Sunday, July 31, 2011

Biker Chick

Have you ever been to Disney World? Have you seen the Electrical Lights Parade? We have.

And that parade? Was one of the highlights of Amelia's three-year-old life. She still talks about it nearly six months later. We still watch the YouTube videos and listen to the parade music. We browse our vacation photos and remember all the characters and shapes we saw dressed up in lovely lights.

Imagine her excitement when she saw her very own pink tricycle, all dressed up in "twinkle lights"!

Thanks to Bike Glow, an ingenious new product, we can have our own electrical light parade in our very own neighborhood. But Bike Glow is not just a fun way to make your bike glow. In fact, it is a really smart bicycle safety light!

Bike Glow runs on two AA batteries, and it is pliable enough to attach to any vehicle. It is also completely waterproof. Bike Glow is available in a variety of colors including white (shown in photo above), aqua, pink, blue, and green. We attached it to Amelia's pink tricycle. It has three visibility settings: solid glow, slow blink, and fast blink:

At three years old, my daughter will not be out riding her bike in the dark alone. But if you have older children? Pre-teens? Teens? Bike Glow would be a very comforting addition to their bikes. You will have peace of mind, knowing drivers will be able to see them, even if it is getting dark outside.

I bet they will think it's pretty cool too.

- - -
I received one Bike Glow free of charge for the purpose of this review.
All opinions expressed are solely mine.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

If I had $1,000,000

"If I Had $1,000,000" is a song by the Canadian musical group Barenaked Ladies, circa 1992 or so. I was listening to it recently, and a thought crossed my mind:

What if I was given a million dollars - but had to give it all away?

Think about it. How would you spread the wealth? Wouldn't it be fun to give so much away?

If I had a million dollars to spread around, I would...

Hire a private team of specialists to work for, train, and support my sister-in-law in her continued quest for independence as a paraplegic. Since insurance companies are lacking and our government can't stop wasting money, we seem to be on our own. Without a doubt, a chunk of my million would go to creating the best Dream Team money can buy: a top-notch physical therapist, a brilliant nutritionist, and a tough but understanding personal trainer. One year in their hands, and she would be kicking some serious booty. Because she has it in her. She just needs help finding it.

Help fund research efforts at two of the best cancer treatment facilities in the world: St. Jude's for children and MD Anderson. I have to believe that we will find a cure for this hidden monster one day. Every single one of us knows a family, probably several, rocked by the evils of cancer. Enough is enough.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remorse - and forgiveness?

This week's Red Wrtiting Hood prompt (via the Red Dress Club) asked us to revisit a former post and give it an overhaul:

"Go back in the archives and pick a fiction or nonfiction piece. Perhaps something you posted on your blog, or an old Red Dress Club prompt? Find something that you're proud of, but something you haven't read for awhile. Do a complete overhaul. Change the point of view. Write it from a different perspective. Try dialogue. Make it a narrative. Play with tense or organizational structure. You know, kill those babies. Oh, and by the way? Trim it down to 400 words or less."

I revised my first blog fiction piece, titled "Runaway". It's a story of remorse and the hope for forgiveness. The original can be found HERE.

RUNAWAY (take two)

The sun emerges above the horizon; her aching body begins to wake. Her ears heed the cacophony of sounds: humming car engines, squeaking brakes, rubber tires hugging the bridge deck above. A groan from her own lips, as she wills her miserable body to a sitting position. Grimy blankets are tossed aside. She is thankful for the greening of the trees and the hearty sprouts of wild daffodils. Never again will she take for granted the warmth of spring. Struggling to run her fingers through her matted hair, she reflects on the path ahead. How slowly will the hours pass? Will her abused sneakers survive the - hopefully final - journey? Her stomach gurgles… will she get to eat?

Perhaps today will bring the miracle she so desperately needs.

She is taking a risk, bringing only what fits in her battered backpack and leaving the rest. Come tonight, if she is forgiven, she will wash away the evidence of a life gone wrong.

“I hope this nightmare ends today,” she mutters as her feet met the sidewalk for the nineteenth day in a row. She whispers to the sky, “Come on God, give me a break. I screwed up, I get it. I’m clean now. You know how much I need this.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I wonder if she knew?

