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invitation viewmasterI’ve been holding off on writing about the invitations to my twins’ B’nai Mitzvah until they went out. But now that it’s done: Ta da!

These totally original, customized viewmasters were made by Image 3D. I can’t even take credit for the idea, Amy from Chandelier Events told me about it. It’s pretty simple, really: you go online, upload some photos, drag and drop them into place, add some text, and Presto Chango: less than two weeks later you get 100 boxes filled with 100 viewmasters for you to send to your family and friends.

I had a little text placement help from a designer friend at Big Sea Design.com, (plus she designed the center label) but it really is DIY — if you’re not, like me, fontically challenged. (what?  it’s a word!)

And while it’s hard to really tell what they look like from this image, imagine this:  the disks come packaged in a viewmaster, so your guests click through the images, with the text “floating” on top of them, while looking through the viewfinder.

Before choosing these, I went through much agonizing.  Since our party is being held at The American Museum of the Moving Image, the viewmaster theme seemed particularly apropos.  What they didn’t seemm, was low-key.  Quite the opposite.  For advice, I went to – where else – Facebook -  and after weighing the advice and comments from about 30 something friends…. I decided to go for it.

The fact is, these super-cool, clever, and original (if I do say so myself) invitations ended up costing about half of what the paper invitations I had priced cost. Even so, the appearance of over-the-topness bothered me.

Still, in the end, I couldn’t resist.  So these were the winners.  And the response has been pretty phenomenal: from “best invitations evah!”  to “These are the best invitations anyone in my family has ever gottten.  Ever.”  to the simple “This invitation just made my day,” the praise was pretty much universal. (of course, people who hate it and think it’s over the top don’t send you emails to tell you that.  But I’ll go on believing nobody felt that way.  I will.)

I’m starting to think that personalized Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts are the way to go, too. PersonalCreations.com personalizes everything from a baseball bat to a pen and pencil set, to a silver money clip to help keep all those $36 gifts organized.  The only reason they didn’t make it onto my list of Best Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts is because I didn’t know about them.  You can even use this coupon code to save on purchases, if you decide to take my advice and shop there.

But for now – I’m not worrying about anything.  Not gifts,  not the menu, not the fact that I still haven’t hired a florist, less than two months out. (Oy!)

The invites are out.  Let the chasing of RSVPs begin!

Disclosure:  I was compensated for my mention of Personal Creations.com.  As usual, I was given no editorial direction whatsoever, and all opinions are my own.

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Recently, I saw a local news broadcast about “The Hidden Dangers in Your Child’s Cell Phone!!!!!” (Exclamation points, theirs.) The story was about how, when you take a picture from your phone and posts it to a social networking site, the GPS location function of their phone can pinpoint  – for anyone who cares to look – your exact location.

The anchors appeared shocked – simply shocked! They gravely thanked the reporter  for exposing this terrifying fact.

What the story didn’t explain, was that it’s incredibly easy to turn off the Geo-locator function. But I guess,  had they done that, they wouldn’t have had a story.

But what the story did point out to me, is how little people know – or even think about – mobile safety.  Especially parents. (more…)

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A 3 week old swaddled infant

They used to sleep! -- Image via Wikipedia

As I write this, it’s 10:15, and both of my 10 year olds are still awake.  Oh, they’re in bed.  Have been for 45 minutes.  But they’re up. Isn’t there a law, or something about this sort of thing?  Don’t my parental duties – legally speaking – have to end sometime around 9:30? (Barring blood, vomit, or a really, really bad dream, of course.)  I do believe that the parental bill of rights guarantees the mom and dad, after the infant phase is over – at least two hours of quality evening time during which the children sleep calmly in their beds, don’t wander into your bedroom, or call out for water, or another tuck in, or just have one more question they NEEEED to ask.  I read that when I signed on for this gig.  I’m sure  I did.  And if I didn’t – well I should have, and I’m going to petition the parental authorities for my right to at least one or two drama-less, pre-10pm bedtimes per week.  And what with all those conservatives taking over in the midterm elections, I’m sure I could get it passed.

I mean, there oughta be a law!

When my twins were newborns, I got them on a strict sleep schedule: 7:30 bedtime.  They kept that 7:30 bedtime until about second grade, when it became 8:00…and then 8:30 and then 9:00, until sometime during the first half of 5th grade, 10:00 was starting to be pretty normal, and anything earlier than that was a bonus.

