How to renew your car’s registration in Illinois

chicago carSo you have a car registered in Illinois! Good on you! And I understand that, yes, if you’re in Chicago this might be incredibly annoying because you don’t need one 80+% of the time, but for reasons I totally dig (dog, child, sometimes it’s just…kinda…convenient, etc.), you still have one.

Every year part of the circus of owning a car known as “car registration renewal” comes to town. But don’t be sad! With some helpful guidance you, too, can navigate the system of the Illinois car registration renewal process with ease*.

I am only here to help! And with this quick and simple 29-step guide you will also have new license plate stickers on your salt-stained Illinois-registered car!

  1. shocked basketballHappen to glance over to the back of your car as you’re taking your dog out and realize that your car’s registration is expiring this month
  2. Become puzzled, since you registered your car in May, and it’s February…and don’t these things typically last a year? Did we switch to an 8 month year without my knowledge?
  3. Go kvetch to your husband/significant other/dog/whoever happens to be around who will listen
  4. Go online to the Illinois Secretary of State website for registration renewals, which is confoundingly cyberdriveillinois.com
  5. Go back to Google, because clearly cyberdriveillinois.gov is a hacking site and that cannot possibly be the correct web address for an official government agency. No way, no how, did that make it through committee. Refuse to believe it.
  6. throw the computerDespair that, alas, that is what the marketing geniuses at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office decided to go with: Cyber. Drive. Illinois. Dot. Com.
  7. Become informed that I have to look on my renewal notice for my registration ID and PIN.
  8. Go back to puzzled. We never got a renewal notice. Google “when will I receive my registration renewal notice Illinois.”
  9. Read articles about how renewal notices have been indefinitely stopped due to the budget crisis in Springfield**. Realize the pertinent information such as “hey, time to renew your plates” and “here’s the pertinent information you’ll need to renew your plates” will not be sent to me.
  10. Kvetch more to your husband
  11. Read on hackersite.com that the PIN information to renew your registration might be printed on your registration card
  12. Race down to car to grab registration
  13. conan facepalmRealize that, of course, the PIN is not printed on car’s registration card
  14. Hackersite tells me I can call in to get my information I need by calling the Secretary of State’s office
  15. Dial number provided on Hackersite
  16. In a move almost as brilliant as the committee who approved Hackersite, the Illinois Secretary of State office does not accept phone calls from phones that are “out of area”, meaning from a non-Illinois number. This makes sense because it’s not 2016 or anything, and people haven’t moved from out of state into Chicago in the history of ever and kept their cell phone numbers from their originating location.
  17. Kvetch. This is becoming a theme in this process. Look at clock. Hm. 10am. Guess it’s more coffee time. Too early for wine. But alas, the day is young and the state is Illinois. Don’t count the wine out yet.
  18. computer thumbs upLook at the time and order grocery delivery because between the kvetching and the scrambling and Googling and the article-reading about the budget crisis and Khan Academy videos about the Illinois budget crisis (and how the whole pension funding works), the kvetching, and the failed phone calls to the Secretary of State’s office, you realize your window of opportunity to go to the store for groceries before you have to get back for your toddler’s nap has now vanished. 
  19. Delight at the fact you live in a place where you can literally order your groceries and have them hand-picked and delivered straight from the grocery store within an hour. Remind yourself nobody moves to Chicago (nay, Illinois) because of the politics. They move here to be able to do things like this.
  20. Go back to researching alternatives to the online renewal process
  21. what is thisFinally figure out (read as: happen to glance over and notice on your way to Target after failing at all the above methods) you can get your license plates renewed at the “Currency Exchange” a few blocks away. This is not explained anywhere on Hackersite, which again makes sense since it’s 2016 and who goes online to get information, anyhow? And in case you’re wondering what a “Currency Exchange” is, imagine a beautiful building with worldly, international people all exchanging their currencies and ideas from around the world in order to weave an intricate tapestry of diversity and acceptance through this wonderful city. Then imagine literally the exact opposite of that, and that’s what the Currency Exchange is.
  22. Go to the Currency Exchange. Thank goodness it’s a leap year and there are 29 days instead of the normal 28 days in February this year.
  23. Wait in line.
  24. Wait in line some more and think about what possible documents you may need, because there is no way I have everything I need with me. Consider this the first karmic offering in the process.  
  25. Contemplate that while insane, this Illinois process is still better than the NC registration one.
  26. Go up to the counter with a look of abject fear and hand over the registration paper for the car.
  27. Have the man behind the counter actually smile at you (is this a ruse?), ask for $108 (cash only, because obviously, again, it’s 2016), and then hand you your new registration and stickers after you withdraw cash from the ATM next to the counter.
  28. Walk away, perplexed. Is that really how easy it was? Why isn’t that anywhere on Hackersite? 
  29. golden ticketLook down at new registration and stickers and hold back desire to hold them up like a child who just found a golden ticket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and prance home in joy that this not only got done in time, but only took one try. 

