Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking for a Computer?

I love cutting edge electronics, but sadly know little about them. Every few years we purchase a new desktop, laptop or netbook based on reviews, what our former Geek Squad friend tells us to buy or what looks really cool.  "How to Pick Your Own Computer" by my dear friend, Leena Rao, is an excellent guide for the technology impaired.  What does RAM really mean?  She breaks it down for us ghetto style -- and when I say ghetto I actually mean Medill School of Journalism style.  It's an informed and easy to read article that gives us a quick overview without wasting hours of time surfing the "series of tubes" that is the internet.  If only the late Senator Ted Stevens (known for knowing nothing about the internet while regulating the internet) had the chance to read Leena's stuff.  He may have come off a little more tech savvy.

Leena Rao writes for Tech Crunch, a reputable weblog, and

Just a fun reminder below of our beloved Ted Stevens:

“Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.  [...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Day Older

I’m 30 + 1 day.  Based on what we did for my birthday, I am officially old. 

I awoke to a teething whiny toddler (another tooth is coming in absurdly crooked) and the smell of pancakes on the burner.  Who knew my hubbie had a secret skill – KILLER pancakes!  They were amazing paired with really old frozen brats, an egg, OJ, and really really old maple syrup.  All tasted fresh and delicious!  
Tuesday went by per usual.  Henry and I went to swim class, and had our regular meals and naps.  As a special birthday treat, Chris got home early with a mystery grocery bag from Whole “Paycheck” Foods.  He cooked up a perfectly seared NY strip steak with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.  Yum.  As he cleaned up the kitchen I watched American Idol, and then we settled on the couch together to watch … wait for it … Frontline.  I had a perfect 30th birthday.  I am officially old, and loving it – sort of.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gymboree Bubbles

I'm mad at the recession. Some of you may think that in my old age, I’m 30 today, I’ve become cynical and bitter. But I was mad at the recession yesterday too, when I was still in my 20’s, so you’re wrong.

But on the bright side, Gymboree has amazing super bubbles. When compared to regular market bubbles, they burst every other competitor's bubble. While regular bubbles quickly succumb to gravity and pop upon immediate contact with anything, Gymboree bubbles magically float suspended in the air like Willy Wonka's fizzy lifting drink. They also happily land on baby hair, carpet, etc. without popping. Gymboree bubble babies grab at each other's hair and stomp on the carpet to pop the shiny globes. Apparently, Gymboree is well aware of their super bubbles, and have decided to charge high prices for the magical sphere making serum ($6). Once in a while you can find the bubbles on sale at Gymboree class locations for half off. If you don't live near a Gymboree and must have these magical bubbles, Amazon sells the bubbles along with a game, which explains the $11 price point.

Apparently bubbles are great for hand eye coordination, and early reading skills. Who knows if this is true, but our music class instructor informed us that tracking bubbles prepares the eyes for reading. Who knew?

I just think it's awesome to stand or sit amidst a million bubbles suspended in the air.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Off to the Races!

I love this video. Henry loves crawling. There may be a chance he never walks. Every time I tell someone he's not yet walking, I get the same reaction: "Don't worry. Every child progresses at his own rate." Followed by a furrowed brow of concern that I'm worrying too much. I know I'll miss his crawling - it's so adorable and speedy - but sometimes I just want to put him down on the ground without getting his hands and butt filthy. This weekend I was excited to see that he stood unassisted for a few seconds - is that sad?

Incidentally, I turn 30 tomorrow. We had 2 amazing meals in celebration of my birthday. Friday was a casual meal with a few friends at Mado, a neighborhood foodie joint. On Saturday, we went upscale for a 12-course meal at an undisclosed location. It was a meal to remember. After the smorgasbord, I looked 6 months pregnant and Chris looked 8 months pregnant. But it was worth it!! Yesterday I said to my 8-year-old niece that I am her "old aunt," and she replied, "YOU are not old." I love her. When I had Henry I felt old, so I'm feeling surprisingly ambivalent to turning 30. Maybe the fact that my sister is 5 years older numbs the pain. I get to be the youngest forever. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be so thrilled considered everyone says we look like twins.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What to Order Toddler at a Korean Restaurant

I'm going to do a series on what toddlers can eat when you go out to ethnic restaurants.  It was intimidating at first to find foods for Henry, but he surprisingly embraced eating out.  I think he prefers seasoned food to the plain salt-free and oil-free foods I feed him at home.