I wonder now if she knew. If, perhaps, my OB-GYN had a suspicion of what was to come.

A week prior to my due date, we began to discuss a day of delivery. I had some complications and rising blood pressure, but nothing too drastic. I probably could have waited for labor to begin naturally. But she insisted on scheduling a date and time.

She insisted that we plan a delivery for April 8th. Not one day past my original due date.

She asked – more than once – if I wanted to opt for a C-section. She had two C-sections herself. She was more than happy to schedule one for me too.

I was one month shy of 30 years old. I had only gained 30 pounds of pregnancy weight. I was decently healthy and not overweight.

This was my first pregnancy. I feared the complications of surgery. I opted for an epidural-supported vaginal delivery.

She asked me a couple days prior. Was I sure I did not want a C-section?

Nope. I was going to do this “right”.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Talk, Talk, and more talk

I was a Communication major in the late 1990s. “Back then”, we concentrated mostly on media history, writing style, and journalism. Little did we know, communication would soon explode into a non-stop free-for-all of information. I wonder what Communication cirriculum looks like today?

When I was a communication major, the Internet was used for occasional research. But Internet speeds were pretty slow and it was difficult to find what you needed online. Google wasn’t incorporated until 1998, and did not gain worldwide popularity for a few more years. I trudged my way to the library and looked in (gasp!) books for information to complete various papers.

During the late 1990s, less than half of all U.S. adults went online. Fast forward 12-13 years, and over 75% of all Americans (age 2+!) are actively online in a given month. Facebook, second only to Google, has a monthly unique audience over 135 million. YouTube has a unique audience over 106 million. Twitter? Also huge, with 23 million visitors per month. People everywhere are sharing information, photos, and videos constantly. It is not uncommon for worldwide news to break on a social media site. I learned of Michael Jackson’s death within minutes, and through Twitter. The tragic Norway mass killings for a few days ago? Also Twitter. Amy Winehouse’s recent death? I first read it on Facebook. Before I even navigate over to a news site to check daily headlines, I am abreast of the latest news and gossip via social media.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Say cheese! (How to survive a photo shoot with a preschooler)

I had a brilliant idea to get my favorite photographer to do some outdoor portraits of the family while visiting my hometown this weekend. I failed to remember the heat wave. I failed to realize the limits of 3-year-old behavior when her entire vacation agenda is PLAY. I failed to humidity-proof my new hairstyle.

Need some tips for managing a preschooler in a humid morning photo shoot? Look no further.
Tip #1: Start out with a couple group shots. Get in the picture together to make the event a little less scary.

Tip #2: Don't be shy behind the camera; pretend to attack the photographer with bear claws. "Cut" the photographer's hair with garden clippers. Jump around behind the photographer and act like a complete fool. Pretty much anything goes. As long as the kid is smiling.

Tip #3: When all else fails, bribe. My child was eating a big bowl of neapolitain ice cream at 10:15 that morning. But it worked. I have a feeling we will end up with some beautiful captive memories.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I heart Tennessee

There's no place like home!

Best way to beat the heat!

"Don't tailgate: I'll flick a booger on your windshield"

A new generation experiences a local icon

3 & 4-yr-olds? Tough luck.

It will always feel like home.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A humble bumblebee

We crouched in the long green grass, still damp from a morning rain. Holding hands, we approached the single clover. Gently. Quietly. The fuzzy bumblebee was hard at work and did not seem to notice our scrutiny.

Such a simple moment. Mother and daughter, captivated by this little creature's quick, purposeful movements.

"Mommy? What is that bee doing?"

Bees collect nectar from flowering plants. They improve upon that nectar to make honey. Pollen collects on their furry little bodies, which then scatters from plant to plant along the bee's bath, pollinating other flowers and crops. Did you know that 90% of plants are pollinated with animal assistance?

Hmmm, "what is that bee doing?", indeed.

Sometimes I come to realize that even the simplest moments are in fact, beautifully complex.

