Friday, July 30, 2010

Not a mom car kind of gal.

It is car shopping time for me. Geico has provided me with a check for my totaled Mustang, so the time has come to try to find a replacement for my beloved car.

At the outset, realize two things:  1) I hate car shopping, and 2)  My Mustang is about as replaceable as my husband.  As in, I could - technically there are other models out there - but I'd rather stab myself in the face with an icepick than go through all the rigamarole associated with finding a new one.  (Yes, honey, that means I love you.  I love you at least as much as I loved the Mustang - and that's a LOT!).

When I bought the Mustang, I was single and without a care in the world about things like front wheel drive or backseats suitable for a baby seat or passenger comfort or staying dry during rainstorms.  That car was for me.  Things have obviously changed now, so it would be completely irresponsible to get a "just for me" car.  I could - we do have our Jeep Patriot, which makes a fantastic family car - but I'm going to do the reasonable thing and get a car the whole family can enjoy.  But I still want it to be fun.  I know I won't find my dream car - I hate to be melodramatic, but really, my dream car was what got totaled in the flood last week.  Right now I'm focused on finding that perfect mix of awesome-yet-useful, cool-yet-kid friendly.

So far, it ain't happening.  I spy a marketing niche here.  Detroit, are you listening?  (Er, Detroit?  Is anyone even there anymore?)

Let me use some photos to illustrate the problem.

What I really want:

This is a 1959 Ford Galaxie in Indian Turquoise.  Beautiful car, but terrible idea for me.  Setting aside the face that I don't know a damn thing about cars, making a high-maintenance classic a bad, bad, bad idea, I'm pretty sure that the world didn't give a lick about safety issues back in those days, which means this isn't a great choice for driving around with Jack. Le sigh.

I also really want:

That's a Lamborghini something or other (see?  I'm not good at cars.  I just know what looks pretty).  Somehow though Geico failed to give me $200,000.00 for my totaled Mustang - incredible, I know - so I need to stick to a budget. Also, after what happened to the Mustang, driving a car that's worth more than my house would make me reaaaaaaaly nervous.  I'm not sure you could clear a puddle with this car.

And finally, what I really, really want:

It doesn't even need to have time-travel capabilities, although that would be nice.  But beggars can't be choosers.  I have wanted a DeLorean pretty much my entire life and I'm still convinced that someday, somehow, I will have one.  I envision myself with my Z. Cavaricci jeans and Members Only jacket, cruising in my gull-winged beauty.  I'll think I'm totally awesome.  And I'll be totally wrong about that.

So those are what I want.  Sadly, what my budget and mom car safety issues dictate looks more like this:

Yes, this is a Toyota Camry.  Did you fall asleep looking at that photo?  I know I did.  When I Googled "Camry" to find a photo of one, I saw a picture with a sexy girl posing by a Camry, and all I could think was "why?"  A frumpy woman with two kids, mom jeans and a PTA bumper sticker seems more appropriate.

I'm certain I just offended all my Camry-driving readers.

So, you see my dilemma.  I'm convinced that there's no such thing as a muscle car for moms.  Or a family sports car.  Or a kid-friendly hot rod.  There's totally a market for that type of car - I can't be the only one, right?  Maybe the automotive industry would be in better shape if they listened to me.

Ford?  GM?  Call me.  I have ideas.  In the meantime, I'll be pining for my DeLorean while test driving Chryslers.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thoughtful Baby Gift Guide

There are so many ways to shop for gifts for a new baby. Some people like to stick strictly to the registry. Others buy online weeks ahead of the occasion. Many pick up a present on the way to the baby shower. For those looking for a baby gift that won't blend in with the avalanche of newborn onesies and receiving blankets that most new moms receive, here are some thoughtful and creative gift suggestions.

Think Big Picture.  Mom is going to receive a lot of newborn and 0-3 sized clothing, but that baby is going to grow and depending on the clothing brand, some babies come home from the hospital in 3-6 sized clothing.  If you want to select a clothing or other age-related gift, think big picture:  that little newborn is going to be a six month old in the blink of an eye, so check out the 3-6 and 6-9 selections.  Just remember to keep the climate in mind:  a Wisconsin baby born in December probably won't have much use for warm fleece jammies in size 6-9.

If you want to avoid clothing altogether, remember that there are plenty of other age-dependent gifts that mom will appreciate long after baby outgrows all his newborn onesies.  The Constructive Eating utensil set is a fun gift that mom will love when she introduces solids, and baby will enjoy once he begins exploring the world of self-feeding.  These utensils: a forklift fork, a front-loader spoon and a bulldozer utensil to push food around, make a great gift.  Pair the utensils with the Constructive Eating plate, with its ramps and steps, for a great gift for around $30.00.

Do you Etsy?  As though you don't already know, is a fantastic place to shop for all kinds of handmade and vintage gifts including some of the most fabulous baby items that you just can't find at Target or Babies R'Us.  Need some inspiration?  How about some custom blocks spelling out baby's name?  Or an adorable hat perfect for the newborn photography shoot?  A monogrammed newborn gift set?  The possibilities are as endless as the creativity of the Etsy sellers and a handmade gift is likely to be one of mom and baby's most memorable presents.

