Thursday, December 25, 2008

Naked for Chanukah

Not our bodies, our gifts. We're going as green and eco (as in economically friendly) as we can with our gift wrap this year. My friends MJ and Jen at Chicagonista put together a fabulous and inspiring video on green holiday ideas.

They took our boring idea of using newsprint as wrapping paper and took it up a notch by stamping designs on the paper or finding fun holiday-themed graphics in the newspaper.

For years, we've been placing the boys' unwrapped presents in customized, fun reusable, dreidel-shaped felt bags. This year, I bought pillowcases at Marshall's and found a laundry bag at a local charity resale shop and had the boys decorate them for DH, my parents and me. From now on, our gifts will go in these bags, rather than get wrapped.

My boys used Crayola fabric crayons, Tulip fabric spray, DecoFabric pens and fabric Blow-paints (which, sadly, I think are no longer sold), all of which I had on hand.

It's a gift that will benefit mother and Mother Earth for years to come!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Fun: Have a very Blago Christmas

Some carols for you here. H/T to Anna for the link.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging: I'm in it!

This book features loads of blogging advice from Nora Ephron, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Lee Curtis and (squee!) ME! Well, I'm not exactly giving advice, but I'm quoted in a call-out box that is all my own.
I'd tell you what I said, but then you might not buy the book! Hint: it's about being a (ahem) mommyblogger. See p. 159 when you're browsing in the book store.
Once I get over rereading my own little section, I'll look at the rest of it and review the book at Hormone-colored Reviews.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Marketing to Mommybloggers: Why hire a marketing technopologist when you can hire a social media mom?

One of today's most popular Wall Street Journal articles, The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World, contains a lot of useful information, but few secrets. At least it didn't seem to me like many secrets were revealed because I follow several social media thought leaders on Twitter. I learn a lot from their posts and banter.

I'm going to let you in on my secret for successful Web 2.0 Marketing: Hire a Social Media Mom.

I'm a Social Media Mom. I blog at several sites, I have a top-rank and large network on Twitter. I've been to BlogHer (twice) and attended Johnson and Johnson's Camp Baby. I know the momspace.

And I consult on social media efforts. Specifically, I work with companies who want to reach out to mombloggers in an effective manner.

As a social media mom, I help companies identify bloggers and refine blogger outreach programs while keeping my clients informed about trends and conversations in the momosphere in a way that diagnostic software and algorithms cannot.

I've said before that having a mom's eye view will help a company's social media efforts stay better informed and avoid roadblocks and ruffled feathers (Google "Camp Baby Blogstorm" to see what I mean.).

A social media mom helps a client reach out to just the right bloggers in just the right way because she's smart and well-connected, even if she does have a bad case of blogger's butt.

But the WSJ article's authors coined the clunkier, gender-neutral term Marketing Technopologist (MT). According to the article, the MT is the person who should lead Web 2.0 marketing efforts. They define it as "a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction."

Put another way, a manager quoted in the article says, "I'd want to see someone with the usual MBA consultant's background, strong interest in psychology and sociology and good social networking skills throughout the organization."

Sounds like a social media mom to me. Off the top of my head, I could name a dozen sharp mombloggers who fit this description. They may not hold MBAs, but some do. (I have an MS in nonprofit management, FWIW.)

When executive types think "mommyblogger," if indeed they ever do, I doubt that they are aware of the knowledge, talent and enthusiasm that's out there blogging from basements, kitchens and local coffee shops.

If you're not abreast the latest web 2.0 marketing trends, by all means read the article. And if you want to hear more about how a mom can help your social media efforts, drop me a note and we can schedule a time to talk.

Do homemade teacher gifts make the grade?

Apparently they do not not, despite my best efforts. Join the conversation on my MOMformation post, C+ gifts for teachers. You can also click to glimpse of two of my chidren's creations that are sure to get mocked in the teacher's lounge. *sigh*

Monday, December 15, 2008

WTF Walmart?!?

My readers know I'm just not that into Walmart, but after several work-related conversations about the 11Moms campaign, I felt a professional obligation to dig deeper. Please note that I like and admire several of the 11Moms. The moms I know personally and from online are smart and talented.



In the process of reviewing the site, I noticed they still had their Black Friday shopping tips* up. Ugh. You may recall that a 270-pound man was trampled to death by a zealous crowd at Long Island, NY Walmart...and that the store where he died re-opened just a few hours after his death.

I read the Black Friday tips and was appalled and sickened to find this quote from one of the moms: Bring a buddy!!! If you guys think you can do this alone, think again people! These shoppers are die hard and they'll run you over like there's no tomorrow! The more you have, the better!


Sure it was cheeky and certainly written before the death of Jdimytai Damour. It might have been cute in mid-November, but this should have been removed on November 28.


Walmart, you may have social media types buzzing about your campaign, but you've disgusted me once again. And as for the mom who wrote that, I wonder if she asked to have that paragraph removed. Did it slip her mind? I don't know. I'm not seeking to accuse, I'm seeking to understand.

In an odd coincidence, an hour or so before hitting the Walmart site, I posted at Momformation about sources for fair trade gifts and "gifts with a conscience" and I'm giving away a six-pack of Divine fair trade chocolate. (Fair trade chocolate, what are you waiting for?)


Oh, and sorry about the lame image, I'm not great with screen shots and used my camera. I figure the changes will be made soon to the Walmart site and didn't want people to think I'm one of those crazy Internet mommies. Yeah, I know, it's too late for that.

Edited to add: Wow, a Tweep just sent me this snazzy screen shot. Girl's got skillz. She felt sorry for me. And is not a Walmart fan.


* Edited to add site link 12/16/08.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nine-year-olds taking the SAT?

Head over to Momformation for my thoughts on gifted children and above-level testing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pat the Husband giveaway

I reviewed this hilarious take on Pat the Bunny a while back. And now I'm giving away my gently-used copy because my bookshelves are overflowing and this book is too good not to share.

Check it out over at Hormone-colored Reviews.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happily ever after

"Happily ever after" is a bit ambitious, but I'm happy to report after the recent ups and downs at school Smartypants came home Friday with a smile on his face. Excited! And we'd gotten a nice email from one of his teachers noting that she'd seen positive changes in his behavior.

Considering I was woozy from my morning back surgery, this was especially welcome news.

I'm sure we still have some challenges ahead of us, but the school has been pretty responsive. I still need to remind myself that I'm not dealing with our former public school. That was such a mess. Such an unhappy time for all of us.

Anyway, new school system, new cast of characters, new opportunities. (Repeat as necessary.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Fun: Your drug of choice?

This is set to post about the time I'm going in for my diskectomy. My day is going to be spent in a drug-induced haze. Did I say day? I meant weekend.

On the right you will find a photo of the drugs I received after the diskectomy I had in August. I'm not much of a druggie, so I still have a lot left over.
I am, however, a bloggy geek, so I took pictures of the pretty pills that matched my blog.
Vicodin?
Percodin?
Who remembers?
Who even cares? They are the cutest pills ever and they make me swoon as soon as I look at them.
Plus drugs that match my blog just scream good karma to me.

While I'm passing in and out of consciousness take a moment from your busy day and tell me about your favorite painkilling drugs or techniques.

Late-breaking news. A Friday Funny sent to my inbox on Thursday. Best Prop 8 video ever! It features musci, comedy, Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris and other big names. Check it out. HT to Nicole for the clip.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All twisted up over this

Well, yes, I'm all twisted up about the man who was trampled to death at Walmart, for one thing. Read more, including my personal confession, at Chicago Moms Blog.

