Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Case of the Disappearing Blog

This morning when I typed in my web address to write a post, it came up "blog not found". 

WHAT!?!?!?!?!?

The panic started to seep in.

It was then I realized that it had been awhile since I backed up my blog.

I looked and double checked the web address.  It was right. It was.

My heart started racing.  I swear I broke out in a sweat. 

WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?!?!

I triple checked the web address.

Oh.

It read: http://therpacticalmomguide.blogspot.com.  Two measly letters interchanged.  My eyes DID deceive me as did my typing fingers.  Darn them.


Now I need to recover from my scare and go backup my blog.  I think I may need a frappucino to.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emmy's Story: What the Heart Can Withstand




 This is Emmy today.

This was Emmy over two and a half years ago after her heart surgery.


Nothing is like a mother's instinct.

When Em was almost four months old she was fussy and I had a  feeling something wasn't quite right.  Everyone told me she was fine.  It was just teething, they said.  It was the week before the holidays and I didn't want to take a chance something was wrong.

The doctor noticed the heart murmur that she had heard when she was there for her one month checkup.  Then, she had told us not to worry about it.  It would probably go away on its own.  It was now louder .  Much louder.  She seemed almost nonchalant about it.  In hindsight, she probably didn't want to cause us to panic.  We were told to make an appointment with a cardiologist and try to get in when they had an opening.  I called that day.  They could only see us, new patients, in March. Could Emmy wait that long? 

I called the pediatrician back the next day and left a message if it was okay that she wasn't seen by a cardiologist until then.  Since the local center where the local pediatric cardiologists were located was closed for the holidays, the doctor didn't reach them to discuss Emmy's case until after the New Year had begun.  The day after our pediatrician and their cardiologist spoke, she was seen.

That Christmas we could pretend nothing was wrong.  Emmy seemed fine.  Her case of fussiness had dissipated and everyone chalked it up to new mom worries and even teased me about it.  I really do believe it was just teething but sometimes I wonder if it was part mother's instinct and part divine intervention that day I took her to the doctor's office. There was a niggling fear in the back of my mind during that time that bad things were coming our way.

We survived it though.  I can tell you that from the time we left that cardiologists office to the next morning when Emmy underwent heart surgery were the darkest hours of my life.  Just writing that is making me cry and my throat is tightening so much I can barely swallow.  The fear that you may loose your child is like having your heart ripped from your chest without anesthesia and looking into a black void. Looking back, I honestly don't know how I got through it other then through leaning on my husband and faith-faith that she would be okay because God had special plans for her.  We didn't want Emmy to be scared so we couldn't let ourselves succomb to the fear that we felt.

You can read more about Em's coarctation and heart surgery* and the amazing people we met through the children's hospital where she had her surgery and the Ronald McDonald House. The nurses and doctors cared for our daughter as though she was their own. Their assurances, words, and quiet confidence also gave us an appreciation for how lucky we were to have them.  They also gave us a new persepctive.  Not all of the children they see get to leave the hospital healthy just days after arriving. In fact, she was released on a Sunday.  Her surgery took place on Friday.

Even though Em is a regular three year old with a huge smile who runs and plays and is completely fine, she still needs to see a cardiologist once a year just to make sure that the coarctation is not returning.

Two years and eight months after our lives were forever changed, Em had her yearly checkup.

Every year as I sit in that office,  I go back to that place where the sky opened and I wasn't sure it would ever clear again. 

Em has no fear of doctors.  She doesn't cry when she gets shots. She laughs at the pictures on the wall in the doctors office and points out how silly they are (and slightly inappropriate which I am glad she is still to young to comprehend).


This was on the wall of the exam room.  Yes, this is Michael Bedard's "Sitting Duck" and yes those are bullet holes in the wall.  Emmy remarked about how silly it was since "ducks don't wear sunglasses, Mommy".  I am thankful of her innocence.

She sat so patiently as the nurse put the stickers on her little body to hook up to wires for the one test and even pulled them off herself when they were done.  While they checked her blood pressure, she sat so still. She even strained her neck to see the pictures of her heart on the screen and was curious about the baby in the doctor's belly.

I worried about meeting Em's new doctor.  When we got the letter from her old cardiologist saying she felt her calling was to give up her practice to become a missionary and to treat those who were not as fortunate, I was proud of Emmy's doctor but also worried.  She was the one who had found the problem with Emmy's heart and coaxed us through the process of getting our daughter the help she needed. She was the one who we had a connection with since we had literally put our daughter's life in her hands.  Would the new doctor be as good?  Would Emmy like her?

She is wonderful and Emmy's heart is just fine.  It beats its rhythm as she dances to the radio and it is big enough for all the love it can hold. Yes, it is just fine.  We don't often talk of it because Emmy is not defined by the surgery she had and she can do anything her heart desires. We also don't want to scare her.  She knows she had heart surgery but she also knows she is healthy and loved.

