Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visit me at Survive Parenthood Magazine

I haven't updated this blog in years, and that's because I've focused all of my writing in one place:

Survive Parenthood Magazine.

It's a parents magazine with parenting articles for all parenting styles. I also do tech reviews, product reviews, travel writing including hotel reviews and trip blogs, as well as general topics.

Survive Parenthood Magazine 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Baby showers: Not just for mom anymore

There is a new party on the horizon. In celebration of your baby, you might sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy all the fun and frivolity that is your baby shower. But wait, because you aren't the only one who wants to be the center of attention.

Daddy Diaper Parties are a new way for men to celebrate impending fatherhood. Cancel the cute games, get rid of the cake, and break out a brewski, because a 'Dadchelor' party is all about relaxing and getting in touch with your inner Dad.

Intrigued? Looking for a Dachelor theme? Look no further than a small list of ideas at Survive Parenthood Magazine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Selling your kid's crap for fun and profit

Just posted a new article on Survive Parenthood about selling your kid's stuff. Check it out

Selling your used kid's stuff for fun and profit

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Because a few people have asked how I ended up working from home

I get asked about working at home a lot. I mean, a lot. It seems to be a difficult thing to do, and I will admit to having had my own trials and tribulations with it.

I've been freelancing for over 3 years now, and I can say that I no longer really take jobs anyone from freelance websites, Craigslist, or other online forums. Most jobs have come my way due to referrals or just getting my writing out there.

But, for someone just starting out, I can't recommend freelance sites enough. Even if you just get a few good pieces for your portfolio, it could be worth it to you.

This week, I did a focus piece on working from home and focused on Odesk. Take a peek:

Survive Parenthood Magazine - Work at Home Series

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

After three years of speculation, Casey Anthony is not guilty

Nothing makes me feel more ill than someone hurting their children. Although a jury passed a not guilty verdict today in the Casey Anthony trial, it still remains that she got away free and clear after possibly murdering her child. At the very least, even if the story she concocted about the accidental drowning is true, she is guilty of being one of the most horrendous mothers to walk the planet. There is no way to be impartial when you are reporting such a story, no way to gloss over the fact that justice has diminished the memory of a defenseless 2 year old baby girl.

So what happens to Casey Anthony now? Not much. Check out the Article on Survive Parenthood Magazine.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Roadtrip down the I5 to California, Part Two

And we're on to Part Two of the California road trip saga. I didn't realize I had a several part series in me, but with each day packed with stuff, its easy to continue to ramble on and on about this particular road trip.

Check it out on Survive Parenthood Magazine

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Mini-Van road trip from Canada to California: Destination, Disneyland

Ever since I hatched the insane plan to take four kids (ages 8,7,4, and 1 at the time) on a road trip from Vancouver, BC to Anaheim, California, I wanted to write about it. Its been in the back of my head for almost a year, and like post traumatic stress, certain images are burned into my brain forever.

At this point in time, I am sure that I won't ever do a road trip down the I5 to California again UNLESS it isn't in my mini-van. For all of the virtues of the Pontiac Montana (and there are many, as it has been a reliable vehicle), I would not do it again. In an RV, it could be a possibility.

I'd actually like to do a cross-country comparision of RV to personal vehicle and the differences between the two. The problem? RV's are ridiculously expensive.

For an idea of what it is really like for a Canadian family of six to go on a road trip to Disneyland, see Part One in Survive Parenthood Magazine.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Best animated movies for rainy days

So many of us are waking up in our cold houses lately and weighing the pros and cons of turning the furnace back on.  Like anyone who lives in a climate that is supposed to have seasons, I flat out refuse to give into the need to turn mine back on. Yes, the thermostat says 19 in the house, and yes, I am layering all of the kids all the time, but COME ON weather. Blow yourself up north where you really belong and stay there for at least 3 months.

I hate to look out the window and see the kid's big pool set up in the backyard, all ice cold and waiting for swimmers, or try to answer the questions as to when the weather will get warm and stay warm (Answer: I have no idea. Second Answer: I'm not the weatherman.)

I struggle to find rainy day activities when every single day is a cold and rainy day, so this list from Time's Magazine came at the right moment. Check it out: http://survivemag.com/?p=635

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My kid is excited about Pottermore

I received a news blast this morning about Pottermore, an online world dedicated to making the Harry Potter books come to life. Created by J.K.Rowling and Sony, this website promises to be an ebook gone wild.

My daughter plowed through all 7 Harry Potter books last summer vacation, and she was seriously unhappy when she found out there wouldn't be another book. When your kids is a book worm and not exactly into the movies, the option of a Pottermore is welcome indeed.

You can't access the website right now, but can enter your email address to be notified when registration starts. For more details, see http://survivemag.com/?p=626

Friday, June 17, 2011

What can I say about Father's Day?

As Father's Day is upon us once again, I find it is a time to reflect on the role of Dad. Yes, he is the hanger of curtain rods, the fixer of flat tires, and the leveler of shelves. But he's also so much more.