Know mom's feeding plans and philosophies.  Is mom planning on breastfeeding?  A package of breastfeeding care items can make a very thoughtful gift, particularly because mom doesn't always anticipate the challenges of breastfeeding.  A Twitter reader suggested So That's What They're For, Janet Tamaro's friendly and encouraging breastfeeding primer as a great read for mom. Pair that with some lanolin, nursing pads, some nutritious ready-to-eat snacks and hot/cold packs for a nice gift that will get much more use than even the cutest receiving blanket.

Helping Hands.  A gift certificate for the services of a post-partum doula may be the ultimate gift for a new mom.  The post-partum doula can help educate mom and the entire family on new baby care, she can assist with breastfeeding issues, and she can help mom attain the level of confidence she needs to have in her own ability to respond to her newborn's needs.  A great FAQ on post-partum doulas can be found here.

Did you wait until the last minute?  That's okay, it happens to everyone once in awhile.  Here's a gift idea that you can get at Target or Wal-Mart that isn't exactly pretty, but it may be one of mom and baby's most used items in those first few months (and beyond - my son still loves his!).  Moms everywhere swear by the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Soothe and Glow Seahorse.   Squeeze Seahorse's belly and he'll play soft music with quiet ocean sounds for a full five minutes.  The soft sounds and warm, comforting glow can help lull baby to sleep.  The Seahorse (Cecil, in our house) is relatively inexpensive, so you can pair him with some other soothing items - Aveno's Lavender Calming Lotion or some fabulous Burt's Bees baby products for a thoughtful gift that mom will definitely appreciate when she's trying to convince her little one that thirty minutes of sleep at a time just isn't enough.

And, some final advice:  Unless you are shopping off of a registry, buying things like bottles and pacifiers are best avoided unless you know what mom's plans are regarding bottle feeding and pacifier use.  Don't make any assumptions based on your own experiences or philosophies, and don't assume that mom is going to change her mind once the baby arrives.  Let her be confident in her own decisions - there are plenty of other great, far more thoughtful gifts out there.

Readers, what were some of your most thoughtful shower gifts?  What did you wish you had received?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How High's the Water, Mama?

Fox River, Waukesha, WI

We had a lot of rain in Southeastern Wisconsin last week.  Rain on our already saturated ground meant flooding in some areas.  The Fox River swelled, swallowing up the scenic walkways on its banks.
60th and Mill Road, Milwaukee, WI.
The interior of my 2001 Mustang.  A total loss.

I was lucky to only lose a car.  Many people lost family heirlooms and some even lost their houses.  Sewerage backups into homes meant that much of what got wet was not at all salvageable - it became a health risk.
Plenty of company in the deep water.
To put it all into perspective, one young man lost his life when his car was swept from the road and into a fast-moving creek.  The whole thing was a damn shame.

A thief among us

There is a thief among us.  I don't know who it is.  I don't know how they do it.  But I'm certain they exist.

Someone is stealing our cloth diapers. 

As Exhibit A, I present to you the Happy Hempy (and yes, I'm quite aware that it is difficult to protest the "hippie" label when you have cloth diapers named Happy Hempies.  In my defense, they were on sale for $8 each.  But, I digress).  The Happy Hempy:  We had two of these - I know we did.  They are a wonderful pocket diaper and definitely among my favorites.  But now we have only one.  Someone stole a Happy Hempy.

And if that isn't enough, I present to you Exhibit B:  a missing Goodmama.  (Cloth diaper mamas everywhere are gasping right now - I know, right?  The nerve!)  For the uninitiated, Goodmamas are fashionable, collectible cloth diapers.  Yeah, collectible, like beanie babies.  Some patterns and styles are highly desired and they fetch crazy prices on the resale market.  You think I'm making this up, don't you?  No, really, there are collectible diapers. 

(Have you noticed that if I didn't digress so much, my blog would be really, really short?  Well, I have one more digression, in the form of a confession:  I'm not even a huge Goodmama fan - I have far better diapers that cost a fraction of the Goodmamas - but I saw a bandwagon so of course I hopped right on and bought a few.  And now one is missing, and I want answers.

And along with these missing diapers, we're missing a TON of inserts.  We used to have a good surplus - now we don't have enough inserts for as many diapers as we have.  

How does this happen?  I keep all of Jack's cloth diapers in one dresser drawer.  They all get washed together, with nothing else because I use a special detergent on them.  They all get dried together, either on the line outside or in the dryer.  And then I trek them back upstairs to the dresser drawer.

Is there a secret vault in my dryer where they are hiding?  Is someone stealing them off of the clothesline?  Is this some variation of the eternal missing sock mystery? 

Is there a diaper heaven? 

In any event, if you see a baby running around in a tan dyed Goodmama with blue trim, flaunting a Happy Hempy, give me a call.  I want to question him.


Friday, July 23, 2010

And now for something completely different

Today's blog was going to be about thoughtful baby shower gifts. I have been working on the piece for a few days and was going to finish it up Thursday night. The weather had a different plan for me, and so I am going to share the story of how my car was destroyed last night.

This is my Mustang. It is a 2001 convertible with the upgraded stereo system and fabulous white racing stripe. I have owned it since 2003, and it was my first car. I have often declared that the happiest day of the year is the first day of the year that I can drive the Mustang with the top down. It is exactly the car I had always wanted, and I've always said that once I had finally driven the car into the ground, I'd get another one just like it.  I have so many memories with this car - Summerfest, the Dells, the fireworks, so many good memories.  I truly love this car.

