Luddite or Purist? No, I'm Just Cheap

I don't have a smart phone.

Not my current phone, but basically
the same deal.
It is usually no big deal, but lately I've missed two or three group meetings with people because I didn't have access to the MeetUp site where they posted "20 minutes late" messages. So Jane and I explored the strawberry farm and zoo without the rest of our group.

Otherwise my flip phone with a pay-as-you-go plan is just fine and a great money saver (average $8/month for talk and text) ... as long as it works. Sometimes the texting feature doesn't work correctly, like at the last zoo trip I texted the group leader and she apparently never got the message. Or when in Chicago trying to meet up with a friend her "in the lobby" texts started coming hours after we had met up. (Luckily when she called me the phone did work.)

When someone at church borrowed my phone to call her husband she said "wow, you are a purist." I'm not sure that's true. I'm also not sure I'm a Luddite, because I certainly use technology. I'm almost always at home with my wifi -- and so I have access to everything I smartphone would have via my iPod Touch and/or my Kindle Fire (both gifts from my mom ... so maybe she's the only thing keeping me from true Luddite status?). There is wifi in a lot of places out and about too -- the library, Target, etc. But there are times when I am disconnected, and to be honest it isn't that bad.

I think I'm just cheap, because I don't want to spend $70 - $100/month on something I wouldn't use so much (given that I rarely talk on my cell phone and my iPod/wifi hacks are enough right now). I'm sure that will change if my life does -- being more on the go, in a job, Jane at school, etc. 

Imperfect Parenting

Babywearing was so much easier when she was small.
We practice attachment parenting and gentle discipline. It came so naturally during infancy and even early toddlerhood. Now it is so much more of a struggle as she becomes more and more independent.

Example: Last week she ran away from me. At first it was just from one end of a library meeting room to another. She waited for me at the door and I caught up as we left. As we're lining up to check out our books she BOLTS out through the front doors, laughing her fool head off. I sprint after her -- as much as a fat lady carrying 3 bags and a picnic blanket can sprint -- and catch her just before she hits the sidewalk and the parking lot traffic beyond. AH!

I dragged her back into the library, to big protests, but I had to take the books, which had set off the alarm, back in. I held her hand while she struggled and begged to be free, and I checked out the books. In hindsight I should have left them there and walked out with her.

In the moment part of me wanted to spank her -- and believe me this is an not an isolated feeling -- but in cooler head moments I can see how that would accomplish nothing except letting me vent my rage. And I certainly don't want to vent my rage on my precious baby girl, no matter what she's done that upsets me.

But at the same time I feel distaste for other people who advocate for any one parenting style to the exclusion of others -- for OTHER parents! I'm all for living into a chosen discipline and parenting style, and while I think our choices are correct I don't think that means other parents' choices are not equally valid for their children.

Mama Fail, Summer Edition

I pulled another good one today, and in the process wound myself so tightly I'm still coming unraveled.

Earlier in the summer I had perused a local moms blog calendar. It listed lots of things to do for the summer, some of which seemed like good ideas for Jane. One of them was a weekly $1 kid-friendly movie at a local theater. I looked at the linked PDF, made note of the dates and movies I would actually consider taking her to (had to be G and we had to be in town), and today was the first one: Oceans.

Jane and I had been SO EXCITED to go see her first movie. And we had raced through a trip to the church where we were helping with the bulletin. I had stressed out last night about how I was going to get it all done, and then WHAMMO ... that was all for nothing.

The document that was linked was the 2013 list. I would have noticed if I'd looked at the file name, but I never noticed it on the PDF flier itself.

First, the movies are always on Wednesday. (7/24 was a Wednesday last year of course) Second, the theater wasn't even open so there was no one to ask/no sign about the program. I had to wait until a UPS person got someone to open the door for her to ask my question.

I was so perturbed and thought maybe I'd just gotten the theater wrong and raced across town to see if I could catch it at the correct theater. No dice, because I had the YEAR wrong. Not the theater.

Dejected doesn't begin to describe it. And I feel pathetic for being upset over such a small thing! We came home and found the Oceans movie on Amazon to rent for $3, basically spending $1 more than we would have at the theater (minus the popcorn I might have sprung for to mark her first in-theater movie).

The movie itself was fine -- didn't totally hold her attention but probably would have been more dramatic and engaging on a huge screen. We may try again next week with The Lego Movie when my sister and Owen are visiting. We'll see...

Still Swimsuiting Up

I've given more thought to the moms-should-get-in-the-water-with-their-kids idea that I read and wrote about a while back. When I first read it I understood the message as -- love your body and don't let your fatness or out-of-shapeness keep you out of the pool with your kids. And while I think that's still the main point I've also come to see another side of it -- a bit of apathy.

