Wordless Wednesday: International Housewares Show in Purple

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I have more purple pictures on Flickr

*Attending the Housewares show was a sponsored trip. Hoover provided airfare, travel, accommodations and a meal. I wasn't asked to photograph any brand. An brand name in shots is coincidental. Thank you Hoover and Current for the opportunity!

I Hope She Can Take A Joke

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yesterday, Tyler and I went to the card store for his great-grandmother's birthdays. I let him choose the ones he wanted to give. 

Inside reads: "It's too late for that!"
Let's hope Gramma has her sense of humor on when she opens it!

National Mom's Nite Out San Diego: Save the Date

Friday, March 26, 2010

I can't believe it's time to plan the Mom's Nite Out party again! Last year's event was a lot of fun. I'm hoping to find another great location as well as bring in some great sponsors for the swag bags and door prizes. I have a Mom's Nite page on Facebook that I'll keep current with information. I'm actively looking for sponsors. If you've worked with a great company or brand you think would be a good fit, please let me know.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Location TBA
Time: Should be 6:00-9:00pm

If you're in San Diego, I hope you can make it!

Conflicted: When Business and Home Collide

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My little man has inherited his mother's Gift of Gab. The kid starts talking as soon as his feet hit the floor in the morning. Unfortunately, Chatty Patty is getting in a little bit of trouble at school. We've talked with him about it. Hopefully it's sinking in that disrupting the class is not OK. 

Tonight is Open House at school. I also have an event I agreed to before the date for the open house was set. I feel that I need to go to school to set up a meeting with Tyler's teachers. He's also really looking forward to showing us his PowerPoint presentation (is anyone else's kid doing PowerPoint in second grade?!). 

I want his teacher to know that we're involved parents. I also want Tyler to know we're proud of him. But, this event is a good networking opportunity. It's hosted by a really good local ad agency and there are several people working there I'd like to meet. 

I don't know why, but now that I'm home, it feels harder to juggle all my roles. I decided to stay home to be more available to my family and to make our lives less chaotic. But, the more involved I get in social media, the more opportunities I have and I'm spending more time trying to (hopefully) create a business.

I feel stuck in the middle. Should I be a good mom and go to Open House or think of my professional goals and go to the event?

What would you do?

Neediness and Accolades

Monday, March 22, 2010

I've said before that external validation matters to me. I know it shouldn't, but it does. It's a hurdle I face almost daily. It's not necessarily what other people think of me, or whether they like me, but more about whether I'm noticed. That sounds incredibly egotistical but I don't mean it to be. When I say noticed, I guess I actually mean "do I matter."

Does it matter to anyone that I did two loads of laundry today? Does it matter that I got caught up on my emails? Has anyone noticed the bathroom sinks are clean? That I made the bed? I went to the store for orange juice, milk and bread so we wouldn't run out. Etc. etc. etc. 

It's needy and insecure. I know that. I wasn't this bad before I became a SAHM (at least I don't think so). When I was working, I could expect feedback from my co-workers and bosses. Good or bad, at the end of the day, I knew where I stood. 

Now that I'm home, I still need that feedback. When I get a, "the house looks great," or "hey, key lime yogurt, thanks mom!" I know that what I've done and the time I've taken to do it, has been noticed. The same goes for this blog. For the most part, I'm OK with the traffic and lack of comments. I have to earn those. 

But it's so nice to be recognized by your peers, and even better when those peers are some of the best in their fields. I put a lot of effort into this site. I think about it more than I should. It's so nice to have someone say that what I do here matters.

I want to thank the people from InflunceSD for the recognition. It means a lot to me and I can say with all honesty it's an honor just to be nominated. I'm in excellent company too, which makes it even sweeter.

Thank you!

My First Library Card: A Proud Mama Moment

Friday, March 19, 2010

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx

I love to read and so does Phil. Before we got pregnant we talked about wanting our future kids to love it as well. Tyler has had his own library since he was an infant. We still have some of my Dr. Seuss books on his bookshelf. When I was younger, my mom would take me to the book store for the latest Sweet Valley High book and I'd finish it by the end of the day. She'd jokingly-but-kinda-not tell me to slow. it. down. At the time, I couldn't figure out why she'd want me not to read. But now that Tyler is flying through chapter books, I totally get it. Our reading addiction isn't cheap!