All day Thursday I was looking forward to getting home so that we could pack the Jeep and get ready to leave at dawn for our big camping trip.   We were supposed to have some heavy rain, but for the most part it held off all day.  Until it was time to head home.  Then the sky opened up.  I made a mad dash for my car and was soaked by the time I sat down.  The radio traffic update advised me to avoid the I-43 freeway as the rains had brought the traffic to a halt.  I decided to travel west on Good Hope Road with the plan of meeting the 45 freeway to finish my journey home.  The water was getting deep in parts of Good Hope but I sallied forth until the 76th Street intersection, cheering on my little "Duckstang" as it navigated the streets with little problem.  But at the 76th Street intersection cars were making U-turns in the middle of the street because the intersection was impassable.  I too turned around and tried to take surface streets south in search of higher ground.  The rain was coming down so hard that I couldn't tell what was road and what wasn't.  I turned from side street to side street trying to avoid the deep water, although it was getting harder because I couldn't see much of anything through the gray sheets of rain coming down.  I was afraid to stop because as cars came through the deep water it was clear that their control was questionable and I didn't want to get hit by a car being swept through the water. 

Ultimately, I ended up on 60th Street with quite a few other cars, which made me nervous because no one had sufficient control in those conditions.  I saw the road ahead dip and I knew the water was deep but I couldn't slow down for fear of getting rear-ended.  My only hope was to try to plunge forward but as I did I saw more and more cars stuck in the intersection, water-logged.

I didn't panic until I felt my feet get wet.  It took a moment for the sensation to make sense in my head:  my feet were getting wet because the water was coming up through my floorboards.  My car was being soaked.  I turned on my hazards - I was in trouble.  Soon my feet were covered, and I tried to stop, to save my car, but I couldn't - the water swept me forward.  The water rose and I saw the passenger side floormat rising.  The water came up to the seat and I knew my car was gone.

My car was gone.  I could swear that time stopped as the realization set in.  My car was gone.

A second later and the water was covering the car seat, then up to my waist.  I looked into the backseat and saw my briefcase with my court files for Monday floating, soaked.  I had to get out of the car before I couldn't.  I pushed on the door and it wouldn't budge.  The water was holding the door shut.  A thousand horror movie-fueled nightmares played out in my head and I pushed with everything I had and it opened and more water poured into my car.  I got out into waist-deep murky, dirty water and slogged myself to the side of the road and climbed a hill.  I don't know how but I had my car keys in one hand and my blessedly dry cell phone in the other.  I called my husband and I called my mom, panicked and sorrowful.  Terrified.  I didn't want to even look at my car, but I didn't want to leave it either.  I was soaking wet with filthy water as I walked up the hill to a church where lovely people were handing out towels.  I wasn't alone - there were waterlogged cars everywhere, some abandoned, others not. 

I called my insurance company and watched as city buses plowed through the water, creating wakes that buried my car and others.  I watched as other drivers thought they could make it through the water, some did and some failed.  I had to ask the nice Geico lady to repeat herself when she said "total loss."  I had to ask her what that meant, and then what I already knew became real. 

Total loss.

Remembering my poor floating briefcase, I knew I had to return to the car.  I also wanted to turn out the hazard lights so...why?  I don't actually know.  I didn't want the battery to wear down, but why did that matter?  I plunged back into the cold, dirty water and waded to my car.  I wasn't able to close the door completely when I left so getting in wasn't hard.  I retrieved my soaked briefcase and a coat.  I managed to drop my keys and had to search the dark water to find them again.  I waded back to shore and waited for my rescue.

I can't stop thinking about my car, but I'm not really upset.  No, I'm not, actually.  I loved this car, and now I no longer have it.  It is a statement of fact, and not something I feel upset or emotional about, and I don't know why.  I feel like I should be upset, angry, sad.  I'm not. 

Do you know what does upset me?  This single thought:  what if Jack had been in his carseat, in the back seat?  Would I have been able to get him out?  Would I have been able to navigate that tricky belt buckle through murky water, in the small, hard to reach backseat?  Sweet little blue eyes looking up at me, panicked and afraid, not understanding why cold water was coming into his carseat.  I can't shake that thought.

The fact is that Jack and his carseat have never been in the Mustang because the backseat is so small and it never seemed safe to me, but that doesn't stop that thought from haunting me.  I could play a game of a million "what-ifs" with respect to the car - what if I had stayed on Good Hope Road instead of turning off?  What if I left ten minutes earlier?  Or later?  But the only what-if that concerns me at all is what if Jack had been with me.  Everything could have changed in the blink of an eye.

My family is safe.  My home is safe.  Thank you, God.

There are more cars.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Anyone for a Haiku?

I hope so because this morning is way too busy for a full and fabulous blog post, although I've got a great article on thoughtful baby gifts which is in the works and should go live before the end of the week.

For now though I'm going to follow the lead of some of my favorite fellow bloggers, Kit at Blogging Dangerously and Sulfa, who wrote a very poignant post today, and tell you what is keeping me so darn busy right now, in the form of haiku:

Camping with baby
Oh, dear Jesus, so much gear!
I need a sherpa.

Comments in the form of  haiku will get gold stars on their report cards.  5-7-5, folks!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Why cook for a baby?

