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.

Mega Super Duper Kid Sale

Back home, in Sycamore, there is a school fundraiser where all the parents in the community can sell or donate their kid's stuff and both the parents and the school make money.
I've been to these types of sales before and I must say, the Sycamore sale is, far and away, the BEST.
Because it is so organized and the incentives are all in line to make it successful.
For instance:
The space is huge.

There are plenty of tables. There are hanging racks for big items or "nice" items in the back. There is a separate area for toys. There are about ten tables for shoes. The clothes are sorted by size and gender. There are boxes and bags for you to carry all of your new treasures. And there are multiple cashiers for speedy check out.

What's the secret?

Organization and Incentives

There appears to be a committee of community members or parents from the local elementary school who run this twice a year - Spring and Fall and it is well advertised in the community.

They put a call out to parents to donate. Parents then are assigned a "family number" as I'll call it and given a bunch of safety pins and price tags, and (I'm assuming since I haven't "sold" yet) a pricing guideline and a few rules.

There are 3 sets of tags - each a different color.

White: Try to sell it but if not, give it back to me so I can try again next year. Keep it at full price.

Blue: Try to sell it, then try to sell it for half price, then give it back to me.

Pink: Sell it or donate it. I don't want it back.

Each tag is safety pinned to the item and garments with multiple pieces are pinned together so parts don't get lost. Shoes and toys with are placed in Ziploc baggies to keep them all together with the tag taped to the outside. Each tag has a top and a bottom with a perforation for when it's sold. The tag includes a short description of the item (old navy shirt, circo pjs), the "family number", and the price, all duplicated below the perforation as well - typically $2 for shoes and clothes, $4 for pjs, and toys/strollers/beds/bouncy chairs can be whatever the tagger thinks is fair. Nicer stuff costs a bit more, but it's all really reasonable.

When a shopper selects the items they want, they head to the checkout tables where each tag is separated at the perforation leaving them with a record of the items cost and the "family number". Why?

That's where the incentives come in. The reason you get a "family number" for the stuff you donate is that you get a percentage of the proceeds from the stuff you sell. And that percentage goes up (I want to say your percentage increases by 30%) if you volunteer for 3 hours during the sale/setup/or take down of the event. This is a great motivator for volunteers and ensures that you have plenty of people to straighten, check people out, organize and keep things running smoothly. And, if you volunteer, (I think this is how it works) you can attend the pre-sale the night before and shop before they open it up to the community.

The sale starts at 9 am on a Saturday morning and goes until 1:30. From 12-12:30 they kind of close to regroup (again, I think that's how it is from memory) and then at 12:30, all of the Blue and Pink tagged items drop to half price. The white ones stay at the original price. And once they close up at the end of the sale, more volunteers come in to re-sort all of the stuff. Family's that want their unsold good back, have boxes with their number on them in the center of the room. Volunteers grab all the white tags and place them in the number boxes and Family's pick them up later that afternoon. The rest gets loaded up and taken somewhere to donate (I'm guessing again.)

Pretty neat huh? I'm one of those people who is always looking for ways to make things run more efficiently or better and this is one of the first times that I can honestly say whoever is organizing this thing really "gets it". That's why I keep going back each season and I either shop for friends from the city or convince them to drive the hour and fifteen minutes out to Sycamore for the sale. My friend Colette threatens to fly back from Seattle for it. It's that good. And this year, I got about 10-14 pants and shirts for my friend Alison's son Will for $27, and $10 got Andrea news boots and snowpants for her daughter Isabella. Ada got a whole new fall wardrobe with the $50 we dropped on her stuff - including snowpants, a snowsuit, pants, dresses and tops. Not to mention the fact that the parents in the community made some money, the school made some money and I saved a boatload.

Moral of the story: A family garage sale run right can really pay off for everyone involved.

My Friday Before Dinner

It's Friday. I've invited my college buddies over for dinner and what started out as just us and my friend Bob for dinner, turned into us three, Bob, Vern, Cara, Alex, Kim, Ted, Alison and Will. Sweet. We tend to have trouble finding time when we can all get together and this impromptu thing ended up working out really well.

Knowing that I can't cook, I arranged to order pizza and have it arrive about 6:45. Everyone planned to arrive around 6:30 or 7 and that seemed like as good a plan as any. We've learned from past dinners that if we don't pre-order, we starve while waiting for the food and then don't have time to play a game afterward, which is really what this is all about. Having fun with old friends, and playing games.

I had a few errands to run before picking Ada up so I left work at 4:30. I went to the ATM, then went to a different bank to make a deposit for the condo association. I have two letters in my hand that I need to mail. Previously, when making the condo association bank deposit, I though I had inadvertently put the envelope I keep the ATM card in, into the mail drop box with a bill I was mailing then. That resulted in me being distracted and telling the story about just how I'd lost the card when Ada fell down the back porch stairs. Yikes. Don't want a repeat of that. (It turns out that the ATM card was in an envelope on the kitchen counter the whole time.)

