Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Trouble with Twilight AKA The Baboon who Loved Me

Originally published at Chicago Moms Blog in April 2009.

I finally read Twilight, the book that has millions of moms, not to mention teenage girls, going ga-ga over a good looking group of vampires. Meh, I'm not impressed. In fact, I'm especially bothered by one particular oversight.

Edward Cullen, the vampire so desired by Bella, a mere mortal high school student, has an equally strong pull toward her. He's intrigued by Bella as a person, a love interest, and, you know, also in that blood-sucking vampire way.


There are many points in the story in which Edward, who has a vampire's supernatural ultra-sensitive sense of smell, mentions Bella's special scent. How he craves and is crazed by it. That caused a big problem for me. If Edward found Bella's scent irresistible on a normal day, don't you think he must have gone nuts when she had her period? Or even when she was ovulating? As hormone levels in a woman's body fluctuate during her cycle so do her, um, special scents. And this can impact the males around them. I have personal experience with this.

He was short, but incredibly strong. He had mysterious, mesmerizing dark brown eyes, short hair that ranged from mocha to cafe au lait, and oh, those teeth. When I walked by him he was instantly and obviously aroused. He was a baboon.

Literally, a baboon.

I was a college student volunteering at what passed for a zoo in a tiny Texas town. Mostly I shoveled poop from tiny cages. One day as I walked by the male baboon's cage he gave me the ultimate salute.

The zoo's caregiver, an old man, followed steps behind me. "You must be on your period," he observed as I turned several shades of crimson. "They're sensitive to that kind of thing."
It was an odd feeling, embarrassment mixed with a slight pride in my ability to arouse males of many species simultaneously.

Certainly a book like Twilight requires a suspension of belief, but the smell thing kept bringing me back down to Earth. My interest in that book series is as fleeting as that baboon's desire for me. Hmmm. That gives me an idea for a new teen novel....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Five simple steps to a great housewarming party: Property Sluts Episode 8

It's not often I get to mingle with celebrity party planners, so when I got to rub elbows with Shawn Rabideau from Bravo's Bethenny Getting Married show, I knew I had to ask him for housewarming party tips.

In his role as spokesperson for Celebrations.com, part of the 1-800-Baskets.com family of brands, Shawn graciously stepped up to the plate, er, camera. The Celebrations.com site is chock full of party ideas, games and how-to videos. I'm especially fond of their Booze-O-Meter that helps hosts figure out just how much alcohol to buy for their events.

And now a sneak peak for my housewarming party--you're all invited!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Springfield, Springfield It's a Helluva Trip

I'm taking the holidays off to focus on my family. Please enjoy this old post from the Chicago Moms Blog. It was originally posted in July 2007.

We’re headed to Springfield in a few weeks. No we’re not off to Vermont, the newly-minted Land of Homer, to see the over-hyped Simpson’s movie, we’re headed downstate to the Land of Lincoln, our very own state capital.

For some reason I can no longer recall, or even fathom, we decided to take a family trip there when the boys were only 2.5 and 4.5 years old. D'oh! What were we thinking? It was horrible, hellish. It set the standard by which we judge all other family travel disasters.

First off, the drive down took about 1.5 hours longer than expected. Meaning 1.5 hours more for our energetic young boys to grow restless and frustrated trapped in their car seats. And the weather was horrible, so we couldn’t just let them play at a rest stop along the way. We got off to a bad start and things only got worse.

It turns out the town of Springfield (back then, anyway) pretty much shut down on the weekends. The children’s museum was closed on Saturday and Sunday. Okay, Sunday wasn’t a surprise, but Saturday? I hadn’t bothered checking the hours because who would expect a kid’s museum to close on weekends?

Our finest, most gourmet meal of the trip was at Ponderosa. And as for lodging, it turns out our hotel was hosting a Jon-Benet Ramsey type beauty competition. While Smartypants has always had an eye for the ladies (at 3 he posted his first bedroom pinup—a Baby Gap ad featuring a pregnant Marlee Matlin) he was clearly confused by all these tarted up little girls. These prostitots gave DH and me the creeps…and they were everywhere.

But the worst part, the worst part was getting the boys to sleep. If we had been on an airplane we wouldn’t have merely been kicked off, we would have been banned for from flying for life.

That I sit here struggling to recall the specifics of the boys’ behavior is a sign of how joyously far removed we are from toddlerhood. There was yelling and screaming and crying, and not just from me. It was horrible. For a minute there I thought DH was going to drive back to Chicago that night…possibly without our kids…or me. The boys fought sleep hard, but sleep eventually won. Finally. Thankfully.

Until a freakin’ frat party in the hallway woke us all up around 2:00 AM. Did we jump in the car and just hightail it home, putting an end to our misery? Honestly, I have no idea. I must have repressed the memories and I’m not sure I want to dig them up.

But I am ready to replace them. At 7 and 9, the boys are old enough to have a sense of history and Abe Lincoln’s role in it, and I think this trip will go much smoother. Plus, we’re traveling with a set of cousins as well as pair of grandparents, (and maybe a Nintendo DS and a Gameboy) so we’ve got some distractions. We’ve also heard nothing but good things about the new Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library. I very much hope this trip will put the spring back in Springfield for us.

(P.S. Writing in 2010 to say it was a lovely trip with our extended family.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Drinking the Kool-Aid

From the archives at Chicago Moms Blog. Originally posted in April 2008.

A few months ago, everyone I knew was drinking the Kool-Aid. Or at least that's what they said they were doing. Eventually I realized it's just an expression.

