Archive for the 'Friends' Category

The Tails of Abbygail, Episode 1: Dreams Come True

amoc1hcc8o3ijyamcbf3What little kids don’t daydream their favorite toys will come to life? Movies have been built around  such youthful fantasies (“Toy Story,” anyone?). Abbygail, a spunky little Jack Russell terrier, is no exception.

In the newly released live-action DVD, “Tails of Abbygail: Dreams Come True,”  the protagonist pup Abbygail watches her ultimate dream come true as her toy dogs and horses – including a cotton candy pink poodle, two giant draft horses and a Bernese mountain dog adorably named “Girlfriend” – magically come to life and embark upon an exciting journey with her. Along they way, they meet new furry faces and learn important, relevant lessons relatable to children ages 2-10.

My four-and-a-half year old son went on this 34-minute adventure with Abbygail and her canine and equine companions, completely enchanted with the storyline. When asked who his favorite character is, he naturally said “Abbygail,” and that his favorite parts were when the gang found treasure and threw a party.

The fun continues with four more episodes from the award-winning “Tails of Abbygail” series. For more, visit weloveabby.com and be sure to like facebook.com/thetailsofabbygail on Facebook!

Working Through My Baby & Mama Drama

I’m always pretty guarded about telling my children’s birth stories. Unless you ask. Then I will talk your ear off. First, everyone who has children has a birth story. Everyone thinks their story is pretty spectacular and dramatic. The truth is, birth is pretty miraculous. Saying you had a baby is saying it all.

I’m guarded because of guilt, I guess (what else is new?). We have two healthy, happy, thriving children and they were conceived with no trouble. Some people have a hell of a time conceiving. Some never are able to have babies. Some people have multiple miscarriages. Some people have a baby, but can’t bring baby home right away. Some people have a baby, but the baby doesn’t make it home. It goes on and on. So when I think about the little dramas I encountered in the maternity ward, they appear to be just that: Little. Not worth sitting here talking about. When I think of that, the little dramas fade. Then I feel particularly jerky and guilty for wanting to talk about our birth stories.

BUT, all of us parents can agree that it’s VERY therapeutic to talk about our birth stories. And I am all about talking, writing and working through our traumas to move forward. And I really feel like I’m at a place, seven months postpartum, that’s I’m ready to talk about Delilah’s birth story, get it out of my system and continue moving forward.

Our drama began when I was doing kangaroo care with Delilah just minutes after I was in recovery after my c-section. She was making some funny breathing sounds – what I thought were cute newborn baby noises. But it alarmed the nurse and she took Delilah away. She was having trouble breathing. Then she stopped breathing and they had to put her on oxygen in the NICU. Honestly, I was not worried. We were in the best possible place for infant care. I trusted what was happening in the NICU. The doctors were very forthcoming with detailed information about what was going on. And as much as I wanted to have our baby room in with us as we did with Ollie, I was kind of looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Is that selfish? Probably. I was on pain meds, recovering from a c-section. I was exhausted and doped up and I just wasn’t too worried. She was healthy for the first nine months, she’d be fine.

When the breathing problem went away, suddenly Delilah wasn’t keeping down her fluids so they gave her an IV to keep her hydrated. In her goddamned forehead. They told us, “It looks barbaric, but it’s the best vein.” Whatever. Whatever. Whatever. They put a little bow near the IV site. OK, just fix her!

I gimped over to the NICU as often as possible to nurse. I pumped like a madwoman filing little vials with colostrum so the nurses could give that to her in between.

Her condition improved and we were able to go home in the standard four days for c-section births. But her interventions didn’t end there. She spit up a lot. I’ve never been a big milk producer, so I felt so defeated when I’d nurse for a half hour and she’d spit up half of the milk. She spit up the formula I was supplementing with. And she wasn’t particularly happy. Then I began finding blood in her stools. After some labs, her pediatrician deducted she had a milk allergy that was straining her and giving her pain. We had to put her on this special formula that is approximately $261 a can. But the blood went away and the colic subsided and she became much happier overall. And so did we.

mommy

Clockwise from top left: Kangaroo time – I had no idea her cute baby sounds were alerting us that she was having trouble breathing. In the NICU. All better and finally able to room in with us. Very proud big brother Ollie meeting Delilah for the first time.

