Tuesday, September 05, 2006

With nothing but birthdays and parties on my brain...

I have just been internet shopping for a birthday present for my nephew (turning 8 next weekend) and for Divaboy’s classmates (the birthday parties will come fast and furious, so I wanted to find something I could buy in “bulk” for everyone and just pull one out of the closet for each event). I found at least these three really fun web sites for great toys. I know Felicity is the internet shopper extraordinaire; but since I am not, I was tickled to death to find this stuff. Interesting, different, educational and just plain cool. So I just thought I’d share.


Where do all of you get cool, interesting, toys for your loved ones?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pump Pump Pump Pump Pump Pump Pump Pump Your Milk

Pumping breast milk at work isn't perfect under the best of circumstances. But of course, not everyone enjoys the best of circumstances, as discussed in this New York Times article. Law professor Ann Althouse has some interesting thoughts on the subject as well.

As for me, when I return to work following the birth over the summer of Metro Baby #2, my pumping options will be more limited than they were at my prior employer. At Prior Employer, I enjoyed the availability of a dedicated nursing suite with a telephone, fridge, and fairly comfy chairs. New Employer definitely wants to be nursing friendly, but isn't terribly equipped for it. My office manager has promised to install a set of shades to cover the glass door of a conference room so that I'll have a bit of privacy, but it's not optimal. Even so, it's infinitely better than perching atop a toilet in a public restroom.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yesterday I had a formidable to-do list, including bringing mounds of old kid clothes that no longer fit (and old grown up clothes that I can no longer stand) to charity. So Divaboy and I packed up as many bags as we could carry and set off to give our old clothes “to other people who need them and can use them.” I really think he understood the notion that we were doing something for others (yes, yes, I do it for the tax deduction too, but so what).

I love spending time with Divaboy teaching him about things he shows an interest in…which may include reading, writing, or adding and subtracting numbers. But, obviously, that stuff he will learn eventually in school if not from me. If anything is a parent’s responsibility, it is teaching one’s kid to be a good person and a productive member of his community. He should and probably will to some extent learn that in school as well, but yesterday’s activity was extremely gratifying, and I guess I really believe that in the lessons of how to live one’s life, nothing can substitute for the parents’ teaching, time and example. (Aahhh!!!! Pressure!!!!)

And incidentally, these activities are a great way to spend family time together that mercifully neither cost money, nor involve any iteration of "let's pretend." Next weekend, we plan to participate in a volunteer family event to meet and clean up a section of the park (raking, planting, painting) and we can hardly wait to go.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences

So how exactly are we all supposed to explain to our children that Pluto is no longer a planet? "Sorry, sweetie, Pluto was too small to be a real planet." That should go over big. Clearly the community of astronomers neglected to consider the impact of its decision on the toddler and preschool population.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Screw it

I have decided to bag the outsourcing (see below) and do the Diva-boy's birthday party myself, in the Park, on a Friday afternoon. Some kid games, pizza and cake. Old-fashioned, convenient, less expensive, warm, personal and, more to the point, likely more fun. And, yeah, likely more work.

So...ideas??? tips??? tricks??? Really looking for help and input!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Birthday Diva-boy and Christopher Columbus!

My son will be 4 at the end of September. In a perfect world, I’d have his friends over to our house, play duck, duck goose, pin the tail on the donkey, eat cake and ice cream and call it a day. Maybe get a clown, but probably not. Unfortunately, his class has 14 kids in it and I can’t fit them all in my apartment. I certainly can’t fit them all if each has a parent or nanny in tow. So I thought I’d do a sports party – get the “coaches” from his sports class to have them play for an hour, then do pizza and cake. Simple, right? Not so much.

I started trying to get the date settled as early as the last week in July. And I felt ridiculous doing it. I wanted to secure a weekday afternoon after school. Ha! Apparently, Sept-Nov was all booked as of last May. May! Who is thinking about October parties in May? Answer: everyone except me. There was one time slot available. One. The Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. After much suffering, I finally decided to do it then and hope for the best (most of my son’s classmates have weekend houses – and on a three day weekend, I’m a little nervous).

And then, in between the stomach cramps and the tension headaches, I finally realized that somewhere along the way, without making any affirmative decisions or noticing that I have in any way changed course, I have become the person I used to laugh and shake my head at. I can rationalize most of what’s going on here. I don’t have any more realistic options for a mellower party because I just don’t have the space. I’m afraid of an outdoor party in the park (summer maybe, but who knows what the weather would be like in the first week of October). I’m overly anxious about the date because I don’t want my son to have his feelings hurt if his classmates don’t come if their families are away. But at the end of the day, the facts are the facts. Here I am, spending a lot of money for a 4 year old’s birthday party, planning it 2 months in advance (and castigating myself because in reality, it wasn’t early enough), and worrying that the date selected isn’t good enough and the party won’t be a success.

