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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 98: Wait Them Out

Problem: Your child won't wipe herself, or eat, or sleep, or whatever it is she won't do. It's a battle of wills, and you aren't giving up.

Solution: While it's best to avoid battle of wills, I can't always to this. I'm just not patient in that way. I find, when I've made the mistake of taking a stance, it's best to remember that I've got all day, and I've got nothing to lose. I wait them out. Unless we have somewhere to be, or something, when the issue must be forced, I've found that eventually, about three, or 10 or 25 minutes after I think they'll give in, they'll actually give in. Don't respond to the begging or the wailing or the tantrum throwing. Just wait. They know what they're supposed to do, and you don't have to validate their stubborn behavior until they do that simple task. And when they do it, praise the hell out of it. Tell them how big they are and how good, and how proud you are of them. My kids really like praise, and it helps them make the right choice earlier next time. You can even say during one of these stand-offs, "It would make me so happy and proud if you would do this." They like that.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

My author blog won an award, so I got to answer some interesting questions! Check them out if you'd like.

Beach Bum Reads gave me a blog award! Thank you!

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers and Liebster is a German word which means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.

The Rules:
1. Each person must post 10 facts about themselves
2. Answer 10 questions the tagger has given you and give 10 questions for the people you’ve tagged.
3. Choose 10 people and link them in your post.
4. Tell them you’ve tagged them.
5. Remember, no tag backs.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Childproofing Your Home: What You Need to Know

I am lucky enough to have guest blogger Danielle Birch with me today. She gives some great tips on how to childproof your home.


As a parent, every day you face worries about your child. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, you run around after them whilst juggling a million other tasks. This is why it is obviously important to childproof your home. Once you take these preventative actions, it’s one less thing to tick off an ever-growing list of things to do to make sure your child is safe. A great way to make sure you cover all areas is to get down to the level of your child and see what they can see. It will help you spot less obvious areas; keep in mind that children are curious creatures!

Electrical appliances
One of the first areas parents usually look at is plug sockets. This is a given, as children can usually reach these even when they are just crawling so it’s best to get them covered as soon as possible. But there are other electrical appliances that need attention. The wires to your television and any other accessories you have, such as games consoles, need to be hidden away. You’d be amazed at how little it takes for a big television to be pulled down. It’s not just the danger of the objects falling down; the wires themselves pose a hazard. It wouldn’t take long for a curious child to get tangled in the wires, all it takes is a couple of seconds when your back is turned and they could be in serious danger – so all wires must be hidden away.

We all know that safety gates are extremely important, especially when it comes to stair ways. However, as an extra measure, it’s also a good idea to modify your door hinges. As your child starts to toddle around, they love to copy what other people are doing. So when your rushing through doorways, there’s a good chance your little one will follow. Without modifications, there’s every chance the door will slam on your child’s fingers if they can’t keep up. You can get special hinges which make sure the doors close slowly, making it almost impossible for your child to injure their fingers and toes!

When it comes to window blinds, you should check every room in your house to make sure they are safe for children. Blind cords are very hazardous to children, and should be avoided at all costs. Not only are they a choking hazard, but it’s too easy for a child to get caught in those loops. Although you can get hooks to go on your wall to loop the cords round, there are better and safer blinds out there which are a lot less dangerous for your children. Roller blinds are a great option, they don’t have the long loops like vertical blinds do and are great at keeping the light out – essential when we have light evenings and the children can’t get to sleep!

Of course the list could go on when it comes to childproofing, these are just a few of the areas you need to cover. But it’s important not to let it stress you out and not to worry over the slightest scrape your child might get into – accidents will happen. As long as the biggest hazards are sorted, you can relax and know that your whole family can enjoy your home.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Babysitter Blues

My kids used to be clingers. I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't leave them, ever. When my husband and I would go out (about once every three months) we had to have an elaborate ritual, where the babysitter would come and stay while we were home for about and hour. Then my husband and I would put the girls to bed, by ourselves. Then we'd sneak out like teenagers, and hope we didn't wake them up.

Not much babysitting involved, right?

Thankfully, they've outgrown this stage. Well, it's a combination of getting older, and the fact that we have an amazing weekend babysitter, Rachel.

She is just so excellent. She relates to the girls on a childlike level, playing with them endlessly, her imagination never running out. She redirects effortlessly, and can make up solutions that the girls find viable on the spot. (Last time we came home, the girls told me that she put fairies in their room to keep them safe at night. They were all about it.)

It's at the point where they love her. I mean, really. They love Rachel. They've seen her maybe five times in their whole lives. (We don't get out much.)

Which is great, fantastic, really. It's important to me that I leave the girls with someone they'll have fun with and with someone who can take control if necessary. That's the only reason I can go to the gym twice a week. The girl who comes to sit for me in the afternoons when I go is completely competent and the girls like her. Unfortunately for me, both Brittany and Rachel are leaving after this summer. So I have two problems.

The first is: where am I going to find new babysitters? Silly college students, all graduating and stuff.

