Thursday, November 29, 2012

a book pick with beat

well, i posted too soon! here's another book pick for you that just appeared on Books 'n' Beats over at the Studio3Music blog. i wrote this post when there still was zucchini to be found and the sugar pumpkins were still ripening. and although peas may no longer be in season, reading this book is a fun time no matter the weather! we love this book and hope you will, too. learn more about it over at my other blogging home!

one postscript: this book is out of print and needs to come back! luckily, though, there are enough in circulation to find a good price if you lean that direction (and Half Price Books comes up short). to wit:

that right there is what we call an affiliate link, which you can learn about on my disclosures page!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

here, there, everywhere

woohoo! another of my posts has appeared on the Studio3Music blog, this one about marrying mommy music with kids music. one of the goals of my Books 'n' Beats posts is to recommend kids music that won't drive parents batty in the minivan. this is the first of those recommendations. loyal silly readers, you may know where my radio dial is heading on this one...


for those who missed my post about missing the fort we created under a stairway, we got a mention on the Fort Friday feature over at All For the Boys. yippee! (we're Fort Friday fans, can you tell?) and for those keeping track, my fort hunt continues. but i am getting closer to a location and theme. that laurel hedge is definitely going to be part of things.

this post contains this here affiliate link doohickey:
Caspar Babypants: More Please!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

christmas book pick: Snowmen at Night

until Christmas, i'm going to try and make my book picks around a wintry, holiday-ey theme (and, of course, silly). this first book pick has to do with snowmen.

a snowgirl made of twigs and pebbles
Sweet One and our "snow girl"
with twig hair, mouth and arms,
and pebble eyes.
we don't get a lot of snow here in the Pacific Northwest. but when we do, one of the first things we do is make snowboys and snowgirls (there's usually not enough of the powdery substance for a snowman or snowoman, you see). in our maritime climate, we pretty much watch them melt before our eyes. but, we know you Midwesterners and Canucks and others have a more long-lived relationship with crystalline water ice. and maybe you wonder (as the wife-husband author-illustrator team behind this book did) when you come out the next morning and find your scarved and carrot-nosed creation looking a bit slumped: "What do snowmen do at night?"
Snowmen at Night imagines the snowfriends on quite a romp in the park by the light of a full moon. there's ice-cold cocoa, skating, sledding, an epic snowball battle, and the long but happy limp home. the story is written in verse, and the illustrations are a crack-up. we enjoy the board-book version as a winter-time tradition at the grandparents' place.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

a little revolution stuffed into that stocking

stocking stuffer fit for a princess

we're music fans around here, but it takes a lot for me to actually buy kids music. there are very few that graduate to the level of making our budget spreadsheet! and even then, it's usually tied to a special milestone. we got Little One the latest from Caspar Babypants for her birthday ("baby-pants!") and plan to do so again for her stocking this Christmas.

princess revolution cd cover
one that will go in Sweet One's stocking this year is Princess Revolution!, a gem of a girl-power album from a New Yorker who goes by the nickname Moey. not a huge fan of the Disney-variety princesses (although we own almost all of the movies) i was pleasantly surprised by this album (and look forward to the balance it will bring to the Princess Force). both of my girls have most of the album memorized already from listening to a library loaner on near-continuous loop. i didn't renew the check-out (i was sold on the first listen too, and i need some anticipation to build for the appropriate Christmas morning reaction, you know). yet even the 2-year-old is still requesting "p-incess relooshun?"

Moey's Music Party (as the band is called) mixes Broadway-like writing with a pop-punk vibe for mostly high-energy beats. the girls love the pint-size rock-out. as a mom, i adore the lyrics – especially when i know my princess-loving girls are going to be singing the songs around the house. i want the words coming out of those little mouths to be good.

the album is a compendium of songs about princesses who are more likely to:
  • kick off the glass slippers for some light-up sneakers
  • settle for a futon and give one of those 20 feather beds to a needy child
  • kiss themselves rather than wait for some prince
they are "readers and leaders" who are into "science, self-reliance" and are confident enough to believe in themselves rather than aspire to some false ideal of femininity.

there's also a tale about a princess who doesn't live happily ever after, in which The Little Mermaid gets an alternate ending: the prince marries another woman. the moral: don't sell off part of yourself just to get a guy. and i like to think that the messages behind all of the songs will help raise girls to be the kind of women who don't go to college for an MRS.

