Thursday, May 31, 2012

When the "what ifs" come true

Life throws us curveballs sometimes.

We never know what is going to happen to parents, siblings, or even ourselves. Two years ago, my sister-in-law had a dramatically life-changing accident. She is only in her 40s, but caregiving is now a front-and-center part of her life. It is not easy to think about medical scares, accidents, and aging, but it is important. We should have a plan for the big "what ifs" in life, because educating ourselves now is a whole lot easier than in the stress of a difficult situation.

I've partnered with Genworth Financial to bring you a guest post, highlighting one of those "what ifs" turned reality. This is not my post - for all who know my mom in real life, she is fine!

But these words really make you think...

Caring for Mom
A guest post, sponsored by Genworth Financial

I had a rude awakening with my mother the other day. It was Friday, the day when she usually picks up my daughter from pre-school. She’s been doing it for months now – and she loves the time she gets to spend with her granddaughter.

But last Friday she forgot. I got a call from the school. I left work and ran over to get my daughter. I called my mother from the car. She had no idea she was on carpool duty.

I’ve been so busy that I’ve forgotten things (my keys, my wallet, to call a friend, to brush my hair). And yes, I’ll admit it, when my daughter was an infant, I even left the house once without her – but I only made it as far as the driveway.

But there was something about my mother’s forgetfulness that didn’t fit with the routinely harried forgetfulness that is so recognizable to all of us. When I spoke with her, she had no recognition of what day it was and what she was supposed to do. Even more unsettling was the call I got back from her twenty minutes later when she remembered.

Obviously, she was incredibly distraught. And it has occurred to both of us that we might be entering an unfortunate period in her life when age and forgetfulness collide in the terrible thing that is Alzheimer’s disease.

This week we have a number of doctor’s appointments scheduled. I certainly hope that Alzheimer’s is not the final diagnosis. But even so, she will age and one day she will need care. I am working mom, and it’s already a stretch to find affordable childcare.

All of a sudden, I feel that we are to be launched into a whole new world of caregiving. Maybe it’s because I care for her so much, or maybe it’s because I’m completely Type A, but I don’t want to wait until it’s too late to know what we’re getting into. There’s a lot of educating to catch up on. And these are not easy issues to talk about, but fortunately, there are a lot of available resources out there. It is somewhat comforting to know that there are many other families that have gone through similar experiences and to know we are not alone.

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Post brought to you by Genworth Financial

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

#WW: Space for the spirit to breathe

"Space for the Spirit to breathe."
                                  -Rainer Maria Rilke

Photo from our Hawaii vacation, September 2006.
Our reward after a long drive along the Road to Hana.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Destroying her privacy?

Am I destroying my child's privacy by blogging and Facebooking? I read a commentary piece recently that made me think a little harder about what I do online. These writers argue that online activities such as mine - sharing photos about and stories of my child - are stealing away her basic human right to privacy:

"We have a right to control how much we want the world to know about us.
These are fundamental to our personal autonomy.
Our children deserve the same protections."

At first, this column really hit home - and hurt my feelings. Am I an awful mother for blogging and posting about my child? Am I a big, mean, nasty dictator stripping her of her rights?

You know...
I do not think so.

On my personal account, where I share the most information and photos, I know all of my Facebook friends. I have selected every setting possible to ensure those friends, and only those friends can see what I post. I check those settings frequently to catch any changes Facebook has decided to sneak in.

I post a lot about my daughter, because the Facebook friends I care about are family and close friends with children of their own. To be honest, I may not have survived the first few years of motherhood without Facebook as a sounding board and support mechanism shared with other parents whom I respect and love. I am a better mother because I found support when I needed it the most.

With my BalancingMama Facebook page and this parenting blog, I have set clear limits. I do not post certain kinds of photos of my child. I never discuss details of my marriage or share stories that intrude on someone else's life. I will not write any details about my job, employers, or coworkers. I try my best to hold close any information that would allow a stranger to specifically pinpoint our location.

