Monday, August 29, 2011

The Mother Company

Have you ever met someone and instantly felt a magical connection? As if this person understood parts of you that you thought were destined to be misunderstood forever?

It’s a rare phenomenon that happens once, maybe twice during a lifetime. So I have to say it took me by surprise when it happened at the HUGE, buzzing expo center at BlogHer. There I was, snacking mindlessly on free samples and carrying my many bags of swag when I met “them,” The Mother Company. I was initially lured in by their free iPad contest, but once we started talking about the importance of teaching kids about feelings (which they called emotional literacy), I felt that *magical* connection. We talked about how emotional literacy helps kids cultivate skills to help them become well-adjusted, compassionate adults. Their motto is “Helping Parents Raise Good People.”


I always feel like I am talking to The Babes about their feelings and was so excited to bring home the swag from The Mother Company: a DVD of Ruby’s Studio - The Feelings Show.

The show takes place in an art studio, and Ruby uses The Magical Feelings Wheel to discuss and transition between feelings. Ruby talks about how feelings physically feel in our bodies and how to recognize other people’s feelings. The Babes loved this: they responded to Ruby and practiced their different feelings faces. The Anger Segment is awesome! When a little boy is mad that his younger brother destroys his toy airplane (in my house, a likely scenario), he becomes angry and his reflection looks like a monster in the mirror. When he uses his words to describe his feelings, the monster becomes smaller and smaller. I thought the personification of anger coupled with the visualization of using his words was brilliant!

Visually, the show is beautiful. It is fresh, vibrant, and real. The art studio has lots of bright colors which is a nice contrast between Ruby’s black and white color scheme. The animation segments are hand drawn which reminds me of the cartoons when I was a kid.

My favorite part of The Feelings Show is the Pop-Up Parenting optional feature. The advice made me feel better about my ideas of teaching emotional literacy to my kids. During the Frustration Segment, I felt relieved to see in print that it’s OK for kids not to feel happy all the time. In fact, when they are allowed to work through frustration, kids learn independence, self-reliance, and impulse control. This is so refreshing to hear, especially when there is all this pressure to feel all happy all of the time! I loved seeing that it is important to role model positive ways to express anger and sadness because sometimes I feel guilty when I am upset in front of The Babes.

The show concludes with the idea of expressing our feelings helps us to understand others. Everyone wants to be heard and feel validated (which is why I blog. Obviously), and communication is key in every relationship.

It is uplifting to see that there is a whole company out there that believes in the importance of emotional literacy. My philosophy has always been to see The Babes as people who have individual needs, not as extensions of myself. This is not the easy route. It’s takes longer to accomplish things when we have to talk about feelings and opinions; it’s much easier to yell, “Share your toys, damn it!” (which I do sometimes because one only has so much patience).

This does not mean that Thomas and Marie are in charge because they are not; I take my job as boundary-setter very seriously, but I *try* to do it in a way that does not bulldoze them. Overall, I believe this road, despite its many challenges, is worth it to me because I think it’s important to feel connected to choices and being heard.

And this is why I feel so connected to the philosophy of The Mother Company: talking about feelings and forming good relationships is an important life skill better learned early on. If not, they will be left to devices, such as blogging, to cope with their shortcomings.

Which is fine. But I am hoping that, if Thomas and Marie choose to blog, it will be about their warm, fuzzy memories of talking about their feelings.

*Disclosure* Yes, I did receive a free DVD of The Feelings Show at the BlogHer expo, however, these opinions are all my own.  I was not paid to write this post.  Having said that, I do feel good that I shared something that I strongly believe in with all of you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Do You Think Thursdays: Raw Chicken

Happy Thursday, everyone! I am going to be starting a new weekly post called What Do You Think Thursdays. This was inspired by all the wonderful advice from the BlogHer session, The Write Brain: Essential Blog Content Development Workshop. After you are done reading (and leaving a comment, if you so desire), be sure to click on the survey. It will bring you to the Skinny Scoop site so you can participate.