So whatever. You do what you need to do. She’s absolutely doing fine now. I’m a little leery about the transition from this magic formula to regular formula as far as when that’s going to happen and how she’s going to react, and then how the transition to cow’s milk is going to go. I hope the allergy doesn’t stay with her forever. But if it does, we’ll figure it out.

So sitting here with a very happy, healthy, giggly, pink-cheeked redheaded spitfire of a girl, it’s really hard to lament without sounding like an ingrate. But I think the trauma of all of that has weighed on me and I’m now starting to want to get it out so I can move on.

And that’s not all. We had another blow at the hospital.

A NICU nurse pulled a vial of my colostrum from the fridge and gave it to another woman’s baby. The other mom saw my name on the vial’s label and flipped. I don’t blame her. The fuck?

That just made me mad. Mad for me for the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to get blood work done to prove I don’t have HIV/AIDS/hep. Mad for the other mom who found out her baby got some random woman’s milk who, for all she knew, had HIV/AIDS/hep/crack addiction/zombie DNA. Mad for everyone who puts trust in hospitals and their healthcare staffs. And mad at the dingbat nurse who fucked up. Even more mad for her manner of sharing the bad news. I was having a private moment nursing my baby and catching up with my sister when she peeked in looking like someone just died and said she had horrible news, proceeding to tell me how she fucked up. Which, yes, is horrible and needed to be communicated to me pretty immediately, but certainly there was a better way. Like in private without the imminent-end-of-the-world facial expression and tone. I realize to her, fucking up could cost her her job, so maybe it was the end of the world to her, but chill. I was in a delicate state as it was – baby in the NICU, I’m recovering from a major surgery, on meds, not in the best mental state. I basically fell apart. Blubbering like a damn fool.

I would have been royally screwed if a) my husband wasn’t the rock that he is and incredible at dealing with people and b) my best friends weren’t waiting for me in my room to cheer me up. They came unexpectedly and I wasn’t sure I could pull it together for them, but I took a deep breath, wiped away my tears and went in and laughed like nobody’s business for a good half hour. Sometimes a surprise visit is the BEST visit. So thank you Cely and Jaime. 🙂

My reward for having my bloodwork done was $30 worth of hospital cafeteria vouchers. Looks like I came out the big winner, amiright? It was also reassuring to know that I don’t have zombie DNA.

So yeah. It was the roller coaster ride that had a lot of free falls, but also lots of fun parts in between like getting home-baked goodies from my sister’s bakery, ridiculously cute girlie stuff from friends and family, so many flowers it smelled like a garden in my room, plus lots of private, happy moments between my husband and me, and my baby and me. And seeing Ollie with his little sister for the first time was priceless.

I guess as I start closing this post, I just want to say no matter how minor, your drama as a parent is yours. It has value. It has meaning. You might not even know its weight till you’re seven months postpartum. It might hit you all at once. Talk about it and don’t feel guilty. For me, when people ask me if and when we’re having No. 3, I feel like unloading all the stuff we’ve been through physically, emotionally, hormonally and financially. I am not aching to add to my brood. And I’m not sorry for feeling that way. I’m VERY happy with my perfectly messy, chaotic, silly and crazy family. I can’t imagine it getting any better than this, right now. I don’t want to “push” it!

Now, tell me about your birth story! (Oh no, I just opened the flood gates, didn’t I?! Bring it!)

Learning to Hate Our Bodies, Part One: The Media

girlreadingmagazineThis is the first part in a series of personal stories about how I learned to hate my body, little by little, from as far back as I can remember. I’m seriously now just beginning to not pick on myself throughout the day. I am 35. Thirty five!

It’s not just me. I have friends of all shapes and sizes and ages who are still dealing with this, too. What we have in common is that we are all women who essentially came of age in the ’80s and ’90s in suburban America with its white girl mall culture and expectation of flawlessness. Ads, the media, peers, relatives, teachers, boys – their message has always been clear to us: You are imperfect and you need to be fixed.

