Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Road Trip! (my Travel Tips)

Just truned 3, Vivienne already a travel pro ...
Being married to a person from France, travel will always be a part of our life.  By the time Vivienne was 2 1/2 she had flown to France twice, Portland, Atlanta and Los Angeles from San Francisco.  Her first trip, and my first trip with a baby occurred when she was 8 weeks when she and I flew alone to France.  The pediatrician told me at 8 weeks it would be the easiest time I ever traveled with a child.  Now that she is almost four, I know he was right!

As she got older, and I had more kids to deal with, I got more and more travel savvy with the help of many friends and family who offered their tips for a trip as successful and painless as you can hope for.

This past weekend, my travel skills were tested with a road trip to Los Angeles with the three girls and my mom.  It was going to be a quick trip for my nephew's 4th birthday.  Down and back in three days.

First things first.  The best tip I got was from a good friend who told me to pack a bag of small "treats" for each kid to be given out along the way.  Small toys / books, you know the $1 - $3 stuff.
GREAT travel toy!  No mess!!
The etch a sketch was a huge hit on all of our trips.  From 18 mos on, the girls love using it.  This trip my mom also brought little chalk boards.  Vivienne used hers for a long time.  We had an IPad, IPhone, a lot of books and another must - tons of food.
Another great travel activity ... coloring fun no mess!!

Car travel is different than air travel in that when a little one gets antsy, there is no getting up and walking around.  You have to stop.  This is where the patience of those adults on the trip is tested.
I went to school in LA & have made many road trips to and from San Francisco.  I had the trip down to 5 hours, with one stop for gas.  This trip, it took 7 1/2 hours each way.

I did some research on "kid friendly" stops, and really couldn't find much for our route, until you get to the base of the grapevine.  There is a blog called  which has a bunch of travel tips.  I discovered that 1 1/2 - 2 hours was the maximum amount of time we could go before someone lost it.  Our first stop was in Santa Nella.  You know, Anderson's Pea Soup.  Perfect timing for a pit stop   especially when dealing with a 4 year olds bladder.   We didn't stop to eat.  I am not a fan of sitting in a restaurant on a road trip.  I am not a fan of going to a sit down resatuant w/ three kids under 4 at any time, but espcially when the point of a pit stop is to get that energy out.  Anderson's has a huge, clean bathroom.  Nice diaper changing table.  There is also a toy / candy shop when you walk in, so beware of that.  My girls are good with playing with all of the fun stuff but don't throw fits when we walk out with nothing.  I usually say oh you want that?  Pick it up & then when they look at the other thing they "have to have" I put the first toy down.  There is a little grassy area with a photo op (cut out of people making soup) for a fun excuse to run around.

Back in the car for another hour and a half.  My kids who normally sleep in cars (especially the baby) were WIDE awake for this trip.  I am so glad I had my mom to switch out books, pass back snacks and retrieve the numerous "lost" pacifiers.  Our next stop was one of the multiple exits that boasts a McDonalds.  Now, we had packed so much food there was no need to stop for lunch, but it was time to fill the gas tank.  I took the opportunity to get two Happy Meals (for the toys) and use the restroom.  So many of these stops there is no where to have the kids run around, and two of the rest stops were closed.  

Naps came about an hour after that stop and the rest of the trip was about as uneventful as we could have hoped.  

The trip back proved to be much more, shall we say, eventful.  

Leaving LA (near Ontario) at 9:30, we hit a little LA traffic.  We stopped an hour later in Ventura to get gas.  Coco & Audrey were out.  I had hoped to stop on the other side of the grapevine.  I have heard that there is a great park w/ picnic tables and large areas to run around.  I was not about to wake the kids though!!