The second is: my kids are absolute hellions for days after an evening babysitting session. I am so uncool compared to Rachel. They'll tell me all about myself. I've even gotten, "Mama, I love Rachel, not you."

And their attitudes, don't get me started. All of a sudden, I'm faced with two queen bees, insistent that they are the ones in charge. I don't know why. Maybe because Rachel does such a good job making her world all about them when she comes. Maybe because she's so good at redirection (I'm not particularly good at this one, myself), that they feel like they don't need to hear the word no anymore.

All I know is that the past few times we've had a sitter, I've had to deal with the aftermath for days.

And then they ask for her again!

Tantrum, tantrum, tantrum, cry over something stupid, throw a fit, yell at mommy.

"Hey, can Rachel come over again?"

I'm like, "How about no? You've been acting out since the last time she came over."

Tantrum, cry, gripe, yell, ignore mommy.

"We'll be good, we promise."

Hahahaha. No.

My birthday is coming up, and we'll probably go out again. This time, I'll be paying close attention and warn them beforehand. No attitude after that night.

I'm sure that will work.

Like the slingshot against Goliath, right?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If You Die or Come Close to It, Are Your Kids Prepared?

If you die suddenly, do your kids know what to do?

 Mine wouldn't have, and as I saw everything starting to fade, all I could think was, they'll be here with me all day. Who will feed them? Who will explain this to them?

I almost died last week. I almost choked to death. It wasn't the 'haha, you swallowed your water down the wrong pipe kind of choking,' either. Something full-on blocked my trachea.

 Thank God it was toast.

I couldn't breathe, couldn't speak. It's just as it's always described. I managed to get up and walk to the toybox area before falling to the ground. I had expelled all my air at that point, trying to cough it back up before it settled fully in my throat. Perhaps the impact of my chest against the ground dislodged it just a bit, because I was able to think, breathe in. I know you don't want to, and your body is telling you not to, but you must breathe in.

So I tried. I got just the tiniest, most insignificant trickle of air into my lungs, and using that and my hands on my diaphragm, I managed to get it out.

It didn't shoot out, like when someone does the Heimlich on someone else. It just barely moved, and it took a lot more coughing to clear it. For hours, I wasn't sure if the piece had gone up or down, but when I had no aspiration problems, I assumed it must have come up.

But what if it hadn't?

My two three-year-old kids would be left staring at me and trying to get me to respond for hours. Eight hours. Until my husband came home from work. They couldn't get out for help. They can't unlatch the front or back door. Childproofing that's normally for my convenience, now working against me. They couldn't call anyone. I have a smart phone and they have no idea how to use it. Again, a measure for my convenience, that spelled disaster in an emergency.

After this, I taught them how to unlock the phone. I downloaded an application that put a huge 9-1-1 button on the dashboard. Because with the cell phones these days, it's not as simple as dialing 9-1-1, is it? The kids have to get to the phone part, first. This takes that step out of the way.

I might plug in a house phone, too. What if my cell is on a high shelf if this ever happens again? The girls need to be able to get help, if not for me, for them.

I told them to go out to the porch and yell and scream as loud as they could if this happens in the future.

My husband has taken to calling at least once a day to check to make sure we're all still breathing. Literally.

It took me all day to get the feeling back in my legs. My kids now point to the toybox area when one of them talks with food in her mouth.

"Remember," they say, and they point. "Like mommy."

Remember is right. I'm absented-minded. I never consider these things could happen to me. I am wrong. If you haven't taught your kids emergency measures by the time they're my kids' age, you should.

A meeting place for a fire, emergency numbers, how to dial the phone, a neighborhood house to run to. All these things should be in place.

Because you never know.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Recipe Monday: Fruit Cobbler

I think I already posted a cobbler recipe, but this is a different one. I really like cobblers because they're like cakes only not hard.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups of sliced fresh peaches or nectarines, or whole blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or a combination of fruits (or a 12-ounce package of frozen berries)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put butter in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan; set in oven to melt. When butter has melted, remove pan from oven.
  3. Whisk flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Add milk; whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then scatter fruit over batter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tb. of sugar. 
  4. Bake until batter browns and fruit bubbles, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired. 

Author's note: If you let your kids lick the bowl, keep an eye on them. You never know when they'll think it's a great idea to stick their whole heads in.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 97: Keep Calm and Carry On


You can't do anything right. Any answer you give, any move you make, any word you say is grounds for a tantrum. Your kids are completely unreasonable for some reason you can't discern. Whether they can't make a circle on their Magnadoodles, or their stuffed animals aren't speaking correctly, or you were supposed to laugh at something and you missed your cue, it doesn't matter. Your children are steering this insanity boat and you feel yourself drowning in its tow.


Keep calm. Their world is not the real world. Their emphasis is not the real emphasis. Remember, it's not all that important whether they're wearing blue socks or pink socks. It is not a big deal. But when you are surrounded by three year olds, suddenly their hang ups and issues and severe lack of prioritization make perfect sense. We should all yell and carry on over who has more juice in her cup. The girls about that, then about how they hit one another, and you about how they should just be quiet and grateful for once.

