I've decided to go with a more unusual interpretation of the "Black" theme. Here's a photo of 3Po and Jammy playing in the school yard. It's more commonly known as The Blacktop, which is a term I had never heard until my kids started elementary school. I suppose it comes from the asphalt they used to give it a nice, smooth finish.
This photo was inspired by the Photo Hunt theme of the week. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more black things, click here.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join BlogHer's street team, an informal group of people who like to share their own posts and links with the BlogHer community, share links to BlogHer posts that move them, and generally grow and strengthen the Blogger community. It's not a paid position and there is no obligation on anyone's part to promote or share any stories. I decided to join because I think there are a lot of great articles and posts on the BlogHer site that I might never get around to discovering (much less reading), and now I get a weekly email with links to a bunch of great BlogHer posts that I can read and share, and use as inspiration for my own blog posts.
For example, last week BlogHer had a post explaining some common Twitter terms like DM's and hashtags and twitter streams. It's a great post for people just starting to wade into the twitterverse (that's another term explained in the post). The blogger, Melanie, also has a follow-up Twitter post with more basic Twitter information, and even better, has links to more tutorials for people who want to learn more. Reading these posts made me think of some other Twitter-related questions I've always wanted to ask:
1) Is there anywhere in the blogosphere that lists down upcoming Twitter parties? You can go to sites like Amy's Resourceful Mommy and Jyl's Mom It Forward to see the Twitter parties they're hosting, and that probably takes care of 90% of the Twitter Parties that the mom blogging community cares about, but there are a lot of other parties being hosted by other bloggers (TwitterMoms, for instance) or by smaller bloggers (I've hosted several myself!). I wish there were a place where Twitter party hosts could list their parties so that partygoers like myself could get an idea of what parties they can attend that week.
2) Does anyone know of any twitter tool that counts how many tweets occurred with a certain hashtag between a specific start and end date? I've tried doing this with search.twitter.com, and it does return all the tweets with that hashtag, but it doesn't return a count, so I have to scroll through pages of tweets and count them by hand. Not fun!
3) If you don't have a smart phone, what are some good Twitter apps to use? I use a Samsung Reclaim with a Sprint Mobile service, and I can only manage to get a very basic Twitter app which doesn't do retweets and only lists about 10 tweets in my twitter timeline.
4) How do you insert all those special characters like notes and hearts and smileys into your tweets?
5) Is there any tool around for effectively managing your Twitter followers, i.e. be able to sort them alphabetically, by age, by location, be able to search for a specific follower, etc?
If anyone knows the answer, or knows where to find it, I'd love to hear from you! You can find me here, or where else? on Twitter.
This weekend we were invited to the San Francisco Exploratorium to meet some amazing young inventors who will be showcasing their creations at the 2010 Bay Area Maker Faire. We thoroughly enjoyed last year's Maker Faire, so I knew it would be an event worth seeing, and great run-up to the main event on May 22 and 23.
Sure enough, we got a great sneak peek at some really cool inventions -- a marble run, a levitating machine, a fire breathing dragon and a rotating light sphere. We got to listen to several inventors explain how their inventions worked, what challenges they encountered and what they love most about their inventions. The Open MAKE exhibition area also had some great interactive exhibits like a marble run wall, where the boys could make their own marble run with wooden pegs, ramps, pipes, platforms and other doo-dads.
But their hands-down favorite activity was making these Scribbling Machines.
All you need is a small rotary motor, a hot glue gun stick, a box or plastic tub, some markers and tape. You stick the glue stick into the rotating shaft of the motor to make a propeller -- but you don't stick it in the middle, stick it slightly off-center so that your machine will actually travel instead of just vibrate. Attach one of the motor's wires to one end of an AA battery with a rubber band, and attach the motor to a plastic cup with tape. For legs, tape 4 or more markers, marker-side down, to the bottom of the cup. They also had bits of feathers and pipe cleaners and stickers so kids could decorate their contraptions.
