Thursday, December 31, 2009

My New Year's Resolutions

I'm not one for resolutions, but this year, I've got a couple of goals in mind that I figure it's a good time to share.

1st - Learn to Cook
I can cook. I can follow a recipe. But I'm not patient and I get more frustrated by playing the "What should we have for dinner?" game than anything. And I surely wouldn't say I'm a "good" cook by any measure of the word "good". What I'm really trying to learn is how to:
  • meal plan
  • stock a pantry to give me more options and make grocery shopping less of a burden
  • cook things I haven't cooked before but enjoy
  • branch out and try new foods
  • eat healthier
  • freeze foods so we have quick and easy meals
  • have a basic food knowledge I can pass on to my kids so they form healthy habits
2nd - Join The Compact
I'm all about saving the environment and doing my part, and then some. Coming out of this ridiculously materialist and consumer driven holiday season, I've decided I'm going to try The Compact. What's The Compact? It's a group started out in California by some friends who pledged to "buy nothing new for a year". It excludes food and toiletries, but for the most part, whenever possible, you either need to go without or find it used at a secondhand store, handed down from friends or freecyclers, or get creative.

This means goodbye Target, Gap, DSW shoes and cute little clothing boutique on the corner, hello freecycle. I'm not one to shop much, but I shop enough for this to make a big impact on my habits and give a real boost to our savings. I'm already plotting creative ways to make gifts for friends and I even have a solution to giving gifts for the 2010 holiday season as well. Rick's not altogether on board with this holiday solution or this little commitment of mine but I think he'll be more willing as it gets started. Not that he's against it. I guess I don't really know what his opinion is on the matter all that much yet. Anywho, that's my goal. Wish me luck.

Moral of the story: New Year's is a time for reflection, to be thankful for what you have and identify ways you can grow as a person. Here's to growth and a wonderful year to come.

The Holiday Aftermath

It all started with Ada's birthday party on the 19th (actually with Granny's celebration of birthdays at Thanksgiving but I'll get to that next). We must not have put the "no gifts necessary" in bold enough print on the Evite. Next time, that will be the title and will be inserted in between every line in every possible location. And I'm going to strengthen the wording to "No gifts please." Or, "In lieu of gifts, please consider making a donation to one of the following:" and listing a few charities. This is the same issue I struggle with every year. We have so much when others go without. It might not be so noticeable if it wasn't compacted into about a two week time period.

Here's what I mean:

November 21st - we went to Granny's for Thanksgiving and Ada got her bounty of gifts since that's when they celebrate December birthdays.

Ada received:

  • Clothes
  • Dr. Seuss Books
  • a wooden food set and knife to learn to chop foods
  • bowling pins and a bowling ball
The 19th - we had 50 people attend Ada's birthday party. 9 kids, 1 baby and 40 adults -more of a fun adult holiday party with a play date in Ada's room, but she's still a bit young to have the party focus on her the whole time.

Even with "no gifts necessary" Ada received:
  • a music CD
  • a book and a donation to toys for tots in her name (nice!)
  • a pop-up book
  • a doll
  • squishy cars
  • a toy tea set made of recyclable materials
  • a "My Little Pony"
  • a hard hat and a dump truck
  • a lunch bag, plate, bowl, and silverware
  • Tinkerbell book
  • play-doh with cookie-cutter shapes
  • bath toys
  • college fund money (yeah!)
  • a dog book
  • blocks
  • crayons and a coloring book
  • clothes
  • a shopping cart full of toy food (DD gave this to her a few months early)
Via mail in between
  • two books
  • an ice cream truck that sings
  • 10+ DVDs
  • clothes
The 24th at Granny's
Ada received:
  • a baby doll that makes noises
  • a vacuum that talks
  • They Might be Giants CD
  • a dollhouse
  • furniture for the dollhouse
  • a talking purse complete with jumbo lipstick
  • a set of cars
  • a baby doll in a tub with changeable swimsuits
  • a kite and 5 puzzles (we got that as our white elephant gift so technically, not Ada's)
  • a ballerina puzzle
  • Leapfrog books that have a tool that reads them
The 25th at Grandma Ba's
Ada received:
  • Leapfrog Laptop
  • baby stroller
  • coloring box with crayons on one side and chalk on the other
  • brown boots with fuzzy balls dangling from them
  • a wooden horse
  • the Pig from If you give a Pig a Pancake (Aunt Heather gave this to her the Christmas Tree Hunt weekend)
  • a homemade big girl fleece blanket
  • ABC fridge magnets that sing
The 25th at Great Aunt Connie's
Ada received:
  • NIU Hoodie
  • Gigi the giraffe - as a birthday gift
  • Santa Paws book
  • an ornament
The 25th at DD and Bobpa's
Ada received:
  • a book read to Ada by Bobpa with Bobpa's voice recorded
  • a drum set
  • a guitar
  • a feather boa
  • a doctor's kit
  • a Cubs jersey and a few clothes
  • a noisemaker in her stocking
  • race cars and a track
  • more clothes
  • a hat and gloves set
The 26th at DD and Bobpa's there were some stragglers from "Grandma" Patti
Ada received:

  • If you give a Cat a Cupcake and the corresponding cat stuffed animal

Today, New Year's Eve, I find myself with about 50 thank you notes to write, a house exploding with toys and cardboard packing materials, a kitchen full of dishes, and a trash receptacle with expired cake and cupcakes from a party a week and a half ago. Not to mention about 6 full loads of laundry from all of our travels, and a crisper full of extra beer. The crisper full of beer would be nice if a) I liked beer and b) I wasn't pregnant and could drink the beer that we are assuming I liked.

On the bright side, we were able to get it all back in one trip since we upgraded to the CRV a few months back. And Ada is far from board. And I'm way beyond annoyed by all of the singing/noise making toys. SERENITY NOW!

Moral of the story: Modifications must be made before the holidays next year or I will be overrun. We only need so much stuff, have so much storage, and Ada can only play with one toy and wear one outfit at a time. Plus, where is baby #2 supposed to go?

Bun #2 is in the Oven

At 14.5 weeks, I'm happy to announce that I am, once again, pregnant and quickly achieving a belly. Bye bye skinny jeans, hello maternity wardrobe. Hello aches. Hello restless sleepy nights. Hello exhaustion. Hello stomach aches and heartburn. Hello crazy dreams that make me think I'm being chased, attacked or eaten by a bear. (WTF? Those can just stop.) Hello picky eater. Hello baby.

This seems like a logical followup to my previous "Loss" entry. Unlike the last time, I feel good about this pregnancy. I'm already past the 12 week mark that was so yucky last time. I've gone in for my blood work. I've heard the speedy little heartbeat of this little monkey. And I've had two mini ultrasounds to make sure all is well and I'm not having twins. (Thank goodness!)

I've told our families, co-workers, most of our friends -- unless you're reading it here... sorry about that.

Ada still doesn't have a clue what's coming to rock her world near the end of June. No idea. She still wants to be carried everywhere and jump on my belly and just can't understand why I won't let her. I just hope that #2 is equally good as Ada has been to us. Specifically, a good sleeper, good eater, and most importantly, in good health. Oh, and I hope they get along, but I guess we'll just deal with that when the time comes.

So get ready. That's what I have in store for 2010. And I'm SO excited! I guess I'm really alternating between excited and thinking "What in the heck are we doing? How are we going to manage two little monsters? What have we done?" It's going to be a great year.

Moral of the story: I'm pregnant!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Little OCD

We had a birthday party for our little monkey since she turned 2 on the 19th. That will be another entry all together...

One nugget of knowledge I garnered from the party is that parents that are mildly OCD (Have some level of obsessive-compulsive disorder-- an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform) or even more than "mildly" OCD, may have issues with certain toys or items their children own/use/receive.

I can't claim to have OCD myself, but I married an Architect and I work with Architects so I see what I call mild cases of OCD all the time. I could just be misdiagnosing the situation, but from the above definition, I'd say it's right on. For example, Rick went to grad school with a guy who had to start every flight of stairs with his right foot. Otherwise, he'd have to switch his step on the landing so his right foot would be first. Quarky, I know. Rick tries to avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, among other weird behavioral things he does that I forget currently. And my co-worker today re-organized all of the shelves in our back production room because he's "anal retentive" as he puts it. It's beautiful. Everything in it's place and perfectly aligned. I just don't care that much and am far from a perfectionist (which surely has come here up before.)

The most severe case I've ever seen in person was a fellow Resident Assistant at the University of Iowa my sophomore year. His name was Eric and if you moved anything in his dorm room, even just half an inch, he would re-position it within a minute of it being moved. His phone cord couldn't drape off the desk. His pencils all had to be parallel. Papers all stacked in a right angle to the edges of his desk. It was absurd to me, but he'd just accepted it as normal at that point in his life.

