Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Frugal Mama

The economy is in the toilet. In many places, unemployment and inflation are both on the rise. But leave it to a Mama to blog through the madness and come up with a practical solution. Introducing One Frugal Mama. She finds coupons and freebies and other good deals and spreads the word. She'll also help you with budgeting. One Frugal Mama is every Mama's guide to muddling through these precarious times.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baby College

Yesterday, I heard a fantastic report on NPR's "This American Life" about a truly innovative organization called the Harlem Children's Zone. The report was specifically about a program they offer, aptly named "Baby College."

Frustrated by the lack of results from the more conventional methods of trying to lift the impoverished out of their plight, Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children's Zone's director, introduced a revolutionary idea: educating parents on how to raise children who will succeed. The idea was revolutionary because it wasn't parent-focused. It doesn't promise to move parents out of poverty, what it promises is to educate parents on how to raise children to succeed and lift up themselves.

Baby College offers expecting parents and parents of small children an alternative view on how to raise children. Emphasizing the importance of reading to children and peaceful parenting, this program provides real, learnable skills for parents who find themselves locked in a cycle they'd like not to perpetuate.

Their website states: "The goal is to create a "tipping point" in the neighborhood so that children are surrounded by an enriching environment of college-oriented peers and supportive adults, a counterweight to "the street" and a toxic popular culture that glorifies misogyny and anti-social behavior. "

And the statistics are horrifying:

33%--The chance that a black boy born in 2001 will go to prison.

60% of black men in their mid-thirties who dropped out of school have spent time in prison.

7% of black eighth-graders perform at grade level in math.

The work that the Harlem Children's Zone is doing isn't just ground-breaking, it's also successful. The vast majority of kids in the program perform at or above grade-level. And the parents who graduate from Baby College acquire a whole new set of parenting skills they wouldn't have elsewhere.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Goodnight, sweet Prince...

and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Comfort Food

It's a rainy, blustery autumn day here in the Northeast. And the news this morning is less than encouraging.

Times like these call for cozy comfort food, like this seasonal recipe for pureed red pepper and potato soup. A cup of this plus your fluffiest socks and you have a recipe for a snuggly evening in.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bliss is Back

You all remember Mrs. French of the beautiful blog Bliss, don't you? Well, she's gone and done it again! She's gone and opened up an Etsy Shop of her very own, full of her stunning signature images. So what are you waiting for, Mamas? Head on over and stock up on some first class photography.

Congratulations on the opening, Mrs. French!



Changing the World, One Tee Shirt at a Time





I just discovered this great company, Tees for Change (via the aptly named Cool Mom Picks). Started by a bold and entrepreneurial Mama, Andreea Ayers, the company's mission is "to inspire you to live your life with passion, purpose and positivity." Their tees and onesies are made from organic cotton and bamboo and emblazoned with uplifting messages. Need another reason to buy one? For ever tee or onesie you buy, Tees for Change will plant a tree.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Healthy Schools

We've all heard about the grave health problems facing American kids these days, from sedentary lifestyles to ubiquitous school vending machines dispensing sugar and trans fats by the pound. Most Mamas work hard to raise healthy kids, but combating the impact of an unhealthy school environment can be a real challenge.

Over at CNN today, I found this list of America's healthiest schools. Chances are, your school didn't make the cut. The list is helpful though, because it's full of innovative ideas to help integrate a healthier lifestyle into the school environment. From rock climbing walls to banned soda, these schools have made some spectacular changes for the better to promote "healthy living."

So what does it all mean to you? Well, if you're interested and committed to making a change at your children's school, the article links out to some great resources to help you get started in your own community. You don't have to build a rock climbing wall to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Spooky Mama

I know, I know, it was just summer about 15 minutes ago, but we're careening toward the end of September faster than a falling apple, and you know what that means, Mamas. Yes, Halloween is right around the corner! And while I swore to myself I wouldn't type a word about it until October 1, I just found this great Halloween Party Guide over at Cookie and I simply had to share it with you. From Wax Hand making to Mummy Wrapping, this guide has everything you need to plan the ultimate fun-filled spook fest for your family!

I'm a bit of a Halloween-o'holic (must be that Theater degree) so check back for more creepy, crawly ideas. I mean, if you're not too scared...

Classic Beauty

We have found our new favorite book! This one--The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems--is a keepsake for the ages. Compiled and illustrated by the magical Jackie Morris, this book includes poetry by the likes of e.e. cummings, Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, Yeats, Tolkien and Shakespeare. And these are only the highlights! It is, quite simply, the most divine children's book I have ever seen. If we could only keep one book for our little one, this would be it.

