Sunday, February 28, 2010

Los Angeles Moms Blog Conference Recap


A week ago, the Los Angeles Mom Bloggers (and soon to be OC Mom Bloggers) had their first conference. It was an awesome gathering of mom bloggers and I was thrilled by the opportunity to spend time with so many amazing mom writers. We attended roundtable discussions on video and vblogging led by Kimberly Blaine and on brands working with mom bloggers led by Ciaran Blumenfeld. We also had the opportunity to speak with representatives from 20+ companies about their products. It was my first time being in a room with so many companies that wanted me (specifically me, and not as part of a larger expo or convention) to get information about their product out to to the public domain. We did receive many product samples. Here are some of the things that particularly caught my interest, with more blogs to follow:

iGo green Charge Anywhere-For some reason I never got a car charger for my cell phone. This has proved to be a problem because of the many many times I've left my phone in the car overnight and then discovered a dead battery in the morning. So if you've called me after preschool pickup and I don't pick up or return your call till the next day, now you know why. I only have a few more months on my Sprint Palm Centro contract so I didn't want to buy a car charger, even though I've felt the need for it more and more lately. So how excited was I to see iGo at the event! I will definitely be using this as soon as I get the tip that is compatible with my phone. Here are some features of the very cool anywhere charger they provided each mom blogger:
  • Works as a wall charger to charge almost any device while simultaneously charging its integrated battery for device charging away from a wall outlet
  • Two USB outputs for simultaneous device charging
  • Works with multiple devices, including mobile phones, Bluetooth headsets, smartphones/PDAs, MP3 players, portable gaming devices, digital cameras, GPS devices and more
  • Works worldwide; no need for a voltage converter when traveling

  • Skechers Shape-Ups-From past posts you know I have been trying to get out there and exercise. Or stay in and exercise on the Wii Fit Plus. But now I have something that will help me exercise even when I'm not trying to exercise. It takes down a few notches on the good old workout guilt-o-meter. I've been wearing them for the past week. For the ultimate test, I wore them in Vegas up and down the Strip, trying to walk off overeating at the buffets. In the past, my legs and feet would be completely sore by the end the trip from all that walking. Surprisingly, this time, I feel fine. I won't say there was no discomfort at the end of each trip down the Strip, but the recovery time is definitely quicker. I think one reason your feet get less tired is all the extra cushioning in the shoes. I signed up to get information about becoming a Skechers rep and this week has made me a firm believer.

    BitDefender-The co-host sponsor of the event, BitDefender, is a company that is worth every parent's consideration. You may not go with them but it's nice to know there's something out there other than Norton and Microsoft. Some of the products the company provides are BitDefender Total Security, which provides proactive protection against Internet security threats, along with system maintenance and backup; BitDefender Internet Security that locks out viruses, hackers, and spam while providing parental control and firewall protection; and BitDefender Antivirus 2010 that offers proactive protection against viruses, spyware, phishing attacks, and identity thefts. From speaking with the company representatives at the event, I really got a sense that they are concerned about the safety and security of families as opposed to simply focusing on the bottom line. My sister-in-law worked at Symantec (they make Norton antivirus software), and in all our discussions about her work, I never felt that security of families on their home computers was a big thing for them. I did some research on BitDefender after the event and found out that they are not a public company, so they don't have to be focused solely on EPS or the share price or explaining why they are doing things to institutional shareholders. They have the freedom to listen to user feedback and incorporate things that might not matter to corporate IT purchasers but does matter a lot to moms and dads. To this end, BitDefender is launching a new security resource for online parents called BitMoms (dads are welcome too!) in the next week. It will be an interactive website and social network that is designed to provide news, content and tools for parents and parent bloggers in order to make the internet a safer place for children and families. The web address for the site when it goes live will be http://www.bitmoms.com.