To make the machine go, attach the motor's second wire to the other end of the battery. This turns the machine and the propeller, which makes the whole thing wiggle around. The markers will write on whatever surface you place your machine on, since it's vibrating so much.
The boys were absolutely entranced! We had to give the motors back so that another museum-goer could get the chance to try it out, but they had vending machines which sold the motors for just 50 cents. I bought one for each kid, and now they're have a wonderful time inventing all sorts of contraptions using the motor. What a great way to inspire future makers!
Disclosure: We received complimentary admission to the San Francisco Exploratorium to attend this event. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
Here are five hi-tech presents I'd love to see on my bedside table when I wake up on Mother's Day! Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?
1) Retractable earphones. I'm still in love with the retractable convenience of ChicBuds earphones, but mine have fallen apart. I need a new pair!
2) A digital camera. Our Canon point-and-shoot is really on its last legs. Half the time, we need to manually pry apart the lens! I'm quite happy with the Canon interface, so I'd love any of the Canon Powershot A-series cameras.
3) A smart phone. Now that I have an internet data plan on my phone, I'm really feeling the limitations of my Samsung Reclaim. Sure, it's cute and it's made of corn, but it's hard to email and tweet and browse the web. I don't really want to switch from my Sprint plan, so unless Sprint starts offering the iPhone soon, I wouldn't mind an HTC Hero or EVO.
4) Virgin Mobile Broadband. I don't use my laptop on the road often enough to justify paying for a monthly mobile broadband contract, so Virgin's pay-as-you-go plan is perfect. You buy the USB device for $99 and you can pay for service only when you need it. The cheapest service is $10 for 100MB or 10 days, whichever you use up first.
5) An iPad. How can you not want one? It's an e-book and a netbook and game player all in one! That's why I’m participating in a contest at Best Kids Apps, a blog about iPhone apps for kids, for a chance to win an iPad. Wish me luck!
Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. By posting this, I gain an entry into a contest for the chance to win an Apple iPad. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
Addictions start early.... alas, for this little lady (my niece) it may already be too late.
This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more addictions, click here.
Yesterday I was skimming through Facebook when a friend's status update caught my eye:
That gave me a good laugh, but I was laughing with her, not at her, because that's only one of the absentminded things I've done. I tend to be, uh, forgetful in the best of circumstances, and when my mind is preoccupied or stressed, things can get pretty crazy. I'm not talking about minor incidents like leaving food out all night or leaving the car keys in the bathroom or laundering jeans with money or tissues still inside the pockets (tip: Do NOT do that. It clumps up and ruins all the other clothes in the same dryer load). I'm talking "What were you thinking??", "Why don't you lie down for a bit, you need a break" kind of stuff, like:
- Pumped gas, left the gas nozzle inside my car's gas tank, and driven away.
- Left papers up on the roof of my car, and driven away.
- Left the milk up on the roof of my van (Not a car. A van. Don't even ask me why I would put it all the up there), and driven away.
- Put the milk in the pantry (Miz B, you are not alone).
- Put the cereal in the fridge.
- Put the car keys in the fridge.
- Forgotten to pick up The Pea from school.
- Forgotten to take 3Po to soccer lessons (which is agony to me because there were no make-classes; such a waste of money!)
- Forgotten that I had arranged a playdate with The Pea's friend (her dad dropped her off and I had no idea why she was there. I'm just glad we were there).
- Thrown important papers in the recycling bin (Which is why, if you're in the neighborhood, you will occasionally see me foraging through our trash cans. Please don't call the police. I'm not a vagrant. I live there).
- Thrown Alfie's stash of gourmet nuts and chocolates into the trash.
- Left the stove on all night.
- Flushed my car keys down the toilet. Don't ask.
I probably have more stories, but I've forgotten them!
Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. I do receive a referral bonus if tickets are purchased from the link provided. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
Hey, Bay Area families: this week's Savvy Source deal is for the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. You can purchase a Family Pack of tickets (2 adults, 2 children ages 3-11) for $20. That's 50% off the regular price of $40!