"Hold fast to dreams..."


"The Owl and the Pussycat"


The volume's cover.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Raising Readers

Dazed and confused by miles and miles of book displays at your local book warehouse? Loving your library but feeling a little daunted by the Dewey Decimal System? Well Mamas, you're in luck.

I've stumbled upon the Mama of all children's book sites: Ethan's Bookshelf. Started by a Mama who is also a teacher, Ethan's Bookshelf is a wonderful resource for parents who love to read and want to inspire their little ones to value the written word. Complete with search capability (by title or author), book reviews, parental tips and a blog, Ethan's Bookshelf will ramp up your reading time in no time.

So have fun searching and selecting your next story time favorite. And above all, keep reading!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Smitten Kitchen

Wow! I have found (courtesy of one of my favorite gourmet Mamas) the greatest thing since sliced bread! It's Smitten Kitchen and it is literally good enough to eat! This blog, by the talented Deb, is chock-full of delicious delights, and wit to spare.

Like to bake? Try this recipe for Bread Without a Timetable, or this heavenly-sounding Pistachio Petit-Four Cake. She even has one for the ubiquitous New York classic, Black and White Cookies.

Baking's not your thing? Try out these 10 Paths to Painless Pizza Making--a perfect weekend meal! Speaking of the weekend, what's better than homemade Blueberry Pancakes on a Sunday morning?

Carve out a chunk of time to search this site Mamas. And keep your grocery list handy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cancer Vaccine

Vaccinating our children continues to stir some of the most heated debates between parents in this country. I've touched on this issue before, sparking some interesting comments on both childhood and adolescent vaccines.

This morning, NPR aired a terrific report on one of the newest vaccines, Gardasil, the vaccine that protects girls against cervical cancer caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. It's the first vaccine that protects against cancer, and yet millions of parents are opting out of the course of shots for their daughters. In fact, according to NPR, "as of 2007, just one in five girls under the age of 18 had received" this vaccine.

For some, it seems the recommended age for vaccination is a factor. The CDC advises parents to vaccinate their 11-12 year-old daughters, the FDA recommends vaccinating 9 year-olds. The point, experts assert, is to vaccinate before the girl becomes sexually active. But for many mothers--like the ones interviewed for the NPR report--9, 10, or 11 years old is simply too young to vaccinate against complications brought on by a sexually transmitted disease.

Other parents are unsure of the safety of this new vaccine. As the NPR report points out, "since 2006, there have been 21 HPV-vaccine-related deaths reported to the CDC. The reports require no absolute proof of a link, only a suspicion of one." And for many mothers, suspicion is enough to tip the scale.

Interestingly, these issues are causing less concern in other countries, like the U.K. NPR reports that "in Great Britain, a survey shows that up to 70 percent of parents would agree to have their young adolescent daughters get the vaccine against cervical cancer." The speculation is that the government run health care system making this--and other vaccines--available at no additional cost puts this vaccine in reach of many who could not otherwise afford it. In the U.S., a full course of the vaccine will cost about $400.

What's your opinion on this particular vaccine, Mamas? Post a comment and don't miss my new poll in the right hand column.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oh Doctor, Doctor

Once again, Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times "Well" blog does not disappoint. This week, she's running a series of Q & As with the respected pediatricians Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow.

The first, covering the topics of children's self-esteem and discipline, offers some great insights, on many of the issues we're dealing with daily around our house. Some of their advice veers away from other reading I've done on these topics, and I find their alternate perspective quite interesting. They also remind parents that "discipline is not about punishment but teaching," a sentiment I support and work daily to embody.

The second Q & A blog, offers the doctors views on childhood nutrition, perhaps the topic I hear discussed most among Mamas. To be sure, their views are a bit more radical (they're not big fans of "sneaking it in"). They take a broader view of mealtime, from a psychological vantage, stressing parental behavior and attitude, rather than toddler spoonfuls.

Tomorrow's blog promises to be just as interesting. Look for them to cover napping and toilet training. I'll be sure to post another link.

Runaway Baby

Recently, I've received some touching (and funny) emails from Mamas, relating stories of their freedom-bound toddlers, eerily similar to my own.

All of these have reminded me of Margaret Wise Brown's classic, The Runaway Bunny. A sweet story of a small bunny who imagines himself on his own in the world, and the creative ways his Mama reassures him that she will always find him, and always be his home.

I don't know that this cute little book will keep any of our toddlers from making a break for it, from time to time, but it does make for nice before bedtime reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reading List

It's a back to school theme today here at Mama's Cup. I found this terrific list of back to school reading for your preschoolers and kindergartners over at the insightful little blog eensies. These books look perfect for calming the school days jitters associated with everything from riding the bus to making new friends.

