastmilk) An ounce is a BIG deal in the world of breastfeeding. This stuff is gold remember. Oh, and since I like to multitask, I’m also on the phone with my husband saying “Shit, Shit, Shit, I’ll call you back. I’m spilling milk all over.” Click.

We survive the milk episode and I’m a bit spacey. “Pregnancy Brain” (overall forgetfulness and an inability to complete a thought while pregnant) doesn’t disappear with the birth of a baby. It just morphs into “Mommy Brain” and becomes a constant state of distraction. Ada is still not interested in taking a nap so I decide we’ll venture out to run errands. We’re expecting a hefty snow storm tomorrow so it is a good time to seize the day and shop. Before motherhood, shopping was enjoyable. Now… not so much.

Facts of life: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie... he’s going to want a glass of milk.(See the children’s book by that title.) If you want to go shopping, you’re going to need to take a stroller. So as per usual, I bundled baby Ada into her car seat and take her out my front door and into the hallway. She starts crying. I go back inside for the stroller thinking I’ll do this in phases, the shopping list, my coat and the diaper bag are next. Once in the hallway, I have this great idea to take the stroller to stage two: between the vestibule doors, and come back for the rest of the stuff. I open the inner vestibule door and finagle the stroller through. As the stroller clears the doorway it starts rolling down the stairs and I quickly grab it and place it at the bottom of the stair clear of the outer vestibule door in case my neighbors need to get in while I proceed to phases three, four, five and six.

Then it hits me.

I’ve just locked my baby in the hallway of my building, while she’s crying, and I don’t have keys to the vestibule door. I resist the urge to panic and instead prop open the outer vestibule door and push every buzzer in the building as I pray one of my neighbors is home. My chances are limited as I know I’m not going to buzz myself in and I’m fish sitting for one of my neighbors who is in San Francisco so that leaves four options and it is 3:30 in the afternoon. I buzz. No one answers. “Shit, Shit, Shit.” I buzz again. Nothing. So I take a deep breath, step outside (thank goodness it is the first day of Spring and 45 degrees out since I’m not wearing my coat) and flag down the first person to walk by my building. “Hi. Can I borrow your cell phone? I just locked my child in my building and I don’t have my keys.” “Sure,” he says as I quickly call my husband and explain the situation. “How can I get into our house?” I ask. “Ummmm…” He replies. Well, if I wasn’t so anal about locking all of the windows, I could maybe push one open but I’m on an elevated first floor so I’d need this random guy to help me out. Not gonna happen. Back door? Nope, it’s locked too, and I don’t have a key to get into the fenced in area behind the house anyway. The Security Shop around the block has a copy of the key to the doors, but I can’t leave the baby, and they surely won’t give it to this random guy helping me out. Not to mention it would cost me $100 just for them to walk around the block and open the door. Instead, my husband says he’ll grab a cab and be home in 15 minutes. Okay. That will work. I’m saying thanks and goodbye to my random stranger/ hero when one of my neighbors miraculously appears. And she has keys! Thank you God! I thank her profusely for her well timed arrival and go inside to find that Ada is no longer crying after her 2 minute adventure alone in the hallway and is calmly looking around for Mommy. Of course when I go to see if she is okay, she starts crying. Go figure.

Moral of the story: Babies need their naps, don’t try to accomplish anything while a baby is crying, and (obviously) never walk out your front door without keys to get back inside.

04 Rant ADA Compliance

With my mother in town for some quality time with her granddaughter, today is the day we venture to the Cheesecake Factory on Michigan Avenue via the good old CTA bus. We’re scheduled to meet my brother and a friend at 1:30 for lunch so we head out at 1 pm. Getting downtown was fairly easy. The bus came. I finagled the stroller halfway into the bus while my mom lifted the other end as we climbed the stairs and got situated in the front area of the bus reserved for elderly, disabled, and parents traveling with small children. Somehow in the midst of getting onto the bus, I also managed to find my bus pass and swipe my card for two fares.

