Friday, June 29, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: S and Z

It's Friday! Ready to hear what we did for ABC Summer this week? Remember, whether or not you're doing ABC Summer along with us, you can pick and choose some of these activities to do with your own kiddos on those summer days when boredom sets in--or adapt them to fit your own circumstances. Here you go!


* went Swimming
* had Sno-cones courtesy of our friends and their fun Sno-cone maker!
* made S'mores (yum!)
* played in the Sand and made Sandcastles at Lake Byllesby, a nice little beach about 15 miles from our house (see photo above, also):

* and did Sand art:

[For this project, draw with white glue (either by squeezing the bottle as you go or, for younger artists, dipping Q-tips in glue and using that to draw on the paper) on bright blue construction paper, making sandcastle shapes. Sprinkle clean sand ("craft" sand works best) onto blue outline, then carefully shake off excess sand. Add sea-themed stickers or whatever else you like.]


* checked out library book about Zebras
* made Zucchini muffins
* went to Zollman Zoo, a rescue/rehab zoo for native-Minnesota animals in rural southeastern Minnesota about an hour from our town:

There's also a historic one-room log cabin there:

All in all, a very successful week of summer fun. Never underestimate the power of sand, sno-cones, and S'mores to instill loads of summer joy into small children! Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It All Makes Sense in My Head.

So, today we went to a great little southeastern Minnesota treasure called Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo (more tomorrow, in my ABC Summer report, because this "field trip" was for "Z" week) and tried on turtle shells.

We also fed the goats--A LOT--before noticing the sign that said to please not feed the animals. Never mind that we've been here two times before and should know this by now.


And saw many other native-Minnesotan rescued/rehabbed animals, such as a great horned owl that had one eye missing, a buffalo calf with its mama, and a otter chomping on a raw chicken breast like he was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner after a five-day juice fast.

We had a lot of fun. We go there every summer, generally with fellow-mom friends of mine and their kiddos, and we bring along a picnic lunch and make a good half-day of it.

In other, completely unrelated news, I recently wore my newly-acquired, obsessively-beloved, super-comfy, perfect in every way, bright-coral, Merona chino shorts from Target three days in a row, until Julia tactfully suggested I put them in the wash. My excuse was that they were not dirty, and that part of each of those days was spent at the pool, so it wasn't like I wore them for the whole day or anything. Please note that in the photo above, Julia (age 8) is wearing a size 5T sundress that she has owned for three summers. So who exactly is talking, here? I love my bright-coral chino shorts. Love them, love them, love them. May sneak them out of the dirty laundry to wear them again tomorrow.

Finally, I think I've neglected to mention here that my running--at last!--is going so well that I'm up to 9-mile runs on Sundays ("long run" day), and roughly 15 more miles than that throughout the week. After a full year of relentless hip/glute injury and very little running mileage, I finally feel "normal" again. Nine miles is the longest I've run since long before having babies--since 1998, in fact, when I ran the inaugural Chicago Half-Marathon during graduate school. (The next year, I developed arthritis in my feet and was forced to give up running and most other forms of exercise for several years. It's been a long road back.)

I will doggedly focus on the wonders of injury recovery and restored running ability, rather than on the fact that hello, WHY am I ten pounds heavier than I've been in YEARS when I'm RUNNING NEARLY 25 MILES A WEEK? Do not tell me it's from eating cookies & cream ice cream, chocolate-covered peanuts, and homemade rhubarb crumble pie. I will ignore you. My only explanation is that I must be pregnant. I mean, seriously, what other explanation could there possibly be for weight gain? (Don't pregnant women eat stuff like that? I think they do.)

So there you have it. Turtles, goats, dirty laundry, hysterical pregnancy. A day in the life.

Love you!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Time for Anything that Doesn't Involve Sun, Water, Sand, Popsicles, or Ice Cream

Oh, friends. So busy. So, so busy. But busy with summertime fun, which is the best kind of busy, if you ask me. I will have lots of fun photos and news on Friday for my weekly ABC Summer report. Here's a sneak peek:

Have you noticed that I never post pictures of MYSELF with my children? That's because I'm always the one taking the pictures. It's a plight of moms everywhere. Loads of photos of our kids doing all sorts of fun stuff, almost none of us doing all the fun stuff with our children. What can you do? I'm there, I promise. I look pretty much the same. My hair is a little bit longer, and blonder because of the sun. My legs are more toned from all the summer trail running. But for the most part I look the same. My kids, however, keep growing and changing, damn them. How dare they? Good thing the cuteness never goes away.