In honor of Father's Day 2011, I have written a 3 step bit of advice for Dad's everywhere, whether they are new or seasoned (sounds better than old, but I'm not sure if I'd be happy if someone called me seasoned). Take it as you will Dads, but it might just help you out if you are expecting a new baby in the near future or keep your vital organs intact if your wife has just given birth.

3 things not to say to your wife after she's just had your baby - Survive Parenthood Magazine

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What are you going to tell your kids about the Vancouver Riot 2011

Like many in Vancouver, I was glued to my television last night. Not only because of the hockey game, which put a wrench in my heart for the Canucks. No, I was glued to the aftermath. The moment that first car flipped I had a feeling this could get bad, but I had no idea that the stupidity would be so truly out of control.

If I had to have a favorite part, and I use that term loosely, I would say that it was when the TV cameras captured a bunch of idiots in The Bay. One guy in particular had a hammer in his hand and he was talking away on his cell phone. These are people who had no clue they were being taped, but at the same time, did they not care that the public was standing there watching them? Did they feel entitled to those Coach purses, just because the Canucks lost?

News flash people: The Canucks are ashamed of you. Instead of being proud they got this far, you brought shame down upon them. Good job! I'm sure when you woke up this morning with a hangover and puffy eyes from tear gas, you probably thought to yourself, "What the hell was I thinking?"

But its too late for that now.

For some helpful suggestions on how to discuss the Vancouver Riot 2011 with your kids, visit Survive Parenthood

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blogging and the lack thereof

I've been busy lately. I mean, more busy than just having 4 children and a husband who recently had surgery (thus, turning into my 5th child.)  More busy than the usual copywriting jobs, laundry, shuttling the kids back and forth to school and swimming and various birthday parties. Don't forget those year end activities: scrapbook pages, photos, parades. And its been fun, but I've been busy.

I've never felt that my blog captures my writing style or who I am exactly, so because of that I've decided to consolidate and launch an online magazine. I've been working on it for awhile, and am currently just tweaking it and loading content. Anything that I write will go there, and I will link to it from here. 

I'll be doing more app reviews, more investigative articles, and just more writing. And the theme?

Being a mother, who is also a parent, and who, once upon a time, was also someone else that I can't quite remember anymore. Someone who vowed that, after University, I would continue to read Madame Bovery or The Woman in White, just to mentally stimulate my brain. Now, if I tried to read that, I'd be snoring in 5 minutes from pure exhaustion.

I know there are people out there who love their kids, but at the same time, lament the fact that their 20's, or 30's or 40's are cruising by them and their lives are slowly trickling by them. Its a sobering thought, but it is one that I've had many, many times. I sincerely hope that life begins at 40, because if not, I spent the most intellectually creative years of my life peeling potatoes (which I wasn't happy about) and raising kids (which I am very happy about).

I'm writing for people who don't have a ton of time to read online, but want to find what they are looking for in under 10 minutes. Topics that will soon be covered are:
  • Journey to Disneyland: The Insanity of a 6 person road trip down the I5
  • You might be insensitive if....3 things a man should not say to his wife after she has given birth
  • According to my neighbor, these are household chores you should not be doing
Its called Survive Magazine: Because Parenthood can be Preposterous . Coming soon, laundry willing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The double edged sword of technology

I remember the moment so vividly.

I answered my front door to find my husband's friend standing on the steps. In his hand was a bright, shiny, slightly newer iTouch, and he was giving it to me.  Up until that moment, it never occurred to me that a small, thinnish piece of technology would drastically improve my life, but it did. Oh how it did.

I am one of many mothers who managed to survive endless hours of rocking, breastfeeding, and soothing in the dark with nothing to entertain myself but a random thought of dinner or could I possibly sneak out and put her down. I wasn't resentful, I was just lacking entertainment.

When he handed me that iTouch, he opened up a portal to the world. No longer did I have to nurse my 4th baby for hours on end with nothing to stare at but the wall. And don't get me started on the wonders of the app store. I've never been the same since. Mousewait, Huffington Post, Youtube. Bliss.

Of course, I progressed through the ranks of new technology quite quickly after that, and now I have a choice of what to pick up when I want to go and rock the little guy to sleep. Generally I choose my iPhone 4 over my iPad,  just for the fact that its small and easier to hold. I think though, I may be opting for the iPad more often now.

The World Health Association, in a study recently submitted for your consideration, showed that cell phones may be emitting radiation that is the same league as shoving your face near the car exhaust or smoking. This is bad news for anyone as addicted to Smart phones as most of us are. Although they have stated that further study is needed, it is a wake up call for many who have their cell phone attached to their hip.

