The mommy business trip

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app – and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands – click here.

Last weekend, I had the chance to attend and speak at the Mom 2.0 Summit. It’s my favorite conference of the year, and this year it was here in Orange County. The fact that I only had to drive 30 minutes to get there and didn’t have to negotiate travel-sized toiletries made me even more excited. Just prior to the conference the Wall Street Journal did a piece on Mom 2, and other blogging conference, in which they characterized conferences like this as a shallow excuse for moms to get out of the house and away from their kids while partying for several days. It was incredibly condescending and dismissive – purporting that we spend our days eating snacks, drinking on the floor out of the minibar, and posting selfies. Now, I will be the first to admit that we do some of those things at conferences, it’s also ludicrous to imply that this is ALL that goes on. The connections I’ve been able to make through blogging conferences have pushed this little blogging hobby into a full-time job. In addition, most of us working in the blogging space do our jobs in isolation. We don’t have a water cooler or a break room where we can chat with co-workers. So getting together a couple times a year to “talk shop” is hugely beneficial. I think my friend Andy Hinds said it best in his write-up in the New York Times:

I was a little surprised to find that most [Mom 2.0 attendees] didn’t see The Journal’s article as a simple case of institutionalized sexism, but rather a function of traditional media’s anxiety about independent online media. After all, as one of the speakers had pointed out during a panel that day, when you searched “WSJ Mommy Bloggers” on the day the original article appeared, the offending piece came up fourth — behind three blog posts eviscerating it.

Anyways, we had a blast poking fun at the WSJ article during the conference. Here are some photos from the weekend:

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this new story-creation app – and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands – click here. You can download the Disney Story app from iTunes  – for FREE – right here. You can also check out Disney Story on Twitter and on Facebook.

holiday road-trip part 4: the beach tailgate

Okay, last post about our holiday vacation, and then I’m going to go take down the Christmas tree. Kidding! (We did it yesterday). IMG_7220 We we thrilled to try out the new Town and Country during our trip to Daytona. I mentioned last week that despite being in a resort on the water, we took the car out for a spin so Mark could have the experience of driving on the sand.  Well, it ended up being so convenient having our car as a home base that we did it again the next day.  I love that we could just load up the car, and have everything we needed instead od schlepping all of our stuff through the hotel’s pool area and then down the stairs. IMG_7239 IMG_7240 Another bonus: with just a push of the button, the chairs fold down and create a really big trunk space. We decided to let the kids picnic there, since it kept them up off the sand. IMG_7242 My kids have horrible sand management skills, and it usually ends up all over the food. Not today! IMG_7257 I also loved that the car acted as our own boom box, so we could rock out while we ate. IMG_7230 IMG_7269IMG_7280IMG_7288 After our tailgate picnic, we let the kids play and Mark and I relaxed in the shade of the trunk, listening to music. It was like our own beach cabana. IMG_7304 IMG_7317IMG_7318 IMG_7084 And then we returned to California, to record cold weather. Seeing these beach photos is just insult to injury. Womp womp womp. (I can hear all of you who live in Actual Cold Weather playing your tiny violins on my behalf).   chrysler logo This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Chrysler. All opinions are 100% mine.

holiday road trip, part 2: minivan off-roading, ya’ll

On Monday I talked a little about our beach vacation in Daytona over the holiday break.  One of the things that is unique about Daytona (at least to us Californians) is that you can drive on the beach. I grew up going to this beach so it’s old hat to me, but Mark mentioned that it was one of the things he wanted to try while we were there.  So even though our resort was right on the water, we did take the Town & Country for a spin a couple days.
 
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Okay, okay. It’s not exactly “off-roading”, since the speed limit is all of 10 MPH, but it was a lot of fun. The kids thought that it was SO CRAZY that we were driving on sand. (Our poor, sheltered suburban children).
 
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We put some tunes on and rocked out in the car.
 
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Here’s a little video of our beach-driving excursion.
 
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This is a sponsored post written  on behalf of Chrysler. All opinions are 100% mine.

holiday road trip, part 1: destination Daytona Beach

We are finally settling in after our trip to Florida. We came home to our new house that we’d moved into shortly before the trip, which was a surreal experience. It’s the first time I’ve ever come home from a long trip and not felt like I was “home”.  We’ve still got a long ways to go in terms of packing and making it feel homey.
 
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We left for Florida on Christmas night, in short because it was the only affordable fare that week. Not many people are keen to take a red-eye flight on Christmas. I can’t imagine why . . . . (YES I CAN).
 
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We were a little punchy. Then everyone fell asleep. Then 5 hours later we had to wake them up and they had to pull their own suitcases off the plane. It wasn’t pretty. I did not take pictures of that.
 
