Friday, December 28, 2007

The new laptop is here!

We bought one, two actually, through their "give one, get one" program. For $400, we purchased an XO laptop for our family and one for a child in a developing nation. You can get an overview of the computer and the One Laptop Per Child initiative here.

We are shocked at how small and lightweight the unit is. It uses open-source software, which means the interface is quite different than what we are used to. My husband and I thought this might present some interesting tech challenges for our boys. They've been glued to it since we got it out of the box about 15 minutes ago.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A FREE holiday fleece for your Sugar Daddy or your Baby Daddy

Sugar Daddy? Baby Daddy? Brother? Father? Who wouldn't love a brand new Lands' End fleece jacket under the tree? I know, I'm too late for the menorah, but it would have been a fire hazard, anyway.


Lands' End sent DH a cool warm ThermaCheck fleece jacket. According to the Lands' End folk it's got twice the warmth and four times the wind resistance of typical fleece. All I know is it is soft and cozy.


And unlike regular fleece, this one doesn't get all staticky, so it's great for the cold, dry winter months.


Best of all, you can win one for your DH or a man in your life. Just leave a comment, a way to reach you and what men's size fleece you want; Lands' End is going to pick the color and ship it off to you. If you don't have a blog (You don't have a blog? Seriously, just get one already.), and I know you in real life, just give me a clue who you are. Winner will be chosen at random. Entries accepted through Monday night Dec. 17; winner will be notified a day or so later.


The fleece jacket won't reach you in time for Christmas, so if you just want to go ahead and order one on your own Lands' End will waive the shipping charges through December 19 (no minimum order!); use the coupon code 'joy' to save your hard-earned cash.




Here's what DH has to say about the latest (and possibly 2007's only) addition to his wardrobe:

As soft as the sheep from which it came (or possibly the recycled plastic beverage containers from which it came. I'm unclear on the origin), this Lands' End fleece jacket is thin but insulates well against the chilly clime of my underheated office. It's so nice to feel that I'm frequently distracted from other tasks so as to rub my torso.

The jacket also boasts nanotechnology. From the same 21st century science that brought us Van Halen cellphone ringtones and custom-logo M&Ms, some microscopic material keeps electrons from being pulled off the jacket when you apply friction. When I remove my outer jacket, there's no crackle or shock of static. Importantly though, when I rub my fuzzy slippers on the carpet, I can still shock one of the boys. But the jacket does what Lands End says it does and it's soft soft soft!


Edited to add: I just realized the jacket only comes in medium and large. So if the guy you have in mind for this is big or tall, this is not the item for him, sorry! Also, US residents only, please.


And, after you've posted your comment, check out my latest blogging efforts over at BabyCenter.

The true miracle of Chanukah is that our house didn't burn down when we lit all of our menorahs this evening!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Plumbing problems

Our house. Not me.

Still, when the plumber was reviewing the needed fixes with me, there was much talk about female parts and the male parts that fit into them and nipples and such. I was blushing like a 12 year-old girl.

It will be nice to use the dishwasher and washing machine after a week without.

But during my week of paper plate dining, this mama, hosted a fabulous holiday party for the Chicago Moms Bloggers courtesy of Graco. Melissa Graham and her Monogramme catering company provided excellent service, divine food and plentiful drinks for our event.

Graco sponsored the event to promote their new product, the Sweetpeace Baby Soother, which I expected to be lame, but is really cool! You've never seen anything like it. Alas, I didn't take any pictures and I can't seem to find a good one to lift from the website, so click over and check it out.

Stop in next week, because Santa's little helper arranged a great giveaway for me!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Have you clicked yet?

Please stop by BabyCenter, where I recently started writing at the Momformation Blog. I'm blogging about behavioral issues in children up to 8 years old.

Right now, I'm talking about the over-excitabilities often found in gifted children and which of my boys I love best. Check it out.

GM loves me!

Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog

So does Dodge! And Chrysler, too! Sorry Amy, I don’t know what's with me and cars lately. A month ago, I was just another mommyblogger. Now, I’m AskPatty’s Mom.

You see, shortly after I agreed to participate in the Chevy Malibu test drive in Memphis in early November, a marketing group asked me to drive the new Dodge Grand Caravan for a week. Next Friday I’m going to get a souped-up Chrysler Town and Country minivan to test out for two weeks. I don’t know why the the stars have aligned this way, but I sure am enjoying the rides.

I wrote about the Caravan on my blog as I was expected to do as part of a word-of-mouth campaign, but I’ve yet to share the details of my Malibu experience. In fact, I’m not obligated to do so. The Malibu drive was different; I was flown down to Memphis as part of a traditional campaign launch. I was rubbing shoulders with real car writers like John from Edmunds, and Marc from The Torque Report. The only thing required of me was to mention that GM paid for my trip, should I decide to write about it.

So there I was hobnobbing with car guys, many of whose faces lit up like little boys when they talked about new vehicles. It was touching. And reassuring, in the sense that yes, two decades from now there just might be a decent job out there for your Hot Wheels obsessed six year-old.

I was also in the company of some great mom-bloggers: Table for Five, Mommy Needs a Cocktail, Not Just a Working Mom, Mocha Momma, It’s All Fun and Games and The Mummy Chronicles.

The evening before we stepped into the redesigned 2008 Chevy Malibu, GM treated us to a tour of the Gibson Guitar factory. I love watching things get made! And I was surprised by some of the similarities between the guitar-making process and that of making violins. (Do you know our area is home to one of only three violin-making schools in the USA?)

But the connection Chevy was trying to reinforce was one between the care and quality that goes into crafting a Gibson Guitar (and there’s a lot) and the craftsmanship that goes into building a Chevy Malibu. After the tour, representatives of the Malibu’s design and engineering teams introduced the car’s many features. I was impressed by the passion these men have for their work.

It seems every week there’s another massive round of toy recalls, usually centering around imported toys. But when it comes to cars, most moms and dads I know are all about the imports. In fact, plenty of people were impressed by the luxe Dodge Caravan I drove about town, but they told me that they’ll stick with Honda or Toyota for their minivan needs. The Malibu team is up against the same wall in the sedan category. And they know it.

The Malibu team isn’t crossing their corporate fingers waiting for the tide to change; they are working hard to give consumers a reason to buy American cars. DH and I used to do that until we had an unfortunate problem with a Saturn. And when I say unfortunate, I mean a problem that was found in many cars within our model year (mid 1990s) that the company would not resolve to our satisfaction. DH still refers to this as the time that "Saturn broke his heart." He replaced it with a Honda and his rebound affair with foreign cars continues to this day.

So GM wants my love again. And DH's. They want your love, too. Are they worthy of it?

Well, the “car guys” in Memphis were impressed by the design and handling. I was pleased with it, especially the smooth, quiet ride of the hybrid, but what do I know? I drive a 2000 Subaru with a steering wheel that vibrates so much I’m afraid it’s going to come right off in my hands one of these days. Even so, I left Memphis confident that the new Malibu is worth considering if you’re in the market for a sedan.

I think for us, and many of our peers, it's going to take more than a sleek design, good price point and better fuel efficiency to get us to go domestic. We want see an established track record- something that indicates a high level of reliability.

So, GM, it's possible that I might love you enough to bring you into my home again someday. For now, all I can do is promise to visit you at the Auto Show.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two t-shirt winners because 'tis better to give than to receive

Although I had the lowest response rate ever for a bloggy giveaway, the two who tossed their names in the ring are quite earnest about cleaning up the current toxic toy overload. So, I gave away DH's (unworn) Get the Lead out Shirt in addition to the one that was initially put aside for the giveaway.