In a recent article posted on HULIQ, the amount of radiation emitting from various cell phones was analyzed and a list of the best and worst cell phones was compiled:
* Side note: For comparison purposes, the Apple iPhone 4, 8G emits 0.974 and did not make the top 20 for highest amounts of radiation

Cell Phones that Emit the highest amount of radiation

1 Motorola Bravo 1.59
2 Motorola Droid 2 Global 1.58
3 Sony Ericsson Satio (Idou) 1.56
4 Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro 1.55
5 Kyocera Jax S1300 1.55
6 Motorola i335 1.53
7 Nokia Astound 1.53
8 Motorola Defy 1.52
9 Motorola Grasp 1.52
10 ZTE Salute 1.52
11 LG Rumor 2 1.51
12 Motorola Droid 1.49
13 Sanyo Vero 1.49
14 Motorola Droid 2 1.49
15 HTC Desire 1.48
16 LG Chocolate Touch 1.47
17 Motorola Atrix 4G 1.47
18 Kyocera Wild Card M1000 1.46
19 Kyocera X-tc 1.45
20 Motorola i576 1.45

Cell Phones that Emit the lowest-radiation cell phones

1 Samsung Blue Earth 0.196
2 Samsung Infuse 4G 0.2
3 Samsung Acclaim 0.29
4 Samsung Replenish 0.3
5 Huawei Ideos X5 0.34
6 T-Mobile Sidekick 4G 0.34
7 LG Quantum 0.35 8 Samsung Haven 0.41
8 Samsung Evergreen 0.41
9 Samsung Captivate 0.42
10 Samsung Smiley 0.43
11 HTC Surround 0.439
12 Doro PhoneEasy 410 0.445
13 Motorola Devour 0.45
14 Motorola i890 0.45
15 Kyocera Neo E1100 0.479
16 Samsung Contour 0.49
17 HTC Imagio 0.498
18 Motorola Flipside 0.5
19 Samsung Flight SGH-A797 0.505

So how serious is this, and what does it mean for parents who rely on these phones as their main source of communication? There are three things you can do right now to mitigate your exposure to radiation from your cell phone:
  • Use earphones when talking on the phone: Apple ships the iPhone 4 complete with a set of ear buds that work as both ear phones and a headset when driving. Don't hold the headset to your ear when talking, use your ear phones. The possibility of radiation transmission will be lower.
  • Keep the phone away from your body: When in use, put the phone on the seat beside you or on your desk. Don't put it in your pocket. You can actually feel the little black box heating up, which can't be good for radiation risk.
  • Use it for texting and surfing, not talking: Most of us still have home phones, so you don't have to use your cell to talk inside your house. Pick up your home phone and use it whenever possible. The study showed increased radiation when using cell phones for talking, not necessarily texting.
It remains to be seen whether or not the World Health Association will place cell phones in a category along with gasoline fumes and smoking. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to decrease whatever risk may be out there, and that includes putting down the phone once in awhile.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sometimes, you just need to make your own fairytale

I will admit, as I sit amongst my laundry piles, I just watched the highlight reel of the Royal Wedding. Ok, I'll also admit that I watched it twice. And while we are admitting things, I have to say that I am a wee bit jealous.

Of course, we cannot compare lives in any shape or form, but I don't know a woman alive who doesn't want to be a Princess for a day. I know I do. My wedding dress has long since been packed away in a rubbermade container, only to be unearthed someday when my daughter wants to play with it or try it on and discard it for a $5000 version of the same dress. And that's OK. I've had my time, and she'll have hers. But I'm still jealous.

Which brings me to the thought that sometimes, you just have to make your own fairytale. Or, if you can't have the fairytale, settle for doing something nice for yourself whenever possible. I'm not sure what constitutes a happy place for you, but for me it could be one of many scenarios of both small and large proportions:

Have a massive, blow out vow renewal
If you like your husband enough to remarry him, what are you waiting for? Life is short. Plan a party. Whether you want it to be in your backyard or at Disneyland (which is, of course, where I would go), get yourself a pretty dress, a tiara, and a bunch of friends. You'll feel like a Princess, even for the day.

Take a nice vacation to a place where magic happens
Once again, I'd go to Disneyland. I'd slap on my Mouseears, eat in their themed restaurants, and run wild for the day. I may even be persuaded to go to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and get my hair done with my daughter, although I don't know if I can pull off the Cinderella look. You might want to go to a beach somewhere, put on a sarong, and drink MaiTai's while you watch the world go by.

You could do the same thing right in your hometown by renting a limo, going to a nice place, and even wearing high heels. Sometimes, you just have to let loose and get to the heart of your happiness.

Do something nice for yourself
What makes you feel good about yourself? Is it having a bath, uninterrupted by small children who are trying to hop in and share with you? Is it reading a book or going out for a coffee that doesn't taste watered down? For me, if I have to stick close to home, I like walking through book stores. I love walking aisle after aisle of books, and just getting lost in them. It doesn't necessarily make me feel like a Princess, but I feel....content. Do something that makes you feel content.

Yes, it is much easier to give such advice than take it. Even now, as I write this, having a day that would even be 1/1000 as magical as the Royal Wedding seems highly unlikely. But I'll keep dreaming, as I always do, and I hope you will as well.

And in the mean time, I'll watch that highlight reel one more time before I succumb to one more episode of Handy Manny. (Actually, Handy Manny has some serious adult themes. The sexual tension between Manny and Kelly is palpable.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vancouver's Disney Store is now open

Just a quick post to broadcast the news of Vancouver's new Disney Store at Metrotown.