How did that happen?

Homework is how.  And sports.  And playdates.  And then before I knew it, my alone time – my time with my husband and NOT my kids – had been reduced to a few glazed-over-after-fighting-about-bedtime minutes before we stumbled, beaten down and demoralized, into bed ourselves.

I’ve tried to take a stand.  I’ve threatened, and cajoled, and gotten into my own bed at 9:15 just to see what would happen.  And you know what happens?  Nothing.

I’m sure we’re just negligent parents.  I’m sure some other, better, parents would still have that 7:30 bedtime. Or at least 8:15.  I’m sure those other parents have children who never forget to put their clothes in the hamper, never have to be reminded to clear their place, and will undoubtedly win Nobel Prizes in physics, literature, and applied math before they’re thirty. But I’m also sure that I don’t know any of those parents…and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.

The truth is,  kids get older and their bedtimes change. Perhaps we’ve changed too fast, but nothing – save parental exhaustion – lasts forever.  And exhaustion while…exhausting, kind of goes with the parenting territory. But like  Sacagewea,(who my daughter happens to be studying at the moment) I’m going to forge ahead, break new ground, liberate myself from the confines of my circumstances.

In other words, I’m giving up.  But I’m also starting a new rule: after 9:30 pm, I’m off duty. (with the blood/vomit/pestilence rule an exception)

Hey, if they’re old enough to stay up so late, they’re old enough to handle to rest of whatever happens post 9:30 themselves.

 

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boy with appleMy daughter came home from school the other day with a very important question: “Why would anyone call a vagina a p***y?”

“Where did you hear that word?” I wanted to know.

“Puberty Ed.”

The fifth graders at my kids’ uber-expensive private school have started what used to be called Sex Ed, but is now called Puberty Ed (evidently, it’s OK to teach the kids the word “p***y” but not to use the word Sex), and a big part of the curriculum, it seems, is telling the names of things.

“We learn the medical term, the slang term, and the vulgar term.”

Well, then.

“You know what else they call it, Mommy?  A c***! And did you know that the F-word means sex?”

That’s it! Too much for me!

I’m all for sex ed.  I wrote a post a while back about not telling my kids the facts of life because I didn’t think they were ready to hear them.  But when they were old enough,(for them, that was age 9), I did tell them. I’m not a prude, or squeamish about the subject. I want my kids – my daughter especially – to feel comfortable with their own sexuality.  I want them not to think of sex as dirty or shameful.  What I don’t want, is for them to be learning the words p**** and c*** in school.  From their teachers.

Here’s how it works: the teachers explain the “real” words for the reproductive and sexual organs, the sexual act and various and sundry other words having to do with puberty.  Then they ask the kids what words they know.  And it turns out, they know A LOT of words.

I know that I can’t protect my kids from foul language forever.  And maybe it is better for them to learn the words in a safe environment, where they can understand how they’re different from the “real” words, and why they shouldn’t be used.  But maybe not.  Maybe learning those words in school somehow validates the words themselves.  I think the theory is that letting the kids say the words in a controlled, monitored classroom environment takes away their clandestine thrill. But I’m wondering if all it does is teach them bad words.

I like that school has taught my ten year olds what’s about to happen to their bodies.  I like that the whole process of how babies are made has been de-mystified and de-giggle-fied for them.  But language is a powerful thing.  Words matter.  They don’t teach them bad grammar so they know what good grammar is. They don’t learn the N-word during Black History Month,  or the K-word during the unit on the Holocaust.  Teaching words like those – and like the ones my kids learned at school this week – only perpetuates their use.

It might be naïve to think that simply by not teaching kids bad, demeaning, prejudicial or offensive language that language will just go away.  But wouldn’t it be a nice goal? Wouldn’t it be nice to try?

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Not Me. Not my kid. But look! She’s a mom!

Here’s something I’ve noticed at Mom Blogger events: to most PR companies, “Mom” means “mother of a baby.”  At most Mom-Blog events, all of the products are geared towards babies.  It was such a relief at Blissdom this past weekend, to see Unilever there with a campaign geared toward tweens – Don’t Fret the Sweat.  It was a deodorant campaign, true.  Not exactly sexy, but at least it acknowledged that not all moms have babies.  My kids are loooong out of diapers, and I’m still a mother. Really, I am.

