Thursday, December 31, 2009

Military_Mom, Craig Dobkin and Miracles

If you follow events in the momosphere you've likely heard that Shellie, known on Twitter as @Military_Mom lost her two-year-old boy recently. He drown in the family's pool, which she announced shortly after the fact. It didn't take long before haters on Twitter started criticizing her for tweeting such raw, personal news and, worse, blaming her for her son's death.

My heart goes out to Shellie and her family. I completely understand and support her impulse to tweet during a crisis. And I don't blame her for her son's death. All Moms Are Fallible as Jessica Gottlieb wrote on her blog; go read it.

Lately, I've been thinking about of moments of inattention. We all have them. And in a busy world where 15 minutes of fame seems to have been reduced to 15 seconds and there are so many things completely or our attention, it's increasingly difficult to pay attention to any one thing.

Or is that just how I feel?

I didn't think I was alone in this and my thoughts were confirmed during a recent meeting of my bat mitzvah class when we talked about our intentions for the coming year. So many of us talked about 2010 as being a time for strive for focus or kavanah, a Hebrew term meaning conscious thought, intention, concentration.

A moment of inattention is what landed a former colleague, Craig Dobkin, in a wheelchair. He was an experienced rock climber who forgot to check his safety ropes before setting off on a 80-foot descent well over a decade ago. In the late 1990s, I attended a workshop on miracles he led at a local conference for experiential educators. Most of the sessions focused on how to be a better facilitator or new team-building games or techniques, but knowing Craig's dynamic personality, I choose to attend his program, even though the topic seemed a bit touchy-feely.

Craig set the tone by talking about the moment of inattention that led to his falling from a high cliff, but recounted all the events that followed as a series miracles, miracles that brought him to lead that session for us.

As I was doing an end-of-the-year office cleaning, I came across my old notes from that session. Ten or twelve years later they reduce the whole thing to series of soundbites, but I think these soundbites are worth pondering as we face a new year.

The world according to Craig Dobkin (circa 1997?).

We can create personal and professional miracles by:

* noting that all behavior is purposeful
* recognizing that miracles are possible and noticing them when they occur
* taking risks
* keeping love present
* understanding that every person in our lives is a potential teacher.

Busy-ness is violent, it destroys relationships and makes it impossible to focus. (Yeah, that's in bold for a reason.)

A person's comfort zone is safe and routine; the learning zone may be uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking, but ultimately leads to growth.

One never has enough information to be pessimistic.

All feedback is positive.

What are your thoughts for the new year?

I wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chanukah, Interrupted

Nothing like waiting until the last minute. This month my peeps on the Yahoo Motherboard are sharing thoughts on holding it together during the holidays (or not). You can read my post on the topic, Chanukas Interruptus, over at the Chicago Moms Blog.

What's up with Gifted Education?

Raising gifted children is a topic I often touch upon on this blog. When I checked the gifted tag recently, I was surprised to see I haven't written about gifted kids or gifted education in weeks. I've certainly been thinking about it.

Honestly, though, I've been wondering if it's ever worth continuing to write about it. Why? Personal experience, plus this tweet and the related post, "Our Shameful National Commitment to Gifted and Talented Children," from Joel McIntosh of Prufrock Press.

What is the point? It's not even a Sisyphean battle because gifted advocates, as a whole, never seem to make much progress. So frustrating....

But then I got this comment (I swear I didn't write it myself). So maybe I'll keep writing, after all.
Thank you, Anonymous!

At the same time I've been thinking about leaving gifted children behind, I've also been considering the years of archived posts buried here on this blog. What a waste. People typically only find them through web searches.

I've come up with two solutions to breath a little life into my archives:
1) I've added a nifty widget called LinkWithin to my blog and now at the bottom of each post, you'll find a few relevant (I hope) old posts to take a peek at.

2) With the help of my friend, Mari, I've now got links and a brief summary for all of my old posts on gifted children. I'm not sure if I'm merely going to list them in a new post, or do what I do with my marketing posts, and list the archives on a site dedicated to marketing to mombloggers and my consulting business. After all, I did just buy up a bunch of domains.

It's nice to know that my words and my acquired wisdom (read: mistakes with my own kids) help, so, yes, I will forge ahead here. Because not only do I have all those old posts on highly gifted children and quirky gifted children and the challenges of raising them in my archives, I've also got quite a few in draft mode.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Year in Review: Most Dubious Social Media Accomplishment

Many bloggers set out with specific goals in mind, to make a name for themselves. I started blogging four years ago as a creative outlet. I planned to make a name for myself in the world of freelance writing and beyond. In fact, I was sure, naively so, that each time I had a blog visitor from NYC, it was an editor or literary agent checking me out.