Congratulations to Pickel over at My Two Boys, who lists loads of lead-free toys on her blog, and Diane over at The Mommy Spot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Get the Lead Out Giveaway

Sure, I considered giving you a chance to win all my kids lead-laden skull rings and such, but that didn't seem nice. Um, what are we supposed to do with all those recalled toys we own?

The family and I went to the Chicago Toy and Game Fair yesterday. Highlights included me getting all fancy with some spinning disk toy. In the process of showing the boys a cool move I dreamt up, I knocked my glasses out of whack and got chided by the booth supervisor. Needless to say, I've repressed the name of that toy. I also played a Wheel of Fortune type game where players guess the brand name products rather than something in a wee bit more thoughtful like the name of a landmark or a proverb. I beat the pants off of DH, oh and some 12 year-old girl, by guessing that the hidden words were Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion. What is this country coming to?

We also got to dip our hands into this fake snow stuff which felt amazingly like the real thing. I guess it's for touch tables in preschools. As I was dipping my hands in it, I said to know one in particular, "This stuff has got to be totally toxic."
"What does toxic mean?" Asked an innocent 8 year-old little girl beside me.
"Um, poisonous. It means you need to wash your hands really well after you play with this."

The best part was meeting with Morgan from the Consumer's Union Not in My Cart Campaign.

You can learn more and even pick a up a cool widget for your blog here. Even better, you can enter to win a festive Get the Lead Out t-shirt (size XL), stickers and supporting campaign material by leaving a comment below. The giveaway is open to US residents only. Entries will be accepted through midnight Wednesday, Nov. 21. Winner will be chosen at random and notified later this week.

Thanks to The Motherhood and ParentHacks for helping spread the word about CU's Not in my Cart Campaign.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Gifted Academy

Sure, it doesn't really exist, but we want to show a friend of ours the new playground at this imaginary institution of precocius learning.

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan: what's not to love?

It's impossible not to love a brand-new, fully accessorized car that you get to drive for a week without filling the tank.* This car has everything. Not only does the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan have more windows and more electrical outlets than my first apartment, it's bigger, too. Grrlfriend Jess is right to call this the ultimate milfvan. It not only has a Sirius navigation system and a gazillion or so radio channels, it's also got three kid-friendly satellite TV feeds- Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I was craving a little PBS or something less mind-numbing, but perhaps if I'd taken a moment to figure out how to work the wireless headphones, it wouldn't have been an issue. The kids sure didn't mind.I loved the heated seats on our crisp fall mornings. Nothing like starting the day with fresh warm buns. Ahhhhh. And the self-stowing seats. And the middle row swivel seats. And the tailgate seats feature, the built-in flashlight, the table, the great internal LED lights- there is so much to love about this car!


One night while waiting for waiting for Smartypants and friend to finish up Hebrew school I set up mobile dining room/office in the back. What the car lacks in fuel-efficiency it makes up for in personal efficiency!
This van was definitely a head-turner. Everyone wanted a peek inside, though most declined my offers to drive it around the block. The only two negative comments I heard about it, and I heard these consistently, were about the lack of fuel efficiency and the fact that it's American made. Too many of us have been burned by American-made lemons. I know the Chevy folks are aware of this and I'm guessing the Dodge folks have a clue, too. Maybe that's why Dodge is offering a lifetime power train warranty?

This car has all the bells and whistles a parent could want, except the on-board mini-hand vac that I mentioned previously. It's definitely worth a look. Be careful if you take the kids car shopping with you. Once they step inside this van, nothing else will be good enough for them!

*Oops, apparently I was supposed to leave more than gas fumes in the tank, but I'm afraid that pouring $75 into car, might have affected my rosy outlook just a tad.
Edited an hour or two later to add: I just received a Border's gift certificate in the mail from the company that sponsored the promotion, Matchstick. Obviously, it was sent to me before my post was actually up. And I seriously had no idea it was coming. I'll pass it on to DH for tolerating my blogging habits.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So much to post, so little time

I still have to write about my fabulous Chevy Malibu test drive down in Memphis as well as the amazing, fully-loaded brand-new 2008 Dodge Caravan (yes, with the swivel seats) that I was driving about town in this past week. Not to mention the fact that I just started my newest (and paid!) blogging gig at BabyCenter.com's Momformation Blog and one of my Momformation posts was hacked--in the best possible way!


And I recently won one of these cool, little HP photobooks from this wonderful mama, but HP surprised me by sending a photoprinter along with it. That's just so you'll start buying their special papers and inks, DH says. It's true, but I don't mind. We haven't printed more than two dozen photos since we went digital a few years back. I miss photo albums; staring at a video slide show just ain't the same.
Edited to add: you can try one of these book at a 20% discount by licking here. Make that clicking here.

Just to keep things in check I will make it clear that the Universe is pissing on me just a little, too. Smartypants finally returned to school full-time after two weeks home sick followed by two weeks of only attending half days. And tonight 7 year-old Pikachu came down with a fever over 100+, so he'll be home with me tomorrow. Please, don't let it be Mono!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I did it!

I just ordered one, make that two, of these!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oops, I did it again

It starts as an innocent bit of tossing and turning around 3:00 am. I take a deep breath and then before I know it, a thought has sneaked into my brain. About school. And what we should do next year.

Though I don't get many comments on this blog, I've had a few readers e-mail me lately to say how wonderful it is that my boys are at the expensive and logistically challenging gifted school. Another friend, a former teacher at a tony North Shore public school, reminded me of the grim realities of public ed and how unlikely my boys, who are are the far leading edge of the bell curve, are to have their needs met.

Is it all that bleak? Am I just speaking to the wrong choir?

I shared our concerns about the limited social options (no sports or clubs) in the GA's Upper School and the challenge of going from a junior high graduation class of 10 to a high school class of 800 with a dad who kept his oldest son at the Gifted Academy through 8th grade and is doing the same with his younger son. He told me that he thinks that most public junior highs are like minimum security prisons. He thinks letting one's children mature emotionally and grow academically during the awkward junior high years is a Very Good Thing.


Our public school has finally hired some gifted coordinators. I've played phone tag with one. Quite frankly, I'm avoiding a conversation. I remember all to well the false assurances the public school administrators gave me four years ago. Don't worry. He'll be fine. We can meet his needs. While the school psychologist whispered in my ear, Your son is rather exceptional. We only see a child like him every couple of years.


Oh yeah, and this district failed to make their No Child Left Behind Annual Yearly Progress for the first time this past year. How could I even dip my toes in that water?


Which leaves more years of private school. DH is set against this.

Or moving in with my parents because their public school has more gifted services. A) I'm not sure we're welcome, B) Does this sound like a good idea to you?

Or moving into an expensive house with high taxes in a wealthier, whiter suburb with "better" schools (see this related comment).

I think I'll just go back upstairs and cry myself to sleep.

The Gifted Academy? There is no Gifted Academy.

It's like the Fight Club; I cannot confirm its existence.

I recently reposted my essay, Giving up on Public Education, over at Chicago Moms Blog for our cross-site Education Day. The day was a success and I can see by the number of readers that clicked over to my blog, my essay struck a chord.

My stat counter also tells me that many readers have also searched the term "gifted academy, Chicago," the name of the school I used in my essay. I must tell you curious people that no such school exists; I simply used that name to maintain some thin veil of privacy for my kids. There are, I think, four private gifted academies within a 30ish mile radius. You can read about them at the Genius Denied site.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wherein this Mom takes on the Illinois State Board of Ed.

This will be crossposted over at the Chicago Moms Blog, where tomorrow is education day across our sites: Silicon Valley, DC Metro and NYC Moms Blogs.