So I’m left wondering, what do I do, now that I am fully aware of the absurdity of the situation? I don’t have a mellower party option, short of bagging a birthday party altogether. Should I? Should I forget his friends and just do a family party? If I go ahead with the current plan, am I jumping off the deep end?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Gender Equality My Ass

I'm a daughter of the 1980s. I believe that girls can be good at math and science, that I can bring home the turkey bacon and fry it up in a pan, and that men can be fantastic stay at home dads. I want my son to grow up knowing that girls are smart and fun to be around and that it's not a threat to his manhood to marry a woman who makes more money than he does. I want him to know that his Daddy is not only not less of a man, but more of one, because he cleans the house better than Mommy ever could or would, and that Mommy worships the ground Daddy walks on for his spectacular, homemade, from scratch, Sweet and Sour Chicken.

So why is the American toy industry conspiring against me?

My kid doesn't yet know that the world thinks that there are boy toys and girl toys, or boy colors and girl colors. But the world knows that if something is pink, it's for a girl. And if it's frilly, it's for a girl. I don't really mind that too much - I don't have a burning need to put him in a frilly pink shirt.

But I DO have a burning need to buy him a doll stroller.

He plays with doll strollers all day at school. When the little girls bring them to synagogue on Saturday all he wants to do is play with them. He puts his teddy bear in them and pushes them around the room. When a doll stroller is unavailable, he'll push around his umbrella stroller, no matter how unwieldy it is. I really, really, want to get him one.

Every last one I can find is pink. Really pink. Majorly, monumentally pink. We have had this problem once before, when we wanted to get him a play kitchen. They were all pink. And frilly and stereotypically girly. (Thank goodness for Step 2.)

Here's a word to the toy industry. My kid is 18 months old. He doesn't know that kitchens and strollers are for girls. I know I should be enlightened enough to get my kid pink toys and not care, but I'd like to get him something that says it's ok to be a snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails kind of boy and still like to cook and play with dolls. (Have we learned nothing from Free to Be... You and Me?)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Can You Still Be An Urban Mommy If You Drive A...


It was time. Four years ago, when I leased a teeny tiny little car, I had a teeny tiny little lifestyle that matched it. Now that I'm hauling around 2 kids and enough gear for an entire little league team, it was time to move to something bigger.

For those of you who are already mocking me (and you know who you are), let me just say that today's minivan is not the weirdly shaped car of our youths. This thing looks and feels like a regular car on the inside, just with tons o' room and lots of cool things like a dvd player, six cd changer, rear seats that disappear, and fifteen, count 'em FIFTEEN, cupholders. So now if any of Spaceboyfriends or even Spacebubbe want to come along for a ride, they will not have to wedge themselves between 2 honkin' big carseats in the back. And all for less than the price of my old tiny, impractical and prone-to-breaking car. What could be better than that?

So what's making YOU feel middle aged these days?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pregnancy Parking

Nightline recently did a short piece on a proposed New Jersey ordinance allowing pregnant women to park in handicapped spots. While I certainly agree that there are issues with labelling pregnant women handicapped, I also agree that waddling all the way across a huge suburban mall parking lot in my 9th month left me too tired to even remember what I'd come to the store for by the time I got inside.

What to do? The story showed a grocery store that had parking for pregnant women or parents with infants or toddlers in tow. I think grocery stores could gain a loyal following of parents that way. And the Babies 'R' Us that's semi-near me has "Stork Parking" for expectant or new mothers, which I was thrilled to take advantage of and kind of miss. So long as daddies with infants in tow get the same treatment, I think these stores have the right idea. But do I think it should be mandated? There I'm not so sure.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

To TV or Not to TV

So Sesame Street has entered the Baby Einstein age, releasing a series of Sesame Beginnings DVDs aimed at the 6-24 month demographic. Children's health and psychology experts are apoplectic.

In a world where there are zillions of videos aimed at the baby crowd, I really don't have a problem with the Sesame Street gang entering the fray. I will confess, though, to being a bit conflicted on the whole No TV Before Age 2 debate. On the one hand, I find it appalling when people park their children in front of the TV for hours at a time. But I will be lying if I said that I didn't turn on a Baby Einstein video or Sesame Street to permit me to take a shower when Metro Girl (I can't really call her the Metropolitoddler at this point, can I?) was a baby, and she now watches Dora or Blue's Clues or a Disney movie pretty much every morning upon awakening so that Mommy and Daddy can (a) shower or (b) squeak in a bit more sleep. And then there's the odd half hour of Noggin she watches as an activity at some point or another during the day, plus whatever TV is employed by nannies and mommies out of my control when she's out on a playdate . . . . granted, she's above two and therefore outside the scope of the edict, but it wasn't like she never watched any TV before she was two.