    Taga-When I saw the Taga bicycle, I immediately thought of my Bugaboo. It's European, it's trendy, basically, it's so cool. It's a good thing Stonyfield Farms (yummy Oikos Greek yogurt!) provided bibs in their gift bags because there was serious mom drool going on over this bicycle. Maybe she wasn't saying, "I want it so bad!!!" but that was the vibe coming off of every mom in that room. Unfortunately I didn't win the one given away that night, but I did come home with a $400 off coupon. I know there is no room in our garage as we already have four strollers, three adult bicycles, two tricycles, an adult and toddler scooter, and a baby swing. But maybe if I sell all of the above, I can have room for this super cool bike that has the baby seat in front and also folds up to a stroller. Wouldn't I turn heads on the Strand with this baby! I told the company reps that the Taga should have been in the Sex and the City sequel.

    The event was such a fun evening with the other mom bloggers--I'm so glad to be associated with this group of women. I only wish that some of them lived closer so we could be better friends offline. It was also a great introduction to a lot of products that hadn't been on my radar screen. A great big thank you to SV Moms Group and the amazing sponsors for a truly memorable event! I will be doing more blogs and giveaways in the coming weeks of some of the products I received at the event, so please keep checking in. Happy March!

    All photos by Carla Duharte Razura/babyjidesign.com.
    Co-Host Sponsor:BitDefender - www.bitdefender.com, www.twitter.com/bitdefender

    Other Sponsors:Stride Rite - www.striderite.com, www.twitter.com/striderite, www.facebook.com/striderite
    Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel - www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LagunaNiguel/Default.htm, www.twitter.com/RitzCarlton_LN
    Busy Body Books - www.busybodybooks.com, www.twitter.com/busybodybooks
    litl - www.litl.com, www.twitter.com/litl
    PopCap - www.popcap.com, www.twitter.com/popcap_games
    Ebates - www.ebates.com, www.twitter.com/ebates
    iGo - www.igo.com, www.twitter.com/igo_inc
    Dole - www.dolechallenge.com
    Bosch - www.bosch-home.com/us, www.twitter.com/BoschAppliances
    Cinnabon - www.cinnabon.com, www.twitter.com/@cinnaboninc
    Eden Fantasys - www.edenfantasys.com, www.twitter.com/edenfantasys
    Whole Foods - www.wholefoods.com, www.twitter.com/WFMLA
    Stonyfield - www.stonyfield.com, www.twitter.com/stonyfield
    erbaorganics - www.erbaorganics.com, www.twitter.com/erbaorganics
    Taga - www.tagabikes.com, www.facebook.com/Taga
    Focus Features/BABIES movie - www.BabiestheMovie.com, www.twitter.com/focusfeatures
    Joseph's Rugs - www.josephsrugs.com
    Ju-Ju-Be - www.ju-ju-be.com, www.twitter.com/jujube_inc
    Pretend City - www.pretendcity.org, www.twitter.com/pretendcity
    Whrrl - www.whrrl.com, www.twitter.com/whrrl
    Pose Prints - www.poseprints.com, www.twitter.com/poseprints
    Skechers - www.skechers.com, www.twitter.com/myshapeups
    Bootights - www.bootights.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Bootights/420407940200

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Pretend City Children's Museum-Irvine

    Last Sunday I had the good fortune to attend the Los Angeles Moms Blog party. 20+ vendors were there to discuss their products with mom bloggers. I'm doing a more complete write up but wanted to get information out information about Pretend City Children's Museum's event on March 13 since I know we all plan weekends in advance. If you've wanted to visit Pretend City in Irvine, this is a good opportunity because admission to the museum is free for your child when you attend the fair.

    Good To Go From Head To Toe Family Fun & Wellness Fair
    When: Sat., March 13, 2010 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Where: Pretend City Children’s Museum (29 Hubble in Irvine, CA)
    Cost: Free to attend fai
    r!!!
    More than 30 partners will be on-site providing free language, dental, vision and hearing screenings; fun games and activities for kids; raffles for prizes throughout the day; music provided by 92.7 Jill FM.
    *******************************
    If you can't make the event,
    print this card for 2-for-1 admission on Way to Play days at the museum. Way to Play days take place the second Friday of every month. On Way to Play days, community partners will be on-site at the museum to offer parents and caretakers free resources and services that promote the healthy development of children. Learn more by visiting www.begood2go.org.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    Some Random Thoughts About LA

    Some thoughts I have right now about LA.

