Thursday, July 30, 2009

His words made me cry

I came across this old prayer written by one of my boys in first grade, after our pet fish had died.

Dear God, Our Creator,

Thank you for letting us afford things like pets and letting us be rich in love.
And letting animals and pets live long enough for them to be a memory to us.

I don't think my wizened tweens would open up their souls like this today, which makes me sad.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Factory Tour fun in Louisville

Earlier this summer, we enjoyed a whirlwind 3-day trip to Louisville. I was on assignment for TravelingMom and the first feature article of the trip is now live. The assignment was for one article on the town, but we had so much fun on the factory tours (and shot some cool video) that I broke it out into its own piece. Three days, three factory tours.

I can't believe Louisville is so close to Chicago, and yet I hadn't been down there before. If you're the kind of family that likes to go, do and see, Louisville is a great place for a fun long-weekend.

Marketing to Mommmybloggers: Brands That got it Right at BlogHer09

The swag at BlogHer09 brought a smile to the face of many a blogger. Yet others were displeased by the amount of swag and, more importantly, the fact that free product seemed to take precedence over community. For my part, I cheekily suggested on Twitter that I'm going to create a conference called SwagHer in which there are no workshops, just loads of free stuff. Other have started hashtags like #SponsHer and #getshitforfree.

But as Liz at Mom-101 points out, these discussions are more about the bloggers than the PR and marketing folks. I think many of the brands at BlogHer and the related parties (at least ones to which I was invited or fit into my schedule) got it right.

What does that mean? For me, it may mean anything from a feeling that I truly learned about or was positively engaged by the brand, that my interaction with brand reps felt genuine or maybe even left me with warm fuzzies. Getting it right might be as simple as noting that the brand's swag made it back to my house. I'd hazard a guess that I took home about 1/4 of what I was offered at the various parties and most of what I brought back from the expo (the kiwis were eaten during the conference), but I was quite selective there.

I'm going to share a few instances that stand out in my mind and would love for you to do the same in the comments. Sponsors are necessary evil to keep conference fees affordable*. Let's talk about what they did right.

Lush Cosmetics Apparently I've been living under a rock because I only learned about this brand a few weeks ago. Then again I buy make-up about once a year...often at CVS. From my IRL peeps, I've learned Lush has a passionate consumer base. The Blogalicious crew held a party at the Lush in Macy's on Friday night. Attendees were pampered with refreshing hand, arm and foot rubs with Lush products. Many also received mini-facials and we were treated to a dance performance by the enthusiastic, fun-loving Lush staffers. It was a good time and left me with good feelings about the party and the brand.

Starbucks sponsored a Sunday morning breakfast hosted by AlphaMom that was simply delightful. It was low-key and inclusive. A lovely spread of Starbucks muffins and coffee cakes was rounded out with, yogurt and Starbucks smoothies, all there for the taking (note: I did not see anyone stuffing their purses with snacks for the plane ride or any other rude behavior). Though it was a branded event, it was not an in-your-face affair. Nobody shoved the Starbucks brand in my face. Indeed, the only shoving at this party was done by hungry bloggers eager to get food in their mouths. Or maybe that was just me. With fabulous views of the city and the lake, Sheraton's Presidential Suite was a wonderful place for those final BlogHer good-byes.

I had great talk with Christopher Barger of GM. I can't recall if he's writing a book or just that I think he should do so, but he's a guy who really understands social media. As with many bloggers, he seems to value relationships over one off interactions.

I walked away from the conference with a few sweet swag items, but one of the best is a gift card to Donors Choose. What a fantastic idea--a gift card that helps me help a teacher fund a classroom project. I wonder if they offer branded cards. You know, Acme Widget Co. imprints their logo on a Donor's Choose gift card? Love it!

And I have to admit I'm jazzed about my new Kodak Zi6 video camera, as I've been doing more vlogging lately. I would have loved to talk with the Kodak folks at SocialLuxe, but it was too loud in there for me and felt like every conversation I had was like a shouting match. (Not the brand's fault).

So those are a few of my stand-out examples. What are yours?

*In fact, as suggested on Twitter, if you start budgeting now, perhaps you won't need a sponsor for BlogHer10.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Celebrate Savvy Aunties!

We're celebrating a lot of things today, or at least we will be once I return home from BlogHer assuming I have a quick stop at the Starbucks drive-thru before I step through the door to hug my family.