But I didn't really understand it, so I did the natural thing. I Googled the Kool-Aid man looking for answers. I took a trip to his house,

his virtual house, that is, and found his phone number. Apparently he's got one of those old-fashioned party lines and shares it with Kraft Foods (800-367-9225).

I was thrilled when a man answered the phone, but quickly realized I was not speaking with the actual Kool-Aid man. Still, I asked the kind fellow about this whole “drinking the Kool-Aid” thing. Did he know what it meant? Had Kool-Aid sales spiked recently, what with all this Kool-Aid drinking?

He put me on hold while he went off to research the matter. In less time it takes for my eight-year-old to brush his teeth, the Kool-Aids man's lackey was back on the line. And he was clueless. He had no idea what the phrase was about or why people are used it. It was clear this man was not partying at the Kool-Aid man's house, but rather languishing in some dark corporate cube farm that does not allow employees to access the Internet.

I have Internet access, though. So I Googled again and learned at WordsSpy.com that the phrase "comes from the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in which members of the Peoples Temple cult committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid (although some say the drink of choice was actually Flav-R-Aid)."

Got it; drinking the Kool-Aid is a Bad Thing.

But wait, UrbanDictionary.com adds some hip insight: The phrase can also be used in the opposite sense to indicate that one has embraced a particular philosophy or perspective; to completely buy into an idea or system, whether good or bad.

Well, that adds a useful context. Now I just have to work it into my everyday phraseology, so I can sound cool. Unless, of course, I'm too late. I meant to post this last November. Oh well, how cool can I be? I still wear Mom jeans.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Ho, Ho, Ho

Tell me this guy isn't the real deal.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Property Sluts Episode 7: Santa Baby

It's just like the Christmas episode of Glee! I asked Santa for a house and he gave me a reason to keep my spirits high.

Also, there are fresh-baked cookies in this episode.



Watch previous editions of Property Sluts.:

In Bed with Nate Berkus (Episode 2)

The Home Office (Episode 6)

DH Gets a Rolfing (Not ROFLing)

When DH said he was getting Rolfed, I thought someone had made him laugh uncontrollably. The fact that he thought rolf was a misspelling of golf indicates how little time he spends hanging out on the interwebs. Silly man.

Still, let's hear about his experience and contemplate whether he's a genius or a glutton for punishment.

Even now, I still view the words rolf and rolfing and think, surely that’s a misspelling of golf and golfing. The American-pioneered therapy offers a sort of uber-massage that delves past the skin and muscle to the fascia bags that hold muscles together and the tendon/ligament structures that anchor our skeletal-muscular systems. Few activities are further removed from rolfing than golfing. Some have likened rolfing to yoga, only instead of bending yourself into impossible contortions, someone else bends you.

As I lay on a massage table and the rolfer, a football player with superior upper-body strength, carved a deep channel into my quadriceps with his sharp elbow, several thoughts flew through my head:

· I’m paying good money for this and it really, really hurts.

· If I tell Kim that I know what the pain of childbirth must be like, will she roll her eyes or slap me?

· Anything this uncomfortable has to be good for me in the long run, right?

· Good grief! (Not the actual words I was thinking.) How much longer is he going to do this?

· Just lie still and think of England.

To be fair, I was warned it would hurt. As in other aspects of life, pain may be meant to endure while aspiring towards a higher goal—in this case, improved posture and release from recurring pain caused by out-of-whack joints.

Sometimes, though, it hurt so bad all I could do was laugh. When I wasn’t laughing, I was wincing. Imagine going in for a deep-tissue massage, but the therapist not only refuses to relent when you say it’s too deep, but he digs deeper and more slowly. I lay there and thought about the bruising the rolfer assured me I’d experience the next day.

It is the next day as I write about this, and I still ache, although he left no visible welts for the jury to see. The dull pain reminds me I’m supposed to call to make my next appointment (perhaps that's the real purpose of it).

I’m not sure my fallen arches have risen or my pigeon toes are flying straighter. But I believe the notion that my decades of horrible posture have caused my body to cramp up, to limit my range of motion and possibly create scar tissue deep inside my limbs. So I’m willing to give it a few tries to see if I can detect improvement.

I had earlier wondered if rolfing would be like hitting myself with a hammer, then stopping. You feel so much better when you stop. Or maybe there would be a placebo effect, as with bloodletting back in the day, and I would only think I was feeling better because I want to.

But it can’t be that. I don’t feel any better yet. Even so I’m going back in for Round 2.

Having a Ball with Popcorn Factory Balls

I recently attended a blogger event for celebrations.com and 1-800 Baskets.com and all I got was, well, a lot of yummy samples from their sister companies, as well as practical party planning ideas. In fact, look for tips on a quick and easy housewarming party from Celebrations.com spokesperson and party planner extraordinaire Shawn Rabideau in the 12/27/10 episode of Property Sluts.

I shared part of my bounty in the form of a decorate your own popcorn ball kit from the Popcorn Factory with Thing Two's class. The kit, which retails for $19.99, contains a dozen "secret-recipe" Popcorn Balls and includes a variety of decorating candies (Tootsie rolls, licorice, mini-marshmallows and more) along with a tube of icing "glue" tube. It's worth noting that the icing tube must be warmed in water to soften for use.


Not only did the students have fun fashioning their creations, but their teacher graciously allowed me to leave class just as their sugar buzz was ramping up. I snapped a few photos before I escaped.

I had never thought about decorating popcorn balls prior to seeing this kit. It was a fun experience and might be good for the person who's looking for something new to try at a birthday party or picnic.