Repeat next year.

Beep beep and beep beep yeah!

So there you go! You just learned how to renew your Illinois plate registrations! And from a site that looks just as legitimate to give advice on your Illinois plate renewals as cyberdriveillinois.com!

Side note, Illinois legislators: get it together. Come on now.

 

*It won’t be easy.

**Springfield is the capital of Illinois. Chicago is not its own state. This is a PSA in case anyone was confused and had forgotten “The Great State of Chicago” is meant to be satire.

Sanity saver: how I make the baby’s bed

Making a baby’s bed is relatively easy: mattress pad, sheet, done. Because of SIDS, doctors have advised that babies sleep only a hard mattress with no extra sheets or blankets until they are at least one year old.

What doctors don’t tell you is that in the middle of the night if the baby oozes any variant of liquids out of any variant of orifice, the side effect is you becoming bald from pulling your hair out at the thought of having to change the sheets on the baby’s bed while hoping he doesn’t wake up too much.

Enter what my mom calls the “Linda Bradbury* Method” of making up a baby’s crib.

The idea is so simple it’s almost too good an idea: you layer your sheets with a pad in between them so that you can simply peel off a layer easily for a super quick change, and make the bed only once a week or so in one effort. As my mom put it, “Once you’re making the effort of putting one sheet on, putting 3-4 more on is nothing.” From personal experience now I have found this to be a 100% accurate statement.

felt pad - normal

A closeup of how thick these pads are. Notice there is no batting or fluffiness to them that makes the bed too padded.

Now before you go all, “But! But! But! BUT SIDS! You can’t have that many layers without it getting too fluffy!” I’m not using a traditional mattress pad in between all the layers. I’m using these “multi-use waterproof pads” that cost $8 a piece and are thin and not at all padded like the bottom traditional mattress pad. It is truly just a layer in between the sheets so any liquid doesn’t pass through them. This is the key to the whole shebang. However, if you do this and feel that it’s too padded and it makes you uncomfortable, then don’t do it. I’m just letting you know what we do and what works for us. I have personally never felt uncomfortable using this method because the in-between pads are so thin.

So here it is: an informative step-by-step guide on layering sheets. If I help at least one person from going bald due to ohmygod-I-can’t-have-to-change-the-sheets-in-the-middle-of-the-night-itis, then I will have done my job for the year. I usually layer about 4-5 sheets at a time.

Making baby's bed

*Linda Bradbury was my mom’s best friend in New Hampshire. She passed away in 2005 and remains to this day one of the objectively greatest, funniest, most caring, generally amazing people to have ever walked this earth. Much of my mom’s parenting wisdom comes from Linda and I am so honored to be able to pass this on to you all. Everyone who knew you still misses you, Fru.

How to break in a pair of Birkenstocks

After trodding all over London last week, I came back and immediately ordered a pair of Birkenstocks for my next European adventure in August. I figured that since the aching back and hurt feet symptoms are actually real during pregnancy, I might as well get some sandals that actually offer support.

In terms of support, it doesn’t get much more orthopedic than Birks. My only problem was that my vision of Birks consisted entirely of granola-eating-drum-circling-dreadlock-sporting-live-in-a-tent hippies. However, after seeing half of Londoners in Birks that are actually semi-cute I decided to take the plunge and get myself a pair of the “less ugly going for more of the maybe-it’s-so-ugly-it’s-cute-kind-of-like-pugs” Birks.

birksSpecifically, these.