Today is Savvy Auntie's Day! I have several nieces and nephews, but have the most special relationship with the niece who is generally thought to be the most like the daughter I never had, both in terms of looks and temperament.

I've introduced the mini-me who is not mine to the joy of walking and talking with a girlfriend and we enjoy crafting together in a way that I simply can't do with my boys.

Last fall she and I sat down with a bunch of crisp leaves we'd gathered and created a family tree. One leaf was dedicated to each family member. We wrote that person's name on a leaf with a Sharpie marker and then add few adjectives about that person along the leaf edges. We eventually laid them out on paper with my other niece's help and proudly showed off our creation as grandma and grandpa oohed and aahed.

My niece and I chatted as we worked, and I captured this priceless bit of conversation along the way. Listen in as she sets the feminist cause back several decades.

Do you have a special memory as an aunt or with one of your own?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's official!

Yes, I'm speaking at Blogalicious!
Blogalicious Site Badge
I'm lining up the childcare and everything because we have to hope DH will have a job by then. (His contract position was cut short due to company-wide layoffs a few weeks ago. *sigh*)

I'm going to be part of a marketing panel.

When I excitedly shared the news with my boys, my nine-year-old suggested, "Tell the moms how much their kids hate it when they are on their computers."

Nice to know I have the support of those I love, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gifted kids and the summer slide

I'm part of the Yahoo! MotherBoard, a group that will to tackle a new topic each month on the public side and maybe play with a few Yahoo! tools on the private side. I'll weigh in when it moves me. On a related note (keep reading) happy National Parenting Gifted Children Week!

In July, the Yahoo MotherBoard is talking about the summer slide. Apparently the summer slide is about the academic losses children tend to suffer over the course of a summer. I thought it referred to a tendency to lose all structure between the time school lets out in June and it starts again August. You know, when you realize there's not longer a set bedtime for the kids and you've served hot dogs for lunch and dinner every day for two weeks?

When I started this post, my thoughts were about how the summer slide is not much an issue for my gifted children. Well, maybe they have a bit of a setback, but they still start the school year far ahead of their age peers (i.e. classmates). Besides they read, read, read. Granted they're not reading the classics, but I'm more likely to command my boys to put a book down than I am to make them pick one up.

My boys attended a couple of weeks of a fun science-y camp and we've gone on a few factory tours. They are playing around with Windows Movie Maker and my older boy is dabbling in basic computer programming. They are always learning*.

Well, with the exception of when they plant themselves in front of the TV or Wii (both of which are time-limited), I don't worry about their brains turning to mush.

The cynical side of me wonders, "So what if they do turn into mush brains? The first 4-6 weeks of school are spent in review, anyway. Maybe if they fall far enough behind, it will make the beginning of the school year a bit more exciting for them."

Statistically speaking, based on the common interpretation of years of test scores, my boys, like many gifted and academically talented children, they already know 75% or more of what their classes will cover over the course of a school year. And they integrate new material more quickly, with less repetition than other students. They are not just smart, they are different.

I can almost envision a day when high ability children are asked not to work on academics over the summer in an attempt to "even them out" or "not get too far ahead" and help them "fit in with their age peers."

Wait a minute, that's not a vision, that's a flashback!
DH and I had that lecture from our older boy's kindergarten teacher back in 2004. *sigh*

Another side of me (not sure if I should call it adventurous or fatalistic) is waiting to read this book and say, "Screw it all!" and move to South America. (Who can afford Europe or Australia these days?)

The practical side of me says the school things will work out. Plus, I have health concerns and it's not like South America is littered with synagogues. I won't book our flights just yet.

As for my high ability boys being out of reach of the summer slide. Well, I must admit that math does not fall into our lazy summer life as naturally as other pursuits. In fact, the other day I tossed out a few multiplication problems for nine-year-old Pikachu and was surprised when he couldn't shout out answers without a bit of mental gymnastics.

Maybe a few flashcards are in order after all.

*When they are not fighting.

Take a peek at what other MotherBoard members have to say on this topic:
Ilina, Melissa, Julie, April, Kimberly

More of my musings on raising and schooling gifted children.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BlogHer SOS: Save Our Soaps


BlogHers: bring your unopened soaps and shampoos to the box on the left side of the registration desk in the 4th floor ballroom area. Please ReTweet this message.