We go to Kissimee, Florida nearly every Christmas.  It’s my hometown and where my sisters and mom live. I love visiting them. I DON’T love visiting Kissimmee. Did you see the SNL skit about visiting your hometown? It’s kind of like that. Only with more tourists, gaudy t-shirt shops, cows, and rednecks.  It’s hard to pay the thousands of dollars in airfare to spend a week in a town I’m not crazy about, so last year I appealed to my mom and begged that all of us take a road-trip to one of the nearby beach cities. We used some timeshare points to reserve a week at a condo-type resort. We got to hang with my family, in a setting that we all enjoy.  Win-win.

After catching up on some sleep, we hit the road, bound for Daytona Beach. Chrysler generously let us borrow a minivan from their fleet for the week . . . a brand-spankin’ new Town & Country. Admittedly, Mark and I are not car people. We drive very old cars, and have never owned a new car. Or a car with leather seats. Or butt warmers. Or nice stereos. So I will admit, driving around in this bad-boy made us feel like we were hillbillies staying in a fancy resort.

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The Town & Country had another feature we’ve never had: built-in DVD players. A screen for each row. OH MY WORD is that a game changer for road-tripping with kids. No fights. No whining. No asking how long until we got there.  They quietly watched a movie and then we were there.
 
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Meanwhile, in the front seat, we geeked out over the built-in navigational system.
 
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And the fact that I could plug my iphone in via a USB port and the stereo scanned the contents onto a touch screen. Hello, podcasts!
 
 
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About half-way to our destination Mark spotted a Krispy Kreme with the HOT NOW sign on.
 
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Here is a life rule to follow: always stop when the HOT NOW sign is on. Always.
 
(Okay, there is an exception to that rule. If you are in labor, don’t stop. Believe it or not, THIS WILL COME UP LATER. In next Monday’s post. Stay tuned!)
 
 
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The kids all got donuts with chocolate and sprinkles, but Mark and I are purists and opted for the plain glazed.  There is just no reason to sully perfection with sprinkles.
 
 
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We’re here!
 
 
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We arrived after dark, so we ad to wait until morning to check out the view. OH MY WORD, THE VIEW.  This is my happy place.
 
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Later in the day, we gathered in my sister’s room to open gifts . . . all 21 of us. This family gets bigger every year.
 
 
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Doesn’t my teenage nephew look excited?
 
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Speaking of this family growing every year, I got to meet my new nephew, who is a foster child. Also, this:
 
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My brave sister came out to the beach at 39 weeks pregnant. SPOILER ALERT: She does not return home pregnant. Are you excited about next Monday’s post or what???
 
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The girls spent most of the time quietly drawing.  Whereas the boys spent most of their time like this:
 
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Although Karis bridged the gender gap by acting as a human weight while Derek did his tricep pulls.
 
 
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We celebrated Jafta’s birthday our second day there. The resort had an arcade so he requested an evening of playing video games. So at least he spent his day with his One True Love.  We planed to have cupcakes, but several trips to grocery stores availed no gluten-free cupcakes, so we settled for some kind of an egg-custard-thing that Mark had the bakery write on. The writing promptly slid down the custard in the car making it illegible. Then we had no candles, so Mark improvised by holder a lighter while we sang. You guys can pin that if you want to.
 
 
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Then, for reasons unknown, Jafta blew out the lighter and then shoved the custard in his face. He’s a stickler for tradition and I guess he was still mad at me for not throwing a pie in his face this year.
 
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I WILL HAVE MY DAY. That’s what this face said.
 
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Video games, a pie in the face, and more beat-down from his cousin. In other words, Jafta’s Perfect Birthday.  

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Chrysler. All opinions are 100% mine.

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holiday gift guide 2012

I’ve talked a lot about scaling down at Christmas, so I’m looking for quality over quantity when it comes for gifts for the kids. This year I’ve been on the lookout for toys that will promote sustained play.  I’m a fan of toys that involve kids in some sort of creative play.  Here are some fun toys that have a DIY or build-it-yourself element that will keep kids occupied long after the unwrapping.Best DIY/ Build-It-Yourself/ Crafty Toys for Kids This Christmas  

