Friday, March 26, 2010

Like Father, Like Daughter

Just have to put this out here for the public because I am awestruck by my artistic children.  When I first met my husband in Thailand, I would watch him create amazing artwork every day in our cement walled 8' x 10' romm we called home.  I was artistic as a child but never had that natural talent that some are born with.  To this day, I love creating art but was surpassed in raw talent by all members of the family long ago.  I will note, thought, that I am one mean colorer.  Give me a coloring book, a new box of Crayolas and I am good for hours. 

But I digress.  So, husband is an amazing artist and our 5 year old daughter has shown artistic talent and a love for all things art from a very young age.  The framed family portrait I did at age 5 hangs framed in our dining room looking quite similar to her renditions at age 3.  This week, however, our newly turned 3 year old shone through with some incredible artwork.  Last night, Daddy and the girls had a long awaited painting session during which the girls were each given their very own stretched canvas to create their masterpieces.  Really, there are no more words necessary.  I'll let the pictures do the talking.

On the left, an older piece of Daddy's. On the right, the masterpiece of Daddy's Little Girl, age 3. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where Do We Go Now??

So hubby and I are just about even now ... I lived in Thailand for about 4 years and we just had our 4 year anniversary of moving to the US.  The big question is ... now what?

Clearly the number of years don't really matter nor can they really be evenly matched.  I chose to live in Thailand because I had already fallen in love with the people, the culture, the everything while my dearest agreed to move to the US for our family, not because he had a burning desire to experience life in America.  In fact, after several not so pleasant experiences with the US Embassy in Bangkok, he was pretty much ready to never set foot on US soil.  But I managed to drag him back here and now, four years later, we own our first home and our babies have turned into real little people.  We have friends, a social life (well, hubby does ... I have playdates with kids whose parents I like), strong family ties. 

For the first time in a very long time, I have begun to feel like we have actually created a life for ourselves rather than just kind of floating along without any anchors.  One thing that I have discovered about myself in these years of travel, love, family, moves etc is that I need me some anchors!  I get completely thrown off balance without them.  I think everyone needs their anchors in one way or another and they show up differently for different people.  My passions have always revolved around the people in my life and they have always been my anchors. My peeps keep me grounded and the thought of losing that once again kind of sends me into panic attack mode. 

Yet, it has been two years since my in-laws have seen their grandchildren, two years since our kids have been surrounded by the Thai language, culture and people ... their people, their family.  I remember times when living in Thailand, that ache to walk down the street and hear your own language, to run into a shop for toilet paper and not have to worry about explaining what you're looking for, to crack a joke and know that everyone will just get it, to not have that constant need to think and rethink every word that passes through your lips to make yourself understood and then not even being understood half the time.  I remember all these things and then, of course, I project them onto my husband.  I push my memories of homesickness and my own dreams of Thailand onto my family here when really I just need to own them all myself. 

I know all this and yet I struggle with what I actually want for my family, what is best for all of us and how to realistically make it all happen.  More thoughts to come in my ongoing search for The Elusive Easy Fix for Life ... advice welcome!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tales of Moms Without Boundaries

Anyone who has experienced pregnancy, labor, birth and parenting is surely familiar with the bizarre tendency of other moms to lose all sense of etiquette, tact, boundaries or really manners of any kind.  From the stranger's hands rubbing on your growing belly to the melodramatic sagas of birthing, this phenomenon begins with that little bump inside and apparently never, ever ends.

Usually I'm pretty good about dealing with all the unsolicited "wisdom" from others and manage to take most of it with a grain of salt, letting it roll off my back or at least fuel some sarcastic comments for my chats with girlfriends.  Some days, though, I must admit, that forced smile and silent nod are tough to squeeze out.

Monday morning brings my weekly arrival at my daughter's kindergarten art class where I am the official parent volunteer.  This is always a time I look forward to and I love watching my girl with her buddies and witnessing her growing into her own person.  My 5 year old is, to say the least, an anxious child.  She is a worrier, super sensitive and errs on the drama queen side.  Many of these traits she inherits from me and I see myself in her often, remembering my own struggles as a child.  She, however, is much more at ease with herself and the world than I ever was and I do my best as her mother to encourage these sides of her personality and try to give her methods of coping with those that are a struggle for her.