It reminds me to never doubt that I know what is best for my daughter.  I am in her corner.  Those brief moments also reminded me that I need to cherish today.  Not tomorrow, not yesterday but today. 

What will we do if her coarctation returns?  Will we be able to handle it?

We will.  She will.  The heart can withstand whatever life throws its way.

We have family. We have friends. We have our faith.  We have each other.

*The story begins at the third paragraph of this particular post.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SmartKnitKIDS Seamless Sock Review

Do your children have a hard time putting on their socks?  Do they complain about the seams or that they bunch up when they try to put their shoes on making the whole getting dressed process a hassle?

Recently I was introduced to SmartKnitKIDS.  They offer patented seamless socks for little feet.  The socks came about because a mom like us was tired of the hassle she had trying to get her child (who hated the seams) to wear socks.

I let Emily try a pair on along with her sister.  The socks are snugger than regular socks and they don't fall down her little legs.  Of course since she is used to them bunching she ended up pulling them down when she got dressed even though I explained to her that her socks really are not supposed to do that. 

If your little one likes to put their socks on with the bottom (where the heel is) on top as my daughter does and refuses to let you turn them around, then the no heel design makes them handy to have in their drawer.  The no heel design also means they can get more wear out of them as they grow.

The SmartKnit KIDS socks also do not have elastic at the top but rather what they call a non-binding Halo Top to keep little legs from getting red from tight elastic that pinches.   The  material also wicks moisture away from your little one's feet to keep their feet drier and stink-free. 

Most importantly, Emily seems comfortable in them.  If Emily can keep her socks on, then that is a good sign since she usually prefers to run barefoot. 

You can read more about SmartKnits at their website.   The children's socks come in five colors: white, black, navy, pink, and purple.  I do wish they had more colors.  There are also three styles: ankle, crew, and knee-high. They also have crew socks for older kids (yes, mom that includes you) which come in black and white.

SmartKnit can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.  Right now they have a special.  If you place an order through Therawear (one of their online retailers), you can save an extra 20% on the socks.  If you buy them and you and your little ones like them, send SmartKnitKIDS your story.  You will recieve a $5 coupon for Therawear.com and then be entered into a monthly drawing to win $50 and an ant farm.

I did recieve three pairs of the SmartKnitKIDS socks in order to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.  No other compensation was or will be recieved.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ugly Duckling Sweater

Do you have clothes in your closet that make you wonder what you were thinking when you bought them?  What about clothing you received as a gift?  Do you wonder what they were thinking as they bought that particular item?  Maybe you have memories from your childhood of being forced to wear something that someone else picked out and that you absolutely hated!

Growing up I hated wearing cutesy clothes.  Teddy bears, hearts, little cartoon characters..forget it.  Those were the clothes that never left my closet or were stuffed into the bottom of my drawers.

Yet, everyone was under the mistaken notion that I did.  I would make enthusiastic remarks about how beautiful or cute it was with the promise of wearing it the first chance I got. I never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings and I know how much you want the person you bought a gift for to love it.

My mother and I as I'm sure most of you can relate have the polar opposite tastes in clothing.  I was an odd duck in the sense that I hated jeans and didn't wear them until middle school.  I had a closet filled with cords, stirrup pants (yes, I admit it), skirts, and dresses.  I was just as choosy about the tops I wore.

One year my mother came home with this sweater that she thought was a huge bargain.  It was made of a blue-green wool with a yellow fuzzy duckling in galoshes holding an umbrella and splashing through a puddle.  It was hideous.  Scratchy.  To snug.  And worse of all just plain ugly.

The only thing I hated worse than that sweater was turtlenecks.Which is what I had to wear to keep the sweater from torturing me with its scratchiness.

I was mortified to wear the sweater to school.  At the time, I was in sixth or seventh grade.  Middle schoolers DID NOT wear fuzzy duck sweaters.

One morning, my mother commented on why hadn't she seen me wear the sweater.  I remember shrugging.  At a young age, I realized that not answering and being noncommittal was sometimes the easiest way to avoid a lecture or scolding.  Sometimes though  it didn't work.

My mother waxed on about how lucky I was to have such nice clothing.  In the end, hoping to keep her from becoming further upset, I wore the sweater over a turtleneck.  As soon as I got to school, I yanked the sweater off my back.  My hair stood on end from the static of the wool being pulled over my long hair.  Not only did I have a bad clothing day, I had a bad hair day.

At the end of the day, I put the sweater back on as quickly as I could and covered it up with my coat before heading off to my bus.

