Friday, April 30, 2010

Mrs. Prindable's Droolicious Factory Tour

I just noticed this was stuck in draft mode. This, my most droolworthy Whrrl story ever, which features highlights the event at the Mrs. Prindable's Factory.

I love factory tours, and this one was no exception. It's clear why Mrs. Prindable's is a premium product and soooo delicious. Take a peek and see for yourself.

More check-ins at Mrs. Prindable's
Powered by Whrrl

One week and two RipStiks Later

So, our Outdoor Challenge is complete. I learned a few things along the way to spending a green hour or two outside with my kids each day. I'll get into the deeper lessons when I have more time to reflect. For now, I will say that boys love their wheels.

I'm not sure where the girls are after school, but the boys are wheeling their way around the park- bikes, scooters, skateboards and RipStiks. Anything that rolls seems to work. It's interesting how graceful they look rolling around on the RipStiks. It's almost like a ballet as they spins, twist and turn to avoid crashing into each other as they make their way around the basketball court.

Me, on the other hand...I can make it about 1/2way across our driveway on the RipStik. Almost.

Lest anyone think my gratuitous mention of RipStik is a weak attempt to attract the company's attention in hopes of scoring a free one as some bloggers are apt to do, put your worries to rest. We bought two of them last week. Have I mentioned it's birthday season here?

Take a peek over at MomImpact to see some of the exciting things we've been doing.
Clicks and comments over at Mom From Another Country are also appreciated.

I hope to have time to clear my head enough to write some thoughtful posts; I'm in the midst of a lot of exciting things, not to mention I've got less than a month until my bat mitzvah.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 7: Little Soccer Mom on the Prairie

There was nothing exceptional about Day 6, so I'm skipping to Day 7, and given that last Sunday was a wash, I'm hoping to include a Day 8 update. I still want to make it to the woods, but last night's heavy rain might make that a messy proposition.

Yesterday was cool and gray, but as weather goes for the spring soccer season, it was pretty good. Our soccer field is located next to a preserved slice of prairie; the same slice of prairie I used to ride my bike around as a child.See the soccer ref in yellow in the distance?

For the most part, this area has changed little in recent decades
(centuries?). The prairie is managed with controlled burns-- well controlled burns-- as it's only a few hundred feet from a residential area.

The small preserve used to be fenced in, but they recently upgraded the area with a viewing deck and now allow access to it. However, I can see the grasses are getting trampled; public access is not always a good thing.

It's not much to look at now, but there are signs of rebirth and growth. In a matter of weeks, it will be bright with flowers and buzzing with insects and birds.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 5: Hit the Snooze Alarm

Yesterday, this little badge mocked me. Thursday is the true challenge day.

On a typical Thursday, Number One Son leaves for school at 7:15 for band practice before school. After school, both boys have about 10 minutes to catch their breath and grab a snack before Hebrew school. They return around 6:30, but by then I'm at my adult bat mitzvah class (only one month until the big day!) and I'm never really sure what happens in my absence.
The situation was further complicated yesterday because the older guy was to get picked up at 7:00 for a band field trip. His carpool ran a few minutes late, so standing on our stoop together in the brisk morning flanked by our lovely blooming lilacs was pretty much it for our outdoor time.

To make matters worse, on the way home from the fieldtrip one of the buses hit a cab (or a cab hit a bus, depending on who tells the story), so he didn't even make it back in time for Hebrew school. And given that his grandma was in charge while I drove the Hebrew school carpool, it's safe to assume that he spent his bonus free time in front of a TV or computer screen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 4: Geocaching at the Nature Center

On Day 4 of our Be Out There Challenge I took Thing 2 and some of his buddies to a local nature center. My boy was the unofficial guide having attended camp there for many years. He knows all the secret spots and eagerly led an expedition around the 13-acre oasis, which is bounded by townhouses on one side and train tracks on the other.

After hugging trees, running through the woods and spying all sorts of natural treasures along the way (see the photo story below), we entered the center to rent a geocaching kit. For $7, we got a full pack of supplies- everything from a hand held GPS unit to a first-aid kit.