The balls themselves are super sweet, at least to my sophisticated adult palate, and a bit messy to eat at any age (as I recently learned as I tried to discretely nibble on a leftover one at a recent meeting). No complaints from the kids, though, and the teacher isn't holding a grudge.

Here's how the pros do it, via the Popcorn Factory website:

I received this kit for free. All opinions shared are my own. I was not compensated for this post nor was I required to write it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Commit a Minute to Safety, Kindness and a Plea

Late last December I wrote about the danger of moments of inattention. This year, the folks at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a leading safety organization, asked me to think about it in a different light thanks to their Commit a Minute to Safety campaign.

Apparently, our busy-ness and moments of inattention (Did I really leave the kitchen with more than 50 tiny Chanukah candles burning on the island to check e-mail?) don't go unpunished. According to UL, studies show that 230 people visit the emergency room each day in November and December due to holiday-related injuries.

I'm guessing this could mean winding up in the ER due to anything from slicing a finger when you mean to be slicing a holiday turkey/ham/latke {Did I say finger? My dad almost cut off his hand a couple of weeks ago due to a slippery encounter with an electric knife (on a turkey, not a latke)} to slipping from a ladder while hanging holiday lights (I know someone whose husband died from this kind of fall, yo).

We all want a healthy new year, right?

UL has lots of ideas to help you and your family Commit a Minute to safety with opportunities to review holiday safety tips, send e-cards or print out holiday coloring pages for your child.

In recent weeks, I've been playing the role of Santa's helper thanks to Yahoo's Ripples of Kindness Program. I'll write a separate post on that, but consciously performing random acts of along with my fellow Yahoo Motherboard peeps has been eye-opening and rewarding.

Which brings me to the next item. UL has not only sponsored this post, but a handful of similar ones with other moms bloggers. The organization has pledged a $250 gift card to the blogger with the most interaction in her comments; the blogger can give the card to a commenter or whatever. Here's my whatever:

Share your holiday safety tips in the comments and together we can win that $250 gift card for
Team WhyMommy. Team WhyMommy is the IRL support team for cancer fighter and survivor Susan "@WhyMommy" Niebur of the Toddler Planet Blog.

I had intended to make a donation to a cancer research organization in memory of Elizabeth Edwards, but then I read Susan's recent post and health update. I realized it made more sense to donate in honor a friend who is in the fight of, and for, her life than in memory of someone I didn't know.

Please join me by leaving a comment with a holiday safety tip below. If we win the gift card, I will have UL send it to the awesome and hilarious Stimey, Team WhyMommy's head cheerleader, to use as she as Susan see fit. Maybe the money will provide a soothing massage or two for Susan or a few meals for her family. Perhaps it will be donated to research IBC and other fast moving cancers. That's their call.

Also, if we win, I will donate my post $100 sponsor fee to IBC research.

Please take a moment to comment sharing how you will Commit a Minute to Safety. You may comment once per day through the end of TBA)

For extra entries to help win the $250 gift card for Team WhyMommy:

Tweet something like "Join me in committing a minute to @SafetyAtHome in support of #TeamWhyMommy by commenting at http://tinyurl.com/25azc39"

or share on Facebook, but you must come back to leave another comment and let me know about Tweets and FB mentions.

Follow @SafetyAtHome on Twitter and tell them @KimMoldofsky sent you.

Join the Army of Women to help cancer research (it's free and they don't ask for money; just volunteers for research studies) and come back to comment that you did.

Best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy new year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Homemade Teacher Gifts


Originally published in December 2009 at Chicago Moms Blog. I'm totally going the gift card route this year.

After pouring more mental and physical energy, not to mention more money, than I intended into homemade teacher gifts last year, I felt our presents did not make the grade. After talking with friends and family and seeking advice my from blog readers, it was clear that teachers love gift cards--gift cards for a quick lunch at Subway, an indulgent treat or necessary pick-me-up at Starbucks, or personal or classroom supplies from Target or a book store.

Homemade treats and tzochkes = nice. Gift cards = good.

Sure the handcrafted Pi magnet my son created for a special math teacher was heartfelt and even practical, but it likely fell flat compared to a free grande peppermint latte.

And getting my kids to complete the projects they were supposedly eager to tackle was like herding cats. Also, I didn't always have the right colors on hand for my demanding artists, so I made a couple of costly runs to the craft store.

"Never again!" I swore.

But here we are a year later. Not only is my husband still looking for steady employment, but my boys have more teachers than ever. Our budget is still tight. Even a small gift per teacher would set me back further than I wanted to go. Which is why my nine-year-old has set-up his own little Santa's workshop, and I've been baking up a storm with my boys.

I'm sorry dear teachers; once again, we're looking at a homemade holiday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evanston High School Denies Gifted Children Opportunities

I have friends who live in Evanston and insist that it's the only suburb in which they could live, friends who wonder why people would choose to live in, say, Skokie (or God forbid Morton Grove or Niles) over Evanston. Never mind that those other 'burbs have more affordable houses and lower taxes.

And then there's the matter of schools. Despite the many people I know who received fine educations at Evanston Township High School (several decades ago) and despite the parents I know who are happy with their children's Evanston schools, I've always thought the Evanston public school system was something to be avoided.

And now I've been proven right. The board of education at the Evanston Township High School District 202 recently voted unanimously to eliminate their freshman honors humanities course. The course served students in the top 5%, who will now be mixed in with other students in the name of diversity and equality with a promise that every student in each classroom will be challenged.

I call bullshit.

It gets worse.

There is talk that the board will eliminate an honors freshman biology course next.

Ouch.