I've been wanting to make homemade baby food for awhile now, but I've been stymied by my lack of a food processor and my own cheap refusal to buy one. My dear mom remedied that last week when she gave me her nearly-new but never used food processor and I couldn't wait to get started.

I have to say, if I can make baby food - and I did - then anyone can. It is just as easy as it sounds and I don't think I'll ever go back to the little Gerber containers again.

So how easy is it? Let's take carrots as an example. I bought six carrots at the local farmer's market on Saturday. I peeled them, cut them into chunks and steamed them with my poor-man's steamer (i.e. a pot of boiling water with a colander resting in it and a lid on top) and pureed them in the food processor, adding water as needed to make a smooth puree. Easy as that. For longer-term storage, I can put the puree into an ice cube tray and make little frozen carrot puree-cicles that I can thaw as needed.

Certainly that was more work than going to Wal-Mart and picking up the little Gerber containers (though really, not much more). So why do it?

1. I know where my vegetables came from. The carrots I used came from a farm in Delavan, Wisconsin, grown by an older couple who sells at the farmer's market every Saturday. The zucchini and squash medley I prepared was made with vegetables grown in Jackson, Wisconsin. This serves my goal of eating locally, and it also lets me support some of the smaller businesses in the area. 

2. I create less waste. Those little Gerber containers are great for convenience, but every itty-bitty serving is stored in a plastic container with a plastic lid, wrapped up in twos with a cardboard wrapper. That's a lot of trash for a little food. On top of that, I have some mild concerns about the composition of the plastics used in the packaging. While some baby food companies use glass containers - a far more environmentally friendly option if reused or recycled - why not cut the waste out entirely? While "reuse" and "recycle" are great things, let's not forget the first of the three "Rs:" REDUCE.

3. I can have some fun with the flavors. Right now I have a ridiculously delicious smelling zucchini and summer squash medley pureed and waiting for my hungry baby. I don't see that on the store shelves, and what I do see doesn't smell nearly as wonderful as what I've made in my kitchen.

4.  I had fun.  While the zucchini and squash were being steamed I made some fantastic zucchini bread and read up on zucchini recipes which led to a really delicious dinner for us big people, too.  I love how that all worked out.

5.  Jack loves the results.  I love seeing his expressions as he tries the new flavors and textures of the foods I prepared for him.  Moreover, I feel like I am giving him a better option for eating.  After all, we don't eat prepackaged take-out every day, so why should he? 

We are really having a great time with our homemade baby food.Want to try it yourself? - THE resource on all things related to the creation, storage and use of homemade baby food. 



Sunday, July 18, 2010

My husband's superpower revealed!

Remember when I said I'd never blog about baby poop?  No?  Good.  Because this blog involves poop.  If you don't want to read about poop, then this isn't the blog for you today.

This is also one of those posts that my husband is going to kill me for when he reads it. Fortunately, he only checks out my blog on occasion, so I should live for at least a few days after writing this. After this article goes live, though, I'm basically on borrowed time.  You'll miss me when I'm gone.  But I have to share this with somebody, and by "somebody," I mean "all of the Internets."

My husband has a supernatural ability to tell when our son has pooped.

Unless I actually see actual poo, I wouldn't know that my son had a poopy diaper if he grabbed my face, looked into my eyes and said "Momma, there be crap in me pants!" I don't recognize any of the poo cues, and I certainly don't have the finely attuned sense of smell that my husband has. I swear it is a sixth sense.

My husband has turned poo detection into a fine art.  He knows every poopoo face that my son has ever mustered.  He knows that a raised eyebrow means that a poo is imminent.  He tells me that the turned up Elvis lip means that the poo is being delivered to the diaper at that very moment.  He swears that the crinkled nose and scrunched up eyes mean that the poo has landed, and boy is baby mad about it.  And he knows the meaning behind every iteration of these faces.  He's a regular poo-ologist.

I'd see all of those cues and think "aw, baby's making faces."  Clearly, I have much to learn.

He hasn't just mastered visual detection, though.  There is an audio element to this detection mastery, and I don't mean the sound of baby toots.  My husband can identify every baby grunt and decipher its meaning.  He can distinguish a poo grunt from a frustration grunt from a "I'm grunting because it is a new sound and I like to make new sounds" grunt.  He's totally fluent in babygruntese.  Me?  I need a translator.

The most finely-tuned aspect of my husband's poo-dar is his ability to smell a dirty diaper from nearly any distance.  I can be in the house, holding the baby in my arms and be totally oblivious to the diaper situation while my husband can be out in the yard, smoking a cigar, and he'll tell me that Jack's diaper needs changing.  We can be in a room full of babies, each with a questionable diaper status, and my husband can determine whether it is Jack who needs to be changed.  And he's infuriatingly right every single time.

So, if anyone has any idea on how to turn this remarkable talent into a marketable profit, let me know.  We'll give you a cut of the earnings.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

My "Boy Mom" Moment

August 11, 2009 was the day of my "big ulstrasound;" the day we learned that our little baby was in fact going to be a boy. It was the day I had to pack up my visions of sweet frilly dresses and tea parties and try to figure out what to do with a boy. I mean, what do boys like? Sticks? Mud? Bugs? Little cars? This is going to be complicated.

