Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Please Touch

Going anywhere with two toddlers requires a fair amount of restraint, patience, and repetition ("No touching, please", "We only look with our eyes").

Sound familiar?

With a week of no preschool for the three year old (due to parent/teacher conferences) and a husband traveling on business, when a friend suggested visiting Philly to see the Please Touch Museum I'm sure my enthusiastic "yes, yes, and yes" could be heard up the block.     

I think I had as much fun as my girls to.

Everything was just the right height for both girls and there was so much to see and do.  They could touch anything and everything.  Exploration by little hands, eyes, ears, noses, and feet is the number one rule.

They could have spent hours just at the water tables alone. Madison's new favorite words are "rubber ducky" squealed at the top of her lungs.

We wandered through the Alice in Wonderland Maze, had a teaparty with the Mad Hatter, and even played a game of croquet (or pretended to).

Em loved being able to scoop up balls and sit on the Septa bus (and pretend to drive) in the Roadside Attractions section.

They shopped at ShopRite where a little boy even scanned their groceries and pretended to be the cashier and checked them out by scanning their items and ringing them up in the cash register.  Em even hung the kittens' mittens in the Fairytale Garden.   

We had packed a lunch and got to eat by the carousel.  Afterwords, the girls got up close and personal with one of the puppets thanks to one of the museum workers.

The girls played hard and slept the entire way home and even made bathtime and bedtime a breeze for me.  Madison gave her sister night-night hugs and kisses and actually ran to her crib, grabbed onto the rails, and said, "bed, bed".

I had as much fun watching them have fun and explore in a place that was just for them. It brought back memories of those moments of unabandoned joy that we all have experienced as children.  That feeling where everything seems so magical and new and it feels as though nothing else could top it in the world. I remember visiting the Franklin Museum as a child and being mesmerized by the new world in which I found myself.  A world where you could do anything and be anything.

I don't know which is better, experiencing it firsthand or experiencing it through the eyes of my children?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shabby Apple Dress Giveaway

Shabby Apple is an online boutique of stylish and affordable clothing for women.  They sell primarily womens dresses and little girls dresses but also feature sportswear, swimwear, and even accessories.

When you wear their vintage inspired clothing you can be comfortable and not have to worry about showing to much cleavage, to much leg, or any of the other things you have to worry about with many of today's fashions.  They prove you can still have a high end look and still be comfortable. Their clothing has been featured in Teen VogueGlamour, Marie Claire, and even on The TODAY Show.

Their site features a style guide that lets you shop by body type.  After answering a few short questions, they determine your body type and show you the dresses that would accentuate your figure. You can even ask for style advice and they will get you an answer within 72 hours.  It is like having your own personal stylist at your fingertips.  Shabby Apple also has a fit guide allowing you to determine the correct size to order from their site.

They also donate 5% from their net sales to help fund work for women in India by providing them with access to financial services they would not otherwise have through the work of Unitus, a non-profit organization.

They are offering TPMG readers 10% off of any purchase with the discount code of  practicalmom10off

If your interested in staying up-to-date on the latest Shabby Apple news, promotions, and exclusive discounts, "like" Shabby Apple on Facebook.

Shabby Apple is sponsoring a giveaway where one lucky TPMG reader will win her choice of one of the dresses featured below.

North Shore Dress from their new South Pacific Collection (Available in sizes XXS-XL, valued at $88)
I love the color of this dress and the feminine touch of the rosettes at the neckline.  It screams spring and summertime!

Five to Nine Dress (Available in sizes XS-XL, valued at $66)
Every women needs a versatile black dress in their wardrobe.  This is one of my favorites.

Pink Panther Little Girls Dress (Available in sizes 0-5T, valued at $34)
Any little girl would look adorable in this sweet kimono-style dress.

Enter to win your choice of one of the above Shabby Apple dresses
Choose from the North Shore, Five to Nine, and the Pink Panther dress.

Mandatory Entry (Must be completed for all other entries to be valid): Visit Shabby Apple and leave a comment here with your favorite piece of clothing from the site (besides any of those listed above).

To receive additional entries:

*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)
*Enter another giveaway here at TPMG and leave a comment with the giveaway you entered (2 entries/giveaway)

*Become a fan of TPMG and/or Shabby Apple on Facebook (1 entry each)
 *Follow TPMG and/or Shabby Apple on twitter (1 entry each)
*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
Copy and paste: Shabby Apple dress #giveaway at #TPMG (Ends 3/6). (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Sunday, March 6, 2011. I will announce the winner on March 7th here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Contest only open to U.S. residents.

Good luck and thank you for participating!

*I was not compensated to host this giveaway. Shabby Apple has graciously sponsored this giveaway by providing the winner their choice of one of the dresses above.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Deep Dark Secret

This is what it almost feels like.

When I was first started my own blog after visiting some blogs and reading up on the blogosphere, I wanted to shout from the rooftop (okay maybe just from my window on the second floor where it was much safer) that I was officially a "blogger".

