Slinkies and school supplies and back-to-school fun, oh my!

Supposedly fall is approaching. I know this for a few reasons including, but not limited to:

  • The beginning of the onslaught of pumpkin spice-flavored ev.er.y.thing.
  • The temperatures in Chicago slowly but surely starting to edge toward “habitable,” if not “downright lovely” (mid-to-high 70s, yes please!)
  • People continuing to tell me it’s the middle of August despite all my sensibilities telling me we’re just starting into June, and people ending up being correct
  • The start of my Facebook feed being overwhelmed with pictures adorable, well-kept, freshly-clothed children standing in front of their homes with backpacks on

That’s right. It’s back-to-school season. And, for what it’s worth (which is admittedly not a lot), I adore these back-to-school pictures. Never stop, Facebook parents. Never stop. These back-to-school pictures are enough to make me channel Meg Ryan’s character in the beginning of “You’ve Got Mail” and start waxing poetic about bouquets of pencils in the fall (autumn? Does she say autumn? Probably.).

Wee Connor is still too young to go to school*, let alone back to school, but it turns out that doesn’t mean I can’t join in on the fun.

image001Enter the Gill Park Back-to-School Bash on Thursday, August 18th. While this is probably an atypical blog post for me in promoting an upcoming event, I wanted to put the word out because I think community events are important and, more importantly, fun. Also, slinkies. There are going to be so many slinkies.

Community events like this are not only fun but remind us why we love living in the city. This event is not “just for” anyone, it’s for everyone who wants to come out, play (with a 4-foot tall slinky because ohmygoshthat’sathingtheydid), and interact with other people from the neighborhood who are prepping the space on their cameras and phones as needed for these back-to-school pictures they’re about to take. The first 100 guests will receive a free backpack and slinky, and there is even face painting, mascots, and snacks as well. You guys, this is going to be fun, even if I don’t have a kiddo going to school this year.

Wee Connor and I will definitely be there, and I hope if you’re at all interested or just want to find out more about Chicago neighborhood events you’ll come join us. If you see us and we don’t know you, please say hi!

So quickly, let me tweet the deets:

The What

Gill Park’s Back to School Bash

The When

Thursday, August 18th
4 – 7pm

The Where

Gill Park
825 W. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL

The Cost

FREE! Now you seriously don’t have an excuse, right?

The Why

Because it’s back to school season and that’s a million times better than anything flavored with pumpkin spice. More importantly, because it’s going to be a ton of fun and community events in Chicago are awesome. They’re why we live in the city!

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

 

 


*You can bet your sweet bippy when that fateful day comes I will be snapping those pictures of my fresh-faced, backpacked child and bemoaning the passage of time with the best of them. Also, I’ll be crying. Not the cute one-tear-down-the-cheek while I reminisce about the little Winston Churchill lookalike I took home with me from the hospital what seems like 10 minutes ago, either. I’m talking real-life, Mom-is-so-uncool-and-not-in-a-cute-way, nose-running ugly crying. Admitting it is the first step, I think.

I made a pancake cake in a rice cooker and now there’s no going back

The Pancake Cake

The greatest thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

(Pssst, here’s a jump to the actual recipe at the bottom)

You guys.

You guys.

You guys.

I need to tell you about this thing I just did. What did I do? I revolutionized the pancake breakfast/brunch/brinner.

Okay, well, I didn’t revolutionize it, but I followed directions from the internet and did the thing and now feel all empowered. So, yeah, vive la revolution! (Or whatever the appropriate phrase for “did the thing on the internet and succeeded” is.)

What is this magical pancake brunch revolution I’m talking about? Glad you asked, homeskillet. Repeat after me.

Pancake. Cake.

Now stay with me, because here’s where it gets crazy.

Pancake cake. Made in a rice cooker.

“Pancake cake?” You ask. “Isn’t that just like…a cake?”

But it’s not! It’s so not!

