I won’t pimp my blog out for just anyone, but I will for Sh*tty Mom

If you look at the past five months of my blogging you’ll see that, well, I don’t blog all that much. So if I’m to devote my not well-read blog to posting about something more than once in that short timeframe, well, consider it pathetic something I love very much.

I love the new Sh*tty Mom book. It’s just f’ing funny. Every not sh*tty word of it.

As I said before on Mother’s Day, this book is worth every penny. Even my mom liked it, and she’s a tough critic on funny. (She used to write dirty greeting cards for a living. More on that another time.) And since next week is the launch of their book, and September 12 has been declared “National Sh*tty Mom Day,” I told my friends over at Todays Moms I’d give them a little internet luvs. I even agreed to help co-host a twitter chat with The Motherhood on Monday, September 10 at 1 pm ET during the time I’m supposed to pick up my little guy from preschool. Isn’t that sh*tty? Of course this means I won’t be able to tweet and drive en route either way because that’s dangerous and, er, really sh*tty. But you should tweet along if you’re not picking up at preschool or driving, because it’ll be good fun. Hashtag #ShttyMom. Handle @ShttyMom.

And if now, you’re like, “Sara, enough of this promotional BS you don’t blog enough to warrant all this twitter talk,” then pay attention, because I’m going to give you some real content to read.

Herewith, a few of my favorite lines from the book. I can’t tell you all of it, because you should go and buy it. And because I keep re-reading my advance copy and you can’t borrow mine.

  • From Chapter 5: “How to React if You’ Think Your Child Might Be Gay (Hint: Celebrate): Don’t try to “straighten” your gay child. Not only will she remain gay, but one day she may write a scathing memoir about her childhood. When it’s turned into a movie, the “mom” will be played by someone who’s shorter, fatter, and more wrinkled than you are.
  • From Chapter 12: “Organized Sports Might Be Great for the Kids, but They Suck for You: Your kid is an average athlete. If this keeps up into her teenage years, you’ll be putting in the same hours and expenses as an Olympian’s mom, but with no scholarship to make it all worthwhile.
  • From Chapter 17: Someone Stole Your Baby Name! aka Ballad of the First Aidan Mom: How to tell when your friends are pretending they like your baby’s name. You went your own way with your baby’s name. You picked a name you’re pretty sure no one else will touch. You like it, your husband likes it, and that’s all that matters. Besides, if first names were destiny, Condoleeza Rice would have been a stripper.
That’s just a sample of the brilliance and hilarity that ensues throughout the book. We’ll all be sharing Sh*tty Mom moments on the Sh*tty Mom Facebook Page next week as well and you can win a prize pack by sharing your Sh*tty moments. Bring ’em.


Tips for planning your one-year-old’s birthday party Chicago-style

Earlier today, I got to put on some real clothes (they were trouser jeans, as Caitlin noticed, much to my happiness) and head out to a brunch put on by the ever-fabulous Bump Club and Beyond. I was on a panel of “the city’s leading mom bloggers” (HA! Don’t they know I’m a blogging slacker??) and my co-hosts Cindy, Linda and Caitlin and I had a ball giving some of our best tips around the city to Lindsay’s group of new moms.

My quick talk was about tips and tricks to planning your child’s first birthday. Because, eventually, all those cute newborns grow up to be cake-smashing, drooling one-year-olds. Because I forgot, unlike my counterparts, to actually print up and hand out my tips, I told everyone I’d post them on my blog. So, here, in no particular order, are my thoughts:

1) Make the party favor part of the party – if you have a musician, give each kid a maraca. The little babes don’t know what a goodie bag is – take advantage of that while it lasts!

2) Kids this age don’t need much for entertainment – a place to crawl around, 30 minutes of activity and somewhere between 20-30 to eat. By then, they’re pretty much wiped and will hopefully nap all afternoon for you.

3) I personally think a mid-morning, post first nap party usually works the best for you and for your friends – sometimes the afternoons are unpredictable! Well, at least they are in my house.

4) Pack two shirts – one for photos and one for after the cake – and bring a good bib! (This one, I admit, is pretty self-explanatory.)

5) My eldest got really freaky and nervous at his first birthday party. My youngster loved every minute of the party. Bottom line — don’t worry if you’re kid is nervous – it’s a lot of attention.

And you were waiting for the Chicago-specific stuff, right?