It's works much better if you don't let them affect you. Remember, these things are stupid. Sorry, kids, but it's true. Your problems are dumb, and I invalidate them. You have no power over my frame of mind with your "she has the green marker" and your "I can't lift my shoe, it's too heavy."

I have learned to laugh you off. It's the only way we will all survive.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Women, Stop Oppressing Yourselves!

Being a mother isn't a real job -- and the men who run the world know it.

I really like The Atlantic. I feel like it publishes thoughtful, interesting articles on areas that interest me. Which is why when I read Elizabeth Wurtzel's piece "1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible," I cringed. Because she's not just talking about one-percent wives. She's talking about any woman who chooses to stay home. Or doesn't she think I can read?

Wurtzel's point is that feminism is a movement meant to get women into the work force, and that anything else is not only against that aim, it's also stupid.

In the first paragraph, she says, "Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it? The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own."

Okay, so at least we know right off the bat that she's missing "the whole point," since "the whole point" of the feminist movement is to give women the freedom to make their own decisions about their own lives. Some women decided that they were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day, and went to work. Hurray! That's awesome! That doesn't mean that those who chose otherwise are wrong or against feminism.

If Wurtzel's stringent definition of "choice" were to be applied to abortion, this is what it would look like: Who can possibly take pro-choice seriously when it allows for everything, as long as women choose it. The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing out babies with out a room or a salary of their own."

Just like pro-choice doesn't mean every woman who supports it must have abortions, feminism doesn't mean every woman who supports it has to work. It's her choice.

"Let's please be serious grown-ups," she says, "real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

Funny, last time I checked, serious grown ups were able to respect the choices of others without condescension.

Oh, and speaking of condescension, here's a tip: In an article that's purportedly pro-feminism don't ever say this. "Men know better." That's game over, right there. Opinion invalidated, point missed.

 Wurtzel goes on to say, "If you can't pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent."

Again, I must disagree. If this were even remotely true, it would mean that 10 years ago when I was getting black out drunk and partying every night, I was a real adult. And now that I'm responsible for two other human beings, and I'm not ruining my body and making bad decisions, I'm back to being a child.

Being an adult boils down to responsibility, not money.

On top of this, even getting married is considered weakness in Wurtzel's world.

"When it's come up, I have chosen not to get married. Over and over again, I have opted for my integrity and independence over what was easy or obvious. And I am happy. I don't want everyone to live like me, but I do expect educated and able-bodied women to be holding their own in the world of work"

I'll just be over here, staying at home, and wondering how marriage is easy and obvious. I'll also tackle how being single is tied in any way to my integrity or independence. This might take me a week or two. After all, I'm just a feeble-minded wife. And privileged. And apparently living in an awesome city.

"To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met -- none of whom do anything around the house -- live in New York City and Los Angeles, far from Peoria. Only in these major metropolises are there the kinds of jobs in finance and entertainment that allow for a family to live luxe on a single income."

I would like to introduce Ms. Wurtzel Hi, I'm Darlena Cunha. I live in Gainesville, Florida. I am a stay at home mom because the money I would earn for work in my field would not cover the cost of child care for twins. It's nice to meet you.

 And here's where my thoughtful disagreements end. At the risk of weakening this piece, I have one more response. To this statement:

"...being a mother isn't really work. Yes, of course, it's something -- actually, it's something almost every woman at some time does, some brilliantly and some brutishly and most in the boring middle of making okay meals and decent kid conversation. But let's face it: It is not a selective position. A job that anyone can have is not a job, it's a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation) ...Which is to say, something becomes a job when you are paid for it -- and until then, it's just a part of life."

I would like to say, please, go eff yourself. You are the problem, not me. You are the well-educated, highly paid lawyer who just wrote a 1,000-word article shaming women for their choices.

Now, admittedly, on the first definition of job is "a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price." If one keeps reading, though, she'll find this definition is also valid, "anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility."

The definition of work is pretty cut and dry. "Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil."

I'm pretty sure neither education nor money gives someone the right to make up her own definitions of words. Words have meanings. That's why we can use them so effectively.

 In conclusion, this is wrong.

"Feminism should not be inclusive, and like most terms that are meaningful, it should mean something. It should mean equality."

The point of feminism is to be inclusive, and by including all choices and a woman's ability to make her own choice for her own "serious grown up" self, we will achieve equality.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Parents Should Go to the Gym

Do you go to the gym? I didn't used to. After a brief affair with it in college where I went every day, I quit it, to happily never look back. Until now.

I'm not particularly health conscious, and I'm not concerned with my weight, so I didn't really have a goal in mind when I signed up for a membership in January. In fact, I did it for my husband. He'd been complaining about our one-room condo association gym. When I dragged the girls there to get him a membership, I found out they had free childcare for people working out. I was sold.

But I still hated it. I don't like the machines, and I don't like repetitiveness, and the smells, and the crowding, and the looks. Just not a fan. Then a friend of mine introduced me to Body Combat.

