Monday, September 28, 2015

Fabulous Laundry Hacks

Laundry, right?

Either you struggle with it, or you really struggle with it. The piles that won't go away, the digging through the basket, only to find that all your freshly washed clothes are wrinkled again, the discovery that you forgot to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer and you've got a lovely load of mildew...

My laundry day is Monday. Every Monday morning, as I get that first load into the washer, I plan out how I'll manage to conquer it all. Everything washed, dried, sorterd, hung, folded and put away.

And every week, on Wednesday I'm still looking at one (or more) unfinished baskets. Does it get done? Sure. But "laundry day" loses its allure as an "I only do laundry once week!" chore when it takes three days. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising that I've got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to ways to make laundry easier, quicker and more enjoyable.

I'm teaming up with some great brands and bloggers to share some of my favorite laundry hacks, plus a chance to win a Little Laundry Lifehacks Giveaway (including a $150 Walmart gift card.)

Four Fabulous Laundry Hacks

1. Sick of ironing? Put your iron away and use Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus instead. Just spray, smooth and tug and watch those wrinkles disappear! Click here to download a coupon. DWR to the rescue 2. Have a stain while you're out and about? Use the Dreft Stain Stick to remove the stain ASAP. Click here to download a coupon.

3. Keep forgetting those wet towels in the wash? Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator to the rescue. Add some to your next load of laundry, and #SinktheStink. Click here to download a coupon.
  the-key-to-fresh-laundry Image courtesy of Kids Activities Blog.

 4. Trying to get your clothes as soft as possible - and don't have an HE washer? Don't forget about the Downy Ball! Click here to download a coupon. e6229570761b33d88fed43c79a69b24e

Enter to Win

Complete the form below to enter to win a Laundry Lifehack prize pack - full of product from Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus, Febreze In-Wash Odor Eliminator, Dreft Home and Downy Ball. Plus a $150 Walmart Gift Card.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Change is in the Air

I truly think September is my favorite month of the year. The days are warm and sunny, but the nights are crisp and cool. You can still wear your sandals and show off a pedicure, but you can also bring your jeans and sweatshirts back out. Routines are beginning. Festivals and fairs are abundant. Farm stands are stocked and apples are ready to be picked. Pumpkin lattes and muffins are back (along with pumpkin everything else, but we'll leave that argument alone for now). You get summer and fall, blended together in a perfect way. Fall is in the air, even though summer's not quite gone.

I've had this blog for over three years now. Crazy, right? In July of 2012 I had a baby and just-turned-two year old. I wrote about toddler stuff and sleepless nights and milestones and baby gear. I'd just left my job, which had been a deep part of my identity for ten years, and I was craving something else to help define me. Something more than just "mommy".  Since I loved to talk and I love to tell stories and I was craving interaction outside of my house, I settled on this site. A place where I could share stories about the girls, reflect on my changing life, and connect with other moms.

In those three years, I've had some amazing opportunities. I've been featured in multiple anthologies. Best selling anthologies, where I've been in the company of some pretty amazing writers. I've gotten to write snarky pieces, funny pieces, deeply introspective pieces and heart tugging pieces. I shared the stories of Madison's blood condition and Reagan's lost twin. I've shared successes and failures. I've gotten my writing featured on Scary Mommy and the Huffington Post. I've expanded my network and been to blog conferences. I've connected with some brands that I'm proud to partner with. Pretty good for someone who just wanted a way to tell her stories during naptime.

Now we're in September of 2015, and there are some definite changes.

My parenting stage is different. I don't have babies anymore. I don't even have toddlers anymore. I have a preschooler and a kindergartener. They still do some funny stuff and give me some great stories, but they're growing up and out. They're coming into who they are as people. Their stories are their stories. Madison's stories involve her friends and Reagan's involve her school. They're both finding their groove. Reagan has reached the stage where she really wants to try things, and she's become a great student in her dance and gymnastics classes. Madison is a definite dancer. Three years ago she was walking into her first ballet class. Today she's on a competition team with a solo coming up this season, and she carries a bag with multiple pairs of shoes and tights and snacks into a class that's over two hours long. She turned me from a "mom who has her daughter taking ballet" into a real dance mom.

Three years ago I did fun activities with Madison, and later Reagan, but today, I'm a full on homeschooling mom. Every morning Madison and I gather our things and settle in at the kitchen table to learn. This past weekend I converted our craft area into a school area. The art supplies are still there, but they've been consolidated and moved to make room for notebooks and math manipulatives and dry erase boards. I'm planning her lessons and tracking her work and noting her progress. I'm searching for new ideas on how to teach her. I'm finding our place in the homeschooling community.

