Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marketing to Moms: Announcing my BlogHer sponsor!

If you've been poking around the momosphere lately you've no doubt heard talk of BlogHer sponsorships. Mom bloggers across the country are asking, bargaining or begging for sponsorship dollars in order to join the fun in Chicago.

In fact, Erika at Plain Jane Mom wonders if BlogHer will consist of sponsored conversation after sponsored conversation. You know, you start off talking about your blog, your new friend's blog, or the weather and suddenly your new BFF wants to tell you all about her fab sponsor.

I initially feared the same scenario. And then I talked with moms who challenged my thinking. Melanie over at Mel, A Dramatic Mommy contacted the owner of one of her favorite Etsy shops, KanYoFuse, fused glass jewelery. My understanding is she won't be getting airfare or hotel from this vendor, but she will get a unique piece of jewelry to wear at BlogHer. This sounds like a great partnership. And interesting jewelery makes a safe conversation starter for tongue-tied gals like me.

While keeping tabs on Twitter one day, I noticed Sarcastic Mom was looking for someone to sponsor her BlogHer business cards. As a Vistaprint.com enthusiast, I figured this would cost less than $30 with shipping, so I jumped in and told her I'd be happy to sponsor her cards. She's put my blog button on her sidebar and she's going to have my blog's url on the back on her cards. Will it bring me traffic or, even better, readers? I don't know, but for $30 and the knowledge I'm helping out another mama, I'm willing to experiment.

Lindsay at Rock and Roll Mama truly shifted my sponsorship paradigm, though. She opened my eyes to a different reason for companies to sponsor attendees. It's common for companies to sponsor bloggers to pimp their products (wearing t-shirt, handing out samples, etc.) but Lindsay got me to see the value of sponsors connecting with moms to be their eyes and ears at the conference.

Forget the t-shirt, and bring on the notepad, even if it is the old-fashioned kind.

Companies can sponsor a blogger, someone they've worked with and trust, to report back on trends, key conversations, or even potential new partnerships. Say your company sells beach towels. A savvy blogger might help you connect with bloggers that focus in on all things beachy. Even better, she might connect with a company that sells or promotes bathing suits, sunscreen, or Powder Pouches (a product I once reviewed) for future collaborative efforts.

Regardless of the type of sponsorship, it's important for both parties to clarify expectations.

So did my revelations influence my BlogHer sponsor? No. My sponsor is me! Well, my business, actually.

I plan on hanging out with my friends as well as talking with many PR and marketing folks at BlogHer. I don't want to feel beholden to a sponsor or tied to a specific agenda during my time at the conference. That said, I do have consulting clients and I will bill out time for them if it seems appropriate or I'm providing written summaries, but I can dress as I wish (though I might just be wishing for one of KanYoFuse's cool necklaces). And I don't have to feel guilty talking to company X because they are my sponsor's main competitor, etc. It works for me.

But maybe having a sponsor works for you.

If you have a BlogHer sponsor, I'd love to hear about your arrangements. If you're seeking a sponsor, go ahead and share what you have to offer, PR folks read my marketing to moms posts. And if you represent a company, I welcome your insights on ROI for blogger sponsorship at conferences- what type of relationship do you hope to have with the attendee, what do you hope to gain from it?

EDITED 4/1/09 to add BlogHer posted this informative FAQ about sponsored attendees.

On a related note, Wendy Piersall, AKA @emom, summarizes a case study about her site, Sparkplugging, partnering with Epson for conference sponsorships and related word-of-mouth efforts.

More on marketing to moms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gifted kids and out-of-level testing

I've been working on my weekly marketing to mommybloggers post all day, but my heart and mind are elsewhere. Today I received the results from the EXPLORE tests my boys took a few weeks ago.

The EXPLORE test is a nationally normed test that 8th graders typically take each fall. In our area, the high schools use the test results to help place students for their freshman year.

When younger children take these tests, parents and schools receive information that can help with placement. Comparing young gifted kids to older children is more indicative and useful than simply comparing them to age peers.