This time, I again have letters to mail so I crossed the street to deposit two bills into a postal drop box and re-crossed the street to be on the south side for the entry to the El train home. As I'm waiting for the light, it dawns on me that I can't remember where I put the ATM card. The light turns in my favor and I cross the street while quickly, not frantically but concernedly, digging in my purse for the ATM card envelope. I know it's there. I just can't find it under all of the crap I have. Why do I have a sippy cup, a diaper, wipes, and goldfish snacks in here? How the heck am I supposed to find...SMACK!

Oh no I didn't. Oh yes you did.

While intensely focusing on the contents of my purse, I continued to walk toward the El station and completely lost all awareness of my surroundings and walked straight into...wait for it...A BUS SHELTER. Thunk. My calf, knee and head all connected with the advertising side of the small structure.

"Oh My God. I did not just do that", I think.

"Oh yes I did." I start laughing uncontrollably. Then I realize, "What if there is someone waiting for a bus? They must think I'm an idiot."

I peer around the corner of the shelter. Yep. Hi there. In my head I'm saying, "That was me who just walked into the side of this place. Sorry about that. Hope I didn't startle you but damn, that's funny." In reality, I shot her a quick glance with the biggest smile on my face and quickly continued on my way down the street. Laughing to myself and at myself the whole way to the El train. Then I laughed even more as I sent my friend Colette a text retelling the event.

But that's not all.

I got Ada, got home and all but forgot about the previous "incident", putting it in my back pocket for a funny story later on. It was time I focus on cleaning up the last bits of things that are out of place and feeding Ada before everyone starts to arrive.

All is going well. I've done the dishes and she helped me put them away - which I encouraged as I quickly grabbed each glass plate and dish she handed to me from the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Boy was that nerve-wracking but she insisted on helping.

Ada is eating. I'm settled in to watch some Grey's Anatomy on (since we don't have cable). I've supplied Ada with a gourmet dinner of bagel, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, turkey, and apple sauce. And I've just dumped out our old milk and given her a full cup of milk that tasted okay to me but is on it's last day as well. Why does our milk seem to go bad so quickly these days? I text Rick to have him pick up new milk since our friend Bob is coming over and that man drinks more milk than anyone I've ever seen in my entire life. Multiple gallons in a week. He could have been a dairy cow in another life.

All is well in the world. Rick comes home and greets us. He removes his winter coat (yes, I know it's early October!) and settles in next to us to see what is going on. I have two minutes left on Grey's Anatomy and friends will be arriving anytime now. Ada's finishing up dinner and... then... it starts. As we are sitting around all content with the world, Ada starts throwing up her entire dinner. At first, we think she's just choking on something and is going to spit it out. Then it keeps coming up, and up, and up. She has expelled everything in her stomach. All over herself, the highchair, the floor. Everywhere.

"It must have been the milk. I didn't think it was 'bad' but it clearly wasn't 'good'. Let's clean her up." I mutter as I take her to the bathroom while holding her at arms length, hoping to stay clean.

She is, by this time, hysterical. Screaming. Not quite sure what the heck is going on or why she has her dinner all over her body. I've got her in the tub and she won't let me take her vomit covered shirt off. I'm tugging, she's resisting. Finally I win and get her naked. I turn on the shower and start to spray her down. She's still hysterical.

"Screw it." I think to myself as she reaches out to me, wet, naked, and covered in her regurgitated dinner. She crawls out of the tub and into my fully-clothed, dry clothes and clean arms and cries. I get her to calm down a bit and then decide to join her in the shower to comfort her and get her cleaned up. So what if I have 8 people coming over for dinner in just a matter of minutes. They are such good friends, I practically consider them family.

I'm in the shower with her when I hear the first door buzzer. At least Rick's home to let people in. I'm shampooing her hair for the second buzz. We are rinsing off for the third tone. And we are standing naked, dripping wet and trying to towel off when the pizza arrives. Thankfully I set out money for the pizza guy ahead of time and Bob took care of it all. My kind of house guests.

I passed Ada out to Rick so he could get her dressed again. Then I quickly shuffle around the hall corner to my bedroom to get decent. A quick glance in the mirror reveals that my mascara has run, but overall my makeup is salvageable and my hair isn't too wet. Five minutes and a whole new outfit later, I'm dishing up pizza and enjoying friends.

About an hour later, I remember that good old bus shelter incident and decide it's a great time to share one of my most "blonde" moments ever as tears of laughter gush from my eyes.

Good times had by all.

Moral of the story: The best friends are those that can help themselves and love you just the way you are. And those that laugh with you instead of at you. Just keep laughing at yourself.

Parenting rule to live by: When in doubt, throw it out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A New Car!

