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.


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.


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 $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


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 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.