Category Archives: Blog Nuts ‘n Bolts

Updates

Time for a few updates, for all of you Uncool Mom readers who are dying to know the answers to such burning questions as: Did my now-17-year-old ever get her driver’s license? Did she ever get a job? How is the exchange student doing now that she’s gone back to France? What was the outcome of the CBS DFW Most Valuable Blogger contest? Read on to find out the answers, and other things I promised to “keep you posted” about in 2011:

The Diet— In August, I
posted about spending the summer doing the Atkins Diet with Allison and how we were both having success with it.  She stuck with it until about a month after school started (it’s a really hard diet for a carb-loving teenager to do, especially when everyone around them is eating chips and pizza). I’m still at it, fluctuating between a 13 and 15-pound weight loss, and still very much enjoying the low-carb way of eating.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to make exercise more of a priority so I can hit my target loss of 18 pounds, ’cause I’m not planning to take away any more carbs from my daily eating!

The Exchange Student—  Emmie calls the day we drove Cleo to a local Episcopal church to join the large group of other AFS students heading home “the saddest day of my life” and both Emmie and Allison immediately took up the cause of trying to persuade Andy and I to get another student for 2011-2012, but Andy said we needed a breather, and life went on without a third kid in the house.  We still refer to our game room as “Cleo’s Room”, since the bed, dresser, and makeshift closet are still there. Cleo got busy traveling with her family and getting adjusted to being back in school, and the time difference and our own busy schedules have made our Skype visits few and far between, but we all want to do better at communicating in the new year.  I do hope we can visit her sometime in the near future!

The New Dog— 
Ben Arffleck is still an attention-hogging sweetheart and charming everyone he meets, and one of these days I hope to snap a photo that shows him smiling… we swear he really does!

Being On Time— I’m still working at this, but for the most part, doing pretty good. That journal I bought (for writing about what happens when I aim to arrive 15 minutes early to something) is still pretty empty, but I did recall once how that extra window of time helped me be able to go to the gas station when I’d forgotten I was on “E”. Usually when that happens it makes me really late to something (and causes me to only put in a few dollars’ worth of gas), but in this instance I had plenty of time to fill up the tank and still make it to my destination on time. And that was a great feeling! 

Chair-ache —  not long after I
posted about the dangers of prolonged sitting, even more gloomy news and statistics about it splashed across national media.  So I now have a timer on my desk, and it goes off every 20 minutes to remind me to get up and stretch or move around.

The Quest to Drive— Almost a year ago, I posted about finally signing up for an online Parent Taught Driver Ed course that we were beginning with Allison.  Now 369 days later, that course is still yet to be finished, even though she did complete enough of it to get her learner’s permit last July (remember the Texas Driving Test post?). Her busy schedule and lack of motivation definitely contributed to this whole thing being put in a time warp, not to mention that it’s been hard for her to learn to maneuver in a minivan. Some parents say “the older the better” in starting driving, so maybe we’re right on schedule.  She’s definitely motivated now, since so many other kids her age are driving, and so many who are younger than her.  And, Andy and I are ready to stop being her chauffeur, so ready in fact that we put aside (at least temporarily) the requirement that she had to save up money for part of the insurance and gas before we got another car– over the holiday break, we bought a used Mercury Mariner off Craig’s List, and made up a “driving class schedule” for the next two months.  (Yep, that’s right, we are now a two-dog, two-button, three-car family!!)  She is thrilled to be learning to drive in a car smaller than than a mom machine (not to mention being able to put her drill team decal on a ‘non-embarrassing’ vehicle) and Andy and I are happy to be a little closer to her being totally responsible for driving herself where she needs to be.  Ah, I can see it now– no more facing her wrath if we’re not ready to go at the moment she walks out of the house (even though we’ve been ready for a half hour and have since become engrossed in something else)…no more angry texts if we’re not waiting outside her school at the millisecond she decides to make her exit (WHY ARE YOU AT THE GROCERY STORE!!??)…no more hearing pleas to take her to the fro-yo shop or CVS or a craft store… So far, our renewed “driving class” has gone pretty well (sometimes I’m the better teacher and sometimes Andy is the one for the job) and we’re requiring her to drive every day, so if this continues she should have her license by Spring Break.  Meanwhile, Emmie has announced she plans to take driving at a “real” driver’s ed. school when she’s 14, so she can get her permit at 15…

Bieber Out/Criss is In
—  Justin’s star lost its lustre pretty quickly around here, even before he was accused of being a baby daddy.  Now Allison is obsessed with Darren Criss (of “A Very Potter Musical”, “Glee” and now Broadway fame) and Emmie is into… The Muppets?!

