Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'd Like To Thank the Academy

With the Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, I'm sharing this post from last year. I'm pretty sure we'll be winning again this year.

First, let me tell you I can't believe I've won. Honestly, it was enough just to be nominated.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about, dreamed about, this day. But I never really thought I'd be standing on stage before all of you accepting this award on behalf of the Loudest Family in America.

Just like everyone else there are days, so many days, when I feel like yes, yes I deserve this award. We are the Loudest Family in America.

And then there are days when for ten, sometimes even twenty minutes, there is silence and I think no, no we will never win the coveted prize. We just aren't loud enough.

I cannot believe my three kids were able to win this award over larger, much larger, families. I want to congratulate the other nominees, I'm as surprised as you are that my three were chosen as the loudest against such truly loud families like the seven O'Leary brothers in Indianapolis, the quintuplets in Washington State and of course, the 4 sisters ages 13-17, each a year apart sharing a two-bedroom apartment with their moms in Queens. You are all amazingly loud kids, but I am just honored and thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that my kids are even louder children. It is, every mother's dream.

My advice to all the kids, to all the mothers, and to all the families who try and win this award next year is this:

1. Never take a day off. Be loud every day. Mother's Day, Dad's birthday, vacations... you need to keep up the screaming. And not just the regular screaming and mayhem of kids that takes place in homes across this land, take it up a notch! Scream the bath water is way too hot, and seconds later yell it's too cold. Don't ask politely for a bath towel when you can just as easily shriek that demand at the top of your lungs. And obviously, the brisk chill when you exit the bath is the perfect reason for totally nonsensical noises at all sorts of decibels. Persistence, this is the path to victory.

Every moment is a new opportunity for noise. Remember this, and never miss a chance - no moment is too small, too mundane to leave alone. And just as importantly, think outside the voice box! Your voice is not the only way to make sounds, you can be loud plenty of other ways. Add makeshift drums, play the rim of your water glass, drum your fingers on the table, it all adds to the overall noise level. That's how you win.

2. Don't let a brother or a sister steal your thunder. If your toddler brother is having a tantrum, don't wait 'til he's done to start your own screaming match with your sister. Start yours the moment he starts his. It's just basic science, more voices = more noise. THIS is how you win. And to all the tweens and teens out there? There is no time that's not the right time for you to have your own epic meltdown. Think you've outgrown irrational outbursts at all hours of the day and night? You have not. This is how you win.

3. Mom and Dad - you are part of the family too.You will not win Loudest Family in America with just the endless screeching and screaming of your children. You must be part of the melee too. My personal favorite is to scream at them to stop screaming - it's a perfect way to get them to scream much, much louder. And Dads? If you yell at the kids to quiet down, that really gets them going. This my friends, is how you win.

And last, it is my pleasure to thank my family. Without you there would be no loudness, no constant noise and I would not be here today, on this stage, accepting the prestigious award of Loudest Family in America on our behalf.

Thank you for being loud every day, from morning until night, without your dedication and spirit we would not be here today. And winning this award? It makes every noise-filled day all the sweeter.

Thank you.{Screaming ensues.}

 What award is your family must likely to win?




Friday, February 21, 2014

The Three Best Children's Books for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and while I'm not sure if I completely agree with the direction this month of recognition is taking at my kids' school (more on that later), I do think it's a great opportunity to share with kids some of the many books that focus on the contributions of people of color throughout history. Here are my picks for the three best children's books for Black History Month:

Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (Random House, 2011).  This book, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, tells the amazing story of Joseph Boulogne, who was born in the early 1700s the son of a white plantation owner and a black salve. Joseph Boulogne traveled from his home in the West Indies to France when he was nine, eventually becoming one of the finest musicians in Europe.
I loved the story, which was completely new to me, and had a lot of surprising twists and turns as it traces Joesph's life from birth to world-famous violinist. I thought it was beautifully told, and that it explained the prejudice Joseph experienced in a real but not overwhelming way that kids could understand. Joseph was also an inspiration for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his contemporary, although they never met. Recommended for ages 5-9, though with a somewhat complicated storyline, it's best for kids on the older end of the age range.

I Have A Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Random House, 2012) This over-sized picture book also comes with a CD recording of King's historic speech. The book itself is the speech printed against the backdrop of illustrations by Kadir Nelson, a two-time Caldecott Honor winner. This book is recommended for all ages, and my three kids all enjoyed (ages 3-9) as did I - that speech gets me every time.

