Monday, August 30, 2010

Blogging Out Loud

I have been considering taking my blogging hobby to the next step, like so many others out there. I like to blog, and maybe if I could capitalize on it I would feel a little less guilty spending a couple of hours in front of the computer instead of cleaning my house or playing with my kids.

I like to write, and if I do it often enough, I figure I will become respectable at it. Due to my job I have some knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), although admittedly I don't have a lot of hands-on SEO experience. However, I'm fascinated by the topic. I also have some web design experience due to the 2 years I did free-lance web design prior to getting hired by my current employer.

Somethings holding me back however. Primarily I'm concerned about my level of commitment. I have become better at updating this blog recently, but I still find devoting time to update it every day very difficult. If I am going to monetize a blog, I know I must update it daily, Monday - Sunday.

Secondly, I am concerned about finding a niche. I don't expect to make money off of this blog because it really isn't that focused. I also feel I must purchase my own hosting, hire a designer instead of using the free blogger software if I am to be taken seriously. However, this particular blog seems to break the specific niche rule. When I go to this blog, Scoutie Girl, my first question was, "Is this about 'Living Outside the Box,' 'Creative Living,' or 'Mindful Spending'?" My second question was, "How do all three of those topics relate enough to belong in one blog?" and my last question was, "How does she sell such a broad blog to her advertisers?"

And there is one more concern that actually ties for number one along with my fear of commitment: the low earning potential. I was very disappointed to learn that many bloggers make only about $100-300 a month. That doesn't seem like much for the 2-6 hours most of these bloggers claim to spend on their blogs every day. If the minimum time commitment (62 hours a month) is divided into the maximum return ($300) it works out to less than minimum wage ($4.84 an hour). I don't expect to get rich quick, but as much as I love blogging, those earnings don't exactly inspire. If I'm going to have my own business, I want to at least be able to make a living if my family should lose my husband's income.

And then I started to reassess my objections, and realized something. The blogger that breaks the rules, Scoutie Girl, seems to make more than the bloggers at this blog. At least based on what the owner of Scoutie Girl, Tara Gentile, claims.

This is when I realized I mustn't let my objections stop me but rather prepare me. What makes Tara Gentile different from other bloggers?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For the Older Kids - Part 2 in a Series

A selection of movies, books, and other cultural events I, as a Mom, recommend for the 10+ crowd.
This image is from
Since Fiona already had quite a few age appropriate books, I suggested to friends and relatives who wished to buy her books for birthdays / holidays to buy older kids' books to save for later. I don't like to limit kids to suggested ages anyway, as long as safety is not an issue. This prompted my Mom and Dad to buy The Story of the Orchestra, by Robert Levine. The book is divided into two main parts. The first part goes over the composers and eras in classical music from the Baroque Period to the Modern Era and the second part reviews the instruments in each section of the orchestra.

I can't claim to be an expert on child development, but this book appears to be written for the 8-12 crowd, however, I feel the book can be adapted to any age. I read the captions on the pictures to my 3 year old. She can already name many of the instruments. Plus the book comes with a CD, and there are places in the book that indicate which track to play, which is appropriate for any age. Even as an adult, I enjoyed this book. I'll admit, while I was in the high school band, through this book I learned a lot I hadn't known before or remembered a bunch of stuff I had forgotten.

Music appreciation is so important for children. One hope I have for my children is that they both at least try to learn an instrument. Hopefully this book will inspire them. I have found many former high school band mates through Facebook, and all of them are productive, happy members of society, and I attribute both to active participation in a music program. This book would make a nice addition to any family's library.

Nursing Musing - Part 1

When I started nursing my first child 3.5 years ago, I hated it. Now I dread the day I wean my youngest. What began as simply a way to feed my baby is now one of my proudest accomplishments. Here is my journey.

According to my paternal Grandmother, her pediatrician actually discouraged her from nursing. My Dad dined on a concoction of evaporated milk, water, and Karo Syrup as a baby.

When I was born, my Mom attempted to nurse me at a time when moms weren't encouraged to nurse. Unfortunately, I was born a month premature, was tongue-tied and couldn't suck. Desperate to get food in me, my Mom fed me with an eye dropper. By the time the problem was discovered and fixed, my Mom's milk dried up. Frustrated with the experience, she didn't attempt to nurse my younger brothers. And I probably would have made the same decision if I had that experience at that time.

Growing up in the 80's/90's I remember a massive public service campaign, I guess on TV, on the benefits of nursing babies. Breast is Best, was the slogan. As a teen, without hesitation, I thought I would nurse my children if I had any. And then I went about my business, and didn't really think about it much anymore.