Do I write a lot about Amelia?  Yep.

Do I share a ton of photos of her?  Of course!

But do I ever share anything that I think would damage her? That would keep her from getting a job in the future? NO.

Does the big Facebook ad machine have ways to get and share my information? Yes... in a way. But as an advertising professional who actually buys Facebook ads, let me tell you: I do not know how to obtain any personal information about specific individuals. Can I target by interest, children, age, college? YES. But do I have any way of knowing who exactly fits within those categories? Names? NO. Are there ways to do so? ...maybe? Not in the simple ad buying tool Facebook has for the regular, legitimate advertisers. Internet privacy, cookies, and ad targeting sound scary to many, but from the actual advertising side, it seems like most people just do not understand how it really works.

When she gets a bit older, I will show Amelia this blog and my Facebook pages. If she asks me one day to stop sharing so much about her? I will shut down in an instant. Her privacy is absolutely important to me and I will give it precedence. When it comes her time to choose, I will respect that.

In the meantime, I will keep on sharing. But as always, with discretion.

Parenting bloggers - what do you think?
How do you balance privacy and sharing info about your lives?

Celebrating freedom - with a freebie!

Parks and pools are packed. The stores have their Memorial Day sales. And I have a quick & easy giveaway!

Thanks to Purex, I have two coupons for a free bottle of new Purex Triple Action detergent to share with you. Pop on over to the BalancingMama Facebook page and "like" or comment on the post there. I will pick a winner on Tuesday evening, May 29. I will try to contact you immediately, but make sure to check back to see if you won!

And if you don't win, you can still get coupons and deals from Purex on their Facebook page. Here's a $1.00 off coupon!

Happy Memorial Day and good luck!

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I am a Purex Insider and help spread the word about the Purex® family of laundry products. As an Insider, I receive sample product and incentives in exchange for participating in brand related activities.

U.S. mailing addresses only, please. New winner will be selected if I do not receive a confirmation & mailing address within 48 hours.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Four weekend days!

We keep correcting her - "It's three weekend days, honey."

She is so excited that she just can not hear us. We probably sound like the adults in Peanuts cartoons.

Waugh waugh wahmp waugh waugh...

The calendar on our pantry door shows her usual weekly schedule; school days, home with Mommy days, and two weekend days (indicated by a blue heart - our favorite days). We get a bonus this weekend! She has already announced this to two friends and a few strangers.

"Four weekend days! Did you know we get four weekend days?!?"

Cuteness. I am thrilled that this is such a big deal to her. She likes us! She really, really likes us!

Happy long weekend to all! I hope your families are with you - and excited about it - also.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A new chapter

She put on her favorite dress this morning. She selected not one, but two necklaces. Her pink sparkly shoes waited by the door, ready to take the outfit up yet another notch. Oh - and we couldn't forget the purple sparkle bow for her little curly ponytail - on the side.

My girl is growing up.

She unbuckled the lap buckle on her car seat for the first time this morning. She released my hand before we arrived at her classroom. She giggled when a good friend (a boy friend) immediately grinned and exclaimed his greetings to her.

But I don't want her to grow up.

Today is the final day of her school year in the "3s" classroom. She will return next week for summer camp, but without her two closest friends and with different teachers. She will need to find some new best buddies. She will learn new things. Mid-August begins her final year at the school were she has blossomed and been  loved since she was only three months old.

I will miss this school family.

A new chapter will be starting before I know it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An almost-wordless Wednesday haiku

Footsteps in the sand.
The sea washing onto shore.
Where I long to be.