If you haven't been to the Aquarium of the Bay, check it out! We went there a couple of months ago and we all loved it. You get to walk through glass tunnels with fish and sharks and bat rays swimming beside you and above you!
The deal expires at midnight on Thursday April 22, so purchase it ASAP at:
In addition, 5% of every purchase will go towards a Savvy Source preschool scholarship fund, and an additional 5% will go to the preschool of your choice (you choose from a list of preschools in CA when you sign up for the offer).
With Earth Day coming up next week, everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon -- so it's hard to close your eyes and ignore the small, easy changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. I don't remember when it was that I first started making changes to reduce our impact on the planet. I still remember buying (and lifting!) crates of water bottles from Costco when I was pregnant with the twins, so it can't have been that long ago. Maybe it was when we switched from paying for two garbage bin collections down to one, and I had to look more carefully about what can and can't be recycled. Maybe it was when Whole Foods started selling reusable grocery bags.
Whenever it was that we started, I'm happy to report that we've managed to maintain most of the eco-friendly practices we started, and over the years, we've become a much greener family than we used to be. Here are five small changes we made that have been no trouble at all to maintain:
Our city has made it so easy for us to recycle; we don't even have to segregate our recyclables anymore! Our recycling bin is about twice as big as our garbage bin, and it's surprising how fast it can fill up.
2) Eating less meat
I am such a carnivore, but we've gradually cut down on our meat consumption, and now we have meat or chicken or fish or pork just one or two times a week. Many times it's not even the main part of the dish (such as split pea soup that's been flavored with ham). Eating less meat has a quadruple -whammy of benefits: it's better for your health, for your checkbook, for the earth and for the animals, so this is an easy one. Cut out meat entirely? Ummm.... that's harder. Alfie swears he could go vegetarian tomorrow if I agreed to it, but I'd miss the taste so much. Sorry, I'm celebrating the small victories where I can find them.
3) Washing clothes in cold water
It's true, washing clothes in cold water really don't make too much of a difference, especially when you have a front-loading machine like we do. I just keep the setting on cold and never notice the difference.
4) Buying eco-friendly, natural household cleaning products
There are so many eco-friendly, natural household cleaning products on the shelves these days. They don't cost any more (or much more) than chemical-based products, and they clean just as well so this is another easy change to maintain. And as a blogger, I was lucky enough to be given an Activeion cleaner to review -- it uses only water to clean and disinfect, which of course is as natural and chemical free as you can get!
5) Using cloth grocery bags
This has been a really easy change to maintain, and now I find plastic bags to be irritating waste of space. Even when I forget my bags, I just tell the checkout clerk that I have bags in the car, and put my groceries back into the grocery cart. I do have a small stash of plastic bags that I keep at home to put wet swimsuits in, wrap super-disgusting messes (like spoiled veggies or meat from the fridge, soiled clothes when any of the kids have a little potty accident, etc..), and when the stash gets low I do allow some of my shopping to be packed in plastic bags. And when Safeway delivers groceries to the house, I always unpack my groceries from the plastic bags as fast as the delivery guy carries them into the house, and send the plastic bags back.
But don't congratulate us yet; we're by no means the model green family. There are some green habits that have fallen by the wayside, and some areas we could (and should) probably do more. Here are five of them:
1) Line drying our clothes
Laundry is a tiresome bother even when I use the dryer, so it's all too easy to look at the sky and decide it's looking damp and drizzly. I do a much better job at this in the summer, obviously, and I have to admit my clothesline hasn't seen any use at all in months. Now that the weather is drying and heating up again, I'm running out of excuses.
I just don't like the thought of throwing food scraps and slimy bits into a ceramic pot and leaving them to rot, right beside my kitchen sink.
3) Ditching the plastic
This has been a real toughie. The only plastic habit I can say I've successfully and totally ditched is plastic water bottles (we use reusable water bottles now). I have cloth sandwich bags and reusable sandwich cases and containers, but I still find myself occasionally reaching for a plastic bag to put the kids' goldfish crackers in. And I still sometimes buy individually packaged snacks. What can I say, I get lazy in the mornings!
