Monday, April 6, 2015

Moms Have Influence and a BIG giveaway!

It was just under three years ago that I started this blog. Why did I start? Because I was a newly minted stay at home mom with two girls under two and a husband who worked from home. I was happy with my new life, but I wasn't getting that regular adult conversation anymore. I didn't have as many people to talk to and tell my stories.

I'll tell you, very truthfully, that I did not start this blog with the intention of becoming a brand ambassador, of writing articles for other sites, of being featured in anthologies, of making any money at all. I started this blog just to have a place to "talk" when I had stories I needed to get out. If you ask most "mommy bloggers", I suspect that's not uncommon.

But I wrote and I connected and I found a community. And somehow, more people than just my immediate family and my best friends were reading my posts. And not only reading, but really listening to what I was saying. They were interested and they trusted my opinion. And, bizarrely, I actually did find I had some influence. When I found things I liked, I really enjoyed connecting my readers to them. In lots of ways, it really was like being back in the teacher's room, just sharing my opinions with people who were listening. When you have a cool new lunchbag, you share where you got it. If you find a company that not a lot of people know about, you share it.

Moms have influence. And blogging moms have an audience to share it with.

Social media personalities and bloggers have become a few of the most influential people. Both men and women are finding and sharing their voices with others all around the world. Like so many, they have a desire to be heard and create change. The MPM blogging network has been interacting with these influencers for six years. During that time, we have discovered that creating presence is more than just who you know, it is what you know.


With that in mind, Mom Powered Media, LLC proudly presents:

MPM 2015 is a conference environment designed to bring brands together with online influencers including bloggers and social media personalities. Our primary goal with this conference is to focus on education and national brand awareness. Proudly bringing together: 500 Infuencers in a two day event 2 Day Event covering 13 market areas.

Now for the giveaway! One lucky grand prize winner will receive $2,500! 13 additional weekly winners will receive select prizes from MPM 2015 sponsors. Open to the US residents Only, ages 18+. Only one entrant per household, per address. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Giveaway ends July 3rd, 11:59pm Central Enter using the giveaway form below.

Good luck!

 MPM 2015 Sweepstakes    

Disclaimer: The participating bloggers have not been compensated for this post. No purchase is necessary to enter. One entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited by law. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Mom Powered Media is responsible for the shipment of the prize of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest or any other social media outlet. Contact if you have any additional questions or comments.  photo mediumsignature_zpsbff01a79.png

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Was I Doing Here Again?

You know when you're pulled in many different directions? And you have lists upon lists of things to do and to pack and to remember? And you have emails and texts dinging away on your phone? And various piles of paperwork that needs dealing with?

And you're answering and you're doing it and you're keeping up and sure, yes, thanks, you are busy, but no thanks, I've got it, and you are keeping your head above that water and getting it done?

And're caught up.

And you sit down to get back to your regular life.

And you have no idea what you were doing?

That's me right now. I had Madison's dance competition to prepare for and preschools to call for Reagan and doctor's appointments to schedule and thank you notes to get ordered and sent and bills to pay and emails to respond to and a pile to deal with and another pile to deal with and a car that needed cleaning and a house that needed cleaning and a fridge that needed cleaning and a pile of stuff from Reagan's room redecoration that needed dealing with.

Now all that stuff is done, and I'm sitting at Starbucks, time to write upon me, time to breathe beckoning...

And my mind has just been wiped clean.

I'm glancing through drafts, and none seem to be speaking to me. I'm looking through my scribbled notes, and they don't seem to make sense.

I went to several stores on my way here, with definite reasons for driving my car to and parking at said stores, and ended up wandering aimlessly around, with no idea of what I was looking for or why I entered the store in the first place.

I hurry the girls down for rest time, ready to tackle my chores, only to drift aimlessly around my to-do list, never getting anything done.

But when I'm actually under the gun, this doesn't happen. 

It's like if I'm not stressed and under a deadline, I'm just sort of ... drifting.

What is this? When it's actually something important, I can knuckle down and get it done. I was prepared for that dance competition. My kid's dance bag was stocked and organized and every single eye shadow brush had her name labeled. But my dining room table...not so much. If I have a deadline, I can manage to write about anything, from Depends to Monster Trucks. When I don't, I look at drafts with random sentences and think what? When we need to get out of the house on time, we do. I have never once been late to dance or the doctor or any of the events we go to. But when I try to get us out of the house to the gym or the library, it's a nightmare of rushing and brushing and shoes and coats and wait, I forgot to eat my breakfast!