I saw these all over London worn by not tourists, mind you, and thus by breaking-in adventure began.

I am here to tell you exactly how to break in your Birkenstocks with maximum success.

Step 1: Open box. Look at Birkenstocks inquisitively and wonder if they really are ugly-but-cute-like-a-pug or just ugly.

Step 2: Put Birks on feet and agonize over fit. Wait for husband to get home, have him analyze and assure you that they literally couldn’t look more perfectly fit to my foot if they were made for me. (Tip: order a size below. I’m a 7.5-8ish, leaning toward 7, and got the size that is a 7-7.5, or a 38 in those “European” sizes.)

Step 3: The next day when you go to walk your husband to work with your dog, wear the Birkenstocks on the 2.2-mile (total) adventure. This will ensure that even if you begin to wonder if maybe shorter bouts of breaking in might have been better-advised, there will be no escape.

Step 4: At mile mark 1 on said walk (aka, halfway), really begin questioning your logic here, since you already knew that Birkenstocks are notorious for needing to be broken in.

Step 5: Remember the review on Zappos.com that claimed they “didn’t need breaking in like other Birkenstocks!” Despite no other review claiming this, remember that if it’s on the Internet it must be true, and if this person took the time to write a review, then clearly they must have the same feet as you.

Step 6: Vow to find the person who wrote that review and question if they know what breaking in actually means.

Step 7: Arrive back at home with a slight blister from a 2-mile walk in un-broken-in Birkenstocks, perplexed at what the hell you were thinking.

Step 8: Know that even though breaking these damn shoes is a terrible ordeal now, they actually will feel amazing and worth the exorbitant cost, because the support that is sucking your life force out of your feet now will be the best thing ever when my feet and the sandals finally come to terms with each other.

Step 9: Pack for a 5-day trip to Florida. Leave out Birks to wear through the airports. Because clearly, what your feet at this point need the next day is to walk through the terminals of Atlanta’s airport.

Step 10: At 4:30am when waking up to rush to the airport, definitely do not think twice about slipping those little Birks on your feet the next morning. You haven’t had coffee yet, so feeling to your extremities will dull your senses anyway.

Step 11: Arrive into Atlanta and trod through the never-ending terminals wondering if these damn things ever truly DO break in, and when is it? And seriously, are they ugly-cute or just ugly?

Step 12: Question all life decisions to this point. Commence existential crisis.

Step 13: Get a croissant. Because you’re still pregnant, after all. And even if you weren’t, you deserve one.

Step 14: Avoid the bathroom mirror at all costs. Not only does pregnancy seem to eat some of the makeup you dumped on your face at 4:45AM, but your shoes seem to be eating the rest of it, somehow. Do not compare yourself to a gremlin for fear of insulting gremlins everywhere.

Step 15: Arrive at your destination, which also happens to be your mother’s house in Florida. Mutter incoherently about the mistake these damn sandals were and what the hell were you thinking buying such a luxury item due to your vanity and stubbornness in never wearing tennis shoes in tourist places “like a typical American”. Go eat some grapes. And then a cookie because clearly grapes were never going to satisfy that craving you’re having for a cookie. Because, again, pregnancy. We need to be honest with ourselves here.

Step 16: Tell the Birks that we just need a “little break” for a little bit and you’re going to be going back to your Rainbow flip flops for a little while. Assure the sandals that it has much more to do with the fact that you’re going to be around pools and sand and they are far too high-brow for such activities.

Step 17: Wonder if you always talked to your shoes, or if this is a result of three years of working from home and too little human interaction.

Step 18: Assure your mom’s dog that this definitely isn’t due to a lack of interaction, and you’ve probably always talked to inanimate objects.

Step 19: Eat another cookie.

Step 20: Come back to the Birkenstocks. Look at them. Remember the amount of money you paid for a pair of flat sandals and put them back on your feet.

Step 21: Grumble to yourself. The healing process is not complete. You need more time, okay?!

Step 22: Take the sandals out again. Put them on feet. Realize that, oh, this is what the hype is all about. You get it now. It’s all clear!