I had sent an email to family and friends and announced it on Facebook.

I learned quickly that admitting to having some weird fetish or addiction would probably have gone over with more interest and less disdain.

I was at a dinner at a swanky restaurant, for a private celebration of sorts, and somehow the conversation turned to blogging.  I had only been blogging for a short period by this time and the people seated around the table were a mix of strangers and people whom I respected. 

I sat rooted in my seat as a smartphone was whipped out and passed around of the demotivational poster on blogging.

Have you seen it?
The caption reads, "Never before have so many with so little to say said so much to so few".

After a few chuckles and some disparaging remarks about blogging and a "Joy blogs" comment (which mostly everyone already knew), I then asked if there was someplace I could discreetly nurse my infant (Madison was still only a few months old by this point). I made my way to a private room upstairs where I sat fuming over the audacity of the people below. 

What did they know?

I was embarrassed for the first time of the fact that I was a blogger.  Then I was angry that I was made to feel embarrassed.

This blog is my place. I never talk about blogging anymore-only to a few select close friends and family.  I am very protective of my "hobby" and unlike many previously discarded hobbies, this is something that I truly do enjoy and for which I'm in for the duration. 

I like that it takes a degree of work between writing, tweeting, emailing, etc.  I have reaped the benefits of being able to write what I choose and I've even developed connections and even friendships with people throughout the U.S. and even the world. 

I no longer feel as though I am confined to the mommyhood bubble of my life which is why I started blogging.  After my second daughter was born, I felt like I was in a rut.  I felt cut off and isolated.   Blame it on hormones, blame it on lack of sleep, blame it on needing something to myself but this is why I started blogging.  When I was up with Madison in the wee hours of the morning, I turned to blogging. 

I got a glimpse of other people's lives and I found I enjoyed writing about mine. 

A few people I know have started blogging but most leave it by the wayside after a few posts not understanding what all the fuss is about and wondering where are all their readers.  Why isn't everyone flocking to read the golden words that they have written. 

Are you open about the fact that you blog?  Are your family and friends supportive of your blogging?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wrapper and All

My husband and I have a ritual whenever we eat out. 

After we eat, I usually pull out a piece of gum (usually peppermint) from the deep dark depths of my cavernous purse and offer him a piece.

Last night was no different except I handed him a piece of Big Red which I had picked up the last time I stopped in a convenience store for something or other.  It had been years since I had chewed that particular brand of gum, a favorite of mine from when I was younger.

When I handed over the piece last night I had a flashback to middle school.  There used to be a gum in which you could also eat the wrapper.  In fact, I remember my sister telling me this and popping a stick of gum into her mouth, wrapper and all, and me being grossed out by it.   There was no way I was trying it unless there was a message on the wrapper saying it was indeed safe to eat. 

I mentioned this to my husband.  Then I asked if it was Big Red.

Bob cocked his head to the side considering the stick of gum in his hand.

"Nah.  I don't think so," he grinned before taking a small bite of the gum with the wrapper still on.

I couldn't resist wrinkling my nose at him.

"Hmmm...maybe," he responded after chewing for a few seconds.

"Uh...maybe not."

"Well it seems to be dissolving."


The definitive answer was no it wasn't.

Of course after my husband's little experiment he did the smart thing and pulled out his smartphone to find out what gum did indeed have an edible wrapper.

It turns out there wasn't any or at least none that were mentioned on any credible sites.  It had just been a rumor, an urban legend of sorts mainly around Cinnaburst gum which is probably why the stick of cinamon flavored gum brought up that memory. 

Silly kids.  See how having the Internet at our fingertips can be useful for finding out information before someone does something stupid like eating a chewing gum wrapper...or not.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Soft Landing Spot

Em had finally given up her afternoon nap.

Within a few days we had settled into a routine.  Em and I would do crafts or play games that we couldn't normally do when Madison was awake, we'd bake, she would help with certain chores (or try to), she would watch a little bit of tv, or play quietly by herself without her sister trying to take her toys.

I hadn't bargained on Em asking constantly whether her sister was awake yet twenty times during naptime or if she could wake her up.  Mommy and Emmy time didn't seem as fun as Emmy and Sissy time, apparently.

Yesterday, Em snuck upstairs while I thought she was in the family room playing quietly with her dolls (and I was in the kitchen) to wake her sister.  Once her sister was awake, she yelled down, "Mommy, Sissy awake".  Thanks, a lot kid.

A few days before I had told her she could go up to her sister's room and I would be right behind her.  Madison had just woken up.  I just needed to put a stack of plates in the cabinet and I was only a minute or two behind her.

By the time I had made it up the dozen or so stairs, Em had already filled Madison's crib with all of her stuffed animals from her room.  She had carried armful after armful into her sister's room and dumped them on top of her giggling and very much amused sister. 

Madison sat in the midst of the animals giggling and smiling proclaiming, "Animals, Mommy.  Emmy's animals."