I'd forgot how fascinating people with OCD can be.... until Ada's party that is...
You see, Ada has these interlocking tiles on her floor, called EduTiles, made from some sort of foam stuff. They have the letters of the alphabet and are a colorful alternative to getting her a rug. They clean much easier too. Yes, I know they say they are for children 3+ but... I don't care. The smallest part would be hard for me to get into my mouth--I don't think I could bite off a piece of it-- but a dog probably could rip it apart in less than three minutes now that I think about it. No one has chewed off the corners yet... and mind you, a few of Ada's play date friends have tried.
So, back to the story. My good friend Alex (pictured above sitting on the tiles) came to the party with his serious girlfriend Kim. Kim is a sweetheart. Super nice and friendly and fun to be around. We had 50 people in our tiny condo for Ada's party and at some point, two of the older boys decided to rip up the tile floor and throw it at each other, all while five little two-year-olds were trying to play in Ada's room. After they got busted and we made them put the floor back together, they ripped it apart again. They put it back together again too, but it wasn't square and none of the edges matched up. It was a mess. That's where Kim comes in...

Kim just happens to have a bit of OCD. I'm not sure to what extent, but she dedicated the 20 minutes following the end of Ada's party to re-assembling the floor tiles according to color and alphabetical order. All was fine and dandy until she got to the last four tiles and had to put the corners together. That's when she told me I needed to call the manufacture and tell them where to go. You see, they didn't give me the correct color combinations for a few of the letters and the corner pieces. She's ready for me to pick the whole thing up, put it back in the bag it came in - which shows a picture of the floor and in the photo the color combination is even "off", not to mention different from Ada's actual floor - and send it back to the manufacturer with a note explaining that until they can get it "right", I don't want anything to do with their products. I'm not kidding. She was visibly bothered, and probably still is slightly annoyed (so don't mention it if you see her), by the fact that Ada's floor covering just isn't designed for parents who are OCD. It doesn't balance visually and therefore, becomes extremely annoying to folks like her. Part of me laughed, but the rest of me felt really bad and will have to take her entire pregnancy to find a product for her future children that will meet her high, OCD mommy standards.

Moral of the story: OCD might keep your house tidy and organized (depending on what you are obsessive about), but it can be a real pain when it comes to children's toys. Manufacturers take note.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The "Loss" Entry

I don't consider myself to be on the extreme ends of being a public or private person. I like to think I'm middle of the road and keep most of the gross personal stuff that happens to me to myself. That's why I've debated writing about having a miscarriage since it happened last July. Sometimes you want your personal business to stay personal. That wasn't how it all went down, and even though it's a really touch subject for some people, I think writing about it might give me some closure and more likely, help those of you who may have experience one or more in your past. So here it is... I'll try to spare you the gory details.

First off, what helped me most through this whole process was meeting other moms before I even had Ada who had had miscarriages in their past. Statistically, they say 50% of women have a miscarriage sometime in their lives, but many of them happen before the woman even knows she's pregnant. According to my Doctoress, it's closer to 70% and maybe even higher. The pregnancy books will all tell you that it tends to happen in the first trimester, i.e. the first 12 weeks. Mine was 1 day shy of hitting the 12 week mark.

The other thing that helped me was reading Blink by Malcom Gladwell that taught me to trust my gut instinct above all else. Listen to that little voice within that tells you something isn't right. Something about the pregnancy felt funny to me, so much so that I hesitated to tell my co-workers and bookclub, and several of my close friends. I also kept putting off getting my blood work done. It just didn't seem like the pregnancy was going to stick. Unfortunately I was so excited when the pee stick turned into a plus sign, and I didn't have the funny feeling yet, I immediately told my mom and Rick's mom and they can't keep a secret if it would save the earth from impending doom... they are just way too excited about having more grandchildren -- which I don't blame them for. They are grandmas after all and that's what grandmas do. I'd be ticked off if they weren't excited. So, everyone and their mother (in our families anyway) knew we were pregnant from the get go. Yikes.

For many women, a miscarriage just happens and they don't even know about it until they go in for an ultrasound or an appointment to hear the heartbeat and the Doctor has to give them the "I'm sorry mam, but this pregnancy isn't viable. You've had a miscarriage." or something similar to that I imagine. For people who don't know how common it is and can't name off 10 people they know that have had one, that can be more than overwhelming.

It was different for me, and way more gross. (WARNING: If you're squimish, skip to the next paragraph). I started spotting just a little bit. Called the Doctoress. "Statistically, you should be fine. If you heard the heartbeat at 8 weeks, your chances of miscarrying are about 10% so go home and rest." I tried to be optimistic but it wasn't really helping. I was a basketcase. Really quite worried. I rested. Spotted a bit more a few hours later. Then about 2 in the morning I woke up to the worst cramps I have ever felt in my life. At 4:30 am I called the Doctoress' emergency help line, paged the Doctor on call and he told me "If you start bleeding heavily, go to the Emergency Room and have them call me." Sure enough, not five minutes later, Niagra Falls started, only it was red and clumpy. It was awful. Beyond awful. I kept my wits about me since I knew what was going on and actually had read about something similar in a novel, Luscious Lemon by Heather Swain, about a chef who got pregnant and miscarried while her boyfriend was out of the country. I knew to look for the embryo to pass (or whatever they call a baby at 12 weeks) and when I saw it, I considered setting it aside for the Doctor to look at but that creeped me out and I was bleeding so much I didn't care enough to deal with it at that point. I was beyond the whole "I just lost the baby" and was now into "Holy shit, that's a lot of blood."

Thankfully, we have a neighbor upstairs that goes to work at 5 am and his wife doesn't work. I quickly got my husband to run up to their door and wake her up to come watch Ada while he took me to the hospital. I'm barking orders from the bathroom while he is trying to get someone to watch Ada. He's not the fastest person in the world (at least in my mind when I think I'm bleeding to death) so it took longer than I had hoped. He got me pants and an old bath towel and went to get the car. Our neighbor came down and I explained she should avoid the bathroom carnage at all costs and just feed Ada a banana and some milk when she gets up. Our neighbor was super nice, and sorry for our loss and just said she'd take care of Ada and not to worry. Thank God for the angels in our lives right?

So we get to the hospital. They check me out. Yep, that's a lot of blood. They transfer me up to the baby floor and do a D and C - often wrongly called (by me) a DNC since that's what it sounds like. They go in, clean everything out and poof, you're all better. You just have to wait for your blood work to say your body no longer thinks it's pregnant and "reset" before you can try again. It's a bit like hitting control alt delete on your computer... but not.

Then I just had to take it easy for a few days. My only side effect was killer headaches, which I solved with caffeine. A coke a day and lots of chocolate and tea. It was totally manageable. Luckily, we were set to go to Lake Geneva for my Aunt's annual birthday vacation at the lake. My whole family was there and was very supporting. I got the best hug from my dad I've ever received in my life - I'll never forget that he pulled me in close, rubbed circles on my back and held me longer than usual. That's big for a guy who doesn't openly show affection. I know he loves me but he isn't one to show it much so when he does, it's really powerful. From that moment on, I knew everything was going to be okay.

Now for the funny part. I'm an optimist, remember? I'll find the silver lining in anything.

That neighbor from upstairs that watched Ada while I was at the hospital, remember her? Well, it turns out that she's never babysat before, doesn't have nieces and nephews, and is pretty much clueless when it comes to kids. I think my instructions upon leaving were to just "keep her safe and alive". Thankfully, she has a wonderful mom and lots of friends who know about kids. My thanks goes out to all of them for answering her calls (I assume most of them are on the east coast so it wasn't that early for them) as she frantically looked for answers as to what to do when Ada woke up. Her mom thought Ada might wake up pissed off and wonder why there was a stranger in her house, but she doesn't know Ada. Here's our neighbor all worried, waiting for Ada to wake up and then Ada starts to stir. Krissie goes in and is met with, in typical Ada fashion, all smiles. Ada's bouncing in her crib, holding on to her Yertle the Turtle and happy as a clam. Nothing like what Krissie expected.

I'm not sure how the diaper change went down, but I assume just fine. Then it was time for Ada's banana. Krissie spent a few minutes mincing the banana into small pieces so that Ada wouldn't choke, just as her mom and her friends had advised, only to be shocked again. Ada grabbed the rest of the banana Krissie wasn't chopping and shoved the whole thing in her face. Gone in an instant. That's my girl! Who needs to chew?

The look on Krissie's face when she told me the story a few days later was hilarious. She told that story for weeks, and surely still does. It was so cute. I'm thankful that she now thinks all kids are cute and wonderful and happy-go-lucky. Boy is she in for a surprise when she has kids of her own.