It’s odd that this “all moms are baby-moms” thing bothers me, given that it also bothers me that companies pigeon-hole me as a Mommy Blogger in the first place, even though I almost never write about my kids. I think it’s because assuming that every mom in the universe needs a diaper bag demeans all mothers.  Let me explain.

How many of you stay at home Moms with school age children have been asked “What do you do all day?”  As if, once your children are gone from the house for a few hours a day, you’re home free.  Well, I’ll tell you what we  do all day: a lot. We keep the house in order, we do the grocery shopping, we get the kids to school, and to their dance classes, and basketball games, and playdates, and piano lessons.  Then we get them home and feed them dinner (that we cooked) and  help them with their homework.  We wait for the plumber.  We do the laundry. We remember to send Grandma a birthday card.  We volunteer at school.  Oh, and a lot of us also write blogs, keep up with friends online and through Twitter, and manage relationships with brands and sponsors to bring in a little extra cash.

That’s what we do all day.

But somehow, the world has once again conspired to minimize what we do.  When your children are diaper-aged, they patronize you by assuming that all you are is a bottle feeding, diaper changing, spit-up stained cliche. But at least they recognize you, that you’re doing something.  The world at large knows (or at least thinks they know) who you are. And then, when your children are at school, they suddenly assume you are….what?  Not a mother anymore? Just some person filling up their days with talk shows, lunches and vacuum cleaners? It’s as if, once the baby stage is over, they have no idea what to make of us. As if being a mother to babies was the sole defining aspect of our identities, and once those babies are grown, we no longer exist. I don’t like either side: being solely defined by my motherhood, or having motherhood – an essential part of my identity – discounted.

Motherhood is motherhood at any stage.

And if that’s not enough of a reason for PR companies and marketers to think twice about me, how about this:  the tween market is huge.  Look at this from MSN:

Twenty million strong nationwide, tweens — kids ages 8 to 14 (…) — now flex $43 billion worth of annual spending power,

So even if you think that moms of school aged kids sit around and eat bon bons all day, you should also know that we have access to those coveted Tweens.  That those tweens are still young enough to care what we have to say. And that all of those tweens have parents who care what we have to say, too.

Motherhood is hard enough – just read this post -  without feeling like you have to defend it simply because your children have grown up a little.  What would you rather?  That we kill off our young and make new babies every two years, just so you know how to categorize us? We are no less mothers than women who have young babies. (who, by the way, will also grow into school aged children.  Go figure.) Once a mother, always a mother.  And motherhood no more defines a woman when her children are babies than it does when they are adults.

I am woman. I am writer. I am blogger. Sister. Daughter. Wife. Business Woman. Friend. And yes, mother.

I will not be categorized or pigeon holed. Get used to it.

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Pirate cutout Not too long ago, I went on a cleaning binge.  One of the things I threw out was a poster-sized blow up of a picture of me from my wedding.  My husband had blown up pictures from several different stages of my life to decorate the room in which he threw me a surprise 40th birthday party.  The party now being mymble-farrumph years ago, it seemed time to toss the giant blow up of my face.

The porter in our building, however, didn’t see it that way.  He could not throw it away.  First, he brought it back to our door. “You must have thrown this out by mistake,’ he said, handing it back to me. I assured him that, no, I just didn’t really want a giant blown up picture of myself.  Still, he couldn’t throw it away.  It just seemed wrong to him, he said. It was my wedding picture.  He kept it in the building’s staff room for months until one of the other doormen finally got tired of looking at me, and threw it away himself.

And now, as my parents contemplate selling their country home, and I go about cleaning out the rooms in which my children have spent every summer since they were born, (and my family has spent every summer for the past 25 years) I know just how he felt.  I don’t really WANT  four hundred and ninety-seven scribbles drawings from my twins’ second summer at the house, but somehow, it seems wrong to throw them away.

Let me first say, I am not a hoarder.  And not: I am not a hoarder in the creepy “yes I really am a hoarder I’m just so far gone that I don’t know it” way that the real hoarders on that A&E show mean it.  I’m really not.

