Monday, September 29, 2008
Thanks so much, everybody! That's a great turn-out.
Now, without further ado...the Winner is...
Janet, from Grammy Janet's Place!
Janet, you have three days to respond to our email with your shipping address so that we can get that prize right out to you! We'll have more giveaways coming up, everybody, so stay tuned to Cool Moms Rule!
Why have I been stressed, you ask? For two reasons.
First, the kids have been sick, and the Engineer was out of town for 12 days (!). We were supposed to join him for the last two for a family outing but, again, the kids were sick with this awful head/stomach flu combination, so I stayed home and he went by himself.
And the second reason is, that in addition to the very normal Ugh-I-have-cabin-fever-and-now-my-throat-is-hurting-too-stress, this school year, only half-way through the first nine weeks, is already utterly bizarre.
Like every year, my boys have some fantastic teachers. They also have some what-in-the-world-are-they-thinking teachers, the kind who give strange assignments or organize their classrooms in a weird way but are basically just fine.
And then there are these: the seriously disorganized, couldn't-challenge-my-kids-to-a-game-of-checkers-so-what-makes-them-think-they-can-teach-them educators who just blow my mind.
I know I can vent to all of you about this, because you know I am not anti-teacher. I used to teach, for heaven's sake! I've never home-schooled the kids, I'm all about making public education the best it can be, I try to instill in my kids this great attitude about learning, etc.
But I am seriously questioning the qualifications of these teachers.
Here's just one example: The rhino had to write a business letter (for, of all things, his SCIENCE class, what's up with that?!), and the teacher gave them, as a sample, a business letter that she typed up, to show them how it should be done.
Fine, that makes sense. Here's the problem: it was FULL of errors. She had spaces both BEFORE and after the periods and commas, there were misspellings and grammatical errors--it was just awful. And this was her example of how to do it right!
This same teacher also requires them to wear safety goggles and aprons in the science lab at all times. Now, I thought this was an understandable, common-sense safety issue, until the Rhino explained to me that the safety goggles fog up so badly the kids can't read the graduated cylinders, and as they are required to give exact measurements, he is feeling very frustrated. And the thing is, they have a way to clean the goggles that would keep them from fogging up, which we know because another teacher does it, but she doesn't like to clean them. I have no idea why. Plus, they have to wear the safety goggles even when they are doing labs without any chemicals whatsoever, including the lab with magnets and measurements they just did. That does sound over-the-top, doesn't it? It's not just me, right?
And then there is the teacher that LOSES the Owl's assignments, and then MAKES UP grades for him. No, I'm not kidding. He had a hundred plus some extra credit on one assignment, and she was apparently entering grades into her system when the power went off or something and she lost some grades she had entered. Okay, that wasn't her fault--but when she put in a 70% for the paper because she couldn't remember what she had given him, that went beyond my limit.
And there is yet another teacher who, although very organized and, I think, one that could teach the Owl a lot this year, grades so subjectively it's just confusing. She will take off 1/3rd credit for, say, not writing in a complete sentence, and then the next question she will take off 1/4th for the same thing, or 2/3rds. And she messes up, too, taking off credit when the answer IS in a complete sentence (that's a personal peeve of mine, so I make sure the boys are diligent about it). And then she denies that she did this, when the mark-down is right there, with the reason in the margin, and it's obviously wrong.
Okay. I have to stop even writing about all this, because it is getting me stressed and frustrated again. I was seriously thinking that if these teachers are all qualified to teach, maybe I should go back to teaching junior and senior high school like I used to, because I may be crazy but at least I would be consistent.
So, I go out to lunch today to treat myself and reduce some of that stress (remember? That's how this whole post started!) at Panda Express, the new fast-food Chinese restaurant. And they give me a fortune cookie, which is a nice low-calorie dessert, so I can eat it even with my diet.
And when I open up my fortune, you know what it said? This:
"YOU COULD PROSPER IN THE FIELD OF HIGHER EDUCATION."
