Thursday, June 30, 2011

City Slicker or Suburban Soccer Mom?


**Full disclosure: I live in the city, though I do envy my friends who have those cute, main floor powder rooms that you get in many suburban homes**

It's like The Sharks and The Jets all over again.

The warring camps have set up their fortresses, with the city limits as the unspoken dividing line between territories.

"Urban life cannot be replicated" state those who have a penchant for fresh lattes from the corner Starbucks on a lazy Sunday morning. A five minute walk will cure last night's hangover with that first sip of java, tasted just a few minutes after rolling out of bed. Parents who plead more mundane reasons for fatigue such as interrupted sleep due to a feverish and demanding child still need their daily hit of Joe as well. No worries, their double mocha latte is waiting for them as well, just a hop, skip and a jump from home. It'll be ready, just as soon as they saunter a couple of steps down the street to their favorite coffee shop. Such is life in the big city.

Image courtesy of http://brownstonecambridge.wordpress.com
There's no place like home, especially when home includes a sprawling square footage of property that includes three or four bathrooms (the kids have their own), a family room, finished basement that includes a full recreation area, wet bar and pool table, and a master bedroom that is evocative of the palaces at Versailles. The sprawling expanse that is the backyard of such residences can easily accommodate the neighbors, their friends and their families. Barbecues or pool parties are the name of the game because space is not a problem, so hey - why not? Said home's walk-in closet is the size of some city homes' bedrooms. No joke.

Image courtesy of www.praisehouston.com
City vs suburbs. Urban vs. suburban.

"To move or not to move. That is the question."

Is it any wonder that we all get our backs up about this topic, regardless of which side of the city limits we live on? People can get downright nasty when they talk about the merits of each location.

More recently, the topic has become top of mind as (in my case) two "terrible twos" makes one crave for more space - if only to provide a sanctuary to run away from the noise and chaos for a fleeting moment.

Having 5,000 kids makes one think long and hard about one's living arrangements, that's for sure.


In speaking with various parents, it has become very clear that there are definitely two camps of home devotees out there, and they are very passionate about their choices.


The city lovers love their way of life, and cite the following as reasons for their refusal to leave their respective urban enclaves:
  • The ability to walk to their favorite restaurant, coffee shop or movie theater
  • The ability to get by without a car
  • The sense of community resulting from living in close proximity to your neighbors
  • The "cool" factor
Those living in their suburban paradises wouldn't dream of life in the big city and embrace the space provided by the nether regions of the city limits. While space is clearly one of the key reasons that many families decide to move to the suburbs, there are other factors as well:
  • More affordable housing costs
  • The perception of a more "safe" living environment for the family, particularly children
  • The opportunity to have a newer and in some people's estimation, a "nicer" home
  • Peace and quiet - all night raves are less common beyond the city limits
The Urbanites vs. the Suburbanites may sound like a "B" movie from the '50's but the two camps are very real. And camps they are. Ask any dweller in either area how they feel about their choice of residence and you will likely get a passionate discourse on the merits of their particular area code. Similarly, they often slip in a not-so-subtle "dig" at those who don't live in their chosen part of town. Hence, comments such as "I can't imagine living in such a small place with all of my kids," or "It's a great house, lots of space, but boy is it ugly!" (I've heard both of these comments regarding choice of residence). What gives?

We all make choice that we feel are best for us and our families, but despite this truism, people still get their backs up about those who choose to make a decision that does not jive with our own. I know I've been guilty of this at times, in spite of myself. Is it human nature to do this? Is it a subconscious way of making peace with ourselves about a decision that we have made that we are, perhaps, not altogether completely comfortable with?

Many urban dwellers would give up their tiny digs for a bigger living area, but just can't for a variety of reasons, including proximity to work, lack of a vehicle and/or resources to purchase a new one,  financial considerations or other reasons.

I know of many friends who have moved to the suburbs purely due to the need for more space, a limited pool of financial resources and perhaps, a new baby on the way. Many did so begrudgingly, not wanting to cross what they saw as that defining line that labeled them as a Soccer Mom, Suburbanite, or (in their eyes) worse.

Why are we so sensitive about the three digits that precede our phone number? It's as if something as simple as this defines our very being. Ditto for someone's zip code or postal code. What gives?

