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Monday, June 22, 2009

Farewell Blogger

Turnitupmom is moving!  Blogger . . .thank you for gently introducing me to the blogosphere, and now, for setting me free!  


For a sneak peek, please visit me at http://www.turnitupmom.com

Thank you to all of of my readers who have jumped on board to crank up the music and dance! The best is yet to come . . .

P.S. Congrats to "Groovy Baby Blog," winner of the Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Gal Pal: Every Woman Needs One

I'm staring down at my toenails right now, speckled in remnants of "Oh So Glam" from the last wedding I attended.  Seriously, these nasty nails need some TLC.  Come to think of it, I could use a little TLC too.  


What's a girl gonna do?  Regis, I'd like to phone a friend.  A gal pal.  That friend who you call when you need a break and a little something to jazz up your day- a new pair of shoes, a foot massage, a cup 'o java.  At the beginning of flip-flop season, I always call my friend Ange: "It's pedi time!"  

It's the best of both worlds: girl bonding and pampering.  And the pampering begins with a "big" decision: Which color will define you for the next few months?  The search for the perfect shade is no small task, as it's never confined to mere color; the actual name is key.    Here's me over-complicating OPI nail polish colors: 

Makes Men Blush. Yeah, not feeling "hot" today. 
Room Service.  Forget room service.  How about a vacation?  A vacation would be nice.  
It's a Doozi, Says Suzi.  Sounds like this afternoon's diaper.
No Room for the Blues.  Like that name, but it's blue.  Can't look at that all summer. 
Twenty Candles on my Cake.  Dream on, honey.  
Kiss on the Chic.  Okay, that's sweet.  Hold that one. 
Senorita Rose-alita.  Oh, reminds me of that Phil Vassar song I love, about high school sweethearts.  Possibility. 
Your Villa or Mine? Villa.  I like that word.  Villa means vacation.  I'm noticing a trend here.  

And so it goes, until I'm forced to choose or Ange shares her polish (yet another reason why I love her).  Then, for an hour, I shirk my mommy responsibilities, sink into a sumptuous leather massage chair, and undergo the transformation to "Senorita Rose-alita." Meanwhile, my gal pal and I dish the latest news- in our lives and in People magazine.  Every woman needs one of those friends who she can call for a little escape- whether that's chatting over a cup of coffee, or under a nail dryer.  

 


Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry Picking

Last Saturday, we hopped in the big bad Subaru and headed out to the "country" for some strawberry pickin'. It started out like this: Daddy lead the way to an untouched patch of ripe, juicy strawberries. Two little feet followed close behind.




Then, we parked ourselves in a section of one aisle (notice the overalls are blue and white). We squatted down and inspected the berries, plucking the bright juicy fruits from their vines and plopping them into our basket. Well, sort of.



Note to self: Ripe strawberries are unwrapped candies to a toddler. Delayed gratification has no place in a field of fresh fruit.



The brim of her hat says, "Life is Good." I mean, really, does it get any better than this?

Click HERE for a pick-your-own farm near you! Some even follow organic farming methods.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Celebrating an Anniversary: Quality Time

Just the other day, I opened the fridge to find an anniversary card curiously propped up against the milk.  The front of the envelope read, "My Girl."  After eight years, my heart still flutters when I read that, especially now that I have to compete with an irresistibly cute toddler.  


When it comes to celebrating anniversaries, my husband and I don't buy each other extravagant gifts.  Instead, we do two things: spend quality time together over a delicious meal (that someone else has prepared) and support Hallmark.  

Last Tuesday night we celebrated at an Italian restaurant. We nestled into a corner table and gorged ourselves with antipasto, spinach salad with bacon and mushrooms (and you know how I feel about bacon), homemade pasta with ricotta and bechamel, and chicken parmigiana smothered in cheese.  Italians know how to do it right!  And they always send me home with leftovers. 

The conversation during our date was light and fun, even superficial at times.  But all the while, I felt a deep sense of connectedness.  It's easy after eight years to say, "Oh, we don't need to go on a date.  We know that we love each other.  Been there, done that."  But for me, it matters that we spend this quality time together, even if there are moments where we sit in silence, stuffing our faces.  

A few years ago, someone offered me this simple advice on marriage: "Nurture your love like you would a baby."  It stuck with me.  Babies need nourishment and attention to survive and thrive.  So do our marriages.  I'm no expert on relationships, but it makes sense to me that we need to "feed" our marriages and take care of them, especially when we feel pulled in so many different directions.    

After eight years, Tim and I laugh about each other's quirks and finish each other's sentences. We still fail miserably when it comes to managing household tasks, but at least that means we're lucky enough to have a roof over our heads.  Our marriage isn't perfect, but it's ours.  And I wouldn't want it any other way.  


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Smell of Fun

Every now and then my husband will say, "That smell reminds me of Grandma's house up in the country." It's amazing that sometimes even mothballs elicit a nostalgia. But studies show that smell is strongly linked to memory, and thus to our emotional responses to life experiences.