Moral of the story: Miscarriages are natural, common, and our body's way of protecting us or ending something that just isn't right. Instead of allowing them to crush our spirits, accept them for being a mysterious blessing. It's not an easy view to take, but one that I found to be easier to accept and survive with in the long term. And know that you aren't alone.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ada's First Swear Word

Two is a little young to start swearing, I agree. I'm guilty of swearing more than my fair share. I've never really seen what the big deal is about it. It's just another form of expression. Sometimes I agree that intelligent people don't need to swear since they can express themselves without the need for curse words. Sometimes I say screw that theory because I'm too mad to be smart and need to express myself anyway. So there.

Now I'm trying to really be better about it since I have a mini parrot shadowing me and mimicking my every word. (I secretly think I'm addicted to swearing since I've been trying to quit for several years now and it isn't working, really, not at all.)

It's neat when Ada all of a sudden says something like "outside" after I say "let's go outside". It's not so neat when we are at Granny's house waiting to put up her tree when Ada drops something in the kitchen and says "Oh, shit!" clear as day. Now I must admit, I don't think she learned that one from me. I'm a fan of the more severe swear words and "Oh, shit!" just isn't common in my vocabulary. Grandma DD on the other hand... well, that's really the only swear word she uses and it typically surfaces when she's just burned whatever it is she's cooking (which can be frequent) but she's "a lady" as they say and rarely drops the F-bomb or any other swear bombs for that matter. Something I can aspire to... someday.

To avoid a repeat performance at upcoming family holiday dinners, I've been saying "Oops!", "Uh-oh", and variations on that theme as much as possible, even when not really necessary. And I find myself using more "this F-ing stinks", and "SH--schei├če, damn, it still counts if it's in German, Shoot! I mean, darn!"

Dag nab it!

We'll see how this goes but don't set your expectations to high. I have a long road ahead of me.

Moral of the story: Swearing around children is bad. Fixing that bad habit is worse. Good luck with that.

Christmas Tree Hunting

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go, high ho a dairy o, a hunting we will go.

This year was the last year for Sinissippi Farm in Oregon, IL to be open for Christmas Tree hunting. The owners are retiring and their kids all have "real jobs" so, at this time, it's over. We had insider knowledge of the closing so my sister-in-law flew in for one last hunt with the family.

All of these people went to get one, yes only one, Christmas Tree.
The day started with the drive to Oregon, which is about 40 minutes or so. Or it really started with layers of socks and long underwear for me but let's not think about the cold.

We arrived and cuddled up to the fireplace in the gift shop. Once everyone else got in it was time to begin the hunt. Here's Ada getting her gloves secured for the hunt. Rick's parents bought their tree tag and we headed out toward the tree rows. Then we noticed the horse drawn wagons and we were just going to pet the horses when all of a sudden, the next thing you know, we're all on the wagon going for a ride and being delivered at the white pine tree section.

We unloaded from the wagon and began critiquing nature's work in search of the "perfect" tree. After much searching, debating, and judging, we finally selected a tree that was just right. The boys were getting ready to saw it down when Aunt Terri said "Where's Aunt Connie?" "We must have left her back at the gift shop."

Oops! As it turns out, Aunt Connie was going to do some shopping in the gift shop and catch up with us amongst the trees when she was done. Unbeknownst to her, we were on the other side of the river looking at trees since that's where the horses dropped us off.

Out come all of the cell phones with their various carriers and, of course, only one has service but that person doesn't have Connie's number so they enter Connie's number and try to call her and, of course, she doesn't answer. (Come to find out later that she didn't recognized the 312 number so she didn't answer it. Silly Aunt Connie!)

Meanwhile, I'm flagging down the horse carriage as it approaches to ask the passengers to watch for Aunt Connie when they get back to the main tree shaking area and let her know where we are. I give a brief description of her and they say "we'll try." "Thanks!" is my reply.

The guys are now cutting down the tree. Heather and Grandma Ba head back to the tree lodge on foot to find Aunt Connie. And the rest of us wait for the tree march where we all follow it back to the lodge.

While we were marching back with the tree, it turns out that Heather and Grandma Ba had been picked up by the horse carriage and were headed back to the lodge when Heather spotted Aunt Connie, lost among the trees. She says, "Hey, there's Aunt Connie!" and the driver says "Where?" Heather points her out and the driver yells "Hey Aunt Connie! They're over here!" to the ensuing laughter of the entire carriage of tree hunters. All was well with the world again.

Once we got back to the gift shop/tree lodge, the tree was put in line to be shaken and the rest of us headed in for homemade cider donuts, hot apple cider and coco, and a little someone had her first meeting with Santa. And since she's such a social little gal, she thought he was pretty cool and was just a little confused by his big beard.

Moral of the story: Family traditions make some of the best memories. Be sure to create fun traditions of your own to make the Holidays more than just a commercialized, materialistic frenzy.

Save a lock of hair...

This is a weird tradition to me. I don't know why people save a lock of hair from their children. Maybe for DNA testing for some shady unforeseen circumstance these days but where did it stem from? Why does my mom have some of my hair tucked into a little box somewhere in her dresser drawer? And why has she kept if for 30 years? And what the heck am I supposed to do with it?

My Aunt Lin gave me a little container for Ada's first tooth and a lock of hair. Another Mom I know insisted on me saving one of Ada's locks. Since I had the box and strong peer pressure from older, wiser mothers, I did it. I cut a lock of Ada's hair and shoved it into the little box and it sprayed all over the place as I jammed it in -- how long is a lock supposed to be anyway? What is a lock? This is so beyond my basic mom knowledge and instincts. Do they do this for little boys too or is that unmanly? Is Tony Romo's lock of hair in his mom's underwear drawer? I find that to be a little weird.

I will say, now that I have the lock safely tucked away, that I should have put more thought into this than just making it an item on my checklist to do and check off. You see, I just grabbed the scissors, went up to Ada, trimmed a chunk out of the back of her head and shoved it into the box. It was too long to fit in the box. I likely trimmed off too much. And I took it from the top layer, back right side of her head about halfway down. It didn't dawn on me until after I cut it that maybe I should have taken it from a less conspicuous location-- like from the bottom layer near her neck or somewhere in the middle in case she wears a ponytail anytime soon. Not that she lets me do anything with her hair anyway...

So it's done. It's officially off the list --but mainly so I can answer "yes" when accosted by moms demanding to know if I've saved a lock of her hair. I think it puts me into the "your a good mom" category in their heads for some reason and it seems like a small price to pay for entry into that club. And, some days, I need all of the help I can get.

Moral of the story: Save a lock of your child's hair, or lie and pretend that you did, no one will really know the difference since no one ever checks -- just take it from an inconspicuous location when you do.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ada's Big Day

In preparing Ada for her big 2nd birthday, Rick's Aunt Betsy was disappointed to learn that Ada didn't know how to blow out the candles on her cake. She was tested at the family party we had at Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate November and December birthdays. Ada coughed on the cake and looked at us funny when we sang, but didn't have a clue how to blow out her candle.

Betsy suggested I try to teach Ada how to blow out her candles using a flashlight. Turn the flashlight on and have Ada blow on it, then turn it off when you feel her breath pass the beam. Today I gave that a shot and it seemed to work. I think she got the point. But then I decided to test it out for real.

I grabbed her "1" candle from last year's cake and lit it with a real flame. I was holding it while sitting on the kitchen floor when I finally wised up and said, "You idiot. Use a decorative candle or tea light. Save your fingers."

That's when the fun began.

Picture it. Here we are. Ada and mom lying on the floor in the living room with a tea light candle in a fancy glass candle holder that is low enough to be easy to blow out. I light it, she blows on it as if she's blowing her nose. After making me act like a weirdo for ten minutes, she figured out that I was blowing out of my mouth. And finally, after a dozen tries, success!

Check it out:

Moral of the story: Prepare your child for the birthday spotlight so they are ready to shine.

Red, Blue, Green, Purple

Rick noticed a few weeks ago that the dome light in our CRV wasn't working. We stopped in to the auto store for a replacement. Almost $11 later, we purchased one that fits our car. Great. Check that off the list, right?

Not so fast.

In the parking lot, we install the new light and it is red. I look at Rick, who is by now looking at me as well, and I say "Why did you get a red one? How dumb is that?"

To which he replies, "I thought it was white. The package says something about 7 colors and has a red stripe at the bottom."

"Well what the heck does that mean?" We look at each other, way beyond confused.

Then we look back at the dome light. It's now blue. Now it's green. Purple. Teal. Eventually it glows white and then back to red. Somehow there are 7 colors in all, I guess.

We just looked at each other and laughed hysterically. At first, I was annoyed at having paid almost $11 for this tiny lightbulb that wasn't what we wanted and doesn't shed a whole lot of light on the interior of the car. That all changed once we put Ada in the car for the first time.