So, I never made it big as a writer. Still, this blog has led to writing opportunities, consulting opportunities, travel adventures and many new friends. I've come a long way from the frustrated mom who began writing from the dark corner of her basement late at night.

Now I'm the frustrated mom writing and tweeting at all hours of the day from my bedroom in an Ikea kids desk that used to belong to my youngest son.

And did I mention I'm speaking at Blissdom 2010?!

Still, with an odd mixture of pride and embarrassment, I present you with my most dubious social media achievement of the year: driving roughly 1,100 people to this Whrrl story. It's a completely organic and unsponsored story in which I shared the joy of an unexpectedly delightful find.

What are some of your social media achievements of 2009 (dubious or not)? Leave links and I'll check them out.

Oh, and if you want to join me at Blissdom, but your budget is tight, check out this confrence pass giveaway from my client, Steaz.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Master of My Domain

Make that, domains. I did a little belated holiday shopping for myself. Like any respectable geekgirl, I bought a bunch of domain names. It's not like I've got Big Plans, but I do have big ideas, and should I turn them into plans, I'm set.

A few of my domain purchases were long overdue, like and .coms for my two main blogs. However, my blogspot addresses have so much page rank credibility that I'm concerned migrating to say,, will put me back to zero with the search engines. Can anybody speak to this? No rush, I've got three years to get it figured out without anybody squatting on my blog names.

The other domain names won't lead to my domination of the blogosphere nor, sadly, any get-rich quick (or slow) schemes but they might come in handy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting High for the Holidays

Oh my, more than week off the blog. I've been busy. In addition to a tweet-up later today to ride the CTA's Santa train (with treats from Starbucks, thank you Edelman), I hosted a tweet-up, waaaay up--103 stories high, at the Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge on Monday.

Check it out; I'll add more pictures soon.

Yes, it was as fun as it looked. And once you take that first step out onto the glass ledge 103 stories up, it's fine. That first step is a mindfreak; it's completely counter-intuitive to leap or even crawl out over the city, but once you're convinced the ledge is not going to break off you can get silly, as you will see below.

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Thanks for Marketing Mommy, Self-Made Mom, Steph, SassafrassJess, Windy City Social, Brandie and Miss Lori for joining in. And thanks to the Meg and Arielle at Fleishman-Hillard for covering our admission, cookies on the skydeck and the unlimited photo ops!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eight Days of Chanukah Giveaways!

Are you kidding? We're not usually the kind of parents that give presents each night of the holiday, especially not this year. Oy. Lucky for us, the boys often have grandparents and other relatives to fill in our stingy gaps.

I can only hope you also have loved ones to fill in some of your gift gaps. I'm here to help with three nights, but you have to hurry to enter. My current giveaways are:

$25 Bonefish Grill Gift Certificate enter by 11 PM CST on 12/13/09

Chanukah Gift Basket enter by 2:00 PM CST on 12/14/09

Pampered Chef Cookie Press enter by 5 PM CST on 12/16/09

You must click on the links and follow the directions listed to enter. I'm not getting paid to host any of these giveaways, I'm just doing it because I want to help you find your happy place.

Two of these giveaways are posted over at The Full Mommy, where you can find other great giveaways.

Puzzling Behavior

I turned my avatar in to a puzzle. How's that for Friday Fun? Speaking of Friday Fun, I stopped that feature a while back due to lack of enthusiasm--both mine and that of my readers who rarely commented on the hilarious gems I dug up and put on display each week.

But there are some goodies contained within the Friday Fun label (click if you've got time to waste).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Chanukah Gift Basket Giveaway!

Edited to add: Check out this must-see Chanukah video. I dare you not to smile.

Have you noticed the trend toward talking about holidays instead of just Christmas? It's nice when people recognize traditions like the solstice, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Chanukah, but all too often "holiday" is really a PC word for Christmas.

Take the CTA Holiday Train. Who are we kidding? It's the Santa Train. (That said, I think it's delightful and I'm working on a Tweet-up on 12/23 to celebrate it's arrival in Skokie because the train seems more like reason for a family-friendly get-together than, say, the opening of the new LazerZone.)

My point is, yesterday the folks at 1800Baskets offered me the chance to provide a holiday gift basket for my readers and I thought of it as an opportunity to go Full Chanukah. Yeah, baby.