Friday, September 26, 2008
Two years ago, I joined a community known as Maya's Mom. It was my very first experience with a site devoted entirely to Moms, at a time when I had just begun blogging. As I had only just wet my feet in the "Mommy blogging" genre, Maya's Mom seemed like the perfect place to start--the profile avatars even consisted, literally, of pictures of feet! Mine were, as a recall, cute sandal-clad hippy Mom feet with painted toenails back then.
I met Anne, the founder of Maya's Mom, in Chicago at a BlogHer convention in 2007. I told her how much I liked the way the community--and it really felt like a community--was set up, the intuitive interface that let Moms find and connect with other Moms easily to ask questions, get info, share their own tips, even import personal blogs. I remember at the time her passion and enthusiasm were contagious. I liked how real and down-to-earth she was, just another Mom like me, who happened to have a big idea and the courage to run with it. It helped to inspire me to work on my own site, make it into something bigger.
As the Maya's Mom community grew, I learned and grew right along with it. My little Mommy blog was no longer this personal journal I kept for myself. Instead, I developed a loyal following. I became known in the "Mommy Blogger" world; people recognized my name. Bloggers I read and respected wrote to me and told me they enjoyed this post or that of mine. It was an exhilirating feeling, being accepted by my peers in that way.
And a lot of that exposure, that recognition, came about as a direct result of the time I spent on Maya's Mom, meeting other Moms and forging friendships with them. In those early days, I was a frequent participator, logging in every day and sometimes several times a day, actively commenting in so many of the threads that I'm sure some of the members got sick and tired of seeing my name. I joined groups, doling out what passed for advice to the best of my ability and often deferring to the wisdom of the community when I needed help with my own life's problems. I celebrated my friend's children's birthdays with them, and congratulated them on their anniversaries and special occasions. I commiserated when they went through tough times. And they did the same for me.
It's sad to know that, with the passing of Maya's Mom, which will be completely defunct in just a few days, those times are gone now. I haven't yet made that same connection at babycenter, the community that has risen to fill in the void that Maya's Mom leaves behind. I miss the women I knew and who befriended me when I was learning the ropes, first as an online Mom right along with them, and then as a blogger whose site took off with their help and encouragement. Many of them have moved on now.
But I'm looking forward to re-connecting with those parents (Dads too!) who have chosen to stay here at babycenter, just as I look forward to forging new bonds as babycenter grows and flourishes. I know that Anne did what she had to do, what was right for her, and I know that the people behind babycenter are good people, people who recognized the value of the community Maya's Mom had established, and incorporated it into their own vision. I'm glad, because that community helped me to grow, and I want it to continue to help others.
My kids are no longer babies--they are big kids now, almost young men--but they'll still always be my babies. And that's why I've chosen to stay. New Moms need help and support, and maybe I can offer that. And, as for the rest of us who have been parents for years, well, we still question ourselves sometimes. We still need each other.
So, as I bid au revoir to Maya's Mom, I also welcome the new babycenter community with hope and optimism for the future.
And I invite you all to join me. Take the time to visit the site, check out the community, and get in on the "ground floor," so to speak. Know that you belong, that you are welcomed with open arms by parents just like you. I'll be looking out for you.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It's time for a giveaway! Why? Honestly? Because I have reviews to write and I've been procrastinating! ;)
I've actually been planning this giveaway for a while, though, and Mondays are great days for a pick-me-up, don't you think? So, here's our fantastic prize (ready with those mouse ears?):
Disney DVD Bingo Set!
Your kids will love this game, and you can play right along with them! Designed for the whole family, this video spin on the classic Bingo game lets you play with Disney-themed bingo cards, featuring your favorite characters: Mickey and Minnie, Aladdin and Jasmine, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel--they're all here!
The Disney DVD Bingo set comes complete with the DVD, bingo cards and 'markers', and it retails for 24.99 (when you can find it-- if you checked for it online right now you'd find that it's sold out at Barnes and Noble). But we've got it here and we're giving it away at Cool Moms Rule!