A Summer Job—  Allison did attempt to earn some future gas/car insurance money when she filled out several applications and got a job this past summer working at a mall clothing store, but it was “seasonal” (for the Back to School rush), paid minimum wage, didn’t offer her many hours and didn’t last very long.  Which she was okay with, since she hated the way they made her wear a headset, “work the floor” and put the “hard sell” on any breathing entity that walked through the door. So, needless to say, those paychecks were short-lived and are long gone. But even though she despised the job, she said it was good experience to let her see what she didn’t want to do in her future, and help her really appre
ciate a good job once she finds one…


Kids and Forgetfulness— No magic solution for this yet! Emmie did find her paisley lunch bag after she lost it on the first day of school (a friend found it lying on the floor of a school hallway and saved it for her) but she’s lost it again, this time I think for good (including a cool soup Thermos that was inside as well).  And the other day, Allison left a key to the new car inside a cheetah-print SHOE as she put it back on the shelf AT TARGET!  The key was finally found after a long, panicked, all-store search…

The Blogger Contest— Remember
this one? A bunch of you helped me out and I really appreciate all the votes, but I didn’t win.  CBS DFW gave two awards, one for the most votes and one as a “Judges’ Choice”.  The “most votes” in my category went to a “shopping diva”-type blog, and Judges’  Choice went to a knitting blog… go figure…
but, upon recently reviewing my blog stats for last year, I still feel like a winner.  The number of monthly visitors to UncoolMom.com climbed steadily in 2011, to an increase of over 400% from 2010.

THANK YOU so much for all of your visits, support and comments. It’s hard to churn out content every four days or even every week, but as long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.  Please come back often in 2012 and bring all your friends along for the ride as well!!!!

Is Anybody Listening?

Just a short post today to find out if any of you have ever had fun with the mp3 player that lives on the left sidebar of this blog—it’s been there almost as long as the blog has been in existence.  I have a lot of fun coming up with songs to put on it, based on the posts I’ve written.  “Under the Bridge” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” were there for the post about yarn bombing and random art; Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise” will be on there as long as the story about our family’s visit to an Amish community is on the front page.  If you click on the player’s arrow, it plays song snippets in a continuous rotation and can provide fun “background” while you’re reading. There’s no charge to listen to the snippets and if you ever decide you want to download any of them, they’re 99 cents each.  (Being the cheapskate that I am, I just listen to the snippets…but they still bring a smile.)

So, I just wanted to make sure everyone is aware of this fun feature (and if I ever give away an iPod again as a Friday Freebie, I ought to have the winner’s name drawn from only those who can correctly match the songs to the posts!!) Also, I’m open to song suggestions, so if you ever think of a good one that is post-related, please let me know! Happy listening!

UncoolMom.com Needs Your Vote

It’s been awhile since UncoolMom.com has been up for any awards– but the time has come once again! I’ve been chosen as a finalist in the CBS DFW Most Valuable Blogger Awards competition and I’d love to win this one!!!! But I need your help!!

Please click on the following link and then click on the “Vote for This Site” button, once a day through Sept. 9th, 2011, and feel free to share with your friends. There’s nothing you have to sign up for, no account password needed, etc.  I think the voting has been going on for a week already so we may have some catching up to do– but we can do it! We’ve done it before!