Thanks to them, I'm offering a Chanukah gift basket filled with goodies that will arrive before the end of the holiday. Well, it's not Full Chanukah and possibly not all Kosher, but it does have a tasteful blue ribbon and shiny blue packaging, which will nicely complement the Chanukah-themed kitchen and bath towels gifted to you many years ago.
Beyond the tasteful ribbon, the basket contains many tasty treats within: sugar cookies, chocolate covered graham crackers, honey wheat pretzels, chocolates, and much more. Click for the full scoop on the basket, which has a retail value of $74.99.

To enter, leave a comment sharing one of your favorite Chanukah traditions. Make sure you leave me your email or a link to it, so I can contact you. For extra entries, tweet this giveaway and come back and comment letting me know you've done so. Entries will be accepted through 2:00 PM CST on Monday, 12/14/09.

Fine print: The only payment I'm receiving for the contest if the joy of sharing. If only warm fuzzies paid the mortgage....The prize will only be shipped to a US mailing address. Sorry, DH, I know you love snacky gift baskets, but this contest is not open to members of my immediate family. The winner will have 24 hours to contact me with a mailing address or another winner will be chosen in order to expedite the prize.

Take a peek behind the scenes of 1-800-Baskets in my Whrrl story. I haven't looked at gift baskets the same way since then.

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While I was on tour at DesignPac, the 1800Baskets facility, I noticed they are sister companies with HearthSong, which offers fabulous alternatives to holiday gifts from Big Box stores. They have loads of fun, creative toys that are not branded with corporate icons and labels. When my mother attempted to offer my young boys Toys R Us Greed Guide, I offered up the HearthSong catalog as an alternative. I knew they could choose anything out of it without me having to censor their choices.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What Happens to My Social Media Accounts When I'm Gone?

And I mean real, real gone, like no longer alive. It's an odd question to ponder in midst of so much holiday cheer, so let me explain:

The other day I was searching around for a contact at a local company on LinkedIn. Among the results I saw the name of a friend of a friend. I shuddered when I saw her name. This woman was listed as the manager of online marketing with a comfortable tenure of over 3.5 years on the job. Only, she's been deceased for about three of those years.

A scene from poltergeist flashes in my head, "They never moved the bodies!" I feel the need to wash my eyeballs. Instead, I Tweet my creepy find. Then, following advice from a Twitter friend I alert the folks at LinkedIn about the situation.

Another Twitter friend mentions the need for social media moms like us to include some instructions in our wills regarding these various accounts. (You're a parent; please tell me you have a will.) To some that might come off as cheeky, but for me and my ilk, social networking is serious business. Literally. Sure, we use social networking for fun and personal support, but we also use it to connect with clients.

Friends, clients, no matter, the fact is I have several blog accounts, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, a Parentella account, a Big Tent account, not to mention PayPal, as well as various subscriptions and site registrations. Along with these various accounts, I have a range of passwords. NONE OF WHICH ARE WRITTEN DOWN.

You heard me. I'm awesome like that.

The folly of this has occurred to me. Even before this morning, say I slipped and took a tumble, I'd have a passing thought of, "What if I hit my head when I fell and passed out and didn't remember my user names and password combos when I came to?"

Like I said, I'm awesome like that. Anyway, I guess I'm adding another to-do to my list. What about you?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Raising Gifted Children: Dropping Out of School

Maybe we parents of gifted children should not be so surprised when our high ability children drop out of school. After all, many of us have memories of their earliest days of formal education, those days when we packed our bright, eager learners off to school only to have them return unhappy at best, miserable and depressed at worst.

I remember passing off my copy of Genius Denied, a book that rocked my world back in the day, to another preschool mom. She returned in to me in a daze a week later, "Incredible. How did you think to give this to me?" She asked. My son never played with the girls in class, so I didn't have much insight on her child; I did have a hunch though.

It was only after the mom returned the book that I learned of her daughter's morning stomachaches, how the girl dreaded preschool and complained each day on the way to class. (The girl always seemed happy enough when I saw her in class, but that's how many gifted girls roll. Little pleasers.)

Around that time, I heard a lecture by Joan Franklin Smutny, author of several books on gifted education. She mentioned that many highly gifted children drop out of college their freshman year disillusioned by rote classes that seem like an extension of high school rather than the pursuit of knowledge.

As a senior in high school, I recall practically drooling over the college course catalog. So many interesting classes; I couldn't wait to take them. Except as a zoology major, my schedule was largely predetermined and I couldn't fit them into my plan. Ultimately, I switched my major rather than drop out of school, but there was a guy a year or two ahead of me who decided to drop out of UT. Maybe you've heard of him? Michael Dell. Yes, that Dell. He seems to have done okay for himself.