I am crooked, if not twisted, because of a herniated disc. Another one. It started 18 months ago with the on my right side, went away after a few cortisone shots. Reappeared as a problem on the left side. Had surgery. All fixed on the left. Now the right is acting up again. Had an MRI. Spine doctor saw the results-a herniation so large he was amazed I was walking around at all.

That paragraph is like looking into crystal ball. That is what my blog will look like when I am 80. This pain. That pain. No one will read it, but at least I will get to vent. Then I will call my grandchildren, to whom blogging will seem hopelessly old-fashioned because they will just exchange thoughts via microchips implanted in their scalps, and cry, "Why don't you click? Just click on my url some time. Would it hurt you to leave a comment for grandma?"

Anyhoo, our insurance deductible is met, our max out-of-pocket medical expenses for the year is so close I can almost feel it, and let's not forget I am in pain when I sleep, sneeze (weird, I know. I sneeze and feel a pain in my right buttock.) or try to stand upright. That's a lot of the time people! The surgery takes place Friday morning, and the insurance company is practically paying me to have the procedure.

I should not joke about such matters, really. The nurse told me my procedure was pre-approved, but pre-approval doesn't guarantee payment.

WTF?

It's the Jan Brady attitude. It's an insurer's prerogative to change their mind.

Again, WTF?

It turns out we received a $14,564 dollar bill for Pikachu's summer surgery. And that's only for radiology, not his hospital services.

Sing it to me, people: WTF?

Seriously, though, think nice thoughts for me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When your gifted kid gets a detention

Smartypants came home from school and called me into his room. He pulled his math test from his bag and showed it to me sheepishly.

Only it was no math test. It was a note he'd written on a form explaining what he had done that got him in trouble at school today and apologizing for it. Something to do with throwing snowballs ("a yard or so away from X"), which is against school rules.

I'm not clear why he's the only one who got in trouble if, as he says, he was not the only one throwing them. Was he the only student throwing snow on this second or third day where there was enough ground cover to do so? I doubt it. But he still has to stay inside the next two recesses. I'm cool with that. He did the crime. He'll do the time.

I'm sure the vice-principal will scare him straight.

As for DH and I, well, we were all but high-fiving our kid. "A recess detention? For throwing snowballs? Awesome! That's so normal." Seriously, we were delighted to hear he was playing with other students at recess and not just wandering the playground by himself.

Follow-up to teacher conferences

Remember my fabulous advice about staying calm when advocating for your child?
I ignored it.
I didn't turn the conference into a monologue, but I was not as cool as I should have been. I was baited and I went after the bait. The conversation was not what it should have been and in a sign of totally maturity I admit it was not all my fault.
I've written about five conference follow-up notes, all in my mind. I ran the letter I intended to send by DH first and he told me it was too long.
Oh, but I have so much to say!
His point is well-taken, though.

What I want to say:

Giftedness exists on a continuum like, say, autism. You've got gifted (top 3%), highly gifted (HG)(top 1%) and profoundly gifted (PG) (top 0.1%).

A PG child
is as different from a gifted child as a gifted child is from the general population.

PG kids
tend to be a bit quirky compared to their age-grade peers.

A gifted
student is not the same thing as a bright student.

When I tell you my kid is gifted, I'm not saying that to stress that he's freakin' brilliant (even if he is, though he does not bother to do more than the minimum in your class because he is bored--ah, the b-word, cannot use the b-word when talking to teachers/school administrators) I'm telling you my kid is gifted because he has a unique set of social and emotional, as well as academic needs that differ from most of his age-grade peers. He needs your understanding and attention.

And on that note, would it be too much to ask for you to learn my kid's name? It's December, already!

DH is right. There's too much even for one blog post. To be continued....

On a more cheerful note, stop by my new review blog to win a super-cool rocket pass football.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My new review blog and a giveaway

Starting here, starting now, I've got a new product review blog. Each week I get an increasing number of offers to try this or that item, service or website.
Some of exciting new products fit well into the narrative of my blog, others don't. So I'm setting up a space just for those items.
I'll be reviewing boy stuff, tween stuff, geek stuff, mom stuff and books*. Oh, how we love books!
If a product fits, I may weave it into the narrative here or over at Momformation, but chances are future reviews will be placed at HCD Reviews.
This new move allows me to refocus on my passions- gifted children, marketing to mommybloggers as well as hormonal rants and Friday Fun, which I'm missing out on this week.
Blah, blah, blog. My point is, HCD Reviews is hosting a giveaway! I'm giving away a Nerf Rocket Pass Football. This light-up football was the hit of last night's Thanksgiving gathering. Our gaggle of boys lurved it and I hope you will, too.

*Food stuff, kitchen stuff, cookbooks and aprons, should anyone offer them to me, will get reviewed on Scrambled CAKE, my food blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A tampfabulous holiday craft

Whoa, for a while there I lost touch with my roots. Michelle Lamar, AKA White Trash Mom, shocked me out of my hormone-colored daze, with her post about a turkey centerpiece made out of...well, you've got to see it to believe it.

And since I'm getting all girly on you, go read Marketing Mommy's post on her vajayjay at Chicago Moms Blog. Navel gazing is clearly passe.

Enjoy your day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving project shows appreciation for family, but disses feminism

The leafy craft project I promised my seven-year old niece did not work out as planned and she came up with a great Plan B: dedicate a leaf to each member of our family and write good things about that person on the front and bad things about that person on the back of the leaf.


Did I say it was a great plan? I meant it had potential. Fortunately, it didn't take much to convince her to stick with the positive aspects.

Here she is working on her leaf as I'm suggesting her fabulous traits. Our conversation took an odd turn. Listen in. And take peek at our fabulous finished product!







The Sharpie marker plug in the video was unintentional. But I do love Sharpies and am geeked out over their new blog. Check out Jen at Mama Sings the Blues for another intriguing Sharpie/leaf/Thanksgiving project idea.

This is me, "funtastic Aunt Kim," wishing you a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The daring mom on the flying trapeze

When I was offered the chance to try the flying trapeze at Club Med Punta Cana, I couldn't say no.

Back pain be damned! It's the first opportunity I've had to try this in my 40 years, if the next chance doesn't come until I'm 80, it will surely be too late.

As I climbed up halfway up the narrow wobbly metal ladder, I realized I'm maybe a wee bit scared of heights.

My heart was pounding by the time I made it up about 30 (50?) feet to the platform. I took a moment to assess the situation. It was like being nine months pregnant and facing the reality that there's just no painless way for the baby to come out.

Climbing back down the ladder was not an option.

And yet.

Looking down from the launch platform and reaching out to grab the trapeze bar (while a hunky assistant held my safety belt from behind and an athletic young woman on the ground held ropes that would keep me from falling) swinging my way down didn't seem like an option either.

My heart pounded faster. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. I reminded myself.

I took in a gulp of air and listened for my hunky helper to call out the commands.

"1..2..3..Hep!"

That was my cue to jump.

Only my feet were stuck to the board.

Deep breath. Eyes focus. Courage in its sticking place.

I jumped and start swinging through the air. Very fast. And very high up.

Holy sh*t!

I completed my arc and then started swinging back to the platform, which was even more terrifying.

I held onto the bar for dear life. My choices at that moment were limited.

Before climbing, I notified the support staff of my back problems and told them I wouldn't be attempting any fancy knee hangs and things. So there was nothing for me to do but grasp that bar with white knuckles and swing back and forth, back and forth.

"How you doing Kim? Are you ready to come down?" The ground crew asked.

