Friday, November 30, 2012

First Grade = Germ Factory

image courtesy countryliving.com


The last time I wrote here I was gearing up to do an author appearance at a moms' group about an hour's drive away, and stressing about making it in time after putting my daughters on the school bus. Turned out that less than an hour later, Genevieve woke up with a flaming case of pinkeye. In case you're not familiar with pinkeye, kids can't go to school for the first 24 hours of coming down with it; and you need to get antibiotic eyedrops right away to treat it.

I sent an early-morning, apologetic e-mail to the woman in charge of the moms' group, knowing that if you have to cancel at the very last minute because of a sick child, a group of fellow moms is probably the best possible audience on which to cancel. Within ten minutes, despite the ungodly hour, I had a reply back, assuring me that they understood and will reschedule in the future. Thank God for fellow moms. They get it. Every time.

[Side note: Literally THE DAY BEFORE this occurred, I was at the bus stop with my neighbor Dave and our kids, discussing winter viruses (because that's what parents talk about when they get together), and I actually said, "Everyone in my house is healthy right now! I'd better knock on wood!" And we kind of laughed about how I shouldn't have said that out loud. And then the next day Genevieve wakes up with pinkeye. "You tempted the universe," Dave told me on Facebook later. INDEED. LESSON LEARNED.]

So, on Wednesday Genevieve and I went to the clinic, the pharmacy, and a few other quick errands I needed to do. Then we spent the rest of the day doing Christmas crafts, making homemade granola for holiday gifts (it freezes, you all! I'll give you the recipe sometime soon. And no, I didn't let Genevieve touch it with her germ-infested fingers), and watching "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" on PBS. (I'm sorry, but that is just not the same as Mister Rogers. Not the same at all.)

Yesterday Genevieve was back at school, despite her six days left of four x/daily eyedrops. I'd washed all her towels in hot water and prayed that Julia doesn't catch pinkeye now.

After the school bus pulled away, I went to Target on a Christmas-shopping errand, and ran into our pediatrician (and my friend) in the underwear section. Because sometimes when you're on a Christmas-shopping expedition you remember that you could use some new underthings. Am I wrong? I told her that someone needs to invent a vaccine for pinkeye.

And that's my exciting, exciting life. Sick kids, towels, pharmacy, homemade granola, underwear. The usual.

How is the holiday season going in your house?


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest Post by Fellow Mama-Blogger Katie Moore: Feeling Good by Eating Well and Working Out During Pregnancy


One of my favorite things about blogging is connecting with the amazing community of fellow mama-bloggers out there in the world. One such like-minded mama is Katie Moore, a stay-at-home mom and blogger with a passion for healthy living, natural foods, and wellness. Katie is here today, writing on nutrition and exercise during pregnancy. Read on for her tips on staying healthy and managing cravings as a mama-to-be!  ~Shannon

From Katie: 

Being pregnant is one of the most fun, most memorable, and most exciting things I’ve ever done, and I’m sure I’m not the only mom who feels the same. I was pregnant once and was blessed with a beautiful, healthy little girl. When my husband and I made the decision to start a family, I made it my personal mission to be as healthy as possible while pregnant. I knew it was important to the health of my unborn child, my own health, and to the overall labor experience. I knew that being healthy was something I could control in a process of so many things I cannot control.

To begin, I began researching, learning, and becoming aware. I became educated on the changes my body was going to go through, I studied different delivery options; procedures like cord blood banking and circumcision, and was aware of what I needed to do to give my daughter the best possible start in life.

One of the first things I learned to do when I had a pregnancy craving was to give in to it! Yes, that’s right, I gave in--however, I did not always give into my cravings by eating cookies or brownies or calling every Girl Scout I know asking for extra boxes of thin mints. Instead, I figured out healthier ways to satisfy my cravings. For example, one way I handled my cravings when I wanted something sweet was to dip strawberries into melted dark chocolate. The taste was amazing and the chocolate and strawberry combination was sure to satisfy all my cravings while giving me some nutritional value as well. Sometimes when I wanted something sweet in the morning I’d indulge in whole-wheat toast topped with honey.




When my body craved salty foods, I ate crackers and cheese. Sometimes I also had pasta and chicken sausage mixed with grilled or roasted red and green bell peppers and onions. I never felt like I was missing out on eating chips or other salty, unhealthy foods. Adding plenty of fruits and vegetables to your diet when you are pregnant is a great way to get more vitamins and minerals that are so important into your body. Additionally, salmon and whole grains are also amazing for your body when pregnant. Salmon is not one of the fish you should avoid, as it isn’t high in mercury. It’s light and healthy in addition to being filled with nutrients. 



 
Working out is just as important as eating right. Walking with my husband in the evenings and doing 30 minutes of prenatal yoga with a DVD in the mornings gave me so much energy, helped me sleep better at night, eliminated my fatigue, and helped me with my backaches. I had plenty of energy from eating right and exercising. Additionally, I felt less stress and anxiety. I read and learned through experience that eating right and working out help to produce good chemicals in the body that help you feel better and alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.

My doctor told me that eating right and exercising helped prepare my body for labor, which is what I figure made my labor go pretty smoothly. I would recommend working out and eating right to anyone who is expecting a baby. The energy, health effects, and level of happiness I felt when I was eating healthy and exercising was immeasurable. Anyone carrying a baby should work out and eat well to support a healthy, happy delivery and baby. 


Katie Moore is an active blogger who discusses the topics of motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. She enjoys writing, blogging, and meeting new people! To connect with Katie contact her via her blog, Moore From Katie or her twitter, @moorekm26.

Isn't Pumpkin Sort of a Christmas Flavor Too? No?


 You guys. So busy. Too busy to investigate why people are not able to leave comments on my blog, and too busy to have (yet) put up the lovely pregnancy/nutrition post by guest writer Katie Moore, which, yes, is still on the agenda! Katie, I have not forgotten. My life is a little nutso right now.