As Rick was buckling her into the car seat, directly in line with the dome light, she started squealing with delight. Who knew that a little light bulb changing colors could summon so many joyous noises from one little girl! The oohs, and ahhs, and eekkks elicit laughter from us every time we get in the car now. My hope is that our "investment" will help her learn the names of her colors more easily. Right now she says something like "Boo" which you'd think was "blue" but she says it when the light is red. So we're working on it.

And as an added benefit, we just turn the dome light to "on" whenever she's having a bad moment in the car and she's distracted for a few minutes, which is typically all the time we need to locate her crackers or a blanket or the toy that rolled under the seat in front of her.

Amazing what a little light bulb can do.

Moral of the story: Sometimes screwing up can turn out to brighten your life, in more ways than one, for years to come.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Friendly Stranger

Ada and I were waiting near the checkout counter at Sports Authority last week while Rick was picking out a new fall coat when all of a sudden, Ada made a new friend.

I don't think this happens all that often for most parents as I assume most children are more shy than my social butterfly. Surprisingly, by age two, I've just come to accept this as normal for her.

As I'm watching her run around the checkout area of the store and burn off some energy (better than her diving under clothing racks every three seconds in this merchandise flooded store), there is a man in his late twenties, early thirties at the checkout counter with his girlfriend. He notices Ada and starts dancing to the music over the intercom. It was how I imagine a dance scene in High School Musical the movie would be. Complete with jazz hands and jumping and waving your arms. He was seriously into it. Ada, being the little dancing bug that she is, didn't even know what to make of it so she laid on the ground on her back and threw her legs in the air, to which he responded with "Now shake your legs in the air." It was beyond hilarious. Something tells me this guy is really one of the blue men from Blue Man Group (the theater is only a block from the store we were in) because I think you'd have to be a performer to put on that kind of show at the front of a sporting goods store.

Moral of the story: You never know who your kid will befriend on a random shopping trip. Just keep your eyes open and your spidey sense on high alert for stranger danger.

What? Then who's legs are these?

As we were leaving a local restaurant after brunch yesterday, Ada got a bit confused.

I was trying to hustle us outside since the place was filling up, Ada was getting impatient and unruly, and the woman who was seated next to us was rudely complaining to her friend about how Ada was screaming in her ear. (I hope she doesn't have kids anytime soon.) On the parental scale of a child being bad, Ada was at a 4 or 5 out of 10, with 10 being the worst. If this woman was annoyed by a 4/5, then she shouldn't even be babysitting or walking near playgrounds. Yikes.

So we are shuffling out of the diner to get Ada and the stroller through, my favorite, the double vestibule doors. Before we got to the stroller, which we so obnoxiously parked by the front door and the hostess stand in a semi-out-of-the-way-but-not-really spot, Ada decided she didn't want to stay with me but wanted to run ahead with Daddy. That's all fine until she ran directly up to some random guy standing by the front door and bear hugged his legs, clearly thinking it was Rick. The gig was up when she then looked over at the stroller next to her and saw Rick working to pack all of her toys, sippy cup, and leftovers into the bottom basket. He said the look on her face when she realised, "If you're over there, who's legs am I holding on to?" was priceless.

Thankfully, the guy just laughed it off and quickly moved further into the restaurant to give us a wide berth with which to maneuver the stroller and shuffle Ada out the door. Of course, since Ada was daddy crazed, getting the stroller through those doors and out the front steps fell to me. And luckily, there was a nice gentleman outside with a four-year old shar pei puppy named "Chai" willing to distract and entertain Ada while Rick got the stroller set for our trek back home.

Moral of the story: Kids are unpredictable. If you plan to eat out, try to go during off-peak hours as a courtesy to the restaurant and neighboring patrons. They might not all be in love with how "cute" your kid is. You'll learn what places are "kid friendly" pretty quickly and save the rest for the rare, and often elusive, date night.

The Joy of Strangers

I had a cute older woman today - Ukrainian maybe? - who helped me get Ada back home from our walk. It was the cutest thing (to me anyway - many parents might have freaked out from "stranger danger". I'm of the "it takes a village" camp). Ada wanted out of the stroller so I let her walk when we got about two or three blocks from home. I was bribing her with strawberries along the way to motivate her. She gets insanely frustrated and impatient when she is hungry and just about attacked the strawberry container to acquire some of it's contents. So I gave in -and no, I did not rinse them. Be thankful I took off the green leafy parts. I didn't have anything to dig the stems out with, so she ate them. Just like she tried to eat the rind off the orange wedge sample from the grocery store earlier. She's still learning.

We made it two blocks and then, Ada just stopped walking. She was watching the women around her and this woman was walking by. I was going to encourage Ada to follow her since she was going our direction. She looked a bit like my mom only she was shorter and spoke little English. I'm standing about 5 feet ahead of Ada when this little woman just took off her glove, held it out for Ada's hand -- which Ada accepted gladly-- and we walked the rest of the block to our house. I was laughing all the way. The woman said "What's your name?" to Ada and I replied. She said her name was Marianne. Then she said, glowing with pride, "Grandma, I am Grandma too." And then she motioned to Ada's strong grip. I offered Ada my hand so she cold hold onto us both. The woman said "Good, yes. Hold mommy." and I think she said "wee" as Ada swung between our arms for the last 20 feet of our trip. Too funny. At the crosswalk, I thanked her profusely and we started across the street. Then Ada stopped in the middle of the cross walk and the woman came back to make sure I was okay again - she thought the light wasn't in our favor and we were about to be run over. I thanked her and we made it across. Ada quickly changed focus to our neighbor's dog in front of our building, and I smiled all the way inside.

Getting Ada to cooperate these days has been less than easy. She's learning how to struggle for power, how to assert herself, and how to yell and scream instead of using words to express herself. I keep hoping "this too shall pass". Maybe I'll make that into a carol for the holidays...

Moral of the story: Some strangers are really angels put in our vicinity to give us a little helping hand when we are in need. I'm the type of person who gladly accepts their help, and pays it forward whenever possible.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Terrible Twos, Really?

Ada turns 2 next month. That's all good, fine and dandy, but I think she's starting the terrible twos and I know I didn't sign up for this.

Oh the tantrums!

I'm glad she doesn't throw big, ridiculous tantrums (at least not yet anyway) because the little ones she has while laying on the sidewalk outside of CVS are enough to embarrass me for weeks. Thankfully, most people walk by and offer words of encouragement to me (It's just a phase. This too shall pass.) or look at Ada and tell her to get up. It's the people who point and laugh who really aren't helping the situation, but they are few and far between.

Oh Ada. Dear, sweet, cute little Ada. The tantrums are just the start of it. She's all fun and great until you want her to do something that she clearly doesn't want to do. It just so happens that she doesn't want to do anything for me in the mornings when I'm trying to get her out of the house by 8:30 to go play at Alison's. She won't sit down for a diaper change. Doesn't want to take off her pajamas or put on her clothes. And I must admit, I finally succumbed to bribing her. I did. And I feel awful for it. So I'm calling it "creative parental negotiations".

I irritated something in my back, likely related to herniated disks in my neck, and can't pick Ada up -- or I should say shouldn't pick Ada up. Do you have any idea how hard that makes dealing with an almost-2-year-old? Next to impossible. So here we are, trying to change her diaper and clothes. I lifted her out of her crib since there is no other option for her to get out. But I put her down on the chair and let her shimmy to the floor instead of me bending to the floor. Once we get down to the floor, she wants to play on her singing, magical pink pony. I want to change her diaper. In comes the "creative parental negotiations".

"Ada, come here so mommy can change your diaper."

Ada: Ignores me. Then flashes a devilish smile may way that says "make me".

"Do you want a banana for breakfast?" She LOVES bananas after all.

Ada: Eyes focus on me and she stops rocking on the pony.

"If you come sit down here and let me change your diaper, we'll go get a banana from the kitchen."

Ada: Hesitates. Then comes close, but just out of reach and turns away. Then comes closer and tries to escape just as I catch her and lower her to the ground. She begins to whine.

"Just relax. I'll be done in a few seconds and we'll go get your banana."

Now doesn't that seem like one hell of a lot of work just to get her diaper changed in the morning?

I can see that I have my work cut out for me and am going to need a lot of rest, and much more patience. That, and maybe a few stiff drinks and some really good parenting advice books.

Moral of the story: Two is a double edged sword. She's more independent and can help out, but she's learning what it means to be in control. Get ready, it's going to be a long year.

Ada's Mommy is Crazy

I swear Ada thinks I am nuts. And occasionally I agree with that sentiment.

Somehow, we've acquired a family of little gnat like bugs, almost like fruit flies but not here because of nasty food or fruit. I think they came in on a plant we got from a neighbor, which ended up being a perennial and died about 3 weeks after we brought it inside. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. They moved in about 3 weeks ago and I am beside myself trying to kill them off or trick them into a bowl of vinegar to die a sweet death.

It's not working.