Have you ever thought about the smell of FUN? Revisit your childhood for a moment. What smells, fragrant or foul, instantly take you back? Ah, those were the days:
  • a charcoal grill with a splash of lighter fluid
  • fresh-cut grass
  • the ashes from fireworks
  • a mixture of seaweed and saltwater
  • Big League Chew bubble gum
  • plastic inflatable inner tubes
  • the middle school locker room
  • cheap, movie theater popcorn
  • a new can of tennis balls
  • a homemade ice cream shop
Wouldn't it be great if we could just bottle up some of these and take a whiff when we get bogged down in the trenches of parenthood? Or better yet, why not head off to the park, the movie theater, or the beach? And oh, don't forget to stop for ice cream on the way!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Avocados: The Forgotten Fruit


Looking for something different to feed your growing baby or picky toddler? Try avocados, the forgotten fruit (at least by Gerber). Here's what's great about avocados: They are loaded with unsaturated good fats, vitamins, and minerals for growing bodies and strong bones. Here are a few ways I've incorporated them into my daughter's diet:

  • Create an avocado and pear puree (to add a little sweetness)
  • Blend avocado and plain whole milk yogurt
  • Mash avocado with chicken (creamy consistency helps the chicken go down easily)
  • Spread homemade guacamole (made from avocados) on your child's favorite cracker for a nutritious on-the-go snack.
Avocados are the "cool kids" when it comes to fresh produce. There is actually a site devoted to them: The Amazing Avocado. (After all, this is the internet.) You can visit for some meal planning ideas for the whole family: main dishes, side dishes, salads, and more!

Photo courtesy of Raw Food Nation.

In Memory of Gladys: Breast Cancer Awareness Jewelry GIVEAWAY

On May 22, my family lost a dear friend, Gladys, to cancer. Gladys was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young mom and fought for nearly 20 years; yet, she never let cancer dictate her life. She was an amazing woman with an unwavering faith and a heart of gold, a model of strength and hope for all who were lucky enough to know her.  

Amy, creator and designer of Our 2 Peas in a Pod, has graciously offered to join me in honoring Gladys and all the women affected by breast cancer, with this beautiful Ladies Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet giveaway.  This piece is handcrafted with Genuine Swarovski crystals, fiber optic beads, and sterling components.  It makes a wonderful gift!



Our 2 Peas in a Pod is a mom-owned boutique, specializing in custom-designed jewelry for infants, children, and adults.  Each and every jewelry piece has been handcrafted using only the finest quality crystals, pearls, beads, and wiring components. Items can be personalized or custom-made to celebrate a Special Occasion or to accessorize with a favorite Disney Princess.  

Amy has even designed jewelry Made to Match kids' clothing lines, like Gymboree (my personal favorite!)  Here, the color palette matches Gymboree's Palm Springs collection:




You can also find jewelry to celebrate your favorite Holidays, like this sweet necklace and bracelet set for Valentine's Day:



Our 2 Peas in a Pod offers FREE first class shipping to mailing list customers.  So head on over and introduce yourself!  

And now for the GIVEAWAY: Please visit Our 2 Peas in a Pod. Then, come back and comment about which piece of jewelry (other than the ones pictured above) is your favorite.  Be sure to include an email address where you may be reached.  

This is an extra special giveaway for me, and I sincerely appreciate the loyalty of my subscribers and followers.  If this includes you, please indicate so in a separate entry (after you have completed the mandatory first entry) to increase your chances of winning. 

On Sunday, June 21, one lucky winner will be randomly selected by Random.org.  You must be a U.S. resident (18+) to enter. Good luck!

 

 

 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Enter Sandman

Here is how it all started- the story behind "turnitupmom."

It was an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, or so I thought. My three-month-old daughter, Liza, and I were still in our pajamas, bouncing to Steve Miller Band’s Jungle Love. Somehow the lyrics “drivin’ me mad, makin’ me crazy” seemed all too appropriate. Liza had been awake for seven hours straight, and I was running out of silly Mary Poppins-like antics to keep her content. She’d resisted the traditional methods of settling down, and I needed to come up with something, and fast. Clearly, she needed a nap. Clearly, I needed one too.

While I’m not a voracious reader of parenting manuals and how-to guides (Let’s face it, there is no manual.), I did expect that my daughter would respond well to the recipe for a happy baby: swaddle, sway, and shush. I envisioned her nestling into the crook of my arm and drifting off to sleep, lulled by classical melodies. Quite to the contrary, she squirmed free of my futile attempts to cuddle close with a warm, cozy blanket. I spent days grasping for straws until I realized that she required something a bit more edgy than “The Muffin Man.” That’s when I turned to my husband’s eclectic music collection.

That afternoon, we ripped up the dance floor (Okay, the linoleum kitchen tiles.), bouncing and grooving to the music. And the louder, the better. Liza closed her tiny fingers around my shirtsleeve, and we clung to each other. We whirled past kitchen counters strewn with bottles and dirty dishes, and we twirled in circles, dizzying ourselves. We weren’t waltzing to a Brahms lullaby, and yet I felt a deep sense of comfort separate from the rest of the world. It was an unmistakable bond with my daughter, as I gave myself permission to dance with a childlike abandon and wonder. 

Despite my utter exhaustion, an untapped stream of energy rose from deep within and gave way to flirtation with a light, carefree me. I wasn’t going to need a Richard Simmons video to get this body back in shape. I was sweatin’ to everything from Michael Jackson to Metallica. Before long, that room was filled with laughter, singing, and a curiously content baby. But God, did I need a shower.

