Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let My People Go...On the Walk with Israel

Finally reposting from my archives at ChicagoMomsBlog before the site goes down. This originally appeared in May 2008.

We did it. We really did it. My family and I survived our first Walk with Israel. It wasn't the hot weather or length of the walk that put me off all these years, rather it was the terrorist threat. A terrorist threat that, perhaps, only existed in my mind.

Despite all the years I’ve been afraid of the walk, none of our friends seemed concerned. In fact, I’d create excuses that it didn’t fit in with our weekend plans for some reason or another. For example, I’d say it conflicted with the boys’ soccer schedules, only to see a bunch of cheerful, lightly tanned families show up at the soccer field later in the day wearing their Walk with Israel t-shirts. Clearly, they survived unscathed.

I started to feel silly, keeping my family away from a large community event. It just seemed to me that a mile-long line of Jews walking alongside Lake Michigan presented an ideal target for enemies of the State of Israel. And rumor has it there are a few.

My fears were fed when we approached McCormick Place, only to find some anti-Israel protesters on the way to the parking garage. Nothing violent, though. How wonderful that we live in a country in which we can freely express political and religious views, yes?

But then we drove into the parking garage. The woman who issued our pass paused for a moment. "You here for the Israel walk?"

Ah, my husband's Semitic good looks show through again.

”Yes, we are here for the Israel walk.”

"Did they check your car?" She asked. "They were supposed to check your car."

"For what?" I naively inquire.

"'For bombs."

My eyes pop out of my head. My blood pressure skyrockets, set off by both the tone and content of our exchange. Hello, did you notice my kids in the backseat?

"What did she say?" Asks my ten-year-old.

"She wanted to make sure we didn't have guns or anything. Did you know when I was in Georgia at the aquarium, they had a sign saying no guns allowed. Can you imagine bringing a gun to the aquarium? We even had to walk through metal detectors…at an aquarium."

DH joins in on my nervous banter and we discuss gun laws in the American south.

Even though one typically does not have to go through metal detectors in Chicago, we did have to get "wanded" and have our bags searched before being presented with our official Walk with Israel wristbands and t-shirts.

Speeches from several local politicians kicked things off and then we started walking. Considering the 10,000 or so who took part, we saw few familiar faces in the crowd. That the community is larger than I expected, does not keep me from thinking that if this group of people was in the wrong part of Europe nearly 70 years ago, we’d have been just a drop in the bucket of the 6,000,000 Jews killed during the Holocaust. I keep these thoughts to myself, though.

As we walked, I came up with a more uplifting and appropriate comparison, one I shared with my boys. A line of walkers stretched out before and behind us on dry land with the lake beside us, it seemed to parallel the exodus of the Egyptian slaves from Pharaoh’s tyranny. I pointed this out to one of my boys. "What do you think?"

"Yeah, maybe."

So much for my attempts to bring the Bible to life.

The walk was fun; it was safe. We survived. But when I think about next year's walk, I still get jittery.

Chicago Mom Blogger Book Launch

I've barely seen Chicago mom blogger Dawn Meehan since we went yachting a couple of summers ago. (Sorry, had to get that in.) But she's a smart and funny woman and spins a fun yarn, to boot. And why shouldn't she? He six kids provide her with loads of great material!

I want to congratulate her on her newest book, You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and Other Lies about Pregnancy and Childbirth) just published by Simon and Schuster.

Dawn is a hosting a book launch party this Tuesday, November 2
6:30pm - 9:30pm
Location Comedy Sportz Theater
929 W. Belmont in Chicago

Join in for an evening of fun and laughter as she does some stand-up comedy from her new book.

She's also hosting a baby shower of sorts. She's asking guests to bring diapers, formula, or new/gently used baby clothes. Donations will benefit Wings (Women in Need Growing Stronger), a non-profit organization that helps women and children who are fleeing domestic violence.

Her last book, Because I Said So, was a huge hit in our house and my son's school. Really, my then third grader thought it was the funniest thing ever. He loved reading about Dawn's six kids and their antics. He even convinced his homeroom teacher to read sections out loud to the class. (The teacher wound up buying a copy of her own, I hear.)

Knowing I have a full schedule this week and am "taking the day off" Saturday to attend the IAGC Academy for parents of gifted children, I don't know if I will be there Tuesday evening, but I'm sure if will be a good time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday on Thursday: The Story of My Life

This is up there with the dirty laundry that gets piled up next to the laundry hamper.

Never happens in your house, right?

Check out this very cool toilet paper roll art.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marketing to Moms: Observations from an Aging Gen X Mom of Tween Boys

People are coming to Chicago from near and far this week for the Marketing to Moms Conference. I've noticed tidbits and factoids about Mom and her critical life stages come through the tweetstream of this event. This year, I thought I'd share a few observations of my own.