Back soon. xoxo.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

So Wild.

image courtesy

Follow up on my OMG-I'm-checking-grown-up-books-out-of-the-library post: clearly, I need to read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS TALKING ABOUT IT, raving about it, recommending it, going nutso over it. And by "everyone," I mean tons and tons of women writers, avid readers, smart people, and Oprah. Not that Oprah isn't all of the above. You know what I mean. (Did you read Oprah's interview with Cheryl Strayed in the latest issue of O Magazine?) 

Seriously, everywhere I look there's something about Cheryl Strayed and Wild. Plus, I first heard about her right before she had a reading from Wild at The Bookcase, the same indie bookshop in Wayzata, MN, that hosted one of my readings this past spring. So I feel, I don't know, connected to her in some deludedly grandiose way! Like, I'm just like Cheryl Strayed! I also wrote a nonfiction book and had a reading at the oldest independent bookstore in the Twin Cities in April, 2012! Only she's famous and New York Times-bestselling, and I'm not! (Yet.) But still!

So, who's read it? Who's dying over it? I need it.

(*Note: Cheryl Strayed even provided a blurb for the back cover of Forgotten Country, the grown-up book I checked out of the library that inspired my rabid OMG-grown-up-books! post, and which I just finished reading, and which is just stunning. So, again: Cheryl Strayed: everywhere. And also: Forgotten Country: amazing, incredible, beautiful book. See? Crazy for grown-up books.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: G and P

Mmmm....making pudding pops in our jammies! With bedhead! Gotta love summer.

Whoa, were we busy this week, mamas! I've got a treasure trove of fun kid activities for you all today, whether you're doing ABC Summer along with us or not. Check out all the things we were busy with this week, and have fun sampling some of these activities with your own kiddos this summer:


*made homemade Granola bars
*started Gymnastics class
*checked out library books about Gorillas, Glaciers, and Greece
*did Gumball math/color-by-number sheets
*colored Jan Brett printable coloring pages of Giraffes and Gingerbread houses


*had an indoor Picnic (on a rainy day)
*ate Pie (for Father's Day)
*went to the Pool
*ate Popcorn
*made homemade Pudding Pops
*checked out library books on Polar regions and Planets
*colored Jan Brett printable coloring pages of snow Pups
*made mini Panda Pizzas

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mid-Week ABC Update: Better Homemade Granola Bars

I threw in some random leftover trail mix we had lying around; hence the 
Cheerios and occasional M&M in there. You can use pretty much whatever!

This can't wait until the Friday ABC Summer report; it's too yummy. So consider this a mid-week kids' activity report.

The other day, because it's "G" week, the girls and I made homemade granola bars. Now, you may faintly recall that long ago I posted a homemade granola bar recipe, but this time I tweaked the recipe some more, with far better results, so an update is definitely needed. Try it! It's so easy, and SO much healthier and more satisfying than feeding your kids those store-bought granola bars filled with chemicals and sugar.

Better Homemade Granola Bars
makes 36 rectangles

4 cups whole oats
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup honey (organic if possible)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 to 1 cup shredded coconut (to your taste)
2 cups assorted add-ins: such as any combination of raisins, craisins, dried cherries, mini chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, M&Ms, Cheerios, dried blueberries, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil or spray a rimmed baking sheet (i.e., a jelly roll pan).

In a VERY large bowl, mix oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, melted butter, honey, brown sugar, and coconut. When combined, add your 2 cups of other goodies. Mix to combine.

Pour mixture into baking sheet; with oiled hands, flatten granola mixture firmly into the pan. Take the back of a large spatula and press down entire surface again.

Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown. When pan comes out of the oven, the granola mixture will be slightly puffed up. Take your large spatula and FIRMLY press it all down again. Let granola cool COMPLETELY in the pan before cutting into 36 rectangles.