I couldn’t wrap my head around it; my husband and I were quiet babies, content to sit and gaze and bat our hands at colorful rattles. I half-expected our daughter to be the same. It was in this moment that I made a conscious effort to shift my thinking. Instead of wishing her to be otherwise, I began to embrace all that she was- a curious, wide-eyed, active baby who made me laugh- instead of all that she wasn’t. And we danced. What emerged from this moment was the opportunity for me to know my child and to rediscover myself.

Did she fall asleep? Of course she did. After a few minutes, Liza nestled her head into the space under my chin and tucked her knees up into my chest. Her eyelids grew heavy and her body, limp. Although the couch was enticing, my heart told me to savor this moment. I pressed my lips against her forehead and continued to rock. Here I was, mommy-gone-mad, with a sense of calm falling around me. I, too, closed my eyes and let go, knowing that in a matter of months, her little tushy wouldn’t fit in the palm of my hand. My nap could wait. I didn’t ever want to wish that we had danced more.

I often ask myself, why does my daughter love to dance? Maybe it’s the rocking motion that simulates the womb or the liveliness of the music, but I have to believe that it’s more than that. Perhaps Liza is giving me exactly what I need- the chance to stop, to breathe, and to be fully present. Somewhere along the line, between juggling work and the inability to say “no,” I had suppressed my most basic need to be and to honor all that I am. 

Liza had her own agenda from the moment of conception. What I didn’t know was that it would come in the form of a gift, one that transcended my expectations.

The serendipity of it all is that one week later, I slipped on a pair of brand new jazz shoes and headed off to dance, this time with a group of women who love to sweat. Every week I do this for myself- for my body, my spirit, and a guilt-free break. Who do I have to thank for this? My little Liza who, literally, doesn’t miss a beat. Thanks to her, I’ve been reacquainted with the happy-go-lucky girl who could pirouette, slide into a split, and steal the show. (Although, I must admit that after delivering a baby, the thought of a split makes me cringe and contract my pelvic muscles.) Because of dance, we have a few more funky songs on our playlist and a few new moves for our kitchen repertoire. Because of dance, I have reconnected with a freer side of myself that I’d lost in the trenches of life. Liza gave me the push I needed to step out onto the dance floor again and to linger in moments of sheer fun.

I have since plunged into this new role, at times wacky and wild, and while it differs from the challenges of classroom instruction, it demands a similar creativity and freshness. Every day Liza cracks me up, and some days I wonder where she came from. Although, in truth, I’ve come to believe that while our children are of us, they are not us. 

My husband and I joke that someday our daughter will be the last child to conk out at her first slumber party. But for now, I have come to appreciate the fact that I can “sway” my daughter to sleep, even if it means cranking up a little classic Metallica. And maybe- just maybe- the Sandman will pay us a visit.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chill Out: A New Parenting Trend

Have you heard of the latest parenting style that involves reclining on the couch, martini-in-hand, while your child occupies herself with legos?  Me neither.  But Tom Hodgkinson's new book, The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids, describes a new parenting phenomena that may be the best kept secret to raising well-adjusted, independent children. Less helicoptering and micromanaging, more martinis (just look at his cover).  



In a recent New York Times magazine article "Let the Kid Be," Lisa Belkin suggests that this new wave of parenting is on the rise.  It makes sense.  In my opinion, today's parenting styles are a response to the over-parenting of our predecessors, those moms and dads who were determined to ruin our lives, dragging us to orchestra rehearsal because "it looked good" for college. 

Today, however, Belkin claims that parents are saying NO to strict schedules, flash cards, tutors, and violin lessons.  In truth, while I wouldn't call it a laissez-faire approach, it's a relaxed style that involves less in-your-face, over-scheduling and more enjoying life and being.  

I'd like the think that Belkin's right, that perhaps we've been enlightened. But truthfully, as a mom enmeshed in the wilds of suburbia, I've yet to see this theory in action. Instead, I see kids miss out on dirty knees, because they have too much homework in first grade.  As a teacher, I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to get up in someone's grill and shout: "Just chill out and leave your kid alone."  

Bottom line: Chill out, Mom. 

For me, this boils down to trusting more and fearing less.  Trusting that our kids won't be paralyzed by Lyme's Disease if they play in the woods.  Trusting that they won't be a failure if they get a C or choose not to go to . . .(oh my God) college.  Trusting that they will find their way and grow to be decent human beings- probably the same decent human beings who will respond to our under-parenting with a tightening of the reigns, and a few martinis.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Less Is More

There is something cathartic about getting rid of stuff. It's freeing. In fact, I actually get a bit jealous when I drive past a heap of trash piled at the end of someone's driveway, because potentially, that someone's basement or bedroom is less cluttered. And if she's like me (let's be honest, he doesn't care), so is her mind.


Recently, I've felt guilty (just a little) about my eagerness to purge. You know, I love singing Jack Johnson's "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" song, and I'll admit, throwing things away isn't exactly living up to my end of the reuse bargain. Somebody, somewhere wants my trash, bless her soul.

Feeling the need to bid farewell to Precious Moments and the chotchkies of my youth, we teamed up with our neighbors last weekend to have a giant garage sale.  I don't need 15 Yankee Candles (the infamous teacher gift) or 5 silicone spatulas. I'm not keeping them "just in case. . ." That's hogwash.