I still talk to the best friend who I started blogging because of (she needed a break from being my only outlet for stories) and spill out my stories to her, but it's different. We used to talk almost daily while we cleaned up from breakfast and got ready for our days. She's taken on more jobs as her boys are growing up and moving into full time school, and my time after breakfast is spent teaching. We still talk often, but often a few days will pass now before we catch up.

Three years ago my goal was to have a place where I could be MEREDITH, not just mommy. I wanted a place to share my stories and connect with others. Over the past three years I've gone in a few different directions. For a while the girls were providing me with some hilarious material, and I was actually considered a "funny mom" and made a Top 25 Humor Blogs list (what??), but that was never going to be an area where I settled in for the long haul. I'm not consistently funny and you don't come here because you want to spit out your coffee from laughing. I've dabbled in lots of areas, and now we're at a crossroads again. I've never wanted to paint myself into a niche, and certainly never wanted to paint myself as an expert, so I've stayed in the safe "general" area, but now it's time to find my place.

Change is in the air, and you might start seeing it here too. I don't plan on stopping, but I do plan on shifting my focus. The more I talk to people, the more I realize that the blogging world is changing. Readers are putting their time into different things. They're looking for different things. I'm looking for different things. I'm not scouring the web looking for new posts to read while I'm nursing a baby. I'm searching for things to make my life easier. Homeschooling, managing a dance kid, meal planning, housekeeping, parenting, taking care of myself, the best products for things - I want advice and suggestions. If they're part of an anecdote, even better. That keeps me interested. But I'm not consistently following blogs where the stories are about finding stickers on your yoga pants at Target or open letters to whoever irritated me or whining about pool bags or snow I don't know that I'll keep trying to write them.

Don't worry, I'm not making any abrupt or dramatic changes (you'll still hear about the girls and their shenanigans), but you may notice some new features popping up as I try - again - to define who I am. I'm not who I was three years ago, and that's good. I'm happy with the evolution. And I think that over the next few weeks and months, I'll like the evolution of my place here on the internet. Maybe by the time the seasons change again, I'll have a place where I'm comfortable and happy to hunker down during the cold months.

Until then, thanks for sticking around, and I hope this is a place you want to come back to.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Jumping on the Bandwagon...Blindly

Ah, I definitely have twenty-first century kids.

No lie, this is how I found them this morning.

We were lucky that we were given two iPads from Adam's work. Neither Adam or I felt the need to give up our devices and make the i Switch, and it turns out that they are perfect for the girls. From the time Madison was eighteen months old, she's had the ability to use the iPad without incident (ok, one incident).

Anyway, we never used them a ton, and they were pretty much loaded up with learning games, and that's it. No guilt whatsoever. While Madison waited, sometimes for hours, on blood results at the hematologist, it kept us sane and occupied.

Then the girls discovered Disney Jr and access to their favorite shows.

From there it was a slippery slope to Netflix.

And now they're into YouTube.

At first, Madison and I explored YouTube for performances. The kid loves to dance, loves musical theater, and it was a fun way for us to explore what was out there. When she was intrigued by lyrical or hip hop (two styles not offered to her yet), we could search for SYTYCD performances or routines from the Dance Mom girls, and she'd copy them in our kitchen. When she became obsessed with the music from Matilda and Seussical, we could catch all the musical numbers. As a kid who loved this kind of stuff, I was so happy that an entire world of performances was open to her. How cool to be a kid in 2015!

But somehow, and I'll admit that I'm not 100% sure how, both girls navigated off the YouTube suggestions of the Tony Awards and onto kids opening blind bags. And a new obsession was born.

Seriously. Sometimes it's not even kids. It's adults with fancy manicures opening little surprises from bags or eggs or boxes, exclaiming with delight, and sharing which characters you can collect. The girls are obsessed. Shopkins, Fash'ems, Mash'ems, Squishy Pops, MicroLites, you name it. They watch intently. They search for these surprise bags in stores.

Back in July, I was lucky enough to go to Blogger Bash, an event in NYC where I met up with some PR reps, and a few weeks later, they sent me a box to check out. When I opened the UPS package, I knew the girls would freak out. Squishy Pops. Micro Lites. NO. WAY.


I had a few other random blind bags that I'd picked up from the event, so I decided to give them a great surprise. We did our own opening and filmed it for YouTube.

They were thrilled with their loot, but beyond that, they have now watched their own video multiple times. They're strategizing how to get more things to open so they can film another video. We've worked graphing what we've gotten into our homeschool math lessons, and estimating our chances of getting certain characters.