Store granola bars in a tightly-sealed container, layered with plastic wrap or foil. Keep airtight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book It

One of the most thrilling developments in my life recently is the fact that I can once again check out library books. Adult library books. For myself. From the ADULT BOOK SECTION. You know, that other part of the library? Away from the picture books and shelves of Magic Treehouse?

Oh my. The luxurious delight.

I still don't have much time for pleasure reading; it seems like by the time I've cared for two children all day, done all the housecleaning, cooking, and laundry, run all the errands, and exercised, there's just not much (any?) time to curl up with a book before I fall asleep. (Heck, I still don't have time to shower half the time.) But there is a little. And every now and then these days, I come home from our regular visit to the public library with not just a heavy canvas bag full of the kiddos' books, but with a volume or two for myself.

This is beyond exciting. I mean, there really are no words. And if you are currently reading this with your mouth hanging open in confused disbelief, you must be a childless person. Because every fellow parent of small children--every fellow parent who loves to read, that is--knows exactly what I'm talking about. Oh, the moment your kids become old enough that you can actually browse the grown-up section for a few minutes--long enough to actually read the titles on the spines and skim the back covers? While they occupy themselves in the kid section? Alone?!? Even ten minutes of this feels like an eternity when it's been nearly a decade since you've done anything in the public library other than attend toddler storytime and read storybooks aloud in the toy corner. And I say this as someone who has truly loved--LOVED!--all these years of toddler storytime and the toy corner.

But there's still something thrilling about checking out books by someone other than Dr. Seuss.

Even if half the time I don't get them read by the time they're due back at the library.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Must-Haves for Moms!

Long ago, I was originally going to do a post on May Must-Haves for Moms. Then May got away from me and here it is mid-June already! 

My kick-off to summer, while filled with plenty of fun, has also been fairly hectic. Summer vacation started off for me--just two weeks ago today--with a long stint of solo-parenting during my daughters' first week off from school, as Christopher traveled for a work trip. Since then there's been--among many other things--an out-of-town book reading that took most of an entire day, major storms and flooding, and then, this past Saturday, Christopher's second century (100-mile) bike race (which meant him being gone all day again).

All this chaos and craziness has meant that I've been even more thankful than usual for my various mama essentials--the little luxuries that make summer stay-at-home mama life a bit prettier, comfier, and easier to manage, even on those days you're parenting solo or the rain is coming down in sheets while the kiddos fuss about wanting to go to the pool and you've got approximately 30 seconds to think of some brilliant way to keep them busy for the next four hours.

So if you, like me, are feeling a little rough around the edges these days, get yourself into the shade or AC, grab an iced coffee, and check out my list of summer faves, below. I guarantee, these items will make your days better. Even if your days, like mine, are already pretty awesome come summertime.

(None of these companies has reimbursed me in any way for endorsing their products, by the way.)

 photo courtesy

*Kerastase Crystalliste Lumiere Liquide Luminous Perfecting Essence For Dry Lengths or Ends. Stay with me here. This stuff is expensive--but worth it beyond your wildest dreams if you have long, summer-dry hair like mine. Just a drop or two of this apparently magical oil, massaged into the bottoms of your locks, will leave you with the silkiest, softest, glowiest strands you've ever seen--think Blake Lively in Gossip Girl--even if you spend your days frying your hair in the sun and heat at the pool with your kiddos. Look for deals on Amazon or sale prices elsewhere online. A bottle will last you a really, really long time.

photo courtesy

*eos lip balm spheres. There's nothing like the hot days of summer to leave you with dry, sun-parched lips. But have you noticed how your usual tube of lip balm always seems to go missing in the bottom of your handbag? Switch over to these irresistible, candy-hued globes for easy-to-spot assistance when your smile needs smoothing. They're so cute you'll be tempted to kiss them. Or eat them. Or just buy one of every color, like I have.