Perhaps it's human nature to want to define and label those we encounter and heck - determining someone's worth based on their proximity to the downtown core makes a lot of sense doesn't it (insert sarcasm here)?

Furthermore, there is often a faint odor of superiority when those who want to convey their seemingly correct choice of residence discusses the poor folks in the _____ (insert the word "city" or "suburbs" here). 

Each location is valid. We all make choices that we feel are best for our families. Yet when others do the same, e.g. deciding where to live, we feel that we can denigrate their decision with no consideration to the factors that led to their choice. And so the war between the city and the suburbs continues. Unnecessarily.

City or suburbs? Urban or suburban? What's your choice and why? 

How do you feel about those who live in the City or the Suburbs? 

Not exactly "City vs Suburbs," more like "City vs Country" but I used to love this show. Food for thought, anyway...



Monday, June 27, 2011

Changes

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

So someone once said, and so it is a reality for Yours Truly.

When I started this blog some time back, I posed the question "Is Having it All Still Possible?" I was speaking from a frazzled reality that was my life, working full-time outside the home and parenting young children. 

Something had to give.

And as much as I would like to continue to think of myself as Superwoman, the reality doesn't live up to the fantasy (it rarely does), and the reality was that the work-life balance was very unbalanced in my life.

Image courtesy of www.ideachampions.com
I continue to be frazzled (any parent of twin toddler boys alone will tell you that this is part and parcel of the experience) and I continue to try my best to attain some semblance of competence at minimum, with respect to my parenting abilities. I continue to drink coffee and wine in equal proportions. I've just taken the full-time day job out of the equation.

I'm not popping the champagne corks just yet as, the reality is, my family is not independently wealthy, so I will continue working. The only difference is that now, it will be on a freelance basis, giving me the opportunity to spend more time with my kids and better plan my day-to-day activities.

My work plan includes continuing my freelance writing, as well as my work in public relations and communications. Of course I will continue this blog (which is my other baby).

Am I scared? Yes.

Do I know what the future will hold? No.

Am I excited? Yes.

Bring it on.















Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nursery Rhymes Deconstructed: Sing a Song of Sixpence

So by now, if you've read any of my other posts, you've probably figured out that I'm a bit sarcastic. Just a tad.

I'm also very curious, and thank the University of Toronto for my supposed "critical thinking." If this trait won't help me in my career, well heck - it will provide entertainment value for this blog.

That said, I am starting a series that is, no surprise, one that allows me to use that so-called "critical" approach to some of the more mundane aspects of parenting. Without further ado, I'm delving into the world of nursery rhymes. Yes, I am going there. Also part of this series in upcoming blog posts: deconstructing children's books, deconstructing children's songs, and deconstructing children's movies. 

If you, like me, have been forced to recite some of the most trite, inane as well as disturbing and confusing poems of youth, then read on.

How often have I picked up a children's nursery rhyme book, recited a chosen passage, while in my mind thought to myself "this is so messed up, it's not even funny?!" Yet still, I continue to read, while in my head, I'm chastising myself for potentially causing my child permanent damage, anxiety and otherwise because of this poem. I'm not kidding. Some of them are downright scary. And I realize that I must not be alone in these thoughts.

With that preamble, I'll launch into a look at one of the scariest nursery rhymes of my own youth, "Sing a Song of Sixpence."

Image courtesy of www.social.entertainment.msn.com
 Check out the full rhyme (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye. 
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.
Now, I realize that to deconstruct every single word, phrase and stanza would be somewhat dry, so I'll focus in on the few that made the hairs on my arms stand up from the time I first heard this as a little girl.

"Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie"

Not meaning to be alarmist, but am I the only one that is really horrified by this idea? Perhaps it is made further gruesome by the image that accompanied this verse in my childhood nursery rhyme book, one I still remember, that showed what appeared to be a freshly-baked pie with beaks and black heads of birds clamoring to escape! This gave me nightmares for years. It still creeps me out to this day.

 "When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose"

Visions of a medieval washer-woman type with a gaping hole in her face where her nose was "pecked off" was all I could think of as a young, impressionable child. What did she look like without a nose? Was there a lot of blood on her clothing? Did she pass out from the loss of blood that resulted from her nose being taken by an errant group of angry birds? These were some of the questions that seriously went through my mind as a young child upon hearing this "harmless" tale. Talk about scary.