"Uh-huh," I whimpered.

I'd seen how gently the ground crew lowered the other swingers. I knew beyond a doubt that they would control my landing. I knew I had nothing to fear but fear itself.

"Okay," the crew called. "I'll count to three and then you let go."

"1..2..3.."

Nothing. My hands were superglued to the trapeze bar. I could not release my grip. As much as I wanted to get off, as much as I knew how safe the dismount was, I was stuck.

But only for another swing or two.

I eventually released my hands and landed gently on the safety net.



I did it!

Only, I did it with such fear that I wanted to go again. I didn't want to end the experience on such a wimpy note, so after settling my nerves, I climbed up the wobbly ladder once again.

And you know what? That second time was just as scary as the first, only I jumped off the platform without hesitation and had an easier time letting go of the bar for my final descent.

This flying trapeze thing? It's not for me.

But this mama did it. Twice. Chalk this up to a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fun: Ninja Baby

My boys were cracking up over this. I hope you like it, too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Divine Chocolate giveaway

This is a prescheduled post. Right now in IRL I'm in either living la vida loca down in the Dominican Republic or recovering from a plane crash* or terrible sunburn.

But my readers are always in my heart. I'm running a giveaway over at Scrambled CAKE, the food blog I've ignored for much of the year. The CAKE is back, baby, and I'm celebrating with a Fair Trade Chocolate giveaway.

Stop by, tell your friends. Tweet it up in my absence.

*God forbid. I'm admittedly nervous about flying in a smallish plane over the ocean!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going topless at Club Med

I had been warned that there might be "European style" beaches at Punta Cana. But you know what? I'm keeping my girls under cover no matter what.
However, I am going laptopless. DH convinced me to leave the computer behind and I think it was a good call.
A tropical island trip with my best friend. No kids or emails to distract. Ah, heaven!
There's a cybercafe where I can check in on my blogs and, more importantly, my email. It's not that I expect any important news or urgent request. I simply don't want to return from vacation to a crush of 500 emails demanding my attention.
Remember when email was fun? How do you manage yours? I'm always looking for tips, feeling like I *must* be doing something wrong to let email become such a burden.
Note: this was a prescheduled post.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Agenda for the week of November 16

Sunday: Pack for trip to Club Med Punta Cana



Monday: Wake up at the crack of ass and head to the airport (DH was invited along, too!) 5:00 PM Tour the Punta Cana property
8:30 PM Dinner with the other press tour participants, assuming I'm still awake


Tuesday: Half day excursion out in the ocean, snorkeling, fresh grilled lobster lunch on boat
7:30 PM coctails followed by dinner and a show, assuming I'm still awake


Wednesday: Sailing or salsa dance lesson or a fitness class followed by spa treatment
4:00 PM Optional flying trapeze lesson
8:00 PM Dinner and another show


Thursday: Return to Chicago
8:00 PM Home: hug and kiss kids!
8:15 PM Start bedtime routine and all related misery.

Friday: Turn on computer and read this post to remind myself I was on a fabulous vacation. The feeling fades so quickly.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fair trade for the holidays

We attended an inspiring holiday boutique last week. Instead of the typical assortment of Christmas (or in this case, Chanuka) themed tchockes, this was a Fair Trade Bazaar. Over a dozen vendors offered up good gifts that do well for others.

Divine Chocolates had samples and sales of their yummy treats. Click over to Scrambled CAKE, my food blog, to read more about this fair trade chocolate company. I'm hosting a chocolate giveaway as well.

Our Fair Earth provided fair trade jewelry and accessories from East Africa.

A Chicago favorite, The Enterprising Kitchen, helps women achieve self-sufficiency and produces fragrant soaps and lotions. I've bought their products in the past for hostess and teacher gifts.

Hope for Nepal had beautiful purses and wallets made from old wedding saris. I liked a few of them and asked DH to pick one for me as a Chanuka present.

Mata Traders was selling fair trade clothing, accessories and home decor.

The Central Asian Institute was represented in what I term black market philanthropy. That is, someone was selling scarves their friend bought on the cheap in Central Asia with the stated intention of funneling the money back to CAI. CAI builds schools or children in remote and underserved regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm reading about the early days of this organization in Greg Mortenson's book, Three Cups of Tea.

World Shoppe was there with some of their handmade and fair trade gifts, accessories and jewelry.

Woman Craft sold handmade paper, memory books, picture frames and more produced by women in transitional jobs programs and artisans.

Thanksgiving Coffee Company sol their various blends. Not only is their coffee fair trade, but it's certified organic, Kosher and Halal. The Peace Kawomera Cooperative was formed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim farmers in Uganda. (Yes, Jews in Uganda.)

Green Heart Shop showed some of their wares. They claim to offer Chicago's best selection of eco and fair trade products from around the world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Fun: Wordle

Just because you're working for The Man, doesn't mean you have to give him your all, does it?

So while your boss is out of eyesight click away to some of this fabulous time-sink, Wordle custom word art courtesy of Life just keep getting weirder.
images via wordle.net

Got a fun way to waste time on the Web? Leave me a note along with the url in the comments. If I like it, I'll list it and pimp your blog in a future edition of Friday Fun.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More great news: Family Farmed media meet-up

Later today I'm taking part in an exciting private media event for the farmers and producers who will be exhibiting their goods at the upcoming Family Farmed Expo.

The Family Farmed folks have assembled an impressive panel of traditional media folks to share advice on how to these producers can effectively connect with media and share their stories. And I'm going to be part of the panel as well! I'll be offering tips on connecting with new media types and using social media.

As you read the list of panel members below, you'll quickly see why I am proud to be a part of this event:
Monica Eng, reporter at Chicago Tribune
Ann Flood, editor-in-chief of Edible Chicago
David Hammond, founder of LTHForum.com, contributor to TheLocalBeet, WBEZ radio, Time Out! Chicago and Chicago Reader, among others
Kim Moldofsky, blogger and social media consultant
Cassie Walker, senior editor of Chicago magazine


I sent out a quick tweet asking for ideas about how farmers can use social media and got back several interesting ideas. I'll be back with the tweets and more details after the event.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Great news

Guess where I'll be a week from now?
Hint: it involves warm sunny beaches, an all inclusive report and a savvy PR pro who contacted me after I wrote my Club Med, as in Medicine post last summer. We leave in a week!



Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Fun: Spinning lady messes with your mind

Switched on Mom, who typically writes about gifted issues over at The More Child, served up this trippy little optical illusion, which I cannot figure out how to reproduce here. So go spend a few minutes with her for your Friday Fun. Come back and let me know how it went for you.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Volunteer like a pro this school year

After an uninspiring morning helping assemble the school newsletter, I was inspired to repost this item from the back-to-work blog I once wrote over at AustinMama.com. So, I guess the morning was inspiring, after all.

Volunteer like a pro.
"Volunteer like a man." That's what Going Back to Work author Mary Quigley said in an interview on CNN's In The Money back in 2004. Offering advice to on-ramp moms she continued, "A man doesn't run a cookie sale. He runs the fund-raising drive to raise $10,000 for a new playground."

Volunteer like a man. Career columnists, job coaches and other back-to-work advisers have since echoed her words.

Ugh.

Do they also suggest doing manly things like stopping to scratch your crotch as you unload heavy boxes of frozen Market Day foods? Or leaving a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the PTA office?No, what Quigley meant and later said was, "Volunteer in areas where there are measurable results."

So let's change that to Volunteer Like A Professional.