Life gets hairy in mid-life. Literally and figuratively.

Mothering young children is tiring and physically exhausting, but parenting teens and tweens is busy and draining in an entirely different way. Granted, it's easier to find time for work and self-care like exercise, retail therapy or whatnot when the kids are at school, but the "second shift" from after school until bedtime is a crush of activities, snacks, carpools, homework, chores, and more carpools. The greater the number of kids in the house, the larger the challenge of a true sit-down family dinner each night...or at all.

In the late elementary school years, the homework kicks up a notch, which, let's be honest, means a lot of battles on the home front. One psychologist I know believes homework is the single largest cause of family violence, as defined by shouting, screaming, tantrums, not physical abuse.

And speaking of psychologists, OMG, do you remember how you acted as a teen? Adolescence is no treat the second time around, either.

As academic pressures and involvement in school sports and other activities increases, a family's vacation schedule truly becomes a hostage to the school schedule. So much for squeezing an extra day out of a long weekend.

Today's tweens are increasingly connected.

Many have cell phones (and Facebook pages!?) by the time they are 10 years old. As parents add another cell phone or two to the family plan, some are wise enough to pay for an unlimited text plan before they get that first outrageous texting bill.

If the kids don't have their own computer, they will soon. Parents get fed up sharing their computer as the children increasingly need it for school or want it for social activities. And as with phones, hopefully the parent brings another computer into the family before the tweens have introduced malware and the latest virus to the computer their parents use for personal banking activities and online shopping.

But this stage of life isn't all about the kids.

It's about marriages. Broken marriages, that is. Affairs, separations and divorces, not necessarily in that order.

And it's not about dad setting out to find a trophy wife. Increasingly, mom is calling it quits for her own reasons.

When it comes to health, well, a wise older women (WOW) friend warned me about what to expect in my 40s. Every time I turn around, someone I know is being diagnosed with {whispers} cancer. Case in point, know not one, but two(!) women in their 40s whose husbands are having brain tumors removed next month.

And then there's the friend with thyroid cancer, the gal pal who had breast cancer last year and another one currently undergoing chemo, the dad who was recently treated for a tumor.... and that's not even counting my online friends and their health issues.

And as long as things are getting glum, the other thing my WOW friend warned me is that death becomes a fact of life in middle age.

Fortunately, my friends are doing okay, but they are losing their grandparents and parents. Some of them are sandwiched in between caring for elderly relatives and younger ones who need to be driven everywhere and by the way are supposed to bring a new box of 100 sharpened pencils to school this morning.

Oh, and I probably should have mentioned this before death, but wrinkles? Gah! An unstoppable and depressing phenomenon. Women who joke about the affect of gravity on their bodies before age 40 have no idea what they are in for.

{smacks well-lined forehead}

I've made this 40-something gig sound worse than it is. By this point in life, we've learned to adapt, we've learned that change also means growth and we know we can make it through whatever life hands us. (Which is to say, it's a shame that wrinkles and gray hair cannot be acknowledged as badges of pride and survival that they are.)

We 40-somethings are watching our children grow and (in theory) mature; we might also be watching our careers flourish or getting ready to finally return to work in earnest. We might be able to jog farther or lift more weights than we ever thought possible than at any other time in our life. We might even be having better sex.

We are on our way to becoming wise older women.

My career is no longer in the toilet!

There are many opportunities for brands to help us along on our sometimes rocky journey to WOW. Want to know more? Drop me a note at kim(at)momimpact(dot)com.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Help for Parents of Gifted Children in Chicagoland

The Illinois Association for Gifted Children is hosting a Parent Academy on November 6th from noon to 5.

The title is intriguing: Understanding the Academic, Social, and Emotional Needs of Gifted Children. (No, really, if you've got a highly or profoundly gifted child, you know what I mean.)

The event will kick off with a tour of IMSA.The keynote speaker is Andy Mahoney. He'll be talking about executive function and the vulnerability of gifted kids. If he gets to the part about hiring an assistant for your college student I'm going to pop in my ear buds and whistle Dixie.

And from 2:00 – 5:00 they will be several break out sessions:

· Parenting Module (developed by ISBE for parents of gifted children)

· The Mind of the Gifted Teen

· Shaping Your Child’s Education: Where Parents Fit in the Equation

· Classroom Teacher: Friend or Foe?

· Fostering the Gifted Brain: Facts, Fun and the Future

· My Child is identified as Gifted – Now What?

· Living with Intensity: Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

· Young Gifted Children: Parenting Issues and Concerns

· RtI and Gifted: What Does this Mean for my Child?

The cost is $30 per person/$50 per couple.