So, I took Tyler to the library and he got his own library card. Of course I was a proud mama but more so because HE was proud to have his own card and thinks it's a big responsibility. He keeps his card in his wallet. He reminds me when his books are due.

It's been great introducing him to some of the same books I read when I was his age. We go to the used library book store since kids books are usually .25 or .50. It's a habit I'm happy to indulge, although it's strange having to tell him, "alright, enough reading, turn off the light and go to bed already!"

What are you doing to encourage reading at your house? 
*Sorry for the crap cell phone photos

Wordless Wednesday: Crazy Hair Day

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Disney World: Tips for First Time Visits part 2

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

*This is the second part of our post on tips for people planning their first trip to Walt Disney World. Read the first part here.

5) Use the Disney Mom Panel advice. Research the different hotels in your price range. The Port Orleans Riverside is not the same as the Port Orleans French Quarter. Take into account location and transportation hubs. The Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary sit in prime locations, with water taxis, monorail, and bus service. You can walk from the Contemporary to one park. Animal Kingdom Lodge on the other hand has only bus service. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but something to consider when planning your days. Some resorts offer convenience and modern amenities while others focus on charm and immersion in themes.

6) Use the Key to the World. Having your room key as a charge card, fast pass, and park ticket all in one is tremendous. This conceivably allows you to leave everything else in the wall safe and just carry that and your I.D. We had a bunch of American Express and Visa gift cards [to use for out of pocket expenses], but keeping track of the different cards and their balances was a pain. Using the room key to cover all charges and then using the different gift cards to pay the final balance at the end was a great help. To illustrate how awesome the dining plan is again, the final bill for a 7 day stay was about $170. This was mostly from gratuities on the sit down meals, with a few souvenirs and adult beverages thrown in. The dining plan virtually guarantees you won't be buying [a lot of] food out of pocket.

Anyone else remember the commercial jingle?
We cashed in our credit card reward points for a pre-paid Visa and combined it with Christmas presents, some pre-paid Visas I won and one with a leftover balance from Tastemakers and took all them with us for our out of pocket expenses. Combined with the Disney gift cards we got from the Vacation Club presentation and we had about $700 to use (and came home with almost all of it). 

It took a few days for Phil to think of this, but we started charging everything to our room. Hot chocolate, the tips on our sit down meals, the hats and scarves we bought because it freezing. It was nice not to have to keep track of cash or the balances on the various cards. The key is this (and it's important!): you MUST settle those charges the night BEFORE you are to check out or they will automatically go onto the card you used to reserve the trip! 

We stopped into the hotel lobby on the way back from a late dinner and took care of it. The most money we spent out of pocket was in the airports on breakfasts and Starbucks. If you have any means of earning pre-paid cards, answering emails or taking surveys and buying cards with that money I highly suggest it.

7) Plan your trip carefully on the website. The website is very helpful, but there are some snags with it. Two [things] that bothered me the most were the itinerary function, and the initial booking function. You have to be very careful when booking your trip because there are several defaults in the system. 

When you pick your initial date, number of people, and hotel range, it will kick out a recommended package. This is when you can go in and change options around such as dining plan, room choice, and ticket options. Be careful, because when you select an option for one thing, it may effect other categories you didn't intend. 

For instance, the default ticket option gives you the park hopper and water park. If you select a dining plan, it resets that option to the base ticket, which is what comes with the dining plan. The itinerary function is just buggy. I had a hard time making and editing notes. I wanted to keep dining reservations there, but it was difficult, and didn't always display right. Also, the printout isn't as functional as it could be.
Hollywood Studios stunt show
8) Make dinner reservations. Early. If you don't have reservations when you start your trip, you aren't getting in to any restaurant during peak hours. Period. If you find yourself without reservations, your best bet is to hit the place right when it opens for lunch or dinner. If you try at noon or 6 without reservations you can forget it. The resort restaurants are less crowded then the park ones, so you may have better luck there.