It's been a few weeks now but I'm just now getting around to posting about our "new" car. It's "new" to us since it isn't our Blue Honda Civic. Now we have Rick's parents former CRV. Presently known as our "new" Black CRV. Rick's parents love passing stuff down to their kids when they decide to shake things up and keep life exciting. They love trading cars or passing them on, and their generosity is flat out amazing. (And much appreciated I must add.)

Their one catch is that we "pay it forward". They paid for Rick's college, so we in turn need to pay for out kid's college. They bought Rick's first car back from him when we went down to one car, and they just recently shipped it to Rick's sister on the East coast. And now they swapped our Civic for their newer, more valuable, bigger CRV. Somehow we always get the better end of the deal. In this case Rick conveniently forgot the checkbook and only had one check so they got stuck paying the $80 bill for our registration while we pay the$15 transfer fee or something silly like that. They even picked up the tab on breakfast that day. We're so spoiled. Even so, I think it's a win-win situation because they really like doing stuff like this for us. And if we weren't good kids, I don't think they'd do it. Of course, we are good kids. Or Rick is and I just get to ride on his coattails and bask in his greatness. And they might favor Rick over his brother and sister just a little bit because he's the oldest and he supplied them with their first grandchild. And they kind of like her (a lot, like a really really lot, a lot). So maybe it doesn't have anything to do with us and is really all about Ada? Hmmmm.... interesting... Or maybe it's just so I can't complain when they spoil her with too many toys over the holidays because now I'll be able to fit them all in the back of the CRV. Or maybe now they expect us to go camping more often because we can't make the excuse that we have too much stuff to bring... Or maybe... they're just awesome in-laws.

(Note: I must mention that my parents are equally awesome in that they have also given us a car when mine puttered out. And they paid for my college education. And they give us meat from their garage freezer every time we go home. And they insist on paying when we go out to eat. And they spoil the heck out of Ada too. Now do you understand why I'm so busy? I'm trying to keep up with all this niceness from both sides of our families so that I can pay it all forward. It's a full-time gig. Thanks Mom and Dad!)

Moral of the story: Give thanks when anyone does something nice for you. Be appreciative of it. And reciprocate by doing something nice for someone else. That's what will continue to make the world a beautiful place.

More Fun = Fun

I have a theory...

Whoever Ada has more fun with, she naps less for.

Whoever she has less fun with, she naps for longer periods of time.

Whenever she's having fun, her naps seem to be about 45 minutes, sometimes less. But if she's having a pretty lame day, she seems to take the opportunity to take a 2 hour nap to catch up on sleep or prepare for the lack of sleep she'll get on the really fun days.

I say this because I think Alison is way more fun than I am and Ada had a good week or two where she'd nap for a few hours for me but only 45 minutes or an hour for Alison, knowing that Will might wake up before her and get playtime in and she'd be missing out. Clearly, she was having more fun with Alison and Will than with lame old mom.

This theory makes me feel better because she used to nap for 3 or 4 hours for Courtney and I was so mad that she wasn't taking naps on my days, when I should have been really happy that she was just saving her energy for my "more fun" days. See...

But then, I also thought if you were more fun and did more, you'd tire her out faster and she'd need a long nap to recover. In that case, more fun = longer nap. So which is it?

Moral of the story: Sometimes, being less fun has it's privileges --one being longer naps. OR the same can be said for being more fun. (Depending on which theory you subscribe to.) Either way, always being more fun, well, is always more fun.

Be Considerate of Caregivers

Obviously, in the short time that Ada's been around, we've had more than our share of caregivers to help us take care of her. We've always tried to guarantee our nannies and babysitters a set amount of hours each week, or at least a minimum amount of money each week, to help make their job a bit more secure and worth while. Being that we've only needed them three days a week, that was our way of saying "Thanks for being willing to help us out part-time and being flexible with our schedule." The idea was great, I thought. If Ada was sick, or they were sick, or we had to shift a day this week to next week, we tried to keep the same amount going to them each week, with any extra added on that week as well. I understand what it is to be young and broke and counting on a paycheck to pay your bills. But... this last nanny we had really seemed to mess it all up. Yeah, it didn't work the best for us in the end when our nannies decided to move back home or go to graduate school or get a full-time job because we'd always be stuck with a few un-used hours that we had paid for but never redeemed. That was just part of the deal and a price I was willing to pay for the convenience of our arrangement. But the painful part was having to carry over hours needed from one week to the next and trying to make sure we were close enough to even in the end to call it fair.

This time, we tried something new. Try for 29 hours a week but if something comes up or changes, tough cookies. This is a great arrangement for us, but not so great for our sitter. The first week, things were normal. The second week, Ada didn't wake up until 9 or 9:30 each day which cut into our sitter's overall amount of time she had Ada. But it didn't cut into my time I was able to work since I can work from home when Ada sleeps. It was great. I saved six hours that week. A similar thing happened the next week and finally our friend wised up and said something. And I'm so glad she did. I was so caught up in the excitement of getting work done, having Ada get a lot of sleep, and having to pay less each week for our sitter that I failed to put myself in her shoes long enough to realize that all this meant she still had to be ready at 8 am but didn't start until 10 and didn't get paid for those 2 ready hours. My bad.

