Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I need an extra suitcase

I rolled my eyes when I saw the pile of electronic gear my parents planned to bring on their latest cruise and now here I am prepping for a big family trip. I'm bringing my snazzy new laptop + related cables, cell phones + charger, iPod + charger, digital camera + cables + spare battery + battery charger because maybe I'll be taking so many photos that I run down my battery AND the spare. Am I getting carried away?

How can a person get away from away from it all if she takes it all with her?

And since typing that felt like a Sex and The City/Carrie moment, I'll add that when I mentioned to someone that my cell phone is currently held together with duct tape, she told me it's cool now because that's how Carrie's cell phone was in the movie. I love it when my geek moves turn out to be trendsetting ones as well.
My cool kids have Kajeets thanks to some nice PR folks. They super nice because my review of the new model with GPS tracking (to help you locate your kids, not to help them navigate) is about two months behind schedule. It's not like I get paid for this, people! Nor do I accept pay-for-post of review, BTW.
Back to packing. DH wonders how I can pack and blog simultaneously. Admittedly, it's challenging even with my fab laptop.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Camp Baby reunion blog bites

Here's the latest from some of my Camp Baby friends.

Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti Leeanthro discusses how to pair wine with food.

This Full House Reviews: Kit Kittredge - An American Girl Movie This is the first feature film based on the hugely popular American Girl book series and (since, yesterday was Mini-me's 7th birthday) my youngest daughter and I were very excited to have been invited to the New York City screening of Kit Kittredge - An American Girl Movie!

From Date to Diapers asks: Do you worry about your kiddos growing healthy bones and a healthy body? Enter to win a couple of the best products to keep your kids healthy! See Christine's post, Staying Healthy.

Mom's Favorite Stuff reviews a fun and functional play table!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Road Rage, Interrupted

This post orginally appeared on the Chicago Moms Blog.

While I was out with the boys earlier today we saw a really nasty exhibition of Road Rage.

Driver A swerved out of his lane to avoid someone making a left turn and nearly cut off Driver B. Driver A almost got hit, but forced Driver B to let him into the right-hand lane. (I later surmise that Drive B or one of his passengers flipped off Driver A at this time.)

About 50 yards after this near miss we all arrive in a line at a stoplight. Driver A, a man about 5 foot 10 in his late 20s steps out of his car to inspect the damage, though I wasn't sure if there had actually been an accident.

Driver B, a man of similar height, but a good 30 years older, also exits his vehicle. I am in the next car in the line, taking this all in.

Words are exchanged. Drive A hits and then shoves Driver B. I honk my horn at them and then turn off the car and jump out. “What are you doing?!? Leave that man alone!” I shout.

Is Driver A embarrassed to be put in his place by a five-foot small woman?

No, he defends his actions.

WTF? He’s assaulting a senior citizen!

I frantically try to dial 911 from my cell phone, but I’m shaking and keep messing up. I know, I know. It’s only three digits! First my jittery fingers typed in an extra 2 and then a 0. Had to hit the “talk” button to send the call….

Finally I get through. How to explain? It’s not a traffic accident per se, more of an incident. I can barely hear and I’m frantically trying to explain about the young guy hitting the old man. I’m not sure if I’m coherent, but I have the wits about me to give the cops Driver A’s license plate number and car description.

After a bit more shoving and shouting Driver A returns to his care and takes off at the green
light. (I think it was because he saw people with their cell phones out and heard murmurs of "911" and "cops.")

Driver B heads in another direction.

I return to my car.

OMG. My boys. What did they think of this?

Where they scared? Yes, a bit. Scared of the guys or worried about me? Both.

“When you see something that is so wrong, you just can’t sit by and watch it happen.” I tell them, adrenaline still coursing through my veins. I also tell them that if anyone approaches their car like Driver A did to Driver B, just lock the doors and windows and call the police. (Actually I left the last bit about the police out, but I’ll tell them in the morning.)

Upon reflection it seems almost comical, tiny me playing the role of Big Mama, yelling at these bad boys to play nice.

I acted strictly from my gut. My need to stand up for this stranger outweighed my normal instincts to focus first the safety of my kids. Is that bad? The young healthy guy shoving around an old man was just too much. Sometimes I hate this world.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Scenes from the ER

Our experience was nowhere near as dramatic as some network executives might think. Well, we had this moment when he first got admitted where I helped myself to an exam glove and as I snapped it on I turned to DH and commanded: Bend over, now! Just as resident walked into our cube. Nice.

I didn't catch any high drama, life and death moments or staff romances, but I did see a glimpse of online shopping. Oh, and if they know what blogs are, trust me, doctors love it when you tell them you're going to blog about your visit.

The achy, febrile patient
Guess who got more attention, the patient or my XO laptop (on the side table)? Yes, the staff quickly lost interest in DH (cramps? fever? whatever.)and started asking all sorts of questions about the XO Laptop and the One Laptop Per Child Initiative. Sorry, dear!