My parents travel quite a bit and my dad always comes home from their trips with loads of tiny bottles of shampoo and extra bars of soap. He tends to be a "saver," so I roll my eyes at this behavior. "The cost of these is built into the hotel fees. I might as well take 'em if I'm paying for it," he says.

{More eye-rolling on my behalf.}

But then I learned that once or twice a year he gathers up his bounty and donates the stash to a local homeless shelter.

{Heart melts.}

That got me thinking about BlogHer and the hundreds of women staying in the hotel and all the little soaps and shampoos that might be taken home because, we'll, you've paid for it. Or maybe the products would be left behind for a future guest. What if we got dozens, nay, hundreds of BlogHers to donate these tiny treasure to help Chicago women?

{Brainstorm! Call Veronica.}

The collection of unopened items will go to Deborah's Place to help women in need.

These small soaps may not mean much to you and, really, your kids will see right through that thinly veiled plan to pretend the little bottles are special "children's souvenirs" from BlogHer, so please donate your unused extras to BlogHer SOS.

Look for collection bins or further instructions at BlogHer.

Thank Veronica for making the connections and Lori Luna and the other BlogHer women for taking this on at 10 PM last Friday night or something like that.

Edited to add:

Thanks for all the comments and tweets. I hope this is big...a new tradition!

And as long as people are stopping by:

How to Have the Best BlogHer Ever

Ten Commandments of BlogHer Success

Why I Won't Talk to You at BlogHer

Wired for BlogHer

My mom is lending me her netbook for BlogHer. I can tweet to my heart's content. For a minute there, I thought I'd have to actually *talk* to people.

Why wouldn't I talk to people at BlogHer? Here's why.

Also this:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Have the Best BlogHer Ever

Everywhere you turn in the momosphere, there's banter about BlogHer. What to pack? What to wear? I want to talk about How to Be.

In the last year mommybloggers have become Hot Stuff. Many of us get offers for free products, invites to swanky and swaggy parties, and some get offers for free trips. I've been on a couple of bloggy junkets and been treated like a total rock star each time. It's amazing. But just because PR folks treat us like divas, doesn't mean we are divas. Nor should we act like them.

Even if you have a sponsor and a dance card full of parties, VIP dinner invitations, and a room full of swag, BlogHer is not a corporate junket. You are there to learn.

Wait a minute, maybe you are only going for the fun and the parties. That's fine, but in that case, skip this post and see if anything in the link section below interests you.

If you are going to BlogHer to learn, to grow personally or professionally, take heed.

During a recent office cleaning I came across 1998 conference notes on how to make the most of a class or conference from a talk by management guru Peter Block. I was tickled to see Michele at the Integrated Mother recently reference his work. His advice is spot-on and, in many cases, timeless.

Peter talked about and had audience members answer four questions. Four questions that are wise to answer honestly and thoughtfully before any conference or class. If you want to make the most of your time at BlogHer, I encourage you to answer these.

1) How valuable of a conference do you plan to have?
2) How active and participative do you plan to be during the event?
3) How responsible and engaged do you feel for the learning of others at this event?
4) How much risk and vulnerability are you up for at the conference?

Number 4 is important. Peter's thinks safety is hostile to learning. You have to take risks if you want to learn and grow. You have to leave your comfort zone.

Of course, that means different things for different people. For one person it might mean showing up at a conference where she doesn't know anyone. For another it might mean taking the lead and introducing herself to a stranger. For yet another it might be asking a question in a workshop.

At my first BlogHer in 2007, I spent most of one session wondering what SEO was. Everyone else in the room seemed to know and I was too embarrassed to ask publicly. Had I spoken up, I would have taken more away from the session.

At BlogHer 2008 I had this vague notion of introducing myself to everybody, but stopped well within my comfort zone. I should have gone beyond. I missed the chance to meet so many great women (and a few men).

Even if you're not presenting, it's your conference. You can and should take responsibility for what you get out of BlogHer. If you're not up for risk and vulnerability (putting yourself out there, if you will), that's okay, but understand that leaving your safety zone and taking a personal stake in the outcome of the event might make for a more meaningful experience.

Other pre-BlogHer must-reads
Ten Commandments of BlogHer Success (okay, that's mine)

Advice from Social Media pro Leah Jones on Permission to Miss Out.