these are twisted fairytales with even better than-happily ever afters.

my soapbox aside, the album also is simply fun. there are goofy songs like "20 Mattresses" ("this true princess won't be woken by a pea!") and "Go Away Monster!" (in which the girl warns the monster she knows karate, "kiai! kiai! kiai!"). the title track "Princess Revolution" and its bookend companion "Princess Rock Star!" are enjoyably over-the-top.

moey of moey's music party
in an interview, i asked Moey – a mom of an elementary-age son – how she found her niche in girly kindie rock. most of her young students in music classes were girls, she said. “I wrote those songs from that place of really wanting to empower those girls. I wanted them to have fun and dance and dress up and play but also feel really proud about their individuality, joy and self-confidence," she said.

“We can embrace the femininity and the pink and the sparkles and the bling – but really what it’s about is their strength and their confidence.”

the band is sponsored by Oriental Trading Company, which provides plenty of commercial bling gratis for the little princesses moshing at her East Coast concerts. and the momma rocker has aspirations to take things beyond the New York tri-state area. in her hot-pink ballgowns, she's certainly confident in her own attitude and goals.

“I don’t think the girls understand how empowering this message is right now. They enjoy singing, dancing and jumping. But I believe this will stay with them and they’ll hear in their head later, ‘I can do it. … This is me.’ ... I want these girls – so full of joy and confidence at age 2 and 3 – to keep that.”

the stocking photo comes from CarbonNYC. this post contains affiliate links, including this jazzy li'l box right down here:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

book pick: 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

vegetarians rejoice! 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving is a funny fave just in time for the turkey-day holiday.

a group of youngsters takes a field trip to a turkey farm, where they learn the awful truth about their new fine-feathered friends. in the end, the kids go home looking a bit pudgy (hmmm). let's just say the turkeys have the most to be thankful for on Thanksgiving!
Dav Pilkey (he of Capt. Underpants fame) tells this tale in verse, echoing the more famous Christmas poem. it's in our regular "fall books" rotation, and now that my daughter is in school and bringing home those Scholastic book catalogs, i am seeing it in there too.

have a wonderful holiday! gobble, gobble!

just so you know, this post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 16, 2012


i've been slacking in the word of the month category. so to make up for lost verbiage – and in honor of PMS WEEK here at silly = sane – i offer you my top 5 non-swears. i know "that time of the month" is near when my already frail internal check system starts to fail in the four-letter-word category. i've been turning to silly yet satisfying alternatives as a solution. and although you might not teach these to your kids, at least you won't mind them repeating them.

5 @#$! (ampersand-pound-dollar sign-EXCLAMATION POINT)
we all know what this means in comic strips. but have you ever read it out loud literally? LOL!

you know, like daffadowndilly (which is a satisfying way of saying daffodil), but uh, not as cute.

3oh, for crying in the beer
because that would be sad. very, very sad.

2shiitake mushroom!
a loyal reader shared this one, and i've been using it ever since. it's the satisfaction of the about-face.

1Scheibenkleister! So ein Mist!
the German translation for this is "window putty." so said my German prof. (i am sorry to say, Herr Lamse, that it is pretty much all i remember.) some native German speakers confirmed that it's an old-fashioned way of not swearing and that it isn't used much anymore. ... except, of course, by stir-crazy mommas hell-bent on at least gaining verbal satisfaction in an otherwise angst-inducing day. (a rough pronunciation: shy-bun-cly-stuh! zoh eyn mist!)

in the time it takes to say some of these, i've either calmed down a bit or i'm outright laughing at myself.

what's your favorite non-swear?

art credit: "The Bureaucratic Screams from Hell"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hi, My Name is Mt. Momsuvious

it's PMS WEEK here at silly = sane. today, we share a laugh with Jes, whose thoughts on patience are applicable to every day of the month! ... also, quick apologies for the tardiness of recent posts. i am currently without home computer. now, on with the words...

I think Pat Benatar has it right when she wails love is a battlefield. If we are not declaring “for the love of Pete” in exasperation over one more crazy thing – like telling our child for the sixth time to get their shoes on – then we are urgently trying to channel the saintly love of Mother Teresa to remind us that our children are worthy of our humanitarian support.