How does this relate to my blog? Well, if I do nothing else as a person, I want to raise children with positive body images who respect their own bodies and other peoples’. I want confident kids. And that starts with being comfortable in your own body despite the mixed messages that are sent all day long. And that starts at home. So yeah. Totally relevant stuff here.

So here goes.

The media and its advertisers are EVER SO EAGER to help you be the image of feminine perfection. It’s a business model. There is money to be made off of your intrinsic desire to not be disgusting. I have been a member of the media since senior year in high school when I got my first newspaper clip. Despite my passion for journalism and fierce support for the First Amendment, pop media largely grosses me out. It editorializes stories like Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies, the “chunky” cheerleader and that pathetic Abercrombie & Fitch CEO who hates fat girls. At the same time, I’m so guilty of watching, reading and reposting.

The relentlessness of the media when it comes to telling you about your crappy body is alarming. You think it’s going to get better when you get older, wiser, get married, get a job, have kids. But, oh no. IT NEVER GOES AWAY. It just changes a little. When you become a mom, for example, suddenly you’re being marketed to as a new demographic: the ideal mother. Wholesome, nurturing and impossibly SKINNY with flawless skin. This same illusion of a mother always does the right thing when it comes to child-rearing, but that’s another post.

When exactly does the media begin digging in? For me, who knows, maybe it was the first time I saw a Barbie commercial. The first time I remember it really resonating was when I was a teenager pouring over Delia’s catalogs and YM and Seventeen magazines. Trust me, I hold all those teen glossies near and dear to my heart because they are synonymous with the best parts of adolescence: Sitting around in my friend’s bedroom, gossiping and prank calling randoms while listening to Weezer, Green Day, Mazzy Star and Milla Jovovich CDs on repeat. Outside of that otherwise joyful context, though, teen magazines are toxic.

They were and continue to be a huge contributor to our very specific self loathing be it our faces, hair, bodies,  odor, biology, clothes, friendships, boyfriends – pretty much EVERY aspect of our lives and specifically those that make us uniquely women. You know, stuff we should embrace, but were taught to HATE till they go away or are fixed. That’s why we starve. That’s why we cover up our bodies. They’re why we are still chasing some ghost of an ideal woman. At 30, 40, 50 …

Through being bombarded by self-help, diet, exercise, dating, beauty and fashion advice in teen mags, we’re basically led to think we are physically inferior, un-dateable and need improvement. And we by no means can do ANY of this by ourselves. We need help.

Teen mags are chock-full of pictures of pretty, skinny girls with good clothes and TONS of advice on how to fix your ugly self.

And forget about when we graduated to Cosmo (basically within the same year – we could not wait to check out this scandalous women’s magazine! It was our version of Playboy!).

Cosmo had fashion spreads of unachievable womanliness, Victoria’s Secret ads and hordes of graphic information about how to do sex right FOR YOUR MAN. I will never forget the how-to B.J. story that had us giggling for an hour. My friend read it out loud in a haughty professor voice. It was hilarious. But you know what? It essentially informed us how to be an object of pleasure for someone else.

My older sister had Sassy around the house – for skinny, alternative girls of all colors. It was a start. I didn’t see BUST till I flipped through it at a comic store in Chicago. It wasn’t love at first sight. BUST was so boldly sex-positive it scared me off at first. Not because I’m a prude, but because it went against everything I thought I knew about being a woman. The beauty tips featured normal-looking people. Normal people can’t be pretty! The sex guides were for, um, the reader (What? What a concept). It was only really when I bought my first issue of BUST that things began changing for me. Christ, I was in my 20s. Riot Grrrl and women’s studies classes were another big part of the change. I guess that sounds like a cliché feminist coming-of-age story, but it’s true, and studying women’s sociology, reading women’s lit and listening to angry lyrics about social injustices still happening IN OUR COUNTRY, IN 1998 certainly improved upon how I looked at myself and other women.