And thoughts from the always sharp Meagan Francis about Selfish Moms who are leaving their
children behind for the BlogHer weekend. (Hint: they are the happiest moms.)

Speaking of which, a here's a great pre-BlogHer read from Selfish Mom herself on Why She's Not Nervous for BlogHer.

Monday, July 20, 2009

BlogHer Style

I'm no fashionista, so it was quite a surprise to see I received a shout-out from the very stylish Susan Wagner in BlogHer's Beauty Hacks column. It's as though Susan knew I was *finally* going for a long overdue, full-fledged salon cut and style this morning.

Or more likely because her topic is prepping for BlogHer. Along with her tips for packing the perfect carry on bag, she linked to my post on Ten Commandments for BlogHer Success.

At any rate, as if to prove my lack of style sense, this is what I'll be wearing Friday afternoon:
Idea"borrowed" from Leah Jones, BlogHer08.

Ugh. I've got "yacht hair."

You know that feeling when you navigate your yacht back into the slip and now that you're no longer sailing in the breeze you realize your hair is a complete mess? Me neither. Until last week.

You see, Lands' End brought me, Dawn from Because I Said So and Lisa from Lisa's Thoughts and Ramblings out for a sail on a yacht on Lake Michigan to give us a taste of the Race to Mackinac. Lands' End is the title sponsor of this 260-boat race across the lake.

It was a lovely afternoon and I really meant to post on it before last weekend's big race, but as of this writing, there's still no winner from the race that began last weekend. Check here for up-to-the-minute details.

Amanda from Lands' End PR gave us a water bottle and a Land's End bag branded with the Race logo. I laughed when I took a good look at the bag and realized it's not just their standard bucket bag, but a zip top version. I had to laugh, because I carried one of these around for years!

When my boys where about 3 and 5 and I became serious about writing, I carried a large journal with me everywhere, and this was my sturdy go-to bag. I think this new version is going to be my "BlogHer and beyond bag."

Photo credit: Dawn Meehan. She's on the left, Lisa is in the center. I'm the one on the right looking like an old lady and our fearless Captain Randy is in the rear.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Working with Teachers

Experience tells me that informing the kindergarten teacher on the first day of school that you think your child "is kinda smart" is not the best way to endear yourself to her. In fact, you may find out that by the time you attend November teacher conferences, the woman has not even sat down with your child to listen to him read.

Yes, I speak from experience. Interesting though during that teacher conference, a new administrator unexpectedly joined in the fun. And she offered up IQ and Achievement tests for my son via the school psychologist. So it all worked out. Well, not really. More like it launched a bumpy and frustrating journey. But such is life.

I've told teachers too much up front and I've told them too little about my boys. I don't have a knack for providing just the right information.

Anyway, if you're looking for ways to connect with your child's teacher check out Five Things Your Child's Teacher Needs from You. I will say that item #2 can be a bit of sticking point when it comes to gifted issues as many teachers lack a full understanding of the social-emotional needs of gifted children and the continuum of giftedness.

It's not their fault. Few teacher programs emphasize gifted children as a special needs population. And, at least in my state, there's no economic incentive to get gifted credentials, so why bother?

On a lighter note, get ready for National Parenting Gifted Children Week.

Every week (that I bother to write) is Parenting Gifted Children Week at Hormone-colored Days! Check out my other musing on gifted issues.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marketing to Moms: Mommybloggers in the news

When it comes to marketing to moms, mom bloggers are the news.

Check out these recent stories on mommybloggers from established news outlets:

Chicago Sun-Times with lots of love to Chicago-area bloggers Lisa, or as I know her @blm03.

ABC News shout out to Colleen Padilla and her freezer full of Healthy Choice meals.

Austin American Statesmen I'm in agreement with Rachel Hobson of Average Jane Crafter in that I'm turned off by blogs that seem to have been taken over by corporate interests.

Now in my fourth year in the mom-space, it's fascinating to see how momblogs have and are evolving. That's part of what makes it exciting to be in this space.

At one of the early BlogHer Conferences, there was a bold declaration that Mommyblogging, which was once looked down upon at the time, was a radical act. This statement was debated at BlogHer 08. The outcome as I heard it was that, yes, mommyblogging is a radical act when mombloggers speak the truth of motherhood, messy and inconvenient as it may be.