Located on the lower level by the Bay, the store is one of the new concept stores. They have the Princess section with Magic Mirrors, a Cars section with build it yourself remote control cars, and the required pile of Disney plush. The cars section is very similar to RideMakerz in downtown Disneyland, and if you have a RideMakerz car (our boys have one each), you can switch out the shells and convert them to Lightening McQueen or Mater.

My favorite part of the new store is that they sell Vinyls! I've been collecting them slowly off of the Disney Store website, but to have full access to Toy Story, Villians, and the Park series of vinyls? Its almost too much excitement for someone who barely ever gets out of the house. 

The mural on the wall outside of the Vancouver Disney store
As you can see in the picture, there are trees in the store, but these aren't just any ordinary tree. They light up with movies and fireworks at random times throughout the day.

The cast members at the store really try hard to recreate Disney magic. One CM called my daughter "Princess' the entire time she was in the Rapunzel section, and they singled out a small visitor for a special honor complete with fireworks. I do believe that they also have the magical opening in the morning, where the first visitor gets to turn the key in the lock and keep a replica (I haven't seen it for myself, but I know other stores do this).

The Grand Opening is on April 16th at 10 am. Mickey and Minnie will be there in the central court as a meet and greet.  This is one store that you will want to spend an hour in, especially on a rainy day in Vancouver.

I'm a Disney fantatic. For other Disney related articles that I've written, visit Mousewait. Mousewait is the #1 Disney social app that provides you with accurate wait times while visiting the resort.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master

I love poetry. I don't write it very well, but I have memories of creating silly little poems from the time I was five or six. This is before my phase where I was going to be a fashion designer (that one stuck until I was about 19 and realized I couldn't draw or sew).  I never even realized how much I wrote until I found a box of old paper work in some kids things my mom sent out to me. It was a Nike shoe box, and there was horrendous poem after poem in there about heartbreak (my own), boys I liked (I had totally forgotten who they were until I read them, and then I laughed), and even about my cat. 

The best part of that box was that it showed I was always writing. Somehow or another, writing something, anything, has kept me together all of these years. Even if I don't remember writing it. 

Now my kids are into poetry in a small way. Although they were somewhat forced by having to perform a poem they picked for an oratory contest in school, they both really got into it. My son memorized his poem, "Steve the Super Hero" by Ken Nesbitt and did hand actions with it as well. My daughter and I picked this poem by Rudyard Kipling. You may know him for writing The Jungle Book which was the basis for the subsequent Disney movie, but he was also an amazing poet. When she recites this (from memory, I'm so proud), I get teary. Its beautiful. 

Happy rainy Wednesday

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kick depression's butt with Couch to 5K By Felt Tip Inc.

I have never thought of myself as a runner. Or someone who was into exercise for that matter. Sure, I like to ride my road bike around Langley in the Spring, Summer, and Fall, but given the duration (at least an hour) and the difficulty in getting out the door (impossible), I have never ridden as much as I'd like. I always thought that getting fit would happen at some point in my life, but I never knew when nor did I have the motivation to make it happen.

As one gets older, one takes a critical look in the mirror and thinks, "Wow." One then walks away from the mirror feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and in search of the whoopie pies that your daughter was making the other day. It seems easier to stuff our faces for comfort than actually figure a way out of your rut. Well, this winter, I had enough of the rut.

Anyone who lives in Vancouver knows that the rain can be constant. If it isn't raining, its gloomy or about to rain. Sometimes it rains sideways, other times it can be so loud that it sounds as though your roof will come crashing in. Unless you have a gym pass, you don't get out much. This winter, the rain threatened to eat me alive. I was getting so down in the dumps that I knew I either had to see a doctor about depression or get out of the house. I choose to get out of the house.

I downloaded Couch to 5K 8 weeks ago. This is an app for my iPhone that helps you get your fat butt off the couch and begin a running program. I began this program as a way to fill my day, get some exercise, and alleviate the feelings of gloom. I've began running before, only to stop as soon as the shin splints would kick in or my built in lazy gene took over. This time, for whatever reason and most likely due to the app, I managed to keep going.

Couch to 5K takes you through a cycle that breaks you in slowly. You run for 30 seconds, walk for a minute, and so on. Each week you go further and run more. The app mixes up your runs, so that you don't feel bored or expect the same thing day in and day out. With ear phones plugged in, it tells you when to start and stop, and even gives you the option of tweeting your results (I choose not to tweet).

Perhaps it was the challenge. It becomes almost like a game. As each day ticked by and I completed the run, I became really interested in going again. Given the break in pace, I never had shin splints. I can also credit the shoes that I purchased from my husband. Zoot makes a great pair of running shoes. I've never had a pair that comfortable and more suited for my big, flat feet.

