Silent Sunday

I Need a Confessional, a 12-Step Program, and Some Sleep!

My name is The Legal Eagle, and my 21-month old still doesn’t sleep through the night. I get such a weird reaction from people when I make that confession that I feel like I need to find a 12-step program somewhere.  Granted, most sleep training programs have about 12 steps, and I suppose that’s why I haven’t stuck with any of them!

Honestly, in her almost 2 years, The Bugster has slept through the night less than 5 times.  She sleeps in her own bed up to a point, and then she wakes up, screaming inconsolably.  We have to pick her up to get her stop, and if we value our lives, we can’t even think about laying her back down in her own bed.  So, we carry her to our bed – where she falls asleep the second her head hits our mattress.

The other day, a wise mommy said to me, “Is it really that big of a problem that she sleeps part of the night with you?”  No, I suppose it isn’t a big deal.  I mean, she won’t be little much longer, and, before I know it, I won’t even get unsolicited hugs.  I know I should try to appreciate that she’s so comfortable with us and that she loves sleeping right next to us.  But, I haven’t had six straight hours of sleep more than a handful of times in over 2 years.  (Come on, mommies – you remember what 3rd trimester pregnancy sleep is like.  Right?)  That really does something to a person.  I swear I am always tired, and it makes me rather moody.  And, when she is sleeping with us, she doesn’t usually wake up – but we wake up with her head in our ribs or a foot in our face.  Talk about bad sleep!

I’m not really looking for help.  I’ve heard it all.  I would love it, though, if this rant resonates with any of you.  Basically, I want to know I’m not alone.  Anyone?

Meet the Mama Behind Mamabargains.com!

There are plenty of good deals available on the Internet, but often those deals come at the expense of customer service, reasonable shipping times and rates, and just plain reliability. And that’s really lame.  It can be so difficult to find an etailer that has it all, so let me tell you about one of my very favorite deal websites: Mamabargains.com.

If you haven’t been there yet, Mambargains.com is a “One Deal At A Time” store. Each day, between 2 and 10 items are featured one at a time, all at drastically reduced prices over retail–often over 50% off! But you have to be quick, because once an item sells out, the next item comes up. Some items sure do go quickly, and then you’re left thinking, “OMG, I totally shouldn’t have hesitated on those shoes (the ones where the phrase ‘Mouse’s favorite shoes’ utterly fails to convey the degree to which he loves them) because now they’re sold out and Mouse is going to go completely shoe-less until Mamabargains.com offers shoes again!”

And there’s nothing sadder than a toddler who refuses to wear any other pair of shoes even though his heels are sticking out over the back of the sandal. And then people look at me like, “Um, I don’t know if you noticed, but your kid’s shoes don’t fit,” and I’m like, “I know!!! But I got them from this totally awesome website called Mamabargains.com and they were such a great deal it would be idiotic to buy them anywhere else, so instead I obsessively keep track of the deals on Mamabargains waiting for them to come up again!”

There’s a reason why their tagline “Get Hooked” is so apropos.

Also, I’m really excited that I just got to use the word “apropos.”

But the best thing of all is their AMAZING customer service, and if you choose USPS Priority mail, their shipping is so fast I’m pretty sure they send the box out about 5 seconds after you complete your purchase. Which is perfect for a completely impatient person like myself.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Jessica, the Mama behind Mamabargains.com, a few questions and got some pretty cool answers:

Every successful business starts with a great idea. In your case, the idea came courtesy of a sleep-deprived dream. Did you ever dream that MamaBargains.com would become the site that it is today?

Naturally, I had very, very big ideas for what our little website could become and always knew in my heart that we would find many successes. However, I had no idea that MamaBargains.com would catapult to this level in less than three years. We have nearly 60,000 Facebook fans and fill countless orders daily….it is humbling! It is amazing to think that it was just March 2008 when we “pulled the trigger,” so to speak, and purchased 500 Timi & Leslie diaper bags (which we stored in our residential garage in the early pre-warehouse days). It seems forever ago that Stan and I were spending our evenings, after the babies were in bed, fulfilling orders for the day. In reality, it is just a short time later that we are fully-staffed (with an incredible team, I might add) and though we often are  still helping with order fulfillment (and every other aspect of the day-to-day activities), we have many, many more hands helping.