So here I am, typing at my computer, watching TV, reading a book, eating dinner, or just sitting on the floor putting Ada's shoes on when, all of a sudden, I'll see one of these gnats. Being the heartless assassin that I am, of course, I try to kill it. Many times I fail but occasionally I succeed and follow my tiny victory with a squeal of joy.

But what does this look like from Ada's point of view?

We are eating dinner. Mommy claps her hands violently in front of her. Curses. Then does it again and curses. I start clapping because we must be celebrating something. Why else would mommy clap?

We are sitting on the kitchen floor removing my shoes. Mommy suddenly hits the front of the dishwasher and squeals with glee. Looks like fun. I'll hit the dish washer and squeal too.

Mommy just poked the wall with her finger and smiled. Must be fun. I'll give it a try. Hmmm... not as fun for me but whatever.

What Ada doesn't understand is that I'm not clapping, smacking the dishwasher, or poking a finger at the wall. No. I'm trying to kill these damn little bugs. But she never notices the bugs so, therefore, I must look crazy to her, right? I mean, if someone you knew just started doing things like that randomly and you couldn't see the bugs, you'd think they were crazy. Isn't that a sign of dementia in the elderly?

At least she makes me laugh when I miss the bugs and she starts clapping. And I get joy every time I successfully squash one. Any tips for how to get these annoying little buggers out of my house?

Moral of the story: Even being "crazy" looks like fun to little kids.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ada Fashion Watch

This is one trend you fashionistas won't want to miss...

Grandma DD found some boots for Ada and today was our first time trying them on.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to put on any pants.

Suggested trend of Winter 2009-2010...
sddsesfyuil;kmereddddddddddddddddddddddddd (Which is Ada type for...)

Pajama Top, Diaper Cover and Snow Boots

Moral of the story: Kids can look cute in anything.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sick, Sick, Sick

Today is my 18th day in a row of being sick. Ada's a close second with 16 days. We both have colds and hers is more of a cough than anything else. I finally transformed into the cough phase this last few days. And Rick just succumbed to all of the cooties in our house after being so good for about two weeks. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Yuck.

I took Ada in earlier this week to see a different Dr since ours wasn't in that day, and she said she's fine. Probably allergies and gave her singular. But they gave her a seasonal flu-shot while we were there so it wasn't all for nothing.

Then I went in on Friday afternoon and got a prescription for amoxicillian to help get rid of the green snot that has invaded my body. At least there is hope for me. And I got a seasonal flu-shot while I was there. I also learned that if Ada isn't better Monday, she's going in and likely coming out with a prescription for amoxicillian too. What a mess.

And today we broke down and went to a Chicago Public Health Clinic to get the H1N1 vaccine. Turns out that is almost the only place in the city to get it and boy were the lines long. I will say, they were moving people through quite efficiently and taking good care of everyone. It was quite the experience for us since we got to see a whole different side of the city, and a taste of how diverse our hometown really is. At one point, a woman got on the loudspeaker and asked if anyone speaks (something I've never heard of) . She then went on to explain that is the language spoken in Ethiopia and they were looking for someone to translate the forms for that person. Wow. I'm in a room with someone from Ethiopia.

The whole trip was manageable since we went with a friend and her son and the kids were pretty good. Ada was her friendly self and tough to keep nearby. She just couldn't understand why I wouldn't let her run wild amongst a crowd of about 300 people, all strangers. Hmmmm.... someday that will make sense to her. And I will say, my nurse yesterday was right. The aftermath of the H1N1 hurts less than the seasonal flu-shot. The arm I got the seasonal in still hurts over 24 hours later and the H1N1 doesn't hurt at all.

So today I am thankful for being on the road to recovery, modern medicine to get rid of my green goobers, the Chicago Public Health Clinic and it's supply of both the adult and children's version of the H1N1 shot, and my awesome husband for cleaning the house and running errands while Ada and I napped. I may be sick, but it could be so much worse.

Moral of the story: I guess I'm not such a flu-shot hater after all. I am, however, still a hater of all things cold related (snot, sneezing, cooties, the whole bit).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Viktor's Blanket

Being in the crafting mood, I just finished this quilt for my brother's new little bambino to be, Viktor. He's due in a week or two. I'm hoping my brother doesn't give me crap about it not being masculine enough, which he will. There is no pink, but there is some purple and a few flowers on it... but that will just put baby Vik in touch with his sensitive side, right? If not, then I have plenty of babies who would adore this blanket and not mind the colors. And I have the fabric picked for a brown and blue version that has no flowers, just haven't cut, sewn or done anything but wash and iron it at this point.
In typical me fashion, this is another quick project. Instead of piecing a whole bunch of tiny fabric bits together, I just made them much bigger so the project went faster. And the back side is similar without the two strips of "quilted" squares cutting out most of the labor, yet still looking nice. This is the second one of these I've done and I'm happy with the result. I know we've gotten a ton of use out of the quilt my friend Heather made for Ada and hope Viktor will get some good use out of this one too.
Moral of the story: Quilts don't have to scream "Grandma made me". And they don't have to take four months to make either. I did this one in under two weeks and I don't consider myself a quilter, or a patient person, but I do have a sewing machine, and Ada helped.

Alternate Halloween Costumes

Sometimes you miss out on the fun in life by being sick. This year, we sacrificed wearing silly Halloween costumes, attending parties and trick or treating in the neighborhood in lieu of getting some rest and attempting to keep our cooties to ourselves.
As we tried to stay entertained, while resting mind you, Ada tried on a few alternate costumes:

Bear's Defensive Tackle (Face it, they could use all the help they can get)

Shrek-earred Assistant Tailor

Dancing, Streaking Toddler... complete with Daddy's Magic Hat

Food Network's Youngest Chef
Moral of the story: Just because you're sick, doesn't mean you can't have any fun, even if it is Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy for a Monday?

Yesterday was a bit trying. Ada didn't get up until 9:30 and took a nice 2 hour nap, but the in-between times weren't her best. She hasn't been the best listener this past weekend I must say. And putting her to bed took forever. Rick put her down, then tried again, and finally, I had to go in and sing her three songs while rocking and cuddling her-- and promise to take her to the nature museum today. (So what if that was already the plan. She didn't know that.)

She's sleeping in and I'm hoping for another 2 hour plus nap so we'll see if we can get back into our rhythm today. Wish me luck.

Moral of the story: Stick to the program. It is so much harder to get back on track once you vary from the schedule.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dan's 35th, a Night on the Town

Last night we went to a new club for dinner and then for drinks with Dan and Jen, from down the street, for his 35th birthday. They always pick the hip and trendy places and it was such a great night. It does emphasis the fact that I'm not 25 anymore and can't party all night long -- not that I ever really could anyway.

Dinner at the 33 Club on Wells was fantastic. The sea bass was exquisite and my filet - spelled fillet on the menu, turns out that both are correct - was wonderful. There were 10 of us, so five couples. 3 have small children. One couple is "trying" and the 5th couple is recently married and looking forward to the day when they can join in on our funny kid story conversations using their children as the subjects instead of their nieces and nephews. It's so nice when you get to spend time with wonderful people who are willing to discuss such a broad range of topics and always include you in the conversation. Unfortunately, we don't see this cast of characters very often since they are Dan and Jen's friends and birthday dinners only come once a year, twice if Jen has one too. There is talk of reviving our kickball team this coming Spring so we can all see each other more often. I'm all for it because these friends are all such beautiful, quality, caring people and it's nice to be included on the invite list. I haven't met a friend of Jen or Dan that I didn't enjoy immensely in the three years we've known each other. They always travel in good company. I hope for the same for Ada growing up.

So last night at dinner, it's about 9:30 and I check my phone for messages. Sure enough, there is a text from our friend Negin. She came over with her son Bardya to watch Ada while we went out and her husband stayed late chasing a deadline at work. The kids had a blast and were running through the house screaming and chasing each other and just having the best time when we left, but... when it was time, Ada wouldn't go to sleep. I think it's in part due to Bardya being here and he is so much fun since he is a few years older and can really play with her. It doesn't help matters that the kids were screaming and distracting me so I told Negin to turn on the light, read books, put her in the crib and Ada would fall asleep. I didn't tell Negin to turn off the light and shut her door. Oops! Ada's bedtime is at 8, mind you, and she goes down like an angel for us, of course. Not last night.

I got a text from Negin at 8:30pm that said "Ada doesn't want to go to bed. All she wants to do is dance on the table." Wow, that's always a reassuring text when you're out to dinner. What happened to my perfect little Sleeping Beauty? They must really be having fun. Poor Negin didn't get a break. Ada finally gave up, after a few crying spells and a couple chances to come back out and play some more, around 9:45. She never did sit down long enough to read a book.