Nobody's dropping out of anything right now at Chez Moldofsky, but when a blog sistah posted about her son not going to college, it got some other friends talking, including mom I adore, Darryle, who told me in a much earlier conversation about her supersmart daughter who took a nontraditional route. (Summary here, but click on her links for the back story). All this chatter reminded me of other stories of budding geniuses who also passed on the expected, traditional route.

It's nice to know mothers with older children who forged their own path and seem to have found their way. I should mention that the sense that those children (now adults) have found their own way typically came after many years of hand wringing and, I'm certain, a pool of tears (on behalf of the mothers, at least).

Along these lines, I'm declaring Secrets of Buccaneer-Scholar the best book of 2009. Well, I should call it the best book I haven't read in 2009; I'm not finished yet. But I love the premise, which is found in the subtitle: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success.

Self-made man, author James Marcus Bach (son of Richard Bach) offers his philosophy on the dust jacket."A Buccaneer-Scholar is anyone whose love of learning is not muzzles or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to find is own place in the world." (Yes, I've made it a bit beyond the dust jacket. And yes, Bach's kids are homeschooled.)

It will be easy (albeit expensive) for my boys to take the traditional path. But it's reassuring (falsely so, I hear my cynically husband saying) to know that as long as they love to learn and have the capacity to do so, they will wind up where they are supposed to be.

More musings on parenting gifted children.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Geeking out with Underwriters Labs

Bloggers are urged to be authentic online, right? That's why I turn down offers of freebie review items like $200 jeans, but gleefully accept things like an Underwriters Labs Fire Safety movie featuring the Lion King's Pumbaa and Timon. I'm a geek.

I get excited about UL and Consumer's Union and the like. What can I say?

Underwriters Labs sent me a free review copy of their educational fire safety video. I grabbed my nieces and nephews and gathered them round the TV to watch over Thanksgiving Break. The movie is a far cry from the kind of educational filmstrips (filmstrips!) I was made to watch as a child. It's edutainment at its best.

Even though four out of the five children in my audience were over the prime recommended K-3 viewing age, they all laughed in the right places and learned a lesson or two.

Because it's animated, it's easily dubbed over in many languages. In fact, the DVD they sent me can be viewed in 16 different languages including Danish, Hindi and Kannada. Because this DVD makes fire safety information so accessible (and fun) to so many, I'm going to donate my copy to a local ELL (English Language Learners) co-op set up by the area schools in the hope that other families can benefit from it.

Now, I'm hoping Santa brings me the Bill Nye Smart Science: Electricity DVD that's part of the Safety Smart DVD Series. What can I say? I'm a geek. Also one of my boys stuck tweezers into a electric outlet just a year or two ago when he was old enough to know better, so I'd like that budding scientist to watch the video a time or two.

Take a peek below at a UL-hosted blogger meet-up. PR pro Trish Taylor took special care to find a Chanuka light for my boys (no the little guy is not my son) at the event, which I greatly appreciated. Was the light UL listed? See for yourself.

Also, UL is tweeting @safetyathome, and huzzah, they've hired bloggers, fabulous ones at that, the Rookie Moms, to create content for the Safety at Home site.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Give Thanks, Take Note (of the Holiday)

We're lucky that we have so many family members nearby with whom to share holidays. Usually we try to rotate a bit from year to year, but we're bad about remembering where we were each year.

Luckily, the Jewish New Year usually involves two nights of celebration, one with DH's family, one with mine.
Chanuka is eight nights long, enough time to fit in both families.
There are two Passover seders, so again it's an easy split. Our Jewish forebears had their act together, what can I say?

Thanksgiving usually rotates. Given that my blog is something of a family memory book what better place to record that we spent Thanksgiving, from crudites through dessert with my husband's family in 2009. In 2007, we were with my family, in 2008, AKA the year of the half-cooked turkey, we celebrated with DH's family (odd thing about the turkey as his sister is a fabulous cook).

On Thanksgiving, I often think of a song with this title from Poi Dog Pondering.
(from my fading memory, maybe not in the right order)
"Sometimes I find myself way out of lines from the ones I have drawn.
Wasn't the best of paths, you could attest to that, but I'm keepin' on...
I owe my soul to each fork in the road, each misleading sign.
Cuz even in solitude, no bitter attitude, can dissolve my sweetest find.

Would our paths cross , if every great loss had turned out a gain? Would our paths cross if the pain it had cost of, was pain in vain?

Thanks given, for every wrong move...that made it right. That made it right."

Speaking of which, please send love to my friend Kristina from Momformation (with great gratitude wisdom from her daughter) and my blogfriend Meowmie, who's husband passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly a couple of months ago.

Love to you and yours.