You offer products from well over 300 companies, many of whom work exclusively with MamaBargains.com. What have been some of your favorite products or deals?
There have been so many incredible offerings; this is a hard choice. There is little more exciting than the arrival of a new product in our warehouse…the unpacking, organizing, photographing, feature verbiage drafting…we are all like kids in a candy store here when first-time features. I always love new strollers, as I know this is a necessity for all moms, and one where you certainly could spend some serious money. In recent months we have featured the Easy Walker QTRO and DUO, both at more than half off, which is a crazy incredible deal. Our moms love getting the luxury of a high-end stroller for a fraction of the cost. I also love working with vendors that design exclusives for MamaBargains.com such as Taylor Joelle and Baby Star. We also worked this year with Itzy Ritzy to feature their Snack Happened bags for the World Food Programme Charity, which was different and unique. We realize how fortunate we are to have healthy, well-fed children and so it was a pleasure to partner with an incredible brand, an incredible charity and our incredible customers to make an incredible impact on the growing epidemic of hungry children.
What have been some of your favorite moments over the last two years?
Again, there are so many to name. The past few months have been nothing short of euphoric, starting with the partnership with Procter & Gamble brand Luvs in the summer. Our national recognition with this partnership grew incredibly….we have more and more vendors looking to work exclusively withMamaBargains.com, in large part because of the integrity in which we operate. In addition, we have many brands wanting to be a part of our “mom community” realizing our incredible base of loyal customers. We’ve also been recognized this year as the Number Four Leading Moms in Business by Startup Nation, won acclaim as the Fastest Growing Company of the Year from the prestigious Stevie Awards for Women in Business and recently found out we will be featured inUtah Business as one of their “Forty Under 40” leaders in Utah. All of this while our sales continue to grow at exponential levels. Wow! Somebody pinch me please….it is with incredible gratitude that we look back on 2010, and we look forward to all 2011 will bring with great expectations.
With an average of 1.8 million page views per month, what is your secret to success?
Customer engagement…without a doubt. There are many days and nights you will find me personally responding to nearly 60,000 Facebook fans requests and discussions. I embrace the opportunity to share my experiences as a mom and business owner with all of our customers. I recognize these people are spending precious time away from their families to make educated, valued purchases, and so I do everything in my ability to make it a great experience all around. We also have a long list of Facebook moderators and incredible customer service technicians that are available and willing to chat and provide insight/advice. The community MamaBargains.com has created with our Facebook fans is amazing.
What can we look forward to in the future?
New deals, new vendors, incredible features and more amazing sales!
Oh, and by the way–Mouse’s favorite shoes came up again, so I snagged two pairs. I would have purchased three pairs, but one of the styles was sold out before I got it in my diaper bag (aka shopping cart). Guess I’ll just have to keep watching Mamabargains! Conveniently, I’m totally hooked.

Nothing is Forever

Do you recognize this character?

I know the Christmas season is all about being charitable but it seems everywhere I  go now I get hit up for more money. It used to be I could just give to the Salvation Army reps who stood outside the stores with bells and buckets, alerting me to their presence but  never harassing me when I walked by. There were school and church fundraisers where I could buy from people I know. Now I get people who want money and food for a homeless shelter actually accosting me EVERY time I go to the grocery store, not just for the holidays. “Don’t make eye contact,” I tell myself. I don’t like being this way but otherwise I feel the need to explain why I’m not contributing each and every time I shop for food. Retailers now make the employees ask outright, would you like to add a dollar to that for this or that? In this case, I usually end up saying yes because they all sound like good causes and who wants to say no to the children’s hospital in front of all the other customers? Plus there is no way to avoid eye contact with a cashier. Unfortunately, it all adds up and by the time I find a cause I really want to give a more sizeable donation to, the money is gone. Then I feel guilty like maybe I shouldn’t have splurged on a facial I got last month.  (It was AWESOME by the way.) Too late! Guess I’ll be signing up for more volunteer hours instead. Letters to the military is an easy one. I can’t remember what blog had the idea about giving kids allowance and asking them to save a portion of it in a jar and then choose what causes to use it for the following year, but maybe it’s time to inspire my little man.

Speaking of charitable causes, here’s one that won’t break the bank. All you have to do is have your child write a letter to Santa and drop it into a designated mailbox at any Macy’s store. For every letter they receive, Macy’s donates $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation up to a million. They even have a cute web site for you to create and print the letter: http://social.macys.com/believe2010/#/home. Rocky sent a letter asking to be surprised and then added “unless I am on the naughty list for not following the rules at school and yelling at mommy”. He’s pretty curious to know if Santa really would give him coal. He’s torn between testing the theory and risking his presents.

Does anyone know if a Swiffer Wet Jet really is a good buy? Rocky got hooked on the idea last year after watching a commercial. He continues explaining to me that I need it because it is especially good at cleaning corners.  My sister’s son has a similar affection for Aqua Globes. Do those work?

