Hockey is for girls, too!

Move over Mattel being the king of toy stereotyping; Oriental Trading Company’s got one up on you…

We’re playing spring hockey over here (gah!). So my eldest son is reeeallly into hockey. Truly. He’s pop out of bed on Sunday mornings for a 7 am ice time into it. So you can imagine that only a hockey party will work for his upcoming 7th birthday celebration. Rink is booked, but party favors are not. So, today, while searching for hockey-related hockey party favors, I came upon these inflatable hockey sticks. Kitschy, yes? Perfect for a seven-year-old, yes? But just for a boy’s birthday? Oriental Trading Company thinks so, but I’m not so sure.

hockeystick

 

See it? Says these are “fun for boys’ birthday parties, too,” mentioning nothing of all the girls playing hockey these days. The GIRLS skating circles around my son on his team. Say nothing of women’s hockey leagues. Yet women in sports that are dominated by men are overlooked in the simplest of ways.

Maybe Sheryl Sandberg has a point. I’m partway through her book and I’m not hating on it yet. We have to be our own best advocates to lead and be heard… Even if it’s just making sure girls get noticed in the smallest of ways.

Yeah, Oriental Trading Co. girls skate, too.

 

 

 

 

Taking your brand from online to “on air”

Yesterday, I had the chance of talking to a great group of women at Bloggy Boot Camp Chicago. I’ve never attended at BBC before, which is run by Tiffany and Fran, two really dynamic women who also run SITS Girls. But my dear friend Cynthia has always sung their praises, so I was really glad to be included.

Y’all know how much I hate speaking in public, but the group of women in attendance were so welcoming and genuinely seemed eager to hear what I had to say that I instantly felt comfortable. Tiffany and Fran really set a good vibe for the conference.

I spoke to the crowd about how to transition your brand and content from online to video and on-air. I’m not a vlogging expert, but through my PR work I do do a lot of TV work, and as such wanted to share what I’ve learned about getting on TV with other women who might be interested in doing the same.

I’ve posted my presentation to slideshare and posted it below. What questions or thoughts do you have about TV work? I’d love to hear it so I can improve on this talk in the future.

In Honor of Mother’s Day: Shtty Mom Book Preview

If you’re like me and on Mother’s Day you seek ways to escape your children (because isn’t Mother’s Day supposed to be about the MOTHER not about the kids, hello!?) you might like to pick up this little ditty of a book I managed to get my hands on at the Mom 2.0 conference last week – Sh*tty Mom. I mean, seriously, the title alone was enough for me to put down 50 Shades of  Porn Grey. That’s saying a lot. My husband was not pleased.

Girlfriends, this sh*t is funny. Almost as funny as how bad the writing is in 50 Shades of Porn Grey is.

Sh*tty Mom, written by the ever-fabulous TODAY Moms team and comediennes and writers Laurie Kilmartin and Karen Moline, is the perfect anti- “Are You Mom Enough?” – brouhaha book. These ladies certainly didn’t carry their babies around in a sling breastfeeding until they were wearing braces.

Cool by me. Sh*tty Mom is the perfect book if you’ve texted excessively at the playground, left your kids in the car while you went into get the dry cleaning because it’s too big of a pain the ass to get them in an out for a 5 min errand – GEEZ! and all around lazy-ass parenting moves that we probably all do once in awhile and just don’t admit it. Yes, I beg to have the kids sleep out and tomorrow I plan on taking the afternoon to be by MYSELF doing something non-kid related, and possibly with alcohol. I can drink while shopping, right?

Favorite chapter title of the preview copy I got – “Organized Sports May Be Great for the Kids but They Suck for You” – because in honor of Mother’s Day tomorrow is the ONLY day in the foreseeable future where I won’t have to adjust teeny jock straps and smelly soccer shin guards and cleats.

Because I love my kids, I do. I just don’t like them when they smell.

Yes, I can be sh*tty, and you probably are too, so read the book when it comes out, k? Let me know what you think – you can even pre-order the book for next Mother’s Day – it’s totally not a sh*tty gift.

 

Wherein I discuss my mom 2.0 sponsorship by Microsoft Windows Phone – yay!