It's all being done in the name equal opportunity, of course. When I mentioned the cancellation of the honors humanity course to a friend, the cynical reply was, "Not enough black students in the honors class?"

Ouch again.

But the reality is that with a school like ETHS, one that has a tremendous range of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity within the student body, discussions about student achievement (or lack thereof) are inevitably tied in with class and race. And it can make for some dicey and uncomfortable dialogue.

I'm guessing there's a lot of this dialogue going on right now. You can see some of it in the comments over at the Tribune article.

Apparently, some posit that the actions of the school board in district 202 are part of a new trend to de-track or put an end to ability grouping in favor or "rigorous instruction for all."

And that's really scary.

Gifted students benefit from ability grouping. Yes, they do.

But, sadly, our nation's guiding education policy focuses on bringing up the bottom, rather than annual yearly academic progress for all students. So {shudder} this de-tracking thing could catch on.

Is your local school board considering these types of cuts?

According to the Trib article, there's talk of lawsuits over the school board's move. If legal action (or fear of it) will deter other schools from following in stride, then I'm all for it.

And since I'm all about the house hunt these days, do you think that maybe homes in Evanston just became a teensy bit more affordable?

Edited 12/16 to add this link to letter to the editor of the Washington Post from NAGC regarding eliminating G/T programs at urban schools.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Property Sluts Episode 6: The Home Office Edition

Winter's here and now that I've dragged out everybody's winter gear it's getting really crowded in my parents' house! In this new episode of Property Sluts you'll see that I'm getting creative about using all available space.

Watch for an update on some of the houses we've bid on, taking care to implement Sara's strategy. Also note the clever use of the antique mahogany table I got for a steal (ha) in Episode 5 of Property Sluts.

Finally, take a peek at that nifty Tassimo coffee maker. Rumor has it I'm getting one for review and an extra one for a giveaway soon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Amazing Thing about the Santa Train

A 2009 post from the Chicago Moms Blog.

After a night in Chicago with some of my blogs friends, including Chicago Moms Bloggers, Sarah, MJ, Miss Lori, Nancy, NJ Moms Contributor Vanessa and NYC Moms' Beth, I stepped onto Belmont to quite a racket. When I looked around for the cacophonous source, my eyes stuck on the CTA tracks. There up on the elevated tracks was a sight to behold--the Santa Train!

Call me a simple suburbanite, but I've never seen anything like it in my life. The blinged out train was awash with colorful lights and joyous holiday signs. It had the equivalent space of a train car decked out with an open-air Santa scene worthy of any shopping mall. It was delightful. The kind of thing you cannot look at without breaking into a smile.

Or perhaps I should say it's the kind of thing I could not look at without breaking into a smile even though I'm Jewish. As I looked around me on the street, I began to think I had seen an optical illusion up on the tracks. None of the wizened Chicagoans around me bothered to take note of the spectacle above. I looked at the passersby focusing on the smart phones or keeping their heads down as they walked into the wind. Did they even notice the Santa Train?

Oh well, their loss. I headed off to my bat mitzvah class filled with a child's sense of wonder and delight.

Check out the schedule for the CTA's holiday train.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: Do you really need a new one?

Yes, even as I run my own slew of holiday/blogaversary giveaways (enter by 12/14/10), I know it's important to think about our relationship with "stuff." It's important to think about the difference between wants and needs and to help our children understand the myriad of advertisements and commercials they face each day. Especially at this time of year.

The FTC has a site called Admongo aimed at tweens, along with their teachers and parents, that helps them build advertising literacy and decipher who is behind a given ad and what the sponsor is trying to motivate people to do. The website has games for kids and lesson plans for adults--all free, natch (well, "tax dollars at work" free).

We've been talking about this kind of thing since my boys were young and come to me asking for some really stupid toy based on a super fun commercial they'd seen. When one of my boys was just five years old, he suggested that his grandmother consider consolidating her loans in order to save money based on some cheesy commercial on basic cable. (For the record, I don't believe she had any outstanding loans.)

Another useful resource is Loops Scoops, a new series of eight brief animated videos that helps kids ages 6-9 how to think more deeply and creatively about the world they live in, and how to make choices based on what they discover.

Here's my favorite:





From the creator of the Story of Stuff, Loop Scoops is designed help kids look upon objects and activities in their daily life and ask: Where does it come from? What it’s made of? What happens to it when it’s thrown away?

The mini-series is brought to us courtesy of WGBH, which also has a host of resources to help develop media-savvy children.

WGBH and other public broadcasting partners have also created Teacher's Domain which provides useful resources like videos, lesson plans and quizzes for educators. A quick look around the site revealed some great videos for the Science Olympiad team I am helping coach. Score!

How do you deal with the holiday gimmes?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Gift Guide: Great Books for Highly Gifted Children and Their Parents

I'm dusting off my bookshelf to offer these recommendations for highly and profoundly gifted young children and their parents. Each of the picture books below helps normalize the quirks and sensitivities experienced by many gifted children and their parents. You are not alone! It can be helpful for the entire family to see their stories play out in such a harmless, and often entertaining, format.


Odd Boy Out : Young Albert Einstein

As told by Don Brown, Albert Einstein was a fat baby with a swollen head who didn’t talk until he was three, was cruel to his sister and scared off more than one tutor. Einstein’s odd ways continued though his childhood. He didn’t play sports like the other boys, he was teased for being Jewish, and his teachers wondered if perhaps he was a bit dim-witted.

But then dear Albert falls in love…with a geometry book, and well, you probably know how the story ends. This book is like “The Ugly Duckling” for quirky smart kids of all ages who’ve not yet found their way.

