My girls love Mary Poppins. So do I. The music, the confident, organized, but magical Mary Poppins and how the family goes from dysfunctional to slightly more focused on each other in the end – what’s not to love? Well, maybe the scary old bank guy yelling about money – and the part where the kids get lost, can’t find their parents, and run into some guy that was working on something at their house? For now, we’ll focus on the parts we love.

I recently discovered a new Mary Poppins Barbie and Jane and Michael, of course. I don’t think I’d been that excited about a Barbie since I was asking for my very own for Christmas! It was a “must purchase” and became a treasured gift to one of our daughters.

Then the sweet, adorable, helpless baby boy that we all fell in love with turned into a toddler. That sweet, adorable toddler hugs his sisters kindly, plays gently with their toy babies, hugs his animals at night, and gives me some of the sweetest little grins and kisses. He also seems to have an uncontrollable need to whack any object in his hand into whatever is near, to see what kind of sound to makes, to see what exactly will happen. He’s really a physics student. What will happen if I drop my gooey blueberry off the side of my highchair? What will happen if I take my bat and hit my sister’s head instead of my ball? How about pulling as hard as I can on Mary Poppins’ head?

None of the dolls had lost their heads until our little boy came along. I’m sad to say that Mary Poppins wasn’t the only casualty. And she might not be the last.

One time a married friend of mine was talking about how close another woman and her husband were. She mentioned how this other woman talked with her husband about the texture of her hair and her hairstyles and how she’s never bothered her husband with something like that. I assume she only talks to her female friends about her hair. Sometimes I ask my husband about what kind of haircut he likes or doesn’t and whether you consult yours or not is up to you.

Whether our husbands are interested in discussing our hair or not, our hair is something we have to deal with in one way or another EVERY SINGLE DAY. Kind of like laundry at our house. Oy.

Hair isn’t exactly something that I talk with friends about all the time, because it seems like a rather shallow, self-absorbed kind of topic. Lately though, I realized I was in a very bad hair rut and have put off getting a haircut for longer than I want to admit. I finally started asking a couple friends (who don’t mind my shallow request for advice about my hair) and searching for hairstyles online.

I found this little gem from Real Simple’s website called “20 Gorgeously Simple Hairstyles”. This is not talking about haircuts. It IS all about very simple (like the title) hairstyles. After all, what mom doesn’t need a new hairstyle on occasion to go out for the evening or even on an “it’s been a crazy morning and I missed my shower – what in the world can I do to my hair???” day. So, find those great tips here.

When I was looking for great haircut ideas, I came across too many sites really. Many of them were all about the hottest celebrity haircut and had so many ads moving and flashing that it was too hard to concentrate. The most practical and personally helpful site I found was The site is not all about hair, but they had a very simple (key for me) way to navigate easily through different kinds of haircuts (long, short, medium . . . ) and gave practical tips on how to achieve certain looks.

I usually straighten my hair in the mornings, but found that after a recent swim and a lack of brushing, I rediscovered my waves and actually liked them. It looked like I had spent a day at the beach. And, of course, there are actually tips on achieving that long, beach wavy look here along with one of my personal favorite long, wavy hairstyles on a celebrity (that I’m unfamiliar with) here.

If you find a great haircut idea for moms – whether you’re going for a “meant to be a mom” look or a “please let it not be so obvious that I’m a mom” look, feel free to pass it on.

We really do adore Rachael Ray at our house. We’ve been watching her since before she was a face that everyone knew. Our first child would walk around carrying a large load of items from her little hands all the way to her chin calling herself Rachael Ray. Have you seen how Rachael Ray always tries to carry too much? Because Rachael Ray is  very engaging and since it seems like she’s really talking right to you (the audience) so naturally, our kids enjoyed watching her at a young age. It’s like she’s a long-time friend we’re having over, just chatting while chopping in our kitchen.