Then in my 30s, I began discovering intelligent and funny bloggers like Emily McCombs who writes through her body and addiction issues. The Internet has allowed me to totally hone in on writing that I care about by smart writers who are not interested in cashing in on making people feel bad all the time. Pretty sure Rookie, an incredible e-zine by Chicago teenager Tavi Gevinson, would have been my jam if we had the Internet as we know it in 1995.

I still subscribe to BUST – now in its 20th year and still writing intelligently for women (I even had the pleasure of interviewing its owners for a story and freelancing for them for a while). BUST is still helping all of us women like our bodies, right now, not in some fake future when we lose all the weight and buy all of the designer cosmetics. They’re still publishing awesome DIY guides and sharing information that actually matters.

Still, not a day goes by that most of TV, magazines, the Internet and all those ads in-between slam us with images of skinny, pretty, clean, smart, nice-smelling, unachievable womanhood.

I LOVE Pinterest, but between pictures of unreachable beauty standards, and “inspirational” quotes about what you’re doing wrong and how to do it right, plus endless tips and tricks to “live your best life,” sometimes I feel like I’m flipping through the absolute worst of those teen magazines.

True, I should really get off the Internet.

So tell me, did you grow up with teen magazines? Do you think they impacted how you feel about yourself today or were they just a girl’s rite-of-passage/get over it? 

If you’ve ever felt like the media’s influence has harmed your body image, do you still feel that way or are you moving past it? What’s helped? 

How are you ensuring your kids aren’t being beat over the head with the media’s seemingly never-ending Perfect Body Image Campaign? 

Illustration: pamf.org

Hello. My Name is Erica B. and I am a Happy Suburbanite

This, from Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters, is designed to be funny-offensive. I can take a joke. But allow me to set the record straight about my very much alive hopes, dreams and aspirations as a suburbanite.

The city vs. the suburbs? It’s not that simple. It’s not us against them.

I didn’t leave Chicago for the suburbs because I fell out of love with it. Or because I failed. Or it failed me. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chicago was everything to me.

It’s an unpopular opinion that the suburbs are as adventurous as the big city. You can’t possibly maintain your dignity, passion and integrity out there. You can’t possibly still consider that living.

Newsflash: I’ve lived here for four years (and grew up in one) and I AM FAR FROM DEAD. I love the suburbs.

I still keep up with new music. I still read (we have libraries, too!). I write. I create. I discover new restaurants and eat good food with friends. I attend art shows and farmers markets, and shop at little downtown stores. I visit farms, orchards, museums, parks and enjoy tons of recreation. At home, I even have room for my own real garden! It’s pretty amazeballs. And contrary to what my facebook posts might relate, my new adventures are not all about my kids (though, yeah, some of the best involve them). Oh, and one final revelation: I can visit the city whenever I please.

It’s just common sense. You don’t die when you move. You don’t give up when you have a family. It doesn’t work that way. Adventurous people find adventure. Motivated people don’t care if something doesn’t already exist for them, they can always make it themselves. Creative people don’t need a special place to build, write or dream. They just do it. They rely on their imagination and will, not their coordinates.

So if you’ve transplanted form the city to the burbs or country for family, work, change of pace, cost of living, whatever – don’t EVER feel bad about it. Never feel like a sellout. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed or boring (unless you are boring). Don’t care so much about what’s going on in the city or what you’re missing out on. You have every opportunity to enjoy your life with the people you love wherever you are right now.

Why I Wanted a Kid

I’ll never forget years ago at a Chicago craft show, that menacing plush asparagus holding a Krylon spray paint can. His name was Mr. Lertchman – he was the raddest. I wanted it for my baby boy. I should have just bought it on the spot. It was gone when I went back for it. Still, I made a pretty cool connection.

That was the first time I met Steff Bomb, the famous maker of “monsters” – stuffed asparagus, tree stumps, pizza, corns on the cob, human limbs, GameBoys, banjos, sliders and so forth.

Since that encounter, I’ve plugged her work here in multiple gift guides. I think her pieces are perfect for children and kids at heart. Made by hand, with love and humor, there’s no better treasure than a monster from Steff.