Over the years, I have developed a "Less is More" philosophy. I don't need things to live a full, rich life. I need a clean, open space for my thoughts of gratitude and abundance.

I felt liberated watching people genuinely happy to walk off with my trash. I'd much rather it sit on someone else's bookshelf than in a landfill. Here's the best part: Our very last customer was a woman who has an orphanage in Haiti. She filled her car with my remaining five boxes of stuff, for free of course. Honestly, I would have paid her to take my junk.

Before she left, the woman scribbled down her phone number.  So the next time I feel the need to grab a garbage bag and toss, I'm going to pick up the phone instead.  And bless her soul, she'll cart it all away.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

KC Los Angeles GIVEAWAY: Tees with a Latin Flair

I recently stumbled upon KC Los Angeles, a stylish t-shirt company that inspires women to embrace their femininity, their roots, and their dreams.  Owner Karen Crawford created the line to celebrate her heritage in NYC's Spanish Harlem.  


These inspirational, graphic tees and tanks are 100% super-soft cotton, with a Latin flair.  I am thrilled to be giving away 2 of them!  Check these out: 

The Paz tee (size M) was inspired by the graffiti on the unforgiving streets of Harlem. We all have a responsibility to advocate for peace- in our communities, our nation, and our world. There are no excuses.  I like the idea of having "paz" emblazoned across my heart; it's my little reminder to sow seeds of peace wherever I go.  



The Unity tee (size L) displays the message: "Fuerza en la Unidad" (Strength in Unity). According to KC, the essence of unity is WE: "Not me.  We."  When I wear tees like these, I feel like I am announcing to the world: "Hey, this is what I'm all about.  This is what I stand for." 



As a woman and a mom, I am proud to wear clothing that inspires our children to embrace peace, hope love, faith, beauty, and unity.  These tees and tanks are fun, flattering (run a bit small- order up!) and have messages with a mission.  Plus, 10% of all purchases go to a non-profit, family service organization, Para Los Ninos.

To enter this GIVEAWAY, please visit KC Los Angeles.  Come back and comment about which tee or tank (other than the ones pictured above) is your favorite.  Be sure to include an email address where you may be reached.  On Friday, June 12, two lucky winners will be randomly selected by Random.org.  You must be a U.S. resident (18+) to enter.  Good luck!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Me Time" for Mom

I have never met a mom who didn't feel the need for "me time." While I am so grateful for the privilege to be a mom, I recognize the need to regularly recharge my batteries. I asked six wonderful women to share a snapshot of how they sneak in a little time for themselves. I think you'll find their thoughts to be funny, authentic, and down-right true! 


I steal free time. Rather than wait for my husband to offer it, I just grab the car keys and announce to whoever might be in the room, "I'm going to a movie!" I then show up at the theater and watch whatever happens to be starting next. In other words, my "me time" is spent with my brain unplugged. Whether it's watching "Deadliest Catch" marathons on Discovery while my husband takes the boys to Best Buy to play Guitar Hero or it's my wandering aimlessly around a movie theater until the nachos run out, I approach my time alone with absolutely no goals other than to zone out and recharge. And maybe gain five pounds while I'm at it.

-Megan, Velveteen Mind


I have learned that no one will give me my "me time" - I have to find it, own it, and protect it. I carve out at least 15 minutes every morning to write or read while drinking a cup of ginger tea or decaf coffee. It is a nice quiet way to start my day before my kids wake up. I also have a weekly mom's night out. My husband picks up my boys from preschool and I have the entire night off. On a monthly basis, I schedule a girl's night out with one or more of my friends. And on an annual basis, I leave my family and go on vacation all by myself. All of these activities honor my needs, passions, and authentic self. "Me time" keeps me balanced and it gives me the mental bandwidth to live my life (on most days) with intention.

-Stacey, Create a Balance


After I put my girls to bed, I immediately change into my yoga clothes and recharge by doing an hour and a half of Ashtanga yoga. Oh wait. That's not it. I mean, I change into my Juicy sweatpants, sit on the couch, drink a glass of wine and watch "Gossip Girl" or "Rescue Me." Yup, that's how I recharge.

-Kelcey, The Mama Bird Diaries


I danced all throughout my childhood, but as I became older, I gave it up. About seven years ago I saw belly dance classes popping up all over Denver and I took a few with different teachers, but I always had a hard time with the schedule. When my son started preschool this past September, I asked the Universe for a teacher because I wanted to dance again. She appeared, and since then I have been dancing 3-4 days a week. I have re-discovered my sensuality, and it certainly doesn't hurt that I am getting in shape. But most importantly belly dance is a woman's dance, and it allows me to reconnect to my true self and to the Goddess. The beauty of this dance is that it is welcoming to women of all shapes, sizes and ages. In fact, dare I say as you get older, you get better.

-Dina, Walking Within the Spiral


One of the ways I find some me time is to lock myself in the bathroom and take a hot bath. My husband will also take my girls out occasionally on a "daddy date," and it's nice to just have some down time to myself to exercise, shop, whatever!