We usually have to have a preemptive chat Monday mornings about being together for art class but then working on saying goodbye without a panic attack at the end of class.  Generally, she does fine but, as it goes with kids, some weeks she's a little more anxious than others.  When the end of art class rolled around, there was some wobbly lip action and the beginnings of a tear streaked face.  So I took a moment with her while the rest of the kids went up to the classroom, we talked about our routine, what we'd do after school, yadda yadda, had some hugs and off she went to class.

Mission accomplished, time to pack up and move in with the day.  Alas, that was not to be.  Mrs. Art Teacher, who I really do enjoy as an art teacher abut not so much as a confidante, felt it necessary to cozy up and give me some advice "from one mother to another."

Oh no, here we go, what will it be now?  Ah, apparently, even though I have spent 5 years parenting my child, perhaps someone who sees her in a class of 16 once a week for the past 7 months really knows what is best for her.  AARGH!!  So, then I had to stand there while I was told that I was not doing my daughter any good by making such an intimate moment together when she is feeling upset.  That I really just need to say good-bye and walk away and be done with it and then she will learn.  Um, learn what?

Normally, I would have just let this go, smiled and nodded and quickly made my way to the door.  But that morning, I was not in the mood to be taken down for my parenting skills.  I was polite and fairly tactful, a trait I sometimes struggle with, than she had been with her comments.  I simply explained that my daughter had a tendency towards worry and anxiety and that, while we had tried many strategies, we had found that the way we deal with issues works the best for her and that I felt my job was to help her cope with these feelings rather than just teach her to ignore them.  And, actually, Mrs. Art Teacher did not have much more parenting advice to give.

My conclusion: It is wonderful to have other mams out there to support us with the challenges of raising children but the same rules for what is and is not socially acceptable, apply for parenting advice as for all other topics.  Save your advice for those that you actually have a close friendship with or, even better, wait for someone to ask for help before you dish it out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mompreneur 2010: From Overwhelmed to On the Ball

I've been doing a lot of research recently as I try to refocus my efforts with Monkey Beanz this next year.  I have a tendency, particularly when I am feeling lost and overwhemed, to go a bit overboard in my research and procrastinate the true action that is necessary.
So I've thrown myself into downloads, e-books, podcasts, blogs and good old fashioned library books all geared toward women entrepreneurs, what makes us tick and, more importantly, what makes some of us more successful than others.  I have always had complete confidence in Monkey Beanz, in our products, in our business philosophy, the works.  So why have I struggled so painfully for the last several years with taking the business to where it need to be in order to be a viable business and financial support for my family? 
I've boiled in down to a few key points, some of which are more tangible, and more easily "solved" than others.  First, while I have the confidence in Monkey Beanz, I have not given myself permission to be confident in myself as the messenger, promoter and manager of all things Monkey Beanz.  I have continuously been up against myself not truly believing that I could make this happen and, therefore, denying myself the help that I may have needed to take leaps as a business owner.
My latest epiphany, after almost 31 years of living, is that I have become a very scatterbrained mother of two.  I am in a constant struggle to feel focused, a struggle which I have, thus far, been losing miserably.  I get so lost in the "Oh my goodness, there is so much to do," stress everyday that my work time is rarely as productive as it could be.  Rather than focus on accomplishing one task each day or week, I get bogged down with feeling like I need to do everything and then end up with very little. 
My biggest goal for the coming months, and one that I am beginning to admit I may need some help with, is stating focused.  Keep your eyes on the prize, as they say.  I need to narrow my goal to give myself something specific to accomplish.  If I can do this, then I will give myself the opportunity to prove to myself that I can lead Monkey Beanz on this journey. 
Goals accomplished, confidence boosted, business booming, calm and collected mompreneur.  Sigh ...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One More Notch on My Birthday Belt