Madison's crib jumping antics were apparently made even more fun by the soft landing space she now had.  She would stand up and throw her little body down onto the plush creatures giggling as she rolled on their soft tickly fur.  She then tried to find room to stand to do it again.

Emily stood by laughing and pointing at her sister urging her on in a one-person cheering squad.  "Do it again, Madison.  Do it, again".

You would think this was a new sport in the Toddler Olympics by the amusement it created.

Do your children create little games between themselves for amusement? Do your older children do funny antics to make the little ones laugh?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The "Real" Cost of a Hobby & Love

Does your husband have a serious hobby?

My husband loves to fish, probably as much as he loves me and the girls. He's tried golfing (mainly because of his job) but it isn't something he really got into.   There was paintball for awhile when we first met but that to fell by the wayside.

Fishing is his stress reliever, his time to unwind, to just breathe, and not think, no cell phone ringing, no screaming kids, and certainly no honey-do lists.  Just like blogging is mine.

For about six months he has fishing tournaments about two times a month.  He is very serious about his hobby.  He has a boat, rods and reels and all those various fishing accoutrement filling tackle boxes galore, and about 4 fish finders (each one more expensive than the last and every time he buys one I hear "and this will be the last since there is nothing out there better"). He's even read books on the subject and he hates to read.  He is like a kid in a candy store when he walks into Cabela's.

There is the annual pilgrimage to Canada with his friends at the end of the season.  Except this year.  They decided to go in June last fall when they were making plans for this year's trip.  Unfortunately, it is the week before my due date so no trip for my husband this year.

In the fresh water off-season,  this is a man who goes deep sea fishing in the cold Jersey waters in December bundled head to toe in warm clothing on the open sea.  He thinks this is fun.

I can't say I understand what he finds so appealing about his hobby because I am not quite sure. Of course, I am sure many of my blogging friends have spouses who are just as perplexed as to why in the world any of us can be so into blogging.

I still haven't forgotten the day my husband came home.  It had been a warm, sunny summer day.  He had been out on the river.  (This was pre-kids).

He skulked in and couldn't meet my eye.  He told me I was going to be upset which did not bode well.  I figured he had sunk his boat.


He had lost his wedding ring.  It was platinum and matched my wedding band-the band that took us forever to find.  It had been loose ever since we went to pick up our bands but my husband never got around to having it taken care of because he was afraid that a smaller size would be to tight.

While he was at the river, his hands had got wet and icky and it had "slipped off" into the water, never to be seen again.  It still resides at the bottom of the Delaware River in the mud and the muck with the fishies my husband loves so much.

I wanted to cry.

Out we went to get a replacement band.  I knew he felt awful and not just at the money we had to spend to replace it but also because the ring that I had slipped onto his finger during our wedding was gone forever.

We both got over it because it was just a symbol of our love and it had in no way damaged the love we felt for each other.  We still joke about it every time he comes home with a new fatality from his boating excursions. 

That has only been one of the more significant things my husband has lost fishing.  There was also his class ring, a cell phone that was ruined when he fell in the river and got soaked head to toe, lost poles, a downrigger system that ended up at the bottom of the river his first time out with it, and the list goes on...
        But I love him so I try not to dwell on the "real" cost of his hobby because he loves it and I love him.  It gives him pleasure and it is something that is "his" just like blogging is my pastime and something that is mine.

        In two months time when the season opens and he starts to gather his gear, I will just smile and tell him to have fun as me and the girls embark on some excursion of our own.

        This is love-supporting your spouse even though you may not understand or appreciate their hobbies but standing by supporting and wishing them well just because it is something they enjoy doing and because it brings them pleasure. I won't lie though.  There will be times throughout the season when I will need to contain the twinges of annoyance that I may feel over the time he spends with his hobby because of the tournaments and the preparation that comes with it.  I am human after all.

        That is basically how my husband views my blogging. He doesn't quite understand the allure of it or why anyone would be so into it (as do most people) but he is supportive of it. I thank him for that because this space is my outlet just like his time on the river is his.

        Monday, February 14, 2011

        Our First Date

        Last week in our local newspaper, a columnist wrote about a cheap Valentine's date with pizza and beer for about $10. His whole article was about how if you made it an annual tradition rather than eating out at some fancy schmancy restaurant you could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And, it could serve as a test. If your woman didn't appreciate it, then she wasn't the one for you. Of course, the columnist was a man.

        At first, I was appalled and in my head listed all the meals I could make for $10 that were a heck of a lot more romantic.

        And then it hit me...

        Ironically, a meal of pizza and beer would be the perfect recreation of the first date I had with my husband.

        It was right before New Year's Eve in 2000. One of my closest friends had been after me for weeks to meet her boyfriend's friend.

        I kept dragging my feet refusing to agree to meet him. Dating guys that were friends of my friends' boyfriends always seemed like treading on dangerous ground. What if you started dating and you broke up or your friend and her boyfriend broke up? Loyalties would be tested. It never seemed worth it to me.

        Finally I agreed to meet him casually. We were just a bunch of friends getting together to hang out. The plan was to watch a movie and eat pizza at my apartment.

