Monday, May 31, 2010

Must have Monday: Gerber sippy cups!

My first time participating in "Must Have Mondays." First, I must admit that I've become quite a minimalist when it comes to specialized kids and parenting items.  The longer I'm a mom, the more I've realized we really don't need all that crap.

However, I have come across a few things over the years that have really proven their worth.   One of them is Gerber's sippy cups. Both of my kids easily transitioned from a bottle to a sippy cup, and used this cup into the toddler years. 

This cup gives my toddler lots of independence, and I don't have to worry about spills. Plus, they are easy to clean because of the parts can be thrown in the dishwasher separately.  And you can buy replacements for the little white piece that sometimes wears out or gets lost.

The kids love that color changing, though this feature fades over time. 



Friday, May 28, 2010

Grown-up thoughts from a 6-year-old

Apparently my daughter, A, has her "deep thoughts" at 7:30 in the morning. Again, while I was getting ready, she wants to have a conversation with me. It goes something like this:

A:  "You were lucky.  You wanted a boy and a girl, and that's what you got."

Momma:  "Yep."  (Momma is half-awake, and we've had this part of the conversation before.)

A:  "I think I only want one child.  Maybe.  I'm not sure. I have a while to figure that out.  First I need a husband."

Momma:  "Yes, you do."

A:  "Yeah, and then we have to decide that we are ready to have kids.  I know I want to have kids.  I want to be a momma.  But not for a long time."

Momma:  "Yes, not for a long time."

My kid thinks ahead.

Friday fill-ins

And...here we go!

1. Watermelon -- the best food to take on a picnic.  Children eating watermelon -- best entertainment to take on a picnic.

2. Summer came two weeks early in Michigan.  Damn it's hot.

3. I can't wear flip flops.  There's something between my toes!  Get it out!  I can't stand it!  How did I wear them as a kid?

4. "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."  -- Mister Rogers

5. Gwen from the Better Business Bureau can take a long hike off a short pier Ok. Not really. But she really got me anxious over nothing. And I can do that on my own.

6. When I crave food, it's usually thinking naughty thoughts about Little Debbie. That little harlot.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to our Memorial day BBQ on Monday with friends and family, tomorrow my plans include seeing the progress on our 1967 VW Bus restoration (it has been painted!) and Sunday, I want to sleep in!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Best Business Bureau my &%*#

So, yesterday I received a voice mail from the Better Business Bureau.  A very slow-speaking and professional sounding woman named Gwen said that I should call her back. 

For those who don't know, I have a small home business -- Truong Studios Photography -- my "hobby job" as I call it.  I mostly photograph weddings, and I love it.  I treat brides as I wish to be treated. I always put customer service first.  I make my brides happy.  I take photojournalistic and traditional wedding pictures, and I think I do a pretty good job at it.  I take pride in my work, and I would bend over backwards to make sure a bride is satisfied with the product I provide.  Oh -- the groom, and the families, too -- but we all know whom I'm working for. ;)

Back to this phone call.  I didn't initially listen to the voice mail, just asked my hubby who it was.  When he said the Better Business Bureau, I responded, "Oh, they are probably just trying to sell me something."  I get a lot of calls from marketers thinking I'm a large business, and they try to get me to spend big bucks.

Hubby said I should listen to the voice mail, which I did. This girl was good. Just the right amount of edge and apprehension in her voice, but she didn't mention a complaint.  Just that I needed to call her back. 

Oh, crap.  What bride I displease? Did I not answer an email? Did I misplace an order? Did she not like the album? I actually went back through my inbox and archive just in case! Why didn't she contact me if she was upset???

So today I called Gwen back.  Transfer to Gwen's extension, and... "Oh, your record is great!  Actually, we don't have a complete record on your business.  [blah blah]  We get thousands of hits a month on our site.  [blah blah]  Would you like to sign up..."

Me: "How much?"

Gwen: "If you have 3 or less employees..." (it's just ME!) "It's only $300 a year..."