I'm on the end of week 7 of the 9 week program, and I can say that I am now well and truly addicted to running. This app makes it so easy to get out there, that even people with fat butts and a plethora of children in tow can do it. I have my three older kids ride their bikes, and I run with my toddler in a Mountain Equipment Coop jogging stroller. I was so determined to get out there and run though, that I was hitting the track with a double stroller and a pissed off baby.

In short, Couch to 5K does exactly what it says it will. It gets you off the couch and turns you into a runner. 8 weeks ago I never thought I would run for 25 minutes without falling over. Now I can do it and still walk after.

Exercising every day has saved my sanity this year. What they say about releasing endorphins is true. If you need a pick me up, get off the couch and go for a run. You won't feel better overnight, but you definitely will feel as though you joined the human race again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Embace your messy self housewives: What you must and must not clean

I am a clean person stuck in a house full of extremely messy people. This is a major source of angst for me.  Why you may ask? Well, for starters, whenever I sit down to work I am surrounded by paper products. Cut out images of Ben 10, pieces of scotch tape stuck to the hardwood, and just today, a piece of gum wedged in the crack of the floor.

And the toys! There are toys EVERYWHERE. Handy Manny's head is somewhere in the corner (I swear I haven't tried to analyze my child for ripping his head off and casually tossing it) , Buzz Lightyear lies face down on his buttons on the couch, causing him to talk and move his head so that it looks like evil is sprouting from the throw pillows. Even the fish tank is not exempt from mess. I fished three toy cars out of it yesterday, although I'm sure the fish were delighted in suddenly acquiring a Hummer.

Amidst such a mess all the time, I can do one of two things.

A.) I can clean all day every day. Pro: My house would be clean. Con: I would spend all day cleaning, and I think cleaning is one of the most soul sucking actions you can perform on a daily basis. Its right up there with constant rain and shopping in Costco on a Saturday. It drains your spirit.

B.) I can clean selectively. Pro: Parts of my house would be clean. Con: I would need to turn a blind eye to the other parts. This requires me to wear ski googles as I walk throughout the house each day. Lucky for me, ski goggles are plentiful in my garage, but they scare the baby who has no idea who I am and frankly, they are itchy.

This leaves me with a conundrum. Obviously I am going to choose Plan B, because I'd rather have a half messy house than have my soul and my passion emptied down the sink along with the drain-o that may or may not dissolve the action figure that my son put down there. But in choosing Plan B, I have to decide what NOT to clean.This list could go on all day, and who has time for such things. Rather than focus on the NOT-cleanables, I will state what you absolutely must clean:
  1. Pets - Creatures that are alive and living in your home must be cleaned. If they need bathing, bathe them. If their litter box stinks to high heaven, clean it out. I never scoop the poop because I always leave it too long. Rather, I take everything in a plastic bag and I dump that crap straight into the garbage can. I also have fish, which I manage to neglect for at least a week longer than I should. Our poor Betta 'Ben 10' looks at me forlornly each morning as he dances for food, so he isn't as easy to ignore as the 40 gallon aquarium. When it gets stanky, I clean it.
  2. Your fridge - It is simple to ignore the fridge. After all, we stuff it with food that will cover up the shelves so we can't see how messy it is. Unfortunately, if you ignore your fridge for too long, the leftovers that you have shoved to the back will start to take on life. And as we've said here today, if it lives you must clean it. Imagine how disgusting it is to find that your toddler cracked an egg that somehow managed to get itself under the fruit crisper. You wrongly blamed the apples, until you discover that you had a colony of something living under the bin. It was a sad day in bacteria history when I wiped that one out.
  3. Your floor - I used to have carpet. When we first moved into the house and everything was brand spanking new, I would vacuum pretty lines into the rug every single day. The vacuum would be plugged up with new carpet fiber, which just made me more determined to keep it sparkling. Flash forward 5 years later, and after potty training two boys who decided that the rug was certainly safer than the actual potty, my carpet was toast. Out it came, to be replaced with pretty hardwood. And now I can't ignore the floor. I invested in a steam mop to make it easier, and I can say that this is the only part of cleaning that I enjoy. That steam mop just makes stains disappear. Its bliss, despite the fact that you can sometime see the tracks of mop around the toys that I leave on the floor.
The key to staying sane when you are a clean person living amongst the mess? Embrace it! Embrace your messy self! Don't beat yourself up (or the others around you) for their inability to keep your house as clean as you'd like it.You can use my mantra if you like:

Do what you can.

And I have a set of ski googles somewhere around here if you want to borrow them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Trademark: 5 minutes to deciding whether Trademarking is for you

My pretty trademark that most likely cost me $2000
If you are a mom (or a dad, parent, what have you) that owns your own business, the thought of trademarking your name will have crossed your mind. You might have seen another competing business using a name similar to yours. Or, you have direct competition that you feel you can dust if only you own the name of your company. Whether your motivation be suing the pants off of a rival that is irritating you or protecting a business name you have rightfully grown, you want a Trademark and you want one now.  Yet I continue to be amazed at the lack of knowledge out there for Trademarking. Judging by the types of questions I am asked, it is clear that many people don't know the differences between a Trademark, Copyright, and Patents.