-Blonde Mom Blog


And from the expectant mom:

With only 13 or so weeks left until my first child arrives, my "me time" lately has been spent doing a lot of baby preparations. When I actually have free "me time," my favorite thing to do is to go to a great bookstore on a Saturday morning and peruse the shelves looking for a new read. Once I've chosen a new book (or magazine, depending on my mood), I enjoy heading over to my local coffee shop to have an omelette and read. It always feels like such an indulgence. Taking a couple of quiet hours just for me helps me to recharge. My husband is very "kid friendly," so I'm hoping that after the baby arrives I'll still be able to indulge in my Saturday morning "me time" every once in awhile.

-ChitChatMom

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Waiting: Do You Think I Have All Day?

I used to hate waiting.  Waiting rooms. Waiting on line. Waiting for the freight train to pass. It’s my impatient, Jersey, I-have-somewhere-to-be mentality.

Yesterday, I had an appointment at a doctor’s office that is notorious for making me wait. I mean, really wait. Long, torturous hours. It makes my blood boil.  The audacity!  This appointment had the power to ruin my entire afternoon.

But yesterday was different. I entered the waiting room childless (childless may be the operative word here), with my reading materials, ready to wait. Bring it. I’ve got all day. Well, as long as I’m outta here by 3:30.

I relaxed into one of the cushiony, leather chairs and perused the latest Real Simple magazine, which usually accumulates dust on my nightstand for months before I have the opportunity to open it. By then, I'm reading about summer skin care in January.  What good is that?  

I'll have you know that yesterday, I actually read entire articles without transforming into a human jungle gym, without a little person crawling on me or tugging at my pants.  It was liberating just to sit and wait, to read something that made me laugh out loud (embarrassing at times) or wonder Is this blogging material? I never once glanced at the clock, annoyed.

Heck, if waiting is the closest I can get to time alone, I’ll take it.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting Our Kids to Eat Healthy: Alternatives to Negotiating

I've always been interested in the language that parents use with small children when discussing food and nutrition. We've all heard the old threat: "If you don't eat your veggies, no dessert."  By saying this, we're setting our kids up to view eating vegetables as undesirable, just a means to get to the good stuff.  I'll be the first to say, I love dessert.  In moderation.

So how can I talk to my toddler about food and avoid the negotiating and bribery game that drains so many parents and ends in a power struggle?  

I recently consulted Dr. William Sears's book, The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood.  Dr. Sears uses a simple and kid-friendly language when discussing food.  He talks of "green light" (best) foods versus "red light" (worst) foods, and uses this terminology to steer kids towards making healthy choices.  Dr. Sears also refers to nutritious foods as "grow foods."  His article, The ABC's of Teaching Nutrition to Your Kids, is an excellent resource for parents; it offers practical tips for raising a health-conscious child with an adventurous palette (without crowning you Meanest Mother in the World).   

Stacie Elliott, founder of New Mommy Help, regularly blogs about supporting and encouraging new moms.  She is the mother of 4 beautiful children, twin boys- 6, girl-3, boy-1.  I am so grateful for Stacie's expertise in this area (I consider the mom of 4 good eaters an expert!)

I believe proper nutrition begins at birth--preferably breastfeeding. This requires a mom to think about what she is eating right from the start. By the way, this is a fine example of the beginning of motherhood, isn't it? We have to make sacrifices and wise decisions regarding our children that we might never have made otherwise.

As moms, we all know that it doesn't matter what is on our plate; our children want it. Obviously, we can say what we want about food, but in the end our actions speak louder. Modeling healthy eating is a vital form of communication. For example, when our children started on solid foods, I chose to make homemade baby food. As often as possible, I would simply use the food we were having for dinner. If we had baked sweet potatoes, I made a puree for the baby. Of course, this only works when choosing nutritionally sound meals.

We regularly talk about the ingredients and nutritional value in different foods. Like, meat has protein for strong muscles. Fruits and Veggies have various vitamins, etc.  Our kids respond well to that and seem to make good choices when given the chance. However, our 6-year-olds are already dealing with peer pressure in this area. They see what other kids eat and drink and want to know why they can't have soda (for example). Since we have already talked about how foods provide various types of nutrition, they can understand our decision better.

In response to the question, "Have I eaten enough to have dessert?" we have designated dessert days. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are dessert days. Everyone knows dessert is only on weekends. We view it as something special, and it's not expected any other day. We do, however, make exceptions on special occasions (i.e. birthdays). We tell our kids that desserts have lots of sugar and very little healthy ingredients, if any. That's why we do not have dessert every day. We want to take care of our bodies and limit foods that are empty.

Thank you, Stacie, for sharing your wise words of wisdom with us!  Please visit Stacie's blog for more information and insight.

 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chocolate Cake . . .for Breakfast?

Yesterday, we were invited to a BBQ, so I decided to make homemade brownies from The Bride and Groom's First Cookbook. (Eight years later, and I'm just getting around to using it.) The recipe sounded heavenly. Chocolate, LOTS of chocolate. Walnuts. Sugar. More chocolate.


But Martha is not my middle name.

When I tried to remove them from the pan, they started to crumble. Not gooey enough? Who knows. I was so annoyed. I should have stuck with Betty Crocker. But Noooo . . .I needed to be all fancy.

About an hour later, while slumped in the car with my brownie debacle, I started cracking up. Until I was virtually incoherent.