Knowing that, I start today with mild trepidation. It's 9am and she's not made anything close to resembling a peep. We didn't get to bed until 1am. I can't sleep in because we have a condo association meeting at 10am upstairs and I need to go early to make coffee. Rick has a soccer game at 10 that he may not be attending at this point. Hopefully, Ada will make this a lazy Sunday and just sleep it off. I won't be surprised by a 4 hour nap later on. We can get back on track Monday. That's what Mondays are for right?

Moral of the story: Good times with friends are worth losing some sleep over. That's why we have naps, and Sundays.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Potty Time, Excellent!

Mmmmm.... maybe not quite yet. I've been trying to get Ada interested in the potty and the other day I got her to pee a whole 6 drops of urine into the potty. I celebrated by singing and danceing and clapping and congratulating her like we just won the potty lotto. For a moment I was so excited thinking, "Yeah. We made it. She's ready! No more diapers." Then reality stepped in.

No she's not. Not even close to ready. Keep dreaming momma.

As it turns out, she needs to care that she has a poopy diaper and want it changed. Ada could sit in that mushy diaper for hours and not be bothered.

It would help if she could say "Poop" or "Pee" so that she can communicate that she needs to go. I can't get her to even say her name yet so those might take a bit longer.

On the upside, I can get her to sit naked on the potty and read books. At least there is that. I'll keep hoping that she's an early trainer... but I'm not holding my breath or selling my stock in diapers just yet.

Moral of the story: Potty training must be 100% on their terms. Keep suggesting it as an option and hopefully, someday, eventually, it will stick.

The Nature Museum

This past week marked the 10 year anniversary of our local nature museum here in Chicago. They are celebrating with ten free admission days.

When we tried to go a week ago, we weren't so lucky. After walking there in the rain, pushing Ada in her stroller, my jeans were soaked and I hoped it would be a worthwhile trip. Unfortunately it was already past 4 pm when we arrived and they let the last guests in at 4 so we joined Andrea and Bella on the bus back to their place for an impromptu playdate.

This time, armed with hand sanitizer, we made the hike alone and did a mini one-hour visit before lunch and nap time.

It was awesome. Well worth the walk. We took the scenic route around back near the pond and went inside where Ada enjoyed the "under 7" play area. They have a wavy slide that evoked squeals of laughter. Very fun to watch.

A round of hand sanitizer and then it was up to the butterfly room. They have so many butterflies that we spend a good half hour just enjoying all of the fun shapes, colors, and sizes. Then we watched a butterfly hatch from it's thingymagigy -- there is a fancy word for it that escapes me. I never really thought about it but they come out all wrinkled and then drip some liquid that irons out their wings. Pretty freaking cool.

And all right down the street. Very cool.

Moral of the story: You'll surely be surprised by the fun adventures you can have when you push yourself to try something new. Venture out. The opportunities are endless.

Our Cute Commute

Ada and I walk down to Alison's house three days a week. It's only two blocks away and I don't take a stroller because I'm doing my best to keep Ada independent and make things easier for Alison. And I'm trying to teach Ada how to walk longer distances without being picked up and held since my back just can't take carrying her for long periods of time (she is over 30 pounds) and I abhor dragging a stroller everywhere we go.

On our commute to Alison and Will's place, we only travel down one street so we either take the east or west side, depending on if the streetlight is in our favor or not. Typically, I forget to text Alison that we are on our way and I have to do a bunch of fumbling through my purse and pockets to locate my phone and send a quick "OMW" ('on my way' for you non-texters) so she can come down to meet us at the door. While I'm busy trying to do all of that, Ada is actively running down the street and saying "Hi" to everyone we meet. It's really kind of cute. It's not as cute when she tries running across the street while the light is still red or gets too close to the road while I'm trying to text and box her out of the street with my thighs. But we manage.

On the way home is when things get fun. She's so excited to get outside and run home and, maybe it's because she is a bit more awake, she just wants to go, go, go. We almost always walk home on the east side of the street so she can stop to say "Hi" to all of her friends. One day Rick joined us and was confused when I told him we couldn't cross the street. You see, Ada has a routine...

First we wave at the kitty statue that waves at us from the window of the nail salon. Then we stop to poke at the flowers in front of the florist. Then we pause at the street to hold Mom's hand as we cross, ideally. Then we dance in front of the pizza place and the CD store since they tend to have speakers projecting music onto the street. Then we pause again at the alley. Then on to the flower box in front of the gift shop where she, occasionally, sticks her finger in the dirt or touches the plants. We come upon another waving kitty at another nail salon at that point. Maybe she'll check out the golden man statue at the bread, wine, and cheese store. Then she's on to find the duck in the window of the shoe store. And finally we arrive at the corner with the streetlight where we do a red light dance until mommy gets dizzy or the light turns in our favor.

As we cross the street, I often think Ada is planning how she can escape my grip and zip past our front steps so she can extend our walk. Depending on the weather, and how much stuff I'm carrying back from work, and how loaded up with toys and crafts her bag has become, she might get me to walk around the block. On days when she is just feeling a bit funky, she has been known to throw a tantrum on the threshold of the front vestibule door, but that's rare. Some days she ends our commute with a quick climb to the top of the stairs and others she turns it into a tug-of-war wherein I typically give up and either carry her or dump the stuff in the house and return to bring her in from the vestibule.

Moral of the story: Kids thrive on routine and consistency. Add a little fun into that and the days just keep getting better.

Ada's Scarf

I made a purple scarf for Ada. I didn't use a pattern because, frankly, patterns tend to annoy me and are more like guidelines anyway. And it's a scarf which is knitting 101 and doesn't really need a pattern.
This one is two skeins of yarn(I don't know what weight - something in the middle I'd say) at once to make it double the thickness. I used size 10 needles because I'm too impatient and want to make these for all of my friends' kids so they have to be quick - like a two or three night knitting project quick. It's about 23 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and I knit the whole way in stockinette stitch (really basic knitting). I left a long tail at the end so I could fold over about 5 inches of it and sew it to the rest of the scarf to make a loop for the tail to slide through. This way, Ada can wear a scarf all winter and I don't have to worry about a) her tripping on it b) getting the ends caught in her zippers or c) I don't know what point c is but I think you're supposed to have three points.

Ta da. NowI need to make some fingerless mittens for her and Isabelle when they are playing at the park. We'll see how that goes.

Moral of the story: Craft projects can be modified for speed. That makes me happy.

Another reason to be thankful for little girls...

At dinner last week, my friend Ted was talking about this article he read. It's comparing football to dogfighting and ran in the New Yorker. There is a very similar article about concussions and brain injuries to football players and boxers in this one from 60 Minutes.

To summarize both articles in a nutshell, when you hit your head repeatedly, as football players and boxers tend to due, it can cause brain damage later on in life as the cells you injure degenerate over time. Eventually it looks like these guys have dementia or Alzheimer's, when in reality they have, according to the 60 minutes article, a "devastating, degenerative brain disease, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It was first seen in boxers and can only be diagnosed after death, when the brain is dissected."

Translation? While our football players make a ton of money and are famous for the few years that they play, they end up having major brain problems at extremely young ages due to all the trauma their heads have been through.

So why am I mentioning this?

As a mother, my first thought when I read this was "Thank goodness I have a girl. How would I tell my son I don't want him to play football? Maybe Rick can gently nudge him toward soccer instead." And that reminded me of my now brother-in-law back in high school when his mom banned him from heading the soccer ball during practice or games because he had received too many concussions on the field and she was worried about his head. Boy was she ever validated to read these articles.

It's not that I plan to never let my kids play football or head the soccer ball or box, but more importantly, I want them to understand the long-term dangers of head injuries and the type of sacrifice these players are making for their short-term successes and fame. And the seriousness of a concussion so they don't get right back up and play some more.

Moral of the story: Play smart. Play safe. And know the long-term risks before it's too late.

One More Ada Photo...

Auntie Cadence just posted another photo of Ada from who knows when. That's my girl!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Customer Service in America SUCKS

What ever happened to customer service? Seriously? If anyone knows, I'd love to be enlightened.

I've just spent 30 minutes on the phone with ATT to get back the $386.34 that they automatically took from my bank account to pay for an early cancellation fee that they charged me, even after telling me they would waive the charges.

I did EXACTLY as they said and called a month after cancelling my service (because they couldn't offer me phone service consistently in most of my neighborhood and my home) to make sure the charges would be removed before they pulled the funds from my account.

I called them AGAIN a month ago to say, "Hey, BLEEPHEADS, give me back my $386.43." They promise to have it "rushed" and back to my account within a week.

Luckily, Rick noticed today -- another month later--that the money still wasn't in our account.
Now it is supposed to be "high priority rushed" and refunded to my account within 24-48 hours. We'll see about that. If not, I'm really to find an address for an executive at ATT and give them a piece of my mind and a flash of my middle finger.