“In a rice cooker? Huh?”

I know, right?

Allow me to explain how this all came to be. After literal years of being a rice cooker snob (e.g., “Why buy a rice cooker when I have a perfectly good stove and pot?”) I broke down and bought a rice cooker after reading a few articles about the ease of cooking rice in the rice cooker, other cool things you can cook in a rice cooker, and the fact you can set a timer and have perfectly-cooked rice without babysitting a stove. We’ve recently switched to brown rice, which meant even longer cooking/stove babysitting times, and if we wanted rice with dinner it meant almost 0 chances of post-nap park playing. And that, my friends, was really the straw (or, dare I say it, grain of rice?) that broke the camel’s back.

I used some Amazon credits we had left over and bought the mack-daddy of rice cookers: a 5.5-cup Zojirushi. As I understand it, Zojirushi is to rice cookers what Kitchen Aid is to stand mixers. It has a bunch of different settings for whatever you’re cooking: white rice, brown rice, porridge, cake, and also has a steamer function, which if we ever have another kiddo might come in handy when I need to make bigger batches of baby food than our Beaba can do. You can set a timer for the food to be done at a certain time, and it also has sensors that adjust the temperature and cooking time based on the consistency of the food (a feature, I now understand is called “fuzzy logic”). I went all in on this rice cooker.

Once I got the rice cooker I made some brown rice immediately to try it. It took a long time but was completely hands off and came out perfectly. I was still sort of wary, though. Another appliance/space-taker-upper? In my kitchen? And then, breakthrough.

Pancake Cake SlicedI read about the famous (“famous” meaning “famous among people who read and write about rice cookers on the internet”) pancake cake phenomenon and decided I had to try it. It’s so simple it’s mystifying. You simply mix up your favorite pancake batter, pour it in the rice cooker (or, something I’ll do next time, mix it in the actual rice cooker itself), and turn it on for 45 minutes. When the rice cooker is done, you’re left with what is essentially a very large, thick pancake you can cut into slices. This appealed to me for a few reasons: first, #pancakecake. Second, no slaving over the stove fretting about the temperature and silently resenting everyone else enjoying their pancakes while you’re still attempting to use up all the batter. Third, #pancakecake. It had to be said again.

The pancake cake was a smashing success. I used the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe for pancakes because I basically think Bisquick is the devil* and pancakes have literally 5 ingredients. I then decided to use chocolate chips because I’m also apparently 5 years old and there is a limit to how sanctimonious I can be regarding processed food (Bisquick? No. Chocolate chips? Obviously yes). I set the Zojirushi to the “cake” setting, which is the equivalent to “on for 45 minutes” on other rice cookers (I am not sure of how other rice cookers function, so don’t quote me on that), and then came back to my beautiful pancake cake.

Connor couldn’t stop eating it. Chris couldn’t stop eating it. I am probably still eating it as the other two normal people in the house are in a brunchy pancake cake-induced coma. Seriously guys, it’s the best thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

Pancake Cake Connor EnjoyingIf you have a rice cooker, try this, guys.

You’ll feel like a mad scientist.

You’ll feel revolutionary.

You’ll feel like your brunch life has meaning again.

Pancake cake.

You’re welcome.

(And now, the actual recipe.)

(Also, you should probably consider getting a rice cooker. I’m officially a convert.)

Rice Cooker Pancake Cake Recipe/How-To

(Adapted from the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups milk 
  • ~½-1 cup pancake fillings such as chocolate chips, fruit, etc., as desired

Instructions

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) together in the rice cooker
  • Beat eggs into 1 ½ cups of milk, then add to the dry ingredients
  • Mix all ingredients, and if the batter seems too dry, add more milk as necessary
  • Add mix-ins as desired
  • Close rice cooker and cook for 45 minutes (set to “Cake” setting on Zojirushi)

Recipe Notes

You can use ANY pancake recipe you love and it will work in the rice cooker. Just be sure not to fill it too high as the pancake cake will expand as it cooks. The recipe above fit perfectly in a 5.5-cup Zojirushi rice cooker.

