Monday, April 28, 2008

Facination with fans?

Why is it that babies love ceiling fans so much? Either on or off, Ada never seems to get tired of the ceiling fan. This weekend, while napping on Granny and Grandpa's bed, she awoke and just laid their staring at the fan. Round and round. If it weren't for me peeking in to check on her and noticing the newest member of the family - Sadie the one-year-old beagle who joined Aunt Terri's family one day prior- was circling Ada on the bed, she may have stared at the fan while I enjoyed my lunch. But most moms know, if your food is hot, the baby is fussy.

All you potential parents out there, heed my warning: "Get it while it's hot" means enjoy eating a meal while it still harbors some warmth from the kitchen. Oh, and get a ceiling fan to bring joy into your child's life.

Friday, April 25, 2008

First Impressions

This week I was blessed to have my good friend Cadence come visit to meet our little angel. Unfortunately for everyone, our little angel wasn't feeling her best and decided to show Cady her more devilish side. She got her four month shots on Monday and spent Cadence's Wednesday and Thursday visit being a fussy mess. She was at daycare both days which left little time to make the ever important first impression. Lucky for all of us, she was in bed at seven and their meeting was kept short. During that small window of time, however, Ada was able to show off her amazing ability to throw up on mommy at every opportunity. She also displayed her vocal talents by practicing a wide variety of screams, some during the middle of the night as she put on a waterworks show from her diaper that even the Bellagio can't compete with. And she couldn't pass up an opportunity to let Cadence know she has the fortitude and lung capacity to make sure the entire north side of the city of Chicago is aware that she has arrived. Hopefully auntie Cadence will be overwhelmed by Ada's adorableness, forget all the drama of the weekend, and return again soon. Maybe I just should have given her a few more of Ceasar's Killer Margaritas. Better luck next time baby.

The Art of Pumping

For those of you who don't know much about nursing, it seems to have changed quite a bit since my mom's generation experienced it. Back in the day (when my parents were walking to school uphill both ways barefoot in the snow as the story goes) they didn't have electric breast pumps, and probably not even electricity -- okay, just kidding about that part -- but they had to pump manually. And breastfeeding wasn't encouraged back then because someone decided (probably someone in marketing no less) that formula was better for babies. The list of benefits from nursing is quite impressive and includes passing antibodies from mom to baby to help boost baby's immune system. It is also a great way to bond and gives you a major advantage over dad since he can't compete with your huge knockers. He can just envy them and dream of getting a turn someday.

Now, of course, times have changed and I've heard there is actually a law that gives every infant the right to breastmilk. There are breastmilk donors and breastmilk banks even. With the increase in the popularity of nursing and society slowly starting to accept public breastfeeding, I decided I'd give it a try. And I'm not sure how many of you have seen the price for a can of formula these days, but nursing your baby saves some serious cash.

Knowing the difference in how breastfeeding was perceived from when I was born to today, you can imagine my mom's surprise when I arrived home from the hospital and ran around topless for a few days. After having just been through labor, all concerns for privacy were out the window and I really didn't care who saw me naked. And when you first try to breastfeed you realize that it isn't easy and it isn't for everyone. Some people have an easier time of it. Some babies just don't want to cooperate. I was lucky that it came easily to me and Ada took to it right away. But it was still very painful in the beginning and tearful at times. As you can probably imagine.

For those of you considering nursing, I highly recommend you give it a try and request a consultation with a lactation consultant while you're at the hospital. They can really help get you started. There is also a book called The Nursing Mother's Companion: Revised Edition that is a good reference. And be sure to have some Medela Tender Care Lanolin on hand for when your nipples get sore. The truth hurts and so do your nipples for the first few weeks. But if you can get the baby to latch on correctly from the get go, you'll have a much better chance of lasting through those painful times. The first week is the most important as that is when your body produces "liquid gold" which is colostrum - a thicker milk that has all the yummy good stuff baby needs to stay healthy. And if you can make it through the first month, you're in the clear for the most part. But be sure to ask for help and get the number of someone who has done it or your local La Leche group or a breastfeeding consultant because you need someone to cry to when the going gets rough.

And just remember, it does get better (for most people, not everyone). By three or four months the pain is gone and you can't wait for baby to feed because you're bursting with milk and need the release.

As far as milk production goes, my mother was again surprise that contrary to popular belief, little boobs can produce as much as big boobs and for once in our lifetime, size doesn't really matter. Unless you're my husband who just thinks breastfeeding is the coolest since I am frequently flashing boob around the house and I've increased a few cup sizes along the way. Lucky guy.

As for my single friends, who come to hang out at my house and get a glimpse of baby Ada, I've shocked most of them as I either latch Ada on a boob or have to pump when she's asleep. I try to be respectful and not flash too much skin but sometimes that is easier said than done. I know I have amazed many a friend while pumping since it is such a foreign concept for most. One night at knitting club I hooked up my pump and quickly was compared to a milk cow. The pumping action intrigued some while freaking the crap out of others. It can be a great form of birth control too as being milked isn't high on one's list of things to do in life.

And many a friend, and even cousin Ted, have noted that the rhythmic noise the pump makes sounds like the pump is saying something. I mostly hear "find a penny. find a penny." but it says something different to everyone. Cousin Ted heard something more like "gotta pee. gotta pee." I guess it all depends on what you're concerned about subconsciously.

So to the point of this whole entry, the art of pumping is just that. An art. Many of my friends have been amazed at how much I can accomplish while pumping but what they don't realize is that I have found this nifty little gadget that makes my pump hands-free. Easy Expression Hands Free Bustier Nursing Bra. It is a tube top with a zipper up the front and a hole cut out for each nipple. (Sexy I know. Austin Powers should be envious. Yeah, baby!) This gadget holds the "funnels", as I call them, to your chest so that you don't have to. It is quite comfortable and really adds to my productivity. Just this week I amazed myself by pumping in the bathroom while putting on my make-up. It was a lot easier than I though and has taken multi-tasking to a whole new level.

