Organized Activities Are Cramping My Style

I always swore I wasn’t going to be one of those mothers whose children are in 50,000 different activities a day and who spend all of their time driving their children from place to place. So for a long time, I resisted organized weekly activities for Mouse.

Also, I’m kind of cheap.

We go to the library for storytime every Tuesday (free!) and we also have a swimming lesson (not free) on Tuesday nights. Those used to be our only activities, but then Mouse started exhibiting some speech delays so we had his evaluated and were recommended speech therapy twice a week. And because he was a late walker (17 months), they also recommended a “mommy and me-type gym class” for his “emerging skills.”

So off we went to speech therapy and…

Where I am now known as “Grandma.”

Sheesh.

So now our week is:

Monday: Speech therapy (morning)

Tuesday: Library (morning) and swimming (evening)

Wednesday: Gymboree with Grandma–I mean me (morning)

Thursday: Speech therapy (morning)

I know it doesn’t seem like much to most people, but I am very unused to having 4 mornings taken up right off the bat. Plus it’s been very hard to go to playdates because many of them are at the same time as our above activities.

But mostly it’s just cramping my style. I liked being able to lounge around the house eating bon bons at my leisure. Now we have a schedule to stick to. And it’s only going to get worse from here. *sigh*

Who Are You Calling Grandma?

I suppose this is a consequence of delayed motherhood and that it was bound to happen sooner or later, but boy, it was a real shock.

Mouse and I were in Gymboree class and Mouse had wandered off. The following ensued:

Do I LOOK like a grandmother? (the correct answer is no)

Teacher: “Mouse, come on over and sit with Grandma!”

Me: “I’m Mommy.”

Teacher: “Oh, sorry! I always thought you were Grandma.”

WHAT???

I’m only 37 years old. I’ll be 38 in June. And I was 35 when Mouse was born. I scoffed at all of the literature that labeled me “Advanced Maternal Age.” I turned down the offer of an amniocentesis to determine my risk level of Down Syndrome since I’d been bumped into a higher category. And I’ve always been told that I look young for my age.

Okay sure, I don’t get carded anymore and nobody really mistakes me for a college student, but really, mistaking me for someone who pulls in a social security check? REALLY?

And the funny thing is that there are two women there who go by “Grandma” (or at least haven’t corrected the teacher yet), and they both look like your typical image of a grandmother–gray hair, um, well okay, it’s hard to describe what makes someone looking like a grandma other than gray hair. But that’s an excellent place to start, since I actually only have a handful of gray hairs. Might that have been a tipoff?

Also, I wear my fun, hip glasses. Okay sure, I kind of dress a bit frumpy. I go for comfort rather than style and I can’t remember the last time I really bought clothes for myself that weren’t for a special occasion or travel. But shouldn’t my fun, hip glasses compensate for that?

Apparently not.

And the funny thing was, the teacher (whom I would estimate is probably 19 or 20) wasn’t even really embarrassed that she’d made this mistake. I mean, I was more shocked than offended, but she barely paused to reflect upon what she said. It was like “Oops! Sorry about the Grandma thing HEY! Who wants to play with bubbles?!”

But I believe in karma. Someday she will probably be walking around with her kid, and I’ll go out of my way to find her and say something like, “Oh, it’s so nice to see you out with your grandchild. Intergenerational relationships are really being lost in this day and age.”

Ha.

The First Haircut

So we finally got Mouse’s first haircut in Florida. Yes, we traveled all the way from California to Florida for a haircut. What can I say–it was special!

Before...

Mouse had a bunch of fine hair with some adorable curls at the bottom. While I did love his baby soft hair, it was definitely obscuring his sight. But I held out. You see, in Disneyworld in Florida, there’s a working barber shop on Main Street, which we lack here in Disneyland in Southern California. And if you get your first haircut at the barber shop in Disneyworld, you get a complimentary pair of “First Haircut” mouse ears and a certificate of bravery. And Mom also gets a little packet of those adorable baby curls to take home.

Our barber was wonderful. Mouse hates sitting still, so I was a little trepidatious as to how this was going to go. In addition, Train Guy had a traumatic first haircut that involved cutting his little ear and making him fear haircuts for a number of years. I just wasn’t sure how it would go. But the barber gave him about 10 Mickey Mouse stickers to play with. She stuck them all over his chest and belly and legs, and he spent the entire time rearranging his stickers and not even noticing that his hair was being cut.

After!

That Disney–they sure know how to do things right.

Anyway, it’s amazing what a haircut can do. Our baby turned into an actual little boy with his new ‘do. All in all it was a great haircut experience and I’m glad we waited until our trip to Florida, even if people started mistaking him for a girl at the end there.

ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF OUR HOOT, OWL, HOOT GIVEAWAY!   Rachel, you’re the winner!  Thanks to everyone who entered.  And stay tuned for more giveaways!

Not Now, Honey, Mommy's Sick

I’ve got “that virus that’s going around”–words in quotes because that’s exactly what the urgent care doctor said to me on Saturday. And of course, the sucky thing about a virus is that there’s nothing they can do to cure it except treating the symptoms and praying it doesn’t turn into an ear infection or a sinus infection.

The funny thing is, I got this from Mouse who is basically unaffected. He’s had a lingering cough, but coughs maybe once every 10 minutes or so. He had a runny nose, but that cleared up. He never looked or acted miserable and never had a fever. Unlike me, who got all of that. I don’t know how it is that I’m like 20 times sicker than a 2-year-old with the same virus, but there ya go. Better me than him though, that’s for sure.

So what do moms do when they’re sick? We do the best we can. Mouse is getting in some major television time. Oh well, it’s not going to kill him. And luckily Train Guy works from home and is able to pitch in tremendously. Unfortunately, Train Guy started coughing tonight too. My biggest concern is that we’re going to Disneyworld on Sunday for a week and I really don’t want to fly to Florida with a sick family.

Ugh, and big hugs to everyone else out there who’s sick.

Conveniently Green: The Quick Cycle

Here’s a quick Conveniently Green tip for you–the Quick Cycle on your washing machine. Take a look at your machine–do you have one? Here’s the difference on mine.

Regular cycle:

Quick cycle:

Yep, the regular cycle take almost twice as much time as the quick cycle. More time = more energy = more water. And then it occurred to me one day–not everything in the laundry basket needs to be washed on the full cycle. Sure, some of our clothes need the heavy hitting, but we also have clothes that are very lightly soiled or worn for a short period of time or just need a quick little wash. I started collecting those clothes in a pile and now put them on quick cycle instead of the regular cycle. If I’m mixing darks and lights, I sometimes throw in a Shout Color Catcher (they really work!). I’ve never pulled a garmet out of a quick cycle and thought “oh man, this should have gone for another half hour.” So next time you are throwing your clothes in the machine, take a second to think about clothes that are only lightly soiled and consider putting them on a shorter cycle. Conveniently Green: Just a Little Bit Less!

Why Can't We Just Support Each Other?

Sometimes I just get so frustrated with the Sanctimommies. You know the ones I’m talking about–the ones with perfect children who judge every little thing you do. Yeah, them. What drives me nuts in particular are the ones who interpret all of their children’s successes as direct results of their stellar parenting (and by inference, your problems are a direct result of your totally deficient parenting).

Like if your child misbehaves in some way, they’re the first to point out how their child has either never done that (followed up by a supposition as to why that might be the case) or their particular parenting technique was instantly effective so you’re probably doing something wrong. For example:

Me: I’m so frustrated–Mouse keeps throwing food on the floor and laughing about it. It’s driving me crazy!

Sanctimommy #1: That’s weird, Junior never threw food. I wonder why a child would do that. I always feed Junior homegrown organic fruits and vegetables cultivated in environmentally-sensitive ways and prepared with a variety of flavorings and spices so he has developed a love for cuisines all around the world. I avoid all processed foods because I read on the internet that they can cause behavioral problems. Have you tried cooking your own food and giving him something that he likes to eat? Maybe he wouldn’t throw it then.

Self-Portrait via Webcam:

Sanctimommy #2: Sweetums threw food once when she was 9 months old. I sat down with her and just told her “honey, we don’t throw food because there are starving children in other parts of the world and it’s a waste, and also it’s difficult for Mommy to clean up,” and she said, “Oh Mummy, I am so very sorry! If I mop the floor for you, will you give me extra money to donate to the fight against world hunger?” Have you tried talking to Mouse? Maybe if he understood why it was bad he wouldn’t do it.

Self Portrait via Webcam:

I mean seriously–a lot of stuff with our kids just has to do with their personality, not with our superior parenting. Sure, parenting does make a difference, but really kids have fully-formed personalities and traits and let’s not take credit for things that are just a result of that.

For example (again), Mouse is an excellent sleeper. He started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks and continued ever since. If he does wake up in the middle of the night, he talks to his stuffed animals for a few minutes and then goes back to sleep. No crying, no calling for Mommy and Daddy, just an assured awakening and falling right back to sleep again.

Now from this experience I could conclude one of two things:

1) Mouse sleeps so well because I am a totally awesome parent. So awesome, in fact, that I should seriously write a book about kids and sleeping because look how well my kid sleeps! If everyone parented the way I do, everyone’s kid would happily sleep through the night.

