Thursday, December 31, 2009

New blog for shopping tips/favorite things

Most of the search engine traffic I get on this blog is a result of searches like "initial jewelry for moms" and "favorite gifts." Therefore, I've decided to create a separate blog, The Shopping Guru, for sharing my favorite things/shopping tips. I just started this one, and will be adding to it very soon. If you'd like to follow that blog, please visit the site and select a method for following (e-mail, reader, Google Friend Connect). Thanks so much for reading!

Mall Madness


Here comes another stupid parenting moment.  I get dumber by the day, I swear.

I thought it was a terrific idea (do all my posts start this way?) to take both children to the mall. 

When the youngest was 6 weeks old. 

During the Christmas shopping rush. 

In the evening, when all the nutty after work gotta-buy-something-that-not-even-a-starving-child-in-Africa-would-like suburban Christmas shoppers are at their most crazed peak. 

And by the way, we forgot to bring one of those baby carriers that all the used-to-be-cool young parents wear, all shred of dignity finally relinquished as we walk begrudgingly down the aisles hoping maybe the cool kids will think baby wearing is a new fashion statement, like Flavor Flav’s clock necklace.


We also forgot the doubles attachment for our other fashion statement, the ultra-cool Phil and Ted’s double stroller (not to be confused with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, though I’m pretty sure Keanu Reeves could use an adult stroller to relax in while he gets high).

But we are over confident parents of two, and we keep trying to convince ourselves that we are really good at this parenting thing.  When we’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and the kids are in bed (while we watch Antiques Roadshow, because we’re cool like that) we are especially confident about this. 

So we decide to let one parent shop while the other stays at the kid’s play area with two children.

Let me just skip to the punch line, because this post is getting long and you can probably guess what is coming.

You’ve seen those bug-eyed lunatic moms pinning their helpless innocent children to the wall right out in the middle of a crowded public place while screaming something pointless that clearly isn’t helping, like “If you don’t stop it right now I’m going to find your Daddy, leave you with him, and go have myself a stiff drink, you hear me you little runt?”  You know those horrible moms, right?

Well that wasn’t me.  I handled the not listening and running off down the crowded mall aisle while I high-tail it after you as fast as I can [given my post baby girth and the constant tripping on the floor length giant sweater thing I wear to cover my fat] with my newborn baby dangling off one arm wailing with the grace and ease of Mary Poppins. 

Blogging and Google Reader


Since I know my dear mother and father read this diligently, as do other members of my loyal family, I thought it might be helpful to provide a little bit of information about blogging and other technology tips.  I know this is probably the first blog some of you (hi mom) ever read, so I thought it might be helpful to provide some context.  Perhaps some of you will decide to take up blogging yourself!  Or maybe this will just peak your interest in reading blogs and inspire you to search for more reading material that interests you.

Credit goes to my colleague, Jay L., who writes an internal e-mail blog for our company.  Below is content from his blog.  In the first excerpt, Jay is discussing ways to prepare yourself to be a good blogger.  Here is one of his tips:

“Be a more efficient reader. You can’t write if you don’t read, and whether you read business or psychology blogs, professional journals, news publications, or all of the above, staying informed will only help you, and that’s true beyond blogging. One way to be a more efficient reader is to use an aggregator. I use Google Reader, but there are a number of options out there. An aggregator is essentially a dashboard that looks like a web-based email program, and it feeds the latest posts and articles from any blog or news source that you subscribe to – these free subscriptions are sometimes called RSS feeds or Really Simple Syndication. With this system, by the time I’ve had my morning coffee, I’ve read the headlines and summary paragraphs for every new article at the New York Times, Wall St Journal, Technorati, the Onion, and the Post-Dispatch, plus I’ll see any new posts from a dozen or so blogs that I follow. For any content that strikes my interest, I click to read the full article. The advantage of this system is time – it eliminates the need to jump from website to website, and new content comes to you in an easy-to-manage format.”

