Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Fun: Your period. (Really?)

Have you ever noticed those wrappers on feminine hygiene products imprinted with upbeat messages including exercise tips or reminders to "Have a happy period!" Do they put a smile on your face?

I didn't think so. Periods can be a crampy messy pain, but here's where the fun comes in. Or maybe it's just the interesting part. Erinn, one of my new Twitter buddies is giving away five copies of The Little Red Book over on her blog, Parenting our Children.

The Little Red Book is an anthology from women around the world about the time they began menstruating. According to Erinn, some of these essays are funny, so there's your Friday Fun, after all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bloggers on Blogging

Maybe it's because spring is in the air, or maybe it's fallout from discussions at Blissdom, but I've seen a lot of reflections on blogging lately.

Here are a few thoughtful posts that had me shouting, "Amen!"

Amy at Mom Advice on the Five Commandments of Blogging. Great post from a mama who's hit the big time and is thinking carefully not so much about her, ugh, "brand," but about who she is as a person. Her post is refreshing and inspiring.

Christina at A Mommy Story asks What is a Blogger Worth? But her post is not so much about making money blogging as it is a realistic look at what to expect out of blogging. An experienced blogger, she's no snake oil saleswoman, which is what also makes her post refreshingly honest.

And the mama over at Musings of a Housewife reflects on her reasons for blogging and wondering is she hasn't gone astray. While she wants less business and more family, I am thinking of heading in the opposite direction myself.

Although I don't have a visible core of parents commenting on my posts about gifted kids, Google tells me that parents are searching for information and that people stop by each day to read my thoughts.

I will continue to write on the topic, but raising quirky gifted children is not something I can or want to write about on a daily basis. My boys are too old for me to write too personally about them and I don't think it's wise to write publicly about unresolved issues at school. Er, um, not that we have any.

I enjoy writing about trends I observe in the momosphere and seem to get an interesting mix of comments from moms and PR folks when I do, so I will keep up with that.

I think back to BlogHer07, when I was urged to define myself and create my niche, my brand so I could "take my blog to the next level," which apparently meant monetize it. In that sense, I have failed.

But overall, blogging has been a great ride, a huge success that has opened doors I didn't even know I existed. I don't seem fame, fortune or book contracts in my future, but I look forward to where it takes me next.

Edited 2/26 to add:

I don't know why Stefania's great post at City Mama slipped my mind, but it may have something to do with the fact that I read it late at night and couldn't comment for risk of sounding like a buffoon.
And I just learned about two more worthy posts via Twitter.
Check out Mom-101 and Suburban Turmoil, which I'm off to read now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grade Skipping AKA Grade Acceleration, Part I

What used to be called grade skipping is now called acceleration. And it doesn't necessarily mean moving ahead to a new grade. A Nation Deceived, a 2004 report, highlights research and practices on acceleration, in addition to demonstrating the bias many educators have about acceleration. If you click over to the site, check out the downloadable PDF on the right hand sidebar.

The report outlines a variety of acceleration options from skipping an entire grade to skipping two or more grades (radical acceleration) to simply moving ahead in a single topic.

Smartypants, now ten, started accelerated math classes late in his kindergarten year. The school offered to do achievement and IQ testing, something DH and I hemmed and hawed over at first. Did we really want to do this?

Between our delays and the school's delays, a process that began with a conversation in late November didn't conclude until I met with the principal to discuss my son's results in March.

During the weeks I was awaiting his results, I'd convinced myself that my son wasn't that bright, he just seemed that way because we were in a low-performing district. So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I looked down to a score sheet full of 99% marks (yet an average score for processing speed on WPSI; I'll cover that another time) and the school psychologist advised, "We don't recommend skipping him a grade because...."

I was in a fog for the rest of the meeting. As I recall it, the principal, the man who ran the school, the man who'd been sitting on these scores for weeks, looked up at me and asked, "What should we do?"

What should we do? Shouldn't he have thought about that before our meeting?!

Perhaps it's worth mentioning that the principal was also the man who resigned the next year and took some time out of education for a job at Trader Joe's.

Knowing that my nephew had been accelerated in math and also feeling that we could enrich Smartypants in language arts at home, I suggested that my boy start attending first grade math. Around Spring Break, he finally did.

He still attends a math class one year above grade level, though it took a few conversations with the teachers and administration at the new school in order to get the placement made. It's understandable given that we're new to the school.

Due to some weak areas in his 5th grade math skills, not to mention a huge scheduling issue, Smartypants now attends two math classes a day- 5th grade and 6th grade.