IMO, a product review, even a gritty, honest one doesn't cut it for me. Now, I do read reviews and I write them occasionally, but when it comes to keeping my eyes glued to the screen late at night, it's writing like this, this or this (okay, that's a dad, but I double-dog dare you to walk away without reflecting on it) that gets me.

Mixing in a few marketing messages, reviews or giveaways here is okay with me, but when the blog become more about the latest marketing junket, glowing thoughts on vacation destinations the blogger never has visited, or just blather to fill space in between paid posts, I'm just not that into it.

I love that this space is evolving. I think it's great that moms (present company included) are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles because of the way the momosphere is changing, but I hope that the smart, funny, honest voices don't get drown out by the ones that are largely shilling for commercial interests.

Your thoughts?

Before you answer, here are a few more links to read. Interestingly, these went up after I put a draft of this post in my queue. Check out Resourceful Mommy's take on MomBlogger2.0 and a PR brownout, which was a response to Trisha's PR Blackout Challenge. And I just had a great Twitter conversation (yes, conversation) with @MaternalSpark, who explains her position on the PR Blackout on her blog.

Oh, and I like this related post from Taste Like Crazy, too.

I really intended to post this next Monday, but there are so many conversations on these issues right now, that I figured I should represent. Plus, if I waited until then I'd have to add at least a dozen other links.

What are your thoughts?

More musings on marketing to moms.

Monday, July 13, 2009

10 Commandments of BlogHer Success

So I'm part of this online community for Collective Bias* and started a discussion on tips for BlogHer success. I offered up one commandment for BlogHer success and asked others to add on. Here's what other top bloggers had to say about a good time at BlogHer.

I started it off with:
Thou shalt remember that blogging is not a competitive sport. BlogHer offers incredible opportunities to come together as a community. If you're blog makes you feel happy, successful or fulfilled that's great. Don't mess that up by comparing yourself to bloggers who have larger readerships, better swag, more party invites or cuter shoes or whatever. Try to feel the love.

Thou shalt remember that everyone else (OK maybe not everyone but a whole lot of em) are just as nervous and apprehensive as you. It is OK to approach anyone to just say hi, or to squee or to give them a hug. We are all there for the same thing.

Stanley (What? A guy?):
I've never been to a blog/social media conference, but I would imagine "acting the same as you are on your blog" would be a good start.

Naomi, a BlogHer newbie, but music conference veteran (we're talking like old skool SXSW): Pace yourself in all things. It's a lot to stuff into one weekend!

Anne-Marie Nichols:
Don't forget to eat, especially if you are planning to drink at the parties.
Wear comfortable shoes - there's lots of walking back and forth to sessions and to your room.
Make time to call the family once a day.
Travel extension cords/power strips are a must and will make you new friends!
Keep hydrated and keep some Advil on you at all times.
Session rooms can be too hot...or too cold. Wear layers, just like your mom always advised you to do.

Bring a multiple outlet extension cord and you'll make lots of friends.
Be outgoing-don't be afraid to walk up to people and say "Hi, I'm Jenn and I blog at Frugal Upstate. What do you do?"-they are likely to be glad you broke the ice.
Mark your Iphone charger and cord. They all look alike :)
Sleep is over-rated.
Cute shoes are nice. Comfortable shoes are better. (Yeah-I've heard shoes are big, but if my feet hurt I'm not at my best!)
It never hurts to have a snack in your purse. Just in case.

Thought my advice was spot-on and commented how wonderful it's been when she's met other bloggers. I agree.

Can't attend this year. However, last year she was extremely nervous before BlogHer. She thought about why, and then blogged about it. She was concerned about what others would think about her, so she wrote a post about all her bad habits. Once she'd given everyone fair warning, she was able to relax a bit more.

Thou Shalt Go in With Confidence, be the person you are on your blog after all it is when we are the most real and why everyone loves you :)

And of course, one more tip- join in the fun at the BowlHer party, which is the brainchild of the Collective Bias folks.

What commandments would you add?

*Contact GeekMommy if you're interested in being a part of this community.

Marketing to Moms: Understanding Mombloggers

I put marketing to moms series on hold as I got busy with client projects, marketing my house and working with my boys on the Family Fun on a Budget vlog series.

I've been playing with a lot of post ideas in my mind, they just haven't made it out through my fingertips. Until now.

Earlier this month, Michelle from Scribbit, wrote a fabulous post on things she's learned about blogging. She does a great job of describing blogging, what it means, why we write and why we read. She also makes excellent points about common waves and cycles bloggers experience both in their minds (burnout) and on the page (loyal readers that slip away).