Thanks in advance for any and all clicks you can get your fingers to do!

http://dfw.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/blog/1169-uncool-mom/


The Unexpected Cheerleader: When Your Kids Support Your Blog

It’s tough trying to blog while on vacation.  But bloggers need to post regularly or they risk losing visitors as their blog goes “stale” (in my first year, I learned the hard way after being sick and waiting more than a week to post—the numbers drop was dramatic and took months to regain) and so it’s good to write some posts in advance that are “waiting in the wings” as finished drafts, so if you are “out of pocket”, all you have to do is hit “publish” when you need content and go on with your vacation (or illness, or whatever). Only for me, it was hard to stock up during busy May (remember, next to December, May is the busiest month of the year for parents of school-age kids with all the “end of year” activities happening all at once). So I found myself at Grandma’s house last week with no stockpile of posts, trying to write something fresh, and having a hard time doing so.  The down time opportunities were few and far between, and when I finally got a moment to myself around midnight each day, I was too tired to think.

Some very successful bloggers have assistants, and I often imagine what it would be like to have one…some young, social media-savvy person, like a communications major fresh out of college, who could help me better fit the nuts and bolts of blogging into my schedule.  In addition to pushing me to write lots of posts (once a week is the bare minimum that’s acceptable in the blogosphere—twice or more a week is preferred), my imaginary assistant would help me with blog promotion; managing blog money-making opportunities like advertising and product reviews; managing comments on my blog (weeding out spammers) and helping me find time to leave comments on other blogs; “art direction”, i.e. keeping the blog readable and visually interesting by keeping up with new blog features and text options; and would help me use Twitter and other social media (I get new followers with almost every Tweet I send, which I only find time to do once or twice a week—some bloggers Tweet many times a day!).  Yep, it’s a lot more complicated than one might think when you’re trying to make a decent wage off of blogging…and trying to work on other writing projects and manage a family at the same time…and visit Grandma. Little did I know I’d get my first glimpse of what having a blog assistant is like from my 16-year-old . 

People often ask me what my kids think of my blog, and the answer is that the kids are okay with it.  They sometimes loathe it, and sometimes are even proud of it, like when their friends say, “Your mom has a blog? Cool!!”  But in general, I just assume they’d rather not think too much about it.  So it took me by surprise the other day when Allison gave me a talking-to about blog promotion as we walked out of the Wal-Mart in Grandma’s town.  I was wearing one of my uncoolmom.com T-shirts, and as usual when I wear one, people were asking me questions.

“Mom, why did you just say, ‘It’s a website’ when the checker asked you what it was?” said Allison, exasperated.  “Don’t you see? She already knew that, because of the ‘dot com’ in the name. Why didn’t you say something else? You should have said, ‘It’s a parenting blog’ or ‘It’s my blog’. Then she might have wanted to read it!” Allison went on to say that I kind of appeared reluctant to tell about it.  “When you get the opportunity to tell someone about it, be more excited! You were almost mumbling!”

Well, I don’t know if it was exactly mumbling, but I do know that now I was almost speechless, for two reasons. Number one, my teen was being very supportive of my blog, and number two, it felt like I had an assistant! “Well, okay,” I said. “You’re right. I never know quite what to say.  I need to have a better line.”

We brainstormed on other things I might want to say. I told her that a lot of times, I don’t say it’s mine because I want people to think I’m just a fan, see, to let them know that the blog is so big that there are fans all over the place, wearing T-shirts.  She disagreed. “No, I think they’d be more likely to go check it out if they knew they’d met the blog’s author,” she said.  “Also, they’d have a more personal connection and want to go check it out to help you out.”  Hmmm, spoken like a true marketer.  I thought about it and liked what she was saying, and agreed to follow her suggestions the next time someone asked about it.

Which happened in less than 10 minutes after we had that conversation. We stopped off to pick up fried chicken and the guy at the Lips 2 Go counter asked about uncoolmom.com. “It’s a parenting blog,” I said proudly. “I write it.” 

“Cool,” he said.  “Is she really uncool?” he asked Allison.

“I guess so,” she said.  “You’ll have to check it out to see.”

Wow, spoken like a true blog assistant.
(Wonder if she runs out for coffee and picks up dry cleaning, too?) J

Friday Freebie: Great Green Bean Giveaway!