For my latest attempt at playing citizen-journalist, I attended FY2009 budget hearing sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education. About two dozen other parents and school administrators gathered for the hearing in a small high school auditorium in Des Plaines this past Monday evening. I whipped out my notebook- the kind with a wire binding and lined pages. *sigh* I searched my purse for a good pen, but all I found were ones that dragged on the paper. *ugh* And I brought my camera with me, but forgot to take any pictures. *oops* Plus I didn't get all the names, and many facts and figures flew by me before I could record them.

Clearly, I am a much better citizen than a journalist. And that's okay. I spoke from the heart about the need for increased state funding for gifted education. And by spoke from the heart, I mean spoke extemporaneously, which is typically a bad thing, especially for me. But I think I did okay. Here's how the night went.

Joyce Karon, Dean Clark Linda Riley Mitchell, whose bio I have searched for and not found, presided over the hearing. Which seemed more like a meeting. I expected a gavel pounding here or there. "Order! Order! Stop these moms from whining about their precocious, under-served children!" No such thing. Although there were several moms and one dad who spoke up about the need for increased funding for gifted education in Illinois.

Janet requested money for the blind and dyslexic of our state and how they can be helped with assistive technology. She talked about a planned rollout using MP3 technology to assist such students. I only joined the MP3 party about two weeks ago and find it to be a very helpful way to separate myself from the world. But I can see how MP3s help these populations be a part of a larger world. And they make sooo much more sense than clunky old books on CD/tape.

Jane represented the School Library Media Association. They'd like all the children of Illinois to have access to "authoritative, trustworthy, search able, safe online databases." This would allow them to use sources other than Google or Yahoo! Search to increase their knowledge. She practically tasered the board and audience alike with this stunning fact: Alabama provides their students with better database access than we do. Ouch!

Then Daniel's mom spoke about the challenges of raising and finding a school for her gifted child. She said that as a family that is not independently wealthy, it was hard to fund a private education, but at a private school for gifted school her son, who is a bit different than many of his age mates, found friends and acceptance for the first time. He was also, for the most part, happily challenged. She spoke of the need for teacher training as well as programs for children at the far end of the bell curve.

Next up. Dr. Dan from District 59 spoke on behalf of the Illinois Association of Superintendents Anonymous (See? I'm not a journalist. All I know think is that he said he was representing the IASA). He advocated for funding for a superintendent mentoring program that would pair retired supers with new ones. My take: Okay by me as long as it's a volunteer program. Our retired school teachers and officials have generous pension packages that would leave most of us drooling and, by the way are draining state coffers.

Lori, another mom for gifted education followed. She gave a lovely prepared speech about her gifted children. Even with some accommodations at public school she noted, "The majority of the day my boys are working at a depth and pace that is far inadequate to challenge them -- the majority of the day! We have had to make a conscious effort not to follow their natural intellectual curiosities at home – because they’re getting way too far ahead! How sad! Picture the analogy of a classroom with all severely learning disabled children except for one child of average intelligence. Would we ever see that as an appropriate, fair, right education for that child?

Julie followed on her heels representing the Illinois Association of Gifted Children and talked about gifted kids from low-income homes and how likely these children are to fall through the proverbial cracks in our system. (Hello? NCLB!) She noted the need for increased funding for teacher training and to better identify and serve the gifted children of our state.

Have I put you to sleep yet? In reality, the meeting was pretty interesting. Others spoke about the need for equity in school funding, preschool for all, reading improvement programs, and there was much talk about the changing demographics of the state- increasing number of low-income and immigrant families. Some women from the Organization of the NorthEast (NE Chicago) spoke about some really interesting programs they are running. (Just click.)

Finally, I signed up at the last possible moment to share my two cents. "With all these compelling needs," I said (I'm paraphrasing; I couldn't take notes from my soapbox!), I can see how it's hard to find sympathy for my white, middle-class boys who've benefited from a variety of enrichment activities and a house full of books. But my boys are not simply enriched. They are wired differently." I spoke of the challenges of educating my boys, who currently attend a private school for gifted kids. And the challenge of saving for their college educations or my own retirement while funding their elementary educations. I talked about how their quick, quirky brains are more often sources of stress and anxiety (because of limited education options) than a source of pride.

I also mentioned that I know when we do send the boys back to public school, I'll be able to quit one of the many part-time jobs I currently hold, but will surely need to take on another- advocate for my kids. And while people assure me I'm doing right by my gifted kids, what about the students whose parents have limited resources (transportation, English language skills, or other barriers that make it difficult for them to speak up for their special children)?

Indeed, I was followed by V., a highly educated immigrant mother, who is desperately trying to figure out the US education system to find a place for her gifted child. In a private discussion later, another immigrant mom said that she came from a country with a standardized national curriculum and finds the US system very confusing. So do I.

I was glad I attended the hearing; glad I spoke up, but moving to Nevada looks more attractive than ever. Except for that whole moving part.

I also blog at Scrambled CAKE.

Sunday, November 04, 2007







I've Been to Memphis

I just returned from my 24-hour GM sponsored press junket to Memphis, where I learned about and drove the new Chevy Malibu. I've been treated as a member of the press at other events, but never at anything of this caliber. It was cool.

Some of my non-blogger friends, which is to say all of my real-life friends and family, too, don't understand how or why I got invited to participate in a press junket. But market research confirms that growing numbers of consumers turn to the internet to learn about, well, everything. Savvy marketers recognize that blogs (and other social media like Facebook) are an important part of this research. New media plays a crucial role in educating consumers as well as creating product buzz.

For example, Google or Yahoo! search Rolf's Patisserie, a nearby purveyor of delectable pastries and baked goods, and look whose website is listed right below Rolf's. Yep, my very own Scrambled CAKE! My review of Rolf's gets around two dozen views each week. Lucky for them I'm a fan of their scrumptious treats.

In fact, you may notice that I'm a fan of most of what I review. That's because my time is limited and I'd rather write about something I like than something I don't. Someone recently suggested that a few dings here and there might make me more credible (does that mean I'm incredible right now?), so I’ll consider that as I forge ahead.

My luddite friends also want to know why a company would subject themselves to such scrutiny. It's all about buzz, baby. Any company that approaches a blogger or any type of "new media personality" likely thinks their product is great and hopes that the reviewer will, too. Industry insiders have told me that even a negative review can be helpful. First off, any mention of the product adds to the buzz. In addition, a negative review containing constructive criticism can help the company retool or reposition said product.

This week I'm all about the cars. I'm eager to share the highlights of my trip to Memphis, some of which actually involve the Chevy Malibu. And later this week I'm going to give my tired old Subaru a rest while I cruise around in a 2008 Dodge Caravan. I'll have the car for six days as part of a word-of-mouth campaign. I don't get paid for this; it just sounded fun. I don't often drive $40K cars (though the base price of the 2008 van starts in the low 20s) and my kids don't normally get to watch TV on the way to school, so it's something new for all of us. DH and I have long wondered if we could fit our family car and a minivan into our old garage and now we'll get a chance to see. I might even try to serve dinner on that cool little table in the van.

Fun times ahead.

I'll be back soon with an update on my Malibu experience.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm going to Graceland!

Never mind that I still confuse the terms make (as in Chevy) and model (Malibu) and my knowledge of all things automotive doesn't go beyond taking my car to the nearby Car-X (though I do enjoy Car Talk on NPR), I've been invited to Memphis to check out the retooled Chevy Malibu.


I'm part of their "new media" ad campaign. So tomorrow I'm headed to Memphis along with these fab mamas for the Ultimate Moms Night Out. GM promises wine and dine us. We'll meet with Chevy engineers and the Malibu marketing team. And we'll all have a chance to give the new Malibu a workout. It could be most fun I've had since the Test Track ride at Epcot. (Note to self: remember to bring driver's license.)