The results? Pikachu, my third grader had a higher composite (overall) score than an average 8th grader.


And Smartypants, my 5th grader? Well, apparently, he's academically ready for high school. Based on scores alone, he's more ready than the vast majority of 8th graders. Except he still has to go through all that soul-searing social-emotional junior high crap.

If DH does not have a job by the summer, I'm thinking we might as well cash in our savings and travel around the country for a year. Or maybe South America would be cheaper? All I need is a power source and wifi and my consulting is good to go.

Of course, DH has his garden to consider (it's the subject of his blog, after all!), and there are tricky things like health care and medical insurance. Okay, it probably won't happen. Which is why I went through the effort of scheduling a meeting at school next week.

And really, if I think sending a few emails to arrange a meeting is effort. We probably wouldn't make it beyond the city limits, anyway.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I've been canned!

Last Tuesday I dropped my unemployed husband off for an interview (freelance opportunity, nothing full-time with benefits that would leave me shouting from the rooftops and running to the nearest mall or Target if he got it) and headed out to kill an hour. On my way from my parking spot to a coffee shop I found a lucky penny.

Call me hopelessly naive, but I've never lost my youthful outlook when it comes to finding pennies on the ground: Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck.

I picked up the change and, as is my decades old habit, put it in my shoe. That's what you're supposed to do to bring on the good luck.

Anyway, about an hour later I got a call from my editor at BabyCenter's Momformation blog telling me that I was being let go on account of the economy. They dismissed 75% of the probloggers. Me. And her. But not her, which I mean in a good way.

I was thrilled to get the pro-gig at the popular national parenting blog. It took a good deal of discipline and time for me to post five times a week, something I did for over a year. After I'd reached the year mark, though, I felt I was losing my mojo. Plus, my youngest boy aged out of their target group. I started cutting back there and focusing on this blog as well as working on consulting projects...and Twitter.

In January I put myself on Momformation hiatus and have since debated whether to end my relationship with them, jump back in, or just continue in my self-imposed purgatory.

So the call from my editor was in liberating and lucky in that he gave me the answer to the question I'd left lingering. Sort of. If there's something I want to cross-post there without compensation I'm welcome to do so. And that's fine.

I'm all for leaving the door open, not so much because I'm a wimp and can't make a decision to save my life (though some may argue this), but until I find a crystal ball that can predict my future, I'm all for leaving my options open.

My role at Momformation opened up great opportunities. Shout-out to Vero for hooking me up with the site and a hearty thanks to the excellent bloggers and friends I made there!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fun: Twouble with Twitter

For those who don't think Twitter is All That.

H/T to @JessicaGottlieb who pointed this out to me.

And, of course, if you do think Twitter is All That, check out this video.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Parenting a gifted child

I've got two helpful bits on parenting a gifted child.
1) Carol Fertig's new book Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook is a promising resource that I started reading an embarrassingly long time ago after receiving a review copy from the folks at Prufrock Press. I was enjoying it and liked her practical approach to items such as handling your gifted child's boredom at school. In order to be more specific, I need to recall on which shelf I placed the book so I can finish reading it and post a proper review. Give me two weeks?

2) Dr. Jerry Schecter, a north suburban psychologist who works with gifted children and their families and who graciously gave a talk on "Gifted kids and challenge" at my house last fall, is getting ready to host another SENG group.

This is a structured support/education group in which to share, discuss and learn about some of the challenges of raising a gifted child. What? These bright children aren't just a joy? They certainly can be, but many gifted children also have various intensities or overexcitabilities, they can be very perfectionistic, and can suffer from being under-challenged at school.

Dr. Schecter uses the SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) model. Please note that I have not particpated in Dr. Schecter's groups, but I know several moms who've told me they benefited from the experience and am happy to share details of his next session.

The new group will begin on Thursday, April 16 and continue on April 30 and Thursdays thereafter through June 4. Each session will run from 9:45 to 11:15 AM at his Skokie office. I will be available for coffee at a Skokie Starbucks starting at 11:30 if you want to talk more (kidding!)