"Do you remember that Cosby Show episode (gasp) where Cliff (gasp) makes the kids chocolate cake (gasp) for breakfast?"

"No. I don't remember that one."

"You know, the one where the dad gives the kids chocolate cake and tries to justify it by saying that it has eggs, milk, and wheat."

You can't force someone to remember something they haven't experienced. So here's Cosby's stand-up routine that gave rise to the hysterical Season 3 episode:



I love that he says "we had a ball until SHE came." Notice how we moms are always the bad guy, the SHE, the one having the "conniption." Remember all of the hairy conniptions your mom had in the 80's?

This memory came at the perfect time. I needed something to lighten up my pity party. I came to the conclusion that if my brownies didn't go over well, we could eat them for breakfast. My husband and me. Don't tell my daughter; I am one of those SHE moms. I don't want to meddle with this honorable title.



Friday, May 22, 2009

Bambini Bliss Giveaway!

I am thrilled to tell you about Bambini Bliss, an online boutique specializing in everything from stylish designer diaper bags to gifts for the new parents, big brother, or sister.  


If you're looking for a shower gift, the Baby Bonkie Swaddler is currently on sale for a limited time.  It has a simple, innovative design with velcro closures for babies up to 5 months.  They're hip and swanky . . .great for the new mom!  




If you need the perfect outfit for photographs, the Pipette and Hat sets by Jamie Rae have an easy on-off design for those precious moments in the spotlight!  




Bambini Bliss has it all, now offering a baby gift registry!  They have generously offered my readers the chance to win a Wipes Case in Sage Toile ($30 value). I have one of these fabric-covered cases, and it does add a little "Pretty" to the diaper-changing drudgery.  



For the opportunity to win, please visit Bambini Bliss.  Then, come back and comment.  Tell me one of your favorite items (other than the ones pictured here).  It will be hard to pick!  This giveaway is open until 6/5.   One lucky winner will be randomly chosen by Random.org.  You must be a U.S. resident to enter.  Have a Blissful day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Women's Empowerment Series: Blogging Forum


Yesterday, I was honored to be a guest speaker at the Women's Empowerment (WE) Series in Ridgewood, NJ. This powerful program sets out to nurture the creative, contemplative nature of women through on-going conversation. It's for women "who yearn for a slice of urban intellect in the wilds of suburbia." And yes, it is wild.


I was joined by two highly successful, accomplished bloggers. Deborah Smith is the owner and editor of JerseyBites.com, a blog dedicated to recipes and restaurants in the Garden State. Deborah is "on a quest for food with attitude," the mark of a true Jersey girl! She is also the creator of "Blogging Out Hunger," a campaign which raised money and awareness on behalf of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey this past December. Deborah is a long-time online business owner of NannyClassifieds.com, servicing families who are searching for full time in-home childcare.

Jen Singer, creator of MommaSaid.net, has been successfully blogging since 2003, and has since appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Parents, and Real Simple. Jen has also appeared on dozens of television and radio programs, such as ABC's World News Now and CBS The Early Show. Jen's new book, Stop Second Guessing Yourself-- The Toddler Years, just hit bookshelves in April, and is the first in a series of MommaSaid parenting advice books.

Are you looking for my list of accolades? Stop looking. You won't find them here. I was the voice of the new blogger on the block. As some of you know from my post If You Build It, They Will Come, I have always wanted to be a "real" writer. Yesterday, I met so many women like me, itching to come out of their writer's notebooks, but fearful of taking the plunge. I hear you! The blogosphere is another world with its own language and set of rules, and when you make the leap, you have to know who YOU are.

Each morning, I wake up knowing that I have the power to write something that will resonate with other moms.  So here I am, happily suburban, with my Mac and my thoughts.  My blog is a lot like me, a work in progress.  




Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've Got Rhythm Stix, I've Got Music

My daughter LOVES music. I mean, really loves it. During her infancy, we spent hours bouncing and twirling across the kitchen floor, dancing to everything and anything. Except classical. Take that, Baby Einstein!


Now, whenever Liza hears music, the world stops. A smile stretches across her face as she bops her head and bends up and down at the knees. It's her own little jig, and it's seriously adorable (and future blackmail material).

Sometimes she adds shakers or tambourine to the combo, but more often it's Rhythm Stix. Two red sticks. That's it. Oh wait, they have ridges. Fancy, huh? But I've gotta be honest; they were the best $8 I spent on gifts last Christmas. Who needs all of that plastic Fisher Price c-r-a-p anyway?

Liza's learned to "Shake your sticks up HIGH, and down LOW" (imagine my voice rising and falling here). We've used them to keep the beat, follow directions, develop coordination, and identify body parts; it's much more fun to point to your nose with a big red stick.

We moms need to keep things fresh and exciting, in part to keep ourselves sane. LP RythMix has some cool instruments and music activities for little ones at various stages. There are even Mommy & Me activities.

When, as a mom, I'm grasping for straws, I turn to sticks instead: "I've got rhythm stix, I've got music . . .who could ask for anything more?"


Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Rituals: Saturday Morning Pancakes (and Bacon)

I love the smell of bacon. In part, because it's so darn tasty (though I'm not sure how I feel about Bacon Lip Balm). But also, because it takes me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood. Pancake breakfasts, with a pound of bacon. (In his Odes to Common Things, Pablo Neruda really should have written an "Ode to Bacon.")