This week I had a big glimpse into what it is going to be like to be the mom of a little boy, although I guess I can't fairly call this my first "boy mom" moment. That happened at the hospital, the very day little Jack was born, when he shot a champion pee stream into the air and across our hospital room. I couldn't do anything to contain the flow because I was laughing so hard. My husband saved the day by scrambling a diaper to cover the spout. (Of course he'll never let me live that one down). That was my first "boy mom" moment.

My first major "boy mom" moment happened this week. Jack has learned a new sound this week: the raspberry. Of course, being Jack, he can't just do it occasionally, or quietly, or in private. No, this boy goes for the gusto. He takes this new skill of his and practices it every chance he gets, in all kinds of company. And it isn't just a simple raspberry sound. No, Jack couldn't do it that way. He has to make the biggest, baddest, wettest, oh-my-god-I-just-crapped-my-pants fart sound every time he does it.

Oh, but that's not all. No. This is Jack. He doesn't do things halfway.

Instead of simply doing one of these monster shart raspberries and then moving on to something else, he has developed an equally gross, wet, suctioning sound to inhale with. This gives him the ability to make a string of wet, sloppy raspberries in a row, which sounds like squishyfart-suck-squishyfart-suck-squishyfart-suck. And repeat. Did I mention that it's really loud, too?

Yeah, it's great. And,yeah, people stare.  I get everything from the "you need to change that boy's diaper, STAT" to the "ohmygod honey I think that woman just farted" stare.  No, really, it's the baby.  And it was his face.  I swear.  Thanks, Jack.

As for Jack, he thinks it's hilarious. We definitely have a boy on our hands.


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Big To-Do

I've been wanting to make this list for awhile, and I was reminded last week by a good e-friend that lists like this can be fun and cathartic. I could call it a bucket list, but that sounds morbid and today is sunny and beautiful and I don't want to think about morbid things. Instead, this is my big To-Do List for life. It is ever changing and evolving, it is honest, and if I'm not constantly adding to it and crossing things off, then I'll have disappointed myself. I'm not going to let that happen.

And so begins my list, in no particular order.

1. I want to ride a horse. It is only through cruel twists of fate that I've never ridden a horse.  Like all young girls, I loved horses.  I had about eleventy-gazillion toy horses, each with a name and a story and piles of pretend trophies.  I grew up on a farm, with a beautiful horse barn that was totally devoid of horses. I had a mom who took horseback lessons for years.  She came from a family of riders.  My father owned countless horses long before I was born.  I should have been a rider.  But when I came along, all the horses were gone.  That needs to change.  Maybe I won't even like it, but I need to give it a try.

2.  I want to go rock climbing.  I'd say mountain climbing, but actually I'm not that adventurous yet.  And as my California husband is quick to point out, we're in Wisconsin, there's no mountains here.  So I'll start small - I'd like to rock climb.

3.  I want to ride a snowmobile.  Wait, I just said I live in Wisconsin, yet I've never ridden a snowmobile?  Well, that's not exactly true - it has been years.  My last ride was in middle school.  Someday I want to participate in my state's great tradition of going up north, getting on a snowmobile, and bar hopping.  (Could I possibly throw any more Wisconsin stereotypes into this one?  Yeah - I could.  I didn't mention the Packers, brats, cheese or a Harley, eh?)

4.  Speaking of Harleys, I want to own a motorcycle.  Though not a Harley-Davidson.  I know, I have to forfeit all of the Wisconsin cred that I just earned with the previous item, but I'm pretty enamored with the Russian-made Ural.  Rawr!  See the sidecar?  That's for Jack, when he's older.

5.  I want to live by the lake.  Even if it is just for the summer, I want to wake up to the sounds of the gulls.  I want to have coffee while listening to the waves.  I want to walk barefoot to and from the beach and track sand through my kitchen.  I want to swim among the seaweed and fish from a pier.  I'm in love with the lake lifestyle.

6.  I want to pan for gold.  And not just in the trough at Knott's Berry Farm, as fun as that is.  I want to go back to the Colorado River and pan.  I did it when I was in third grade - my daddy Jack took me to the mountains and bought me a big black plastic gold pan.  I kept that pan for years, through many moves and downsizings and sadly it has disappeared.  I want to go back and reclaim that memory.

7.  I want to go to New Orleans.  This is a tough one for me, for a lot of reasons.  First, while I firmly believe that I can take my son with me for nearly everything, New Orleans is one of those places that I just don't need to take a baby, or a toddler, or a grade schooler, or maybe even a middle school boy.  It is also tough because I have beautiful, amazing memories of pre-Katrina New Orleans: the colors and sights and sounds and smells, the wild abandon.  I loved taking it all in, from the early mornings before the city comes to life to the wee hours of the night when the city is pulsing with energy.  I've also been to post-Katrina New Orleans, not long after the storm changed everything.  It was like visiting a good friend that you haven't seen in years only to find that the vivacious young woman you remembered, the one just bursting with life has fallen ill and is but a frail, sickly shadow of herself.  It is hard to go there, but my love for that city will never die.

8.  I want to take a family road trip.  Remember National Lampoon's Vacation?  That's my inspiration, sort of.  At least in spirit.  I want to pack my family into the Jeep and drive, drive, drive to some faraway attraction, stopping at roadside diners and small town oddities on the way, collecting tacky souvenirs and taking polaroids of our memorable moments.  And if, at the end of it, we hate our car, the road, and each other, we'll get over it, and we'll have made some great memories.

