Category Archives: Blog Nuts ‘n Bolts

Updates

Today is the one-year anniversary of UncoolMom.com, and in honor of it I thought I’d give you updates on items from the past year where I promised to “keep you posted”.  Here are a few:  

-In May, my youngest child’s elementary school was the first school in Texas to close due to swine flu, and Emmie spent the week off teaching herself to play an acoustic guitar she bought at Target.  Did she ever get the dreaded H1N1? No, but her older sister did this fall.  Tamiflu worked wonders for Allison and amazingly the rest of us never got it.  Meanwhile, Emmie is doing a great job of teaching herself to play that guitar (with help from Uncle Steve) and now has an electric one, a Les Paul guitar that my husband found on Craig’s List.  For her birthday, we had Cousin Ted hide it inside his own guitar bag, with a birthday note and ribbons, so when she was at his house and they eagerly went to get out “his guitar” to play, there it was. Loved that look of surprise on her face!!  The down side is that she is so into rock music now, it is almost scary.  My husband introduced her to Guns ‘n Roses once on YouTube and now Slash is her hero.  Which makes it harder for her to play classical music on the piano…

Yes, Emmie is still being “forced” to take piano lessons as a trade-off for being allowed to participate in the all-encompassing sport of gymnastics. In one of my first posts, To Practice or Not To Practice, I mentioned several reasons for not allowing her to quit, one of them being that it became evident pretty quickly in her piano studies that she has a gift in playing and memorization. 
I am even more convinced of that today.  I can’t let her quit.  And, I keep hearing from adults who tell me they wish they’d kept at it. Emmie would probably like it more if her teacher gave her rock songs to play instead of classical, but that’s not an option at present. So, most of the time, she gets her piano practicing done without a fuss so she can get on to other things (like playing the guitar).  And I know she must secretly like how she sounds when her fingers get flying– I’ve heard her play even when it’s not time to practice.  We tell her, it’s a great foundation for rock, you would have never been able to teach yourself guitar without the chord foundations of piano, it’s supposed to help your brain with math, blah, blah, blah…look at Eddie Van Halen, he likes Mozart so much, he named his son after him.  “Eddie who?”

-In July I blogged about my kids’ picky eating habits and my quest to get them to eat more vegetables and try new things.  I still haven’t tried anything from Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, where you hide pureed vegetables in things like chocolate brownies.  At present, I’m still in the “I’m cooking what I want to eat” mode that I got into in December and the kids are on their own if they don’t like it.  I’m really enjoying that.  I can actually cut out healthy and exotic (i.e. more than three ingredients) recipes from the food section of the newspaper now instead of saying to myself, “I’ll be able to cook that in about ten years…” Usually there’s something in the week’s menus they like and if not, we still have plenty of chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese on hand that they make themselves.  Surely they’re going to get sick of that soon?

-In August, I wrote about the ups and downs of living in Texas in a post entitled It’s A Different World and mentioned that Emmie’s Scout troop was invited to participate in a flag ceremony at a Kay Bailey Hutchison for Governor rally. They did participate, and it was a lot of fun for them (not to mention good bar-b-que). They made it on every local news broadcast that night—here’s a link to one of them.  (Emmie is the one with her mouth hanging open as Sen. Hutchison walks on stage :0) The news is still using that footage occasionally as the governor’s race heats up…  and no, I don’t think I heard that dreaded Toby Keith song while I was at the rally, but I was having too much fun people-watching to really notice.

-In November, in a post entitled, Maybe We Should Just Buy A Rooster, the focus was on waking up a sleepy teenager.  Well, Allison just received, as a Christmas present, yet another “creative device” to help in this area—an Ipod docking station with an alarm that plays the Ipod and has a “mattress shaker” on an attached cord that’s supposed to be hidden under the mattress.  I’m not sure it’s going to help.  She’s already told me she’s not going to use the mattress shaker, since she’s placing the whole thing on a table that’s “too far from the bed”.  But hey, having this cool new device inspired her to re-arrange her room and clean it up—and if she starts doing that on a regular basis, it will be worth every penny spent on it, even if it doesn’t wake her up!