A trade-mark is a word (or words), a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization.

I'd call this tutorial "Trademarking for Dummies," but the words "For Dummies" is trademarked and I don't want to be sued. (Also see my future article "How to survive being counter-sued", because that happened to me too)

Trademarking is one of the single most misunderstood parts of owning a business. I will never forget receiving an email from a friend who said:

"Hey, can you trademark my name, thanks".
Um, ok. I'm going to need some clarification here.  I emailed back, asking exactly what she meant.

She replied, "You know, copyright it. Let me know when its done. Ok, thanks."

Now for someone who has no idea what obtaining a trademark entails, this may seem like a fairly simple exchange.  But I've been through the ringer of trademarking so to speak, and there are three things you should know right off the bat.

Its expensive: The application to trademark you business name or logo will cost you a minimum of $250 if you submit online. If you submit through another way, such a trademark lawyer or one of the online services, you are looking at anywhere from $300 to $1500 to apply. Once you have been approved, it will cost you another $250 minimum to register it formally. If it does not become approved for whatever reason (someone opposes it, it is too close in name to another registered trademark), you are out your original $250. There is no refund window at the Trademark office.

Its time consuming - Just filling out the application is time consuming. Once you fill out the application, you can expect to wait up to a year for the trademark to be published in the Trademark Journal. If no one opposes your use of the trademark after it is advertised, you will be asked to submit the final registration form. For me, it took three years from start to finish. Some businesses don't even operate for three years, so you should be sure of what your future plans are before filing.

You need to be on the ball to cover everything - You have to be sure you cover all of the contingencies. For example, are you going to be using the name for just your business or a possible line of products? You better have all of the clothes, soaps, baby things, to which you plan on using it covered, or you could be in trouble down the road. For an idea as to what I put on my application, look at the pretty and ultra expensive registered trademark I own: Kidswap

Just like George Costanza, you will succeed if you do the opposite of what I did: Trademark law firms are plentiful online and off. After some research you may feel tempted to just hand over the reins of your application to a firm. I would advise against this, unless you have a lot of money to burn and/or you have a really complicated application. I was royally taken by a Trademark firm which shall remain nameless. This was way back in the day when I didn't realize that every single time a lawyer picks up the phone, it costs you a lot of money. I had called a trademark lawyer for advice at one point. They helped me with my application, and that was all I required. One of the lawyers from the firm took it upon themselves to call me three months later to 'check in'. I thought it was a just a nice chat, until I received a bill in the mail for $800. Avoid trademark firms and save yourself a lot of cash by researching it yourself. 

If you are in the market for a Trademark, I recommend doing some research on Google. You will find many links to companies that will process your trademark for $399, (you know now that the do-it-yourself fee is $250) but you still do all of the work on the application. Steer clear and keep your money in the bank.

If you have more questions, I'm happy to help.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Change a Diaper

If you like funny, check out a new website by some guys at Funny or Die. Its called The Content Farm, and for people who focus on quality writing, its hilarious. It made me laugh even harder, because I recently signed up for Demand Studios. And in the same day, I removed myself from the site. As a freelancer, I keep my options open, so I thought I'd apply and try it out. I also thought it might be fun to write for LiveStrong, because I am an avid road biking enthusiast. Apparently, when writing for demand studios, you need to prove yourself first.  A plethora of subjects for eHow were my only choice, including how to fix a fly wheel on a tractor. Now I am well known for my ability to research, but that one was a bit out of my level of comprehension. Also, I don't want to spend over 4 hours researching something to only make $15.
And so, in honor of The Content Farm and content mills everywhere, here is my take on:

How to Change a Diaper

You don't need a license to have a baby, which is really too bad in many respects. You've weighed the pros and cons of which baby necessities to buy and discovered that the one thing you can't really do without is diapers. Unfortunately for you, you have no idea how to change a diaper. This is how you change a diaper:
  1. Get a hold of a baby: This could be your baby or a borrowed baby. Avoid borrowing babies from people who don't know you are borrowing them. You will end up in jail. Please see my How To article on "How to protect yourself when jailed for kidnapping".
  2. Determine that the current diaper needs changing: A strong indicator of a diaper in need of changing is a:) When it is hanging down in a soggy fashion between the child's legs, or b:) a strong, ripe odor is emitting from said child's current diaper. You may also see a trail of color seeping out of the diaper if you've waited too long or the eruption was particularly volcanic.
  3. Place the child on his or her back: Laying the child down, remove the old diaper and wrap it up with the tabs. You may wish to use a ventilation mask for this step, as the fumes can be strong and overwhelming.
  4. Wipe away the remaining mess: Don't be cheap. Huggies and Pampers sell baby wipes for a reason. Toilet paper will only leave you sticky fingered and dry dabbing. Consider that you will spend much more in antibacterial hand wash if you opt out of baby wipes.
  5. Place the new diaper underneath the child's bottom: At this point, be sure that the tabs are underneath the child's backside and that the diaper is placed the right way. Diaper manufacturers have added colorful characters and artful cartoon displays to the front side of the diaper. They say this is to make the diaper more appealing to children, but let's face it, the kid doesn't care as long as he or she doesn't have poop running down their legs. No, this is sort of a feature for parents, a "Put it on the right way for dummies." Look for the Elmo, he won't steer you wrong.
  6. Secure the tabs: Open one tab and place it over Elmo. Open the other tab and do the same. See, this diaper changing thing is easy.
  7. Sit back and bask in your accomplishment: You will have between 5 minutes to 2 hours before you need to change another diaper. You will begin to feel more confident in your assessment and changing skills as time goes on.
  • Resist the urge to place your face near the child's bottom. You may see others doing this 'sniff test' in order to guage whether or not the child has voided, but it can backfire. See my How To article on how to cleanse fecal matter from your glasses.
  • Always keep a diaper on a newborn baby boy. Their internal sprinkler system is set to high.
  • Be aware of volcanic eruptions that can occur when the child is having their diaper changed. In much the same way that a shift can occur in the earth's tectonic plates, so can a powerful push occur when changing a diaper.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's luck got to do with being a good writer? Pretty much everything