4) Ditching the paper
My addiction to disposable paper towels is still around. I've started using cloth towels to wipe spills up more and more, but I still buy paper towels and still use them half the time. And I still think disposable baby wipes are God's great gift to parents (I did find some eco-friendly disposable wipes at Walgreens -- they're made from bamboo!). And I will not switch from tampons to the Diva cup.
5) Driving less
Our morning walk to school is a firmly entrenched habit, but I'm ashamed that I can't say the same thing about my pickup routine. The trouble with living less than a mile from the kids' school is that I tend to delay leaving home to pick the kids up until the very last minute, and by then of course it's too late to walk, so I end up taking the car.
See, just like China, we've made a start but we still have a long way to go.
This post was inspired by Earth Day and by the Silicon Valley Moms' book of the month: National Geographic's Green Guide for Families (participating bloggers were given free copies of the book). Read how this book inspired other SV Moms on this month's SV Moms Club Book Club post.
Whenever we go out into the sun, we ask our kids to wear wide-brimmed hats so their face and shoulders are covered, and their skin is shielded from the sun's rays.
This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more covered things, click here.
Two days ago, while driving up I-5 on the way back home from our LA spring break trip, we passed a cattle farm. It was an amazing sight to see, but not in a good way -- there were hundreds of thousands of cows as far as the eye could see, but not a single blade of grass. All these cows were standing on something brown, and I don't think it was dirt. The stench was unbearable. And it lasted for miles. Long after the cattle farm had receded into the distance, we continued to hold our noses. I have no idea how people can work in that place, much less how cows can stay alive in that filth.
When you're at Disneyland and you have young kids, it's a fact of life that you'll be spending just as much time in the restrooms as you do on the rides. You know how it is: you take one kid to go potty and get in line for Peter Pan's Flight (a 30-minute line), then after 20 minutes your other kid needs to go as well. I swear, we must have entered every single restroom at the Disneyland Resort over the course of two days.
Fortunately, the folks at Disney understand how the human psyche works, and just as they put all kinds of distractions in their queues to distract people from realizing just how long they've been standing in line, they've cleverly decorated their restrooms to make them substantially more entertaining than your average loo. I didn't notice these signs at first because we were so busy rushing in and out, but after the tenth or twelfth potty break I finally got around to snapping these photos:
A Bug's Land, Disney's California Adventure:
Aren't they adorable? They're just one more way Disney takes ordinary things and makes them special. I wish I had taken photos of all of them; it's just one more item on my To-Do list for the next time we visit the Magic Kingdom.
The sun was shining, the breezes were blowing, and it was the perfect day to take a stroll along Manhattan Beach with the kids.... NOT! Actually, it was the perfect day for Alfie to take a stroll along Manhattan Beach with the kids, and for me to connect with some great bloggers and companies at the 3rd Annual Child's Play Bloggers Brunch. When I received the invitation I nearly wet myself with excitement, since I know Child's Play PR and Team Mom always manage to round up blogger-friendly companies who want to share their latest product lines with us -- and since the event coincided with the kids' spring break, I found a way to make it happen.
That's Child's Play PR president, Stephanie Azzarone, in the blue suit, surrounded by panelists Caryn Bailet from Rockin' Mama, Ciaran Blumenfeld from Momfluential, MC Milker from The Not Quite Crunchy Parent and SV Moms' very own Jill Asher.
I didn't know anyone except Jill, since all the bloggers present were from Southern California, so I put on my sociable hat and got to meet lots of wonderful women, including (I'm using Twitter names since it's easier to go through my Twitter stream than sort through all the business cards right now!) @mommasinthehous (who fakes the best Filipino accent), @sweatpantsmom (who was looking gorgeous sans sweatpants), @amysfunny (who really is funny), and fellow SV Moms Group bloggers like Elise Crane Derby and Donna Schwartz Mills. I love expanding my network of bloggy friends!