Click.

I worried a whole night for that. 

Stupid telemarketers.  And, yes.  I'm on the national no-call list. I'm guessing there is some loophole for businesses.  Grrrr.

Smoking toddler -- what???

A recent article and accompanying video about a toddler found that smokes cigarettes.  He learned from his dad.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday fill-ins

And...here we go!


1. My son playing in his bedroom never fails to make me smile.  He battles bad guys, sings to his animals and takes a nightly inventory of his toys.

2. I'm looking forward to our annual family and friends picnic and croquet match in a few weeks in Toledo.

3. OutKast on pandora.com is what I'm listening to right now.

4. Potato salad must have something rotting in it! Ick.  I hate potato salad. Smells and tastes nasty.

5. Crackers was the best thing I ate today.  Actually, it's the only thing I've eaten so far.  Hey -- it's gotta get better from here!

6. You know, though today was the worst day of my life, I learned many things. First, the world looks a lot different when you're six inches tall and covered with feathers. Second, two heads are definitely not better than one. And finally, you can lay eggs and still feel like a man. -- The Tick
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to taking my daughter to granny's tonight for her sleep-over weekend, tomorrow my plans include photographing a wedding and Sunday, I want to see lots of cool buses at the Michigan VW fest in Ypsi!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Samson's power

My husband is an avid American Idol fan. Which makes me an Idol fan by proxy.  We have watched every season since the beginning.  If you were watching this past week, you saw Casey James, the beautiful guitar rocker make it into the top three, along with two other Idol hopefuls (who are much more likely to win it all).  We also saw "Big Mike" Lynche voted off, who -- by most reviews -- has more talent than our adorable goldie locked singer.  However, Casey has a power stronger than his voice -- he has Samson's power: his hair. 
And, those Idol stylists and lighting professionals did their best to make him look... angelic? Messianic?  Oh... just damn good.

And he's not the first Idol man to gain votes because of his power of the quaff.  There is quite a history of Samson's power.


Who can forget Constantine? His singing was ... hmmm... Ok.  But that hair was yummy.


And the freaking adorable doe-eyed Jason Castro?  I never thought dreads could look adorable.
But there you go!


Of course, Bo Bice.  Now, he actually had LOTS of vocal talent, but the hair helped. Add a little bit of bad boy attitude, and this one is a keeper, too.


Sanjaya.  No matter what you think of him, he had the most Samson power of them all.  The least vocal talent, and yet he still has a career.  That hair has to be worth its weight in gold.

Sorry, feeling a little silly today.  You can blame:


Friday, May 14, 2010

Smells like teen spirit

So, my memory for events in my own life is well... spotty at best.  My brain has prioritized "knowledge" over personal experiences. Therefore I can better explain how neurons work (nerd) or how data packets are transmitted over the Internet (geek) than what I did in high school. Or even last week.  My best friend, who seems to have a strong propensity for remembering events and people in our lives, teases me that she's going to re-invent our high school years -- and I'll never know.

However, there is a neurological ability (see -- BIG nerd) that most if not all people possess (sometimes called the "nostalgic nose") that provides us with a window to our past.  Apparently, our senses of smell and taste -- especially our first experiences with a particular smell or taste -- are strongly associated with our memories.  I'm sure you've taken a whiff of something and said "oh... that reminds me of "  In fact, these memories are often emotional in nature rather than just experiential (oh, such a nerd).   So, you can even relive those feelings just by finding that smell again.  Pretty cool, huh?

I recently had a very pleasant experience with this.  We ate breakfast restaurant where they boasted made-from-scratch jams.  My husband raved how good his raspberry jam was.  I had to give it a try. Mmmm -- this jam smells and tastes just like my moms!  Now, I haven't had my mother's homemade jam in over 20 years, but the whiff and taste of this jam brought me back to our kitchen growing up, my mom cooking jam, the canning jars, storing the jam in the freezer, making peanut butter and jam sandwiches and picking berries with my family.  All from a whiff and a taste. 