Should I stay or should I go? I still haven't decided, but the registration deadline is November 1, so I should make up my mind soon. Let me know if you'll be there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Fairy Jobmother on Lifetime TV

I did a double-take when I saw an ad for The Fairy Jobmother on Lifetime TV. Duuuude! I used to own the domain (and a few variations thereof).

Don't you hate it when someone takes your ideas and actually does something with them? Though honestly, it's not so much that someone took my idea, it's just that she had the same one and managed to flesh it out and make it into a TV show.

So what was I doing with that domain, anyway?

Well, like many of my blogging peeps, at any given time, I own 5-10 domains that I keep around "just in case." (Yes, I own, I'm just scared to switch anything out for fear of losing archives, Google PR/Alexa/Technorati rank.)

Back in 2006, I started Navigating the On-ramp, a blog over at (I used to own, too.) I wrote a series of wry posts about returning to the workforce after many years at home caring for my boys.

For example, I mused on work-life balance after observing my boys' ant farm.

I shared tips on volunteering like a pro at school.

And thanks to my friend Angela Allyn, I even shared how a working mom can be a hostess with the mostess, er, make that a passable hostess.

Oh, my fabulous ideas!

I had a book proposal all sketched out, dozens of going-back-to work essays in draft form, I even held a focus group with a bunch on on-ramp moms....

It was only during last year's clean sweep of my file drawer (necessitated by our selling the mongo file cabinet along with our house) that I realized just how much material I had, how much work I had put into it.

But the AustinMama blog died out. And going back to work wasn't a topic that seemed to have much traction here, and in the end, I didn't even on-ramp in a very traditional way. I mean, back in 2006 who imagined I could work from home as a successful social media marketing consultant?

At any rate, I searched through the archives at AustinMama to find my Fairy Jobmother post. It's not there.

I even searched my hard drive. Nada.

I can't believe this; I know exactly how I defined her and why she's so important for on-ramp moms.

I've been toying with the idea of revisiting and re-purposing some of that old content, much of which never made it online, but I was waiting until we found a new home and I settled in to my lovely new home office.

However, I'm slowly realizing the likelihood of us being out of my parents' house before the end of the school year is increasingly small (the operating assumption being that we need to find a house, close in it 6 weeks later, and based on what we are seeing, have 2-3 months worth of renovations prior to move-in).

Should I dust this old stuff off? Perhaps my Fairy Jobmother will answer me tonight in my dreams.

Friday, October 22, 2010

LEGO® KidsFest Chicago! Join in October 29-31

Yes, the Legos are coming to town! As the mom of a Chicago-area Lego fanatic, I jumped at the chance to receive media passes to Lego KidsFest, but I'm more like a media partner as they asked me to post about the event prior to its arrival.

We love Lego®! Based on the amount of use our Lego bricks, people and sets have enjoyed over the years, I can say this brand is worth the money. Whether following the given directions for a set or used in free play, Legos are fun. And they can be enjoyed for years to come. Case in point, my boys play with some of DH's old sets, which my mother-in-law saved with most of the pieces intact.Old Lego vs. New Lego

For better or worse, my granchildren will inherit thousands of Lego pieces all mixed together in one a ginourmous plastic bin. That's how we roll.

We are also rolling over to McCormick Place on October 30 for Lego KidsFest. It takes place
October 29-31 and promises excitement, activities and nonstop family fun.

Highlights will include:
  • LEGO Model Museum, featuring more than 40 life-sized LEGO models
  • Live demonstrations from LEGO Master Builders
  • LEGO Creation Nation, a hands-on building activity
  • LEGO Games Gallery, with live game play of the newest LEGO board games like Minotaurus, Creationary and Race 3000 (My son is a huge fan of these games and has sweet talked his grandma into buying him several of them)
  • LEGO Arcade, featuring interactive fun with LEGO video games
  • An opportunity to enter to Win a Trip to LEGOLAND® California
  • Watching my son spend all of his allowance

For detailed information, to purchase tickets and to register for LEGO Club meetings, please visit Be warned, this event often sells out.

Oh, and forget what I said about my grandkids playing with Legos, they will have their robots do it for them.

Also, the photos above our from our home collection, the Lego models at the event will be even cooler. :-)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: How do You Move a 900 pound piano?

Veeery carefully.

These guys did a great job with our circa 1928 beautiful beast of a player piano. Anybody want to come over for old skool karaoke? I think they called them sing-alongs back in the day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We're Done Looking for a House!

Yes, we're done house hunting...but there's no celebration going on. Here's the deal: say there are 200 house for sale in my town. Of those, maybe 75 are in my school district. (We live in a land of ridiculously small school districts in which an entire district K-8 may serve fewer than 1000 students and cover only a portion of a town.)