Today I am driving up to a Twin Cities suburb to do a book reading at a moms' group meeting. Unfortunately today is Wednesday, which is Late Start Day for my town's schools, which means I put my girls on the bus an hour later than usual. Meaning that the SECOND they are on the bus, I need to take off in my car and pray that I make it up to this other town in time. Time is so tight I am actually DRIVING the three of us to the bus stop (half a block away), so when the bus pulls away I can just leave rather than taking the time to walk back to our garage.

Adding the stress of travel and a tight schedule to the normal stress of a speaking engagement: always fun.

Ah well. It will be fine I am sure.

In other news, did you know that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is no longer being made at Caribou Coffee? I went in there the other day after a long and taxing hair salon appointment (kidding about the taxing part) because THERE IT WAS, RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from the salon, how could I just drive by and go home? I mean, really. I was dying for an iced pumpkin latte. All dehydrated and thirsty from my taxing hair appointment, you know. And the lady at the counter tells me that no, it's Christmas now, no more pumpkin! What? Ridiculous. She talked me into a peppermint mocha and it wasn't nearly as good. Bah humbug.

These are the adventures that fill my days. (Actually, many far more important adventures fill my days, but none I'm going to write about here, now.) Well, these and Christmas shopping and writing and planning and decorating and running and mothering and cooking and reading the novel State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Have you read it? It's incredible. So good. Go read it. But don't tell me what happens at the end because even though I find it hard to put down, in reality my life is such that I only have time to read a few pages at a time, so the going is slow, people.

I'm also very busy thinking about, but not doing, my Christmas cards.

Sorry for the unorganized post about nothing anyone cares about. Truly, I'm sorry. Moms' lives are busy. I'll get back to you. I hope you're doing well and drinking pumpkin lattes on my behalf, somewhere.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Activity for Kids

 
By Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving break, it was time for a playdate. My kids were bored of just being home with family, and it was cold outside but there's no snow, so playing in the yard wasn't even fun. We invited a little friend over for each child and let them have at it.

As one part of the double playdate, I had the four girls do a little craft. You may remember I posted it here last year. It is so cute, and was such a hit, that I thought I'd remind you about it, in case you're looking for an easy holiday craft to do with your own kiddos.

This project is a Santa face made with your child's handprint as the beard (see photo above). If you want full directions and photos, go here. You'll end up with a cute holiday decoration to tape up somewhere in your house or hang on the fridge door.

Have fun!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Checking In.

Hey, friends. I'm getting word that some of you are now having trouble leaving comments. (Meaning, you're not able to.) I assume this has something to do with the switch I made recently to disallowing anonymous comments, but I'm not sure what the problem is. I'll try to figure it out. In the meantime, so sorry! I hope you e-mail me if you want to chat! (See my contact info on the left sidebar.)

I also have a great guest post coming up for you, from a mama-blogger named Katie Moore who is all kinds of healthy. So stay tuned. I'm crazy-busy today so it likely won't go up till tomorrow, but feel free to check back. Katie knows all about healthy eating during pregnancy and has some tips for any of you expecting mamas-to-be out there.

Talk soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful for a High of Sixty Degrees.

November's not over yet, so I think I'll keep up my thankfulness list for a few more days. And I know I haven't written since Wednesday, so I'm behind a few, too. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, with plenty of leftover pie. I pulled off a great dinner if I do say so myself. See, you get to openly brag like that when you shop for, prep, and cook the entire feast start to finish completely by yourself. Can you believe it? Yes, I'm still standing. (Ha.)

I am thankful that on Thanksgiving Day, the weather was like this:


Even though later on it turned into this:


No, I'm kidding a little with that last photo. But Thursday was a CRAZY day, weather-wise. It was 60 degrees by about noon. I went trail running at 8:30 a.m. and it was already warm and sunny enough for me to wear my shortest running skirt over bare legs and just a t-shirt on top. Didn't I say crazy? Then a cold front literally BLEW in, and by four or five o'clock, the temp had fallen to the high 20s and it was gray, blustery, and sleeting. When we woke up on Friday morning, there was a dusting of snow (it didn't stick) and the windchill was 9 degrees. The state climatologist was on public radio saying that this was a record for the greatest temperature swing on Thanksgiving Day in recorded history. Yikes!

Still, I was very, VERY thankful to do a six-mile run in bare legs on Thanksgiving Day, basking in the sun and the beautiful countryside.

As for Friday and today, I am thankful for Christmas decorations and Christmas music. They always put me in the holiday spirit. Yesterday the girls and I decorated the whole house (except for the tree; that's not up yet) while Grandma and Daddy went shopping (ugh). We put on carols and ventured into the storage closet to pull out all our favorite candles, nativity sets, wreaths, Santas, and snowman figurines. We put the Christmas runner on the table and found the girls' Santa placemats, plates, and cups. We dug out our stack of Christmas storybooks that now sit in a basket on little lamp table by the toy and book corner. Love it.

Today, I am thankful that I am not the one who is driving my mother-in-law to the airport at 6:30 a.m. Sure, I've been up for 90 minutes but I still don't want to be driving to the airport at this ungodly hour.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday! Here's one for tomorrow: I am thankful for all of you. Truly, I am.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for the Kind of Friendship that Includes Gestures Like This.

Do you see what I see?

yes, my freezer is a mess. ignore that.


Here, let me make it more obvious for you.


Happiness is a best friend.