We'll see how this art form continues as I face two new challenges. One is Ada getting teeth and how that will effect my comfort level in the coming months. The other being a need to pump while out and about in the city while Ada is at daycare. Supposedly Nordstroms on Michigan Ave has a mommy room I can use to pump if I'm ever in that area. I've only had to pump while out and about once thus far and I did so before getting a one hour massage so they gave me access to the massage room beforehand. I can only imagine how difficult it can be for working mothers who don't have facilities specifically for nursing. I know first hand how frustrating and disgusting it is to nurse Ada while standing in a dingy bathroom that is anything but mom-friendly. Inhaling the smell of the nasty bathroom air freshener with every breath as you try not to touch any cootie covered surfaces. All while averting your eyes from focusing on the nasty partial toilet seat and hoping your back doesn't give out as you stand holding your rapidly growing child in your arms for anywhere from ten minutes to an hour as the little one drinks from the fountain of mom.

Moral of the story: Nursing is a great experience that is not for everyone, plan ahead to find nursing-friendly locations when you are out and about, and splurge on the hands-free gadget or make one of your own as it really is a fabulous thing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Can’t Anybody Just Agree?

Yet another thing I’ve learned in motherhood is that none of the “experts” can agree on anything. It’s kind of like marketing in the way that we marketers can find a way to use the research to prove whatever outcome is in our favor. Pediatrician Recommended might mean that a company paid a pediatrician $100 to say sure, use that lotion. But for some reason, the public believes that if a pediatrician recommended it, it must be good. Who cares if the pediatrician is 90 years old, an alcoholic, and has never even seen the product he is recommending. You just have to use some common sense and your best judgment.

With that said, here are a few things I’ve found that articles, doctors and mothers can’t agree on and the stance I’ve taken on them. Maybe it will help save someone the trouble of trying to find the so-called right answer since it doesn’t exist. Caution: This is probably way too much information for some people (i.e. queasy men) so proceed with caution.

Allergies – Can you eat peanut butter while breastfeeding or not? My answer: Nobody knows. If you don’t have allergies in your family, eat the friggin’ peanut butter. If you are worried about it, don’t. I personally don’t think that the small quantities of peanut butter I eat are going to cause Ada to have peanut allergies. I’ve read studies that support both sides. I put peanut butter on my pancakes this morning and will deal with the consequences.
I do however think that you should avoid giving babies honey for their first year because it can cause botulism which can be deadly. Read more here.

Birth Control – Breastfeeding moms should avoid using birth control with Estrogen because it will lower the mother’s milk supply. My answer: I have recently read mixed reports on this. Most Dr.’s seem to prescribe the mini pill which has no estrogen. That’s great but after a few months it can cause depression, it isn’t as effective as other methods, you have to take the pill within 3 hours of the same time everyday or it loses its effectiveness, among other issues. I’ve recently been told and read that the patch and NuvaRing can be used since they don’t deliver the estrogen via pill so they don’t effect the milk supply as much if at all. My totally worthless and absolutely unprofessional opinion is to use the mini pill or some estrogen free method for the first few months until you get the whole breastfeeding thing under control and you have stockpiled some milk. Then give something else a try if you feel like it.

Breastfeeding will prevent you from getting pregnant. My answer: Not true all the time. It will reduce the chances of you getting pregnant but it isn’t an effect means of birth control. I know two people who have gotten pregnant while nursing. One intentionally, one unintentionally after her Dr. said she wouldn’t get pregnant. One of the not so widely known benefits of nursing is that you don’t necessarily get your period back for a few months, or even years for some people. I guess that isn’t a benefit if you are trying to figure out when you might be ovulating though. Hmmm…

Is there such a thing as nipple confusion? My answer: Maybe in the very beginning. Try to just use the boob to feed your baby in the beginning if they have trouble latching on. Once they get the hang of it, switch between boob and bottle, and have different people feed the baby from the bottle, including mom. My doctor freaked out that I was feeding her with the bottle and breastfeeding but I’ve found that it doesn’t make any difference.

For all of you pregnant women, some doctors still recommend episiotomies. My answer: Don’t let them do it. Studies show that it is better to tear instead of have the Dr. make a cut for vaginal births. Again I’m no expert but my Dr. said she won’t do them unless things get really crazy and that is the only option. The theory is that your body will only tear as much as it needs to and where it needs to but a Dr. might cut more than you need and it would take longer to heal.

Once you have the baby, some doctors will say to clean the area around the umbilical cord with an alcohol wipe. My answer: It will fall off if you do so or not. Babies born in other countries survive just fine without alcohol wipes so do whatever you feel like. It really doesn’t make a difference in my opinion.

Should you give your baby water? My answer: I don’t know but a tiny bit probably won’t hurt. A dietitian told me yes. Give them a little water so that they get used to it but never more than an ounce or two since they will fill their tiny tummies with water and not get the nutrients they need from their milk. My doctor recommends that I don’t give her water as she gets plenty from my milk. I don’t think an ounce here or there will hurt her as long as you pay attention to the fluoride content so you don’t mess up her teeth (even before they come in the fluoride can damage them.) And be sure that she is getting enough milk.

Are gas drops like Mylacon okay for babies? My answer: Heck yeah. They are a lifesaver. Some people think they haven’t been proven to work. Some think they are fine. Ada loves them and they do seem to help relieve her gas.

Do babies get sinus infections? My answer: I don’t know for sure since I’ve had two doctors tell me opposite answers but Ada had green snot coming out of her nose like mad and we put her on amoxicillin and now it is much better. So I’m assuming babies sinuses develop sometime around four months since that’s when the snot appeared. Don’t rule it out I guess is what I’m saying and if baby has green snot, do something about it.