Best locations for a Chicago kiddie bday party:

  • Just about any pizza joint – remember my baby’s first birthday party last year? At Pequod’s pizza. It was relatively inexpensive, I bought one of those foam letter mats and threw it on the ground so the kiddos could crawl around and it was a blast. And the dads could swill beer too. Happy Birthday.
  • If you think a pizza dive isn’t quite for your family, there’s always the East Bank Club where I had my eldest’s party. Yeah, it was like a mini bar mitzvah. Best food I had at a first birthday! But notice, I didn’t repeat that one.
  • For a smaller get-together I love Musical Magic on Roscoe. So sweet and cozy inside and so easy to manage.
  • And then there’s the name-your-own-kiddie-gym-place like Bubbles, My Gym, Gymboree, Little Gym. All good choices.
  • The park district also has many rooms for rent – I am partial to the one at Sheil Park because it’s close to my house, and it’s clean and a good size for a party. I think that sort of stuff matters.

Best entertainers to hire for your party (if you’re in to such a thing):

I can’t say enough about these three very fine kiddie entertainers…

  • Miss Amiee Leigh. We took her class at the JCC for so many months and years I lost track along the way.
  • Little Miss Ann. She is the best of the best. Book her. If you can.
  • Mr. Singer. The kids adored him.

Ideas for how to gift the birthday baby:

  • I recently got tuned into Echo Age by a friend of mine. Basically people donate a certain amount of money towards your gift which you can use to buy a few gifts of your choice, or to donate to charity. Really love this concept. Especially for a baby who doesn’t even really know what “cool Fisher Price toy” means yet.
  • Buy the babe some books. They never grow old.
  • Create a gift registry if you must. At least you’ll get what you want, right? Cuts down on those return errands and gift receipts.
  • One thing I always did was test out toys my friends had whose kids were older. If my kiddos loved playing with them at a friend’s house, well, I’d just invite myself back over to that friend’s house. No, I’d put it on a wish list.

And with that, my favorite first bday toys:

  • Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Door. It’s expensive, but worth it. My five-year-old still plays with it. Have the grandparents buy it or something.
  • Any pre-walker push toy. Unless your kid is walking already. Good for my kiddos who were well over a year before they considered walking.
  • Any Little People toy. Those things are indestructible.
  • A set of wooden blocks. Basic but always good to have around the house.

How to invite all those people to your shindig:

  • You may want an invite for your scrapbook, but those babies can’t open the mail, so save the money until they’re at least 2 – use evite, or, my new favorite online invitation store, Paperless Post.
  • I must also mention my go-to printed invitation source – Tiny Prints!! You can even save money on your kids’ birthday party invites by using the code from my blog: AFF1105.

Chicago Baby Gift Guide – Giveaways too!

The best baby boutiques and personalities in Chicago hand-picked some awesome holiday gifts for your baby (and you and your huz) for my first-ever holiday gift guide on my Chicago Parent Second City Baby blog.

You’ll have to go over there to see all the photos and descriptions, but I wanted to personally thank my friends at Twinkle Twinkle Little One, Piggy Toes Shoes, Little Threads, Little Green Baby, plus Amy Tara Koch and Belly Man for contributing! Hope it inspires some good gift ideas.

The project that “grew” on me. Growing the modern organic family.

It all started over the summer at the Not BlogHer event when Caitlin and I were discussing our current projects. Just so happened we had some crossover in meeting Deree Kobets, the owner of grow modern boutique in Wicker Park. The conversation was casual but purposeful, “wouldn’t you love to do something with her?” “Yeah.”

See what I mean?

After a nice meeting in early Fall, we proposed an online campaign plus an in-store event to try to increase grow’s awareness online with our blogger friends, but also within our social and community network. Our campaign, a culmination of tips from Deree and four amazing giveaway packages last week were a huge hit and the event on November 4 was a beautiful showcase of the power of community (thank you Wicker Park!) and good mommy fun.

But I can only write so much about how nice the evening was. I’ll let the photos tell the rest…

My messy closet floor is evidence I was in a huge rush to get to the event in time.

Did I mention it was really rainy hailing hurting snow pellets that night? Really hard to get somewhere in time in rain/ hail/ wind/ oh my!

So mad props to the moms who braved the Chicago weather to join us. (Cyn and Alma not pictured, because my camera deleted that one. But they deserve a shout-out.)

But I did get there. Ok, meet Deree (right). Isn’t she cute? I still can’t believe she grew up on a farm. She’s standing with Sarah from Olive.You.Nanny. Gosh, they just accentuate my brunette-ness.

Thank g-d wine from The Noble Grape, cupcakes from Tipsy Cake (pictured) tea from Honest Tea, pizza from Crust and appetizers from Real Naked Food (not pictured) were there waiting for me. Because of course I had no time to eat before.