When I became pregnant with my first child, one of the first questions I was asked was if I wanted to "breast or bottle feed" my baby. I was surprised to realize in the whirlwind of coming to terms with the fact I was really pregnant, I hadn't really thought about it.

Since "breast is best," I decided to try nursing. Being the researcher I am, I did what I do best, and read up on nursing. What I gathered was ensuring a milk supply was all about the proper latch as determined by how the baby was positioned at the breast. Suddenly, I became nervous about achieving this proper latch.

My high school and college days were relived as I dutifully memorized the 4 different holds: 1. cradle, 2. cross-over, 3. football, and 4. side-laying hold. One of my nursing books used these 4 terms to describe the different holds, complete with illustrations. I went through the motions with a doll. Imagine my frustration when a few pages into the same book, the author referred to something called the "cuddle hold." I went back to the pages describing the 4 holds and thought, "Wait a minute. There's no cuddle hold. What's this about a cuddle hold?" I was tempted to throw the book in the trash and probably should have.

When it came time to nurse my first baby, my initial problems stemmed from late milk production, probably due to my difficult labor and subsequent emergency c-section. My milk didn’t come in until the 5th day. Seeing my daughter, who entered this world at 9 lbs; get below 8, broke my heart. She hit the 10% weight loss mark and I had to supplement with formula. One thing I should get out of the way: formula is not the devil. There... that's better... moving on. My books did somewhat prepare me for late-milk and I was careful to only give formula after a complete nursing session, and give no more than the 1 oz. my pediatrician recommended. After a day or two of formula supplementing, my milk came in, and my daughter started gaining steadily, regaining her birth weight right on time. I stopped the formula supplementing, but my challenges weren’t over.

None of my books could prepare me for how much time nursing would take. And my daughter was a slow nurser, taking 20 minutes on each side and sometimes needing to nurse every 90 minutes, from the beginning of one session to the next. I would nurse her; change her and 15-20 minutes later need to start the process all over again. I remembered a friend, whose children are slightly older than mine, who stopped nursing after a few weeks; explain that she got tired of her baby constantly hanging off her. I didn’t sympathize at the time, but suddenly knew exactly what she meant. I began to wonder if breast really was best, if it caused me to resent my baby for invading my physical space almost 24-7. I had no desire to cuddle or hold my baby because I felt she was on me often enough. Rob didn’t understand why I didn’t just throw in the towel, and I considered it so many times.

What kept me going? This sinking feeling that I would regret giving up too soon, giving up wouldn’t make my life as easy as I imagined, and I would be left always wondering if nursing would have gotten easier. And it did get easier. After about 8 weeks there was a turning point. It was a long road, but after 8 weeks, nursing seemed easier in some ways than the alternative, although there were still challenges which I will describe in the next part in the series. Until next time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

For the Older Kids - Part 1 in a Series

A selection of movies, books, and other cultural events I, as a Mom, recommend for the 10+ crowd.

I'm in no hurry to see my little ones grow up, but every once in a while I will see, hear or read something that I wish to mentally file away because I feel it is important for my kids to experience, but not at their age. Granted, there are not many shows, movies, books, websites, that fit into this category, but the ones that do deserve some acknowledgement, I believe.

One such movie is The Final Days of Sophie Scholl. While she is a household name in Germany, I live in the US, I'm in my 30's and I never heard of her until about two years ago. I don't understand why she hasn't been a household name in the US for at least a few decades because, while she was German, she embodied American ideals, and ended up paying the ultimate price for it. She, along with her older brother Hans, a few other German college students, and one professor were members of The White Rose, a resistance movement during World War II who expressed anti-nazi sentiments.

Because she exercised American ideals in a place and time when it was dangerous to do so, I don't want my kids, as Americans, to walk around on this earth for 30+ years without knowing the courageous story of Sophie Scholl, her older brother Hans, and others in the White Rose resistance movement.

The average child may not be ready for The Final Days of Sophie Scholl until around 14-15, however, it might be worthwhile for an exceptionally bright, mature 12 year old. Be prepared to talk with your child following the movie, as it is disturbing. Your child may even be depressed for a couple of days after watching it, if he or she is sensitive. But I feel the lesson is worth a couple of depressing days, and we do our kids no favors by shielding them from realities of tyrannical governments and the gruesome lessons from history. You may want to stress how apathy leads to tyrannical regimes and the people must maintain diligence.  