Henry's favorite type of restaurant is Korean BBQ.  He is so enthralled with his food that we can actually eat in peace!  He gets a great variety of nutrition all in one meal, and we always leave with full bellies and big smiles.

A few of his favorite menu items include:

Kalbi (cut up in tiny pieces)
Dumplings (either steamed or in a soup)
Pajun (I remove the chewy octopus and long green onion)
Chapchae (I cut the noodles short with a fork)
Fish cake side dish
Broccoli side dish
Carrot and Potato side dish

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Have Babies Early in Your Career?

For my pals (male and female) working the grind:  I thought this WSJ article: Advice from the corner office (copied below) was interesting.  Many women these days are putting off having children - one reason may be because they worry it will damage and limit their careers.  Perhaps that is still true, but Margaret Tahyar, an M&A partner at Davis Polk, had her children early in her career and believes it is the way to go.  I have no insight on whether or not her advice is sound; however, the comments on the article do shed some light on the validity of her advice.   I especially enjoyed the commenter who said "I was amused by the commentator who said she 'actually got to enjoy [her] 20s.' What’s with this idea that people who have kids aren’t enjoying our lives?"  I would have to completely agree with this statement.  I enjoy my  life just as much now that I have a family, if not more.  Obviously life is different, but it's definitely better!  From my limited experience, Tahyar's model seems to be the perfect example of what a working mother has to do to keep her career advancing: continue working (aside from maternity leave) and have a very understanding and flexible husband/partner.  

If you were wondering, I am pictured above in my summer associate office - working the pre-recession summer associate grind.  I cropped out my fellow summer associate to avoid detriment to his/her career.  *sigh.* *tear.*  Good times.           

Last week, the WSJ Online ran out a profile interview with Davis Polk M&A partner Margaret Tahyar. The purpose of the column — titled ‘How I Got Here’ — is to look at, well, how successful people got to where they are. We read the column with eagerness not only because of the Davis Polk angle, but also to pick up any insight we could into the always vexing issue of how folks like Tahyar balance the demands of work and the demands of home. Tahyar, 50, has three children.
On that front, we were less interested, frankly, in Tahyar’s stellar resume (Michigan, Columbia Law, clerk to both Judge Robert Bork and Justice Thurgood Marshall), than her statement under the “How You Can Get There Too” heading in the article’s sidebar. On children, Tayhar says:
If you possibly can, have your children early in your career as a lawyer because delay often makes the juggle harder and the wear and tear on your body more difficult.
Interesting, right? Frankly, we don’t know too many women (or men) at firms who made the conscious decision to do this — have kids first, then pursue a career. So we checked in with Tahyar to find out if this is what happened.
Here’s how it went down:
Hi Margaret. Thanks for taking the time. So what happened? Did you have kids at an early age?
No. Not exactly. I came to Davis Polk in 1989, and had my first child two years later. I was 31. It was a conscious decision to do it then, but in retrospect I would have done it younger. I was 39 when I had my youngest child (of three).
Interesting. Had you been married long when you had kids?
I got married at age 21. I married very early. Later, we both moved from Michigan to New York to go to law school, and by the time we finished, we’d both been married for 11 years and we were ready. By that point, we weren’t going to wait for career reasons.
Why hadn’t you followed your current advice and had kids earlier?
I was way too poor! Before law school, I was working as a paralegal and my husband and I were living hand-to-mouth. We had children as soon as we felt we were financially able to.
It’s interesting. Many career-oriented women are putting off children until they get their careers up and running. But your advice is different. Why?
For the simple reason that it’s easier when you’re younger. You can deal with the sleep issues. It’s easier on your body and things get harder and more complicated as you get older. For me, to be able to balance work and kids taught me a lot that made it much easier [once I got to Davis Polk.]
There’s another reason, too. You know that old saying “man proposes, God disposes?” Well, it’s true. You can wait and wait until the perfect moment, but it may not happen.
That said, I don’t want to sound too dogmatic on this point. It’s obviously different for a lot of women. But for me, the difference between being pregnant at 31 and pregnant at 39 was significant. I can only imagine it would have been that much easier had I done it in my 20s.
And once you had kids, how did you manage? Did you take a year or two off? I didn’t take a year off; I always kept working, outside of the maternity leave, of course.
So once you got to Davis Polk, you could afford child care. But it’s not like you can always be home at 6 p.m. every night. Your job is inherently a bit unpredictable, right?
That’s true. At a certain point, my husband stepped back in his career.
You mentioned in the profile that he was supportive and not threatened.
Ha! That’s true. At the time we had our second child, he was working for the government. Soon after our second child, he quit and became a house husband. The truth is that I couldn’t have done this, have had this career, without a husband like him to help.
Very good. Well, thanks for taking the time.
My pleasure.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday Dinner

