Archive for the 'Friends' Category

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.


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!)

“Ray” Told B …

“A told B,

and B told C,

‘I’ll meet you at the top

of the coconut tree!'”

Clockwise: “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” – a must-own ABCs book; my friend Cely H., who turned us onto the book, in a Chicka Chicka costume; book with play-along tree and letters; You can should buy the version of the book that comes with narration by Ray Charles (uh-huh). 

Over the summer, my librarian/educator friend Cely H. brought over a copy of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” – a much-loved ABCs book. It’s been one of my son’s favorites ever since – he’s totally memorized it. Written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and illustrated by Lois Ehlert in 1989, the book – with its sing-songy rhythms and bright colors – makes learning the alphabet lots of fun. Every parent of small children should own a copy!

This story centers on lowercase letters (“children”) who can’t resist climbing up the coconut tree. So excited, they all run up quickly, the trunk bows, and the letters fall just as fast as they ran up. Uppercase letters (“adults”) come to their rescue. But as soon as night falls, the little letters are at it again. Sort of a metaphor for parenting!

Cely informed me that the book was released with a recording of Ray Charles narrating in the ’90s. It’s awesome … listen for yourself!

Playing Catch Up

Hi! Remember moi? I’ve been pretty busy over here with the dayjob, but rest assured, I have lots of blog ideas for February. Before I can move on, I have to catch you up on what’s been going on in Ollieland. So here’s a pictorial review:

First Show – We went to see The Boogers (“Ramones meets Mother Goose”) at Schubas in January. I wish I could say we stayed for the entire set, but Ollie was a little sensitive to the noise (he wasn’t the only one). But we had a great time anyway, scored a t-shirt and had all the tater tots we could snarf next door at Harmony Grill. I highly recommend checking out The Boogers, especially if you’re a punk rock parent like me. After the show, we headed across the street to Uncle Fun, one of my favorite shops in Chicago – full of curios, tchotchkes, pranks, toys and books. Our haul included a Homies lunchbox (for Kate), a pooping pig (Ollie is quite smitten with this), wind-up chattering teeth and two plastic double-finger rings for me.

Terrific Twos – The rock star 2nd birthday party was a blast. Auntie Coco knocked the record cake out of the park as predicted. Great pizzas from Nick’s.




Baby’s First Blizzard – We had two super snow days after Mother Nature dumped almost two feet of snow on the Chicago area. Ollie could not get enough of snowball throwing and climbing the drifts.  We couldn’t get enough of him being naturally cute with his rosy cheeks and nose. Another item of note, we were all thankfully shoveled out in time for a weekend playdate with Judys – Ollz made a great new friend, Mylo.




Going for a Spin – Ollie’s vintage Fisher-Price record player finally came. It’s pretty fantastic. He’s a bit small to play it himself, but we enjoyed “The Fox and the Hound” on vinyl – and I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of it – old 45s sound wonderfully tinny and crackly. Also for his b-day Auntie Coco got him the retro record player toy that he has manhandled to the point that it half works. We have fun singing oldies like “Camptown Races” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” How bad is it that the Andrew Dice Clay versions of some of these nursery rhymes are the ones I remember best?


Famous Babe – Ollie’s mug was featured on the homepage of to promote local snowbaby pics in the site’s photo gallery. After the blizzard, they used it again to encourage parents to send blizzard baby pics. This is validation that we’re not too biased – Ollie is unarguably cute.

Halloween is AWESOME!

I probably loved Halloween more than a lot of kids growing up. I went to a Catholic grade school, so the opportunity to ditch the plaid jumper, white blouse and knee socks for a day and get dressed up was quite a thrill.

My costumes were always handmade or pieced together using regular clothes and flair. My mom put a lot of imagination into our costumes whether we were clowns, witches, genies, babies or cats. And to this day, if I’m going out to a Halloween party, I don’t purchase a pre-made costume or rent one from a costume shop. I’ve purchased props and wigs, but I always make my own costumes. There’s something really exciting about creating a costume from scratch.

Make no mistake, I am no seamstress like my mom was. I can hem on a pair of slacks and mend a hole in a stuffed toy, but I don’t have a sewing machine and patterns kind of scare me.