If you know your history, you won't consider this a spoiler when I tell you this movie, based on a true story, doesn't end well. There is no gory violence so to speak, but the viewer is left to imagine the gore for themselves, which may make the movie more terrifying for some. This is the first, and to date, only subtitled movie I have ever seen. Subtitles may elicit a collective groan from most teens, but I feel the real-life characters are likable and will make the subtitled movie watchable. Most gripping is the realization as the movie unfolds that these weren't just a bunch of bored teens and twenty somethings looking for a cause of the week, but rather serious resisters who knew the risks and were quite stoic in the face of their inevitable fate.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

That Sinking Feeling That I'm Not Living My Principles

This is a hard admission to make as a parent. The evidence is all around me. My chaotic home. My dwindling bank account. My 3.5 year old embarking on her second hour of TV watching. Me sitting in my pajamas still at nearly 8:30 on a Tuesday morning.

I have other Mom friends I much admire who keep nice homes. I replay the conversations with these friends in my head and realize the conversations are one-sided for one thing, and full of me rationalizing and blaming others for my problems.

Me rationalizing: "It's hard to believe this by looking at my place now, but in college I was really neat. My dorm room was really immaculate. And when I was single and living in my studio apartment, there were moments when I might have left some books out on the table sometimes, and I slacked on the vacuuming, but I mostly took pride in my home." But who cares about what I did right 10-15 years ago, when all that matters is today.

Me blaming: "I am good at cleaning up after myself, but not other people. Rob leaves his clothes on the floor and Fiona leaves her toys on the floor."

Then I really start to feel bad, because for all his faults, Rob is a good hearted person, and I realize what a crappy wife I am for bashing her hubby to friends. And as far as Fiona is concerned, it IS my job to teach her how to cleanup after herself. Then I start to feel like I must be coming across as a bore.

My Mom too, bears the brunt of my rambling. Bless her she doesn't say much, but I know what she is thinking, "Stop rambling and do something about it already!"

I came to the realization that I have only been giving lip service to most of my principles lately. This is a disheartening feeling. I'm not my parents' daughter - that's how it feels. I was raised by two moral, hard-working, type A people.

And the reoccurring theme is that I know the solutions are simple, but hard.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Never Felt I Was Qualified to Homeschool but...

...if my public school isn't smart enough to budget for something as basic as Toilet Paper, then how can I rely on them to properly educate my kids? When I saw this article, my reaction was, "Seriously?"

Retail - Back to School? Bring Your Own Toilet Paper - CNBC#comments_top

Then my second thought was, if I was living in a town that required kids to BYOTP (Buy Your Own Toilet Paper for those not familiar with acronyms), I would want to see the school district's financial statements for the past 5 years and get a look at the revised budet for the 2010-2011 school year. I suspect the budget is available, but not the financial statements or if the financial statements are available, they are probably fudged in some way. And for all I know, my town might be a BYOTP town, since my kids aren't in the public school system yet.

Of course I know we are in a recession, likely one of the worst of my lifetime. But I'm not going to ask my employer to buy my toilet paper. That is ridiculous. My employer pays me what they pay me, and I budget for toilet paper, and that may mean I need to cut out the beer or find a way to earn more money. I don't want to hear any whining about how difficult that would be in this economy either. If everyone just gives up, the economy certainly won't get better. It's as simple as that. Not easy, but simple.

I wouldn't expect my school district to supply everything. The article mentions kids being required to bring hand sanitizer. Well, I used good ol' fashioned soap and water at school and remained reasonably healthy. I see hand sanitizer as a personal item that is not necessary, and therefore I would not expect my school system to supply it or require it. The article also mentioned disinfectant wipes (Clorox or Lysol wipes), which I see as a convenience item. Schools can use disinfectant spray to kill germs and remove grime stuck to surfaces with dampened paper towels - the brown, rough industrial grade paper towels found in most public restrooms. The school can reduce the number of paper towels used, by installing those annoying hand dryers in the restrooms. This might cost more in the short-term but save money in the long-term.

And don't large organizations, public or private, get bulk discounts on consumable items?

Anywho, based on the article, these decisions are made by local governments at least, which gives parents options such as, moving to a different town, taking their dissatisfaction up with the local governments face-to-face or voluntarily making personal donations. Again, I can hear all the whining, "But Frazzled, these solutions are hard for many people." The solutions are hard but simple.

Honestly, I was hesitant to post this because I try to avoid any topic that is even remotely political. But this is a parenting blog and this topic effects parents. And no matter where you sit on the political fence, I feel most reasonable people can agree when schools, public or private, can't afford something as basic as toilet paper, this is a problem. Where we disagree may be in the solutions - none of which are easy, but most of which are simple.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Three Tomatos, Half an Onion, Half a Pepper and One and a Half Bags of Salad...