As I mentioned before, I rarely get asked to do stuff through my blog, and when I do, it usually is to review paper clips, or something really exciting like that. But because I’m having a week of awesome (except for the start of today, which was decidedly NOT awesome, therefore I’m not writing about it), I’m writing this post from the terrific-ly interesting city of New Orleans because someone way on high at Microsoft Windows Phone thought I was worth enough of a sponsorship. Which brings me back to seriously awesome.

So, I’m living it up.

Me + Rice Krispie treats = Heaven

I spent the afternoon lunching and wandering around with friends in the awesome French Quarter testing out that fabulous phone o’mine. I’m pretty obsessed with the way it is so easy to upload photos to email. It’s so freaking fast! See? I got this one uploaded of mah friends in under .00233 seconds. Good stuff.

This is before Julie saw the heels she will covet for the whole entire conference.

And so while I’m telling you about the phone, I’ve got to mention the customized home screen, which consists of “tiles” that you can move around and about your phone in the order you want your information to appear. Some people “pin” (that’s what you do to get a tile locked into the home screen of the phone) their husband’s contact information to their home screen. Me?

Is it bad that I “pinned” myself to my own start screen? It’s so I don’t forget who I am. Or something.

The phone has an impressive camera, if you couldn’t tell the one above was by my lowly Blackberry. It does look subpar, doesn’t it? It’s one of the most impressive options of the phone. Also, the video camera pretty much kicks ass too. But I haven’t taken any video yet. That’s for later. I did use the camera to take a photo of my most-awesome room on the “Club Level” (hence, the Rice Krispie treats — there were no regular rooms left!).

Room: almost as good as the Rice Krispie Treats

This won’t be the last you’ll hear about my awesome new Windows Phone, as the kind folks at Microsoft have allowed me to try it for THIRTY DAYS!! Which should give me just enough time to install all those cool apps from the Marketplace, upload my songs to Zune, and of course, take that darned video.

DISCLOSURE: Microsoft Windows Phone offered to cover up to $2000 of my expenses towards Mom 2.0 and I’ve kindly accepted their gracious offer. In exchange, I will be tweeting and writing two posts about my experience with the phone. Thank you #windowsphone!

What’s on my mind this week…

A “weaksauce” post, as my brother would say, but I’m in a time crunch and so I just have time to share what I’m thinking about, what I’ve seen going on this week…

  • Have you seen my friend Ericka’s amazing personalized Seder plates for kids? I cannot believe that Passover is on the horizon, but it is, and now that my eldest is at a Jewish school, I’d better learn ways to make Pesach fun. And cute.
  • I am loving being a Totsy Mom, but I KEEP MISSING THE SALES! Like this amazing one from Crocodile Creek. How this is happening, I don’t quite know. So I’m going to put the weekly sale dates in my calendar so I don’t miss buying the goodies that my family needs. You should mark them down too!
    • 3/31   Gifts for Mother’s Day
    • 4/7     April showers bring baby showers (baby and baby shower gifts)
    • 4/14  Summer apparel/summer camp
    • 4/21  Green for EarthDay
    • 4/28  Beach( swimsuits, beach towels, and beach toys)
  • There’s a new trend on the horizon to use apps to help manage your social life with your kids. The concept scares me, but I love it. It’s sometimes hard just through Facebook or Twitter to find out what your friends and potential friends are up to or find interesting and, well, I don’t really need any more technology in my life, but maybe at the end of the day it’ll help me break away from the computer.
    • Yellowbrck – my old blog friend Eli just started this new social network site to help parents share where they are with their kids and what they’re doing to help other parents find ideas of things to do and see with their children. It will also help to build community around personal blogs and users can win prizes at various check ins… now I just have to get that iPhone!
    • Instant Playdates -  I’m actually always looking for a late afternoon play date. You know, the time after naps when we have nothing to do before dinner. We usually just take a bath to kill the time, but with spring approaching, I may want to get the kids out a bit more… Instant Playdates lets you broadcast to your friends through Facebook what you’re up to so that you can easily get together. So, c’mon friends, join these two sites so I can track you down.

I’m a Totsy Mom!

As if I haven’t committed myself to enough already (new business, new Chicago Parent blog ((details forthcoming)), I was asked this past Fall to be a “Totsy Mom.” If you don’t know, Totsy is one of the hottest deal sites on the web for clothing, products, goods for moms and kids. They have daily sales, much like Gilt Groupe and the brands they have deals on are ridiculous — Schoenhut, Melissa and Doug, Kidorable, American Apparel — just to name a few.