photo courtesy

*Colored chino shorts. So, colored denim was all the rage this past spring. Red and royal blue skinnies were EVERYWHERE! But where I'm from, summer is way too hot for jeans. That's where a pair (or three) of cute colored chino shorts comes in. Chino shorts are uber-practical and super-comfy for on-the-go moms; they can take you up and over the jungle gym with a toddler as well as they can take you to a backyard barbecue at the neighbors', and they look just as cute with Keds as they do with wedge sandals. Plus you can find them in a variety of lengths to suit all comfort levels. Go beyond basic khaki, gray, and olive to embrace 2012's trendy shades of hot pink, lemon, and tangerine. Adorbs!

 photos courtesy

*Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Sun Damage Daily Moisture Lotion and Clinical Dark Spot Corrector. If you're a stay-at-home mom of young children during the summer, it's pretty much a given that you're going to spend a lot of time in the sun. It just is. Between the pool, the park, the backyard, the playground, the picnics, the bike rides, the stroller walks, the little-kid soccer and baseball practices, the swimming lessons, and everything in between--well, it all adds up to mega sun exposure. Trust me, these two products are your friends. Your best friends. Stock up. Unless you want to look like a leathery, sun-spotted lizard by the time your kids hit middle school. Which reminds me...

photo courtesy

*A cute wide-brimmed sunhat is also your friend. And this one, by Merona from Target, is both retro-glamorous and functional: it's large enough for even my mammoth head. Plus you can stuff it in your beach bag and it pops right back into shape. Seriously, pair this hat with some large dark shades and you'll be the chicest mom at the baby pool. Which brings me to...

*Glamorous, big sunglasses. I realize that Wayfarers and other more moderately-sized shades are back in style too, but for complete crow's feet-prevention and eye coverage, there's nothing like the oversized sunglasses that still populate the drugstore racks and magazine pages. Go for the biggies for the best sun protection, and you'll look like a Hollywood mama: ageless, but not in that creepy, overly-Botoxed way.

photo courtesy

*Kids' wet skin sunscreen spray. It goes without saying that, as a summer mom, you're going to spend half your time applying sunscreen to your kids' slippery, wriggly bodies. Make it easy on yourself and get the kind in the easy-spray bottle, that you can zap straight onto wet skin when it's time to re-coat during swim breaks. Then use it for yourself, too. Every two hours, people!

That should get you started. I've got a few more summer essentials, but maybe we'll save those for July. Right now I've got kiddos to get to summer gymnastics, then the library, then the supermarket, then the pool. You know how it is.

Have fun, mamas! And let me know if you have any other summer must-haves for moms I should know about!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Listen to me on Dr. Sophy's Podcast!

The podcast is up!

Click here to go to Dr. Charles Sophy's website, then scroll down to podcast #35, the one about "at-home moms vs. at-home dads." Click on that to start the podcast broadcast. Surely you want to listen, right?!

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: T and U

Photo: Corey Butler, Jr.,
Flooded road right by our house, Thursday evening 

ABC Summer continues! Here are the alphabet activities my girls and I did this week for the letters T and U:


Played Tennis (well, played around with new tennis racquets and balls in our driveway and on sidewalk)
Ate Tacos
Had a Teddy bear Tea party


Played Uno
Made UV-ray prints*

As always, U was tricky!

But amidst these somewhat sparse ABC activities, we did lots of other fun things, too. For instance, my daughters and their friend made a hopscotch board that went from our driveway all the way to the end of the block. It was 786 squares long. Yes, they chalked and numbered each square. Yes, it took a reeeeeeeeeally long time.

We played at the park and watched the great blue heron that lives on our pond. We went to our town's annual summer outdoor Justin Roberts concert in the park--a much beloved event that always brings out pretty much everyone we know, and is consistently magical and perfect--the kind of event you walk away from in a state of summer-evening bliss, carrying tired-out kiddos and washed in the June sunset and smelling the perfect sweet smell of grass and flowers and small-town summer life.

On Thursday, we attended a kids' Flag Day parade and party organized and hosted by a mama friend of mine, Jen, who is some sort of brilliant and creative supermom, plus she's the nicest person you'll ever meet, too, so I'm sort of in awe of her. Jen invited something like 10 at-home moms and their kids to her house yesterday morning to march around her block in red, white, and blue gear, waving miniature flags, accompanied by march music played from a boombox she rigged up to her toddler's stroller. Yes, yes she did. There must have been 25 kids or more, from babies to 3rd-graders, and we all paraded down her idyllic little street as her neighbors came out to watch and wave. It was adorable. Then we all went back to her house and enjoyed patriotic treats--blue- and red-sugared cookies, watermelon pieces bedecked with red and white flowered picks, strawberries and blueberries, pink lemonade, and super-strong coffee for the moms. (Gotta love Jen.)