We stopped in Buttonwillow for lunch.  It was now 12:30 and we needed a break.  Again, I opted for the McDonald's ... in hopes the toy could buy 30 minutes of "good kids".  The McD's here has a small grass area in front & we played red light / green light for about 10 minutes to encourage the girls to run.   Our next stop, 2:00 Harris Ranch.  We didn't stop to eat, but to play in the courtyard.  They have a huge fountain as well as tables and chairs to sit.  It is well shaded and a nice little place to rest.  Also, for other people the gift shop ;) Nice clean bathrooms too.

ok w/ Coco who went into a massive 2 year old tantrum.  We tried everything we could w/ out stopping.  45 minutes later I whipped out the benadrill, and 15 minutes later ... she was still screaming.  We pulled the car over, my mom (no, she didn't want me.) held her for about 5 minutes while she calmed down.   I got into the drivers seat and away we went.

Along this route there is a neat radio station that plays song from the 40's & 50's.  1330 FM.  Talk about kid friendly radio!  It is fun to hear the songs too.

We arrived back into Concord at 5:30 pm.  400 miles, 8 hours ... I survived.  I think it is kind of like childbirth, you just have to get through it & then you forget how bad it was so you'll want to do it again. I really should have plotted out the rest stops, and will do that next time!  My mom brain totally spaced on those.  Now, your turn.  I would love to hear your travel tips!  What worked for you?  Any must have travel items?  Let me know!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Children's Place Model!

Here it is!  The moment every parent who has a child that works as a model waits for.  The release of the ad.  This is for Children's Place and is part of their Fall 2011 line, under the baby girl / Garden Girl online.

Once your child is selected for a shoot, there are still a lot of factors that come into play before the actual ad featuring your child is released to the public.  Until that day, I am still on pins and needles wondering if the picture will even appear, and if it does curious to see what it will look like.

When a shoot is taking place, there are a lot more people there "behind the camera" than just the photographer.  I have seen as many as 8 - 10.  There is also a monitor which will show the pictures as they are being taken.  These pictures are monitored by several of the people.  These people represent the photographer, client (company) and at times a parent (who is just curious).  Everyone is looking for something that will say, "We've got the shot!"  Even though that is said, "the shot" they pick out at that moment can easily make it to the cutting room floor.

I have now realized that it is better that I not be anywhere that Vivienne can see me while she has her picture taken.  So, it is with even more anticipation that I wait for the adds.  I don't know anything more than what she was wearing.

We have had ads come out where Vivienne was the baby in the background with her back to the camera.   The first ad she did they swapped out babies and it wasn't until it printed that the parents knew which kids would be in the catalog.  When she worked for Mervyns, we were kept on set while she napped (for two hours!) so she could shoot for the cover of their ad.  When the day came for it to be released, I discovered that the whole ad campaign as it was described at the shoot was nonexistent.  It was suppose to be all about babies, with over 10 babies shooting.  None of the pictures printed.  (They announced bankruptcy several weeks later.)

When you are at the shoot you are given a general release date for the ad.  It is up to you to find it as I have yet to have a company send me anything or let the agent know it is out.  Parents scramble for newspaper ads, or as I did for this one, check online every day for the last two weeks.  We were told the pictures would come out in mid-June.  Vivienne's agent sent this to me today.  What a fun email to get!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Photography Tips

I love this picture ... but it didn't work for the portfolio.
As a mom who HAS to take my childrens' pictures often for their portfolios I love seeing tips on how the professionals do it.  I am getting better, but it is a challenge for me.  I am not a "photographer".  For every 10 pictures I submit to my girls' agent for approval I am ecstatic if she pics one.
Can you believe this one didn't make the cut?  Ok, maybe the hair is a little crazy ...

I found this link, and thought I'd share it for all of you out there who are also trying to capture those special moments.

Photography Tips from Marcy Maloy via Le Top

Happy reading & happy shooting!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is it September yet?

This is what summer is suppose to be like!

Two weeks ago, I had such high hopes for my first "summer vacation" as a parent.  In my mind it would be two and a half months filled with adventures, art projects, cooking and play dates and just all around F U N.