Last night we had a very memorable Sunday Dinner – a monthly occurrence with the Anderson family - complete with 4 Milwaukee grandparents, 8 Chicago parents and 8 kids aged 8, 6, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, and 6 months.  It was a sight to behold.  The gracious hosts had 3 high chairs, a kid’s table and a beautiful adult’s dining table set with china and silverware.  The food was delicious including a number of delectable Indian dishes, roasted potatoes, roast chicken, salad, broccoli, a fruit platter, and of course valentines day cookies and a birthday carrot cake for moi!  Although my taste buds are currently in hibernation, the Indian dishes temporarily cleared my sinuses!

Family get-togethers are getting more crowded every year, and I LOVE it.  When else can you see two 1 year olds poke each other in the eye, while the 8 year old plays dress up with two 2 year olds, and then they all join together to play Wii Just Dance in front of the TV.  Henry loves playing with his cousins, and they are so sweet with him. 

Everyone tolerated my coughing, hacking, raspy smoker voice (which someone – not my husband - called “kinda sexy”) and nose honking.  See current self-portrait above.       

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vacation from Vacation

I had a pretty good time in San Diego, although I can’t say the same for Henry.  He was an angel on the flight out, which I now realize was probably due to the fever and fatigue.  I had Tylenol with me, which I administered before he quietly fell asleep in my arms.  After an hour of pure bliss, he was rudely awakened by the ridiculously loud flight attendant announcing food for sale.  For part of the flight he played with his cousins, who were sitting in the row in front of us, and his Aunt and Uncle took turns entertaining him.  Then he took a SECOND nap before we landed.  It was a piece of cake. 

Once we arrived Henry had trouble sleeping at night and napping.  He was congested, had a terrible cough and the room was too bright compared to the dungeon he sleeps in at home.  Due to his cold and lack of sleep, he was crabby and screamed bloody murder anytime I left the room.  I didn’t take a shower for 2 days.  Now that I think of it, I should’ve taken a shower in one of the other 3 bathrooms while he was napping, but it didn’t occur to me as an option.  Perhaps I was playing martyr.  After 2 days of pool water, beach sand and food particles in my hair, I broke down and took a shower with Henry sitting on the floor of the shower.  He loved it!  On top of the tantrums, Henry had zero appetite, and ate like a bird the entire trip.  The 3 days of rain didn’t help.

The trip wasn’t all bad, as we were able to swim in the pool 3 days and visited the beach once.  Henry loved crawling in the sand and watching the waves.  He even stood at the water’s edge as the tide ebbed and flowed.  It was also great seeing my mom, who is very happy in what is usually sunny California. 

The return flight wasn’t as easy.  I wasn’t sitting near my sister and her kids, and Henry was over tired.  He screamed before his nap for about 20 minutes, and then woke up when I adjusted my arm.  Then he rested his head on my shoulder while I was standing and cried each time I tried to sit down.  I awkwardly stood in my seat with my neck craned against the ceiling – good thing I’m short!  I was able to put him in the row with his cousins for part of the flight, which was a relief.  He enjoyed feeding his cousin animal crackers, and eating their rice balls. 

Now that we are home, needing a vacation from vacation has taken on a whole new meaning.  His first night home, Henry slept like a rock and took two solid naps the next day.  Apart from a runny nose, he’s back to normal, although it seems he passed his cold on to me as I now have a sore throat and fatigue. 

It’s good to be home.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Toddler Eating On the Go

Eating on the go with a toddler can be stressful if you're not prepared, but we've found a way to make it an enjoyable experience.  We love food, and knowing we can go out without worry is important to us.  We choose awake and alert times to eat out (mid-day between naps or early dinner).  Henry also only frequents family friendly restaurants.  My diaper bag is usually full of favorite snacks and/or favorite toys - soft toys are great for restaurants, as he likes to bang his toys against the table.  Another go-to toy is a spoon.  It will keep him occupied for a few minutes.  One tool I've found useful is the Biodegrable Table Topper by One Steph Ahead.  It's a disposable placemat with 2 adhesive strips on the bottom to keep it in place.  The placemat protects him from germs, and it actually stays in place, unlike suction cup place mats.  He still throws a good amount of food on the floor, but that's easy to clean up after the meal.  Another plus is that there are colors and pictures to keep him entertained while I shovel my lunch down my throat. 

