Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Mailman Brings Good Cheer

One of the best things about running a resource guide for families is having the ability to connect parents to the information that they need. Something else that's so great about it is having the ability to connect businesses to the information that they need. So a few weeks back when someone I had met a few times called me and told me that she was working for a major magazine now that was revamping their image and she needed a few moms to survey in order for this magazine to revamp their marketing strategy, I was more than happy to put them in touch with a few moms. She did promise that she would send each mom a small present for participating, so I made a few phone calls and sent her a list of 10 moms to call who would be interested in talking to her. Okay, so they were mostly friends of mine, but still, clearly that has it's perks!

A few weeks ago, Self Made Mom posted about joining the frugalista movement which involved missing her Starbucks nonfat-extra-hot-no-water-chai. This happens to be my drink of choice as well, and given my leaving my job, I've also cut out the chai, outside of a few desperate moments.

So how thrilled was I when a $25 gift card to Starbucks arrived in my mailbox from my magazine friend as a thank you for helping her with her survey? Let's just say that for 5 days in a row, I was able to savor the delicious taste of my nonfat-extra-hot-no-water-chai. Guilt free.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Personalized M&M's???

I will confess right now, I am a candy freak. I seriously love candy and truly love chocolate the most. And M&M's, well, they're pretty much a staple in my house. We put them out when we have company over and when we have parties. Oh yeah, and we use them as a prize every time my two year old daughter goes on the potty. And she loves them.

Over the past year or so, I've heard about how M&M's is offering personalized candy. Sort of like SweetHearts with a message written on the candy, but with the M&M's, you can choose the written message. You can actually choose everything about them - the color, the packaging - and now, you can even put a photo on your M&M's!

With Aaron's 6th birthday coming up this weekend and his birthday party next weekend, I had been struggling with what to give as a party favor. In about 5 minutes yesterday, I was able to order M&M's that said "Aaron's 6th Bday" and "Happy Birthday" from When our M&M's arrive this week, I'll divide them up into little bags and be finished with the party favors for this year.

The whole concept of these personalized M&M's are pretty cool. You can choose whatever message you want, which makes them perfect for anything - birthday parties, holidays, weddings, baby showers, the list goes on and on. We were able to choose from 22 different colors, including custom color blends for springtime, sweetheart, wedding and more. Entering the text is simple - you are allowed two lines of 8 characters each and you can have two different messages. For the men in your life, you can order MY TEAM M&M's printed with his favorite NFL team, which is pretty cool. And for grandparents, printing a photo on the M&M's is totally awesome. All in all, the most hardest thing about ordering these M&M's was making up my mind given all of the choices!

One difficulty I did encounter was during the checkout process. I had a gift certificate code that paid for all but $1.38 of my order. At checkout, I selected the "gift certificate & credit card" option, entered my credit card information for the difference and submitted my order. In the end, my credit card was charged for the full amount of my order. Immediately I was on the phone with David from M&M's customer service, who, truthfully couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. He looked everything up on the computer and told me that for some reason, the gift certificate didn't download into their order system. Within about 3 minutes, he had fixed the whole thing for me and gave me a confirmation number for the new order along with his apologies.

So now I'm waiting patiently for my M&M's to arrive. I truly hope that they survive a week in my house and make it to Aaron's birthday party. I'll probably have to give them to my husband and make him hide them from me! (I will post pictures of them when they do arrive!)

Thanks to Mom Central and!

Monday, December 22, 2008

On Paper, It's Simple

When my daughter was born almost 3 years ago, I was working full time. Although the job was great on paper, I truly couldn't stand it. It was almost a crying-every-morning-as-I-got-out-of-bed type of job. There were alot of things I couldn't stand about it, but first and foremost I was working for an super-extra-large company where the work that I did mattered pretty much only to my boss and his boss. My boss and his boss were both generally disliked so our chain of command was pretty much classified as "the red-headed-step-child" of the department. My responsibilities mostly depended on other people completing their responsibilities, so there was an unbearable amount of waiting around. Oftentimes I would spend my day surfing the internet or having extra long lunches due to the lack of work, but when my colleagues sent me their completed items at 4:45pm and went home, I would wind up having to stay for another 3 - 4 hours to put their information into my highly convoluted spreadsheets. All around it sucked and although the medical benefits were truly amazing, I couldn't stay there. It wasn't for me. Or my desire to stay sane.