Also in November, I wrote about trying to make the holidays less stressful, and about encouraging Allison to give gifts.  While I still found myself shopping for a few things on Christmas Eve, I did get a huge amount done ahead of time, thanks to the Internet.  And, miracle of miracles, Allison bought gifts for everyone in the family.  I really didn’t think it was going to happen—that money-saving Christmas cookie tin I gave her never saw any action.  But the Sunday before Christmas, she got a 12-hour babysitting job, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and earned $90.  She had enough to buy gifts for her friends, too, something she was even more excited about than buying for her family.  “They always get something for me,” she said.  “Now I can finally get something for them!” I wish one of her friends was named Savings Account…

New adventures await for 2010.  The next big high school dance is called Black and White, a “girls-ask-guys” type of thing where everyone dresses in, you guessed it, black and white, and already Allison and her friends are cooking up, some literally, cr
eative ways to ask the guys (and I thought that over-the-top stuff was just for Homecoming!).  (I think this is all a crutch to avoid face-to-face confrontation, you know, real human interaction where you actually look at someone and ask, “Will you go to the dance with me?).  Emmie’s first gymnastics meet is in 10 days (yep, I greatly underestimated her determination at staying on the team).  Andy and I are running the technical/backstage side of the elementary school talent show in a couple months (he’d love to have a gong and act like his hero Chuck Barris, but that’s not going to happen…).  Allison recently found out she made it on the high school drill team (Argh! More cowboy, er, I mean cowgirl hats! And boots!).  My 30th High School Reunion is this summer (hey, remember the 80’s?), and now that Luke the Dog just learned how to shake hands, he is destined for far greater feats of intelligence.  (Okay, that last line so closely resembles a corny holiday letter, I’d better close fast.) I’m still totally uncool in the eyes of my kids, still driving that bad (or should I say, rad) minivan, and still trying to keep a smile on my face (amidst clenched teeth) when the roller coaster goes down, knowing that it always goes up again.  Happy New Year, and stay tuned!
 

Measuring a Blog

Okay, call me a sap…that song “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent” has been going through my head a lot these days, probably because my teenager has it on her Ipod and plays it so everyone can hear it from time to time… ”Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?”  But it is a great New Year’s song, isn’t it? Ranks right up there with Ella Fitzgerald’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and U2’s “New Year’s Day”…It’s made me think about the past year, and while I’m not big on Year End Reviews (sometimes they can be SO stupid) sometimes it’s good for us to “take stock”…

Even though my earliest blog posts date to September 2008, UncoolMom.com was officially “launched” on January 5, 2009, so New Year’s Day 2010 is just about as good a time as any for me to start assessing its first year.  How should I measure the first year of this blog?

One way to measure it is in “hits”, or “visits” to the blog.  GoDaddy.com, the company who hosts UncoolMom.com, provides me with all sorts of daily, weekly, and monthly statistics so I can measure this.  For most of the year, total visits increased every month, and that was a good sign.  Some days I had hundreds of visitors.  But then in late October, things took a big dip (was it something I said?) (was it because I took a week off?).  I’ve been told by other bloggers that that’s normal as the holidays approach.  So I’m hanging in there and hoping the numbers come back up this month.  Oh, for those stat lovers out there, the most “hit upon” post this past year was “Our Easter Bunny Was A Dust Bunny”

Another anniversary question to ask about a blog is, “Has it been a financial success?” Luckily this measurement has not been important to me, at least for the first year.  For those of you who don’t know (and a lot have told me they don’t), bloggers make money every time someone clicks on one of their ads. The revenue generated depends on the ratio of how many people visit the site that day vs. how many clicks are made. And for 2009, I guess people enjoyed the writing so much they didn’t have time to check out many of the ads!   But hopefully that will change. I have definitely spent more time on this “side project” than I’d expected (I can’t help it—I’m a perfectionist and have not been able to do “15-minute blog posts”) so getting a little bit of moolah for that time would be nice…I do receive free stuff once in awhile that people or companies want me to review, and plans are underway to add a “Product Reviews” tab to the blog and have Giveaways as well.

Yet another way to measure the success of a blog is in comments.  Do people like it? Do they enjoy reading it? Yes, yes.  Check out the “Recent Comments” and “More Comments” sections on the side bar.  I definitely have touched on things to which a lot of people can relate.  And when I receive encouraging comments from not only people with children, but those without, I know I’m onto something here! Thanks very much to everyone who has sent in a comment—and if you’re finding it hard to comment when reading the blog on Facebook, simply bypass Facebook momentarily and go directly to the blog at
www.uncoolmom.com, and the comment button at the end of each post should work.  Thanks also to those who have emailed me and asked for an “UncoolMom.com” bumper sticker.  I still have a bunch more and they are still free, so let me know if you’d like one. (My email address is always at the bottom of the sidebar.)