Today, I am thankful for the BFF who brought me two cartons of ice cream from the supermarket last night. The last two in the store, actually.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone you love from this mama in wonderland (as long as I've got my pumpkin pie ice cream, it's a wonderland, people).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for Dairy.

 image courtesy kemps.com

So the other week one of the supermarkets in town had a sale on Kemp's ice cream, and since I am automatically drawn to the ice cream aisle by a magnetic force beyond my control, I found myself staring into the case on my visit there that week. And lo and behold, I discovered Kemp's pumpkin pie ice cream. No, not pumpkin ice cream. Pumpkin PIE ice cream. The pie part is essential. In fact, it is the detail that sends this ice cream over the fence of delicious all the way to the land of Best Food Ever. Because it has PIECES OF PIE CRUST IN IT. Yes. It is pumpkin pie-flavored ice cream, with pieces of crust in it. Ponder that.

And yes I ate the carton in four or five days. In my defense, ice cream no longer comes in half-gallons. They aren't even 1.75 quarts anymore. They are 1.5 quarts or less. Does that make it better?

Unfortunately this ice cream flavor is seasonal. In other words, I should have stocked up when I first discovered it. Except all I have is a small, top-of-the-fridge freezer. So I would have had to eat a really large amount before it all melted. An impossible amount, really.

Once I tasted this ice cream flavor, I was compelled to tell my friend Connie about it, because we had been discussing the merits of pumpkin vs. cinnamon-flavored seasonal ice cream. I made sure to tell her about the PIE part. Don't go buying plain old pumpkin and thinking it's gonna be all transcendent and awesome, I told her. (Or something to that effect.)

By now Halloween had passed, and when Connie went to the grocery store in search of pumpkin pie ice cream, it was nowhere to be found. Between the two of us, I think we checked four different stores. Connie asked a manager at our biggest supermarket about it, and he told her it was done and gone. "It's over," she told me later on the phone. "It's no longer pumpkin season. The ice cream companies have moved on to Christmas. It's all peppermint."

At first I was in denial, because, hello? No longer pumpkin season? What the? Hasn't anyone heard of THANKSGIVING, the holiday for which PUMPKIN PIE IS MADE? Whatevs.

But when I idly looked for myself when I happened to be in the stores, it was true; there wasn't any Kemp's pumpkin pie ice cream that I could see. This was disappointing, because my supermarket kept running these buy-one-get-one-free coupons for Kemp's.

On Monday I went to the supermarket--again--to pick up the few last minute items I still needed to cook Thanksgiving dinner. And, because I had the Kemp's BOGO coupon, I decided to pick up a couple cartons to have on hand for the long holiday weekend, our visiting company, and my giant-appetite husband (and what I mean by all that is for me). I checked to be sure, but there was no pumpkin pie flavor in the expansive ice cream case in the frozen foods section. Believe me, I looked carefully.

So I picked out two other random flavors instead. I mean, I love all ice cream, so it's not that they're bad, they're just not pumpkin pie. But by now I'd accepted the weird truth of pumpkin pie flavor being over for the season. I bought my ice cream and left.

And then yesterday Connie left me a voicemail from an end-cap case in the supermarket, all excited because there was Kemp's pumpkin pie ice cream, and now she could finally try it. Let me repeat: Monday, no apparent pumpkin pie ice cream. Tuesday, same store, some random out of the way hidden secret ice cream case, pumpkin pie ice cream. Gah! I wanted to strangle a frozen-foods manager. It didn't matter who. I think I may have actually stamped my foot. This flavor is that good, people.

Connie went home and tried the ice cream and promptly agreed it was the Best Food Ever. And now she has some, and I do not. And I've been to the supermarket four times in the past week. So you know I wasn't planning to go again today.

But I'm willing to bribe someone to get some for me. Use the coupon. Bring me two.

Today I am thankful for Kemp's pumpkin pie ice cream. Obviously. (Even though I don't have any.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful x a Million

I need to be around for these babies.

 Yesterday I went to see my beloved, always-cheerful ob-gyn for my annual exam. Don't worry; that's as far as I'm going with that detail.

When her nurse took my vitals before the exam, my blood pressure and heart rate were crazy high--well, crazy high for me, anyway, something like 120/80 and a pulse of 75. I'm a runner; my normal, non-stressed BP and heart rate are in the 110/60 and 52 range. It was because part of me was FREAKING THE HELL OUT.

I told my doctor that now that I'm in my forties (just barely, you all, but there you are), I'm super-scared every time I go for my check-up. I'm just waiting for the breast cancer or cervical cancer or ovarian cancer or skin cancer diagnosis.

That may sound paranoid and crazy, but honestly, don't you feel like cancer is EVERYWHERE these days? Especially breast cancer; every time I open a magazine I swear there's a profile of some healthy young mom who found a lump in her breast when she was 32 and almost died. Or there's a remembrance of someone's sister or friend who died at age 40 of breast cancer and left three young children behind. It's terrifying. Awareness is wonderful; but the media has become a vast warehouse of cancer stories. And then, for all of us, there are the friends and relatives we know who have been diagnosed, or had a scare, or lost their lives. After awhile it seems a logical conclusion that cancer is inevitable. It's only a matter of time.

My lovely doctor is the type who insists that you keep your clothes on after your vitals, because she comes in and chats with you about your life and your well-being before going out again for a minute so you can undress for your exam. And she doesn't care if the chat goes on for awhile because she's asking about your kids and your running schedule. She assured me that since I exercise regularly and eat a ton of antioxidant-heavy vegetables, I've cut any risk we all have by a huge degree. She said even when doctors factor in genetics, those healthy-lifestyle choices knock your odds of not getting cancer up into the "excellent" category.

Today, I am thankful for my health. I do not have cancer. I have two small children who need me. I don't know what the future holds, but for now, I have no medical problems that endanger my functioning or my life. I'm extremely healthy. And I'm so, so, SO grateful for that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks for Butter and Sugar, the Two Main Holiday Food Groups.