So I guess I'm obviously not a big supporter of withholding all TV -- but all things in moderation. All that being said, I still don't have a problem with Sesame Street getting into the act.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Formula Fed and Ivy League Bred

Here's an enjoyable and sensible piece on breastfeeding from the Boston Globe. Apparently it spawned a fair amount of debate -- sadly, however, the Globe's archives are pay-only, so I can neither read nor link to the resulting firestorm.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Already Past Our Prime

It seems that we're already passe. The hip, new thing is podcasting, of course, and parents are podcasting everything from conversations on parenting techniques to live recordings of births. Makes what we do here seem positively tame. There's a full article about it here.

Now it seems that "Mommycast" has a $100K sponsorship from Dixie - making it the first non-technology-oriented podcast with major sponsorship. Hm. Double Hm.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Conversation I Dreaded More Than The Birds And The Bees

I'd been dreading this conversation for two and a half years. The vW preschooler was having trouble falling asleep this evening, and I was trying to persuade her to close her eyes and drift off to dreamland. This conversation ensued:

Me: "You have to go to sleep, sweetie, or you'll be too tired to go to school tomorrow."
vWPS: "Will [Nanny] take me to school?"
Me: "Yes, like she always does."
vWPS: "Why does she do that?"
Me: "What do you mean?"
vWPS: "The other kids' mommies take them to school. Why don't you take me?"
Me: "Because I have to go to work, honey. And most of the other kids' nannies take them, too."
vWPS: "But Livvy's mommy takes her."

Livvy is one of about three kids in my daughter's class whose mothers do take them to school. (Interestingly, I recently learned that Livvy's mom works full time, but she carves out the two hours twice a week to take her daughter to school. That, however, is neither here nor there.)

I feel horrible. I knew that eventually my daughter would figure out that some mommies don't work, and that her mommy is making a choice that keeps her from spending as much time with her as some other kids' mothers do. I did not think that day would arrive quite so soon.

Has anyone already been through this? Any constructive advice for me?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

This Year's Resolution

We had a lovely, lazy New Year's weekend here in the vW household. Tonight after dinner, the Mr. and I were lolling around on the couch, and the vW preschooler was playing on the floor with some of her holiday loot. I said, "Do you want to come up and sit on the couch with us?" And she replied, "Sorry, Mommy - I'm too busy right now."

Ordinary as that response was, it got me thinking: It won't be long before I lose my status as her favorite person, before she stops thinking of spending time with her parents as the most fun thing she could possibly do. One of the things I always try -- and frequently, frequently fail -- to do as a parent is to be in the moment with my daughter. For us, the best family times often come not on the carefully-planned outings (with the attendant heightened expectations and missed naps), but rather when we're just sitting around hanging out together. But too often when I'm sitting on the floor playing with the preschooler and her dolls, I start thinking about what I'm going to make for dinner, or what came in the day's mail, or that phone call I have to return, or (worst) what messages are making my blackberry blink at me from across the room.

I know that promising to stop and smell the roses is as much of a resolution cliche as vowing to lose five pounds or to make it to the gym four times a week. But I really would like to develop more of an ability to focus fully on my daughter when I'm with her - regardless of what other concerns may be tugging at various parts of my mind.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Some Songs are Too Damned Catchy

Hey Victor (hey Victor)
Hey Freddie (hey Freddie)
Let's eat some (let's eat some)
Spaghetti (spaghetti)
Hey Victor (hey Victor)
I'm ready (I'm ready)
To eat some spaghetti with Freddie!

Damn you, Laurie Berkner! I have been listening to Laurie's Under a Shady Tree since Felicity Metropolitan got me a copy when Baby Banana was born. And sure, I've wandered around singing the title track, I'm Gonna Catch You, Song in My Tummy and others. Catchy, but at least I don't find it insipid or mind-numbing, like some other children's singers. Then a few weeks ago we got Buzz Buzz, which they also play a lot at BB's day care, and I wandered around singing Pig on Her Head and The More We Get Together. Still not a problem. The More We Get Together is featured in BB's music class, and singing Pig on Her Head at work gets me odd looks that I kind of like.

But then BB got the other two Laurie albums for Chanukah. Upon our return home I popped in Victor Vito. I want you to know that I have listened to this album precisely twice. Twice. That's it. Apparently, that was more than enough to find me singing the above lyrics perfectly, over and over and over again in my office today. This is despite the fact that I have listened to four different recently-purchased Christine Lavin albums at my desk today in hopes of driving Victor and Freddie out of my head. Four. And still Victor and Freddie haunt me. Catchy does not begin to describe this song, never mind the rest of the album. Yeesh.

I'm afraid to go home tonight and put in Whaddaya Think of That?

Embarrassment of Riches

Happy holidays to all (both?) of our readers! We here at UM hope that you are enjoying a joyful and relaxing holiday season, and that the New Year brings you health and happiness.

I am very much enjoying Baby Banana's first Chanukah. He loves candles (which is sure to cause me serious problems later) and so Chanukah is a big thrill for him. And latkes have been a major success - fried potatoes and onions, what could be bad?