My preferred way to measure this blog is in fun.  Do I enjoy doing this? Yes.  This has been so much fun and such a creative outlet, I think some of my best writing ever has come out of this (some of my favorite posts so far are Uncool Hands, Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well, A Schoolbus Education, The Roller Coaster of Parenting, and When Mom Dresses Like A Teen).  It was fun to win the Nickelodeon Award, fun to win a prize in the Lakewood 4th of July Parade, and fun to get encouragement, support and a few shout-outs from the editors at the Dallas Morning News’ NeighborsGo section. 

One question I’ve been asked is, “Are my kids embarrassed or bothered by the blog?”  My younger daughter sometimes looks over my shoulder when I’m writing and doesn’t quite “get” it.  I mistakenly thought my older daughter was too preoccupied to ever see it (how naïve is that?). Then one day I accidentally left the site “active” on my computer, and she sat down and read it.  Thankfully I have the option to approve or reject comments before they’re published—  she left some pretty harsh ones that night, to put it mildly.  But that was in the spring, and since then her attitude about it has changed.  I think she’s realized that it’s not always about her, and perhaps a friend has told her they thought having a Mom who blogged was… cool? In addition, she greatly enjoyed the photo shoot that resulted in the header photo above.  Whatever the reason, not long ago she told me that if I got her one of my blog T-shirts, she’d wear it to school.  (Will wonders ever cease?)

While I’m not sure I am going to do that, it’s always fun whenever I wear my own shirt.  I always get comments—  people love it, and most of the time they think “UncoolMom.com” is a funny statement rather than a real site, as if I’m saying, “I’m so uncool, I’m uncoolmom.com”.  They point and say, “That’s me, too!” and I’m happy with that.  Those kind of comments real
ly lift my spirits, especially if I’ve had a particularly trying day.  Like the other day, when I was wearing my shirt in an Ulta store two days before Christmas, waiting in a line that was about 10 people deep.  Allison went off to find more stuff she could try to talk me into buying while I patiently waited.  Upon finally being summoned to a register, I was asked by the clerk, “Uncool Mom? What’s that?” To which a guy waiting at the next register, a total stranger, loudly replied, “That’s a parent who’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing!”

“You got that right,” I smiled and said, along with a few knowing laughs and murmurs from the crowd behind me.  ###

Under Construction, Out in the Open

BREAKING NEWS: Over the next couple of days, Uncoolmom.com is hoping to undergo a redesign.  I say hoping because I stumble along as I go through the blogosphere. I’ve picked out new colors and a new layout and photo and I’m about to “try them on”, but we’ll see if it turns out how I’ve imagined.  I say “We’ll see” because I think you get to come along for the ride.  I’m pretty sure that I can’t try anything new without it being “published” immediately. I tried out new layout templates for a few minutes one day and to my horror my website went askew and showed everything (even some stock photo of a total stranger), and I had to painstakingly put it back together!  I definitely wasn’t ready for that surprise! But I am now.  So, if you’re reading this onsite and things look pretty weird, please bear with me.  Things should be looking better hopefully in 24 hours.  But any comments on the changes, both positive and negative, are welcome!  In the meantime, you can catch up on all those old posts you’ve
missed…

And the winner is…

Just got word that UncoolMom.com won “Best Local Blog” in the Dallas area, in Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect.com Parents Picks Awards 2009!!!!! Thanks so much to everyone that voted– I know some of you voted every day! What a great way to end the summer and an inspiration to keep on writing blog posts.  Watch for a new blog layout coming soon– and THANKS AGAIN!!!!

                                                    

Vote for UncoolMom.com!

Here’s some news that my email subscribers may not know: Uncoolmom.com has been nominated by Nickelodeon for a Parents Picks Award for Best Local Blog in Dallas on their parentsconnect.com website!  I’m up against four other blogs, and as of today, there are four more days to vote (you can vote once a day until July 15).  Winners will be announced in August. To vote, go to the blog front page at www.uncoolmom.com and on the right side, you’ll see an icon for the Parents Picks awards. Click on the words below it that say, For Local Blog in Dallas and it will take you right to the voting page.  I will definitely let everyone know if I win! (And if you haven’t been to my blog front page in awhile, check out the side bar– lots of nifty new stuff there, like a music player that I load with my favorites and you can click to hear snippets of songs; a couple shopping areas with highly discounted stuff from amazon.com; a comment block highlighting all of your great comments over the last 6 months; and a widget that shows tiny photos of some of my Facebook followers.