    Why are people flaky? I've never lived in a place where so many people don't get back to you. And don't say I have the wrong friends because it is not just friends who don't respond to evites, it's also potential employers and doctors and other "professionals." I had a job interview and they never called me to tell me I didn't get the job. Just say no, people, no is an answer. Blowing me off and thinking that's a less hurtful rejection is just rude.

    Why are your events so disorganized? I went to the inaugural Street Food Festival. It was supposed to start at 11. Well, not only did it not start on time, they didn't correctly estimate how many people would show up so there was a four block long line, I'm thinking at least two hours, of people waiting at 11. No signage, no one giving any sort of information whatsoever, just people standing in a line hoping to get in. I did the math, with 30 food trucks inside, I figured they would run out of food before I got in. Plus I was not about to make two toddlers wait in a two hour line. We bailed and ate in Koreatown at my sister's go to place Mapo Restaurant. It did not disappoint.

    I've never heard of the following things till I got to LA--monkeybread, holding your kids back (on the East Coast, everyone tries to figure out how they can get into school early), that Wendy's is only for white people (this must make me white because I LOVE Wendy's and ate it probable 2x a week when pregnant with R), almond milk (Blue Diamond Almond Breeze tastes most like milk), crossing four lanes of the freeway at once, and my favorite, the Kogi truck. When is Kogi going to start paying me for these testimonials? Their website has been improved recently and now the schedule is much easier to decipher.

    I'm sure I'll add to this list as I go but just wanted to get it out my head and into cyberspace. Please share your observations of LA oddity if you have them. Thanks!

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    PBS Kids Go! and the Jim Henson Company-It's Not Easy Being Green

    Or yellow or blue or any of the other colors that make up the monsters and characters brought to life by the Jim Henson Company. The boys and I had the incredible fortune to visit the Henson Studios in Hollywood last Tuesday (the day after the re-recording of We Are the World took place there!) to learn about the new PBS Kids Go! program, Wilson & Ditch. PBS Kids Go! is an educational television brand used by PBS for programs intended for older children, rather than the original PBS Kids. PBS Kids Go! is primarily broadcast on PBS stations during the afternoons, but Wilson & Ditch is a new show that is available only online.

    Wilson and Ditch are two funny, energetic and talkative gopher brothers who are in a van - an eco-powered one -- and driving around America. Wilson, the older brother, loves learning and teaching facts and reading about each new locale they travel to. He always drives the van while Ditch, the younger more fun-seeking brother who loves to relax and eat, is the permanent passenger. These gopher brothers drive from city to city as tourists who learn the history, “actual facts” (as Wilson calls them), and fun facts of every new location. The brothers also love experiencing the usual touristy stuff as well as the really unusual, obscure, and sometimes just weird sites each city has to offer. Wilson and Ditch want to discover purple mountains' majesty, amber waves of grain, and the perfect Philly cheese steak!

    Every time I point to the United States on a world map and tell H that he lives there, he starts arguing with me. He also doesn't quite grasp what it means to live in different states; he just knows that visiting Aunt Joyce means getting on an airplane. I think watching US geography as a kids TV show might make it easier for him to understand. Wilson & Ditch isn't geared for someone as young as three, but it'll definitely be helpful for him to hear the words and get familiar with the vocabulary. Right now H says California as well as the state's governor. I think geography is a great topic to address in children's television and I wish the show were going to be on TV as well as online. The webisodes are about three minutes long, and, for me, that isn't quite long enough to get out all the “actual facts” you'd want to share about a location.

    During the event, fellow mom bloggers and I learned about the show and also got a behind-the-scenes look at how shows like Wilson & Ditch and Sid the Science Kid are produced. We learned it takes about five years of hands-on training before a puppeteer becomes adept enough to move to the patented technology that makes Henson digital puppetry possible. We were given a demo of the technology by no other than Brian Henson (one of Jim Henson's five kids), the puppeteer and voice behind the face of Wilson. Brian also happens to be Chairman of the Jim Henson Company. (So yes, I had a meet and greet with the chairman of a studio last week, pretty amazing!!!!) The body is done by motion capture by another performer. We got to see a body and face come together at a shoot of Sid the Science Kid and the degree of detail that goes into every second of one of those shows is unbelievable. I don't think kids understand or appreciate the complexity of the shows they are watching.