I have another scent nostalgia that I still get to relive on special occasions.  About 1 year BK (before kids), hubby and I decided to take "that big trip to Europe."  While in Paris, it seemed like the touristy thing to buy some perfume.  I wore this perfume for the rest of the vacation.  Now, if I ever want to "go to back to Europe," I just have to put on my perfume.  Suddenly, I'm in Paris.  Or Venice.  Or Athens. 

Do you have a scent that "takes you back"?

Friday fill-ins

Here we go!

1. I just had my back adjusted by my chiropractor.  Oh, that feels so good.

2. Pooh just is.

3. The third sentence on the 7th page of the book I'm reading: "His fundamental message of hope seemed to strike a chord in people, resonating deep in the hearts of individuals not only in America but throughout the world -- people from diverse backgrounds, perhaps, but who all shared the fundamental human aspiration of happiness, a yearning for something better in life." -- The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Culter

4. Toys from thinkgeek.com tickle my fancy.  My desk has plush microbes, and my husband got a Tauntaun sleeping bag for Christmas.  

5. I was walking my kids to the park the other day, and I passed a child soldier on the way. Fatigues, helmet, seemingly heavily armed. Should I be worried?

6. Conan O'Brien makes me laugh!  I'm a huge Coco fan, and I'll be so excited when he comes back to TV in the fall. I would have seen him live, but he didn't come to Detroit.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Date Night with hubby (it's our turn, right???), tomorrow my plans include absolutely nothing, but I have a to do list a mile long and Sunday, I want to take the kids to visit Real Life Farm -- their summer day camp!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book review: The Art of Happiness

I have just finished The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Culter.  This book is really a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Culter, an American psychiatrist. Dr. Culter asks the Dalai Lama many questions about the Buddhist perspective, and the Dalai Lama's personal perspective on how people can seek happiness in life -- whether or not they are Buddhist.  Also, the Dalai Lama's good nature and humanity came across strongly in the text. Reading along, I felt as if I was having a conversation with a wise and endearing old friend.

Let me iterate that this is not a religious book, but it does contain spiritual topics. Someone from any religious (or non-religious) background can read this book and gain something.  The author (Dr. Culter) specifically gears the writing at a non-Buddhist, Western audience.  He compares and contrasts the teachings and thoughts of the Dalai Lama with research and teachings in Western science. 

It is an understatement to say that this book moved me.  This book has changed my perspective on how I should lead my life and interact with people around me.  While there are so many lessons to take from this book, the key mantras that I took were:
  1. Happiness is not something that "happens" to you.  It is a skill that you can hone.  It is something that you must work towards -- everyday. 
  2. Compassion is the key to happiness.  The most famous quote from the book is "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
  3. Suffering is a gift.  I know -- this one is a tough one to swallow.  But, the Dalai Lama actually has a real and useful answer for "Why is there suffering in the world?"  I'm not going to be able to give his explanation justice here, so you'll just have to read the book yourself.
Tempted to pick this one up yet?  I know -- non-fiction by a world leader and a social scientist.  Blah blah.  But, if you want an opportunity to open your mind, and really think about what is in your control, how you interact with others, and what makes you happy -- this is your book.  You will not regret the read.

Also -- the next time you see the Dalai Lama in the news -- notice how happy he is.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Genuinely enjoying the company of both world leaders and laypeople. This is a man who lost his home, lost his country, and has lost most of his family, and yet this man is happy most of the time. 

Genuinely, honestly, and throughout his spirit -- happy.  He does that through compassion for others, appreciation of suffering, and training of his mind. 


Photo courtesy of dalailama.com.

Wordless Wednesday: Rebel without a Cause

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Tip Jar: Appendicitis symptoms for dummies

Ok. This is a bit of a strange "tip," but it could save your life. Really. It might have saved me a couple of weeks in the hospital and a couple of months of antibiotics.