For example, if you're a writer, or an aspiring writer, volunteer to craft press releases, write grants or help with the school paper. Take on meaty tasks that build up, and on, your professional experiences. Use your volunteer time to make contacts, develop skills, and work on projects that make an impact.

Good enough advice, but let's get real. Does heading up a $10,000 volunteer fundraising effort stand out on a resume? And if it does get noticed, will it lead an on-ramp mom to a job offer or even an interview given the bias against hiring moms?

The fact is that schools need volunteers for the "gruntwork." Usually there is much more work to do than there are volunteers to do it. Sometimes the work can be done from home, some can be done at night or on weekends, so it may be working-parent friendly, but it's not all high-profile, fun, growth-oriented, or interesting.

In fact, most of it isn't.

Professional backgrounds or aspirations shouldn't serve as an excuse to avoid lunchroom duty or cleaning up after Bingo Night.

Despite Quigley's take on this type of "women's work," I've expanded my network by rubbing elbows with other moms and dads doing these things. But instead of counting them among my "contacts," I tend to call them friends. You can really get to know a person in the time it takes to mix up 60 gallons of lemonade.

Lest I sound too self-righteous, though, I must admit that for me, the volunteer line is drawn at counting up the Campbell's Soup labels. Even contemplating serving as the label program coordinator makes me anxious and depressed. Damn it, Campbell's, I will not be your whore!

I started thinking about the concept of volunteering like a pro because I'm currently helping with our school's largest fundraiser- a silent auction. When the chairperson told me that I was an account manager for a select group of prospects, I suddenly felt so important. I no longer saw myself as an underachieving mom begging for donations. Now, I'm a hotshot account manager, cultivating relationships with qualified donors in order to increase revenues by 50%. How great will that look on my resume?

I don't care if you volunteer like a man, a 50s housewife or a chimpanzee. But please, please get involved in your child's school even if it doesn't add oomph to your resume.

Do you have a "volunteer philosophy?" Have you ever school-volunteered your way into a job?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our Happy Dance

We're breathing a big sigh of relief here at Chez Moldofsky. I told DH last night that I feel like the clouds have finally parted. Fittingly, we woke up to a sunny day.

I am predicting a drop in the sale of antidepressants. I joked about this on Twitter and @sairy suggested perhaps I'd been touched by Republican Elective Disorder. Whatever the diagnosis, I know many people who feel they've been in a funk since the 2000 election.

It's the dawn of a new day.

There is a tough road ahead, but I'm feeling hopeful.

We're doing the Happy Dance today!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And the winner is...

We have many hours before our new president is named (hopefully he'll be named--I'm having flashbacks to 2000), but I have a winner in my Lands' End Fleece giveaway.

Congratulations to Naomi of SuperdumbSupervillian!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Camp Baby Roundup

I guess I should rename this the week's hottest links or something more exciting. I'll work on that.


In the meantime, check out these links from my Camp Baby friends:

Go Green, Go Frugal with The Mindful Moms

Jane from Mom Generations talks about the power and value of Twitter (See? I'm not the only one talking about it!)

Product Review & Giveaway: Bella Sara and Baby Bella A trading card games for girls!

Six Days Leeanthro describes her feelings after watching Obama's TV spot.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Food Review at Scrambled CAKE: Hana Asian Bistro

DH is the guest poster and guess what? We may have found out new go-to place for Chinese food. Hana may fill a void in our lives as well as the dark, empty place in our tummies.

Check it out.

Friday Fun: Don't let this happen to you

This is so great, I couldn't wait until Friday to post it. After viewing, you can customize it and forward to your friends. What better way to give them a Halloween fright and remind them to vote on Tuesday, November 4.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner: I can't stop cleaning!

I've got a bit of the devil in me. The Dirt Devil, that is!

After months of dealing with a vacuum cleaner that sucked because it did not, something snapped (in the vacuum, not me) and I needed to repair it or replace it.

Replace.

Why the rush? Because a cleaning woman was scheduled to show up on my doorstep in about 10 hours and I didn't have a functioning vacuum.

As Pikachu and I surveyed the dizzying array of models and options, I realized I didn't see the Eureka Boss, a model suggested by CR. I ultimately decided to buy on price. If I picked an inexpensive model and figuring if it didn't work out I'd be only be out about $70. If I picked a high-end Dyson model and we weren't happy with it, I'd be screwed.

I ended up with a Dirt Devil Featherweight*, knowing that one of the limiting factors in how often I vacuum is how easy it is to lug the vacuum from one level of the house to another. It weighs less than 14 pounds, but has all the power of a larger vacuum, or so the box promised.

It's a bagless model with a large, clear, easy-to-empty dirt cup. And when I saw how full that cup was after the cleaning lady used it (and after months of subpar vacuum performance), my jaw dropped. Ewww. Our floors are mostly hard surfaces, but our small carpeted areas were clearly holding a lot of dirt.

I was so captivated (read: mortified) by the gunk in the dirt cup, that I figured a second pass-over the carpets was in order. And when I saw how much I sucked up on that pass, I figured I might as well try a third time.

OMG, people. My carpets were filthy! (Though, to my defense, we steam cleaned them in the spring--or was it spring 07...?)

I cannot stop vacuuming. I love this thing!

And a few weeks earlier, I received some Method samples. I love the light, nontoxic scent of this all-purpose spray. I started using it in the kitchen and worked my way out to the garage and even cleaned my car with it, which is not recommended; I just couldn't stop cleaning.

Is this a new me? Is all this cleaning giving me a purpose and sense of sanity, or am I getting closer to Losing It?

Check out must-see cleaning clip posted by Marketing Mommy.

* Naomi at SuperdumbSupervillain had actually passed along the name of a Dirt Devil PR rep, but, yeah, I went ahead and bought one my own. It's not like my husband is out of a job or anything. Oh, wait. He is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Giveaways galore!

I just posted a round-up at Momformation featuring my BBF's BBGs*. Check it out. And good luck, except in Full Mommy's Flip Video Camera giveaway, because I want to win that one!

* Best Bloggy Friend's Best Bloggy Giveaways

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lands' End Fleece giveaway!

It's time for another Lands' End giveaway!

What was in for me: Lands' End sent me Women's Weatherly Jacket. It's perfect for crisp fall days. Its PolarThin™ insulation offers warmth without bulk and supersoft fleece-lined patch outer pockets feel supergood. It has secret inside pockets to hold my MP3 player (if I hadn't left it in our hotel in Washington, D.C. on our summer vacation) and other secret stuff like the phone numbers of my lovers (kidding!). I think the style of the jacket favors a trimmer figure than mine, but thankfully, I'm more of a "function over form" kinda gal, and this jacket really functions well in fall weather.

What's in it for you: You can choose either of these cozy Lands' End Women's Fleeces for you or a loved one. If you're like me, your hoping to get all your holiday presents from online giveaways, right? Women's Half-Zip Pullover or the Women's Sherpa Fleece.

Half-Zip Fleece pullover + static = hair nightmares? Not with Lands' End antistatic treatment! This cozy fleece will be a hit without whoever wears it. It comes in a variety of colors as well as regular, petite and plus sizes.

The Women's Sherpa Fleece is also a half-zip, but with a thicker fleece and a cotton lining. Lands' End calls it snuggly and warm and is in fact rated to keep you that way in colder temps.

