What to Expect When You’re Dating an Improviser

My Ex(es)

My Ex(es)

Long before I met Beef, I went on dates with Other People. Most were a disaster– both the boys and the dates. So let me be a friend to all of you young ladies in dating world, because friends don’t let friends date improvisers– especially in Chicago. Here is something I wrote for my newest online home, The Second City Network.

You’ve heard of The Second City. It’s the famous Chicago improv farm where they grow Tina Feys, Steve Carells, Amy Poehlers and pretty much everyone who’s ever been on SNL.

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How to Hand-Wash Laundry

There is only one thing worse than checking the tag on your new sweater and finding the dreaded “dry clean only” label, and that’s finding this one:

handwashonly

There are about 100 things I’d rather do than wash my laundry by hand, starting with “pay someone to hand-wash my laundry.” It’s not that I’m lazy. If you have a hole in your elephant-print Sleep ‘n Play, I’m more than happy to mend it. If you want me to remove your duvet cover, launder it, then crawl inside it to smooth out your comforter, crawl back out to admire the fresh bedding, leave the house for an hour and return to find a fresh cat barf stain right in the middle of said duvet, forcing me to start the process all over– I’m game. In fact, I practiced just today, just in case.

But I’m stuck on the hand wash thing, mostly because how do you wring the water out without stretching the piece of clothing out? And get it dry enough that it doesn’t weigh a ton and drip pink water on the floor? 

Looks like I wasted a lot of years worrying, because today I looked it up from the place that would know about stuff like this. The answer was so simple. Almost too simple:

After squeezing out water, lay the sweater on a white towel on a flat surface (a white towel prevents dye transfer from towel to sweater). Gently roll the towel and sweater together to remove moisture, squeezing and pressing as you work.

It totally worked. Any even though the water was extra-cold, sending me into a Tierra-like fit… my expensive-so-I-don’t-want-to-ruin-it Banana Republic sweater and my cheap-so-I-don’t-want-it-to-fall-apart Forever 21 peplum top are saved. Thanks, Martha!

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.

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. 

My Baby Sleeps Through the Night, But I Can’t

Somewhere along the way, Posey started sleeping through the night– but I couldn’t. Baby asleep at 9, husband asleep by 10– but I was wide awake for hours, my internal clock still dinging for the 4am feedings I was used to. At first, I tried the occasional slug of NyQuil to get me drowsy. It sorta worked, but it felt kind of tawdry. I decided that I needed a more “adult” form of sleep therapy, so naturally I went to the next logical step:

Unisom + Reading Sookie Stackhouse novels under the covers with a flashlight

Unisom didn’t work; Sookie only helped so-so. Next try for sleep…

A Girls’ Getaway to Las Vegas

The city that never sleeps, you say? I’ll take what I can get. And what I got– for the extra $20 I slipped the front desk guy– was a quiet corner suite, perfect for a new mom’s desperate attempt to get some rest. But guess what? It seems that I was not following my own advice, and here’s where things really started to unravel. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was “off.” At first, I thought it was just the resurgence of the icky panic attacks I used to suffer from, the result of being too attached to the baby, too nervous of a traveler, and just plain tired.

My Brain!

But it wasn’t just that… and this is something I never expected to write about on this site… But it seems relevant.

In 2002ish, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which sucked. Over the last decade, it’s just been just a blip on my radar–there, but not. I’ve been very lucky. When I got pregnant, I knew there was a chance of a relapse in the first 6 postpartum months, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen. After all, nothing much has happened in ten years. But on Friday, I started experiencing double vision in possibly the most visually overstimulating place on Earth.

I flew home Saturday, and on Monday, I checked into…

The Hospital

Maybe it wasn’t a hotel, but I did have a private room, room service, a nice view of the helicopter landing pad AND an excuse to stay in bed. And the news is all good. I’m not going to go into a ton of medical details, but I will say that my MRI showed no new “bad spots” on my brain– in fact, the inflammation is so slight right now that it’s not even reading on the scan. This setback has no bearing on the future course of my disease, and we expect it to be an isolated incident. I’m hoping to be back to my old self in the very near future. Aside from steroids, the best thing I can do for myself right now is sleep (ha). The nurses woke me up all night to check on me, so no rest there. At my doctor’s suggestion, I went home Tuesday night and tried…

Ambien

OK, I was so scared. I was so tired, but so scared. Haven’t you heard those stories about people taking Ambien and sleepwalking/talking/eating/jogging/prank calling/driving? I took a half and literally booby-trapped all the exits to my home so I’d wake Beef up if I tried to escape. I put chairs in front of all the doors. I didn’t do anything crazy, but I also didn’t sleep that well, either.

Last night, I finally went to sleep on my own. I am feeling a lot better today. I also recommend exactly ZERO of the sleep tips I outlined in the above text and will instead ask you to refer to WebMD’s 10 Tips to Improve Sleep for New Moms.

I am disappointed that the only lingering reminder of my Big Deal Vacation is that I’m still finding streaks of spray tan in my ears with Q-tips. But I’m happy to be home.

xxxooo

6 Things New Parents Won’t Do Forever

My, how things change in just a few short months…

Heat the Bottles: You lovingly warm the bottle each time so it’s just right. And then one day, you realize… she will drink it cold just the same. Time Saved: 40 minutes a day

Wipe, Every Single Time: Turns out using a wet wipe on a wet nether region just breeds diaper rash. Wipes Saved: 6

Bundle Up: The books say to dress your baby in one extra layer than you would wear. And most of us would wear an undershirt, an outershirt, a sweater, a snowsuit and an insulated car seat sleeping bag thing. So just add a plastic unbreathable stroller cover, and your baby is good to go. Then get in trouble at the pediatrician’s office for the extreme heat rash. Laundry Saved: One load a week

Set the Motion Alert Baby Monitor: You may still wake up three times every night to put your finger under his nose to feel for breathing, but hearing the alarm go off after you forget to turn it off and are already in another room with a pants-free baby is only charmingly absent-minded for so long. Energy Saved: Honestly, probably about 1/200th of a cent, but you can now call yourself a Green Mom.

Google: There was a video going around a year or so ago that a made a mental note of before I had a kid. One piece of advice really stuck out as something crucial to remember.

 

Then my daughter had her first stomach flu, and I needed to make sure it wasn’t any sort of flesh-eating worms or mother allergy. I had to slap my own hands away from the  keyboard. Time Saved: 28 hours a week. Seriously.

 

Hand Sanitize…And Then You Will Again: I swore I’d never be the Hand Sanitizing Mom. Then Posey was 6 weeks early and the size of a Subway sandwich at birth. Long story short, we had hand sanitizer in every room of the house and under our pillows. But as time went on, we loosened up a bit. Understood she wasn’t as fragile as we thought. Then came two days ago and the above-mentioned Stomach Flu. I’m going to need you to rub hand sanitizer in your eyes just for reading this. Germs Saved: 10,0000,000000,000,00000 zillion.