Once Little Miss Ann started rockin’ we all forgot about the downpour and cold outside. She just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy!

I also think the kick-ass goodie bags and giveaways sponsored by Square One Organics, Little Miss Ann, Time Out Chicago Kids, Little Twig,  and Eco-Minders helped.

By the end of the night, I was one pooped lady, but one pooped lady with a whole lot of love after a fun night out and a great week of learning about how to live more organic, smart, and modern. It was worth the wait!

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Day Two

As much as I can, I try not one to sacrifice the way I look and the fashion and style I love for the demands of motherhood. (Why are you not surprised?) Four years ago, when I had my first son, I bought products that fit the modern look of my home and the fashionable sense of myself.  Grow Modern owner Deree Kobets takes it one step further. She says,

“while we love crisp, clean lines, modern style at grow means more than that.  The modern child reaps the benefits from products that are multi-functional and well-designed as well as nice to look at.”

I guess I’ve been a little too shallow that way. I like the way modern elements look, but sometimes will breeze over their functionality. Like the Svan wood high chair I plunked down a fair amount of change for because the wood matched the floors in my kitchen only to sell it on Craigslist 4 years later because I couldn’t get the kiddie food goo off the beautifully-colored wood tray. (I guess take that idiom “fashion before comfort” a little too seriously…)

But Deree gets that both, and that’s why she wants you all to look at this Bloom baby fresco high chair (I’m partial to the lime green color, personally). Not only is it visually appealing, but it can service your child’s eating habits from age 3 months to 76 lbs! (That’s at least five years old, right?). You can get a lot more mileage out of this than the cheap-y Fisher Price seat. And, the Orbit G2 stroller system she sells lets your child ride in style WITH a super shock suspension system and 360-degree rotation. It makes my old McClaren Quest look like a doll stroller.

Too bad I’m stuck with the cheap and the dolly (for now, at least). However, I can never stop shopping for moi, so let’s get back to that, shall we?

What’s the number one conundrum of today’s modern mom? If you said getting your baby to sleep more than 3 hours at a time, you are wrong! No! It’s what darn diaper bag to lug around all day, every day with your little one. I’ve been through many, (expensive ones too!), as you know. That’s why I was so psyched when Deree said she was giving away this amazing Skip Hop “Versa” diaper bag to one lucky mommy today. Not only does the Versa not look like your every day diaper bag, it comes with an amazing price tag and made of the best and appealing material – all BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free. I totally want one for myself. You want one too?  … here’s how you can enter to win the Skip Hop “Versa” Bag:

(1) Leave a comment on this post. Tell me why your current diaper bag needs to go — or don’t, and just leave your email address. You don’t have to confess!

(2) Become a Follower of the Grow blog by clicking here and adding yourself as a follower. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done this).

(3) Become a fan of Grow’s Facebook Page. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done this.)

(4) If you use Twitter, retweet this giveaway for another entry. (Leave a separate comment to let me know you’ve done this). You could even say something like:

  • RT@selfmademom Check out The Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids:http://bit.ly/ankc55 #growmodern

Good luck and happy entering!

I was compensated to write this post and the awareness campaign by grow modern boutique. I can never be compensated enough, however, to buy all the things I write about. 😉

Sponsored Link: TreeFrogs creates playsets for every budget and yard size.

Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids: Day One

In preparation for this Thursday’s “Growing a Modern Organic Family” event this Thursday night at Grow (a fabulous local boutique for modern organic kids), my friend Caitlin and I are going to be discussing all the fundamental elements of the Grow boutique (grow, modern, organic and kids) on our blogs this week, with tips and thoughts by Grow owner, Deree Kobets.

Because so many of our readers live out of state (did you know Grow has an online store as well?), and cannot join us in person on Thursday, we are hosting an awareness campaign starting today to help you understand the woman and the philosophy behind the products she hand-picks for her store. We want you to follow along not only to learn, but to also win some great baby and toddler (and one for moms tomorrow, here!! hint hint) gear!

Today, in keeping with the “grow” theme, Caitlin is giving away, to one lucky reader, this amazing baby bundle package from Grow on her blog:

Here’s how you can enter to win this awesome collection of baby items:

(1) Leave a comment on Caitlin’s post. You can tell her about an item that you’ve purchased for your kids that has really “grown” with them. Or you can just leave her your email address. It’s up to you.

(2) Become a Follower of the Grow blog by clicking here and adding yourself as a follower. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done this).