We got all that done before a giant rainstorm hit our town (see photo above) and did not let up for some eight or nine hours and more than six inches of rain** later--leaving most roads in town flooded and closed, many cars stranded, and many a basement filled with water. Fortunately, my family was home safe and we do not have a basement, but it was rain like none I've ever seen before. The roads to and from our house bordering the countryside were covered with water and impassable, and our backyard turned into a lake. Parts of the college campus in town were underwater, and the highway coming into town was flooded too.

So, maybe T is for Thunderstorm. Either way, we're fine and looking forward to next week, when our letters are P and G, and Julia coincidentally begins her summer Gymnastics class.

*UV-ray prints: On a sunny day, take several sheets of vividly-colored construction paper and a collection of interestingly-shaped, solid objects (i.e., wooden spoon, block, toy car, etc.) outside. Lay paper in the sun, then place objects on the paper (weigh everything down with rocks if you live in a windy place like we do). Leave in the sun for a few hours (the longer, the better). Remove objects. You should have dark, recognizable shapes on faded paper. Kids love it! 

** Edited to add: I have now heard reports of up to ten inches of rain in our area yesterday within a 12-hour period. CRAZY.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Update: podcast is done. It should be up on Dr. Sophy's website soon if you are interested in listening.

It was fun, and Dr. Sophy and my fellow guest were interesting to talk to, but I will say this about one part of the discussion: I'm sorry, but if I, as an at-home mom, can manage to watch the kids, do tons of enriching activities with them (ABC Summer, for example!), AND keep the house relatively clean and the cooking and laundry taken care of, so can at-home dads. I think we do a disservice to the male of the species when we don't assume and expect that they are as capable as we are. So when dads say, "No, I didn't clean up the house, I was busy with the kids!" it doesn't fly with me. I'm busy with the kids too, AND I clean up the house. Because I multi-task. Dads are capable of that too, I'm sure of it. Perhaps they just need to practice. I'm not saying it's EASY. But the at-home moms I know do it literally all the time.

Now do you want to listen?

Mission Accomplished

So...I realize that the content on this blog has turned into a long stream of book publicity and recipes, which may not be the most compelling material to some readers. Remember the good old days when I used to entertain you with stories of how my daughter thinks "Fahrenheit" is the "bad F-word"? Or, the good REALLY old days when my content was mainly a string of sleep-deprivation-fueled rants about babies who don't sleep? Ah yes.

A funny thing happens after awhile, when you're a mom-blogger. Your children grow up, and your life gets simultaneously busier in a new way and more desperately fleeting than ever, so that you end up spending most of your time living your life while frantically trying to slow down the march of time, which leaves less time for writing entertaining tales about parenting. At least that's how it is for me. Or maybe I've just been spending too much time at the pool and in the sun and at the park and in the woods.

There was something I wanted to tell you about, though. Last week I received the loveliest e-mail from someone who had just read my book. Her name is Amy Barber Kelly, and she gave me permission to use her name on this website and quote from her message. This is what she said about what my book meant to her:

I just finished reading your book, The Essential Stay at Home Mom Manual, and I just really wanted to write you to thank you for the book.

Even though I had a wonderful career, I had always dreamed of being a stay at home mom.  My first son was born 2.5 years ago, and his little brother arrived a year ago.  Being a stay at home mom has just been so different than I ever imagined it would be.  Reading your book helped me so much to better understand some of the things I've been feeling and to think in new ways about some of the tough parts of the job.  I think the thing you wrote that made the biggest impression on me was to think about this like any other job, in the sense that there will be things about the job that you like and things you don't like.  Why did I always feel guilty before for not liking some things about this job? 

As you can imagine, I am writing this email very quickly while BOTH boys are napping!!  The holy grail of stay at home moms, I believe you called it.  So rare in my house still!