Geocaching is a worldwide game of hide and seek. Participants hide small boxes or bottles and note the GPS coordinates (say, on a website) for people to find. We have friends who seek out caches wherever they travel. Sometimes people leave notes or tiny treasures in the boxes. It took a while to convince my guy to try the activity after he realized he wasn't going to uncover piles of money (i.e. geoca$hing).

The center offers three set course options, beginner, intermediate and advanced. We chose the intermediate course, which is laid with a full set of clues within the nature center acreage.

We split up jobs. One boy recorded our coordinates in a special take-home notebook, another was the cache opener/clue extractor, one boy operated the old-school GPS unit, which is to say a compass, and I held the new-fangled GPS.

Remember that post about letting go? Well, I held on to that GPS unit knowing that if anything happened to it, I'd be out nearly $200! But eventually, I relented so they each had one turn using the unit to locate the cache. It was complicated a bit by the fact that my son knew the territory so well, he was able to find some of the cache areas based on the written clues and not the coordinates. But, still, a good time was had by all.

This was the first time caching for all of the members of our group, but it won't be the last. I now have a group of rambunctious boys itching to tackle the advanced course. That course leads cachers to multiple parks and takes hours to complete, so we'll likely save that until summer.

In the end, our group completed the course in about 40 minutes, but the boys and I spent over two hours in the great outdoors. Seasonal allergies be damned, we had a fantastic time.

Remember to comment here to enter to win a one year subscription to one of National Wildlife Federation's excellent children's magazines. If you have a favorite geocaching website or app, please let me know!

Powered by Whrrl

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Be Out There Challenge Day 3: Pine Cone Fight!

One of the unexpected take-aways from our Be Out There Challenge is how I struggle as a parent with letting go. I'm all for my kid climbing up a tree, but when I see he's about 15- 20 feet up, I call for him to return to the ground now! as fight off unwelcome visions of him with a broken arm--or worse.

My boys are free to roam the park...unless I see someone or something suspicious.

I want my boys to have grand adventures! But I also want to keep them safe. Where does one draw the line? I suppose this is every mother's dilemma.

Almost immediately after arriving at the playground yesterday, my boys met up with their friends and I spent much of the time walking with another mom (another moms of two boys. I guess like does attract like at times). We were joined by yet another mom of two boys and walked the half-mile path around the park.

At one point we stopped near the playground and saw an all-out pine cone fight taking place. Kids have to improvise after the snow has melted, right? The children lobbed (sometimes whipped) pine cones across an imaginary line with no clear goal in site other than to try and hit each other.

We observed the children. It was all in good fun. They were laughing and scrambling around to find cones and avoid getting hit. It's easy to imagine children 100, or even 500, years ago playing such a game.

But it's only fun until someone gets hurt.

We debated whether or not to break up the game. Surely, if these were young children, we'd caution them to stop. But as it was, they were mostly 3rd-5th graders and none of our children were involved, so we moms stayed mum.

I saw my younger son grab a bunch of cones and asked if planned to throw them. He reported that his plan was to hide them and make the others search them out. Um, okay....

I told him I wanted to take a picture of them, which I did and then he promptly and carelessly tossed the whole bunch into the fight because he's rebelling over the fact that I bumped up our challenge week to this week instead of holding it last week as originally scheduled.

While I was rolling my eyes and my boy was reveling in his act of rebellion, another mom called out. My older son got beaned in the forehead with a pine cone. Mind you, he wasn't part of the great pine cone war, he just happened to be walking past the battlefield.

At that point, the moms broke up the fun. Amid protests and cries of disappointment, the group scattered eventually recovering and moving on to Tag and other games.

Did we step in too late? What if there had been a worse injury? What if someone else's child got hurt?

It can be a tough call, but the only way to avoid bumps and bruises (physical and emotional) is to raise a child in isolation and who wants that? Better we learn to fall down and promptly get back up.

During my next walk at the park, I'll be singing these words from Poi Dog Pondering's song, U LI LA LU, "You should wear with pride the scars on your skin, they're a map of the adventures and places you've been." But I'll still be struggling with when to step in and when to let go.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be Out There Family Challenge Day 2: Green Hour Success

We did it! I spent over an hour outside with the boys yesterday. Admittedly, I snuck in a couple of solo laps around the park, but I also played a bit with my boys and their friends.