Oh, and is it any surprise that little Johnny and little Janie want to sleep in mommy and daddy's bed after hearing this story? Yet they might well be sent to their own beds because they are big boys and girls (we tell them) and it's only a story, after all. 

It's really surprising that there is not more talk about whether these stories do more harm than good, looking at them with a more critical, adult eye. Being a parent, I often wonder if I'm adding to my kids' anxieties by my actions, and reading nursery rhymes is one of them.

So, to that end, I'll ask these questions:

Do you feel that nursery rhymes such as "Sing a Song of Sixpence" are harmless or harmful to children? Do you read these types of evocative rhymes to your kids? Why or why not? What are your favorite or most DISliked nursery rhymes and why?

Here are The Wiggles singing "Sing a Song of Sixpence" in the spirit of this post (I find that the happy music accompanying the lyrics just makes it all the more creepier. But that's just me).


















Product Review: Little People Pirate Ship

Aye, aye captain! Ships ahoy!

Imagine being the master of your own destiny or the captain of your own pirate ship. If you're two years old, such lofty goals might seem unreachable, that is, until you lay your eyes on a real treasure from Fisher Price.
The Little People® Pirate Ship, especially engineered for children ages two through five, set sail in the Multiple Mayhem Mamma household. My boys, Aubrey and Erik were particularly thrilled with this inviting opportunity to act out their fantasies of pirating on the open seas. 

Okay, perhaps not that much thought was put into their eventual goals (they are only two, after all), but suffice it to say that the boys enjoyed playing with their new toy. 


When I was approached with the opportunity to do a review for this toy, I agreed, as being the parent of twins, they are constantly on the lookout for the "next big thing" - as much as a two-year-old can be. Anyway, jumping on this opportunity to do my first product review, I was pleased to give my perspective to other parents who are looking for a new toy for their collection.

Regarding The Little People® Pirate Ship, here are some of the key points:

Age range: Appropriate for two to five year olds. In my personal opinion, I think that this toy would be appreciated most by the younger end of the spectrum, those between the ages of two to three. A four or five-year-old may get bored quicker with the ship, though they would probably enjoy it nonetheless.

Price: MSRP is $39.99 CAD; Retailers include Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Loblaws, Sears.


Observing the packaging. Not sure what to make of it!



Deciding on whether or not someone should "walk the plank!"
Notable Features: 
  • A special cannon that can be set off by little hands pulling a lever
  • A parrot that can be pressed on for a musical surprise
  • An opportunity to pull the ship's wheel and make the plank pop out
  • Pirate Ship comes with sleeping and eating quarters, a working cannon, two pirate figures, parrot, cannon ball, treasure map and chair.
The good: This toy was a welcome change from the trucks and cars that are part and parcel, having two toddler boys. The change in play offered by having a ship as the focal point was refreshing, not only for the boys, but for mom and dad as well. 


The firing of the cannon and the surprise that continued with release of the plank by turning the ship's wheel was a source of considerable engagement for the boys. As well, being able to open the lower level of the ship and place the characters inside was fun for the kids as well.

The bad: This is not really about the toy but the packaging. This is a problem with many toys these days. Spending half an hour undoing those little twist ties before a child can play with a toy really puts a damper on the festivities. To any toy manufacturers that are reading, please go back to the old-fashioned way of packaging by putting the toy in a box, no twist-ties required.


Just some of the twist ties that had to be undone before the toy was played with. Very frustrating!
Overall score out of five: 4

In general, I would recommend this toy to any parent with kids between the ages of two and four who is looking for a different way of engaging their kids.

Do your kids have a favorite toy that they like to play with? What is it and what do they like about it?