        I had graduated from college in the spring and had moved into my first solo apartment by myself soon after. I was working as an assistant manager at a clothing store while I was taking my Praxis tests so I could start teaching. Life was easy. I worked and spent a lot of time going out with with my friends. There were no major life decisions to be made for the first time in my life. I was loving it especially the fact that I answered to no one.

        They brought the movie  and beer and I picked up the pizza at the pizza place down the block from my apartment. I remember the buzzer sounding and me buzzing them in. My first glimpse of him was from the top of the stairs.

        I remember the leather coat he had on and the way the light picked up the reddish tint of his auburn hair. I envied his hair. I had always wanted hair that color instead of the plain boring brown I was born with. I didn't know then that his hair curled in between hair cuts or that his best friend's girlfriend had gone shopping with him the week before to help him buy new clothes (including the leather coat).

        Our friends made the introductions and small talk as I doled out pizza, plates, and napkins.

        We settled down to eat and to watch the movie. We chatted throughout the movie, laughing. It was easy to relax and be myself. For once I didn't care what a guy thought of me or if I ever saw him again. We were just having fun with mutual friends.

        There weren't any sparks. He seemed like a nice guy but I wasn't sure if there was even anything there that would kindle and grow. That was fine though.

        Little did I know that that night changed my life as I knew it. The more I got to know him, the more I fell in love. His honesty, integrity, work ethic, and his loyalty made it hard not to. He was one of the good guys.

        We never make a big deal out of Valentine's Day. In his pragmatism, he called Valentine's Day a commercial holiday where people missed what the day was all about. If you didn't show your love throughout the year, weren't your attempts on Valentine's Day somewhat hollow, he would ask?

        Instead, every year we try to do something special without all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds Valentine's Day, something personal, meaningful.

        That article got the wheels turning. I have 11 slips of paper (one for each year we have been together) with "I love You" written on them that I am hiding in places he will find them. Tonight I am going to surprise him with a candlelit pizza dinner with the girls. He can have a glass of beer and I'll have a glass of sparkling fruit juice. We can tell our daughters the story of how we met.

        Sitting around the table we can see proof of the life that we have built together and be reminded of what a good life it is.

        How are you spending your Valentine's Day?

        Sunday, February 13, 2011

        Green Giant Prize Pack Giveaway

        It's a new year and many of you may have made a New Year's Resolution to eat healthier. I sometimes rely on frozen vegetables when certain vegetables are out of season (and in my opinion are not quite as good) and are more costly.  Even those vegetables that my kids hate to eat, I make in the hopes that one of these days, they'll maybe discover that they are indeed quite tasty.

        Green Giant® (recognizable by their Jolly Green Giant mascot) is committed to picking their vegetables at the height of their freshness and then freezing the vegetables so they don't lose more of their essential nutrients before reaching your table.  In the past 70 years Green Giant® has been committed to moving towards greener and more sustainable practices including using less land, less water, and less pesticides.  They are also using recycled packaging for the cartons of their frozen vegetables. 

        For those of you on the Weight Watchers® program, approximately 29 of their frozen vegetable varieties are endorsed by Weight Watchers® and most also only carry one or two PointsPlus values for each serving to help you stay on track with your weight management goals.

        They currently have a variety of products from frozen vegatables with seasonings and sauces in single and family sized portions to canned vegetables.

        Visit their website for recipes (check out the creamy corn and garlic risotto recipe) and a coupon for $.50 off  Greeen Giant® vegetables.

        Enter to win a Green Giant® Prize pack
        The prize pack consists of a VIP coupon for a Green Giant® vegetable product, an insulated tote bag, a pedometer, a serving bowl, and a spoon.

        MANDATORY ENTRY: What is your favorite Green Giant vegetable product?  (1 entry)

        To receive additional entries:
        *Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

        *Enter another giveaway here at TPMG and leave a comment with the giveaway you entered (1 entry/giveaway)

        *Follow TPMG and/or Green Giant on twitter (1 entry each)

        *Become a fan of TPMG and/or Green Giant on Facebook (1 entry each)

        *Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
        Copy and paste: Win a Green Giant Prize Pack at #TPMG Please RT.  (1 entry per tweet)

        *Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

        *Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

        This giveaway will end on Saturday, February 27, 2011. I will choose the winner randomly on February 28th here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

        Contest only open to U.S. residents.

        Good luck and thanks for participating!

        *I was provided a prize pack from Green Giant through MyBlogSpark and they graciously provided an additional prize pack for one lucky reader.

        Friday, February 11, 2011

        Cleaning Out the Closets

        This is it.

        #3 will be our last baby.

        I don't feel sad about that decision either.  I feel as though our family will be complete with this new addition. We had always talked about having only two or three children. It feels right.

        When I became pregnant, I loved the idea of being able to purge all the baby stuff within the next two years.  I can just imagine having closet space again. 