We arrive at our stop and have some difficulty getting the stroller off the bus as I catch a wheel on one of the railings on the stairs. Somehow we manage to get out without major incident and are on our way to lunch. After a nice leisurely stroll to Michigan Avenue, we arrive at the base of the Hancock building to meet my brother. It’s 1:31 and we’re trying to figure out how to get the stroller into the Cheesecake Factory. I’m quickly scanning the scene for any sign of a handicap entrance or regular, i.e. non-revolving, door. My brother calls from the inside of the restaurant and asks where we are. “We’re stuck outside. Can you ask someone how we get inside?”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Cheesecake Factory, it is located on the lower level of the Hancock building. There are two massive staircases leading down to the main entrance which is comprised of a few revolving doors and several regular doors, however the “regular” doors are all affixed with an emergency alarm system if you use them. There is also a small revolving door on the street level for their upper dining area. My brother meets us on the street level and we decide to collapse the stroller and shimmy in through the revolving door as one person takes the stroller and one takes the car seat. I am the smallest so I get the stroller. Thank goodness I’m tiny and I’m only a little claustrophobic because there would have been a major panic attack had I gotten stuck in this tiny door. After a brief moment of concern that I won’t make it, the revolving door opens into the restaurant and I breath a huge sigh of relief.

But not so fast. We aren’t seated on the main floor. We’re eating on the lower level since the main floor isn’t open today. So we have to drag the stroller down a grand staircase with a seemingly endless number of steps. At the bottom, I’m ready to pass out since I’ve just lugged a 22 lb stroller all over the place and it’s lunch time. Hello! I’m eating for two since I’m nursing and I’m starving! Finally we ditch the stroller at the hostess stand and are escorted to our booth for four. Seriously? You want four grown adults and a baby in a car seat to squeeze into that booth when there is no room for a high chair in the aisle? Not going to happen. We request to be moved and are re-seated in what I call a “mobster” booth – the type the mob would sit in since it is huge and gives you a view of the whole restaurant. Once we’re settled, things are going well.

We eat. We play pass the baby to stop her from fussing. I take her to the bathroom to change her. Thankfully this restroom does have the Koala Bear changing station on the wall of the handicap stall. However, the restroom isn’t very clean, the music is really loud, and it’s dark to set a romantic mood while you pee I guess. And while I’m ranting I’ll point out that the lock for the “handicapped” bathroom is at my shoulder height. Now I ask you how someone in a wheelchair a) got into this damn building in the first place and b) can reach this deadbolt to lock the bathroom door. After changing Ada, I go to wash my hands and am surprised by the water temperature. It isn’t just hot. It’s scalding. There is steam rising from the basin of the sink. Talk about a lawsuit just waiting to happen. Uninjured, we make our way back to the table to finish my now cool lunch.

After dessert, this is the Cheesecake Factory after all, we ask how to get out of the building and the hostess tells us we can go into the observatory entry to get out. I don’t think she ever really understood that we were trying to get out with the stroller in some kind of elevator. So again, we had to squeeze into the revolving door. At least this one was a bit larger, for which I was very thankful. Then we climbed the grand staircase outside the Hancock building and say our goodbyes as my mom and I venture home.

I decided we should again ride the bus home because I don’t really know how to take a baby in a cab. We’d have to strap down her car seat and load the stroller in the trunk and I think that would be a pain not to mention that I’m nervous about installing the car seat correctly as that is one of the main things they drill into your head in all of the baby classes and the media. In some delusion I have, I just assumed the bus would be easier and cheaper ($4 versus $15 for a cab).