And obviously, they love their collections. The MicroLites are on their nightstands, because it's a perfect nighttime toy before falling asleep. Madison has started making her bracelet with all the charms and ponies from her Squishy Pops.

They are on the blind bag bandwagon in a big way. And I know what Santa will be stuffing the stockings with this year!

Thank you to ChizComm for the Squishy Pops and MicroLites photo mediumsignature_zpsbff01a79.png

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Special Delivery! It's A .... Book!

So many mothers confess in message boards, and to their girlfriends, that one of the scariest parts about adding a second, or third, or fourth child to the mix, is that the excitement of giving birth to your first will be lessened. Sure, you'll be happy, but you know, been there, done that.

I was worried that it might start to feel that way with books. As in, when you see your byline in an actual printed book for the first time, and you get so excited and buy multiple copies because this can't actually be real??? I was in a book!! My first book baby existed! I could show it off! I could be proud! It was my first book. Amazing.

Then it happened again. And again. And yesterday, again.

And just like babies, the worries aren't realized. Honestly, it's as exciting as it was with the first.

Yesterday, on Labor Day, It's Really Ten Months: Special Delivery, was delivered. It came, weighing 13.3 oz and a very respectable 9 inches long...and I've got a story in it.

Actually, Reagan has a story in it.

Most of my regular readers remember that Reagan is my Leap Baby. My stubborn little girl who looked at the one in fourteen HUNDRED chance of being born on February 29, nodded in utero, and mouthed challenge accepted.

I did not want a Leap Baby. I spent many hours planning my labor and birth and mentally blocking the universe from giving me a Leap Baby.

But like most parts of pregnancy, birth, and raising kids, you spend these moments realizing what little control you actually have. My wishes and plans were heard, sure. But Reagan had the final say. Her birth story and my stubborn refusal to accept the possibility of this very special birth date are now in print, serving as a public service announcement that babies have their own agenda.

The beauty of having my writing published in anthologies is that I don't have the stress of promoting myself. I'm absolutely terrible at promoting myself. If I ever do get around to finish the project that I'm working on myself, it will probably die on the vine because I couldn't get up the courage to actually promote it.

But in anthologies, percentage wise, I'm really not promoting myself. I'm promoting other writers. GREAT writers with awesome stories. This book is like sitting around at a girls' night, sharing your most look-back-and-laugh-at-it-now horrific moments of pregnancy and birth. Like when you forgot that you'd pierced your lady bits until it was time to remove your "jewelry" for an unplanned c-section. Or driving yourself home from the hospital with nothing but your post-delivery underwear and a towel. (No, neither of those things happened to me. But you're intrigued now, right?)

Book number four is here. And I'm basking in the moment, lining it up just so with my other book babies. Indulge me and gush a bit, because this baby deserves it just as much.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Embracing the Change

Alternate Title: How the Salesperson at Best Buy Made Me Feel Old

So it's not a secret that I've been pining for a new laptop for a while now. Mine was slow, and froze all the time, and was generally super annoying to try and write with. I filled the void by using Adam's computer and using my babysitter time to go to the library, but I was itching for a replacement. I didn't want to spend a ton, so I tried to exercise patience and scoured the "back to college" sales.

Then Adam found a deal online! Hooray!

The only issue was that it wasn't a traditional "laptop". It was a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid. Functions as a laptop, but you can detach the screen and use it as a tablet as well.

Looks like a laptop, right? 

I wasn't sure. I mean, I have a phone, I have a Kindle, we have two iPads in the house, and I have a tablet that Adam handed down to me that I literally never use. Ever. I don't need a tablet. I need a laptop.

But it was a laptop...kind of. And it was a really good deal. So I did what made sense to me. I went to an actual store to check it out before committing to an online purchase. I went to Best Buy because I figured they were the most likely to have something at least comparable to what I was considering. Plus, even if it isn't always true, there's at least a good chance that the person you're talking to knows what they are talking about.

So I went to Best Buy. I skulked around for a while, looking for what we'd seen online. But should I look in computers? Laptops? Tablets? Crap. I was stumped by the first step.

I finally found what I was looking for, so I started playing around. I wanted to make sure I liked the keyboard, and that it felt like a laptop and...

Enter salesperson.

SP: Can I answer any questions for you?

Me: Sure! Can you tell me about the 2 in 1 models?

SP: long speech that sounds like either a press release or a Best Buy script. Or both. Function of a laptop with convenience of a tablet! Intel processor! Battery life! Blah, blah, blah, I read all this on a Amazon already.