Friday, June 24, 2011

Fashion Fridays with Melanie: "Top" Tips


Thank goodness for those who walk amongst us with style. They are an inspiration to those of us who struggle daily to find their fashion niche, especially some of us moms who might not have the time to plan a full-on wardrobe assault!
It's Fashion Friday at Multiple Mayhem Mamma and I'm excited to turn the page over to my favorite fashionista, Melanie from Style and Error
Every other Friday, Mel will answer your fashion, beauty and style questions on this page, so please, send them along to [email protected] and Mel will send you on your way - looking fabulous!
That said, I'll turn it over to my esteemed style mentor, Melanie.
Today’s question is:
“There seems to be no solution for tops. If I wear a fitted top, all my rolls are accentuated. If I wear looser, empire, etc, I get asked if I'm pregnant. It stings. I have a tummy, its not going anywhere fast. So, what do I wear?”
I agree that finding the right top can be tricky. Here are three go-to solutions that will keep you feeling great:


  • Button-up.  A button down shirt is a great solution because it goes with jeans, skirts and dress pants and looks so much better than just a plain tee.  Make sure not to choose something too baggy; instead look for something that just skims your body. I love the Non-Iron shirts from Brooks Brothers because they come in four different cuts, so there’s one for every body type. They are a bit of an investment, but honestly the fact that you never have to iron them, totally makes it worth it.  I would opt to leave them untucked so it doesn’t cling to your tummy.


Image courtesy of www.shefinds.com
  • Go Corporate.  Jackets are no longer just for the boardroom. They should be you go-to item when getting dressed. They instantly make you look put together and they are available at virtually any price point.  Everyone should have a great black blazer and then a couple of others in different colours to keep things interesting.


Image courtesy of www.fashionfrog.com


  • Go with the Flow.  Another option is a printed, flowy top. Don’t choose one with empire waist as you may encounter some folks asking you when your baby is due - even if you're not pregnant. Instead, select a top that doesn’t cling to you but just flows over your body.  The pattern will also help to camouflage any bumps or lumps.


Image courtesy of www.outblush.com
By using some time-tested and simple tricks, you can achieve that pulled-together and fashionable look without breaking your budget.
Now that summer's finally here, any specific seasonal questions that you would like to have answered? Can't wait to hear from you!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Playdate Pressures

"How about we plan a play date for the kids?"

These words - stated often - have me quaking in my boots.

The topic of play dates, get-togethers, or whatever you want to call them is one that all parents must deal with once their kids become of age. Actually, the average age for play dates seems to be rapidly decreasing in my estimation, but that is a whole other story.

Apparently it is de rigeur to set up a mutually agreeable time for your child and his or her friend to rendezvous at each others homes. While this may be well and good for many, it often doesn't work for me.

Image courtesty of www.tastearts.com
Call me Ebenezer but I just can't pull it together, being the mom to 5,000 kids and all. Trying to remember where I left the third basket of laundry that I pulled from the dryer earlier in the day is a more pressing issue and likely top of mind for me, less so than trying to figure out a schedule where I would actually have to coordinate dates and times with another parent. Scheduling is not really my forte.

I can barely figure out where my own kids are at any given point in time, let alone trying to add another one or two to the mix. Inviting additional small children into the chaos that is "home" is one activity that just adds to my anxiety.

Increasingly, the pressure to coordinate play dates with other kids has left a gaping hole in my self-perception as a "good mother." Other parents just seem to have a knack for coordination and scheduling, something that I'm clearly lacking. Fact of the matter is, I'm busy, most of the time, and invariably the request will come in for a play date, making me realize that I should have made the first move a long time ago. Check, mate. This is the third request from the same parent and my daughter has been over there twice in the past three months. It's my turn, except I didn't follow the unwritten rule (and schedule) that dictates that I should have extended the courtesy in keeping with etiquette. Mommy fail once again.

Don't get me wrong. I love kids. I love playing with kids. I love that my kids have friends and nice ones to boot. I just can't seem to get it together to follow the proscribed play date etiquette docket. There are whispers in the playground and schoolyard about such ineptitude, I'm sure. Paranoia has set in.

To step back somewhat, there is a larger issue at play here (no pun intended). When I was on maternity leave, I had a much better relationship with my daughter's friends' parents, just because I would see them more often. It was easier to plan a mutually-agreeable date with other parents for a get-together for our kids when running into them at the school. Since I went back to work, not so much. Yet the relationship-building and the making of friends by my daughter continued, regardless of whether or not I was there to meet the new friend's mother or father in the playground during school drop-offs or pick-ups or not. The emails, notes in knapsacks and voice mail messages then commenced, requesting my daughter's presence in the homes of those with whom I was not familiar. What was a parent to do?