That year for Christmas my aunt gave me a lovely white turtleneck with little teddy bears all over it.  That stayed hidden in my drawer until the day my mother handed us garbage bags to clean out our closets and drawers of too small clothing.  Luckily, my mom never went through the bag before carting it off to Goodwill.


What is the ugliest piece of clothing you ever recieved?  Did you wear it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The College Fund in the Corner

Ever since I first met my husband, he has had the habit of stockpiling the change that finds its way into his pockets.  Each day he empties his pockets wherever he happens to be standing whenever the mood strikes.

It drives me crazy to be endlessly finding coins here and there.  The kitchen counter, a shelf in the living room, the floor (he empties his pockets before sitting on the couch and proceeds to forget about the coins littering the floor),...

A few years ago when we were dating, I brought him a giant container to house his pennies which he refused to use or cash in.  "Who does that?", he asked. "They are just pennies, why bother cashing them in until you have a lot", he had joked.  I think he knew just how much the hoarding of them drove me crazy. 

Quarters, dimes, and even nickels all got cashed in at some point after being sorted and placed carefully into wrappers before being deposited at their new home, the bank but never the pennies.

I remember saving all of my change as a child but as an adult I hated having it lying around so I always used it to pay for items. Yes, I was one of those annoying people who usually had the correct amount of change when paying cash.  Now I just use my debit card for most purchases and only carry $20 in my wallet for emergencies.  It just makes it easier and I like being able to track my purchases.  This is one of the glaring differences between my husband and myself.

The container from the Discovery Channel line that held my husband's pennies used to house plastic frogs of every shape and size.  It was tall enough and sturdy enough to serve as a bank of sorts. It sat next to the cabinet that held our china, out of place in the formality of our dining room, a reminder of my husband's eccentricity youthful heart. It was always a conversation piece.  The joke was that if we ever had children, it would be their college fund.

Eventually, the pennies reached the top of the container and a new container had to be found.  I recycled a pretzel container that once held little mini packages of pretzels shaped like pumpkins and bats from Halloween.  My husband couldn't resist counting the coins before placing them in their new home.  I watched my husband dump the coins onto the floor before dumping them into a coin sorter, his arm muscles straining as he lifted the container, a container I couldn't even lift.

He only had around $80.  I couldn't believe all those pennies only amounted to such a piddly dollar amount until my husband reminded me that it totaled about 8,000 pennies. He wanted to see how many we could accumulate over the years.  It was a challenge and my husband loves challenges.  He had been doing it almost as long as we had been together. There was no plan to stop. 

The pennies made the move with us to our new home and made it through the birth of our two daughters without being spent (not that they would have bought very much).  When I became pregnant with our first daughter, the running joke became somewhat of a reality.  We now would have a daughter (now daughters) to pass on our vast wealth for college.

Although the pennies now are hidden reside in a corner of our front hall closet hidden among containers filled with craft supplies, we still have them. It has become a family joke, one that gets pulled out and dusted off  around the holidays. The container is to heavy to lift and must be slid out of its hiding place.

Our oldest, a little scavenger of coins, loves to collect the little metal discs of varying sizes to put into her piggy bank.  Any coins left lying around by my husband on the table or anywhere else that he deems safe enough get snatched up in her little hands and go into her bank rather than her daddy's.

Luckily, we started a 529 to help subsidize our daughters' college fund in the corner. I doubt all those pennies will even pay for a year's worth of college books by the time our oldest heads off to college.

In fact, I see those pennies being carted off to school (at least once our daughters get there) handful by handful for the penny drives that are held each year for various causes.  There they can do more good than sitting in a dark corner for the next fifteen years. Daddy will never miss a few pennies among the tens of thousands that will most likely accrue by then.


Emmy sitting on her and her sister's college fund

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My New Addiction

Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and then McDonalds joined on the bandwagon.  I never got the whole iced coffee thing.  People driving with an iced coffee in their hands or sucking their coffee through a straw as they steered their grocery cart and shopped.  Frankly, it made me want to roll my eyes. 

And then...

I became one of them.  I blame it on Target. Someone has to be to blame, right? 

They built a Target five minutes from my house.  Want to guess what else was inside?

A Starbucks.

Sometimes I have a need for caffeine, for coffee.  For breakfast after a late night or on a cold evening when I have lots of things to do, I get that craving. I need a shot of caffeine.

It was ninety degrees outside and I was missing the cooler weather.  Mother Nature had been teasing us with a few cooler days and I wanted a coffee.  Yes, I could have made it myself in my dinky little coffeepot (my 4 cup coffee pot that barely fills a cup with the steaming brew) at home for pennies.  Yet, I had been out running errands and my last stop with the girls was at Target.

When I was done navigating the behemoth cart around racks without snagging it on anything or running any unsuspecting customers over, I decided I deserved a treat.  I went to Starbucks and ordered a cappucino and a milk box for the girls to share.