And I've never looked back.

It's fun! There's music, and lots of people, and routines. There's rowdy camaraderie and all sorts of people mixed together. It is exactly what I need to get away from myself.

You see, I find my life very boring, and those who say, "hey, you need some time for you, to just be alone, to get out," have good intentions, but, for me, that doesn't work.

The minute I'm away from my kids I'm wondering about them, missing them, worrying over them from afar. I'm just not used to being without them. So my break always ended up being just as bad as if I'd stayed home.

For me, the gym solved that. First we used the childcare. With the girls so close and me being able to go check on them whenever I wanted, the transition was smoothed over for me. But the girls ended up being sick for three months straight. No matter what I did, they always picked up some illness or another. They needed a break.

Now I actually pay for a sitter to come for the hour I go. It's worth it. They stay well, they're getting accustomed to me leaving, and I'm no longer worrying about them.

Here's why: At Body Combat, I don't have time to think about it. I don't have time to chastise myself for being away from them or worry about them. I have to keep punching and kicking to the rhythm, and by the end of the hour, I'm exhausted, yet refreshed.

It's social because I'm with a group of similarly minded people, and yet it's not intimidating because I don't actually have to talk to them. So that this group of strangers and I have gotten to know each other without all that pesky conversation. The regulars see each other every week. We know our different personality types just based on how we react to instruction in class, whether we jump around more or stand more, whether we punch close or far. Honestly, I'd say that if I met one of these women on the street, I'd be able to have a full blown conversation with her because I would know her speaking rhythms and what type of broad personality she has. A dozen friends just waiting to be made, but no one forcing anyone to make them.

The added bonus is that, physically, it actually works. I expected no results at all. I haven't exercised in probably seven years. I can't run a mile without getting an asthma attack, and yet my endurance and strength has increased ten-fold with this class. My body looks better.

I look better and I feel better. It gets me out of my humdrum self. It forces me to just do something without thinking about me or my family for an hour. And they're not kidding about the endorphins. I just feel better afterward. I can't explain it.

If you hate the gym as much as I thought I did, maybe try something similar. Just get out for an hour. A whole hour, no cheating. Grab a coffee, or take a walk, or go on a drive. Take pictures, or go to a library and read. Anything that gets you out of the house and distracted from yourself is a good start.

We have to keep ourselves balanced because no one else can do it for us. And when we feel more whole, it's easier for us to be there for our kids in our full capacity.

The gym. It worked for me.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Live the Present and the Future

Someone said something to me online the other day that was meant as support, but it stuck in my craw. I'd written a piece about being a stay at home mom, and how finally, after a few years of it, I've finally accepted what the role is and what it means to me. And I feel good about it. And I feel successful. You know, the same old drill you get here every gd day. Anyway, she left a long comment, and in it was this:

"I found that I needed and wanted the middle-ground of doing a little of both. My younger sister was happy being a SAH mom, but I realized that she was always more of a "living in the now" person than "living toward a goal" person. THAT probably makes the biggest difference of all."



So, I really like this person, and I don't want to be a jerk, but I am a living toward a goal person. That's the point. That's why, at first, I had a hard time with this staying home thing. Because I felt like I no longer had any aim, and that the aim I once had would disappear on me, and I'd have to start all over.

For shame, me.

I had to learn that first and foremost, getting these kids to grow up healthy and happy is a goal, a worthy and important one. And it's not as selfless as it sounds. My kids' happiness has everything to do with me, and they'll outlast me (God willing), so, really, they're the most futuristic goal I could achieve.

Secondly, SAHMs still have other goals. One of the reasons I have been able to accept myself as I am is that I changed my course, I made revisions, I made new goals, and I'm working toward them. I assume all SAHMs do this to some extent, and whether their goals are to write novels, host an online shop, do photography, or just keep the damn house clean--they're still goals.

Third and related, how does working at a job, in and of itself, make one goal-oriented? Most of the people I know that are forced to do the nine-to-five, whether they're cashiers or executives, are just trading time for money. Yes, there are some that are ambitiously pushing for more (usually for more money in less time), and I thought I would be one of those, but when I look back on my "career" I see that I was fooling myself. The hours I was spending at work were exactly that. Hours spent at work.

In fact, I have more and better goals now than I did when I was working. And better still, I have a plan to get there. Why? Because I have the time to think of a plan. I have the energy (some days) to organize the steps and to do the detail work. Because when I'm not working for someone else's dollar, I am free to work on myself and on my kids.

Now, she's not all wrong. One of the greatest things being a SAHM has taught me is how to live in the now. When I'm at the library, reading books to my kids, I can't be bothered with worrying over who's following me on twitter or what I have to do to increase my author following. I have to be there for them, in the moment. And if I'm not, it ruins the time for them and for me without furthering anything.