I also wanted to mention that Uncool Mom won a prize in the Lakewood Fourth of July parade (a large local parade in Old East Dallas).  The parade theme was “Lakewood’s Got Talent” so we put a sign on the front of the minivan that read “Mom’s Got Talent” and covered the sides and back with big word magnets we created on our home printer of all the jobs a Mom does, like NURSE, CHEF, COUNSELOR, LAUNDRESS, CHEERLEADER, BARBER, etc. Emmie and her cousin sat in the back throwing candy out the sides, and my sister-in-law, Marti, drove the van, dressed up like a stereotypical mom (a la Carol Burnett), in a bathrobe, cat-eyed sunglasses and with curlers in her hair. She was a hoot, admonishing kids along the parade route to “Eat Your Vegetables” and “Wash Behind Your Ears”.  We played Trout Fishing in America kids songs like “Are We There Yet?” and “Mine!” on the car stereo, and I walked along handing out cards (printed from a template provided by Nickelodeon) about the Parents Picks awards– and Andy rollerbladed, in his Nixon mask.  Thanks to my sister-in-law’s great acting, we won first place in the “over age 12” division for Most Creative Costume.  Below are some photos of our fun day. (Good thing my teenager was out of town– she would have died of embarrassment!!)
 If you ever want to see a very cool 4th of July parade, check out Lakewood’s.  It doesn’t get more Americana than this– it winds through neighborhoods so people have parties on their front lawns as they watch, some complete with dining tables and crystal, some with plastic lawn chairs and lots of American flags. It reminds me of the New Orleans lawn parties for the Mardi Gras parades. At the Lakewood parade, there are homemade floats, trucks with Scouts and cheerleaders, classic cars, politicians and beauty queens in convertibles, decorated bikes, decorated dogs, high school bands, Elvis impersonators, John McEnroe impersonators, and on and on.  It lasted 45 minutes this year! It ends in a park, with free water, beer, hot dogs and snow cones, and an appearance by Uncle Sam, who gives out the awards.  All neighborhood parades should copy this one!


 
“I’m going to be chaperoning your prom!” yells Marti to an unsuspecting kid.



Showing off the first place medal after the parade (by that point, the hundred-degree heat made the word magnets curl and fall off the back of the van!) 

Four Ways to Follow Uncool Mom

Thought it’s about time I let readers know how to do an “RSS Feed” and other ways to follow the blog, other than typing in the address each time you want to check it out. Here are four options you might want to try:

By RSS Feed: This adds a link to uncoolmom.com on your Internet home page and a few titles of recent postings (that are updated), so if anything looks interesting you can click from your homepage to read them. To do this, go to your homepage, and if it has an Add Content tab or something like it, click on it, and look for “Add RSS Feed”. Once you’ve clicked on Add RSS, where it asks for a URL, copy and paste this:  
http://uncoolmom.com/rss2.aspx

Via Facebook: This is an easy way to follow the blog if you’re on Facebook a lot. Go to the sidebar of uncoolmom.com, and in the “Facebook Networked Blogs” box, click “Follow this Blog” at the bottom.  (Even if you follow the blog in other ways, sign up to be a Facebook follower and help boost my numbers.  My goal is 100 Facebook followers by the end of June and I’m close to 80 right now!) Once you’re a follower, you have the option to put a link to the blog on your Facebook “Info” page as well as in other spots.  If you put it on your sidebar and Info page, it will show up as “Blogs I Follow”.  Here’s how to do that (and if you’re already a follower, PLEEEESE try this out so your friends can know about the blog):
On your Facebook page, on the toolbar at the top, press (don’t click) on “Settings”, then click on “Application Settings”.  Then, on the “Networked Blogs” line, click on “Edit Settings”.  You have the choice to a.) add an icon of the blog as a “box” on your Facebook sidebar, b.) Put it under a Blogs “Tab” on your Facebook page, and/or c.) as a box on your Info page.  Under “Privacy” on the Networked Blogs setting page, you choose who gets to see the blog icon on your page. (Of course, “everyone” is great but it’s up to you!)

Via Email: Clickable titles of new blog postings are sent directly to your email inbox.  On the blog homepage, look at the sidebar, scroll down to “Free Updates to My Blog Posts Via Email” and type in your email address. 

Via Twitter: I’m on Twitter at Uncoolmomdotcom. Of course, it doesn’t give you blog postings– it’s just a fun “extra”.


A Note About Ads: Please drop me an email (
patricia@uncoolmom.com) if you find any of the ads offensive or uncomfortable or just plain weird, and type the URL of the ad in your note (usually it’s listed at the bottom of an ad).  A few doozies have shown up lately (Google AdSense places them based on key words in the content and I never know what’s going to show even though I signed up for “Ad Review”) and I’m trying feverishly to block those I feel get into controversial territory or things I really don’t want to be seen as “endorsing”!