Thursday, May 29, 2008

My First Award - Woohoo

I'm totally doing the happy dance because the other day I was considered an Excellent Blog by Another Piece of the Puzzle. I swore to myself that I didn't care about any of those awards floating around the blogosphere, but I guess that's because I hadn't received one. Duh.

Considering that I only post on a quality vs quantity motto, I'm always delighted when I see new subscribers or when someone says "Good job." Everyone needs a pat on the back at some point, right? The Excellent Award originated over at The Mommy Project to spread those kudos around.

I'm supposed to award it to 10 other blogs that I consider worthy. That just seems so hard to do because I read several blogs and find many to be worth reading. I am more a fan of acknowledging excellent posts because everyone has good blogging days and bad ones. Although I'm currently behind on my reading, I typically add my favorite posts to "My Overflowing Google Reader" widget in the next column over.

But since we're supposed to pay it forward, I will award this to a few of the blogs that I subscribe to. The following are in a variety of categories so hopefully everyone will find something to their liking!
Bent Objects - Quirky, artsy and hilarious. Terry brings inanimate objects (like circus peanuts) to life. You have to see it to understand. Wait! Go AFTER you read my other award recipients.
PB&J in a Bowl - Always good for a mom-blog laugh.
Bakerella - Her creativity is unbelievable. The Cupcake Pops that she created were so awesome that they landed her on the Martha Stewart show. I was reading her blog when she originally posted those pops - I feel so privileged to be able to say "I knew her before she was famous!"
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tips - If you're into photos, want to learn how to better your digital album or just want to clean up your photos before printing them, be sure to check this out. He has a few blogs (for a few different applications) so you should be able to find one that meets your niche.
Blogger Buster - Helpful hints for all levels of blogger. Tips on how to improve your blog from the inside out.

Once again, these are excellent blogs but be sure to check out my Google Reader for many others that I think are worthy! If I listed them all, this post would go on and on and on....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Off to the Restaurant Bathroom. Again.

While we were out to lunch yesterday, Miss M announced "I need to use the potty."

Sigh. Even if we use the one at home right before we leave, she needs to use the one at the restaurant. This has been going on for quite a while. Sometimes she genuinely needs to go while other times she just comments on the decor.

But a few months ago when we were traveling and it kept happening over and over - and she wasn't actually going - I asked her if she wasn't feeling well or if she just wanted to see the bathroom. She answered honestly, "I just like to see it."

So yesterday at lunch when she just wanted to see the bathroom, I was a bit miffed. She used the restroom at home not 10 minutes earlier. My MIL is visiting from out of town and I was pulled away from the conversation for Miss M's sightseeing trip. Can't really second guess a child's request for a bathroom break, so off we went. When we returned to the table, I grumbled "She just wanted to see the bathroom."

DH responded "Don't complain. Maybe she's going to be a famous bathroom designer some day."

Following a brief pause, he continued "...or a senator."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

If I Build It, You Will Come?

I'm terrible about procrastinating. It's one of those bad habits that I acknowledge but have never been able to overcome.

Ever since we moved back to Iowa, I've talked about wanting a garden but just haven't followed through. Last fall, DH and I talked about it in great depth - about all the things I would plant and how nice it would be to have fresh vegetables. Plus, what a great experience it would be for the girls.

So winter rolled around and we discussed the things I could plant and whether I wanted to start from seed or not. Anyone that knows me will agree that I'm GREAT at TALKING about things.

As spring approached, we talked (yes, I'm using the T word again) about when the best time to plant would be. We checked out plants and flowers at Lowes and WalMart to help me make up my mind.

For my April birthday, both DH and my MIL bought me gardening books... including a "Gardening for Dummies" since my green thumb is a beautiful shade of brown.

Then about three weeks ago, I told DH that I wanted to make a trip to Lowes to get the things to make the raised garden beds. When we arrived, he asked "Okay, where's your list?" I replied "I don't have one." Need I say that we left empty-handed?