It has been two weeks, and I am thinking that September can't get here fast enough.  As I sit and type this, I am on the floor upstairs on guard between the two bedrooms.  Coco (2) is screaming.  She has become an escape artist these last two weeks, getting out of her crib at least 5 - 10 times a night before she falls asleep.  Vivienne (almost 4) is just waiting for her moment to sneak into Coco & Audrey's room to "entice" Coco to escape, then run back into her bed and pretend it was all Coco's idea.  Audrey is trying to sleep, but if Coco does get out she will start screaming.

Other happenings since this "glorious" thing called summer vacation has started?  No naps.  The two oldest have revolted.  Up until two weeks ago we would get home from picking Vivienne up, eat lunch & then it was off to naps.  Usually two hour stretches ... oh the things I accomplished with two out of three (and sometimes even all three!) napping.  Speaking of sleep reduction ... did I mention bed time still being 8:00 has stayed but sleep doesn't come until 9:00 or 9:30???  As all of you moms know, yes, they are still up at 6:30.

What else?  The girls are fighting more, crying more, and having more tantrums.  (I guess I can be considered one of the girls too for this example.)  The house is a mess (more than usual) and I can't keep up.  I am so tired at night I am REALLY behind in all things household.

Ok - now (9:02 pm) Vivienne is yelling because Coco's crying is keeping her awake & Audrey has joined in the crying ... I just had to put Coco back in bed.  I laid Audrey back down (she was standing up) and she LAUGHED at me.  My 10 month old laughed at me. ... now she is back to screaming, Coco is yelling Maahhhhmmmeeee ...

I am just feeling lost, dazed and a bit confused.   Who are these kids and do they really have no school for 10 more weeks?   I am about ready to find a summer school ... any school and put them in.  I think in reality, though, what I need is to be more organized.  It is now 100% up to me to determine the routine and schedule.  I don't have to be anywhere every day.  I think they are feeling a little lost too.  They went from seeing their friends every day to ... well, hanging out w/ each other and me.   I think I need to regroup and go with my original plan.  A lot of parks, play dates, and weekly day trips.  Get myself out of the house in the process.  Set it up with a schedule, like school, we have to be at the park by 9:00 am for example.  I did join a gym which has childcare.  A friend and I have committed to trying to go together, so I have that going on too (subject for a future post!).

I would love to hear what your stratagies are?  Moms who have been doing this summer vacation thing for a while?  Give me & others your tips!  What did you find really worked?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

There's a giraffe in our yard!

My oldest daughter is almost 4.  About 3 months ago (or so I can't keep track of time to save my life!) she really started having a wonderful imagination.  Not just pretend play with dolls or her kitchen, she has been doing that much longer.  No, this is the imagination of monsters in the closets, imaginary friends, and for three weeks now, a giraffe in our back yard.  Specifically on our back steps.
The other day it was the giraffe's birthday so she made him a special treat.   This is the step where the giraffe is located.  Every time Vivienne walks in or out of the house she will walk "around" him and say "Excuse me giraffe."  (What a polite girl!)

The closet crafty person in me (or not so closet I guess ..) is always looking for an excuse for a project.  So I asked Vivienne if we should make a giraffe?  She said yes!  So I figured I would try and make one out of chicken wire.  I got the idea from Anthropologie.  It is a women's clothing / home store with legendary displays.  I have spend hours in awe of the visual design departments creativity.  Two years ago they made polar bears out of chicken wire & plastic bags.  I found a link on this blog ...


I've been itching to do something out of chicken wire ever since then.  

I started with a sketch.  Now, drawing is not a strong point of mine but I did find a step by step tutorial that gave accurate ratios.  Here is the result.  (I must admit, I was impressed with myself!)

Next was the chicken wire sculpture ... It really didn't take too long, about an hour or so.  I still need to figure out what to cover it with so it will stand up.   I cut and twisted to my hearts content.  I really do love being creative.  Vivienne reminded me the tongue needed to be blue.  That is a step we'll have to figure out later.