This is what the littles and I are busy with, this Thanksgiving week:




Making holiday cookies to send to a family in need. If you feel like helping someone too, you should really check out the Holiday Hands project via Monkee See Monkee Do, the famed blog Momastery's offshoot charitable organization. Women helping women, yo! (In case you're wondering why we're doing this now, rather than, say, in December--Holiday Hands is designed to be done before Thanksgiving, so everyone can relax and enjoy their families and celebrations rather than have one more thing to cross off their to-do list. We are making goodies that will go in the freezer until Christmas, for a family who otherwise wouldn't have holiday treats this year.)

Today, in addition to being thankful for the GORGEOUS, WARM, SUNNY, 60-DEGREE WEATHER (and the forecast for mid-60s by mid-week), my baker-helpers, the ability to help others (think I already gave thanks for these, but they bear repeating)....I am also thankful for: Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, candy canes, red and green M&Ms, and all the seasonal treats that appear at this time of year. Mmm, mmm.

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend Thankfulness!

When I started this blog, and then began to form the idea in my head of somehow expanding it into a book for other moms, I never could have predicted the joy it would bring into my life in the form of far-away fellow moms. Some days I hate the Internet, for all its uncontrollable reach, its ever-growing invasion of privacy information, its constant call. But the Internet, via this blog, others' blogs, and indirectly, my book, are what brought me connections with some of my favorite fellow moms. Moms in OK, moms in IL, moms elsewhere in MN, moms in New England, moms in VA and FL, moms in places unknown, even moms in the Philippines. And these are the women I am thankful for today. They enrich my life, make me laugh, provide virtual long-distance comfort, give me a peek into other ways of living and mothering, entertain me, and provide style advice...they just make me happy. Which is definitely something worth being thankful for.

(I missed yesterday: Yesterday, I was so, so thankful for the fact that my daughters have sweet, fair-minded, fun, responsible friends--little girls from good families with good values--to bring them joy. Which, of course, brings me joy.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful While Sleeping

Since tonight I am literally too exhausted to bathe, I will say that today I am thankful for my big, comfy bed. It's where I spend some of the best hours of my day (night). Is that lame? So be it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Can Be Thankful for TV and the Internet, Right?

image courtesy abc.com

 Today: Thankful that I can watch "Nashville" online the day after it airs, because I cannot stay awake long enough to actually watch it on TV the night before. This is one aspect of technology I can really get behind: TV show episodes available online to watch whenever you want. I only do this with "Nashville" (and, last spring, with "Smash"), but that's all I need.

And yes, I watch "Nashville." Religiously. I realize it's a bit soap-opera-ish, but hey, I need my Connie Britton fix after the end of "Friday Night Lights." Plus, both "FNL" and the movie "Country Strong" (you recall my obsession with Gwyneth) have endeared the South to me. Plus, there's Rita and Susan in Oklahoma City. They are so adorable. The South must be full of adorable and stylish women with great hair.

So there you have it. So thankful for internet TV.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Running on the Sunny Side of the Street: Thankfulness

Not a shot of my running route, but some sunny countryside nearby on another day.


Yesterday I finally felt almost completely over my cold virus. I say "almost" because I still had a cold-headache, but with enough Advil that disappeared well enough for me to live my normal life and do all my usual things. (Monday, too, actually, although that may have been due to sheer force of will, since I really, really needed to shop for groceries and I had to take all three of us girls to the dentist, yikes.)

I went out for a "real" run (read: not a lame failed attempt at one like last Saturday, when I gave up after 2-1/2 miles). I ran--verrrrrry slowly, but still--my full 6-mile trail route. And I was so, so happy. The sun was blazing. It was almost 40 degrees, after a day of 10-degree windchill the day before. Forty degrees is perfect running weather. You start out chilly, if you under-dress the right amount (which is only under-dressing if you're not going to be running), and when you're in the thick of it you're not miserably pouring sweat down every surface of your body like you are in July. Nice.

I was in the best mood afterward. At last. Even though the run was super-slow. Even if I knew I'd be a little sore today. Even though my at-home to-do list was a mile long. It didn't matter. I had just spent an hour in the sunshine. In the woods. Over the prairie. In my beautiful, wild, running place.

If anyone has ever had any doubt about the fact that a.) sunshine and b.) exercise actually biologically change your brain chemicals, increasing the ones that make you feel happy, all they need to do is look inside my brain. Oh, and did you know that studies have shown that exercising outdoors improves mood more than exercising indoors? So there you go.

And so, today, I am thankful for sunshine. And though I already said it on an earlier November day, I am incredibly thankful for running, and for the arboretum in which I run. It deserves repeating.

What about you? Does sunlight affect your mood? I live in Minnesota, so that dynamic is far more common amongst people here than in other parts of the country where it's not cold and snowy for so much of the year. But I know it's still true for many people.

And what are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Little Book Publicity is Always a Good Thing.

Just a quick note to say that the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, a daily newspaper for a metro area of over 200,000 in northwestern MN (where I grew up), quotes from my book today in the "SheSays" column by reporter Sherri Richards. To read the column, which is about the relentless nature of the tasks of motherhood, go here.

Thankful for Wide Open Spaces

trail near our home

Yesterday I went to the supermarket and bought our normal groceries for the week, plus most of our Thanksgiving dinner groceries. My daughters also presented me with their Christmas lists, and I began calculating the cost of mailing out holiday cards and shipping cartons of presents to far-away family.

the countryside surrounding my town

Holy Hannah, nothing makes me think, OMG I really need to go back to (paid) work ASAP, and I don't mean writing books or freelancing, neither of which pays enough to buy the cat's food, let alone helps support a growing family like the grocery receipt at the end of shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. Let me tell you, being a writer does not pay a living wage. Or even half a living wage. Not even with a "Ph.D." behind your name. Which is why I am thinking about when to re-open a small therapy practice in town. It may be approaching that time.

