Bloggers Read Across America: Encouraging Kids to Read Is Mom Sexy

I’m doing something a little different today guys…because I firmly believe that it is so important to encourage your kids to read — and to love it! On that note, I’m pleased to host Bloggers Read Across America (BRAG)—Promoting Children’s Reading and Literacy. It’s Day #10 of the BRAG tour! BRAG’s founder and children’s book author, Jo Ann Kairys, shares lots of great information about programs that help children learn to love reading.

 

Jo Ann Kairys is co-author and co-illustrator of the children’s picture book, Sunbelievable—winner of the Mom’s Choice Gold Medal 2012 Award.

 

 

Widely published in the medical/science literature, she recently shifted from highly technical writing to creating stories for young readers.

“I don’t know which is more challenging… writing a research article or producing a book that children will want to read over and over again. I love that wonderful stories can last for generations!”

Jo Ann is also Founder of the 2012 First Annual Bloggers Read Across the Globe (BRAG) Project—Promoting Children’s Reading and Literacy—one enthusiastic blogger at a time.

Please head on over to Story Quest Books to learn more about the BRAG project and join in for special bonuses!

 

The Mommy Muse—Reading to Kids While Walking the Dog!

 

Sometimes children’s chatter seems more “noise” than I/we want to hear. But if I stop to listen, I hear rich, magical sounds. I know, the cacophony can be too much sound blaring at once—get out the headphones!

Young children are all about auditory expressions. One day I heard my 5 and 3 year-old granddaughters talking about rain—they were eager to get outdoors and impatient for the passing storm to end. So, they pretended they were the rain. “SWOOSH! SPLAT!” Their words were innocently onomatopoeic. For me as a storyteller, they were inspiration.

Watch toddler boys as they play with cars or trains. “ZOOM! BOOM!” As a picture book author, I hear sounds. Sounds become actions. So when my granddaughters were excited one evening as they watched a purple sunset, they exclaimed, loudly, “LOOK! LOOK! The sun changed into pajamas!”  That moment sparked the idea for my new picture book, Sunbelievable. Sound became story.

From that point, I paid even closer attention to the girls’ make-believe. When their brother was born, his “WAH! WAH!” noises entered the vocal landscape. Listening to three children at once, as you know, can be overwhelming. So I focused on sounds that would, in reverse, catch their attention when I read to them aloud, mimicking their voices and energy.

I’ve been a professional medical/science writer for years. Transitioning to children’s stories was a huge challenge—altering my writing style from very technical (following strict guidelines and rules) to imaginative and creative without a proscribed format.

For sure, writing for kids is a huge challenge, but an even greater one is reading to children while every possible distraction vies for attention. Let’s take talking on the phone as an example. How is it possible to read aloud while having a conversation on your smartphone—and—at the same time, walking the dog or getting ready for your first night out with friends in forever?

No problem! Child development experts have you covered. As children listen to you talk, the more they build vocabulary. The more they hear different kinds of words and phrases – the more their oral language develops. They naturally follow the tone of your voice, so when you’re expressive, they’re keen observers—and listeners. You’re actually ‘reading’ to them without a book.

The mommy muse is everywhere, your own voice prompting early language and building literacy. “Stop making such a kerfuffle! It’s too noisy! or “Isn’t this a conundrum? I see you’re confused, but we can talk about it when we’re back home.

In writing this article, I’ve discovered some wonderful children’s reading and literacy resources for parents. Here are two of my favorites. I hope you’ll check them out—while walking the pooch and talking with your kids!

 

  • Moms Inspire Learning: An active blog by Dawn Morris, MA.  “Busy mothers,” says Dawn, “make decisions every day that have to power to change the world, starting right inside their own homes. Dawn’s blog offers children’s book recommendations, parenting tips, and other resources to help build lifelong learners.
  • Literacy Launchpad: Another active blogger, Amy is a mom and early literacy teacher, passionate about children’s literature and creative ways to get children excited about books. “I love to share what I know, and what I’m learning, with other teachers, mothers, and anyone else looking to share the joys of reading with children!”