I usually don’t sign up for things like this. I rarely attach myself to a brand, product. I have done some branded posts lately, but those were mainly for WORK…

However, something about Totsy felt right to me. For one, I like to shop. A lot. And I like to shop bargains. Totsy is bargain shopping for your kids (and some for yourself) at it’s finest. Alright, it helps that I’m getting some Totsy credits to use each month for posting deals about their brands and deals. I might even have some specials for you, my fine readers!

So, I’m here to try being a Totsy Mom for awhile. I hope you’re all cool with that and come along for a fine, shopping ride.

Yes, I am being compensated in Totsy credit for posting on my site a couple times a month about Totsy + hang out with them on Twitter and Facebook.

Tips for planning your one-year-old’s birthday party Chicago-style

Earlier today, I got to put on some real clothes (they were trouser jeans, as Caitlin noticed, much to my happiness) and head out to a brunch put on by the ever-fabulous Bump Club and Beyond. I was on a panel of “the city’s leading mom bloggers” (HA! Don’t they know I’m a blogging slacker??) and my co-hosts Cindy, Linda and Caitlin and I had a ball giving some of our best tips around the city to Lindsay’s group of new moms.

My quick talk was about tips and tricks to planning your child’s first birthday. Because, eventually, all those cute newborns grow up to be cake-smashing, drooling one-year-olds. Because I forgot, unlike my counterparts, to actually print up and hand out my tips, I told everyone I’d post them on my blog. So, here, in no particular order, are my thoughts:

1) Make the party favor part of the party – if you have a musician, give each kid a maraca. The little babes don’t know what a goodie bag is – take advantage of that while it lasts!

2) Kids this age don’t need much for entertainment – a place to crawl around, 30 minutes of activity and somewhere between 20-30 to eat. By then, they’re pretty much wiped and will hopefully nap all afternoon for you.

3) I personally think a mid-morning, post first nap party usually works the best for you and for your friends – sometimes the afternoons are unpredictable! Well, at least they are in my house.

4) Pack two shirts – one for photos and one for after the cake – and bring a good bib! (This one, I admit, is pretty self-explanatory.)

5) My eldest got really freaky and nervous at his first birthday party. My youngster loved every minute of the party. Bottom line — don’t worry if you’re kid is nervous – it’s a lot of attention.

And you were waiting for the Chicago-specific stuff, right?

Best locations for a Chicago kiddie bday party:

  • Just about any pizza joint – remember my baby’s first birthday party last year? At Pequod’s pizza. It was relatively inexpensive, I bought one of those foam letter mats and threw it on the ground so the kiddos could crawl around and it was a blast. And the dads could swill beer too. Happy Birthday.
  • If you think a pizza dive isn’t quite for your family, there’s always the East Bank Club where I had my eldest’s party. Yeah, it was like a mini bar mitzvah. Best food I had at a first birthday! But notice, I didn’t repeat that one.
  • For a smaller get-together I love Musical Magic on Roscoe. So sweet and cozy inside and so easy to manage.
  • And then there’s the name-your-own-kiddie-gym-place like Bubbles, My Gym, Gymboree, Little Gym. All good choices.
  • The park district also has many rooms for rent – I am partial to the one at Sheil Park because it’s close to my house, and it’s clean and a good size for a party. I think that sort of stuff matters.

Best entertainers to hire for your party (if you’re in to such a thing):

I can’t say enough about these three very fine kiddie entertainers…

  • Miss Amiee Leigh. We took her class at the JCC for so many months and years I lost track along the way.
  • Little Miss Ann. She is the best of the best. Book her. If you can.
  • Mr. Singer. The kids adored him.

Ideas for how to gift the birthday baby:

  • I recently got tuned into Echo Age by a friend of mine. Basically people donate a certain amount of money towards your gift which you can use to buy a few gifts of your choice, or to donate to charity. Really love this concept. Especially for a baby who doesn’t even really know what “cool Fisher Price toy” means yet.
  • Buy the babe some books. They never grow old.
  • Create a gift registry if you must. At least you’ll get what you want, right? Cuts down on those return errands and gift receipts.
  • One thing I always did was test out toys my friends had whose kids were older. If my kiddos loved playing with them at a friend’s house, well, I’d just invite myself back over to that friend’s house. No, I’d put it on a wish list.