My only bone to pick with Rachael Ray is that the advertised 30 Minute Meals don’t really account for some cooks, like me, who have never completed one of her meals in 30 minutes. My only other problem with the Food Network is that none of the stars normally have young children on the show, unless it’s a once-a-year special on cooking with kids, which we enjoy. At my house I don’t look as composed at Giada while cooking. Well I’ve never looked like Giada since we’re being honest. Maybe I would feel a little more composed if I were cooking without 3 young children running around, talking with me, offering to help, asking for snacks, fighting, getting hurt and just wanting me and my undivided attention. So, I think I’d like to see if Rachael Ray can still keep her fun-loving temperament or if Giada can still be as calm, gorgeous, and composed with 3 children running around. That sounds more like a reality show. Maybe that will be my suggestion for the Next Top Chef! A challenge where they’re cooking with children running all around, climbing on them, telling them funny stories, and asking to help when their help isn’t requested. Hilarious – maybe unsafe, but hilarious!

Traveling with Kids? Sometimes my first thought is more like a sigh with a groan attached. Then I take a deep breath, start mentally gearing up, and make lists for what we can do to make it as smooth as possible with the constant realization that disaster may hit at any moment. I’m not talking about an earth-shattering true disaster. I’m talking about the everyday kinds of disasters like multiple children screaming and being unconsolable in their carseats when there’s no safe place to stop or having to sit on the airplane for 3 hours while they decide whether or not the airplane is truly safe to take off.

Here are some of the best ideas I have:

1. The Perfectly Packed Diaper Bag

Every mom learns that it’s essential to pack well and be prepared. See my diaper bag packing list here.

2. Food

If our kids are hungry, even if we think that it’s impossible for them to be hungry yet, their mood and behavior will slide. Sometimes my kids completely fall apart and they don’t say they’re hungry. I’ve just learned that they have to have substantial, healthy snacks at certain times of the day (mid-morning, mid-afternoon) to prevent the very predictable meltdowns. Sometimes they’re hungry at other odd times during the day as well and we have to go with it.

Some experts say that meals and regular snack times should include protein, carbs & fat. If their blood sugar has already dropped and seems to be the culprit for a current meltdown, some orange juice or boxed apple juice might buy you some time to prepare a snack or finish the ride home safely. Don’t be afraid to open one in the grocery aisle and pay for the empty bottle up front.

I keep a fold-up cooler in the car so that I can quickly throw a few snacks in it if needed, whether I use ice too or just want to keep it from getting too hot on a quick trip around the corner. It’s also handy for a couple of frozen items on the way home from the store.

One dilemma we have on road-trips is trying to reach 3 kids in the minivan to pass out snacks. I came across this site the other day and they came up with a pulley system to pass out snacks and toys. I question the safety of it (ropes in the car with young children?), but I admire the creativity of it all. I wonder if there’s another system that might not be as entertaining, but safer. My oldest daughter in the back of the van can now be in charge of her own snack distribution at least for 1/2 the day or so. The same site also has some great ideas for snacks as part of the entertainment and more road-trip tips.

3. Drinks

Always bring water. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest health secrets and it’s really no secret. I try to pack rice milk or an extra beverage if our kids are used to it at the time that we’ll be gone (i.e. rice milk before bed or milk with their breakfast at the hotel). Don’t forget your own large water bottle. Take care of yourself too – sometimes we’re so focused on them, we forget!

4. Toys

For the car or errands, I prefer easy-to-pack and easy-to-track toys and usually not their very favorite, irreplaceable toy. I don’t want to have to collect Barbie shoes from the bottom of the mini-van or have tears because they got dropped in Target. We’ve brought Kelly dolls without their shoes sometimes for that very reason. We also have conversations about how their favorite stuffed animal that they sleep with might get refried beans on it at the Mexican restaurant. They usually happily agree to leave it at home so it doesn’t get lost or messy. Sometimes we put it in their car-seat to wait for them while we go in somewhere. It’s a no-tears solution.

We love bringing books, even before our kids can read. They’re entertaining and it teaches them to love books. Sometimes I’ve been the story-time lady from the front of the van while my husband is driving (rather uncomfortable, but it worked for a bit). My oldest daughter can read from our iPhone or Amazon Kindle now, in addition to her chapter books. That makes for less to pack, when the Kindle contains all kinds of book titles and the older classics are free!

One lightweight, small, entertaining toy we discovered are Wikki-Stix. The first time we saw them was at a restaurant, given to entertain children. They’re great for different ages (as long as they don’t eat them), can be bent into all kinds of shapes and letters, and did I mention they’re small & lightweight?