I feel so lucky that Ollie’s auntie is crafty and knows how sew and create costumes, that and that she volunteers to make Ollie’s and doesn’t protest my wacky ideas! Last year, he was an Ewok and she put a lot of time and thought into his outfit. My favorite part was the hoodie/cape with ears – and boy was it toasty warm!

This year, considering Ollie’s fandom of Yo Gabba Gabba, I thought a DJ Lance Rock costume would be a lot of fun. I also briefly considered Nacho Libre after my friend sent me a pic of a crazy-adorbs toddler in full regalia (including a painted-on mustache), but I thought a bare chest would be a little chilly.

So his auntie is putting on the finishing touches of DJ Lance Rock this week, which we’re now dubbing DJ Ollie Rock. It includes a cardboard ghetto blaster/candy bucket – just like the one that contains the YGG toys in the TV show! “Am I a bad auntie that I used a six-pack to make the boombox?” she asked?! Ha! I told her of course not! I would have done the same thing. 🙂

I positively can’t wait to see it.

It gets better – one of my friend’s got Ollie a DJ Lance Rock hat and glasses over the summer, and although Ollie’s not nuts about the hat, he LURVES the nrrrd glasses and wears them around all the time! So at least that’s one prop I know he’ll use!

  • Any great Halloween memories from childhood? One of our neighbors’ sons was a horror film nut and would decorate the front door entrance every year with ghouls, skeletons, lights, music and props.
  • Do you prefer piecing together/sewing your costumes or buying/renting them pre-made?
  • What is your favorite costume idea this year? I really love the thought of being Flo from Best excuse to buy a Bumpit® EVAR (unless you count Snooki)!
  • What’s  your favorite treat? Growing up, we had a neighbor that gave away king-size Snickers – score! My girlfriend said a woman in her neighborhood gave out a roll of 10 pennies taped together! Ha!

Riot Grrrl Weekend

Sara Marcus reading from her book "Girls to the Front" at Qumby's, Chicago.

I had a really amazing Saturday doing much-needed catching up/girl hang-time in Wicker Park with my ladies, which included feeling the riot grrrl love at the Chicago book tour stop of “Girls to the Front”. Author Sara Marcus (her new book is the definitive history of Riot Grrrl) read from the first chapter, and did a Q&A with music journo Jessica Hopper, then the attendees. Sunday kicked off grubbing at the local family restaurant with my boys and BFF followed by serious pumpkin carving, acorn squash roasting and pizza making.

“Girls to the Front”

Being in that room full of riot grrrls pushing 40, a few teens and 20-somethings carrying the torch and even one proud riot grrrl mom who looked to be about my mom’s age – it was comforting to know riot grrrl did not just fizzle out when the zines ceased or Bikini Kill broke up. As long as we’re alive, it’s alive. And I’m glad someone – particularly someone who remembers it, cares about it and spent five years doing it right – documented it in this way. Being in the company of these women had me realizing, too, that at least some of those women are also moms now. And that is rad as hell.

This whole idea of teenagers and 20-somethings fed up with the patriarchal punk scene where they’re just decoration at the shows; politicians telling them what they can and can’t do with their OWN bodies; and the ominous feeling of alienation at school/home and then doing something grass-roots/creative/peaceful (albeit often loud) about it – it’s MIND-BLOWING to me. Girls with NO resources who have NO networks and NO Internet,  found each other based on a mutual need to make life better for themselves and their friends – and it spread underground like wildfire.

My sailor tattoo-inspired swallow jack-o-lantern.

Gay Teens – the New Riot Grrrls?

All of this reminiscing led me to draw a parallel to the current gay rights movement, particularly in the teen community. Gay rights has SO much in common with riot grrl (and RG has always been nothing if not LGBT-friendly and outspoken about gender/queer equality issues to boot). You have a bunch of people who are largely being treated like shit by their peers, misunderstood by their families and churches and being completely infringed upon by the government. It’s like everyone is against them, but there is so much power, strength and ambition in their numbers and their allies – it’s just a matter of finding them. I know there’s always been a strong gay scene for artists, musicians and zinesters – I’d love to see them organize more on the gay rights platform like riot grrrl organized on the feminist platform. I’d like to see it start with young gay people who are tired of feeling alone and defeated. I think the timing is great. Gay teens NEED this right now. It could save lives.