Man, I'm hungry.

I recently read a thought-provoking article entitled, The Importance of Family Rituals. I have a strong desire to establish some family rituals, to create a time and space in our family that says, "Family comes first," before all else. Years ago, my parents did this; I just didn't realize the value of it at the time.

Pancake breakfasts gathered us together around a shared meal. We joked, teased, shared the comics, and filled our bellies until all we could do was roll ourselves in front of the TV to watch the Saturday morning cartoon marathon. This ritual was nourishment for our bodies and souls, and it all happened in our pajamas. Does it get any better than that?

What I've learned: It isn't about the ritual, per se (although you can't go wrong with one that is bacon-centered). It's about standing firm as a family and of nurturing the bonds with those you love the most.

Please comment below with your favorite family rituals. I might have to steal a few!

Play

I recently heard a mom remark, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my kids this summer.  They don’t know how to just play.”  Sound familiar? 

I’m making a sweeping generalization here: Today’s suburban kids live by set schedules and organized, adult-regulated activities.  We moms shuttle them off to piano lessons, tutoring, baseball practice, art class.  We think we’re doing what’s best for our kids.  We want them to have opportunities, so we start building our kids’ “resumes” in elementary school. 

Yes, I would agree that kids learn discipline, the value of teamwork, and socially appropriate behavior from playing soccer or saxophone.  But there’s a seriousness and rigidity to all of this structure, and we’re missing something big. . .

PLAY.    

In his outstanding book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagintion, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown, M.D., discusses play as a state of mind.  He defines it as “an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time.” 

Notice how Brown says that play is “apparently purposeless.”  In his eyes, it is perhaps the most important aspect of brain growth.  Brown believes that “play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.”

But we think that kids who fit the mold, who play “the game” with an exceptional GPA and impressive resume (that includes a service trip to Africa, of course), will be rewarded in life. 

How many unhappy college graduates do you know? 

In recent years, Brown has presented a seminar on play to Stanford sophomores, who he believes are “suffering from low-grade play deprivation, and are so used to their hectic, pressured, high-performance lives (despite still being kids) that they don’t realize what they have missed in the pursuit of academic excellence and success.” 

I was that kid.  Growing up, I was so tightly wound that I lost sight of play.   For me, good grades got old, and there was a huge price to pay for not cutting loose.  At the end of the day, who cares about academic accolades and big fat promotions if there is no play. 

So, how can we encourage our children to play? 

Brown suggests exposing our children to various opportunities at a young age and taking note of their early desires and inclinations, “the natural choices that your child’s early play demonstrates.”  Then, encourage those early patterns that result from natural desires to build, sing, create, dance, etc.

So, the next time your child plays with the box instead of the $100 award-winning toy inside of it, swallow your pride and give yourself permission to smile.  She is building a world for herself and mastering the most important subject, Life 101.  

Friday, May 15, 2009

What's the Hurry?

In college, I had a roommate from Wyoming. I loved her to pieces, but when it came to walking, she was Slow with a capital S. I was a "city" girl, destination-bound, with a quickness in my step. I walked with purpose, to get there fast. She, on the other hand, bounced her way down the sidewalk, in part I think, to irritate me. It worked.

My daughter is just at the age where she loves stepping out for a walk down our quiet little street. Together, we shuffle across the uneven pavement and explore nature's toy box. Yesterday we watched the birds darting from tree to tree. We listened to water gurgling through the sewer. We pointed to big, fluffy clouds and cars passing by. We picked a few flowers (Don't tell the neighbors.) and fingered the veins on leaves. We stomped across a patch of rocks and giggled as they crunched under our toes.

It was a grand buffet for the senses.

Maybe the tortoise is onto something. For years, I'd thought that slow was synonymous with purposeless. These days, I'd argue that the opposite is true. Because when you hurry about, you miss stuff. Stuff that stirs your blood and awakens your soul. You know, if we walked at the pace of a child, we’d see so much more of the world.

Okay, Miss Wyoming, you were right. Want to go for a walk? You lead.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Best Buddies


"A dog naps so much because  it loves so hard." 
-anonymous

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Make Your Bed.

I'm not a domestic goddess.  There are usually piles of laundry on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink.  But one thing is certain: The bed is always made.  Well, almost always.

A few months before my daughter was born, I sat down with my husband for the talk.  Sorry to disappoint, but it had nothing to do with money, sex, or in-laws.  “We need to start making the bed,” I insisted.  If I was going to demand that my child make her bed one day, then I needed to do it too. 

So we tested the widely held belief that it takes 21 days to make a habit.  Now (Drumroll, please), almost two years later, I’m still climbing into a nice, neat bed every night.  And every morning I take one minute to pull the sheets taut and straighten the comforter.  One minute.  That’s all it takes.

You’re probably wondering: Why the big stink over the bed? Because it’s never just about making the bed.  Even Michelle Obama, who has a 95-person residence staff, demands that her two daughters make their beds.  In an interview with Oprah, the First Lady spoke of her daughters’ chores: “It can’t be foreign to them to be part of a working household.”  I couldn’t agree more. 