(3) Become a fan of Grow’s Facebook Page. (Leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done this.)

(4) If you use Twitter, retweet this giveaway for another entry. (Leave a separate comment to let me know you’ve done this). You could even say something like:

  • RT@weewindycity Check out The Four Days of Giveaways from Grow Modern Organic Kids http://snurl.com/1e88cy #growmodern.

Each person can enter up to 4 separate times. All entries must be received by midnight CST on Thursday, November 4, 2010. The winner will be chosen using Random.org. I will notify the winner on Friday, November 5, 2010. Be sure to leave your email address so we can find you if you are the lucky winner!

I was compensated by Grow to host this awareness campaign and giveaways. Just so happens I agree with her.

How to “grow” a modern organic family!

I sometimes do things outside this blog where I actually get to interact with people and chat about interesting things. (Really? YES!) And, wouldn’t you know, I’m working on an event next week with Caitlin (a.k.a the one and only Wee Windy City) that I wanted to let you know about…
Caitlin already posted about it on her site, but here’s an excerpt of her post that explains the event … if you’re interested in attending, please send me an email at: selfmademom(at)sbcglobal(dot)net. We might have a couple spots left!
Are you into non-toxic stuff for your family that is also stylish and durable?

On Thursday, November 4th, [Sara] and I are coordinating an event for Chicago-area moms at Grow (1943 W. Division).

Grow is an amazing resource for Chicago families — offering everything from cool kid’s decor to the best strollers and coolest kid’s clothes around.

Local mamas are going to be learning how to live organically (while also holding on to their hip quotient) while munching on organic treats and learning valuable tips from the city’s veritable green expert — Deree Kobets, the owner of Grow.

Guests will enjoy goodies from Crust, Tipsy Cake, and Real Naked Food (yum!).

We are also going to have plenty of giveaways (from The Kids’ Table, Glass Lilac and Grow), discounts — and live music from Little Miss Ann!

And everyone will be taking home even more goodies, courtesy of Square One Organics, Little Miss Ann, and EcoMinders!

If you can’t make the event, be sure to check in with Self-Made Mom and me (at my other blog A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks) for 4 days of giveaways from Grow, starting on Monday, November 1st. We have some great items to giveaway to Chicago parents just like you. So take a minute to check it out — you’ll be glad you did!

Disclosure: I am being compensated for coordinating this awareness campaign and event at Grow.

We done good.

Before there were endless PR pitches, link contests, product reviews and the feeling that if your blog doesn’t have 72 ad banners and 25 comments per post you’re a complete failure, there was just writing on your blog for fun, meeting up for a good time and feeling that you were a part of something special.

I’ll be honest that as the blogosphere and mom-o-sphere have grown, I’ve had that feeling less and less. Maybe it’s my fault. Perhaps all the personal gains and losses I’ve had over the last four years sent me further away from the blog community when it should have been pulling me toward it. But, whatever the case, I had an experience today that made me remember all the things I love about being a blogger and why I continue to write and post.

I was part of a select group of bloggers participating in a program coordinated by The Motherhood to partake in a day of good deeds: “Do Good Day.” It was sponsored by 77Kids, a new store for girls, boys and babies by American Eagle. I love Cooper and Emily having connected with them in blog years past, and was really excited by the opportunity to work with them.

Led by the mighty Hyacinth and Melissa here in Chicago (there were teams of 7 bloggers in 10 other cities around the country doing good today too), we agreed on a Do Good Day program: Bake for the tenants of the Ronald McDonald House and then pass out $77 worth of $1 bills at random in the afternoon on our own.

Thanks to resident bakers Emily and Michelle, we made a cake and thumbprint cookies for the residents of the RMH. In a conversation with a resident couple before we started cooking, I was told of the hardship families must endure when their kids are at Children’s Memorial Hospital, but the family residence is in another city completely. For these families who are already shouldering the burden of the high cost of healthcare, saving money on meals and hotel rooms is a necessity. RMH pays for 100 percent of their living expenses. Residents can stay there for as long as they want. Soda only costs $0.25 from the vending machine. Amazing.

Also, 77Kids included for each of us a “goodie” box filled with the $77 to pass out as well as goodie bags, an adorable (and high quality) tee shirt for my eldest and thank you notes to pass out at the organizations at which we were volunteering.

Since I brought baby burrito, I was not in charge of baking. Which is a good thing, because there’s nothing I do worse than bake. So baby burrito and I wrote some thank you notes, clipped money and gave all of Theresa’s (count ’em) SEVEN kids someone to watch and play with. We laughed, shared stories and learned a lot about how lucky we are.

