Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flip Note Review/Giveaway! **2 Winners** CLOSED

I was recently given the opportunity to try out Wellspring's Flip Notes and have found a new "must have" product for myself! After writing about how much I love the Moleskine notebooks (and still do!), I was contacted by FlipNoteFan offering to let me try out the Flip Note. Wellspring's site gives this description of the Flip Note:

"Flip Notes are Wellspring's #1 best-seller and are available in over 30 chic designs! Flip Notes are perfect for notes on-the-go as they fit snugly inside pockets, purses, or briefcases! Flip Notes make perfect gifts for loved ones, teachers, hosts & coworkers. Each Flip Note features a stylish debossed metal spring-loaded case with a blank white note pad and retractable pen."

I found that the Flip Notes are just the right size to slip in a diaper bag or leave in the car for quick notes. The Flip Note also fit very easily into my pockets, although it was noticeable. I found it worked best in my diaper bag, and I will forever keep it in there! The hard case makes it very durable so it can withstand all of the jostling and tossing with no problem. It was also able to withstand my very curious toddler without damage. That is saying something! She can figure out how to open, destroy, etc. just about anything I have, but she wasn't able to easily get the Flip Note open before she got bored with it. This is because the retractable pen that comes with the Flip Note must be removed before the notebook will open. I absolutely LOVE this feature! Not only is it unable to come open in your diaper bag or pocket (unless you want it to!), but you never have to go searching through your bag or car to find a pen. The pen and paper are always right there together. Genius! Finally, the hard case makes it very easy to write on, rather than a flimsy notepad that you must find a solid place to use it on. All in all, I think it's a fabulous little invention! I think every mom would love to have one and now two lucky moms have a chance to win one! Up for grabs are the Black Croc and Stacy Collection - Paisley designs (pictured above). Good luck!
To enter this giveaway follow the rules below (US ONLY):

1. For your initial, required entry visit the Wellspring Gift website and leave me a comment telling me your favorite flip note design (other than the ones offered in the giveaway) or favorite other product they offer.
To earn extra entries you may do one or more of the following and leave me additional comments here telling me which you have done:

2. Follow me on Twitter and leave a tweet about this contest. Leave me a link to your tweet as well as your Twitter name.
3. Blog about this contest to earn TWO extra entries and leave me a comment with the link to your post. **Be sure to leave TWO separate comments if you do this**
4. Follow my blog through Blogger.
5. Grab my button and place it on your site (w/ link to site in comment) for THREE extra entries. **Be sure to leave me THREE separate comments indicating that you have my button so that they will all be counted**
6. Add my blog as a favorite on Technorati (button on left sidebar)

**Be sure to leave me your e-mail address, if there is not a visible on in your profile, so that I can contact you if you win. This contest will end at 11:59 PM CST on Friday February 6. The winners will be randomly chosen via Random.org and notified on Saturday, February 7. The first winner to contact me will have their choice of design (although they are both awesome!!).**

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Love The Little Gym!

I just have to take a moment to write about how much I am loving our new Mommy and Me (and Daddy too sometimes) class at The Little Gym.  EG and I previewed a class over the summer but never did enroll because of time conflicts.  A friend of mine convinced me to try again this semester and I am SO GLAD that we did!  Again, time was a little bit of an issue because EG's class, Birds (10-19 months), is offered during the day or at 8:30 AM on Saturdays.  There were no weekday evening classes, which I would have preferred.  But, I decided to do another trial class to see if I would really be able to do one at 8:30!  Well, we tried it and I couldn't help but sign up!  EG had so much fun climbing and running and jumping, etc.!  The gym was super clean and the staff is wonderful.  The classes are 45 minutes long (60 minutes for ages 3 and up) and start and end precisely on time.  For EG's age group they have an opening "circle time" kind of thing with bells, songs, and a new activity to try (i.e. jumping, donkey kick, etc.).  After that (about 15 minutes), they have some time to just play and explore in the gym (EG's favorite part!) and then learn the "skill of the week".  They can climb on anything they want, try out the balance beams, hang on the bars, run around on the big mat, etc.  The great thing is that the gym is set up a little differently each week so that there is always something new for them to do!  Yesterday was actually our first paid class and I am already so thrilled with the program.  There is a theme each week including new songs and a new "skill of the week".  This week's skill was a "pull over" on the bar.  The instructor demonstrates the skill and how to spot your child, and then you and your child can try it if your child wants to.  The environment is so low key and they don't force your child to do anything they don't want to do and don't mind if they just want to run around the whole time.  It's a great atmosphere and we will definitely be continuing classes there!