We get to the bus stop and wait. And wait. About ten minutes pass as my mom takes note of every available cab that passes us and finally the bus arrives. It is 3:30ish. We’re well before rush hour so this shouldn’t be bad. But oh how very bad it is. I’ve got the stroller. My mom has Ada in the car seat. We climb onto the bus and I swipe my card for two fares again. Then I look up to see that all of the seats in the front of the bus are taken, by young, able-bodied persons no less, and NO ONE IS GETTING UP FOR US. Hello! Seriously? Discouraged with the human race occupying the front of this bus, I suck up my hurt feelings and raise the stroller above my head and squeeze through the crowd to the back of the bus. The VERY back of the bus. This means we have to go past the back door, up two steps, and find our seats. My mom follows with little Ada who’s semi-asleep. As we are arriving at a set of available seats at the VERY back of the bus, the bus starts moving. Minor panic ensues. Since we haven’t sat down yet, we all jolt forward, nearly falling over had it not been for a very strong and courteous angel on the back seat. This man quickly grabbed my wrist and braced me as I started falling forward over the stroller. Doing so allowed me to prevent my mom from falling as she leaned into me with the car seat instead of completely face planting. I thanked him profusely as did my mother while we tried to get “settled” into our seats. Too bad you can’t really “settle” into the seats at the back of the bus because they are arranged in a U shape where all of the seats back up to the walls so everyone’s legs are in the middle. Unfortunately, that’s where I’ve attempted to store the stroller. And I have the car seat on my lap, squishing my thighs quite uncomfortably I might add, while the stroller is digging into my leg every time we hit a bump or stop abruptly.

After about 15 minutes on the bus, we arrive at our stop. Thankfully, the people that ride on the back of the bus are much more courteous than those that ride on the front (at least on this bus that is the case). I pull the cord to request the next stop and at least three of my fellow riders realize what’s about to happen. During the 15 minutes we’ve been on the bus, it has filled up nicely. There are riders packed body to body in the aisle and in the space in front of the back door. Just before we reach our stop I say “this is us”. As I speak up, my three fellow passengers also speak up to say “Mother and child coming out with a stroller. Make way.” It doesn’t make much of a difference right away but people eventually start to make room for us. My mom goes first to clear the way. I follow her and proceed to get something caught on one of the chairs and have the people behind me telling me I’ve dropped a baby bottle. Thankfully the gentleman we have just struck up a conversation with about how hard it is to live in the city with a baby grabs the bottle, sticks it into the side pocket of my diaper bag and wishes me luck. After much effort, I make it to the doors to find two more gentlemen holding them open for me. My mom is walking toward the front of the bus to thank the bus driver, since that’s what nice people from small towns do, as I’m telling her she’s going the wrong way to get to my house.

Finally we make it to my front door and what could be there waiting for us? None other than the outer and inner vestibule doors.

Moral: When traveling with small children, always stand up for yourself even if it means potentially offending someone. When going about your daily business, be even more considerate of the elderly, disabled, and parents with small children as life makes everything a million times harder for them. And most importantly, teach you children to give up their seat on the bus or the El for Pete’s sake!

03 Pharmacy Meltdown

It’s a Monday. We’ve had a fairly good day and it is time to visit the doctor since Ada is still suffering from a cold and it’s been over a week so the doctor wants to see her. Our appointment is at three, we have friends coming over at 6:15, and we want to pick daddy up from work after running errands at Target to get supplies for day care. To the doctor’s office we go, but not before prepping the diaper bag, packing the baby in the car seat, and dragging everything to the car via the front door, inner vestibule door, down four stairs, out the outer vestibule door and into the car. We skipped the stroller this time knowing we would have the cart and wouldn’t be going far from the car.

Travel to the doctor’s office is uneventful. Once we arrive, Ada is a bit fussy. She drinks from her bottle a bit as I struggle to show the receptionist my ID and insurance card which is the same as it was last week when I was here but they have to check every time “Just to be sure.” After waiting for ten minutes they finally call her name over her screams of discomfort. We’re lead back to the examination room and I’m asked to undress her. The nurse weighs her says the doctor will be right in. We hang out and I feed her the rest of her bottle. She pees, I change her. The doctor comes in and examines her. That’s a tough job when Ada screams while the doctor tries to get a good listen to her chest. Finally the doctor decides to give her a prescription for Albuterol to help open her lungs a bit since she has some phlegm making it tough to breathe while she’s eating. We’re good to go.