 

Thanks so much, Jo Ann, for sharing your awesome tips for finding time to get our kids interested in reading!

‘Specs For Little Heroes’ Strives To Protect Vision In Kids With Retinoblastoma

Ok, so do you guys remember me talking about my dear friend, Erin, and what happened to her adorable son, Justin last year?

Justin lost his left eye to retinoblastoma, which is a form of cancer that manifests itself in the eyes of young children. He wasn’t sick or showing signs of what you’d think would typically happen to a child with cancer. Instead, his left eye was starting to look a bit lazy, and there was a strange, white glare in it that would sometimes show up in photos. Justin has loving and persistent parents who knew in their gut that something just wasn’t quite right. But what they thought would wind up being just a routine visit to the eye doctor turned out to be a cancer diagnosis that would change their lives forever.

I’m beyond pleased to report that nearly a year after Justin’s diagnosis with retinoblastoma, he is still cancer free. And if you didn’t know that Justin had lost his eye to this horrible disease, then you’d probably never notice that his left eye happens to be a prosthetic. You’d probably just think he was a cute little kid with glasses.

 

Justin

 

But what you’d also never know by looking Justin is that he is wearing a very special type of glasses that kids who have retinoblastoma need in order to maintain their vision. The glasses are totally shatter-proof, and they protect children who are either going through chemotherapy to save the vision in one or both of their eyes, or they protect the “good eye” in kids who have lost one to the disease. In the words of my friend, “Kids who have only one eye are eight times more likely to injure or even lose their eye.” These glasses are a necessity.

And because Erin and her husband are passionate about doing good for others and look for the positive in every situation, they have started an AMAZING non-profit agency called “Specs For Little Heroes,” in the hopes of gifting pairs of these special glasses to children who may not be able to afford them otherwise.

 

 

You see, a lot of parents will be shocked to hear that most insurance plans do not cover the cost of these glasses for their kids…which are $350 per pair. And it is just beyond devastating to know what your child needs to help save his/her vision, and not be able to give it to them.

But Specs For Little Heroes was started to change that, and thanks to donations from people who were touched by Justin’s story, they have already gifted 11 pairs of glasses to kids who need them. Specs For Little Heroes is trying to reach their goal of having 100 people pledge to donate $3.50 per month every month, which would help ensure that at least one child receives a pair of these glasses for every month of the year. For the cost of ONE latte at Starbuck’s per month, you can help give the gift of sight to a child who needs it. And you really just can’t put a price on that.

You can find out more information about donating to Specs For Little Heroes on their website, along with hearing more about Justin’s story, and you can even see photos of some of the kids who have received their special specs thus far.

Erin & her husband’s passion and dedication to spreading awareness about retinoblastoma and helping children who have it is something that has inspired me and made me realize that even though bad things sometimes happen, it’s what we choose to do as a result of those experiences that truly makes every day in our lives worthwhile. Make your actions COUNT, and strive to see the good in everyone and everything, even when it seems like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.

 

Pinterest: The New Skinny Jeans

I have a huge confession to make this Monday morning.

Don’t hate me…but I’m not on Pinterest. (Gasp)!

But that’s not the worst part. The part that might make you kind of despise me a little bit is not the fact that I’m not on there. It’s the fact that I don’t give a shit that I’m not on Pinterest. Cuz I’m just not buying into the whole deal.

Between having a full-time job, trying to post on my own blog a couple times a week, Twitter, Facebook, other social media shit, and then that little thing called spending time with my family instead of making love to my laptop, I really just don’t have any use for something else in my life that sucks my time and energy.

But there must be something incredibly appealing and satisfying about Pinterest, because it’s all I freakin’ hear people talk about anymore. It’s almost like it’s some kind of secret club that I really don’t want to be a part of, but almost feel that I have to because “everybody’s doing it.” I kind of wonder if Pinterest is the new skinny jeans. I HATED skinny jeans when they first came out, but after watching people strut their stuff in them for a year or so, I finally broke down and bought a pair. And now I can’t quit ‘em.