 

Bisquick ingredients list


*Flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, and a pinch of salt are what go into pancakes. Take a look at the ingredient list for Bisquick. DATEM? Distilled monoglycerides? Blargh. I’ll take the extra step of mixing 5 ingredients I can pronounce any day over willfully ingesting an additive of diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (that’s what DATEM is, by the way) as an “ingredient”. [Steps off soapbox, probably falls into own glass house.]

Dear elevator button panel manufacturers…

There comes a point when you arrive at a certain age and you actually start thinking this exact phrase:

I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter about this.

This is the exact face I make when I say I'm going to write a strongly-worded letter. I might expect one from Connor over this lunch any day now, apparently.

This is the exact face I make when I say I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter. I might expect one from Connor over this lunch any day now, apparently.

Whether you say it out loud or simply think it, the phrase is there forever in your psyche without warning. It doesn’t matter if you mean email instead of letter. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t bought stamps in four years. The phrase is the same. It’s the 10-word equivalent of, “harumph!” and it happens to everyone at some point.

It’s happened to me for years, but there are certain strongly-worded letters I’d like to write as a mom that seem to trump over all other annoyances I’ve experienced lately. And so, having explained all this, I’d like to start a segment just for this on this blog. I’m creatively calling it, “Strongly-Worded Letters*.”

The first is one I know every mom with a mobile child has experienced because I can’t get into an elevator with another mom without discussing it: elevator button panels.

To whomever designed the layout of elevator buttons:

Thank you so much for putting the “call” and “emergency” buttons exactly at toddler level. There are special thank-yous in order to the ones who make those buttons red and extra-enticing. If handicapped individuals need to be able to reach the top buttons, can you not put those buttons at that level instead?

Do you realize how many elevator operator-people (no, I don’t know exactly who it is that answers those phones) I’ve talked to, apologizing? Or, rather, run out of the elevator from exactly as they pick up, embarrassed, knowing that what I’m doing is wrong? Or, even worse, realizing that half the time nobody is there because too many toddlers have pressed those buttons and now if there’s a real emergency we’re all SOL? Too many times is how many times. And yes, I watch my child and try and teach him correct behaviors, but sometimes I (god forbid!) have something in my hands, or am trying to find my keys, or any number of other things that may happen at any given moment when we are in the elevator. So thank you, elevator-button-designer-person.

Thank you indeed.

XOXO,

Motherhood What

P.S. Quick question: do the “close door” buttons actually do anything? Or are they simply a method of reminding us of our own futility in this world and that our place in the universe is quite small and fleeting? Because it sort of seems like the latter option. 


*It’s this exact creative spirit that has me rolling in the beaucoup bucks** these days as a writer.

**You should probably know that I’m being sarcastic here. We still are too cheap to buy cable.

I listened to “Part of Your World” as an adult

ugly old creepI had heard rumblings that you could finally know you had turned into a full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-function grownup was when you actually could side with (or at least understand some points of) the parents/authority figures in Disney movies instead of the protagonists.

Let me give some back story. The Little Mermaid was, bar none, my favorite Disney movie growing up. I spent literal hours, if not cumulative days, in my pool after school (oh, yeah, this might be a Florida kid motif here), pretending I was a mermaid. You know how there are those articles about how classic Disney VHS tapes are now worth tens of thousands of dollars? Well, clearly they have not seen my so-worn-out-they-were-disintegrating-15-years-ago-from-too-much-use tapes. (Does anyone else remember rewinding machines? I do.) And if you’re ready to get really jealous now? I had a (feel free to sit down because, again, you are going to be that jealousLittle Mermaid charm bracelet. I wore it with my overall shorts because it was the late ’80s/’90s and the ’90s were an incredibly strange time to be a child and overall shorts were a major thing.