What is your best bargain find so far? I got one of those free $10 certificates that JC Penney sends out every now and then and bought a gift that also happened to be 65% off the day I went in the store. I paid about $5 for a $45 item. Sears sent me a certificate from their club program that I used to buy $65 shoes for $6. Should I even bother putting a gift receipt in those boxes? Found a $90 Lennox table cloth for $12. Oh and so far I’ve managed to get three free magazine subscriptions just for being a member of magazines.com and for ordering flowers. Just in time to let all my paid subscriptions slide.

Just heard the tune “Hey Ya!” on the radio. Always puts a pep in my step even though if you listen to the lyrics it’s not an entirely happy song. I hate being tricked like that.

Sent your Christmas cards yet? Me neither. Quit your bloggin’ and get to it! I mean me, not you. You can hop on over to the Unmom for more randomness.

randomtuesday

Christmas in Germany

The German Teacher shares the lovely season of Christmas in Germany!

Christmas market, Marienplatz, Munich

Living on the edge of the Bavarian Alps as we do, one of my favorite times of year here is the Christmas season.  Between the holiday decorations, Christmas markets and the impressive backdrop of snow-covered Alps, this time of year is magical.

Saint Nicholas

We call him Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s called Sankt Nikolaus, or Saint Nicholas.  In Germany, Saint Nicholas brings gifts to children on December 6th, his feast day.

This year, I thought Rosebud was old enough to learn about Saint Nicholas. On the evening of December 5th, Rosebud and I sat at our kitchen table, where I sang her a song about Saint Nicholas called “Lasst uns froh und munter sein” (or “Let us be happy and cheerful”).  The song is about how children put out a plate on Saint Nicholas Eve, and then while the children sleep, Nicholas puts treats in the plate for the children to find the next morning.  We sang the song several times (“Mommy, sing it again?”), and then I helped Rosebud put a plate on our kitchen table for Saint Nicholas.  The next morning, her eyes were wide with amazement when she discovered her plate was full, with a few sweets and many clementines.

Christmas market, Salzburg, Austria

Originally, children in Germany would put out a boot or a stocking, just like the tradition of having Christmas stockings for Santa to fill.  Usually Saint Nicholas leaves gifts of oranges or clementines, nuts, chocolates, Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and maybe some other small gifts.  A friend of mine in the Netherlands told me that Saint Nicholas is very important there; he’s called Sinter Klaas and children get most of their gifts on Saint Nicholas day.

At some of the Christmas markets in Germany, Saint Nicholas appears in costume.  He asks the children if they have been good and usually gives them a clementine or apple.  Unlike our jolly Saint Nick in North America, Saint Nicholas is slender rather than plump, and dressed like a bishop in red and gold.

O Tannenbaum – Oh Christmas Tree

The custom of bringing an evergreen into your home and decorating it is an old one; the tree symbolized the return of spring. Traditionally, Germans decorate their tree with candles and bows; also common are sweets, glass balls, straw stars and wooden ornaments and figures.  Most people have lights in the shape of candles for their tree, but some families still put actual candles on their tree.  When I was an exchange student in Köln (Cologne), my family had real candles for their tree.  We lit the candles and admired the tree for about twenty minutes, but then extinguished the candles and plugged in the string of lights for the rest of the time.  The candle-lit tree was beautiful, though.  I’m not brave enough to do it myself, but the candle-lit tree is something I’ll always remember.

A typical Christmas market stall, Oberammergau

Some families put up their tree on Christmas Eve and then take it down on January 6th, which is called Three Kingsday.  In the ballet The Nutcracker, the parents of Clara put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  The children don’t get to see the tree until the parents finish decorating it, which is another tradition that some families have.

Adventskranz – Advent Wreath

Most families have an advent wreath in their home, even if they aren’t necessarily religious.  It’s thought that the Advent wreath originated before Christianity spread throughout this part Europe.  In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries, a large wheel was decorated with four candles.  The four candles represented the four seasons, and the wheel represented the earth.  The candles were lit in the hopes that the wheel would turn back toward the sun.

Today, the candles are lit for each Advent Sunday and instead of a wheel, a circle is usually fashioned out of pine boughs.  Last year, one of the students I tutor in English was telling me how he and his friend always collect pine boughs to make into wreaths to sell at their local Christmas Market.  The hand-made wreaths I’ve seen here are decorated with ribbons, pinecones, dried oranges, whole spices and other seasonal items.  The wreaths make for a beautiful table decoration and help to bring a little light into one’s home during the dark December days.

Carousel, Christmas market, Oberammergau

Christkindlmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt – Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets, which are outdoor street markets, are probably my favorite tradition here.  Especially in southern Germany where we live, the markets are called the “Christkindlmarkt” but in other parts of Germany the markets are called “Weihnachtsmarkt”.  When the festive Christmas markets open on the first weekend of Advent, I feel like finally it is time to get ready for the holidays.