When report cards came home recently, I wasn't surprised to see he earned an A (okay A-) in the 6th grade class. Nor was I surprised to see he only earned a B in the 5th grade class. Ugh. Gifted kids.

Stay tuned for Part II: Pikachu and out-of-level testing.
Read more of my posts on gifted education.

6 x 6 meme

Robyn at Who's the Boss tagged me in the 6 x 6 meme. Wow, I feel like one of the cool kids. When I do get tagged for these things, I normally put it on my to-do list and the never get it done. Case in point, somewhere I have a list of 25 Things About Me in a little notebook sitting on my desk. (I'll be honest, it's really on my bedroom floor.) So I'm jumping on this one.

Rules: Choose the 6th image out of your 6th picture folder from your computer and blog it. Then tag 6 more people to do the same.

More honesty: I cheated a bit because the 6th folder on my computer is full of the head shots I took at BlogHer last year. Yawn.

And another confession: the majority of our family photos are on DH's computer. I mostly have blog fodder on mine, plus more photos of Legos than any grown woman should have. (The boys are making a movie for DH...for Father's Day. They're unusually organized.) Anyway, Legos? Snooze.

But I came up with something good, if a teensy bit contrived:
My boys recently filmed an episode for Spatulatta.com, the by kids/for kids cooking site. I toook this photo as they started to make a batch of faux gross. That is, April Fool's treats that look like one thing say, kitty litter, but are really treats and sweets. I can't wait to share the links once they go live.

And now that I'm kvelling I can't stop. Here's are two Spatulatta episodes (this one is really cool) they filmed a couple of years ago at the Spice House in Evanston. My boys look so young!

I'm tagging:

Naomi at Superdumb Supervillain
Carrie at My Funny, Funny Family
Jodi at Multi-tasking Mommy
Jamie BlondeMomBlog
Justice Fergie at MamaLaw
Kristina at Momformation

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marketing to Mommybloggers: Moms, show us your stats!

PR Pros don't want to waste their time and efforts marketing to mommybloggers who don't have a lot of readers. Right? Yes, but also wrong.

There's more to a mommyblogger than her daily hit count. You didn't ask her for her hit count, did you?

For many bloggers, their hit count is considered personal information. This info is guarded like their weight or intimate details of their lives. In fact, one blog friend compared an unknown PR flack inquiring about hit counts to being asked to sleep with someone the first time you meet. Take a bit of time to form a relationship with us before you get too personal.

Of course, if a blogger is pursuing advertising or seeking out product samples on her own initiative, she should be prepared to share her personal site stats.

But when a blogger gushes online about a product that she bought with her own money and really likes, it's tacky for a PR rep to write and say, "Thanks for writing about Product X. We're glad you like it. By the way, how many people read your blog?"

When this happened to me, I wrote back explaining that it was a bad netiquette to ask that on first contact with a blogger. I also offered to talk with her- for free- about effective mommyblogger outreach, but she never took me up on that.

She did however, apologize, but as I read her follow-up note, it seemed she was also letting me know I might be missing out on a big opportunity to work with her company in the future.

I recently received a note asking about my stats after a company had already contacted me and provided a product sample for me as well as a giveaway for my readers. After everything was wrapped up, the low girl on the totem pole wrote to ask me about my numbers. In this case, I happened to be Twitter buddy of the agency owner, so I contacted him directly and shared my concerns:

* The note did not come from the agency contact I'd previously worked with. If it had, I might have been more receptive to it.

* I reminded him that his company had reached out to me and that if my stats were a concern, they should have done research before providing product samples and giveaways. This late inquiry makes it look they didn't do their homework ahead of time. There are websites and indices that can give them some sense of my traffic or how I compare to other mommybloggers.

* Beyond daily hits, I've got subscribers. I *think* I've got about 150, but I don't track those. Maybe I have 500.

* Technorati or ranking sites won't tell hint at my influence in back channels, like the fact that I'm only a click away from hundreds of mombloggers or I'm a highly ranked Tweeter. However, if you take a good long look at my blog, you might figure out a few things.

* Remember Google. While my oft-neglected food blog has a very small fan club, it seems to have a big cheerleader in Google. My product reviews on the site often make it into Google's top five suggested links for a search on that item and may stay there for many months. Last year I wrote a post on this blog comparing shopping experiences at Office Depot and Staples; the post was linked onto Office Depot's Google Finance page. And now I feel like it's my fault they've gone bankrupt.

It would be naive to say that numbers don't matter, but numbers are only part of the picture. Read blogs, get to know bloggers, hire a social media mom, (but by all means, don't ask her if she knows Dooce and could get her to mention your product).