Another quote from Jay, about the nature of blogging:

“Blogging is all about finding a rhythm, a format for communication that you can repeat over time.”

By the way, there are several ways to follow a blog (which allows you to see new posts as they appear on the blog).  If you click on the Subscribe page (link at the top of my blog), you’ll find places to subscribe in a reader (e.g., Google Reader) or subscribe via e-mail. You can also choose to Follow with Google Friend Connect (on the right side of my main page). 

How many of you are new to reading blogs?

How many of you do not use Google Reader yet?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dog Strollers. Seriously?

Okay dog fanatics, don’t attack me for this one.  Or sic your pit bull on me.  I am a dog lover too.  But a dog stroller?  Maybe for a dog that has hip dysplasia or sipped one too many Mai Tais, but I see healthy normal (albeit a little fat – probably from being pushed around all day) Maltese puppies being pushed in these crazy things.


How can you look at this without laughing hysterically?

When I searched “dog stroller” one of the first entries made me guffaw - “which stroller is right for your dog?”  Um, what?  THE ONE THAT SAYS I HAVE COMPLETELY LOST MY FREAKING MIND?

I admit we were that metro couple without children who once thought our dogs were people.  We dressed them up for Halloween, for crying out loud.  But they asked us to. 

Halloween dogs

And perhaps we talked about them a bit too much in social settings.  Just like proud parents who go on too long about their child’s potty habits.  So we thought others might find it interesting that our adorable little Pomeranian likes leopard print and a good jazz cd.  Big deal.

But a dog stroller?  Never.

What I would like to see is an adult-sized people stroller.  I really could have used one of those when I was pregnant.  Even now, it would be really nice to rest my post-partum bulge on the tray and sip a nice glass of Merlot from my sippy cup nicely situated in a cup holder and have my dear husband push me around the mall.  Perhaps if I make good choices he will buy me some Chick Fil-A and one of those cookie sandwiches with M&Ms for eyes. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Joy of Christmas Lights with a Car Full of Crying Kids

Sometimes I have these cliché "what in the cotton-pickin' heck were we thinking?" parenting moments. Oh. Wait a minute. Scratch that - I have those daily. Okay, maybe hourly. You get the idea.

I recently had the brilliant plan of taking our three-year-old and newborn to see a park so chock-full of Christmas lights that comparing it to the Griswald's house would be like Charlie Brown's Christmas up against the tree at Rockefeller center. Some poor souls who work for the county are subjected to the absolute torture of stringing Christmas lights all through the park. So I thought it would be a good idea to sit in our car moving at less than 2 mph with two small children and stare at said lights.

That might not have been such a brilliant plan.

Might I mention that I was feeling particularly ambitious that evening, and we had just braved a 30 minute drive to church, a 1 hour church service (we saw about 10 minutes of the service since we were continually streaking out of service as one or both children screeched or yelled WHERE ARE THE SNACKS?), and a 30 minute drive back to town. Oh yeah, and we stopped along the way to eat some Culver's (no snide nutrition remarks, please) in the car. It was AFTER all of this that we went to the obnoxious light display.

Oh yeah, AND the stupid light display had a line like the girl's bathroom at a Miley Cyrus concert.

Oh yeah, AND we didn't have any cash. More on that later.

There we are, crammed into our Camry, which seems to grow increasingly tiny by the minute. I am in the back of the car, and my husband is Driving Miss Daisy (pretend Jackie Chang is playing the role of the chauffeur). I think there were various toys, orange peels, coats, princess slippers, and used baby wipes on the floor below my feet, because I had no room for them and had to sit licking my knees. The baby was in the gigantic car seat next to me (seriously, why on earth do those darned things have to be so big - the baby is less than 10 pounds!) and our oldest was in her even bigger car seat next to the opposite window. She insisted on pulling and snapping the stupid sun visor the entire time. (Which eventually resulted in a minor tantrum. Mine. I have a vague memory of me ripping it off the window and slamming gently tossing it into the garbage pail at my feet.)