        I know I will not be able to tame the chaos beast that rears its ugly head whenever my children are awake.  That just isn't realistic and probably will not be for the next decade at least but being able to clear out my closets is a step in the right direction.

        I started to wonder how I couldn't feel at least a little twinge or quivering lip at the idea of getting rid of all the baby paraphernalia that has cluttered our closets for the last four years?  Me, who gets weepy at every little thing on television or at something I read in a book or magazine.  I found myself crying over a Family Circle magazine just the other morning.

        That was until I started going through the baby clothes yesterday. Since #3 is a boy, I figured I could start purging our closets now of all the little infant girl things that I have boxed up and are of no use any longer. My intention was to sort to sell or donate to a good home. 

        There it was.

        It started in my heart-just a tiny little spark and soon it had spread to my hands.  I found myself clenching the little bits of cloth. I swear my nose could still detect those baby scents. My feet wanted to run and take me to hide all of those boxes away as my mind started to play a reel of memories of the girls as infants.

        Sigh...It would have been so much easier if I did want to part with these things. I finally just packed all of the girls' infant clothes and toys that they no longer needed into two boxes to be sorted another day when I was feeling less emotional. Otherwise, I would end up keeping almost all of it.

        For those of you who have already started the process of cleaning out the closets of your children's baby things, does it get easier or harder as time goes on?

        Thursday, February 10, 2011

        Dress-Up Diva & The Dog

        Today I have a MOMS Club board meeting at our president's house.  The moms on the board meet to discuss club business while our kids play quietly (or not so quietly as the case usually is) nearby.

        Luckily Em has preschool. 

        Em has a way of finding trouble (as some of you know from the Smurfberry incident) when she is out of my sight for more than two minutes. 

        Over the summer when I got on the local MOMS Club board and we had our first meeting at the president's house, my daughter played with the other kids in the basement playroom.  Towards the end of the meeting as we gathered up our things and made our way to the hallway to put the kids' shoes back on, Em had disappeared into their living room.

        There is nothing my daughter likes to do better than play dress-up.  The president of our club only has a boy so there were no dress-up clothes in their house or so I thought.

        They do have a dog.  A cute little thing named Tink who apparently likes dress-up as much as my daughter since she has a selection of dress-up clothes reserved just for her which my daughter found. 

        Out pranced my child from their living room wearing nothing but her underwear and one of the dog's Christmas outfits barely closed on her skinny little frame, not even covering her butt and looking pretty ridiculous.

        She was quite proud of herself-my little dress-up diva.

        My jaw dropped and I swear I blushed every shade of pink and red imaginable.  And then I lost it-with laughter.  I couldn't help it.  Nor could the other moms who thankfully had good senses of humor. Unfortunately, there was no picture, only the one I snapped in my mind to save as a memory of the funny things our kids do when they are out of our sight for two minutes and because my main goal was to get my daughter back into her own clothes as quickly as possible.

        I believe Tink was outside at the time so she was unaware that someone had slipped into her doggy armoire and "borrowed" her clothing. 

        I quickly got my daughter back into her own clothes explaining why she couldn't wear Tink's clothes, apologized to the mom who hosted the meeting (who thought the whole thing was hysterical), and with relief made my way home.

        We still talk about that incident almost a year later. Every time I pull up in front of this mom's house, it is the first memory that comes to the forefront of my mind.

        Have your children ever done something embarrassing at someone else's house?

        Tuesday, February 8, 2011

        Smurfberries For Sale

        How much trouble could a three year old get into with a Smurf game on the iPad?

        It turns out, plenty.

        We became the proud owners of two bushels and a wagonful of smurfberries.  All of which became ours at the price of $127.17. 

        To get into iTunes or the App Store on our iPad, we must put in our password.

        My husband loves to download games onto our iPad.  "Mega Jump", "Angry Birds", and several others have provided endless hours of pleasure.

        Emily loves to play games to.  Bob downloaded the "Smurfs' Village" game for her to play.  Even though she can't read she had fun figuring out what she was supposed to do and moving things around on the screen and for a three year old she did pretty good.  She was mesmerized watching the smurfs move around on the screen.

        ...And then my husband walked away from the kitchen table while Emily played.  My husband mistakenly thought that if a game asked you to buy something within the game, it would ask for a password. 

        Nope, that is not how it works.

        And that my friends, is how we became the proud owners of so many smurfberries. With two clicks our daughter purchased a wagon of smurfberries at $99.99 and with a few more clicks two bushels at $9.99 a piece. 

        I had never came across that before and never even knew you could buy things with real money inside any of the games. I came across an iTunes reciept in my email Inbox on Sunday and figured my husband purchased something.  I wasn't expecting a $127.17 (which included tax) worth of something.  I immediately called him on the phone and asked him about the charges.  He immediately fingered Emily as the culprit even though I think we were partly the culprits as well.

        I emailed iTunes and explained what had happened.  Their website was not reassuring saying purchases were non-refundable.  Then I waited impatiently for a response.

        Did I mention I am not patient?