Group size is limited to six parents. Participants are expected to obtain a copy of Guiding the Gifted Child. Call Dr. Schecter at 847-679-5243 to discuss fees or other information. Alternately, you can email him at gifteddoc(at)hotmail(dot)com for further details.

Happy parenting! If you have a parenting resource to share please note it in the comment section.

Read more of my musings on gifted education.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Where I've been and where I'm headed

Last week we partied with the folks from the great Chicago locavore site, The Local Beet at Mado in Wicker Park. Good food and good folks all around; we rubbed elbows with a veritable Who's Who of Chicago food. Here's a photo of my friend Jen from Chicago Moms Blog and Chicago Green Families along with Local Beet founder Michael Morowitz and a jar of fresh (wait for it) local beets.DH writes a gardening blog over at the site. Below is his attempt at late winter gardening. He's growing lettuce and spinach just inches from his pillow in the bay window. The cut-up tubes are housing what he hopes will be eggplant and tomato seedlings. The former toilet paper and paper towel tubes are poor man's peat pots. After all, he's been out of a job for over five months. Also, we read online that this would work.My boy are on Spring Break this week, so my posting may be light. We're headed to the Stern pinball factory and Key Lime Cove. I may also attend a reading for a local author at Women and Children First and I'm definitely heading to the city for an afternoon at the Greater Chicago Food Depository with MJ of Chicagonista, other blogfriends and a few folks from Quaker.

How are you spending Spring Break?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fun: Unusual Things

At Village of Joy, you can see unusual churches, unusual cars and lots of other unusual things.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gifted Girls Go Underground

I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to my boys, I'm muddling through like the rest of you. When it comes to gifted girls, I'm especially clueless, so I was thrilled when one of my real life peeps, IRL Julia, accepted my offer (pleading, really) to share her thoughts as a mom of a grade-skipping gifted girl. Drop me a note if you'd like to guest post on giftedness.

There has always been something up with my daughter. She isn’t the more show off – hyper-verbal, passionate, dramatic kid that my son is. She is more behind the scenes, not a big talker (or listener for that matter) but not asleep at the switch either – a child, as my mom likes to say, “With a rich inner life”. This would account for her ability to play with a change purse full of buttons for HOURS as a toddler.

We didn’t really think much of that fact that in pre-school ALL the kids she wanted to play with were a year older – her brother is older, she’s used to older kids. We didn’t even think too much of the fact that all the kids she wanted to play with were either older, scary-smart girls OR older scary smart, drama queen girls. It never even occurred to us that in her own way, she was holding her own against their complicated social shenanigans (that eventually led to a series of parent teacher conferences for a number of families – complete with behavior charts – and stickers).

We DID think a lot about the fact that she refused to recite the alphabet or count for us – preferring instead to cry and pull her hair and were really thankful that she had a fall birthday that gave her an extra year in preschool. So it was much to our surprise when in kindergarten, it turned out that our sort of quirky, spacey, mostly quiet daughter was in fact operating as if she was in first grade (where she ended up mid-year) and was in fact a few grades ahead in math. I mean –we always knew she liked – and was good at math but really. This is all to say that I've always had this sense that she was smart – but I've never really been able to articulate it. Guess what – she’s in third grade now and I STILL can’t.

Gifted Girls and Gifted Boys

Hence the life with many smart or gifted girls – at least according to the internet articles I read (see below for a partial list). When my daughter got to her first grade classroom it became apparent that there were LOTS of smart girls in her class and that they operated (at least in a public school setting) VERY differently than smart boys – or at least MY smart boy and his smart friends.

The boys are much more what one might expect when thinking smart kid – in that they are obviously smart. They use big words. They read books that are obviously above their age group. They explore what they are interested and talk about it to a maddening degree. They talk to adults – actually seeking adults out to talk to because adults get it- and they make friends with other kids who are interested in what they are interested in.