It's been a work in progress and in truth, my bad for not getting on the play date coordination train, but I guess I missed the memo. Life is busy and I'm not sure when the craziness will subside. To that end, can I get a rain check? If not, then some advice on how to navigate this Brave New World?

Next up? Birthday parties.

How do you manage the endless play date requests and commitments for your kids?


Are you good at scheduling and reciprocating get-togethers with your kid's friends?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kids and Cash: 5 Ways to Help Your Child to Appreciate Money

“Mom, can I have this?”
You curse yourself for making the foolish decision to step into the Toys “R” Us with your six-year-old daughter in order to buy that toy for your niece’s fourth birthday. Sure, you were only going to run in for a few minutes, you thought, and your daughter wouldn’t have time to ask for yet another new toy. Right?
Wrong.
Once again, you have been put in the position of not only saying “no,” but also trying to explain to your child in no uncertain terms that
a) You are not made of money and
b) It is not necessary to buy something every time you step into a store.

Image courtesy of www.itsallaboutmoney.com
For the most part, it is safe to say that children have a limited, if not non-existent understanding of the value of money. If they need something, they get it. If they’re hungry, you feed them. Why, they think, should it be any different with items that are for sale? The bigger question really is, mom and dad, whether you have instilled within them not only an understanding of how finances work, but an appreciation and respect for money and the ability to earn it.
Following are five tips to help teach your child to appreciate money:
1)   Give them a weekly allowance - Even if it’s one or two dollars, the anticipation of receiving it and the option of spending or saving it will make the child more cognizant of its value
 
2)   Open a bank account - It’s never too early to underscore the importance of savings. A junior account and regular reviewing of interest earned, any service charges and similar items will instill a respect for money that will be invaluable down the road
 
3)   Just say “no” - Indulging your child in her every whim will not support a healthy view of money. Having to wait for something or saving up for a desired toy or game will make her appreciate the value of a dollar much more readily
 
4)   Invest in their knowledge - Teaching simple facts about the stock market, investments and related items will instill an understanding of the volatility of the markets and economics, as well as the value of waiting to cash out. The lesson here? Being patient will pay off (no pun intended) in the long run

5) Teach them to budget - Making your child understand that the purchase of a big-ticket item or a family vacation may require months of budgeting will get your point across. No only will budgeting skills provide a sound basis for your children to make smart financial decisions as they become adults, but it will be a useful tool for them to have into their retirement years as well.


How do you teach your child about the value of money? What tips can you provide for other parents about this topic?
 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Those Were The Days, My Friends...

I've written about this topic to some degree before, but somehow it just keeps coming back. 

Kids have no idea...

The changes that have occurred in my lifetime are pretty amazing and yet my kids take all of the advances that have occurred for granted.

No, I didn't walk 20 miles/kilometres through a snowstorm to get to school.

No, I didn't have to wash my clothes over a washboard in the river every morning and night. 

No, life wasn't that hard, but it surely was different.

Instant gratification is the name of the game and I often wonder if this is the crux of what has made parenting so much more challenging these days.

I mean, really - who can compete with the latest video game, iPad app or downloadable blockbuster?

The immediate gratification that most kids feel these days is borne of the fact that our collective desire for "stuff" has overridden the previous reality that dictated that "patience is a virtue." In other words, no longer is the thrill of anticipation regarded as a necessary piece of the final puzzle when it comes to acquisition. Kids want what they want and the want it now. Adding to this scenario is the fact that the parents of these kids (myself included) are just as anxious to provide their children with the items that they desire, oftentimes because it makes their lives easier (TV as a babysitter anyone? I plead "Guilty").



Children these days have no concept of waiting, patience or the thrill of anticipation. Everything is immediate. My children have grown up in a world that has always had the Internet, DVDs TV shows and movies on demand, cell phones immediate pictures on cameras and microwaves. 

Google is both a noun and a verb. The Dewey Decimal System sounds like something that you would order over QVC. Pictures are immediate. You take them and then look at them. You don't like them? You delete them. There's nothing tangible about them at all. As a matter of fact, if you want a physical picture, you actually have to get them printed - an task that seems like an exercise in futility more often than not, as you can just as easily hit "slideshow" on your iPhone or iPad and carry your cherished memories with you.