Of the 75 homes on the market in our district, some are too near the train tracks, power lines or the expressway.

Some are townhouses or condos and we are looking for a single-family home.

Some are too small, some are too large...and expensive.

We toured about a dozen houses and of those, found a few potential candidates. But unlike Goldilocks, we never found one that was just right.

There was the Mafia House. (Sold! For $25K under listing price.)

And we can't forget the OMG, You Must Be Kidding Me House.

Then there was the lovely house with the Stairway of Doom.

The house of the tiny, disco-ready bathroom.

The haunted short sale.

The moldy foreclosure without a kitchen or bathrooms. (Update 10/25: the price dropped.)

My favorite was That 70s House. (Update 10/19: the price just came down!)

We bid on it. Of course, given the many problems we noticed even before bringing in a professional inspector, you understand why we didn't offer top dollar. However, the owner apparently feels that if her dishwasherless kitchen was good enough for her back in the day, it should be good enough for us. She must have felt the same way about the stained carpet, water bed, moldy shower and the cork wall.

In the end our Realtor had his comps (comparable sales), the owner's agent had her comps, and never the 'twain shall meet.

Damn you, MF!

(MF are the initials of the widow who owns the house; the woman who refused the only offer she's had since listing the house in June.)

We're Done Looking for a House

We've seen what's out there, now we'll sit back and keep our eyes open for something new. Interest rates aren't going anywhere soon and neither are we. As much as we'd love to move out of my parents' house, we're not in a rush.

Besides, each month we stay, we're saving money. Each month those houses sit on the market, especially the vacant ones, their worth decreases. Plus, history dictates that come spring, we'll have dozens of new houses to consider calling our own.

In the end patience wins.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

How I Lost Money with TheGotSpot and MB Financial Bank

We all know that any deal that sounds too good to be true probably is. But since the launch of Groupon and any number of competitors, along with services that aggregate those fab daily deals into a single email, I've seen some amazing offers.

Typically, I watch them come and go through my inbox, but last week I jumped on deal too good to pass up: a $50 MasterCard gift card for only $25 through MB Financial Bank. Not only was this a good deal because I'm not far from a branch, but I'm also on the lookout for a mortgage provider. At any rate, until we find a house, we've got a down payment that we're keeping liquid for said purchase and are on the lookout for the best spot for our money.

That said, the TheGotSpot certificate did not mention the need to talk to a banker in order to receive the gift card (see image). Even though it wasn't a requirement, I was up for it. I haven't stepped inside my local MB branch in a decade or so.

So in I walked at two minutes after noon on Saturday. After waiting a minute or so to speak with a teller, I was told I needed to speak with a banker, which required a wait.

Granted it was a Saturday, but time is money, no? At 12:17, having spent 15 minutes waiting in the bank, I began to wonder how much this $25 in the form of a gift card bonus would cost me.

I would have walked out at 12:30 without my gift card, but I did sink $25 of my own money into the deal plus I'd invested nearly 30 minute of my time, so I waited, but I realized I was losing money on this deal.

Shortly after 12:30 it was clear MB was losing a future customer as well.

In turns out that, depending on which employee I spoke with, one or two bankers had gone home sick. It's totally believable based on what's been happening in my own house this past week.

But I had to be I had to be back home at 12:45, so I could take my dying cat to be euthanized.

I approached the teller again. "I'm told I'm supposed to speak with a banker, but I have to get my dying cat to the vet. Do you think I could just get the gift card?"

No. I'd have to wait for a banker.

When I was called by a banker around 12:32, I told her I didn't have much time. "Oh," she apologized, "I need to speak with you for 15 minutes."


"I don't have that kind of time. I need to get home to take my cat to the vet to be put down," I said.

"Well, she replied, "There's another branch just down the street, there might be less of a wait there."

Um, why didn't someone tell me that 30 minutes ago?

Also, what part of "euthanize my cat in 20 minutes" did she not understand?

I mentioned something about my down payment money, looking for a home and my anger at having been left waiting and stormed out of there close to tears not only because I'd wasted more than 30 minutes of my time, but also very aware that when I got home I'd be collecting my tiny, frail old cat that hadn't eaten in three days and bringing her to meet her maker.

It's vulnerable moments like this that provide a chance for an otherwise cold bureaucratic institution an opportunity to show a human touch, but as the bank's tagline notes MB Means Business. Not compassion.

However, if, for example, had the banker responded,

"I'm so sorry. Let me give you the gift card and please come back to talk to us during the week."

they might have had a chance with me. Sure, she would've risked my not actually following through. But kindness breeds kindness. Chances are I would have made good on the deal if only to see if they could suggest a better way for me to invest our down payment money that's sitting around earning lousy interest.