As a teacher at my kid's school said when I asked him how he knew my son,who hadn't had him as a teacher or was even in this teacher’s grade; “All of us (teachers) know the kids who are smart and the kids who are discipline problems - they just stick out”.

Gifted Girls are Different

The girls in my daughter’s class are different than these boys. They are competitive – but not too competitive because they are all friends and want to help each other out and because having a group of friends more important than grades or homework or winning (although they do like winning).

They also don’t want to stick out too much - which is why it is nice that there is a group of them. They want to be friends with all the girls in the class. They don’t necessarily talk to adults in the same way – although they watch them quite closely. They want to be grown up and in the know.

This is only reinforced by what I've read on-line.

What I have also figured out is that at school (even well meaning, gender aware, socially sensitive schools) girls are much less likely to be thought of as being gifted or smart by teachers (at least at first) – because they are usually not intellectually disruptive, confrontational, needy or demanding in the classroom.

Under the Radar and Opting Out

Part of the giftedness of gifted girls seems to be the ability to really fly under the radar at school. This leads to other problems – like how can you be encouraged, mentored and paid attention to in appropriate ways if you are constantly denying that your talents exist?

I also see my daughter (and some of her friends) “opting out” of school because it is easy or boring or sort of irrelevant but they do so without letting their grades drop – or at least not too much. But to be honest- boys do this, too.

There are some solutions that I've noticed: good teachers engage the girls emotionally and then convert that attachment to challenging and guiding them intellectually. Keeping a group of high achieving girls together can keep them all working at a higher level, but mostly it seems to be about friends (of all ages) who have similar aspirations and talents and enthusiasms – at least in my house.

What are you thoughts on gifted girls?

IRL Julia found these articles helpful:
Gifted Girls
To thine own self be true: A new model of female talent development
Using Biography to Counsel Gifted Young Women

Real Life Julia is thrilled to be asked to contribute. Three quarters of her entire hometown is on Facebook as well. It beats going to a reunion.

Read more of my musings on gifted education.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Goodies, Giveaways and More


The Spatulatta webisodes my boys filmed a few weeks ago are now live. The normally health-conscious show went wild with an April Fool's themed episode of faux-gross sweets. Check it out and get a glimpse at Smartypants and Pikachu in the (virtual) flesh.

Start out with the signature dish from the Moldy boys- a Moldy Sandwich and click off to Vomit Cookies, Surprisingly tasty Doggie Doo Doo Drops, slimy Snot Blobs and Kitty Litter Cake with Tootsie Roll Turds. Fun stuff, y'all.

I'm giving away a copy of National Geographic's 10 Best of Everything Family Travel book over at Traveling Mom. Just click and comment to win this fabulous, fun book.

Edy's Slow Churned Ice Cream is giving away an ice cream party for you and up to 100 of your friends. Details here.

After talking with our friends at the Chicago locavore site, The Local Beet, we're thinking about getting an ice cream maker of our own. If you have any recommendations, let me know. We used to have one that required rock sa
Publish Post
lt and ice and, frankly, it was a huge pain. Modern ice cream makers are easier and more convenient. Because I really need more ice cream, right?

Tomorrow I'm hosting a guest blogger with a post on gifted girls, a topic about which I know nothing. I'm all about the boys. Stop by; won't you?

Sorry for the funky formatting above. I'm not quite sure how to fix it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Peter Shankman is from Mars and Mommy Bloggers are from Venus

With so many folks absorbed in the goings on down in Austin at SXSWi, I was merely going to post a link list for this week's Marketing to Mom Bloggers segment. But then a bit of the convo coming from Sunday's session, Are PR Agencies a Dying Breed? caught my eye. Notably, this:Panelist Pete Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and @skydiver on Twitter, apparently coined the term "Mom-Borg Collective." Now, I'm no Trekkie, but I'm only one search away from faking it. The folks at Star Trek Voyage Info filled me in a bit.

According to the site, the Borg lack individuality, they have one voice, one mind; they are one. Before assimilating others into the Borg Collective, they call out, "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."