They have locations all around the country and add new ones all the time.  If you'd like to try a class in your area you can search on The Little Gym website for a location near you.  You will also be able to find a schedule and description of all the classes.  They have something for ages 10 months to 12 years including developmental gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, sports skills, karate, and camps.  All of this is offered in what they call a "non-rigid", non-competitive, kid-friendly environment.  Check it out in your area!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Child's Eye View

Oh what I wouldn't give to see life through a child's eyes all the time...

Being a working mom, I want to spend every moment outside of work with my family. Most days I like to just relax and enjoy the time at home, but when I have a day off (as I did yesterday) I usually use that time to get things done that I'm often too tired to do after work. One of those things I "had" to do yesterday was spend some Gymbucks that I accumulated from Gymboree before Christmas. Luckily, I had a friend to go with me who basically babysat EG while I shopped. Let's just say that EG is not the best toddler shopper (not that I know many who are...we're working on that). I usually pay 5.00 to rent the "really cool" Princess car stroller in hopes that it may entertain her longer (that would SOOOO be worth the money) but still end up carrying her or chasing her most everywhere. Yesterday was much the same except that, thankfully, my friend was there to wrangle EG this time! So as I was at my wits end trying to shop and keep an eye on them I finally checked out and was ready to leave. On our way out, my friend Kate wanted to stop in Victoria's Secret. Since she had been so wonderful and patient with EG I wanted to let her shop a little (even though I was not so secretly wanting to run away from the mall and never come back). It was while she was shopping and I was chasing and fighting with EG that I started to think deeper about the way she was acting. She was acting just as I would if I were her...acting like a toddler. I took her outside of Victoria's Secret to let her walk around a bit and decided to put myself in her shoes for a moment. I don't know what made me think to do it, but I tried to think about what it was like to be her. I noticed several things that I found to be quite valuable to keep at the forefront of my mind when we go out in the future. And then I realized how wonderful it would be for all of us to see life through a child's eye every once in a while!
First, it's no wonder why they wants to grab, touch, pull, climb, etc. everything in the store. They've never been around it before. And even if they have it's a place that's definitely different and more exciting than home. She had never been to Victoria's Secret before and seen the lotion bottles, lip glosses, glittery underwear (LOL), etc. in her entire life. Everything in that store was a new, exciting adventure waiting to happen! Wouldn't it be wonderful to look at everything as new and fresh and exciting?
Second, I realized the reason she likely wanted out of her "super cool" stroller was because she couldn't see all of this new and exciting stuff. Especially since it was almost completely enclosed. It wasn't because she wanted to irritate me, she simply wanted to see and explore everything. Not that a regular stroller would have been any better, but I probably wont be buying the car stroller any more as it, obviously, was not worth it!
Finally, the most profound observation that I had during our outing today was that she is absolutely free from all prejudice. Everywhere we go she loves to say "hi" to everyone. This was the case yesterday too. Every single person who passed by got a friendly little "hi". It didn't matter if they were Hispanic, Asian, male, female, tall, short, skinny, in a wheelchair, etc. She simply sees everyone the same. As a person worthy of being greeted no matter their skin color or clothing or anything else that we often judge people by. It made me realize that prejudice is something we teach our children, not something that they are born with. I hope that she never learns prejudice, at least not from our home. I can only dream that one day people will not be judged before they are known. Maybe we should all put on our "child's eye" glasses once in a while...
Now, I must admit, none of this information is a brand new revelation for most people reading this, nor was it for me. But, it was just interesting how it all came together for me yesterday. Is it going to make future shopping trips any easier? No. I didn't learn any secret magic tricks, only that you should take your toddler to the mall at your own risk!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Life's Simple Pleasures Abound!

It all started with my 15 month old's first dentist appointment. Now, I know you're wondering how this could be any kind of "pleasure" but it truly was. I got to spend a beautiful day with EG that was full of many "simple pleasures". Usually I don't keep track of such things but today caught my attention for some reason. It all started when I remembered on Friday that her appointment was on Monday and I would need to take the day off to take her. Yay for the fact that I would be able to spend that day at home with EG (and have a long weekend :) ). But, if there was one thing I would change about my job it is the ability to be able to miss work and not have to find a sub and write lesson plans. It takes more work to be out for a day than it does to just be there and work! So, having not remembered her appointment until Friday, I had to frantically find a sub and scribble some lesson plans after school. Come Sunday though, I was very thankful for the day off! Simple pleasure #1...check.

Now on to today...one of my favorite things to do is to sleep late and snuggle with my precious little girl. I got to check that one off first thing this morning. We laid in bed and read stories and watched Jack's Big Music show until it was time for us to get up and get ready for the day. Her appointment wasn't until 10:30 so we had a very lazy morning. This was simple pleasure #2.