Christmas will be small this year. That is fine. Remember this article I wrote for BlogHer a couple of Christmases ago? I stand by those values. It's just that you have to think consciously about it, and plan for it in advance, if you need to keep the holiday small. Otherwise it's all too easy to go out and get all excited about presents and treats and travel and whatever-else, and rack up even more credit card debt. No, thank you.


our big backyard

This is not a complaint, it is merely reality, and our reality is far more fortunate than many others' right now. There are families without roofs over their heads or enough food to eat. Which is why my daughters and I are so excited about baking holiday treats for a family in need next week. We are already planning what to make, what will ship well, what they can freeze. It brings all three of us such joy to know that this small act will bring happiness to a family far away.

Which brings me, of course, to what I am thankful for today. I have already stated the obvious, in previous posts--electricity, heat, my family, my friends, the ability to help another. So today I will add that I am thankful for the place I live. I love it so. Both the town--and the places and people in it--and my particular place in it. We live on the edge of the countryside, with a pretty rural view outside our back windows. I love living out here, so close to the prairies, fields, and woods. It brings me happiness every single day.


a view of the wide-open sky, a block away from our house

What about you? What are you thankful for today?


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving Continues

For today and yesterday:

#11. I am thankful that I have never had my home swept away by a hurricane. Sounds so obvious, but really. I'm very thankful for that.

#12. Every morning when I wake up in the dark of pre-dawn, I am thankful for coffee. So, so thankful. And I am most definitely thankful for the cream in my coffee too.

A Favor (for BlogHer)

Hi friends, I have a favor to ask you. As you know, Mama in Wonderland is part of the BlogHer Publishing Network. BlogHer is currently assessing how to best include video content on their site.

Would you please take a few minutes (no more than 5) to take our survey about watching video online?  Your thoughts are so valuable to us and your opinions will help BlogHer.com make better decisions about video content on our site.

If so, please go to  https://www.bloghervisionaries.com/R.aspx?a=96 to take the quick survey.

Thank you, dear ones! I truly appreciate it.

Two Quick Notes

Just a couple of quick things, dears. First, I recently disabled anonymous comments on this blog. I had originally switched to allowing them to make it easier for readers, but I just cannot stand getting up to 50 spam messages a day about Cialis and knock-off Louboutins. I was spending all my time getting rid of anonymous spam. Ugh! So, I'm sorry if this makes it more difficult for anyone, but from now on everyone has to sign in with a name in order to comment. For many of you, that's what you always do anyway.

Second, Shari, don't forget to e-mail me (shannon@tassava.com) so I can send you a copy of my book. You were one of the two giveaway winners last Friday.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

At Long Last: Fall Must-Haves for Moms!

Well, I'm still sick. My only consolation is that pretty much every other mom I know is or has been experiencing this same circular-virus phenomenon, if not this fall, then pretty much every other fall and winter since her first child entered school. What can you do? It's like clockwork: the minute you have a child in daycare, preschool, or elementary school, the germs are relentless. I've been sick more times in the five years I've had a child (or both children) in some sort of organized school setting than in all my years of life prior combined, I swear.

Before becoming a mom, I used to get a really bad cold or respiratory infection of some sort about once a winter. That's pretty much it. I considered myself a super-healthy person and never would have guessed that after having children, we all become 24/7 incubators for the numerous germs our kiddos bring home with them on a constant basis, no matter how many vitamins we take, how much sleep we get each night, how fit we are, and how many nutritious foods our diets contain. Ugh!

So, to distract myself from my never-ending cold symptoms, I decided today would be the perfect day to discuss something purely fun and distracting: fall must-haves for moms!

In reality, these fall must-haves are not necessarily limited to fall. But, since I like to do a round-up of some of my favorite things every season or so (or whenever I think of it), let's just call these autumn essentials, OK? Or, alternatively, you could just call this your holiday gift wish-list, and present it to Santa or whomever else gives you presents on Christmas Day.

image courtesy ellingtonbags.com

The Ellington Julie wristlet bag. I'm a huge Ellington fan; they use the softest, most luxurious-feeling leather and the quality is out of this world. This little clutch is beyond adorable, and it comes in burgundy and black as well as my favorite, this pretty autumnal orange. It's pricey, which is why I don't own it. But a mama can dream, right? And I DO have that 20% off promo code sitting in my e-mail inbox....


image courtesy loccitane.com


L'Occitane shea butter hand cream. Moms wash their hands a million times a day. And even when the cold weather hits, they're outside in the elements an awful lot--running to the bus stop, doing the carpool, taking kiddos to the playground--which can be really hard on skin. I can't be the only one whose hands seem perpetually parched from October to April. This hand cream is a classic, and right now it comes in some fun limited scents, like date. Doesn't that sound luscious?




image courtesy maybelline.com


Maybelline Illegal Length fiber mascara. I'm a non-monagamous masara user. I find a formula I like, and then I'm always looking for the next, better thing. This isn't an easy quest, because my lashes are blonde (read: invisible), short, and sparse. I know. It's the worst. The good news is that this new mascara makes my lashes appear looooong. Longer than they ever have before with any other mascara. That's more than 25 years' worth of mascara-wearing experience, people. At this time of year, you may not be able to control the way your cozy hat squashes your 'do or the fact that the chilly wind is drying out your hair and skin, but you can always brighten your eyes. It's a nice little autumn pick-me-up--for under ten dollars. Oh--and if you're worried about the whole "fiber" thing and if it will be hard to take off, don't be. It goes on like regular mascara, and washes off easily with soap and water. Try it.




image courtesy oldnavy.com

Old Navy Rock Star Super Skinny Jeans. It's autumn, ladies, and that means boot weather. What better to wear with a great pair of fall boots than the perfect skinnies to tuck into them? This is where the Rock Stars come in.

These pants are old news, I know. They have a giant cult following and have been all the rage for about a year (I ordered my first pair during the after-Christmas sales last year). But I am a superfan so I cannot stop talking about them. I know I used to go on and on about the Land's End Audrey UltraFit SlimLegs, which I still love, but these skinny jeans are my new obsession. I have two pair, and the "Campfire" color especially--the perfect denim color, in my opinion, and super soft--is so awesome that I pretty much wear these every day. OK, not quite every, but if I could get away with it I would. I love them. So. Much.