Here's all you have to do to win:
1. For one entry into the giveaway, just tell me who your family's favorite Disney character is, and why.
Optional additional chances at the giveaway:
2. Got a blog? Post about this giveaway and come back here with the link.
3. Put my badge on your site!
3. Tweet about this contest on Twitter! Let me know about it, and that's another entry, too!
No matter how you choose to enter, please make sure you include an email address in your entry because I have lost all my psychic abilities, okay? ; )
Good luck, everyone!
P.S. A little bird told me (okay, it was in your comments) that I forgot to put the deadline for the contest here in the post! It should be in the Prizey listing, but here it is: Sunday, September 28, Midnight EST the fat lady is singing, people! ; )
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Does this sound familiar?
One day, a young boy named Xavier Roberts discovered a magic cabbage patch. As Bunnybees® sprinkled cabbages with magic crystals, all sorts of different kids and babies appeared!
Xavier fell in love with them and built Babyland General® where they live and play until someone takes them home to care for and love.
Long before Al Gore discovered the internet ; ), we girls discovered the CP Kids, little button-nosed babies that you could adopt as your very own, who came with their own personalized birth certificate and adoption papers, each one unique and collectible. So popular were these dolls that folks would stand in line just to adopt one.
Believe it or not, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Cabbage Patch Kids®, and limited editions of the dolls are being re-introduced to celebrate, along with an updated website full of fun games and activities for your little girl (or boy! Our youngest son had lots of dolls, I mean *action figures* when he was a toddler).
I had the privilege of adopting a Cabbage Patch Kid® as part of their 25th anniversary celebration. You can check her out in the pic I've included with the post. She even sat out in the sun by the pool! :)
Because the 25th anniversary is, as we all know, the silver anniversary, she came with a cute "silver spoon" in addition to her adoption certificate. See how she looks like she is ready to just give you a big hug?
You or your child can upload a picture of your own Cabbage Patch Kid® on the new website, or play games like the concentration-style Matchy Match, racing Stroller Derby or Nurse-A-Thon (where the object is to try to get all the babies to sleep at the same time!).
In addition, at the Cabbage Patch Kids® website, your child can watch videos or take part in virtual activities like dress-up, coloring in the virtual coloring books, or putting together puzzles. She can even make up and print invitations to her own slumber, beach, going-away or
pool party! Or she can have fun making a birthday invitation on her CP Kid's birthday, and asking all her friends to come with their own Cabbage Patch Kids®!
If you are younger than 25, all of us Tough Old Moms are going to lynch you out in the parking lot later. Seriously. We work out. We could take you.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
That's been my reasoning until recently, and since I do a lot of product reviews, it makes sense for me not to be pointing out all the negatives in my life. And the thing is, I really do have a great life. I have a family who loves me, a nice home, the whole deal. I don't have any reason to be depressed.
And you know what? I had all of those things--the family, the home, the support--when I was a young adult, too.
I had my whole future ahead of me.
And I was suicidal.
I went to college for fours years, got my degree, graduated with honors, took on my first teaching role in an inner-city school (BIG mistake) with a vocational curriculum, for kids who just couldn't cut it in academics. I was their English teacher, because no matter what role life has planned for you, you are going to need to be able to read and write. And believe me, that was about the extent of what I was expected to get through to these kids: just read and write, capitalize and puncuate correctly and you are good to go.
And I couldn't do it.
I tried. Lord knows, I really tried. I wanted to save each and every one of these kids from their own failures and their oppressive family lives, wanted to pick them up out of their homes, where many of them didn't have a single book, not even a dictionary for heaven's sake, and help them make successes of themselves, if even on a very modest scale.
But the stress of it all--of being a new teacher in a school with no mentor (I had been assigned another teacher to mentor me, but she had no experience with mentoring, did not even have the same "free" period as I did, confided in me that she went home and "cried most nights"), not even a classroom (I had to roll a cart around with all my stuff, including the kids' textbooks, on it, from room to room, changing each period), and "kids" that were bigger and tougher than I, and far more worldly--the stress of all that got to me, in a big way.
I have no doubt that some of the teens I taught at that high school defied the odds and went on to become successful, contributing adults.
Me? I ran away.