Instead, I spun out of that parking lot furious for having wasted my time, missed lunch with my family and filling my heavy heart with petty matters at such a crucial time.

Yes, I will stop in at a branch of the bank to get my gift card; I do have $25 invested in it, after all. But figuring about an hour of my time will have gone into acquiring the bonus $25, I figure I lost money on this deal.

Caveat Emptor. (My second lesson from the Brady Bunch this month!)

I know that vendors that partake in these Groupon-like deals can easily be overwhelmed by the response. They need to be prepared for the traffic that such deals bring (I was not the only person at the bank with a coupon).

And the coupon provider need to be clear about the restrictions, i.e. "in order to redeem the coupon, the holder must speaker with a bank representative for 15 minutes."

Edited 10/16 to add: Just heard from a friend who pursued this same deal. She popped into her to her local branch, picked up the gift card and was out the door like that. What gives?

Edited 10/19 to add: I see a lot of folks from MB Financial have stopped by to read this. I encourage you to read through the comments, where I share some of my thoughts after being contacted by MB.

My first foray in to "coupon madness" was pretty disappointing. Is it worth another try?

P.S. Fortunately, everyone at the vet's office was really wonderful and supportive; they could not have been kinder with the cat (or me!).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Radio Flyer Wagon with Free Shipping: Think of this as a preview to my holiday gift guide

I've been toying with the idea of creating a holiday gift guide based on my twelve years as a mom. That is, instead of recommending the "hot" toys of the season, I'll share my wisdom as a veteran mom about what's really worth your hard-earned money.

A Radio Flyer wagon is one of those things. We received the wagon (pictured) as a baby gift for Thing One more than a dozen years ago. Though it's now used mostly for yard work, the boys had fun with it back in the day.

So I thought this was worth sharing: Radio Flyer is offering free shipping on any wagon purchased on between October 15th – October 17th. The free shipping ensures that your wagon will arrive in time for trick-or-treating.

Look at this photo from 2010. My pudgy little pumpkin and basketball star in their little red wagon getting ready for baby's first Halloween--the fun one wherein mom gets to eat all the candy!

One more thing to love about Radio Flyer: they were very supportive of our local farmers' market, donating wagons for parents to borrow, helping them whisk their little ones around the market. They've been a huge hit.

And here's a story about a street legal, custom made Radio Flyer that will make you smile.

I was not compensated in any way for this post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: House Hunting WTF? Take 2

This is from what I call a hypothetical 3 bed, 2 bath house that is like stepping into the 1960s in all of its wood-paneled glory.

I won't even waste my time describing it, I will just sum it up with "needs work." Happily, the price has dropped $40K since it was listed over the summer. Chop off another $40 and they might just have a buyer, though it won't be me.

The 2nd advertised bath is so small....

{How small is it?}

It's so small you have to stand outside of it to pee.

Almost. Take a look at the toilet tank is versus the commode itself.

FWIW, there's a moldy cement cube of a shower just to the side of the toilet, requiring a 5 inch step off the floor.

I'm not even trying to find stuff like this, we just keep happening upon it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

House Haunting: Beetlejuice!

A guest post by my partner in house hunting a pretty much everything else, DH.

As Halloween approaches and our search for a new home continues, Beetle Juice is on my mind.

Remember in the Michael Keaton film, Beetlejuice, how recently deceased homeowners Alec Baldwin and Gina Davis wanted Winona Ryder’s family to vacate their beloved house, so they worked hard learning how to haunt it?

Well, Beetlejuice is my newest house descriptor. A house for sale haunted by its occupants (dead, undead or living), who make the place as ugly as they can to scare away potential buyers.

We toured a short sale recently. Unlike a foreclosure, where the owners can’t afford the mortgage, so the bank tosses them out, leaving an empty, unloved building, a short sale is a compromise. The bank lets the family stay in their domicile and offers the house for sale for less than the unpaid remainder of the mortgage. Today, banks have enough evictions to deal with and people forced out of their home can do some pretty nasty things to the structure on their way out the door.

But why should a short sale be any different? In this case, the owners (really, occupants) know that once the deal is complete, they’re to be out and won’t make a dime off the deal. Not a penny of profit.

On the other hand, if the home does not sell quickly, the residents have a place to live without having to pay the full cost of their mortgage.

The house in question was a mess. When we were selling our house, we kept it ready to show at a moment's notice. Not only did this place have dirty laundry everywhere, making us feel like unwelcome invaders, but it appeared as if this family had never cleaned the bathtub or wiped the caked-on grease off the stove.

Had they floated up to us carrying their severed heads in their hands like in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, we would have been less grossed out.

The exterior was worse. A broken screen door lay against the side of the garage. Bricks had fallen from the chimney and the wood siding was peeling paint (presumably lead-based). Each blade of dead grass on the patchy lawn cried out “nobody loves us!”