        I then went out and googled the "Smurfs' Village" app and kids.  I read reviews on what a great game it was for kids (not from where this mom is sitting).

        Then I found this article on "Smurfs' Village" in particular and the loophole among "kid-friendly" game apps. Apparently, the games will ask for a password only if you haven't entered your password for any reason on your iPhone or iPad in the last fifteen minutes (and some parents claim it won't even ask after the fifteen minutes are up).

        Why would anyone buy a $100 wagon of smurfberries to begin with?

        Luckily, iTunes removed the charges.

        We have also changed our settings on the iPad to disable in-app purchases. Here's how:
        1. Tap Settings.
        2. Tap General.
        3. Tap Restrictions.
        4. Turn In-App Purchases off.

        This was our wake-up call about how easily kids can get into trouble on the iPad or any device for that matter even when you think something is "safe".

        And now I can laugh about it.

        In fact, it does make for a funny story and my husband even joked I should print out the iTunes reciept they had sent me for her scrapbook...

        ...and when she wants her first smartphone or iPad I will bring up this story as a warning to her.  May that not be for a very, very long time.

        Monday, February 7, 2011

        What It's Really All About

        What was your favorite part of the Superbowl?

        The game?
        The Steelers lost.  The end.   That was about as much as I understood watching men in spandex running across a football field.  Apparently four years of high school football games taught me nothing.  I dozed off after the half-time show.  I think I may have even snored. I then passed out on the couch and missed the very end. I woke up at 1 am with a screaming child who decided it was playtime.  I had lots of time to get caught up on what I missed since she didn't fall back asleep until 4:30 am.

        The commercials?
        There were some really good ones like the Cocoa-Cola dragon commercial, the recap of how the Superbowl was featured in popular sitcoms (from Happy Days to Family Guy), the Volkswagon one with the little one dressed as Darth Vader, and the Budweiser Old West commercial where everyone was singing "Tiny Dancer".

        There were some cringe-worthy ones like with the test baby,  the Audi one with the Blue Bloods escaping their mansion prison, the Brisk commmercial featuring Eminem, and the Joan Rivers commercial.

        The Half-time Show?
        The Black-Eyed Peas rocked out this year during half-time.  Even though they may not have sounded great, I thought they were one of the better acts since Janet and Justin (I mean that tongue in cheek). I thought the dancers with the lighted costumes on the field were pretty cool.

        The food?
        We had thai chili wings, hot wings, spicy ranch wings, pizza, spinach dip, ranch pretzels, and brownies.  It seems almost un-Superbowl-like to eat healthy during the Superbowl. 

        The company?
        Maybe you watched it alone (ah, peace and quiet), with family and friends (ah, the healthy camraderie), or in a sports bar or other public venue (ah, nothing like the crowd's energy to get your adrenaline going).  We stayed home and had company over.  It was actually one of the quietest Superbowl parties we've had in a while.

        For me, it was the company and the wings.  Really, truly.

        It even made up for the $130 my daughter charged on my credit card for smurfberries.

        *I was contacted by a HomeAway representative who alerted me to the press release that their CEO had issued on February 8th assuring the public that the "test baby" ad featured during the Superbowl was not going to be aired any longer due to the public's reaction.  To read the full press release, click here.

        Saturday, February 5, 2011

        $50 CSN Stores GC Giveaway

        Spring is right around the corner.  Have you already started planning on buying new patio furniture, planting in your garden, doing some landscaping, or maybe adding some fun outdoor play equipment for the kids?  I know for the last year I have been after my husband to consider buying a wooden swing set for our backyard.  We have about three playgrounds within two miles of our house but hauling three kids to the playground is a bit of a hassle.  Having one in our backyard would be much easier (on me especially). 

        CSN Stores has over 200 online stores that sell just about everything including cookware, baby items, exercise equipment, shoes, office equipment, and even tools.  You'll even find wooden swing sets (many with free shipping) for your backyard or any other outdoor items for which you may be searching.

        CSN Stores began in 2002 with only two employees and has risen to become one of the top 3 U.S. retailers of home and office goods with over 400 employees.

        Want a chance to win a $50 CSN Stores Gift Code to experience all CSN Stores has to offer for yourself?  Enter the giveaway below for your chance to buy something special for yourself or someone you love.

        What would I buy with a $50 CSN Stores Gift Code?

        Towards a new portable fire pit ($69.99) so we can relax outside with a fire in the evening since our old one was just retired last fall

        A personalized clothes tree ($34.95) for the girls so we could lay out their clothes the night before

        What would you buy with a $50 CSN Stores GC?

        Enter to win a $50 CSN Stores GC
        MANDATORY ENTRY: Visit one of  CSN Stores online stores and leave a comment about one product that you would buy with your $50 Gift Code. (1 entry)

        To receive additional entries:
        *Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)
        *Enter another giveaway here at TPMG and leave a comment with the giveaway you entered (1 entry/giveaway)

        *Follow TPMG and/or CSN Stores on twitter (1 entry each)

        *Become a fan of TPMG and/or CSN Stores on Facebook (1 entry each)

        *Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway and don't forget to leave your twitter name
        Copy and paste: Win a $50 CSN Stores GC at #TPMG. Please RT. (1 entry per tweet)

        *Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

        *Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

        This giveaway will end on Saturday, February 19, 2011. I will announce the winner on February 20th here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

        Contest only open to U.S. residents.