The woman ended up handing me this icy monstrosity with whipped cream.  A frappucino. I took it without a word thinking that maybe I had ordered wrong. Cappucino, frappucino, they do sound somewhat similar. No.  There is no way I accidentally ordered a frappucino.


I couldn't bring myself to tell the cashier that I hadn't ordered that particular drink since she had already made it.  Anyway, I didn't really need a cup of coffee since I had a perfectly good coffee maker sitting on the counter at home that could brew one in minutes.

I handed over my money in exchange for the drink that I hadn't ordered.  

I had tried Coolattas at Dunkin Donuts and the McFrappes at McDonalds in the past when I was in the mood for something sweet. I couldn't manage even more than a few sips.  I had never thought to shell out $4.51 for a drink at Starbucks that I probably would never, ever like.

I waited til I got into the car to take my first sip.  The perfect blend of coffee, chocolate syrup, and milk mixed with crushed ice slid down my throat.  I was disappointed when at the stop light by my house, I took a deep sip which resulted in not even a drop of frappucino. I had polished off the entire cup in less than five minutes and I was feeling energized and rejuvenated from all that sugar and only a slight brain freeze.

Now I find myself looking for reasons to run to Target, as if I needed any before.  Now, whenever I leave Target, there is Starbucks beckoning.

"Come on in Joy, and sample our tasty, refreshing goodness.  You know you want to."

I do, I really do.

Are you a fellow iced coffee addict?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Offline

Three days away.


No phone, no tv reception, and no radio (unless you count BOB Radio which the guys listened to on their boat). 


There was a stove, a  refrigerator, a firepit, indoor plumbing, and electricity-the necessities.

There were friends.  There was good-natured ribbing.  There was laughter.  There was camaraderie.


There was also fish frying, a Turkey Fair, poutine, Tim Horton's, people saying "aye" a lot, and Thai McChickens at McDonalds.

This was my husband's idea of fun.   Fishing in Canada.  

My feet only strayed near the dock on the day we left as my husband attached his boat to the hitch. 


A stack of magazines, books, and my iPod were never far away from my restless fingers. 

My data plan didn't extend to Canada.  There was no wi-fi where we were so the iPad tucked into its case didn't work. 


Yesterday I said "Goodbye Canada, hello home".  

I arrived home with a case of online information withdrawal, but with my batteries fully charged so to speak.

The antidote for online information withdrawal: a solid hour of online time, self-prescribed of course, on this sunny afternoon while the kids are napping.

How often do you go an entire weekend without being online in any form?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First Day of School

Emmy had her first day of preschool yeterday.

She had been chatting about it before she went to sleep last night.  It was the first thing she  spoke of  when she woke up.

Excitement. My little girl who is sometimes shy couldn't wait to go to school. 

I was excited to.  Two whole hours to get something done while Madison napped.  Dare I hope that a clean(er) house might be in my future.  Maybe a chance to paint my toenails or get caught up on email.  Or even better-to blog.

I was a little trepiditious to.  Would there be tears? Would my sweet child morph into someone I didn't even know with all of those other children and parents looking on. Would she screaming and fling herself into my body refusing to enter the classroom? Would she be responsible for starting a chain reaction of crying and pleading from other litttle ones?

I had prepared Emmy for the fact that she would be at school with her friends and teachers-without mommy.  She knew though that I would be there waiting for her ready to hear about all the fun she had when school was over.

On the way to school, she was squirmy and smiley in her car seat chattering away telling Madison all about her school.

At the preschool, her little friend yelled her name when she saw her and rushed to meet her outside the door to the classroom.  We joined the throng of parents who stood waiting to shepard their little ones into class as soon as the teacher opened the door.

We all knew the doorway to the classroom was an invisible DO NOT CROSS line as we starred at the closed door. They had asked us not to enter the classroom for many reasons.  The main one being that if our child sees us there, they will want us to stay and it will remind other little ones that their mommies and daddies weren't there. 

When the teacher opened the door, Emily's little friend grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the door among the other little ones and their parents.  She didn't wait for me as other parents pushed ahead with their children.  Ahead my baby went with me several people behind, rushing to enter the classroom with her hand in that of her little friend.

At the doorway, she stopped looking around.  It was then she realized, "where's my mommy?"  Her head turned side to side trying to locate me amongst the other adults crowded into the small hall. I heard her little cry of "Mommy!"

I couldn't get to her which was probably a good thing since at that moment my first instinct was to rush to her and pick her up.  Her teacher, God love her, picked her up and spoke quietly to her and held her as she greeted all the little ones at the door.

One lone tear trickled down Emmy's cheek but she wasn't looking for me anymore nor was she sniffling.  She was content right where she was.  This is where she wanted to be.  In school. She looked around in awe, curiousity replacing the look of fear on her face. 