Now, if someone could come up with a list of books for calming a Mama's jitters when her little one heads back to school...

School Days

A check in with admired Mama Blogger Mrs. French, was a very touching reminder that this week, many little ones are entering the wide world. School's in session for sure. This guide for Back to School Clothes from Cookie is a great resource for cute kids clothes for every budget. It's also helpful for thinking outside the Gap Kids Box.

And while you're there, don't miss this fall dress up guide, for Mamas only!

And good luck, B!

Monday, September 15, 2008

After Ike

We're all seeing and reading the news about the hurricane-ravaged gulf coast. Families are struggling in the aftermath. Here's how to help.

Added bonus: Make your donation with your kids. Explain to them why helping others is important.

Well Guide

Tara Parker-Pope's New York Times "Well" column often touches on health and developmental issues in children, and usually highlights great new research. Today's check-in with Parker-Pope yielded a veritable treasure trove of ideas, findings and steps toward raising a healthy child. From diet and exercise to discipline and day care, Parker-Pope has organized the information, articles and research into an easily navigated "Well Guide." This guide is a simple pull-down menu, allowing you to choose the topic you'd like to read about. You'll be redirected to the corresponding articles, which then link out to further studies.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ohm Baby

Love soft, sweet, organic things for baby? My Little Pakora is the newest line of precious and pure products for your little one.

Started by savvy Mama Sonia Gupta, My Little Pakora celebrates sustainable living, and does it with style.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Absence

The smoke has cleared,
the dust settled.
Tears long dried,
nightmares subsided.

The city din--frenetic, fierce, familiar--
has returned, an annoyance and a comfort in one.

Tattered paper photos, taped with panic and haste
on every open space,
removed, discarded, or tucked away with regret
and anger for lives unfinished.

Crossing the Triboro at rush hour,
snaking slowly toward the skyline stained crimson by a sun
reluctant to cede the day,
there is still a gaping hole, 110 stories high,
silent and wide.

An absence of glass and steel
that reached defiantly skyward.

Broken hearts, inexplicably--incompletely--mended by time
and the distance it creates.

A taxi trip down 6th Avenue
in the glittering Manhattan dusk is a stunning announcement
of what was
but now isn't.

Heroes made
and lost.
Stories forever untold.

In passing, some look up,
some look down,
some look straight ahead.

Gotham endures, thrives,
intrepid in the face of so much violence,
so many ghosts.

Each loss, personal, unbearable.
The collective loss, immeasurable.

At the heart of the city of excess and abundance,
a void remains. And millions understand the word:

without.








Photo by Marc Morelli

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Celebrating Success

Earlier this week I blogged about an incident at our local Barnes & Noble. (Many of you offered words of comfort and support, some laughed, some of you even expressed concern; thank you all. We don't seem to have been blacklisted. I went back today--sans ma petite fille--and was allowed in without question or reproach.)

Since then, I've been voraciously reading any and all parenting manuals I can get my hands on. Most talk about the wonders of positive reinforcement, a technique we employ regularly. The Naomi Drew book I told you about, Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids really drives this idea home, encouraging parents to be very specific about their praise.

So, a couple of days ago, in the midst of another developing incident, I grabbed some construction paper, a couple of markers and some stickers and devised a personalized reward system: Olivia's Outstanding Acts page.


Whenever we catch her in the act of doing something good, or exhibiting behavior we want to encourage, we stop what we're doing and praise her--in simple, specific terms--immediately. Then we allow her to choose a sticker and to place it on her page, amidst much cheering and clapping.

It might be a little dramatic, but it actually seems to be working. She loves to choose the stickers and place them by herself. And she especially loves all the celebrating that goes along with it.

What I love about it is how it pulls the focus from "bad" behavior to good. It gives me a million more reasons to say "yes" than "no." It's shifting the dynamic.

Perhaps best of all, we're teaching her how to celebrate her own successes, a lesson this Mama could stand to learn herself.

eensie, weensie school kid

Part of the bliss of being a Mama-blogger are the gems that land in your in box. Yesterday, a gift was given to me, by a friend of a friend: An email announcing the creation of a wonderful, innovative new blog: eensies.

What is it? It's a blog, conceived by two talented elementary school teachers, whose mission it is to answer the eternal, parental question: What on earth should we do at home to supplement and complement our child's learning at school?

Chock full of great ideas and doable crafts, this blog is a Mama's go-to reference for school prep and beyond. Do yourself a favor, and bookmark this one.