Suddenly I remember the paperwork I dropped off on Friday and ask the doctor if it is completed and in her file or what the status is so I can submit it to her day care. “what form would that be?” asks the doctor. “The one recording all of her immunizations that I dropped off on Friday and called you about.” “Oh, let me check.”, she replies. Ten minutes later she returns to say they found it and she starts filling it out. She needs to get more information and says she’ll be right back. Ada is doing well and we’re playing. Ten minutes later the doctor returns and says she’ll make a copy of the immunization information and we’ll be ready to go. She’ll be right back. Ten more minutes pass, Ada starts screaming because she’s dirty, and I change her. Ten more minutes pass and finally a nurse comes in to say, “You’re just waiting on this form right?” “Yes.” “The copy machine back here isn’t working for some reason so I’ll take this up to the front desk to copy it and meet you there.” “Great.” The bundling begins. I settle Ada down, pack her into her car seat, repack the diaper bag, put on my coat, gather everything up and head to the cashier to pay my co-pay. The nurse meets me and hands me the paperwork that she finally photocopied as I glance at my phone. It is 4:30. Holy crap. I only have half an hour before I’m supposed to pick Rick up from work and we still have to go to Target and get Ada’s prescription filled before company arrives at our house at 6:15. I call Rick. He encourages me to head to Target and if he doesn’t hear from me by 5:25 he’ll take the bus home and let our friends into our house.

Ada and I head to Target. And she cries most of the way there. I park and load her car seat into a nearby stroller. With my list and coupons in hand, we hustle toward the pharmacy. We grab a few things on the way and Ada’s level of fussiness starts to increase. As we reach the pharmacy counter, Ada has hit full blown meltdown. Nothing is working. She’s screaming bloody murder as I’m trying to give the prescription to the pharmacist and explain that she has never had a prescription filled there before. The pharmacist fills out the necessary paperwork for me since my hands are full with a screaming child that is inconsolable at this point, and asks me to come back in twenty minutes. With Ada bouncing in my arms, I head for the Kleenex aisle and then to the elevator as we’re off to the baby section. We grab a few things for daycare and are lucky to get the last box of Target brand un-scented bulk baby wipes. Back to the elevator, we return to the pharmacy. The meltdown returns. As I struggle to unload my cart with my free hand, the pharmacist is ringing up my purchases and trying to explain how I’m supposed to give Ada her new inhaler with the fancy contraption it attaches to as my phone is ringing. I fumble for the phone as I dig out my coupons and pass the crumpled wad to the cashier while subsequently putting my credit card into the reader and trying to unsuccessfully wedge Ada back into her car seat. I ignore the call as it happens to be my friend, neighbor and regular pharmacist Kelly, whom I’m sure knows that I am cheating on her with this Target pharmacist and will therefore think I’m a bad friend/neighbor/customer. Ada’s meltdown continues as I am momentarily shocked by the $180 price tag of my quick target run, but I’m too busy to care as she is still screaming, the guilt for cheating on my pharmacist is mounting, and I’m trying to figure out if I’ll make it home in time to great our dinner guests. The wonderful pharmacist, her name was Beth, kindly steps around the counter to help load all of my purchases into my cart and send Ada and I on our way.