Of course, not only is it Baby Banana's first Chanukah, it is both sets of grandparents' first Chanukah as grandparents. So there are presents. LOTS of presents. Baby Banana's aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and, of course, grandparents went a little overboard. BB, needless to say, really only cares about the wrapping paper and is a little unhappy that I won't let him ingest it. Thankfully, boxes are endlessly amusing. I have to say, I'm amused by all this. At this age, gifts are just as much for me and Mr. Banana as they are for BB. I am thrilled to death that we have some new board books and toys that skew a bit older for BB, since Mr. Banana and I are going a bit batty playing with the same stuff with BB day after day. It never occurred to me how much WE would want some new toys after a year!

But the absolute best part of this holiday has been realing that when someone asks me what BB likes, or how he likes a particular gift, I have an answer! He's showing actual preference for certain toys (like his new Elmo cellphone) and types of toys (things that make noises, things that can be taken out of and put into containers), as well as certain activities, like banging on things, opening and closing cabinets, and pulling books off of shelves. A year ago, this kid was inside me. Nine months ago, he couldn't sit up or play with a toy. Six months ago, he wasn't mobile. Three months ago, he wasn't interested in specific toys. And now, this little person lives in my house and has likes and dislikes, and eats latkes, and laughs, and babbles, and chases cats and dogs. Amazing.

Happy holidays to all, and I wish you a year of amazing discovery with your children.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Two Red-Letter Days

I was perusing one of the more-than-a-few blogs I read regularly and happened upon this company called Red Letter Days, over in London. Basically, they organize all sorts of cool experiences -- you can buy them for yourself or as a gift for someone else. Helen over at Everyday Stranger received a gift certificate for her choice of a range of experiences from her employer as a thank-you for her good work on a significant project. Take a look -- the experiences are pretty cool. Everything from a full day at a two-Michelin-star county restaurant to a Wedgwood master class to a day of jousting to a two-night teepee retreat to a day of spy training -- and that's not even the so-called "VIP Experiences," which are just cool.

Reflecting on the niftiness of Helen's reward, I got to thinking. Working as I do in financeland, I receive the lion's share of my compensation in a single bonus check at the end of the year. This tends to be a little nerve-wracking, as the base salary is insufficient on which to support my family -- bonuses are multiples of base salary, not a percentage thereof. I myself had an okay year for an organization that itself had a decent-but-not-mindblowing year, and as such my bonus was all of the above -- okay, decent, and not mindblowing. (I should note, however, that it was an improvement over Prior Employer, and thus should be regarded as a success.)

I bring this up as background to what was a more interesting turn of events: on the day of our office holiday party, the head of the company handed out envelopes to every single employee -- envelopes containing a not huge but certainly noteworthy amount of cash. I was thrilled. I immediately called Mr. Metropolitan, who was equally thrilled with the news.

Thinking about it later in the day, I decided it was kind of weird to be so excited about the cash relative to my level of excitement about my (rather more significant) bonus. I think it's because it was an entirely unexpected windfall. I know what my bonus is being used for -- mortgage, school, nanny, insurance, other living expenses, some savings -- but this little pile of money had no designated purpose other than to make me happy. And so it did.

Helen's Red Letter Day and my envelope tell an important workplace lesson, I think: doing random nice things for one's employees gets one all sorts of brownie points from said employees. I think it speaks well of both our bosses that they understand that. Speaking for myself, a bit of cash got my boss much more in the way of employee goodwill than would an additional 5x that amount in my bonus check. And Helen? Well, Helen's going to ride the Orient Express. I think that warrants a warm fuzzy or two, don't you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

TiVo: The New Generation Gap

Interesting article in WSJ Online today: The basic gist is that our kids experience TV completely differently than we did because of TiVo (assuming we have it). I'd never thought about it before, but it really will change things in any TV-watching home. Kids growing up in TiVo households will never experience the frantic call of the sibling, "Hurry up, it's on!" when they go to the bathroom. They'll never experience sprinting to get something from the kitchen or clean up part of the room during a commercial. They'll never tell their parents that they'll do something at the next commercial, nor will parents tell them that they have to go to bed at the next commercial. Kids won't have any need to complain that they need to stay up late because all their friends watch St. Elsewhere and they'll be left out in the discussions at school the next day. And it's possible to let kids watch commercial TV without watching commercials.

It's fundamentally different than when we got a VCR, or when we got cable. It's a change in the way kids experience televised media. Is it for the better?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Books, Books and More Books

Went to Baby Banana's school book fair today, and was pleased to see that I'm up on the latest kid books, even if Baby B isn't quite ready to be read to without chewing on the book yet. They had the usual complement of Mo Willems (who has a new one coming out in April), If You Give a..., Caldecott winners, etc. i dont' look forward to when my son wants books about Captain Underpants, but so be it.