In some small place inside, I was almost a little disappointed at how easily she transitioned to being a preschooler.  This is the  first time that cord that keeps her to me is starting to unfurl.  One day I know it will have to be cut.  Thank goodness, that is a long, long way in the very, very distant future. 

Those two hours flew right by and it came time to return to pick her up.  When they called Emily's name to leave, she burst through the door running towards me with a smile and a sheet of paper that she had painted.

That smile said it all.

If anyone asks, she is now officially a big girl. Not because she is three.  But because she is in school.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Learned at Bloggy Boot Camp in Philadelphia

What did I learn at Bloggy Boot Camp? A lot!  I wrote about some of things I learned here. Hopefully, you learn something new just like I did. 

Invest in business cards.
Have business cards professionally made.  You can get them really inexpensively at Vistaprint (under $10) or win them on another blog!  I hadn't wanted to shell out the money when I was moving to Wordpress but one of the women had put "coming soon..." on her card which I thought was ingenius.  My business cards were the do-it-yourself variety.

I had a stack of business cards by the end of the conference and couldn't remember half of the faces of people that I had met.  Linda from Blind Curves had a great idea.  She took a picture of everyone at the table so she could match faces with business cards.

Your blog represents YOU as do your comments on other blogs.
Jill from Scary Mommy gave great tips about what makes a good blog, maintaining your readership, and do's and don't of commenting.  What resonated with me and something that I sometimes forget is that your blog is your space and not anyone else's.  A common mistake of newbies is not filling out their Blogger profile so make sure your blog and email address are listed so others can visit you.  Payback the comment love in some way when people do visit your blog.  When finding your "tribe" of fellow bloggers, find other bloggers who are also starting out to so you can learn from each other. Hoping that an already successful blogger will be part of your "tribe" may be unrealistic so don't take it personally if they don't seem interested in joining your tribe.

Guest posting is a great way to put yourself in front of new readers.  Guest posts should always be new material!  Don't be afraid to approach other bloggers and offer to do a guest post for them.  Reach new readers or connect with those you already have via social media such as Facebook or Twitter but don't try to use every single one out there.  Pick and choose those outlets that work for you. I have been guilty of trying to utilize everything because that is what "works", or so I thought.  In reality, that just isn't the case.

The look of your blog matters.
Cynthia Wheeler, the NapWarden.com, talked about blog design.  On her site she also has some great design resources listed. Many bloggers use iStockphoto images or other stock images on their sites.  Keep in mind other bloggers may use these same images on their sites.  Change some of the features of the image when you do use them so you can make them your own.

Your header sets the tone.  It only takes seconds for your blog to make an impact on a reader.  Bring the design elements from your header into the rest of your blog.  Don't forget about your text either.  Use only two to three fonts on your blog.  Be consistent with your designs on all of your social media pages.  If you don't want to spend a lot of money on your site design and don't want to do it yourself, use someone new to blog design.  They may be willing to do it for free in order to use your site for their portfolio or they may offer a cheaper price since they are just starting out.

Know how to use your camera to take better pictures.
This is actually common sense but many of us (myself included several times over) never pick up those manuals and just point and shoot.  I am guilty of never opening my camera manual.  In fact, I don't even know where it is.   After hearing Laura from Better In Bulk speak, I need to find it pronto. She talked about the different modes and the best time to use them.  She also talked about the Rule of Thirds which can help you take better photos.  Basically, don't be afraid to have your subject off-center when snapping pictures.  Experiment. 

She had a useful suggestion when organizing photos.  If you are like me and you download all your photos onto the computer and have to wade through them when you want to print them or use them for a project, star them when you download them.  Windows Photo Gallery has a star rating system.  You'll know that those with more stars are the better pictures. This will make sorting through your pictures easier.


I wish my pictures looked as amazing as the ones on Lolli's site, especially the adorable pictures of her new little niece!  I do need to make it a priority to get a new camera instead of just talking about it with my husband.  Maybe I'll invest in Photoshop to while I'm at it.

Know your motivation for writing and what makes what you have to say unique.
I loved hearing Cecily K from Uppercase Woman speak.   Her presentation was called "Finding Your Voice"and it was amazing.  One of the most valuable things she said I felt was that you shouldn't try to control your message.  Let your readers get to know the real you and what you have to say and draw them in in your own personal but original way.  Be consistent with what you write and let your voice speak for itself.  They will love you or hate you but you need to be you and you need to be real.  What makes you stand out from the crowd?

Use SEO to your advantage.
Tara from Feels Like Home gave a presentation on SEO (search engine optimization).  Her  "10 More Things You Can Do to Improve Your Blog's SEO" can be found on her blog.  I think if there is one area where I know the least, it is probably SEO.  I have read articles about it but I often found them to often be over my head.  Tara really broke it down in a way that was easy to understand.