The sponsors were friendly and only too happy to show us their latest product lines:
The Pottery Barn Kids representative admitted that they are just starting to wade into the waters of blogging PR and social networking, but with their awesome products I'm sure it won't be long before the blogosphere is buzzing and tweeting with PB Kids giveaways and reviews.
Bandai had all the latest toys for boys and girls. 3Po and Jammy are really into Ben 10 ever since Santa gave them a Ben 10 Alien board game for Christmas, so I'm hoping I get to review some really cool Ben 10 stuff.
Needless to say, the goody bags and giveaways were awesome. Bloggers received samples from (in clockwise order, from top left) Bandai, Pottery Barn Kids, Summit Toys, Cold Stone Creamery, and Nickelodeon. They also had giveaways for even more prizes, like a $500 certificate to PBKids, a year's worth of Cold Stone ice cream, toys, toys and more toys, spa certificates and 3 Dyson vacuum cleaners. Sadly, I didn't win any of those, but I did win a tube of mascara worth $85. I have no idea what they put in it -- ground up diamonds, perhaps? -- but I will soon find out, and I'm looking forward to dazzling everyone with my $85 eyelashes.
Anyway, no one could possibly be disappointed with the Child's Play brunch: great weather, great food (they served Mom-osas, made-to-order omelettes and Cold Stone Oreo ice cream sandwiches), great people, great companies, great prizes, great giveaways. What's not to love? Oh, and did I mention that I drove all the way down to LA for this*? Yup, 800 miles round-trip -- and it was totally worth it. Thanks, Child's Play, for letting the grownups play too!
* Okay, I didn't really drive 800 miles just for this event. Alfie drove half the distance. And we did go to Disneyland as well. And I did get to walk around Manhattan Beach with my kids for, like, 5 minutes.
** Disclosure: I received a bagful -- okay, two bagfulls -- of goodies from the sponsoring companies (but you've probably already guessed that). I'll blog more about those on my review blog, Bonggamom Finds.
5 Minutes for Mom's Ultimate Blog Party couldn't come at a better time -- it's Spring Break next week, so I'm ready to partay! I join this bloggy event every year because I get to discover new blogs, put out my own bloggy welcome mat to new visitors, and get the chance to win some great prizes.
If you're new to this blog, hello! I'm Bonggamom. You can find out more about me on this post. And here's my contribution to the party -- have a cupcake:
So what's this party all about? The Ultimate Blog Party is a virtual party celebrating online friendships (you can find more about it and join the party at 5 Minutes for Mom). And as with all the best parties, there are party goodies! This year, as always, there are a ton of amazing prizes up for grabs, and I'd be crazy not to put my name on the list to enter to win (and since I'm not crazy, I've linked up -- I'm link #923 on the Ultimate Blog Party's Family Friendly list, link #375 on the Facebook list, and comment #500 on the UBP main party page). My top 3 prizes would be:
63 – One lucky winner will receive a Razor® Rip Rider™ 360
Provided by: Busy Mommy Media
Follow here: busymommymedia or Visit Our Fan Page: Busy Mommy – Surviving Motherhood One Mess at a Time
And if my top 3 picks are already chosen, I would love to win prize # USC 39, USC3, USC8, USC15, 31, 32, 37, 49, 52, 55, 61, 71, 73, 67, 87, 113, or USC36.
Thanks for stopping by! Leave a link to your UBP party post in the comments and I'll make sure I stop by and say hello. Happy partying, and I hope you all win the prizes you asked for -- unless I asked for the same thing ;)
In January 3Po and Jammy attended a rock climbing birthday party. Most of the other kids were content to go a third of the way or halfway up, but they were two of the more adventurous ones who made it all the way to the top.
(BTW, apologies for the blurred photo, I only had my camera phone at the time!)
This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more vertical things, click here.