So U.S. residents, take your pick! Entry details below. First, I have one more Lands' End deal that will make you the darling of your family:

Lands’ End would like to make planning family holiday reunion a whole lot easier this year. They are offering a chance to win a great family get together for 7 nights for up to 12 people at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana! Enter here through noon October 30, 2008. Prizes include:

Grand Prize: A get together for 7 nights for up to 12 people at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, which includes round-trip airfare, meals and four half-day wilderness adventures per person and also includes a new waterproof Windfall outerwear package. Click over to see the other great prizes. Just fill out the online entry form and submit an up-to-300-word essay and photo.

Back to my giveaway:
This contest runs through Tuesday, October 29 at midnight CST. It's open to US residents only.
EDITED TO ADD: Tweet this contest, link to it on your blog, subscribe or show me some Technorati love for extra entries (one per activity).
The sponsor will send out the product. Winner's name will be picked out of a hat or some other old-fashioned and possibly half-assed manner. I do not I have a vested interest in who wins. For example, if you support Barack Obama for president, that's awesome. But if a fan of that other one wins, so be it.

Marketing to mommybloggers: Two great parties in one week.

I attended two fabulous bloggy events this week: the LeapFrog party and the Epson/Sparkplugging party. What made them so fabulous?

The hosts, the guests, and the swag. It's no coincidence that both events were crafted with the input of actual mom bloggers.

I've been working with LeapFrog throughout their blog outreach campaign and I matched them up with the women behind Silicon Valley Moms Blog Group to host regional parties. One2One Network, the group behind the Epson event, is getting advice from their new employee and my blog sistah Arianne.

It pays to pay a momblogger to aide you in your outreach efforts. We know the space, we know the trends and hot-button issues. We know the moms. Sure, nobody knows them all--who could? the momosphere is huge and growing daily--but we know how to find target your audience and reach out to them.

Hosts: At both recent parties, the hosts placed a priority on the guests, not the products. LeapFrog brought members of their educational advisory board to speak with parents, but rather than provide an informercial on the wonders of LeapFrog educational toys, the experts engaged moms in a conversation about the role of technology in the lives of our children. Parents made suggestions (eco-friendly packaging, electronic games with built-in timers that shut them down after the prescribed amount of playing time) that the PR rep promised to bring back to the Pond (LeapFrog HQ). LeapFrog also provided entertainment (even non-electronic entertainment, I should add) for the kiddos.

I expected to see half a dozen printers at the Epson event, but there was only one and they kept it busy all night printing out photos of the guests, thanks to Beth. When asked, the One2One staff was happy to expound on the printer's marvelous features, but, frankly, the pictures spoke the proverbial 1,000 words about it. They are sharp and bold. They look like they came from a developer, rather than a home-office printer.

Guests: What's not to love about a chance to meet and hang out with my friends from Chicago Moms Blog and other local social media moms, especially when a sponsor is picking up the tab?

Swag: Bloggers love swag. A beach ball with the company logo might cut it at your industry trade show, but not for your typical mom blogger. LeapFrog was not only quite generous with the amount of product they gave out at the party, (check out the photo at the bottom of this post), but they also offered to sponsor bloggy giveaways for the guests. In addition, they also provided a flash drive filled with product info, and a coupon code for guests and their blog readers.

The Epson swag bag was a bit more random. Each guest received a stylish Envirosax (love 'em!), filled with product. Though the assortment was a bit odd, for example, the Downy Detergent seemed a bit out of place, it had some interesting items including a Ecousable stainless steel reusable bottle (it's beautiful, but made in China and I'm leery of lead regardless of the product label). Each guest also received a sample pack of Epson papers. I would have welcomed a flash drive or brochure on the Epson line. And some high-quality chocolate. But it was a fun bag, nonetheless. Oh, and I forgot to mention they raffled off two printers during the party!

If your company is planning a party for bloggers take note. Use a blogger to reach out to bloggers, stick to a soft sell and focus on your guests, provide an exciting swag bag, and don't forget the chocolate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nokia E71 giveaway and a par-tay

Nokia is having a party and you're invited. Yes, even you nonbloggy, unTwittered types. Because technology is a part of everyone's life and we're all striving to balance our cool new communication capabilities, or virtual lives, with, well, our real lives.

Nokia is hosting Julie Morgenstern, New York Times bestselling author, time management and organization expert for a special event including drinks, hors d'oeuvres, conversation and demonstrations to learn how technology and other tools can help you balance your work and play activities so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Attendees will have the chance to win a Nokia E71 smartphone! (est. value $489.00)

Nokia Flagship Store
543 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Thursday, October 23, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

RSVP: Nancy.Martira@ketchum.com



If you're a suburbanite like me wondering about parking and related expenses, they are working on it. And if you're busy, don't have a sitter or just too darn lazy to leave the comfort of your home, no worries.



I'm giving away a Nokia E71 right here!

Nokai says: Nokia E71 is an amazing experience for those who want constant access to their email but still have that work-life balance. A ‘Dual Mode’ button allows for the device to have two home screens – one for work and one for play. Customize each with separate email accounts, calendars, active standby applications and more. With a QWERTY keyboard, WLAN accessibility, GPS, a 3.2MP camera and productivity applications such as Microsoft QuickOffice and Adobe Acrobat Reader, this device is perfect for both work and play!

I say:
This is my cell phone on the left. Yeah, the dumbphone held together with duct tape.


THAT ONE, on the right, the sleek, snazzy, smartphone could be yours. And all for a comment.

Enter to win now through Wednesday, midnight CST!

To enter, leave a comment below with your favorite work-life balance tip.
You can boost your chances of winning by gaining extra entries for subscribing to this blog's feed, favoriting it on Technorati (am I a whore?), or by writing and linking to this contest on your own blog (one extra entry per activity).

The fine print: this contest runs through Wednesday, October 23 at midnight CST. It's open to US residents only. The sponsor will send out the product and is not responsible for knowing whether this phone is compatible with your current plan, cell phone service provider or related contracts. Winner's name will be picked out of a hat or some other old-fashioned and possibly half-assed manner. I am not being paid or otherwise compensated for running this contest nor do I have a vested interest in who wins. For example, if you support Barack Obama for president, that's awesome. But if a fan of the other guy wins the phone, so be it.

Look for my Lands' End fleece giveaway later this week!

Monday, October 20, 2008

LeapFrog party with Chicago Moms Blog

Yesterday was a culmination of sorts of my work with LeapFrog. They held a fabulous party for the Chicago Moms Bloggers and their families at the South Loop KinderCare.

Ten-year-old Smartypants begged out when he saw on the evite list that most of the partiers would be under age 5. My eight-year-old, Pikachu, tagged along hoping he would get a Didj of his own and he did! Plus he earned a few dollars from me for being a great helper. Best. Night. Ever.

Though my son was glued to his small screen for much of the time, most of the little ones played in the indoor playground. Grown-ups and some little tag-alongs enjoyed a discussion with two members of LeapFrog's Educational Advisory Committee. We talked about how we decide what toys to buy and the role of technology/electronic toys in our children's lives

After the talk, it was time for pizza and schmoozing or playing, depending on the guest's age. LeapFrog brought in a face painter and a caricaturist-really good ones! (I don't have the links yet, but they were great.)

And then it was a product free-for-all. Even though I've been working with them, I was unprepared for their overwhelming generosity. Seriously. Bloggers left with bags, armloads, and in some cases bags and armloads of LeapFrog product.

In our case, Pikachu got his Didj and two games, and I got their newest product, the Crammer. The Crammer makes electronic flashcards, serves up quizzes and doubles as an MP3 player. Okay, it's really for the boys, but I get to play with it first. Parents of younger kids took home Tags and other items for the preschool set, like uber-popular Fridge Phonics. It was a good time.