Rule #1: Get your own domain name.  Otherwise, you are just giving your SEO away.  This is #1 on my to-do list. There is also a Google Keyword Tool where you can input keywords and it will tell you how often those words are searched and your competition (how many other sites have that keyword).  Keywords should be placed in your title and especially in your first paragraph.  Keep track of your stats to see if your strategic use of keywords is working.   This can benefit you whether you write posts about your everyday life or how-tos.

Some other tips she gave included writing about your vlog or posting a trasnscript since search engines do not see video or animations and do not duplicate content. If you guest post on someone else's site, do not repost something from your site.  If you repost an old blog post from your own site, change it in some way so it does not appear verbatim. 

Tara did warn against sacrificing content for stats.  Also, if your search rate increases, your bounce rate will increase also.  When people come to your site through search engine's, your site may not be what they are looking for.  Apparently 60% is considered a good bounce rate when looking at your stats. And as far as  SEO is concerned, a good blog post is apparently around 300-700 words.  As you can see, I broke that one in a big way here.

Do your research when working with brands.

Julie from Just Precious, Kelly Whalen from The Centsible Life, and Shannon Ott from Philly Burb Moms talked about how to work with PR professionals.  Before I started doing product reviews, I spoke to people who already did them and read about the relationship between PR and bloggers to learn more about the proper way to do things.  Even so, I found out that I was doing a lot of stuff wrong.

Do not ever tell a PR rep that you will send them your media kit.  It should be called a blog package. Even when you get proposals that you have no interest in, you should always reply to the PR rep.  If you are willing to do something else in lieu of their proposal, tell them.  They may just agree to what you have proposed. When pitching a company, be able to sum up your blog in 10 words or less.  For someone wordy like myself, that is hard, but necessary.  Finally, when you do reviews or work with companies in any capacity, keep a portfolio of your work.



The knowledge I learned on Saturday was invaluable.  I loved meeting some very talented ladies. The only thing I regret from Bloggy Boot Camp was that I didn't go up and introduce myself to some of my favorite bloggers who had not been at any of the tables where I had sat (and that I skipped the Virtua cocktail party)! If there was anything I learned it was that it's okay just to be yourself because that is who you are.  Even though I was somewhat timid about approaching some of my favorite bloggers because that just isn't me, there is always next year and another conference.  Would I go again?  Absolutely.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

K'nex Review

When I received the K'nex Big Building Tub to review, my daughter couldn't wait to get started constructing.  She loves to build things.

The tub contains 50 building pieces and also a sheet with sample creations kids can make.  Emmy wanted to make the bird.  We set to work after her sister (who is a little to young to play with the little pieces) went down for her nap.

 Emmy's bird

Since she just turned three, Emmy had some difficulty handling the pieces but it will become easier for her as she gets a little older and as she plays with them more.

At first, I hated how large the tub was since the pieces only take up about half of the container.  But now I am glad after realizing that when my daughter makes creations she can store them in the tub without dismantling them.  This makes for easier clean-up in our house.

Overall, I envision Emmy having a lot of fun with her new building materials!  She has already asked to play with them after Madison goes down for another nap.

I received a product sample from K'nex through SheBlogs to complete this review, but did not receive any financial compensation for my post. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One Hand, Two Hands Written by Max Lucado, Illustrated by Gaby Hansen Book Review

Max Lucado, a minister and writer, delights children yet again with his latest children's book One Hand, Two Hands.  A little girl learns all about just what her hands can do in this beautifully illustrated book.

The colorful illustrations depict a little girl and her animal friends as they go about their day.  While waving her arms in the air, washing a canine friend, making mud pies, helping with chores, and even saying her prayers, the little girl learns a valuable lesson.  Lucado teaches children this lesson through rhyms that will draw in even the youngest readers.

This book is a wonderful way to open up a dialogue with children about how our hands can be used for good but also how they can be used to hurt others.

One Hand, Two Hands which ends with a short prayer will make a perfect bed time story to end the day for my two little ones.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book  from the publisher through BookSneeze. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  No other compensation has been or will be recieved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Countdown to BBC

Tomorrow is Bloggy Boot Camp, my first blog conference.  I got the schedule in my inbox the other day.
 
I can't wait!  But at the same time I am really nervous to.


Have any of you ever been to a blogger conference?  Any tips?


Am I prepared? No.

Did I print out some cards with my blog name and everything as someone recommended? No.  Do I even know what I'm wearing?  No, just that I am wearing layers.  Do I even know how to get to where I am going?  No.

I'll figure it all out tonight after I finish writing the dozen or so thank you cards that have been waiting to be written, paying the bills, checking my email, doing the dishes, laundry, repacking the diaper bag, and writing a list for the hubby on nap schedules and everything else for tomorrow. 