Should I vaccinate my baby? Will it cause autism? My answer: I do believe in vaccinating your children because the benefits strongly outweigh the risks. The whole issue of autism is something that I’m not sure anyone understands. It seems to be related to diet on some level. There is one ingredient in certain vaccines that people think causes it. I’m not sure what that ingredient is but educate yourself and try to avoid vaccines that have that ingredient. Talk to your doctor and learn more about it. I just heard about a family (on Oprah’s Big Give) that has five children who are all on the autism spectrum. That makes me think it is genetic but I’m a marketing major with an MBA. I’m not a doctor or a specialist in this stuff. These are my best guesses on how to parent my kid. Take them or leave them but at least pay attention and educate yourself.

Moral of the story: Try to make educated decisions as best you can when it comes to parenting, your doctor probably doesn’t know everything there is to know about babies and the universe so feel free to double check or get a second opinion and question what they say, and follow your gut because intuition is too powerful to ignore.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cloth Diapers - note

So my friend Amanda just told me about another friend she has who started a cloth diaper website They have Thirsties diaper covers as a top selling item too.

I also wanted to add that you really do need to wash your cloth diapers 4 or 5 times before you use them to get them to be absorbent. It doesn't really make sense to me why but Rick and I forgot to wash the next size up that we have and started using them after about one or two washes. Boy were we in for it. Ada leaked all over the place because the pee just pooled on the diaper. Now that we've washed them, all is well with the world again.

And you do have to get used to folding the diapers and finagling them into the covers. It might take a little extra time but is well worth the effort.

Good luck to those other parents who join forces with me in saving the world one cloth diaper at a time.

For Crying Out Loud!

There are many different theories on sleep training and what method to use, who is the current expert, blah bitti blah blah. My husband and I finally decided to go to the dark side and try the "cry it out" method. Note: This is not for everyone and I don't want to see a hundred comments posted telling me I'm a bad mother so don't waste your time. Our decision was made out of a moment of weakness and frustration. And it is one of the hardest things we've ever had to do. I gladly admit as of a few months ago I was firmly on the "no way am I going to make my kid cry it out. That's insane. There has to be a better way." bandwagon, but we haven't found a better way.

For a little bit of background, my friend Anne has a sister, Rachel, who has two adorable kids. While I was pregnant, I babysat for Rachel and found it to be the easiest gig I've ever had. I went to their house and Rachel explained that her maybe ten-month-old (mommy brain fails me) daughter goes to bed at seven and her two-year-old son at eight. To put her daughter to bed, I just had to change her diaper, put on her pajamas, read her two books, set her in the crib, turn off the light, shut the door and walk away to go play games with her son. Too easy. To put her son to bed was a bit more difficult because I don't speak two-year-old. I changed his diaper, got him into pajamas, he brushed his teeth, and we read two books. Then he got into his crib and kept saying something like "I love knuckles". After about five minutes of him pointing, me feeling like the dumbest person on earth and handing him every toy in his room only to be told no as he shook his head and repeated "I love knuckles", I finally figured it out. He has this routine every night where he and his parents say "I love you", they hug, and then they knock knuckles (totally a guy thing - hence my complete lack of comprehension). Once I figured that out, he zipped up his crib cover - which prevents him from falling out as it is a dome like tent - and I headed out the door. But I was called back to rescue him as I had forgotten to close the blinds. So I shut the blinds and again shut the door. I was done. It was 8:15 at night and I was done babysitting. No crying. No fussing. Nada. It was awesome!

So the other night, my friend Anne was over for dinner and it was time to put Ada to bed. Rick and I had been doing the "feed her to sleep and hope that she doesn't wake up as we transfer her to the crib" method. And sometimes the "bounce her on my knee until she goes cross-eyed and passes out" method. And frequently the "rock the baby in your arms for an hour while bouncing up and down and swaying back and forth while saying 'Shhhh' and praying that your arms/back/hips don't give out" method. After several nights of exhaustion and a deep desire to spend more than five minutes of adult time with my husband, we were looking to try anything else. Anne suggested we try the cry it out method. She said it worked for her sister Rachel in about two days and the kids have been great ever since. "So that's her trick." I said. Hmmm. It sounded too good to be true. The theory was that we would listen to Ada cry for half an hour, two nights or so, then just lay her in the crib and she'd be trained to fall asleep on her own. Instantly we jumped on the idea. And thankfully Anne volunteered to sit and distract me while Ada cried for 25 minutes that night. It was tough but I did my best to stay strong and know that the result would be way better for us both in the end. I'm not saying it was easy by any means. But I'm still alive and that was a week ago.

At daycare on Wednesday they let her cry it out for 45 minutes and that was tough to take as a mom. I could just imagine my poor little Ada screaming for that long and it hurt. But at least she took a good nap at day care which has been a bit of a struggle for them to get her to sleep.

On Friday I mentioned to my friends at Mom Network that I was trying the cry it out method and it was working pretty well. I got a few weird looks and some comments about how it isn't for everyone, some babies don't deal with it well and freak out, and the long term effects of it haven't been studied. Which all made me doubt myself a bit and turned me into a bit of a psycho mom about it.

Now I'd be a complete liar if I said this was the best thing to do for every child and every mother. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a complete break down on Saturday while Rick was out running errands as I tried to get her to take a morning nap and she cried for what seemed like 45 minutes. But the result of her long crying stint and my long crying stint actually was a really good thing too. Rick came home early from running errands and we got to talk about how things were going and what we could do to make things run a little more smoothly. He also told me to stop doubting myself as a parent because I am doing a good job and this isn't going to scar her for life (take note men, supporting your wife is SO important and helpful and the number one cause for her not to completely go insane on you).