Apparently Chevy's director of marketing thinks women want affordability, safety and fuel economy in their cars. Actually, that's true for me. I also want enough room for sports/school gear. And a built in mini-hand vac to make it easy for me to clean all those little bits that make my backseat look like the crumb tray from a toaster oven.


I'd like my next car to be a fuel-efficient hybrid, so when I did my due diligence at the Malibu site, I was pleased to see they have a hybrid model with a base price of under $23K. Who knew?


We have a whirlwind junket, so the closest I'll get to Graceland is this virtual tour. At least I managed a photo op with the mom and pop Elvises (Elvii?) at yesterday's Halloween party.
And below is a snap of Smartypants as Calvin with his little Hobbes. Note my clever use of electric tape!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How did I miss this? I was left behind!

Back in August the Washington Post ran an opinoin piece, Gifted Children Left Behind. It's 5:30 in the morning (I can't sleep) so forgive me for not summarizing it; just click and read it yourself.

Thanks to Joel at the Gifted Ed Blog at Prufrock Press for pointing this out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Attention Gifted Ed Advocates in Illinois

I still doubt my kids' ability to get a free and appropriate education (which some state officials tell me ain't gonna happen) at our local public school, but we have started investigating it a bit more closely. We met with the principal, something DH and I both agreed was not as bad as we feared. But the more I reflect on it, the more reality sets in. How could this possibly work? And as I sit here at my keyboard, I realize I'm not prepared to write about this yet. My emotions run quite high on this topic.

But I can say this:
I once read that there are about 150,00 gifted children in my state that have been left behind due to funding cuts. Last year our legislators finally restored funding for gifted ed. Hooray! The five million dollar sin funding translates into about, hmm, $33 dollars per student. Now wonder my boys are at the Gifted Academy. *sigh*

I recently received word that the Illinois State Board of Education is holding budget hearings for the FY'09 budget. The budget hearings are the first in a series of legislative procedures that could ultimately result in increased funding for gifted education. You can make a difference by attending a hearing and speaking on behalf of the educational needs of gifted students in Illinois.

Want to help?
It is really quite simple... Get to the meeting early. Sign in as soon as you arrive. Those addressing the board are called in the order in which they sign-in. Prepare a brief statement ahead of time and bring 15 copies with you to the meeting. Tell a personal or professional story about a gifted child you know and how funding is needed to meet his/her special educational needs. If you have a child/student who could speak to the board, that would be even better.

See full meeting details at the IAGC site. Here are two dates and locations that might be relevant to nearby readers.

Monday, November 5, 2007 6 to 8 p.m. Des Plaines Room L 101, Maine Township High School West, 1766 Wolf Road, Maine Township High School District 207, Des Plaines

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 2 to 4 p.m. Chicago James R. Thompson Center, 9th Floor Conference Room 9-040, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My special little guy kicked out of school?!?

It's true!

Sort of.

At the end of a miserable week, we found out last Friday that Smartypants has Mono. As in Mononucleosis. As in the kissing disease. I asked him who he's been kissing. Just you Mom. And Dad.

Last week was horrible. Fever, headaches, chills, swollen lymph glands in his neck, and inflamed tonsils-so huge I don't know how he could swallow. I was miserable. I mean he was. Too.

The pediatrician said Smartypants was among the worse cases of mono he'd seen all year. Except that the term he used was "impressive symptoms." And Jewish mamaleh I am, I couldn't help but kvell when the word impressive was used to describe my firstborn. I'm weird like that.

After missing a week of school we got The Call. The gentle reminder from the school secretary informing us that Smartypants will not be re-admitted to the fine Academy without permission from the doctor.

He's made a pretty remarkable recovery, but we've been warned to have him take it easy. In fact, the doctor says no PE or recess for another couple of weeks because his spleen might be enlarged (classic mono symptom) and too much activity could damage or rupture it.

Anyone who's talked to me since, oh, July, knows that I've been craving the return to the fairly predictable routine that school brings. But school didn't start until Sept. 10 and was followed immediately by the Jewish holidays and then a business trip for me. Here it is October and he's missed two weeks of school, next week he'll likely only go 1/2 days. Then in the blink of an eye it will be time for the week long Thanksgiving Break followed a few weeks later by a 2.5 week Winter Break.

I'm still putting in the 20 hours/week at an office job, plus a few more for a family business, plus another hour or two at yet another part-time job, plus freelance writing (including blogging). I've got a couple of doctor's appointments on my "free days." Then there are the school meetings, plus extra research as we ponder where to send the boys next year (Costly and logistically challenging, but generally beneficial private school? Our seemingly inadequate public school? Do we move to be "better" district? Haven't we been through this before?)

So if I spend my holidays in a locked ward, you'll understand, won't you? *sigh*

Pending Smartypants's continued recovery, I may have a big mom's night away soon. I can't jinx it by writing about it just yet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Free and Appropriate Education?

When my blogging time is limited why should I find the words to say what's already been said (and, importantly, researched)? Check out this entry over at the Gifted Exchange Blog.

Laura Vanderkam writes about an important recent court ruling out of New York. But don't just read her post, see the comments section before you click away. Are we ignoring our nation's most promising minds? And at what cost?

And the Winner is....

Congratulations to Sarah of Sarah and the Goon Squad (and the DC Metro Moms Blog and about a gazillion other blogs), who will soon receive more candy than should ever be allowed in a single house. I hope she enjoys the chocolates, the goodies and the 47-cent spending spree at Pottery Barn.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Ultimate PMS Survival Kit Giveaway

Say goodbye to your PMS blues, ladies because I'm about to make your month!

I'm giving away a great package featuring chocolate! Not just any chocolate, but the ultimate chocolate from Pretty Mean Snacks (PMS, get it?). I didn’t get to try these at the Candy Expo, but I did get to ogle them. These gourmet chocolates are so pretty, they are suitable for framing.
The giveaway also includes a cute chocolate from Custom Candy Concepts, maker of customized chocolates, cookies, and lollipops.

And a brand new chocolate product from Werther's, so hot off the drawing board it's not even in the stores yet.

And speaking of hot, does this whole global warming thing get you down, especially when your hormones are wreaking havoc with you? No worries!


The ultimate PMS giveaway also includes a canvas shopping bag courtesy of Pure Fun organic candies and, of course, many samples of their goods.

The survival kit also contains loads of other cool and exciting samples from the Candy Expo. Throw a handful at your kids and they're sure to stop whining for a few minutes!

And because I know that premenstrual bloating is bothering you, I'm tossing in a pack of Nutra-Trim weight management gum. (Also from the Candy Expo...wait, why am I giving that away?!)

While your kids are chomping on all the candy, lock yourself away and soothe your PMS blues with a 4 CD set from MOMbo. You will enjoy Minnesotan Nanci Olesen’s voice- it’s every bit as calming as Garrison Keillor’s. Listen to Nanci and a host of other mothers and experts discuss stages of motherhood and some of the challenges we all face. I loved the school piece- and totally related. It was a driveway moment for me.

Having a hard time keeping track of your menstrual cycle? Can’t remember when your last period was? This month start the Days Ago timer at the beginning of your cycle. Helpful for tracking both fertility and menopause. Take your pick!

The package also includes a large canvas shopping bag recipe cards and some other goodies courtesy of the Dairy Council (from this event not the candy show, but still good stuff). And a
Pottery Barn gift card with 47 cents on it because They would not issue change for my gift card purchase. Seriously Pottery Barn people, WTF?

Leave a comment below to enter. (Yeah, sure mention it on your blog, too. I'm totally up for some linky love, but it's not a requirement.)

Contest starts now and ends Saturday October 13 at 9 PM CST. I'll announce the winner next week. Good luck!