I don't have the luxury of choosing to stay out of the water with Jane because she is so little. If she's going to swim someone HAS to go in with her. But with bigger kids that is a less clear area. If you're outside the pool watching (and really watching) then the kid can swim alone/with other kids. And there's something about that that is very appealing -- even in my toddler mamahood I can see that.

Because putting on a bathing suit, even with all the body confidence in the world, is a chore. There's getting your hair wet, being wet for a while and dealing with drying off and changing. Just the logistics are a little annoying, especially if you're not in love with swimming or being in the water.

But even with all that I still am at a point where I would love to have better access to a pool, mainly because I know Jane loves it so. I checked the BREC pools and they all closed last week. What the heck -- we're in the dead of summer and the pools are closed? The water park is still open, but that's less fun -- and more expensive. Bummer.

Losing and Finding

I'm on a bit of a cleaning and organizing frenzy, mainly because of things I've lost and can't find and the utter chaos of so much stuff squirreled away throughout the house is stressing me out. It's not a nesting situation, where I'm trying to make things look better, although the work inevitably makes that so. It's more about getting a grip on all the accumulated detritus of my life (our life) and know where the heck stuff is. (Spoiler: It's a losing battle for me.)

I would love to have an app for that -- Ctrl+F to find whatever obscure thing I'm looking for (travel wallet, Christmas ornament from Gatlinburg, etc.). But in order for something like that to work I'd have to physically tag every little thing and/or put it in a list showing where it lives. And if I did that then I'm fairly certain my brain would retain where it is. Just like I remember where things are that I use regularly -- I don't lose my deodorant or the kitchen knives.

2013-03-21 Writing Utensils
Writing Utensils by mrsdkrebs on Flickr
And in this faux clutter-busting (because really I'm not even getting rid of a fraction of the stuff I have -- just organizing and moving it around in somewhat more logical placements) I am bewildered by the HUGE number of pens I own. There are pens everywhere. I should never have to buy another pen in my entire life, or possibly Jane's entire life. But you know I will. Ah, I love them.

With all this I STILL cannot find my travel wallet. Oh where, oh where could that CB2 wallet have gone? There's nothing in it besides old boarding passes, my Southwest membership rewards card (an airline I never fly anymore just because the routes don't match up to where I need to go) and a terrible drawing of a dress I made. But it's still driving me crazy not knowing where it is or for sure if I left it on an airplane.

Qdoba vs. Chipotle

My favorite foods are terrible. I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE cheeseburgers. I dig Tex-Mex, even quick service variety. Tacos are my jam (oh, Taco Mayo!), but I also like burrito places. While we were in Chicago Jane and I ate at a lot of quick service places out of sheer convenience and exhaustion, including Qdoba and Chipotle. It made me want to write a little comparison.

My history with Chipotle dates to the University of Maryland, when there was one walking distance from my grad school apartment. I'd never heard of it before and my roommate and I pronounced the word wrong for a while. AH. So it has good memories, but it loses out in the head-to-head comparison now.

Although this has nothing to do with why I like it less, at the Chicago Chipotle a random guy engaged me in conversation about my burrito. I was sitting there, with my toddler, wolfing this thing down and the guy, possibly homeless because he came in to just use the bathroom, talked to me about it twice -- on the way in and out. It was so weird.
From robertrazrblog on Flickr

I first went to Qdoba in Manhattan, and my favorite part was -- and still is -- the queso, which Chipotle doesn't offer. Also a plus for me now is that Qdoba has a kids' menu, which Chipotle does not. That means Jane can get a cheese quesadilla, beans or apple sauce, and a milk jug. Her options at Chipotle are severely limited. I guess I could try to feed her a taco? (In Chicago I just went next door and bought her a cheese sandwich -- wow nutrition on vacation).

My second favorite part of Qdoba is the beverage station, which is a new thing. They're also available at Noodles & Co. and Burger King -- the machines that give you lots of options for each drink. My pick is cherry vanilla diet Dr. Pepper.

Looking at their websites I see Chipotle offers alcohol, although I've never actually had a margarita there. (And that might be enough to sway my vote the other way, if I were dining without Jane that is. Mama loves her margaritas even more than queso!)

Back in BR I have access to both restaurants. Neither is particularly convenient, although the Qdoba is near Whole Foods and Chipotle is on the north side of campus where I never go. There used to be a second, ultra-convenient Qdoba near our old apartment, but it's closed and turned into some kind of bistro. Gag.