2) We’ve done some very helpful things to soothe him to sleep and convince him to stay asleep, but for the most part, he’s just an easy sleeper.

Obviously the answer is #1.

I mean look, we’re all in this together. It’s not a competition. You don’t get, like, extra gold stars for having a better kid than other mothers do. Why can’t we just support each other?

So Whadja Get?

We had a very generous Christmas here. Mom and Dad didn’t have to buy much, as the grandparents were…prolific. But we got a few great items. The biggest hit was definitely the Kidkraft Suite Elite Kitchen. Mouse LOVES it. LOVES! It was a gift from Grandma and Grandpa and  Daddy Santa set it up on Christmas Eve. A friend also bought him a Melissa and Doug pots and pans set, so  I Santa set those out too. It was the first thing Mouse saw on Christmas morning and he wasted absolutely zero time getting to work on his dinner. He’s gone back to it again and again since. Such a great purchase.

America's next Master Chef

Another favorite was the Duplo Push Train Set. It’s super cool. Apparently there are two different kinds of Duplo trains. There’s the regular toy Duplo train, and the engine takes batteries and makes noise and moves on its own and stuff, and then there is the “Lego Education” line Duplo push train, where you use your own hand to make the train go and you make your own “chugga chugga chugga choo choo” noises. We got the latter, and that is why I love my mother-in-law–for avoiding the noisy battery-operated one. I mean seriously? Why does a DUPLO train set need batteries??? Luckily Mouse loves to make train noises, so it works out quite well.

Mouse got plenty of other things but those were the two biggest hits.

Oh, and we had trauma on Christmas Eve at bedtime. So the Pajama Fairy comes to our house on Christmas Eve and brings everyone a new pair of pajamas to wear to bed and have something nice in the morning. This year the Pajama Fairy picked out a Hatley pattern with jammies for Mouse and matching pajama bottoms for Mommy and Daddy. Well the Pajama Fairy forgot that children’s pajamas fit very tightly, and Mouse has a particularly large noggin. Needless to say, as I was trying to pull the pj top over his head on Christmas Eve, it got stuck. Then he started crying and I felt SOOOOO bad! But I still wanted him to wear the special pajamas and we had our matching pajamas and blah blah blah long story short (too late!) I took a pair of scissors and just cut down the neck in the back. If you look closely at the picture, you can see where I did it.

Heh.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well, and are enjoying these holiday weeks.

Happy 2nd Birthday Mouse!

I was 34 when we decided to try to conceive. Given my age, I assumed it would take us several months, maybe longer. I bought the 10,000,000 pack of pregnancy tests at Costco in anticipation. I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility to identify when I was ovulating (I cannot recommend that book highly enough to any woman, not just those trying to conceive). And then we decided to take the plunge and have my Mirena IUD (love!) removed. TWO WEEKS later I got pregnant. First try. Go figure.

The timing was impeccable (she said, rolling her eyes). I’d just been a bridesmaid at a good friend’s wedding in Philadelphia and yes, there was  a lot a bit of drinking going on. When I got home and hadn’t recovered from my “hangover,” I decided to take a test. Positive.

All I want for Christmas is you

And since I had all of those tests sitting around, I took two more. Positive, positive, positive. Train Guy had just gone to his parents to pick up our dogs. I know some people plan an elaborate and memorable way to reveal their pregnancy to the babydaddy, but I was so shocked I pretty much just met him at the door, speechless, holding one of the sticks out. He took one look at it and said, “The line looks kind of faint. Or is it one of those any line is a positive things?”

Bingo on the second one.

And then I did the math on my fingers. Due on Christmas!!! Poor kid! If I’d known I would get pregnant right away, I would have waited a few months to give him a fighting chance at a decent birthday. Throughout the whole pregnancy I lamented his Birthday of Doom. Combination gifts, no class parties, birthday forgotten altogether. What a major bummer.

Mouse’s official due date was December 23rd. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy by any means, and I ended up being induced. As the hours ticked by on Christmas Eve, I just kept looking at my belly, saying, “Look Kiddo, you better come out soon because you do NOT want to share a birthday with Jesus. Jesus wins that contest EVERY TIME.” I think he might have heard me because I did that 4cm to 10cm in an hour thing and he was born at 6:57pm on December 24th.

A special present on a special day

I had been rather down about the whole due date thing. Christmas is my favorite holiday and it would be such a hassle to celebrate a birthday too. Mouse would get the shaft every year. But once he was born, I changed my mind. When they returned him from the nursery with a stocking draped over him, my heart just melted. Train Guy pointed out that if you’re going to have a birthday near a holiday, you might as well go all-out and have it on a very special day. Whereas before I’d been hoping for an early delivery, I felt completely different looking at the best Christmas gift I ever got.