Her piece is so insightful; it's a must read for those who want to work with bloggers, not just market to them.

Bloggers will love it, too. Go read and come back to let me know if you learned a thing or two.

Edited to add: Another look at the inner life of mombloggers, with quotes from several. Via

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swearing makes pain more tolerable

According to a study that will be published in the August 5 issue of NeuroReport, dropping a few f-bombs or curse words helps people tolerate pain. We've all experienced this at some point, right? Stub you toe, hit your finger with a hammer, push something the size of a watermelon out of your delicate lady parts. A few choice expletives can make a big difference (in the case of birth, an epidural can make a even bigger difference).

This reminds me of the time Smartypants (now 11) got stitches in his forehead as a 4-year-old. He'd been jumping on the bed at Bubbe's house while DH and I were enjoying our first grow-up outing in months, maybe years. At any rate, he fell and hit his head on the nightstand resulting in a bloody gash.

By the time we got to her house, the bleeding had mostly stopped and my boy was anesthetized by the TV. I then learned an important parenting lesson: I'd often used the hospital as a threat to my busy, daring boy. For example, "if you don't stop running/jumping/twirling/crazy stuntman wannabe behavior, you're going get hurt and wind up in the hospital!"

Needless to say, once we told out little guy we were taking him the the hospital you'd have thought we'd ripped off the new scab and poured a load of salt on his fresh wound.

We made it to the hospital and got checked in pretty quickly. Every worker from the woman who checked us in to the ER doc commented that it was just like that song, you know, the one about the monkeys jumping on the bed? Yes, we know. It got less funny each time we heard the line.

On to the stitches, the doctor wrapped up Smartypants in a "burrito" which sounds much friendly than a "straitjacket," but has a similar effect. As they cleaned and stitched his wound, little Smartypants was screaming at the doctor at the top of his lungs, "I hate you! You're mean!"

And yes, he let loose with the occasional s-bomb.

"You're stupid!"

He hurled these comments with all the vitriol his intense, yet innocent, spirit could muster. I was on the verge of both laughing and crying as I stood by his side.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The cure for social media overload

I wrote about my recent feeling of social media overload over at Chicago Moms Blog and this morning I discovered a cure! I found it via Twitter, natch.

I'm not sure there's hope for me as the article recommends limiting email checks to three times a day. Three times a day? I check in three times a minute. Erm, perhaps that's part of the problem.

Also, the author suggests that if a person receives more than 50 emails a day {waves hands wildly} they hire a virtual assistant to help sort through it. Is he kidding? Then I'd miss out on the chance to review baby gear and handbags on my blog.

Oh wait, I always pass on that stuff.

Anyway, maybe I can slowly wean myself off of constant email opening. First I limit myself to once a minute and work my way up to once an hour and eventually about 5 times between the hours of 7 am and 10 pm.

With a bit of discipline, I can accomplish this by Labor Day.

Gotta run; you won't believe what just landed in my inbox!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Vanessa Druckman on Shock and Awe in Parenting: A Guest Post

This originally appeared on Vanessa's blog, Chefdruck Musings. Vanessa and I discussed trading guest blogs posts a while back, and when I saw this post in March 2009, I knew it was just my speed. As has been my recent theme, I'm finally posting this.

Vanessa is a French Foodie living in New Jersey (soon to be Ohio) with her husband and three kids. She blogs about her my passions: parenting, cooking, books, TV, movies, and anything else that catches her fancy. Be sure to check out her Tasty Tuesday recipes.

Every once in a while, I resort to drastic measures to get the kids to listen, really listen, and actually hear me.

Yesterday I indulged Jack and Juliette by taking them to McDonald's for lunch as a special treat, just for fun. One and a half chicken nuggets into his meal, Jack started goofing off, lying face down on the plastic bench, and kicking Juliette who was trying hard to eat her hamburger.

I saw two courses of action open to me.

I could begin nagging him to stop, threatening to take away his happy meal toy, and get progressively more annoyed.

Or I could go for shock and awe.

Slowly, clearly and loudly I told Jack,
"Right where you are putting your face is where hundreds of people have sat and farted. Instead of eating your chicken nuggets, you are rubbing your face in a hundred farts."

