Friday, November 21, 2014

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Winter Edition

What's that?  Winter hasn't officially started yet?  Tell that to Minnesota.  Where we live, it's been winter since November 10th, when the first several inches of snow filled our yards, driveways, and streets.

Despite the cold, there are things I like about winter.  Here are five things to help you enjoy it too!

Here are five of my favorite things:

Tarte Cheek Stain.  Perfect to perk up a pale reflection this winter.  You just dab this sheer color on your cheekbones and rub it in with your fingers.  You look a million times better in seconds.  Expensive, but it lasts forever.  (Similar to Nars The Multiple, which I also love).



Clash of the Couples  (of course!):  I can't miss an opportunity to promote this book [and not just because I'm in it].  I think many of the essays in this anthology are laugh-out-loud funny, and everyone with a sense of humor should read it.  Especially those Smug Marrieds Bridget Jones was always talking about.




San Francisco Bay French Roast K-Cups:  This coffee (available to order online) will keep you warm and toasty.  My brother gave me a huge box of these for my birthday (he asked me what I wanted, and I said something along the lines of "one of the only things I really like is coffee.")  These are biodegradable (they come from San Francisco after all) and they are SO good.





The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game by Educational Insights:  This cute, well-made game is perfect for young kids just learning how board games work.  I actually enjoy playing it with my son (age 4), so it will come in handy for long hours spent indoors over the next few months.





90 Day Fiance on TLC:  You cannot understand the true meaning of 'guilty pleasure' until you watch this show. O.M.G. doesn't even cover it.  My husband (poor guy) and I cannot keep our mouths from dropping open every other minute while watching.  I tell everyone I see about it even though it makes me look pretty dumb.  The show is ridiculous yet endearing and completely addictive (perfect for winter nights!).




I want to hear from you!  What are you loving this winter?


~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with Frantic Mama:  Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hooray for 4 Year Olds!

There's the God-forsaken, sleep-deprived newborn stage, followed by the blood-curdling teething stage, which leads to much-feared Terrible Twos, topped off with what is now often considered the hardest stage of all-- the Terrible Threes.  Dear Lord, we wonder at each age, when does it get easier?!

Many naysayers with older children love to answer a new mother's despairing when does it get easier pleas with a downtrodden, "it never gets easier.  Just different."  As a mother of a 4 year-old kid, I'm calling B.S. on that!

Of course it is never easy to have children.  Nothing totally awesome and worth it in life is easy.  Marriage.  Career.  Artistic endeavors.  Whatever you devote yourself to is going to be hard.  Being a mother is no different.  However, that doesn't mean things can't get just a teeny weeny bit more bearable easier.  While there is beauty and joy at each age-- no matter how challenging-- here are 5 reasons why four is a GREAT age.


1.  Cold Medicine.  You know how there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do for your 1 year-old's nasty green snot or your 2 year-old's hacking cough?  Sure, sure you can "buy a humidifier" and "use a nasal aspirator."  Oh, and have you heard?  "Honey is the best cure for a cough."  To heck with that!  None of it works.  But finally, at age 4, you can buy effective, legitimate cold medicine guilt-free because-- get ready-- it is for ages FOUR and up!




2.  Errands.  You know how getting babies and toddlers in the car to go on an errand can take longer than the errand itself?  How you are already in a sweat by the time you arrive at the big box store (to spend all of your money on diapers, baby food, and coffee)?  When your kid is four, it doesn't [always] suck anymore to get them ready!  They might even throw you a bone and put on their own shoes and socks, and get in their car seats by themselves.  Praise. The. Lord.


3.  Preschool.  It's so sad to say goodbye for 2.5 hours, three mornings a week.  NOT.  It's freaking awesome, and it's your right as a parent of a 4 year-old to give both of you the gift of preschool.


4.  Bathroom Time.  Potty training is pretty much wrapped up at 4.  Sure, treats and rewards are still bartered (let's own that one, folks), but now you can let the days of gigantic diaper bags and poop all over your hands slowly fade into the deep dark recesses of your consciousness.