This week’s What Do You Think Thursday is all about one of my personal, deep rooted fears: handling raw chicken. *shudders*

I have not cooked real chicken breasts in a long, long time. Instead I use those little packets of precooked grilled chicken strips. Pasta with chicken? Just open up the bag, flavor with some olive oil and garlic powder, and dump over pasta. Chicken tacos? Repeat previous steps but flavor with chili powder and cumin. *Hangs head in shame*

The fear started out when I would open up prepackaged chicken that had been thawing out. I would struggle with opening the bag, and before I knew it, I was assaulted with raw chicken juice. Disgusting!

The fear escalated when I had The Babes. When Marie was born, I felt consumed with protecting her from things that felt like they were in my control. Being doused in raw chicken juice seemed to be direct conflict of interest from this new-found mama bear protection mode. So I got everything ready for dinner and disinfected the kitchen before she woke up from her nap.

When Thomas was born, things got a little tricky. I could not find the time or the energy to cook chicken, yet, my family still needed to eat. A friend introduced me to these bags of precooked grilled chicken, and I was saved. I kept on telling myself that these convenient little lifesavers were only a temporary fix until Thomas’s nap schedule wasn’t so close to dinner. But somehow, they have become a permanent fixture in my cooking (or non-cooking) repertoire

I started a goal early his year to cook a whole chicken by the December of 2011. I started to make progress with flash frozen chicken breasts, but that is as far as I got. Next thing I knew, I found myself right back where I started with sacks of convenient precooked chicken.

I didn’t think much about it until I looked at a calendar and realized December is only four months away! I am not one to give up on a goal, so I went to the store and bought ten pounds of fresh chicken breasts.

I touched them.

I rinsed them.

I patted them dry.

I did not trim them since they butcher offered. Or did I ask him with a desperate look in my eye? I don’t remember since my heart was racing with fear and anticipation. Did I mention I shopped for these salmonella carriers with the Babes? I think that I should get some extra points for that one, right?

I cooked them *while The Babes were up and active*, and to my surprise and delight, the chicken did not end up like cardboard.

And I only disinfected the sink two times, instead of a gagillion in a daze of fear.

I think this is progress, don’t you?

I think I may be ready for skin-on, bone-in chicken!

I imagine some of you are shaking your heads because you just can’t see what the big deal is about touching raw chicken. I did some deep thinking about this because it does seem to be bigger than raw chicken. I think it comes from any OCD ritual: control. I feel like there is so much out there that can harm my kids, that I have a tendency to hold on tight to things that I feel are in my control. And keeping a salmonella-free kitchen is one thing I can control. But like any fear-based behavior, it really was controlling me. And I don’t like that feeling at all.

I remember how liberating it was to overcome my fear of driving into a big city (which I could not find the link). I can only imagine how incredible it will be when I finally roast the perfect whole chicken.

What do you think about raw chicken? What fears do you feel that are controlling you?

Friday, August 19, 2011

August and the Tsunami of Guilt

Before I get to the actual post, I have two BIG favors to ask of you.  But will you please, please, please vote for me in these two contests.  The Skinny Scoop BlogHer11 Recap Post Contest in which the grand prize is for $100 Amazon gift card.  The Latte Love Contest grand prize is to introduce and interview the new milk mustache celebrity!  How cool is that?!  Be sure to vote for Erin R!  Thanks so much!  Mwuah, mwuah, mwuah!

When I used to be a teacher, I DREADED this time of year. Although August is still sunny and hot, I knew in a matter of weeks, it was back to the reality of work. And as I revealed in Xtranormal movies one and two and mentioned throughout various blogs posts, teaching and I did not, how shall I put this, *mesh* very well.

But as a stay-at-home mom with two young Babes in Michigan, summer is supposed to be a glorious time of fresh air and fun times (at least for a few weeks before the thick, wet blanket of humidity covers the area, nearly smothering us to death). Summer is magical and fun and carefree.

And long. So very, very long.

I was surprised by these very strong feelings of wanting summer to end.

To be quite honest, I am exhausted to tears by mid-August. I just can’t keep up this late night/early morning pace for much longer. (My Babes are poster children for the saying, “Sleep begets sleep.” They sleep *less* the later they go down for the night. And don’t even get me started on the witching hour(s) that occur between 4:30p.m. – 7p.m.).

And then the tsunami wave of guilt crashes down on me:
  • We have had so much fun this summer; why do I want it to end?
  • I’m a horrible mom because what kind of mother wants to not spend time with her kids?
  • This is Marie’s last summer before Kindergarten; I should want it to last FOR.EV.ER.

