Monthly Archives: January 2011

Considering Ending My Relationship With Black Thunder

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love cars. Fast ones, big ones, small ones, and of course my own. I’ve had Black Thunder since 2002, the first year the Jeep Liberty was made.

Black Thunder

I named her that because when she gets out on the open road, she roars. She’s seen me through many times good and bad, road trips, traffic jams and precarious close calls on Chicago’s winter ice. As time’s marched on she’s been going to the shop more frequently and a few weeks ago, she began making a scary grinding noise.

I warned Hubby about it, but Black Thunder never made it to the mechanic. Then Ethan was born, Hubby went to Florida for business and it was my mother-in-law and me holding down the fort.

On the way to take Logan to daycare Black Thunder Ka-THUNKED followed by a rhythmic flap, flap, shutter so I pulled over, convinced something happened to the tires. I walked around the car, found four perfectly fine tires, so I trudged on to daycare and Black Thunder sounded normal.

That night Hubby and I agreed, if the cost for the repairs were more than $1,000, we’d look at getting a new car, if not we’d fix Black Thunder. We’d just fixed the radiator and scores of other things, not to mention the motor to the rear passenger window broke the week before so we had to tape up the window from the inside so the glass didn’t slip down into the door. It was classy, let me tell you.

The next day, I had to get Logan to daycare and I was afraid to drive the Jeep for fear of getting stranded with my boy. But I made a plan that if Black Thunder died before we made it to school, I’d call a cab to finish our trip to daycare and the garage could send a tow truck for the Liberty.

On the way to school, Logan asked me to drive a different route, I told him no we needed to get to daycare fast before the car broke.

“The car will break into pieces?” He asked.

“Yes, it very well could.”

His eyes got big and we rode the rest of the way in silence.

After dropping Logan off, I headed to the dealership, one block away a metallic grinding noise came from under my feet, I began to pray. Screetching into the Jeep dealership, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, I had made it.

Turns out my drive shaft was broken and that plus the window, the tally was $1,100. We were back to the question that we’d visited and visited again. Is it time for a new car?

Both the Jeep and the TT are paid off, which has been great not having a car payment. And the start of a six-month maternity leave is not the greatest time financially to start paying on a car, but we needed safe, reliable transportation. What to do?

And Now For My Next Trick: Being a SAHM of Two

This juggling life thing just took a hard left in our house and we’re finding our sea legs. I’m used to trying to squeeze in friends/sleep/laundry/grocery shopping/doctor appointments/blogging/cleaning around a hectic work schedule and being a mom of one.

But for the next six months, I’m a stay-at-home mom. There’s no more down time during my commute to and from the office so that I can blog, email or catch up with friends IRL. It’s a 24 hour job and with my newest little guy who has a voracious appetite, I’m up every few hours during that glorious 24.

I’ve got to figure out a new schedule, when should we wake up now that I don’t have to waltz into the office at 7:30a? Sleeping in late for SAHMs unfortunately isn’t an option. (However, so far I’ve been able to take a nap each afternoon with little Ethan, I’m hoping that trend can continue at least three times a week!)

How often can I reasonably expect Hubby to come home early or at least on time? After spending all day with cute ankle biters, by the time 7 p.m. rolls around I’m looking for a breather.

It’s an adjustment to say the least. It’s not as rough as going from being a non-mom to a mom, but it’s an adjustment nonetheless and I’m trying out different tricks to see how I can get it all done.

Right now things have been pretty good as my mother-in-law stayed for three weeks and this week my parents are here, so the first month we’ve had great help. I’m thinking about when the cavalry leaves.

I’ve been getting both boys dressed and ready for the day to see how I can balance the two in a zone defense sort of arrangement. I’d like to hit up the grocery store solo with the boys to see how that goes. For some reason, planning and going on test drives so to speak makes me feel more in control.

That’s the funny thing about parenting though, I’m no longer in control, it’s more like I’m a suggestion box of sorts.

I suppose my biggest suggestion to myself is to just be flexible. I have to keep telling myself that these mommy rhythms take time, it’s not like going to a meeting where there’s an agenda filled with action items that will be accomplished by certain deadlines. I need to be flexible and patient and soon enough I’ll figure out how to squeeze in friends/sleep/laundry/grocery shopping/doctor appointments/blogging and maybe even a little cleaning as a mom of two. Right?

Learning That Asking For Help Does Not Mean Failure

*Guestblogger Jess is a quick-witted, stay-at-home mother-writer-friend who periodically discusses the various lenses of her life on She’sWrite. Here’s her story:

I sometimes listen to advice as though it was common sense. “Yes, of course I’ll ask for help if I need it.” “Yes, of course I’ll have moments of doubt as a mother.” Then, when not so removed, I find myself seeing that advice in a new light. “Oh, this is what they were talking about. Yes, this is much harder than I thought it would be.”