This is definitely necessary but leaves little room for flexibility because reservations need to made at least 180 days before your trip! Say you're in Magic Kingdom waiting in a 90-minute line for Space Mountain. You have 6:00 reservations for dinner at Animal Kingdom. You have to be very aware of your time, factor in travel times around the park and be prepared to give up your fast passes.

If you're late, your reservation is gone. If you make a reservation plan on being in that park for the day. There were a few times we didn't want to leave where we were. We also had some rain that we didn't feel like venturing out into but didn't want to lose the chance to eat at the various place in the park (there's some awesome food at Disney!)

Phil originally had eight tips but I wanted to add one item.
9) Check, re-check and check the weather again. We had a freak cold because of the snow the east got. We were under dressed and not prepared. I was at the conference on the day it poured and Phil wasn't sure where to go to spend a rainy day. We didn't know there was a movie theater in Downtown Disney and we hadn't gone to Epcot yet and didn't know about Innoventions either. It's easy to kill about 2 hours there. The couches for tired parents are a welcome bonus. Have a back up plan for weather.

What Do You Dream Of? {a guest post}

Monday, March 15, 2010

Greetings from Chicago! I'm on a quick trip to the International Housewares show. Please welcome guest poster Breanne from Bella Vita. She's a new mom, new to blogging, a Lost fan and was a contestant on Jeopardy. Her daughter is as cute as a bug!

Nothing Happens Unless First We Dream- Carl Sandberg

Hi, Mel A Dramatic Mommy readers! Thanks so much to Melanie for the chance to guest blog for her! My name’s Breanne, and my blog is Bella Vita—“beautiful life” in Italian. I am an optimistic person who believes life is inherently beautiful, and I’m also the proud momma of a little girl named Bella. 

As a woman still trying to adjust to life as mom, I’ve been thinking a lot about goals, ambitions, and dreams over these first seven months of my daughter’s life. Of course, I’ve thought a lot about my dreams for my baby girl. For her to be smart, funny, loving, generous, healthy, and most of all, happy. 

Will she want to be a scientist? An actress? A writer, like her mommy? Or maybe she’ll want to be something brand-new, that hasn’t even been created yet. Had my mom heard the word “blogger” when I was born in the eighties? Nope.

In the midst of all these thoughts about my dreams for Bella, I thought a lot about my dreams for myself as well. I can’t lie: the first few weeks were so overwhelming to me because of my baby’s sleep issues that it honestly felt like I would never be able to write again.

But of course, that wasn’t true. She adjusted to the big, new world, and my husband and I adjusted to her. So after a few weeks—okay, months—I was once again able to devote a little time to other goals and aspirations I have for my life: the things that I wish for myself. 

Over these past few months, as I’ve really thought about what I want to do, what I want to be, I've come to realize that many people actually have at least two major ideas about what they want to be, two types of goals for their lives. The first is the more “realistic” one, the one that has some foundation in what you went to school for, or the career path you’re already on. But the second is the wild and out-there dream, the one you may keep to yourself if you’re not brave enough to share it, the one you might be afraid people would laugh at. 

So many people I know and love have both types of dreams. My friend Sarah is currently in med school and wants to be a family practice doctor; if she could, she would also love to be a Christian missionary to Africa. Another friend, Kristi, majored in biology and wants to work at a zoo or aquarium. However, I suspect that she just might be happiest if she were in her other dream job: a waitress on a beach—preferably in Aruba. My husband has the dual dreams, too. He’s in public works in the small Midwestern town we live in, and someday, he’d like to achieve more of a management role in his field. But he’s said to me before that sometimes he wishes he’d gone to culinary school. He’s a fantastic cook, and I know he’d love working as a chef. 

So what are mine? Well, I work hard on growing my blog and making it meaningful; I also work on my fiction, with several short stories and a novel in progress, so ultimately, I want to be a published writer. My crazy dream? I want to own my own bakery. The awesome, work-of-art cake type of bakery. Wedding cakes, celebration cakes, sculpted cakes. I’d make them all, and they’d all be beautiful. 