Stickers are always a big hit for our kids: stickers with tiny note pads, sticker books, making a card for grandma or a friend – amazing. One thing to watch though is that they’re choking hazards for small children, so avoid them unless you’ll be right by them supervising carefully.

Here are a few other toy ideas for the car: magnetic toys on a board (if they’re old enough not to ingest them), small magna-doodles, toy cell phones, and note pads or activity books with a few Crayola washable markers (crayons can melt).

On that note, please remember that balloons are choking hazards and while everyone loves balloons, we don’t love the idea of anyone choking on one on the way home or on a roadtrip far from medical help. We’ve heard scary stories from ER nurses. Be the party-pooper. They’ll be okay.

5. First Aid Kit

At minimum, it’s a good idea to carry a few band-aids & anti-bacterial wipes around town. I started carrying around ice packs and am working on a first aid kit for the car. Here’s a list for a complete first aid kit from the Red Cross. You can also order a pre-made kit from them or buy a pre-made first aid in your area that will be a very basic kit, but it will require less searching. The Red Cross stresses checking expirations dates on first aid kit medications and supplies often on any kit.

Here are a few additional items I try to keep in the car: a large bag/baggie (airplanes have barf bags, why shouldn’t we?), wet wipes, and a clean, small towel in a resealable bag.

Next I’m working on the car emergency kit which can include a gallon of water, fire extinguisher, flares, blankets, rain poncho, a flashlight and I found a more complete list on the Red Cross website here.

6. Preparing Your Kids

We start talking about trips in advance and get the kids involved in picturing it and planning. We usually let them each pack a small mom-approved kid-sized backpack of toys to play with in the car or bring (in addition to back-ups that I bring). They each get to pack books, one small animal, crayons/paper, a blanket and a few favorite toys.

7. Entertainment in a Pinch

For easy play-anywhere game ideas to entertain kids, see my post here.

8. Extra Diaper Bag

Really? 2 Diaper bags? Yes. I try to keep a small diaper bag in the car that just has wipes, diapers, extra outfits for young kids, socks, a blanket, and anything else we might need in that stage. I’ve put extra snacks, an empty sippy cup, an empty bottle, and emergency snacks in it before. I don’t want to have to lug around a diaper bag that has 7 diapers for the day, a pound of wet wipes, and my preschooler’s extra outfit if we’re stopping at a restaurant.  It streamlines things every day (something should be streamlined!) yet still makes me feel prepared.

9. Your Sense of Humor

We were supposed to go on one simple flight from our city to visit the grandparents. We had a late evening flight planned and hoped our then 2 young children would eat and then peacefully fall asleep on the plane. We hoped to gently lift our sleepy kids into their beds while we scrambled to unpack at our destination. It turned into some kind of Amazing Race game with no million dollars at the end. After waiting for a very long time on the plane, had a chance to get off the plane, got back on for a while, only to be told to get off again, our flight was cancelled. We kept getting re-routed and ended up on 4 different flights, an airport bus, and a tram all in the middle of the night. Soon into the night, the airlines lost our baggage and we were on a completely different airline. We were flagged as suspicious because we had no bags, so it was really difficult to get through security at the 2nd or 3rd airport. I think that was in Vegas where we were literally running to make our next flight and where our then 1-year- old daughter got patted down by the security specialist. I’m not kidding. I think my jaw actually dropped as I stood there speechless. I was so thankful I’d packed about 3 times the amount of food I thought we’d need, just in case. My then 5-year-old daughter was a brave, persistent, look-on-the-bright-side little girl. I tried to frame it all as a big adventure – “Look! We get to go on a bus!” – at about 3 a.m. It worked. She had the best time ever being dragged through airports all night – 14 hours. We even took a picture with her new “friend” that was also re-routed on almost every flight with us. Our oldest loves travel, adventure, and people and can make anything fun.