Do you have dreams? I have many different kinds of dreams.

For one, I'd like a small acreage located near where I live now. It should have a house with a wrap around porch and a bench for me to sit on and watch the world go by. It should have a metal gate for keeping the kids in, and a small barn in the back for any animals I may attempt to own. I'd also like a spot for my parents to have a mobile home, just so I could see them more than once every 2 years. The land should have enough room for my husband to grab his excavator and build some dirt jumps for him and the kids.

Yet another dream? I'd like to write a few books and have them published. Nothing crazy. I'm not shooting for the New York best seller list, but to be able to make a decent income doing what I love is a dream of mine. Not only because I have four kids to raise, but because I love writing.

Neither of these dreams are unobtainable. To get the house, I just need to find a job and/or a steady stream of gigs to supplement our current income. Writing the book is a bit harder. I have quite a few ideas, just no time beyond my current family and writing gigs to actually start. I'd also have to say that I'm sort of afraid to go there, but that is an entirely different post.

I've viewed my life as a sort of ladder. Since I've started writing I've taken it one rung at a time. One job led to another, which led to another, and as my confidence in my writing has grown so has my desire to go beyond what I have already accomplished. I've written for some very amazing clients, and I'm happy to continue doing just that. But on another level, I need to take it one step further. In the immortal words of Walt Disney:

A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.

Which leads me to something I have been pondering. What does luck have to do with advancing your writing career? If you asked me, I'd have to say a lot. I read a book once called "Lucky or Smart: Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life" by Bo Peabody. It didn't change my life, but it certainly made me realize that I could be a prolific writer and if no one ever gave me a chance? I could go back to bagging groceries at the local Save On or just really focus on cleaning up after the kids for a change.

Isn't luck really about being in the right place at the right time? No matter if its who you tweet or whether you send in an query to an editor who is just looking for that topic, luck is basically when the Universe aligns and points its big finger at you and says, Today is YOUR DAY!

Yes, you should probably start with a basic talent, but I've seen some severely untalented writers take it to the next level and beyond. Case in point: Perez Hilton. If you look at it in a writing perspective, his success defies the imagination. Yet he is a famous blogger/writer and let's face it, he dresses much better than I do. Lauren Conrad wrote one best selling fiction novel called LA Candy. Her claim to fame? The Hills, an annoying 'reality' show that most likely has given every single girl a complex at one time or another. There are better writers out there, with sharp witted jabs and the ability to make you laugh or cry with the single twist of a synonym, yet they fester in obscurity. Why? The lucky break has not happened for them yet.

What does luck have to do with writing? I'd say everything. I read all of the books/blogs/news I can handle, and I make a point of writing something every single day. At some point or another, if I never receive a lucky break, I'll just be blogging into the abyss.

What do you think?

Friday, January 21, 2011

In the meantime: Getting through your day when you are running on empty

Sometimes, things hit your mailbox or your inbox at the exact right time.

Twice in the past two days, I have been reminded that the universe is guiding me with its large finger and giving me a leg up when I need it. Case in point: This morning, after another long and sleepless night with the 18 month old, I opened up my Today's Parent that arrived yesterday. What do I find? An editorial and article on how parents are dealing with lack of sleep in their houses.  It wasn't about how to get your kid to sleep (let's face it, my kid will sleep through the night when he feels like it and not a moment before. I am projecting he will be 6, like his brother). The article was how they dealt with it in their house. One mother used a 46 inch TV (novel idea, and I don't blame her a bit), another used bottles (she shouldn't feel bad, my daughter was over 4 before I could pry that bottle out of her fingers. Don't tell her dentist).

I admire these women, I truly do. They have been to that dark and lonely place that you can only go to when you get woken up 5 or 6 times a night. Or in my case, 5 times before midnight and awake between 3 am and 5 am. I will admit I have cried on many occasions since my youngest was born. I will admit I cried early this morning. Its nothing to be ashamed of. Not sleeping is hard.