Why are they so great? Well, due to some magical powers that I cannot explain, these jeans, although they are super skinny and trendy, are crazily flattering to a bevy of body types. I mean, no, I don't look anything like the model in the picture up there, but the Rock Stars still look cute on me--or at least I think they do! (And what else matters?) I can only speak for the denim versions, but the Rock Stars are incredibly soft, super-stretchy, and unbelievably comfortable. Even though my waist is ten inches smaller than my hips, they are the first jeans EVER that don't gap at the waist, slip down, or give me a muffin top. These jeans move with you, and let you bend down to lift babies, run around after toddlers, and climb jungle gyms and bleachers, all without losing your jeans or flashing anyone your underthings.

I will warn you, though, that the sizing is CRAZY. I normally wear a size 2 or 4 Petite/Short, and in these pants I take an 8 Regular. It took a few tries for me to figure that out, but once I did, I was able to order my second pair with no sizing problems.

These pants go on sale all the time, and it's not hard to get a good deal. Heck, even full-price, can you really beat a fab pair of skinnies for under $35?






Minnetonka Thunderbird II moccasins. By now you all know the story of how I became the lucky recipient of these mocs. And if not, you can read it here. They're adorable, super-comfy, classic, casual yet stylish, and they go with almost everything. And what mom doesn't need a comfortable, easy-to-run-around-in shoe?

That's enough for now, lovies. Enjoy. Whether you actually try any of these must-haves, or you simply browse them and window-shop (so to speak), I hope this list gave you something fun to think about today--something completely unrelated to autumn cold viruses.

Be well!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tenth Day of Thankfulness

Today I am thankful that I got to see my cousin today for the first time in years, and meet both her husband and their 11-month-old baby. It was great to sit and have coffee and eat muffins with them on a lazy Saturday morning while we caught up with each other and chatted about parenting, jobs, running, and sleep deprivation, while my daughters entertained the baby.

*****

And unrelatedly, Shari and Michelle, don't forget to claim your prizes! You were the winners of my book giveaway. E-mail me ASAP and I'll get those books out to you. If I don't hear from you within a week, I'll randomly pick two other winners from the comments.

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Friday, November 09, 2012

A Month of Thanksgiving

And cookies. Cookies are good, too. (This photo is turned wrong-side up and I don't know why.)

 Some of my friends on Facebook are doing this thing where for the month of November, they consciously and publicly state something they are thankful for each day. The point is to remind yourself of your blessings, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.

I love this idea, but I'm nine days behind. And I can't promise I'll remember to do it every day. But I think I'll try, and I'll do it here. Because doing it here is a good way to (hopefully) remember it--this month of gratitude.

So I guess I'd better catch up. For the first nine days of November, nine things I am thankful for:

1. I am thankful that I can help another mama in need, through Holiday Hands.

2. I am so, so thankful for my daughters, who truly make every day worth living and have changed my life for the better a million times over in ways I cannot even articulate but which every parent understands.

3. I am thankful to have a partner for this parenting and life journey. It's a hard road and parenting is, for me, a two-person job.

4. I am thankful both my parents are alive. In the past few months two friends my age have lost their mothers to cancer, and another friend has lost his dad. I have watched them grieve and my heart aches for them.

5. I am thankful for a strong, healthy body that will never be model-perfect but that serves me well in the ways that matter: it gave me babies, it runs, it sees and hears, it carries groceries and lifts children, it does what it's supposed to do. Or at least what it's supposed to do most of the time.

6. I am thankful to my core for my beloved, cherished, could-not-live-without-them gang of friends, the ones near and far who make each day better; share my parenting journey and let me share theirs; love my kids and let me love theirs; understand what makes me laugh, cry, feel better when I'm sick, and get through the week; let me complain when I'm cranky and humor me when I tell an overly long story; and love me for being me.

7. I am thankful for running, and for the wooded and prairie trails on which I run--all of which feeds my soul and fills me up like medicine.

8. I am thankful for central air, heat, running water, electricity, hot water heaters, washers and dryers, refrigerators, toilets, stoves, and television. Wait, is that 11 days' worth of things?

9. I am so incredibly thankful that last night and the night before, I got to sleep snuggled up in my big bed with my two little girls, because there is no greater bliss on this planet, and no greater love.

Ahhh. Being thankful is awesome. Night-night.
xoxo

Giveaway Winners!!!

 Hello friends! Happy Friday to you! I'm happy to tell you that the two winners of my book giveaway, selected randomly, are:

Shari, who said, "Isn't it lovely to receive a surprise? Last year a customer of my husbands sent the kids a holiday themed fruit arrangement and my husband and I a bottle of wine. It was so kind and unexpected that I bawled after the delivery guy left :D"

and

Michelle Pickett, who said, "Hi there! First off I love those moccasins! I have a purple pair and I live in them during this season. Also I would totally love to win a copy of your book! I have a 4 yr old and only the past yr I met my fiancé and he has made it possible for me to be a stay at home mama. Thanks for the awesome giveaway! Take care" 

Shari and Michelle, please e-mail me at shannon@tassava.com to give me your mailing addresses so I can ship you each out a copy of my book. Thank you so much for entering, everyone! Such kind comments you all left. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to do another giveaway in the future.

Love you guys! 

You Can Be a Part of the Love Revolution Too.


So, as you know, recently a fellow mama-warrior sent me a wonderful, unbidden, heart-happy surprise. 

(Which reminds me, yes, I am drawing names today to win a copy of my book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual. Check back later today!) 

The best part about the surprise was the Love Revolution-aspect of it: the part where I promise to surprise another fellow mama sometime when I'm able, with an unbidden gift.