Simple pleasure #3:
Living in Alabama, we don't have a lot of the "winter weather" that is experienced in many other parts of the country. And, when we do, it really isn't welcome (unless it shuts down the city and gives all of us a day off...LOL). When it's just plain cold, we mostly just complain. Our local news has been reporting that this week would be the coldest we've had in a long time including lows in the single digits (*gasp*). So as I bundled EG up and got us in the car I was listening to the radio. They were warning drivers to be careful because the morning fog had frozen and caused patches of ice in some places. I have to drive over one of our "mountain" (I put that in quotes as I am sure that for many people, Cecil Ashburn Dr. would hardly be a mountain) roads to get to the dentist so I was already thinking "great". But, lo and behold, as I reached the top of the "mountain" the scenery made me feel like I had been magically transported into a fairy tale like winter wonderland. The trees were sparkling so beautifully and looked like they had been dusted with silver glitter. It was absolutely the most beautiful sight I have seen in a very long time. Usually when we have ice it is thick and heavy and causes branches to droop and power lines to fall. But, this frost in the trees from the frozen fog was simply awe inspiring. A beautiful, sparkling, dusting of frost. Unfortunately I was rushing to the dentist, a little late as usual, and didn't have my camera with me so I couldn't stop to enjoy it more! However, what I was able to see and enjoy as I drove past was wonderful. This day was already getting better.

Simple pleasure #4:
Getting to share yet another milestone with EG; her first dentist appointment. She got to have her little picture made and everything...haha. I easily could have let me husband leave work and take her to the dentist so that I didn't have to take off the whole day (and he certainly would have obliged) but I would have missed out on this "first" and didn't want to do that. Sure she screamed and tried to bite the dentist, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Simple pleasure #5:
Getting to each lunch with my mom and hubby! Obviously, teaching school I don't ever get to go out and eat lunch with anybody so it was nice to eat with them for a change :)

Simple pleasure #6:
Getting a catalog in the mail that I wait for every month...silly, maybe. But, it still made my day a little happier!

The list goes on and on and on but I wont bore you with any more little things that thrilled me today. I simply write all of this to say that I'm sure most days are filled with life's simple pleasures but it is up to us to look for them, recognize, and appreciate them. I don't know what made me be so observant and thankful today but I'm sure glad I was. God has truly blessed my life! Now, I challenge each of you to take the time each day to find the joy in things, even the things that may not seem so joyful at first, and keep track of them. I feel confident that it will make your day a little brighter!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Moleskine Volant Giveaway!

In a previous post I briefly sang the praises of my favorite little Moleskine notebooks. I use them all the time to write down special moments I have with my daughter, milestones, grocery lists, thoughts, books I want to read, etc., etc., etc. My husband is a budding writer and carries a Cahier notebook in his back pocket at all times. He also does all of his writing in the lined Hard Cover version before transferring it to his blog. Moleskine offers a notebook for everyone from your basic ruled notebooks to sketchbooks to storyboards to music books and so on. If you do any type of writing or drawing, they have a notebook for you. One of my favorite things about the Moleskine brand is how nicely the pages lay while you are writing. You don't have to fight with them to keep them open! I carry a small version of the hardcover in my diaper bag at all times, but my current favorite is the Volant set. I picked up the large Pink/Rose set the other day and LOVE it! The size is great as it is big enough to do serious writing, but thin enough to easily fit in a purse or diaper bag. Another plus is that you get two, in two shades of the same color. One lucky person is going to get a chance to win a set of the NEW Volant notebooks from Moleskine! You will be able to choose between the Pink set (pink/rose) or Green set (Green/Lime). See the details below for entry and good luck!

To enter this contest follow the rules below:
1. For your initial, required entry leave a comment on this post telling me how you would use your Moleskine Volant notebooks.

To earn extra entries you may do one or more of the following and leave me additional comments here telling me which you have done:

2. Tweet about this contest and leave me a link to your tweet as well as your Twitter name.
3. Blog about this contest to earn TWO extra entries and leave me a comment with the link to your post.
4. Follow/subscribe to this blog and earn TWO extra entries.
5. Grab my button and place it on your site (w/ link to site in comment) for THREE extra entries.

**Be sure to leave me your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you win. This contest will end at 11:59 PM Wednesday January 14, 2008 and the winner will be chosen randomly from eligible entries. Thanks for your entry!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Making the Most of 2009

If you are anything like me, you have never been able to keep a New Year's Resolution in your entire life. Every year I make one, and every year I end up breaking it before the end of February. This year I made a resolution to not make any resolutions (okay, technically I guess that's still a resolution but that's beside the point...). Instead, I am simply going to go into 2009 with no expectations, no timelines, no lofty goals other than to make the most of the year. Nothing specific, no set weight loss goals, no "read x amount of books before (date)", no work out 30 minutes each day, nada. All I want from 2009 is to make the very most of the time I have. Being a working mommy, I don't have near enough of it, so making the most of the time I do have is super important. Over the last 15 months since I've had my daughter I've collected a plethora of ideas, tips, tricks, products, etc. that help me to save time. So, to kick off 2009 I am making a list of some of my best advice on making the most of your time and a I'll also share a few "must have" products. I hope that you would leave me some comments with your great ideas and products too. Here goes (in no particular order):