Web 2.0 is one big conversation, don't start off yours on the wrong note by asking too much, too soon.

Bloggers what are your thoughts? Do you unlock your sitemeter or lift the virtual shirt that hides your stats for anyone who offers a few shiny beads?

PR Pros, what are your thoughts?

More on marketing to mommybloggers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Because I'm not a complete BlogWhore

We will return to the topic of BlogWhores in the coming weeks. For now, I just want to share that for a few days I had an email that was driving me crazy. It showed up on the top of my list when sorted alphabetically; a reply from the folks at the All Candy Expo acknowledging my request for a press pass. The subject line read: All Candy Expo Registration PENDING.

Pending? Pending?

For a day or two I was languishing in limbo- candy purgatory, if you will. And then it came through. I've been approved. Oh, the joy. Read more at Scrambled CAKE, my food blog.

If history repeats itself, and you can damn well guess that I hope it will, I'll return from the trade show with more sweets than even I can stand, so I designated SuperDumbSuperVillain as the beneficiary of my extra swag. Poor Naomi lives in the heart of our country and has pitifully few chances to attend swaggy parties and the like, so I'm trying to help a sister out.

The Candy Expo is in late May. Until then, I diet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to host a successful Twitter Party

You know Twitter parties? Those #hashtag-laden events that produce lots of chatter. So much chatter that it can be start to sound like noise. Or spam. But, you know there are "door prizes" involved, nice ones like laptops, so people have incentive to join in.

Friday night there was a Twitter #party that had,
in my opinion, a high ratio of noise to authentic or useful discussion. Annoyingly high. Or maybe I should call it disappointingly high. Disappointing because I know and like several of the women involved and I think they can do better. If high expectations are a crime, then lock me up now.

I'm writing this post without naming names because the point is not to be, well, a finger-pointer, it's really to look at this constructively.

So this morning when one of the women who happened to be among said #party organizers sent out a tweet saying something about people who spam on Twitter. I sent this public reply:
Ah, but one person's spammy tweets are merely another person's #hashtag-laden twitter party tweets. I later clarified that her party's stream was more noise then spam, IMO.

Edited 2/15 to add: apparently @resourcefulmommy organized the "sitewarming" party on Friday night. I was under the impression that it was someone else. See comment section for full details.

The conversation went on a bit about #parties and then, like most things Twitter, it was over. But after dinner, like bad Valentine's candy, it came back to haunt me.

I'm not out to rehash a play-by-play in a she said/she said kind of deal. My point is that in these discussions, I tried to offer up constructive criticism and was pegged as a Negative Nelly. The discussion was topped off by a tweet from another #party planner saying
@KimMoldofsky is creating a bunch of noise now.

Ouch.

Let's see, this evening I helped one local gal connect with a charity, gave a nod to a great blog post, shared some info on ScienceChicago's weekend activities. That's joyful noise, that's what it was.

A month or two ago, I was a panelist for an #Eden Twitter party. For about an hour I tried keeping up my end of several fast moving conversations about parenting. I'm not sure how successful I was in it. And though I got a number of new followers for my efforts, I also posted the single largest loss of followers that I've ever had in one night.

That affirmed an idea I'd been toying with- that these parties can clog the conversation stream and turn people off.

Yes, they can!

Does that mean they're all bad?

No.

That said, last night's party wasn't the only one to bug me. I've been disappointed before when I've signed on to Twitter and all I see is #this and #that. Sure I can log off, but ... no I can't I'm addicted! I could unfollow, but I'm fairly certain once the party is over, I'll enjoy that person's tweets again.

When a #party is organized around a natural theme like parenting, health and wellness, or journalism 2.0, it can make for interesting reading and can build community, which is the big selling point of social media, right? Or did I miss that day of class?

I don't begrudge fellow netizens the chance to flex their entrepreneurial muscles by organizing sponsored parties, but I do think they need to consider how people react to the parties.

Based on the emails and DMs coming in during this little Tweetstorm, I can say for certain I'm not the only one annoyed by the overwhelming and sometimes insincere streams created by this parties.

One Tweep even suggested a new hashtag #fakegush because there was a lot of that going on last night. Another friend later informed me that partygoers were asked to tweet, "I love KimLovesIt.com*" in order to win prizes, but I didn't stay around long enough to realize this. All I saw was a bunch of disingenuous sounding tweets. And it was a huge turnoff.

As I tweeted earlier tonight in an attempt to offer up constructive criticism, if I was to host a #party, I'd survey a bunch of folks to gauge perceptions and find out what is most agreeable for the most people.

For example:
When should #parties take place?