Bonus credit: These two talented teachers write with flair and have a sense of humor to boot!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Cinderella Story

My little one's feet are growing. They're growing so fast that she now only has one pair of knock-around shoes that still fit, and those just barely. So, we're in the market for some new shoes for fall. Below is a sampling of some of my favorite styles, all more durable than a pair of glass slippers.





From See Kai Run






From Aigle--perfect for autumn in the Northeast




Classic Converse--Find it at Target.
From Garvalin Kids
From Enzo Kids
And, of course, Frye.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Artsy Mama

Another great idea (via CoolMomPicks) brought to you by some innovative Mamas. It's called the Kid's Busy Box. It's a ready-made art kit, complete with 20 craft ideas, materials (feathers, glitter, sand--make sure the hand-vac is charged and at the ready!) and all the top shelf art supplies you could want!

Every Mama knows a good project will go a long way. This busy box might just buy you enough time to cook dinner in peace! Better yet, order take out and do the project together.



Sunday, September 7, 2008

Holy &#*&

OK. We've arrived. Last week, I knew it: The "Terrible Twos" had descended upon our happy home.

Alright, I know, by most standards, we've got it pretty good. Our little one says "please" and "thank you" almost without prompting. And she is, on balance, a gentle child who shares both objects and love freely.

However, we had an incident last week, in our local Barnes & Noble, that made me want to crawl under a rock, both because of the way my little one behaved and because of the way I handled it.
We entered the store, perused the books I was there to purchase, and then made our happy way back to the children's section. On our way back to the kids books, my little angel was so sweet and excited, that she made everyone smile as we passed. "Oh what a cute child," some exclaimed. "How wonderful that she's so excited to look at books," others remarked. I followed her, beaming with pride: Yes, this is my outstanding child.

As we approached the checkout, smiling, my little angel underwent a swift and total transformation. She stole my wallet and ran 25 feet to the exit door. I stood looking at her, afraid to move, lest I frighten her into a full sprint. "Olivia," I called to her, in my best Public Mommy Voice, "come back here this instant!" "NO-O-O-O," she screamed in full voice and sprinted to the back of the (warehouse-size!) store.

Great.

I ran after her, trying not to look as though I was running, and, finally, caught ahold of her wrist. "I'm very disappointed with you," was all I could come up with as I dragged her--literally--kicking and screaming the half-a -football-field distance back to the cash wrap.

I completely ignored the irritated glares from the customers in line behind me and completed my purchase with one hand, the other gripping her tiny wrist.

As we left the store, I admonished her for her behavior and told her I would have to take away her favorite toy. After I'd strapped her--crying--into her carseat, I climbed into the driver's seat, and felt like crying myself. What am I doing wrong?

A few days later, I picked up a book that's been sitting on my shelf for a while, Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids, by Naomi Drew. The several chapters I have read have been quite helpful, educating me on the nuances of communication and example. It served as a good reminder that everything--literally everything!--we do and say to our children, gets deposited into their memory banks. The great Albert Schweitzer said "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."

And so we embark on a new chapter of growth in our lives, both my daughter's and mine. I go forward, willing to learn, and hoping to inspire--in both of us--more respectful behavior. I hope to accomplish discipline, moderated by peace. I wish to instill boundaries, modeled by respect. My goal--as yours--is to raise a whole, confident, peaceful individual.

I'll let you know how that's working out.

Friday, September 5, 2008

All We Are Saying...


Thanks for the spirited discussion, Mamas. I hope we'll all still get along. Red, blue or purple, we're all still Mamas. That's what it's all about.
Find the above here. Below, the organic cotton version by Green Babies.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

In Keeping With the Theme












I figured since I stuck my big mouth pinkie toe into the political arena this week, that I might try to punctuate my Mama-logues with something a little less controversial: Baby clothes! Wry Baby has just the threads your little one needs to tout his or her (or your) political point of view.

Working Mamas / Mama's Work

I'm on a tangent this week: Motherhood, work and the prejudices we Mamas still cope with, blatant and otherwise.

Before all this political stuff, way, way back when my little one was still an infant, my husband and I were discussing my decision to leave the workforce--a job at a major news outlet--to stay home to raise a family. I lamented the fact that a woman who makes such a decision, to move out of the professional sphere for a period of time to take on the challenging responsibilities raising a family presents, doesn't generally receive credit--or even respect--for the new skills (multi-tasking, troubleshooting, conflict resolution, out-of-the-box thinking, etc., etc., etc.) she has had to master. Her years as family CEO, COO and mentor are largely discounted and, on occasion, even mocked.