Friday, October 05, 2007

When your kids read too much

I may soon be contributing to yet another blog (which I'll announce after the ink on all the paperwork is dry) and I asked Smartypants if he wanted a new blogname.

What should I call you?

"Call me Ishmael," replied my 9 year-old.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Michelle Obama sent me some junk mail, but Elizabeth Edwards invited me on a conference call

You got a letter from Michelle Obama DH called when I walked into the house last week. I think it's just junk mail. He was right. Michelle Obama turned down a chance to meet with the Chicago Moms Bloggers, but she'll still ask me for campaign funds.

Elizabeth Edwards, however, invited the Silicon Valley Moms Bloggers to meet with her yesterday in San Jose and the Chicago Moms were asked to join in over the phone.

The boys were all excited that I was going to talk to the next president despite my many explanations that I was set to talk with (listen in, really) the potential next first lady.

I wished it could have been more of a conversation. As she was answering the questions there were many times I wanted to use her answer as a jumping off point to explore other issues. For example, when answering a question about encouraging women and minorities to pursue careers in science she talked about her daughter who was accelerated in math and was part of a all too brief special mentoring program- it took a great deal of self-control not to chime and ask how John Edwards plans to fix NCLB.

Speaking of which, I'd love to blog more on the topic, but I've got a paid writing assignment that I need to get back to. Thanks to NCLB, I'm paying might high tuition fees to get my kids an adequate education, so back to work I go.

One more thing, I fully agree with Mammaloves over at DC Metro Moms Blog.

"I still haven't made up my mind who I'm going to vote for, but if you aren't
willing to have a conversation with us Senators Obama, Clinton, Biden, Dodd or
McCain, Mayor Guiliani or Governors Romney and Richardson how will we know that you deserve our vote?"

The soccer moms are not going to sit on the sidelines during this election- we've got blogs now; we have a voice.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Barefoot Book reviews

The morning after I told DH I was done with time-consuming product reviews I received an offer from Rebecca at Barefoot Books. Books. Books! How can I turn down free books? (Or, apparently, cell phones.)

I had great fun perusing the Barefoot Books website. Their commitment to celebrating art and story is obvious- colorful illustrations, books with CDs to further engage the senses, high quality Folkmanis puppets to re-enact the stories. My only problem was what to choose.

Smartypants has been working hard to raise money to sponsor the Spanish classroom in his school's new building (and he's shockingly close to his $25,000 goal!), so I chose two early reader Spanish books that I thought the Spanish teacher would like. I was wrong she loved them!

Of course, we peeked at them first. Little Pikachu did a fine job reading the story about the fat pig, Cerdota Grandota, aloud, but felt this book was really for Spanish experts because he didn't understand it all-he's just starting to learn the language. Senora loved the book's clever rhymes and looks forward to sharing it with her students.

She was just as enthusiastic about Cha-cha-cha en la selva. That book came with a CD that inspired Pikachu to cha-cha around the room. Or was he doing a samba? Who knows?

Both Cerdota Grandota and Cha-cha-cha en la selva are also available in English.

I plan to donate the third book Rebecca graciously offered, The Genius of Leonardo, to the school's library once we've had a better look at it. This picture book about Leonardo Da Vinci (as opposed to Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) has some depth to it and I want to read it with boys boys before we pass it on.

Now that the toy store's shelves have been wiped clean due to recalls, why not make books the gift of choice this season?


For for more info contact Rebecca through the Barefoot Books site or check out her blog.

Senator Durbin doesn't know from mommybloggers, my kids are not entitled to appropriate public educations and other notes from Political Playdate Sat

cross posted on Chicago Moms Blog

I hadn't planned to blog about this morning’s grand opening of the boys’ new school (same school as last year, but in a shiny new building) but then I saw that Senator Dick Durbin was on the list of distinguished speakers and I broke out my camera and notepad, bursting into citizen journalist mode.

Moving into action, I nudged my way into proximity, introduced myself and started talking. Perhaps he could help me and my mommyblogger friends meet his colleague senator Obama? Whah? Senator Durbin has never heard of the mommybloggers! I guess he doesn't know that mommybloggers are the new soccer moms. And unlike the soccer moms on the sideline, mommy bloggers speak out...and people listen.

(Score one for John Edwards and his campaign; they know the power of mommybloggers. In fact, as I type this, I’m waiting for a conference call with Elizabeth Edwards to begin. She’s meeting in person with the SVMBloggers while the DC and Chicago moms patch in by phone.)
Senator Durbin discussed the sad reality that many US teachers are not certified to teach the subjects they are assigned. He talked about the fact that our school systems focus lots of attention and resources on children from poor families, slow learners and those with learning challenges. He recognized the fact that the children we send to this private school were left behind in their public schools. And he noted that no government funds were used to build my boys’ school, but that we need math and science academies like the ones my boys attend in order to help all kids develop and reach their potential and prosper. (Hmmm. My son said the same thing in his fundraising appeal.)

Of course what went unsaid was how the government will step up to this challenge of educating all kids to their potential. Then again, this was not a press conference, just a feel-good Saturday morning out with the people.

I introduced myself to another of the dignitaries, who turned out to be a state senator (though not mine). I don’t recall her name, which is a good thing, because when I asked about what was happening with gifted education, she seemed to think that some small level of funding has been approved (or will be) to return mandated gifted education in Illinois.

“Families like ours need help.” I told her. “It’s such a financial drain to send our kids here.”

Her response stopped short of saying that kids like mine, kids on the far edge of the bell curve just won’t be served by public education. Did I hear that right? Did she say that public education is not really for all children? I’ll never know, while I was busy scraping my jaw off the ground, the admissions directly gently escorted the dignitary off for a tour of the building.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

All Candy Expo (now with salty snacks, too!)

I just got back from the All Candy Expo and boy are my pants tight!

OMG! I've never seen anything like it--nearly 10 football field's worth of candy and snacks. OMG! Check back in a week or so for details on my Ultimate PMS Survival Kit giveaway. It's going to be awesome...unless the boys and I eat all the candy this weekend, in which case it's cancelled.

Friday, September 14, 2007

If you give a kid a cell phone...

What was I thinking when I signed my kid up to try a Kajeet cell phone? Forget that my nine year-old boy has no need for a cell phone, he’s a complete screen addict. Computer, video, TV, Ipod, there’s no technology too small to suck him in. So, giving him a cell phone, is like giving him his first bit of crack with a Tequila chaser. I am a bad, bad, mother.

After a consult with DH, we decided the cell phone would not stay with us beyond the trial period. When his Kajeet wallet is empty, we are going to auction it on E-Bay or raffle it off at school to support Smartypants’ fundraising effort (only $3,500 to go!)

When I told Smartypants that he was going to get a cell phone for a few weeks he replied in his wizened way, “I hope it’s not like a Firefly, they seem boring, lame. You can only call a few people and I don’t think they have games. They are not as advanced as regular cell phones.”

Lucky for him, the Kajeet is way cooler than the Firefly. The sleek blue Sanyo Katana phone leaves me with a case of cell phone envy.

Within minutes of opening the box, we’d started up the service with the help of a very friendly woman named Leigh Anne at the call center. Smartypants and I each chose passwords and user names and we were set. It was time to read the manual. Wait, that’s only for grown-ups.

Smartypants had explored every feature of the phone within the first five minutes, while I still haven’t figured out how to send text messages on the cell phone I’ve had for over a year.

Smartypants loves the grown-up look and features (and games!) of the phone. I love the pay-as-you-go service. No long-term contracts, just a simple 10 cents a minute per US call and 5 cents per text, regardless of the time or day of the week the call is made. Smartypants can send pictures for 25 cents each and purchase games ($3.00 - $6.00 per download, but free unlimited play after that).