This past weekend our younger daughter turned three and we had such a wonderful party for her in Sunday.  We had a house filled with lovely friends, both new and old, happy children, balloons and gorgeous sunshine outside.  With a March birthday in Maine, you never really know if it will be a winter or spring celebration.  This year could not have been nicer and, after cake, we all ventured outside to let the kids run around and play on the swings.
Speaking of cake, I'll get to the real reason for this post which is is simply for me to bask in my cake making glory for just a few more moments.  This must be prefaced with the fact that I am not a baker, nor a chef nor in any way one of those people who are more at home in the kitchen than anywhere else.  I can follow a recipe and think I do a decent job feeding my family but I much prefer the eating part to the making!
I always figured I'd be a birthday cake buying kind of mom or perhaps a make a box of brownies with some candles on top mom.  Until the year our older daughter turned three.  That was the year of Thomas the Train and Winnie the Pooh.  So it should not have come as a surprise that the answer to my silly question, "What kind of cake do you want?" was a honey train cake.  Hmmm ... honey train cake you want, honey train cake this Mama will make.  As with most of my kitchen escapades, this could have either gone really well or disastrously bad.  Fortunately, I knocked out one hell of a honey cake that, served with almond gelato from our local gelateria, got rave reviews from all.  
It must be something about that birthday number three that really puts the pressure on for me because, while I thought I'd be hard pressed to top my fabulous train concoction, I must say, I did it.  Ever since our youngest tried ice cream cake at her great grandmother's in Florida this past winter, that has become the birthday cake desire.  The theme, however, has flip flopped daily for the last several months.  We had airplane going for awhile which had given way to a whale most recently.  However, in the final days leading up to the celebration, the final decision was made for a soccer ball ice cream cake.  This was my first ice cream cake but it surely will not be my last.  Ice cream is my weak spot, I simply can not resist.  So a soccer ball made of Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownie filled with Cookies 'n' Cream ice cream ... mmmm. 
So, without further ado, I shall unveil how I've rocked year 3 for both my girls!  Apologies for the blatant bragging but I fear I may have used up all my good baking luck so I feel the need to expand the circle of those who can witness these miracles!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Indie Biz Chicks Strikes Again

I've been a follower/stalker of Crissy Herron of Indie Biz Chicks and her awesome advice and services for all us, well, indie biz chicks.  She's got great info on writing press releases, marketing your craft business, blogging and lots of other advice on the endless list of things that we business owners need to continue being business owners.

The best part is you get the wisdom from someone who may be wiser and savvier than you but remains down to earth and easy to understand and relate to.  Right up my mompreneur alley.

Crissy has recently put together The Year Long Marketing and Blogging Plan and it sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  An entire year of tips all at your fingertips ... anything that frees up time for other tasks is good news to me.  52 Marketing Ideas and 156 Blogging Ideas that you can implement and watch your business grow. 

That's a lot of goodness for $30.  Yup, Crissy is offering a pre-order price of the e-book for 30 bucks.  Even for those of us on a strict budget, that's pretty affordable, huh? Plus, she's offering a few of these babies for free to some lucky winners who tweet or blog about the book.  Share the love, you just may get one yourself!

Check it out and take a peek at her other services and info at Indie Biz Chicks while you're at it.  If you're starting or running a small business, you will almost definitely find something worth your time there. 

P.S.  For all you doubters out there, no, I make no money off you purchasing, signing up for, or doing anything else with Crissy or Indie Biz Chicks (other than the chance at my free e-book like everyone else)!!  I just really do think she seems like a great lady and I've found her services and tips useful in my struggles as a business owner.

I think I've turned the Twitter Corner

Twitter truly is a phenomenon in so many ways.  Beyond the fact that it is rapidly taking over the way our entire world communicates, it has this bizarre quality that I am now able to explain.  In less than 24 hours, Twitter has the ability to swing from being viewed by potential tweeple (I can not believe I just wrote that but stay with me, it proves my point) with confusion, curiosity, and a bit of disdain to becoming, at the very least, a staple of said tweeple's life, if not a diagnosable addiction.