It seems like a lifetime ago, when I took that long weekend trip to Jamaica with my sister. I missed my little girl like crazy, but the trip was fantastic. The quiet peace of a beach (without kids) is the ideal remedy for my tired, balancing, sometimes failing self.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Unseen friend

I am sad for Amelia this week. Her final week of the school year, and her last week with two best friends. Both friends are changing schools. Amelia goes to summer school because I work a couple days a week, and I fear next week's tears; she cries when she feels alone. She is devastated that her friends will not be there anymore. The other kids love Amelia, but she has an extra special bond with these two.

I hope she soon finds that bond again with more adorable friends.

Until then, I'm reminded of "The Unseen Friend." I hope he/she does an extra good job for my girl next week!

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him, and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he's sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

He lies in the laurels, he runs on the grass,
He sings when you tinkle the musical glass;
Whene'er you are happy and cannot tell why,
The Friend of the Children is sure to be by!
--Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When did we get so... boring?

Last week, I turned 34 years old. I "celebrated" by taking care of my daughter, bringing her to dance class, cooking dinner, and pretty much anything else I do on any given Wednesday. My husband had to be out of town on business, but I knew he had the upcoming Friday off for our mini vacation. So all was fine. Not exciting or elaborate, but just fine.

Today, my husband became a 36-year-old. He went to work, took part in some meetings, and came home after 6:00. Now he's off to a softball game, his weekly springtime moment to be a kid again (albeit a little slower with weaker knees...). No big elaborate event today, either. He remarked that he is now more than halfway to seventy years old. And by the way, he finds it is now much more difficult to read up close.

Good times.

Good times.

Happy birthday to all the thirty-something's out there!
Let's get together and party sometime.

(As long as I can be in bed by 11:00.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

#WW: Three (nope, seven!) Bears

In all my years in Tennessee, I never saw a black bear. This weekend, as we enjoyed some family time in a cabin in the woods, we saw a total of seven!

Saturday night, three bears were ransacking the garbage bin across the street. Either someone forgot to lock it properly, or the bears managed to break it. We watched from our deck and listened to them grunt and howl. Really fascinating!

And before heading home yesterday, we took a drive through Cade's Cove. Four more bears to be found there!

In the garbage, cabin across the street

Some people get really close. These were two cubs -
Mama no where to be found... I stayed in the car!

Love this furry face

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

#SeniorHottie: What do ya think?

Last year, one of my favorite bloggers - the lovely Liz from A Belle, a Bean & a Chicago Dog introduced the world to the blogging phenomenon known as "I was a senior hottie". We linked up photos of ourselves in high school for fun and laughs.

I joined in the fun last year - see my posted pics HERE.

#SeniorHottie 2012 is back and even better - with categories, judges, and prizes!

Although I would like to pretend my gray hairs, eye crinkles, and those "few" extra pounds never appeared in my life, I still think I have to go with the hasn't changed since high school category. Especially given many of the comments from last year.

I'm told that I "haven't aged a day". My name, Julie, actually means youthful one. Now, perhaps people are just being kind... but you be the judge. What do ya think?

At least, please tell me that my hair isn't quite as wide. I hope I have learned to tame it a bit since then!


Dreaming of the future?

Class of 1996!

Formal night on our cruise, March 2012

Now I have a mini-me!

Come on, dig up your photos, post some then & now, and link up!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mommy & Me Monday!

A fellow Georgia blogger and a fantastic mom of three, Serious Krystyn, has a Mommy & Me Monday link-up each week. She wants us busy moms to get out from behind the camera and jump in some photos with our sweet kiddos.

Thanks to a mini family vacation this weekend, I have a couple and can participate! Yaaaay!

Here I am with my favorite girl in the whole wide world - on a celebratory birthday and Mother's Day weekend trip to Tennessee:

Carousel at Dollywood

"Lemon Squeeze" (teacups)

Testing our strength on the Lumberjack Lifts

Hot tub on the deck - a necessity after a day at Dollywood!
Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy day to all!