Even if you couldn't make it the the party, you can still celebrate with these specials at leapfrog.com: $10 off orders $50 or more for Leapster2 and Didj. Until 11/15/08 you can use code HY8BHPR at the checkout.


(Sorry I don't have photos; I gave my memory card to LeapFrog.)


Edited to add: This is Amy's daughter on the way home from the party. You know she had a blast. And check out that face painting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Twitter

SRSLY R U not on Twitter? You're no one if you're not on Twitter.

If you are on Twitter, leave your @ID in the comments. I'll be sure to follow you and maybe other readers will, too.



What's your Twitter philosophy? If you have one, describe it 140 words or less.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gifted students and challenge: A parent talk with Jerry Schecter, PhD

Hi everyone, this is Veronica from Viva la Feminista and I'm blogging a gathering at Kim's place with Jerry Schecter, Ph.D. Despite what Kim says, this is a party...A party of parents, mostly moms & one lone dad, coming together to learn more about how to "best" raise our children who have academic gifts.

Dr. S's background includes being a school psychologist in CPS and was at the ground floor for the CPS gifted program. He helped work with underachieving gifted students - those who can do the work, but weren't.

Dr. S's definition of a gifted kid is someone with an IQ in the upper 5-10% of the population. That's one way, but more typically we are talking about upper 2% - 130 and above. Upper 5% - 125, you are bright, quick and still relate well. When you get to 140 - you are a little bit more different - harder to fit in, see the world differently, get labeled as ADD 'cause their minds are racing. You should ask the school if your child is "getting it" before accepting the ADD label. They might gifted!

They are also dramatic - feel things deeply, worry about justice, etc. Nervous habits. Imaginational. Great fantasy life. Hyper-sensitive to sound, touch, noise. Intellectual - Deep curiousity. Emotional - going from one extreme to the next.

Asynchronistic development: Unevenness in development. Could be 6 one minute, 8 the other, back to 6. If you ask a gifted child to tell you 3 wishes, they will usually list one thing that is altuistic.

High degree of perfectionism - They also need to be in control. If there is something out of control in their life, they know that their academics are something that they can control. Perfectionism takes a lot of different turns - intolerant of others making mistakes, it's an all or nothing thing (get an A or not try at all), always need to be right, or the workaholic.

Kids who have it too easy in the early grades and then get to junior or senior high and they fall into the imposter syndrome, don't know how to study, and think they aren't really that smart. (That was me!!)

As parents we need to remember that just because they are bright, they are not always bright in everything. When our kids are challenged, they are not as challenged as other kids because so many things come easy. Thus our kids have a hard time learning grit and academic frustration.

Linda Silverman wrote a piece about being a 6yo girl, but reading at a 3rd-4th grade level. "A child would have to learn how to explain things to her peers, learn to wait patiently while others catch up or something challenging, how to delay gratification by not answering all the questions the teacher asks." When you are that different in an environment where others aren't as bright, it is lonely.

Thus, there are a lot of reasons why we need to be our child's advocate. Getting all A's and getting by is not good. We need to help them learn that falling on their face isn't the end of the world.

It is not always better in the more affluent school districts - They can be less willing to work with parents for gifted students. You should get your child evaluated & then work with the teachers and administrators to get your child what they need. YOU have to push the school.

When your child does "fail" you have to help them learn how to deal with frustration, learn from their mistakes and more on. Don't focus that they know the material - lazy mistakes are learning moments. (My HS freshman algebra teacher would never accept my quizzes or tests before I checked it at least 2 times.)

Some insensitivity that parents get is that by the 3rd grade they will all be the same, we don't have gifted children here, don't push your child, teacher has child help other children when they are done early, there is no need for grouping, gifted children are role models and need to be spread out between classes.

A lot of gifted kids are better at adapting to skipping grades and being in with older peers than staying in their original grade and not fitting in. Will they ever fit in? It depends. If you can't be in a school with supplemental programs, seek out other programs like at Northwestern & National Louis so that they can be with students who are like them.

What can we do as parents?

When they are frustrated, you can't rescue them. You really not want to take ownership of the problem. Validate their feelings and listen to their words not just their actions. A parent is adding in: If your child has meltdowns, talk to them later when they are calm, and help them learn self-soothing. This was taught to me by a very wise person. How do you praise them without over praising? Praise the work not the final product. Acknowledge your own mistakes and role model for them.

A parent suggests a book called "Mistakes that Worked." It really shows kids that mistakes are ok and sometimes actually are better than the original destination.

What do you do with a child who seems ok, but there are signs that they really aren't ok in school? They are happy staying under the radar...You need to ask the school to step up and provide the challenge. It's harder when you do it, than if the school does it.

What is our goal? Is it achievement? Are they happy kids? A parent responds with I want my child to be happy/independent/at peace with themselves, if they happen to get good grades, that's great, but that's not my goal. We need to listen to our children. That's the best form of communication. It is also a sign of respect and when you give them respect, they will give it to you.

Dr. S. leads parent support programs in the mornings. No evening sessions. A lot is based on the book "???? ." Also does evaluations for children who are underachieving and will write a report for the schools. Also suggests "Teaching Gifted Children in Regular Classroom." There is no easy answer, each school district is different.

What about homeschooling? It all depends on where your child is when they are ready to enter school. A lot of parents of gifted students do homeschool, but it may not be the best option. You need to be in a group that is supportive.

Is there a good time to start the process? Skipping kindergarten? Skipping later grades? Some have been encouraged to skip kindergarten, but some parents didn't want to do it based on socialization issues. Skipping all depends on the school. You should have them tested when you are ready to make a decision about schooling. One principal told a set of parents that she could enrich him, but could not give him a group of peers. Another told a set that you need to remember that your child is gifted all the time.

Parent: There is no such thing as a perfect school. There will always be something that you are homeschooling. This country doesn't support arts.

-Veronica- And that was the jist of our discussion.

Subaru Dream Rally: Setting the scene

I was thrilled to be invited to join Subaru's inaugural Dream Rally. They invited a handful of journalists (and me) to New Hampshire to learn more about the Subaru brand and drive their latest models while picking up some mad driving skillz. They also promised us a fab spa treatment to help us wind down after our long, dusty day at the O'Neil Rally School and Car Control Center. How could I say no?

Kristin from MotherProof, the go-to site for moms and cars, travel writer Lynn (who write alongside my friend Andrea), and Wendy from Parents/GoodyBlog were part of our our small group.
The event was arranged with the help of Brushfire, who added several delightful touches to the event: a pre-event email linking to a local weather forecast, a goody bag full of New Hampshire products (maple syrup would be the overriding theme), and a fruit and cheese tray in our rooms upon our return from the driving school. I was over the moon when I saw that tray and would have stopped to take a picture of it had I not been famished. It was a thoughtful move that brought a huge smile to my face. Good "wow" factor. If only they could have done something about the hotel's spotty Internet service.

Ah, the hotel. We stayed at the Mountain View Grand Hotel and Spa, a charming historic hotel nestled in the White Mountains. I walked down the rural road leading to the hotel and it was everything one would expect from New England in the fall: fresh air, crisp leaves scattered about the ground, trees ablaze with color, and pumpkins on the porches of quaint houses.
Here are some photos from an early morning walk.And here's the view from the hotel porch.

Subaru Dream Rally: The cars

As a long-time Subaru driver, it was interesting hearing the inside scoop on the brand. It was also a bit creepy how much DH and I fit the mold of typical Subaru owners.