From our little talk on Saturday we decided to be consistent and be sure to always ask "Why?" whenever Ada is crying. Is she wet? hungry? gassy? tired? And we've identified the types of cries she has. As the 5 cries a baby makes were featured on Oprah, "Neh" means hungry. If she's wet or dirty her diaper will be the proof. If she's gassy, you might not know unless you listen for a fart, burp her, or push her legs up to her chest and try to wiggle something loose. And if she is tired, you need to watch for the signs. For Ada, rubbing her eyes, yawning, and a miserable whining cry means we're too late. She's overtired. But slowing down, losing focus, getting cuddly are all ways she's trying to say "Hey, I need a nap!". Knowing that now, we're settling into a routine of some sort. I watch for the signals, feed her, change her diaper and then lay her down with a kiss and shut the door to her room. Within minutes, she's done crying and fast asleep. The time she spends crying is less and less each time. And I've learned to take a shower, go to the back of the house, or call Rick while she cries it out. Her little voice tends to go in waves and the quite between the crying waves lengthens until eventually she is out cold. A beautiful thing.

Again, it isn't for everyone. But if you want to learn more you can try to read this book by Dr. Marc Weissbluth called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. At times the book is way too detailed but I think there are some good things to get out of it, too.

Moral of the story: Don't doubt your skills as a mother, do what you feel is right for your child, and most important of all is to be consistent in whatever you do.

Advice - Baby Clothes

To all of you who love to shop for baby clothes, here are a few practical tips from a mom.

Try to get things on sale or clearance since 1) you don't know how long it will last 2) babies stain things 3) you can buy more for the same amount of money 4) the baby might not even fit into it during the season it is made for.

Don't buy clothes with buttons, snaps or other decorative stuff (i.e. crap) up the back because baby spends most of their time laying on her back and that would not be comfy --it follows that whole do unto babies as you would have done unto you. Which leads me to my next point.

Get the kid some pants. I have a million onsies and three pair of pants, none of them that match more than one onsie. I default to one pair of pants all the time, which rarely match and frequently are in the wash. And baby's legs get cold.

Outfits that zip from heal to chin with footies are awesome. They may not be the most fashionable thing out there but if mom or dad is taking baby to the doctor, this is the outfit of choice. The doctor's office makes you undress the baby, re-dress the baby, and you may have to change the baby again while you're there so it just makes life easier for everyone. Especially when they are crying after getting their vaccines.

Pajamas with the hand covers for baby's first few weeks and months are great. Their fingernails are sharp and it makes mom feel awful when she notices they have a giant mark of Zorro (or the Harry Potter lightening bolt for generation Yers) on their forehead from a stray figernail gone wild in the middle of the night.

The soft and fluffy fleece blankets from Target that are 100% polyester suck. Don't waste your time with them because they pill up like crazy when you wash them and quickly become the crappiest blanket on the block. Not cool.

Sunhats and sunglasses often get overlooked on the baby shower list but would come in really handy - even in winter. And so would music for baby - but I digress as that is a whole different entry. A mom can never have enough burp cloths, wash cloths, baby socks and believe it or not baby blankets.

And if a mom has decided on cloth diapers, she'll need clothes with extra length as the diaper takes up a bit more room. When it doubt, buy bigger as babies tend to grow into things and the sizing on most baby clothes completely lies.

Moral of the story: Shopping for baby is tougher than it appears, look for ease of dressing and undressing in addition to cuteness, and avoid the crappy fleece blankets so your gifts don't suck.

Never Enough Momma Clothes

As a new mom, I've quickly learned what everyone means by saying that "you can never have too many baby clothes". With the way we've been doing laundry, that is surely the case. However they typically fail to mention that I can never have to many mommy or daddy clothes either.

When I heard "babies spit up, it's normal". I didn't really associate that with being all over me and her dad all the time. And I mean ALL of the time. I have this running joke with day care now that we are going to statistically prove that Ada throws up on me more than any other mother (as in every time I pick her up at the end of the day). I never go home with a clean shoulder. And it wouldn't be so bad but for the laundry. The first time she threw up on me at day care, I was wearing a black jacket that has a thin layer of quilted stuffing to provide a little warmth. She goobered on my shoulder and I thought nothing of it, wiped it off and went on my merry way. The next day I went to pick my husband up from work to run to the grocery store before picking Ada up from day care. The weather was still a bit chilly so I put on my black jacket. Everything was fine until I got into the car and turned on the heat a bit. By the time I got to his office I had the windows down and was trying to keep myself from puking. Being that the spit up was on my shoulder and a day old, it was right in my face and stinky. Every time I looked over to talk to my husband, the smell would overwhelm me and I would start to gag. Needless to say, we made that trip to the store and day care as short as possible. And when we got to day care, she threw up on the other shoulder - of course.

The next week, since my black coat was in the laundry and the weather was a bit warmer, I decided to wear a teal rain coat. Again, throw up on my shoulder. The following day, I opted to go coat less. I thought I could trick her into not throwing up on my coat since I wasn't wearing one. Unfortunately I was wearing one of my favorite t-shirts from threadless. It has a refrigerator running on it. Somehow I had forgotten that the stats for this t-shirt were even worse than for my coats. She threw up on it on the way home from Easter - about half-an-hour in during a five hour car ride. That was pleasant. And she had thrown up on it four other times in the four weeks that I had owned it. My husband had even taken the time to pre-treat the stains in an attempt to get the goober remnants to go away, with some luck, knowing that this was my new favorite shirt.