We exit the Target and arrive at the car. I load everything into the car and Ada is still crying. It’s 5:15 and I need to catch Rick before he gets on the bus so I can pick him up from work. As I start the car, I check my voicemail and learn that my friend/neighbor/pharmacist Kelly needs to borrow black pants for her trip to New York tomorrow. I try to return her call but get voicemail and leave a message saying she can have whatever she wants and can stop by anytime. I try to call Rick and get his voicemail. As I try again, he is calling me and I go to click swap call/answer and hit Ignore instead and lose his call and my connection to his voicemail. At this point, Ada is screaming, I’m trying to drive in downtown Chicago, and I can’t get Rick’s stupid phone to connect. I’m screaming at Ada who’s screaming at the world, when finally I connect with Rick and put him on speakerphone as I finish my tirade of insults I’m spewing at traffic at the light in front of me. Rick, unbeknownst to me, has been fighting a cold and has just ridden down the elevator from the 35th floor while his sinuses are draining to innocently answer the phone as I’m screaming into his ear that has yet to pop from the pressure in the elevator, resulting in a shape pain that makes him wince. Poor guy. He quips back that I need to calm down and I explain that I’ll meet him in five minutes at his building. Whew.

In route to Rick’s office, Ada is screaming, I get stuck at every red light and behind every loading and unloading cab to be had, and the five minute drive seems like 25 minutes. I arrive and pull up to the curb for Rick to get into the backseat of our blue Honda Civic and what do I hear but… oh yes… silence. Daddy’s here and all is well in the world as Ada passes out and doesn’t utter a peep the rest of the way home.

Morals of the story: Pharmacists are some of the best people on earth, patience is a virtue when visiting the doctor, and don’t take a partially sick child with you anywhere.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

02 Rant Social Security

In another attempt to acquire a social security number for Ada, I decide to venture to the social security office to re-submit the paperwork for overnight processing. After learning about a week ago that there was no record of the paperwork submitted from the hospital when Ada was born, and not being able to go to the social security office early due to the car being frozen to the street (see rant 1), today is the day we venture out.

Strategically, I wait until Ada has had her morning nap and is in a better mood for travel and adventure. She is fed, changed, and seems pretty happy. As with every excursion, I snuggle her into her car seat, pack the diaper bag, bundle up for the cold weather, and drag everything out to the car, through the front door, the inner vestibule door, down the four stairs, through the outer vestibule door, and out to the car which is conveniently located in front of our condo. This time, I got a little lazy and tried to assemble the car seat and stroller in our condo first and then take it out to the car by myself. After almost spilling the baby, stroller, car seat, and diaper bag down the first four stairs, I realized this really is a two person job and was happy to see two nice strangers exiting my building and willing to hold the outer door open for me as I struggled with all of my crap.

Okay. We get into the car. Not that easy of course. I first put the car seat in the back seat and lock it in place, then I stick the diaper bag and the bag with all of the paperwork next to the car seat. Then I shut the door, collapse the stroller and shove it into the trunk, all the while stabbing myself in the thigh with a random stroller wheel part which will form a nice bruise later on. But I digress.

I open the driver’s side door, and yep, she’s screaming. But I think if I get the car moving she’ll calm down. We’re on the road now and she’s doing okay. We make it about half way to the social security office on the north side of the city and she gets really upset. I can soldier on, or pull off to see what’s going on. I pull off and realize she’s hungry. So what if I just fed her before we left. I squeeze into the back seat of my blue Honda Civic and pull out the ever so handy boob. We sit for fifteen minutes as Ada enjoys a mid afternoon snack while people walking by wonder what I could possibly be doing sitting in the back seat of my car in front of Trader Joe’s. After arousing a good deal of suspicion, it’s time to continue toward our goal.

Back on the road, we’re doing well. We get to the social security office and park at a meter since the lot is full. I think an hour will do. How long could this take, really? I got to the trunk, undo the stroller, get the car seat out, grab the diaper bag, struggle with my jacket since I’ve worn too many layers and it is hotter than I expected, and dig deep to find quarters for the meter. It’s one in the afternoon. I have the meter until two. Great.

We get into the social security office, take a number and start waiting. And waiting. We wait for an hour and fifteen minutes to be exact. Ada fusses a bit but overall is doing great. She sleeps while I hold her and do some leisure reading. Final they call out A162. (The woman with A160 was complaining that they wouldn’t call her number and once they finally did, she had fallen asleep in the front row of the waiting area and never woke up when they did call it, so she got skipped.)