He turned out about 6 1/2 feet tall.
Here is the outline with the chicken wire.  Now I have to figure out what to cover him with, and weight him down so he can stand on his own.  Anyone have ideas?

Oh, and if you are wondering.  Vivienne's response to the giraffe.  "I like it mom, can you make a pig too?"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Reflections

Here it is .  Father's Day.  A day we celebrate all things good about dads.  The last four years, Father's Day has taken on a new dimension for me in that I not only celebrate my father but also get to celebrate my husband, the father of my three girls.

Growing up, my dad and I had our challenges.  I am the oldest, and I think, the most like my dad in personality.  He is a Taurus, I am a Leo (we are both strong willed, stubborn people.).  One of my favorite childhood memories is my dad pulling me out of school in the 4th or 5th grade to take me to an Oakland A's baseball game.  Just the two of us.  When we got to the game, we ate anything I wanted: hot dogs, fries, nachos, and soda.  I think a chocolate malt was in there too as well as some peanuts and crackerjacks.  He was at every ice skating competition, piano recital, cheer leading event, and band review.  There was, however, a father daughter "intimacy" that was often missing.  He worked very hard for our family.  He would come home from work and relax, but in doing that emotionally distance himself from me, or so I felt.  I remember LONGING to share my day with him and being told that he was busy watching the news.   As a child, I felt that if the TV was on, I was not important.  I don't know if it was just a part of my teen years, or what it was but the emotional bond deteriorated and I remember having this longing for a relationship that I didn't have.  I found it in a guy, who ended up being my first husband.  Let's just say ... it wasn't a good relationship.

After a LOT of emotional healing and a LOT of growing up ... something about turning 30 ...  I was open for finding the man of my dreams who would become the father of my three girls.

I have read about how influential a father is especially on his girls.  I believe it 100%.  I believe that girls need a strong male influence that, especially when those hormones hit, is there to offer them love and an emotional bond that is in no way sexual.  He teaches them, and shows them the kind of man they should choose for their husband.

As I am writing this I am watching my husband with Coco.  When he is home, his attention is on them.  He doesn't shy away from diapers, bottles or tantrums.  Even the nights of "I WANT MOMMYYYYY"  don't detour him from doing the bath / bedtime routine so I can have a break.  I am so blessed, and so are my girls.  He ohh and ahhs over paintings, wears the plastic beaded bracelets, and overall just plays with them.  Let me tell you ... as a mom, there is no more joy for me than seeing him interact with them.

The relationship with my own father is so much better now too.  I think it is because I have grown up, and he has changed too.

So here's to Father Day.  Here's to celebrating my dad, and my husband.  (Hopefully he won't be too disappointed I forgot to get him a present - or a card!!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big things at Small Batch

Fun things are happening at Small Batch Studio.  This is my first real attempt at having a business and there is so much to do and learn.  I love every moment of it.  Over the last week I became licenced!  I also received my business cards, which according to the teacher in the marketing seminar I attended just means that in this day & age I can tell people I have a business and feel legitimate.

I started a facebook page.  I hope to use that to keep people posted on the progress of just my business, no mom stuff there.  It is also a way for friends to tell their friends, and they don't have to read this silly blog.

I had the joy of celebrating with friends & family at a baby shower.   I gave the mommy-to-be (though this is little guy #3) a Push Pack & it was a HIT!!   I immediately passed out four business cards ... so see ladies, it is a GREAT baby shower gift!!  People love it.

I was able to connect with some people who I think will be key in helping my business grow & can't wait to talk to them more.  The blog is getting read by more people than I imagined for only being a few months old, and people seem to enjoy it.  (Have I told you I LOVE comments - I am a Leo after all!)

Needless to say, with all of the above getting done my house is a bit messy.  My husband works long hours (like is gone from 7am - 11pm) so he doesn't really see the mess.  The important thing is having it clean for his days off!!