Connor watching Little Mermaid

Parenting disclaimer: screen time rules have been loosened. Sometimes mom has to cook dinner. STOP JUDGING ME.

The moment I realized I could watch The Little Mermaid with my son with absolute impunity of enjoyment was a pretty great moment for me. And, don’t get me wrong, I still get that spine-tingling sensation the moment the opening music starts playing. I know all the words. I love this movie with all my heart.

However, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t turned into one of those full-fledged-no-turning-back-now-too-old-to-functioning grownups. This is why, when I listened to “Part of Your World” with new parent ears some things sort of hit me in a new way. So, if you will, allow me to break down this magical Alan Menken masterpiece through the ears of a parent.

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

Neat? Um, well … “neat” isn’t exactly the word I would use, but I suppose one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so, yeah, we can go with “neat.”

Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?

Complete? Yes, definitely. For the love of all that is holy, “complete” is definitely the word I would use. “Hoarding” might be another one to consider.

Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything?

Considering you are a literal princess who has the apparent run of the entire ocean complete with a singing entourage and yet still has a cave ‘o of crap, yup. “Everything” just about covers it.

Look at this trove, treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?

Again, way too many. I’d really like to recommend this book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It might really make you re-think this little hoarder’s nest you’ve got going on. Do you have Amazon Prime under the sea? 

Looking around here you’d think
Sure, she’s got everything

Okay, Ariel. Sure, you’ve got “everything.”

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty

That you do.

I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore

No arguments here.

You want thingamabobs? I’ve got twenty!

…right, so…that’s the whole point, right? Do you need twenty? Or would one suffice? It’s a difficult question but some self-evaluation might help here.

But who cares? No big deal,
I want more

I wonder if TLC’s hoarding show has SCUBA gear.

I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancing

I’m going to assume you mean more in the “Tchaikovsky ballet” genre than “errrbody in the club” way, so, yes, that’s a fair request.

Walking around on those
What do you call ’em? Oh, feet

I guess I won’t break it to you yet that feet are actually pretty disgusting. One order of suspension of disbelief, hot and ready!

Flipping your fins you don’t get too far

We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I feel I’ve watched you span miles of ocean whereas you barely made it out of the castle in your three days on land. Objectively, you definitely get further in the ocean than on land.

Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a
What’s that word again?
Street

I also appreciate a walkable urban environment, Ariel! We totally have that in common.

Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun

Hm, okay, so, here’s the thing. You have red hair and most likely will get a sunburn simply thinking too hard about the sun. Here, let me see if I can find that pamphlet I have lying around…yup, here it is: “Melanoma and you: wear your damn sunscreen.” Sorry, Ariel, but them’s the breaks.

Wandering free
Wish I could be, part of that world

Wait, today you went into a shipwreck, you have an entire unnoticed hoarding cave of “treasures,” and, not to harp on this, you’re the favorite princess of the king of the ocean. I feel like you and I have different definitions of the word “free.”

What would I give if I could live
Out of these waters?

This is a more telling line in the song than I realized, now that I think about it. What would you give? A kingdom, your family, a singing entourage of sea life to cheer you up at your whimsy. 

What would I pay to spend a day
Warm on the sand?

In fairness, Ariel, you have never had the pleasure of wiping down every molecule of sand out of every crevice of your car and body after a day at the beach.

Betcha’ on land, they’d understand
Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters

Oh, honey. Oh, dear, dear, dear honey. The seaweed is always greener, indeed.

Bright young women, sick of swimming
Ready to stand

I’m a wee bit curious. Do you think yours is a common ailment up on land? That so many women on land have also been mermaids and are sick of swimming? Because this seems like a really, really localized request here.

And I’m ready to know what the people know
Ask ’em my questions
And get some answers
What’s a fire and why does it – what’s the word?
Burn?