    So far the Philadelphia and Nashville webisodes of the show are up. If you want to follow Wilson and Ditch as they criss-cross their way across the United States, this is the schedule:

    When? Where? What’s New Where they will visit?
    • 2/22/2010 Rapid City, South Dakota Webisode Rushmore, Badlands
    • 3/1/2010 Mitchell, South Dakota Comic strip Corn Palace
    • 3/8/2010 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Podcast Old Faithful
    • 3/22/2010 Miami, Florida Webisode Gators/Air Boats/Beaches
    • 3/29/2010 Williamsburg, Virginia Comic strip Colonial Williamsburg
    • 4/5/2010 Niagra Falls, New York Podcast the falls
    • 4/19/2010 New York, New York Webisode Times Square, Central Park
    • 4/26/2010 Durango, Colorado Podcast Train
    • 5/3/2010 Anchorage, Alaska Podcast Iditerod: Dogs & sleds
    • 5/17/2010 St. Louis, Missouri Webisode Arch, Paddle-Wheel Steamboat
    • 5/24/2010 Atlanta, Georgia Comic strip great restaurant
    This is just the first season, and they plan to add to the destinations every year with more destinations on and off the beaten path. I can't wait for the Central Park webisode in April.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Moshi Monsters and the LA Zoo

    Growing up in suburban Chicago, I had access to one of the best private zoos in the country, Brookfield Zoo. Last year the zoo was rated fourth in the nation by Parents magazine. When we lived in New York, we took H to the Bronx Zoo (#7). When we moved to Southern California, one of our first road trips was to the San Diego Zoo (#2). So I have a bit of zoo snobbery and never even thought about going to the LA Zoo (doesn't even make the top 20). Until--the good folks at Mind Candy invited us to the first ever North American demo of Moshi Monsters, one of the world's fastest growing children's free-to-play online games, to be held at the LA Zoo. I think they didn't know there would be more animals in the game than in the zoo, but more on that later.

    We got to the event right when it started at 11 am. H immediately monopolized one of the demo stations. The Mind Candy representative doing the demo was impressed with how adept he was with the mouse at age 3. I'm not sure if I should be proud of that, but he's been playing computer games since he was 20 months old and I needed something to distract him while I was doubled over in bed with fatigue while pregnant with R. So he's been practicing a long time. Basically Moshi Monsters is like a combination of Sims and Facebook for kids. Kids can create an avatar from one of six virtual Moshis and custom-tailor its features. Then they navigate the immersive world by solving educational puzzles and collecting Rox, the in-game currency that can be used to purchase accessories for Moshis and their homes. Unlike the Sims world, the Moshi doesn't die if you don't feed him, but it will get very grumpy.

    Needless to say, H loved it and had to be dragged away to see the real animals in the zoo. H really wanted to see the hippos. Unfortunately, he couldn't because there were no hippos, there was only hippo. There was one hippo and next to it in the next exhibit was one rhino. My fellow LA Moms Blogger Bernadette was there with her family and she told me one of the jokes her comedian husband, Michael Batts, used to tell, "I went on vacation to the LA Zoo, and it turned out the animals were on vacation too." I guess it's not so funny when it's true. H and R were pretty disappointed they didn't get to see all the animals they wanted to see--we never did find the tigers--but they loved the playground at the top of the zoo. I just want to know, why are the LA Zoo and the San Diego Zoo built on huge hills? I was pushing H and R quite laboriously to reach the playground and one woman saw me and said, "Good luck." I will tell you the Brookfield Zoo is built on flat land and so easy to navigate. Check it out if you are ever visiting Chicago [in spring/fall]!