I've developed the bad habit of eating at competitive eater speed.  It's either don't eat at all, or hoover the food down before Henry needs me to feed him or stop him from causing a disaster.  I used to worry that my sister had an eating disorder post-baby, as she dropped a ton of weight and never ate her meals.  Now I know it's because her kids ate her food, and/or she didn't have time to eat!  To ensure that he and I both get enough to eat, I've started ordering full adult meals for him.  I take home whatever he doesn't finish, but often he eats almost an entire adult portion (not including what he throws on the floor).  Considering he is 1/5 my size, it's amazing how much energy he needs to fuel his growing brain and body!  

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Baby Games

Games Babies Play: From Birth to Twelve Months provides both obvious and not so obvious games for you and baby to play for an entire year.  For some parents baby play is intuitive and for others it's awkward and uncomfortable.  This book helps the former play with more direction, and it helps the latter get started.   

Henry and I tend to improvise.  We dance to music, bounce on my lap, roll around on the bed, play airplane on my shins, play with toys, read books, play peekaboo behind the couch, play chase Momma, sing songs, make silly faces, and point at objects.  I perused Games Babies Play when Henry was 3 months old, but didn't look at it again until recently.  Although Henry is now past 12 months of age, many of the games are still applicable, and I think they will help to diversify our play for his and for my benefit.  The book also helped me realize that, other than talking and reading books, our play is dominated by physical activity.  Those who know me must be thinking, "Oh boy.  She's already training him to be a professional athlete."  Although, I would love for Henry to be active in athletics, it is not on my mind when we play.  Physical play just happens to be the easiest way to make him giggle.  I spend all day trying to get him to laugh, because it is the best thing ever.  My first order of business is to teach him his body parts!  "Head, shoulders, knees and toes ..."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Crawling Progression

Henry started army crawling at 7 1/2 months, and 2 weeks later he was off to the races.  The below videos show how he changed over that 2 week period.  During the next 5 months he practiced crawling, cruising and climbing to perfection.  At 13 months he's now on the verge of walking.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Vacation!

Henry and I are leaving on a jet plane today for sunny San Diego.  Needless to say I'm extremely nervous about the flight.  He's sitting on my lap, and I won't have Chris to help.  We're sitting behind my sister and her family on the way there, which means there will be 4 fewer passengers glaring at us.  My diaper bag is packed to the brim with snacks, sleeping necessities, video ipod, toys, books and Benadryl as a last last last resort.  The flight is smack in the middle of his nap time.  I'm hoping he will sleep.  Cross your fingers for us!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thumb Sucking

Henry has been a serious thumb sucker since he was 3 months old.  We took his pacifier away at the start of sleep training.  He happily replaced it with his thumb and never looked back.  We’ve always seen his thumb sucking as a blessing. When he gets frustrated or unhappy he pops his thumb in his mouth.  His thumb also helps him fall asleep like a pro, and if he wakes up in the middle of the night he uses it to fall back asleep on his own.  We run through our sleepy time ritual, put him down in his crib, he grabs his sleep sack, sucks his thumb and closes his eyes.  Thanks to the thumb, car rides are pleasant as he usually sits quietly in the car sucking his thumb and looking out the window.  I sometimes wonder if the thumb sucking is inhibiting his development, but then I remember that it is comforting for him and it isn’t hurting him.  He would be a different child without our friend the thumb.  I do, however, try to curtail the thumb sucking when it’s gratuitous. 

Unfortunately, our thumb sucking bliss almost came to a screeching halt last week when I noticed a yellow callous and 2 open raw gashes on his thumb.  He had cracked skin from the dry air and constant sucking.  I found some home remedies online that worked in 1 day.  I fed him homemade tomato sauce (with carrots, celery and onion blended in), cranked up the humidifier and rubbed petroleum jelly on the dry area a few times a day.  I researched the effects of ingesting petroleum jelly to ensure a little would be harmless.  Thankfully due to one, two or a combination of the above remedies, the yellow callous has completely healed.  The cracked skin is slowly healing and looks like it will clear up in a couple days.  According to our pediatrician, there is no need for worry unless puss develops.  

I’m sure when Henry turns 2 we’ll start discouraging the thumb sucking to avoid damage to his teeth, but until then I think we’ll let sleeping dogs lie.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Baby Class Reviews: Gymboree Play & Music Lakeview – Gym Play & Learn 3

I will be rating baby classes on a 5 star (*) scale.  I will also review price, age, size, length, cleanliness, space, parking, open play toys, instructor, content, Henry’s opinion, mom’s opinion, other moms, music, make-ups and activity.  Some of the classes are exclusive to Chicago, and some are national/international chains.  For a stay-at-home mom in the winter, baby classes are part of a survival guide.  A baby class introduces you to other moms with babies of the same age, and gets you out of the house.  Plus, baby gets to interact with others his age, which is great for his socialization and development.