He sat straight up and ate the rest of his lunch. No more kicking, or shenaniganing of any kind.

Shock and awe success.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

First, You Need a Bottle of Wine: Family Fun on a Budget

All you need to know about this budget-friendly family activity is that it requires a corked bottle of wine. Steps 1-3: Open, drink, and finish off the bottle so you have the a cork to work with. Watch the video to learn what to do next.

For more family fun on a budget, see my vlogs on How to Make Butter and How to Tie-Dye with Sharpie Markers.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

STOP those annoying emails

If you follow me on Twitter, you've likely seen me complain about the copious amounts of email I get from Ann Taylor LOFT. I get annoyed each time I see a sales notice from them in my in-box. The many emails and phone calls I've made in an effort to unsubscribe have been in vain. I cringe each time I see one in my inbox.

Another organization that sends me a steady stream of cringe-worthy email is STOP, but there's an entirely different mindset in this case. STOP, Safe Tables Our Priority, sends me e-alerts about food safety breaches and breaking news about potentially contaminated food products and related outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and their ugly cousins.

This is serious stuff and the number of emails I receive from them is disturbing, but it's good to be in the know, right?

Follow STOP on Twitter for timely news on food safety.

Friday, July 03, 2009

We Dared to Stand Out

Dared to Stand Out on the Ledge- you know that glass enclosure sticking out of the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower? Oh yeah, Smartypants and I were there!

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to the Media Preview Day for the new Sears Tower (Willis Tower) ledge. I was able to bring along my oldest and might have tried to bring the youngest as well, but the boys have been fighting like cats and dogs lately.

Enough about my obnoxious children--go read my article about our experience at Take a peek at our photo montage on YouTube.

And look: our shoes are famous! And my 11-year-old was quoted in the Washington Post.

Earlier this year he and his orthodontia were front and center in the New York Times. That kid is quite the media darling.

We give the Ledge a thumbs-up and dare you to Stand Out on your next trip to Chicago.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Rights of the Reader

I know a lot a parents of gifted early readers or precocious young readers stop by this blog. When you've got an advanced young reader, it can be tough to find the age-appropriate reading material.

Many books designed for older elementary school students deal with themes that are beyond the life experience of many youngsters. I was not keen to be passing my innocent six-year-old books about parents divorcing or dying or those dealing with real-life trauma.

Eventually though, we caved. Before he finished first grade he'd read all the Harry Potter books (there were three or four of them at the time) and I realized much of it was likely over his head if not in vocabulary than in life experience. But he got out of them what he got out of them. He enjoyed them. Was that so bad?

As he grows (he's now 11!), he takes more responsibility for choosing his own books. Indeed, it's hard for me to keep track of what he's read or what book he's on in which series, so it's best we leave things up to him.


DH and I have banned a few books in our time, but never without a fight from our son.

He reads (mostly) what he wants and when he wants. The only arguments we've had about his reading is that he does too much of it. Believe me, I've confiscated my share of flashlights from him over the years.

So it was interesting when I received a review copy of Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader.
(Last Fall. Y'all know I'm in catch-up mode, right?)

As the name implies, Pennac's book is a treatise on the rights of readers. It's an interesting drawn out essay that points out the myriad of ways parents and schools sabotage eager readers. When I first got the book, I intended to pass it along to some teachers, but as I read on, I realized it might offend those teachers.

One year we got a note from a teacher suggesting that Smartypants wasn't doing enough reading outside of class. This shocked us. Truly, the boy is an obsessive reader.

But some of his reading material consists of Nintendo Power magazines, old comic books and other low-brow stuff; not exactly report-worthy items. Still, unlike most of American kids, he's reading. That counts for something; right?

On the other hand when my boy picked more challenging books like those from Dean Koontz, the teacher wasn't thrilled with that either. Too mature for him.

Like his teacher, I'd love for my son to read the classics or dive into historical fiction, but I'm happy to let him set the tone when it comes to personal reading material. I don't want to tread too deeply on one of his favorite pastimes.

Pennac is on my side, no doubt. What about you? How does it work in your house? Do you set reading time? Require specific books? Am I letting my boy's brain turn to mush?

By the way, I'm passing the book along to one of my blog sistahs, Jessica over at It's My Life. Months ago she mentioned a love for this brilliant book via Twitter. Though I don't know how she has time for twitter AND books.

More musings on parenting gifted children.