I also love the parental controls. In fact, Smartypants decided to spend $6 to download the Shrek 3 game, but kept getting blocked from doing so. I told him to call the Kajeet toll-free number to try to resolve the problem, and he did. Cell phone teaches child responsibility-hooray! Of course, the Kajeet folks needed to speak with me to unblock the service, but I was proud that he made the call and got through some of the basic troubleshooting on his own. I had to give the Kajeet rep my username and password in order to unblock the service, so it’s not like any adult can make changes to his account.

Parental controls can also block service at set times, like during school or designated homework hours.

This has been an interesting experience for us. Even with the 35-cent maintenance fee, Smartypants will have the phone for 6 or more weeks before his Kajeet Wallet is empty; the poor kid has no one to call. Last night he called his grandpa…while they were sitting next to each other on the couch. So clearly he doesn’t need a cell phone just yet, but if your child 10-15 year- old does, Kajeet is an excellent way to go.

And if you’d like our cool blue phone, leave a comment below and I’ll notify you if we offer up this gently-used phone on E-Bay.

Note: this Kajeet blog review tour opportunity was provided by Mom Central. We received the phone and $20 for the Kajeet waller to test it out, but were not paid for the review.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Finally Back in School!

The boys finally started school today, but with a major Jewish Holiday starting Wednesday night, they'll only be in school three days this week. I still have lots to do and not much time, so click over to Scrambled CAKE and the Chicago Moms Blog to see what I've been writing.

Last week on the Chicago Moms Blog I issued an invitation to Senator Obama and his wife to come speak with the CMB contributors. She has already and officially turned me/us down, but that made some blogging mamas pretty angry. We've got some audacious hope for a positive response from the Senator.

The following blogs restate or reference my invite:

The Soccer Mom Vote





There's also this update. And of course, these posts at DC Metro Moms Blog and the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, sister sites to CMB. It's not quite viral, but I'm starting to lose track of the posts.

Before I hit the sack, I want to share this photo of 7 year-old Pikachu's Sculpey Pokemon in honor of my blog-friend Vero and her crafty kids blog, Little Elephants.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Giving Up on Public Education

Private school provides a haven for gifted kids—and their parents.

“We’re refugees” the other mom explained in a mocking tone. A smile was in her voice, but there was an edge to her words. We were part of an angry, frustrated group of parents who’d been mistreated and misunderstood by The System. But we weren't hurricane victims standing in the Louisiana Superdome. We were in the lobby of my boys’ new school, the Gifted Academy (GA) a 20-minute drive from our home.

I never expected to be a part of the private school crowd. Our family has a strong record of involvement in public schools as educators, school board members and students. But after disappointing experiences in public school with our oldest son, a profoundly gifted child, we felt forced to move, homeschool or go private for both our 7 year-old son and his 5 year-old brother, who also is gifted.

“There are parents who assume their children will go to private school from a young age and simply choose that,” my fellow refugee mom continued. “And then there are those who have struggled through years of public school and find the GA to be a haven for their children.”
During the first week of school I encountered many of these public school refugees. Each had a story similar to mine.

One mom sent her child to a highly touted North Shore public school with disappointing results. “She went into kindergarten reading The Chronicles of Narnia, but the school gave her nursery rhymes to read,” the mom said.

Another recalled: “My son visited the GA years ago. After a day-long preview, he told me to call his public school and tell them he was sick and would never be back.”

Then there was the mom who shared how her son’s public school kindergarten teacher, a seasoned teacher and the mother of a highly gifted child, scheduled an hour-long conference to discuss the boy’s high intelligence level and make recommendations to ensure him an appropriate education—something gifted kids are often not legally entitled to.

Unfortunately, the boy’s first-grade teacher, a well-intentioned young woman with a newly minted education degree, didn’t share the kindergarten teacher’s enthusiasm for teaching the profoundly gifted boy. Instead, she was convinced the boy was autistic. Many hundreds of dollars and hours of testing later he was diagnosed as being unusually intellectually advanced for his age.

That mom continued: “My image of a child prodigy was a kid who plays flawless piano concertos while still in diapers. I didn’t realize my child was so different. It’s a joy to see that the GA is meeting his social and academic needs.”

During a hurried but lively chat at pick-up time, I told her I could relate. Each of us was glad to have found a kindred spirit. “This conversation feels like a hug,” she told me as we herded our kids to our cars.

With so many children facing such a wide range of compelling and highly publicized emotional problems and learning disabilities, it’s hard to get sympathy for the smart kids. But parents who have been there understand. They understand that students now thriving at a school for gifted kids were not only bored and underserved at their former schools, but may have been suffering from anxiety or depression as well.

The GA is structured and the teachers are trained to meet the unique educational and emotional challenges gifted students pose. They understand “asynchronous development”—that a child may be exceptionally advanced in some areas, but average or even below average in others.

That ability to teach across the spectrum also means that the school works for both of my kids. Since we couldn’t imagine separating the boys, that was key to our decision. If we couldn’t send both kids to the GA we would have been forced to choose another option--most likely moving to a much more expensive house in a much higher performing public school district.

Even that might not have worked. Gifted children can be tough. And not just because they ask probing, unanswerable questions. Gifted kids can be emotionally intense, struggle with Big Issues and be master manipulators, among other things.

It’s tough for teachers and for parents, who find parenting a precocious child can be an isolating experience. It’s one thing to seek support because your child has a learning or physical disability, but it’s hard to rally the troops because school is too easy for your child (who, by the way, is now called Mr. Smartypants). A parent whose child is a star athlete can talk about the traveling teams or championship games, but when it comes to things intellectual and academic, it somehow gets more awkward, more personal.

At the GA, we have found support and safety. But our fate is still uncertain. My husband and I sometimes ponder an unanswerable question: Twenty years from now, will we find investing in a private school was a better choice than investing in a really expensive house in a higher-performing public school district? Both choices are quite costly.

Which ultimately will show greater appreciation—our children or a house? We have to believe it will be our children.

For more information on gifted children, visit http://www.geniusdenied.com/,http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/, and http://www.iagcgifted.org/.

This originally appeared in Chicago Parent magazine (2005) and later at MOMbo.org.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's the Winner!

Lucky Jean of Working Momma24/7 seems to be winning all sorts of prizes these days. I don't know how she does it and apparently neither does she.


I'm sure one of her boys will look awesome sporting the Lands' End Ergo Jr. pack to school, camp, etc.

Congratulations Jean!

Houston, we have a winner!

Yes, I have a winner for the Lands' End Ergo Jr. backpack, the Spatulatta Cookbook and all of my kids old lead-painted toys. Just kidding on that last one, but really what are parents supposed to do with all those recalled toys? Donate them to a charity thrift shop so impoverished children get them for Christmas? Further toxify our landfills? Seriously, people, where do these gazillions of toys go?

I've contacted the winner; she's both a working mom and a blogger, so you know she's pressed for time. I'm sure I'll hear from her by midnight Friday, but if I don't, I'll pick a new winner on Saturday. Right before the back-to-school party I'm hosting even though my kids don't go back to school until September 10. September 10!

Hang tight, everybody.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

From Backpack Hell to Backpack Heaven; My First Giveaway!

As a blogger I get a lot of attention from PR types who want me to know (and write) about their latest books, products or specials. Much of this mail gets ignored. I have no interest in baby items Hello? Have you read my blog? We don’t do babies here. And we don’t do fashion, though many argue that we Moldofskys need all the fashion help we can get.

But every once in a while something good comes along. Something that fits, at least figuratively- like an offer for a Lands’ End backpack.

Here’s my deal with backpacks. Last year I started my first-grader Pikachu (then know as Splinter) with one of those cheap character packs that he picked out a Target. It broke. The Very. First. Day. Of. School.