I seriously don't get it. And don't try to give me the "you just have to make deadlines for yourself" nonsense. My brain doesn't do that. Trust me. I've tried. I write my gym time in my planner, to make it seem more official, but my brain scoffs at that. I make very specific to do lists. Nope. I assign myself deadlines. Nope. My brain realizes that these are imposters, things where the world will keep spinning if I miss them, and therefore, not worthy of high functioning neurons, no matter how many times I try to trick it.

I'm really hoping that this is the last bit of winter slush being cleared from my mind. Spring is coming - it is - and my brain will come out of hibernation and wake up refreshed and ready to work on regular days, not just when something is hovering over me with lightning bolts.

And if it doesn't, would someone be willing to hang around me with lightning bolts? Because I really need to get this laundry done.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

What's Age Got to Do With It?

We've entered a weird stage where, technically, both girls fall into the same "age category". They are both between the ages of 3 and 5. They are both preschool age. At library, or gymnastics, or any number of activities, they would be categorized, by age, into the same class.

This boggles my mind. Boggles it.

Madison is a mature kid. She's always been comfortable with older kids. She's bright and advanced for her age (I actually hate when people say that since it sounds so humblebraggy. But according to checklists and pediatric norms, especially anything to do with language, she's ahead. Our homeschool curriculum is a kindergarten one). She's got a crazy memory, an outgoing attitude and is comfortable chatting with anyone she encounters in a mature way. She's spent the past year dancing with kids 1-2 years older than her and has thrived in the intensity of that kind of class and become very friendly with all the girls, despite their age gap. It's been the perfect situation. She's an "old" kid for her age. I'm totally ok with this. We don't push her, it's just where she is. It's who she is.

Yet age wise, she's a preschooler.

Reagan is still a baby in many ways. She's growing, but she's tiny. She's still got a big dose of toddler stubbornness. Her speech is vastly improved from where it was when I was worried about it a year ago, but you certainly wouldn't mistake her for someone older. Given the option, she still wants to be carried if I'm willing to do it. She knows her colors and shapes and is right on track for a three year old, but she's nowhere near where Madison was at three. She has tantrums and meltdowns and has absolute fits when she's told the word "no" or asked to do something she hasn't, on her own, decided to do. She's a "young" kid for her age. I'm totally ok with this. We don't baby her, it's just where she is. It's who she is.

Yet age wise, she's a preschooler.

And in many, many activities, they fall into the same category. They should be in the same library group. They should be in the same gymnastics class. They should be in the same tennis group. The same summer dance class. The same church school class this fall.

Age wise, sure. They're both preschoolers. They're only eighteen months apart after all.

Reality? I can't wrap my head around that. Three to five? That's a huge range.

Madison, who is reading and writing and technically kindergarten, in a church school class with Reagan, who can't yet sit still for a story.

Madison, with a mature sense for directions and instruction (if with no natural sports aptitude whatsoever), in a tennis class waiting patiently while Reagan beats the balls mercilessly with her racket.

Reagan, frustrated and tantrumming at the regulation of lines and structure in a dance or gymnastics class while Madison, bored, loses interest entirely waiting for the teacher to help the little ones.

Madison, allowing her attention to wander while a very well-meaning dance or gymnastics teacher demonstrates something she learned two years ago, then getting caught not listening or just choosing to go with the flow and pretend she's learning it for the first time, stagnating or going backwards.

Fortunately, the majority of places we go to have teachers and directors and owners who get that sometimes, often, age really is just a number. Some kids are more mature for their age. Some kids are less mature. Reagan will stay in the toddler class for gymnastics until she's ready to enter the preschool level - whether that's next week or six months from now. Madison has been allowed to dance with girls who are chronologically older, but let her get the higher level instruction she needs and craves. Age is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Her dance studio and her gym get that sometimes kids don't fit into the box they're supposed to, and that's ok. They're fluid and they look at the individual kid and I love them for it. It's a big reason why we stay at those places.

But sometimes it's a hard rule. If you are 3, 4 or 5, you are in this class. Parks and rec, where Madison takes cooking and science classes, is one of those places. You enter the birthday and the computer either accepts or rejects you based on that number alone. If the child is a certain age, they are not able to slide down or up a level. They fit here. In this box. Good luck instructor. Keep the little ones happy and the older ones interested and everyone engaged. Stay out of it, overly involved mom claiming to know her kids best. No, this child is too old for the parent/toddler class. No, this one is too young for the kindergarten group. They are preschoolers. Ages three to five.