        Good luck and thanks for participating!

        *I was not compensated in any way to host this giveaway.

        Friday, February 4, 2011

        Dear Heart

        Dear Heart,
        I know I should take better care of you.  Yes, you've been broken a few times but you've always mended quite nicely.  Your not as fragile as people would think.  You've certainly gotten quite a bit of exercise over the years and you've proven how strong you are with how much love you can carry.

        Yet, I do neglect you at times-more than I should.  I know I don't eat as healthy as I should and that I don't exercise my body quite as much as is recommended.  I also know I hold a lot in and don't let out my anger and frustrations like I should.  Instead I carry it inside and I know that makes you sad.

        I promise to work on it.

        I want to be around for a very long time.  I want to watch my children graduate from high school and college, walk down the aisle on their wedding day, and be there when their babies are born. I also want to grow old at my husband's side.  I have a lot left to do.



        February is American Heart Month.  Today is National Wear Red Day to help spread the word about women and heart disease.  Heart disease and strokes are among the top three killers of women today.  According to the American Heart Association (and the American Stroke Association which is a division of the American Heart Association), there are seven steps to living better.  These steps include getting active, eating better, losing weight, controlling cholesterol, managing blood pressure,  reducing blood sugar, and stopping smoking. 

        Visit Go Red For to learn what you can do to help spread the word and for more resources.

        You can also get a red dress twibbon for your twitter avatar by visiting The Heart Truth.

        Macy's is also having The All Red Sale from February 2-6.   Shoppers who wear red (or purchase a Red Dress Pin for a $2 donation to the American Heart Association) will get up to 20% off their purchases.

        Thursday, February 3, 2011

        Boredom Busters For When Your Stuck Inside

        It's been a week and a half of canceled school and no playdates here.  I love how the world outside my window looks after a fresh snow fall.  I love snowmen, snow forts, and snowball throwing contests but there is a limit to how much of a good thing I can take.  The natives have been getting restless (myself included).

        My bag of tricks was getting exhausted so I brainstormed and put out an appeal for help.

        Here are some boredom busters to keep the kids busy and you from losing your sanity:

        Go camping
        Who says you can't camp indoors?  Build a tent with blankets.  Close the curtains or blinds and try to make it as dark as possible.  If you have a fireplace, camp out in that room.  Tell ghost stories, use flashlights to make hand shadow puppets on the walls and have the kids guess what they are, and even make smores (since our fireplace is electric we use the microwave to make ours).  Have hot dogs for lunch and other "camp-friendly" foods.

        Have a picnic/beach party
        Dress up in some summer wear complete with sunglasses.  Go for a mid day swim in the bath tub.  Blow bubbles.  Have a picnic inside.  The kids will love just sitting on the floor to eat rather than the table.  Fill up the sink with some toys for some water play or fill up a pan with sand and let the kids scoop and pour until their hearts are content (just put a tablecloth or something underneath to catch the mess).

        Bag of tricks
        Have a bag of tricks with crafts or toys that you may have put away.  Pull them out to entertain the kids when they are stuck inside.  Silly putty, dollar store craft kits, those capsules that when put in water turn into foam animal shapes, etc. are all great things to have on hand when the weather gets nasty. 

        Obstacle Course
        Make your living room an obstacle course.  Lay down pillows, hula hoops, foam squares, and anything else to complete your course. Time the kids to see who can get through the fastest.

        Go Shopping
        Set up a store in your house.  Have the kids go around and choose toys that they would like to "sell".   Help them determine how much each item is worth and put little stickers on those items.  Give them some play money (or some real money) to go shopping along with a little reusable shopping bag.  You can pretend to be the cashier and check them out.  Maybe also set up a little grocery store to visit to buy snacks and drinks after they go to the "kids store". Everyone can enjoy a little refreshment since shopping can be hard and exhausting work.

        Bring the Outdoors Inside
        Do your kids have lots of outdoor toys that are sitting around in the garage?  Clean them off and bring them inside if you have a room with enough space.  Fill their water table with rice and let them play.  That little plastic basketball hoop will keep them busy as would a slide. Fill their little plastic swimming pool with balls to make a ball pit. Get creative.

        Have themed days
        Create cooking, craft, or movie days.  If your stuck inside because of the snow make snow cones with fruit juice and crushed ice or homemade ice cream with ingredients you have on hand and no fancy equipment needed (thanks to Jeanine for passing these tips along).  Give the kids cereal and string to make edible necklaces for a snack or have them create their own pizzas for lunch.  Kitchen crafts don't have to be time consuming or difficult.  This will keep them busy for awhile both putting the "food crafts" together and then eating them. 