Yay educational pursuits! You go, Honey, er, Ariel.

When’s it my turn?

Girlfriend, you are six.teen. years. old. You need to simmer down now and take that teenage angst and put it to good use, like cleaning out your hoarder cave.

Wouldn’t I love, love to explore that shore up above?

Well, sure, but lest we forget the man you are so in love with has the exact same desire to explore, but to explore your little realm of the sea. Exploring is pretty engrained much the human (mermaid?) spirit.

Out of the sea
Wish I could be
Part of that world

And now this song will be stuck in my head for approximately 32 years. There are worse fates. Alan Menken, you are a genius and my hero. 

 

That time my dog got cancer again

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

This is the first picture I ever took of Brinkley, on the day he came home with me.

Almost 2 years ago, my beloved (then) 6-year-old dog Brinkley got cancer. They found a mast cell tumor on his toe which then moved to his lymph node. After a toe amputation, an incredibly invasive surgery that removed the cancerous lymph node, and about 6 months of chemotherapy treatments his cancer was deemed “in remission.” Wee Connor was about 2 months old when we finally finished trucking our dog 30 minutes out to a suburb of Charlotte every other week, and I couldn’t believe he had beaten the year odds the vets had given him.

Life eventually returned back to normal, or as normal as life with a new baby in the house ever got, which of course isn’t really normal at all. The day-to-day became more and more of what we thought about, and in that we forgot to appreciate Brinks as much as we should. I got angry when he barked and woke Wee Connor up from his naps every time the buzzer in our apartment buzzed. I got angry when he growled at Connor when Connor stepped on his tail or did something inconspicuous. I got angry when he got into the trash. We didn’t take him for as many walks as we should have because, you guys, nap schedules are hard and so is taking care of children in general.

This past Sunday Brinkley got a bout of diarrhea that had some blood mixed into it. I called the emergency vet, and took him in, grumbling something inane about how “this would be a total waste of time and money,” and, “I’m sure he’s fine, but might as well be sure.” As the vet checked him out, I went into my spiel about his past history with cancer and the vet froze in her tracks. “What kind of cancer did he have?” she asked. “When was this again? And everything was fine again, you said? When you came in here a few months ago, he ended up being fine again, right?”

Time started slowing. My mind was racing. Had he been acting normally? He chased us around while I pushed Connor in his wagon this weekend, right? Definitely. He had given away my secret position to Connor while playing hide and seek this morning, the traitor that he is.

IMG_20160511_174130“…so the thing is that every single lymph node is swollen,” the vet said, as I popped back into awareness in this suddenly freezing cold room with the hard tile floors. I understood but wanted nothing more than to not understand what was coming next. “With his history,” she kept going, getting more uncomfortable, “this just…it’s just…my primary concern here is cancer.” They ran a full panel of blood work while I sat in the waiting room. The vet came back explaining the results of off-the-chart lymphocytes in his blood. “You need to get an appointment with oncology, and it has to be this week,” she told me. “Here’s the number for their direct line. Call at 8am tomorrow morning when they open to get an appointment.” She sighed and asked if I understood everything and finished with, “When I heard his symptoms, I never expected to be giving you this news. I am so sorry.”

We made the appointment and Friday was the earliest we could come in. I took Brinkley in Wednesday to the internal medicine specialist so he could order yet another panel of tests, aspirations, and give another opinion. Thursday the news came back with the results we had been dreading: lymphoma. It’s everywhere, and eating away at his bone marrow and seeping into his blood. The internal medicine vet urged me to keep the appointment with the oncologist so she could really point me in the direction of “options.”

Our options can only be described as grim.