Goodness only knows what would have become of Albert if he’d been born in the new millennium. I guess he would have been in early intervention services, followed by an IEP and his parents would be struggling to find the money to pay for his therapists and medications, instead of his tutors. Ya think?


Baby Brains


This fun picture book tells the bittersweet story of Baby Brains, the smartest baby in the whole world. Mama and Papa Brains do all the right things when she’s pregnant to help make a smart baby. But everyone is surprised by just how precocious her little one is. Within days of his birth he’s already in school…and he’s teaching the teacher new things. Interestingly, she thanks him for correcting her. A certain boy's first grade teacher was not nearly as appreciative when he tried to explain to her and the class that infinity is a concept and not a number. It was a losing battle.

Baby Brains is so smart that he’s invited to participate in a space mission when he’s only weeks old. But while floating around in space he realizes something: he misses his mama!

Looking beyond the silliness of the tale, one can find a good lesson about asynchronous development. Precocious children exhibit abilities beyond their years, but they are not mini-adults, they are still children. As the parent of a time-traveling child* I know these children bring unexpected delights and just as many challenges.


Sometimes I'm Bombaloo

Follow along as little Katie Honors transitions from a good little girl who plays with her blocks, to one who goes bombaloo after her baby brother destroys her fine work.

Katie becomes an unstoppable destructive force. Her out-of-control tantrum continues after being sent to her room, but she eventually calms down. Hugs her mama and cleans up “the mess that bombaloo made.”

Based on the little experiment I call raising my boys, I can say that not all children go bombaloo. In fact, I conclude that perhaps 50% do. If you have a young child who doesn’t merely get upset, but goes completely outside of himself with anger, this book can help normalize those scary, angry feelings. A good therapist might help, too. But start with this book; it’s cheaper and much more convenient.


The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth

A farm boy with a lifelong passion for gadgets and a knack for fixing worn mechanical objects as well as inventing new ones, gets an idea for how to use cutting edge technology, electricity, to send pictures to a viewer, something we now know as television.

Every child in America spends hours a day in effect praying at Farnsworth's altar, but how many even know his name? Regardless of whether you now praise Farnsworth or damn him under your breath, this is an inspirational story. There's also a cautionary element that reminds parents that their little inventors need business smarts in addition to technical ones.

Do you have any favorites to add to this?

Disclosure: We bought the Bombaloo book back around 2002; the other books were all library finds.

*Did you click? Yes, I used to write for the BabyCenter's insanely popular Momformation Blog.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Disney Social Media Moms Conference

I have a bit of history with Disney. You see, back in the late 1980s, a Mickey-loving friend of mine convinced me join her at the on-campus interviews for the Disney College Program. I was graduating a semester early and had some time to kill before my summer of travel, so why not earn a few bucks while spending that time at Disney World?

My friend excitedly told me she aced her interview, whereas I feared they'd never even let me pass through the gates as a guest after I challenged my interviewer on the written application. "I left the clothing size blank because it's illegal to ask that on a job application," I told her with the hubris of a soon-to-be college graduate.

She explained that because the company provides costumes for all employees, they could indeed legally ask that question.

Oh.


Long story short, my Disneyphile friend did not make the cut and I did. I felt horrible when we shared our news.

So here I am roughly two decades later sharing the news that I am headed to Orlando in March for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference feeling much the same way--awkward.

The registration process was not what Disney promised it would be. Many bloggers (and their families) were upset by the system. I don't know if it was human error, server crashes, secret lists, good luck or something else that led my acceptance, but I got the green light.

I received the news late last Friday night in between carpools. It took time to sink in. Based on the conversations I'd seen on Twitter, I wondered if it was a mistake.

So...I'm going. I'm excited for those who get to join in and truly sorry for those who won't be there.

The Disney folks got flack last year, they're getting flack this year and I'm certain if they choose to host the conference in 2012, they will try to right their wrongs. Any suggestions for the team?

In 2011, I'm only headed to Disney for a matter of days. In the late 80s, I was there for five months working as an attractions hostess at a now defunct Epcot Center attraction. As part of the College Program, I also attended weekly management seminars, eventually earning my Ducktorate in Business from Disney University. It's an actual diploma, signed by Mickey and Donald, complete with a golden seal.

It used to hang in my office, but it's packed away goodness knows where until we are settled in a new house. But I found this old photo. Boy, did I look hot in my Disney-issued bright yellow, nearly see-through, high-waisted pants.

Oh, the stories I could tell! The guests I greeted, the lost children reunited with parents, the secret Disney tunnels I walked through, the rows and rows of strollers I straightened....

It was a good and crazy time; I'm looking forward to creating more Disney memories in March.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gifted Giveaway: Iowa Acceleration Scale

Some of you may accuse me of doing nothing more than clearing off my desk during my Chanukah/Blogaversary giveaways, and to some degree, you might be right. Still, I'm certain a free copy of the Iowa Acceleration Scale Manual: A Guide to Whole Grade Acceleration K-8 (2nd Edition) will make a great gift for a parent of a highly gifted child.

Sometimes the decision to accelerate a child a full grade is easy, sometimes it's not (welcome to my blog, er, world). The Iowa Acceleration Scale is designed to help clear up some of the murkiness in the case of the latter.

When talking with teachers and school administrators about acceleration, anecdotes will only get a parent so far (meaning, of course, not far at all), and objective data are required. Such data includes things like IQ and achievement tests (which the school may provide. Or not.).

The Iowa Scale provides an outline to help parents gather the right information like school history, assessment of ability, aptitude and achievement, school and academic factors, developmental factors, interpersonal skills and resources for support.