I've been brainstorming what I'll give, and who I'll give it to, when I go on my runs these days. Sometimes I catch myself smiling as I run through the woods, thinking and planning how to carry on the movement.

I don't think it's a coincidence, in the universe, that yesterday Glennon over at Momastery launched her 2nd annual Monkee Holiday Hands project. You can--and I urge you to--read all about it over there, including detailed directions for how to participate at any level, but as a quick explanation I'll just say that it's an ingenious way to give to others, families in need of food or Christmas gifts or winter coats for their kids or diapers or what have you, this holiday season. Momastery does it now, though, before the holidays begin, so you can participate and then be done and ready to do all the other things you need to do in your own life for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The needs are both large and small. And heck, maybe you have a need; you can post one if you want to. If you're in the position to give--whether a dollar or a hundred dollars; a tiny gift or a huge one--there are pages of listings to browse, so you can find the request that fits you best.

For example, I just responded to a request from a mom in Michigan who doesn't have enough extra grocery money this year to do any holiday baking for her kids. She's asking for someone to send homemade holiday goodies to her family.


You guys. Have you ever heard of a need better suited to me? I get to indulge in one of my favorite activities--baking--and send it to someone else. And although my family doesn't have much extra this year, and wouldn't be able to buy someone else, say, a bevy of Christmas gifts for their kids or a crib for their baby, I will be baking for sure; and we can spare some of those treats for a family who needs them this year.
 

(I need tips though, you all, about sending treats through the mail. I know nothing about this. Help!)

My daughters will love to help with this, too. They love to make holiday cookies and goodies, and the idea of making some for other children somewhere who wouldn't have them otherwise? That will thrill their little hearts.

Holiday Hands requests are not surprises, technically. So I am still plotting my Warrior-Mama-Love-Revolution gift idea. It will come in time, probably in the new year, when my husband re-starts his extra, part-time job so we have enough money to pay our bills again. But for now my heart is full with the love from the surprise from my mama friend, and with the knowledge that my girls and I can help someone else this holiday season.

Please consider doing the same, if you are able.

xoxoxo

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Nighty-Night

Sleeping, six years ago. Was Oscar trying to send me a message??

I let my girls sleep in "the big bed" with me last night. Christopher is traveling for work and our bed is a king. Awhile back when they found out he was going, Genevieve was sad, so I promised her this treat to make her feel better. But because I wasn't sure how it would go, I said only one night. Just for fun. A one-time novelty.

When I told my friend Angel on Sunday that I was letting them do this, she shook her head at me and said, "Yeah, you're not gonna get any sleep at all." And I shook my head back and said, "No, I'm really not." But it actually went a lot better than I expected. I tucked them in at their normal bedtime of 7:30, with a little horse nightlight set up on the dresser making the room way too bright for my taste. They went immediately to sleep without a sound.

When I came to bed not all that much later (I'm sick), they were spread out over the whole bed. Of course. HOW can two small children take up most of a king-sized bed? I needed to sleep on the far left side because my alarm clock is there, and I needed to be able to silence that thing as fast as possible at five a.m. But Julia was all the way over on my pillow, totally ignoring the pillow of her own that she'd brought into the bed an hour before. I kept whispering to her to move over; but she was so sound asleep that she paid me no attention whatsoever. I actually sort of lifted her head and moved it over; but then she rolled right back down off her pillow into the valley of my spot before I could even get in. This happened three or four times. By then I was laughing but still, they slept like logs.

At some point Julia talked in her sleep at me, something about chicken. I laughed again. Genevieve slept through all of this.

Eventually I got Julia shoved over far enough that I could squeeze into the bed. I think I slept the whole night on about six inches of mattress. There was this vast swath of bed somewhere off in the ocean by Genevieve, but I couldn't reach it. It was covered in stuffed animals and blankies and Pillow Pets anyway. The horse lamp bathed the entire room in a yellow glow.

But I loved every minute. I never once woke up worried over random night sounds like I normally do when Christopher is away. I never squinted nearsightedly at the doorway, wondering if an intruder was coming up the stairs. (This is what my brain does at night when I'm alone. So fun.) There was something about having all my people there in the bed with me that made my heart full and my brain still. I was cuddled into a cozy cave with my bear-cub littles, and I slept the calm, unworried sleep of a mama with all her babies at arm's reach.

Even if they hogged every inch of space.

I'm going to ask them if they want to do it again tonight.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Post-Election

I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. (CST) last night because I am sick with a cold, and it just about killed me to do it. I would have so loved to have stayed up camped out on the sofa, stress-nibbling Halloween candy and watching the results come in from each battleground state. Most of all, I would have loved to have seen and heard the moment of realization, and President Obama's acceptance speech. Four years ago I stayed awake until the very end, and the moment when NBC's Brian Williams paused for a suspenseful and almost crackling second and then said something like, "There will be small children in the White House again for the first time in many years..." was one of the most exciting moments of my life. Truly.

2008. Yes I used my toddlers to celebrate my personal political agenda.

I don't talk politics here very often, because this is not the place. I really believe that our commonalities as mamas, as parents, as families, transcend our differences of opinion about government, and if you're a friend with a different opinion than mine I want it to always be clear that I still respect and enjoy you. It's OK for us to disagree. We are all still important and worthy of respect, and it's wonderful to live in a country where we can all have our say. And I teach my children that as well.

I will say today that it is a profound relief to me, as a parent, to have a President with young children, a President who is a dad to children not yet grown--a parent like me. If nothing else (though there is plenty else), at the end of the day I know that he wants a healthy, happy, fair, kind, safe, and thriving country for his daughters--I can tell this; anyone can tell this by watching any footage whatsoever of him interacting with his children--and mine will benefit from that, too. No, he's not perfect. Yes, he's made mistakes. That's because he's human, and he has the hardest job on the planet, and his Republican colleagues refused time and time again to compromise even the smallest bit on anything. But a clear reading of a list of his accomplishments is impressive, and rivals many historically beloved and respected other Presidents. So I'm good with that.