That being said, I’m just not ready to cave quite yet and give into the peer pressure of all the “Pin-hards” out there. Besides, I think I’d kind of suck at it. I mean, I can’t even organize my own refrigerator let alone put things in some sort of visually pleasing sequence online.

My kid, on the other hand, would be awesome at that shit.

Check out what he did to the stairs in our house yesterday:

 

I posted this photo to Facebook, and a friend of mine told me I should put it on Pinterest. But after seeing how my 5-year old grouped all of his Angry Birds into colors and species, I’m thinking he’d be a way better pinner than me. I’d totally suck at it. I just know it.

Please tell me I’m not the only person out there who refuses to become a slave to this little obsession called Pinterest. And please tell me that even though I’m not a pinner, that I can still be considered one of the cool chicks.

(I’m hearing crickets already).

Mama Got Herself a Job!

HOLY MOLY. Things are definitely about to change for The Mommyologist starting tomorrow morning…because mama got herself a J-O-B.

Like a job-job. Like a full-time job. Like a regular job with regular job hours where they are going to pay me and all that good stuff.

And tonight, I am somewhere between over-the-top excited and totally shitting my pants because I haven’t really set foot in an office since before my son was born.

Ok, ok, I know that all you really care about is where I’m going to be working and what I’m going to be doing, so I’ll cut to the chase.

I’m more than pleased to tell you that I’m joining an amazing team of people over at CafeMom, where I’ll take on my new gig as a Staff Writer for The Stir.

In what seems like a complete and total dream situation, I’ll be working 4-days a week from home, and 1-day per week at The Stir offices in New York City. (I guess I’d better learn how to walk in heels on concrete).

I’ll be writing seven articles per day on everything from Entertainment, to News, to Beauty and Style, to Parenting…and I seriously can’t freakin’ wait.

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this to come along for quite some time, and I just can’t believe that I landed such an amazing gig. I’m pretty damn proud of myself, and I feel like things are finally falling into place for me career-wise. This has me ECSTATIC, because getting myself back on a good career path is a huge component of reclaiming my Mom Sexy.

Ok, time to pour a glass of wine in a last ditch attempt to calm my nerves. (Not that I ever really need an excuse to start cocktail hour).

Wish me luck?

10 Reasons Why Being A Celebrity New Mom Totally Sucks

Well, Beyonce finally had her baby this past weekend. WHAT? You didn’t hear?

Yes…I’m kidding. I think that the only possible way you would not know this piece of news is if you’d been hiding in a dark closet all weekend with no access to anything electronic. It’s all over the place.

The Beyonce baby craze has been going on for months now…so much so that it almost seems like fans have been stalking her. And then after she finally welcomed her beautiful baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter, people on Twitter decided to rip her and Jay-Z a new asshole by insisting that they should have named the child something else. Last time I checked the name of the baby was THEIR decision…am I wrong?

All I know is that I’m glad I’m not a freakin’ celebrity, and I was even more glad to be “just a regular mom” after giving birth to my son. I’ve shared this photo before and I’ll share it again. Post-partum Mom Sexy isn’t sexy at all…but it’s reality! Can you imagine the horror this would cause if I WAS famous? GAH!

 

That's really me!

 

Here is my list of 10 Reasons Why Being a Celebrity Mom Totally Sucks:

 

1. Your vagina is famous too: Holy SHIZ. As if having being followed during your entire pregnancy and having your baby bump and cellulite-ridden ass isn’t stressful enough…can you even imagine what it’s like for celebrity moms in the delivery room? I mean…I know there’s probably all sorts of confidentiality waivers and shit that the doctors and nurses have to sign when a celeb checks into the hospital, but you KNOW that once those labor & delivery peeps get home and have a few glasses of wine, they just can’t resist giggling a bit and saying…guess what…”I saw Kourtney Kardashian’s vagina tonight!”