Who wants to revisit the hell of back-to-school shopping after school has already started? Not me. But I didn’t want Pikachu to show up toting his papers in a plastic grocery store bag. These bags are bad for the environment, they are suffocation hazards, but perhaps such a display would have made us attractive candidates for huge sums of financial aid at the private school
my boys attend
.

Long story short, I picked up a different, though equally crappy, backpack at Target, which broke after about a week. More trips to Target + misplaced receipts = $40 or so spent on backpacks (plus my time and gas for the car).

Lesson learned: no more cheap backpacks. It’s worth spending money to get a sturdy name-brand pack that will last through the school year and maybe even survive summer camp, too. Hello Lands’ End!

Thanks to Lands’ End, Smartypants (age 9) is headed to school with a stylin’ red Ergo backpack. It's a pack designed to relieve the pain of a heavy homework load in the most literal sense. It’s got specially designed straps as well as back padding that adjusts to minimize back strain- something my 55-pound 4th grader can use when he carries home 12 pounds of books. Heck, I may just borrow it for my trip to the All-Candy Expo next month, during which I will attempt to gather my weight in chocolate and snack food.

The Ergo pack has a built-in pencil case and water bottle holders; I could go on about its features, but Lands’ End provided me with an Ergo Jr. pack to pass along to one lucky reader, like you.

Here’s your chance to check out the sturdy design, reflective safety features and little extras yourself. And you can rest easy because you won’t have to run willy-nilly wasting your time and spending your hard-earned cash on a lousy backpack.

I’ve got a cool, navy, Ergo Jr. pack just like this for one reader who comments below. It's brand-spanking new and just waiting for your 4-7 year old to fill it with delightful drawings, scrawled letter practice sheets and reminders that your day to bring class snacks is…oops, last Tuesday.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment about what you will do while your little one is away at school and include your e-mail or contact info. Please note: I am shipping this myself, so U.S. residents only, please.

The contest runs through August 28, so comment now. Good luck!

8/23 Edited to add:
A great deal gets even better! What good is an empty backpack? I'm going to fill it with a just-released copy of the Spatulatta Cookbook (for kids), a new copy of Take Ten: Meditations for the Hurried Parent, a few sweet creamy caramels from our trip to the chocolate factory and other surprises for you and your little one!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fingerpainting our way to the ER

I've long said that my boys turn even the tamest art project into performance art; tonight was no exception.

DH headed to his guitar class after dinner and by the time the boys and I got organized it was too late to go to the park. I dragged out some large (2 x 3) sheets of glossy paper I found while cleaning the basement and some almost forgotten fingerpaints. We headed outside, enoying the cool evening while painting. It was relaxing and fun.

But when I ran into the house to get some washcloths, it got a little crazy. The boys switched from fingerpainting to foot painting during my brief absence. And then Pikachu (formerly Splinter) took it a bit further, slathering his paper with gooey paint and turning his artwork into a slip and slide.

He slipped and he slid. He had a couple of near misses, but thankfully did not fall. Can you imagine going into the ER and telling them your son fractured his skull while fingerpainting?

Back to School Jitters

Although we've got three full weeks before the start of school (yes, you read that right), the back-to-school jitters have taken over our house. The boys are actually looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to a getting back into a routine (what's that, no school on the 13th, only four days into the year?), but I'm anxious.


I stopped in at Michael's to get the boys their required three, 2 oz. bricks of Sculpey and noticed a pack of Martha Stewart Halloween-themed scrapbook stickers. Poison. Toxic. Beware. OMG, that is so me.


In fact, a nearby mom who is transferring her kids to our school from public school dropped me a note this morning, hoping to connect before school starts. She wants her children to head into the year with new friends, and maybe she wants one, too. I've walked in her shoes, I get it.

But right now I feel like one of what I believe the staff would refer to as a "toxic playground mom." I don't want to be toxic, but I do have some serious concerns about the coming school year. I will do my best to watch my words around the new mom (unless, heaven forbid she's reading my blog).

Maybe I've been talking to too many wizened parent who share my school concerns. I will give new mom a call. I'll bite my tongue and maybe her enthusiasm about our school will rub off on me. There are some wonderfully unique things about it. Plus there's the new building that is sapping everyone's energy, I mean, will be really great.*

Oh, that reminds me, have you seen this article, Failing Our Geniuses in the current issue of Time? I'm working on a big back-to-school with food allergies piece for Scrambled CAKE, but I hope to offer some commentary o the Time piece next month.


*Damn you Blogger, why don't you have a scratch out feature? it's so much wittier.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BlogHer 2007

It's official. There is nothing more to say about BlogHer that hasn't already been said. Except this: for a (mostly) female event there was an astonishing lack of chocolate. However, what they lacked in chocolate, they made up for in free wine.

Blogher was inspiring, empowering and exhausting. I didn't realize how much fun I was having until I called home and talked to my whiny children. DH did a great job with the boys and the house was clean, clean, clean when I got home. Never mind that I sent Pikachu (formerly Splinter) to camp with a matza sandwich on Monday because we had no bread....

You can get multiple perspectives on BlogHer at http://www.chicagomomsblog.com/ and, of course, http://www.blogher.com/.

Drained as I am, I got my act together to send WhyMommy an 8-pound box of swagolicious goodies, which I hope will bring a smile to her face--as well as that of her toddler's. He will love the GIANT pen. Oh crap, I think Pikachu took it and hid it under his bed. And I just realized I left something out, too. Okay, I guess I have to get another package together.

I met so many interesting women; I'll post some linky love later this week. Or next week.

BlogHer07

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm Leaving my Husband and Playing for a New Team

Relax, I'm just leaving him for the weekend. I was late in realizing that I should stay downtown to make the most of my BlogHer experience--especially given that DH had kindly issued me a three-day pass. He's tackling camp carpool and everything else from late Thursday through Sunday so I can mingle with the Internets. Let's say it together: Awwww, what a guy.

But when I finally made the decision to reserve a room, the best ones, i.e. at the hip, hot W hotel, were all booked. I decided I'd missed my chance, but a day or two later, Fate stepped in. The Chicago Moms Bloggers (who are having an awesome giveaway right now) got an email from WhyMommy, who just learned that she was headed for chemo instead of Chicago. In exchange for supportive posts about beating cancer, she pledged to give away her BlogHer pass and room reservation.

Granted, I didn't realize at first that it was merely the reservation, not a free room; still, I posted and she graciously announced her intention to pass it on to me. But some details needed to be worked out. And, uh, clearly she's got more important things on her plate right now than arranging for my escape to a swanky hotel.


With BlogHer less than a week away and no reservation in my name, I reluctantly, but completely, accepted that fact that I'd be commuting to Navy Pier each day. Even if WhyMommy transferred the reservation to me, at this stage of the game I wouldn't have time to find a roommate to help me afford the discount rate of over $200/night.


Then the universe started screwing with me. Yesterday I received e-mails from both WhyMommy and a potential roommate from the Silicon Valley Moms Blog. A few fast e-mails and phone calls later.... I'm staying at the W!!! And, uh, sharing a bed with a woman I've never met because apparently we're in a room with a single king-sized bed.

True, we haven't met, but our group blogs are "sister sites" and my people know her people, so I think we're cool. Plus, I don't need to worry about her coveting my goods because we will have matching swag bags thanks to the CMB and SVMB founders.


I *promise* to share some of my swag with WhyMommy if she tells me where to send it, because I seriously have no idea what her real name is or where she lives. (Yeah, try calling a hotel and convincing them to transfer someone's reservation to you when you only know her as WhyMommy. Trust me, you won't get far... and you will get laughed at.)