Step 23: Wonder if the shoes are singing or if it’s actually angels from above. Oh, no, I just hadn’t turned off my Pandora radio. No wonder the angels sounded eerily like Matchbox 20.

Step 24: Wear Birkenstocks incessantly. Applaud yourself for such a genius move in planning on how to avoid wearing tennis shoes “like an American” while walking through Belgium and Luxembourg at 32 weeks pregnant.

Step 25: Realize that no matter what you do, you’re still pregnant and back pain is just a way of life. There is no magic bag of beans for the side effects of growing a human. Though, for the price, the Birks could at least vacuum a few times a week to earn their keep.

How many months pregnant am I? How to stop doing math wrong.

Someone told me recently that pregnancy is actually 10 months long, not 9, because it’s 40 weeks, and 40 weeks with 4 weeks per month = 10 months. If you Google “how many months pregnant is X weeks” you will get the same flawed math across the Internet.

Yes, folks. Flawed. I said it. Flawed. No, it’s not even flawed, it’s WRONG. I know that math is intimidating to some people, but I am here to help.

First, the 4 weeks in a month thing. Let’s debunk that. Stay with me, but here’s something you should be comfortable with: every week has 7 days. If you multiply 7 days*4 weeks…that will give you the amount of days that is. Which is….28. There is precisely one month in a year with 28 days: February. The rest have either 31 or 30 days. So far, I hope you are following me.

So let’s take this a little bit further.

Here are two other indisputable facts that don’t require math: there are 365 days in a year, and 12 months in a year. Now for the math. If you apportion those days out equally across the months (that’s 365 days/12 months) that comes out to…30.42 days per month. THAT is why some months are 30 days, some months are 31 days, and why February is 28 days – it’s to even out that .42 nonsense across 12 months (and it’s also why we need February to be 29 days every 4 years).

So if you go for 40 weeks of pregnancy…that’s 280 days. Divide that out by what we just learned, that across a year there are actually 30.42 days in a month (so that means divide 280/30.42)…that’s 9.2 months. Considering that full term is 37 weeks…you can do the same thing….37 * 7 = 259 (that’s the length of 27 weeks in days), then divide by 30.42 (the length of a month), and that’s 8.5 months.

So, on average, that means that pregnancy is anywhere from 8.5 – 9.2 months, which 9 months is a pretty good average.

Have I lost you?

Well, shoot. Let me make it up to you and give you a trick.

google_degree_conversionDid you know that Google has a native conversion tool in it? For instance, if you go to Google and type in “3 tablespoons in cups” or “5 meters in feet” or “18 degrees celsius in fahrenheit” Google actually will just do the conversion for you? Yup, that’s right. And it works for almost anything, INCLUDING WEEKS TO MONTHS.

Here’s what happened when I typed in: 22 weeks in months:

google_month_conversion

Ta da! Did I just make your life easier or what? So many people think that 22 weeks, well, 20 weeks is 5 months, then add 2 weeks, 5.5 months pregnant! But that’s wrong! I’m barely over 5 months pregnant (SERIOUSLY?!?!?).

If you prefer to do math the old way, then I will give you the formula, too. So taking all that we deduced before…here you go…here’s what you do:

(Number of weeks pregnant * 7) / 30.42

There ya go! Easy peasy.

So everyone, please, for the love of all that is real math, stop saying there are 4 weeks in a month and using that math to deduce how many months pregnant you are. 

Capiche? Okay, we’re cool now. Happy math-ing!

How to get a breast pump: a step-by-step guide

As of yesterday, here is what I knew about breastfeeding/breast pumps:

As of today, here is what I know about breast pumps: it falls into the same exact category as every single other baby item/topic of “it is never, ever, EVER as easy to understand as it seems like it should be.”

Now, my husband works for a company that happens to have a ridiculously generous (for our times) program that gives out breast pumps to expectant mothers and spouses who are expecting as well. It is incredibly generous and something that I want to take full advantage of. I should have known something would be amiss because the scariest thought of all baby-related thoughts popped into my head: “this will be so easy and great!”

Protip: if you ever have this thought about anything to do with babies and/or baby products go ahead and stab yourself in the eye with a spoon. It will be less annoying than what you will inevitably have to endure.