In the end, none of this might actually matter, but you have to try, right?

Please note the cover has a dog-eared corner and my name is scratched out on it, but the book is otherwise is excellent shape. Also know there is a newer edition available, but it will set you back more than $40, so why not give this one a try?

If you or someone you know could use this tool, fill out this form below by December 14, 2010 to be entered to win.

And check out my other giveaways:

This giveaway has ended.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Property Sluts on Antiques in Episode 5

This week on Property Sluts, my not ready for HGTV house hunting series, I'm going old skool, talking about antiques and showing off some of my faves, including my latest piece, which was a real steal. Literally.

This episode also features Meagan Francis dishing on some of her favorite antiques as we wander through Blue Door Antiques in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Remember, I'm giving away a Grand Rapids getaway through 12/14/10.



Do you have an old piece of furniture that has a great story?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

T-Shirt Giveaway: The Hanukah Blogaversary Fun Continues

Yes, we've established it is both Hanuka and my five-year blogaversary, so we've got lots of giveaways this week.

As with our family Chanukah observance, there will be a couple of big presents, and a few small tokens.

Today's giveaway is the result of a tzedakah project of soon to be bar mitzvah boy at our synagogue. He bought old t-shirts at a local charity resale shop, his mom screen painted them and he's selling them most mornings during Sunday School. Now, this isn't to fill his own pockets, but to help fill the coffers at Heifer International.

Heifer International is the organization that makes it easy to buy a goat for the holidays. A goat that goes to a needy family in a developing country. A goat that can provide nutritious milk, kids, and income.

Heifer also funds projects in the US.

I thought this was a pretty cool project and wanted to support it, even though the shirt doesn't fit anyone in my family. Maybe it fits someone in yours?

It's a size M 100% cotton t-shirt from the originally from The Children's Place. Remember, it's a repurposed shirt, but it's soft and clean.

To enter, fill out this form
prior to 1 AM, Tuesday, December 14 to be entered to win.

Winner will be chose via Random.org based on the total number of comments.

This giveaway has ended.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Chanukas Interruptus

I like to think of this repost from the December 2009 Chicago Moms Blog as a letter from my 41-year-old self.

At first I laughed off the email from a colleague who apologized for interrupting my Chanukah with a work request. Chanukah may be misunderstood by non-Jews as "the Jewish Christmas," but it's not even close. Chanukah is actually a very minor holiday; of course I was available to work.

She who laughs first does not laugh best. It turned out that this year my traditional Eight Crazy Nights were insane. There was a synagogue party, a friend's party, another friend's party, a choir performance at synagogue, a family get together, a school concert, the night we all have classes, and another family get together.

Instead of gathering around the menorah, lighting the candles, singing songs, and maybe opening a gift or two, we hurried through the process. Some nights we reluctantly lit candles at home only because the boys begged us to and refused to go to bed until we caved in.

And, of course, the one potentially leisurely night we celebrated alone at home as a family one of my boys had a meltdown far beyond what we saw in the candles before us, effectively ruining the festive mood.

By the end of the holiday I was farblondzhet. I want a do-over. And I'll get one.

In 2010.

It was all too much this year. No matter if I sound like a scrooge, next year I'm going to just say no if someone tries to interrupt us during Chanukah.

For Your Little Nature Lover: A National Wildlife Federation Giveaway!

You don't have to be Jewish to win my Chanuka/blogaversary giveaways, you just have to comment. Today we're offering a perfect gift for your growing nature lover, a National Wildlife Foundation Preschooler's Prize Pack.

As one of NWF's Founding Moms, I received an issue of Wild Animal Baby, a DVD of NWF's new show Wild Animal Baby Explorers and an adorable plush Sammy the Skunk.

Sammy the Skunk! My boys used to love the challenge of finding him hiding in the pages of Wild Animal Baby. Of course, now they laugh over how obvious Sammy's "hidden" pictures seem and I get weepy thinking about when my boys were small enough to cuddle up in my lap and young enough to want to.

Sigh.

At any rate, I didn't open the DVD or the cute plush Sammy because I thought these would be best enjoyed by a family with pre-school aged children. That is, a family with children young enough to enjoy these items, but old enough to get suspicious when a parent "gifts" them with an unsealed package.

The magazine, just a couple of dozen pages, is perfect for curious 2-4 year-olds. The DVD is meant for children of the same age. It features 3-D animated characters as well as footage of real-life animals. Both will help build your child's observation skills and further develop their natural curiosity about, well, the natural world.

And that plus Sammy the Skunk? He's just plain snuggable.

Also, he reminds me of a half-written essay I started oh, back in 2005, Six Warning Signs of an Angry Skunk (or Toddler). I outlined some thoughts after the boys and I visited a local nature center and got to pet a real skunk. So, I guess Sammy is kind of a muse, too.

Leaning, fun, snuggles, inspiration--what more could you want? This prize pack has it all, and it can be yours for just a comment.

Comment below letting me know which member of your family you'd most like to interview.

Comment prior to 1 AM, Tuesday, December 14, 2010 to be entered to win.

*Tweet about this contest and come back and let me know about it for an extra entry.
Sample tweet: Win National Wildlife Foundation for a preschooler on @KimMoldofsky's blog (link)

* Share this giveaway with a link back on Facebook and comment here to let me know for another extra entry.


U.S. residents only.
I must have a way to contact you based on the comment.
Winner will be chose via Random.org based on the total number of comments.

This giveaway has ended. Congrats Tiffany!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Grand Rapids, Michigan Family Getaway Giveaway!