I get it and I don't. There are parents who meddle and insist that their children are geniuses while the teachers try not to let the parents see them roll their eyes. There are parents who can't let go and refuse to think that their child could be dropped off a full ninety minutes without mommy hovering over the activity, helping with every step and undermining the independence the teacher is attempting to build. It would be ridiculous to take the age range completely out of it.

But what about replacing the rules with suggestions?

But I think back to myself. As a kid, I was happiest when I wasn't restricted to my own age group. I was involved in musical theater, where the kids were as young as five and as old as seventeen. Sure, you were hanging around with a group around your age, but you certainly weren't confined there. More likely, you were hanging out with whichever group you were based on your audition. There were plays where I was hanging around with mostly older kids, and plays when I was with younger ones. I was in choirs with a wide age range, where you met kids both older and younger who all were on the same level with their interest and ability in singing. When I was a freshman in high school, my best friend was a senior. We were into the same stuff, we were on the same level, and age didn't matter.

This year will be an interesting one to navigate, as Reagan fits firmly into her new category and needs to adjust and Madison potentially gets stuck alongside her until the calendar catches up with who is she is. Until then, I'll just keep giving thanks to the wonderful places we have found, the ones that realize that each kid is unique and will find their place to fit in.

Because really, as we all eventually learn, age is just a number.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Nook of My Own

Once upon a time, just over ten years ago, a young newlywed couple purchased a house.

This house seemed so big to them. Maybe too big. After all, it was just the two of them. And after a lifetime of moving from their bedrooms in their parent's houses, to college dorms, to one bedroom apartments, a four bedroom house seemed vast. Incredibly spacious. Plenty of room.

They moved in, buying furniture to fill those empty rooms. They settled and they organized and they loved their space.

They had a dining room, and a living room, and a family room and a kitchen, so those bedrooms were pure space to spread out in.

And the husband took one for an office, and the wife took one for her office, and they had a master bedroom and a spare bedroom full of storage space. The two of them had five closets to store things in.

The husband started working out of the house, and loved his office overlooking the backyard and the fifteen step commute from his bedroom. The wife loved her ample bookshelves and how neatly everything was arranged.

Then the couple had a baby, and the wife's office became the nursery, and the wife's office moved into that spare, storage space, bedroom. They lost some space, but they purged some of those unnecessary items and they fit just fine.

Then the couple had another baby. And the first baby took the spare room, and the second baby took the nursery, and the couple crammed whatever they could into the master bedroom. One bookshelf fit fine, but the rest of the books were banished to the attic. A desk was squeezed into the corner. The closets were overflowing.

But the baby had a room and the little girl had a room and the husband was still working from home and the wife didn't mind that her bookshelf was in her bedroom. She did most of her reading there anyway. And she didn't really need a whole room for her desk and files.

Then the wife started writing.

For a while, she was ok with using her laptop in her bed in the master bedroom. When you have a laptop, who needs a desk?

Then she started writing more. And submitting to books. And working with companies. And freelancing articles. And realizing she needed space again. And a place to put things. Things that - once upon a time - had been office things. Things like papers and files and printers and notebooks.

She started realizing that using a laptop while sitting up in bed was not producing the best work. And the area was always a mess. And when the husband wanted to sleep and she needed to work there was no way to win.

Suddenly, the (once) young couple realized that their vast, spacious home had become an office for the husband, a workspace for the wife, a school and playplace for the children, as well as a place to eat and sleep and live.

They didn't want to leave their house, so they organized the school things to fit in the girl's rooms. And they organized the toys to fit nicely in one room downstairs. And they made sure the husband's office was consolidated.

But the wife still didn't have her space.

Did she need one?

That's the question, isn't it? She had places all over the house.

But the wife decided that if everyone else got a space, she needed one too. A place that was hers. That was off limits to the children, that was free from the clutter of others.

And she took back a nook.

Just a small nook. It once was the crap corner in the master bedroom, but the wife had an idea, and the transformation has begun.

Away went the ironing board (they didn't use it anyway).

Away went the crap.

And the nook began to transform into a space for the wife. A small one, to be sure. No door, no real room to move around. But it had a window. And it fit a small desk. And her files. And even some books. It's a place to leave a laptop and a purse. It's a place for her to use.