Between the anxiety of Kindergarten and the guilt of wanting the very short season of summer to end, I was beating myself up around the clock – even during sleep! I knew this because every morning, my jaw and shoulders would be tight with tension.

And then I came across this post by Wendi Aarons. I burst out laughing! (Well, as much as I could with my jaw wired shut with stress). So I am not crazy because this heat is stifling and having to be “on” for 14 hours a day with no break! This is normal! Thank goodness.

And then I read this post on Scary Mommy’s website by Yael Saar. Here is a quote that resonated deeply within my weary soul (but be sure to read the rest of the post because it is amazing):
But how about, just for a moment, we examine this: it is only human to get frustrated when our childcare duties balloon, while the rest of our responsibilities don’t come down even one notch. Add to that some record breaking heat-waves, summer viruses, a road trip, or perhaps cousins or in-laws visiting from out of town, and what you get by the time August comes around is a lot of cumulative stress. And now we still have the rest of August ahead of us, and by the time we arrive at the joys of the back to school prep, nobody should be surprised that it is mom who desperately needs a vacation.
One word: liberated. And if I had to add a second: relieved. Next time I think I am a bad mom, I’m going to remind myself that I am just tired. So very tired.

August (especially, mid to late August) is a tough time for me. For everyone, really. Thanks for these wonderful posts written by these amazing women. If you ever question what kind of effect your writing has on others, please remember how you were able to make at least one mom laugh out loud with relief and be kinder to herself next time she feels guilty for being human.

So how are you hanging in there these last few weeks of summer?

Monday, August 15, 2011

BlogHer11 in Pictures

I wrote about my BlogHer11 experience in detail here. Here is the weekend in photos:

This is my first night at the Expo Center.I wanted to make a good impression on Cookie and Elmo so I made sure I wore my cutest black dress and heels. I think they were impressed.

Here I am in the Chuck E. Cheese booth. There were tickets on person everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.

Shannon from Glamorous Mom and I at the Cheap Sally Dance Party. Shannon was the product specialist for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s line at K-mart (and my roommate)!

I met up with Lindsay from Silly Mom Thoughts. We met briefly last year. Although she didn’t recognize me, she did remember me. I thought it was because I was blonder and *possibly* a bit more fit. She said it was my confidence. *blush* How sweet!

Annie from Real Mommy Chronicles and me at the Hershey Suit (which was really sweet . . . bwahahaha!) This was the most beautiful set up. It was actually like we were right outside, enjoying s'mores.

The Jimmy Dean Sun and I met again! Don’t I look super cute in my Skinny Scoop t-shirt?! It was a poll about minivans. Most people hated them. This? I don’t understand. Do you not know how awesome those automatic doors and fold down third seat are?!

View from our hotel

Pool view from our hotel

Marie coloring in her Sprout coloring book

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I Learned at BlogHer11

One word to describe my time at BlogHer: incredible.

I had three objectives:
1. Learn new techniques to improve my writing technique
2. Learn about the business of blogging
3. Meet bloggers (both ones that I have been reading and new ones)

I am proud to say that I accomplished all of that and then some.

My favorite session was The Write Brain Essential Blog Content Development Workshop. The speakers were so inspirational that I was moved to tears. They got me thinking about a lot: why I blog, what are my goals, what does success look like. We also got to work with others and share ideas. I learned great techniques to incorporate into my writing practice. It was everything I loved about blogging: reading, writing, and connecting.

I learned a lot about the business of blogging when I attended Mind Your Own Business: Bad Blog Pitches (The Other Side of PR – Blogger Relationships). My background in education has done nothing to prepare me for the business side of blogging. I don’t have a deep understanding of marketing and public relations principles. The speakers in this session were great because they not only educated me on the public relations side, but they also inspired me to think about my blog in terms of what I have to offer different brands.

The sessions were fantastic, but I have to tell you that connecting with bloggers in person was. Just. Awesome. Annie from Real Mommy Chronicles was my roommate. I had only met Annie once in person, so it was very nice to get to spend some time with her and learn we had a lot of the same interests and goals. I’m glad I got to know Shannon better because even though we live in the same area, it’s hard to find time to get together.