About 15 minutes into our wait in the stupid line, the baby starts wailing. Now, we are technically on a road, but the line is off to the side on the shoulder and really is just creeping along. So, do we count as a moving vehicle? Am I akin to Britney Spears if I take her out of the car seat at this point? I decide to proudly reassure myself that I am a good parent, who can handle a little crying, so I leave her in the car seat and begin desperately shaking rocking the car seat in hopes the resulting dizziness will lull her into a state of peace. About this time, our other child decides she would like to join in the fun and begins whining/crying as well. Of course, my dear husband thinks it is helpful to shout suggestions from the front. "Is the baby wet?" "Have you given her a bottle?" "Can you pass me a martini, two olives?" Dude, do you think I haven't thought of the same things you have? Why don't you get out there and see what happens when you chew on one of those light strands?

We continue like this, now just wanting to get into the festival of hell lights and get this over with, for about another 10 minutes. Finally, we enter the park. Throughout the entire drive, our eldest asks repeatedly: "Where is Santa? Where is Santa?" I want to reply: "Believe me kid, if I knew, I would wring his jolly neck for being the ring leader in all this nonsense."

I know we are officially grumpy adults, because instead of oohing and ahhing over all these blinking strings, my husband and I just keep commenting that it must be a royal pain to do all of this work. I can just imagine the spouse of the poor worker who puts up all these lights. If s/he dare to badger his/her spouse about putting up Christmas decorations at home, I am certain the spouse would end up with a string of lights inserted where the sun don't shine. The blinking butt could be a cool conversation starter, though.

Merry freakin' Christmas.

Oh yeah, I forgot. As we finally exit the park, the guy assigned to take the $9 fee (who chooses that job?) informs us it is cash only. Oops. Here, have a dirty diaper and an orange peel. I would feel guilty about shorting them the $9 except I recently received our county tax bill.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gift of Giving - Will You Join In?

At my workplace, the owners began a Gift of Giving program last holiday season. They give each employee $100 and ask that the employee use the money to help an individual or family in need. The only parameters are that the person(s) must be outside your family, and it cannot be an organization - it must be an individual or family. Employees are then asked to write their stories anonymously in a shared document on our network. A couple of those stories are below.

Doing this small, simple act can have such an impact on people in need. We are allowed to give whatever message we want when we gift the money. I have asked recipients to pay it forward. I would now like to see how many of you are willing to pay it forward. Would you join us this year and gift $100 of your money to a person or family in need? If so, would you please write your story in the comments section here. You can remain anonymous if you would like.

A couple of stories from employees at my workplace:

A friend of mine volunteers for an organization called Mary Queen of Angels. They help mothers with young children who can’t afford the things they need to take care of their children. They help them provide food, diapers and wipes, etc for their children. I gave my $100 to a 30-year old single mother of two small children who is unemployed. She does not own a car so her father has to take her places. She receives no child support from the father. She said her children don’t have many clothes so she is constantly washing their clothes so they at least have clean clothes to wear. She is living with her cousin because her heat was turned off. Her refrigerator recently broke and she lost about $70 worth of food. One of her children has severe adhd and she can barely take him out in public. She said she hadn’t bought her kids any Christmas presents yet. She was very grateful and surprised by the $100 gift and was going to buy food and Christmas presents for her children.

A local charity put me in touch with a woman in need who lives in my area. She is 53 years old and single. She recently had hip surgery and is unable to work because of her physical condition. She has fallen behind financially. She doesn’t have any family in the immediate area. She tries to have a positive outlook but sometimes gets discouraged about what the future might hold. She was surprised when she received the $100 bill. She said she plans to use the money to buy a winter coat and shoes. It also gave her hope for the future and made her want to spread the joy by performing a random act of kindness for someone else.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Favorite Gift Ideas

I suppose this is a little late for anyone to actually use these gift suggestions for Christmas, but perhaps you can use these for future special occasions. Here we go:

My parents bought us the Sodastream for Christmas, and we love it! It is fun to operate and I like that it produces less waste. The sparkling water is pretty good, and is a nice healthy alternative for our family.