How long should they be?
What are the end goals for: attendees, followers who are not attendees but will be dragged into the event and, of course, #party sponsors
?

As a popular Tweeter, surely you don't want to dismiss folks by merely suggesting that they unfollow you.

And the sponsors? No doubt they are looking at hit counts-people who click over to see the site- but they might be looking at developing new customers.

My own words are echoing in my ears right now. Earlier this week I pitched a client on a BlogHer related outreach idea, but then cautioned that social media is not a campaign, it's an ongoing process.

In my opinion, a one-night stand, or rather a quick hour or two on Twitter is not going to make your site a fave with me, especially if it interrupts my Twitter fun. And with a TwitterGrade of 99.7, which puts me in the top 4K of over a million Tweeters, you know I have some fun on that site.

If you want to hold a #party, why not take a few minutes and create an online survey (they are free, cheap and easy, like me on V-Day) to better understand what will work best for you and your client. DM me and I'll be happy to share my two cents on your survey.

And maybe the folks who were quietly emailing and DMing me in agreement today will take the survey, too. You might learn something from the people who keep their negative feelings to themselves, especially if you promise not to disparage them publicly.

Your thoughts? Agree or disagree, but keep to the topic and not the people.

*Made-up name, natch.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Fun = Fridge Fun

This week's Friday fun is courtesy of Selfish Mom. Check out the Fridge Fun and other time sinks over at Lunchtimers.

Have a good weekend!

Are you doing anything special for Valentine's Day? We generally let the Hallmark Holiday slip by without a glimpse, other than what the boys might do at school, but as the hype ramps up, I start feeling left out of the party. Maybe fresh flowers or a few chocolates, might be nice- diet and budget be damned.

I could use a little love holiday. Maybe I'll have to make my own. Something with a foot massage a rose petals wold be nice. Too bad DH doesn't read my blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I just flew in from Boca and boy are my arms tired.

I mean, I just drove back in from Chicago from an event sponsored by BOCA- you know, the veggie burger folks?

If people want to know why some mommybloggers* are turning in to divas, well, it's because of marketing events like the one I just came from. It was hosted at Spa Soak, in Wicker Park, catered by, ugh, I forgot.

I like me some BOCA Burgers, but I was a bit worried the food would be all BOCA, all night, but it wasn't. Of course, there were the obligatory burgers, but they were served along with mixed greens, a citrussy deliciousy couscous salad, and a lentil and goat cheese salad.

I was the only one to go back for seconds, and if everyone left the room, I would've had thirds.

But the food paled in comparison to the spa activities. I mean in comparison to my blog buddies. I got to hang with MJ of Chicagonista, Veronica of Viva la Feminista, Danielle** of Foodmomiac, Serena of Chic Simple Moms, Carolyn of Green City Market's Locavore Blog, Blagica** of Gal's Guide. I also rubbed elbows ever so briefly with The Local Tourist and Miss Zoot, who it turns out is not related to my friend and Guinness Record holder Ivan Zoot. Oh, and Jeanne at House in progress is still working on all sorts of interesting projects.

The project of the night, though, was BOCA's brief explanation of their new site and contest, which, ironically, is not available as I type this. So check out the regular Boca site and look for the big news. They are giving away $5,000 to help one lucky person live a more balanced life. Even after taxes, that will buy the winner a few spa days, cleaning help and repeated visits from a babysitter. Or it can be used to send your child to overnight camp for a month. The possibilities are endless.

There were other nice people there, too, but it's hard to work the room when your feet are soaking. It's also hard to meet people when your feet are dry and pretty, but they are in a mini-mediation class.

Thanks BOCA, Edelman, and Spa Soak staff for a fun night!

* Apparently Jessica Gottlieb says it's time to take back the term.
**Also Edelman employees.

Traveling Mom and bloggy updates

I have a new blog at Traveling Mom, where I'm writing about travel with an educational slant. If you like to get your geek on whether you're in Disney World or traveling the world, check out my blog.

Also, I'm joining the review team over at the Full Mommy. When Leighann first approached me about contributing on her site, my thought was, Ugh. Another blog? But then I realized it made more sense to join an active product review blog, than develop my own. Plus, one of the benefits of a group blog, is getting to know the other writers and expand my circle (or "network" as the maven types call it).

What's up with you?

Monday, February 09, 2009

We have a winner!

Yes, I have a winner in my tamp-fabulous giveaway!

But first, the runners up:

Kim from House of Prince, who shares my PMS cravings. I will send her good vibes to gain a BlogHer sponsorship and hope that she will win the craft from the next hostess.