So here I am, at day care, holding Ada while wearing my favorite t-shirt and of course, she throws up. But not only on my shoulder this time. This time she has managed to get my shoulder and create a spit-up river down the front of my entire shirt. As I just chuckle, one of the day care assistants tries to wipe it off with a burp cloth and finally just hands it to me since my entire left boob is covered in regurgitated breastmilk. Nice. I'm going to have to teach Ada somehow that I don't want the breastmilk back. At all. Ever. Not on my coat, not on my refrigerator, not on my floor, not on my front door. Not with a hat or a cat, or a cat in a hat, or any other shape or form. I don't want it back.

Moral of the story: Babies really do spit up a lot, you can NEVER have enough burp cloths when you need them, and it might be smart to travel with a backup mommy and daddy outfit too.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Now with Photos!

I've added a few photos to make these stories a bit more real.

Don't forget to make a small donation to the March of Dimes.

Enjoy your day,


12 Laundry, Remodeling, & Relatives Oh My!

It's been awhile since I've posted so here's the latest.
I mentioned babies soil things quickly so you do a lot of laundry as a mom. Hence the reason we decided to add a washer/dryer to our bedroom closet.
I must say that the thing is frigging AWESOME... But it has been insanely disruptive to remodel. Having a small home to begin with, space is important to us. We have been living out of the baby's closet for two months now. Oh yes, this process took two months. My fabulous husband has given up several weekends of his time, hours that could have been spent playing with the baby, and he even slept on the living room floor(see above) for a week so I could have the couch as we waited to clean our drywall-dust-covered bedroom. It has not been easy.
A huge thanks goes out to our families and friends for all of their help during this crazy time. Our friends from back home came to demo the wall, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend came the day I got diagnosed with strep throat to help re-drywall and babysit, my mother has come to help clean and bring some sense of order to the house, and my fantastic friends have come to entertain me, fold laundry, babysit, and just hang out without freaking out about the fact that my home looks like it was recently ransacked by a wild boar. Rick's parents plan to come in and help us re-assemble our home this weekend and I look forward to having a sense of normalcy back into my life.
My entry today has a little less bite than usual as I am recovering not only from strep throat, but the baby has a sinus infection and we chose this week to try the "cry it out" method -which I might add is working very well. I'm getting a good deal of sleep, for which I am very thankful, but I've also decided that this is the week that my maternity leave is officially over and I've launched my own marketing consulting firm - AY Marketing. I'm hoping to have my first client on board in the next week or so and I am actively seeking additional clients so feel free to pass my name on.
At least my schedule has been easy this week as far as appointments go. Ada is doing well in day care and between walks with neighbors and the fact that I have a 16 1/2 lb 4 month old, I get quite a good workout without even trying.
Moral of the story: Build a strong network of friends and family to help you through all that gets thrown your way, avoid remodeling, and try not to bite off more that you can chew as you only live for so long.

Monday, April 14, 2008

March for Babies

To all who may read this fabulous blog, I kindly ask you to consider supporting my somehow-related-to-me second cousin Brian in his effort to raise money for the March of Dimes. Brian and his lovely wife Mariella lost a child last year prematurely, who would be just a few months older than Ada. Any donation you'd be willing to make would surely make a difference in the world, if even just to show him that you're thinking about him as his family heals.

In gratitude,


11 Advice To Baby, or Not To Baby

This is a huge slap across the face to anyone you’ve ever known who thinks having a baby will SAVE their marriage. Hello! WTF . Wake up people. This comes to me in light of hearing a newly divorced gentlemen say “I think we’d still be together if we had kids.” And from having friends and relatives say “I was trying to get pregnant right before we split up to save the marriage.” WHAT??? Can someone explain to me how that’s supposed to work?

A strong marriage takes work. It’s a full time job. So is having a job. And having a baby is the equivalent of three full time jobs. So how does that add up?

I must say that I am amazed on a daily basis as to how single mothers, teenagers, women here from foreign countries without family to help them out, and low income families do it. As I ask this question over and over, everyone keeps telling me “You do what you’ve got to do.”

Don’t get me wrong here. Being a parent is the coolest thing ever, but it is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I feel so blessed to have a strong marriage, family within two hours from us and willing to help out, friends willing to babysit and tolerate our screaming baby at brunch on Sundays. I’m also thankful to have found a few local mom networks that have been a great resource for answering the everyday questions that a new mom faces.

So what about the job of parent appeals to people in a relationship crisis? I want to know if there is some sort of biological reason that this happens to people because I can’t figure it out. Do people just think babies come out like a little cupid shooting love darts at everyone they see and magically repairing marriages and relationships?

And if I happen to be hitting too close to home for anyone… can someone please explain why this happens? Why did you do it? What motivates someone to want to bring a child into a crap relationship voluntarily? Or do they not even consider the consequences and just hope that a baby will wash away their failures and make everything better? If you aren’t in love anymore – will a baby change that? If you fight about money and finances to begin with as most couples do, it surely won’t help since NEWS FLASH This just in… babies are expensive.

The only thing I can think of is that a baby would cause a distraction long enough to maybe iron out your differences. But chances of that working are slim and short lived. Babies can live to be 100 these days. Would it be worth it to be connected to a bad relationship for the rest of your life? I think not. But bless those who do get pregnant before they have a chance to read this or get talked out of it by a good friend.

Moral of the story: Pregnancy does not a relationship save.

Monday, April 7, 2008

10 Rant Street Parking - Part 2

Not only is it tough to find street parking in the city sometimes, often, okay frequently, but you rarely get the same spot. If you do, and it’s a good spot, then you’re having a super fantastic set of days and will be grinning from ear to ear for hours. For those of you who are a little more advanced in years, you know how hard it is to remember what you ate yesterday let alone where you parked the car. And parking the car in the city isn’t like going to the Wal-mart and parking the car and forgetting which aisle you finally decided on and how far down. No. Parking a car in the city involves knowing what street you parked it on, what side of the street, what block it’s on, and if you need to have a special pass to park it there or move it by a certain time in the morning so you don’t get a ticket. (And by ticket I mean $50. We’re not talking the twenty-five cent fine you get for parking at the penny meters in my hometown of Sycamore. Fifty bucks a pop.)