In reality, I’ve just started exploring this as a new hobby, but in my dream, I have my own successful bakery business, and when my daughter is older, she’ll come visit me after school and help me make the cakes. I have such a clear picture of this in my head, and in a strange way, it means as much to me as the pictures in my head of my successful writing career. 

What about all of you? What are your more grounded dreams, and what are your wildest dreams? I'd love to hear them.

What We Learned From Our First Trip To Disney World (part 1)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

*This post got really long so I'm splitting it into two parts. We weren't asked to do this and aren't getting anything for posting about it. 

Going to Disney World for the first time was a little overwhelming and was definitely a learning experience. During the trip we talked about what we'd do differently if we were to plan it all over again. Phil was nice enough to type his observations out for me. I cleaned up a few spelling and grammar errors but copied it directly from his email. My editorial is in purple (natch).

Here are my [eight] lessons learned from the trip. Your mileage may vary.
Animal Kingdom
1) Research the Disney Vacation Club ahead of the trip. There will be plenty of opportunities to purchase it while you are there, but if it's something you really are interested in [pursuing], it only makes sense to get it before you go and immediately cash in your points for the trip. You can also purchase it for less then you would at the parks from re-sellers. This leads into number two.

There are a ton of opportunities to listen to the vacation club presentation. We had time to kill between checking out of the Polynesian and into the Port Orleans and the gift cards were a bonus. We had no intention of signing up. We did join while we were there but then un-joined for several reasons. Buying from re-sellers has its own risks. If you really want to know the details I'll be happy to email you about it. 

2) Research your hotel. Not all are created equal. Based off of a 7 day stay in April for a family of two adults and one kid, Economy is $2133, Moderate $2668, Deluxe Villa $3680, and Deluxe resort $4558. The moderate is only $76 a day more than the economy, with the deluxe resort is running $345 a day more then the economy. The deluxe resort gives you the queen bed standard which is a must for two adults sharing a bed. The moderate comes with the double size standard, which is tough to accommodate two adults. 

We slept in separate beds and Tyler was on the pull out on the floor at the Port Orleans. Phil is over six feet tall. A double bed is hard enough for him let alone both of us. Tyler slept with me for the last three nights. He kicks. 

The deluxe obviously is much nicer in several other areas, such as size, and amenities. I think moderate is the way to go however for bang for the buck (having only seen the moderate and deluxe resort, not sure what the others would rate). The economy is located pretty far south on the property so will increase your travel times, and it doesn't have the fridge standard which cuts down on your ability to keep leftovers and things like milk, etc.. This leads to three.

3) Get the dining plan. Using the above scenario, a mid level dining plan tacks on an extra $309. This is huge [in terms of savings]. The dining plans come in 3 levels. Lowest gives you 2 quick meals a day and a base 7 day ticket. mid level gives you the ticket plus 1 snack, 1 quick meal, and 1 sit down meal a day per person. Highest level gives you the ticket, plus 3 meals a day (sit down or quick) plus a souvenir refill mug and choice of accommodations. The mid level is again how I would choose. At a cost of $44 a day, this deal is incredible. An average sit down meal for a family of 3 will run $80. The quick meal for that family is around $30, and 3 snacks would run you between $7.50 and $12.00 dollars. So $44 is getting you about $130 worth of food.

The lowest plan I don't like because it doesn't offer sit down meals. Quick meals are fine once a day, but you can't survive on pizza and burgers for a week. The highest plan is just too much food, and the souvenir mug is wasted. This is the smartest way to use your quick meals: everyone has a large breakfast. This gets you the fuel for the day. 

The breakfast at a moderate hotel is huge, and each meal comes with two beverages, so it's perfect to grab an OJ for breakfast and a bottle of water or soda for later. Eat a small lunch at the parks, or rather skip it entirely and use your snacks to get some fruit or a pretzel. Use your sit down meal for a large dinner. The amount of food they give you is huge.
He looked like this pretty much the whole trip. Priceless.
I wish the plan had a little more flexibility. Dessert came with every meal. We don't eat sweets that often. The money we spent out of pocket came from adding a soup onto the meal. I would much rather have had the option to choose an appetizer OR dessert, not just dessert. We had a fridge full of cheesecake and brownies at the end of our stay. 