Me: I guess what my real issue is that I like the size and the price. The laptops I'm looking at seem huge and really expensive! But I don't really need a tablet. I liked my laptop. Will this feel like a laptop?

SP: Oh I get it. We find that a lot of older customers like to stick with what they know and...

Me: totally tuning out because OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST CALL ME AN OLD LADY????

SP: ...I mean, right now, it's a lot like desktops were a few years ago. A lot of people resisted laptops because they were so comfortable with what they knew! But these are really the way personal computing is going and...

Me: still not listening because OH MY GOD you did call me old!!! Geez, I just want a freaking laptop that opens and closes and will work when I sit in my bed at night or try to write at Starbucks! STOP ACTING LIKE I'M A TECHNOLOGY DUMMY!

SP: Do you have Netflix? You can detach the keyboard and watch all your favorite shows..

Me: Ok, thanks. I'm going to think about it.

Sorry, but do I seriously look like I haven't heard of NETFLIX? I mean, clearly I'm not eighteen, but come on! I was done.*

Then I left without continuing to play with it because I really didn't feel like being patronized anymore. And I came home and we ordered it on Amazon because I am NOT OLD and Amazon Prime never makes comments about my ability to embrace changes in technology**.

I've had it for a few days now and I'll admit, there's a bit of a learning curve. So far I have not attempted to detach anything, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a laptop and not a tablet. I'm aware that it has a touch screen, but I haven't used that either. The biggest issues for me are the way the weight is distributed (the bulk of the machine is in the tablet screen, which makes the keyboard very light, which is totally backwards from what I'm used to) and the storage. You are never more aware of how much space an OS takes up until you are working with limited storage.

But I am embracing the change because I am NOT OLD and I can totally handle changes in technology.

So there, Best Buy.

* It is entirely possible that the Best Buy salesperson was not calling me old, and simply explaining shifts in personal computing. This insult to me could have been completely in my head and a result of my own frustration about not being able to find exactly what I thought I wanted. 

** It is 100% certain that Amazon Prime didn't call me old. In fact, given the TV shows and toys they suggest to me, based on the videos we watch and what we order, they think that I'm a 5 year old girl. So they still win. 

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Excitement of New

Ah, my favorite time of year.

Back to school sales! Crayons and pencils and notebooks and highlighters! Backpacks and lunchboxes! New clothes! New shoes!

September and January are the fresh start months for me. I've written about this before (always implemented with varying degrees of success), but these are the months where I replenish our supplies and make plans to revamp and start fresh with routines and schedules and systems.

New planner! New workspace! New calendar!

What always cracks me up is my refusal to put any of these things in places as I get them. The new school supplies are still shiny and new in their packaging. The clothes still have their tags. The systems are planned, but not yet in use. You can't use your school supplies until school starts! You can't wear your new clothes until September! We won't put this system into place until we're back!

Not only that, but with the promise of new right around the corner, I don't put a ton of effort into maintaining the old anymore. Why bother? New is just around the corner! (Yes, I realize this makes absolutely no sense and makes me sound totally shallow. I'm not. I promise. But there are only so many times I can stain treat ice cream stains on shirts before just shrugging and looking toward the pristine new ones waiting for stains of their own).

Every year this feels ridiculous to me, yet every year I do it. Watch those shopping bags pile up, arrange the stacks of clothes and notebooks, but don't integrate them yet! Not yet! Not yet!

Sidenote: new haircuts are allowed. That would be pretty hard to wait on until the first morning.

I love it. I love starting the year off with a brand new notebook. I love having a first day outfit that's brand new. I love having the containers in the lunchbox be pristine. It helps the excitement and anticipation. Both girls have been eager to put their new school things to the test, but I've been teaching them the art of holding off and really starting the school year off new.

This year, I'm going to be tested.

My test this year isn't for something for the girls. It's for me. After weeks and weeks of frustration, Adam found a great deal on a new laptop for me to write on. Yay! New! It's been backordered, but we finally got the news that it shipped and I'll have it in my eager little hands by tomorrow night. I cannot wait to tear this box open and finally have a functional computer again!!! YES!!!

But wait! Does this count as a back to school purchase?

It was in a back to school sale.

It'll be used for our homeschooling curriculum.

My writing time will be factored into our new schedule.

Uh oh.

After spending far too much time agonizing over this, I'm going with no. It's not a back to school purchase, which is evidenced by the fact that this particular post has been delayed twice because my old laptop keeps shutting off, and I've been whining about the state of that particular machine for months. It's totally a business purchase.

Just don't tell my kids why Mommy gets to use her new stuff and they don't.

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