For the woman in your life, you can't go wrong with this Hobo International Lauren wallet. I have two of these and have bought them for a number of ladies, who all love their wallet as much as I love mine. Every time I use mine, someone asks me about it.

The same goes for my Lodis briefcase. I saw another woman with this briefcase and asked her about it. Since I bought mine, I often have people ask me where I got it so they can get one too! The one I have has a laptop compartment, which is nice. There are versions without the compartment.

For kids, I think you can't go wrong with books. A friend bought us one of the Llama books, Llama Llama Red Pajama. They are really cute. Another friend bought us You Are Special, which has an implicit Christian theme, but is a good story regardless of the person's faith.

For babies, we love our back to sleep bear - it was suggested by a mom friend and really helps get our newborn back to sleep.

For teenagers, give them money. Anything else, they will be disappointed!

For men, you can't go wrong with an iPhone or an iPod touch. These wireless headphones that allow you to watch TV without having your bed mate complain are also pretty cool.

For the geek in your life (sorry dad!), this wireless weather forecaster is pretty cool.

Happy shopping! I welcome any other suggestions you all have.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baaaddd Bottled Water!

A little off-topic, but certainly an eye-opener. I have never been a fan of bottled water. It just seems silly and wasteful to me, sorry. Turns out there is good evidence to support my viewpoint:

Infographic of bottle water from Fast Company

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flying with Young Children

We will soon depart on our first flight with two little ones. Let's hope we aren't over confident. Despite the fact that our first born can, at times, be quite a handful, she has always been an excellent traveler. I can't remember ever having difficulty with her on the plane. She never had the screaming fits because of ear pain, she is generally well behaved, and she mostly stays in her seat. I attribute part of that to the fact that she started traveling at a very young age (her first trip out of the country was at age 7 months) and it is old hat for her.

We'll see how well we do with two!

One of my best parenting tricks for things like travel and eating out is to talk about it A LOT beforehand. Explain what will happen, what to expect, what kind of behavior you expect from them, what the reward is for that behavior(!), how long you will be doing this activity, etc.

I like this recent blog post about things to do in airports with kids, and how to get through security easier with kids.

Now, navigating the security line with kids is something I haven't quite mastered yet, so I'll take all the advice I can get there! I'm quite adept (Humbly, I'd say I'm black belt level) at getting through security as a business traveler. Man, I can whip off my shoes and have the laptop out in nothing flat. But boy, I can't seem to get the shoes off my toddler, make her put down her toy and calmly waltz through the metal detector without significant coaxing and bribing. There are some tips on getting through security with kids in this blog post, but I suppose I was looking for more of a magic bullet - these seem kind of obvious.

Any of you have good travel tips? I'll take any old travel tips - tips for traveling with kids or just plain old tips.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Hell is Like - Sleep Deprivation!

Well, you may remember my post, "What Heaven is Like" - now I know what hell is like. It is a sleep deprivation chamber. Also, there probably isn't any chocolate in hell. I'm too tired to elaborate, but let's just say I've had night upon night of being awaken every 30 minutes by my beautiful little newborn. She is so cute and sweet during the day, but why, oh why, won't she just sleep for a little bit during the night?

I like this recent blog entry with ideas about how to get a baby to sleep. So funny.

I received two pieces of really sage advice during this same newborn/no sleep phase with my first born:

The first, from my mother was regarding breaking all the rules about what not to do with a newborn (bring them to bed with you, allow them to nurse on demand, don't allow them to nurse on demand, etc.). What did my mom think about what you should do with your newborn? My mom said: "You just survive." So true.

The second was from my co-worker, Terence, who has two children of his own. His first born didn't sleep through the night for quite some time (years!). Over those years, many well-intentioned people gave him lots and lots of advice. He finally came to a brilliant conclusion about why his child didn't sleep. Here is what he says: "You know why she doesn't sleep? Because she doesn't sleep."

There you have it.