So anyway, this is just a really quick note.  If I wait until I have time to compose something nicer, it would just never get done at all.  I just wanted to tell you that so many of the things you wrote in your book made me smile, nod my head and sigh with finally feeling understood.  And I believe that reading your book will help me to get even more joy out of these precious few years when I'm home with my young guys. 

Thank you so much. 


Then later on, in a second note during some back-and-forth correspondence, she asked me to please tell my publisher that I should write a second book.

You guys, this is why I wrote The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual. This is EXACTLY why. And the fact that my book meant enough to this reader that she would use her precious few minutes during THE SIMULTANEOUS NAP to write me a thank-you letter--seriously, every stay-at-home mom knows that you do NOT waste that time!--well, my mission has been accomplished, and my dream of helping other moms derive greater joy and satisfaction out of their time at home with their children has come true.

Thank you, Amy. I hope today is a wonderful day with your boys. And if it's not, well...there's a chapter or two in the book for that, too.

And for all the rest of you, waiting for non-book-related content, I have a post in the works about Summer Must-Haves for Moms, so stay tuned! It'll be fun.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Podcast on Wednesday, June 13th! (That's Tomorrow!)

Hi, you all! Listen, do you remember the time(s) I was interviewed on the radio? And maybe you never did listen to it but you have always wondered what my voice sounds like, and you happen to be free tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Central Time/9:30 Pacific? Well, you're in luck.

I was just invited to be a featured expert on a podcast tomorrow, for a discussion about stay-at-home moms vs. stay-at-home dads. (Not "vs." as in an argument or debate; just differences/aspects/etc.) The podcast is hosted by Dr. Charles Sophy, the medical director for the L.A. County Child Welfare Agency, and an author in his own right. He does weekly podcasts on his website about relevant societal issues and interesting topics for discussion.

His website is here, so tune in tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. CST/9:30 a.m. PST to listen! It should be really fun. And if you miss it tomorrow, you can listen anytime online by going to the podcast archives.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Poor Turnout, Good Review: Scenes From the Life of an Author

So, yesterday I was supposed to do a reading from my book at a coffeehouse in a town two hours away. I say "supposed to," because NO ONE SHOWED. However, I wasn't terribly upset. I've heard enough stories about authors--even ones who aren't complete unknowns, unlike me--having this exact experience to know that it can happen to anyone! I was, however, bothered about all that travel time and gas invested in the endeavor--for nothing. 
Well, not quite for nothing, because my husband and I packed up my book copies, put the kids back in the car, and headed to the big beach in town. (I had packed the girls' swim stuff because Christopher had been planning to take the girls to swim/play while I did my reading.) We re-cast the adventure as a family day trip to the beach in Winona, and ended the day with dinner and ice cream at a pub downtown. Because of the two-hour drive each way, we didn't get home until after 8 p.m., so it was a long day for zero book sales, but what can you do? I considered it a good lesson for my girls in the ups and downs of life, perseverance, and turning lemons into lemonade.
Just so we don't end this little story with talk of lemons, how do you like this latest customer review of my book on Amazon? I like it just fine, and I think all the moms in Winona, MN, really missed out yesterday when they decided to stay home or go elsewhere rather than attend my book reading! From my book's Amazon listing:
Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Like chatting with a really smart mom-friend over coffee, June 7, 2012
This review is from: The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos (Paperback)
I was hesitant to buy this book, because I was afraid I would be wasting money on a book just filled with cliches or stating the obvious. But I am SO GLAD that I took a chance and bought the book; it is wonderful. I've been a stay at home mom for a couple of years already, and even though it's a dream come true for me in many ways, it is also a very strange type of job: isolating, confusing, frustrating and frequently misunderstood by others. This book brilliantly articulates so many of the tough aspects of being a stay at home mom, and it also provides great advice and perspective to help moms get the most joy and satisfaction out of the experience. The author has wonderful insights (I suspected she was spying on me a few times) and a really natural voice. You'll read the book and then want to meet her down at Starbucks for a chat to thank her.

A Review of My Book--Clear Across the Globe!