Then there is the local HOLLYWOOD VIDEO. Yeah. They just went bankrupt last year, got everyone to sign up for a PowerPlay plan for a monthly fee and automatic credit card deductions. They just closed up shop down the street one day and left a number on the door to call. So I call the number. 50 minutes later, I'm hung up on. The next time I call, the wait time is 45 minutes and they just happen to have a lunch break in 30 minutes. Nice try. I'm not falling for that trick. I still have no idea if they are deducting the $10 from my account each month. At least it's on a credit card and I can fight it. Which I'm sure will be super easy, right?

Then there is the new cell phone carrier we have. Sprint. Yippe. My phone works but I've been charged activation fees that I later had to have removed, insurance fees that I later had to cancel, and our "employee discount" through Rick's work still hasn't been applied to the bill. We'll have three credits and a $200 phone refund applied to our account before we even have the phones two months. And when I called to get an icon put back on my phone after accidentally deleting it, the representative told me he'd call me on Rick's cell phone and then hung up on me. Nope. He didn't call. I still don't have my icon. But I've been called two times to take a BLEEPING survey about how the service from the guy at the Sprint store was. I hung up on them both times. The guy asked me to consider giving him good scores if they called. No. I won't because you didn't help me get my icon until after I reminded you for the number and you can't take the insurance fees off my bill so you can kiss my bleep-it-y-bleep-bleep-bleep and go to you-know-where. I know, it's not his fault personally -- it's how the company is set up. I get that.

But seriously.

I will say, on a positive note, everyone I've talked to has been a native American speaker so I've understood them all clearly. They just haven't all been able to help me and that PISSES ME OFF. That's the definition of customer service -- help the customer.

I'm a mother. I want to spend my time playing with my child and my husband, catching up on work and chores and God forbid I have some free time to myself. I've easily spent 4 hours on the phone just with ATT. And the world wonders why we don't have more time. That's why.

Moral of the story: There is no moral. Companies with customer service departments that I've encountered have no morals and really can't help me without making me incredibly inconvenienced in the process and then doing nothing about it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Talking Christmas? Already???

I know it's two months away. But I'm already getting requests and inquiries.

"What are you doing for Ada's birthday?" (December 19th)
"Do you have a Christmas list for her yet?" (Christmas isn't until December 25th mind you)

Woah, Nellie.

Talk about getting a head start on the holidays.

To humor all of the generous people who enjoy spoiling my child, here is what I've come up with as a suggested list of interests and possible gift ideas:

*Rick and I have a parental preference for things that:
  1. don't contain lead (crazy I know)
  2. don't have small parts she can choke on
  3. are wooden or from Oompa Toys
  4. don't say "some assembly required" (come on, I have to put that out there)
  5. won't cost us a monthly/annual upkeep fee
  6. don't have annoying buttons that she can hit over and over and over to drive me insane(Like the pink pony that says --"I'm a magical unicorn, rainbow colors and glowing horn. We'll have so much fun today, when you come with me and play." --she really likes it but it sure does test my sanity some days!)
  7. won't cause massive bodily harm to our feet when we step on them while barefoot
  8. are safe to be chewed on (everything goes into her mouth at some point)
  9. encourage her to use the potty (will the diaper stage ever end?)
  10. fit in her room (preferably in a nice, neat little space like her storage bins, dresser, or closet)
  11. won't leave permanent marks on my floors, walls or the front of my dishwasher
  12. are educational
  13. increase the value of her college fund
  14. are durable enough to be passed on
  15. are good for the environment
  16. can fit in our car so we can get them home
  17. will entertain her for more than just the day she opens them
  18. aren't all pink
  • are musical - Most parents would be against toys that make a lot of noise. Ada has such a strong interest in music that I can't deprive her of that joy and therefore I kindly request that any musical instruments are accompanied by earplugs for Rick and I. And don't anyone go crazy and think I mean a full size drum set or piano. It won't fit in her room. She's not going to be backup drummer for any rock band that I know of anytime soon. Give it a couple of years. Drum, Flute, Maracas, Piano, Tambourine, Xylophone, etc.
  • encourage her to dance. - Music with a beat (along the lines of, but not suggesting, Beyonce/Britney/Miley Cyrus.) Classes at Old Town School of Music. Gymnastics falls under this interest too maybe?
  • can be pulled or pushed - a doll stroller, a train on a string (she has a shopping cart--and loves it. In fact, she got it from DD already as a Christmas gift, albeit a little early)
  • transport stuff. - Trucks, Cars, Trains, Planes, Buses
  • get us out of the house. - Tickets to museums, play places.
  • encourage play - Wooden Kitchen set, puppets, building blocks for her architect of a dad, bath toys (she only has a rubber duck right now),
  • encourage sport and exercise. - balls, basket ball and hoop, bowling set,
  • teach her how to swim. - Swim lessons, water wings, etc.
  • involve fruit. She eats a banana a day so I wouldn't be opposed to a fruit-of-the-month-club for her. It really would be the gift that keeps on giving.
  • go to charity.

Like I said, these are suggestions, ideas, areas of interest to be used as inspiration.

Moral of the story: All she needs is love, food, shelter and clean diapers --which she has plenty of. There are so many people, places and things out there in need. Please be generous in their direction this holiday season.

To Preschool, or not to Preschool?

Will this topic ever end? There is a small part of me that envies stay-at-home moms right now since they don't have to deal with hiring nannies, finding family members to cover for the nannies when they are sick or otherwise occupied, dropping their kids off at daycare every morning, getting them ready and out the door to go somewhere to be watched for the day....etc...etc... (The majority of me is thankful to have a part-time job that helps me maintain my own identity and balance in life.)

This issue got stirred up the other day when my neighborhood mom friend Sara came over with her son Aaron for a mini half-hour playdate. She's on sabbatical from work for 6 weeks and needs to figure out what to do with Aaron now that her husband switched jobs and doesn't work from home anymore. This translates into them needing coverage for 45 hours instead of 25 or 30 since he could be more flexible, which kind of prices them out of the market for a nanny. She started researching Preschools to see what options she has.

Aaron, like Ada, is almost 2 now which seems to complicate things a bit more. I never really gave thought to the issue of the cost of child care for an infant versus a toddler. Sara enlightened me that it is WAY cheaper to have child care for a toddler since they are easier to take care of and a facility can handle more toddlers per adult. For an infant, it's expensive and a nanny can be a comparable option. Having family down the street or friends that are willing to volunteer their time is another awesome option. Who knew that taking care of a child can strangle a family's finances?

Whenever I bring up how much I've paid nannies in the past or for Ada's stint in daycare, my friend in Iowa, who runs a home daycare, is so shocked that she offers to drive three hours to my house everyday to take care of Ada. Turns out that I've paid three or four times what she charges in her small town. That's the cost of living adjustment when you are in the city I guess. Maybe it's just our part of town and the daycares know they can get the wealthy folks to pony up the big bucks. I don't consider myself "wealthy folk" and am therefore, constantly re-evaluating our options.

Since Sara stopped by and started this conversation, I got all jittery again because, as always happens, my friend who is watching Ada for us now, is pregnant and due early March. She already has a 2-year-old little boy and we have to discuss options going forward now that she'll have an infant on her hands too. If she is willing to keep watching Ada, that's great... but is that the best thing for Ada and for our family budget? And what happens when we have another child? Then what the heck do we do? I don't want to pay for a nanny and a preschool as that would really break the momma's piggy bank. Oh the stress involved is just so overwhelming sometimes. I can't emphasize enough how thankful I am to a friend that told me from the beginning, "Just try to worry about childcare six months at a time. Beyond that, you have no control and need to keep your options open." It's some of the best, and most honest, advice I've received.

Then there is the whole issue of preschool. As far as I can tell, there are preschools that are also daycares and the words are interchangeable. And the Chicago Public School system has preschools available to four-year-olds, and three-year-olds get put on an waiting list to be admitted if they have room. Those are only while the school year is in session I think. And they are still a paid program, but maybe at a reduced level? Clearly I have a ton of research to do on all of this stuff.

To complicated things even further, Ada is a December birthday which means she misses the CPS cutoff enrollment date of September 1st, which will, when she finally starts school, mean that she will be one of the oldest kids in her class. I hear that's a benefit for her if she goes on to play sports since she'll be one of the more developed kids than her younger counterparts and can go on to greatness -- which is assumed already since it's really likely she'll be 6 feet tall and her aunt Heather played volleyball for Cornell. (Can you say "scholarship"?) Not that I'm going to be all pushy sports mom, but I surely won't discourage any glimmer of interest in sports from my child. And don't act all shocked when you see basketballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls on her Christmas list either.

Moral of the story: Having kids means having a lot of homework and hours of research. Don't think that just because you have a degree in this, that or something else that you automatically qualify to be a good parent. It's a full-time gig and you really can't skip classes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Don't miss...