So, as a SAHM, I get the benefit of the now and of the future, too.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm damn lucky, and I'm damn thankful. This is a really good life, and while I know it will change, I'm happy to be able to live in the now and still be a goal-oriented person. Being a SAHM has allowed me to do that. Being a stay at home mom has allowed me to grow up.

It's not for everyone. It's not the best thing for everyone. It's not the best for every child or every parent. And to those working, I salute you. I, personally, having done both, think it's harder to be a WOHM. It's different, almost incomparable, but for me, it was harder.

I feel truly blessed that I have been afforded the opportunity to go on this journey, and that I have found what's right for me at this particular time. Goals and time and online comments notwithstanding.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to Get Your Book Reviewed

Once your book is out, you need to spread the word as far and high as you can. You can reach your network, but unless the book goes viral through word of mouth, that network will run dry after a few hundred (or thousand, if you're really popular) mentions. And of those mentions, only a very few people will buy the book at first. It takes time, patience and perserverence to see the book to even moderate success.

One way to boost sales, and to at least remind people that your book exists, is to get reviews. Space them out. This way, when you get a new review, you can post it for your network to read, and they won't be spammed with 30 reviews in a day, then hear nothing about it again. You'll effectively remind your friends without bothering them. Amazon and Goodreads reviews can make or break a new author, so make sure to keep checking for them.

Search out review blogs. When someone who doesn't know you reviews the book, they open you up to their network, adding it to your own. This is so important.

There is a certain protocol when asking another person to take time out of their life to read your book and write about it. Remember, they're doing you a favor, whether they like the book or not.



Monday, June 18, 2012

Recipe Monday - Easy Honey Mustard Chicken

This is a favorite here, and it's really easy.

Chicken Breasts
Dijon Mustard
Garlic Powder
Honey Dijon Salad Dressing

Place the chicken in a baking pan, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Squeeze out as much honey and dijon as you'd like over the breasts.

 Douse the whole thing in salad dressing and cook for a half hour on 350.

 It's on the favorite list around here, for sure.

If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 96: Work It Out


Your kids are fighting. There's the crying and the screaming, the hitting and the biting. The wailing ever louder, the appeals for your intervention. You get the feeling most of this outlandish behavior is purely for your benefit, but you don't know what to do about it.


Sometimes it's okay to ignore it. I've found that many times, my kids just want me to validate them or vindicate them. This one is right and that one is wrong. You shouldn't take her toy, but you shouldn't bite her over it. They just want your reaction, looking for their Solomon. But it doesn't have to be you.

Of course, sometimes you have to step don't want anyone getting hurt, and you don't want the tantrums to get carried on too far. That's what the whole time-out, you-being-the-parent thing is all about.

But sometimes they do much better on their own, and the sooner they learn to work out their own issues on their own terms, the sooner peace will reign. Sometimes the outcomes will even surprise you, one sibling will give where you thought the other would. It all equals the same thing, though. The kids learning that they can settle their differences without mommy's help, that they can work things out to their own satisfaction.

And with that comes the slow knowledge that it's easier to do these things without screaming and threatening each other. And when those days come, they are happy days.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Restaurant Hunt

In Florida, we have months that stretch on end where we can't really do much outside if it doesn't involve water. So, we're stuck with inside activities, and the library and mall can get old fast.

 If you've got enough cash for some cheap desserts or meals, may I recommend a restaurant hunt?

Well, to the kids it's a restaurant hunt. For you, it's going out for ice cream or lunch. Giving it a title makes it much more adventurous. At least that's what we've found.

It started the other week when the girls saw someone taking a carry out container of yogurt from an Indian restaurant. Not wanting to purchase one myself, and not feeling like arguing in the restaurant, I told them off-handedly that we'd go on a restaurant hunt to find the item the next week. I thought the urge would pass. It didn't. They hounded me day after day about when we were going to go on the restaurant hunt, which became rather like a scavenger hunt and the girls tacked on items they wanted to "find."

An ice cream sandwich, a milkshake, an ice cream sundae...seeing a theme?

So, the other day, I took them on the now infamous restaurant hunt. We went to a strip where I knew a cafe to be a few doors down from an ice cream shop.

The girls accosted the hostess. "Do you have ice cream sandwich? Or ice cream sundae? Or the white thing?"

The woman was like, "um, no, but we have cake."

So we ate a nice lunch there, and shared a piece of cake. Not satisfied, we moved on.

"No sundaes here," I proclaimed, as we passed the first door.

"None here!" the girls said at the next door.

But the third door held gold and we walked into the ice cream parlor and ordered a sundae to share.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
A successful restaurant hunt, and another lunch gotten through for me. (Each meal is a challenge.) We'll probably do a few more of these throughout the summer. It's a pleasant way to spend a few hours.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to Push Your Book...Gently

Writing over at Patch of Sky, today, in case you're interested in that kind of stuff.

Once you publish a book, it seems like it's time to sit back and celebrate, but nothing could be further from the truth. A published book becomes just one of a billion others on the shelf (or virtual shelf), unopened and unloved. With so many out there, why would someone give yours a chance?