I know: LAND THAT PLANE a.k.a. get to the point. There are times when NOTHING goes as smoothly as you want it to. Your baby won’t stop crying. Your child knocks down a display at the store. Kids get sick on trips. Even worse – you all get sick on a trip! Try to take a deep breath, laugh about it to yourself or out loud, or at least tell yourself that someday, you’ll look back on this and laugh. : )

Really? 2 Diaper bags? Yes. I try to keep a small diaper bag in the car that just has wipes, diapers, extra outfits for young kids, socks, a blanket, and anything else we might need in that stage. I’ve put extra snacks, an empty sippy cup, an empty bottle, and emergency snacks in it before. I don’t want to have to lug around a diaper bag that has 7 diapers for the day, a pound of wet wipes, and my preschooler’s extra outfit if we’re stopping at a restaurant.  It streamlines things every day (something should be streamlined!) yet still makes me feel prepared.

Think fast. Whether you’re on a long road-trip, running errands, or get stuck waiting in a long line, a few good ideas on entertaining our kids always comes in handy.

At the pediatrician’s office recently after a long appointment, we had to wait a few more minutes for the nurse to come in with the much-dreaded shot. My kids were starting to melt. They were tired AND getting hungry – the dreaded double-whammy! The window was slamming shut and I was trying with all of my might to keep it open. No food was allowed in the exam room. What now? Suddenly, I knew we needed to play a game! I revamped Simon Says into a Do What Mommy Does game and it went over beautifully. We were doing ballet, hopping on one foot, acting like elephants and then waddling and quacking like ducks actually when the nurse came in. She gave me an odd look, but she should be grateful — at least no one was screaming, until the shot that is.

Here are a few other easy game ideas: –

  • I Spy with My Little Eye . . . . something that is the color yellow, something in a tree, something that Mommy has always wanted, etc. You can adjust it to the child’s age level and do it anywhere. Then let them lead!
  • Slug Bug. Just kidding. I don’t really permit my kids to slug each other. I just remember doing this as a kid.
  • Which do you like better? I have no idea what to call it. I just say two things and they pick which one is their favorite or that they like better than the other (examples: lettuce or spinach?, blue or green?, baseball or basketball?, hula dancing or ballet dancing?). Trust me – this can entertain little ones and even teenagers for long periods of time. Everyone likes to be asked their opinion, don’t they?
  • Make up a story together. This has to be one of my favorite things to do with my kids. I get insight into the mind of my little ones and get to be creative with them at the same time. It’s one activity I think we equally enjoy. Tonight I tried it at bedtime with my 2 year old boy. I thought he might not be ready for it, but he surprised me. I just start it out with something like, “Once there was a little boy named _____ and he liked to ______. One day he woke up and wanted to _____ and then go to _________.” The story went on until “it was time for the Mommy to tuck the little boy in. The Mommy gave him lots of _____  and _______ .” He said “hugs” and  “kisses” with a huge smile, melting my heart.

Using your imagination to make up stories, poems, rhymes, or songs is so great for our kids and will help them excel in school as well! If you’re not afraid that you or your kids will be nerdy, you can try these:

  • a spelling bee
  • share the biggest words you know
  • make up new words
  • create math problems for each other
  • learn words in a different language
  • trivia

These are for the really secure people, of course.

Important reminder for all of us: don’t share with our child’s friends that our family plays brainy games when they’re over the age of 10. At that age, even if they act like it’s nerdy, they might still enjoy it occasionally. Just don’t push them to confess that in public.

Here are some of my husband’s much-easier, tech-saavy approaches: games on the iPhone, game or movies on the iPad, and movies in the car on the laptop or DVD player. Remember the headphones or multiple ones.

Soon my daughter will be taking an iMovie class. Next she’ll be taking videos on the iPhone 4, editing them in the backseat on a laptop, and posting them on her Facebook page before we even return from a trip. I’m just trying to prepare for the next stage in our future.

We all kick ourselves when we realize suddenly that we have diapers, but no wipes, or forgot our wallet in the other diaper bag/purse and we’re trying to pay for groceries. (Yes, I’ve done that.) Whatever the case, here’s a list of some basics for all of us — or maybe for our husbands or childcare providers when they’re in charge of the bag:

  • Diapers – 2-3 (or Pull-ups, extra underwear & cover)
  • Wipes – some in the diaper pad pouch and one baggie easily accessible for hands/face.
  • Camera / videocamera
  • Cell Phone
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Sunglasses
  • Paperwork: Map, Coupon, Grocery List?
  • Food! – see #2
  • Seasonal / Optional Items: Sunscreen, Mosquito Repellant, Summer/winter hats, kids’ sunglasses, Gloves, Lipstick, Bandaid & antibacterial wipe in tiny packet
  • Medications: Infant Tylenol/fever reducer, Children’s Benadryl (allergic reactions), Epi-pen Jr. or other medications if needed. If you’re on a trip. put the other kids/grown-ups’ prescriptions in it too in case your luggage gets lost.
  • Important: keep the diaper bag out of reach if it contains medications. My friend’s daughter with allergies drank an unsafe amount of benadryl out of the diaper bag in a group childcare setting. You also want to avoid having your keys disappear or your lipstick being used to decorate the furniture at a friend’s house. For me, the diaper bag is off-limits to little kids.

Only in America

June 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

Okay, I’m not anti-dog, anti-animal or against people caring well for their pets. I had a dog growing up that I loved as well as other pets. The difficult part is that when I compare life in the U.S. to several other countries I’ve visited, I just can’t help but think they might feel sick about us buying our pets Christmas presents, snazzy toys, outfits, expensive food, and now – a carseat with a great view outside. I’m sure a dog-lover made it for good reasons and this is a free country and if there’s a market for it . . . . but, I still picture people in poverty who would look at an item like this as such a ridiculous luxury instead of a need. I wonder what they think of us based on how we spend our money. What if we had to sit in front of a widowed mother face-to-face and tell her we couldn’t give a nickel to help her feed her children because of the things we needed to buy for our family? Then what if we showed her each item we had purchased that month and explained why we needed it more desperately than helping her family? What if they lived across the street and they saw me drive up with large grocery bags full of not-exactly-essentials, knowing that their kids were starving? I think we would be so much more generous if we actually had to face people that were struggling that desperately, rather than having them hidden in some projects somewhere in a different neighborhood or half-way around the world.

I didn’t intend to write this to make you feel guilty if you have a dog or if you’ve gone shopping for something this month — not at all. I do however, think about things like this often: How can I actually live out the values that I claim to believe? How can my experiences with the poor and in so many countries affect my day-to-day life and habits? How can I invest in others – especially the poor, orphans, widows, single mothers –  and influence others to? I know I can’t make a difference for every person, but what I can do for one or for one community?

Best Bib Ever!

June 22, 2010 — 1 Comment

I know it’s hard to believe that a bib is worthy of an exclamation mark, but is is! Finally, with our 3rd baby, I found the perfect bib. It’s the Bumkins brand SuperBib. It isn’t bulky, uncomfortable or limiting to their movement (like the baby bjorn bib with the pocket that sticks out). It’s MACHINE WASHABLE, like everything should be for young children. It’s not made of plastic that cracks (Walmart bibs) or toxic-smelling vinyl (Target bibs). It’s BPA free and PVC free. And, finally, they’re cute enough for pictures! We have a handsome blue one with circles (see Babies’R’Us site link below) and a fun Dr. Seuss print for our 2-year-old. I have run them through the washer constantly on hot with towels and they’re still fantastic. I usually hang them up to dry, which doesn’t take long. I really want to hug whoever made these, but that might be awkward, so I’ll share them with you instead.

Here’s the link for the Bumkins company:

Here’s the link to one of them on BabiesRUs:

Share with us some of your favorite products for babies, children or moms.

There are so many romantic movies I loved as a teenager, a young single woman and still love now as a married mom of three. The funny thing is that most of them don’t include a toddler throwing a tantrum, children demanding more ketchup during a romantic dinner, or a child screaming for help in the bathroom while trying to kiss the one they’re in love with.

We all know in our minds that romantic movies are not real. Sometimes though, we all want the movie moments – the sweet, the sappy, and the sensual. I’m finding that in this stage of my life with more life experience (more birthdays) and 3 children, that I’m drawn to the movies or shows that are more realistic and don’t pretend like everything in a marriage is tied up in a pretty little package with a sparkly bow.

I’m also drawn to figure out how people realistically keep a marriage together when they have kids, especially young kids who need, well, a lot. Constantly.

I have a few tips, but not many, so I’m opening this up to you to start a conversation here so that we can learn from each other. Feel free to ask your friends, your wise grandma, women who’ve divorced, or women with long-term marriages, for some ideas on what they do or would do differently. If you have a book that you loved (or didn’t), let us know.