- - -
Another great writing promt from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop: "The simple things..."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little Stinker

Do not be fooled by this cute little face.

In the past few days, this kid...

  • Painted her fingernails with drippy, not-quite-washable craft paint.
  • Spilled about 800 little plastic beads all over the kitchen. Three times.
  • Squeezed an unopened tube of yogurt so hard it burst (and wow, that stuff can fly).
  • Sprayed paint all over the wall. And the floor. And the table. On purpose.
  • Tripped while carrying her full training potty container to the bathroom.
  • Got sticky glitter putty stuck in her hair.

There is probably more... but I'm too worn out to remember!

What a stinker.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Southerners in the desert

You can find me on Carrie With Children's fantastic blog today!

It's my second feature in her Tuesday Traveler section. Today, I give my tips for exciting family travel in the desert of Arizona. Please CLICK HERE to come by and check it out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beach Book Bash!

I am extremely jealous of all the Twitter and blog chatter about beach vacations. I have to wait two more months for our family trip to Hilton Head Island! With this heat wave and humidity, I long for ocean breezes and a dip in the crashing waves.

Thankfully, the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is helping me get into the virtual beach spirit with a Twitter party! The Palmetto Dunes Beach Book Bash will take place on July 20th from 8-10 p.m. EST.

The party will be all about the best summer books, and Palmetto Dunes will be giving out lots of fun prizes - including signed books and a Kindle! For more details about the party and Kindle giveaway, visit the Beach Book Bash page on Facebook.

All participants must follow @PalmettoDunesSC on Twitter to be eligible to win - so follow them now!

See you on the 20th! #BeachBookBash

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not ready for this

I am all too familiar with the dramatics of growing up a girl. I have little affection towards memories of issues with friends and my concerns with self-worth.

My stomach lurched when I found my self right smack in the middle of this conversation. With my THREE-year-old:

ME:  "Amelia, are you so glad your friend Emily is back at school this week?"

Amelia:  "Yeah, but she kept running from me."

ME:  "What do you mean, running from you?"

Amelia:  "I wanted to talk to her about vacation. But she just kept running... I don't think she likes me anymore."

ME:  "But of course she likes you! You are friends! Why do you say that?"

Amelia, with a sad face:  "I don't know why she doesn't like me, Mommy. But I don't think she likes me anymore."

I am speechless for a moment.

Amelia, grasping my hand:   "Mommy? We will always be friends."


- - - -

Luckily, like most girly friendship issues, the sad feelings were gone within a day. Emliy and Amelia are very good friends again. Or, I suspect, they always were.

But wow, did my eyes open wide with that conversation. I didn't even know she knew what "doesn't like me" means! I suppose I'd better start getting prepared for the pre-teen years to come.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thankful for my shoes

I received the phone call on a Thursday evening.

One year and one week ago.

"Anne (my sister-in-law) was in an accident. She fell down the ravine."

I lost my breath upon hearing those very first words. I barraged the caller with questions.

"Is she okay? What happens next? What did the doctors say?"

At that moment, we had no answers. We knew that she was removed from the river and airlifted to the nearest trauma center, Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. We were told to wait. Wait for the next phone call.

My husband was several states away on a business trip. We tried desperately to reach him, to inform him of his sister's catastrophe. I was home alone with a two-year-old. She was tugging on my arm, begging for snack, asking for a movie. She wanted to play. All I could do was sit in shock, willing the phone to ring with good news. I had to talk to someone. I called my parents, desperately trying to hold back tears, and passed along the shocking news.

The next call finally came, and it was not what I wanted to hear. My sister-in-law suffered a severe spinal cord injury and would face the rest of her life paralyzed from the chest down.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Paci in my purse

I was cleaning out the closet the other day, deciding what items had surpassed their prime, ready to move on to Goodwill and a new owner with more love to give than I. The rod squeaked as hangers were pushed aside in my search for neglected items. The drawer on my 34-year-old kid furniture wobbled as I pulled it open to inventory my collection of purses. I selected a few for the Goodwill box. I opened all the pockets and felt inside, hoping for a rouge $5 bill.

What I found took my breath away.