Stacy had it right: OUCH!

I asked Peter about this on Twitter and he replied:
Oh. Um. Hmm. Wow.

I can tell by the smiley that Peter really did meant this in a good way. :-) Plus, he's generally respected, practically worshipped, by bloggers and journalists. So, beyond telling Peter he was off the mark with that comment, I'm going to leave him alone.

The poor guy had good intentions, he's just from Mars and Mommy Bloggers are from Venus.
Two separate planets with two distinct languages and cultures. My dear husband is sometimes just as clueless. I was thinking of a good example of this, a time he did something with the best of intentions only to have it backfire, when I came across these tweets:
Two examples of well-meaning, but clueless, men. Men just like Peter. From Mars.

But it's not just men who are from Mars, speaking a different language. There are a lot of companies and PR folks who don't quite understand the mommyblogger culture.

Let me tell you a little bit about mom blogger life on Venus. Most of the mom bloggers I know value their individuality. Nay, they prize it. Indeed, one of the great joys of blogging is the ability to express our unique voices.

Some of us are techies, some are pundits, foodies, or movie buffs. Some of us love shoes. And handbags. We have different ethnic and religious backgrounds. We are married and single. Some of us are not allowed to marry legally. We work in offices and in our homes.

Just because we are moms doesn't mean that we are part of some drone-like Mom-Borg Collective.

That's why we get annoyed when we all receive the same Dear Mommyblogger form letter from your agency.

We can, will and do form our own opinions about things. We think for ourselves.

Outsiders like Peter might have seen "MotrinGate" as a united Voice of Mom, but it's more nuanced than that. I thought the Motrin ad was not funny and sensed it ran the risk of alienating moms, and said something like that in a tweet because I saw my tweeps talking about it. But on a personal level, I'm a huge fan of ibuprofen. Babywearing? Not so much. It never felt right for me. (Today's moms have more sling options.)

I'm a mommyblogger.

My life. My experiences. My voice.

If you look at all blogging mamas as part of the drone-like collective, you'll have limited success connecting with them.

If you take time to get to know bloggers, their favorite topics and hot button issues (Twitter much?), you'll have an easier time targeting the right blogger in the right way.

Even better, you can hire a Social Media Mom. A social media mom is a hyper-connected mom who works with companies who want to reach out to mombloggers in an effective manner.

As a Social Media Mom, I not only assist with outreach, I keep my clients informed about trends and conversations in the momosphere in a way that diagnostic software and algorithms cannot. (Note to self: find and return library copy of Numerati; it's overdue.)

Social Media Moms are the bridge between Venus and Mars. If you don't have time to immerse yourself in the momblogger community, you should hire one. This calls to mind a conversation I had with Liz Strauss at the BlogWell event. She said something along the lines of, "You wouldn't go into a foreign country where you didn't speak the language without hiring a translator. Why would companies dive into social media without someone to help them learn navigate the culture?"

Why, indeed.

Your thoughts?

More of my musings on marketing to moms.

I Get Around

I was pleasantly surprised to see my post on grade acceleration syndicated in the Southtown Star via the BlogBurst Network. It's always exciting to see a post garner attention, but frankly I thought I'd left that network years ago.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Fun: Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character

It's not that I intend to give a hat tip to Selfish Mom every other week, it just happens that way. I actually found this on her blog last fall and only recently uncovered in in my growing list on unpublished drafts.

Guess the dictator/sitcom character is a time sink extraordinaire. It's one of those little games that leaves you puzzling over the genius behind it because, as I recall, it works every time!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sharpie faux tie-dye

Over two years ago I wrote about a Sharpie faux tie-dye project the boys and I tackled after I found expired rubbing alcohol in my medicine cabinet. This post continues to bring readers to my blog each day via Google, so I thought it was worth highlighting.

In the time since I originally posted Sharpie has launched a blog and a Twitter presence.

I plan to bring more of my archived posts to the forefront in 2009.