I also would have liked more snacks, for the same reason Phil described. We ate huge breakfasts and weren't really hungry for lunch but we had to share pretzels and fruit (rather than each getting their own) to space the snacks out and we still used them all before the week was up. On the day we left for home, Phil and Tyler were out waiting for the shuttle to the airport and I was in the hotel cafeteria using the last of our meal plan for sandwiches and drinks to tide us over in the airport. The dining plan gives A LOT of food. 
4) For stays of 7 days or longer, forget the park hopper. Definitely get the water park one if you're in the right season though. Realistically if you have enough time to hit each park once then a few days to re-visit your favorites, there is no need to park hop. It takes time to hop, as there are no buses going between parks. You'll have to transit from the park you are in, to a resort, then from that resort to the park you want to go to. Also, with fast passes on the best rides usually running out later in the day, you may hop to find out there is a 2 hour wait for the ride you want, and no fast passes available. The water park option also includes Disney Quest and golf, so it is worth the money if you plan on doing any of those three.

Part two with tips 5-9 coming soon.

Rockin' The Red Pumps Again for HIV/AIDS Awareness

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Today is National Womens and Girl's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
How will you talk to your kids about sex?

I read Tanis' post about talking to her teens about sex and some of the comments (read the one from Charles) have really stuck with me. Tyler is only seven but I know the questions are going to start coming. I dread it, but know it's necessary and important. My parents didn't talk about sex. I learned in school and from friends. There weren't too many adults who were willing to have an honest discussion and relied on the abstinence or waiting until you're in love speeches. 

In doing a little research* for this post (for the Red Pump Project), the articles I came across on teens and their attitudes toward sex made me sad. They seem to be taking it so casually. The idea that oral sex isn't "really" sex and "only" doing that means you're still a virgin seems so absurd to me but from what I've read, that's what they're thinking.

I don't want to be vague with Tyler. But I don't want to be "too" honest if there is such a thing. I want him to grow up respecting women and respecting himself enough to make good decisions. As much as I'd love to think he'll wait until college (at the minimum!) I know we have to be realistic. I hope that knowing his father is the first person I slept with and that I only need one hand to count my sexual partners shows him sex wasn't something I took lightly.

And, as a black woman I need to make sure he understands that, statistically speaking, we're under attack and contracting and dying from HIV faster than other racial groups.

I'm Rocking the Red Pump today to show my support, further education and help inspire and empower women to not be a statistic. 

*One of the best sites I came across for teens is Sex, Etc.

Marketing to Mom Bloggers: What Not to Do

Monday, March 8, 2010

I've been cleaning up my dashboard, getting rid of posts I started but never finished, and came across this one from almost one year ago today. It's amazing we're still talking about stats, what they mean and how companies should do their own initial research. I wonder how many PR and marketing firms are actually listening? The successful campaigns seem to be the exception, not the rule.

I left a long, kind of angry comment on a marketing blog recently and I feel badly for taking over the conversation. The post is directed at PR people and focuses on what mom's who blog would like PR people to know about working with us. Rohit lists some excellent points as did others in the comments section. His post touched a nerve and brought back a bad memory for me. This is my comment, copied and pasted in full:

"Very good points! Another stumbling block I run into is companies who only want to play "the numbers game." Please don't assume that just because our numbers haven't made it to the level of other bloggers, that our opinions aren't just as valid. I would much rather read a review from someone who had a real, legitimate need for a product over someone who was given the opportunity just because they have 'X' number of subscribers or 'X' number of unique visits per day. Also, please consider that someone who does a lot or reviews and giveaways may have big numbers, but not a very engaged audience (people who only subscribe and comment for the giveaway for example).

I had a company agree to work with me on a brand-new site I contribute to. There was no free product involved, just a feature in an article I was putting together. When the PR person asked for the site stats I was very honest that the site had only been live for less than two months and that we were trying to build a readership and had not started using any analytics features because it was too early. I never heard from her again. Needless to say, I now have a very poor image of her, her company and their product and can't see myself buying from them let alone offering to include them in a national event I have coming up that they might be a really good fit for. Can you say, burned bridge?! Sorry to hijack your comments with my rant but this still really upsets me!"