There is that moment, though, when a volcano explodes inside your brain and you think, “I can’t take this anymore,” sending your normal down-to-earth, easy-going demeanor into a fit of screams that would intimidate a drill sergeant. The children instantly do exactly what you’ve been trying to get them to do, all along causing another rush of rage in its wake. Seriously, is it not infuriating when you get to the point of yelling that your children finally listen?

I know the experts say the key to effective parenting is to remain calm. but when Mother Teresa fails to inspire our help and compassion, we need to find another solution. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in an anger management support group one day saying, “Hi, my name is Mt. Momsuvious.”

Recently I heard my boys’ teacher explain that when adults often lose patience with their children, they have lost understanding. I have contemplated that single sentence for a few weeks now and it has inspired me to stop and observe the dynamics rather than react to them.

I watched my children for a few days and noted my trigger points and then I asked myself, is this a control issue or is there a real roadblock to success? My findings were rather sad. Most of my trigger points are organizational and approach issues that are ALL on me! Not a defeatist by nature, I decided it was time for positive change.

For example, morning routines had become an issue with all three children in school and I found the biggest hurdle were the final moments of getting out the door to seat belts fastened, and it all revolved around transition from free time to “go” time. Now if my children want time in the morning to play or even watch a TV show (if time allows) before they jump in the van, they must have eaten breakfast, brushed their teeth and hair, gotten dressed complete with shoes and jackets on and placed their lunch snacks in their bags. Once everyone in the house has reached this goal (great way for natural peer pressure to stay on track), then there is time for open play or a cartoon. Getting into the van is no longer a stressful event. They are ready to go! No transition from play/cartoon to putting on shoes and jackets followed by stress affecting their ability to get into the van.

I encourage you to think about pressure points in your home that cause your normally peaceful
personality to explode and what you have done to gain understanding… and do share! Tips from fellow parents are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement! Your idea and solution may be exactly what another parent needs.

want to read more quality writing on momma rage? head on over to Creative With Kids, where Alissa has been keeping up an immensely helpful series on parental anger. my favorite post is Evolution of a Mama Tantrum - and How to STOP One.

credit love: the photos making up our Mt. Momsuvious image come from the public domain and "The Look" by Trinity, both via Flickr.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

book picks: all about emotions

just about every week here at silly = sane, i offer up a fun picture book recommendation. something silly that both parents and kids can enjoy together. for PMS WEEK, the silly is still there but it's backed up by a fairly serious thought: how do we raise emotionally healthy kids, especially during those times when we're battling our own feelings?

with my own kids, i try to acknowledge what they're feeling – put words to it – and understand that sometimes emotions need a physical outlet. but as a parent i also have to give parameters. "i understand that you're angry. and it's ok to shout. but if you're going to shout, you need to go into another room," or "i can see that you're crying. i understand that you don't want to take a nap, but your body is telling you that you need to rest."

i find myself having to take my own advice when a hormonal whirlwind hits. it helps to put words to my own emotions for my kids, and by extension gives me a good dose of perspective. "mommy is feeling a bit red today," or "i gotta shake my crazies out!"

there are a lot of awesome picture books out there about feelings, emotions and moods. here are three of our favorites:

one of my favorite picture books for helping put words to feelings for kids is Janan Cain's The Way I Feel. the vibrant pastel illustrations hold interest, and the use of different colors and text styles underscores the feelings being explored, from happiness to jealousy. it helps to build an emotional vocabulary, so that kids can evaluate how their feelings rather than get lost in them.

another colorful favorite in our house is My Many Colored Days written by Dr. Seuss and published after his death. the book also matches colors to moods, with animals playing a role, from a fish swimming deep in a dark green sea to a bright blue bird flying high in the sky. i especially like the fact that he recognizes moods aren't always neatly outlined: "Then comes a Mixed-Up Day. / And WHAM! / I don't know Who or What I am! / But it all turns out all right, you see. / And I go back to being ... me."

a recent discovery for us was bell hooks' Grump Groan Growl. this is a poem about a child who has a "bad mood on the prowl" – a fun recurring line – that takes the form of a monster. it's less about explaining emotions to kids and more about providing a mood-packed way of understanding a complicated emotion (you know, the one where you want to bite people's heads off for no apparent reason). as i understand it, hooks wants us to accept even our moodier moods. not to try and fight a losing battle – "can't stand outside / can't hide" – which might only make things worse. but instead to "just let those feelings BE / just let them pass / just go inside/ just let it slide."