Since my days were often spent waiting for other employees to complete their work, I had a good amount of time on my hands. I started daydreaming of starting my own business and working for myself. Those daydreams eventually turned to serious thinking. Why couldn't I do something on my own? I went through a number of opportunities until I found the right one, and within a few months, Long Island Parent Source was born. Described as an online guide that centralizes resources for families on Long Island, it slowly gained popularity. I soon left my job for a part time job, giving me the ability to put more work into the site. We all know how that ended, so we''ll just move on.

Right now, I find myself with time. As a mom, I've become accustomed to saying and feeling "I just don't have time" but now that Aaron is in school and Camryn is with our babysitter, during the daytime working hours, I truly have time. Time to work. Time I should be spending calling businesses, educating them about the site, giving them information and working with them to get their business listed in our directory. Because businesses listing in our directory means that they pay actual money. Doesn't seem so hard, right?

Wrong. On paper, it sounds so simple. Pick up the phone. Dial. Tell someone about the site. Get them listed. The end. In actuality, it's not that easy. Why? Because I am scared. Petrified. Like ready to vomit and have an anxiety and panic attack and want to cry at the thought of the dreaded S word - SALES. There are so many reasons this shouldn't be an obstacle for me. Generally I can talk to anyone. I love the site. I am so passionate about helping families and helping businesses. It's an easy thing for me to talk about. And the ultimate reason being that if this website doesn't work out for me on the sales front, I'm on my way back to an office job working for someone else - something I DO NOT want to do. Under any circumstances. Because I've tasted the sweetness of this independent life and I want it to continue. Forever and ever.

I love having the freedom to work for myself. I work during the day but can also run errands, be visible at both of my kids' schools and spend time with my kids after school. The other side of it is that I wind up putting in more hours than I would at another type of job because there's no guaranteed paycheck hitting my bank account every other Friday.

So today, I put on my big girl underwear (it's an expression, my friends) and made 10 (count 'em, TEN) cold calls to local businesses. Nine bowling alleys and a book store. One person didn't even let me speak before he hung up on me, others transferred me to someone's voice mail and still others gave me a name of someone I should speak to. The important thing to me though was not getting someone on the phone, it was actually dialing the number and speaking when the person answered the phone. Not hanging up on someone was a HUGE milestone for me. Yes, pretty sad, I know, but this is me. And I did it. Really did it. And I didn't vomit. Or have a panic attack. Or get struck by a lightning bolt coming out of the sky.

Today I'm pretty proud of myself. I'm making a goal for 2009 is that twice each week I will call 10 businesses. And then the following week I will follow up with those businesses. I will become the type of salesperson that businesses want to talk to because I will prove to them that I am here to help them, not to shmooze them into sending me a check. 2009 will be a great year for me. For For my family. Because we will all be successful in everything we set out to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bedtime Stories

From the time Aaron was little, he had a routine at bedtime. We would read books and then sit with him in the rocking chair while his CD was playing music until he fell asleep. Then, and only then, we would carefully maneuver him into his crib. If he woke up, the whole thing would start all over again. Some nights were relatively quick, while others took hours. He would sleep with various stuffed animals and a number of pacifiers (one for his mouth, one for each hand and a few extra just in case). When he turned two years old he cried every single night because all he wanted to do was sleep in my bed. We let him "cry it out" a number of times which got harder as he got older because he would yell actual words ("Mommy, I need you, come here please") as opposed to just general wailing. When he was about two and a half years old, I would have to sit on the floor and hold his hand while he fell asleep in his crib. That ended pretty quickly after one night of my pregnant self not being able to get up from the floor. By the time he came out of his crib at 3 years and 2 months old, he transitioned pretty easily into a bed. (Please no comments about how old he was when he came out of the crib - if I hadn't needed it for Camryn when she was born, he still might be in the crib!). The routine changed, but didn't get much shorter. The new routine consisted of reading books, telling stories and then laying there with him for awhile. Not until he fell asleep, but for a good while. At almost 6 years old, his bedtime routine consists of reading a book, talking a little and then he goes to sleep. Good night, see ya tomorrow.