9.  I want to have a wildly successful garden.  This one will happen.  Each year, my garden gets a little bigger and a little better.  Each year, I learn some valuable lessons.  Like, squirrels love peppers and will go to great lengths to eat them.  And raspberry bushes expand exponentially, but cucumbers will take over the earth if unabated.  Each year, I have a little less frustration, a little more success, and if I keep baby-stepping along, someday it will look like I know what I'm doing.

10.  I want to see Alaska.  This one is going to surprise a lot of people that know me.  No lie: I shiver when the temperature dips below 70.  The winter coat comes out around 65 degrees.  In winter, you'll find me with the heat cranked up, fully clothed under a mountain of blankets, counting the days until spring and blessed, blessed summer.  Alaska was never, ever even a thought in my head because to me, Alaska = cold and cold = bad.  Lately though, it has been a thought in my head and it won't go away.  I find myself reading books about Alaskan adventures and I get engrossed in shows about its natural beauty and rugged wilderness.  Maybe someday.

That's my list, for now, until it changes.

What's on  your list?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cosleeping education takes a lesson from the abstinence only camp.

The City of Milwaukee, with the help of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has made an effort to raise awareness about what it terms "cosleeping deaths" in the City. Over the past year and a half, the Journal has reported case after case of babies dying as a result of being crushed or suffocated while sleeping in a bed or on a sofa with a parent. The Milwaukee Health Department's response has been to launch a new campaign urging parents not to cosleep at all, and offering a Pack n Play as a safe sleep location alternative for families who cannot afford a crib. I saw the first anti-cosleeping television spot this morning.

I'll say it: I have a big problem with this.

Let me explain why, by way of analogy:  Remember abstinence-only education?  Abstinence-only sex education focuses only on abstinence from sex.  It excludes information about birth control, safe sex, and other sexual and reproductive health education.  The impetus behind this is the assumption that if we tell young people about contraception and safe sex, they will think it is okay to have sex.  This method of sex education has been widely criticized by opponents who say that if teenagers want to have sex, they will, and the best sex education advises them of the safe sex options that are available so that if they do have sex they will be prepared.

Milwaukee's "all cosleeping is bad" approach is very much like abstinence-only education.  Some parents are going to cosleep no matter what the television says.  Instead of telling them that they are bad parents who are going to kill their children (the "abstinence-only" approach), let's educate them on the safe methods of cosleeping.  It is abundantly clear from the reported cosleeping deaths that the parents involved were not educated on safe cosleeping,* as the deaths often involve alcohol, drug use, or a poor sleep location such as a couch.

Frustratingly, the Milwaukee Health Department doesn't even appear to acknowledge that there are safe methods for cosleeping.  Personally, I am a huge fan of the Snuggle Nest, an infant "bed" that fits safely on an adult bed.  Other parents find the Arms Reach Cosleeper a wonderful alternative.  Yet the Health Department is silent on these alternatives, hoping instead that parents who could otherwise cosleep safely will instead resign their child to a crib and ignoring the idea that many will simply disregard the public service announcements and continue to sleep unsafely on the sofa with their infant.

*Obviously, the alternate explanation is that the parents involved just don't care, and no amount of education or PSAs will change that.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Round, round, get around, I get around (guest blog time!)

I had such a good time writing this guest blog for Miranda at Not Super...Just Mom. She took me up on my offer to write a guest post and gave me the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite things: vintage toys.

If any of these pictures bring back fond memories, then you need to head over to Not Super...Just Mom and check out my guest blog on the return of vintage toys.  And while you are there, be sure to read some of her other posts (and if you are a "boy mom," you must read this one) she's one of my favorite mom-bloggers.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Bird Search

How many birds do you see in my backyard?

Bonus question: Can you see the squirrel?


Four seasons of eating locally

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk About Food

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I envy my southern friends who share their spring garden success stories, or talk about the fruit they found at the local farmer's market in February.  In northern states like mine, with long winters and hot summers, we don't have those luxuries.  Eating locally can be a real challenge, but sometimes the thrill of the hunt is as good as the food we find.  Every season has something to offer by way of local food, and if variety is truly the spice of life, then we're heaping on that spice right here.

While Wisconsin weather is totally unpredictable, the biggest, ugliest piles of snow start to melt in March, and aside from an occasional late April snow shower, things start to get green after the Easter holiday.  As the frozen ground turns to mud, our thoughts turn to gardening.  The local garden stores bring out their seeds and peat pots, and gardeners get busy planning out this year's bounty.  I began my garden planning in March and found that my old garden was too small for everything I had planned.  In April I began starting my peppers and eggplants indoors.  By May I had doubled my garden space and by Memorial Day all of my seeds and plants were in the ground.

Planning is all well and good, but what about eating?  A handful of farmer's markets open in April, typically featuring meats, cheeses, early rhubarb, maple syrup, mushrooms and greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes.  The variety is a little lacking in the beginning, but it only gets better as the year goes on.

Summer is simply the season for eating locally in a cooler climate.  By May and June all of the local farmer's markets are in full swing, featuring everything from strawberries to broccoli to chard and lettuce greens.  In July, squash, eggplant, melons, carrots and beans are fully stocked, while August brings on the greatest bounty yet:  cherries, cucumbers, shallots, garlic, artichoke, onions, parsley, parsnips, pears, plums, potatoes, sweet corn and so much more.