And, I must add, living in the city also affords us the “luxury” of having only one car (meaning it is so expensive to live here and so tough to find a parking space that we only can afford one car and the pain it takes to park it.) So we share. That means that whenever we take the car somewhere, not only must we remember what street we parked it on, what block, what side and about how many cars in from the intersection it is, we also have to remember to tell our spouse where we parked it. Which leads me to the main topic of this rant: street parking.

I have, quite possibly, the best husband in the world. (Many wives say it but I mean it, he really is awesome.) One night I was headed out to my knitting club with baby Ada in her car seat. I had fed her, bundled her up, packed her snugly in her car seat, and headed out to find the car. I called my wonderful husband and asked him where he parked the car since he had it last. He said he thought it was on Wellington, on our side of the street, half way or three quarters of the way down our block.
“You think that’s where it is or you know? It’s 2 degrees out and I have the baby with me.” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure.” He replies with a sense of uncertainty and hesitation.
“It better be.”
“Yeah, it is. I think.”
Still not convinced, I grab Ada in her car seat and my knitting basket (I’m working on a baby blanket for her that I hope to have done before she’s 20.) I also have my hat, gloves, winter coat, winter boots, house keys, car keys, purse and cell phone. We’re ready. We head out our front door, shimmy through the inner vestibule door, then the outer vestibule door, and into the freezing cold night air that steals my breath and threatens never to give it back.

Down the sidewalk we go making footprints in the newly fallen snow. Man this kid is heavy. She’s about ten pounds and the car seat is probably another five and my super mom upper arm muscles haven’t come in yet. We’re walking. Actually I’m walking and leaning my upper body to the right to counteract the weight of the car seat as it scrapes my thigh while she sleeps in her cozy Bundle Me. I’ve put my right glove in my pocket so I can hold the car keys and push the clicker so that if I get close to the car, the lights will flash. Most of you suburbanites just think those lights are for “security purposes” or to let you know the car is locked. Let me tell you. They are really handy when you are trying to figure out which Honda Civic is yours when it’s one of the most popular cars in the city and all of the cars are covered in snow. Oh, and for fun add in the fact that you don’t know where you, or your spouse in this case, parked the car.

So, yes, I’m walking down the street, pushing the button as I go. My hand is frozen. I get to the other end of our street and I didn’t see our car. I start back toward the house continuing to click the button. Nothing. I dig out my cell phone and call my fabulous husband at work.
Sternly I say, “Rick. Where is the car?”
“I told you it’s on Wellington.”
“Where exactly on Wellington?”
“Well, I can’t remember.”
“I’m freezing, carrying the baby in the car seat and this is not the time for you to not be sure about where you parked the car.”
“It could be across the street.”
“It could be? Or it is?”
“I think it is.”
Click. I hang up. I walk across the street as I try to take a deep breath. A kind elderly woman pushing a cart on wheels-- the kind you take to the grocery store when you live in the city and want to save your wrists from breaking if you were to lug it all back home—asks me if she can help me as I’m obviously frustrated. I thank her kindly and explain that my husband lost our car. She asks me if I’d like to put the car seat on her cart if we are going the same way. I explain that I am actually going the other way but thank her profusely as I dial my husband’s number again.
“Rick.” The anger in my voice is increasing. “Where is the @#%^% car?”
“I told you, it’s across the street.”
“No, it isn’t. I’ve been up and down our block two and a half times now. Where is the #$^^%@ car already?” I ask curtly, my frozen fingers throbbing as I grasp the cell phone and refrain from whipping it at the snowy sidewalk and throwing the tantrum of the century.
“It’s not on our block. Across the street meaning Clark.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“That’s what I said the first time. Across the street.”
“I thought you meant the North side of Wellington. Forget it.” Disheartened, and really, really, really mad at this point, I hang up on him again, re-cross our street and head toward Clark Street.
By now, my biceps are screaming, my fingers are entering the early stages of frost bite, and I have to wait for the light to change green to give me a walk signal. After what seems like hours, I get the little white man walk signal and awkwardly waddle across the street alternating the car seat from my left side to my right side and back again.

As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, it is rush hour and a load of passengers have just gotten off the El and are coming toward me. While dodging the onslaught of commuters and their duffel bags, mongo purses, briefcases and puffy coats, I retrieve the keys from my pocket and continue pushing the unlock button. My hand feels like it might fall off at this point. I’m four cars in when finally the lights flicker from under the snow. Thank goodness! I’ve found it. Fumbling with my glove and my keys in my right hand, I make my final approach to the passenger side of the car. I swing the car seat around next to the back door and… where are my keys? I just had them. That’s how I knew this was my car. I check my pocket. Nope. The folds of Ada’s bundle me? No. The snow next to the car? No. My eyes are starting to well up and I feel an emotional breakdown coming on. I look up and glance to my right when an Asian woman approaches me and says “Are these your keys?” “Yes!” I reply and thank her profusely. I must have dropped them when my hand went numb from the cold.

Quickly, for fear of losing my entire limb instead of just my hand, I unlock the car, load Ada inside, start the engine, turn on the defrost and grab the snow scraper. Just then, my phone rings. It’s the two knitting ladies calling to check on me since I was supposed to be downtown to pick them up five minutes ago. “I caught a bit of a snag. I’ll pick up my husband, throw him in the river and be right there to get you guys.”