The good news is that she brought it up. I realized the error of my ways and arranged to have a more flexible situation whereas if Ada sleeps in, we just shift our schedule a bit later since that still works with her schedule and mine.

On top of all that, our sitter is also our friend socially. That complicates things by blurring the lines of what is done as our sitter and what is done in friendship. To solve that issue, we just made a declaration that whenever she watches Ada while I'm at work is considered sitter time and anything else is friend time. We'll watch Will and swap kids back and forth as needed for date-night and whatnot. That way, neither of us feels weird about it and it's a win-win for us both.

Moral of the story: Put yourself in your caregivers shoes and be open with them about concerns or issues. Good caregivers are hard to find but can be easy to keep happy if you keep lines of communication open.

Ada's 1.75 Year Checkup

Since Ada's previous visit to the Doctoress at a year-and-a-half brought up the whole issue of her being a bit delayed on the typical toddler talking schedule, it was time to go in for a mini-checkup.

She's continues to maintain her own path above the standard height and weight chart. She's 32.5 pounds and 35 inches tall (six-foot here she comes!). I made a point to write down the words and sounds I heard her saying in the week prior to the appointment. That was helpful and the Doctoress kept the list in her chart. She's up to maybe 30 words and sounds, adding more each day. This past week she surprised me with a clear "Hi", "Bye bye", and "DD". She's also saying a lot of "Wa Wa" for water now too.

I think it helps that she's with two-year-old Will and our friend Alison a few days a week--she happens to be a former 2nd/3rd grade teacher and understands how kids learn best and develop. And Rick and I have made an effort to try to teach her new things as well. I don't feel like I have the energy to teach her much and I'm not sure how I'm doing, but I am more aware of what I should be doing and how to try to teach her more so I think that is helping. She's nowhere near the chatty Cathy that my niece is at age 3, but I think she's well on her way.

Moral of the story: Pay attention to where your child's development should be in relation to other kids his/her age so you know when something isn't quite right. The sooner you know, the sooner you can work towards a solution and possible eliminate the issue all together.

Cloth Diaper Trick

For those of you who are braving the intense grossness of washing your own cloth diapers... here it is. Finally. After doing this for a year and three quarters, Rick finally had the idea that maybe, just maybe, we should give all of the diapers a good rinsing before depositing them into the wet pail for the three days before they stank so bad we'd have to wash them. We used to just rinse out the poopy ones. Now we give the wet ones a whirl in the toilet bowl or under the sink briefly before transferring them to the wet pail.

Result? Not so stinky. Now we forget to wash them every three days...which kind of creates another kind of problem since the bin gets filled to the brim and almost doesn't fit into our washing machine. But that's a much better problem to have.

Moral of the story: Rinse as you go.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Freecycle is Good Karma

At some point in the last year or so, I got tipped off to For those of you who don't know about it or haven't tried it, check it out and see if there is a network in your area.

The whole concept is that people post things they have but don't want anymore, or things they don't have but would like, and members of freecycle read the posts and connect with each other to reduce the amount of stuff that goes into landfills. And the best part is...drum roll please... it's all free. The stuff is free. To post stuff is free. To get stuff is free. To give stuff... yep, you guessed it. FREE.

I just posted 4 bags of miscellaneous stuff and clothes and the nicest woman just came by to pick them up and brought me a new baby doll for Ada and a $10 gift certificate. Now that clearly isn't how this is supposed to work but she came to pick up three bags of stuff and I called her back to come get a 4th. Oh, and I passed on a glass friendship ball I had that was from a former friend and was giving off less-than-stellar karma. How much more of a win-win situation could this be? I get rid of 4 bags of stuff and a beautiful glass ball I don't want, she gets my "crap" and then gives me a doll and a gift card. And she even came to pick it all up!

My other experiences have been similar. I gave away perfume and perfume samples -- again with some not-so-great karma. I've gotten rid of 3 large piles of books. Today I gave away my old cell phone complete with charge, software and computer cord to connect it. And before that I passed on some knitting supplies I don't use to a woman who's daughter is interested in learning to knit. I've also passed on baby bumpers that were given to me by a woman in my mom network since I couldn't use them. And I don't even have to drop these things off. They come get them.

I've already got our TV promised to someone on freecycle when we upgrade to the one's Rick's parents are replacing at their house. And it just feels good to know that your stuff is going to a good home. I used to always take it to the Salvation Army or Good Will, which I still recommend, but this is cool because you get to see who it goes to and did I mention that they pick it up????

Moral of the story: If you can freecycle, do so. It will really benefit the environment, others, and your good karma bank.