2. Double the humiliation factor: Did you poop on the table when you gave birth? I didn’t. But I farted uncontrollably after the super-hot anesthesiologist gave me my epidural, and it was pretty damn embarrassing. How do high-profile moms feel when something comes out of their butt while giving birth and the other people in the room realizes that their shit does, in fact, STINK?

3. Make-up is a MUST: I don’t think that I put on one ounce of make-up for a good few weeks after my son was born, let alone while I was still at the hospital. I knew that I looked like shit and I knew that everyone else knew that I looked like shit and frankly, I didn’t give a rat’s ass. With photographers waiting outside the hospital for them to leave with their babies, celeb moms have to put their face on and be camera ready, even when they have no energy to even apply their damn eye shadow. I mean…have you ever seen pictures of Beyonce without makeup? She doesn’t exactly look like a diva.

4. You are forced to sugar-coat: If you have been reading this blog for any remotely decent period of time, then you know that one of my biggest pet peeves is when new moms sugar-coat their experience about life with a newborn. Don’t even get me started on Gisele Bundchen, because I might break something. Anyway, celebrity new moms are almost forced to sugar-coat their baby stories because that is what the public expects. If they say that anything is less than picture perfect, then people label them as whiners. That must really blow.

5. Unbelievable pressure to bounce back: I don’t know how long it took you to get rid of your baby weight, but for me, it was at least nine months before I could squeeze into any of my pre-baby clothes. I gained about 50 lbs. while pregnant, and the first 20 came off fairly quickly. I had to literally WORK MY ASS OFF for the last 30…but at least I didn’t have any time limitations put on me as far as how fast I was expected to take the pounds off. Celeb moms, on the other hand, almost seem like they are in competition with one another as to who can get back into sample sizes the fastest. That kind of pressure must be unbearable, especially when all you want to do is try and adjust to life with a new baby. I always commend celeb moms who admit that they had a struggle with baby weight, just like the rest of us. I wish the media would cut them some slack, because behind the glitz and glamour, they really are just PEOPLE.

6. Paparazzi: Do I really need to elaborate on this one at all? Post-baby photographers are such a total buzz-kill for celeb moms. I can recall this one photo that was taken years ago of Reese Witherspoon after she had her first child, Ava. She was out walking (trying to lose the baby weight like a normal person), and the paps took pics of her looking overweight and bloated in her unflattering sweats. I can distinctly remember my naive 20-something skinny ass looking at that picture of her and not believing how heavy she looked. SHAME ON ME. If I saw that photo now, I’d probably want to reach through the pages and hug her and tell her that the weight WILL come off eventually. (And obviously, it did).

7. Having people who insist on doing shit for you: Ok, at first glance this one sounds like something we’d all love to have right after giving birth. Celeb moms have various people who cater to their every whim and need, but I can’t help but think that gets a bit smothering at times. Sure…I would have loved it if someone had dropped off a tray of lasagna or offered to sit with my son for an hour so I could take a hot bath, but would I have wanted random people coming in and out of my house all day long. NO WAY. As tough as it is adjusting to life with a new baby, I still believe that figuring it out on your own is part of the learning process. If you want to bond with your baby, then you really need to let yourself BOND WITH YOUR BABY instead of having other people there to do it for you. I’m sure that plenty of celeb moms are just too afraid to tell people no.

8. Added working mom pressures: This is one area where celebs seriously cannot win. If they go back to work too soon, people blast them for being shitty mothers. But then again, if they decide to take a lengthy period of time off to spend with their kids, people stop caring about them and bitch and moan about how they dropped off the face of the earth. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess. (Which I guess really isn’t much different than regular moms…).

