The End of the Email Chain Gang

Lately I’ve been trying to set up a few group dinners with friends and old co-workers. You know those endless email chains that go like this?

“How about the 4th?”

“No good. What about the 12th or the 14th?”

“I’m out of town the 12th, but the 14th might work.”

“We have out of town guests the 14th. Also, no days that end in ‘day’ work for me. Typically.”

It sort of make you not even want to meet up with these people anymore, even if it’s for crab legs. I JUST found out there’s a better way– and it’s called Doodle.

You build an event, select a date range, and notify the rest of the group via email. Then, people just click the days they’re available, and if you’re just and fair– majority rules. NO MORE ENDLESS EMAIL CHAINS.

Why am I just finding out about this? What other websites make your life easier?

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Your Parents Are Just People Who Happened to Have Kids

 

One sunny afternoon a few weeks ago, my dad showed up for an unexpected visit. Because it was a lovely day, we did what most father/daughter/granddaughter trios would do:

We drove to the Polish part of town to hit up the deli for some smoked sausage and pierogi.

Afterwards, we took an impromptu cruise around the neighborhood– the very same one where he grew up. He showed me where the drugstore had once stood, his best friend’s house, the building where my mother went to a party in 1969 and noticed a jacket she thought was cool. The guy wearing it had borrowed it from his friend– my dad. He told me about the long-gone rug factory his parents used to bring him to that was also home to a bizarrely spectacular water fall garden and duck pond.

The grand finale of the tour was the apartment building he grew up in. It sits on the corner of a quiet, well-groomed, bungalow-lined street. They lived in the basement for a few years, then moved up to the top floor. It looked nothing like I imagined. And I wondered– why was I just imagining it all these years? How had I never been there?

I have no memory of seeing any of it before. I forgot to ask if he’d ever taken me when I was little. But for whatever reason, he brought me and my baby there that day. I couldn’t help but imagine the world 33 years from now and bringing my grown-up girl on a tour of my yesteryear. My elementary school where they filmed Uncle Buck, my bike path, the mall where I had my very first job at Gap Kids, where I would hang up itty-bitty motorcycle jackets and wonder if I would ever be a mom myself while Human League’s “Fascination” played over and over and over and over, except when “Raspberry Beret” was on.

It was one of those moments where it really hits you:  your parents are just people who just happened to have kids. When you look at old pictures of them with poofy hair or bad glasses, there’s always this look in their eye that says, “I am completely unaware of what my future holds, or if I will ever have a kid who scrapes up the side of my Ford Explorer and then tries to cover it up with a concoction of flour and baking soda, which almost passes for snow-removal salt debris.” I doubt my dad ever in a million years thought he’d have the life he has now. I could tell it made him a little sad that so much in the old neighborhood had changed. Who wouldn’t miss a full-on waterfall rock garden? But as I pointed out, if things hadn’t moved on and changed, there would be no me or no grandbaby.

So call your parents. Ask them some things about their lives. Their real lives, before they had you. Because one day, when you’re a parent, you will want your kids to know how cool you were. You know, before you came along.

UPDATE: Beef says this post makes me sound older than I am. The year I worked at Gap Kids was 1994. The songs on the mix that summer were older. He thought you should know that.

Just Cinch It!

Here’s another maternity look that I stole last summer. I saw this photo of January Jones (who gave birth 3 weeks before me), and I thought the scarf was a great way to prevent a maxi dress from looking like a muumuu.

I liked the look; Beef said I looked like Princess Jasmine. Whatevs. It’s a good “Just because I’m pregnant, it doesn’t mean I can go to a good old fashioned summer art fair” ensemble.

I Don’t Know You, But I Love You.

You know that Google+ commercial where the dad loses his phone with all his baby pictures on it?

Last night, that happened to me.

I was in the street– searching desperately– as the Lost Phone Panic started to wash over me, when I heard a woman’s voice.

“Did you lose a phone?”

“Yes…”

“I found it. Right there, under the tire. I tried to call your parents, but they didn’t answer. So I dropped it off at the Sprint Store. There were a lot of baby pictures on it, and your dad sent you a lot of texts– something about ‘pie?'”

I’d never met her before. She was there in the street unloading her groceries at the exact same moment I was out looking. She drove my phone to a Sprint Store. She saved my Posey Pictures.

This afternoon, I dropped off some flowers at the building I’m 95% sure is hers. I hope she got them. It’s so wonderful to know that there are people out there whose first instinct is to help out a stranger.

Thank You, Anna.

Top 10 Search Terms on This Here Blog (My Apologies, Mr. Monteith)

WordPress lets you know how people got to your blog, which includes a list of what people googled to find you. 

This site’s been up for about 4 months now, and here’s a rundown of my top ten favorite search terms people got here using.

10. brave squirrel mom

9. pie cam live

8. no bra

7. Cory Monteith armpit

6. eating worms

5. man images cat in hands

4. ted nude gent alive

3. megan mad men teeth

2. beyonce boob

And last but not least…

1. Is Cory Monteith Fat 2012 (Editor’s note: I would argue no)

Giuliana & Bill Are Having a Baby!