The markets are generally held in town squares or pedestrian zones, and wooden stalls are set up to display handmade crafts, foods, ornaments, jewelry and other items.  It wouldn’t be a Christmas market without sausages or bratwurst, gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds) and Glühwein (mulled hot wine) or Kinderpunsch (spiced warm fruit punch).

Larger cities like Munich have multiple Christmas markets, and even special themed ones.  This year, with baby Superdude in the stroller and Rosebud who likes to walk, we have gone to the smaller markets in our region.  Rosebud in particular has loved going to the Christmas markets.  She gets excited over the lights and decorations, the outdoor music and even all the people.

Even though the weather can be very cold and snowy, somehow we don’t mind when we are walking around the Christmas markets.  A mug of Glühwein or Kinderpunsch helps keep the cold away.  My children are lucky to experience the Christmas traditions here.  As they grow older, we will all have fond memories celebrating Christmas in Germany.

More lovely Christmas in Germany pictures!

A stand offering candied almonds, Bad Heilbrunn

Rosebud enjoys kettle corn, Oberammergau

Rosebud holds out her mug of Kinderpunsch, Munich

Listening to festive music performed by a local band, Oberammergau

Got Cork? Get Creative!

My first attempt at a wine cork wreath.

I did not get the artistic gene in my family. My mother reminds me of this fact. “Mom,” I asked her once. “Why do you keep that ugly clay duck I made in 6th grade? It has no neck, the beak is misshapen and the colors are all off.” She shook her head and said, “I keep it because I know it was the best you could do.” I think she takes pity on me because she didn’t get the gene either. Like recently when I painted a basic happy birthday sign for my son’s party. She took one look at it and said, “You needed your sisters to help you with that.” Ah geez.

Well, I may not be the artist/animator with a strong musical background like my older sister. Nor do I have a passion for sewing that my younger sister has, something that came in very handy after she had three children by the age of 30.

A different take.

But, c’mon Mom, I’m not totally lacking in creativity. Check out these cork wreaths I made this month. While there are other blogs that will give you step by step instructions on how to recycle your wine corks, I got what I thought I could use at the craft store (a glue gun, a couple different kinds of wreath bases and some ribbon) and went to work. To be honest, I came across the idea last year and casually mentioned that I could use a few corks to one of the relatives. She recruited a couple of others and, a year later, they delivered boxes full and told me they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to do with them. Darn it. I guess I’d better follow through, I thought. (I hope it’s true they were collecting from friends as well because otherwise those relatives drink quite a bit. I’m just sayin’.) So far I’ve made three wreaths and I still have many more corks leftover. Looks like someone’s getting wine cork trivets this year! Or maybe some cork ornaments from Rocky. Placeholders are another easy use. I recently visited a chic hotel that used wine corks in tall glass vases as decor. Must be the in thing now. Look, Scriv, conveniently green! Ho ho ho.

 

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at:

http://www.jedismama.com

A Can't Miss Toy for Toddlers AND Preschoolers

I have to review this toy because both of my kids love it.  And, while it comes with 27 pieces, it’s never strewn across the living room floor.  Also, even though it plays music, it isn’t annoying.  Oh, yeah, and it’s gender neutral. Do I have your interest, yet?

It’s Leap Frog’s Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet Set. It is a full set of letter magnets and a musical magnetic holder.  The letter magnets fit, one at a time, inside the doghouse. When they’re engaged, a song plays, introducing your child to that letter’s sounds. For example, when you put in “A,” you’ll hear this song:  “A.  A says A and A says ah.  Every letter makes a sound. A says A.  And ah.”  And, that same simplistic song is what you’ll hear for every letter.  I like that it’s so simplistic. The kids can focus on the differences in the verses, which is merely the sound(s) associated with that letter. The vowels are a different color from the other magnets, so, even early on, kids can associate that they go together and are somehow different from the other letters. There’s also a button they can push that plays the Alphabet Song.  Bugster is only 20 months old, and she can mumble her way through The Alphabet Song pretty well because of all the times she has pushed this very button.

Leap Frog’s suggested age for this toy is 2-5 years.  Both of my kids started playing with that earlier than that, and The Big Cheese, at 3 1/2, is still enjoying it. 

The letters are a little large, so if you’re super neat and like a blank fridge, this isn’t for you.  But, I have found it really holds my kids’ interest. I have used it more times than I can count to distract them while i’m in the middle of cooking  a somewhat involved meal. 

It’s a little pricey, at $20, but I really think it is worth every penny.  The Big Cheese hasn’t had any other toy for 2 years that has gotten as much use as this one.