The typical Subaru owner is:

Educated (check)

Leads an active, sporty lifetsyle (um, maybe a little stretch here)

Lives in the "snow belt" (check)

Wants a quality car at a price that fits within their budget, meaning they often pay cash (check)


Doesn't return to the dealer very often, because the car holds up well (check)

The last two items are a bit tricky for the company. They want satisfied Subaru owners like me to visit their showroom and oogle the shiny new, souped-up, low-emission models. My gosh, they had to fly me out to Whitefield, New Hampshire just to get me to look at them!

And the new cars are cool. And soooo clean and shiny. But, you know, my chipped and dented eight-year-old Outback with a back seat permanently stained from melted crayons, covered in crumbs and with pint-sized athletic cup that no one can remember to bring back into our house is running pretty well.

And I feel really safe driving my all-wheel drive Outback in heavy winter snows and on icy, slushy roads. My husband is unemployed, so we're not buying a new car right now, but the Subaru brand is worth considering if you are.


Because I don't go into the Subaru showroom very often, I hadn't learned about the PZEV feature. PZEV stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, or vehicles that meet California's Super-Ultra-Low-Emission Vehicle exhaust emission standard. And (I'm taking this from their website) Subaru offers PZEV-certified Legacy, Outback, and Forester models for sale anywhere in the U.S. These vehicles have 90% cleaner emissions than the average new vehicle.
Gasoline vehicles meeting PZEV emissions standards sometimes have even lower emissions than hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles. PZEV vehicles achieve such tight pollution controls, and the burning of fuel is so complete that in very smoggy urban areas, exhaust out of the tailpipe can actually be cleaner than the air outside. (Does anyone remember the old SNL fauxmercial in which Gilda Radner couldn't stop sniffing a car's perfumed exhaust? PZEV reminds me of that.)
Subaru PZEV vehicles are also U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certified SmartWay™ Vehicles. And the Outback, Forester, and Legacy are honored in the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.

Who knew, right?

Subaru also runs a clean plant in Indiana- that means they send no waste from the manufacturing process to the landfill. Okay, not quite zero, but according to the website, 99.3% of the waste goes is reused or recycled and .7% gets incinerated in a process by which the heat generated is used to generate steam which, in theory, is used to turn turbines and make electricity, though I'd have to look into it to find out how or if the steam is used.

I'm also impressed with many of the company's partnerships, including one with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Philadelphia. Sustainable and urban agriculture are current interests of my dear hubs. We are so Subaru!

Before we set out for our wild rides, they gave us an overview of several models. We started with the affordable, sporty Impreza sedan (which you can see one of the twins driving on Desperate Housewives) and worked our way up to the three-row Tribeca, which is also sporty, but much larger.

The Subaru folks did a couple of interesting demos with the Forester, including one in which they loaded a HUGE box into the rear space. A box, which, they also demonstrated, did not fit into the hatches of its competitors. The Forester is perfect for those Costco trips! Speaking of which, we did recently fit a really large, boxed electric piano from Costco into my Outback (seats down, no kiddos).

They also explained what make Subaru cars so safe and then it was off to the classroom (post below) for a few lessons before we put the Subaru line-up to the test.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Subaru Dream Rally: The skid pad

Like a good Twitter evangelist (addict?), I spent much of our drive from the hotel to the O'Neil Rally and Car Control School chatting up the platform. It's fun! You will build your network! You'll be the first of all your friends to find the latest Sarah Palin parodies!


Twitter has helped me connect with other mom bloggers as well social media and PR types. I could do without some of the "Good morning, Tweeps!" posts, but have found links to many useful posts and articles.


The school is located in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire. The sunny morning provided the perfect light for viewing the Subaru lineup. My eight-year old Outback is so pockmarked. It's filled with dents and dings that attest to its long, useful life. I drooled over the shiny new Impreza, Forester, Outback and Tribeca. So clean. So very clean.


After an overview of the models, we headed in for a bit of classroom instruction. We talked skids, line breaking, apexes, target fixation, oversteering, understeering, evasive maneuvers and more.
Then we headed outside to drive. First, the instructor demonstrated a given technique, then we got behind the wheel. We drove the Subarus I'd admired earlier in the morning, switching it up to try them all.
Our first technique was skid control. Check my video, filmed from the passenger seat. Warning: not for those prone to carsickness.
Photo: getting ready to hit the skid pad in a sporty Impreza.
I recently demonstrated a few of my new techniques for my boys in a nearby (empty) parking lot. Major coolness points for this geeky mom!

Subaru Dream Rally Event: The hot lap

Here are two videos of my hot lap with Rally Pro Tim O'Neil. Tim's Rally and Car Control School trains Rally drivers as well as professionals who need some mad driving skillz. Just what does that mean? Well, rumor has it the Department of Defense sponsors many students.

The hot lap was one wild ride. I was into the speed and bumps, but the fast, sharp turns? Not so much. Gladly, Tim, the driver, did not hurl our car into any trees and I did not hurl my lunch into his car.

Wendy took this video on my camera. The car is going much faster than it looks on the video. Watch us weave through the cones. From my view inside the car-where I could barely see over the dashboard- I was sure we knocked down every one of them.

Urgh. Couldn't get the video to load. Posterous to the rescue! Check it out here. (More about Posterous in a future post. I love it!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Craziest. Week. Ever.

Just over a week ago, I received a last-minute invite to a Subaru Dream Rally event in New Hampshire. Hmmm. Subaru? Great car. I've been driving the same one for eight years. New Hampshire in the fall? My first chance to be a leaf peeper! Complimentary massage? I am so there! Um,I believe the invitation mentioned something about cars as well. And a "hot lap," but I'll get to that later.

For now, let me say my junket was fabulous. Any trip that begins with this greeting off the plane, "Hi. I'm Joe, your chauffeur." is going to be pretty great.

I learned a lot about Subaru, met some wonderful people, and gained some mad driving skillz (just you wait for that video).

So that trip was Monday through Wednesday. I arrived home from the airport, greeted the kids off the school bus, ate dinner and went to Kol Nidre services.

Yesterday was the holiday, this morning I woke up at 5:15 to drive DH to the airport for a long weekend away (scheduled before he lost his job, FWIW), tomorrow we've got soccer and fun with cousins. Assuming that my head doesn't spin right off.

Oh yeah, and next week I'm hosting Dr. Jerry Schecter for a parent talk on Gifted Kids and Challenge. And that reminds me, I've got to call the school and set up a meeting related to that same topic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dear Jen- I love your blog!

To quote Carly Simon, "I bet you think this post is about you." And, Jen, why shouldn't you?

I've got, about a dozen Jen/Jenny/Jennifers in my address book. As a mom, I get it. You pick a name for your precious child, something that sparkles with you and your partner, you haven't heard that often, but by the time the ink dries on the birth certificate you find out that your newborn's name is suddenly the most common name that year.


This happened to us with Pikachu (which, of course, is not his real name). I knew less than five living people with his name, so it seemed like a great idea. Clearly it was a great idea...to DH, me and about 100 million other parents.


Nearly every year in school my son is Pikachu M and inevitably becomes best friends with Pikachu L or Pikachu H.


Anyway, Jen- today is your day!


Check out my favorite blogging Jens:



Starting local and branching out, there's Jenni from Chronicbabe.

Another local Jen writes at Beyond Mom.

There's Jen the ecochic organizer (having met her I can say she matches her tagline. She is chic and so organized!) at Function and Space and Chicago Smart Green Famlies.


Then there's Jen who "upcycles" (formerly known as reusing) items like milk jug caps in to jewelry and crafty items. Find her at Mama Sings the Blues and at her Etsy shop. (Bonus: she's also a regular reader at Momformation.)