I will continue to make my best effort to get him to sleep, but I have concluded that I won't be sleeping blissfully anytime soon. And as this lack of sleep has affected my parenting, my house (when you see your house through barely open eyes, it really does look cleaner. Go ahead, try it. Squint a little. You'll think Martha Stewart moved in and fixed you right up), and my relationships, I need to muddle through any way I can.

The only thing I feel that was left out of the Today's Parent article was how to get through the day. What I mean is, what are some expert strategies for getting by on a severe lack of sleep? No matter whether you divide your time between kids, carpooling and computer all day like I do, or you have a dedicated 9 to 5 job (plus the above mentioned kids and carpooling), how do you get by on no sleep?

I'm not sleeping, that much is clear. In the meantime, here's how I (and maybe you) can get by:
  •  Coffee: I wrote a blog post once about the different types of coffee that can wake you up. I stand by my research and results, but the key thing I have learned about coffee since then? Don't drink too much. Your ears will start to ache and by 3 pm it will have a counter effect. If your body is feeling like you are shutting down, don't down another cup of coffee. It will only make your head fuzzy, your stomach upset, and perhaps your ears will start bleeding. I haven't discovered whether that is actually happening to me, or if it just really feels that way.
  •  Stick your head outside and get some fresh air. Take ten deep breaths and wait five minutes. This really works. I always feel revived. Perhaps I have no oxygen in my house. 
  • Jump up and down while listening to music. Go all Jane Fonda on yourself. Added bonus: Your kids will think its fun too. When I've been really desperate, I've put on Elvis at top volume and the kids run around screaming. Its hard to be tired and/or crabby when Elvis is on. 
  • Talk on the phone. Get someone on the phone who understands your dilemma and discuss something interesting other than sleeping and your children. Focusing on topics that get your brain working can wake you up, because let's face it, your brain is most likely trained to wonder who made that puddle on the floor and whether you can convince your 5 year old that the same old mac and cheese is actually Buzz Lightyear's space food.
I live in a climate where it rains much of the time. I have a husband who travels for work. I work from home in addition to raising four children. When I don't sleep for 18 months at a time, I'm really scaling a wall in search of some semblance of sanity.

As I've stated, I don't believe I will be sleeping anytime soon, but in the meantime I will continue to use the above mentioned wake up calls and avoid watching Handy Manny. Why? Because when I'm really tired, Mr.Lopart and his fluffy cat really get on my nerves.

Have a Happy Friday

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Real Housewives of the Lower Mainland

Truly, I can say that I have never, ever, watched the Real Housewives of any State. From what I gather, these women are rich (or at least spend money like they are), bored, and potentially unstable. That being said, perhaps they are just really nice people and the producers build up the drama in order to gain ratings. TV brings out the weird in some people.

As a TV veteran (ha ha), I do believe that there should be a show based on wives in the Lower Mainland. Why? Well, why not? I heard there was a show based on a local hair salon. I'm not sure how that could be very exciting. Most of us have the same haircut, and the general consensus is that our flat irons are at least 3 or 4 years old. Not a lot of turn over in the hair department.

The Real Housewives of the Lower Mainland. This could be more dramatic, and have MORE CLEANING. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

Fade In: The room is dim. Lamps are turned on but the light isn't getting through the curtains. That's probably because there isn't that much light trying to get in. The clouds have rolled in and rain is pounding the windows.

Its Monday. 9 am. The room is empty, except for one loan woman bending down over a steam mop. She's struggling to get the cover off, and near her feet is a pile that looks suspiciously grey and foamy. Yup, the cat yakked up a Mouse again, and it was at that specific moment the steam mop decided to give up the ghost. Pan around to the woman beating the steam mop with a ladle, and trying to not look at the pile in fear she will vomit. Does she throw up? Does she end up cleaning it? Tune in to find out!

Fade in: Another living room. This room is filled with white light and furniture, but there are kids running amok through the kitchen and there is laundry in small piles all over the place. The woman is picking up laundry piles and putting them back down again, almost robot like. Just as soon as one pile of laundry is put away, another pile magically appears. Overwhelmed, she puts down the socks and picks up here iPhone.Will the kids get fed? What app is so interesting that it takes her away from her laundry pile?

And so on, and so on. Isn't it riveting? Think of the product placements! Think of the episode where the housewives take all of the kids to Chuckee Cheese and promptly lose their babies in the back kitchens because they are too busy fending off Chuckee as he walks around goosing everyone.

I'd watch this show, even if I wasn't on it! Why? Because at least its real and its easy to relate too.
Or I'd at least help them write it. Maybe I should just buy a good camera and film it myself.

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Update to the portfolio

Anyone who really knows me knows that I love all things Disney. Recently I have begun writing exclusive copy for App316.com, a web development company that creates apps for the iTunes store. Specifically, my copy is being placed on Mousewait.com. Take a peek at my most recent travel articles:

Secrets behind Disneyland Candy Canes
Recapture Christmas Magic at Disneyland

I've never actually been to Disneyland at Christmas, and I enjoyed researching and creating these articles.