Serenity Now! Rick's Softball Tournament

While Rick was busy rounding the bases and trying to help his team advance to the finals, which unfortunately they fell just short of, Ada was busy trying to recover from a fun-filled day at the baseball diamonds.

For the past 4 years, Rick has been a very active member of his company softball team. It's a design league filled mostly with Architects and Interior Designers and the like. They've been doing this for years and he's become a consistent member of his firm's team. They play on Thursday nights and then they go drink and be merry, hopefully celebrating a W in the win column but frequently just drowning their sorrows. Each season culminates in a Saturday softball tournament in which each team is guaranteed at least two games, or maybe it's three.

The first year I was the supportive wife and guardian of all the food, beer and other necessary supplies needed for the festivities.

The second year, I was pregnant with Ada so I again got to watch all the stuff and make everyone jealous that I had this fancy, reclining camping chair to lounge in while they were hot and sweaty from running the bases.

The third year, I was also dubbed "mom" since I was now a mom and the only person who happened to carry bandages in her diaper bag for when the guys got blisters or raspberries from sliding into base.

This year I got to be Ada's herder, entertainer, sunscreen apply-er, cook, and distract-or since she was old enough to get into everything and she hated it when daddy was on the field because it meant she couldn't play with him. Oh the fits she threw.

Let me back up to the start of this Saturday. We were in charge of getting ice and bringing our cooler. We were already running late because that's what happens when you have a kid and are trying to get somewhere by 9 am and have to pack for a whole day of being outside in the middle of a park. Rick's all worried they will start without him or not have enough players and get disqualified so he's driving a bit faster than I can appreciate. We stop at the local CVS to get ice and, of course, it's in the back of the store. I ask the clerk if I can pay for it quick and then go get it. No. Of course not. She needs the bar code. Isn't CVS a convenience store? Guess not. So I go back to get the ice and get up to the registers behind t-h-e s-l-o-w-e-s-t p-e-r-s-o-n i-n t-h-e u-n-i-v-e-r-s-e. Painfully, I wait, while holding a big, cold, bag of ice. I have my money out and ready to go. I've been hustling through the store. It's clear that I am in a hurry. Finally, after at least 45 seconds to buy something stupid like a pack of gum, it's my turn. She scans the ice, I hand her the money. "Do you have a CVS card?" "Yes, but I'm not getting it out. I left it in the car. This purchase isn't worth it." and I wanted to add "AND I'M IN A HURRY GOSH DARN-IT!

Great. Got the ice. We drive downtown to, is it Grant Park? I'm not sure what they call it. I think it's just south of Grant Park so it probably has some other name like Mayor Daley Park or something silly like that. Once we get close, Rick is ecstatic to see that all the roads are blocked off for some parade. Mexican Fiesta or something like that. And then Gaelic Fest is just north of that, in the actual Grant Park. GREAT! We detour at high speed with Rick's patience running even thinner. I'm next to him saying, "Honey, slow down. Don't worry. We can't be the only ones running late. Even if we are, they always have a ten minute forfeiture rule before you get disqualified so it will be okay." It doesn't really work but at least I tried.

We decide to park. It's 9:06 when I go to pay the parking machine for the day. Of course, it we were in by 9am, it would only be $10 but it's 9:06 so now it's $18 for the day. "Are you @$#%^&* kidding me!!!" I scream. Then I mentally try to calm myself down. Rick unloads the car and picks everything up, as if he is a pack mule, and starts to carry what he can to the field -- which is a good 4 blocks away I'd say. That's half of a mile. Yeah. Ouch.

I'm in charge of Ada and the diaper bag, her stroller and another bag. He's in a hurry so I suggest he goes on ahead and we'll follow. With that much stuff, we can't hold him back or he'll pass out and never get to play in today's tournament. As he leaves, Ada and I try to keep up but we fail. And that makes Ada mad. No. It was more than mad. It was pissed off to the millionth degree. Oh the tantrum she threw. It was, and still is to this day, the biggest tantrum I have ever seen from her. She threw her body onto the ground. She kicked her legs and slapped her hands. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. Her face was bright red. She was shaking her head back and forth as her hair flopped back and forth with it. She was MAD. I let her work it out for about two minutes and couldn't stand her making such a scene on the street this early. I got her off the ground and tried to settle her down. I put all of my bags into her stroller -- we could only fit the cheap little umbrella stroller in the trunk so it doesn't hold much and I still have the diaper bag on my shoulder--and she insists on pushing the stroller to the fields. Fine by me. She starts pushing it and I have my hand on the handle to help guide it. NO. That's not what she wants. She pushes my hand away. Then another tantrum. Same as before.

I wait another two minutes for it to pass. Wow. This is going to be a l-o-n-g day.

We get started again. She's pushing the stroller toward the street and getting stuck at the break for the alley. I'm trying to help and again, tantrum.