And with that, my favorite first bday toys:

  • Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Door. It’s expensive, but worth it. My five-year-old still plays with it. Have the grandparents buy it or something.
  • Any pre-walker push toy. Unless your kid is walking already. Good for my kiddos who were well over a year before they considered walking.
  • Any Little People toy. Those things are indestructible.
  • A set of wooden blocks. Basic but always good to have around the house.

How to invite all those people to your shindig:

  • You may want an invite for your scrapbook, but those babies can’t open the mail, so save the money until they’re at least 2 – use evite, or, my new favorite online invitation store, Paperless Post.
  • I must also mention my go-to printed invitation source – Tiny Prints!! You can even save money on your kids’ birthday party invites by using the code from my blog: AFF1105.

Four Days of Giveaways! You’ve got to learn a little… at Little Beans Cafe!

As a veteran of what it’s like to be at an unfriendly coffee shop with your children, I can’t express enough excitement for the opening of Little Beans Cafe this week. Little Beans Cafe (an indoor play space and coffee shop combo) is the newest addition to the Elston corridor – and it makes you want to slow down your car and take a break from all of your errand running.

The play space takes the best of an upscale coffee shop and make-believe play land nirvana and packages it all under one roof. For $12 per child (plus $7 per each additional child or sibling), you can grab a cup of Intelligentsia coffee and watch your child explore.

And as if this weren’t enough, Little Beans is offering a plethora of class options for parents AND kids. I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for a new experience for myself and my kiddos. Starting in March, Little Beans will be hosting a bunch of fun and different classes for your family. Class options are:

  • Family Yoga – Learn stretching, fitness and relaxation techniques for the whole family
  • Mommy Time Yoga – an hour of time for yourself!
  • Imaginative Art – have a coffee while your little one explores his or her artsy side with Wishcraft art studio
  • Music and Movement – need I say more?
  • Parent Time/ Supervised Play – drop your kids in the play space and sit in the cafe to get some work done!

Best yet, because this is Little Beans launch week, I’m giving away ONE FREE LITTLE BEANS CLASS OF YOUR CHOICE (or 3 supervised play times) to a lucky winner this week!

There are a couple of ways you can enter to win this prize: (1) leave a comment on this post (make sure you include your contact info so we can get in touch with you if you win!); (2) Become a Fan of Little Beans Cafe on Facebook (and leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done so); and (3) Follow @LittleBeansCafe on Twitter (and leave a separate comment telling me that you’ve done so).

So three total entries per person. All entries must be received by midnight CST on Friday, January 28, 2011. We will randomly choose and winner and contact that lucky individual on Monday, January 31, 2011.

All week long, A Hen and Two (Now Three) Chicks (Caitlin Giles), Sassy Moms in the City (Alison Ray) and I are giving away something great from Little Beans so make sure to check out their sites too!

Now go, enter, and PLAY!

Disclosure: I am being compensated by Little Beans Cafe for my time and for hosting this giveaway.

On being centered of mind, and foot

I have two new items in my house geared towards making our lives more centered. I’m not known for my spirituality, but I am known for my love of cool products and yoga. You didn’t know that? I’ve been doing yoga before hipster moms in lululemon made it trendy. I first experienced yoga under the teachings of famed New York City instructor Elena Brower in a small, hot and very crowded yoga space on 3rd Avenue in New York City over 11 years ago. After I left New York, I had a hard time finding my Chicago “Elena,” a teacher who understood the physical and emotional needs of a young yogi. I had a hard time until I met Betsy, teacher extraordinaire of the physical side of yoga.

I’ve been taking her class religiously (well, with the pregnancies, on and off) for the last 4 years at East Bank Club on Monday and Wednesday mornings. I schedule work meetings around her class, I schedule sitters, day care appointments and drop-offs at my mom’s house to make the class. It’s that good. And apparently, I’m not that busy yet.