Last week, he asked "When are you going to admit that you aren't going to get around to putting a garden in this year like you said?" I grumbled and said "Why can't we?" He said "Because you haven't even researched anything. You could get all the information you need in just a few hours. I don't want to be out there pulling weeds in YOUR garden." Realizing his point, I said "No, I planned to do all that." I honestly thought that he was doing all the building stuff and I would do the maintenance. He would have been happy to help if I asked or needed it, but he knew this was something that I wanted to really be able to call my own. Frustrated and completely serious he said "Oh, I get it. If I build it, you will come?"

So earlier this week, I sat at the computer and (rather than blog) researched what it would take to build a raised garden. I found out that redwood is the best wood, but douglas or cedar are less expensive alternatives. Untreated wood because there's concern about leaching of the treatment chemicals. Quality topsoil or potting soil along with compost. I took notes about lumber sizes and the size of screws (not nails) to buy. My list went on and on. When I thought I had a complete list, I proudly marched into his office and said "Okay, I've done my research. Is it too late to put in the garden?"

Come to find out, he had researched it all months ago. All this time - on all those trips - he knew exactly what we needed. He was just waiting for me to be invested in the project. I'm so glad he did that because now I'm proud and excited about the fact that we're about to plant veggies in my new garden. Time to go get back to work!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Aveeno Giveaway - Winner

Well, considering that my feedburner subscriber count went up by 5 overnight, I'm guessing that people are anxiously awaiting the announcement of who won the Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Night Cream giveaway.

To select a winner, I numbered the comments (not the Mr. Linky) from top to bottom then used to pick the winner.

And the winner is.... #2!!!

(Scrolling down to see who that is.)


Congrats Hil'Lesha on your new Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Night Cream. Hope you like it!

Thanks to everyone for participating. Be sure to stop by Aveeno's site to request your own free sample! Thanks, also, to BzzAgent for allowing me to participate in the campaign for this great product!

Note: I printed the file as a .pdf instead of getting a screen capture. For anyone interested, I would be happy to email you the screen capture of the winning number. I'm not able to upload the photo to blogger in .pdf as I had originally thought when I did it! Live and learn... I'll know better for next time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Edible Gold - The Morel Mushroom

Can you see it?! No? Look really close. It's hiding, but it's there. There are a lot of things that I couldn't do in Los Angeles and morel hunting is one of them. Oh, how I missed it.

If you don't know what a morel is then check out a few of these morel sites. Although the taste is fabulous, the actual hunt...and find... is what makes this mushroom such a treasure for me.
Since we moved back, I've been trying to schedule a morel hunting trip with my parents. The window of opportunity is very small and is extremely dependent on the weather. Last year, that little window was open while we were out of town. But this year was perfect and the girls are old enough to be able to do the trek with us.
We headed out to a wooded area in Muscatine County praying that nobody else beat us to it. At first, the girls were skeptical. After that 30 seconds passed, we were good to go and Miss M could frequently be heard telling the rest of us to hurry up. She's a natural-born hiker.
Once we found our first patch, we were all filled with excitement. My mom called the girls over to start looking and picking. Then I arrived on scene and found even more. DH trailed behind me and found ones that I had missed. Those sneaky little things hide when they see you coming. Miss K did a great job because she was lowest to the ground. She was actually finding them on her own without us hinting at an area to look. Miss M was doing just as well.

We ended up with about two and a half pounds of morels for this outing. We enjoyed several for dinner then froze the rest. I'm sure the girls will be just as excited for next year's hunt as I usually am!

Monday, May 12, 2008

OMG That's a Mini Wiener

Mini Wienermobile, that is. This is a family-friendly blog for Pete's sake... what did you think I was referring to? So make sure you gather up all the kids to check out these pictures.

Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile was making some stops at the local Hy-Vee grocery stores this past weekend. DH and the kids had been Mother's Day shopping on Friday and saw it as they were driving around, but didn't stop to get a closeup look at it. When we read in the paper that it was supposed to be at the store closest to our house, I insisted that we go. Why? Because I hadn't seen it yet. And I didn't have pictures of the kids with it.