Got me to thinking about what off-the-beaten path books I'm missing. It's easy enough to populate the library with recent award winners and the stuff everyone else is reading, but what am I missing? What are the books from your childhood that are must-reads? What book is your great little discovery that no one knows about? Mine is a book called So Do I. It's one of the few books I actually remember my mom reading to me. It's by Barbara Bel Geddes (yes, Miss Ellie) and it's a delightful, if totally dated, book about friendship. The pictures are colorful and wonderfully weird. I bought a copy from a used book dealer so Grandma Banana can read it to Baby Banana. Well worth your time if you see it in a used book store.

Oh, and for your amusement (I hope), this warning about the dangers of Goodnight Moon from the New York Times.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Behind Every Successful Man . . .

A friend of mine made partner at his firm last month. He's a great guy, he loves his firm, the promotion was richly deserved, and it's all a happy story. Except that there was one part of it that left me feeling a little queasy: when his mentor came to his office with the good news, he said: "Buy your wife a nice piece of jewelry." Now, my friend's wife doesn't much care about jewelry -- and the mentor has met her many times and knows her quite well. So my friend just looked at the mentor quizzically, waiting for an explanation. One was quickly forthcoming: the mentor said, "It's just a tradition. We've said that to new partners for generations."

I can't quite put my finger on what bugs me about this story. It's not the notion that the wife has made sacrifices so that her husband could succeed; that notion is probably true, regardless of whether the wife has a career outside the home or not. And it's not the notion that it is much easier to succeed if you have a supportive partner at home -- again, true in all marriages. And of course it's not the idea that one should be grateful for such support.

I guess what bothers me is that there seems to be a tacit presumption that the jewelry-receiving spouse doesn't have a career outside the home -- that behind every man at that firm is a wife at home keeping his dinner warm. And also a presumption that the person making partner is a man; what do you suppose they say to the (very few) women who make partner at that firm?

Or am I just being grinchy about a sweet and sentimental tradition?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cool Non-Kid-Related Gadget

This really has nothing to do with kids, but I have to plug this gadget! I have an iPod, and I adore it, but my use of it has been limited since I had Baby Banana, because I don't listen when I go out shopping or walking anymore because I've got him with me and, after all, I wouldn't want to prevent our fabulous conversations. (Me: "What do you see?" Him: "AhgaGAgaGAGA! Uh oh!")

I wanted to use my iPod at work (I need background noise), but it's formatted for the Mac and my work computer is a PC. I've been listening to internet radio (WTMX's 80s station is great, but after 2 months, I've had enough 80s for a while). And speaker systems for the iPod have, until recently been fairly expensve things concerned with great sound quality. While that's great, I keep the volume quite low in my office, so I care very little about sound quality - I just want to be able to listen to the darned thing.

So I bought this cute little device. It's called an iTopper, Brookstone makes it (or has at least branded it), and it's perfect for a little bitty personal speaker. It plugs right into the top of the iPod into the earphone port. The sound quality is what you'd expect for something that costs $35, but it's just right for what I need it for. I've been happily using my iPod all morning to listen to music that wouldn't be broadcast on Noggin!

See? I managed to work in the kid several times.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Diva's Second Child Top Ten List

Things at the Diva household are hectic, but extremely happy. We recently welcomed a new Diva Baby – a girl. This post is late to be put up, but was in fact written when Diva Baby was a mere 17 days old.

I always got a kick out of watching how friends treated the second child so differently than the first and I never doubted that we Divas would as well. But the extent to which it is different is mind boggling…mind boggling, I say! In particular:

Top Ten Things That Never Ever Would Have Happened With My First Child Within The First 17 Days of Life

10. Not washing my own hands every seven seconds until skin peels off;
9. Going out to dinner with husband on day 9 and leaving Baby alone with Baby Nurse, a.k.a. NEAR PERFECT STRANGER;
8. Allowing toddlers to come visit house and actually look at Baby.
7. Allowing nieces and nephews to hold Baby;
6. Taking Baby out for four hours of strolling about town doing errands and shopping;
5. Feeding Baby at the Home Depot;
4. Changing EXPLOSIVE poopy diaper (quite competently) at the Home Depot;
3. Microwaving formula (not holding under warm running water FOREVER while Baby screams);
2. Putting Baby down to sleep in crib and then going to sleep myself in my own room, in my own bed, without a monitor or anything;

And the Number One Thing That Never Ever Would Have Happened With My First Child Within The First 17 Days of Life:

1. Sitting down to write a blog post – or do anything else for that matter.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Obligatory "What Are You Thankful For?" Post

As a mom, the first thing that comes to mind as you sit around the table, debating what to say when it's your turn to give thanks, is the health of your family and friends. In other happy news, this year I am thankful for, in no particular order: supportive friends who got me through 13 weeks of bedrest; the fact that Spaceboyjunior is being evicted via induction one week from tonight; Spaceboy's going from about 10 words to speaking in sentences that include hilarious kidisms in the space of 2 months; Gilmore Girls on Family Channel every day; Us Magazine, and I'm not even embarrassed to admit it any more; my Blackberry; our awesome nanny; and Spacehusband/best friend, who lasted through 13 weeks of "Honeeeeeeyyyyyy, can you please get me some more waaaaaaaaater" and only cracked a handful of times. And of course, the Urban Mommies. I'm a lucky girl.