Their friends let me try their RipStik, which I declare THE hot item for tween boys this summer. My tween boys survived the embarrassment of it all because while they can zoom and zig and zag like pros, I wobbled for and toppled within in five seconds on each attempt.

We also played a bit of basketball and hit a ball around the tennis court. And the half dozen boys around me took their best shot at things like RipStik basketball and RipStik tennis. Again, I'm still working on RipStik "stay on the thing for half a minute."

Though the greenest thing about our green hour was the painted surface of the tennis court, the boys still benefited from more than an hour of unstructured outdoor play. They exercised and blew off steam without realizing it and they honed their social skills- taking turns, sharing basketballs, tennis rackets and the coveted RipStiks.I intervened at one early point when I noticed a conflict between the older kids (6th grade) and the younger ones (4th grade). A certain 6th grader who lives with me may have found my actions humiliating, but the fact is I helped clear up a hot button issue that was based on a misunderstanding. Once the boys realized what was going on, they made peace.

Fresh air, exercise and friends: a winning combination. Maybe this afternoon we'll make it into the forest preserve.

Remember, if you share an idea for family outdoor fun on my earlier post, you'll be entered to win a year subscription to one of the National Wildlife Federation's excellent children's magazines.

And for a slightly different take on playing at the park, check out my current post at Chicago Moms Blog which asks the question, Would a pedophile drive a Prius?

(Note: edited 4/21 to add photos)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Be Out There Challenge: Day 1

Ugh. Day 1 felt like a fail. I mean, I spent plenty of time outside (see the Whrrl story below) and my kids spent plenty of time outdoors, so that's all good. However, we were on opposite ends of our state.

When I returned home DH was out fetching our youngest from a playdate and I slept through dinner, exhausted after the three-hour drive which topped off two busy days in Galena, Illinois with MomImpact.

After dinner we watched the final episode on LIFE on the Discovery Channel. It's an educational series with amazing videography. We watched it as a family (mostly) while I snuggled with my younger guy.

So we had time outdoors and time as family, we just didn't have it together. I hope during day two we'll do a better job meeting the challenge.

More check-ins at galena on the fly
Powered by Whrrl

More check-ins at galena log cabin getaway
Powered by Whrrl

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Be Out There: The Challenge Begins

I accepted my role as one of the National Wildlife Foundation's Founding Mothers in part because I know when I focus on a topic on my blog, it makes a difference in my real life. Committing to a week of outdoor play with (or at least alongside) my kids means we'll Be Out There.

There was at least one day last week, where if I was being graded on my work-life balance, I'd have earned a big fat F. I want to take my kids to the park and do something more than sit in the car taking business calls like I did that day.

I also signed on because I was eager to blog alongside some pretty fabulous peeps. We're all sharing the joys--and challenges-- of getting outdoors for an hour a day for a full week.

The challenge is open to all. If you join in, leave a comment on my earlier post for a chance to win a year's subscription to one of the National Wildlife Federation's entertaining and educational magazines.

Here's a list of the fabulous Founding Mother's (thanks to Rachel)

Jennifer James

Liz Thompson

Tracey Henry

Kim Moldofsky

Amie Hurst Adams

Asha Dornfest

Kristin Sundin Brandt

Anna Fader

Veronique Christensen

Holly Ambrose

Debi Pfitzenmaier

Christine Koh

Cooper Munroe

Emily McKhann

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be Out There Family Challenge: Coming Soon!

This was supposed to be my week to participate in a Be Out There Challenge with my family, but:

*Last night I was out late at the Chicago Moms Blog event
*Thursdays we never make it outside because of going straight from regular school to Hebrew School and when they get out, I'm in class
*Friday one of my boys has a party after school until 9:00 (!)
*Saturday I'm leaving on a MomImpact trip to Galena bright and early and will be gone through Sunday.

This is a recipe for failure.

I'm fortunate that we have a nice yard and nearby parks with playgrounds, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and, in some cases, tennis courts. We've even got bike trails and bridle paths running along a stretch of woods just a short drive away, but I dare say it's the busy-ness of life that will keep us from enjoying those things.