Gymboree Play & Music – Chicago, Lakeview
3158 N. Lincoln Ave (at Belmont)
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 296-1770

**** THREE STARS ****

Price:   $30 new member initiation fee + $88 monthly fee -- I hear the monthly fee will be continuously charged until you cancel

Age:  10-16 months

Size:  Large.  Around 15-20 babies

Length:  45 minutes

Convenience:  It was extremely convenient to sign-up online, and when I called the Lakeview location, I spoke with a person immediately.  No waiting.

Cleanliness:  Kind of clean.  Gym mats tend to breed bacteria and germs, but I did notice a staff member cleaning during our class. (Scale: Super, Very, Kind of, Not at all)

Space:  Tons of great climbing apparatuses, bridges, slides, and open areas.  There are 2 rooms, one for songs and one for climbing and romping.  

Parking:  Relatively easy street parking (pay box, up to 2 hours for $2.50).    

Open Play Toys:  No need for toys when there are so many things to climb.

Instructor:  Upbeat and enthusiastic instructors, although the regular teacher at my test class had left for another job. 

Content:  We went back and forth between singing songs and climbing.  It was extremely active.  Parachute play is always a hit, and so was the walking log push.  Watching a dozen toddlers collectively push a giant plush log was hilarious.  Kids wear nametags on their back, which is convenient for the instructor, but makes it seem impersonal and corporate mixeresque.  Gymboree sells their own brand of bubbles that seem to be super special because float like they are suspended in time.

Henry’s Opinion:  H wasn’t sure about going back and forth between the two rooms.  He also hated the fun house mirror, which I thought was absolutely hilarious.  But he always loves interacting with other babies, and loves climbing.

Mom’s Opinion:  Great activity.  I loved that Henry could climb different types of materials and structures.  I’m not a fan of the clowns - there are 2 puppet clowns used during class.  I liked that the instructor gave some information on child development and how the particular activity was applicable.  The class was on the large side.  Open play hours are convenient.

Other Moms:  The other moms, dads and caregivers were very friendly.  The majority of the caregivers were nannies. 

Music:  C - No background music, just singing, and there’s no quality to the instructor’s singing voice.

Make-ups:  Unlimited make-ups, which can be scheduled online! 

Activity:  Tons of activity. 

Bonus:  Open play hours actually work with a toddler’s nap schedule.

See Other Baby Class Reviews

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sharing: Watch Henry Feed a Pretzel to a Local Animal

Currently when interacting with other kids, he does push-ups on them and tries to poke out their eyes.  Perhaps he has a future in WWF.  He is, however, learning to master the art of sharing.  We began teaching him to share when he started showing frustration at losing grip on a toy -- maybe around 6 months old.  I would ask for the toy, take it from him and then hand it back.  He soon realized that screaming over a lost toy or an eaten tasty morsel was fruitless.  Then at around 10 months old he started sharing everything.  It's the best – except when he wants me to eat his slobbery mushy food.  

Top 10 Favorite Weekend Moments
1.  When Chris ordered a Midoritini at the bar because he thought it was a Japanese gin with a lime twist.
2.  Eating the tasty morsels at Avec - definitely in my 10 top favorite Chicago restaurants for taste, quality of ingredients, originality, service, atmosphere and drink list - YUM YUM
3.  Eating Beard Papa cream puffs
4.  Walking around Block 37 - deserted and awesome.  I felt like I was in Taiwan 101 Tower - huge and empty - we had to go there to get the Beard Papa cream puffs!
5.  Visiting a friend's new apartment -- there is nothing like visiting a new apartment to find it's a million times more put together than my own apartment of 3 1/2 years!
6.  Watching Public Enemies on our couch with some stove popped popcorn dusted with garlic powder and thyme.
7.  Watching Henry cling to his Dadda, instead of his regular go-to (me), for comfort after bonking his head.  
8.  Henry loving ice cream at his first DQ birthday party.  
9.  Watching Henry scarf down his rice, salmon and broccoli dinner.
10.  Switching Henry to 1 nap a day without a hiccup -- hopefully I haven't spoken too soon!  I'll be posting on dropping the morning nap when I've determined that we've done it successfully.