I was thrilled to meet women that I’ve long admired like Stefanie Wilder Taylor, Wendi Aarons, and Elizabeth from Flourish in Progress. Not only is their writing hilarious, insightful, and inspiring, but they are totally cool in real life, as well. (This, surprisingly, is not always the case).

I was also excited to meet bloggers I just learned about like Nancy from Wife of a Dairyman, Katie from An Authentic Life, Tracy from It Builds Character, and Sara from Periwinkle Papillion. I cannot wait to start reading their blogs!

I had a fun time reconnecting with Lindsay from Silly Mom Thoughts. I met her briefly last year, and surprisingly, she remembered me . . . although she didn’t recognize me. I thought it was because I had lost a few pounds or had gone blonder, but she said it was that I appeared more confident. Which seriously, was the best compliment ever. I didn’t realize how much I had changed, but hearing that validated the inner work I have been wanting to accomplish.

I also had a chance to meet Erin and Eden from The Skinny Scoop. I love working with Skinny Scoop because they are not only a fun site, but they are very honest and keep their word on promoting and technical support. Having the chance to meet the co-owners was really special. I was bummed that I didn’t get a chance to meet Claudia, the one who has been so helpful with everything Skinny Scoop, but that just means we’ll have to arrange another time to meet. :)

I was glad that I accomplished everything that I wanted to, however, I don’t feel like I have arrived to any solid conclusions about myself and my blog. In fact, the more learn, the less I know. And I am more than OK with that because as I ponder my goals, I will have a better idea of who I am. And as I learn more about myself, I believe that my path will become clearer. All of this can be overwhelming, but I feel inspired at the same time.

Thank you so much, BlogHer, for this amazing opportunity for personal growth and meeting some wonderful people. It was amazing.

So let me ask you, what are your personal goals? What do you want to achieve out of life?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Pre-BlogHer11 Post: Otherwise Titled My Mini Nervous Breakdown

Before I make my pilgrimage from Detroit to San Diego for the incredible event which is BlogHer, I seem to be experiencing great mounds of chaotic thoughts dipped in excitement and sprinkled (heavily) in guilt and anxiety. Sounds delicious, right?

So here is my running scroll of thoughts. Unfiltered, of course:

- I need to make my final To Do List

- Hey, don’t forget to put “get birthday gift for Marie’s friend’s party.”

- Oh, yes and with that gift, be sure to remind Harrington that Marie *MUST* wear her water shoes in the locker room when they go swimming at this party.

- Should I clean the house? Hellz to the no. . . I cleaned last week.

- Hmm, is it possible that Thomas will have that much needed attitude adjustment by the time I get back?

- Don’t forget to paint your toes, for Christ’s sake!

- Pack my suitcase (carry on that is. I talk about the contents of that suitcase here, here, and here).

- Do not forget to pack those two last minute toiletries or your hair will be a mess.

- You know what sounds like a good coping mechanism? Having a shot of vodka with my morning orange juice.

- Wonder if California falls off into the ocean this weekend.

- The dirt pudding I made with Marie was secretly more for me than for her. I needed the quality time because when I get back, three weeks later she’ll start kindergarten. (Did you hear that thud? That was my heart dropping to the bottom of my stomach).

- Oh, be sure to pack plenty of Tums.

- Also, be sure not to make an asshole out of yourself.

- If you do, in fact, get to meet Stefanie Wilder-Taylor (you know, from Baby on Bored, Sippy Cups Aren’t for Chardonnay, and her newest book, I'm Kind of a Big Deal: And Other Delusions of Adequacy ), don’t do what you did when you met Amy Wilson from When Did I Get This Like This?  Not. Cool.

- Deep breathing is not working, maybe because my kids are climbing the walls in this torturous heat. Either that or the guilt and stress of leaving The Babes is eating away my intestines.

- This leads me to believe that I need to get out more often. No way should leaving home be this hard. At least it isn’t for Harrington. He just throws all this stuff in a suitcase about 2.5 minutes before he breezes out the door. I am sure there is a lesson in that.

I can’t wait to tell you all about my time at BlogHer11. Be sure to check out my Facebook page or on Twitter for updates and photos!

Have a great week!