GreenLine Foods, Inc., the largest grower of green beans in the U.S. from May to October, is promoting its line of packaged, fresh green beans through a “Great Green Bean Giveaway”, and recently sent me a coupon to try a 12 oz. bag for free.  They are yummy, pre-trimmed and washed, and super easy to prepare (takes 4 minutes to steam them in the microwave, right in the bag).  We ate them as a side dish along with some Chicken Marsala I fixed for dinner tonight– the bag says 4 servings but I’d say it’s more like 5 or 6!  And we each got a lot!  If you’d like to try a bag of GreenLine beans, I have TEN more “free bag” coupons to give away, so drop me a line at patricia@uncoolmom.com with your name and address (or if I already know your address, just ask for a coupon in the Comments section below).  The coupon may be used for a free 12 oz. bag of GreenLine Green Beans, or for a 12 oz. bag of GreenLine’s Beans and Carrots.

GreenLine Products can be found in the produce section of the following stores: Safeway, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Publix, A & P, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Albertsons, and most regional supermarkets like Randalls, Kings, Ralph’s, Tom Thumb and Jewel.  But there are more, so if you don’t see a store that’s convenient to you, let me know.  Happy eating!

Weekend Freebie: Free Shipping on Anything in the Uncool Shop, No Minimum

I hope those people who don’t believe in shopping on Sunday will forgive me, but I wanted to let you know about this before the day was over (Happy August, by the way!).  For anyone who’s ever wanted to order something from the Uncool Shop, but don’t like to pay shipping fees, today (August 1)is the last day (for awhile at least) you can get free shipping on anything– any amount, no minimum purchase.  Just type in the code FREEWEEKEND when asked at checkout (for Canadian residents, type in CADFREEWEEKEND— need any T-shirts, Kristi? ) I have added some shirts that do not have the website address on the front, and have also added one that does for less than $9, so with free shipping that’s not a bad way to expand your wardrobe.  Like I always say, you get a lot of laughs and comments with these shirts– you will definitely have fun wearing one. (Facebook Networked Blogs readers, don’t forget you probably have to go outside of Networked Blogs and go directly to www.uncoolmom.com in order to click on “Uncool Shop” on the right-hand sidebar.)

Uncool Mom Featured On Mamapedia

I’m very excited to share that a past post from UncoolMom.com is the “featured post” for today, July 29,2010 at mamapedia.com. For those of you not familiar with Mamapedia, it’s a national website with all sorts of parenting and family articles as well as local advice and information.  On its homepage and in its Voices section, it showcases a different blog post every day, and also keeps the blog posts from the last four days visible. In addition, Mamapedia editors add eye-catchy photos and, about a week later, send out the featured post in a newsletter to their subscribers. So, needless to say, I am happy to be read by its 3.5+ million members.  The Uncool Mom post they’re featuring is “Geek Phobia– Can We Get a Vaccine, Please?” (from February 2010) and they’ve chosen a cute Glee-type photo to go with it, of kids in a show choir.  Please check it out at www.mamapedia.com or after 8/01/10 at this link.  I can always submit additional writing to Mamapedia for future consideration, so let me know if there’s a particular Uncool Mom post that you think deserves to be showcased!

Parents’ Picks Nominations Extended Until July 6

Hooray– the deadline has been extended!  Now there’s 19 more days to nominate Uncool Mom for a spot on the official nominations list for Best Blog in Nickelodeon’s annual Parents’ Picks Awards. (They’re choosing the top five vote-getters, by the way.) I know it’s more of a hassle this year to nominate, because you’ve got to have a log-in ID and password, but so far after choosing that, I’ve only received one email from Parents Picks, saying “Welcome”.  So, I don’t think they’re going to bombard you with emails, and if they do, you can choose to unsubscribe.  I have heard from one reader who ran into technical problems when he tried to sign up– please let me know if that happens to you (my email is at the bottom of the blog side bar).
In the meantime, put the following link in your Favorites and vote every day!
http://www.parentsconnect.com/parents-picks/best-parenting-blogs

I promise to post something “non-voting” related soon– I have been battling a nasty cold, shuttling kids back and forth to summer activities, and helping my teen get ready for a week-long church youth trip to the Badlands of South Dakota– yes, to borrow a phrase from Flylady.net, it’s “Mt. Washmore” around our house these days!