That being said, let me make it abundantly clear that I love the advances that technology has afforded me. I am somewhat of a technophile and geek. I love gadgets, stuff, downloading and streaming. I'm lazy and love the fact that I can carry a portable, digital "To Do" list with me wherever I go. I like to watch the latest TV shows on my smartphone while I'm traveling on the local transit.

Irrespective of this fact, there is a part of me that yearns for a different time, one where life wasn't so easy or so transparent. Google has taken away the veneer of privacy that one could achieve if they kept their noses clean. No criminal record meant no trace of you at all in the public records, other than your registration as a citizen of your particular city or town. Now, even if you wanted to be anonymous, it would be virtually (and literally) impossible. Google would find you, reference you and cache you. If you've done even the most minor of things, say participating in your neighborhood community support group or volunteering at your local church, you may be referenced online in perpetuity.



Anonymity  is a thing of the past.

Life as we know it isn't the same as life as some of us knew it. Sometimes I yearn to go back to those days.

I somewhat miss some of these benchmarks of my childhood:
  • The Encyclopedia Brittanica - all 10,000 copies that lined the bookshelves at my home (okay, maybe not 10,000 copies but it seemed like a really big number as the books lined so many shelves)
  • Watching The Brady Bunch at 4pm after school - On one of the 13 or 14 FINITE channels that we had. Oh, and we had to GET UP to change the channel - remotes were NOT the norm!
  • Transistor Radios and later Sony Walkmans - You waited with baited breath for your favorite new song to come on and then blasted it as best you could (but of course there was no bass, just treble...). 
  • Records - The CD could never replace the feeling of ripping off that plastic sheath on that coveted piece of music that you had saved up your allowance for. And downloadable music and iTunes? Love them both but still long for the time when you could crack open a new album, admire the cover art and put it on the player.
  • Anticipation - For everything. For the latest movie. For the latest movie being shown on TV (if you missed it, you just had to wait until it came on again sometime in the future). For your favorite TV show rerun (no computers, not Internet, no streaming TV shows the next day after airing). For hearing your favorite song played on the radio (no immediate downloading through iTunes or online)
  • Reading an old-fashioned, physical map (Google Maps and Mapquest were non-existent in my youth)
Some other events that will likely never happen again in my lifetime:  
  • Heating up my cold dinner on the stove (no microwaves or "nuking" food in 30 seconds)
  •  Cooking popcorn on the stove (melting the butter, waiting, adding the kernels, watching them explode!)
  •  Adjusting the "rabbit ears" on the TV set for better reception
  •  Listening to the national anthem on TV then seeing the Test Pattern that indicated that TV was over for the night until the next day (24   hour TV and CNN didn't exist)
I love living during these times and benefiting from the advances that technology can offer but I do miss the simpler times of my youth, I can't lie.

What do YOU miss from your childhood? What things would you bring back if you could?







Friday, June 10, 2011

Camping and Kids - Getting Back to Nature With the Family

Yes, it is completely possible to pull little Johnny away from the XBox or Playstation this summer. 

Though he may be a tried and true City Slicker who is used to all of the amenities of life in the Urban Jungle, there are ways to get him to appreciate the beauty of nature, burrs and all.

Image courtesy of www.bonjourquebec.com


This summer, introduce your kids to the wonders of the Great Outdoors by carrying on that good old North American tradition of camping. The summer's here and now's the time to instill the love of nature into your city kids who may have never had the pleasure of sleeping under the stars.

By following a few simple tips during your hiatus under the stars, you will make memories for you and your kids that will last a lifetime.

In 10 Tips for Camping With Your City Slicker Kids over at one of my favorite sites, Chic Savvy Travels, I've provided a checklist for parents like me who love the city but are willing to venture into The Wild (okay, maybe not The Wild per se, but a local campground or provincial/state park).

To get you in the mood, here's some Yogi Bear for ya!


Introducing Fashion Fridays with Melanie!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am seriously lacking in style. Everyone has their strong points and hey - style is not one of them for me. Fashion was never something I really got into and understood, despite my best efforts. Reading Vogue  and Elle didn't help; it only made me realize that those who have it really have it and those who don't...well...hmmmm.