With a few quick sweeps of the snow brush, the car is clean and we’re on our way to get my husband from work. We pick him up and I’ve chosen the silent route. He looks me in the eyes and says “sorry”. We then proceed to get my knitting buddies from their office, arrive at knitting and fittingly send my husband away with the car since there is nowhere to park nearby my friend’s south loop apartment.

Moral of the story: Even the best husband in the world has his bad days, Winter in Chicago can be really, really, really cold, and foregoing a reserved parking spot may save you money but not your marriage, strike that, I mean sanity.

09 Rant Street Parking - Part 1

If you live in the city and don't pay a bundle of money for a reserved parking space, I think you'll really relate to this entry. If you live in the burbs with a fancy driveway that fits 4 cars nicely, this will make you realize and be thankful for what you've got. And if you live on a farm where your entire front lawn can become a parking lot for an annual pig roast, well, just understand we’re in two totally different places here.

Being a city dweller has its ups and downs. One up swing is that we can park for free on the city streets - assuming we pay about a hundred dollars a year for a parking sticker and don't park in an illegal space or on the wrong side of the street during street cleaning days or within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or within 10 feet of a stop sign or ... you get the point. One down side is actually being able to find a spot that your car will fit into, and having the parallel parking skills to squeeze into it without damaging the surrounding cars.

With that said, you can imagine my excitement when I find an open space right in front of my condo, or even within 10 car lengths. It's like winning the lotto. And if you move the car everyday and are lucky to do so when there is a lot of turnover on the street, you feel the lottery winner high most days. However, when you can't find a spot, life starts looking bad. Very bad, very quickly.

Having a child has complicated this immensely. Before baby, if I was parked a block over, so what. Now if I’m a block over it’s a question of “Can I carry her and the car seat that far without the stroller or do I have to make this a huge production?” “Can someone go get the car for me?” “Do we really need to run that errand today?”

And getting to the car isn’t always the issue. If the car is right out front, my fear is giving up such a great spot and not being able to find one that is a similar distance from our home. When I get home I wonder “Will I be able to carry her, the car seat, and whatever we may have collected or purchased on our adventures back into the house with me?” And then I think, “Should I take the stroller with me just in case we don’t find a good spot when we get back?” It’s a lot to consider.

Last Friday I took Ada to see the doctor for her second cold of her life. She’s three months old mind you. I started the trip asking the usual questions. The car was parked right across the street and I decided to chance getting a similar spot on the return so I didn’t bother dragging the stroller out with me. We went to the Dr.’s office and returned an hour later to a complete lack of parking options. I drove around the block hoping something would open up as it usually does. No luck. I drove around again, and again, and again. Finally on the fifth time around our block, I pulled over to the side, put my hazard lights on and sat and waited for someone to pull out of a space in front of our house. When a car finally pulled out of a fifteen minute loading zone, a car passing me had the nerve to consider pulling next to the space and trying to take it. Then he correctly realized I would kill him if he took the spot and that it was only a loading zone so he moved on. I didn’t want the fifteen minute spot either since I live on this block and fifteen minutes just won’t cut it. So I give up and circle the block again. This time I notice the woman in the car that is parked half in the fifteen minute zone and half in the regular street parking area is about to move. I quickly line up behind her and turn on my signal. She pulls out and I pull in. I move the car as far up as possible and rest against the bumper in front of me hoping that if the ticket guy sees that more than half of my car is in the regular street parking zone he won’t give me a ticket for the back half of my car being in the loading zone.

I unload the baby, the car seat and the diaper bag and return home through the outer and inner vestibule doors. I get the baby settled down for our afternoon routine and periodically peak out the front window to see if I’ve been ticketed or if a fully legal space has opened up. After checking on the car ten times, I decide to risk it and just have my husband move it when he gets home since I can’t really move it without taking Ada in the car seat with me. It’s almost worth the $50 ticket not to have to deal with all of that.

It’s nearing the end of the day and I’m waiting for my husband to get home. I put Ada in her crib and turn on her mobile so I could go wash my hands from changing her. Just out of curiosity I peak out the front window. Oh my goodness! There is a spot! Right in front of the spot I’m sort of in that is halfway legal! Think fast. What do I do? Quick. Get your sandals on. Grab the house keys. Grab the car keys. Baby’s fine in her crib. Go. Fast.

I whip open the front door, the inner vestibule door, the outer vestibule door, down the three steps to the sidewalk, full out sprinting the twenty feet to the driver side door while clicking the unlock button. I hop in, turn on the ignition and pull the car forward a whole eight feet! Yes! I got it. I put it in park, turn off the car, get out, push the lock button as I sprint back to the building, up the three stairs, unlock the outer vestibule door, then the inner vestibule door, then the front door and do my little happy dance. Ada is still cooing in her crib while watching her mobile spin round and round. Woohoo!

Meanwhile, outside the people in traffic on my street are wondering why some crazy lady just sprinted out of her house and moved her car eight feet while in house slippers. After all, it’s just a parking spot.

Moral of the story: Watch the Cubs game schedule when trying to park in front of my house on the first Friday in April, whenever in doubt opt for the stroller, and don’t ever try to take a spot from a woman trying to park with a screaming baby in the back seat as it may very well just cost you your life.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

08 Rant Renovation

It is widely known that renovation is never easy. So why my husband and I thought it would be a quick and easy project to install a washer/dryer combo unit in our bedroom closet is beyond me. Way beyond me.

This all started when we had Ada and realized, (insert light bulb here), that babies soil everything they touch and thereby increase your amount of laundry dramatically. And to compound the issue, we’re trying to save money and the environment by using cloth diapers(see 07 Advice). So having one baby equals three or four additional loads of laundry each week for us.