This house of horrors left me not so much chilled to the bone as irritated to the core. Yes, we are strangers looking at a real estate deal. But we are also guests.

Couldn't these people at least have disposed of the bucket of oil near the garage? Or should we have inferred that the oil was a feature that comes with the house?

Bolstering my point is that when we showed up the following Sunday for the official open house, no sign announced the event. A call to the Realtor explained that the occupants “forgot” they had a guest coming over that day.

Puhleeze. Obviously, the family couldn't manage to or didn't feel like cleaning the place.

The agent assured us the open house would be rescheduled for this Sunday, but I’m willing to bet the occupants will suddenly remember an obscure holiday involving used motor oil and rubber tires. Maybe other buyers have a tolerance for haunted houses, but I don't.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quick House Sale: Only $285K

A quick house sale? Are you kidding me? It's taking us forever to find a new home in a very narrowly defined geographic area. *sigh*

Around these parts, back in 2005, on a good day $285 thousand dollars would have bought a 2 bedroom, 1bath ranch house on a 35 x 100 lot. So you can imagine how excited I was (DH is always skeptical) when I heard about a 4 bedroom + office, 2.5 bath house with a full basement and 2 car garage for only $285!

Of course, there were drawbacks. For instance, it was a a cash-only foreclosure sale. Who has that kind of cash sitting around?

Oh, and it's cash sale because there's no kitchen and no bathrooms. Well, the rooms are there, but they look like this:

Apparently, banks will not provide mortgages to houses without functioning kitchens and bathrooms, so a person has to find the cash and then finance the renovations, which we roughly estimated at about $200K because in addition to the missing toilets, there was a note about the need to have the basement drywall ripped out.

Because it looks like this:

I'm no mold expert, I'll just assume this is the bad kind of black mold everyone is so worried about. It appears that the house must have taken in close to two feet of water during the heavy summer rains.

Also, it seems that there is at least one leak in the roof.

And many of the baseboard heating elements are broken.

And the house has been vacant for at least 6 months.

But the floors look beautiful!

Friday, October 08, 2010

House Hunting: That 70s House

My favorite house so far is That 70s House, so named because it's sort of frozen in time in that decade, which means it could also be called the Money Pit.

The kitchen is so small that you have to step outside of it to change your mind* and it would take some reconstruction just to fit in a dishwasher...and of course we'd want room for a microwave and other updates. We're talking total renovation when all is said and done. $$$

The bathrooms also have an old skool vibe (not to mention a moldy tub surround in one of them), though I kind dug the corkboard wall in one of the bedrooms (we had that, too, way back in the day).

Oh, and the chimney is crumbling.

And the water heater and furnace are approaching the end of their expected lifespans.

Also, the electrical panel needs an update.

And did I mention the asbestos insulation on the pipes? Oy.

And of course it needs some fresh paint and new carpet.

I forgot to mention That 70s House has a one car garage with no inexpensive way to expand the space to hold two cars.

And that's what we've discovered prior to an inspection.

I guess I'm the kind to root for the underdog; I like this house. Well, I like the layout and location. When I think about the cost and aggravation of the repairs need to bring this house to 2010 and beyond, I get dizzy.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

House Hunting: The Stairway of Doom

Our search for the perfect, or at least a decent, home for our family continues with this gem, the house with the Stairway of Doom.

Can't you see a wobbly toddler or, frankly active boy of any age, tumbling over the side that barely has any guardrail? {shudders}

The Stairway of Doom house, a lovely, recently renovated Georgian, lacked a main floor powder room which would be problem if a family member broke a leg, a hip or had an arthritis flare (ahem) and couldn't manage the stairs.

Well, it could also be a problem when we have my husband's 90-something year-old grandma over to dinner, but possible work-arounds include making my sisters-in-law host family gatherings or sending elderly guests a pair of Depends or astronaut diapers to wear to the house.

Hmmmm. I guess our search for a house (or maybe great prices on astronaut diapers) will continue.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: House Hunting WTF?

I found this irresistible poster was on the door of a basement dark room. I'll translate because the glare makes it difficult to see all the words:

No Suicide Allowed in this Dark Room, Please.

Perhaps this was yet another 1970s trend I missed out on. WTF?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Think Before You Act

Isn't that the kind of advice we give our kids? You know, instruct them to take a moment to think through their actions and the potential consequences, for example, before they stick the metal tweezers in the electrical outlet?

As bloggers and aspiring businesswomen, we need to heed that same advice.

Years ago, after I finished my first large client project, I was approached about another potential opportunity. To us humans, money can be like blood is to a vampire. We need it to live and once we get a taste of it, we want more. More!