I spent a couple of years teaching first and second grade.  During conference time, parents inevitably asked what they could do at home to help their children succeed.  Without fail, I always answered, “Read.  Read.  Read.”  If I had to do it all over again, I’d add, “And have little Suzie make her bed.” 

 

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Thinnest Wallets from ALL-ETT: BIG Father's Day Giveaway!

Ladies, does your husband have wallet butt? Is he ruining those jeans you bought that make his butt look cute?  If so, then look no further.  I have the perfect Father's Day gift idea from ALL-ETT: The World's Thinnest Wallet.


Your man may not be complaining, but sitting on a thick wallet is very uncomfortable! In fact, it can become downright painful and lead to chronic back pain. Many men remove their wallets when sitting for very long, or while driving. The trouble is this leads to forgetting it somewhere or having it stolen. 

The Original ALL-ETT Billfold can solve this problem. The Original Wallet holds up to 30 cards and has 2 pockets for cash. It will hold all of your hubby's stuff while still staying incredibly thin. This wallet makes a great gift and costs only $19.95 for nylon and $ 29.95 for leather.  

 


The unique I.D. Wallet features an ID pocket on the inside of the wallet. This design allows you to show your ID easily and quickly while still keeping it securely stored inside of your wallet. The ID wallet will hold 12 credit cards and ID and has 2 pockets for your bills and receipts. Great for those who have to show their ID for work! Only $ 19.95 for nylon and $ 29.95 for leather.




Is your husband a sailor?  The Boater's Wallet is waterproof and floats on top of the water for up to two days; it is truly amazing! The bright color helps make it easy to see for retrieval. This is a must have for boaters, kayakers, or anybody who might drop his wallet in the water. It will hold up to 10 credit cards, cash and a couple of keys while still floating. The dimensions of this wallet (empty & closed) are 3 ½" x 5 ¼" x ¼".  It can be yours for only $ 29.95.




Here's the great news!  I am giving away FIVE WALLETS for Father's Day: The Original, 2 I.D. Wallets (nylon & leather), the Boater's Wallet, and the Leather Executive.

For the opportunity to win, please visit ALL-ETT first.  Then, come back and leave me a comment about which item you would most like to win (If you are a winner, I will do my best to accommodate you.).  This giveaway is open until 5/29.  Winners will be chosen by Random.org. You must be a U.S. resident to enter.  Good luck!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come

I think we all have the desire to be known, to share our truth with the world.  I've always wanted to be a writer, a real one.  In hard print, on a newsstand.  Someone who writes for Parenting Magazine or Real Simple, or (dare I say it) Oprah.  I want someone to see my name in print and say, "Damn, she's good."  


A few months ago, my fabulous sister (an amazing cook who blogs about it) challenged me to enter the blogosphere.  I was hesitant.  That meant putting it all out there.  That meant opening up the door to criticism.  I was scared of the big R- rejection.  As a self-proclaimed academic and perfectionist, I've always been haunted by the "good enough" syndrome: When is it ever enough?  When am I ever good enough?  After some kicking and screaming, I surrendered.

Alas, here I am!  

Now that I've entered the blogosphere, I can't flip the switch.  I want more.   I'm impatient.  I want to be found.  Lately, I'm immersed in a whole new language: Technorati, RSS feeds, gadgets, Feedburner.  Who knew that Kirtsy wasn't just a lovely little bow from ballet?  It's all so much; I had no idea what I was getting myself into!  

This blogging community is chock-full of promotions, giveaways, and back-scratching, which has its place.  But I just want people to stop by for a visit, and leave a comment, not because it gives them another chance to win my giveaway, but because they want to.  Because here, on my blog is something that resonates, some feeling or question or belief that unites us as moms and remarkable women.    

As one of my favorite poems states: "The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.  Only a person who risks is free."  On the other side of fear is trust.  So I've taken the plunge with the belief that . . .

If you build it, they will come. 


Monday, May 4, 2009

Catching Fireflies . . .for Mom

Remember catching fireflies when you were small? And poking holes in plastic cups? Remember running across freshly mowed grass with a carefree abandon, cupping your hands around dancing yellow lights? Those were the days . . .

This nostalgia warms my heart, much like the whimsical gifts from Catching Fireflies. With Mother's Day quickly approaching, I'd encourage you to stop by and take a peek at their wide variety of unique, stylish gift ideas. They have everything from recycled artwork to personalized jewelry to hand-crafted pewter goods.  Here are my favorites from a.i. paper design:

FOR THE NEW MOM: I've gotten countless compliments on a baby ribbon frame that hangs in my bedroom and reads "little miracle." I know what you're thinking: Not another frame! But these are different; They are handmade, sophisticated and chic- perfect for the modern mom! Look at the one below . . .irresistible!



FOR THE PROUD MOM: You can show off your child's latest and greatest masterpiece and eliminate fridge clutter at the same time. Ingenius! Below is an adorable brag board for your "little Picasso." They can be personalized too!


FOR THE BUSY MOM: Thank God for post-its. I couldn't live without them. Here is a fabulous little post-it holder that actually makes me want to jot down more!  And, always losing your keys? It takes care of that too!  So cute!


I'm a big fan of Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, but it's the same old stuff after awhile. So head on over to Catching Fireflies, and take a trip down memory lane.  Go ahead . . .brighten someone's day!