9. Having hot women around your husband: Most celeb moms are married to celeb dads, other than a few who married non-showbiz types. I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it must be to be sitting on the couch at home bouncing a crying baby on your shoulder and trying not to shift too much because you don’t want the Tucks medicated pad to slip out between your butt cheeks, all while knowing that your extremely hot, rich husband is at work with extremely hot young actresses/singers, etc. flaunting their non-post-partum perfect bodies in his face. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if my husband had come home and told me he’d been hanging out with Blake Lively all day or some shit like that. (I probably would’ve told him to kiss my ass and sent him out to Walgreen’s for more Tuck’s pads).

10. Your kid is famous by default: Right before Pink gave birth to her daughter Willow, she tweeted about how she was against paparazzi taking photos of her child. And now, every time that I write a post on Babble containing a photo of Willow, I can’t help but cringe a bit because I know that I’m doing something against Pink’s wishes. If you are a famous mom, then your kid is automatically famous by default. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing for all celebrities. Again, they are just people like us…and they consider their children as sacred too. Even if I was an A-lister, I still don’t think I’d want my son’s every move followed by photographers.

I feel pretty damn good about the fact that I’m not a celebrity mom. Don’t you?

Turns Out You Can Get Enough Of The Disney Magic

Well ladies and gentlemen…last week we finally did it. The hubster and I took our little dude on a four-day whirlwind vacation to Disney World. And I think it’s safe to say that neither one of us has fully recovered yet.

Because as it turns out, it’s totally and completely possible to get enough of the magic.

Before I go any further, let me just say that this trip was absolutely wonderful. We left the laptops at home. We actually paid attention to each other. And we spent every single second of our time at Disney focused on our incredible son. And it was awesome.

Ok, back to the magic and the fact that I think we both got our fair share of it.

Disney World has this reputation as the happiest place on Earth, and I’d honestly say that it lives up to that reputation about 99% of the time. It’s pretty much impossible not to be in a good mood at Disney…unless of course you are a toddler who is so completely overstimulated by the excitement that the only thing you can manage to do is scream like you’re riding Space Mountain. Believe me…there are more screaming little ones at Disney than I’ve ever seen gathered in one place. They’re EVERYWHERE.

Let me give you a brief run-down of our first full day spent at the parks. We started off at Animal Kingdom by eating breakfast with Donald Duck, Daisy, and Goofy. (Little dude is still kind of miffed that Donald wouldn’t sign autographs).

 

 

And then upon leaving the restaurant, Neil Freakin’ Patrick Harris walked right by us, at which point I pointed him out and told the hubster that it was Neil Patrick Harris, which of course had him staring OPEN mouthed at Neil Patrick Harris while I yelled at him to quit staring. I AM a celebrity blogger after all, so I really don’t get starstruck like I used to. And I really don’t think that Neil would’ve been into me pointing him out to the rest of the crowds. After all, Doogie Howser was my first love, and I owe it to him to leave him alone.

Ok, I’m rambling and getting way off track.

So, the day started out like this…

 

 

And then after an action packed morning at Animal Kingdom complete with a Safari Ride…

 

 

…We headed over to the Magic Kingdom to get ready for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and parade…and then it started to rain.

But I’m a cool chick and I don’t let little things like the weather get me down…so I made the best of it. Ponchos are totally Mom Sexy, right?

 

 

And I laughed my ass off when one of the floats in the parade got stuck and had to be towed out with a John Deere while Disney “handlers” pushed the characters and dancers out of the way and into the crowds standing on Main Street. To use one of my dad’s favorite phrases, “They didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.” Apparently Disney parades aren’t often interrupted, and the characters seriously had no clue what to do with themselves. It was beyond comical.

But by the end of the night…I wasn’t laughing. I was SOAKED. From head to toe. And I looked like something out of a horror movie. What possessed me to by an effin’ balloon in the middle of a rainstorm?

 

 

 

Ok…fast forward to the next day…

It started off fairly uneventful…until lunchtime rolled around and little dude decided that he wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. Do you have any idea how fu&%in’ hard it is to get a grilled cheese sandwich at Disney? It’s next to damn impossible. But there is this one little gem of a spot called “Pinocchio’s Public House” that magically serves up cheese and bread mixed together.