...are the contents of my produce inventory last week, two days after a shopping trip. These are the results of our efforts to keep our grocery budget down to $50 a week. Stop snickering. I know that's an ambitious goal for a family of four, but Coupon Mom does it. And I want to stay in the black with two children without having to go back to work full-time. Our savings, to which we used to contribute monthly, had been hit hard with medical bills, and personal expenses we covered while I was out on the unpaid portion of my maternity leave. I feel much better having the savings. I feel it gives our family more freedom.

We haven't quite mastered the Coupon Mom method, however, and the results are less than satisfying. While we kept to our budget, we will not be able to stick to it long-term if it means constantly compromising the taste and nutritional value of our diet. We were paying about $130 a week on groceries, which may seem steep to some people. The upside is we always had plenty of produce and a well-stocked pantry. Now we have "shopped our pantry" to the point where it is dwindling. Fiona also really likes yogurt which is one of the few healthy foods she will eat. Rob insists we stop buying yogurt because we were spending about $10 a week on yogurt. I would like to keep within our budget and still buy things like produce and yogurt.

I'm not saying it can't be done, what I am saying is that we haven't mastered it yet. What I have been learning quite well is the art of getting good deals on diapers using a combination of sales / coupons / Extra Care Bucks at CVS. By purchasing diapers when I see a deal and stocking up, I have been spending the same to diaper Paul in Pampers and Huggies as I did to diaper Fiona in Costco and Walmart brand diapers. I have a good diaper stockpile, and have now focused on tracking the diaper sales, hoping to roll-over my Extra Care bucks that I earned on my last diaper purchase to earn more Extra Care bucks on my next. I don't want to overstock my diapers since he could outgrow them. This is all an art.

Now, I am starting to track other grocery items in an attempt to master the Coupon Mom system. This week we are still within budget, but the only fruit we have in the house are bananas, and I plan to make a trip to a produce store this week to get about $10 worth of fruit and vegetables, which will bring us about $8 over budget. It is a work in progress.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

About Girls and Boys

When I was pregnant the first time, the hubs was so convinced we were having a boy that he convinced me we were having a boy. At around 18 weeks, imagine my surprise when I found out we were having a girl. It was a pleasant surprise for me because, while I know I shouldn't care, I secretly wanted a girl. As time went on, the hubs, who was so eager to have a son, really bonded with his daughter. And like most little girls, she had my 6'2", 250+ lb. hubs wrapped around her tiny little pinkie finger.

I mean, how could you not fall in love with this:

Fast forward 3 years and I'm pregnant again. This time I really didn't have a gender preference either way. I was truly at a point where I could honestly say I was just happy for another child. I don't think my hubs had a preference either. When I found out I was having a boy this time, I remember the excitement from my friend who also had a girl and a boy, who told me, "The bond you have with your son will be different."

And now that my boy is nearly 5 months old, I think I know what she means. While I love both my kids equally, I definitely love them differently. Articulating the difference is very difficult. The best way I know how to describe it, is to say that I feel a little more vulnerable around my son. I tried to explain this to the hubs and he didn't understand. He said, "Be quiet, she (Fiona) will hear you." He thought I was saying I loved my son more. But I don't love my son more; he just happens to be my baby, and he will always be my baby even when he is 30. In some ways I fear I am actually being more fair to my girl because I expect her to grow up and therefore expect more from her. I really don't want to come across as thinking more highly of either one of my kids because I was blessed with two wonderful kids.

With my son, I just want to mother him a little more. Maybe this has nothing to do with his gender, and more to do with the fact that he will probably remain the youngest. Or maybe this is due to the fact that he looks so much like my dear hubs, when I look into his eyes, I can't help but melt.

How can you not melt when you see this:

It's My Blog and I'll Post When I Want To

Hello everyone,

I'm so impressed by people who update their blogs regularly - like everyday. Some people even manage to make money from their blogs.

Me, I was about the throw in the towel. I had such high hopes for this blog. I imagined it could be a springboard into other blogs, maybe with more of a focus.

I decided to pick up this blog again, when I came across some other blogs that weren't updated regularly either. And a lot of these blogs also had the dreaded "0 Comments" after most posts. But what really inspired me were the blogs I found that had been updated daily and still had the "0 Comments" after most posts, but that didn't deter the blogger. Blogging is for fun!

I managed to stumble across some snazzy free blog backgrounds too! Once I gave my blog a face lift, I was invigorated. Let's get blogging!