My best working mommy advice:

1. Always leave work at work. There will always be something to stress or worry about, but stressing and worrying don't change anything. Don't waste family time worrying about work. This is a hard one for me!
2. There is no such thing as having 'too many pictures'. Snap away when you're with your kids! I keep a small digital camera with me at all times, and my BlackBerry also has a little camera (more on the BlackBerry in a minute).
3. Find the right caretaker for your child during the day. Keep searching until you are 100% confident, no matter if you choose a home, daycare center, nanny, etc.
4. Eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. It's proven that families who eat together, stay together.
5. Cut down on TV time to actually play and be present with your children.
6. Loosen up on schedules. The only time I have with EG during the week is in the evenings and we don't have a strict bed time. I don't try to keep her awake by any means, but I don't rush her off to bed at a specific time either. Sleep experts somewhere are probably cringing at that thought, but it has worked for us!
7. Here's a new one for me...don't put on shoes and socks until you reach your destination. At about 14 months, my daughter's favorite new thing in the car was to tear her shoes and socks off and throw them (where I can't find them of course). By the time we had reached our destination I would have to go on a treasure hunt and then put them back on her all over again. Now, I just let her ride in the car in her bare feet and put the shoes and socks on when we get where we are going. This way I don't have to put them on twice.
8. Read together every day. It doesn't take that much time to read a children's book, and the time it does take is worth it. Not only are you spending priceless snuggle time together, but you are fostering a lifelong love of books and reading.
9. Enroll in an evening or weekend class together. We've tried out a couple of classes and our favorite is Music Together. EG loves music so this was a good choice for us. Also, it is near our house and is only 45 minutes once a week. These classes create built in time focused simply on spending time together. Search for a class or group in your city that is in an area you already enjoy. Some you might want to check out are mommy and baby/child yoga classes, play/fitness classes (Gymboree, Little Gym, etc.), and music classes. Bigger cities also have parent fitness classes that include baby, like Stroller Strides.

Some of my favorite "must carry all the time" products:

1. Moleskin notebooks (or any brand really...I just prefer this one for ease of use, style, and durability) - Probably the single most thoughtful gift I ever received from my husband was a mini moleskin notebook and a set of cute mechanical pencils given to me last Christmas as a gift for when I started back to work. They were given to me with the instructions to keep them in my diaper bag and write down any special thoughts or moments I had with EG. This way I could transfer them at some point to the computer or baby book or wherever, but I always had something with me that I could jot down important things.
2. The Snack Trap - This little contraption speaks for itself. Flexible "trap" top lets little fingsers easily get a few snacks out while the rest stay in, even if dropped. Less mess for on-the-go snacks. Couldn't live without it!
3. Mini video camera - This is a new "must have" that I received for Christmas and boy am I so glad I have it. I don't always have time to get together and carry around our main video camera all the time, and, let's be honest, it's just not practical. And, more often than not, we are somewhere other than home more often than we are at home during the week. These little gadgets easily fit in a diaper bag or pocket and let me capture anything I want to on the go! I love it! There are several options on the market; I have the Kodak zi6 (which you can get in a cool bundle at Walmart for a great price) and think it's fabulous! Other popular styles are the Flip cameras: Mino, Mino HD, and Ultra.
4. BlackBerry Curve - I LOVE this phone so much and I don't think I'll ever switch (except maybe to the Storm if it ever comes to T-mobile)! This is definitely a time saver because I have my calendar, e-mail, contacts, TwitterBerry, Facebook, etc. all right there in my pocket. And, in a pinch, it also has a built in camera and video camera (granted they are not that great, but definitely better than nothing). I love the whole BlackBerry line but the Curve is my favorite because of the full keyboard which makes for easy texting and Twitter-ing.
5. "From the mom of..." Notes - I love these because I don't have time to write detailed notes in the mornings. I'm always running out the door at the last minute, rushing to get EG to daycare and make it to work on time. I'm not a morning person. So, I couldn't live without my "From the mom of..." notes that already have the information you write on every note already there. It already says your child's name, your name, contact numbers (so the daycare doesn't have to look them up if there's a problem), and e-mail address and all you have to add is your note. It's not like it saves 10 minutes, but every second counts during my mornings. I also make my own template in Photoshop Elements and print several out to keep in the car, rather than buying expensive customized notes. If you'd like my template, let me know! I'd be glad to customize it and share it with you!

Hope these lists give you some tips for making the most of 2009! Best wishes everyone!