Even if your book is brilliant, it will languish in the wasteland of undiscovered if you don't get it out there yourself. Now, this is not to say push it at every opportunity. That will grate on people's nerves and push them farther from you. And don't tell them how great it is. You'll come off as pretentious and self-congratulating. If it is great, the hope is they'll think so all on their own. And definitely stay away from review sites. Do not talk about your own work on them. There can be no good outcome, unless what you're saying is "thank you" for either a good or a bad review.

Try to take a step back. Your book isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's not your fault, and not their fault. They're there to review, or they read your book and had something to say. That's awesome. Think of 50 Shades of Grey. Are the bad reviews stopping E.L. James? Heck, no. It's a case of "keep talking, you're making me famous." What's important is that people are talking about your work. What's more important is that you come off as gracious and put-together.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Things Your Kids Should Be Able to Do by Four

Oftentimes, I live in a hellish world of lunacy where children just less than four make the rules. And this seems totally reasonable. Why? Well, they're the only people I see all day, so suddenly playing markers in nothing but underwear and throwing cereal on the floor when we're pissed seem like reasonable things to do.

Okay, those are exaggerations, but the point is, don't be fooled. They're wrong. Your kids are wrong. They simply don't know what they're talking about, and they don't know what's good for them. It's true.

Here's a short list of things your neurotypical child should be able to do by the time she's ready to turn four.

1) Use the bathroom by herself.

This is the main driving point behind this post. One day last week, I was at my rope's end. I had been sitting in the bathroom, with my perfectly capable children, reading them stories or making up stories to tell them while they were on the potty. It started when one of them had a bit of constipation and I was attempting to distract her while she tried to go. But what started out as one ten-minute story became dozens of stories "until I'm done, until I've gone poopoo." Two and a half hours, that day, Dulce made me sit with her. I had lost my mind.

Then I realized I could get up. There was nothing stopping me from getting up. So I did.

And I went right to facebook to ask if I was being immeasurably cruel by no longer sitting with my kids in the bathroom. The resounding comment cascade? "What are you, nuts?"

Apparently no one in the history of the world does this for their children. Except me. Because my kids told me that sitting in the bathroom was appropriate and that everyone did it. And I believed them.

Don't believe them.

2) Dress herself.

That night I had a major break down / break through. I also stopped dressing them. Because they are freaking almost four years old and they know how to dress themselves. They just don't. And they tell me that I'm supposed to do it. And I believed them.

My girls are more than three feet tall. Have you ever seen a child almost as long as a meter stick stretch out on the floor so you can put her overnight diaper pullup on? Like she's an infant?

It looks ridiculous.

So, I said, no more. You put that on yourself, and your nightie, too. And you take your own clothes off. And do it standing up. For all the commotion in this house, you'd have thought I declared World War Three.

But they finally did it. And they've been doing it since. Because, let's face it, they've probably known how to do it for a whole year, and they were just laughing behind my back as I continued to slave over and baby them.

3) Clean up.

I'm not even going to go into detail about this one, but your child knows how to put toys away. He just does. He knows where they go because he has to go get them to throw around the house, right? And he's seen you put them back hundreds of times. He knows what "pick up your toys" means. Don't do it anymore.

4) Eat.

We tackled this one a long time ago, and my kids are now adept at using silverware. But they'll still be jerks about it when they remember. I can't count how many times I've watched one of my kids aimlessly "try" to stab a piece of chicken, only to victoriously call out that she "can't, it's too hard." Or they'll push the fork so softly, holding it barely erect so that it will clatter to the floor before poking up that squash.

So many times, they've looked at me like, "see? I can't do this." And I've been like, "Well, use your right hand, then." And done.

They know how. It's that simple.

And the interesting thing about this is that they are happier doing things for themselves. They just don't know it. They assume they're happier having you do things for them because it shows you care, or it gives them attention from you, or whatever, but it's probably almost as annoying to them as it is to you. Almost. They just get so used to the routine that they can't imagine life any other way. And neither can you.

It doesn't have to be this way. Stop the insanity. Your kids, and DEFINITELY my kids, can do almost anything by themselves. I just have to stop letting them convince me otherwise.

If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Build A Sign For Yourself

In this age of going into business for yourself, where marketing, branding and advertising fall squarely on your shoulders, in addition to making and selling a good product or service, we all need a little help. Which is why when Build A Sign contacted me, I jumped at the chance.

Then I realized that I'm an internet entity, and a tiny one at that. A sign won't really help me, will it? I perused my numerous options. A banner? Where would I put it? A sign? Magnets? Bumper stickers? Would any of this really help?

At first I thought, no, probably not. But real life advertising sticks more than you think.

So I ordered dozens of Tales of an Unlikely Mother bumper stickers. Here's a crappy photo of one (looks much better in real life, not on the back-drop of a paint-splattered chair. Though my kids would be upset that I likened their artwork to an accident.)

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

You love it, right? No? Well, the great thing about Build A Sign is that you can make your stuff yourself. And I know you all are much more creative and better equipped to sell yourselves than I am.