Hello, my name is Julia and I'm a tweetaholic. ...

Wel,l okay, not quite but I can see the addiction in my near future.  Yesterday I was still dumbfounded by my Monkey Beanz twitter account (blatant plug for followers!).  After a weekend of reading some awesome info from some other mom entrepreneurs  (I'll be putting a post up soon with links included - these women are amazing!) about the beauty of Twitter, I decided to dive in and started following their advice.

Lo and behold, the smart business mamas are right!  I've downloaded my Tweetdeck to keep things organized, connected up with facebook and have already met some really cool people in just a couple of hours of tweeting and following.

It's official, I'm a convert.  Viewing tweets no longer makes me feel like I am reading a computer manual in Chinese ... the lightbulb has gone on!  Admittedly, I am still a touch wary of the Twitter language but give me a few months and I'll probably be tweeting, and retweeting, all my lovely tweeples.

If you're tweeting, follow Monkey Beanz and we can be tweeps!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NPR: Milestone in the life of an adult

This last weekend, I officially became a member of MPBN, our local NPR station here in Maine.  I have been listening to NPR forever ... in the car with my dad driving to school, in the kitchen cooking dinner with my mom, car trips to the mountains for my brothers' ski races.  And my parents were always members ... I have years of listening to the membership drives on the radio, even watching them on public television when I was young.  I distinctly remember the many NPR tote bags and other NPR paraphernalia we had around the house over the years.

No that I have a family and a home of my own, I have found myself drawn again to NPR for many of the same reasons as others:  the news, the humor, the interest of the stories provided.  There is also a sens of nostalgia mixed in there as well.  Nearly every evening as the clock nears 5:00, I find myself in the kitchen preparing dinner, listening to NPR, the sounds of my two girls playing (or bickering depending on the day) in the other room.  In the last several years, I lived in another country, married a man there, gave birth there far from my family, moved back to my home with my new family, started a business, had another baby, bought a home ... things that might scream YOU ARE A GROWN UP to the outside world but none of which really made me feel like I had taken that next step towards entering adulthood. 

Chopping veggies in the kitchen of my home, the sounds of my kids mixed with the familiar voices of NPR soothes me at the end of the day.  It brings me back to my childhood, a time in which I now idealize to be a time of few cares and worries, and for a few moments I feel relaxed and, yes, proud of the life I have created.

These moments are, of course, soon interrupted by wails of blame from the playroom, water boiling over on the stove or the ringing of the phone.  This last weekend, however, I made the decision 30 years in the making and picked up the phone to become a new member of NPR.

I now eagerly await my "Wait, wait, Don't Tell Me" travel coffee mug which I will tote around town proudly ... my badge of adulthood.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Morning Glory Muffins

I know I just posted but I just made the most amazing muffins and very much have to share this recipe

You will need:
4 Eggs
1 1/3 C.Veg oil
1 t. vanilla
3 C. Flour
1 1/4 C Brown Sugar
3 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
3 t. cinnamon
3 C. shredded carrots
3/4 C. Flaked coconut
1 Lg. apple shredded
1/3 C. nuts
I also added 1/4 C. Flax Seed

Now here is what you do.. Preheat your oven to 350. In mixing bowl beat oil, eggs and vanilla.
Combine remaining ingredients and stir into egg mixture just until moist. Spoon into greased muffin pan and bake 15-20 minutes. SOOO good. You are going to love these!!!!


I am back!!!

Hello all!!! Sorry it has taken me so long to catch up with life. I am now a mommy!!! Layla Ellen was born January 9th at 1:02 am. 8lbs 5oz and just beautiful!!! My labor experience was wonderful. I had so much support around me at all times.
I have been staying home with Layla and really enjoying my time with her. Monkey Beanz is still going strong. We have added so many awesome things to the website.
The diaper bag has been great!!! We also are using the booties. Sooo cute. I look forward to writing more and catching up with everyone. Thank you all for the support!!
Nyki and Layla