January 2007:

I'm not sure if an unopened bottle of rubbing alcohol can truly expire, but that's what the bottle says. What the heck, it's January; out with the old and in with the new. I didn't want to simply dump the old stuff down the drain, though.

So I called upon my good friend Google to help me find a simple craft idea using rubbing alcohol. Here it is: The Rubbing Alcohol and Sharpie Marker Faux Tie-Dye. (Google never lets me down.)

To make a Sharpie tie-dye, stretch the dry t-shirt over the pan/bowl or put aluminum foil or cardboard inside the shirt. Make a series of dots using the Sharpie markers and use an eyedropper or cotton swabs to gently apply the rubbing alcohol over the dots. (I'm told you can also use a spray bottle, but spray bottle full of rubbing alcohol + two energetic little boys seems like a dangerous combo.) As the shirt soaks up the alcohol, the color spreads, creating a tie-dye effect.

Allow the shirt to dry and then iron or put it in the dryer on high for 15 minutes to set the design. (Again, fabric drenched in combustible liquid + intense heat = danger, so let the shirt dry before setting the design in the dryer.) Wash as normal. Do this in a well-ventilated area or outside project to avoid a build-up of fumes from the alcohol.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gifted vs. Special Needs in Newsweek

A bold mama puts it out there in the March 9, 2009 edition of Newsweek as she ponders what would become of her gifted daughter if her girl received customized special education services. The kind her autistic son receives at public school at taxpayer expense.

In an ideal world, all student with special needs would get their needs met through our public schools. In reality, this does not happen.

Special education services rarely include students in the top 3-5% even though students in that segment they have documented social-emotional and educational needs. Needs that vary from the norm.

Several states, including Illinois, lack provisions, mandates or any recognition of gifted students as a special population. In 2007, I spoke out at a State Board of Education Budget Hearing to advocate for gifted children. In 2008, the state mandate for gifted education came close to passing along with a $5 million budget line. As I figured it, this would have amounted to approximately $111 for each gifted child in the state. Even this piddly amount failed. *sigh*

This year, I'm not even considering a trip to the state capitol on Gifted Ed Advocacy Day, though I will post details soon. In case you haven't heard, Illinois state government is buried deep in many piles of doo-doo at the moment. Sad to say, a trip downstate would be nothing but a huge waste of time.

Dang, I get started on this and can't stop. I don't want to rant. What I want is for you to read the Newsweek piece and maybe carve a bit of time to read the six+ pages of comments and stop back here with your thoughts. Please?

Stop by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development to read up on gifted policies and programs in your state. If your child qualifies for the Davidson Institute for Talent Development Young Scholar Program, your family will benefit from several services--provided at no cost. Read an interview with a Young Scholar Family Consultant on the Laura Vanderkam's Gifted Exchange Blog.

More of my musings on gifted education.

Thanks IRL Mari and Asha from ParentHacks for pointing the Newsweek piece out to me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers: No Child Left Behind

Usually my rants against No Child Left Behind fall under a different category, but a recent dinnertime conversation prompted me to chime in under the marketing tab. When a company works with a mommy blogger to launch a viral campaign or to get bloggy product reviews, that company often works with that mom's children, too.

My boys have helped, or perhaps I should say have been involved with, reviews for clothing, shoes, backpacks, games, toys and cell phones. Their experiences with those products not only impact what I write on my blog, they affect my future purchases.

I know this is true for other mombloggers as well because after I arranged for some of my blogfriends to receive the LeapFrog Tag last summer, several of them told me how much they'd spent on additional Tag books by the summer's end.

But PR efforts don't always make us open our wallets or leave us with a warm, fuzzy feeling. In fact, the dinnertime conversation I mentioned above involved my 10-year-old asking about the warm, fuzzy slippers he was supposed to review earlier in the winter. There was a a slip-up somewhere along the way by the time my request went through, the seasonal item was out of stock. And my son was sad.

He's ten he can get over it. But apparently he isn't yet.