My whole reasoning for even putting a washer dryer in our condo unit is that it is better for resale, we’ll get the investment back when we sell our place, and it will be more convenient not having to walk out the back door, down a flight of stairs, unlock the basement door and lug the laundry to the coin machines. My real breaking point was when one washer and one dryer out of the four machines downstairs decided to not work properly but to continue eating my hard earned quarters. Five quarters per load to be exact, then five more for the dryer.

I hit my breaking point quickly. Ada was born mid-December and I made it to Valentine’s Day-- almost two whole months mind you. I researched different machines online and went with an LG WM3431HW that we purchased from Compact Appliance. It’s an expensive piece of equipment, $1,300 after free shipping and the romantic holiday sale. It arrived just three days later, and has since been a conversation piece in our living room and then a night stand draped in plastic in our bedroom.

Our first mistake was to assume we could install hookups in our closet by sprinkling fairy dust in our bedroom. Turns out that in reality it took our friend Martin and my husband a day to bump out the closet wall six inches, several nights of re-mudding the drywall, half a day for the electrician, and a day and a half for the plumber, not to mention all the time it will take my wonderful husband to re-drywall, mud, sand, paint and re-install the closet organization system.

An inch of drywall dust later, (unfortunately they were out of fairy dust), we might have a running washer/dryer Tuesday evening, April 8th. Yes, that is just shy of two months later. Why? Because we thought our friend could do the plumbing, but it turned out to be way too complicated with a cast iron stack in the basement and no access to a vent pipe. Then we made the mistake of believing our plumber when he said he’d get us a quote. After three weeks of nagging him, the quote was $2,500! Ticked off from all that drama we called plumber #2 and he stopped by that day, quoted it on the spot, and is starting one week later for $700 less. Still way more than we expected but what can we do?

So that is the background to the story. Let’s zoom in on the day Plumber #2 came to visit.

April Fool’s Day started out well. Rick called to say that the plumber would be calling sometime today and maybe stop by to give us a quote. Awesome! Finally a responsive plumber. I was still in my pajamas feeding Ada when the plumber, Chuck, called. Mind you this was already my second pair of pajamas since Ada woke up this morning and threw up on me, down my cleavage and all over my pants at her first feeding.

Chuck said he’d come over at 11 to take a look. Fabulous! It’s 10 am and Ada is a bit fussy. I get the wise idea of taking a quick shower before Chuck arrives so I feel human and don’t smell like barf. I put Ada in her bouncy seat --which has no bounce as the batteries are dead and Rick hasn’t had a chance to change them and I don’t have four hands or a clone to do it either. I set it in front of the bathroom door as gather clothes to wear and undress for my shower. She starts screaming the instant I’m naked. Thank goodness I’ve got the blinds closed throughout the house as I now have to pick her up, walk to her room and nurse while naked. A few minutes later we try again. She’s still fussing in her bouncy seat and I jump in the shower. I have fifteen minutes until he gets here and can get ready in three so this is good.

I’m showering when, of course, the phone rings. I quickly shut off the water, grab my towel, run on tip toes past the screaming baby to the kitchen to get the phone, but it’s in the living room. We have 1,000 square feet of condo, two cordless phones and a wall phone and they are all in the living room. What are the chances of that? So I run on tip toes to the living room, soaking the floor along the way. “Amanda, it’s Chuck. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” “Great. See you then.” I go back to the bathroom, towel off and jump into my clothes while singing to Ada to calm her down. I’m mopping up all of the water I’ve strewn through our condo when the buzzer sounds. It’s been five minutes and he’s here. Ada is fussing as I let him in. I grab her and introduce her as our family mascot. While she screams, I show him the closet.
“Oh, this isn’t good. That’s a problem. Is there a unit below you?” he asks.
“Nope. It’s the basement.” I reply.
“Okay. That’s good. Can I see it?”

With Ada under my arm, I grab the key and head downstairs.
“Oh, this is better than I thought. If you were on a higher floor this wouldn’t work.”
He proceeds to tell me how he can do it and quotes it out. I thank him and we head out of the basement. Again with Ada in my arms I fumble with the MasterLock for a minute and finally get it to click, no thanks to him.

Back inside he checks out the closet again.
“I’ll have to make a new hole in the wall since the electrical is in the way.”
I laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“When the original plumber came to give us a quote, the electrician was here and I asked that question specifically and he told me it wouldn’t be a problem. I work with engineers and married an architect so I understand the whole coordinating projects and tried to prevent this. Oh well. It’s just drywall. Rick can fix that.”
“Okay, so we’ll cut the back wall open and put in a vent pipe at 48 inches.”
“Sounds great.” I reply.
He leaves and I call Rick to relay the message. We agree to go ahead with the project.

After calling the plumber to give him the go ahead, I hear a strange thumping noise. I thought maybe it was cell phone interference with the computer speakers but they were turned off. After a few minutes I decide to investigate. Then it dawns on me. As I enter our bedroom I realized that I had tried to put Ada in her swing before I sat her in her bouncy seat. She didn’t care for the swing so I folded it up and put it in our bedroom. I assumed the batteries were dead since it never seemed to swing on its own. To my surprise, there it was, folded up against the bedroom wall and rhythmically knocking it. How about that. The batteries do work!

Now it’s time for lunch. Ada nurses for a bit then goes down for a mini nap. I heat up a baked potato. As soon as the microwave goes off saying it’s done, she wakes up screaming. Hold on potato, I’ll be back. I get her back to sleep long enough to reheat the potato, add cheese, bacon and just as I’m adding the sour cream, she starts screaming again. Will I ever get to eat? I put her back on the boob and eat with my magical mom skills (aka the mysterious third hand).

In all of the chaos of the day, I decided to use a digital microphone to record this crazy line of events so I could blog it. To do so, I needed to get the batteries from the closet under the stair and to top things off, I hit my head on the low ceiling.

Moral of the story: Don’t remodel and think twice before procreating.