Our number was up. I repack Ada into her car seat in the stroller and approach the window with all of my paperwork completed and in order. I hand it to the woman behind the counter who takes her time reviewing it. I explain that the information has already been submitted but that was around December 20, 2007 and I still haven’t received my number even though they said I should expect it in six to eight weeks. This is week eleven and my tax accountant said it’s worth $1,000 for me to get the number and file it with my taxes so I’m a bit anxious to receive her number. The woman behind the counter smirks at me and says, “Her number was issued three days ago. Here it is. Her Social Security Card should be in the mail and you should see it in about a week.”

My jaw drops. The steam whistles from my ears straight out of a cartoon. “Are you serious? I just sat her for an hour and fifteen minutes so you could tell me the number is already issued and I’m wasting my time?” I quickly gathered my things, took a deep cleansing breath, packed up the kid and headed for the door, all the while hoping that I didn’t have a ticket on my car.

I get to the car, ticket free thank goodness. Repack all my crap and the baby into the car and we’re on our way to errand number two. We get about five blocks away and Ada starts screaming. I pull over, go to the back seat and realize this time she is dirty. So I change her on my lap in the very cramped back seat of my blue Honda Civic. Mind you, the car seat is in the middle of the back seat so I am only working with a third of the seat and my feet are sharing space with the diaper bag. And as I am changing her, she pees. Happens every time. Once she’s all cleaned up and re-diapered, I place her back into the car seat and she starts screaming again. Let’s try the boob. I feed her again as the sun beats down on us in the already hot car as sweat starts collecting on the center of my back. After a fifteen minute feeding session, we’re on our way to errand number two, again.

Traffic on Lincoln Avenue is a nightmare. Stop and go, slow, slow, slow. I’m cursing every driver in front of me since, even though I just changed and fed the baby, she’s still not happy. Twenty minutes later, we’re in front of Ada’s new daycare ready to drop off her admission paperwork. There is no street parking so I double park and throw on my hazards. I remove Ada from the car seat thinking it will be easier not to lug that thing around and half-heartedly wrap her in my coat as I approach the daycare. Fortunately for the safety of the kids, this place is like Fort Knox. Unfortunately for me, I can’t contact anyone inside or find anywhere to leave the paperwork that is secure. After three attempts at the buzzer and the back door, I give up and we take a failing grade for errand number two.

Back into the car for errand number three. We’re heading to the doctor’s office to drop off a form they need to fill out for day care regarding Ada’s immunizations. Halfway to the doctor’s office, Ada starts hollering again. So I start hollering back and cursing more drivers to get out of my way and overall just start having my own personal little nervous breakdown. The phone rings. It’s my husband. He makes the mistake of asking me how I’m doing. I explain that I’m having a nervous breakdown, now isn’t a good time to talk and I’ll see him at home later. He wishes me luck and I hang up. We arrive at the doctor’s office. Again, I move to the back seat of the blue Honda Civic to calm Ada again. This time I again try to feed her. She’s had a cold this week and the boob seems to be the best way to calm and comfort her. Poor little thing. After ten minutes, she’s back to a more peaceful state. I relatch the buckles of her car seat and drag her and the paperwork into the doctor’s office. I drop it off at the reception desk and head back out to the car. We get settled in and set off for home. As we pull out of the parking lot, Ada starts in with the screaming again. I take a few more cleansing breaths and drive home as quickly as possible without doing anything too illegal. We finally get home, unload most of our crap as I’ve decided to leave the stroller in the trunk for the night, drag it all through the outer and inner vestibule doors and through the front door into the peaceful place we call home.

Morals of the story: Government systems are to be avoided at all costs, traffic in the city sucks, and don’t try to run errands with a small child recovering from a cold as she is guaranteed to scream the whole time.


01 Rant Frozen Car

For the first time in motherhood, I have actually thought to myself "now I know why people move to the suburbs."