I still refuse to give this company any of my money and won't recommend them for business or personal occasions. Small isn't synonymous with non-influential.

Do you feel bloggers and PR/companies have made any progress toward working better together in the past year?

And Now He Wants to be a Pilot Too: Wordless Wednesday

Music Soothes: Living With the Decision Not to Have Another Baby

Monday, March 1, 2010

*Giveaway info at the bottom of the post. Read it carefully! 

I love music. I get it from my dad. He's a big music buff used to have the reel to reel or record player going all the time, mostly with Motown. I love how, in an instant, a song can hit you in the gut and take you somewhere, even if it's to a place you don't want to be. Sade's new CD, Soldier of Love, and the Babyfather single has been on repeat in my iTunes lately. The lyrics made me cry a few days ago, reminding me of a sacrifice we made that still hurts every now and then.

I’m stunned
In a daze
He had the whole street set ablaze
It’s only love they say
Makes you feel this way

Our decision not to have another baby was several years in the making. We didn't make it lightly (who does?) and it's one I'm still struggling with. Sometimes, like on our trip to Orlando, I'm fine with it. Smug even. Watching other parents struggle to fold up their strollers to get them on the shuttles, the giant diaper bags, dodging strollers in the parks or getting hit in the back of the heels by one all gave me a sense of relief that those days are behind me. Three cheers for having a kid who can wipe his own butt, tie his shoes, carry his own jacket and stand in lines until almost midnight so we can ride Space Mountain two times in a row.

But other times, knowing we're not going to have another takes the wind right out of my sails. All the babies at Blissdom, the pregnant moms in my feed reader, the man at the park embracing his pregnant wife from behind, both with their hands on her stomach. Woosh!

She liked his eyes she wanted more
The baby gonna have your smile for sure
He saw a lovely girl
Smelling sweet and soapy like fresh air
She saw him looking acted like she didn’t care

I know Tyler would be an awesome big brother. At the end of his daycare days, he was one of the oldest kids there. The woman running the program would tell  me stories of Tyler trying to cheer up the younger kids when they were crying and offering to help with snack time. When Bossy and I were walking Chicago after BlogHer, I told her about the time last summer when I watched Tyler sit on the curb outside our house. He had his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. He sat there for almost 10 minutes, scanning the street, hoping some other kid would walk by and they could play together. I cried telling Bossy that story. I told her I felt like I took something away from him and he had no say in it.

And Phil is such a great dad. I'm a typical Daddy's Little Girl. I have the type of relationship with my dad that often made my mom jealous. It was the blind adoration that did it. I feel the same way sometimes when Tyler will say, "I miss Dad" when I pick him up from school or the way he runs to greet Phil at the door when I can barely get a hello sometimes. I totally get where she was coming from. Even though there's no guarantee we'd have a girl, the thought of Phil and little girl together makes me all warm and gooshy on the inside. I know he'd love to have his own Daddy's Little Girl too.

Even to the angels it may sound like a lie
For you child
He was the troops and extra backup standing by
For you child
For you he’s the best he can be
For you child
For you he’s the best he can be
Oh child don’t you know
Your daddy love come with a lifetime guarantee

All of this has me so conflicted. Add the grief I get from my mom now and then and it's even harder. I'm not sure how much longer it will take for me to be at peace with the decision, or if I ever will. But, I can always listen to music. It really does soothe the soul.

What music is moving you lately?

The giveaway: I have another copy of Soldier of Love for you. I'm so glad Sade is back on the music scene. This is a great CD.

I'm hosting the giveaway on Twitter. DO NOT leave a comment here! Tweet this message or create your own but it has to have the hashtag for me to track.

RT to win a copy of Sade's CD Soldier of Love from @ADramaticMommy. http://bit.ly/NewSade #SadeCD

Winner chosen at random from all Tweets. You don't have to follow me, but I need to see the hashtag. Giveaway ends on Friday, March 5th at noon Pacific time. I'll announce the winner here and on Twitter. Good luck!

Thanks to Big Honcho Media for the review and giveaway copies. The affiliate link is to Amazon.
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