Two or three times a year, I have my kids go through their toys and saved school work, and together, we do “keep or throw.”  We’ve gotten rid of LOTS of things that way.  And given away a lot, too. “Throw,” more often than not mean “give away.”  My wardrobe is in constant overhaul mode.  Anything I haven’t worn in two years is OUT. I regularly go through the medicine cabinet and toss anything that’s out of date. Getting rid of things is not the problem.

It’s just getting rid of these things.

There’s the pink bathing suit and coverup set my daughter wore the summer she was two.  I’ll never forget her strolling onto the patio with it on and then carefully taking off the robe, thinking for a moment, then taking off the bathing suit, and finaly heading into the bow-up kiddie pool.

I know I’ll always have the memory.  But I kinda want to have the suit, too.

Or what about the endless paintings my kids did in their summer at the Parrish Museum Art Camp.  This being The Hamptons, my then five year olds didn’t just paint, oh no, they went to visit Jackson Pollack’s house, and then went back to camp and made paintings inspired by his work. Seriously.

I can’t throw those away.

There are the “Welcome Home Daddy” signs they made, and then took to the train station, where they stood on the platform, he in his pirate costume, she in her tutu,(that’s them in the picture) waiting for Daddy to come out to country after working all week in the city.

There are finger paintings, and birdhouses, and bath toys, and doll strollers.

And it all brings back so much that I can’t bring myself to give it away.

Of course I know it’s ridiculous.  I know I can’t hold on to their babyhood forever.  But maybe, just maybe, I can hold on to the physical evidence of their babyhood just a little bit longer.  And maybe then, if I’m really lucky, they’ll stay my babies a little bit longer too.

Original Post to NYC Moms Blog.

Nancy Friedman write about momming, aging, and her 20 year quest to lose same ten pounds, at From  Hip to Housewife.

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So sleepaway camp was supposed to be for four weeks.

Four weeks of no tooth brushing, rare showering, mediocre (at best) food, and fun fun fun.   For them. I’m talking about them.

For me, those four weeks went almost exactly the way a friend of mine told me they would:

week 1 – I was tearing up every time I walked past their picture

week 2 – still sad, but feeling better

week 3 – starting to enjoy my freedom

week 4 – Whoo hoo!  Party!  And the end is in sight! My babies are coming home!

Only they didn’t.  Come home, that is.  They begged and begged almost from the first day they got to camp to stay the full season: seven weeks.  And I said no and no and no and no.  I want them with me.  I want to have a summer vacation with my kids.  I want to watch their tennis improve – not just hear about it. I want to serve them mediocre food.

And then I noticed something.  All of my reasons for not wanting them to stay started with “I.”  And camp isn’t about me, it’s about them. Plus, my husband was perfectly OK with them staying.

So I said yes. And we drove up there for visiting day and got to see them.  It was great.  Only now I have to start all over again…

Week One…..

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In fourteen days, my kids will leave for sleepaway camp.  You’d think I’d be excited.  They are going to have this incredible experience, make lifelong friends, enjoy the mountains, and a lake, and the camaraderie that’s practically exclusive to being at camp.

You’d think I’d be looking forward to having some time alone with my husband.  To enjoying evenings out without worrying about a babysitter. To getting to read the paper on the actual day it comes out. (Most of my news comes to me in the back seat of a cab!) To not having to say “brush your teeth, have you had a shower lately” or “how did a cream cheese sandwich end up under your bed?”

Well, I’m not doing that. Me, being me after all, well all I’m doing is bursting into tears every five minutes.

I guess I’m selfish.  I don’t want them to leave me.  My husband keeps on telling me that they’ll be fine.  I know they‘ll be fine.  They’ll be great.  I’m the one I’m worried about.  Since I have twins, they’re both leaving me at once.  And so, being me again, I start to think about when they’ll leave me emotionally – when they both start to care way more about their friends then they do about me – at the same time. I think about when they’ll leave me intellectually, when they’ll both start to think they know everything and their father and I know nothing — at the same time.  When they’ll  leave me  physically to go to college — at the same time.

At the same time – I’m happy for them.  I am. I loved camp and I know they will too.  I’m just sad for me.  Because it isn’t just that they’re leaving for camp.  It’s that they’re old enough to leave for camp.  It’s that this is just the beginning of them really, truly becoming independent and separating from me.  Which is healthy, and wonderful, and what a parent hopes their child will do.