I like to compare the breast pump to the stand mixer on your wedding registry: everyone has a different opinion on how much use you’ll actually get out of it, but it’s a big ticket item that no registry would be complete without, unless you already have one. I thought this analogy was especially apt since I did have a stand mixer already when I got married, so how perfect would it be that I could already have the breast pump, too! ADORBS, RIGHT?!

I am now going to take you through a step-by-step guide on how to obtain said breast pump.

GiftSet_kiinde1. Fall in love with a storage system called Kiinde that direct-pumps into measured bags that have a timed heater that automatically shuts off so it can’t overheat the milk and that also fit directly into a bottle that is supposedly some sort of godsend bottle that works better than normal bottles. Clearly. This is step one.

2. Register for the Kiinde and brag to your mom about how much better stuff is now than when I was born. Be secretly smug about this product you’ve “found” and what a genius you’ve become. Read reviews and fall more in love.

3. Ask your husband to talk to his company’s HR about said breast pump and/or paternity benefits/leave.

4. Wait 2 weeks for number 3 to happen.

5. Remind your husband to talk to his company’s HR about the breast pump and/or paternity benefits/leave because, for really real, he should probably get acquainted and we need to probably get a move on this in case they need a certain amount of notice.

6. Wait another week and a half for number 5 to happen.

7. Get extremely annoyed at your husband for dilly dallying and being embarrassed to ask about anything from HR. Get more annoyed when husband accuses you of having a pregnancy mood swing. End argument with him buying you a Wendy’s Frosty. Pretend that was your plan all along.

8. Have your husband ask HR only to have them tell him there is no such thing as a free breast pump from his company and the HR person had never heard of this.

9. Pull up press release from the company talking about the free breast pumps and rehash argument from number 7, only without the Wendy’s Frosty.

10. Call insurance company to ask about the breast pump. Have them give you the number of the company with which your husband’s company has a corporate breast pump partnership and whose number should have been given along with all maternity/paternity benefits by the HR person.

limerick breast pump

Note: I still have literally 0 idea how this is used and still think all breast pumps look like the suction device Count Rugen uses on Wesley in the Princess Bride movie.

11. Call breast pump company (that only works during Pacific Coast hours, obviously) and then have them verify through your husband’s company that your husband works there. Start to become mildly excited because the breast pump they give you is a $600 hospital-grade breast pump, so there’s a chance that this might be worth it after all. (The pump is made by a company called Limerick and the pump is the “PJ’s Comfort Standard.” I am sure that I will be reviewing it at some point later on down the road because hey, free $600 breast pump, amIright?)

12. Out of a masochistic curiosity, look up the Kiinde again and the brands with which it is compatible.

13. Re-read list, making sure that your realization of this free $600 breast pump you have just spent the better part of a day reading about and/or trying to track down is not on the list.

14. Contact Kiinde customer support out of desperation.

15. Receive email back from Kiinde very kindly explaining that no, you cannot direct pump Limerick’s PJ’s Comfort Standard into the Kiinde bags because a) the thread is unique and b) the Limerick pumps do not use valves (valves?! what the hell is he talking about? I barely know what a valve is, let alone how they apply to breast pumps!) and so the direct-pump Kiinde bags that are so convenient and awesome supposedly collapse with this system.

However, the very nice Kiinde email goes on to explain that I can still use the bags and that they are quite useful. Of course.

16. Get sad.

17. Laugh at self for thinking that anything could ever be easy! HA!

18. Get sad again realizing that self degradation still doesn’t lead to knowing anything about breast feeding other than it has to do with breasts. I think.


At the end of the day I am still getting a supposedly wonderful breast pump and accessories for FREE, something for which I am very grateful when I put all joking aside.

My current thinking is that I will (of course) take the $600 breast pump+accessories and make the Kiinde bags work because you can still pour into them and the storage+heating is great, even if I can’t “direct pump” into them (one of the features I really loved). The “active latch” nipple of the bottle is still apparently fantastic so the bags fitting right into that is great and still a lot less cleaning/sanitizing than the traditional bottles, etc.

Now the next task: learn about how to sustain another human life with breast milk. That might be important.