After discussing the slippers, the conversation turned to the FlyPhone, or whatever one calls the FireFly phone for tweens. I was contacted in later summer 2007 with news that one of these then-new phones was headed our way. I received a few notes about delays, inquired a few additional times (whenever my son reminded me) and eventually stopped hearing back from the PR hack. We never received the phone*.

While the FlyPhone issue isn't on my radar, it's still top of mind for my son, nearly two years later. Know how intensely my boy feels about what's right and what's wrong. I think it's fair to say he will always remember FireFly as "the company that didn't send me the cell phone they promised me when I was a boy." Always.

So PR pros, please don't leave our children behind.

Bloggers, have you received a free review product that's become a regular purchase for your family? Have your children been left behind on a marketing campaign and do they hold onto those memories like my son does?

*Score one for Kajeet because they sent me a Kajeet phone with GPS locator after I wrote about FireFly.

Read more of my thoughts on marketing to mommy bloggers.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Best Birthday Gift Ever

Alas, the best birthday gift ever is not one I received, but rather one I gave. Make that one my boys gave and have been giving since we stumbled onto its simplistic awesomeness: a box of golden coins.

Last winter, I hadn't braved the snow to make it out to buy a game or gift card for a friend of one of my boys and the party date was rapidly approaching. When I realized we had some gold-like Sacajawea dollar coins left over from Hanukkah, I ran to my craft cabinet and pulled out a lovely velvet-lined cigar box I'd picked up at a garage sale (for $1) and dumped the coins inside.

Like the inspired pairing of peanut butter and chocolate, the coins and the old wooden box with velvet lining made a striking combination.

What tween doesn't like money, Especially when it looks it looks like golden ancient treasure?

And with concerns about stores closing and gift cards losing value, cash is a great way to go.As I said, this is a gift idea we've been repeating. I've gone through my stash of old-fashioned cigar boxes, but I can pick up new wooden boxes at the craft store and possibly even convince my boys to decorate them.

What's your go-to gift?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Fun: Shoes!

Looking for something to occupy your time on a lazy Friday afternoon?

Look no further than the Virtual Shoe Museum via Grrlfriend Jess at Sassafrass.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Grade Skipping AKA Grade Acceleration, Part II

Last week I wrote Part I on grade skipping and acceleration. I talked about Smartypants and the fact that he's been accelerated in math since kindergarten.

My younger boy, Pikachu, a kid who's clearly got talent, always had a thing for numbers. When he was a toddler he'd tell me how many slices where left in a loaf of bread or how many people were left in Starbucks after two patrons headed outside. Huh? He was paying attention to those things? Even as an older child he loved learning about number like googol and the concept of infinity.

Pikachu is an "enriched" grade level math class. From the feedback I've received, I believe he's one of the top performers and I feel like he could do more. More challenge, more complexity, but he needs instruction, too.

A few weeks ago he took the EXPLORE test, a test designed for and administered to 8th graders to determine placement in high school. Northwestern University's Midwest Academic Talent Search offers students in 3rd through 6th grade the chance to take this test. Why?

It's a given that an advanced child will typically score top marks on state achievement tests, but what useful information comes out of that?

Out of level testing can provide valuable feedback on academically talented children. Comparing the performance of a gifted 3rd grader to that of 8th graders gives parents and teachers information that can help guide educational choices and options. Oh, and Northwestern offers advanced math and English classes to qualifying precocious children for a fee, so there's that angle, too.

Smartypants took the test last year, but got sick during it, so I made him retake it because I'm mean like that. When Pikachu heard me discussing EXPLORE, he begged me to let him take it. Yes, he begged me to let him take a 2-3 hour standardized test on a Saturday morning. Go figure.

But unlike Smartypants who's happy to be up a grade in math, when I mentioned to Pikachu that perhaps he'd move up in a similar fashion, he began to cry. He's really happy where he is.

It was an eye-opening moment. Parents of gifted children are often perceived as a pushy lot, certainly some are, but it all goes back to the child.