Happy Mother's Day to all! We've been enjoying a weekend away, in a cabin near Gatlinburg. In all my years growing up, I never saw a bear. This trip? We saw seven! Lots of family fun and togetherness. Great weekend, but kind of a bummer that all the usual tasks begin again tomorrow. Oh well, I hope your day and weekend were fantastic! Will be back with a post soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Preschool Phone Apps

(This is a guest post - she is sharing some top apps for those eager-to-learn preschoolers. I also recommend Doodle Buddy, Cake Doodle, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, and Toca Kitchen! Check them out!)

Four Cute and Educational Mobile Apps for Pre-Schoolers!

The age when our kids start using technology is getting younger and younger. While it can be a little unsettling for some parents to watch their five year-old learn functions on their iPhones they didn’t even know existed, there is actually a lot of good that can come from kid-friendly technology. Next time you have a long car ride or trek through the grocery store, try out some of these fun apps designed especially for pre-schoolers. 

1. Dora’s Skywriting ABC’s Most of us know Dora the Explorer, and now your child can take her along for the ride. Dora’s Skywriting ABC’s promotes literacy skills. It is designed to teach kids to recognize letters and sounds and learn to write the alphabet. The first step to learning how to read is to discern the sounds in words. This game will help your children associate specific sounds with letters and begin to make connections about how things are spelled. It includes tutorials with Dora, tracing uppercase and lowercase letters, pictures for reinforcement, and player profiles so your child can save their progress. 

2. Fish School Fish School is a fun learning game that promotes learning letters, shapes, numbers and colors. The games are beautiful and colorful in high definition (available on the iPad with Fish School HD). The games are very simple and geared toward pre-school age. 

3. My First Puzzles This game is just super cool. It is reminiscent of the oversized block style puzzles made for the pre-school age group, and your child will be able to slide the puzzle pieces together easily. There is a signal every time a puzzle piece is placed correctly into the puzzle and finishing an entire puzzle correctly gets an audible round of applause, which kids love. 

4. iWrite Words This is another number and letter writing app that can be used as a nice rotation in your game arsenal for those long car rides. It covers remembering and writing numbers up to 20, the letters of the alphabet, and beginning level words. Make sure you only use this game after your child can confidently identify numbers up to 10, because they will have to follow numbered dots in order to trace words correctly.

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Author Bio: This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bare feet on grass

Dusky evenings twinkling with fireflies

Blades of grass squishing through my toes

Melons and beans emerging fresh from the garden

Swimming pool splashes mixed with giggles and squeals

Neighborhood parties on the cul-de-sac

Clicking, chirping sounds of hot-weather insects at night

Oceanfront balcony views on a beach vacation

Sugary Popsicles melting, dripping down our hands

Waving to neighbors as we ride bikes through the streets

No school, no homework, no schedules

Those were my lazy, sunny summers, growing up "Tennessee".

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Mama’s Losin’ It

MamaKat's prompt:  List your top 10 favorite things about summer growing up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

#WW: All grown up

I took Amelia to get some portraits made today. We waited until her eyes healed from surgery, so we're a month after her birthday. But these came out so great!

I cannot believe she is so grown up already.

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The photos were taken at Sears Portrait Studio. I purchased the CD of our session, and I do have full rights to publish.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Atlanta welcomes the world

The new international terminal at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is scheduled to open on May 16th! This is especially exciting for my family and the many others who have been in the mix of design and construction for over a decade. My husband was a project manager on a portion of this major effort; he has been involved in one capacity or another since he graduated college and took a job in Atlanta.

It's been a long time coming. We're so proud of him and all the families who also had loved ones involved in this new and important Atlanta fixture.

Steve took his girls to Family Day last Saturday, for a sneak peek of the parking decks, roadways, terminal, and concourse:

Pedestrian walkway from parking deck

Ticketing area

Outside the terminal

Outside the terminal, view of the tower

The entire project - roadways, bridges,
parking, new building

Now, where should we fly next? This definitely makes me want a European vacation.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Together, we are safe

We had a nasty storm here last night. Pounding hail, flashing lightning, and tremendously loud thunder made for a noisy evening. I was not home, out enjoying food, sangria, and fun conversation with some dear neighborhood friends. Other than the storm keeping us indoors (indicating the perfect time to say yes to dessert!), I did not think too much of it.