And don't get me started seasonal allergies. Both of my boys are on steroidal sprays in an attempt to control the mess left behind by the pollen floating around us. I've nicknamed my nine-year-old's eyes Itchy and Scratchy.

That said, I'm sooo glad the weather has turned and outside play is an option again.

You don't have to be a National Wildlife Foundation Founding Mother* to play along in Be Out There Challenge.

In fact, MomImpact members who play along and post on their blogs, then stop back here to share the link to their challenge or just even a great idea for a family-oriented outdoor activity (again, please share a specific link to that activity as you blogged it) will be entered to win a year's subscription to the NWF kids' magazine of their choice.

Enter today through April 23.

(Drew, you can enter, too.)

*I participate in this program without compensation (okay, I received a vintage Range Rick t-shirt and a few magazines, but I'm not in it for that).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers: The Value Exchange

I spent yesterday afternoon with some of my BBF (best blog friends) at Chicago's Hard Rock Hotel. We gathered together prior to a big branded party as Jill Asher and Linsey Krolik facilitated a discussion on how brands and bloggers can work together.

It's no wonder the brand/blogger relationship is so confusing- moms blog about different things in different ways and for different reasons. Certainly a woman who starts a blog to make money is going to have a different take on the best way to work with brands than one who blogs for fun or maintains a blog as a virtual family scrapbook.

It gets even more confusing when we factor in things like reach. And, oh, and let's not forget influence, something as hard to grasp as quicksilver and as mysterious as Schrodinger's cat.

It's all so murky.

In the end, it all comes down to a value exchange.

Both the brand and the blogger should be getting something of value. However, value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

So it's still murky.

At its best, a brand/blogger relationship is like the barbel fish that clean hippos' teeth, each side gets something positive from the interaction. (What? You haven't been watching LIFE on Discovery? It's amazing.)

Wait a minute, did you see what I just did? I just mentioned and linked, to a corporate entity, a for-profit enterprise that, full disclosure, sent me a media kit including a 2-episode preview. I watched the preview alone and then later with my husband and again with my boys. I blogged about it and my boys shared it with their friends. And I never got a penny. Am I a sucker?

No, I'm a genuine fan. My youngest and I have been glued to the screen on recent Sunday nights watching LIFE. For me, in this instance, the advanced sneak preview was a good fit, a good value for me and that translated back to providing value for the brand when I posted about it.

Though again, full disclosure, I am doing a paid MomImpact project with Discovery's new PlanetGreen show, Future Food, though that wasn't on my mind when I included the link.

Gah! No wonder this brand/blogger thing is so confusing.

I set out to summarize the conversation and share my two cents and now I've even confused myself.

Where was I? Oh, the hippos and the fish. It wasn't such a good analogy after all because actually the fish eat the hippos' poop! I forgot about that. This is exactly what we want to avoid; bloggers indiscriminately grabbing up opportunities just because they're offered up by big established brands.

However, the barbel fish also clean the hippos teeth--and that's what I recalled. The hippos get free dental hygiene and the barbels get a nice meal. At the end of the day everyone is happy.

It should be noted that the fish/hippo relationship evolved over thousands (or more) years. Brand folks and bloggers have only been working together for about five years, so we need to give it some time.

Given that my brain is now an addled mess, I'm just going to turn it over to you. We all have opinions about how brand/blogger relationships should evolve, so share your two cents.

In your experience, what is involved a good value exchange? Products? Cash? Exposure? Do tell!

Read more about what happened after our discussion at Carrie Kirby's Frugalista blog.

And, for a change, here's an article that speaks highly of mombloggers, What business can learn from "mommy bloggers" via Gena Mazzeo.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Science Fair for Susan

Moms around the Internets are showing support to a friend, mentor and rocket scientist, WhyMommy, who was diagnosed with cancer...again. Her fabulous friend, Stimey put together a fabulous virutal science fair

I'm chipping in with a post on How to Make Butter.

My modest contribution does not reflect the fact that I've been thinking about Susan and her family since she received the diagnosis. I'm sending them all the love and healing vibes I can.

Susan, you did it once, you can do it again! Kick cancer's ass, my friend!