Tomorrow will be my husband's first day ALONE (my cell phone is to only be called with an emergency) with both girls for an entire day.  I will be gone before they wake up and I probably will not be home before they go to bed. I just stopped nursing Madison at the end of June and my husband was away for almost all of July and the beginning of August so it is about time for some daddy and daughter one-on-one time.

I also have a bunch of reviews posting for this weekend that still I need to schedule.  I need to add that to my to-do-list.

For those of you going to BBC tomorrow, SEE YOU THERE!!!!!

Update on Polly: She (the whole bag I should say) is still missing.  How in the dickens that is still possible, I don't know considering I just cleaned my house.  She is still MIA.  Maybe this weekend she will turn up.  I can only hope.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mommy Got Homework

A few weeks ago I got a letter in the mail for my daughter's preschool orientation.  It was for parents but children were allowed to attend as long as they stayed with their parents.

I figured I would play it safe and take Emmy and Madison to my MIL's while I attended the meeting.  Containing a newly turned three year old and a one year old would take more attention than the meeting would.

My biggest fear going to orientation?  Where would we be sitting?  "Please, not those little chairs."   "Please not in those little chairs" was all that was running in my head the whole drive.  I had slept wrong two nights before and my back was still aching.  If I sat in one of those chairs, chances of me getting back up unaided would be slim. I was better off just standing for the hour long meeting if that was to be the case.

Luckily it wasn't.  We were in another room with big people chairs (padded ones at that).  The orientation was for the parents of children in the two-day am or pm program. I was ten minutes early and the parking lot was already packed as was the room down from the preschool class.  My fears quickly changed from sitting in those little chairs to being in such tight quaters with so many other parents.  I don't think I have been in a room with this many parents since my lamaze class days. There were about fifty parents in the room.

My husband got off easy going to work.  There is something intimidating about being around that many parents, especially moms.  Thank goodness I ran into a friend from playgroup on the way into the building. 

Most of the moms were just standing around.  Some knew each other and chatted quietly.   Others sought out the teachers and conversed with them. 

I am the type to smile if I make eye contact with strangers but am not really the type to start a conversation unless I have something to say.  Small talk is just not my thing.  Most of the moms kept a seat or two between them and the other parents which I found amusing since old habits seem hard to break.  Isn't it funny how we really like our comfort zones even as adults and parents?

Snow days, the giving tree (a tree in the hallway with paper apples for the parents to take with things needed for the classroom like tissues, juice, etc), snack volunteers, appropriate snacks,  how to dress your children (not in their Sunday best), and when not to send your child to school were all covered.  It was basically an introduction into parent common sense in the classroom.

The next day was their open house so the kids could meet the teachers and get familiar with the classroom.  I worried that Emmy would shut down with so many kids since it was open to all the kids from all the preschool programs.  Em just walked right in and started playing.  She was shy with the teachers but totally at ease with the chaos.  I am hoping that is the same next week when I drop her off. 

Next week I think will be a little tougher on me since I will have to leave her at the door to the classroom in the capable hands of her teacher rather than in mine.  That will be hard and I know I will struggle with turning and walking away. 

Mommy even got her first homework assignment.  I volunteered to cut a craft for the teacher.  I have 34 circles to cut by the end of the month!  At least I don't have to use safety scissors!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Polly Rescue Mission

Growing up I loved Hide-n-Go-Seek.  I was really good at it to.  Probably because I could stay quite for a long time without those telltale giggles.

One of my favorite places to hide was in my mother's walk-in closet behind her wedding dress.  My mom's closet door would be closed with me inside which is why it made such a good spot.  With enough pressure from inside the closet, the one door would spring open due to the old fashioned latch on it. 

My sister would be downstairs yelling at me to come out and I would sneak out of my spot.   I would saunter downstairs keeping my lips sealed about where I was hiding. She never thought I was in the closet since I always reappeared and never had to be rescued.

Emmy is just as good at Hide-N-Go Seek to.  Except she does it with things like her glasses. Remember how her glasses were lost for months and we had to buy her new ones?

The latest casualty is her Polly Pocket set from Grammy from our zoo excursion.

What could she possibly have done with it?

She carried it everywhere in the house.

Not only was Polly and all of her outfits in the little case but also all of Emmy's toys that her sister can't play with including her little Belle doll and all of her little matching outfits as well.  Basically the bag is full of choking hazards.

I have literally looked everywhere for it.  Everything is in its place so you would think it wouldn't be to hard to find this little plastic container with neon green edging and a little handle, right?

WRONG!

I've even looked under the beds and in the baby's closet (since that was where Emmy's glasses were for months).

She has been chattering about her little bag all weekend.

My mission today is to FIND Polly. 