She wrote something on facebook yesterday that struck me: “i don’t think i’ll ever understand why people want to have kids.”

At first, I was kind of irritated because it seems so obvious to me as a mom. Twenty “likes” and a few scathing anti-children, anti-breeder rants and I’m like, maybe I should jump in. Then I was like, wait, this is probably not the best venue to spill my soft, emo mommy guts. Which brings me to this post.

So many people wonder but are afraid to ask their breeder friends why they decided to have kids, and I appreciate Steff for her bravery. So here are my very personal and honest thoughts about my why. It’s a two-parter because there’s the why we decide to have children and why we choose to KEEP our children (hehe!):

I’d been with my spouse for almost 10 years and we were happy and in love (still are). We were super active in the local arts community, working day jobs and freelance gigs, and our free time was generally spent partying. Partying was getting old. The scene was getting old. We were getting older. Our friends were leaving the city and settling down. We felt like there had to be more to life.

We had no desire to live nomadically, drop out or otherwise follow some elaborate ambition that would be unfavorable for raising a family (though, seriously, I know a ton of artists, travelers, musicians and whatnot raising amazing families. Totally admire them!). For us, at least, all signs pointed to baby making. That and we both talked about it and shared a desire for a family (that’s kind of key). We were ready. That’s the simple story of why we made Ollie.

Did I know I’d fall in love with him? Did I know motherhood would be so incredible? I had hoped so. Did I think I’d ever ponder why? Not really, but I’m glad I am right now because like most parents, my biggest thrill is thinking/talking/writing about my child (lame and 100 percent true!).

Why do I keep Ollie around? Only a bazillion reasons: Because he’s got J’s intellectual curiosity and my evil-cute grin. Because with the genes of a writer and artist who know nothing about sports, he’s gonna be quite the baller (amirite?). Because he’ll tell me totally randomly and unprovoked that he’s my best friend. Because he is so eager to make friends, to help a smaller child, to tag along with the big kids. Because he could care less if he’s playing with a baby doll or a monster car. Because he can create a magical world with the box a toy comes in. Because we can give each other that look and start laughing hysterically. Because he still wants to cuddle, to hold hands, for me to “kiss it better” (clearly we’re not talking about a teenager). Because I’m not the only one whose life has completely changed forever in a positive way now that he’s here.

Those are just a few of my whys.

I could go on and on about how parenthood has informed me to make better decisions in my life, made me more thoughtful, optimistic and driven to do things that make my son proud of me. That’s another post altogether.

How about you? Do you have kids? What were some of your deciding factors? Or, if you don’t want children, why not?

Pirate PARRRty For My Little Matey!

It’s a pirate theme for Ollie’s 3rd birthday! Once again, Auntie Coco will be baking the custom cake – can’t wait! Here are a few things we’ve stocked up on …

Top row: Pirate garland/flags, booty chest goodie box and action figures (temp tattoos, eye patches, etc.) for goodie box.

Second row: Buried treasure cake with lots of booty, pirate hats (and accessories) and foam swords.

Third row: Pop-Up Pirate game (by Tomy); skull sweater from Target and lots of doubloons!

Rockin’ Gift Guide Part 1: Ideas For Big Kids

For the first Rockin’ Gift Guide installment, we’re sharing some “sound investments” for the grownups on your list.

DIY Uke – Spoonsisters.com (in stock 3/2012)

Tattoo MOM Ornament or DAD Mug – Sourpussclothing.com

"The Rockabillies" Book (on sale!) – Brokencherry.com

Punk Shirt ("Metal" also avail.) – Buyolympia.com

"Cool Bands" Gum – Perpetualkid.com

Perosnalized Pick & Key Chain – Etsy.com/shop/LoreleiRose

Jam Band Ornament Set – Perpetualkid.com

Gig Posters Vol. 1 & 2 – Gigposters.com

Flying V/Coffee Shirt – Soundopinions.org

Mix Tape Flask – Etsy.com/shop/whimsyandink

"You Weren't There" Ltd. Ed. LP/DVD – Regressivefilms.com

Amp Mug – Sourpussclothing.com


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