We get to the corner of Michigan Avenue and have to cross four lanes of traffic when the light turns. She wants to go now but we have the orange hand keeping us right where we are. The whining starts as a half dozen people have now gathered with us at the crosswalk. After what felt like four eternities, the light finally changed in our favor and we got to cross the street. She went slow and insisted on doing it herself. Whining the whole way. We made it and I silently thank God for letting us get this far. We've really only made it a block and a half. I'm mentally exhausted. This really isn't going well.

I get Ada into a park that runs along Michigan Avenue and she looks like a drunk toddler pushing this cart all over the sidewalk in anything but a straight line. She wants to go east but we need to go North. Another tantrum. Fine. Do it your way. We start to go east. Then, thankfully, Rick comes running through the park and saves me. Just like that.

I responded with "You're lucky you came back for me because I just might have given her away to the next person I saw."

It was that bad.

Luckily, he somehow managed to calm her down and help me get everything to the baseball diamonds. We were on the far side of the field, of course, and had to walk another five minutes before we could get settled but, in the end, we made it. We set up camp and I had, not one but yes, TWO glazed donuts. That's when things started looking up for me.

Moral of the story: When parenting is at it's worst, I remember the episode of Seinfeld where Frank learns to deal with stress by yelling "Serenity Now!" It's good to have something like that in your own stress management toolbox.

My Secret Lily Pond

One of the best kept secrets in the entire city of Chicago (in my opinion) is the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (I call it a pond) on the north edge of Lincoln Park Zoo. (Another is the burgers from Billy Goat Tavern on lower Michigan Avenue under the Tribune building. Yum!) Here it is...
For those of you who think the city is all hustle and bustle, this my dear friends will prove you wrong. It is, by far, the most quiet, calm and relaxing place I have found in the city --unless you count the beach at 5 am and I for one, don't like to get up that early on my own.
On a recent visit to the Lily Pond, we spotted a few turtles and were able to take a few minutes to reflect on life. Then our stomachs started growling and it was time to hike home for dinner.

If you haven't been, be sure to stop in for a few minutes of Zen. It's kind of hidden near the entrance to the Zoo parking lot off Fullerton...but it is so worth searching for.

Moral of the story: We all need a little bit of calm in our lives. Find a place where you can stock up.

It's been too long...

I know. I know.

There is a big gap in time since I last posted.

I'm not neglecting my blog. Okay, maybe I am a little bit.

But I have a good reason. I've been really busy.

How busy?

I just put in 30 hours in one week helping a former client organize her tax paperwork and accounts, on top of my already busy 25 hour work weeks, and picking up a small 3 hour freelance marketing job that really took 8-10 hours to do.

Not to mention Ada getting a cold. Rick getting a cold. A million exciting things going on at work. And going home for my brother's baby shower.


But have no fear... I'm back. And I have a list of NINE new topics to write about so prepare yourself.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Dentist aka The Longest Day Ever

Today it was time to take Ada on a little adventure to the dentist's office. My doctoress said it was time to get her teeth checked since she is almost two years old. I personally thought that was a little early since she only has eight teeth and nothing seems out of the ordinary. As it turns out, that's what my Dentist thought too -- it's a bit early. They did, however, encourage me to bring Ada with me to my cleaning which just so happened to be due.

I'm not sure why, but it seems like the majority of people I know dislike going to the dentist. I really don't know what that's all about since I really enjoy dental visits. You might assume from that statement that I was born with perfect teeth. In reality, I had two years of braces, a palate expander to make my mouth wider, and have had about 10 teeth extracted, and at least 6 cavities that I can remember (four of which I blame on my summer in France and the lack of fluoride in the water). The dentists in my life have inflicted a good deal of pain on me, but they have also improved my smile and gave me the confidence to laugh without covering my mouth.

My parents and I have invested a lot into this smile (Thanks Mom and Dad!) and I'm not going to mess that up with shoddy maintenance. I plan to instill the fear of rotten pirate teeth in Ada, as a strong incentive for daily brushing and flossing (although black-encrusted teeth would come in handy at Halloween parties someday, I guess). She's already great with a toothbrush and I plan to encourage that skill as much as I can -- after all, by the time she's in high school I know braces will cost the same as a second home so I'm hoping she gets Rick's (far superior and straight) dental genes.

So today, we went to the dentist. And I will say it was quite the adventure.

It all started with me planning how to get downtown. My dentist is in the building south of Macy's in the loop and from our place, it's a hike. Driving is tough unless you want to pay $25+ to park, or maybe $8-$12 for two hours if you are lucky enough to find a meter space, or $18ish if you park a few blocks southwest and hike in, or I could pay $4 for two hours if I parked near my office and then took the train in for another $4.50 round trip, or I could just take the train...but what if the elevators aren't working? Then I'll get stranded with Ada and the stroller and who needs that drama? The bus takes forever and is still $2 each way. I think Ada is free since she's under 2 but I don't know what the cutoff age is for when they start charging. And on top of everything else, I really need to return sweaters I bought at Target that Rick says are too big and I need to drop by a bunch of work papers to his office that he brought home last week when Ada was sick to work on from home. Gesh. What to do...?