As I shuffled my hand through a large brown purse, I heard a small “clack” sound, plastic against plastic. I knew what it was the moment I grasped it. A pacifier. A white pacifier with a yellow teddy bear on the front.

I had not seen this item in a year. Amelia’s pacifier days are long gone. She sleeps with her animal friends, “cat” and “lambie”. She insists on grown-up nightgowns featuring the most beautiful Disney characters. She is fiercely independent.

I cannot believe Amelia is already three. But at the same time, those pacifier days are blurry in my memory. It’s funny how a year can go by so fast, yet seem so far away.

I am not sure how long I stood in my closet, grasping that pacifier. But it was quite difficult to put it down.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips for The Terribles

“The Terribles” are different for every kid (and every parent). Some are smacked in the face with terrible twos as early as 19 months. Some don’t see the wrath until 2 ½ or nearly three. Some, thinking they have magically escaped The Terribles altogether, are blindsided with a three-year-old straight out of a Chuckie movie.

My daughter fit in that second category. We suffered a serious case of The Terribles last fall, when she was around 29 months old. And let me tell you, those were three months of pure torture. I did not know what kind of crazy child I raised, and I did not know if I had what it took to continue being a mom.

Now that Amelia is three years (+ a few months) old, I have a solid grip on my parenting. We’re entering the dramatic, cry-about-everything world of a feisty girl, but I’m not scared. I faced The Terribles, and I came out on the other side! Our little family of three is still intact, and happier than ever.

I read my Twitter stream several times a day, and I know some of you are in the dark place right now. I cannot claim to be an expert (goodness knows I’ve failed many, many times), but maybe I have a tip that can help you face the dreaded Terribles.

Tip 1: Consistency, consistency, consistency. This can be a lot harder than it sounds. When you are in the midst of an all-out toddler/preschooler tantrum, panic mode can set in. The temptation to end the shrieking, flailing chaos at your feet is tremendous. But giving in? Is the worst thing you can do. If you said NO, you must stick with it at all costs. Similarly, punishment should be the same every. single. time. I was not physically capable of sitting my child in a timeout chair or even keeping her in her room. My solution? I put myself in timeout. I told her “I cannot listen to this.” I removed myself from the room. She would follow and I would sit, breathing deeply in and out, calming my own body and mind. I did this every time (er, almost… like I said, it’s so hard!). Pretty soon, she realized that she would get no attention from me until she used her words and calmed herself down too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer creativity

Since I am a part-time working mama, my child goes to preschool year-round. She is actively engaged and entertained on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 to 4:00. The other days? She is all mine. Summer has no effect on our weekly schedule, yet I find myself wanting to spend more time with her. Wanting to create memorable summertime moments.

We splash in the pool, we attack the playground with fervor, we stroll through the woods on our nearby mountain. But when (often, in HOTlanta) the extreme heat and melting humidity are too much to bear? We put our thinking caps on and find some indoor fun.

Some favorite activites we've gotten into so far?

Dance party. We blast her favorite kiddy tunes and dance. To a mom who lives life in black & white, late & early, right & wrong? Dance party is awesome. We throw caution to the wind and act like lunatics. I cannot get enough of her hearty laugh. And boy, does she laugh when mom looks completely nuts.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My mind is spinning

Clearly, no one told the "new media" universe about my reluctance towards change. Here I am, on my simple little Blogger blog. I am addicted to my user-friendly Facebook. I have finally figured out Twitter hashtags and Twitter parties.

And now, everyone is trying to change it all.

I should move my blog to Wordpress...

I need to track my Klout...

I am a tribe member and a chief of two different Triberr tribes...

Now, Google+?

I am having a minor heart attack here. Social media is growing faster than my three-year-old!

Keeping up is good for my blog and even better for my real-life advertising/media career. Eventually, the clients will start asking about these things. But the pressure to look smart? Is starting to freak me out. Somebody, please tell the world to sloooooow down.