Will I be successful?  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pet Names

I am not referring to names that we give our pets although my husband does resemble a rather lovable but untrained golden retriever at times.  I am referring to pet names for our significant others.

Awhile ago while visiting with friends, I had called my husband sweetie and one of my husband's male friends had remarked, "Sweetie.  You call your husband sweetie?  You've been married how long?  (Five years this year if you were wondering.)  I haven't heard anyone use that since college.  Sweetie.  Hmpf."  All of this was said with a sneer.  He then went on to list the names his wife calls him.  Unfortunately, I can't print most of them.  He was being a little overly dramatic about it but how do we address our loved ones?

My husband is most certainly not one for PDA's nor had he ever been a victim of Romeo & Juliet Syndrome which seems to afflict those who are young, naive, and more carefree (and less caring of the feelings of those who have to witness their exuberance over being in love). Nor is he one for overly romantic gestures.  When he came home after a month in CA, he brought me a loaf of Boudain sourdough.  He also stopped at Wal-mart for a bouquet of flowers and a chocolate bar (and the gift he promised our daughter that he would bring her from CA-a yoyo).  It was a sweet gesture and I was touched.  I'm also a sucker for chocolate.  Bring me chocolate and I will worship at your feet.

I never really paid attention to what pet names our friends used for their spouses or even if they used them at all.  I started to notice after my husband's friends' comments.  Some of our older friends seemed more likely just to use their spouse's names.  Maybe because after many years you exist in a comfortable familiarity that it doesn't seem as necessary to use those pet names or maybe it is generational. But our friends our ages (in their late 20's/early 30's) did use terms of endearment when conversing with their spouse's especially when they were trying to get their significant other's attention or when they were exasperated.

Not only have I noticed other pet names I use for my husband (including ones that others may find nauseating) such as Cute Boy but also my tones when I use them.  That one began when I worked in retail and the women I worked with all had boyfriends Well, except Annette but she was also in her 60's and still bitter over her divorce.  I don't think a one of use was married. It started with our boss using the nickname Cute Boy to refer to her boyfriend and then it became the nickname for all of our boyfriends.  "So what are you and your Cute Boy doing tonight?"  It stuck.  I do make sure to only use it within the confines of our house to avoid the heckling of our friends. Of course, our daughter now will yell up to her dad on the second floor, "Cute Boy, Cute Boy".  The first time she did it I was literally almost rolling on the floor laughing.  My husband wasn't quite so amused.

"Now, do you see what you've done?" he said to me. 

I use less complimentary tones when I am annoyed or frustrated when employing pet names when addressing my husband.  I find that I use pet names especially when I am annoyed.  Maybe to soften the blow when I inevitably have to explain why I am annoyed?

What have you called your husband or boyfriend today?

Do you do use pet names in public?  What are some of the funnier pet names you have heard?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Joining the Monkeys

...for a day at the zoo.

And

lions, and tigers, and bears...Oh, my!

This wasn't a real bear.  Want to guess what he was made of??????

It was my daughter's first trip to the Philadelphia Zoo for her birthday.  The area we live in has a small zoo but it is nothing like a large city zoo. Our zoo is more of an animal preserve than an actual zoo.

My husband would pick Emmy up at each crossroads and have her point to the animals she would like to see which resulted in us meandering around the park.



It was a lot of fun (and good exercise).


I thought this picture was fitting.  A mommy and her baby.


It was also funny how quickly the time flew.  We had walked around most of the zoo within 2 hours.  That was time aplenty visiting the animals since Emmy and Madison had had enough by then.

What would a trip to the zoo be without a trip to the gift shop where Grammy bought Emily a birthday present of her choosing.  Of course, Emily at first bonded with a stuffed tiger but then she saw the Polly Pockets.  That was the end.  Polly came home with us (along with the tiger courtesy of Grammy and a rhino for Madison whose tail she tried to chew off).

 On our way out, we passed the Impala Fountain which I fell in love with.  I loved how it looked like the impala (a type of antelope that can be found in Africa) were jumping through the water.  Rainbows appeared in the spray (you can see one in the lower left-hand corner of the picture) mesmerizing the children around the fountain.

The only unpleasant part of the trip was the fold up seating in the cargo area of my husband's SUV which we never use.  I had nowhere to put my poor legs (and I am only 5'8).  I even attempted to swing them up on the folded up stroller on the hideaway seat next to me to no avail. Not to mention with the two car seats in front of me, I had to climb in through the cargo area since I couldn't move the back seats.  My MIL offered to sit back there.  There was absolutely no way I was letting her sit there. I like her to much to do that to her.  Okay, I never would have let anyone sit back there in all honesty.  It just wouldn't have been fair to them. 



When you go to the zoo, what is your favorite animal to visit?  Besides the little monkies hanging on your legs!