With treatment, Brinkley’s prognosis is about a year. Treatment involves weekly visits to get chemotherapy for 8 weeks, then 16 weeks of going every other week, or about 6 months of treatment. To say this process isn’t cheap is kind of like saying Chicago has a wee bit of a history of crooked politicians. Luckily, dogs (typically) don’t experience the same side effects of chemotherapy as humans, so the year we have would actually be a good year together. Without treatment, he has one – maybe two – months left. This type of cancer has about a 100% relapse rate, so about a year is the best we can hope for before the cancer finally comes back and treatment is no longer effective.

IMG_20160214_101059For anyone who has been with us on this journey for a while, Brinkley is only 8 years old and now has had two separate and (they assured me) distinctly unrelated types of cancer. I was told statistically this is almost an impossibility. The fact that Brinkley has essentially won the cancer Powerball doesn’t make it better.

Chris and I talked it over the weekend and decided to go for the treatments. We simply aren’t ready to face Brinkley’s mortality, and knowing we can have a year with him that’s pain-free and happy, well, it’s worth the price we can pay for that.

Brinkley is a sweet, semi-neurotic soul, which makes it all the more difficult to stare down the year ahead because I, too, think of myself as a sweet, semi-neurotic soul. He embodies so many of my own qualities it’s sometimes hard to remember that he is actually a dog. After I started down the path of getting The News (capital ‘T’, capital ‘N’) I cried for about a week straight. After that was over I made up my mind to not only appreciate Brinks more, but to give him what I now call, “Brinkley’s Big Year” (which of course comes with the requisite hashtag #BrinkleysBigYear).

Brinkley’s Big Year is a celebration of all that is dog, all that is family, and all that is life.

IMG_20160519_110807We will be doing all the things I want him to experience during this final year we have together. We will be grateful for his gentle soul and forgiving of his faults, even if one of those faults is digging through the trash can, which is, admittedly, still infuriating. We will take him to the dog beach. We will give him steak dinners. We will do everything we can think of to fill Brinkley’s bucket list because, frankly, he deserves it. Finally, we will document this year to show Connor that while he won’t remember Brinkley as he gets older, Connor’s name means “lover of hounds,” and Brinkley is, without a doubt, a hound worth loving.

I don’t know what kind of state I’ll find myself in at the end of this year, but I do hope that when I do have to say goodbye I’ll know Brinkley’s last memories are plentiful he’ll be happy enough to hold onto until we meet again. Until that moment, though, we have a Big Year (capital ‘B’, capital ‘Y’) to plan, a Chicago summer in which to have it, and have it we shall.

Proof that toddlers are really just our baser selves

(Alternate title: Notes from 19 months, because I haven’t posted one of those in a really, really, really long time, and also that title is too long so we can just go with the original blog post title)

I used to think toddlers were living, breathing, walking, running, falling, crying, enigmas never to be truly understood. Recently, however, I’ve come up with a little bit of a different theory. It’s not so much that toddlers are so different from us older-folk, it’s that they are simply miniature versions of our baser selves. If we were to take our most basic desires of behavior and bundle it up into a smaller human it would be exactly a toddler.

Here’s what I mean.


They just walk away from conversations they have no interest in

Do you see this? This walking away thing? This is what happens when you think you're being really interesting to a toddler.

Do you see this? This walking away thing? This is what happens when you think you’re being really interesting to a toddler. Bye, Felicia.

My husband has said on multiple occasions that I get into more random conversations where people tell me their deepest life stories than anyone he has ever met. Going through the deli at the store? Sure, I’ll for some reason listen to your story about how you can no longer do yoga due to your achilles tendon acting up sometimes*. At the pet store buying dog food? Why not, please do tell me about how your aunt’s tuna casserole won the best tuna casserole competition in Muncie, Indiana, in 1988**.

As often as I get into these conversations I also cannot seem to get out of them. I don’t know where the breaking-off point is, so I inevitably just keep asking questions, assuming the end must be in sight. I always assume incorrectly.