I was excited about the prospect of another client, but when I heard it was a group that wanted to promote the goodness of HFCS, I walked away. I wasn't thinking about myself or fledgling consulting business as a "brand," it just didn't seem like a good fit.

Since then I've turned down other opportunities and failed to follow up on others because I'm picky like that.

When I tell people about MomImpact:
"We connect brands and bloggers for conversations, events and product reviews,"

I get this reaction:
"Oh, you match brands and bloggers like {insert name of much larger organization}."

And then I explain that I'm much smaller and not likely to set the blogging world afire because I'm picky. (That said, I have some exciting, value-added projects in the works for MomImpact members.)

I don't have a set checklist of questions I review for each potential client (or product review opportunity on this blog), I do a gut check, though.

If I did have a checklist, it would look something like this:

  • Would I purchase or consider purchasing this product with my own money?
  • Would I eat or use this product?
  • Is this a product I would want to share with my real-life friends?
My business is not me. It has its own tax ID and is a true corporate entity. And is me. Or at least a reflection of me.

Your blog and your business are reflections of you, too.

Which is a very long-winded way of saying you must read Mom 101's post about blog product review tours gone wrong. Specifically, she's writing about the current "corn sugar" blog tour, but you can ignore that.

Focus on the Big, Important Questions in her post.

There are many.

Answer them.

Answer them for yourself.

Answer them for your readers.

I don't care if you answer them in her comments, in my comments, on tiny scraps of paper, on your blog, or in your head, just answer them.

Understand that Liz's answers and my answers and your answers may be very similar. Or they may be completely different. And that's okay. We're not the mom-Borg collective, after all.

Our opinions may change over time. And that's okay, too. Jan Brady taught us that it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind.

The important things are to know where you stand in the here and now and think about where you are headed.

And if you are so inclined, I'd love to know what kind of questions you ask yourself before taking on a new client or product for review.

Okay, you made it to the end. Now go read Liz's post.
Edited to add: Mir's post about not selling out, is also a great read.

Brands at Type-A Mom

With just over 300 bloggers in attendance, the Type-A Mom conference was intimate and as low-key as the city of Asheville itself. If there were private events, they must have also been intimate and low-key because I didn't hear about them...or possibly because I was so focused on my own good time and getting to know new friends, they just weren't on my radar.

There was one off-site event that took place, after the day's sessions but before evening activities. I'm not clear if it was private or if everyone but me was invited (see above note about good times) and I'm not sure if it involved more than appetizers and swag. One of you can fill me in in the comments.

Go ahead; fill me in on what else I wasn't invite to below.

Kudos to:

Country Inn and Suites for sponsoring a Travel Tribe talk (led by the wonderful Vacation Gal, Jennifer Miner). I've corresponded with CI&S rep Emily, and it was nice to meet her in person at the discussion.

I learned about their Team Stop program, which I thought was pretty cool.

Team Stop is designed to encourage travel teams to stay at CI&S. Among the perks of this program are free sports drinks at check in and a free uniform wash per stay for the team members. Yes, even if the team consists of matheletes. (I had to ask.)

The Country Inn folks also stepped up with affordable hotel rooms when the Type A room block was booked up at official conference hotel, the Radisson. Also, I hear CI&S's provides some pretty sweet chocolate chip cookies for their guests.

Wilsonart HD
, makers of laminate counter tops, provided a factory tour for bloggers that took place before I arrived into town. Bummer; I love factory tours! Given that we will likely buy a house in need of a drastic kitchen makeover, I was very interested in talking with them. I'm not someone who's sold on granite counters- I hear they require a bit of maintenance and I can see breaking more than one plate because I've set it down too hard on the counter. If you heard how hard I pound the keys when I type, you'd know what I mean.

Anyway, the lovely ladies of Wilsonart sat and patiently answered my many questions, even after I'd interrupted their cocktail hour. Bonus points for the brand!

Bit Defender Community Manager, Leticia Barr, was an excellent ambassador for the brand. Given her background as a teacher, mom, and tech-oriented momblogger, she's someone who easily connects with bloggers in a meaningful way. She can talk about the brand without being pushy as she is naturally passionate about keeping kids safe in online. Along these lines, Jill Berry, makes an excellent YourSphere Ambassador.

Speaking of ambassadors, ebay classifieds has a blogger program that recently moved to a new managing agency, so it will be interesting to see how it develops. As we sold off our possessions in recent years (to be clear, we did so because we didn't want to pay for storage space for items we no longer needed or wanted, thankfully, we did not let it go in order to pay our bills or put food in our mouths. DH thinks I have a tendency to make us look impoverished, hence the disclaimer.) Where was I?