That was even how he got his nickname. He was always a noisy little eater, making these tiny mouse noises while eating and also while sleeping. Train Guy said, “He sounds just like a little mouse,” and I chimed in with, “‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, ‘cept our new little Mouse.” And the name stuck.

Now we celebrate his half-birthday in June and Christmas Eve is extremely low-key. Just the grandparents and great-grandparents come over with one birthday present (in birthday paper, NOT Christmas paper!). Tomorrow we’re having a small brunch with a delicious strata, some roasted potatoes, and a bit of ham. The day turns into Christmas after Mouse’s nap and we all enjoy our holiday, particularly with our perfect holiday gift. I could have asked for a better present.

Holiday Magic at the Disneyland Resort

I live just a few miles away from Disneyland and we’ve had annual passes every year since we moved here (except when I worked at Downtown Disney and had a cast member pass). I love love love Disneyland, and the holiday transformation of the park is absolutely second to none. The entire park looks great–but there are two absolute must-do’s: the fireworks and the Holiday Small World.

Train Guy and Mouse enjoying the snow (you can't really see it, but it's there)

(also, the holiday Haunted Mansion, but that starts in October so I don’t consider that 100% Christmas holiday–but do that too)

The fireworks were a total bust last year. One, I didn’t get to see them because we were so busy leading up to the holiday (we were in Europe for the first half of December) we just didn’t go that often, and the one time I went at night determined to see the fireworks, they were canceled due to weather. Train Guy and Mouse went on a different night, and Mouse was pretty much terrified and cried the whole time. So much for Disney Magic. So this year we decided to give the fireworks another try.

Mouse did much better. He didn’t actually, like, smile or anything, but spent the whole time pointing and saying, “wow! Wow! WOW!” And as expected, the fireworks were amazing. Seriously, after being spoiled by years of Disney fireworks, every other fireworks display pales in comparison. I’m always left saying, “that’s IT?” This year we stood in the middle of Main Street about halfway down the street. It turned out to be a good spot because we were right up against a crosswalk rope so there was a gap between us and the people in front of us. It was still quite crowded.

After the fireworks, it “snows”, which involves bubble machines spewing out small bubbles that fall like snow. It’s actually really cool–the best part being the faces of the kids as they realize it’s snowing.

The clock face is wearing a Santa hat! What do you mean, you can't see it?

And if you do nothing else in Disneyland at the holiday, ride on It’s A Small World. I know, I know, Small World gets a bad rap because the song is repetitious and annoying, but it’s actually a very cool ride, and they change pretty much every single detail for the holiday. Plus they intersperse the Small World song with Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls, so instead of just an endless loop of It’s A Small World After All, it’s an endless loop of Small World/Jingle Bells/Deck the Halls. Which doesn’t sound better, but it really is.

Of course, now I have It’s A Small World After All stuck in my head, but anyway…

Actually a short while ago they refurbished Small World. One of the main problems was that the boats kept getting stuck. You see, when Small World was built (in 1966), Disneyland guests were–how shall I say this–less hefty than they are now. Therefore, the boats ran in a trough propelled by water current alone. Which was fine until the average guest started gaining weight. The boats would get a bit weighted down and sort of creep along, often stopping completely. It was actually kind of fun when that happened, because you’d kind of reach out and help your boat along by grabbing the sides of the trough which is pretty much as anti-Disney as you can possibly get (“come and ride the ride that doesn’t really work and you can pull yourself along!”). All the dolls in the ride were getting a little tired too, so Disney shut the whole thing down for major renovation and when they brought it back, there were different (presumably more bouyant) boats, a track to help the boats along when they needed it, and awesome-looking dolls inside. They even added Disney characters (like adding Ariel in the underwater scene) which I thought would be really lame but they actually did it very well. So anyway, the holiday Small World is pretty much the most awesome holiday thing in the park.

Peace on Earth--now with new and improved boats!

Oh, also, they do this projection music thing on the Small World facade that I personally call the “Psychedelic Nutcracker.” It happens every ten minutes or so and it’s a short medley of songs including, but not limited to, selections from the Nutcracker, that plays while a sort of movie/cartoon/lights/flashing thingies goes on in a bit of a frantic way. But it’s very cool. And I’m sure that after that vague, somewhat bizarre description, you’re sitting there thinking, “We are SO making a special trip to Disneyland next year to see the Psychedelic Nutcracker at the Small World, whateverthehell that is!”

And of course, no Disneyland holiday trip is complete without family pictures at the castle and tree!

It was too much of a hassle to take Mouse out of the stroller. Merry Christmas, kid!

See? We took you out for the tree picture!

I AM AN AWESOME PHOTOGRAPHER!

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.