Anyway, I am thrilled to announce that there is hope for the style-challenged, like myself. I find that being a mom leaves you little time for yourself, let along the quest to be fashionable and stylish - something that takes more planning for some of us than others.

Melanie - the fashionista behind one of my favorite blogs, Style and Error - has so graciously offered to provide quick and easy style, fashion and beauty tips for this blog. I love reading Mel's blog and am really excited that she will be able to make sense of what seems like a foreign world to me, and I'm sure to others as well.

While not a mom yet, Melanie is close to many mothers (family and friends) and accordingly understands the stresses that come with a limited amount of time and often a limited budget. I know that she has personally given me some simple tips that have helped me look so much better than I would have looked had I been left to my own devices ;)

So starting today and every other Friday, Melanie will be providing fashion, style and beauty tips to Multiple Mayhem Mamma readers. Please email your questions to [email protected] and Melanie will answer your questions in the coming weeks. 

Without further adieu, please welcome Mel! Here is her first post:

You're a Mom. Does that mean style is out the window?
http://livingthebalancedlife.com
Whether you’re on maternity leave or back in the paid workforce, sleep deprivation, kids that need attention and juggling multiple priorities can make finding time for yourself difficult, never mind finding time to put a cute outfit together.
So, what’s a Mom to do? Accept the inevitable of wearing ill-fitting worn-out lululemons and baggy tees? Absolutely not!
Fight back against the dying of your style! Just because you’re busy - and exhausted - doesn’t mean you have to look like you are. Here are a few simple style tips that will make the other mothers at the playground or at the office wonder “How does she do it?”:
Image courtesy of www.thegap.com
1. Rock your Blues. Get a great-fitting pair of jeans (boot cut with a mid-rise is most flattering on all body types) in a dark wash and pair them with a fitted t-shirt. Add on a colourful scarf or a chunky necklace and viola, you look amazing and you are comfortable. 

Image courtesy of www.healthandthebeauty.blogspot.com
2. Pretty flats.  Instead of tossing on ugly runners that are meant for the gym or flip-flops with zero support, opt to instantly up your style quotient by adding a pair of pretty flats.  For summer I like a leather pair of sandals and I’m obsessed with these ones from Cole Haan that have Nike Air built in so they are wearable all day.  For cooler temperatures, try a pair of embellished ballet flats that will go with everything. Price point is up to you - but remember only buy them if they are comfortable in the store.  You’re too busy to “break them in”.

Image courtesy of www.fashionfling.blogspot.com
3. Embrace the Dress.  Dresses are so versatile especially for the summer months (or year-round if you live in warmer climes).  They are a one-stop outfit and you will look instantly put together.  Opt for dresses that have an A-line shape as they are universally flattering.
What are you go-to styles to pull together quickly? What advice would you give other Moms?
  

Melanie is a PR Professional with a unique sense of style. When she's not perusing the latest fashion magazine or window shopping at her favorite fashion stores, Mel can be found checking out the up-to-date football scores (she's also a big professional sports fan, football being her fave), reading or blogging at www.styleanderror.ca


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Top 5 Father's Day Gifts - What Dad REALLY Wants

So back around Mother's Day, I published the The Top 5 Gifts - What Mom Really Wants for Mother's Day. In the spirit of equality as well as peace, it's probably fair that I write about dear old Dad. 


No, he probably doesn't want socks or a tie, and very likely could do without yet another golf shirt. He also probably doesn't want burnt toast in bed or undercooked eggs, but will (hopefully) graciously accept these token gifts of love from his progeny.


No, dad has a whole other set of desired gifts that he wants. Following are some ideas to get that special dad a gift that he will truly thank you for.