Vivienne and I also made a giraffe out of chicken wire.  We have an imaginary giraffe that has been on our back porch for two weeks.  It was his birthday the other day too ... but more on that later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tales from the Motherhood: Biggest Meltdown in History, Caught on Film

Tales from the Motherhood: Biggest Meltdown in History, Caught on Film

...and I am not alone!! Guess what, the dirty little secret - they all do this!

We're going to the park, Damn it!

School is out.  This is my first year of "summer vacation" since I was in school over 15 years ago.  I forgot what it felt like.  The anticipation of no schedule.  The luxury of not having to be out the door by 8:30 am.  What I didn't realize with small kids though, is with summer vacation brings hours of unscheduled time.  For those of you moms out there ... yes, you know, that means chaos.

I decided that we would fill our summer with many park trips, play dates and a few day trips.  Tuesday was day one.  A simple trip to Walnut Creek City Park.  It is a really cool park, a lot of grass and trees as well as a fun playground complete with water / sand area.  Now, this seems like it should be no big deal.  For nine months now, we have been out the door and on time to school by 9 am.  Some days have their drama, but not too bad.  SO why today, when we are going to the park for FUN do I get this???
Coco behind the couch thrashing and screaming

she didn't want shoes on ...
Even Audrey was throwing a fit before we left!!
I did it though ... I got out the door, calm, cool and collected.  Inside I was dying to scream out, "Will you SHUT UP??  We are going to the park, DAMN IT!!!"  I know, however that will do little good.  It really only makes things worse.  So into the car we went ... and off to the park.

Once we got there all was right with the world.  The girls hit the swings.  A must for the Magu girls.  The playground wasn't of interest to them though.  They kind of walked around the structures.  Vivienne went down a slide a few times.  Then they spotted it.  A mud puddle.  
The girls had so much fun running through it, how could I say no??  I don't think the other moms appreciated it.  There were several other kids who wanted to join in but weren't allowed.  I even got a great shot of Colette!  My little miss "just try and take my picture".
So just a reminder to all of you moms out there .... just when you think the world is full of fits, screams, and tantrums ... go to the park, damn it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vintage fun

Saturday night, Paul & I both worked late.  By late I mean he worked until 11 & I worked until 1AM.  When I got home at 2, I reminded him that the Alameda Point Antiques Fair was tomorrow (well, today) and asked if he wanted to go.  "Yes, let's do it" he said.  Now, mind you it is 2 AM and we learned the hard way that if you want to get the best cool stuff you have to be at the faire when it opens ... 6 AM.

The first time we went, I was 40 weeks pregnant with Audrey.  We got there at 7:00, thinking that one hour would not make a difference.  That was until we saw the 6 Louis XVI chair frames for $250 that had just sold 15 minutes before.

So, up we were at 5 AM, coffee in hand off to Alameda.  It is so peacefull that time of the morning.  I love just being with Paul, strolling the isles looking at treasures (and junk) that could soon possibly become a part of our home.

These theatre chairs caught our eye.  The thing I love about this market is you just never know what you are going to find!  I mean really, we didn't go saying gosh, I hope we find old theatre chairs ... but here they are in our entry way!
Another fun find was this old school desk.  At $20 how could we say no??  Vivienne put it to use within 10 minutes of it coming in the house.  I would love to read comments from anyone else who has found treasures!!  Please share!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Making food fun

Today was the last day of preschool for my oldest.  My husband is French & we found an amazing french immersion preschool in Lafayette, CA called French For Fun.  There are so many positive reasons for young children learning a second language early ... but that is not what this blog entry is about!  It is about FOOD.  Part of the last day festivities was a picnic at the park.  All parents were asked to bring some food for a snack / lunch.  I got the idea for "sandwich sushi" from my best friend in kindergarten, who thanks to facebook I am still friends with.  She is a very creative person & inspires me with many of her posts.  Her "sushi" was much more creative I think ... even using Swedish fish.  I did my own "preschool" versions.  Peanut butter and jelly and cucumber and butter on wonder white bread.  Now, the picture above was all that I got from one whole loaf of bread, so if you decide to do this buy a lot of bread!
Peanut Butter and Jelly "sushi"

On a side note .. just had to break away from this blog to put the oldest in time out, which turned into me being spit at so I had to take her to the toilet to spit 5 times, since she likes spitting so much, and back to the corner to start her time out ...