Toddlers do not have this problem. One of my parents’ favorite stories about me as a toddler was that whenever they traveled (which happened a lot as a pilot and flight attendant) and we talked on the phone and I was done talking I would just say, “I’m done!” and then walk away. It didn’t matter what the person on the other end of the line was saying or even if they were in mid-sentence. If I was done, it was over. Move on, slick. Nothing to see here.

It’s a super power I wish I could harness again, but alas, it seems I am forever doomed to simply become entrenched in conversations about people’s cousin’s cat’s favorite snacks***.


They can bite into a large wedge of cheese and feel no remorse

IMG_20160516_115647Sure, that huge chunk of Jarlsberg is calling to you, but something is probably holding you back from taking that wedge and jamming it straight into your preferred facehole.

Call it, “societal pressure,” or, “that last time that happened I got so sick I vowed it wouldn’t happen a fourth time,” or, “this is what separates us from the animal kingdom: knives for our cheese wedges,” digging into cheese and treating it like the food crack it is has become taboo in our culture. (For shame!)

Toddlers know not of these societal pressures, which leads to scenarios (like the one pictured here) of them actually gnawing into an entire wedge of Jarlsberg with reckless abandon. This inevitably makes moms look over and say something to themselves along the lines of, “It’s dairy, right? So, like, it’s healthy?”

But look at this face! This is exactly what you want to do to that wedge of cheese and you know it.


When they don’t want to go somewhere they just start crying

Picture this: it’s Monday morning. You’re on the train/bus/in your car with the crush of humanity, headed straight away from the weekend and toward five days of work in a sad, grey little cubicle (or, potentially worse, a brightly-colored, blinding conglomeration of what corporate America has most recently decided “brightens employee spirits for synergy”).

On the outside you’re probably sort-of pulling it together. Your face probably resembles something along the lines of this:

andy samberg meh gif

While your inside is actually consumed by the desire to do this:

crying emma stone gif

Toddlers simply don’t possess that first “I’m screaming on the inside but I’ll settle for stinky-cheese face on the outside” face. In fairness, they have no motivation to develop said “cool” exterior. If they don’t want to go somewhere, the squeakiest wheel also happens to be the loudest one. There is much debate in the parenting world on how to handle said squeaky-wheel-turned-screaming-wheel debacles, but the point is this: your inner self wishes it could actually scream from the rooftops how it feels about going somewhere undesirable just like a toddler actually gets to.


Their dessert consumption tactics are ideal

Snapchat-2979400929942602501Have you ever watched a toddler eat dessert? It’s magnificent. If you want to see just how creative a toddler mind can become, hand them something sweet and observe the results.

I have many examples of this, but most recently Wee Connor and I went to a restaurant in Lincoln Park called Jam ‘n Honey. This restaurant is famous for putting huge jars of Nutella and honey on the table for your spreading delights. Obviously I allowed Connor a Nutella toast because I’m a terrible parent who subscribes to the “everything in moderation” idea, and also because Nutella is potentially proof there is a higher power out there who loves us dearly.

I didn’t even realize there was a right way and a wrong way to eat Nutella toast, but grownups clearly have always been on the “wrong” side of the spectrum since coming into our sad little grownup existences. Wee Connor schooled us all by taking said toast straight to his face, licking off the Nutella from the toast, putting it down, looking at me, and then saying and signing (this is the only sign he knows, and I don’t know where he learned it, by the way) “more!” emphatically. See what I mean? Realistically who cares about the toast? The toast is obviously a vehicle to deliver as much Nutella as can humanly fit inside a human stomach, so why would you destroy said vehicle? No more Nutella vehicle, no more Nutella. It’s so simple it’s brilliant, really.

If we all listened to our inner dessert voice we, too, could channel these tactics. Luckily toddlers wear those inner dessert voices on the outside, which is convenient because that’s where half their desserts end up as well: straight on the outside of everything.


*True story
**Also a true story, though details on that one might be blurred a bit
***You guessed it****.
****It went, in order of preference: Goldfish crackers, Friskies treats, shredded chicken, chopped tomatoes. And no, I don’t actually know how the ranking system was established.