The transformation isn't complete, but the wife feels like she has a space again. And she is happy.

Sometimes the nook is all you need.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Three Words I Hate to Hear

I could NEVER...

This is quickly becoming my most hated phrase.  

Oh, I could NEVER...

And then fill in the blank with whatever you are doing that someone else is not. These are just a few examples - some mine, some friends - that have wormed their way into conversations lately. By the way, this is a PARTIAL list. If I included them all this post would be thousands of words and you could NEVER read it all the way through (see what I did there?)

Your daughter is doing this activity, that class, AND that activity? Oh, I could never.

You're homeschooling next year? Oh, I could never.

You're letting him compete at his age? Oh, I could never.

You drive 45 minutes to that activity? Oh, I could never.

You stay home all day with your kids? Oh, I could never.

You have her in full day kindergarten AND after care? Oh, I could never.

You're working AND volunteering at school? Oh, I could never.

You MADE the snack and craft for preschool today? Oh, I could never.

You leave while she's in her lesson? Oh, I could never.

You stay during the whole lesson? Oh, I could never. 

You're ONLY breastfeeding? Oh, I could never.

You have hockey at what time on Saturdays? Oh, I could never.

You're going to Zumba two nights a week during bedtime? Oh, I could never.

Of course, this is supposed to read as a compliment, right? How impressive! I couldn't do what you do! You must be amazing!

Except...sometimes it doesn't read that way. In fact, a lot of times it doesn't. Sometimes, it's pretty clear that it doesn't.

It reads as that icky judgment, dressed up in manners and empty praise.

The mom with her kids in multiple activities is robbing them of their childhoods, overscheduling, and tiger momming. Busy, busy, busy. Too busy. You would never.

The homeschooling mom has opted to have her kids with her and be responsible for their education, instead of handing them over to the people who have a license for that. You would never.

The mom letting her kids enter tournaments, competitions, contests is putting so much pressure on her kids, robbing them of the joy. You would never.

The mom driving 45 minutes is inconveniencing herself for the sake of her child. You would never.

The mom who stays home is clearly wealthy and doesn't understand your plight, or has given herself up for the sake of her children. You would never.

The mom who has her kids looked after during the day clearly is just handing them off to someone else to be raised. You would never.

The mom who seems to be doing it all, or making it all herself is one of those overachieving, probably Pinterest addicted moms who somehow manages to do it all? She's clearly just trying to win this mom competition with her perfect crafts and whole food cupcakes. You would never.

The mom who stays through an activity is a helicopter mom. The mom who leaves isn't concerned about her child's well being. You would never.

The mom who is exclusively breastfeeding, or babywearing, or co-sleeping has completely given herself up to her child. The mom who isn't isn't putting in the effort and to give her child the best, most secure start. You would never.

You'd never give up your Saturday mornings to get to the rink at 6:30 am for hockey. You'd never give up a full weekend for a dance competition. Or a baseball tournament. Or a gymnastics meet. Or a Girl Scout sleepover. Family time is critical. You would never.

The dance mom is making her little girl look too grown up when she performs. The hockey mom is putting her kid at risk of injury. The free range mom is risking everything. The helicopter mom is creating incapable kids. You know this. It's obvious, because blogs, and TV shows, and a story you heard about a friend of a friend told you so. And you would never.

Because you're saying I COULD but what you seem to mean is I WOULD.

When Madison had her issues, when we were keeping her in isolation and scrubbing down when we came into the house, when we were giving her injections and taking her for bloodwork, I heard "I could never" a lot when people heard what our situation was. You have to give her shots? Oh, I could NEVER.  I didn't picture myself doing that either. But as it turns out, I could. I did. Because you can do a lot of things. You can do hard things, even if you don't want to.

You can find a way to balance work and family. You can decide that clean eating is important enough where you want to make that your focus. You can allow your child to follow their passion, be it dance or violin or karate or soccer or gymnastics or underwater basket weaving. You can homeschool. You can send a child to full day kindergarten and aftercare. You can find out that maybe those things aren't the horrors you think they are.

You can. 

So it's not really a compliment that what she's doing is impressive. What you're really saying to that mom is that you don't want to what she's doing. You don't agree with what she's doing. You don't parent like she does. You don't want to be a dance mom or a hockey mom or an overachieving mom or a tiger mom or a helicopter mom or a crunchy mom or a lazy mom or a selfish mom or an indulgent mom or a radical homeschooling mom or whatever stereotype that this mom obviously is, forcing you to think that whatever they are doing is so violently out of your comfort zone that you would be INCAPABLE of doing it. You CAN'T.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. Maybe I'm being insensitive to someone who truly doesn't believe she could manage something. Maybe I'm making mountains out of molehills. Maybe I'm just starting another battle in a war that no one wants. Maybe I'm stopping one before it becomes a battle.