So when we arrived at the store, we didn't see it. DH said "I thought you said it would be here." Well that's what the paper said. As we pulled into the parking lot, we finally caught a glimpse of it. Well sort of. I was like "OMG, it's tiny!" We joked that it was the Little Smokies version of the Wienermobile. It was actually a mini-version of the Wienermobile built on a Mini Cooper. Considering the basket of coupons for Oscar Mayer's new Mini Hot Dogs, I guess it all made sense.

It was actually really cute and the girls thought it was neat. DH and I knew that it wasn't THE Wienermobile, so we talked to the Oscar Mayer rep and found out that it would be at another location near our house on Sunday.

So guess what we did after going out to lunch for Mother's Day. Yup. We headed to the other Hy-Vee.

Glad we did, because it was worth the extra trip. My first time up close to the Wienermobile made me feel like a kid.

And the trip wouldn't be complete without the trademark Wiener Whistle that they hand out to kids of all ages.

It was a fun experience and I hope the girls remember it for years to come. What better way to spend Mother's Day?

MommyFest Giveaway - Aveeno Positively Ageless Night Cream

One of my favorite extra-curricular activities is being a BzzAgent. I get to try out a lot of great products and share my opinions about them. One of my current campaigns is for Aveeno Positively Ageless. I love Aveeno products and figured I would share one of the full-sized samples that I received from BzzAgent.

In celebration of MommyFest, I'm giving away one full-sized Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Night Cream (a $20 value).

This giveaway is open to anyone who reads my blog and leaves a comment (see below) regardless of whether or not you are participating in MommyFest. But don't fret if you don't win because Aveeno is giving free samples in conjunction with the BzzAgent Campaign.


(1) In order to participate, you need to leave a comment with an opinion (positive or negative) about Aveeno products. Feel free to name your favorite Aveeno product, if you like. If you haven't tried Aveeno, just say so!

(2) If you have a blog, be sure to leave a link to your blog in the Mr. Linky (if I manage to get it set up correctly - it's my first Mr. Linky attempt!) I want everyone to have an opportunity for some link-love!

(3) Provide an email where you can be contacted if you win!

I'll leave the contest open until the end of MommyFest then will announce a winner on Monday, May 19th.

Note: Winner will need to provide a US shipping address.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Like My Butt Isn't Big Enough...

Yeah, I'm invited to a party and what do I do? Sit on my backside for the entire event. In my own defense, that's what EVERYONE at this party will be doing. I'm referring to the MommyFest Blog Party. It's an opportunity for a Mom Blogger (that's me) to talk about herself (like I need a reason to talk about myself) and meet other Mom Bloggers. So here goes...

Who Am I?
I could just recite my profile, but that would be ridiculous now, wouldn't it? So I'll give you a fast-forward version starting from when I met DH. My husband and I met while we were in college. We were at a Cubs/Cardinals baseball game in St. Louis during a joint event with our fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. We belonged to separate chapters at our respective universities. A few years after we got married, we moved to Los Angeles - where we worked hard and took advantage of activities and travel whenever possible. After several years of trying for a baby, we finally successfully completed fertility treatments and were blessed with Miss M. We found out we were pregnant with Miss K a year later. After realizing that Los Angeles isn't where we wanted to raise our kids, we moved back to Iowa where I grew up.

About my Blog:
I only post casually when I have something I really want to share. More often than not, that means a few times a week. The posts on my blog usually revolve around my girls but sometimes touch on a variety of other topics. Check the archives for a better overview. Daily, however, I surf other blogs and keep up-to-date via my Google Reader.

What I do:
Well, I'm a stay-at-home-mom (hence the blog title SAHM) which is my first job but I consider the gym to be a second job. I want to get back into shape after years of not so I hit the gym regularly. In my free time, I participate in product testing, surveys and word-of-mouth marketing. I'm constantly getting cool stuff in the mail for free!

The Giveaway:
During Mommyfest, I'll be giving away a full-sized sample of Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Night Cream (a $20 value). I'll create a separate post just for the contest so be sure to comment on the giveaway post for a chance to win! Just so you know, the Aveeno Night Cream was a full-sized sample I received from BzzAgent. BzzAgent allows us to give away our products and since I already have a full size sample that I'm using (and loving, btw) I figured I might share this one during MommyFest!