But Pinocchio’s is located smack dab in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, over by Small World and Peter Pan. And when we showed up at the gates of the Magic Kindgom that day…there was yet another effin’ parade going on. Have you ever tried to maneuver a stroller through packs of tourists right in the middle of a parade complete with way too many people dancing around the street in tights and fake princesses on floats? It ain’t no picnic.

We tried to clear ourselves a path through the madness, but it just wasn’t happening. As little dude moaned about how hungry he was for that grilled cheese, we found ourselves trapped by the parade staring directly at Cinderella and Prince Charming playfully flirting with each other on top of the float.

And it took every single ounce of self-control for me to refrain from yelling, “Just grab her tits already Prince Charming…you KNOW you want to!!” at the top of my lungs. (I wouldn’t really say that…ok, maybe I would).

Ok, this post is getting way too long…but you catch my drift about the magic. And if you don’t? Just check out this video of our family dinner at Chef Mickey’s. For the record, they do serve booze. And no, I would not recommend this venue for a romantic night out on the town.

 

 

I’m still not over this trip. And on that note, I’ll be taking a much needed blogging break until after the holidays. And maybe by then, I won’t have Disney tunes running through my head 24-hours a day.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. I hope your holidays are magical!

 

 

 

 

I Need To Shut Up And Quit Complaining Already

Yesterday afternoon, I took my son shopping in the toy department at TJ Maxx. I LOVE me some TJ Maxx…because there is just so much great stuff all in one place, and most of the prices are marked down, which is a total bonus, especially with the holidays approaching.

And before you go getting all “judgy” and start pointing your finger at me because you think I shouldn’t be taking my child toy shopping, then let me emphasize the fact that we were not toy shopping for HIM.

A few of my friends and I have adopted a couple of local families this year in an effort to give them a nice Christmas with some presents under the tree. I am in charge of a 21-month old little girl and 4-year old little boy, so I thought it would be fun to take my son with me to help me pick out a few items for each of them.

As he and I strolled the aisles, I felt kind of a wave of guilt come over me. You see…money has been a bit tight around here lately ever since the unexpected 8-days we spent living in a hotel when the power went out at the beginning of November. We spent way more money than we had prepared to spend around this time of year…so I’ve had to sort of juggle some things around to make sure all of the bills get paid on time. And I haven’t exactly been a good sport about it. AT ALL.

Ok…back to the guilt.

We may have had to cut a few corners lately, but not ONCE have we worried about whether or not there would be presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

Not ONCE have we worried that our son would be disappointed that Santa Claus had short-changed him.

And thinking about the gifts that we will most certainly have on December 25th also brought me to another realization. Not ONCE during the season have we worried about whether or not we would be able to put food on the table.

We seriously have no business complaining, bitching, moaning, or any of the above. We really have it pretty damn good.

But there are plenty of families right here in our own hometowns who aren’t so lucky. And you and I can help them out just by dropping off a few items at the local food pantries that we most likely already have in our own homes.

Here is a list of the items that are most needed in food pantries this time of year:

Cereal

Pasta

Rice

Canned fruits and vegetables

Canned meals such as soups, chili, pasta

100% juice

Peanut butter

Pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce

Macaroni & cheese

Canned protein – tuna, chicken, turkey

Beans – canned or dry

 

When you sit down to Christmas dinner this year, make sure to say an extra blessing for the fact that you weren’t worried about whether or not dinner would be served. (And savor every bite and don’t bitch or moan about the calories or how full you are either, because calories and fullness are luxury items for many people less fortunate than you).

And also remember that there are plenty of people, especially children, who go hungry in this country each and every single day…not just during the holiday season.

Want to know how you can get your family and community involved in helping fight hunger? Make sure to check out ConAgra’s Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign to see how you can make 2012 a little brighter for a lot of kids out there.

 

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation as a blogger correspondent for ConAgra’s Child Hunger Ends Here campaign, however, all opinions and views expressed in this post are my own.