Friday Finds


1. Cactus Cork Desk Organizer | Urban Outfitters
2. White & Mint Tee Pee & Cactus Hipster Pants Infant & Toddler | Zulily
3. The Gardener's Guide to Cactus (Paperback) | Target 
4. Cactus Porcelain Diffuser | Anthropologie 
5. Minted for West Elm Cactus Dots | West Elm
6. Girls' Easy Tank White Cactus - Cherokee® | Target
7. Succulent Garden Assorted Note Cards (Set of 20) | Papyrus 
8. Cactus iPhone 6 & 6 Plus Case | Anthropologie 
9. Ceramic Cactus Ring Jewelry Holder by LunaReece |  Etsy





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On boys, bathrooms, and reaching for the bleach

This post was sponsored by Clorox

I have tried my best to be an egalitarian mother, and to raise my children without rigid gender roles or stereotypical expectations based on gender. I want them to understand that boys can be nurturing, that girls can be bosses, and that they are free to follow their dreams and passions, unencumbered by cultural expectations.

THAT BEING SAID,

Wow. Raising boys is different than raising girls.

I grew up in an all-girl household. I didn't have brothers. Farting contest and burping monologues were not a thing I was familiar with. My sisters and I cared about decorum and appearances. We were stereotypical girly-girls, interested in makeup and clothing and decorating our rooms.

And now I find myself living with two tween boys, and asking myself on a daily basis, IS THIS NORMAL? And why are they so gross?



First, there is the body odor issue. I mean, I get it… everyone has body odor. On the rare days I had forgotten my deodorant, I am reminded of the miracle of modern science, and how bad I smell when my pits are left to their own devices. But this cause-and-effect relationship between applying deodorant and not smelling like death warmed over does not seem to motivate my sons in the least. They are perfectly fine being stinky. It's almost like they revel in it. I have to remind them to put on deodorant on the daily. They have also been known to take showers in which no soap is actually applied to the body. There have been days when I have picked them up from school and threatened to make them walk home, because my car smells so bad. I have resorted to shame as a parenting technique, just flat-out telling them that they stink. And yet, they don't care.

Then there are the feet. I swear, their feet are growing at a super -human rate. At nine and 11 years old, they both have feet bigger than mine. In fact, my oldest is now wearing the same size shoe as my husband. And more foot size just means more foot stink. When I walk into their rooms, it smells like a gym locker. So. Much. Foot. Stink.

Then there is the bathroom. Can we just talk about overspray for a minute? I thought that potty training was done when they were toddlers, but no. I am still having to remind them about the importance of aim. The back of the toilet is a scary place. And I had the bright idea to put a white shower curtain on the shower that is directly next to the toilet. Let's just say, I am thankful for bleach. Because that thing has a yellow corner crop up more often than I would like.

Speaking of bleach, Clorox has some amazing products that help me keep the bathroom from becoming a biohazard. Simple bleach is a perfect way to clean and disinfect a toilet bowl. Poor 1/2 cup of Clorox regular bleach into the bowl, brush with a scrub brush, let it stand for 10 minutes, and flush. Easy peasy. It also comes in handy for cleaning behind the toilet. I like to use a solution of a half cup of Clorox regular bleach in a gallon of water. Letting the solution sit for five minutes will 99% of germs and bacteria, then you can rinse well and air dry.



In honor of parents and the bathroom messes we must clean up, Clorox is doing a sweepstakes for the best "reach for bleach" moment. Leave a comment sharing one of the scariest messes you've had to contain for a chance to win a Clorox prize package, which includes a $150 gift card, two bath towels, three acrylic storage canisters, and a style station organizer. See here for details.



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Tips for keeping your sanity while shopping with kids

This post was sponsored by BJ's Wholesale

As a mom of four kids who are very closely spaced in age, I am at a sweet spot in the parenting gig. We have rounded the corner of the stage of complete and total chaos, and now life feels same again. Everyone can use the bathroom independently, everyone can make their own lunch, and temper tantrums are at a minimum. Life is so much easier today than it was when they were younger.

With one exception . . .

Grocery shopping.


Yes, Karis. I feel the same way.

I hated it when they were little, and I still hate it. It has just never gotten easier. It is one of those things I just don't like doing. I hate to do it when the kids are in tow, because they are whiny and annoying and start begging for me to buy them things by aisle 2. But I also hate doing it myself, because it is definitely not my preferred way to spend my precious moments alone. So, despite their protestations, I usually take them along with me when I grocery shop.

I have never learned to love it, but I have learned some techniques for making the experience more enjoyable. Here are some of my best tips:

Try a "pick up and pay" option

Yes, that's right. My first piece of advice involves avoiding most of the actual grocery shopping. Many stores have options where you can order your groceries online, and then simply pick them up when you arrive. BJ's Wholesale, for example, has an option where you can reserve your groceries online and pick them up in two hours. They have everything ready and waiting at the front of the club so you can check out right away. It's a fast and easy way to get in and get out.