5.  T.V.  There's a new kid in town I want you to meet, and his name is Nick Jr.  We've been warned to never show t.v. of any kind ever to kids under age 2 (God help us!), and your 3 year-old will only sit in the same spot for 30 seconds anyway.  But when they're 4?  Meet Nick Jr., featuring adorable shows your 4 year-old will actually sit and watch.  With Nick Jr. on your side, you, my friend, will occasionally be able to check your email in piece, fold the laundry, or....wait for it...take a shower without a baby screaming at you the entire time.

(Something tells me this image was created by a mom of a 4 year old.  Just look how happy they are!)


Conclusion:  Parenthood will never be a piece of cake, which is all well and good, but it really does get easier and more enjoyable-- not just "different."  So BOOYAH!  Bring it on, four!
.
~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find me on:  Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest

Did I mention that Clash of the Couples is available on Amazon, Apple, and more?  Get your copy today and get ready to laugh with 40+ brave, hilarious writers.





Thursday, November 13, 2014

Clash of the Couples Deal for November 13th!

Still haven't ordered your copy of the hilarious anthology Clash of the Couples?  You are in luck!  Today, and only today, November 13, 2014, the Kindle version is available on Amazon for 99 cents!
Check it out right here.

If you read it, please share your thoughts with me.  I'd love to hear about your favorite essay(s) (even if it isn't my own!).




Thank you for supporting Frantic Mama!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find me on Facebook and Pinterest.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Differences Between TV Moms and Real Moms

*This post was featured on Felicity Huffman's site, What the Flicka.  Check it out here!

Family shows abound across the networks.  Modern Family.  The Middle.  Parenthood.  The Goldbergs.  The Millers.

It's clear networks want these shows to be realistic, and they attempt to base the characters in a more entertaining version of reality.  But how real are these shows?  Let's take a look at the moms, in particular.  Many of them are funny, sure.  But realistic?  I'm not buying it.



                                                            (Image from WhattheFlicka.com)


The Differences Between T.V. Moms and The Rest of Us:

The HAIR.  Why must t.v. moms always have Perfect Hair?  For decades, even the women with young children (think back to the Claire Huxtable, or more recently Christina Applegate's character on the defunct Up All Night) donned perfect styles.  Now, Claire, on Modern Family, who might be the most relatable t.v. mom, flaunts freshly dyed curls, taunting us every Wednesday night.  Don't betray us like that, Claire!

Where is the baby?  On Modern Family, Gloria had a baby a couple of seasons ago.  Forhensio, I believe.  Where is he?  When the rest of us have newborns, they quickly become attached to our various body parts, and yet the newborns birthed on t.v. are rarely seen.  When they are finally presented, they are massive.  Little Forhensio will likely be a toddler in the next episode.

Absence of Dark Circles:  See above.  No newborn in sight.  No visible dark, puffy eyes.  Come on, make-up team, let's show the world what mothers really look like when there are young children in the house keeping us up all night.

The Perfect House.  Another burning question regularly occurs to me as I sprawl out on the couch at night, watching the television families:  do t.v. writers not understand that homes with kids DO NOT LOOK like that?  Do children not exist in Hollywood?  Where are the masses of plastic toys, piles of dirty laundry, and fluorescent orange Goldfish crumbs?

The Clothing:  At long last, the most pressing question of all:  Where are the yoga pants, t.v. moms?  Where. Are. They.

What other differences do you see on t.v. versus reality?

Julia Arnold @ Frantic Mama

P.S.  Clash of the Couples, a hilarious anthology I contributed to, is all about ridiculous couple fights, and it is officially AVAILABLE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.








Monday, November 3, 2014

Clash of the Couples is HERE!

As of today, November 3rd, 2014, the humor anthology, Clash of the Couples: A Humorous Collection of Completely Absurd Lovers' Squabbles and Relationship Spats, is available.  My essay, Don't Spill the Beer, Dear, which relives a completely absurd argument we had when my daughter was a newborn, is in there, as well as many other true stories by awesome writers that will make you laugh (and happy it wasn't your fight).


(The Modern-Day Adam & Eve cover.)


You can find Clash of the Couples on the following sites as an ebook and as a paperback:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Apple.

*Goodreads is an online community I recently joined.  The site is for anyone who loves to read.  You can follow your favorite authors, take part in Q&A with them, and track the books you have read and want to read.  You can now find me on there too (as Julia Arnold).




P.S.  I also have a piece about my son up on Mamalode starting today.  Check it out here if you have a minute!