Yet I would argue that, after 2+ years of stay-at-home motherhood, I am more qualified to handle tough, timely decisions. I am a more of a hard worker now than I have ever been. And you better believe I've figured out how to prioritize.

What's the argument against us? That technology has advanced beyond our skills during our years away? That we won't be able to master all of the fancy, new tools that have become standard in our fields? Hooey. I'd never in my life changed a newborn's diaper, managed a projectile vomiting 8 1/2 pound baby, or operated on a POW's sleep schedule, but somehow I figured it out. The latest version of Microsoft Word doesn't scare me.

I'm not headed back to a cubicle just yet, but when or if I decide to, I think I'm going to put my mothering skills at the top of my resume.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves


With the news of Governor Sarah Palin's entry into the Presidential race, comes a whole other slew of issues.

Now let me be clear: I am not endorsing a candidate or a campaign. I am simply starting a dialogue, based on this article by Jodi Kantor and Rachel L. Swarns in today's New York Times. Palin, as the article points out, is Governor of Alaska, mother of five children--one of whom is an infant with Down syndrome--and John McCain's running mate for the Republican ticket.


Kantor and Swarns highlight in their article a debate that is currently raging in the blogosphere, at major media outlets, on the benches at the playground and over cups of coffee everywhere: Can she handle motherhood and the Vice Presidency?

What?

Somebody pinch me! What year is this? Since when would anyone--Democrat, Republican or otherwise--ever presume to ask such questions of a man? It wouldn't happen. It doesn't happen.

I truly thought--especially with Hillary's primary run--that we have come further than this as a nation. Countries all over the globe--from England to India--have been successfully led by women.

If any of us Mamas were to walk in for a job interview and be asked "Gee, you seem like a real go getter, but do you think you can handle work and motherhood?" our heads would start spinning around, Linda Blair style. It's just such an antiquated argument--and it's insulting. Or perhaps we're good enough to be the assistant to the boss and raise a family, but not to be the boss and raise a family. It's just not right, Mamas.

Nobody asks a man if he can handle his job and his family. Nobody questions a man's love of his family when he chooses a challenging career. Nobody insults him for trying to be a loving dad and trying to have a successful professional life.

I say enough is enough! You don't have to like Sarah Palin to see when sexist arguments are being leveled against her. Let's do ourselves a favor and start demanding equality, once and for all!

"So we're comin' out of the kitchen,
'cause there's something we forgot to say to you.
We say, Sisters are doin' it for themselves,
standin' on their own two feet and ringin' on their own bells."

Get Your Groove On

Way back at the beginning of my blog, I mentioned that we don't do a whole lot of "kids music" around our house. I keep it to a minimum, in an effort to save my sanity and to allow my daughter to cultivate a love of real music. (I really don't go in for the Wiggles.) This conviction to expose my little one to real music also comes from my own childhood. The soundtrack of my early life included The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The B-52's, and The Talking Heads.

For my little one's birthday parties, I enjoy making CD's as party favors. I try to make them both kid and adult-friendly, including songs that grown-ups know and love and kids will enjoy grooving to as well. A dear Mama friend asked after my little one's last party, "Where do you find all this music that's just perfect for a children's CD?" My answer to her was my own collection, being the music addict I am.

But now, Cookie magazine has a list for everyone who doesn't have access to my bloated iTunes account. The list is as cool and kid-appropriate as you'd expect from Cookie, sporting tunes from the legendary Stevie Wonder to the super-hip White Stripes and just about everything in between. Like jazz? It's on the list. Maybe you're a Reggae fan? You won't be disappointed.

It's a truly tremendous list of great music that your whole family will love. Before you know it, you and your little one will be singing along to the Rolling Stones on your way to the supermarket.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I heart little ones.

Hi all!  It is me...Mrs. French!  Dear Meaghan kindly asked me to stop by today and share some of my favorite things for the wee ones out there.  I am thrilled because I get to post on one of my favorite mama blogs and I am thrilled to get to share my "I heart..." items for the smaller folks out there.  I hope you all heart them as much as I do.
xoxo
Mrs. French

p.s.
thank you Meaghan for letting me stop by and intrude on your sweet space!


I heart this cowboy shirt.

I heart this elephant.

B hearts this book more than all of his other books combined.

I heart this lion (via sweet Cicada).


I heart this trim and these sheets.

I heart these tops.

I heart this top.

I heart these overalls.

I heart these sneaks.

I heart this hat.

I heart this tree.

I heart this print.

I heart this pigeon.

I heart these bonbons.

I heart this record.

I heart this rabbit (pssst...it's a light).

I heart this "binky buddy."

I heart this collage.