The farmer's markets have to share the spotlight with local gardens by this time of the year.  In early summer, tomatoes, peppers, onions and peas are making their appearances in the garden.  By mid summer we see cucumbers, ripe tomatoes and all kinds of peppers, beans, eggplant, just to name a few.

Another summer favorite that's especially fun with children are the "pick your own" farms.  Strawberries, raspberries and apples are the most popular "pick your own" attractions, while cherries and beans are fun options too.

While summer brings the best fresh harvest, fall can't be beat for one thing:  canning.  The late season farmer's markets are the best place to find cucumbers suitable for pickling, apples perfect for applesauce, fruits of all kinds for jellies and preserves, and tomatoes and peppers perfect for a chili base on a cold winter night.

A good number of farmer's markets soldier on into the fall months, as apples, pumpkins and corn remain viable and are very popular as the weather turns cool.

In response to the increasing popularity of organic foods and local eating, Milwaukee now has its very own winter farmer's market.  Last year was the inaugural year for the market, and despite the fact that many vendors hadn't planned for year-round sales, the variety was not bad.  In this coming winter we should see much more variety as the sellers have planned ahead for the demand created by this unique market.

Eating locally has been a fun endeavor for our family, and every year we add some new local flavor to our menu.   Every season brings its own challenges and its own rewards, and we're enjoying it immensely.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)


Sunday, July 11, 2010


For the past three months Jack has exhibited various behaviors associated with teething: drooling, gnawing, rosy cheeks and the occasional fussing.  Every flashlight examination of his little gums so far showed no evidence of teeth until Sunday, on the way home from our weekend in the Wisconsin Dells.

Jack bit Daddy.  And like everything Jack does, it was so precious I nearly cried.  Seriously, as I was driving down 94 from Madison towards Milwaukee, I nearly bust out into tears because my son was getting his first lil' teeth.

I fear I'm becoming "that mom."  The one who thinks that everything her kid does is the sweetest, most precious thing on earth.  The one who believes every milestone (carefully photographed and catalogued) is evidence of her child's genius.  The one who thinks that her child's loud wailing at a restaurant is cute.  ("How sweet, he's singing!")  The one who blogs (and tweets, and Facebooks) about silly little moments, like the discovery of brand new baby teeth.  I'm trying not to go down that road, but it is a slippery slope.

I've already become the mom that absolutely goes grape nuts over little tiny babies (have you ever said ZOMG THOSE CHEEEEKS! out loud?  I have).  I already must stop at every Gymboree and Children's Place to check out the sales.  I never wanted to become that woman, but here I am, lookit me SQUEE-ing over newborns.  Clearly I'm just steps away from being the mommy with a shirt that says "Jack's Mommy" on it.  I don't want to be that mommy.  I hate that mommy.  She's lame.

They say parenthood changes you.  I was expecting changes, sure, but not like this.  I'm totally gay over my kid. And I'm not really sure I want to change that.


The Rape and Pillage of a Childhood Memory

Our first camping trip with Jack was quite a success. While I'd like to spend some time sharing stories of Jack's many firsts that happened on this trip - including his first two teeth - I have something that I need to get off of my chest. It is only marginally related to babies, momhood, and the stuff this blog is usually about.

I need to talk about the rape and pillage of one of my fond childhood memories: the Tommy Bartlett Ski, Sky and Stage Show in the Wisconsin Dells. Since the 1950s, this show of waterskiing stunts, acrobatic marvels, and quality comedy has entertained families along the shores of Lake Delton. The Tommy Bartlett show was always a must-see in the Dells. My mom took me to see it when I was in middle school, and I was amazed. I thought we'd share the experience with Jack this weekend while we camped in the Dells.

It was awful. We left after 20 minutes.

We suspected something was amiss when we got into the parking lot, just moments before the show started, and it was only about a quarter full. For a Saturday evening show on a night with amazing weather, that had to be a bad sign. Things went from bad to worse when we noticed that some of walkways had been adorned with these ridiculously cheesy illustrations of the characters of "Camp Bartlett," including, I shit you not, "DJ Flaven," and a 70s game show host character named Wink. The premise of the waterski portion of the show was a "ski off" between rival camps, as narrated by DJ Flava and Wink, and acted out by an equally contrived and ridiculous band of stereotypes: the nerd, the jock, the cool camp counselor.  The dialogue was over-the-top cheesy and the skits were worthy of middle-school improv.  And don't get me started on the clown.  Why was there a clown at Camp Bartlett?  Nothing made any sense.  

The bad acting would have been forgivable if the waterskiing was amazing.  It was not.  What used to be a show of incredible waterski stunts by renowned skiiers was now thirty minutes of agony put on by college kids who may or may not have skiied before this summer.  I've never waterskiied in my life, but I'm relatively certain that with a few days of training I could do at least as good as the performers at Bartlett's.  For example, the "stunt" in the photo below involved four skiiers, although one fell almost immediately.  (Also, do notice the sea of empty seats in the front.  Why are the best seats in the house completely devoid of people?)

Falls like that were not at all rare.  They were the norm for this show.  A show is truly bad when you begin to feel bad for the actors involved.  This one went beyond that:  it was actually really uncomfortable to watch.   I'm guessing that most people, unlike me, read the reviews before deciding on tickets, as there were plenty of empty seats in every direction.  That's pretty incredible when you consider that tickets to the show are free with your stay at a number of local hotels.