Taste of Chicago: Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger

 The Taste of Chicago was going on while we were in town, and it was only a few blocks away from our hotel. So Jane and I walked over one evening for supper. It was exiting -- and exhausting -- because of the huge crowds. There was an enormous line to get in, so I kept walking down Grant Park to another, significantly less crowded entrance.

Jane had fallen asleep in the stroller on the walk over, and she slept the entire time we were there. Oh well.

I bought some tickets and bought myself a Cheezeborger, Cheezeborger. I had never seen the SNL bit that refers to, but I did look it up when we got home. Way old and semi-funny. The burger itself was OK. It had been sitting in a cooler or something to keep it warm.

I bought Jane a piece of cheese pizza that she ate when she woke up on the walk back. There was fun-looking kids area, but I weighed the cost of waking her up, standing in line for the bouncy slide and then wrestling with her to go back in the stroller for the walk to the hotel. (She stayed in the stroller!)

I loved this city view behind Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Apparently there are light shows after dark and every 20 minutes there is a water show when the fountains do different things. I didn't notice and only learned that a few days later on our skyline boat tour on Lake Michigan. Something for our next trip to Chicago!

In Chicago: Lincoln Park Zoo

This was the first animal we saw in Lincoln Park Zoo, and this was the first picture I took that day. After this the bear was in the water and we weren't able to see him as well. Apparently there was a way to go down and view him under the water. We could see him playing from up above but then we moved on.

This was my favorite Chicago thing that we did. It's free, took up a good number of hours. If it weren't for toddler naps, general exhaustion, heat and sun exposure we could have stayed much longer.

In Chicago: Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium was a good time, although expensive. Jane is under 3 so was free, which made the sticker price a little less shocking. We went early to beat the crowds, and for the first hour or so we didn't have hordes of people around us. After we watched our 10:30 dolphin show though it started crowding up, and when we left by 1 pm it was impossible to see the exhibits because of all the humanity.

Jane loved everything, especially the iPads they had at most of the tanks to give more information about the fish and sea creatures inside. She also loved the 4-D movie -- 15 minutes of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. It was scarier than I expected! But I do love Ray Romano's voice though.

My favorite were the jellies. Even though they're invasive and horrible they are beautiful to look at in a tank under those pretty pretty lights!

In Chicago: Navy Pier

We went to Navy Pier twice. It's a tourist trap and a half, crowded and obnoxious. I loved the Children's Museum that's there, although it would be better in a different location and without so many people/groups of children. Jane had a good time. We also took a boat ride out into Lake Michigan to see the Chicago skyline that was fun. This is a picture of the Ferris Wheel that is there. It costs $7 (each) to ride it, so we didn't do it. Jane did ride the carousel with her dad for $6. Ca-CHING!

I also saw The Little Hat Shop, which was a kiosk selling crocheted hats just like the ones I make. Totally weird, and they were selling for $25-30. I imagined pricing mine at $15-20 (and still will when they go to a craft fair in the fall). I looked them up online and it's a little chain and even though the hats are handmade it's done sort of like manufacturing in that different crocheters make different parts of the hats. Is there art in that? I'm not sure. But I was actually pretty happy to see it and know about it.

Here are some of my reviews from the Chicago trip on TripAdvisor.

In Chicago: Sunburn City

Crimeny Christmas I got a weird sunburn on my back, mainly on my shoulder blades, the last day of our trip. How can I get complete coverage with sunblock on my own with a wild toddler? And without any aloe handy my pain never resolved. Lugging my huge backpack and rolling all the luggage on our trip back was incredibly painful. Yech. It still hurts a few days later. WHINE WHINE WHINE.

I was mostly able to keep Jane sunburn-free, although she did get a little pink on her arms and legs some days (I'm expecting more freckles -- signs of sun damage I know!). We did a lot of outside stuff, but we kept inside activities in the mix and I always slathered her with sunscreen. I think her skin took the hit when we would just go outside to walk to a restaurant or store. I wasn't as vigilant then.

When we went to the beach in the morning sun I had her wear a little boy swimsuit (much longer leg coverage) and a long-sleeve rash guard. She looked like a little boy but it definitely helped keep her skin covered. She also is pretty good about wearing her little green sun hat, which is adorable -- just like her!

My precious girl has the most beautiful skin and I want to keep it protected!

In Chicago: Fancy Hotel with So-So Service

We stayed at a posh hotel in Chicago but it was actually a less comfortable stay than when we're at a mid-range business style hotel. I think that says something about us but also about the hotel itself, which caters to high-end clients and is a bit dismissive of anyone in steerage. (There's a separate hotel-within-a-hotel for the high-rollers.) Also this hotel didn't have coffee makers, fridges, etc. and those things make staying in a hotel with a toddler much easier.