Image courtesy of www.tfaoi.com


Top 5 Father's Day Gifts 

  1. Time Off - Moms don't have the market cornered on this coveted present, and it's likely that Dad would love some uninterrupted time to do whatever he pleases - without the kids or wife (sorry, moms). While he probably loves you all to pieces, he longs for those days where he could do his own thing, whether it's spending time with friends, watching the game or reading a book. Give him this gift on June 19th and he'll thank you for it, guaranteed.
  2. A Tech Toy - Be creative and choose your poison. Whether it's an iPad, a new XBox game or the latest smartphone, there are lots of options these days. Some type of electronic, cool, gadgety thing that Dad can play around with for hours will earn you brownie points in his books. It's fairly safe to say that most men will appreciate something within the technology realm so if you can hook Dad up with this type of gift, he'll be a happy camper.
  3. Cigars and Scotch - Yea, these particular gift suggestions are stereotypically "male" in nature but the fact of the matter is that many men appreciate a really good cigar and rarely do they get the chance to enjoy one. Splurge on dad this Father's Day and spend a bit of dough on a premium grade cigar, if you can. Ditto for the Scotch; it doesn't necessarily have to be Scotch per se, any nice liquor will do. Just think of what your man used to order before you guys had kids and were mired in diapers and doo-doo.
  4. A Professional Shave - This may sound like a bizarre gift but bear with me here. It's likely that Dad has rarely if ever gotten a shave from a barber or similar professional. Apparently it's quite the experience and so much better than the shaves that are done at home. If you can arrange it, set Dad up for a date at the barber or salon and get prepared to see a new man when he returns.
  5. Anything From an Outdoor or Sports Store - Again, even if Dad is not the outdoorsy or sporty type, there are plenty of items that most men will appreciate in these kinds of stores. And let's not even mention the fact that they can spend hours walking around in the store, just browsing, uninterrupted (see suggestion #1). If you have a good idea of what Dad would like from this type of store, then take the plunge and buy it for him; if not, he'll likely be very happy with a gift certificate that will allow him to choose the item that he really wants.
   Do you have any great gift suggestions for Father's Day? Please share!
 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Children are Walking Petrie Dishes

Children are walking petrie dishes. But you knew that already, right?


Thankfully, we are coming out of the worst of times in the lives of little people - winter. 


My kids were collectively sick for most of the season. Yes, from October through April, they sported runny noses, fevers, coughs and all order of illnesses, sometimes simultaneously.
Image courtesy of www.busymommymedia.com
You dress your kids in the morning and steel yourself for the day, hoping against hope that you won't get that dreaded phone call at work that says "Come and pick up [your child's name goes here]. He/she's running a fever." Invariably the call comes, despite your wishes, and you sheepishly and guiltily tell your boss that you have to leave early to pick up your kid (not sure where the sheepishness and guilt are warranted but the feelings are there, nonetheless).


The irony of ironies is that there is often an undertone to the daycare call. Perhaps it's all in my head (I can be over-sensitive sometimes), but you may get the feeling of being chastised by the child-care provider - as if you are at fault for your child being ill. 

I always thought that it was ironic that the sources of my kids' illnesses were - wait for it - the daycares! Yet when the viruses or various bacteria that were floating around on the collective toys, books and items at the daycare do their thing, well guess what? You're out of luck and destined to take the day (or two, or three) off work to tend to your little ones.

Image courtesy of www.proteanservices.com
It's a constant struggle -  balancing home and work commitments in order to put food on the table, and never more is this evident when you are faced with the choice between a sick child and spreadsheet. You are forced to make a choice at the peril of the other. If you choose the sick child, your job could be in jeopardy; if you choose the spreadsheet, you may look like a trooper at work but to little Johnny, your name is mud. Oh, and the daycare/babysitter/nanny who is looking after your feverish child is likely not thrilled with you either.

If you have a partner, you may try to alternate every time the kids are sick. Yes, this works in theory but the reality is not quite so simple. Not sure about you but my kids cling to me when they are not feeling well and, as their mom I want to be there. Therein lies the dilemma. I recently wrote about the fact that moms overwhelmingly take on the role of caregiver when their children are sick. You can link to the post here.

I know that with myself, I feel sick about my kids getting sick. But not just for the obvious reasons, but also for the repercussions to my professional life. Because the child-free surely look more favorable to an employer when the latest bout of influenza sweeps through the daycare.


So what about you? How do you deal with the sick child/work dilemma?

Do you stay home with your kids when they're sick, or does your partner, babysitter or relative generally take over?


Do you feel that taking time off to care for your sick child(ren) has negatively affected your career?

I look forward to your feedback!