I've learned a lot of things this year. I've become things I didn't think I would. I became a dance mom, a homeschooling mom, a color coded family calendar mom, even a mom who GOES TO THE GYM (speaking of what I used to think of as an I could NEVER). I've become friends with hockey moms and working moms and clean eating moms. Guess what? In none of these things have I found any of those stereotypes to be true. The homeschooling moms aren't weird and unsocialized and ultra religious and terrified of the real world. The hockey and dance moms aren't catty and crazy and living vicariously through their children, who they push to be stars. The "do it all" moms aren't superior. The relaxed moms aren't lazy.

Next time, when someone is living their mom life in a way you aren't, instead of giving her the oh, I could NEVER, try asking her about it. Try telling her you don't much about that, or ask how it works, or tell her it's interesting, or anything other than telling her that what she's doing is something you can't even imagine as part of your existence.

Because the problem with never is that it closes doors. And you never know when a new door might open, even one you never imagined encountering.

And you can do anything once that door is opened.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why I Allow Barbie in My House

Oh, poor Barbie. You get such a bad rap. We really shouldn't encourage our little girls to play with you if we want them to avoid that whole appearance obsessed culture. Your figure is unattainable. Your makeup is far too perfect. Your heels are too high. You represent everything that's wrong with "girl toys" - pink, pretty, fashionable. The original Mean Girl. You don't belong anywhere near my little girl.

Except...maybe you do.

A year and a half ago, Madison got her first Barbie for her third birthday. I felt pretty mixed on it. I didn't plan on forbidding Barbie, but I didn't know that I was quite ready for my three year old to have one yet.

Madison was not mixed on it. She loves her Barbie collection (because of course that one doll quickly became a collection). She became a Barbie spotter (much in the way that Reagan is a Mickey spotter) and had a Barbie cake when she turned four. She spied the movies at the library and found the Netflix series. And eventually, it was clear that Barbie was going to be part of her play.

I didn't have strong feelings, certainly not strong enough to forbid Barbie or shut down the interest. I played with Barbie as a little girl and Barbie in no way shaped my vision of what I should aspire to look like. She was a doll, pure and simple. One with seemingly unlimited income, sure. But to be fair, my Strawberry Shortcake dolls had a better house.

But in these past eighteen months, I've started to encounter many, many parents of girls who have very strong feelings that Barbie is not to enter their house. Until that lady gets a new shape and a make under and provides her W2 proving that she can afford her lifestyle (and not her husband's W2), she doesn't need to be anywhere near an impressionable little girl.

This got me thinking. What was my girl learning from these Barbies?

As it turns out, she was picking up on all the right things. She's embraced the "I Can Be" attitude. She's internalized the "do what's right, even when it's hard" message in the movies. Her Barbie doesn't need a Ken, because she can do it herself.

Here's the thing. Right now, she's a girly girl who loves pink and purple, so of course she's drawn to all this sparkly stuff. She'll happily play with trains and pirates and cars too, but those aisles don't pull her in quite so much when we're in Target. She likes the sparkle and forbidding it won't make that desire go away (now, anyway). But what this current incarnation of Barbie is teaching her is that she can be a girly girl and an entrepreneur. A girly girl and a detective. A girly girl and a superhero. Sure, the superhero is pink. But she still saves the day. She loves the new Princess Power movie and flies around the house, fighting crime and keeping everyone safe.

She's a little girl like I used to be. She doesn't have the adult perspective that will cause her to question herself against the idol of a doll. If you ask her if Barbie is too skinny she'll look at you like you're crazy...because to her, that's not something she notices in her toys. If you ask her if Batman's muscles are too big she'll look at you in the same way. It simply doesn't occur to her to look that deeply with the eyes of a thirty something mom. They're toys. American Girl dolls and Strawberry Shortcakes and Barbies are all different, but she plays with all of them equally. And all she cares about is how much girl power these ladies exude.

She's only four and a half. Things might change. She may stop being drawn to sparkles, I may see something in her that makes me have those conversations with her.

But right now, Barbie is welcome in our house. And I won't apologize for her presence.

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