I am so touched that with all that's been going on WhyMommy took time to do this. She's found time to crank out quite a few public service announcements, to boot. Read the excerpt below from her blog and you'll see why I'm batting for Team WhyMommy these days.

I'm also launching a Team WhyMommy Share the Swag project. If you're going to BlogHer and care to pass some of the swag and spirit of the event to WhyMommy, seek me out and I'll pass it along. How will you know me when you see me? I'm five feet tall and my clothes will match my blog.

Now, onto WhyMommy:

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.


Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I must stop cutting myself

I know it will take a great deal of discipline to stop, but apparently it's obvious that I'm making a mess of myself, so it's got to end.

As part of my pre-BlogHer primping, I got a haircut- the kind that costs more than $20- at one of those snooty places where all the stylists dress in black and take themselves very seriously. But it was also the kind of place where someone washes your hair and massages your scalp--ah, a bit of heaven-- when I am a billionaire*, I will employ someone for this very purpose.

Anyway, the stylist chided me for the mess I've made of my bangs. I've worn bangs for about, oh, 25 years now. I've been thinking of growing them out for most of 2007. But once they start hanging over my eyes, I go nuts and grab the scissors and chop away. I have to stop this self-destructive behavior. Ugh. If I can just make it through that awkward phase when they are uncomfortably long for bangs, but too short to fit my hairstyle (yes, I said hairstyle; stop laughing at me), I'll be okay.

Oh yes, I also went shopping. Which was frustrating, until I got a shopping prompt**, and then it was a breeze. Can't wait for BlogHer!


* The boys want to buy me a "blog that makes money" for my birthday, so I think I'll be rich soon.
**just click; it's a piece of mine over at the Chicago Moms Blog

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Quote of the Day

Mom, did the women have bras back in ancient Roman times?

Friday, July 13, 2007

If you send a geek to sports camp...

*Sigh*

I sold Smartypants (9) and Splinter (7) (who has now requested "Pikachu" as his nom de blog) on the idea of Sports Camp. But which one? The indoor version or the outdoor one?


The indoor camp had some appeal- no concerns about sunstroke, ozone emergency days and rainstorms. Plus, though Smartypants is pretty good at soccer, he'd rather bury his nose in book (or if allowed, play video games) all day. Not to reinforce stereotypes about geeky kids, but at the private school for gifted kids that my boys attend, the big sport last year was Four-Square. (To be fair, the soccer field was torn up due to construction.) Even so, it's clear that they've got more mathletes than athletes. Which is a long-winded way of saying that perhaps the indoor sports camp would be good for Smartypants because he'd have a chance to be a stand-out athlete, what with all the sickly asthmatic kids who'd likely attend such a camp.


But, ultimately, I couldn't get past the general lameness of indoor sports camp. I signed the boys on for the outdoor version. While the boys are returning to their private school this fall, we're not quite feeling as much love as we once did and want to keep our minds open about returning to public school. (This is fodder for at least a half dozen posts in its own right; we'll save it for another day.) I had this idea that the outdoor camp would be a litmus test of sorts. Smartypants is so much more confident and emotionally balanced now than he was after his miserable first grade year in public school. And he's friendly and nice. If he can make his way at Sports Camp, I thought it would bode well for a return to public school.


Well, it's not boding well for a return to public school. He just finished his first of four weeks, and guess what? He hates it. Hates. It. And he's miserable.

Several of the boys in his group know each other from school or the first session of camp and when it comes to games like football, they pass to their friends. He's keenly aware than when they do pass to him, it's only because the counselor told them to. The camp counselor confirmed this.


The counselor also confirmed the story about the boy Smartypants got out in dodgeball who refused to leave the game and then, before he finally agreed to step out, whipped the ball back at Smartypants' tummy. (They are age-grouped, and at 55 pounds, Smartypants is generally the shortest and lightest among his peers.)

Additionally, the counselor is a green, new one. He told me that though his first session went well, he lacks control over this new group.

Smartypants thought he'd made a friend after the first day of camp, but this little dude turn out to be one of those manipulative jerks who's constantly pulling the old, "if you do X, I'll be your best friend." I'm proud of my son for steering clear of this boy, but that pretty much leaves him back to being the odd boy out.

It just breaks my heart that he's so upset at the end of each day. I'd pull him from this Lord of the Flies camp, but I've got to be at my office at least 2.5 days each week. (Working mom guilt alert!!) Is there anything to do but frame this as a character-building experience and save our money for more years at private school and those costly geek-tech camps? Ugh

Is that me or a body double? The Lands' End swimsuit has arrived!

I'm finally set with my new suit. DH loves the plunging neckline and I'm loving the skirty bottom--no Brazilian for me!

And with the hot weather last week, I even had a chance to give it a test dive. This means that my three favorite bathing suits are all Lands' End. (Most of them are significantly older than my newest model which shows that you get a great product for your money.)

I pretty much memorized the entire catalogue during my bathing suit selection process, so now with each visit to the pool I can't help from making mental notes. Oooh, she's wearing Lands' End, so is she. They definitely have a corner on the Mom Market.

I'm working on a piece on allergy-friendly foods (peanut-free, gluten free, etc.) for Scrambled CAKE. As a result, lots of tasty samples have been coming my way. So now I've got the suit, my new challenge is to makes sure it still fits by the end of the summer!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Who knew? Aprons are totally hot!

Or should I say cool? Isn't that weird that hot and cool both connote hipness? And isn't it fun that I get to dust off my mommy brain and use a word like connote on my blog?

It's true my virtual life is more rewarding than my actual one, and here are three examples of why:

1) I won this fun new apron through the Chicago Mom's Blog, where I'm also posting much of my witty banter these days. Turns out they get a few, okay a few hundred, more visitors per day than I do. The apron comes courtesy of Hatley's, a Canadian company with a fondness for bears. They also sent us a "Blackbeary" t-shirt. So now DH and I can coordinate with Smartypants. His grandma brought him a Hatley shirt from Canada two or three years ago (that it is still around is a testament to the quality of their line). It's "Hairy Potter" shirt featuring a bear planting. He'll be a stand-out at the HP party on the 20th.

2) BlogHer contributing food editor, Kalyn Denny, recently recently linked to me in an apron round-up. It's like I'm almost famous. Apparently aprons really are hip these days. I recently bought a retro apron at a resale shop--because it matched my blog- for only $2. I just saw retro-style aprons on sale at a website for close to $40.

3) Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn decided to start dishing out interesting links again and my blog, Scrambled CAKE, was among the first he provided!

So the Internets give me a taste of fame (albeit a crumb-sized one), positive feedback, gifts, and swag. Real life brings ants in my kitchen and a wet bathing suit that sat in my son's backpack for 5 days. Can you blame me?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kicking Cancer's Butt

WhyMommy, the wit and wisdom behind Toddler Planet, recently learned she has breast cancer. Now she's headed to chemo instead of BlogHer. She asked readers to post stories about cancer survivors or other people they admire and is going to be giving one lucky poster a BlogHer pass and her reservation at the W in exchange. I already got my pass (a link from Tribune columnist Eric Zorn and $200 will get your one of those) , but a night or two at the W might be nice.

Here's a note about a woman I admire:

One of my karate instructors was (past tense only because I no longer train karate) a 50 year-old mother of three who beat breast cancer twice. When I took her karate classes I was always in awe of her strength and endurance. Her classes were so physically demanding, and yet, she did every move, every push-up (esp. the push-ups!) alongside the students.

During her cancer treatments, she had quite a bit of of muscle pain and problems after her surgeries and couldn't get the kind of massages she that thought would relieve her pain,. Once she healed up, she enrolled in massage therapy school. She's now the dojo manager, busy mom and runs a massage therapy practice in addition to volunteering her services at a local Cancer Wellness Center.

She kicked cancer's butt and so can you!