There's no other word for it. I quit my job and I just...withdrew. I disappeared into myself. In my mind, I had taken my seat at the grown-ups table and I had failed, and now there was no place for me anywhere.
Never mind that my family and my soon-to-be husband supported me and said that I could do something else, that I had my whole life in front of me, blah blah blah.
I felt that I had let everyone down, and that I couldn't make it in the real world, and that I would be a burden to everyone else, always.
I was 22.
So, I decided, in what I felt in my very messed-up state was perfect reasoning, that I needed to die. That it was my responsibility, even, to kill myself, so I wouldn't be a burden to anyone any more. I remember this quite clearly, that it seemed to me the only solution.
And yet, here I am.
How? I got help. Mostly because my family forced it on me, but also because deep down inside I was scared. I didn't want to die, I just honestly thought it was the only "solution". Believe it or not, that little speck of rational thinking--not really wanting to die--bothered me quite a bit. In my mind, not only was I a total failure at Life, but I was too much of a chicken to do everyone else a favor and kill myself.
Yes, that's really how messed up I was. And I'm not the only one who's ever felt like that, who felt they had to give up on life because they just couldn't cope, for whatever reason. Who can't see the forest for the trees, can't recognize that suicide isn't only not the answer but it isn't even an option.
Every life is connected. That's what I learned. Everything I do, touches someone else. Good or bad. Yes, this hadn't worked for me. But if I died, my parents would suffer. My sisters, my boyfriend. I knew that, but after a while it came to mean more to me than my rationale that my life was more of a burden than my death would be. I realized that I hadn't been thinking clearly at all, that all my thoughts were caught up in this deep heavy cloud of depression that hung over me.
Mostly, it took time to come back. And that's important, just knowing that time passes, and you heal inside. Your mind starts to work again, actually starts making reasonable, rational judgments.
Another thing I learned? That everybody fails. Everybody, at some time in their life. Failure IS living, when you get right down to it. You do something, it doesn't work out, and so you do something else and in that way you discover who you are. You find your passion. Writing, for instance, is mine.
And that's how I eventually came to be where I am right now, telling you my story. And asking you, if you know someone who is depressed, someone who might even be contemplating suicide right now, to reach out and help that person.
Asking you, if you are that person, to understand that even if you can't see any other way out, there IS one. And that there are people who can help you find a solution, maybe give you a whole range of options, if you just let yourself accept their help.
That's all it takes.
Why go into all this now?
Because this week, September 7 until September 13, is National Suicide Prevention Week.
It shouldn't be a week, you know that? We should be on top of this every single frickin' day. We should all know the warning signs, and what to do if a family or friend or loved one is suicidal. Because in the US alone, one person commits suicide every sixteen minutes.
That's a national tragedy, people. Every year, more people in the US die from suicide than homicide. And more than half of them use a gun--in fact, guns stored in the house are used for suicide forty times more often than for self-protection. And over a whopping 90 percent of suicide victims have (maybe undiagnosed and untreated) a significant psychiatric illness, yet another reason we need better health care in this country. This is not a small-scale problem. And it is not something that's going to just go away.
Okay, so what can you do?
First of all, know this number: 1 800 273-TALK (8255). It's toll-free, and you, or anyone in need of help, can call it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it's staffed by friendly, helpful, understanding people who will listen as long as you want to talk. Many of them have been there, have attempted suicide themselves before in the past, and they got past it.
Secondly, know the warning signs. Know someone who's anxious, not sleeping or eating, or maybe sleeping all the time? Restless, agitated, feeling trapped? Maybe acting recklessly or drinking too much? Pulling away from their friends, isolating themselves, having angry outbursts? Has someone you know given up on activities, sports, things they used to enjoy, or confided in you that they are feeling hopeless or like there's just no point, no purpose in life? These are all warning signs.