What's making you weepy with happiness these days?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cookies are Yummy!

In general, I find parenting magazines to be a little, well, wholesome. A quick scan of this month's covers include stories on turkey-themed craft projects, how The Apprentice's Carolyn juggles work and family, how to avoid turning into a stressball when your bundle of joy has the sniffles, how to make sure you've hooked up your car seat properly, fabulous baby shower ideas, seventeen different perspectives on co-sleeping, and so forth. Yawn.

So imagine my surprise upon receiving the inaugural issue of Cookie magazine in the mail yesterday. It's got everything an Urban Mommy could want:

  • Reviews of various strollers, ranging from reasonably-priced to super-duper high end
  • Suggestions for chic haircuts for one's child, including what to tell the hair stylist to ensure that you get the look you want
  • An essay on the national obsession with celebrity pregnancy and childbirth
  • Three top chefs' suggestions for uncomplicated kid-friendly recipes incorporating spinach
  • Twelve recommended family beach vacations, including some in places considerably more exotic than Orlando
  • Unique gift ideas for both children and adults
  • Pilates-themed exercises for pregnancy
  • All kinds of amusingly high-fashion kids' clothes mixed in with cute-but-less-outrageous selections -- including store names and (more importantly) lesser-known websites from which to purchase said adorable items

I read Cookie cover to cover in one sitting (something I don't do so often) and found myself dog-earing pages and making mental notes all over the place. Finally, a magazine about motherhood for the slightly less wholesome mommy.

Go forth and subscribe while the subscribing is cheap.

The Gift That Keeps On Confusing

The holiday season is upon us, and I'm left with an interesting question about gift giving. What is the appropriate gift for my son's day care providers?

A bit of background. My son has been attending since July, and it's five days a week, all day. It's a day care center (as opposed to a home based business) with multiple teachers, some of whom are full-time, some part-time. There are as many as eight teachers, and there are often subs from other rooms. To complicate matters, Baby Banana only moved into his current room two weeks ago - for his first 4 months he was in a different room with different teachers (6 of them). It's a Jewish day care, but most of the teachers are not Jewish.

I know that the rule of thumb with nannies involves giving them an extra week (or more) of salary as a holiday bonus, but I wouldn't know how to begin to translate that into this context (not only do I have no idea how much these folks make, and needless to say I can't give each of them a week's salary!). Is this a cash situation? A gift certificate situation? A gift situation? Some combination? Does everyone get the same amount/thing regardless of whether they are part or full time? Do I get something for subs who I've gotten to know? And perhaps most importantly, how do I deal with old room teachers and new room teachers? Thankfully, this year timing is not an issue as Chanukah starts on Christmas.

Thoughts are appreciated. Keep in mind that I want to be generous, but I don't want to go overboard and be seen as one of "those" parents.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I May Be Urban, But I Ain't Hip

For those looking to do a little holiday shopping, Babystyle is doing a sale right now - 20% off everything on the site plus free shipping. Code is TWENTYOFF. (I feel totally comfortable posting this since you'll see it the minute you go to their site.) Babystyle's emails are worth signing up for - they're forever having good sales and they carry things you rarely find on sale anywhere else, like Robeez shoes.

Anyway, one of the products on Babystyle's "Top 5 Books" list seemed apropos for this blog. It's a book called "Urban Babies Wear Black" by Michelle Sinclair Colman. The description is this: "For hip mamas and urban babies everywhere! This adorable board book takes a sneak peek at the average day in the life of babies who eschew goo-goo, ga-ga for the Guggenheim instead! Posh babies and little latte drinkers will appreciate the fine dining, gallery-going, yoga-practicing babes in this book, as well as the fresh and fun illustrations throughout." If anyone buys it, let me know how it is... we're not even remotely hip enough to own it.

And confidentially wishing good luck to one of our regular readers who will, with any luck, be welcoming baby 2.0 to the family sometime today!

EDITED TO ADD: OK, the sale isn't quite as good as I thought - the aforementioned Robeez are excluded from the sales, and already-discounted items don't count either, but it's a great deal on their regular priced stuff, and you get free shipping on everything regardless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So Where Is This "Work" Place, Exactly?

So it seems that Felicity's daughter has a pretty good handle on what "work" means. Even if she doesn't know exactly what her mom does all day, she knows that it involves sitting at a desk, writing on paper, and telling people not to bother you. Actually, given that I practice law for a living, that's a pretty accurate description of my day.

My own little girl, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have a clue what it is I do at the office - but she does have a handle on the sartorial aspects. This past weekend, I had to go in to the office on Sunday, for the first time since she was born (it was a true emergency). After breakfast, still in jeans and a sweater, I packed my briefcase and told her that mommy was heading to work and that I'd be back in the evening.