What Color is Your World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors (Candlewick Press, 2012) This book cleverly intertwines the story of a brother and sister learning about famous African American inventors while having a discussion with a well-read/historian handyman with mini bios of inventors and scientists. Inventors covered include the men behind the potato chip and the ice cream scoop, as well as the more modern innovation of the Super Soaker. One observation, uttered by my 7-year-old daughter, "uh, there's only one woman in this whole book." I see a clear opportunity for a follow-up book, this one focusing on the contributions from African American women.

I received review copies of these books. My opinions were not influenced, nor were my kids who don't really even know the difference between a regular, a review and a library copy.

This post is a re-publish from last year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Five Ways to Have a Swell Snow Day

Clearly I do not live in Hawaii.
This year, if you live just about anywhere except Hawaii, you've had a lot of snow days A lot. Even our southern friends who don't usually get to spend one of these charming surprise vacation days with their kids have gotten one - and sometimes even more - this year.
With it looking more likely than not that another super-fun snow day will be happening this week for folks all over the East Coast, I'm sharing five super-fun ways to have a swell snow day... just in case you're running a little short on ways to entertain the kids.

1. Have a Yes Day. This is a day where you say yes to all of your children's outrageous demands, which luckily can't be too outrageous because you're housebound. We did this on a snow day last week, and while it did force me to live tweet my descent into madness, fighting amongst the offspring was at an all-time low due to their easy agreement that the day should follow this pattern: TV-candy-TV-candy-Wii-candy-TV.

2. Have a Backwards Day. Start the day with books in bed reading the back page first, then have dinner for breakfast, with dessert first of course! When you get dressed, put on your clothes backwards, walk backwards, write backwards, maybe even play some backwards games like seeing how many tries it takes to recite the alphabet Z to A. End with breakfast for dinner, and let the kids sleep in their clothes if they want to keep the game going until the last possible moment.

3. Have a "Perfect Mother" Day. This is one of my favorite strategies for surviving a snow day. I make a schedule for everything for the whole entire day, which includes games, crafts and snacks, and then stick to it as best I can. My kids usually love following a list if I make a big show of writing it all down and having them cross the items off one-by-one as we go along. For my "Perfect Mother" Day, I have projects planned (and supplies sourced the night before), a few good books that aren't overly-familiar ready for reading, and maybe a surprise or two I actually think-up beforehand. (A scavenger hunt outdoors in the snow or an obstacle course indoors are usual favorites.) I actually set the table for breakfast before the kids wake-up in the morning, and I pre-plan what we’ll eat for all three meals and the two snacks throughout the day so I don’t have to rush around figuring this out like I usually do when I'm having a normal "Regular Mother at Best" day. I even make the kids put away one toy before they take out another, all the while using the schedule as the reason why we need to finish one activity and cross it off so we can move on to the next one.

4. Have a Guest Mom Day. I have this day all the time. For this day, I beg my mother/best friend/distant cousin/neighbor to come over and help me out. If the roads are passable, I hire a babysitter. And if all else fails, I plead with my husband to take the day off, please.

5. Have a Be Yourself Day. Another favorite at our house, this day is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s a great option. Be yourself, even if that person is cranky, tired, and maybe even just a teensy bit impatient with her beloved children. Let your kid be himself, even if that person is whiny, fighty, or prone to saying repeatedly “I’m bored.” Just be glad there is no school to be on time for, no homework to do, no ballet class to go to, and my personal favorite, no lunches to pack.

And remember what people tell you all the time and you know deep down must be true, or why would people say it all the time… they’re only young once. Enjoy it. 

Even on the *$@* snow day this season.

Need a few more ideas for keeping kids entertained on the snow day? Check out:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sweetest Valentine Ever

Last year, my essay A Pinterest Perfect Mom, I am Not was included in the humor anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone. The essay was about how the year before I saw this idea on Pinterest about decorating your kids' bedroom doors with hearts filled with sweet saying for Valentine's Day.

I thought it sounded like a fun idea, so late into the night I wrote "You're so good at singing loudly all of Taylor Swift's songs!" and "I love it when you wake-up at 5am! More time to spend together!"