And finally, take action! Obviously, anyone mentioning suicidal thoughts or exhibiting several warning signs needs to be taken seriously. Err on the side of caution. You don't want to
jump on them, but offer them an ear, and maybe pass them that number I just gave you. Encourage them to talk. Don't say things like,"Hey, it's no big deal," or, "Everything's all right." Don't bejudgmental. Don't lecture about how life is a gift, blah blah. Don't dare the person to go ahead and do it (!). Don't act shocked. Don't keep it secret, even if they ask you to. That last one is hard, but you have to be stronger than they are and do the right thing, because maybe they just aren't able to do it for themselves. And sometimes that means telling someone who knows what to say to them to get them to seek help.
What DO you say, anyway? A lot of, "I'm here, and I'm listening, and I feel for you." Offer hope and real alternatives for help, not platitudes. Make absolutely certain this person is not left alone with the means to harm him/herself. If you don't know what else to do, ask others for help. You'd be surprised how many people have been there, and sought help themselves. Seek out your local suicide prevention hotline or crisis center.
Remember that phone number? Good. Here's another place to get help: suicide.org.
And there's also:
Please consider printing up this blog post, at least the information on how you can help someone, and keeping it close. You could really mean the difference between life and death for someone, not just this week but at any time.
Monday, September 8, 2008
For those of you who don't want to watch the video, but want their news quick and dirty, just scroll on down...
Our Winner is:
AMY C of OHIO!
Congratulations to Amy! We'll be shipping the prize package out to you soon!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
When the owl was born, we were given a voucher from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, redeemable at any time, for free admission for our son to the circus. This is something they still do today when a baby is born, and I think it is a fantastic tradition. I remember thinking at the time, "What a lovely idea!"
Because it is really for children that circuses exist. The circus has its own special kind of magic; it's like an entirely different world where everyone has unique and amazing abilities. It's no wonder kids used to dream of, "Running away and joining the circus." They see people swinging from trapezes and balancing on high wires and playing with wild animals, and nobody's Mom yells at them. The circus is the perfect world to a child!
But what happens when those children grow up? Does anyone ever really outgrow the circus? Surely not. Who doesn't remember their first visit to the Big Top? The fantastic introductions filled with fanfare, building up the suspense? The crowd and the noise, the lights and the costumes and the incredible feats of daring? I'm not, I have to say, a big fan of circus clowns for very young children, because they can be scary. But still, even they're memorable. When adults think of the circus, they think of the wild animals--elephants!--and the clowns, no question (and, of course, the normally-forbidden tasty treats, popcorn and peanuts and cotton candy!).
The Owl went to his first circus with his grandfathers, both my Dad and the Engineer's father, and it meant a lot to them to take my son, along with his cousins, and spoil him a little, and enjoy the circus again through a child's eyes. It makes for a wonderful family tradition, generations enjoying the circus together, and, let's face it, there aren't many activities grandparents and grand-kids can do together these days. Interests have changed so much since our parents were young, and entertainment these days caters to the youth.
But the circus? The circus is something the whole family can enjoy.
And, with the coupon code below, you can visit the circus with your family, and enjoy the magic and the fun once again, while saving 20% off select ticket prices! Check out the city nearest you for the dates available, and spend the night out with your family at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus!
Indianapolis, IN - Sept. 4-7, 2008 (Today's the last day! Hurry up, Indies!)
Kansas City, MO - Sept. 10-14, 2008
Grand Rapids, MI - Sept. 18-21, 2008
Denver, CO - Oct. 2-13, 2008
Boston, MA – Oct. 8-13, 2008
Cleveland, OH - Oct. 24 - Nov. 2
Chicago, IL - Nov. 6 - 30, 2008
St. Louis, MO - Nov. 6-9, 2008
Auburn Hills, MI - Nov. 12 - 16, 2008
Highland Heights, KY - Feb 27 - Mar. 1, 2009
Cincinnati, OH - Mar. 4 - 8, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
What she found--or didn't find--surprised her: there was a complete void in hair and skin products that were truly chemical-free. Even more alarming, some of the products claiming to be "100% natural" still contained parabens, aluminum and petroleum-based ingredients.
This was the beginning of Ilumina Organics, the premiere organic skincare solution for newborns and the moms who nurture them. The all-natural, toxin-free line of hair, skin, and baby products packaged in bottles free of phthalates and Bisphenoal-A (BPA) have even been known to clear up eczema. Check out the testimonials on their site from Moms like you!