Well you can imagine how excited I was to hear that Betsy came out with a DVD of one of her classes this past week and I got a copy to review! I popped the 50-minute DVD in on a Thursday morning when I couldn’t make it into the gym and I was not disappointed with my solo yoga session in my basement. Of course there are downsides to practicing yoga in your home. The blackberry flashes, the phone rings, the baby cries on the monitor and your moment of Zen disappears into your kid’s toy basket like the latest issue of People magazine you haven’t read yet.

But, by the end I was sweaty, if not totally centered in my yoga zone. Which, is what just what I asked for on a day when I couldn’t be present in person to Betsy’s class. (P.S. you can buy the DVD on the Yogatude website!)

Which leads me to how else I’m centering my household – by foot. See, last May I re-did my kitchen and made a great new table that sits six people. As part of the re-do, I purchased some great, if not ergonomic for the kids chairs, from West Elm. The curved back, the sloped bottom of the seat was visually appealing to me, but not so comfortable for my eldest. He needed somewhere to rest his feet.

I’ve heard along the way in my son’s preschool that kids need to rest their feet in order to be comfortable sitting around a table. It was just a rumor, but I saw the truth to it many times when he’d be sitting calmly at a kiddie chair, but fidgeted like mad in an adult chair. I thought I had made a mistake selling away our Svan chair that we thought my son had grown out of. I never truly loved that chair, but it did have a foot rest.

And then enter my friend who introduced me to Charlotte of Stokke, who, after several conversations about marketing to moms (there was a business reason for the introduction!) told me about their “high chair” – the Tripp Trapp chair – which is so not a high chair, but more of a lifestyle chair. A chair that grows from birth (the newest addition to the Tripp Trapp family is a newborn set) to adult hood, I wish I had this chair when I was growing up!  And she was so kind to send me two for each of my kids to test out.

Design-wise I liked the structure of the Tripp Trapp better than the Svan, and my son felt that it was a big upgrade from what he thought was his “high chair.” Lifestyle chair, I say. And, just as I was starting to write this post last night, I saw a link to this post on the Stokke Facebook page about the importance of a child’s feet being centered on something when they sit. No more rumors!

Only happy minds and happy feet in my house now.

I was given a copy of the yoga DVD and two Stokke Tripp Trapp chairs for review.

Check out these two fun things for parents in Chicago this week!

Hi – I’ve got some cool friends in the city, did you know?
First, I want to tell you about a cool new seminar series being launched this Thursday from SMRT (also a new client of mine!)
** THIS SEMINAR WAS POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE**
Anyway… Do you ever have any parenting questions?
Let’s be honest – don’t we all have tons of questions about how to best care for the little people in our lives? Rather than reading every parenting book out there or scouring the internet for advice, let SMRT give you the tools you need to make conscious parenting decisions. Join other Chicago area parents in an intimate setting for SMRT’s new Parent Coaching Series: Child Development 101 for Busy Parents. This six-week course will cover various aspects of your child’s development — everything from sleeping and eating, to medical care and important milestones.

Each session will feature information and recommendations from local experts. As part of the program, participants will take home useful articles, checklists, templates, and reference sheets – already organized for you! Coach Hope Firsel will be on hand to help the audience decide which perspectives and theories they want to implement in their own home.

Child Development 101 for Busy Parents will meet every Thursday from January 20th through February 24th from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. at Grow (1943 W. Division). The six-week course costs $90 and drop-ins are available for $15.  Contact Hope@smrtbrand.com to register.

However, all Chicago parents have a chance to attend this course for free!

SMRT is giving away a free six-week course (a $90 value) to one of their Facebook Fans. To enter to win, simply become a fan of the SMRT Facebook Page and leave a comment on the giveaway with why you’d love to participate in this unique experience. All comments must be received by midnight on Wednesday, January 19th. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted on the morning of Thursday, January 20th. Go enter to win!
And, take your kids to this fun event this weekend! All for the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation…
Love is all you need at Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation’s fourth annual “Be My ValentineFamily Event on Sunday, January 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, 160 East Pearson Street.  Full of fun from start to finish, this sweet event encourages families to think pink for Valentine’s Day.

This is the fourth annual “Be My Valentine” Family Event; all proceeds benefit the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation.  Tickets are $85 for adults and $55 for children in advance and $100 for adults and $70 for children at the door.  Tickets are available by ordering online at www.lynnsage.org or by calling 312.926.7133.