Oh yes, as we sold off possessions, we listed them on ebay local classifieds and Craigslist and, well, Craig delivered. Rather, Craig sold and I delivered. I swear, I'm going to get busted one day handing off items in exchange for money at the local Starbucks.

That said, like Craiglist, ebay classifieds is a free service and ebay has a nicer and better-looking interface for sellers and buyers. They have potential.

Chick-fil-A Wow, talk about a brand with an eager fan base! People were chatting up the Chick-fil-A lunch before breakfast even began. They are opening up a Chicagoland location soon, so I'm sure I'll be reading more about them in the coming months.

Tiny prints is yet another brand that has made a professional match with an eager blogger. I spotted Jessica Rosenberg hand delivering business cards--talk about service! She also reminded me that I'm going to need change of address cards once we have a new house- that girl pays attention!

The brands above were not the only conference sponsors, they were just the ones with whom I interacted with on a most personal and positive level. What about you?

Type-A Mom Conference: Asheville

I've attended BlogHer 07-09, Blogalicious09 (speaker), Blissdom10 (speaker), Mom2.0 Summit10 and now I'm adding Type-A Mom 2010 to the list.

Each conference has a unique atmosphere and its own set of rock stars. At Type-A one of those rock stars is the city of Asheville itself. Yes, I whined about the costly flight and the $40 ride from the airport. But if I knew then what I know now, I would've kept my mouth shut.

Asheville is a wonderful city. Kelby Carr chose a perfect hotel, just down the street (or hill, as it were) from all the action- restaurants, book stores, funky shops and a chocolate lounge from which at least one woman reported a tonguegasm after tasting a lavender chocolate drink.

Kudos to Kelby not only for a worthwhile conference, but one that infused some serious cash into the town's economy. Between three dinners out, a trip to the bead store and the aforementioned chocolate shop, plus a couple of souvenirs one anonymous blogger (ahem) said poured more than $100 into the city. If only even half of the conference's 325 attendees did the same, we're talking about a $16,000+ windfall for the city and it's indie merchants. I suspect it was much more. I was not kidding when I tweeted that Kelby deserves a key to the city!

One thing to keep in mind for Type-A Mom 2011 is to schedule a couple of extra days in the area to relax, reflect and explore.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Would a Pedophile Drive a Prius?

As mom to two tweens, an afternoon at the park is not what it used to be. Rather than chase after them, fearing for their safety on the tall slides and monkey bars or play alongside them on the basketball court, they are content to stick with their friends while I walk the large track that encircles the park.

Did I say content? My 12-year-old might possibly die of embarrassment mid-court if I excitedly joined in his game. So I keep my distance, but I still keep an eye on what's going on. I scan the park making mental notes about who is playing where and with whom.

The other day I found it odd when a middle-aged gentleman showed up at the park with a remote-controlled airplane. It wasn't some flimsy store model, it was clearly the kind that belonged to a serious hobbyist. Still, I wondered why he had chosen to fly it in a field so close to playground teeming with children. Was he trying to lure them in Pied Piper style?

It flashed before me in an instant. The delighted little ones would gather round watching with wonder as the plane dove and swooped through the air.

"You want to try to fly it?" He'd ask.

A brave boy would take up his offer. And to the unsuspecting eye they'd soon look like father and son with the man practically hugging the child as they manipulated the controls together.

When it was time to go the boy would help the man pack up the plane, be coaxed into the car and the child would never be seen again.

This all whizzed through my mind, but when my eyes led me the man's car, I saw it was a Prius and the whole image kinda fell apart. Would a pedophile drive a Prius? It seemed an unlikely scenario to me.

Even so, as I walked by the man's eco-chic auto in the parking lot, I snapped a shot of his license plate...just in case.

Originally published in April 2010 at the old Chicago Moms Blog. In recent weeks there's been a spate of suspected potential abductions serious enough to involve local police and school officials.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Events for Parents of Gifted Children in and around Chicago, Illinois

The Illinois Association for Gifted Children (ooh, promising new website; take a look!) is hosting a few promising events in the coming months.

First, the knowledgeable Michele Kane, IAGC president, will be speaking next week in Barrington, Tuesday, October 5, on Living with Intensity: The Social Emotional Aspects of Parenting Gifted Children. (You may recall Dr. Kane graciously led a talk for parents of gifted children at my house last year.)

And then on November 6, IAGC will be hosting a Parent Academy at IMSA focusing on the unique academic, social and emotional needs of gifted students. Andy Mahoney will be the keynote speaker. However, it's a five-hour event with a load of engaging speakers and interesting topics.

I'm still waiting to be asked to present my workshop, "Advocating for Your Gifted Child: I Don't Know What I'm Doing, Either." *sigh*

Check your calendar now to be sure you can attend the IAGC annual convention on February 6-8, 2011 in Chicago.