(At least I know Triberr feels my growing pains. With a nearly 30% membership increase in two weeks, their servers blew up. They will be down for a while as they beef up their systems. Despite the hassle, I have a feeling they are doing a happy dance. Want updates? Follow @Dino_Dogan on Twitter)

What New-new media have you recently joined? Do you have any great tips for the tech-nervous kids like me?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I blog (and what's next!)

"So, you have a blog?"

"What do you write about?"

"Why would anyone want to write without getting paid?"

"Why do you blog?" 

Good question.
Seventeen months ago, I blogged because I was feeling stressed and depressed. Being the modern gal that I am, I shunned the old school journal and turned to the computer and a simple site called Blogger to hash out my feelings. Then I figured, I may as well try to get some people to read what I write. Maybe get a comment or two. So I joined Twitter. I publicized blog posts on my Facebook page. Then I made a separate Facebook page for my blog. I did a giveaway or two. I participated in blog hops. I joined a fantastic group called the Georgia Social Media Moms, where we share tips and provide ongoing support for one another.

Somewhere down the line, blogging changed for me.

Yes, I still use blogging as my outlet, to say what I need to say, to put my needs and questions out there in the universe. I continue to blog about my amazing daughter and all the trials, tribulations, and laughter that come from having her in my life. But now, is more than that. It is also a showcase for occasional creative writing. It is a way to connect with like-minded people with a willingness to share their experiences and memories. It is a method for practicing, and hopefully improving, my writing skills.

As my blog following has grown, I have grown as a blogger.

I am not afraid to insert myself into a Twitter conversation or speak up in a Twitter party because I know my ideas are welcome.

I am not embarrassed to post about my feelings and failures because I know someone out there has been through it too.

I no longer say, "I have a blog." Instead I announce, "I am a blogger."

My next big step? A blog conference.

When I first heard of blog conferences (and some of the price tags associated with them), I scoffed. A conference? Definitely not something for me. My sporadic reviews and advertising sales don't make up even a sixteenth of what I would need for a "real" income. Nor do I need them to be; that's not what my blog is about. Why would I ever go to a conference?

Now I know why. To meet other bloggers. To grow my skills. To remind myself how to network. To bust the walls of my social anxiety. To have some time away from home with people I can identify with. To be something more than "mommy".

I will be attending Bloggy Boot Camp Atlanta in late October, and I am beyond excited! I know some of the sessions won't apply to my casual blogging style, but they will be interesting nonetheless. I can't wait to meet the other bloggers in attendance. BBC Atlanta is going to be a great first conference, especially given my shyness/anxiety issues when I'm looking real life head-on. BBC uses an assigned seating approach that changes periodically, so we are never stuck sitting quietly on the edge of a clique of BFFs.

And it's in Atlanta, so I can come home to kiss my sleeping little girl before crashing in my own familiar bed.

Bloggers, why do you blog?

Anyone else going to BBC Atlanta?

**What this blog needs? More comments! Don't be shy! **

- - - -
UPDATE: To view my posts after Bloggy Bootcamp <-- click

Kids are funny

Amelia's three-year-old mind is bursting with creativity. Her art projects are colorful and detailed, and her made-up songs are getting better every day.

Last night, in a (successful) attempt to stall bedtime, she decided to perform. Here is one of my favorite Amelia originals:

"Carpet Carpet, Don't Ya Know"

I am beginning to think my advertising background is coming through. She could write a pretty catchy jingle! Carpet companies... email me for her rates.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Family. Country. Nature.

I am grateful for our land of opportunity.

For family.

For nature.

Our holiday weekend was full of firsts. Joy burst from simple moments, and memories were made.

Shucking fresh corn
Grasp, peel, pull, toss.

Learning a new skill from an uncle
Choose, hold, aim, snap.

Catching lightning bugs
Seek, point, reach, scoop. Giggle!

Picking wild blueberries – and blackberries too
Search, select, stretch, pluck. Smile.

Everyday life can be monotonous. Motherhood doesn't come with a lot of verbal thanks. But the rewards are weekends like this.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lookin' Good! New hair & a new vlog

A new vlog!
See how a sponsored/guest post made me take action:

Read the post that inspired my change HERE

In the Atlanta area?
Want to know who transformed my hair?
Email me!
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