Turns out I was able to log onto the hospital's guest network, but I couldn't actually connect to any websites. That's okay, I was busy getting warm blankets for DH (they gave me unfettered access to the blanky warmer). Ahhh. warm blankets. It was heavenly until a nurse yelled at me for raising DH's temp to 103. How did she explain the fact that it was 102 hours later? We started off with such a nice nurse, but then her shift ended and we got Nurse Rachet for the rest of our stay.

ER with benefits: free snacks for friend and families!

Unfortunately, DH was not allowed to eat or drink, except for this lovely drink that would light up his innards on the CT scan. Mmmmm, barium. All the fun of a McDonald's vanilla shake without all the flavor. Who knows what the calorie count is on this stuff, but look at that awesome logo on the left. Nurse Rachet insisted he drink every last frikikin' drop- it took nearly an hour for DH to get it all down. We shaved off a few minutes when I poured an ounce or two down the sink.

Another low point from Thursday, the car accident (totally unrelated to the ER visit. No one was in the car when it got dinged.):

Finally something good, the Sendaball delivery!

As the red ball says, hopefully DH will BOUNCE back soon and I can bring him home tonight. I'm off to the hospital....

Night at the ER/Home Alone

Thursday was the last day of the school year, the last day at the private school for gifted kids that my boys attended for the past three years. Oh, I guess I can say now that they attended Science and Arts Academy.

Another parent had a gentle run-in with my car in the school parking lot. My first repair estimate $1500. Ouch. Why do I feel guilty when the other parent scraped my pakred car while I was in the building car and will pay to get it fixed?

We are, sort of, in theory taking that car on a big road trip soon. Or maybe not.

I got my sassy new pink laptop from Staples and some cute, fun samples from these folks, but haven't had time to enjoy either because I took DH to the ER early tonight. After many hours and almost as many tests, they decided to keep him for the night. Witty banter and related photos to come. Maybe.

Thankfully, my in-laws have the boys tonight. I'm home alone and it feels so odd.

I'll write more when I'm coherent. It's been a long day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You call this a Happy Meal?

Preparing family meals can be tricky. Catering to the fickle food preferences of my children is always a challenge. It was the summer I became obsessed with food-borne illness, however,
when things got especially dicey around our table.

It began innocently enough when a cousin sent me a copy of Michael Pollan's article "This Steer's Life" (New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002). Pollan bought a calf and followed it from farm to feedlot to the family dinner table. His article is loaded with observations and ruminations on modern cattle raising, slaughtering and processing methods. Disgusting as it was, I was hooked and hungry to learn more of the gristly truth.

Next, I devoured Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and was a changed woman. Within weeks I'd binged on a series of related books including Nicols Fox's Spoiled: Why Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It, Peter Lovenheim's Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf, and Ruth Ozeki's compelling and amusing novel, My Year of Meats.

My ears perked up at mentions of massive meat recalls and widespread bouts of food poisoning. In addition I'd become a regular at the Web site of Safe Tables Our Priority (a resource and advocacy group on food safety and foodborne illnesses. I'd sob as I read heartbreaking stories of young victims of deadly bacteria.

With little fanfare, my husband stopped eating red meat. I also stopped, but I was loud-determined to save my loved ones from microscopic dangers such as the potentially fatal Listeria bacteria that could quietly multiply on the surface of their lunch meat even in a properly chilled refrigerator.

I'd ramble about the evils of crowded feedlots and unnatural animal diets.

I'd detail dramatic changes in meat processing operations that can lead to contaminated meat.

I'd cite statistics such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

My kids not only picked up on my concerns, they were party to them. How many preschoolers can explain why it's foolish to eat cookie dough containing raw eggs? A fast-food dinner with extended family resulted in this conversation:

My 4-year-old son to my 3-year-old niece: "I'm glad you didn't get the chicken nuggets because they are really so bad for you."

Niece: "But my brother's eating them."

Son: "Oooh, that's bad."

Five-year-old nephew: "No, they're good for you. They've got protein. My mom says they help me grow."

Son: "Well, my mom says they make you sick."

My 63-year-old mother: "Kim, you're making your kids crazy!"

My husband: "You're not much fun to talk to these days."

He was right. I had developed a new kind of eating disorder: Fear of SCUM. That is, fear of food that's been Sitting out too long, Contaminated, Undercooked or Mishandled. For a couple of weeks, my food phobia resulted in a diet that left room for little else but, conveniently, chocolate.
Eventually I developed a convoluted set of food guidelines that my boys will one day struggle to explain to their therapists. For example, we buy costly organic eggs from hens on vegetarian diets except when there's an irresistible sale on the store brand. And we buy growth-hormone and antibiotic-free beef from veggie-fed cows to eat at home, but if we're out for, say, Chinese food, we'll order beef and broccoli.