Then even later into the night I taped those hearts all over their doors. And then re-taped them when they fell down, all the time reminding myself that it was going to be worth it - so worth it - when they saw them Valentine's Day morning!

On Valentine's Day morning the children not only did not appreciate my "heart attack," they mocked it. Relentlessly. And then they made fun of all the stupid heart stuff I made them for breakfast.
So last year, when Valentine's Day rolled around, of course I didn't do it again. For breakfast there were no heart shaped potatoes, no eggs in heart shaped bread with a side of heart-shaped strawberries. Sure, there were waffles with red and pink sprinkles - I don't hate happiness, but it wasn't all over the top like the previous year's celebration.

So you can imagine my surprise when the kids asked me "Where are the hearts on our bedroom doors? Where are the heart pancakes?"

"What?" I replied, shocked. "You hated all that! So I didn't do it again... wait, you mean you didn't hate it?'

"No!" The kids screamed, "We loved it!"

Huh. I honestly had no idea.

Then, this year, the greatest thing happened. When I woke-up Valentine's Day morning, the kids had decorated my room with hearts! And Kay even made a scavenger hunt with a different gift waiting for each of us when we reached the end. It was absolutely the best Valentine's Day ever.
Sadly, Dad was away and didn't get to be part of the fun. So Kay made this perfect card for him.

In case you're worried Kay's father is stationed overseas or on an extended archeological dig, he is neither. He is away on a 56 hour business trip, but to Kay, his absence must have seemed much longer.

Next year, I'll have to head back to Pinterest to find something really good for those kids....

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Springerle - Valentine's Day Cookies with WOW

Do you want to be the THAT mom at the class Valentine's Day party?

Of course you do.

Then bring these cookies:

 photo ValentinesDaycookies-1.jpg

I'm actually not that mom. But my mom is, so she made these cookies for us.

If you also want to make them, here's how:

  • Purchase a heart shaped cookie mold here.
  • Follow the recipe for Perfection Springerle Cookies here. (Or the gluten-free recipe here.)
  • Enjoy for months to come! Seriously - these cookies stay good for 2-3 months.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Ironman

 photo Ironman.jpg

This is my son.

He's four.

He's also, more often than not, Ironman.

The other day he wore the outfit pictured above to our local library and the librarian very kindly said to him, "You must be very strong!"

To which my son, Ironman, responded, "Yes. But that's nothing. I'm also very smart!"

To which I had no choice but to add, "And clearly also very modest."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Suffragette Valentine's Day!

This post is a re-publish from 2011, because if there's one thing the Internet doesn't have enough of, it's historical information about the suffragette movement.

I am a big collector of all sorts of things. Useful things, like used milk caps

I also like to collect old postcards. They arrive to my (and my husband's!) delight neatly boxed-up from eBay on a regular basis. Sometimes, I purchase postcards directly from among the decaying remains of a lifetime in a house sale or more macabrely, from an estate sale.

Some of my favorite postcards are the ones that are both pro and con women's suffrage. For those of you who like a little history lesson with your blog reading, the women's suffrage movement in the United States was active in the early twentieth century, until voting rights were finally secured in 1920 after a long and contentious battle.

The U.S. suffragettes were a clever group, as were the equally fascinating anti-suffragettes. The arguments from both sides are still very much alive today via the slogans of the many postcards used to promote each side's position. Today, these same goals are accomplished with emails and witty tweets.

I have an endlessly amusing collection of postcards from both sides of the debate, and only recently realized a few of them are Valentine's Day related.  I'm not sure why the holiday-tie-in, but as I also have Mother's Day and Thanksgiving Day suffragette post cards I'm guessing they took advantage of all the holidays to spread their message.

Here is one of my most favorite Valentines Day anti-suffrage cards.  It reads "Woman's sphere is in the home."

And although she's entirely on the wrong side of the debate, there's still something so captivating about the quilter pictured here. The photo doesn't really show it, but that's a real red ribbon winding around the bottom of her skirt, and tiny silver beads around her quilt. Clearly, the anti-suffragettes weren't messing around when it came to showing their superior crafting skills while being in their place at home.

If you want to see additional vintage and suffragette Valentines, don't worry, I have more! Just click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Instructions for My Husband: If We Are Renovating 'Together' and I'm the One Doing the Actual Work, That Doesn't Make You the 'Supervisor'

I'm thrilled to welcome guest instructor, Rheney Williams!