So it took me about six weeks longer than it should have to realize that I needed help. I kept thinking, “I’m a stay at home mom, for Christ sake. I have no other obligations. This is my job. I should be able to do it.” However, my patience had all but disappeared. I was getting upset at my 3 year old for things like, oh, waking up in the morning. I was yelling more often and much louder than I will ever truly admit. I was snappish: “Be quiet. Sigh. Hurry up. Sigh. Not this, that. Not that, this.”

And every night, I felt weighed down with horrible guilt that I was a lousy mother. I would think of my little boy lying in his bed, think of all the pressure I put on him, and I would cry.

I knew in my head that I was having trouble for awhile. But I was ashamed. I felt guilty. (What is it with us women?) I was embarrassed.

Then, I started to have a temper with my 3-month-old. I got upset when she was fussy, when she wouldn’t stop crying. Yes, this is normal. But my temper would shoot from zero to sixty in half a second, a problem I never had with my first child. And, more important, my anger was directed at her. I didn’t just get angry, I got angry at her. I raised my voice _to an infant.

Finally, finally, I realized, “Screw my pride. Screw my sense of responsibility. It’s not about me.” I needed to dial down my stress or I was going to turn Henry and Clara into skittish worrywarts. I’d heard of that parental concern about “ruining” your children. For the first time, I worried.

Things seem much bigger when they are locked inside your own head. Then you say it out loud, or write it, and it gets smaller and more manageable. So, after talking with my husband, I began to feel better. I realized certain things that lessened my sense of failure: these last six months were the first time since I had Henry that I had no outside activity _ no part-time job, as I’d had when Henry was born. No school, having finished my teacher certification last May. No workout classes or regular nights out. Furthermore, my pregnancy had been high-risk for several months. My husband was traveling more than ever. My toddler had stopped napping when Clara was 2 weeks old. And I did deliver a child 12 weeks earlier, for heaven’s sake.

We decided my husband would try to go to work a bit later in the morning (he had been leaving at 5:30 a.m.) so I could sleep longer. He would also take the night feedings on weekends. And we decided to hire a regular sitter. This was the hardest thing for me to accept _ seriously, a stay at home mom with a nanny?

My friend, who is a mother of two, recently went from working outside the home one day a week to three. At that point, her husband, who had been getting home from work at 7  or 8 p.m., offered to leave work early one or two days a week. She gladly accepted but added, “I needed you to come home early when I was home five days a week, too.”

Conventional wisdom states that it’s working mothers who need more help. Obviously that’s true for things like day care. But we stay-at-home moms need help, too. How often have you heard, “Raising children is the hardest job there is”? We all say that, but I think we, myself included, still have a ways to go before we fully accept the notion of stay-at-home moms, who make no money, spending money to bring in help. A stigma continues to surrounds us _ bon bons; lack of drive or ambition; or worse, lack of intellect.

We are also a nation obsessed with hard work. There is no end to which we will admire those who work until they drop. “She stayed at work until 1 a.m. to finish that brief? What a go-getter!” Meanwhile, our European cousins, who lunch for two hours a day and take month-long vacations and year-long maternity leaves, are laughing at us for what we have not yet learned about living.

What I have learned is this: The more I yelled, the more Henry yelled. The more I frowned, the more he frowned. I learned I need to take care of myself to take care of my children, that asking for help is not failure. That even when it comes to your children, there can be too much of a good thing.

So, 8 to 10 hours a week, I will have some time to myself to write. It is a luxury. It is also a necessity.

Rx for Mommy Sanity: Getting Help After Baby’s Born

My last week has been filled with feedings every two hours, diapers, tiny cries, lots of snuggles, diapers, tantrums from the 3 year old, diapers and more diapers. It can be hard work, but it’s easily manageable largely because I’ve got great help.

As I’ve said before, my mother-in-law is in town from Norway to help us with life after baby. She’s here for a glorious three weeks, then my parents come for a week and my sister says she’ll stay for a few days after that. That means for at least the first month, I’ve got extra hands around the house.

When Logan was born, we also had help. My mom was there for his birth and stayed for a couple weeks, my dad also came for a few days and then my mother-in-law was here for a couple weeks.

Before Logan, everyone told me to make sure that when someone came over after the baby, take advantage and put them to work. I was advised to set up clear expectations before my guests arrived that people were not to be catered to, they were to help me. After having a baby, the last thing you feel like is being a hostess with the mostess.