So, there's this blog Dainty Mom. It's written by a Philippines mom named Martine de Luna, who specializes in work-at-home mom issues, and it's become a new favorite read of mine--it's really awesome. And I'm not saying that just because she reviewed my book today.

But she did! Head over to to read what Martine has to say about The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual, learn a few fun facts about me in an author interview, and enter to win your own copy of the book!

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Perfect Picnic Pasta Salad

So the other day I needed something to pack up for a picnic dinner at the pool. Swimming makes kids HUNGRY, so it had to be hearty, but I also wanted something summery and fresh. What's the perfect picnic entree? A pasta salad, of course. Here's what I threw together. It was, well--perfect.

Perfect Picnic Pasta Salad
serves about 6

Half to 2/3 of a 1-lb. bag of enriched egg noodles (or any pasta you like) -- I'm not precise on this measure; use what seems right to you.
2 large scallions, snipped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 large or 1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced into quarter-moons
1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Large handful (or as much as you like) turkey pepperoni, sliced into quarter-moons
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)

Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving al dente. Drain and rinse well with cold water to stop cooking and cool the noodles. Drain well again, then place in large serving bowl. Add all vegetables, chickpeas, and pepperoni, toss well.

Combine dressing ingredients in jar or large glass measuring cup; whisk with fork or shake jar to combine well. Pour over salad; toss until ingredients are well-coated. Top with Parmesan. Chill in refrigerator before serving, if possible--or pack up in a cooler with some good bread and fresh fruit for a picnic lunch or supper.

Friday, June 08, 2012

2nd Annual ABC Summer Weekly Report: D and E

It's a summer Friday, so you know what that means: it's time for an ABC Summer weekly report--our first of 2012, in fact! Whether or not you're doing ABC Summer yourself, I hope this post will give you some ideas for fun activities to do with your own kiddos this summer. (For a detailed explanation of what ABC Summer is all about, read this post from last year.)

This week's letters were D and E. (The link above will explain why we don't go in strict alphabetical order, i.e., we did not start with A and B.)

Here are our ABC Summer activities for the week:


* Dug in the Dirt (planting pansy seedlings)
* Checked out library books about Dinosaurs and the Dallas Cowboys
* Made and ate "Dirt" treats (actually chocolate pudding, crushed chocolate grahams, and gummy worms)
* Went Downtown to get Doughnuts at the bakery with our fellow ABC Summer pals

mmm...eating dirt...

* Julia turned Eight
* Read library books about Egypt, Ecuador, Easter Island, and the New England Patriots (humor Genevieve on that last one; there's an E in there somewhere, right?)
* Made origami Elephants (see photo at top)
* Went on two Evening walks (in pj's)

 turning Eight involved butterfly cupcakes for a butterfly-themed "sleep-under" party

 nine little girls did paper posy and butterfly crafts at the party

butterfly/flower crafts ready to go

It was a fun and successful first week of summer vacation and first week of our 2nd Annual ABC Summer. Of course, we kept busy with plenty of other, non-ABC-Summer-related activities, too: we went to the pool three or four times, visited our neighborhood playground, practiced our hula hooping, played with friends at our house and others', drew, read, made art, watched movies, and enjoyed new birthday toys. Summer FTW!


Thursday, June 07, 2012

BlogHer Life Well Lived: Beauty and Style Resources for the Busy Mom

Hey, it's that time again! Time for me, as a member of the Life Well Lived panel of featured bloggers, to answer a fun BlogHer Life Well Lived question. This week's question is,

What are your favorite fashion, style and beauty resources?

I'm not a high-maintenance girl, but even a busy stay-at-home mom like me needs tips and info on the latest beauty products and style trends, right? I mean, I'm not one to care about Fashion Week or buy expensive concoctions at the department store cosmetics counter, but I do care about hair products, makeup, skin care, and clothes--in my own casual-preppy, busy-mom, budget-conscious kind of way. So where do I look for fun ideas and information on beauty and style?

My first instinct in answering this question is to list online resources. For example, I am a huge fan of mama-style blogger Susan Wagner, because I've been following her for years--since her own kids were small--and I feel she understands the typical mom. You can read her at The Working Closet, where she smartly combines chic know-how with a down-to-earth, every-day-mom sensibility.   