In late November, I was invited to spend a weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan as part of a blogger Familiarization (FAM) Trip. These trips are typically offered to travel journalists, but smart Convention and Visitors Bureaus know that reaching out to bloggers is a smart move. Even smarter is hiring a blogger to assist in planning the event and helping the CVB staff understand the difference between working with bloggers and journalists. In this case, the blogger was Michigan native, Meagan Francis; in Galena's case, it was MomImpact.

We pulled off the highway and headed into downtown Grand Rapids. "Wow, there's tall office buildings and everything!" I exclaimed. Heading from Chicago to Detroit, I'd only bypassed the roads leading to Grand Rapids in the past. I expected it to be some rinky-dink small town. It's not!

Grand Rapids has a newly thriving downtown and is home to many large companies like Amway, Meijer (grocery stores) and Steelcase. In addition, Herman Miller is nearby. In 2008, Fast Company named Grand Rapids the "greenest" city in the US based, in part, on its number of LEED-certified buildings. Who knew?

Kate Wiltzer and Janet Korn, the team from Experience Grand Rapids, wined and dined us from the start, quite literally via the Grand Rapids International Food and Wine Festival, where we enjoyed a delectable pairing dinner from the folks at the 1913 Room.

Venison Loin sous vide with lingonberry and a most delicious butternut squash puree

The next day we took in several of the town's main attractions. First stop, the GRAM, or Grand Rapids Art Museum, where we were treated to a private showing of the Princess Diana exhibit.

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With another royal wedding just months away, it was fascinating--and bittersweet--to tour this exhibit which GRAM is hosting through mid-February. It's fascinating that one of the best-known humanitarians of our time had a rather lackluster life prior to marrying Prince Charles. She seemed neither an outstanding student nor an outstanding worker. Yet, she went on to touch so many lives before her own got cut short.

In addition to hosting travel exhibits such as this, GRAM hosts Saturday family programs and an outdoor ice rink in season (click for a coupon). Of course, they have a lot of art for adults, too, including the winner of Art Prize 2010, Chris LaPorte's, Cavalry.


This 8 x 4.4 piece was done in Number 2 pencil. Really.

ArtPrize is a new tradition in Grand Rapids. It's a "radically open" art competition. As noted on their site, Art Prize is, "Open to any artist in the world who can find space. Open to anybody in Grand Rapids, Michigan who wants to create a venue. Open to a vote from anyone who attends."
In 2010, nearly 200 venues hosted close to 2,000 works of art for this event.

Later in the day our group visited the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The park has a pleasing blend of horticulture and sculpture. They have indoor gardens representing different biomes and the plants that grow within them. A busy little boy who might not want to stop and smell the flowers might be taken in by the carnivorous plants (though not literally!).


Check out those "fangs" on the Pitcher Plant and the Venus Fly Trap

The building is currently hosting a "Holidays Around the World" event, similar to the one hosted at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry each year. That is, traditionally and beautifully decorated trees representing different countries, cultures and religions are on display throughout the building. (Yes, there's a shout-out to Chanukah and Eid, as well.)

The main building's architecture is delightfully reminiscent of a forest.



And the Children's Garden? Granted, it wasn't looking its best on a cold November Day. Yet it's clear this garden is a destination for children of all ages in all seasons. It has an accessible and engaging sensory garden where children can (in season) smell, see, hear, touch and even taste.
It boasts a wooded wetlands area with a child-sized beaver lodge, a treehouse village for running and climbing and a log cabin for warming up and playing old-fashioned games.

In warmer weather guests of all ages can enjoy the Great Lakes Garden and other features of the children's area. This garden offers an amazing blend of education and fun.

And here's where your fun comes in! Experience Grand Rapids will provide one of my readers with:
  • tickets for a family of four to to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
As well as a sturdy canvas tote bag containing:
  • an iPod shuffle with a podcast about Grand Rapids
  • The Polar Express DVD (Grand Rapids is portrayed in the film)
  • an official Experience Grand Rapids Visitor Guide
To win the Grand Rapids Family Getaway:

Hop on over to Experience Grand Rapids and then come back and comment here letting me know what else you'd like to see or do there, or where you'd like to eat on your Getaway.

Comment prior to 1 AM, Tuesday, December 14, 2010 to be entered to win.

Extra entries

Tweet about this contest and come back and let me know about it for an extra entry.
Sample tweet: Win a #GrandRapids Getaway from @KimMoldofsky & @GrandRapidsCVB http://bit.ly/hOOhMK

Share this giveaway with a link back on Facebook and comment here to let me know.
Open to U.S. residents only.
I must have a way to contact you based on the comment.
Winner will be chose via Random.org based on the total number of comments.


Edited to add: You can also enter:

Stephanie's Grand Rapids giveaway at Adventures in Babywearing
Julie's is up at Dutch Being Me

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to @MarketingMommy, our winner
Turns our that our first winner already won a GR getaway on another blog, so she graciously declined my prize.
The new winner is @McMama!

Chevy Cruze Review

I received a Chevy Cruze to test drive on a family road trip after Thanksgiving. But that trip turned out to be a 20-minute drive away to a nearby suburb. However, a drive up to Michigan me gave me a chance to test it out. Upon my return I let my husband drive it to work one day. But then he took it the next, and then the day after that, so I made him write the review.

As an ├╝ber-commuter with a 60-mile round trip each day, comfort and mileage are critical components of any set of wheels. And no, by the way, public transportation is not a viable option between the suburban start and end of my daily journey.

Kim drove the Cruze up to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a blogger trip and I drove by myself to work for a few days, and we took a "road trip" to Schaumburg affter Thanksgiving.