The next Jen is another friendly voice chiming in at Momformation, but her real writing goes up at Sprite's Keeper.


Then there's Jen at Never a Dull Moment, who I often wonder if I know from IRL way back when.


And there's Jenn at Mommy Needs Coffee.


Staying with our drink theme, waaaaaay up north we've got Jen at Jen and Tonic.

And we can't forget Jenny at Three Kid Circus.

As well as Jen at Not Calm (Dot Com) who also wrote my favorite essay in the book version of Can I Sit with You?

Any favorite Jens to add to the list?

I have a dream...

Rather, I had a dream. Last night. In it, my friend's boys had lice. She asked me to watch them about a week later when I thought they had gotten rid of all the little buggers. I picked the boys up in my car. One of them was nearly bald from all of those toxic lice-killing shampoos and ointments. But because he was nearly hairless, I could see tiny bugs jumping off his head all around my car.

I was furious that she did not tell me they still had lice. Thank the gods, we've never had an infestation in my house.

In my dream, I called DH as well as the boys' mom. I was freaking out. And there was some complicated parking garage thing that was somehow related to all this.

What is the symbolism of all this?

I think a different friend told me someone at her daughter's school had lice and the mom sent the child back to school before the lice had fully cleared and she infected 1/2 the class. Yuck. So maybe I was thinking of that.

Plus, I have been getting kind of nitpicky lately.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Marketing to Mommybloggers: Mommybloggers are pro-choice

Yes, I believe all mommybloggers are pro-choice when it comes to marketing efforts. Our blogs are full of our ideas, hopes and philosophies; although quite public, they are very personal.

That's why marketers and PR folks need to consider our opinions and preference when reaching out to us. We like to call the shots.

And here's a great example as to why:

A week or two ago, I found an offer in my inbox to receive two product line samples of a natural personal care brand for kids. Specifically, the PR gal said she'd like to send me two samples of everything in their kids' line for me to give away to readers.

I wrote her back saying that I'd love to try out the line myself, and if it passed muster with my family, I'd be happy to host a blog giveaway and have the company send out product directly to the winners. If I wanted to deal with packing and shipping logistics and expenses I'd run an EBay shop, not a blog; right?

I never heard from the PR gal again. Maybe I was too blunt? I deleted her email. Out of sight out of mind.

Until it was in my sight again. In the form of a large, ten-pound box on my front stoop.

Much to my surprise is contained the product line in question. In duplicate.

They sent the whole shmear times two- shampoo, hand soap, bath soap, bubble bath, detangler, and more--everything but the toothpaste came in a single scent.

A scent that happens to be one of my least favorites: baby aspirin. Technically it's tangerine or "oh-so-orange" or something. But yuck.

I gave Smartypants a whiff. "It smells sickly," he replied. So we can safely assume the ten-year- old is not lovin' it.

That said, we may give some of the products a try. Just not all at once, unless I want to pretend we're vacationing in Florida, camping in the orange groves.

And then there's the fact that my bathroom is now a veritable Noah's Ark of these products. What to do with the extras?

I'm not going to ship them out.

Do I pass it along to IRL friends? Bloggers? Donate them to a homeless shelter? The school auction?

The school auction and homesless shelter are the most philanthropic choices, yet for no good reason-- or perhaps I'm sympathetic because I'm sometimes on the PR end of blogger reviews-- I feel obligated to pass the product along to bloggers. So I've chosen two nearby moms (of girls, FWIW) Cindy, and Veronica (surprise!) as recipients.

So maybe the outreach won't be in vain, after all. But if the PR firm had communicated with me- given me a choice as to what I want to try and how I want to manage a bloggy giveaway, I might have written a glowing review over their cute, smooth whale-shaped hand soap instead of this post.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sarah Palin is a ripe candidate....

Sarah Palin is a ripe candidate for uterine prolapse, that is.

I know, this seem like a hit below the belt. Way below the belt, especially if she wears mom jeans.

But now that Sarah Palin has a very pubic public platform to discuss special needs children and teen pregnancy, maybe her time in the spotlight can also be used to highlight something that affects about half of all women- urinary incontinence.

I don't want to focus on her specific ladyparts, but my gosh, she's given birth to four or five children, and there's no denying that those very natural processes mess with those delicate parts. Seriously, you can't fit something the size a watermelon inside your body even once for a just a few months without things rearranging your internal geography.

I heard two Urogynecologists speak on uterine prolapse last spring at Camp Baby. These are not women from, say, France, but rather the female equivalent of proctologists. Yeah, I know, who even new this type of specialty even existed?

And that's why they gave us The Talk at Camp Baby. Well, that and the fact that Johnson and Johnson's medical division makes internal gadgets like bladder slings (again, who knew?)

So here are a few facts from Camp Kegel, according to my notes from a talk by Dr. Christine LaSala and Dr. Radhika Ailawadi.

Obesity and smoking are two prime factors that contribute to urinary incontinence. Despite common misconception, pregnancy isn't a big factor, unless the pregnancy takes place in a woman's 40s.
According to my notes, which I can only hope are wrong because I was desperately kegeling throughout the workshop, so maybe I got confused, 1 in 4 pre-menopausal women has a clinically significant leakage problem and (yikes!) 1 in 2 women over the age of 60 does as well. The scary fact is that you can kegel all you want, but if you've over 60, there's a good chance you've going to pee in your pants.

I'm not sure who studied this or how, but they good doctors also told us that 1 out of 3 women do their kegels incorrectly.

The good news amongst all these eye-opening facts is that these problems can be fixed. Many women live with unpleasant or embarrassing symptoms for years, because they are not aware that treatments ARE available. If incontinence is affecting you, or like one horror story we heard at Camp Baby, you're showering one day and realize your UTERUS IS FALLING OUT, remember you are not alone and help is available.

Full disclosure, it's quite possible that Palin has a uterus made of steel- and superwoman she is, is not affected like most of us. I mean, if I was back at work three days after giving birth I would have need to hit the bathroom about every fifteen minutes to change my pad. But if she and what's his name win the election and you Don't see her jumping up and down, think back to this post.

And in the name of equal time, I suspect that two of the three men in the presidential election spotlight right now on a Viagra or a similar ED drug. But that's out of my realm of experience.

Adapted from an original post to Chicago Moms Blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday Fun: Sarah, sticky notes and subprime silliness

I don't know if you call this video funny or scary. Let me know what you think.

Subprime silliness. The financial crisis explained in only 45 slides. Via @alysonenglish on Twitter.

Check out this new video from the guys who brought us the Diet Coke and Mentos explosion. Via Gwen Bell (AKA @GwenBell on Twitter. I'm @moldymom on Twitter, BTW. )





EepyBird's Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pat the Husband: A book review

Pat the Husband: A Parody is a hilarious 16-page riff on the lovable children's book, Pat the Bunny. Only it's funnier. And for adults. Or young children who won't get the adult subtext.

Readers help Husband find the remote, discover where the ketchup bottle is hidden, and meet other daunting challenges. It's a hoot! It's a fun girlfriend gift and will make you the hit of any moms group.

The book official debuts October 7, but thanks to Cider Mill Press I'm giving away a copy at Momformation this Wednesday.

And on Thursday, I'm giving away another copy on Twitter. Follow me @moldymom, so you don't miss out on the fun.

Oh, I should point out one glaring omission in the book- there's no little activity to help Husband change the toilet paper!

What little task does your husband fall short on?

(Disclaimer: mine is totally helpful other than the toilet paper thing.)