For me that help meant doing our laundry, planning and preparing dinner, general pickup around the house and looking after the newborn so I could catch up on sleep lost the night before. The hard part was setting up those boundaries because it can be an uncomfortable conversation, but I figured I owed it to myself and my newly growing family to look out for what’s best for us.

That being said, I knew I couldn’t be my usual picky and particular self. I no longer care what’s for dinner as long as I didn’t have to think about it. I also don’t care how the laundry is done or where it’s put away, as long as I don’t have to think about it.

The first time around, I was grateful for all of the assistance I received and this time is no different. However, this time Hubby and I are really trying to milk this for all that it’s worth. We’re not used to having family around, so now that she’s here we’re getting all kinds of things done. And she understands. On her first day here, she stated in her charming Norwegian accent: “I am not here for a vacation, I am here to work.”

Three days after Ethan was born, I snuck away for an hour to get a manicure. It felt so gooood to treat myself. When he was a week old, Hubby and I made a fast break for the movies one afternoon. We saw Tron in IMAX 3D. (Not usually my first choice when it comes to movies, but I wanted an escape, nothing too heavy and Hubby has been dying to see it. It was very entertaining.)

Right now Hubby’s out of town on business, but again, it’s totally manageable because I’ve got someone here who is helping me meet my family’s needs. Feedings, diapers, snuggles and all.

Introducing Ethan Matthew

It’s official: I’m a mom of two. I’m actually still in the hospital as I type, but it’s just me and the little one and he’s passed out while I’m too wired to sleep.  I’d forgotten how much they snooze at this age.

After my last post, I was admitted into the hospital. No doctor in their right mind would let me leave with blood pressures of 177/115. They decided to induce me and around 4:30 a.m. started my pitocin, a medication that makes you have contractions.

The contractions were pretty light at first and I started practicing some hypnobirthing techniques that I finally had time to research a week ago since I was no longer working. I’m not against having epidurals, I had one with Logan, but I have scoliosis, making it very difficult to give an epidural and getting it in was the worst part of Logan’s birth. So I thought I’d try the unmedicated route if I could.

I made it fairly far, especially considering I hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours when the labor really started rolling. (I had a long day on Monday, left for the hospital shortly after midnight that night.) So was I exhausted, had lost my focus and couldn’t get it back.

There was even a time where Hubby was frantically searching for songs that could help me through and the next thing I know Eminem is playing in my delivery room… At first I was like, what in the hell is he doing? But I was game for anything and it turns out spitting rapid-fire lyrics *can* help you through a few rough contractions. Thankfully the nurse never came in while I was dropping rhymes.

In the end I got the epidural, the anesthesiologist said it was one of the more difficult ones she’s ever given, but she did a great job and I felt loads better.

I had my mother-in-law in the delivery room because we’re very, very close and I felt I’d need her support. Also, though she has three grandchildren, she hasn’t seen one come into the world and I thought that’d be a wonderful gift. When the doctor announced that in a few minutes the baby would be there, tears welled up in her eyes. “Hey, there’s no crying until the baby’s here.” I said teasingly. Then I looked at Hubby and he too was teary-eyed. I smiled. I love that they wear their big hearts on their sleeves.

Two minutes later there was this exquisite moment where at first there were five people in the room and bing! Then there were six. The newest person was the smallest one, but had the biggest presence.

At 6-pounds, 7 ounces he has dark eyes, a head full of dark hair and big hands and feet for his 19-inch frame. His name is Ethan, a name Hubby and I have loved for years, and the middle name is Matthew after my nephew Theodore Matthew who died of SIDS.

Whenever I look at Ethan, I’m amazed at this little being. I’ve waited months to meet him and have worried week after week about his health considering my blood pressure. And he’s perfect. Absolutely perfect.

So here I am, a mom of two and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

I Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Birthing No Babies

That’s exactly how I feel. My new baby is to make his/her debut soon and I know I’m already a mom, but still welcoming a new one into the world is scary. Are women ever nonchalant about having a baby? Was Michelle Duggar like: Meh, this is just kid No. 19?

Not sure, but I know we’ve prepped all we can for Bean, I simply wonder how the big day is going to go down. Is it today? Tomorrow? Will I be induced? Get to go on my own?

They’re monitoring me very closely for preeclampsia. My due date is Jan. 6 and I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far without being induced, so I’m glad that I stopped working early and have been taking it easy to give Bean the best start possible.

Earlier today I had a doctor appointment where my blood pressure was very high in the beginning and then lowered about 10 minutes later. The non-stress tests on my 7lb Bean were perfect, as usual. The doctor said that I didn’t need to come back until Monday, but I didn’t listen and made another appointment for Wednesday.