Be prepared

You don't want to be meal planning as you shop. Make a list so that you can get things done quickly. If you are really type A, you can even make the list in the order of the isles at the grocery store.

Go at the right time

It sounds obvious, but you don't want to be grocery shopping when your kids are hungry. Avoid meal times, and avoid rush-hour if you can. The after-work, dinnertime crush means crowded isles and long lines. I find it better to go mid morning or mid afternoon.


Review expectations and consequences before you walk in

I typically park my car and then have a little chat with my kids about what kind of behavior I expect. I outline what will happen if they misbehave, and try to preemptively project and avoid any negative behaviors. For us, this usually involves begging for food not on the list, whining, and running through the aisles.

Bribe them

I'm not above it. If I offer my kids a reward of a small snack for good behavior, they are often much better behaved. I don't dole it out until we are out of the checkout line, because it keeps them motivated to be appropriate through the store.

Shop in bulk

Shopping in bulk means less trips to the grocery store, and less time wrangling kids. Stores like  BJ's Wholesale can allow you to buy in bulk so that you run out of things less frequently. It's also more cost-effective for a big family.

Use the cart

Take advantage of the prison of the shopping cart if your kids still fit. It is a good way to keep kids contained as you shop. If they are older, you can ask them to keep a hand on the side of the cart as you walk.

Let them help

This can add to the chaos, but it can also teach kids valuable lessons and help quell boredom at the store. As you make your shopping list, you can designate items to certain kids, or simply call out the items you need as you're walking through the store.





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#TBT: I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday

On Thursdays, I post from the vault. This is from October 2010.

Kembe and India (the twins) turned 4 earlier this week.

It was very anticlimactic.  Their preschool schedule their special moment at school a couple days before the real day.  They get to wear a crown and the parent supplies a special snack . . . but we are discouraged from bringing sweets or cupcakes.  However, a lot of parents don't follow the rules, and my kids came home moping several days last year because "so-and-so" got CUPCAKES for their birthday snack, and I sent string cheese and carrots.

As a mom, it leaves you in a weird predicament.  Do you send healthy stuff to be respectful of the teacher's requests?  Or do you make cupcakes because it makes your kid feel special?

I attempted to walk the line this year.  I had the bright idea that I would make healthy muffins (to ressemble cupcakes) and then "frost" them with a mixture of cream cheese and stevia.  I topped them with rainbow sprinkles.  I felt very please with myself for beating the system - they looked like cupcakes only the were healthy!  WIN-WIN!

fakecupcake3


Except . . . they were DISGUSTING.  I mean, truly.  Not right.  Not right at all. The multi-colored sprinkles on top only furthered the betrayal of brain to mouth. 

I wondered how the preschool classes would take to the bait and switch.  Would I arrive for  pickup to find an unruly mob of four-year-olds ready to take me to tasks for the fake cupcakes?

But really, afterschool was only marked by one bit of drama: Kembe's anger at me over having missed his birthday celebration.  Seems I'd forgotten to explain that here in the states, there might be several, and that the big one would be with our family.  So when a group of adults and other children sang happy birthday to him at preschool, he thought that was it, and that we had not been there.  He was pretty sad about that.



Well, and another small bit of drama.  India's teacher mistakenly wrote the number "5" on her crown instead of 4.  She's the youngest in her class so I think the teacher assumed she was turning 5, and when India saw the number, she was elated, being sure that the teacher must be right.  She came telling me, "Mom!  Guess what?  I'M ALREADY FIVE!!!"  She was crestfallen to find out she was not even really 4 for a few days,

Fortunately, the cupcakes did not result in any vomit-related drama.  That I know of.

So, when we got home, we had an impromptu party in the backyard, because Karis, Jafta and a couple of his friends who were over had not sampled the cupcakes.  They saw the leftover goodies in my cupcake carrier and begged.  We all sat around the table, sang happy birthday to the kids (while explaining that there was still an ACTUAL PARTY that would be happening on their ACTUAL BIRTHDAY, where daddy and more friends would be present).

And the funny thing is, the kids devoured those muffins covered in slimey, fake-sugar frosting.  One of the boys even declared them to be the Best Cupcakes Ever. 


fakecupcake (2)


fakecupcake
fakecupcake2 

All of them, that is, except India.  She was not having it.  "These are fake cupcakes, mom."


Their real birthday came and went without mention, because we felt like it was too complicted to explain that in addition to the preschool celebration on Monday and the party with their friends on Saturday, that their real date of birth was another day altogether.  So the real birthday party, on a day that is NOT really their birthday, will happen today.  (Confused?  Exactly why we are lying to the four-year-olds who think they are still three).

But today, there will be real cupcakes.



And hopefully, a fun party where they both feel honoroed for the amazing little four-year-olds that they are.







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Up for Debate with Paul Martin: The First Debate

He's conservative. I'm liberal. And we are trying to have a civil discussion about the election. My friend Paul Martin and I continue our series with a recap of the first presidential debate . . . just a couple drinks in.





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