Vote for Uncool Mom: Nickelodeon Parents’ Picks Awards Now National

Some of you may remember that last summer, thanks to my readers getting out there and voting, I was awarded the title of Best Blog in Dallas in Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Picks awards. The good news is that for the 2010 awards, I’m on the nominations list again and it’s a national competition this time instead of local.  The bad news is that I just found out it is a preliminary nominations list, and that people have to vote for who makes it onto the final nominations list– and, there are only three more days left to nominate! Help!! I think we could pull this off, if most of my readers aren’t on vacation yet…you can vote once a day, and here is the address to click:

http://www.parentsconnect.com/parents-picks/best-parenting-blogs

And, spread the word so that friends will vote, too!  Thanks in advance!

Freebie Friday- OxiClean Contest

As I mentioned in a post from January of this year, I don’t make a whole lot of money from this blog (yet!) but I do put a lot of effort into it, so it’s nice that companies are starting to send me free stuff that I can keep and/or give away to my readers in exchange for reviewing their product. I think contests are fun– especially when you win, so today I start an occasional feature of contests and giveaways, to be held on, you guessed it, Fridays.  To start things off, picture if you will, the lovely Carol Merrill, or perhaps another famous spokesmodel, like Dian Parkinson, holding the following items:

Up for grabs today are a bag of OxiClean Max Force Power Paks and an OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick, provided by OxiClean.  (Uncool Mom note: I’m always willing to try new stain fighters since they help “extend my investment” in my kids’ clothes as well as my own– I get so tired of spending money on my kids’ clothes only to see them ruined pretty quickly by stains that won’t come out! My youngest is still a messy eater and she’s ELEVEN! She so badly wants a pair of white jeans and I can’t bring myself to buy them– I know what will happen!!  Okay, back to the giveaway…) 

These two new products are designed with four types of stain fighters that break down dried-in stains, leaving “whites white, and colors bright”. The Max Force Power Paks look very much like the gel packs for automatic dishwashers and are designed to be thrown in the washer water before you throw in your laundry. They provide what’s called “in-wash laundry detergent boosting” and are supposed to “help remove the stains your detergent misses.”  (I liked them right from the start because there’s no measuring or pouring involved– you don’t even rip them open, you just throw them in, and they dissolve.  And since my kids have been doing their own laundry since they were 8 years old, I’m always looking for kid-friendly products to help them out.)  The information from OxiClean about the Paks says that “active oxygen deeply penetrates fabric fibers to remove stains.” (hey, this might make a great Science Fair experiment for someone…”What gets out stains best?”) Also included in the prize duo is the Max Force Gel Stick Pre-Treater, a concentrated gel in a large stick-type applicator with a unique “push-top”. Turn the stick upside down, push the top on stains– and the gel is dispensed, no squeezing required. I like that the instructions say you can treat stains and wait to wash up to one week after application. (OxiClean sent me free samples of both, and as I write this, I’m trying them out on some sheets and clothes in my washer, and will post a review on the right side of the blog in the next few days.)

So, all this can be yours…just reply in the comment section below (Facebookers, you’re probably going to have to go outside Facebook and go directly to
www.uncoolmom.com in order for the blog’s comment section to work) and tell your best “stain story”– the toughest stain you’ve ever had to deal with, and whether you got it out or not. OxiClean will pick the winner and mail the prize.  I’ll announce the winner in the comment thread below and and will contact the winner on how to get your mailing address to them.  The contest will be active for one week, until midnight CST next Friday, Feb. 26th.  (If I was entering this contest, I think I’d write about what happened to Emmie at the school carnival last fall– she and another girl were throwing bits of cupcake at a boy in their class, so he went to the “Cakewalk”, won a large carrot cake, and proceeded to smash the entire cake all over Emmie and her T-shirt…it was a white (naturally!) Hanes T-shirt from Dollar General that she’d painted up with fabric paint, all by herself, to wear to the U2 concert… so there among all the scrawled mauve letters of “Bono Rocks” and “The Edge” were cream cheese frosting and orangey-brown cake… and it dripped from her face and hair.  She was crushed.  Luckily, it happened toward the end of the carnival and we were headed home anyway.  I didn’t even treat it with stain-fighters before I washed it, it was almost completely discolored, and I figured it was a goner.  But it came clean, and I was shocked. Getting it in a warm wash fast was key, I guess!)