And kind of wishes will never happen.

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At the end of every day, I feel like I have done nothing. Oh I’ve been busy all right. But doing what? So one day last week, I decided to keep track of my day — how could I have been so busy during all those hours when the kids were at school and have nothing to show for it?

Here’s how.

6:50 am – Wake up. Stumble into bathroom. Throw on workout clothes. (It’s a fact that just wearing the clothes confers exercise points, whether or not you make it to the gym.

7-7:35 am – Say “get dressed, brush your teeth, eat your breakfast” over and over and over and over as if it were a mantra, instead of just a daily battle to get the kids out of the house.

7:35-7:45 Walk kids to bus, realize we are late. Run to bus. Marvel at how, once again, neither of my children has seen fit even to say goodbye before getting on the school bus.

7:45-8:30 Walk dog. See? That’s exercise….ish.

8:30-8:45 Shower/Dress

8:45-9 Coffee, breakfast, email. Multi tasking is my friend. Except when I spill my coffee on my computer as I email. Then mulit-tasking is a multi cursing, multi-hours on the phone with customer service enemy.

9-10:30 Do breakfast dishes. (yes, email takes priority over dishes in the sink.) Make beds, straighten up. Notice the kitchen floor feels sticky. Don’t want to know why – just mop it. Ditto for the Dining Room, which needs sweeping and mopping.

10:30-11:15 Get Fresh Direct delivery. Open up pantry to put everything away, and nearly get killed in the avalanche of cereal boxes, pretzel bags, and precariously balanced cans of Organic canned tomatoes that falls on my head. Re-organize pantry. Find food I probably should have thrown away in 2007.

11:15-12:15 Research our next vacation: Africa. Ok, I admit, this is the fun part. A bit overwhelming, perhaps, but fun. We are going on a big trip for my husband’s 50th birthday, and I’m responsible for putting it all together. The number of companies offering Safaris is astounding. And each one looks better than the last. Hey, somebody’s gotta do it.

12:30-1:30 I forgot to mention that during the entire day, I’ve been short of breath. Seems my lovely swine flu/pneumonia experience has left my lungs a little less than perfect. Spend this hour at the Dr.’s office taking a lung capacity test, reading ancient magazines in the waiting room (I think I saw an advertisement for that food I should have thrown away in 2007!), and being handed a handful of prescriptions. Fun Fun Fun.

1:30-2:15 Walk the dog again. Take him to the Pet Store to buy more poop bags and more training treats. Use said poop bags on the way to the pharmacy with the dog to pick up my prescriptions.

2:15-2:30 realize I haven’t had lunch. Eat, standing up in front of the refrigerator: a tangerine, a hunk of cheddar cheese on a piece of leftover Challah, and a chicken leg.

2:30-3:00 Receive package with new bedding for my bedroom.( Note to readers: do not get new bedding just before getting a new puppy. Your new bedding will instantly become old bedding, and you will need to get new new bedding way too soon.) Take dog stained and chewed old-new-bedding off the bed, replace with new/new bedding. Spend at least seven minutes trying to figure out if it’s worth saving old-new bedding, and if so, where I can store it. Decide to toss it. Dog pee and puppy-teeth sized holes just don’t say “sleep comfortably” to me. Call me crazy.

Hey look! It’s 3:00 already. Time to get the kids, start dinner, help them do their homework (the evening mantra: sit down and do your homework/sit down and do your homework, sit down and…), etc. etc. etc. See how busy my day was? And see how much nothing I did? A lot of nothing. Plenty of nothing. And after a day like that, I’m not so sure that nothing is plenty for me.

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Yes, it’s true!  I am just that fabulous!  So fabulous that I have been awarded not one but TWO blog awards in the past few weeks.

The first is The Sunshine Award and it comes from Dawn at Dawning@blogspot.com, and I have to admit, this one means a lot.  Why? Let me count the ways:

1. Dawn is FUNNY, smart, witty, thoughtful and self-deprecating just like me.

2. Dawn is inspiring and prolific — she writes and posts A LOT plus she works a regular job and has kids and a husband, and well, I don’t know how she does it.

3. I do not know Dawn, and have never met Dawn.  She is my first ever blog-only friend.  So you gotta think she awarded it to me because she likes my blog, and not just to be nice. Yay me.  Even more yay her.