For beauty tips--especially hair-related--my go-to site is (no surprise) Sarah James, of Hair Thursday fame, is prettier, more polished, thinner, and far more stylish than I am--and yet she's also relatable and accessible, because she's so cute and sweet that you honestly feel like you could sit down for coffee with her and discuss skinny jeans and toddler tantrums. I mean, who doesn't love her? The whole world loves her. You will too.

Pinterest is another great resource for beauty and style--particularly for getting a general idea about certain looks and testimonials for particularly products. I love scrolling through Pinterest and seeing images of certain outfits, getting ideas of how to wear my own clothes and jewelry.

Personally, I don't stop at the Internet, though. Honestly, my favorite beauty and style resource by far is Redbook magazine. (And I'm talking about the print, hold-in-your-hands version, people, NOT the online mag.) If you haven't read Redbook since your mom had a subscription when you were a kid, you're in for a delightful surprise. Redbook is gorgeous, glossy, and totally engaging--and chock-full of fashion spreads, style tips, beauty product reviews, and hairstyling ideas that are glamorous and beautiful while also being completely doable and reasonable for the "regular" woman--especially the mom who wants to look polished and stylish even if she's short on time and energy. LOVE.

So there you go: my favorite go-to resources for fashion and beauty ideas. What about you? Do you have any great resources to share? Tell me! And don't forget to go visit the BlogHer post on this question and join the discussion there. You can even enter the BlogHer Life Well Lived sweepstakes to win an iPod Touch!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Getting Dressed for Summer Vacation

The 30 Day Get Dressed Challenge isn't over yet, you know, people! Have you been getting dressed each day?

It's summer vacation here, and I'm on solo-parent duty for the week as well, so keep in mind that my version of getting dressed this week includes dressing for the pool, the park, picnics, walks with kids, playdates, flower-planting, cooking, and cleaning. Which means, at least today, Old Navy chino shorts, Merona cami from Target, Old Navy cardi, and black patent Birkenstock sandals. Because that's dressing like a busy summer mom.

Summer Rules

Starting summer vacation off right.

Summer Solo Parenting

 Solo-parenting and summer are in full swing. The girls and I have launched our 2nd annual ABC Summer, and are busy doing lots of D and E activities this week. (Click the link for an explanation about why we don't start with A and B.) As I did last year, I'll post a report each Friday about our ABC endeavors for that week; if you're following along, you can use those ideas for future weeks of your own (whether or not you're using the alphabet as a guiding structure). We all know how helpful it can be to get ideas for keeping young children occupied during the long days of summer.

Because I'm on my own this week, I still don't have time to sit down and write very much, nor post a bunch of photos, so bear with me, fellow moms--you know how it is, don't you?! Five days of solo-parenting means you basically never sit down, so...this is about all the time I have for blogging. Not that I don't have a ton of ideas for posts, because I do, but they will have to wait a little bit.

In the meantime, we're going to the pool, resuming our summer Popcorn Wednesday tradition, planting pansy seedlings, going for walks, reading, playing, and soaking up the sunshine. Then I collapse into bed at night.

If you live in southern Minnesota, please consider coming out to my book reading and signing this Sunday in Winona! I'll be at The Acoustic Cafe at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 10th, and I'd love to meet any area moms who need something to do that afternoon that doesn't involve kids' sunscreen and/or peewee soccer practice.

Happy Wednesday, mamas!

Monday, June 04, 2012

First Official Day of Summer Vacation

birthday waffle

Hello, friends! It's officially summer vacation. My children woke up at 5:40 this morning, how about yours?

Since I last wrote here, life in my house has been one big blur of end-of-school and 8th-birthday celebrations: ice cream cones, summer sun, flowers, balloons, grandparents visiting, presents, butterfly cupcakes, outside play, walks to the park, buttercream icing, new toys, school mementos, photos with friends, report cards, hot dogs and movies, wrapping paper and ribbons.

We still have family staying at our house, I'm solo-parenting this entire week, and my to-do list for birthday-recovery and summer-vacation-starting is a mile long, so this will be it for today, but I'll post some birthday party photos soon and will hopefully have time to write more later this week. Still can't believe it's been eight years since I became a mom.