  1. PlanToys Road & Rail Transportation Play Set is a fun wooden play set that kids can set up themselves.
  2. Color Me Flowerz Bouquet Maker Super Set contains a number of craft supplies so kids can make their own flower creations.
  3. Star Wars Folded Flyers allows kids to create their own Star Wars aircraft.
  4. The Collage Printmaking Kit is just one of the many fun craft sets from Eye Cart Art.
  5. Fancy Nancy Sticky Mosaics Fancy Tiaras allows girls to create their own tiaras that they can later wear.
  6. A Monthly Craft Kit from Kiwi Crate is a great gift that delivers monthly craft sets centered around a theme.
  7. Wonder Glow Blocks have one pattern under normal light and another view in the dark, letting children use their imagination endlessly.
  8. With Gotcha Gadgets, kids follow simple instructions to wire a door alarm, motion sensor, light sensor, or push-button device; then program it with one of four funny sounds.
  9. Wearables Children’s Costumes offer construction play that transforms into role-play as children create, construct and wear their creations.
  10. Little Passports is a subscription service that inspires a love and understanding of the world as kids learns about a geography, history, culture, and language through interactive activities.
  11. The SmartLab Toys DJ Rock Dock will teach kids basic electronics through a fun construction experience while creating a speaker that really works.
  12. LEGO DUPLO Read and Build Sets allow young kids to create a character from a book out of Legos.
  13. Ridemakerz Spiderman Xtreme Customz Hero Kit allows kids to build and customize a car with snap-on parts including custom rims, engines, and sidepipes.
  14. Thomas & Friends: Take-n-Play The Great Quarry Climb is a portable play set that kids can set up on their own.

  I have also been on the lookout for gifts that promote physical activity. These are some of my top picks for anti-couch-potato gifts that will get kids moving.christmas gift ideas: toys that promote physical activity  

  1. The Ezy Roller Ultimate Riding Machine combines the control of a bike and the fun of a scooter. Kids use their body to propel themselves. It’s great for gross motor coordination.
  2. The Power Popper shoots soft foam balls and works so that the faster you pump the further they go.
  3. Grow-With-Me  Inline Skates are great for all levels of learners. Beginners can walk in the skates with one wheel locked, and as confidence and ability increase, advance to unlocking the wheels.
  4. Kawasaki Tough Trike designed to withstand hard play for adventurous preschoolers, in designs that appeal to boys or girls.
  5. We love Shaun White, and were thrilled to learn his clothing line at Target branched into gear. The Shaun White Supply Co. Park Complete Skateboard is a great board for skating enthusiasts.
  6. With the Lazy Town Sing ‘N Jump Microphone & Jump Rope, kids can jump rope with music and phrases that play along with each jump.
  7. The Zing Toys Air Storm ZX Crossbow is armed with suction cup arrows and a built in quiver for target practice and all-around fun.
  8. The Raskullz Cutie Cat Helmet is a helmet my kids don’t mind wearing. They come in all sorts of animal designs, or with mohawks for older kids.
  9. Supra Boy’s High-Top Sneakers are good-quality shoes for tough boys, built to withstand the beating that comes with biking or skating.
  10. The Pongo Portable Ping Pong Game Set from Umbra turns any table into a ping-pong table quickly and easily.
  11. The Grow-to-Pro Pogo has an extra big base that helps beginners balance and gives them the confidence they need to stick with it.
  12. The Barbie Grow-with-Me 3-in-1 Skateboard features a traditional board, with a handle and innovative sliding wheels in the outward low position that makes the skateboard stable for little ones.  As they advance the handle comes and the wheels can slide in.
  13. The Joovy Balance Bike is a perfect learning bike, with a lightweight frame that makes controlling the bike much easier for kids.
  14. Master Moves Mickey teaches children gross motor skills through instructional dance lessons.
  15. Kid-Tough Walkie Talkies are tough enough and easy enough to stand up to typical, rough preschooler use.

family fun gift guide  

  1. The Alex Toys Moody Monsters Memory Game helps kids put words to their feelings with a fun, interactive game.
  2. If you have ever cracked up at the Talking Tom app, you will love this new plush toy, that similarly repeats what you say in his signature high-pitched voice.
  3. My girls love this Little People Disney Princess Songs Palace – a great cooperative play castle with beloved Disney princesses in Little People sizes.
  4. Boom Boom! Cards are a great way to inspire families to pay it forward. With this kit of cards, busy families are inspired to take a moment to buy a cup of coffee for a stranger, write a letter of thanks, pick up the tab, leave a generous tip and many more acts of kindness.
  5. Little People Wheelies Loops ‘n Swoops Amusement Park is a fun activities for both genders.
  6. This Peppa Pig Classroom Playset comes complete with desk and chair, a chalk-board, 8 of Peppa’s classmates and their teacher Ms Gazelle from the popular show.
  7. Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Kitchen & Table is an interactive play center that brings kitchen and food role-play to life.

  Some products were submitted to me for review prior to inclusion.  All items included at my discretion.