When Camryn was born, I swore up, down and sideways that she would NOT have any type of bedtime routine. We would put her into the crib when she was awake and she learned to put herself to sleep. No pacifer. No 45 minute route. No sitting on the floor while she fell asleep. Just bottle and crib. Good night. She has always been a great sleeper, going to bed at 7pm and waking up at 7am. When she woke up, she would play in her crib until we came in to get her. We thought we did it - we had at least one child who could go to bed quickly. Until now. At two and a half years old, Camryn now required a crazy bedtime routine. First she and Aaron jump on Aaron's bed (with Craig's supervision, of course). When they're done jumping, they lay down and Craig reads them a book. Camryn doesn't always listen, but it's usually a relatively short book, with outbursts of "Camryn, stop" and "Camryn, sit down." They get through the book, have already brushed teeth and washed hands and then Camryn goes into her room. After she needs a drink/ different pajama pants/different socks/has to pee, she needs to hear a story. Not a book, but a made up story. With Craig, he makes up elaborate stories. Not me. With me, she gets the same story every night. She picks the character (Miss Beth/Miss JudiAnn/Mr. Chris/Mr. Nick/Shrek/Fiona/Dora/Diego/Boots/Swiper) and then whoever she picks goes to school and hurts their knee. Don't look at me - she asks for this story. Every. Single. Solitary. Night. Multiple times!

So, alas, both of my kids have crazy bedtime routines where we start putting them to bed about an hour and a half before we actually walk out of their bedrooms. It's a giant pain. However, in my heart of hearts, I know I shouldn't complain because one day I will want to tell Camryn the story of whoever hurt their knee, have her jump on Aaron's bed or sit with Aaron until he falls asleep.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kids Remember

Aaron's birthday is coming up, he'll be 6. Either that means that he's getting old or I'm getting old, old enough to have a 6 year old. A little scary either way you look at it.

The other day we were talking about what we would do on his birthday. Mostly because as the slacker mom that I am, by the time I booked his birthday party, the day of his actual birthday was all booked up, so we have to have it the next week. I keep telling myself him that it just makes his birthday longer. Anyway, in our discussion about what we should do on his birthday, we talked about going out to dinner to a hibachi restaurant where they cook in front of you. We talked about inviting Grandma and Papa and maybe even Grandma Cheryl.

Here's the conversation that followed.

Aaron: Grandma Cheryl can come too?
Me: Yes, we can ask her.
Aaron: But Papa Bill can't come because he died.
Me: Right.
Aaron: Mommy, if Papa Bill didn't die, I would have wanted him to come to my birthday.
Me: Me too.

In the six months that my father in law has been gone, Aaron really hasn't talked about him. I wondered if he understood, remembered or how his almost 6 year old mind had processed the whole thing. Clearly he both understands and remembers both his Papa Bill and how much they loved each other, which makes me happy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Many Faces of Camryn

All kids have many faces, right? Here are the many faces of Camryn, at 2 1/2 years old.

The silly face...

The confused face...

The annoyed face...

And the cutest face ever!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What My iPod Says...

A few days ago, my friend Darcie at Such the Spot posted a meme that she got from Merrie at Sleepless Mornings. Darcie says that Merrie has the best memes, and if Darcie says it, it must be true. So I decided to swipe it from Darcie.

Here are the rules. Grab your iPod and put your music on shuffle. Copy down the questions and the answer to each question is the title and artist of the song that plays. Got it? Great--- here we go.

If someone says, “Is this okay?” you say? Trainwrecked by Elliot Yamin (remember him from American Idol?)

What best describes your personality? Landmine by Train

What do you look for in a guy? Black and Blue by Counting Crows (not a great answer, huh?)

How do you feel today? Following Rita by Train

What is your life’s purpose? Home Life by John Mayer

What is your motto? Trust Me by The Frey

What do your friends think of you? Sorry To A Friend by Edwin McCain

What do you think about often? Raining in Baltimore by Counting Crows

What do you think of your best friend? Drugs or Jesus by Tim McGraw

What do you think of the person you like (in my case I’m assuming this refers to the person I married)? I Know Where I've Been by Queen Latifah (from the movie version of Hairspray)

What is your life story? Have A Nice Day by Bon Jovi

What do you want to be when you grow up? I Wish I Was A Girl by Counting Crows

What do you think when you see the person you like? Like We Never Loved At All by Faith Hill & Tim McGraw

What do your parents think of you? No More Sad Songs by Clay Aiken

What will you dance to at your wedding? All At Once by The Frey

What will they play at your funeral? Sun's Gonna Rise by Shannon Curfman (from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Soundtrack)