Here is her instruction for her husband: If We Are Renovating 'Together' and I'm the One Doing the Actual Work, That Doesn't Make You the 'Supervisor.'

I couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing, Rheney!

My dearest darling husband,

You are my best friend. Nay – you are my other half!

And this is why when we agreed it would be a 'great opportunity' to buy a fixer-upper and renovate the mess out of it, we knew we could handle it because we'd be doing it together, right?

Two equal parts coming together as an awesomely indestructible whole, right?!

And since it's our first house, we'll be able to overcome any difficulty we have with ease and laugh it up as a part of the great 'adventure' that it is, right?!!

Cue the slow-mo shot with the happy, carefree couple bounding together in a lush meadow of daisies and release the doves. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh. So. Many. Things.

I can't remember when you decided you were 'done' with it all but I'm pretty sure the ink was still drying on the mortgage.

Yeah, you remember the mortgage, right, honey? It's that piece of paper that reflects a 'reasonable' purchase price because of all of the concessions for the 'fixing' we decided to do ourselves to save money.

Well, here's the thing: We didn't get a completely finished awesome house at a great price. We got a dump for a great price that we get to turn into an awesome house. And that nasty carpet and the teal laminate countertops aren't going to replace themselves.

But let's back up. I'm the first to give credit where it's due so let's do a quick recap on your contributions, shall we?

You did a bang-up job on painting the ceilings. They are all fresh and white and just wonderful. And your shoulders look ah-mazing! But...are you going to get the edges?

'Of course! Don't you worry; I'll take care of it!'

And you did. With a big fat roller. That left little smears all over my painstakingly cut-in walls around the entire room. That I now have to spend another afternoon of my life that I will never get back re-painting, and oh look, there's not enough paint in the can to re-do the whole room. So now I also have to schlepp it back to the paint store. Thanks for that.

Next time, do the edges with a brush.

But there's also our hardwood floors that we needed to bring inside to acclimate to the inside temperature before we could install them. When it came time to opening the boxes to let the wood breathe, what did you say?

'Of course! Don't you worry; I'll take care of it!'

And you did. At the end of a long day when you were tired and wanted to wrap up so you rushed through the box-opening process.

Only you ripped into every box like a rabid gorilla and now we have six boxes of extra hardwood flooring taking up space on my side of the garage (yours is spotless, of course) sitting atop shredded pieces of cardboard that we can't return because you deemed it appropriate to reenact a scene from 'Planet of the Apes.'

Truly outstanding. Good lookin' out.

Next time, don't try to do something with expensive materials when you're tired.

But the kitchen backsplash tiling situation truly takes the cake. This is the task that I took on so you could get a break from all of the hard projects.

And here you come waltzing in after a nice, long, relaxing jog on the treadmill that I haven't been able to use since last summer and you have the nerve to comment on the tile? No sir.

'Why do you keep leaving everything a mess?' Like you, I've never done this before, so I'm sorry that I had to go the store five times to get all 42 things you need to slap some tiles on a kitchen wall.

'Are you sure this tile was the way to go?' Actually, no, I wanted something very different but this was the best choice for the money that you insisted we stop spending even though this project was always in the budget.

'Why don't you try cutting them a different way?' Oh, I don't know – maybe because I'm the one who actually read the manual (three times) so that I could put together a saw and know exactly how to adjust it. And perhaps because marble is a 'soft' stone which means it will chip if it isn't cut just so.

'Should this be taking so long?' Really? That's what you're asking? Because the answer is: 'No. No it should not be taking this long. And it wouldn't be if you were pulling your half of the weight.'

And another thing, buddy, since when did you become a tiling expert? If you're not offering to actually help, you don't get to offer helpful 'tips' and suggestions on how I could be doing things better.

So seriously, either pick up a trowel and get to grouting or pipe down!

Love you, honey!! Can't wait for our next project!!


Rheney Williams is a DIY woman on a mission who readily acknowledges that she couldn't Do-It-Herself without the support of her wonderful husband, Stephen. In addition to writing about projects for Home Depot, Rheney and Stephen are 'jointly' updating their home. Wherever you live, The Home Depot has a store near you with knowledgeable associates available to help with one-on-one advice for projects large and small.

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