Giuliana and Bill Rancic will appear on the Today Show to elaborate on what they’re already confirmed to E! News… they’re expecting a baby this summer via a gestational surrogate.

This celebrity baby announcement hits close to home. Giuliana and I went through IVF at the same time, and Beef and I even met with her Chicago doctor when we were preparing to switch offices. When she announced she was ALSO battling breast cancer, my heart broke for her. Wasn’t wrestling with infertility enough? Wasn’t MS enough for me, before I found out I had dried up old eggs?

I guess we both learned a lesson here. Let me be the first person to ever say- and to invent the phrase– Everything Happens for a Reason. I hope it catches on. I’m sure she would agree with me that neither one of us would take back any of the journey, because it led us to our little miracle babies. Miracle-Science babies, that is.

The Benefits of Having Internet Friends

Almost two years ago, I was starting the process of IVF and was feeling totally scared. I didn’t know anyone else that had ever done it, I had a million questions, and I wanted a buddy or two who knew what it was like to walk in these particular shoes. So I did something scary– I reached out.

Online.

I posted a message on babycenter.com’s message boards asking if anyone else out there was also about to begin the process. And something awesome happened: I met five other women all across the country, all in the same boat, who my husband named– in no particular order– Upper East Side, Bloomington, Texas, Oklahoma and Portland. Some of his geography was a little off, but I guess it helped him keep them straight.

We communicated daily for the next several weeks about the injections, the side effects, how our egg retrievals went, how our husbands were dealing with things, how WE were dealing with things. And then, something not-so-awesome-happened: ALL FIVE OF THEM GOT PREGNANT.

Except me.

In real life, that would have been a real friendship test. In the internet-friend world, it would have been easy for me to retreat. But it was too late. We were all in too deep and cared too much, and they knew almost exactly what I was going through. I stayed in the group. And six months later when I finally DID get pregnant after two more tries, these five women were the first people I told. After two years, they are no longer my internet friends– they’re my REAL friends (even though I’ve only met one in person).

Today marks the 1st birthday of the first babies (twins!) that were born out of our merry little band of mothers. Six women; eight babies. I was so lucky to find them, and it turns out they might have actually literally helped me get pregnant. Harvard-led research indicates that women experiencing infertility are more likely to conceive if they participate in a stress-reducing program, such as a support group.

So if you found out that having a baby is going to be tough for you, I encourage you to reach out and talk to other women in the same baby-boat. Babycenter is a great place to start; so is Resolve.

Epilogue: We’re all still very much in contact and have taken our relationship to the next level… Facebook. Happy Birthday, L & C.

10 Preemie Must-Haves

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3 pounds, 13 ounces.

That was all Posey weighed when she was born 6 weeks early, leaving me and Beef terrified… and totally unprepared at home. We had a panicky feeling about leaving the safety of the NICU’s constant monitoring.  After my desperate web search for “Preemie Must-Haves” turned up basically nothing on the entire internet, I figured it out on my own. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who’s searched, so allow me to present the Top 10 Things I Couldn’t Live Without when we first brought her home.

1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Car Seat 

We were fortunate that we registered for this one only based on its good reviews. It turned out to be one of the few car seats with a 4lb. minimum– most of them start at 5lbs. A removable newborn insert makes it even snugger for little lima bean babies so they don’t go rattling around. And it helped her pass something called the Car Seat Test. Before the NICU lets you take your baby home, they hook your little nugget up to the monitors and observe for a couple hours to make sure she doesn’t lose any oxygen folded up in there. And you might get released sooner than you expected, so be prepared!

2. Puj Tub

Fits inside your sink; folds up flat! They say this is supposed to go up to 17lbs., but I think that’s a crock. I will say that it was itty-bitty enough to not make us worried about drowning her for a couple of months. This intimidation-free tub made bathtime fun instead of terrifying, and now it comes in some fun colors.

3. Angel Care AC401 Movement & Sound Monitor

After Posey spent 3 weeks attached to machines, having her at home with no monitors should have been a breath of beep-free air. It wasn’t. This super-sensitive gadget goes off if it doesn’t detect motion for 20 seconds. I am not going to pretend that I also didn’t wave my finger under her nose constantly for the first several dozen nights, but the reassurance helped us tremendously. If your preemie is experiencing  apneas or bradycardias, you know what I’m talking about.

4. Fisher Price’s My Little Snugabunny Bouncer

I spent hours upon hours searching for something appropriate for her to sit in, and this bouncer had preemie parents screaming from the rooftops. Total dedicated preemie parent following, and it should, because it fits a little baby very well. And she liked it for a long time in baby-time, which is like 4 months. I liked that it wasn’t particularly loud and obnoxious. She came with us everywhere in this thing. Poor kid has watched her parents shower while strapped in the Bunny Chair so many times that I am fully prepared for her to start presenting with bunny issues.

5. Boppy Newborn Lounger

This was her #2 hangout spot. Perfect for on the couch or whaevs. It’s engineered with the perfect teeny-tiny divet for a teeny-tiny tush. Now that she’s outgrown it, it’s the cats’ favorite. And when my first pillow got shredded in the washing machine, Boppy sent me a brand new one in 48 hours.