Oops, I'm talking politics. Moving on!

Actually, no. I'll save everything else for another day. This day is big, and full, enough--no matter your political persuasion.

Love you! All of you.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Happy Election Day!



The voters in our family have voted! What about yours?

Get Out the Vote!

Hello, dear friends. Just a reminder that, no matter your political persuasion, please get out there and vote today! So many people for so long did not have the right to have a say in our government; it is truly a blessing to be able to fill out that ballot, whether the people you want to win actually win or not. Don't forget!

And while you're at it, be sure to go and comment to win a copy of my book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos. I am giving away two copies to two different randomly selected commenters on Friday, and as of right now, there are so few comments you will probably win. Then you can decide if you want to keep it for yourself or give it to someone else. You could even donate it to your local public library if you don't have a mom in mind to give it to! Wouldn't that be fun? Go on....do it.

By the way, I've been attacked by yet another autumn virus. Seems that two days of health was too much for the germs around me, and now I've got a screaming-sore throat, earaches, and all the rest, so....you might not hear much from me until the giveaway at the end of the week. We'll see.

I miss you. Vote, comment, and stay well!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Happy Happy Day (+ a Giveaway!)

[Edited to add: I should have made it more clear that I will be picking TWO readers for the giveaway at the bottom of this post. Each will win one book. OK? Sorry if that wasn't clear!]

What a wonderful week I have had (aside from the pinkeye, that is). I just got back from an awesome book reading/speaking engagement at one of my town's mothers' groups. What a fun group of moms! Loved it. I had great fun reading from my book and talking about easy kids' activities and my ABC Summer project. So that was great. But there's more.  You'll never guess what happened to me this week. So I will tell you. First, some back-story.

So, I have this blogger friend, Tricia. She is a talented, hip, kind, fun mama with great style and and irrepressible spirit, whom I've never met in person but who I love anyway. She's so much more than a blogger, but she writes this great blog called Mommy*s Missing Pieces, and I urge you to check it out because it's full of stories, reflections, and musings on life as an always-learning, always-seeking mama (and much more). She never fails to make me smile, laugh, sometimes cry, and think.

She might not want me to tell you this story, because she's humble and low-key like that. But I'm too happy and excited to keep it to my loudmouth self.

So anyway. A few days ago, Tricia posted a photo on Facebook of her brand-new, verrrrry pretty, wine-colored, suede Minnetonka moccasins. This was fun, because lately I've been seeing Minnetonka mocs everywhere--in the J. Crew catalog, on fashion blogs, in magazines, etc.; they must be newly trendy (again). (Actually Minnetonka moccasins have been around for a very long time, and were all the rage among my peers when I was in elementary and middle school; I live in Minnesota and we are all very familiar with the company in this state. In fact, for a brief period, I lived in the actual town of Minnetonka.)

So, I've been coveting Minnetonka moccasins lately. Every time I saw them somewhere, I thought--oooh, if only. I love those. I want a pair someday. But I definitely cannot afford to buy myself a pair right now! Maybe Santa will bring me a pair. Drool. Love. Covet.

And naturally, then, when I saw Tricia's Facebook photo I commented, oohing and aahing and drooling over the oh-so-pretty wine color. I even looked them up on Zappos and checked out the styling, sizing, and reviews. Tricia and I chatted about them a little, especially about the fact that they seemed to run big, and she asked me what size shoe I wear and what color I liked. I told her and went about my usual activities, which included volunteering at both my daughters' school Halloween parties until I thought my head might explode from the noise and chaos.

Then I came home from the Halloween parties with a big old headache, and saw a Zappos box on my doorstep. What the...?!

Inside was a note. It said, "Please accept this surprise from one warrior mom to another! In the spirit of our blogs and our fave blogs, please pass on a surprise to another when you are on your financial feet again." And it was signed by Tricia.

And inside the inner box was a pair of gorgeous, wine-colored, suede Minnetonka moccasins in my size.

 They look brown in these photos, but in real life they're a deep, gorgeous wine color.

How cute are these?!

 OMG, you all!

I think my headache disappeared instantly. I may have teared up a little bit. Because, why? Why would this lovely friend from far away whom I've never met in person perform this generous gesture for me? How do I deserve this generous fellow-mama friend?

Then I realized. The best part of the surprise gift is the promise that I will, in turn, do the same for another mama. Maybe not with moccasins, but with something. Something special, something full of thought and care. Because moms need to stick together; we need to support each other and show love and care whenever we are able. Not just with material gifts--although, holla! those are great!--but with the sentiments behind them.

And I cannot WAIT to be able to pass on this wonderful, fun surprise. I'm already trying to brainstorm the who, what, and when.

So. This is not the mama-surprise I will be paying forward as inspired by Tricia, but for awhile now I have been meaning to do a giveaway of some copies of my book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos. I have some copies for such purposes, and it would make me so happy to put them in the hands of some other moms out there.

As I'm sure I've said a million times here, but in case you are new here and do not know, my book is part motherhood memoir/blog excerpts, part self-help guide to happier, healthier at-home motherhood. It's an all-in-one survival guide for making at-home motherhood easier and more fun, including everything from personal anecdotes to make you laugh (from me as a mom) and some of the most popular posts from Mama in Wonderland, to expert clinical advice (from me as a psychologist) about things like mood and stress management, to practical info like how to keep small kids entertained, how to keep your house clean in the most efficient and easy way possible, and even a step-by-step action plan for improving your eating habits, sleep, fitness, and relationships.

Sound good?

If so, leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a copy of my book. I have two copies to give away, which means your odds are excellent! I will randomly pick two commenters one week from today, on Friday, November 9th. Check back then, and if you win, I'll talk to you via e-mail about where to ship.