A simple errand to the social security office to get Ada's SS card and number became much more than simple today.

After feeding, changing, and dressing her, then securing her into her car seat while she is screaming at me no less, I zip up the bundle me to keep her warm, put a hat on her head, and proceed to gather the paperwork I need to take with me. All of that is relatively normal.

Then I get my hat, gloves, and coat on. I move her out our front door and into the hallway. I realize I have my house sandals on so I quick change into my shoes. She's not screaming at this point so life is alright. In lieu of the cumbersome stroller, I decide to just take the car seat and the Baby Bjorn with a fat suit for the little munchkin to wear since I can't carry her very far in the car seat. That was my first mistake.

With the diaper bag over my shoulder, the Bjorn and fat suit in my left hand, the car seat with baby inside in my right hand, I use my 3rd imaginary hand to open the first vestibule door, then the second. We've made it outside. Big accomplishment.

Then we walk a block and a half to the car since it is parked a bit far. We got home late on Sunday and couldn't park on our street. I arrive at the car, arms throbbing from the pain of carrying a 12 lb baby in a what? 6 lb car seat? I open the back door of the snow covered car (2 inches with a layer of ice underneath), some snow falls into the car. I toss the fat suit, Bjorn, and diaper bag into the car. Then I grab the car seat and baby, walk to the other side of the car, open it, again have snow fall inside, and finagle the kid into the clicky thing. By now she is screaming her little head off. I try to calm her to no avail. Maybe she'll shake it off...

I shut the back door, open the front door, start the car, turn on the defrost, grab the brush and scrapper and get started. I dust off the car and scrape the ice, periodically checking to see if she is still screaming. She is. I take a break and try to calm her. She takes to sucking on my finger for a bit. Then starts screaming again. I think I'll try to get the car moving and maybe that will help. So I finish cleaning off the front windshield and hop in the front seat. She's still screaming.

I put the car in reverse and push the gas. Nothing. I put the car in drive and push the gas. Nothing. Reverse again. Still nothing.

It's 3:06 in the afternoon. I'm 20 minutes from the SS office which closes at 4pm. The car is frozen to it's spot and needs to be dug out. The baby is screaming. I have the start of a scratchy throat and my water that I've carried with me doesn't taste very good.

This is when I give up. I turn off the car, go to the back passenger side, get the diaper bag, the fat suit, the Bjorn, reach for the car seat and of course, the tube of breast milk from the diaper bag falls out and rolls into the gutter. I grab it, put it back in the diaper bag and reach for the car seat again. Then the tube of breast milk falls out, again. This time I grab it, forcefully shove it and the other tube and the baby bottle down deep into the diaper bag, grab the car seat with the baby screaming at me still, set her down in the snow, shut the door, lock the car, and try to ignore the people on the street staring at me with my screaming baby. Then I trek all my crap back to the house, stopping once to catch my breath and shake out my now throbbing arm muscles. I get to the front door, unlock it, push it open with my head this time -- somehow my magical third hand isn't available anymore --and as I march up the 4 stairs the thought of a nice house in the suburbs with a driveway and only one front door comes to me. I shake it off, unlock the second vestibule door, maneuver all of the stuff and the baby inside, open the house door, again shimmy through and of course... Ada is now fast asleep resembling the cutest little angel you've ever seen.

But that's not all. I retrieve the tubes of breastmilk from the bottom of the diaper bag and notice that, yes, of course, they have leaked! This is when I pull out every nasty word in my vocabulary and curse the designers of the bottles at Medela who had the foresight to put "Breastmilk is best" on the side of each little storage tube, but no enough sense to make sure that the bottle doesn't leak the very breastmilk that mothers treat like gold. I mean... what mother on earth would put a breastmilk tube in a diaper bag and want to take it with her without it spilling all over everything?

Moral of the story: Motherhood isn't easy, babies cry, design matters, and the suburbs still suck. No offense.