The ski ramps proclaimed this the "Greatest Show on H2O."  I'm pretty sure there have been better shows on the H2O at the attraction's restrooms.

The show's pedigree can only take it so far.  I'm sad to see Tommy Bartlett's legacy on Lake Delton has come to this, but I don't see how the show at this quality level can last.  The show holds some beautiful frontage property on Lake Delton.  Maybe it is time for change so that a more profitable venture can come in and do something there worth seeing.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Twitter Weirdos.

You may know that I tweet. I tweet like an addict. (Are you following me? You should be.  On Twitter, that is.  In real life, that would be odd). I tweet from my computer, and I tweet from my iPhone.  My number of followers on Twitter has grown quite a bit in the past month, and while most are some interesting, quality folks, some are just plain weird.  I'm making my weirdo list, and checking it twice.

The Loner. One of my newest followers is following over 1,000 people. He has a respectable 200+ followers himself. And a grand total of 0 tweets. What are you doing? I sort of feel like he's just peeking in my window. Creepy.

The Horny Guy. This is the guy who follows people for the purpose of attempting a hookup. He'll send a creepy direct message about how he thinks my profile photo is hot, and that he'd like to meet me. This is particularly creepy when my profile photo is a picture of my baby son. Begone, horny guy. There's a whole internet full of porn out there for you. And speaking of that...

The Porn Bot. If your profile picture is a photo of your crotch (or, more correctly, some porn model's crotch, as you are actually a 30-something fat guy living in mom's basement), I know that you are just following me because you want me to follow you back so you can spam me with links to your pornolicious website. No thank you.

The eBay/Etsy Maven:  This one is particularly disappointing when it is a person who would be reallyinteresting to follow, if only they would tweet about something besides their latest eBay and Etsy listings.  In my opinion, this is just a step above virtual panhandling.  I don't mind a weekly or even daily update on your listings, but I don't need a daily link to each item you have for sale.

The Retweeter. These are hard to identify at first, but once you've followed them for a little while, they stick out like a beacon. They add no content, no comments, no anything of their own. Their only purpose is to retweet smart things that other people say. Retweeting is great when done sparingly. Retweeting your friend's "OMG I LOVE GLEE!!!1!" just isn't all that interesting to anyone else.

The Dirty Talker:  Some people apparently tweet just for the purpose of saying raunchy stuff their mom would have soaped their mouths for.  A naughty word for effect, occasionally, can be effective.  When you use it all the time you just sound juvenile.  There are a few notable exceptions to this rule, though.  @GaryJBusey tweets like a sailor, but he's so freaking funny that it is worth every cuss.  (Sure - I'll share a recent gem of his: No lube? Grab a shoehorn. That's #howtobeagoodbf.).  See?  Told ya.  Want more?  How about: "Taking the road less traveled" is my favorite euphemism for anal sex.  (Okay, simmer down.  That's enough).

Some folks on Twitter are head and shoulders above the rest.  Their tweets are a perfect blend of interesting links, offbeat commentary, blog updates, conversations and an occasional photo.  Not surprisingly, those that master the perfect blend have a lot of well-deserved followers.  

Don't get me wrong - I don't unfollow all of my Twitter creeps.  The occasional dirty old man or eBay pusher keeps me out of trouble now and again but as my Twitter Weirdo list grows, the list of users I follow shrinks.


Camping with baby: part deux

Even though our previous attempt at camping with the baby was derailed at the last minute, the KOA Campground was kind enough to simply switch our reservation, without penalty because of the circumstances.  Now that camping weekend is upon us, I've been making lists of what we need.

Good lord, how is it that a baby requires so much stuff?  He's not that big.

We got a taste of this excess over the weekend when we stuffed our Jeep to the gills for a simple overnight in Lake Geneva.  Between a Pack-n-Play, two strollers (yes, two. Baby likes variety), a baby carrier, the Baby Bjorn, suitcases for each of us, and the giant carseat that seems to take up three quarters of the car's backseat, there was hardly room for anything else. 

Clearly, for this weekend we'll need to defy physics by fitting even more into the Patriot.  Never has my vehicle seemed to tiny.  In addition to all of the above, we need to bring our camp stove, the Big Red Camping Box (the huge tub that houses all of our camping utensils, towels, firestarters, dry goods, etc.), sleeping bags, pillows, and oh god what else am I forgetting?

Did I mention that we don't even need our tent this time?  We're renting a Kabin. (Yes, I realize that isn't technically camping.  The Kabin even has AC.  But we're baby-camping n00bs, and we have to start somewhere).

I have no idea how this is all going to fit.  Maybe we'll need to leave something behind.  Like my husband.*

If we manage to pull this off, I'll post some pictures because clearly we will have broken a few laws of physics.

*Just kidding, honey.  I know you read the blog now.  *kisses*


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cloth Diaper Week

Another day, another guest blog. Today you can find me over at The Crafty Nest where cloth diapers are the subject of the week. I dispelled a few common cloth diaper myths, so be sure you don't miss that.  There are plenty of other cloth diaper topics going on for Cloth Diaper Week, including some great contests and an opportunity to show off photos of your stash of cloth diaper fluff.

Fun times, my friends!  Many thanks to Vanessa at The Crafty Nest for maintaining a great blog and for giving me an opportunity to write a guest blog this week.