It would be simpler to declare ourselves vegetarians, but there's no getting around the fact that my boys and I love a good steak. So we've settled for making (mostly) conscious choices and trying to live up to the expression "you are what you eat."

The other day at breakfast my 4-year-old announced he just ate the best egg ever! "What made it so tasty? My cooking?" I asked. No, he was sure it was because the egg came out of a cheerful chicken.

Interestingly, he'd just consumed one of Phil's Farm fresh eggs. According to the package, the cage-free hens that laid our eggs ate a diet of "high-quality, natural ingredients … no drugs or antibiotics." Farm fresh is more expensive and time-consuming than fast food, but ultimately it makes for a happy meal.

See the USDA website for more information on food safety.

This piece originally appeared in Chicago Parent magazine in August 2006.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A note to my subscribers

I made an addition to my earlier post, which is currently linked on the Office Depot page on Google Finance. Who knew? Take a peek below for details.

And thanks to Ali Jake designs for help with the screenshot!

Office supply superstore smackdown: Staples vs. Office Depot (or Office Max?)

So a woman walks into an Office Depot, or is it Office Max? Who can tell the difference? The woman in question doesn't pay much attention to the Sunday circulars from these stores because she's never sure which is where. But last Sunday she sees a simple laptop on the cover of the the Office Depot circular and decides to hunt the store down.

She walks in and points to the ad, with her finger right on the picture of the very computer she's coveting and is told that the stores never received any deliveries of said computer.

"What?" she exclaims in disbelief. "This computer is on the cover of your national ad flyer and you didn't receive any?"

The manager apologizes, explains this normally does not happen, and searches the area stores for the laptop in question, but it's no where to be found, and at $4.17 /gallon of gas, she's not likely to drive to another location anyway. She is, however, however, prepared to leave the store without her 10-year-old who's hooked on a game of "Inkball" on one of display computers.

The woman heads to Staples. She knows there's a Staples near her house, one near DH's office and one in between. Unlike Office Max/Depot, she can locate several Staples stores on her mental map.

So the woman walks into Staples, overwhelmed by the dozen or so laptops on display. She knows that she wants a laptop that's lightweight, not too expensive, and maybe a cute color if she can get it. A knowledgeable Staples employee talks her through the RAM, and the chip, the OS, and the gigs, helping her narrow down the field of contenders that will meet her computing needs.

The woman actually makes a choice! But she holds off on buying it until she finds a coupon. After purchasing a camera online from Staples, she was (involuntarily, as she can tell) subjected to weekly emails and coupons from Staples, but she eventually opted out of them. Give her a day or two, though, and our resourceful heroine will track one down.

The winner: Staples! As far as she's concerned, she'll never return to Office Depot...and Office Max will likely suffer the same fate due to guilt by association as she can never remember which is which.

Is the woman having a psychotic break? She wonders why she is referring to herself in third person. We think the answer can be found in a cup of coffee. We?

Edited 6/10/08 8:30pm to add:
Welcome to those of you clicking over from Google Finance!
I woke up before my boys this morning and instead of doing something practical like fold laundry, I headed to my computer to blog about what was on my mind. This post went up around 6:30 in the morning and by 10:15 I noticed traffic coming in from Google Finance. At first I thought it was a fluke, like the time this blog got listed somehow on a Malaysian porn aggregator site. I had no idea that Malaysian porn was so popular or that it was even a genre worth Googling, but I digress.

I soon realized that the Google Finance hits were legit. My early morning thoughts were broadcast much louder and farther than I ever expected. Another example of the power and speed of the blogosphere.

How is your company harnessing this, the power of the blogosphere?

I consult on this very issue and I'm happy to talk with PR folks looking to connect with parent bloggers. Drop me a note if you want to learn more.
And, BTW, I found a coupon and ordered my *pink* Dell laptop from Staples a few hours ago. Finally, a laptop that matches my blog :-)

Monday, June 09, 2008

The food dye rebellion begins now!

I've written a couple of recent posts about the link between food additives and ADHD at MOMformation. This morning I put up a post that's a call to action. Many large companies like Coca-Cola have reformulated their products for sale in the UK based on consumer demand, but continue to sell the same old crap here in the US. I think it's time we had a bit of outcry and my posts included informational links as well as contact info for several large companies.

Take a peek, make some noise.

Oh and I will let you all know who won the giveaway books very soon. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A very dairy Father's Day to DH

Read about our plans for Father's Day in my guest blog a

Did you know you can now subscribe to my feeds? No more needless clicking over and all that. Check it out.

Camp Baby Blog Roundup

This week's news from my Camp Baby friends:

Monkeys Leeanthro shows off her Ace-of-Cakes-worthy attempt at decorating a cake for her son's first birthday.

Mom's Favorite Stuff reviews the Crafty Baby Nap Mat .

Friday Roundup at Mummy's Product Reviews.