Thank you to all of my readers for your support!  

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with me:  Facebook, Pinterest, & Twitter.

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Beginner Blogging Tips

I'm not a professional blogger.  I don't sell advertising space on my site [yet] or make money directly from my blog.  I decided early on, after some experimenting, that Frantic Mama would focus on the less glamorous side of Motherhood-- the beauty and the beast-- and not on earning potential.

I first started writing as a way to vent about the less-than-rosy side of Motherhood, and I never thought I would "make friends online," but I certainly have.  Which brings me to this paying-it-forward blog post.  You created a Blogger or Wordpress blog and may be wondering:  Where do I go from here?  How do I meet other bloggers?  How do I get readers?

Here are my top 10 Beginning Blogger Tips:


1.  Ask yourself what you are an "expert" in.  Decorating?  Makeup?  Organization?  Slow Cooker Recipes?  Of course, I'm far from a parenting expert, but it is currently my life's main focus:  doing the best I can as a mother of two young children, and as a wife of one great guy, while also taking care of myself and finding my own joy.  I think it is best to find a niche for your blog to keep it focused.*  This way, people quickly know what your blog is about, and readers can count on you to write about your specific topic.
*[There are exceptions.  One of my other hobbies is refinishing furniture, as this post shows.  I also experiment with other types of posts.  That said, about 90% of my blog is about motherhood].


2.  Reach out.  Join social media outlets so that you can make connections and people can actually find you in the abyss of Cyperspace.  Join Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +.  Create a Facebook page for your blog.


3.  Don't expect people to magically come to you.  Just like friendships in real life, you have to give a little to get a little.  Visit other like-minded blogs, add comments, like them on Facebook, follow them on Pinterest.  Don't think of other bloggers as competition, especially if you aren't trying to monetize your blog.  No one will read and comment on your posts if you aren't sharing the love.


4.  That leads me to my next tip: return the love.  If someone does take time to write a comment on your post, add you on Twitter, follow you on Pinterest-- and they aren't completely insane-looking-- follow them back.  This could be a future blogging friend for you!


5.  Carve out time.  Blogging is a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.  Writing in general is my passion (reading is a close second).  Therefore, I use my rare free time to write.  If my husband is with the kids for a bit on the weekend, or I have an hour to myself after the kids go to bed, I guarantee that I'm using that time to write (or cut my toenails)-- not to scrub the kitchen floor, bake homemade cookies, clean up all the toys, talk on the phone, or whatever else people do when left to their own devices.


6.  Add your blog to Bloglovin.  This is my favorite way to keep track of blogs I read and to forge and maintain connections.


7.  Include images.  I was so clueless when I first started blogging that I didn't even know how to add an image to my post!  There have been cases where well-meaning bloggers get into trouble using copyrighted images, so I urge you to add your own photos or find free images online.



8.  We are getting a bit more advanced here, but try a Blog Hop.  These are link-ups where you add your blog to a list of other blog links, and then visit and comment on other the blogs.  Again, you need to do your part by sharing the love, but you might just gain some new followers this way.


9.  Respond to comments.  I use Disqus comments on my blog (more advanced, so find a tech blog with further instructions).  It should go without saying, but if someone writes a comment on your blog, respond to it!


10.  Last, after you have been blogging for a few months, join a blog directory in your niche.  You can find Frantic Mama on the TopMommyBlogs site because it connects to my target audience.  If you are a style blog or a design blog, search for communities in those categories.  BlogHer is another valuable site, as it encompasses countless blog topics and encourages conversation.

I hope this is helpful to any new bloggers reading; I did not know any of these tips when I first started blogging.  Making blogging friends, or creating a tribe, is the number one way to feel supported and encouraged in the vast, sometimes murky waters of the Internet world.

Seasoned Bloggers:  What am I leaving out?  Anyone else have advice for new bloggers?  

New Bloggers:  What has challenged or stumped you about blogging so far?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Let's Connect On:  FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+, & Instagram.  (See what I mean? I'm on lots of social media programs to connect with my readers!)
You can find more of my work on:  Mamalode and Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka?
Clash of the Couples, an anthology I'm in, is AVAILABLE!  You can like the Facebook page here for funny previews!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Go to the Movies! [Really, let's GO!]