Anyway, so, I'll put one on my car. Maybe I'll make my husband and mom put one on theirs. Then what?

I was at a loss.

Out of left field, an old school friend told me what to do with them.

"Put them in the changing tables at restaurants," she said.

Brilliant. And I don't have to stop there. I can leave them on the seats of local parks or playgrounds, stick them in child magazines, the list goes on.

Marketing in real life. It can work if you're creative enough to figure out how to use it.

I'll let you know how the great bumper sticker experiment works out, but in the meantime, mosey on over to Build A Sign if you've got a business, be it an Etsy Shop or a bakery or what have you. You might be surprised at what they can offer you.

**Bumper stickers provided by Build a Sign, but the review is my own.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Recipe Monday - Feta Burgers

Use a grill! We don't have one, so I broil.  This is the best burger recipe I've come across.

•1 1/2 lbs ground beef
•1/2 lb. crumbled feta
•1/4 cup green peppers, diced (didn't have, didn't use)
•1/4 onion, diced
•1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
•salt and pepper to taste

Mix ground beef, half of the feta, onions, green peppers, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Shape into hamburger patties and broil for 6-10, flipping in the middle.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of feta on each burger and allow to melt. Remove from pan and place on buns. Add desired toppings, and sprinkle with tahini sauce.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 95: Give Chances

Problem: You've got an unruly child. (This is my problem a lot, have you noticed?) She can take anything and twist it into a reason to cry or get upset. She's irrational and dragging you down in her own little whirlpool of insanity. And you had planned some fun things to do, but now you don't even want to chance bringing her out.

Solution: Tell her about it. Sometimes that's enough, although not over here. Sometimes just the promise of interesting activities or outings can force a behavior change. Sometimes, you'll need to use it as a bargaining chip. I've given out five chances each to my kids for a birthday party we're supposed to attend this evening. It started last night, and once the plan was set, they lined up. This morning, Dulce is already down to three chances. Natalina still has all five. We'll see how it works.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Father's Day Gift Ideas

Well, Father's Day is around the corner and I'm about as crafty as a foot as I was telling a friend last night. So, while the kids make him drawings, painting and macaroni necklaces, what do I get him?

Paper Coterie to the rescue!

 For those of you who have a million pictures and nowhere to put them, surprise him with a Father's Day notebook, complete with family photos on high-quality, bound, paper.

I got a planner (because my gifts are for ME!) and it's amazing! But if you're interested in the Father's Day deals (60 percent off right now) this is what they look like:

Pretty cute, no?

If you want to make your own personalized one for the dad in your life, click here and check it out! The code for the huge savings is DADSDAY.

 Paper Coterie has been having a lot of great sales lately, and I'm on some kind of list that tells me the codes, so you'll probably here from me again if they have a really good special, because damn. I think this one ends this weekend, so you might want to check it out soon if you are interested.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Choosing a Name That Sells Books

On the off chance any of you are thinking about choosing a pen name for yourself...

 As you prepare to publish your works, you'll have to consider whether or not you want to use a pseudonym. If you decide that you do, which name you pick can have an impact on your sales. You'll want to use a name that you will not feel burdened by as you continue your career as well. Remember, when choosing your name, it's not just about likeability, but also about marketability.

Read more at Patch of Sky.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Relay for Life - Sponsored Video

There are many things one can do to help in the fight against cancer. One of the easiest, and one that has the most long-reaching effects, would be taking part in the Relay for Life.

 Aptly named, the Relay for Life is the collective name for various events around the country aimed at celebrating cancer survivors and raising money for those still in need. While the events vary from area to area, they usually kick off with a "survivors lap" where those who have come back from cancer take a job or walk around the track to cheers and support from their friends, family, and strangers. When evening falls, candles are lit to honor those fighting and those who did not make it. The ceremonies are usually wrapped up with a "fight back" event, where those present make a personal commitment to fight cancer. Whether that commitment is utilizing one of their screenings, vowing to stop smoking or donating money to the cause, everyone is invited to make a pledge.

The Relay for Life started unofficially in 1985 when a doctor wanted to raise more money for cancer research and prevention in his area. Dr. Gordy Platt ran for 24 hours straight and hundreds of friends and supporters gathered and paid $25 to run or walk around the track with him for 30 minutes. He raised $27,000 that day.

The next year, more than 19 teams of runners took part, and the Relay for Life has grown from there.

Whether you choose to run in the relay or donate to your favorite team, the proceeds go to help cancer patients travel for necessary testing and procedures, they provide sources of support for those going through any stage of cancer, and they even give out scholarships for exemplary students paving the way for cancer awareness. It all goes through the Cancer Society.

You can find events and take part personally or through your office, neighborhood or organization. Anyone can sign up. Click here for more information and to find events near you.

**This post is sponsored by the ACS


Tuesday, June 5, 2012


What do you do about strangers? My kids have reached the stage where they think it's hilarious to run away from me in large open spaces, like the beach, for instance, and aside from this being incredibly annoying and irritating, it's also dangerous. If one is going one way and the other another way, they could get lost. Someone could pick them up.