"But you're not wearing work clothes."
"It's ok, I don't have to wear work clothes."
"No - you can't go to work in your play clothes. Go put on work clothes."
"It's really ok - today is special and I can wear jeans to work."
"No! No! No wearing play clothes to work!"

What could I do? I changed into a pair of black trousers, then left. Mothers of two-year-olds need to pick their battles.

The next morning, I left for work early and the Mr. stayed with the Preschooler until our nanny arrived. (That's our usual morning routine.) As the Mr. was getting ready to go, the Preschooler asked, "Are you going to see Mommy at work? She is already there."

So evidently work is (a) a single monolithic place - everyone who goes to work goes to the same work, and (b) a place where you don't ever wear play clothes, no matter what.

Reminds me of my first job, from which I was once sent home for wearing trousers.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Just Wondering...Is There An Off Switch?

When Spaceboy was around 15 months old, I started to worry that he hadn't said his first word yet. Having read many, many parenting books, I was expecting a "mama" or at least a "dada" by then. When we got to 18 months and had only "nana" for his beloved bananas, I decided to have him evaluated for a possible speech delay. Everyone from our two pediatricians (that's including my pediatrician back home, who I consult on a regular basis) on down told me not to worry at all, that he would talk when he was ready, so I figured the specialist would tell me I was a neurotic first time mommy and that Spaceboy was just fine.

Instead, they put us in speech therapy 2 days a week. Everyone assured me that he would talk soon and not to worry, but that we'd better safe than sorry. So I decided to feel good about the fact that we were Doing Something, and I hoped that within a month or two, Spaceboy would get the message that he was supposed to talk (or at least start pointing), and we'd call the whole thing off.

Then another nine months went by. In that time, we added a few of the tiniest of baby words ("o'en" for open, "wawa" for water), but nothing much to put in the baby book. If you showed him a picture of his parents and interrogated him under bright lights, he might admit to knowing that it was mama and dada, but he never once called us by name. He never even said his own name. As one and a half turned into two and change, it became harder and harder to believe that he was ever going to speak.

And then one day this fall, Spaceboy decided to start talking. And talking. And talking and talking and talking. And within about 6 weeks, he had become one of those kids who just never shuts up, from morning to nap and from after nap to bed, and often during nap and in the middle of the night in his sleep. And he hasn't expressed a thought unless he's expressed it 25 times. And it is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Spacehusband and me, other than having Spaceboy in the first place.

The neat thing was that, to my untrained ear, he went through the same process as all the other toddlers I know, progressing from a few single words that only Mom and Dad could understand to lots of single words to very clear single words to suddenly using short sentences, singing songs, filling in words to his favorite books, and repeating everything we say (and nothing gets the whole family going like getting Spaceboy to do a few rounds of, "Oh, man, oh jeez!!"). Only because he was a lot older than most of our toddler friends were when they were learning to talk, it seemed to go a lot faster. So people would come over to visit, and then come back 2 weeks later and be blown away by the difference.

And like magic, once he could talk, everything else changed as well. Spaceboy went from trying to hide during Circle Time in his various yuppie classes to being Mr. Social, can't-wait-to-say-my-name-and-clap-and-sing-and-scream-YAY!!!! He started eating new food, including his first ever meat and his first ever post-Gerber vegetable. And, perhaps most significantly of all, he recently went through an entire haircut only screaming apoplectically and crying, instead of screaming and crying while trying to escape.

So in the end, everyone was right: he really did talk when he was ready, and it's almost hard to remember why I was so freaked out. It'll be so nice to someday be able to share my very own story of "My kid didn't talk until he was over two, and he went on to [astonishingly impressive accomplishment]!"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Love Letter to Flea

If you're not reading One Good Thing, you should be. Written by Flea, who is simultaneously the mother of 2 boys and the owner of a (now only mail order) sex toys shop geared toward women, this blog is a nice mix of perspectives from both of her worlds. The content is often very adult (of the "don't click on at work" variety), but the stuff she writes about parenting is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Her older son has sensory integration disorder and while he's doing quite well now, he's been a challenging child. Flea writes such passages as this:

I got an e-mail from a woman whose son got kicked out of preschool last week, asking if there was some club we could join, a club for mothers who cringe every time the phone rings, thinking it will be the school administrators telling us to come remove our hellion from the premises. A club with her, me, and Neal Pollack, sitting around saying things like:

"A biter. Yours?"

"A non-talker."

"Mine flips the light switches on and off until other children fall into seizures."


"Other people suck."


"More beer?"


She makes me laugh all the time, and often makes me cry. Go enjoy Flea.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How We Gonna Pay . . .

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

"Renting Baby Gear
November 8, 2005; Page D1

"The Problem: You want to avoid schlepping a crib, highchair and car seat aboard an airplane.