P.S. I recently decided to become all official-like and start a Facebook page for my blog. Come on over and like it! I’ll be posting updates and maybe even funny or interesting things along the way.

I got to ride in an adult-sized stroller because sometimes life really is that awesome

When Contours Baby* contacted me and asked if I would perhaps be willing to come downtown to witness and/or experience FCB Chicago’s latest brainchild for parents allowing them to test strollers in a real way, I was intrigued because how do we actually know if a stroller is comfortable or not? (Babies are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to critiques of stroller ergonomics.) When I found out this would entail me hopping into – and being pushed in – an adult-sized exact replica of their flagship stroller I almost fell out of my chair in excitement.

Oh, who are we kidding? I absolutely, literally, fell out of my chair in excitement.

You see, after 19 months (whaaaat?!) of pushing another living being around in an ergonomically-designed wheeled contraption there was nothing – nothing – I wanted more than to experience this bliss myself. And wouldn’t you know? The name of the stroller model is literally Bliss. I’m talking fate, people. Kismet, if you will.

I know that's exactly what they described, but I will still never be able to handle it.

I know that’s exactly what they described, but I will still never be able to handle it.

The nice folks over at Contours had described the concept as a “full-scale, adult-sized, exact replica of the stroller,” and so I’m not sure why I was so shocked to see exactly that. Maybe I expected the general framework, but not all the details? But no. They spared no detail. The mesh undercarriage, the seat, the cute design on the inside of the sun shade, the mesh holders inside to hold toys (which I could only assume were to hold bottles of wine on the adult-sized one)? They were all there. Exactly to scale. Exactly as they appear on the baby-sized stroller.

The whole purpose of the day was for FCB to be able to film the stroller in action to get real reactions of people who are not used to riding around in adult-sized strollers (so their sample size was presumably pretty much any adult). They decided to film my piece down Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile, for those not as familiar with Chicago, but who might have heard that term).

We planted ourselves right in front of the Water Tower, which is pretty much the epicenter of the most touristy part of the Mag Mile.

I strapped myself in with the 5-point harness because safety first, everyone

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Please note the lovely step stool…that fit in the undercarriage holder. Amazing.

I addressed my legions of adoring fans…

When you're famous I've learned it's always important to make time for the little people. And maybe also not call them little people. And then also realize you are in no way famous.

When you’re famous I’ve learned it’s always important to make time for the little people. And maybe also not call them little people. And then also realize you are in no way famous.

And then we set off down Michigan Avenue…

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I almost felt guilty about having someone so tiny push me and this ginormous stroller…

…but then realized this was pretty much the best thing that had ever happened to me. Also, karma. Or something.

Yes, moms of the world, riding in a stroller really is as awesome as we have always wondered.

Yes, moms of the world, riding in a stroller really is as awesome as we have always wondered.

People (tourists and locals alike) could not stop taking pictures. If I’m going to become internet famous, this is absolutely how I’d prefer it to happen.

Eventually I brought Wee Connor up with me into the stroller. I did my best “baby napping in a stroller” impression while he did his best “parent hating the fact that their child is napping in a stroller instead of in their crib” impression.

I'm so glad I could start being the most embarrassing human on the planet so early.

Nailed it.

The verdict? The stroller was super comfortable, the ride, while beyond understandably slow, was steady and smooth, and I pretty much had the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life on Michigan Avenue. Also, I got to ride in a freaking adult-sized stroller, and that is every mom’s secret dream.

Thanks for the good times, Contours! I had a blast.

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Just your average Monday in Chicago, folks.

 

*P.S. Contours is having a $150 Spa Finder giveaway on their Facebook page right now through Friday, May 6th!

**FCB Chicago is an ad agency who partnered with Contours to enter into the Cannes Lions. An earlier version of this post stated the entry was solely by Contours.