        I keep prepackaged craft kits on hand that I picked up on sale at Michael's for days like this.  This way I don't need to rummage around to find everything to put a craft together especially if we're stuck in the house for consecutive days. Also, give the kids some old magazines or newspapers, scissors, and glue and have them create collages.  Then have them tell you a story about their collage. Display them. 

        Need some quiet time?  Make your living room a movie theatre and let the kids choose the movie along with coordinating snacks (goldfish go well when watching Finding Nemo, etc.).

        Spa Day/Face Painting
        Have a pampering day inside if you have girls.  Put some cucumbers on their eyes and see who can lay still the longest.  Paint their nails and do their hair. Let them do yours.  Have them do their dolls hair.  Have a fashion show. Most little girls love to play dress-up.

        If you have little boys and some face paint or old makeup lying around let them paint each other's faces like you see at carnivals (or you can paint their faces) to cut down on the mess.  Have them put an old t-shirt of yours on over their clothes to keep their clothes clean.

        Let them visit the neighbor kids or invite the neighbor kids over to play along with their moms.  Just because there is no school doesn't mean the kids can't have a playdate.  This will also give you a chance to talk with another adult rather than just the kids all day.

        Wednesday, February 2, 2011

        Remember When (Flashback to Summer)

        Remember when...

        The kids could dance outside without coats and fear of frostbite.

        You could have picnics outside...

        You stepped outside and saw nothing but color (rather than the colors of snow and dirty snow).

        It will be here again.

        Only 45 more days until spring (give or take a day or two due to my lousy math skills).

        ...And soon we'll be complaining about the heatwaves that are coming through our hometowns keeping us indoors.

        ...And how we can't wait to send the kids back to school.

        May Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow today be the harbinger of an early spring.

        Tuesday, February 1, 2011

        Your Sister Is Not For Sale

        When we decided to tell our families we were pregnant again, we knew we were going to have to tell the girls first to get them used to the idea. 

        One afternoon Bob and I were playing with the girls and we decided it was now or never since family was arriving the next day and in two days time we would be announcing our news to our entire family.  We thought we would ease into it even though we foolishly believed that the girls would be anything other than overjoyed at this news.

        "Em, would you like a brother or sister? " I asked as she played with a Barbie doll.

        She didn't even look up.  "NO!  NO, NO, NO!"

        Bob and I looked at each other.  That wasn't the reaction we were expecting.  She loves babies, she especially loves newborns.  She certainly loves her sister (okay, usually).

        I tried again.  "You wouldn't like to have a baby brother or sister like Madison?  You love Madison.  Don't you think it would be fun to have another baby in the house?"

        That certainly got her attention.  She threw her doll down and proceeded to bodily throw herself on the floor and start crying hysterically.

        "I don't want you to get rid of Madison.  We need to keep her", she cried.

        Okay, we saw the problem.

        She thought we were getting rid of Madison.  During this whole scenario Madison is just alternating playing with a doll and watching us. That is until she heard her name and her sister started crying.  Then, she started to get upset. Em is her hero.  Em is the first person she calls for when she awakens in her crib and wherever her sister is you can guarantee Madison is trailing not far behind.

        Bob and I rushed to reassure the both of them that Madison was indeed not going anywhere.  This convincing was like trying to ride up a neverending hill where no matter how fast or hard you pedaled you couldn't really get anywhere.  The only thing it got you was out of breath.

        After several minutes of hugging them and assuring both of them (even though Madison didn't really understand anything other than we had upset her favorite person in the world with just a few words) that we loved them and no one was going anywhere, they started to calm down.

        That conversation was tabled for the time being.  Who knew the thought of a new baby would be such a land mine in the mind of our three year old?  That night there was extra cuddle time at bedtime and we made sure extra dinosaur hugs and kisses were doled out.

        The next day I tried again.  This time I reminded Emily of how Madison had grown in Mommy's belly and eventually she was born and came home to be part of our family.  Emily interjected at one point, "Oh, so we wouldn't go get a baby at the baby store (this is what she calls Babies R' Us)".

        "Ugh, no.  That's not how it works, baby."

        Then, I asked her and Madison if they would like to have a baby brother or sister who would be a baby just like they once were. They could help Mommy change its diapers and sing to the baby and tell the baby stories.

        Emily finally seemed to grasp that we were asking if she wanted another baby brother or sister in addition to Madison.  We were not going to the baby store and exchanging her sister for a new model.  That she was fine with and she was even excited by the prospect of someone else to boss around.  Madison was okay with it as long as her sister was and seemed to like how the word "baby" rolled off her tongue.  In fact, it became her new favorite word.

        The whole time I was trying to explain all this to our children, all I could think about was how this trying to find the right words that a toddler could understand is hard work. 

        I should have foreseen that when it came time to tell them it was going to be a boy it was going to cause some major drama once again. Once again I fumbled with the right words and got it wrong.  Way wrong.  There were tears.  That is a whole other story for a whole other day.