As I write this, it's almost exactly nine years ago today (she was born at 8:50PM on April 6, 2001 and it's now 8:52PM) that The Pea made her screaming, messy, dramatic entrance into the world. I can't believe she's nine. The other night, when I was looking over at the birthday cards displayed on the mantel, I saw one with a huge, swirly, glittery and exceedingly pink number 9 in front, and I panicked. I thought, with no doubt in my mind, I don't want her to be nine.
I didn't feel this way when she turned six, or seven, or eight. Somehow Nine has become the age where I feel like she's no longer a little girl. She's still young enough to want pink cupcakes and pastel sprinkles, but now she wants iPods and Uggs instead of dolls and stuffies (sad, but inevitable). She wants an allowance (I've been expecting this for a while). She wants to walk to and from school by herself (in your dreams, kid!). I look at her face and I see lines and angles instead of curves and dimples. I think I can see a hint of the woman she will become.
Those nine years seem to have disappeared more quickly than the cupcakes in the photo -- and if the next nine years go by as quickly as the first nine did, I'm going to have to strap a videocamera to her forehead so I can capture every single precious moment.
But I have to hide my sadness and put on my happy face and let her know that there's nothing that excites me more in the world than to have her be nine, wow, nine, almost ten, what a big kid you are now! Only this blog knows how I really feel.
I could really use one of those pink pastel cupcakes right now.
Today the Pea confessed that she had cried in class today because her teacher had read a sad story out loud. I told her there was nothing to be embarrassed about since it shows that she is sensitive to other people's feelings. 3Po joined in the discussion with this helpful tale:
3Po: You know those frogs that we had in our classroom? They died over the weekend.
Me: Oh, that's sad! Did you cry?
3Po: No, I didn't.
Me: Did any of your classmates cry?
3Po: No, but we were all disappointed and sad.
Me: Yeah, I can see why -- you've been taking care of those frogs for so long and watching them grow up, of course you'd be sad.
3Po: No, because we didn't get to see them die.
My little Sweet Pea is turning nine on April 6! It like just yesterday that she was blowing the candles on her first birthday cake. I even remember what kind of cake it was: a super-sweet tres leches cake. Ah, how time flies.
This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more sweet things, click here.
I know it's April Fool's Day, but this is no joke: We're spending Spring Break in LA, and we'll be visiting the Disneyland Resort again! The kids are over the moon, falling all over each other to behave well and gain good behavior points they can redeem at the park. 3Po wants to beat everyone's score at the Buzz Lightyear ride, and Jammy is eager to prove to everyone he's no longer too scared to ride the Matterhorn. The Pea is dusting off her Disney autograph book so she can get updated autographs from all the Disney characters (and hoping she amasses enough pocket money to buy a souvenir from one of the shops).
As for Alfie, he's wetting his pants with excitement. Okay, that last part was false, but he's certainly not complaining; in fact, he's talking about which rides we're definitely not missing (Matterhorn, Tower of Terror, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters) and reminding everyone we need to get to the front gates as soon as the parks open -- which for Alfie is as close to eager anticipation as he's going to get.
We're going to be driving down from the Bay Area, which is going to be an adventure in itself; the last time I drove to LA I was in my twenties and didn't care about little details like stopping to go potty and protect my kids' lives. We'll probably take Highway 101, and I'd like to stop by the town of Solvang along the way (I heard it's a really pretty town with Danish roots), but the real fun will begin once we step into the Magic Kingdom (or is it the Happiest Place on Earth? either one will do).
Unfortunately we'll just miss the start of the Disney's California Food and Wine festival , but there's so much to do and so little time to do it that we won't lack for amusement. I'm looking forward to seeing Captain EO, the Michael Jackson attraction that was recently brought back to Disneyland, and I'd want to catch the Aladdin Musical at DCA before it closes this summer -- and of course, all my old faves like It's a Small World, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (yes, I'm just a big kid at heart), the Matterhorn, the Haunted Mansion, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. I can't wait!!
Disclosure: I received four 2-day media passes to the Disneyland resort but was not obligated to write this post. I am responsible for all other travel expenses on this trip.