Helen from Red Dirt Woman. I don't know Helen and hadn't heard of her blog prior to my contest, so I think it was especially brave of her to enter such an bizarre contest.
Anna is already a winner because she gets about 150 comments on every blog post.

But the winner of the giveaway is....
Amy from Selfish Mom! It's partly because I love the idea of this craft crossing the country to NYC and partly because of Amy's idea itself. I hesitate to call it a great idea. In fact, I'm having a trouble finding the proper adjective to describe what she mentioned in her winning comment, so I'll just repost it.

I will say that every time I see a picture of that tampon decoration, I get a vision in my head of a Fox show about six women who have to spend one week a month together, doing everything together...kind of like "Chains of Love" but with tampons instead of chains.

Congrats, Amy! Let me know when those folks from Fox programming cut you a check!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Fun: Are you a true orginal?

How many of you are there? Facebook can only tell you so much, so check out HowManyofMe.com

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Crafty Giveaway! Now with tampons!

I've lost a bit of my blogging mojo in recent weeks, so forgive me if I'm a bit behind on this, but I'm (finally) starting a group called the Sisterhood of the Traveling Tampon Ornament.

The delightful piece of craft pictured here came to me from Sanctimommy, who in turn received it from White Trash Mom, Michelle Lamar, who lovingly created this piece from, well, her trash. Or so it seems.

As you can see, this delightful, silvery and white snowflake made a beautiful addition to my Hanukkah sign, where it hung in December. Since then it's been sitting on my desk in our living room, which can only lead me to ask,

What the hell is wrong with my family that not ONE person has commented on it or asked me what it is?

They, I should say WE, are beyond help. What kind of mom leaves a tampon craft hanging around the house? Oh, sorry Michelle, no offense intended.

Now you can win the chance to hang this lucky snowflake in your car, office, bedroom or bathroom. It really is lucky. I've got two new consulting clients since the tampon star/snowflake settled on my desk late last year. Hooray!

What unexpected joy might this bring to you?

To enter to win, you have to first promise me to pass this along to another blogger after the tampon fairies have worked their magic on you. Second, yes, sorry it's a bit of work, you have to click over to Anna's PMS meme on her funny, funny blog Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder. No need to comment there, she gets more comments per post than I get per year. (Granted, she is a lot funnier. Sure leave her a comment anyway.) Pick one of the items in her meme to complete in the comments here.

Feel free to add any other pleas that might tug at my heart. I'm not sure how I will choose a winner, so go ahead and offer a bribe if you really want this.

Entries will be accepted through 11:59 PM CST on February 8, 2009.

Edited to add h/t to Florinda, from 3rs, for telling me about Anna's meme.

The Four Questions

My adult bat mitzvah class is off to a good start. I'm really enjoying our discussions and getting to know my classmates, who are an interesting bunch.

For the record, I don't share other people's stories without their permission, but I will share general discussion points, especially as they relate to me, me, ME! because, you know, this is my blog.

We've spent the past two session talking Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. It starts out Friday evening with candle lighting, challah (egg bread), wine, a nice dinner and, for us, a call to my husband's grandma...in theory. In reality, our family has been a bit discombobulated in recent months and we haven't managed much more than the call to grandma.

But in discussing Shabbat, I realize that my family has fallen off the wagon and we need to get back on. I feel like I am slighting myself and my family.

I wonder what could be mine-- peace, serenity, belonging--if I bother to bake a fresh challah, turn off the computer and immerse myself in the present with my family.

Rituals calm and connect. They help mark the passage of time. I want our rituals back.

As we talked about Shabbat as a day apart from the others, our teacher asked these thought provoking questions about time:

1) How do you feel about your schedule?

2) Do you make good use of your time?

3) Are you in control of your time?

4) What would/could you change about how you use your time?

This led to an interesting discussion in my class; I hope it will here, too.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Good for me, bad for the economy

Although it's great to see Americans thinking more carefully about what they buy and how they spend their money, frugal folks are bad for the overall economy, and therefore bad for our country.

Call me a traitor if you will, but I was thrilled to learn that my local library has a copy of Sandra Tsing Loh's latest book, Mother on Fire, and two(!) copies of Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check. Alas, it will be over a week before those popular books are back on the shelves, but I can wait.

I'm headed out of town for business travel* this week and will keep myself busy with a review copy of Dawn Meehan's lighthearted new book, Because I said so.


*I'm staffing the booth for a family business at a trade show. This is the stand on your feet and smile for eight hours kind of business travel, not the "Hi. I'm Joe, you chauffeur," kind of deal. Yep, I'm keepin' it real. Sigh.