What is your biggest secret? Something Is Missing by John Mayer

What do you think of your friends? Supposed to Be by Jack Johnson

What is the worst thing that could happen? Angels of the Silences by Counting Crows

How will you die? Longing by Tony Lucca

What is the one thing you regret? She's on Fire by Train

What makes you laugh? Home by Daughtry

What makes you cry? Humble Me by Norah Jones

Will you ever get married? These are Days by 10,000 Maniacs

What scares you the most? Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett

Does anyone like you? Meet Virginia by Train

If you could go back in time what would you change? Wild Mountain Honey by Steve Miller Band

What hurts right now? Clarity by John Mayer

What will you post this as? To Whom it May Concern by Lisa Marie Presley

Some notes - For some reason, my iPod today felt a huge affection for Train, Counting Crows and John Mayer. I do not have a large proportionate number of songs from these artists, but the iPod just felt the love. We had a great afternoon with this music, so thank you to Darcie!

If you try this, post your link in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

I've mentioned a bunch of times in this blog that even at 6 years old, Aaron is obsessed with movies. He loves to watch them and knows almost everything about them, including when they came out in the theaters and when they are coming onto DVD. He's almost obsessive about owning movies as soon as they are released to DVD and has a collection that I will call ridiculous for a 6 year old. Or for anyone, for that matter. As he's getting older, he's also getting more interested in all of the licensed things that tend to come out right along with the movie - the character figures, books, soundtracks, clothing, pajamas and now, video games. So when we were selected to be a part of Mom Central's blog tour for the release of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, I knew that Aaron would make sure that we played the game about, um, a bazillion times.

The idea behind the game is shown in a little clip as soon as you turn the game on, so you're good even if you haven't seen either of the movies yet. The clip explains that the characters from the first Madagascar movie were left marooned on the distant shores of Madagascar and have hatched a plan to get themselves off the island. The penguins sort of repair an old crashed plane, which, in the midst of their flight winds up crashing into the African plains. Having been raised in a zoo, all of the animals that we know from the movie are now encountering species of their own kind for the very first time. To get through the game, the player must go through specific tasks and complete them before moving on to another task.

When we received the Wii version of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, I was a little nervous because Aaron has not yet mastered the coordination needed to play most Wii games, and this game required the use of both the controller and the nunchuck at the same time. The night before Thanksgiving, we sat down to play it together and we both were happy that it was a great game!

On the pro side, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa kept Aaron's interest for a significant amount of time (around 45 minutes), something that's proving to be pretty challenging for us with many video games - the level of frustration he encounters due to of not having all of the coordination necessary for many of the Wii games gives us usually about 10 minutes on a game before he decides he doesn't want to play anymore. Part of the reason he was into this game was because of the characters - he knew them all from the movies, online and all of the other paraphernalia that he has collected. All of his favorite characters were there - Marty, Alex, Gloria, Melman - and he loved being able to make them all do funny things - Alex could roar and do crazy jumps, Marty could run really fast and kick, Gloria could do a butt bounce (pretty funny to a 6 year old). The graphics on the game were awesome and Melman, who served mostly as the narrator, was pretty funny. Some of the humor might have gone over Aaron's head, but it was entertaining for me. Another plus is that you can play the game either alone or in multi-player mode, which allows you to play against others. Always fun in a game that involves racing, and of course, butt-bounces.

A review is not a review without some cons, but these aren't awful for sure. One thing that bothered me a little bit was that you weren't able to move on to another task without completing the first. Some of the tasks were a little bit confusing and although Aaron and I were playing it together, even I wasn't sure how to accomplish it. As the narrator, Melman was sometimes a little difficult to understand, and at some points in the game we lost him. We couldn't find him on the screen and wound up with our character wandering aimlessly around the desert, mostly because we didn't know what we were supposed to do. Some of the tasks were on the difficult side and we had trouble completing them - at one point I had to have my husband come in and get us through one of the tasks just so we could get to what came next.

All in all, I'm glad that we were able to be a part of this blog tour with Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Aaron and I have played numerous times since Thanksgiving, and it's something that is alot of fun for us to do together. If your child is the type who wants to play their video games on their own, I think that this would be a great game for the 8 - 12 year old range. Younger than that, it's a great game for parents and kids to play together.

This post was cross-posted to, an online guide centralizing resources for families on Long Island, NY.
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