I like to joke that whoever did that would sure be sorry, because, honestly, you do not want to kidnap my toddlers. They're a handful. Unfortunately, it's not a funny world we live in. What if someone did? How do you explain that to a three year old?

I over-reached a bit, I admit it. But when your kids are running away from you at top speed in opposite directions on a crowded beach, you get a little nervous.

I told them about strangers and that some strangers were bad, and that you can't tell which are which. I said that some would help them and bring them back to me, but that some would take them away.

So, now, of course, while they run away from me just slightly less, they do ask really loud questions about strangers whenever we're in a public place.

"Is that lady a stranger? Is she a bad stranger? Why is it okay to talk to her if she is a stranger?"

"Because you are with mommy. It's different when you are with mommy."

"Is she my friend?"

"Well, kind of, but not really. She's just nice, right now."

I mean, you don't want to insult the kind older woman ogling over how cute your twins are, but you don't want them to go around thinking that everyone who compliments them or is nice to them when their parents aren't around are their friends.

With strangers, there are so many exceptions and changing situations to account for. It's a tough one, that's for sure. And until we topple it, you can bet we'll be insulting random adults wherever we go. So, advanced apologies. We're new at this.

 If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Recipe Monday - BBQ Chicken Naan

A delicious twist on pizza. Goes great with soups of any kind.

  • 2 small chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika 
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • naan bread 
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce 
  • 1 1/2 cups grated monterey jack cheese 
  • 3 green onions (finely chopped)--didn't have, didn't use, used yellow onion instead

  • Preheat and indoor or outdoor grill to medium-high. Combine the oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl; brush on the chicken. Grilled the chicken 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Cool the chicken to room temperature and then thinly slice.
  • Preheat the 400°F
  • Set the naan on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread the top of the naan with the barbecue sauce. Arrange the chicken on top of the barbecue sauce; sprinkle with the cheese and green onions. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the naan is crispy.


    Sunday, June 3, 2012

    Moment of the Week - 94: Pay Phone

    Thirty minutes of fake phone calls at the library make this pay phone totally worth it!
    If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Toddler Tricks - 94: Pack a Lunch

    Problem: You have a lot of things to do. Too many things to do. How can you go to the splash pad, and the pool, and stop at a park, while getting all your housekeeping done and keeping everyone sane? Plus, you've got nap in the middle of the day, and these kids have to eat.

    Solution: Pack a lunch. It seems like a pain in the butt when you could just go home and make something, but it makes life so much easier. You don't have to stop what you are doing, and your kids are more likely to eat because they'll want to get back to their fun activities. Plus, a PB and J looks more exotic outside for some reason. And who doesn't love a juice box?

    The ten minutes it takes me to pack a small cooler is made up for in spades when we can just open and eat, instead of trekking back home, only to have to make food before we can clean up or sleep or whatever. That would take an hour. Pack a lunch. It's so worth it.


    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Leap Frogging

    I've mentioned the switch my children experience on a monthly (or daily) basis. Attached to that, or right next to it, is the leap frog. This could be a twin thing, or maybe it's just my kids, but it seems just as we begin to worry about one falling behind, she surges us with a massive brain boost to outshine her sister, who had been doing better at a particular skill for months, if not her whole life.

    Right now, Dulce is in a growing frenzy. I should have known, should have been prepared when over the past few weeks she became a little monster. Crying at anything, pushing back, yelling at me, giving me attitude over everything. I was about to buy her a bus ticket. As usually is the case, all the crying, wailing and screaming takes the place of the English language. Whoever is afflicted stops using words. We ignore it for the first few days, but by the time a week passes, we start getting worried. What if she's lashing out because she can't find the words to communicate?

    Yeah, no. At least in this family, at three and a half, that is not the case. The next theory to be considered and then thrown out the window is that she's miserable with us, we're horrible parents, and we're raising a spoiled brat. Those are a hard few days.

    Then, presto chango. About elevenity billion new skills show up and the screaming tapers off. The girls take turns doing this, hence the leap frog.

    During Dulce's mammoth three-week tantrum, Lilly shined. She was sweet, advanced in language, docile, inquisitive. It was clear she was the twin out in the lead, developmentally.

    Then within the span of a few days, Dulce gained on her and surpassed her. Dulce became better at memory games than Natalina, which has never been the case. She's drawing faces more accurately and with more detail than Natalina, and we always thought Lilly had more skill with the pen. She's coloring better than her sister, too. She's even dancing better than her sister, and we've always called Lilly the graceful, rhythmic one.

    I'm not worried about Lilly, yet. We're in that magical stage where, although they still push me around mercilessly, at least they're both sane. Once Lilly drops off that cliff, though, I'm sure I'll forget and start to become anxious about delays or not giving her the opportunities she needs. Then, most likely, three days later, I'll have a math-doing, reading-and-writing, totally advanced three year old. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

     I only wish the developments could come without the cryfests.

     If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.



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