Ready for the valet at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids

To be certain, this isn’t an SUV or mini-van. It’s an economy-sized four-door sedan. But comfort-wise, it was a pleasant ride each time for me. As a male of standard (5’10”) height, I had enough leg and head room to make each trip without feeling cramped.


While my visibility when checking traffic on my left side was hampered by the roof support beam, overall visibility and mirror placement was good. Compared to my beloved Honda Civic, which I drove nearly a decade ago, the Cruze offered superior cushioning and material on the seats. The Cruze was also better in letting me adjust the seat to my comfort and still have head clearance and visibility.

Mileage

The Civic is long gone. I currently drive a large Infiniti with a sizable engine that burns more fuel than the Cruze. In addition to loving the better-than 30 mpg the Cruze gave me on my mostly highway drive each day, the on-dashboard feedback screen showed me mileage, range and tripmeter, which I could view at will with a twist of the headlight control wand on the left of the steering column.


Screens and Sounds

The entertainment and information systems were, by far, my favorite thing about the Cruze. Besides feedback on the health of the vehicle (like tire pressure and estimated lifespan of the most recent oil change), once I figured out how to store XM and Sirius stations, I was able to jump between 30 pre-sets (in addition to boring old AM and FM).

{Note from Kim, I headed up to Grand Rapids with my friend Beth Rosen and we talked so much on the seven hour road trip, I forgot to even turn on the radio!}

OnStar

The OnStar system is always a major convenience. In addition to the added insurance of knowing somebody is available to help in an emergency if the airbags deploy or the car is stolen, it helps in those mundane situations where you’re driving in the dark in an unfamiliar town and not sure how to reach your hotel. In addition to audio commands, the screen displays the next turn direction and estimated distance.

We have had OnStar in a number of General Motors loaners over the years, and XM/Sirius radio on a few. I must say that I LOVE XM/Sirius, but it’s a luxury. OnStar, on the other hand, may someday be a lifesaver, but for us has frequently been a timesaver, replaced the hassle of an aftermarket GPS device and given us peace of mind as well as stifled arguments, tears and missed appointments. To really put a value on the convenience of OnStar’s directions feature, I only have to think of the other day when Kim got lost while driving her minivan, called me to find her location on an Internet website, but I couldn't find her intersection on my online map.

OnStar knows where you are and the quickest way to get you where you’re going. Chevy gives you OnStar free with your new car for a limited time. But once you get hooked, you may find it hard to relinquish the useful service.

{Kim's note: I am a huge fan of OnStar.}


Other features in the Cruze that were surprising in a car that size included a warning that I was about to back up into something, as well as a deceptively large trunk. The steering handled well and the key fob seemed to a feature a remote starter, although that wasn't installed on our model.

With the smaller, more fuel-efficient engine, some tradeoffs are inevitable. In the chilly November weather, the Cruze’s engine was sluggish at startup. To be fair, nobody likes waking up on a cold morning and being forced to carry four people and their luggage to a shopping mall without using too much petroleum. Additionally, it takes a bit longer to get the in-cabin heat going on those same cold days.

I’m not certain I would want the Cruze on a long wintertime road trip (that’s when it’s really nice to have the drop-down screen and DVD player). The Equinox we drove earlier this year was a great vehicle for that purpose. But for everyday driving with intermittent carpools or local family trips, the Cruze performed admirably.

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Chaunkah

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Beyond the Family Tree (Book): A Chanukah Giveaway


Time to celebrate! Not only is it Hanuka, it's also my five-year blogaversary! Just as the holy oil was not expected to last more than one night, but kept burning for eight, this here blogging thing has gone on longer than anyone might have guessed.

And you know what? Neither of these causes for celebration is a Biblical holy day. That's why we're going to keep things kind of low-key. But fun! And there will be doughnuts (sufganyot).

Let's get this party started.

A while back, I received a review copy of Beyond the Family Tree: A 21st Century Guide to Exploring Your Roots and Creating Connections by Jennifer Worick. This book is more than just a list of questions to ask your mom or Uncle Joe. As the title suggests it also contains tips on how to use technology to keep in touch and record, or even make, family history.

Worick starts the book with a technology overview that's easily skimmed by, well, someone like you, but has tips on camcorders, laptops and other hardware for your easily confused mom, even if she does own an iPad. Ahem.

She goes on to give tips for creating the right atmosphere both physical and in terms of outlining an interview. And then come 1,000 interview questions conveniently broken into categories like relationships, career, pop culture, health, politics, and family secrets. Kidding on that last one.

Finally, Worick provides an overview of websites and social media options that allow families to quickly and easily communicate with one another. A MoldyFam Yahoo! Group, anyone?

The book closes with a section for notes, biographical sketches, a family tree and the like.

It's really a lovely book and would make a great companion to Dave Isay's Story Corps book on moms.

And even though it makes me a little sad, I'm going to give away my of this wonderful book. (See notes on living with my parents...still! Or the posts about us looking for a house...still! Or check out Property Sluts. I'm quickly becoming the newest nut on my family tree and just can't acquire new things right now.)

So, would you like to win this book? It's in excellent condition, I swear.

Comment below letting me know which member of your family you'd most like to interview. Comment prior to 1 AM, Tuesday, December 14 to be entered to win.
Tweet about this contest and come back and let me know about it for an extra entry.
Sample tweet: I just entered to win Beyond the Family Tree on @KimMoldofsky's blog http://bit.ly/ih82SG
U.S. residents only.
I must have a way to contact you based on the comment.
Winner will be chose via Random.org based on the total number of comments.