Standard disclaimer: I'm not a doctor!!!

Here are the basic appendicitis symptoms. If you have these -- do NOT pass go. Do NOT collect $200. Go DIRECTLY to the emergency room.

1. Extreme pain in your lower right side -- in your tummy right above your hip.
2. Rebound tenderness: If you push on that painful spot on your tummy, then let go, the pain gets *much* worse upon release.
3. Nausea, vomiting, stomachache and fever. You may also feel like you have to use the bathroom (defecate) but you can't.

For real.  Go to the ER.  If they say you have the flu and send you home?  GREAT!  If not, you'll be happy that you caught the appendicitis before it was much, much worse. 

Note to women:  if you go to the ER, they will spend a lot of time figuring out if you are pregnant.  Ectopic pregnancies have some of the same symptoms as appendicitis.  It's quite annoying if you are pretty sure of your "status," but give the doctors a break -- they are trying to help.

Here's more info from the experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Thanks to Making the Moments Count for her blog post on her appendectomy when she was 6 months pregnant. Wow. This reminded me of my bout with appendicitis 15 years ago. Had I realized what was going on at the time (I had symptoms for several days before ending up in the ER), my appendix may not have burst.  Let me tell you -- that is NO picnic.  This meant the average 3-day hospital stay turned into a 2-week stay with massive amounts of nasty antibiotics. This was followed by a PICC line (a "permanent IV") for long term (2-month) outpatient IV antibiotics.  Not much fun for a college student! 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hubby 2.0

My husband attended a conference in Seattle all of last week. I was less than enthralled about it because that left me and the 2 kids to fend for ourselves. Not only was I going to have to take out the trash, but there would be more of "Where's daddy?" and "When is daddy coming home?". I already have to hear these questions enough; I was not looking forward to being bombarded.

As it turns out, I did not get asked these questions anymore than the average week. Why? Well, my husband has gotten into some bad habits of coming home later and later, and when he is home the work is not put away. The cell phone is perpetually out, and the laptop is set up on the counter. So, though he was out of town for the entire week, the kids seemed to miss him only about as much as the average week.

Why am I telling you these less than endearing things about my husband? Because he has decided to change. While at this conference, he took a training called the Corporate Athlete course (free plug!), and it caused him to really take a look at his mission (goals) in life.  He decided he needed to make some adjustments, and I'm so proud.

I'm not going to repeat his mission and story verbatim, but what I took from it is that he wants to be the best, engaged husband and father he can be.  He has seen that he's been a bit selfish, and he's ready to change.  I think it takes tremendous courage to look at yourself in the mirror so honestly.  We are calling his new transformation John 2.0.  I can't wait to see my upgraded hubby in action!

Among the list of his new habits, he plans take better care of himself through exercise and diet, to be home by 6pm, put the cell phone away (no checking email while the kids are awake), include his family in his hobbies, and turn off the TV when we are having conversations.  Each one is a little thing -- but they add up to a man who is HOME when he is home.

I don't want to make this sound like I had a horrible husband.  Not at all.  I had a wonderful, loving husband who brought home flowers to his adoring wife for no reason at all.  A responsible husband that did the laundry every week.  A loving father who played on the floor with his kids. 

But, a man who can look at his faults -- really look at them -- and make a decision to change?  That is a man with courage.  That is a man I love with all my heart.  I love you sweetie!



BTW: Published with permission from the Hubby. :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday fill-ins

Here we go!

1. Salsa and I refuse to say "chips." Because it's so obvious. Oops.  I already said it.  You got me.

2. I really need to get Clue the board game -- my daughter would love it.  Plus, I love all the characters names -- Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet and you've even got Mustard.

3. By the time I get home my hubby should be back from his business trip from Seattle.  Yay!

4. Luscious fresh fruit is what I look forward to most when grocery shopping. Too bad my stomache isn't on board with that.  Stupid IBS (irritable bowel syndome for those who really didn't want to know!).