Apparently my daughter was not quite as unfazed. This morning, she popped out of bed and hugged me with more enthusiasm than I've seen in a while.

"Mommy! I am so glad you are home! You were out in the loud storm and I was so scared!"

Steve told me that she missed me a tad more than usual last night. He said she asked about me and what I was doing a few extra times. And she stalled bedtime with even more persistence. It turns out, she was truly worried! In Amelia's world, the family should be together in a thunderstorm. We should be inside our house, within arm's reach of one another, listening to the pounding hail against our windows and the cracks of thunder in the skies - together.

At first I brushed off her worry, telling her it wasn't a big deal. But I thought about it some more. And, really? I love that she was concerned for me. I love that family represents comfort. I love that our home is synonymous with safety. I love that togetherness is something she clings to, something that takes a prominent position in her world. I love that she could open up to me, explain that she was frightened and worried.

I absolutely love that I am her mommy.

I get worn down, frustrated, tired, and bored of the monotony life often brings. I wonder if my efforts are pointless. I feel like I give and give and give and do not always receive the same level of effort from others. I admit, sometimes I give into thoughts of what's the point?!?.

The point is, I am the biggest part of this child's world. I know I cannot promise I will be with her forever; we never truly know what tomorrow brings; but I will fight anything that comes my way -

Because a sweet, beautiful, brilliant little girl needs me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Want to invest?

One of Mama Kat's writing prompts this week was "an invention you'd like to see created". I know just the thing. A child-friendly device that would reduce the clutter of aspiring artists like mine. Something made for the kids who can go through a pack of markers and 60 sheets of paper in two weeks flat. For the creative minds.

The esteemed display location for the most amazing children's art is, of course, the refrigerator. Kids gleam with pride when their masterpieces are stuck with magnets to the one appliance that is the heart of the kitchen. It is a simple, easy place to display everything - not to mention the family calendar, a coupon or two, baby announcements from friends....

It can get pretty messy.

I once made the horrible mistake of throwing away several Amelia drawings. I let them rest on the top of the trash can in the middle of the day. She saw them and nearly had a panic attack. With tearful eyes, she implored me to "get them out!". 

I made her a hanging box for her gazillion papers: 

But in her 4-year-old world, nothing compares to the sacred museum that is the fridge.

I need a toy company to make a simple, kid-friendly, magnetic scanner/photo display. Similar to the digital photo frames that scroll through images of your last amazing vacation, this could scroll through thirty or forty images of art from days past. It could stick on the fridge with a simple slot for kids to feed in their latest creation. It would scan the masterpiece and automatically load it into the digital display rotation.

Amelia would love it! It would clean up my refrigerator, so I would love it too. The downfall, I think, would probably be the price. It would need to be durable and aesthetically pleasing, with scanning and digital display technology. But since it would be in the "toy" category, it would probably require a relatively low price point. What would you pay for such a gadget?

Fisher Price, want to reach out? Investors, got some cash for prototypes? Please click the email button floating on the left side of this page.

I could be rich! 


Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

#WW: Still alive!

I am terrible with plants. My thumb is not remotely any shade of green. Last year, I planted some flowers in front of our house; they lasted a record-breaking two months.

This year, I vowed to try again. I purchased only the heartiest sun-loving flowers, begonias and marigolds. So far so good... still alive!

It looks like springtime around here.

This bush is flowering like crazy this year - smells good!

One of my marigolds; still alive!

Husband went out and bought this one. Cute!

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Happy Wednesday!  Got an iPhone (or any smart phone) photo? You can link it up to #iPPP here:
iPhone Photo Phun
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