And we all know how much I hate doctors and hospitals. It just felt… right. So back home I went and after lounging around the house for some time, I started to feel… for lack of a better word, woozy and my blood pressure was again sky high.

Though like Prissy in Gone With The Wind “I don’t know nothing ’bout birthing no babies,” yet I thought let’s go to the hospital to check this out.

Who knows, maybe I’ll go in for monitoring and then get to go back home. Or maybe I’ll come home with a wriggling bundle of joy. Funny thing about these kinds of things, even Type As like me can’t control the situation.

Stay tuned.

My New Year’s Resolution: A Chicago Bucket List

Each year I make a New Year’s resolution and as I’ve said before, I take it quite seriously and pride myself on not breaking it. For 2010 I did Christine Kane’s exercise of picking a word that’s your theme for the entire year. Mine was reclaim and I loved it.

I figure I’ve got too many life-changing adjustments to make in 2011 with the new baby, six months of maternity leave and other things to adequately pick a theme for the entire year. So I chose to make a bucket list of Chicago sites that I want to visit this year.

For the record, I’m not dying or anything like that, I just think living in such a fantastic city, it’s easy to take for granted all the great experiences at our fingertips. I want to make a focused effort on hitting up some Chicago favorites.

My list consists of some personal faves and other ideas were gleaned from my friends who told me about what they love to do in the city. I consider my friends to be fun, smart and pretty damn cool but unpretentious, so I added the rest of their suggestions at the bottom of my bucket list in case you’re curious.

  • Millennium Park. I want to come here on a warm summer day, let Logan splash around in the oversized television fountains and enjoy the rest the park has to offer.
  • Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art. Spend the morning at the Art Institute, my favorite Chicago museum, then have lunch at the MCA and tour the exhibits.
  • Take the family to the beach. Logan loves the water and this would be a guaranteed great time.
  • Go to a sing-a-long movie at The Music Box Theatre. I’ve always wanted to do this, but never have. I’ve lived here since 2001, it’s time.
  • Run the Chicago Half Marathon. Chicago is a great racing city, the running community here is so supportive, it’s amazing. I am a novice runner, but one year my New Year’s resolution was to run a marathon and the support I received from running friends and strangers was stupendous. Besides having children and getting married, the marathon was the third best event of my life. I don’t feel committed enough to carve time for a full, so the half is much more manageable.
  • Afternoon tea at the Drake. I never considered myself an afternoon tea kind of gal, after all I don’t even like tea. I recently went to a baby shower that was afternoon tea at the Peninsula and had a wonderful time, I want to duplicate the experience.
  • Lyric Opera House. I’m 33 years old and I’ve never seen an opera, but I work across the street from the opera house. I’m long overdue. I even know what dress I’ll wear, it’s a vintage black dress that I’ve nicknamed “Jackie” after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and we bought it at a Michigan boutique, though it was handmade in Evanston, Ill. in the early 1960s.
  • Dim Sum in Chinatown. It’s been five years since I’ve done this. Again, long overdue.
  • Second City. I’ve seen a fair amount of live theater and comedic troupes while here, but I’d like to go to Second City downtown. The troupes in the suburbs that I’ve seen have been great, but I’d like to go to the heart of the storied institution.
  • Dessert at Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. I used to go here after dinner with girlfriends or when visitors were in town. Hubby and I need a night out where we end our evening about 1,040 feet above the city. (As a side note, clearly these are *the* best bathrooms in the city where opposite of the stalls is a glass wall with a spectacular view.)
  • Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve never been here, but have heard how it’s so beautiful with its six large greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls. Parts of it are very ornate as it’s 100 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Cubs game. Sure they’re losers, but it’s always fun to give Wrigley Field some love.

Favorites from my friends:

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Children’s Museum on Navy Pier
  • Chicago Architectural tour
  • The DuSable Museum
  • Gourmet restaurants
  • The Polish American Museum of History
  • Eating the best Mexican food ever in the Pilsen neighborhood
  • Eating the best soul food ever at Army & Lous or Pearl’s Place on the South Side
  • Dancing under the stars in Grant Park
  • Jokes and Notes Comedy Club
  • The Backroom Jazz Club
  • Lucky Strike
  • Green Farmers Market in Lincoln Park
  • Walking through Michigan Avenue shopping area with hot coffee on early summer morning
  • Walking through any Chicago park after a snow fall
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the South Side
  • Coffee/pastries and/or sandwiches at Pastoral or Julius Meinl
  • Browsing books and wine at The Book Cellar
  • Find great half-price shows on Chicago theater web sites

*Updated to note that unfortunately Army & Lou’s recently closed, check out the article here. Also one of my smart readers pointed out that the South Side parade was canceled because it got too rowdy.