As it turns out, we are also kitty sitting for our friends that just got married and live on the south side. They were nice enough to give me parking passes for their neighborhood so I could park while Ada goes to "play" with the kitties. I say that because they don't really like her but I feel it's important for them to know people still exist in their life, so we stop by to check on them. Brilliant me got the idea to drive down to their house, stop at their local target on Roosevelt, park, and then stroll Ada downtown for the appointment, then back to the car, up to Rick's office for the drop off of work stuff and then home. Easy right? Never.

We start off at 10:30. My appointment is at 11:30. It's 15 minutes to Aaron and Cassie's. No problem. No time for Target so that gets stricken from the schedule and moved to the "maybe later" list.

As I lock the front door, I realize I forgot the Target returns inside. Open the door, grab the bag, re-lock, and begin to herd Ada, the stroller, the Target bag, the diaper bag and my purse through vestibule door number one, down the stairs, to vestibule door number two, down the last few steps and out to the sidewalk. All's well so far. Down the street to the car. Get Ada loaded. Loading everything else into the trunk -- thankfully we are parked far enough away from the car behind us so that I can swing open the door to the CRV and get everything in, and Rick pre-loaded his work crap saving me two more trips. I go to collapse the BOB stroller and ... nothing. Not gonna do it. The darn thing won't collapse. After five tries, I give up and lift the whole thing into the car. It's bent over but not collapsed and, amazingly, it fits. Thank God for the CRV. Let's roll.

(Little voice in my head --Damn, that reminds me I never pushed in the mirror that sticks out into the street when I parked last-- hope it's still attached next time I go out...we'll see...)

Once in the car I call Rick to complain about the stroller. His reply is something like "You just have to pull up really hard."

To which I respond, "Um. No. I tried that. I know how it works and something is stuck. I'm not patient but I'm also not a moron. Whatever. It's in the car." We're on our way. Yippee! 45 minutes should be just right.

We get to Aaron and Cassie's and park nearby on 14th street. I get out and unlock Ada so she can start getting out of the car. I go to get the stroller out and set it up. Then I convert my purse contents to the diaper bag so I have a lighter load for the trek ahead of us. Ada's got a balloon in the car from my brother's baby shower and, of course, it blows out the back door so I have to run down the street chasing it, like a complete dork, as I worry that Ada will somehow jump out of the car and get hit by oncoming traffic all for a silly yellow balloon with only enough helium to hover a few feet from the ground. I catch the balloon, put it in the front seat, much to her disappointment, get Ada out of the car and loaded into the stroller. She's mad. She doesn't want to be in the stroller. She wants to walk of course. She walks for a block, as I continually hurry her, and then gives in to the stroller. Finally. Now we're moving. We go about four blocks to Roosevelt road and see a movie being filmed. That's fun. We'll check it out on the way back. 25 minutes of walking lapses. We are now downtown and getting all sorts of smiles. There aren't a lot of strollers in the loop and Ada's a ham so she tends to attract attention.

We get to the building and push the handicap button for the door. I am again reminded of how thankful I am that I'm fully abled and remind myself to go out of my way to help the disabled any chance I get since life is so much harder when you can't use revolving doors or even just open them yourself.

Up the elevator and into the dentist's office. All of the ladies there just ogle over Ada. We go in for my exam and she is an angel. Perfect in every way. Completely enamored by the process. Not afraid at all. Wants to sit on my stomach to get a closer look. Practically crawls into my mouth at one point. Adorable. She got her own toothbrush and a toy for being so good. I was shocked.

Then it was time to check out and leave. She got to go behind the scenes at reception and play with a Highlighter--which we still have because she threw a tantrum when it was time to leave and Rick has an appointment Thursday so he can return it--and the ladies again loved her. Then it was time to leave and she was having nothing of it. A few tears and screams later, we were on our way down in the elevator. All was back to being well with the world (and Ada had a death grip on that yellow Highlighter). We called Rick for lunch and agreed to meet at Macy's food court.

La la la... we get to Macy's and have to go to the second entrance on Wabash because that's where they have the handicap accessible entrance. Yippee. We find the entrance and push the button... and of course, it's broken. So a fine gentleman coming out holds the door open for me and we open the inner door ourselves. We get into the store and immediately I look lost, because I am, and two gentlemen installing sale signs explain that there are two food courts at Macy's, one on seven and one on the lower level. I pick the lower level and text Rick to meet us there. Of course, he arrives and wants to go to the one on seven. We're off to ask for more directions to get to the express elevator to seven--we don't have all day here okay? The guy at the Frango mints table is very helpful and we quickly find the express to seven.