6. Halo SleepSack Swaddle

The NICU nurses really know how to swaddle. The problem is, when you get home, they really don’t recommend a blanket swaddle because it can get loose– and you’re not supposed to have ANYTHING in the crib/bassinet with them because of the SIDS risk. But that startle reflex is real, and it keeps them awake. This thing saved us. It successfully straps baby’s arms down with a secure Velcro seal, and it’s idiot-proof. Once I even overheard Beef, upon swaddle completion, gloat, “I made that swaddle my bitch!” It’s the little things. The SleepSack has also been proven to decrease SIDS risk. Get like 3, because they get barfed on.

7. Carter’s Preemie Perfect clothing

Whilst in the womb, Posey was gifted with one of the cutest wardrobes on the planet. When she was born, she owned not one single thing that actually fit her. We even had to roll down the tops of her preemie diapers because they were too big. Carter’s is amazing. They sell it everywhere, it’s cheap, and they make preemie-sized clothes that actually fit a preemie. Now I have phrases in my vocabulary like, “It washes well.”  Here is a picture of one of her preemie suits next to her big elephant-girl 6 month suits she just started wearing:

(Note to BabyGap: thanks for making an “up to 7 lbs.” size, but it didn’t fit my baby until she hit 7 lbs.)

8. Dr. Brown’s Bottles and Preemie Flow Nipples

In the hospital, we had to use slow-flow nipples to feed her. Standard flow was just too fast for her and would cause her to choke, which would cause her to stop breathing, which would set off the alarms and become the most traumatic 5 to 12 seconds you can imagine. These are the bottle that she liked the best after some trial and error, and we were relieved that a preemie-flow was available to reassure us at home that she wouldn’t choke on her milk.

9. Sunshine Kids Easy View Backseat Mirror

Probably the scariest thing you will ever do as a parent is drive with your new baby in the backseat for the first time. What worked for us was the caravan system, where we had my parents follow in the car behind us on the way home from the hospital, motorcade-style. Beef drove. About 10 miles per hour. When it was my turn– and Beef had gone back to work– I invested in this handy little thing so I could see what my rear-facing baby was up to. Get one.

10. Gold Bond Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer

Last but not least, this one’s for you. I’ve written before about hand sanitizing. It’s a good idea, especially with a preemie. But that Purell stuff is the pits. It leaves your hands looking and feeling like turkey jerky. I saw a commercial for this product, and I think it was the first time I ever ran-not-walked immediately to the store to buy it, and it’s great. Lotion and germ-killing in one.

Am I missing anything you’d care to add to the list?

Note from Liz: I was not compensated in any way by any of the above-mentioned companies. All of my opinions are based on my own experience and research. 

3 Places that Make My Life Easier These Days

Previously, I’ve complained that I would be fired if I did my job the way other people did theirs. However, I wanted to take this opportunity to sing the praises of a few Chicago businesses who just could not be getting it any more right for me lately. Here goes:

1. Kingsbury Street Cafe

Across the street from the Lincoln Park Whole Foods and adjacent to VIP’s (Chicago’s Finest Adult Entertainment) (going to skip the hyperlinks on both of those), there lies one of the finest dining experiences in the city. Rose Duong and her top-notch staff serve breakfast, lunch and dinner that’s not only out of this world, but also vegan-friendly, if you’re into that sort of thing. I brunched with my brother-in-law recently, and he ordered pancakes “for the table.” Apparently, that’s a thing (it applies to fajitas, too), and you’ll be glad it is when you order Rose’s lemon pancakes FTT. It’s also a great place to take kids ‘n babies. There’s a fantastic kids’ menu, a parking lot, and the tables are far enough apart that you don’t have to worry about your baby getting sneezed on– or your baby sneezing on someone else.

2. Town & Country Pediatrics (their site is currently under construction) 

For the first six months of her life, I took Posey to a different pediatrician’s office. It was fine, but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. We recently gave T&C a try, and I feel like I wasted the first six months of my daughter’s life. First of all, they’re open 7 days a week. Second of all, this is how they operate: Posey’s had a runny nose for a week, but her breathing was kind of loud last night so I wanted someone to take a listen to her chest. I called the office at 7am. The answering service answered. They told me they could make me an appointment with the nurse practitioner as early as 7:30am. SAY HUH? Since when does a doctor’s office offer to get you in before you’ve even had a chance to pee yet? We went in at 8:30 and were out of there in mere minutes, my nerves calmed– and the rest of the day ahead of us.

3. Frog Temple Pilates & Yoga Studio

I’ve taken classes from Randi, the owner, for years. She’s an amazing teacher. If she taught German or knitting, I’d take that from her, too. The studio has great pre-natal classes if you’re expecting, and if you already plunked yours out, Marcia teaches a Body After Baby class on Sundays. But here’s a secret: they let me bring Posey with me. During the week. I set the car seat down in the corner and pray she’s still young enough not to get mad… and get my Rolling Like a Ball on. Tuesdays at 10am is the secret bring-your-baby hour. First mat class there is free.