Talking about myself is a little drier reading than all the stuff I usually blog about! I hope you'll subscribe and read some of my other posts. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, May 9, 2008

You Can Add Links to Your Comments

I learned a neat trick recently and I've found it quite handy... entering a link inside a comment. Don't think that it's just self promotion because I'm usually linking to useful information on other blogs or sites. Typically things that support the comment I am making.

Okay, sometimes I do use it to link back to my site but that's usually just when someone new finds my blog (and leaves a comment). If they took the time to leave me a comment then we must have something in common. So I check out their blog and say something to the effect of "Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope to see you again!"

Alyssa at Keeping the Kingdom First asked "How on earth did you leave a link in your comment on my blog? Do tell!!"

Because you asked, Alyssa, here you go! Figured I might as well post it in case anyone else was curious.

For other great blog tips, go to the same places I do. I usually get my best advice from Amy at Split Decisionz or from Blogger Buster.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The CAPITALIZATION of our Children

During the kindergarten roundup, we were told that one of the things we could do to help our child get ready for school in the fall is to make sure she is able to write her name. That's not a problem as she's been doing it for a while now. Then they clarified that they wanted it correctly with a capital letter followed by lowercase letters. Oh dear. That's a problem that is going to need some work.

I'm notorious for writing in small caps. You know, where you capitalize the first letter of the word then write the rest of the word in smaller capital letters. Even when I'm consciously trying to write with capital and lowercase letters like a pre-Word document-spoiled person would do, I find myself drifting back to small caps mid sentence. Or in an address, the name may be correct but the address itself is small caps. I like writing in cursive and feel that I have very pretty handwriting. But since you're supposed to PRINT everything these days, I don't get the luxury of cursive unless it's in a letter. Besides, I like the way small caps look so it has become a habit.

Apparently since I have children learning to write, it's a bad habit.

Alright, it may not be because of Word, WordPerfect or computers in general, but that's when I know I started using it so I have decided to blame them... justly or not.

Okay, back to my story...
Miss M recently received a pack of small square stickers. She quickly decided that they were the perfect size for mail. So for the past week or so, whenever there has been free time, the girls have wanted to "make mail" for her grandmas. Whenever we're in the alphabet/word-writing mode, I try to take advantage of it. I'll let them 'write' whatever they want, which usually is their name over and over. Then I ask them what they want to say and I write it out (correctly) for them to copy. Even when I use proper lowercase letters, I've noticed that Miss M will write in all caps.

On the flipside - When Miss K started preschool, she learned to write her name correctly. Woohoo for teachers and proper modeling! As Miss K gained confidence in her letters and ability to write, she began doing table work at home with Miss M (and her lowercase challenged mother). Unfortunately, she quickly picked up our incorrect style. The teacher even commented on it to me during our last parent/teacher conference that she stopped writing her name with proper lowercase letters and has been only writing all caps for her name.

Now I have just the summer to fix this and get Miss M writing her words correctly. Is it possible since I have to relearn it all myself first?!

Good thing I'm not going to kindergarten in the fall because I would totally fail the class.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Ultimate Hot Wheels Experience

Now that I've had a chance to sift through all my photos of the Hot Wheels Collectors National that we attended in Chicago, I can throw together a decent overview of it.

Before I begin, I want to address a question that was presented as a comment to my teaser. Mommytime asked if it's always in Chicago - No. Last year it was in Detroit and next year I believe it will be in Virginia. For anyone living in Southern California, they have a convention there annually also.

DH is an avid collector of Dodge Vipers that are the size of Hot Wheels so he follows the collector forums to keep track of what new Vipers have hit the market. We attended the Collectors National in Detroit last year but the girls were too young to really appreciate it all and nap time tended to interfere with a lot of it. This year, we decided to let the girls stay up late, attend all kid-friendly functions and really partake in the entire event. They loved it and so did we!