“2011: The Revenge of Print”

The whole riot grrrl discussion and zine-lined walls/ambiance at the bookstore got me super amped to participate in this zine challenge in 2011 where former zinesters cut, paste and photocopy “the next issue” they never got to make for whatever reason. If it works out, the third issue of my college zine “Hush Kitty” will have been 13 years in the  making. Ha! The best part of this project will be reconnecting with my contributors – all who have gone on to do great things from pursuing a Ph.D. in France to coming out and moving to Portland. I can’t wait to see what everybody submits!

Acorn squash, halved, rubbed and ready to bake. Or "flowers" as Ollie called them.

Fall Flavas!

On a lighter note, I found a good recipe for what has always been a super-easy/delicious fall dish: Acorn Squash with brown sugar and butter. My only note to this recipe is that I was running out of maple syrup, so I substituted one of the two tablespoons with honey, which turned out great.

Sometimes You Have to Make a Scene


My BFF just posted this on FB and I say “damn straight” –

“I had words with a stranger in the Walgreen’s parking lot.
 I pulled up right next to her and saw her put a child no older than 3 in the front seat. She got in the driver’s side and started the car. The car window was open and the child was not wearing a seat belt.

‘Where’s her car seat?’ I asked.

‘Mind your own business,’ she said.

‘It’s my business if she ends up smashing into the windshield.’

I probably looked like a total jerk. I had my hands on my hips and was wearing a yellow hoodie, a black Goonies t-shit and my school ID on a Hello Kitty lanyard covered with ‘flair.’ I really was waiting to get punched in the face.

The adult huffed, got out of the car, grabbed the child and put her in the back seat.

The child didn’t say much or have much of a reaction. I waved at her and they left. I only wish I would’ve asked for the adult to secure the child with a seat belt. But I knew I had already asked too much.”

If you ever see a small child riding in a car without a car seat or booster, you have every right to say something. The car seat laws vary from state to state. In Illinois, kids have to have a car seat/booster until they are 8 years old. For parents who can’t afford a car seat, there is a great organization called Safe Kids USA that can help.

Norah Utley: The New Sheriff In Town

I set out to promo an old friend Norah Utley’s baby bib e-store (Sheriff Peanut) and wound up reflecting a whole bunch. Is this a symptom of getting older or what?! Because I met her in Chicago during the height of my zine days, I started thinking about friendly folks I’d met in those eight years, mostly fellow zinesters, artists, bands, writers and DIY-types. Living among them completely changed me forever and shaped my whole outlook on life.  Most of what I believe, my favorite music, my approach to work and my mommy ethics can be directly traced back to my time in Chicago. The city is part of my family.

Norah is one of my favorite Chicago people. I met her at an urban craft fair probably five years ago now. I thought her quirky, hand-crafted bibs were a great alternative to big box shower gifts. They not only come in custom patterns and designs, but they are affordable and most importantly, functional (they’re covered in clear vinyl for easy cleaning). The egg and bacon bib is a fan fave!

Garage Rock Music Mogul

In addition to her crafty tendencies, Norah has tried her hand as label lady, DJ and musician (Airbrush, Headache City). I’ll never forget the Reader article touting her label Shit Sandwich Records (M.O.T.O., Tyrades, Busy Signals). I was waiting for the el in the subway and reading this story – totally engrossed and unfazed by anything going on around me. Her story of indie entrepreneurism gave me hope that if you love something and go for it, it can happen.

My little zine Love, Chicago was so excited to feature a fun Q&A that took place during Norah’s Six Flags misadventure with friend and writer Jen Hazen. Not long after, Norah agreed to spin my zine’s release party at Delilah’s (best Chicago bar, hands down). I had so much fun catching up with her over Chicago star-shaped cookies and beer. And Norah? She’s incredibly humble, effortlessly kind and a laugh a minute.

So Where is She Now?

When I googled “Sheriff Peanut” the other day, I saw the e-store has expanded into onesies, kids and adult tees, burp cloths, little stuffed animals, mirrors, magnets and keychains (SCORE!). She does shows all over the country peddling her wares, including  CONSTRUCTOR CRAFT FAIR, a show she has organized for three years now in Berwyn, Ill.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I sent her a facebook shout out and learned she and husband Paul are proud parents of little Ramona! The Sheriff now has a new favorite client for inspiration! How perfect.

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