At seven, we notice that it's a zoo. We decide to get burgers because they are the most un-friendly Ada-thing to eat in this whole place (or really that's just where Rick chooses since the line is shortest.) Ada meanwhile just wants to run free and gawk at the fellow lunch patrons. Rick's ordering. I'm chasing Ada. Chaos. I finally catch her and go to see our status on food. I thought we had to get into this other really long line and wait for our food. In asking this question, I pinch Rick inadvertently when trying to tug his jacket on the backside of his bicep. That didn't feel good and he's a little bent out of shape. I soon learn that we don't have to get into the long line because that is for Frontera Grill. My bad Rick Bayless.

Rick takes Ada and goes to find a table. That leaves me with the stroller and a tray with a pint glass filled with coke, another glass containing a chocolate shake, and now two burgers. The guy hands them to me and asks if I need help getting to my seat. Of course I do but I say somehow I'll manage or make two trips. I then proceed to balance the tray of food on the handlebars of the stroller and make my way to our table. Once there, I, fittingly, run over Rick's foot with the stroller and nearly drop everything. Thankfully, nothing spills but he shoots me another dirty look to which I quickly reply "I am not out to get you. The pinch and the stroller were both accidents. I'm just trying to sit down to eat for Pete's sake." To which he smiles the shared "parenting can be rough sometimes" smile and we're back to being all good and happily married again.

Then Ada goes into nightmare mode. She won't sit still, only wants the chocolate shake (I taught her well), and won't eat anything else. After a few minutes of this, I give up. I tried to let her run, and even went up to eight and back down on the escalator. We did a lap around the food court and I finally kissed Rick goodbye (after eat my fries and most of my spicy -read: crappy- turkey burger), loaded the stroller and set off for the car. We got all the way back to the exit on the first floor when I realized I had to make a pit stop, and Ada needed a diaper change. Back to search for the elevators.
The sign said handicap accessible restrooms were on every floor but the one we were on. We go up to 2, even though I meant to hit LL. We get off long enough for me to see it's the men's floor and I'm back on the elevator down to the Lower Level. I ask a MAC makeup artist for directions to the restroom and we head that way. Once inside the four bays of bathroom stalls, I scope the place out in search of the one handicap stall that will fit me and Ada and the stroller. Too bad it's impossible to get to without closing three stall doors on the way. Thank God again that I'm not trying to do this in a wheelchair or I would have screamed and starting throwing things at this point. After that, we wash our hands and I load Ada up on the Koala Bear changing table.

Once she's changed and we've washed up, I think it's finally time to trek back to the car. That is, until we pass the smoothie stand. We HAVE to stop for a smoothie. Ada didn't eat much and my lunch wasn't that great. So we get a berry smoothie. She drinks a quarter of it before we even get out of the store (again through the broken handicap doors.)

About a third of the way to the car, Ada finishes the smoothie. I had, maybe, 25% of it. And that's being generous. It was a pretty large drink mind you. Can't wait to change that diaper. Yikes. Once the smoothie is done, we look to recycle it and I'm again reminded of how much I hate our city's lack of recycling receptacles downtown. Pretty sad for as "Green" as we claim to be. We go a few more blocks and Ada starts fussing, again. I let her out to walk. But she doesn't want that. I giver her a toy. Nope. Still not happy. After a block I just shove her back into the stroller and keep going. So what if people stare at me for being a bad mom and not catering to her needs. There is nothing I can do for her until we get to the car, so deal with it.

We are finally just a few blocks from the car and a crowd has formed. Oh yeah, they are filming a movie down here today. So we stop to gawk and see what's going on. It's clear that they are filming and someone famous is down there but what, and who? Being the friendly person that I am, I ask a few guys standing nearby. "Do you know what movie this is?" "Little Fockers. The 3rd in the Meet the Parents series." Oh yeah. That must be... Robert De Niro over there filming. Neat. We stay for about five minutes and then we head back to the car. I jam everything back in and we're off to Rick's office for the big drop off of work stuff.
It only takes about five minutes to get to Rick's office since we are driving and driving is SO much faster than walking. I call Rick to come down and meet me (thank goodness for cell phones even though I frequently curse them). As he approaches the car I wave all kids of mom-dad sign language to let him know to be VERY VERY quiet (I'm not hunting wabbit...) because Ada is sleeping in her car seat already. He silently removes the stroller, all of his stuff, puts the stroller back and shuts the door. Then he comes around to my side for a quick peck goodbye and a "see ya later." It's finally time to head home.

What feels like a gazillion years later, we are back home with clean teeth, a borrowed Highlighter, new toothbrushes and toothpaste, bellies full of yummy smoothie -- Ada's more so than mine-- and she's had a mini nap. All is back to being well with the world.

Moral of the story: When you live in the city and have a toddler, even the smallest errand can become a full-blown adventure. Follow the girl scouts' and boy scouts' advice: Be Prepared.

PS - Rick walked in to the dentist's office that Thursday morning, pulled out the Highlighter and the whole office erupted in laughter. They knew exactly what it was and why he was returning it, much to his surprise.