The girls remembered the downhill races from last year and were anxious to get started on that. Practice sessions were set up during the week and the actual races were held on Saturday. Didn't really matter because the girls had as much fun during the practice sessions. They got to pick whichever cars they wanted, get into line, hand the guy on the ladder their cars then run to the finish line to cheer on their respective cars. They would return those cars to the case and pick new ones - always asking "Which one is fastest, Daddy?"

We paid a little extra to participate in the vending pull session. What's that? Well, it was a vending machine chocked full of limited edition Hot Wheels. The catch? You couldn't see what you were getting. That's the total fun of it. The glass on the front was frosted and it was just a game of chance. We let the girls pick the letter/number combination and push the buttons. Miss K was quite excited to win one of the bonus prizes!

The girls also participated in two different coloring contests. One was sponsored by the convention. The rules are very simple - parents can't help. Period. The kids were grouped by age then awards given out to the top three winners in each age group. I thought the girls did great and it was nice to see their independence during the contest.

The second coloring contest was sponsored by John Rhodes of Woodie's Adventures, someone attending the event. Each year, he sponsors the contest then has the winning design custom made into actual diecast cars. By completing that coloring contest, they were given one of the custom cars in last year's winning design. No charge. No purchase required. No catch. These guys do it for the kids because they want to. I don't know the name of the man who did the custom work for Woodie's Adventures, but he was also very generous - even stopping us in the hall to give some stuff to the girls for their scavenger hunt. Oh yeah, I haven't gotten to THAT yet. I'll get there in a minute. (If someone knows his name, could you please email me and I'll be happy to give him props.)

The Collectors National is held in a hotel and throughout the entire event people can open up their rooms to sell stuff... or buy or trade but that's semantics. Anyway, conventioneers set up tables and displays in their rooms, use the desks, the drawers, the beds for displaying stuff and you literally walk in and out of open doors like they are mini stores. It sounds kind of freakish, but it is so much fun that it's ridiculous. If you collect Hot Wheels, this is heaven because you are bound to find something that you don't already have in your collection.

That's where the scavenger hunt comes into play. To keep the kids occupied during the down time, the convention folks put together a contest where kids look for about thirty different items. A purple Hot Wheel, a convertible Hot Wheel, a napkin with a logo on it, anything with a Speed Racer logo on it, state quarters for Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida, etc. As the kids walked around the convention, they were constantly on the lookout for scavenger hunt items. People who manned the 'stores' were always so generous, offering to fill the bags with whatever the kids were looking for. The catch? None. The charge? None. Was it fun? Like you wouldn't believe. We would enter a room and the girls were responsible for asking for help. They would walk up to whomever they thought the room belonged to and tell the people they were on a scavenger hunt. The list would change hands and they would try as hard as they could to find something from the list. It is an excellent way for the kids to get involved and an awesome way to teach them about manners as well as start to develop interpersonal skills.

But wait, that's not all! In addition to autograph sessions with the actual Hot Wheels designers, Mattel had a room set up displaying some of their latest products. In that room, you had the opportunity to put your destruction skills at work. An honest-to-God Hot Wheels smusher. What a marketing gimmick that is. Adults could crush their cars, but when kids did it Mattel was kind enough to replace the destroyed car with a brand new one. Whew. It took me forever to convince the girls to do it but once they did they wanted to keep doing it! The rep from Mattel said that it was mostly boys that thought it was cool.

And what event would be complete without a magic show. Miss M was especially fond of Mike D and his magic act. She couldn't stop talking about how he ate a (playing) card.

Overall, it was an awesome event and I regret that the next one is so far away. I doubt we'll be able to attend next year, but I can always hope that it will return to the central states in 2010!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mother's Day Photo Contest

I hadn't planned on entering the Egg Beaters Mother's Day Photo contest, but something told me that it would be a great opportunity to share one of my favorite pictures.

This photograph was taken very candidly while I happened to be standing in front of a window. The quality of the photo isn't the greatest, but it nonetheless turned out beautifully and really expresses how tender, fragile and loved Miss M was as a newborn.

We spent so many years wanting a child and having difficulty getting there. Almost eight years of the unbelievable desire, emotional roller coasters and ultimately, the greatest high.