"The Solution: Most travel destinations now have rental companies for baby gear, and not just in resorts like Orlando, Fla. There are baby-gear places from Lake Tahoe to Rhode Island, and most will deliver to an airport or your hotel room or rental apartment. Car-rental companies often rent a child's car seat, but they don't guarantee availability. And a folding stroller may be convenient to carry around, but parents can rent a jogging or beach stroller on arrival. Some rental agencies offer familiar brands, and for an extra fee many will drop off diapers and formula with the baby gear. To find a baby-gear rental store, travelers can ask their hotel ahead of time, or look online at sites such as www.BabyAway.com. Caveat: If you don't pay for set-up, you may find yourself erecting an unfamiliar crib without the original instructions."

I haven't decided if this is brilliant or ridiculous. Parts of it are fraught with problems. First off, the two big items that are safety crucial are car seats and cribs - the items that seem to be most dealt with here. I'm not sure I'd feel all that safe using a rented crib or car seat for an infant, although I might for an older kid. Also with infants, you're mostly going to be taking a car seat on a plane anyway so you have a place to put the kid during the flight. And if you don't have a car seat with you, there could be serious problems getting to and from various airports.

On the other hand, this would be great for pack and plays, jogging strollers and the like, and there's a lot to be said for not schlepping diapers and formula. The cost of all of this starts to get prohibitive pretty fast if you're expecting to rent baby's entire gear set - $12 a day for cribs, $7-15 a day for strollers, $7 a day for high chairs, etc. - but if you really hate schlepping, it might be worth it, and the prices to rent things like a jogging stroller for a fun day out are pretty reasonable. And they're smart about it - providing things like gates (great for rental houses), buckets of toys, beach items, and the like.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Looking The Pony Right In The Mouth

I am going straight to hell, without passing Go, after I finish posting this. Now that that's out of the way, I feel free to begin the obnoxious complaining.

Why do my family members insist on buying presents for Spaceboy without ever asking me what he has or what he likes? When I have made him a fairly comprehensive Amazon wishlist that would take all the guesswork out of it? Yes, of course they don't have to buy him anything at all, but since they do, I think it's fair to assume they want to get him something he'll enjoy, so why don't they just ask?

We happen to live very far away from all family members, so it's not like they see him all the time and know that he's suddenly into robots and ghosts. They don't visit often, so they don't know that he already has the collected works of Mo Willems and an awful lot of Winnie The Pooh, plus most Thomas Trains and all the clothes he could ever need. They're really just taking a stab in the dark, and why would anyone want to do that when it's so easy to just ask the Mommy?

My mother-in-law has a total knack for bringing him things he already has whenever she visits. This has not yet posed a problem, because he has not yet learned to say, "Hey, I already have this!" So it's just a matter of scrambling to locate ours and hide it before she notices. Of course, I could do without her asking me, after she's already given it to him, if we have it already, and then acting shocked when I lie and say that we don't, as in, gee, he's so into trains, how could you not have bought him a book about trains? What kind of a mother are you?

Then there's my mother, who buys him a bunch of completely random things that he is not going to have any interest in at all. When he was about 21 months old, she came to visit and went on and on and on about how she'd brought presents, and wouldn't it be fun to open them and wasn't he excited for his presents? Which turned out to be three books about Passover, two of which said "Ages 8 and up" on them, and a pair of socks that (a) had Boston Red Sox logos on them and (b) were way too small. Now, of course, she didn't have to get him anything, but if she was hoping for a big reaction and a lot of excitement out of him, there are probably other things she could have done that would have gotten a better result.

So my mom is coming to help with Spaceboyjunior in a few weeks, and she just informed me that she's bringing all 8 of Spaceboy's Hanukkah presents with her. "Seven of them are books!" she informed me gleefully. Apparently she has decided that she is the Giver Of Books, although the failure to ask any questions about what books we already have leads me to think this is not going to go as well as she hopes. Sad for both her and Spaceboy, isn't it? And the 8th gift is "a toy, and I know you already have a lot of toys, but this is something much more educational." Yes, because the only toys we buy him are mindless button-pushing types of things; heaven knows we don't buy him educational toys. It's not that I mind having stuff to get rid of after she leaves. It's just that if she's going to spend the money, and she wants to get him something he'll like, why is she so opposed to the Amazon wishlist?

Hey, I said I was going to hell. Don't judge me. What's the worst gift your family has gotten your kid?

Monday, November 07, 2005

My Mommy Takes the Morning Train

The Metropolitoddler has recently discovered the joy of playing "work." I knew this would happen at some point. The visuals are hilarious -- she pulls her little chair over to one side of the room next to a big storage tub containing outgrown clothes and the like, sits back on her chair, props her feet up on the tub, and settles in with a book.

"What are you doing, sweetie?"

"I working. Please don't talk to me right now."

"What are you working on?"

"I doing work. I very busy."

A variation on this is tub as actual desk, with markers busily scribbling important work notations on construction paper. "I writing work things, Mommy."

I'm just waiting until she gets to be old enough to have some concept of what I actually do for a living. Then I'll get to hear her shouting things into the phone like "Sell, dammit, sell! Hit that bid and get back to me!" I can't wait.