5. And I was dreaming of eating all that luscious fresh fruit.  With no repercussions.  Did you hear that stomache? Stupid IBS.

6. "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." -- Dalai Lama ...is there anything else better?!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to spending some time with my hubby while babysitting my friend's kids, tomorrow my plans include getting a massage and Sunday, I want to have a nice Mother's Day with my family!

Slanty eyes

My daughter totally caught me off guard this morning for a "teaching moment."  I hope I did OK.  The conversation went something like this.

A:  "People in China have eyes that look like this."  A takes her fingers and pulls the corners of her eyes back.

Mom:  "That's not nice, A. Daddy's eyes look like that.  You shouldn't make fun of the way people look." 

A:  "No his eyes don't."

Mom:  "Yes, they do.  Did someone at school say that?  You should tell them it's not nice to make fun of the way people look."

A:  "Daddy's eyes don't look like that."

Mom:  "Did someone at school say that?"

A:  "No."

A is now upset.  I have a very sensitive child.  She runs off to her room.  She needs time to process.  She was upset all morning, but did not want to talk anymore about it.  I reminded her that if other kids were saying things like that, she should either tell them to stop or get a teacher. 

This stuff starts early, huh?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tell me Thursday: Growing like a weed

My daughter, A, has been growing like a weed!  I look at this picture and cannot believe how much she has grown.  When she falls asleep on the couch -- she now takes up the whole thing!  When did that happen? 

She's still only a Kindergartner (soon to be done with that!), but I now have "real" conversations with her.  Wow.  How time flies.

When she was about two and a half, my husband became convinced he would have a tall daughter.  I figured she would not "out-grow" us.  We have a standing bet around 5' 6" (my husband's height -- though he says he's 5' 7").  I'm not sure what the winner gets, but at this rate, I might be the loser!

parenting BY dummies

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Tip Jar: 5 ways to let your Kindergartner get themselves ready in the morning.

Here's my first try at a Tuesday Tip Jar.  Let me know if this is helpful! 

I hear parents complain that they have a hard time getting their kids out the door in the morning -- dragging them out of bed, tangled hair, "where's my socks?" and "I'm HUNGRY!"  Well, in my house, my 6-year-old Kindergartner gets herself ready. In fact, sometimes she's ready before I'm out of bed!  Often, she's the one nagging daddy, "are we going to be late for the bus???" (he is in charge of getting her to the bus stop).

Now, I'll admit my daughter is pretty responsible for a 6-year-old, but we did a lot of "prep" to have her be this independent in the morning.  Here's my tips for helping your Kindergartner be independent in the morning:

  1. Pick out clothes at bedtime.  This is a no-brainer, right?  Ok, I admit I've forgotten lots of times, if you do it enough your child will remind you! 
  2. Put an alarm clock in their bedroom and set it.  They don't even have to be able to read time yet -- just have to know how to turn it off!  We have one that has "sounds" (birds, rainforest, waves) in addition to the radio and BEEP BEEP, so that seemed more appropriate for waking her up.
  3. Show your child how to do her/his own hair. And don't criticize her when it's less then perfect!  It's OK if your kid's hair is a little bit moppish.  They will gain confidence, and gain their own sense of style.  They play on the playground everday -- it's going to get messy anyway!
  4. Have breakfast food that they can access.  We have fruit bars, bananas, fruit cups, and cereal.  The key is to have things that do not require YOU (the parent) to be present in order for them to get started with breakfast.  My kids know what are acceptable choices for breakfast from the pantry, and can get them out themselves in the morning. 
  5. Have school supplies ready to go.  Make sure lunches, backpacks, and anything else that is needed for the day is already packed and waiting at the door.  I usually go through my daughter's backpack after she gets home from school, and repack after she goes to bed.
That's it. Oh, I also have one more tip for those who like a little peace in the morning:  show your child how to turn on and off the TV! I don't mind if my daughter watches a cartoon in the morning -- after she's done with everything else.  It motivates her to get ready.

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