I posted out of order... The Dentist aka The Longest Day Ever was Oct 5 so don't miss it...


A COLD Day in Lake Geneva - Day 4

After sleeping in and having breakfast, we cleaned up the condo, kissed DD goodbye, showered and watched the final hours of Cable TV at our disposal before packing up and heading for home. Ada played with Anna's birthday princess set and then we left to drive home to see Daddy and the newly painted house. This is Ada helping Daddy before we left on Friday...
This is a sample of the newly yellow painted walls. The guys did a fabulous job. It looks great. I'm adjusting to the color and after a week, I think I really do like it. And here is the flower that Ada got from the local florist--she gave it to Ada when we walked by on Thursday night. So sweet of her. Oh, and it's in the awesome vase that Cadence got for us. It has neat little poke-er things that hold the flower up.

Moral of the story: Action packed adventures are often the best kind. Enjoy the ride.

A COLD Day in Lake Geneva - Day 3

Sunday Sunday Sunday
We were slow to get started this morning. We had breakfast. Rob and Michelle left and took Anna back to her mom. DD and Ada and I were finishing getting ready when my friends Anne and Rosalyn arrived for a day of fun, shopping and a visit to the apple orchard. Bobpa arrived shortly after they did so I could take his headshot for a Rotary thing. Anne, Rosalyn and I took a tour of the Oktoberfest downtown. Meanwhile, my dad went to go buy a dress shirt that actually fit him since he grabbed one from his closet that wouldn't button at the neck. Minor problem when you need to wear a tie and look professional. I left the ladies to shop while I ran back to take headshots. Ada squeezed in a little nap. Here's a result of the headshots... I might just be killed for posting this but... we'll, it's worth it. At least I'll dye happy and everyone will know what a real goofball my dad is... Here's the proof.
My poor mom! She's been married to him for a long time...

Then we all went to lunch. We tried one place but that wait was too long. We went to another and it was edible but not fabulous. On the way, Ada got the pompom Bobpa brought back from the Iowa vs. Michigan game for her and got it stuck in the wheel of her stroller. That was fun to cut out and fix later that night. What a mess. After lunch, Bobpa left us ladies to our fun. We decided we'd venture up to Elkhorn for an apple orchard experience and a pumpkin hunt. The apples were awesome. The apple cider was yummy. The apple cider donuts were scrumptious. Then we went to the pumpkin patch. It was well picked over since we were there just before closing on the Sunday after a weekend long festival. I expected Ada to be excited to run in this field and pick out a pumpkin. She was more perplexed... and a bit crabby...
Rosalyn cheered her up with this silly thing.
DD picked a pumpkin that wasn't rotting, all green, or too big for us to carry back to the car.Rosalyn let Ada drag her back to the car. Notice the apple in Ada's had that she took from the ground in the orchard and at in the car on the way home. It's her first stolen good. Anne and I just supervise and ate and drank (even though we learned that we don't like apple wine or blueberry wine or blackberry wine or any of the grape-excluding wines) and we were definitely merry.

Then it was back to the condo to bid adieu to our friends, eat leftovers with DD, and cuddle to stay warm. More knitting -- I made a scarf for Ada and gloves for my friend Cadence-- and more Cable TV, this time it was A Cinderella Story and Another Cinderella Story. Sinfully awful and entertaining and mindless at the same time.
I finally crawled into bed and cuddled with Ada until a whopping 9 am Monday morning! Yeah! Sleeping in is awesome!

A COLD Day in Lake Geneva - Day 2

It's Saturday. So much for sleeping in. It's 6:30. Early to rise since I've got an almost-2-year-old in my bed. We go to pick up her cousin at 9:30 and have breakfast with Granny, Grandma Ba, and aunt Terri scheduled at 10. And a surprise(for cousin Anna) visit from my brother, and his girlfriend Michelle.

DD goes to get Anna from her mom's house while Ada and I get a phone charger from the Radio Shack downtown and fill up the CRV with gas. Then we follow DD to breakfast at Millie's because neither of us wants to move our car seat to the other car so we just drive separately. DD's GPS doesn't take the address to Millie's very well. I think we're off the map or something. We got delayed but eventually asked some neighbors out for a walk and arrived safely.

After a yummy breakfast and good family conversation, we did a little shopping and had our own little photo shoot. Anna's in the black coat. Ada's in the hoodie. I didn't exactly check the weather and had no idea it was going to be 20 degrees and frosty. Whoops. My brother brought up a winter coat from DDs house so she was warm the rest of the weekend at least.

After brunch, we went through the shops at Millie's. While walking along the path between shops I, of course, ran into my parent's former neighbor Pat and her sister. Pat is easily in my list of top 20 favorite people in the world. She's awesome and I've really missed her since she moved from Sycamore to split her time between Florida and Wisconsin. Total coincidence that she was there, and unfortunate that my mom had to go back to the condo to wait for the heat repair man and missed her. Mom gets to see her more often than I do and I gave her a dozen hugs so surely one of those can be counted as from my mom.

After shopping, Ada slept on the 15 minute ride home, insuring that yet another "real" nap would be skipped today. We headed back to the condo to check on mom. Heaters dead. We'll have to cuddle until they can fix it next week. Yikes. It's cold out. At least we're still at 63 or 64 inside. We can deal with that.

Off to Oktoberfest downtown Lake Geneva. More shopping, a late "lunch" which was really more of a snack and then it was time to let the girls ride the ponies and walk in the "doll and animal parade" with Uncle Rob's help.

Then it was time for Granny, Terri and Grandma Ba to trek back to Sycamore and for us to head home for playtime and dinner. Rob cooked homemade spaghetti after what seemed like an eternity at the grocery store. That's how time works when I'm hungry. Finally time for bed and an Anna/Ada sleepover, more knitting, and more Cable TV. Bliss.

At 10 I finally crawled into the king size bed with Ada. Around 4 am I got an addition to my bed in the form of Anna and at about 6:30 or 7, Ada woke us both up by dancing in the bed and talking like a Chatty Cathy. Welcome to Sunday.

A COLD Day in Lake Geneva - Day 1

Daddy and Mommy made a deal. Daddy paints the house with his Dad and Brother, Mommy takes Ada to Lake Geneva for a four day weekend with Grandma DD. Mommy gets the house painted and a sort of Momcation, Daddy gets "man time", the house painted and a mini sort of working Dadcation.

What started off as a nice, quiet weekend, turned into a fun-filled, yet cold, adventure.

Ada and I helped Rick prep the house on Friday morning, then drove up to Lake Geneva. DD took us shopping at Target on the premise that it had a grocery store, which it didn't, and we, of course, bought a bunch of stuff anyway. That's what you do in Target right? It's okay because Ada came out with a new pink shopping cart full of groceries (supposedly for her birthday –in December) -- they are fake but that still counts as grocery shopping right? And we finally had a chance to get Anna her birthday present - Little People Princess Wedding. Oh, and cute Halloween socks for Anna, Woodstock socks with pink stripes for Ada.

Then we went to Wal-mart for groceries. I made the mistake of letting Ada hold the strawberry container, which she got her finger stuck in, forcing me to open it and give her a strawberry. Before I could get the leaves and stem off of it, she had eaten the whole thing. And another. Finally, I wised up by the third strawberry and bit off the stem and toss it out before giving them to her. No. I did not rinse them before giving them to her.

Nearing the end of our Wal-mart experience, we sampled some really good apple pie and some honeycrisp apples. Yum. Ada helped DD and I clear the sample woman’s table so she could pack up and go home. We know the true meaning of sacrifice.

Back to the condo to unload and then off to dinner. Ada pushed her stroller all the way to the restaurant about six blocks away. It was pretty amazing. I pushed her for the last half block since she was just done. Having missed a “real” nap and only taken a partial one in the car for half an hour, she was less than chipper at dinner. We got fish fry – it’s Wisconsin on a Friday night. That’s just what you do. Ada was fussy but things were okay…until DD got a bone. DD does not do bones. So much for dinner. I ate quickly since Ada was ready to go and DD was clearly done. DD walked with Ada for a few minutes while I finished up. Then Ada and I played outside while DD waited for the bill. We weren’t all that impressed and I doubt we’ll be going back to that restaurant anytime soon.

Then we strolled back to the condo. I pushed Ada this time and she wasn’t very happy about it. Once inside, she got ready for bed and cuddled with DD. Life was good. But the heat didn’t seem to be working and we were still at 64 degrees when it was set at 70. Hmmm… might have to have that checked in the morning. Nighty night. I curled up with my knitting and cable TV, the ultimate indulgence (a complete brain rot.) DD put Ada to bed in Bobpa’s king size bed and I joined her later. You’d think there would be enough room for us but Ada sleeps right in the middle which is less than optimal for me. At least she’s warm and cuddly. Maybe I’ll get more room tomorrow night.