I had to leave early to go to an appointment for baby burrito, but I wish I could have stayed longer to chat and gab with the amazing women in the room. It was that intangible good feeling I had when I left that I had done a good deed and had a nice morning with interesting women that reminds me why I stay connected and committed to the blogosphere.

And it was nice to be a part of a company-sponsored experience that didn’t feel pushy, sales-y. Just Good-y.

Full disclosure: I was compensated to be a part of the 77Kids team and to post and tweet about my experience. However, the mushy, gushy bloggy-love feelings are all mine. You can’t pay for that.

Wax On

Just when I thought I was hip (just the action of going out on a Friday night with the girls and wearing heels will do that to you), I was reminded by the conversation at the dinner table that I’m actually not.

As the topic of conversation shifted from applying to private school (kill me now), to home buying (thankfully not buying any) we then started down the slippery (or scraggly) slope of the best techniques for hair removal.

Nothing says appetizing like hot wax, right?

How did it come to this? Discussing hot lasers over beet salad?

Things I learned: they now sell micro razors for bikini lines, and that my dear friend once waxed her arm hair. Ouch.

Things I also learned: There’s something bonding about the common suffering we, as women, go through to look beautiful, or bring lovely babies into this world. No one else can understand the beauty of a smooth armpit or the comfort of a baby sleeping on your chest.  We can all laugh about the time we forgot to shave our legs when we went to the beach or when the kid spit up all over our “going out outfit.” (A.k.a. me last night)

There’s some point of pride when you’re brave enough to “take it all off” or endure contractions without drugs. And while I may not have been so hip to know about the latest techniques, I felt grateful enough to have friends who could clue me in a bit. That’s about as cool as the newest laser.

The annual it’s my kid’s birthday what was I thinking? post

Every year I kvetch about the preparations for my son’s birthday and how I’m not going to go crazy with it all and EVERY YEAR I IGNORE MY OWN ADVICE. (Warning: overuse of the CAPS LOCK button ahead.)

It’s like I get amnesia every March when I start thinking about the birthday planning. Or maybe it’s that the relatives start asking me in November what I’m doing for the upcoming festivities in APRIL and I can’t help but get into hysterics. Remember? I have lots of relatives, none of which who live here.

This year, though, because of my frugalness, and because he’s only going to be THREE, I vowed to tone it down a bit.

Meaning of course, instead of ordering invites from my favorite website, I handwrote all THIRTY invites. (It’s called the “No Child Left Out of Birthday Parties Act” that our preschool class rigidly enforced. I was all for it until my hand ached so bad I had to ice it the next day. And realized it basically threw my budget out the window)


Thank you to @Uniball_USA for the awesome pen used to handwrite all invitations.

I did, however, come up with a brilliant idea for the aforementioned preschool class wherein all the moms pitched in $10 to avoid spending a ridiculous amount of money to buy 16 separate birthday presents (he has 14 friends outside of his class, what can I say?). This not only saved a huge headache from gift shopping, but it also allowed me to avoid getting my son a birthday present.

There, I said it. Everyone else’s kid got a box of Magnatiles, and we, cheap frugal  parents that we are, are going to give him his old Hanukah presents that I forgot to get out of the basement closet in December. And maybe a $20 Little Tikes swing he HAD TO HAVE out of the new catalog.


He’ll never know what he missed out on until he can read this post.

I also decided to schedule his birthday party from the hours of 4-6 pm.  This way, I figure, I can really cut down on the amount of food (food= MONEY) the adults will eat at the party.  Because we all know how much pizza I we all can scarf down during those “lunch time” parties. (At 11 o’clock I can eat at least 4 pieces, hello!? They’re kiddie size.)

I figure those adults who want to join the kids eating dinner at 5 pm will really stand out.  It just screams “I’m on kiddie time” if you can force your body to eat that early.  I’m not above it (I usually start getting hungry around 4), but I’m thinking some others won’t admit that.

As far as party favors, go, though, I couldn’t totally skimp. But instead of ordering $100 worth of tchotke from Oriental Trading Company, I found these really cheap cute cups and plates from everyone’s favorite store, Party City.  And because I gave them my email address, I got $5 off my total bill. And probably sold my soul to the devil.


I’m guessing for $1.99 a pop these aren’t BPA and lead-free.  The kids will live.

This has gotta be the cheapest most hassle-free and fun birthday yet. At least for the neurotic Jewish mother living in a posh neighborhood trying not to look like a cheapskate set.