what are your favorite books for kids about feelings or emotions? how do you talk to your kids about their moods – and yours?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

what the hell is pms anyway?

it's PMS WEEK here at silly = sane, but what exactly does that mean?

the acronym is for "pre-menstrual syndrome," as i'm sure you already know. but i'm going to re-define that as "pre-menstural symptoms." that word "syndrome" bugs me. it implies i'm somehow abnormal or have a disease. dude, my body is just getting ready to dump some unused eggs and give that fat ol' uterine lining a natural lipo, ok? that said, the effects of those working biological gears are pretty real... and pretty amazing, if you think about it.

that is, when i'm not scared out of my skinny jeans by what the hell my body is doing.

what you feel leading up to "that time of the month" may be different than for me. maybe for you it's just a craving for salt and an annoying whitehead, while for me it also brings real concern that my subcutaneous tissue is about to trade places with my epidermis. in fact, there are upwards of 150 symptoms associated with PMS, which basically renders the medical term useless as a medical term. a recent "controversial" research review took a critical look at the actual studies out there concerning PMS. it found there wasn't enough good research to definitively say PMS affects anyone with a uterus, and what good studies were out there (sample size and methodology and all that jazz) gave conflicting results. (find a Cliff's Notes version here.) it's a good reality check; we can't write off every bad mood as "oh, it's just PMS" (lame). i do think it reflects this inane and insane propensity to medicalize every nut and bolt of a woman's life, especially when it comes to the biology of poppin' out bay-bez. but, all that said, for me and most other moms i know, PMS is certainly not overblown. and while we shouldn't feel like we're inherently horrible for having estrogen, we also shouldn't let it be an excuse to spit obscenities at our loved ones.

so... here are some pointers for making a very real hurdle easier to clear:
  • planning   it's called a cycle for a reason. there's a measure of predictability here that can work in our favor. if you don't already, map your moods and mark the days so you can find your own pattern and have a better idea of what's coming down the road. which leads us to...
  • period   knowing what your body is doing, and why, makes it easier to handle the changes that come with that cycle – good (libido), bad (depression) or inconsequential (the zit will eventually go away). go back to sex ed if you need to with a Google search. which leads us to...
  • perspective   as with colic and potty training, "this too shall pass." knowing that the negative stuff is temporary makes it easier to work through the tough emotions. and maybe even laugh in the midst of the worst days... and maybe not.
if you have daughters, use these times as teaching moments too. it's still going to shock her when it all starts going down. but there are some foundational things we can do now for our girls. i've got quite a few years yet before my girls hit puberty (something i'm thankful for... and my husband even more so). so you moms and dads with girls who have "entered womanhood" need to chime in here. but here are some things i think we can help our young girls learn to do now that will help them later:
  • put words to their feelings
  • pay attention to what their body is telling them
  • be confident about who they are
as parents we need to get rid of this veil of shame that seems to surround lady parts. it's not "down there." it's a vagina. (come on, you can say it!) and yes, there was blood in the toilet after mommy went potty. but it's normal and shows my body is working as designed. (and, yes, it is yucky, too.)

what do you think? what does PMS mean to you? what are the toughest symptoms you deal with? what helps you get through that phase of the cycle? did things get worse after having children? what about you moms of boys? what do you tell your future men?

credit where credit is due: the red background for the title image comes courtesy Patrick Hoesly via Flickr.

Monday, November 12, 2012

alert! alert! the DEFCON mommy warning system

to start us off with PMS WEEK here at silly = sane, i've pilfered an idea from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Homeland Security. why? because if you're like our family, the home comes near to a war zone about once a month. and even if it's not "that time of the month," let's face it – parenting young kids can get yer dander up (incidentally, there will be more on old sayings such as "yer dander" later this week).

homeland warning system - mommy version

sometimes children (ok, and husbands) can be a little oblivious to what we feel certain is perfectly obvious: that our insides are starting to flip onto our outsides. but while our skin may feel like it's crawling, we do in fact look perfectly normal. we have not changed color. so there is a bit of help we need to give our families to help them recognize the warning signs.