3. A condition of the award is that I list 12 bloggers I’d like to give the award to.  And since I’m not all that blog-savvy, that’s made me really troll around the web to find blogs I like. Fun.

The second award, The Kreativ Blogger Award, comes from Tracy Beckerman at Lost in Suburbia.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Tracy thinks I’m fabu…but she’s also a friend.  So she mighta just done it to be nice.  Still, it’s meaningful in a different way:  she likes my blog…and me! Plus, Tracy is busy busy busy — nice she took the time.  She has TV appearances, and a nationally syndicated column, and a blog, and a husband, and two kids, and and and and and.

This award comes with the responsibility to pass it along to seven other bloggers, and to tell viewers seven things they don’t know about me.

So here goes:

1. I used to be a Bar Mitzvah band singer.  In Paris.  Yes, it’s true.  I sang “Material Girl” to banquet halls filled with Parisian teenagers back in the 80′s. Glamourous, no?

2. I do not like chocolate.  Now, this is one of those weird ones you don’t want to admit.  People think I’m some sort of freak!  Who doesn’t like chocolate? Me, that’s who.  And before you go on about how lucky I am that I don’t eat chocolate, read the next thing you don’t know about me…

3. I once ate an entire Roast Chicken in one afternoon.  You know, it was in the fridge, I picked at it once, and once more, and twice more after that, and before I knew it: carcass.  That’s all that was left.

4. My drawing skills are only slightly better than your average five year old’s.  And significantly less good than those of a talented five year old.  I have trouble drawing a decent stick figure.

5.  I am shrinking.  Sad, but true.  See, I’ve weighed about the same since I was about 20 years old.  But I’m fatter.  Why?  Because I used to be 5′ 7″, and now I’m 5′ 6″.  I’m not even 45 yet!!!  At this rate, I’ll be a munchkin by the time I’m sixty.  A fat munchkin.

6. When I was five years old, my aunt had my twin cousins.  I told her I was going to have twins one day too.  And I did. (so did one of her twins, just a few months ago!  And our grandmother was a twin.  Think it might run in the family or something?)

7. Even though my boobs are gi-normous, I had breast reduction surgery when I was 18 years old.  Which means that had I not done that, they would be gargantuan. Wait – which is bigger?  gi-normous, or gargantuan? How about we just say they were Gi-gantuan and now they’re Gi-normantuan?

And now for the bloggers I just know you should read:

1.New York City Single Mom – because it’s amazing that you can be a good mom, and massively productive blogger, funny and fun all at the same time.

2. The Traveling Mom Blog – OK, I know I write for this blog, but the truth is, a lot of the bloggers there are way better than I am, and know A LOT about the best ways, places, and tips you need to know before you go anywhere with your kids.

3. Selfish Mom.  Funny. Honest. Read her.

4. Prime Time Parenting – by Esti Berkowitz.  Because honestly, I never thought that becoming an observant Jew could be so funny!

5. Role Mommy: The Blog.  Role Mommy has a lot going on: the blog, the events, Role Mommy University.  And the blog there is a nice mix of personal funny stuff and useful stuff and giveaways.

6. That Girl Blogs – sooooo funny.  Half the stuff she writes I wish I wrote.

7. Houzz – Because good design is, well, really, really good.  You know you can’t possibly achieve it.  But it’s nice to dream.

8. The Mummy Chronicles – an honest account of post-partum depresssion…that is sometimes also hilarious.  Nice to know we can laugh at ourselves.

9. Peas and Bananas – because why should the Mommies get all the love.  The Dad bloggers are funny, too.  Plus, they’re not going to show up at BlogHer wearing the same thing you are.

And now for the tough part — both awards dictate that I pass along the love.  Which I am SOOOO very happy to do.  But how?  Do I give both awards to everyone? Seems odd.   How about this?  To Dawn, at Dawning I award the Kreativ Blogger award.  Because she’s, well, creative.  Plus, I’m all about passing that good karma around and right back at you.  To Tracy, I award the Sunshine Blog Award.  Because,  well, she’s funny and I like the way she writes.

The other blogs?  Well, since I love you so much, I’ll let you decide. Pick one award, pick two.  Just know that I picked you all because you deserve it!

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