    So the boys had enough of this and wanted to go back to the Moshi Monsters demo area. We went back a couple of times and really got into the games. H loved the Members Only features, which included an Underground Disco and a Gift Island. I really like the games because they are all educational. No shooting other monsters or driving cars around a circle. Number and letter puzzles and history trivia. Definitely something that will make any parent feel better about letting their kids play online. I also like the monitored, limited social networking; you can see all the other Moshis but you can only become friends and talk with them if you know the Moshi owner names behind them. Other parental concerns are addressed here.

    After five hours of animals and monsters, we called it a day and fought our way back home through rush hour traffic. I then realized where all the animals were in LA--they were driving on the 110 and 405.

    If you would like a one month free trial to the Members Only portion of Moshi Monsters, please be the first person to leave me a comment with your email address stating what zoo you think is the best. Moshi Moshi and Sayonara.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Where is my angel child?

    I used to think my second son was an angel child. He was always the contrast to his older brother, who "could throw a whirling dervish out of whirl." Everyone always said, "oh, R is so mellow, God knew you couldn't handle two crazies so he was good to you with R." And this was all true--until about a month ago. I could not believe it but R entered the terrible twos early and has driven me to apply for as many jobs as possible so I could put him in preschool and escape his temper. Last night was probably the worst.

    This boy does not like bedtime. Stewart's cousin told me that our bodies are on 25 hour cycles which is why we always want to sleep later and later. I think this must be true because R fights sleep, even on those days when he hasn't had an adequate nap. He's been using the delaying tactic that he is thirsty. At first he was content to drink water out of the bathroom tap. Then he demanded juice. This I denied because no way would I give sugary juice, however watered down, to a kid who's supposed to be sleeping. Then he got smarter, he started asking for milk. He knows that I get frustrated because he doesn't drink enough milk. So if he ever asks for milk I complied. But this went on for a few days, delaying his bedtime by up to an hour. So last night I said no.

    9 PM. Demand for milk. Crying, throwing himself against the door (I locked us into the room so he wouldn't run downstairs.), laying down on the ground crying, saying nose to get his snot wiped, then crying some more. Finally 9:45 I gave in and got him the milk. He was quiet the whole time we went downstairs to get it, but the minute we came back up, he started crying again. Finally after 10 minutes he drank some of the milk and went to sleep.

    6 AM. An hour and a half before normal, wakes up and starts crying more. Excuse me? I thought babies had poor short term memories. I thought they were supposed to forget about whatever they cried about minutes before, let alone 9 hours before. I try to give him milk. No dice. We go downstairs and just lie on the couch till H comes down and wants to climb on top of us. We go back upstairs and R falls asleep again.

    8:30 AM. Second awakening and crying resumes. Crying continues through H's preschool drop-off. R refuses to drink his morning milk, asking for juice instead, but he won't let me take the cup away. He proceeds to spill it all over himself during the drive to preschool. H is saying to R, "be quiet, be quiet."

    9:10 AM. H is safely inside his preschool class. R and I are back at the car. I am a moment away from capitulating and giving R a juice box. I tell R one last time, "I don't care how long you cry, you are not getting juice, now drink your milk." Miracle of miracles, he gives in and drinks the milk. Moments after he finishes, no more crying and it seems that he doesn't remember the past 12 hours of torture. Now, I know it seems harsh that I would try to force him to drink milk when he wanted juice--I mean how much harm could there be in giving in this one time and isn't it better than having a child cry for such a long time? But I knew he would be drinking juice later that day at a blogger event and at his aunt's house. So there was no way to give him juice without feeding into his sugar addiction. I have to be careful since he had gestational diabetes and basically was born with a taste for sugar.

    I am still in awe of R's ability to carry the fight over 12 hours. He was tired at the end of his crying jag last night, and so he slept to gather up his resources and then let it out again this morning. This is the kind of thing that makes me think of Columbine and gang violence. How do you prevent kids from going bad? How much longer will I be able to withstand the tantrums without imploding/exploding? I tell Stewart almost every day that I'm going to die soon of a heart attack. He tells me to get a job. Someone please give me one!