Viv says: I tried out some sample sizes of the Ilumina Organics line, like their honey lip balm, and found them creamy and lush, easily comparable to high-end skin and hair products, and yet completely chemical-free and natural. Best of all, right now, the Baby Wash is available for just 9.99!
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Drum roll, please!
The winner is....Xenia S.! Congratulations, Xenia! I'll be sending you an email for your shipping address so that I can get that tee right out to you. You have 72 hours to reply and claim your prize!
First, here's how this worked, for those that are interested in this sort of thing:
Each donation was given numbers matching how many tickets were bought in the order in which they were donated, as so: Donor #1 donating $10.00 would get SIX raffle tickets (remember, buy five get one free!), So numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 were assigned to his/her name. Donor #2 donated 2.00 and had number 7 assigned to his/her name, etc. The numbers were then fed into the Random Integer Generator.
Remember, the big Prize Package is still up for grabs, and that winner will be chosen randomly by the Cheezits themselves, on video! They've been very good and kept to their promise not to accept bribes of cat toys and kitty treats, especially since they can't read anyway and have no clue what the raffle ticket numbers mean! ;)
So, without further ado, the winners of the books chosen by the Random Integer Generator are:
Numbers 79, 54 and 12! And those winners are Karen A., Jacqueline A., and Deb T.!
Hooray! I'll be getting your books out to you in tomorrow's mail. I will ship them media mail where possible, so please do give them a little while to get to you!
As most of you know, Florida, where the shelter (and Viv!) is located, is in the "possible" path of several storms, as well as having weathered (hah, little meterological joke there) Tropical Storm Fay recently. This means it has been a bit harder to get the word out to the local folks who want to help out, since we've all been busy either recovering or preparing!
So Viv has gone around and posted fliers in the local pet stores, making sure that locally everyone is aware of this awesome fund-raising event for the South Brevard Humane Society.
But because some of the folks have only just learned about the raffle, we really thought it might be too tight a deadline to end it on Monday, as planned. I know, a lot of you are thinking, "Well, doh, we kinda guessed that, since it is Wednesday already!"
But, ANYWAY, after a little soul-searching, Viv has decided to extend the entry date for the raffle until THIS Friday, September 5th, at Midnight EST, so that everyone, regardless of the circumstances in the so-called 'Sunshine' State, has a chance to enter and perhaps win that BIG Prize Package that's up for grabs!
Remember, Midnight EST Friday, the raffle is closed for entries, and we'll be announcing the big winners soon after that!
So please get those donations in on time, and get your raffle tickets NOW! Remember, the fabulous prize package, with over $200 of pet and animal-related products*, is still up for grabs!
Oh, and look for some random giveaways coming up VERY SOON (like, the next post even! LOL) for a few lucky contributors, as a special added extra "Thank You" from Viv and her co-sponsors, Colby and Cheddar of the Cheezits.
* Here's a refresher for those of you who don't want to make the jump and chase the link, of what's in that fabulous prize package!
Delicious (they smell WONDERFUL!), baked organic Dog Treats in assorted flavors from Simon and Huey's!
Fantastic Animal Titles, including: My Buddy Butch; Here, There and Everywhere, the Adventures of Sreeeeeeeet the Lorikeet; This Side of Heaven; Rabbits: Gentle Hearts, Valiant Spirits; and the Happy Hound and Happy Tabby guides.
Bamboo Pet feeding bowls for cats and dogs, leashes and collars and Big Kahuna Chew Toy
A Handmade Dog Bed from Ruby Jane's Retro Fabric and More
Pure Ayre full-size all-natural, organic Pet Odor Eliminator Spray to keep your house smelling fresh and clean
The adorable Puppy Lover's Journal for keeping track of important dates, like vet appointments and play dates (with a cute puppy on every lined page!)
AND Cute kids' titles: Let's Go Visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and A Night Before Dogtown Christmas
Wow! And remember, raffle tickets are only $2 each!
Any Donation Amount (free ad if $50 or greater!)