Our room was fine -- nice fixtures and attractive enough with plenty of space for a king-sized bed and pack-and-play. But around the edges as a little worn. The door to the bathroom had splinters of paint coming off it. The tub drained slow. The mirrors had fingerprints that never were removed -- and they were way too high for any of us to have made unless Shawn or I stood on the desk, which we didn't. Eventually I stopped wishing for access to Windex and paper towels! The ironing board was attached to the inside of the closet door and made a big racket every time you opened it. Just little things like that -- lack of attention to detail.

Wine glasses in the hallway for 24+ hours
The worst offense though was the hallway. Other guests would put trash and room service items outside their door and they would stay there for a long time -- like up to a day. So aesthetically unpleasing sure, but painfully annoying to walk past multiple times per day with a curious toddler.

High-end hotels charge for Internet of course, but thankfully we got our wifi free with the conference. Unfortunately it was pretty crappy wifi. It died completely for a few hours and then I had repeated trouble with the connection to my computer right when I needed to do a bit of work for the church. Typical. Troubleshooting via phone routed me to an off-site person.

The hotel was huge, and so being down in the lobby or street level we were overwhelmed with the noise every time. It seemed louder in there than it was even out on the street. The hotel is located very close to the El train, and you can hear it in the room. But eventually it just became part of the background. I liked it because it gave us a real city vibe.

There are a lot of doormen milling about, but they weren't very helpful to me. I think we had the door opened for us only once and usually I had to do the pull-the-stroller-in-backward-while-I-hold-the-door-open-with-my-butt move on the non-handicap entrances.

Where We Have Been

We were away for one week, and we just got home last night. I have many stories to tell, but I thought I'd do a quick update to set up the posts. I didn't write really while we were there, although I took a few notes and thought about what I would write if I had the time. It was an amazing trip, although we're still a little woozy from the travel...

Random: Fruit Tree in the Front Yard

We've owned our house for almost three years now (closed on July 11 just before Jane was born), and for the first time a tree in the front yard is fruiting. They are like peaches, and maybe that's what they are, although I'm not sure. I haven't tasted them yet, but I assume it would be OK to eat? We have a lemon tree in the back yard that made two lemons last year and nothing since. I have such a black thumb I'm surprised something would pop up like this. Any ideas?

The fruit tree

Close up of the fruit

The already spoiled fruit that has dropped from the tree. I need to pick it up, because yuck.

Forgot to Pack

I've written about packing for travel with kids a couple times. I am getting better, and I remembered almost everything we needed. That's fairly easy when you consider we were driving to Tennessee and I could just throw things in wherever. We had our suitcases and backpacks, but I also had a small cooler and forty-eleven reusable tote bags full of snacks, toys, groceries, etc. Here's what I forgot:
  • Books for Jane -- WILD as I usually overpack in this area. We had some books, but they were new ones that I had wrapped for her to open on the drive. I totally spaced on including her regular bedtime books (she doesn't read the same ones every night, but she does read something before bed). We made due, bought some books and a family member who came later from closer to the cabin was able to bring some other books (although they were questionable and heavy on the princess/makeup/girlie stuff that Jane doesn't usually see) -- she loved them!
  • Nail scissors -- these are always in my makeup bag, so I'm not sure how they were missing. I didn't intentionally remember or forget them, but they were needed for opening a few things and specifically for removing Jane's Dollywood wristband (from when she was measured -- SILVER baby). Luckily someone else had teeny tiny nail scissors. Otherwise we might have resorted to Popeye's pocket knife!
  • Hand soap -- I hate washing my hands with a bar of soap, especially in a shared bathroom. I meant to bring a pump soap but forgot. This was easily remedied with $1 when we went to the grocery store for perishable food, so no big deal since I remembered it then.
  • Marker -- for our amusement park time I wanted to write my cell phone number on Jane's arm. I didn't have a marker with me, there wasn't one in the house and no one else had a Sharpie. A 10-year-old cousin did have a washable Crayola marker, which we used the first day. But it was so big that the number took up Jane's whole arm and it washed away quickly from sweat and sunblock. Her wristband had a place to write a phone number, so we just did that the second day. It would be an easy thing to include because I always have pens and pencils. Maybe I should stash a sharpie in my car anyway.
That's it. Just a few little things. I'm not sure how we'll do on our next big trip since we'll be traveling by plane and have much less packing space. More screen time for Jane, perhaps?!

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