In a public school setting, Smartypants has always been happiest in his accelerated math class. (At the gifted school, the levels were more fluid, so this didn't apply.) We did have to push a bit to get him into the class, but it was something he wanted to do.

As for Pikachu, I'm in a quandry. He doesn't want to move up, which frankly is easier for us all, but when he comes home with an A+ on a test for which he did not study, that tells me it's not a great fit and he needs a bit more challenge.

In a few more weeks we'll see how he did on the EXPLORE test and take it from there.

My overall concern is not that I have genius children who are pushed to their limits, rather I'm concerned about having lazy ones who just coast through school and then freak out when they are faced with a real challenge.

Speaking of which, here is one of my favorite posts on the topic of gifted children and challenge by Tamara Fisher, who writes Unwrapping the Gifted at Teacher Magazine.

Read more of my posts on gifted education.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Blog? Look away. There is no blog here.

In my real life, none of my friends blog. And when it comes to the crowd of, say, parents from my boys' new school or teachers at said school, I just generally figure that the less I say about my blog, the better.

Which is why I was especially surprised when I asked my boys what they tell their teachers I do all day and they both answered, "We say you're a blogger." So much for anonymity.

I guess we should have had that discussion prior to the start of the school year.

At any rate, I'm trying to get them to call me a social media consultant. That tends to confuse people. A few web 2.0 savvy folks might ask for details, but most people just squiggle up their brow and move on to a more interesting topic. (As if there's something more interesting than social media.)

I try to write honestly, but in a way that would not embarrass me (too much) in front of say, my family (speaking of which, hi Myra) or my boys' teachers.

Although it's nice and certainly complimentary, when IRL peeps tell me they read my blog, it always causes a deer in the headlights moment for me. Really? Somebody I know reads this blog. It's goofy, I know.

However, last weekend I had a discussion with Real Life Julia, someone I know IRL who not only reads my blog, but comments on it (represent, people!), and we're taking it to the next level- she's working on a guest post for me.

So I guess the intersection of real life and virtual life is not necessarily a bad thing. Which is a good thing because apparently half of my high school graduating class is now on Facebook.

How do you manage the intersection of real life and virtual life?

Edited 3/4/09 to add that this post by Daisy at Compost Happens tackles this issue from the opposite side- what happens when a teacher blogs?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Marketing to Mommybloggers: Avoiding Social Media Mistakes with Moms

When I'm not busy blogging or creating mamadrama on Twitter, I can be found talking to companies and PR folks about moms and social media. Some people even think I'm quoteworthy.

Check out this MediaPost piece by Lolita Carico, "Avoid Social Media Mistakes with Moms."

Lolita has also got her own bit of awesome going on over at Modern Mom. And she has the momosphere eating, thinking and living healthy with the Modern Mom Challenge, organized with the help of Renee from CutieBootyCakes. You can follow the group's weekly chat on Twitter under the hashtag #mmchallenge. You know I'm not that into Twitter parties. But at least when I've popped into #mmchallenge chats, I've found the conversation flows freely and naturally.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

America's Got Talent

Or should we say Moldofsky's got talent?

By popular demand (as expressed on Twitter) I bring you my son playing recorder via his nose.

Wow. I need to get a Flip Video Camera one of these days.

What do you need to succeed?

I saw this fun one over one Facebook, care of Cindy Fey, whose fabulous writing you can read at We All Fall Down.

Head over to Google and enter your name and needs in quotes and create a list of the top ten results. When I Googled "Kim needs" here's what I found.

1. Kim needs to take off the gloves.
2. Kim needs a refreshment.
3. Kim needs needs help big time.
4. Kim needs a job.
5. Kim needs super effort to make cute.
6. Kim needs to mind her own business.
7. Kim needs some hints
8. Kim needs an intervention!
9. Kim needs to shut up and go home.

I guess I'll take a hint and end there.

I also found another blogger named Kim who had done the same meme. And another.

If you do this on your blog or FB page, let me know in the comments and I'll pop over for a peek.