one warning i've turned to a lot with my 5-year-old is the mental image of a thermometer brought to the bursting point. "i'm HERE, Sweet One," i say, holding my hand at the crown of my head. it's not above my head yet, but i'm close to falling off the deep end, so this warning tells my kids to dial down the whining and dial up the "ok, Mom" niceties. and of course, there's always the "hi, welcome home – i'm leaving" response to The Spouse when he gets home from his outside-the-home work. (how's that for obvious?)

another successful strategy for our family has been to create a Google calendar (color-coded red of course) to track the expected arrival of the topic at hand so as to anticipate when Crazy Momma might be in the house. this helps lay the groundwork for a defensive response. PMS is a nice enemy to have in that it's somewhat predictable. but that doesn't mean there won't be surprises. it wouldn't be much of an enemy otherwise. so it's good to be ready for battle at a moment's notice.

the key here is not to see yourself or your biology as the enemy. the only enemy is hormonal havoc – when things go too far. and for that, there are various conditions of defensive readiness:

the DEFCON mommy warning system

    DEFCON 5: normal peacetime readiness
    the risk of hormonal havoc is low. life continues on its normal track. the kids are still going to whine and make you late getting them to school or music class. but that's standard operating procedure. expectations of duty and respect always apply. but spilled milk is not worth crying over (yet).
    DEFCON 4: normal, increased intelligence and strengthened security measures 
    the risk of hormonal havoc is guarded. there's a marked increase in sigh-and-mumbling chatter. but there's no real cause for concern yet. throw in an extra thank-you and hug and you're good.
    DEFCON 3: increase in force readiness above normal readiness 
    the risk of hormonal havoc is elevated. vacuuming takes on unusual importance. clumsiness increases. preparatory actions are taken: diaper bag is packed and ready for mobilization. pizza delivery is put on speed-dial. messes are quickly cleaned. coffee is hand-delivered.
    DEFCON 2: further increase in force readiness, but less than maximum readiness
    the risk of hormonal havoc is high. in fact, it's probably happening. we are in the red zone and deploying evasive maneuvers. meals come out of a bag or box. coffee comes from the hand of a barista. four walls are avoided with frequent errands and outings. children's screen time sees a marked uptick.
    DEFCON 1: maximum force readiness
    the risk of hormonal havoc is severe. if you've reached this defensive readiness condition, it's already too late. all that remains is to address the fallout. take the children and run. (but hand mommy that cup of coffee before you do.)

we routinely reach DEFCON 2 and have been able to strategize effectively to neutralize the threat most times. charting the movements of the enemy helps. but we are no strangers to DEFCON 1. then it's just all about escape and waiting for the storm to pass. because it always does. and that's a key part of the strategy, too: perspective. it means showing your kids that mommy's silly face always comes back, and there's never a bad time for a hug.

what about you? do you face the same battle? what strategies have worked for your families? what's in your anti-insanity arsenal?

pms week: an overview

it's PMS WEEK here at silly = sane. (annnnnd, all the men just left the blog.)

i got this idea in the middle of a battle with said "syndrome". and i hope all you other silly-minded parents driven insane by hormones will find some sanity in this week's themed posts! because, let's face it, laughing at the extremity of mom nature is the best way of dealing with her fury. hopefully these posts offer something for you to come back to, for a nice reality check when you're in the emotional whirlwind yourself.

here's an overview of where we're going:
today: tsunamis, nuclear warfare, tornadoes ... it's about time there was a mommy warning system. help your family (and your self) stay alert to signs of the hormonal enemy's approach and avoid ambush.
tuesday: pms is not well understood. some doubt that it's as prevalent as we think. those of us with kids know better. breaking down the facts, with tips on how to prepare daughters for their own coming lessons.
wednesday: book picks time! these picture books focus on emotions and help young ones learn to put words to their feelings (and offer helpful reminders to mixed-up mommas).
thursday: a humorous lesson in patience and perspective from guest poster Jes, who writes about avoiding Mt. Momsuvious when channeling our inner Mother Teresa fails. (she's gonna blow! or is she?)
friday: cryminelly and what the sam hill? those aren't on the list, but i'll offer up 5 other non-swear words that are nearly as satisfying as the four-letter word you really want to use.

have your own perspectives to share? or have a blog post of your own on this topic? add a comment to any post, and let's keep the conversation going!