Sandwich Sushi
1 loaf of wonder white bread
fillings of your liking, but spread VERY thin

Cut the crusts off of the bread
Take two pieces and overlap the ends by about 1/4 inch
Roll with a rolling pin so they are "flat" 
spread filling over bread, leaving the last inch of long end of the rectangle bare
roll from the other long end
add a little butter, or something "wet" to the dry end, if needed so the bread will stick
cut into desired widths with a serrated knife so it doesn't squish.
Butter & Cucumber "sushi"

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh Happy Day!!

Now that I have started blogging, I am reading other blogs.  I feel like I really missed the boat on this world of blogs and am frantically trying to catch up!  There are so many fun, interesting and just really great ideas out there.  The party planner / decorator / DIY-er is going nuts.  My poor husband.  I think I have a lifetime full of projects in my head.

I came accross this blog today.  It is written by a woman who seems to be living my dream life.  San Francisco party planner, blogger and oh yes, just moved to Paris for a year with her family.  

I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Favorite stroller

Here it is.  My stroller.  When we were living in SF with just one baby I had a very light, one child, easy to collapse stroller.  It was great for city living, especially since I lived on the 4th floor of a walk-up (which means no elevator).  I put hundreds of miles, literally, on that stroller.

When I got pregnant with #2, I knew I would have to get another stroller.  These Phil & Teds were everywhere in the city.  I started asking everyone who had one what they thought.  No one ever had anything negative to say.   We moved out to the burbs and my little stroller just couldn't cut it.  For one thing, it had very small wheels.  The city I live in doesn't have sidewalks everywhere & these wheels were not made for gravel or dirt.  I quickly ordered my Phil & Ted's stroller, with double seat and was on my way.

I have now had it for over two years.  I still love it.  I have used it in every version that they brag about.  No, the back seat kid doesn't feel "slighted" sitting staring at the back of a stroller, a comment I hear once in a while.  My girls even fight over the back!

One of the big pluses of this stroller is that you can really maneuver it.  It is narrow which works especially well when you think of going into a store.  You just can't with the side by side strollers.

So, if you are thinking, should I put out the big bucks for this guy, I would say if you can yes.  They are worth it.  They hold up really well also so the used market is a great place to look, then when you are done you can resell it as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My name is Fred.

I have decided I am no longer responding to mom.  I will only respond to Fred.   This person "mom" who is being asked for 1000 times a day no longer lives in my home.

My middle daughter has just really gotten into her terrible two's.  My oldest will be 4 in August, and it sure didn't take me long to forget what the terrible twos were all about.  I think it is kind of like giving birth.  After the fact, you don't think it was as painful as it was ... until you go through it again.

For some reason, I was thinking this sweet little girl would just skip the fussy, whiny, and temper tantrum stage and keep being the cutie pie she is (or was).  Nope.  For the last week I have had a new child.  You know the one.  At breakfast she wants toast with peanut butter.  It is placed in front of her & she cries because she really wanted toast with just butter.  But wait, she wants MY toast with butter, not a new piece for her.  On our 45 minute commute for her sister's school, nothing is right.  She is crying because ... WHY??? ... for reasons only she knows.  "Momma, momma, momma, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy NO MOMMY NO!!!" .... Then, five minutes later, her world is a wonderful place.  She has just seen a school bus & yells "BUS!!!!" and forgets that she was upset.  So is the life of a two year old.