When was the last time you were alone?  As in, alone alone.  Not just by yourself in the house when one kid was napping and the other was at school.  Or the times your husband has watched the kids so you could run to Target solo (wah hoo!).  I'm talking about the last time you had zero kid responsibilities for more than one or two hours.

Can't remember the last time?  You're not alone.  So many mothers-- including me-- rarely have the chance to be alone for a significant portion of time.  Yes, a few moms may go on an annual girls weekend or an anniversary getaway, and that is wonderful, but I venture to guess that for many of us, such trips are rare for various reasons-- lack of funds, too much guilt or anxiety, the absence of trustworthy childcare, overwhelming work.  The list goes on.

While I wasn't able to take an entire weekend off from reality, I recently made the radical decision to GO TO A MOVIE.  No Redbox.  No Netflix.  I wanted to go to an actual theater during the day (full disclosure: going at night when the kids are asleep would defeat the purpose).



I have only been to a movie once since my son was born [4.5 years ago!].  Other than that, it has been a good 5 years.  This isn't to say I don't get out.  I do.  Date nights are a priority, with permanent marker on the calendar, and we have a great time together.  But because we don't have tons of dates, we don't use precious babysitter time to silently sit in a movie theater.  We would rather go out to eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other's company.  Most of my alone time without my husband involves writing, which I love, but it still makes my brain work.  A movie sounded like a true mini-escape.

My decision was made.  I checked online for the movie I wanted to see, and I put it on the calendar. Meaning This Is Happening.  I told my husband to put it on his calendar too, and he was happy to. I'm fortunate that he is so supportive.  I realize not everyone may have that.

Now get this: I asked seven mom friends to join me.  All of whom I know could use a break.  Guess how many said yes?  ZERO.  Every single one had something else on their calendar that day.  (Before you go thinking I must be the local pariah, I swear I'm not.  At least, I don't think I am...).  In fact, I think their unavailability speaks to the issue at heart here-- how full all of our days are as mothers of young children.

Rather than slink into my shell, cancel my plans, and boo hoo that no one wanted to join me, I figured, well, it's on the calendar.  I'm going!

I was excited all week for my little escape.  This enthusiasm helped me get through the week in a more positive way too; I expended more energy with my kids (and enjoyed it more) knowing that I would have a significant break.

Now to the Movies...

I was surprised at how many people were in the lobby, just milling around like it was nothing special, when to me, it felt momentous!  Who are these people?  Who does this regularly?  I kept thinking.

Boy have things changed.  First, let me warn you: there is no matinee price anymore.  It cost $8.50 for a single ticket at 1:50 in the afternoon!  Still, I reasoned, it's less than I would spend wandering shops or even taking the kids to McDonald's.  So, um, a real steal in that way, right?

Guess what else-- the huge packages of candy aren't behind a glass case anymore.  You pick it and bring it up to the counter!

It gets even better: They have TEA now!

I decided why not? and grabbed an overpriced bag of Reeses Pieces and ordered a Tazo tea.

I found the right room, slunk into a hermit-ish high-up aisle seat, and I was in heaven.

The movie was beyond fantastic (Gone Girl, in case anyone is wondering) and I enjoyed every. single. second. of the movie itself and of the experience just sitting somewhere, resting.  With no chores to do during commercial breaks, and no kids walking in the door any second demanding to be fed.

When the show was over, I felt excited to go home and rejoin family life.  I felt refreshed instead of drained.

I give it-- all of it-- Two Thumbs Up.

When was the last time you took more than an hour for yourself to do something totally un-kid and un-work related?  Ever?  Or do you manage it regularly?  

Final Note:  If you never do anything for yourself, and you are able to swing it, I hope this post encourages you to do so.  You deserve it.

*Want to read more about Frantic Mama's views on Mommy Guilt and Alone Time?
Here are 3 related posts:  The Pull of Motherhood10 Ridiculous Ways Moms Spend Alone Time, and Interesting Phenomenon: I Miss My Kids.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Connect with Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!

Clash of the Couples, a hilarious anthology I contributed to, is now available!  Find it at a bookstore [i.e. Amazon] near you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mandatory 10 Step New Parent Training Course

*This post is also on What the Flicka.  Check it out, here!

This Just In:  A Mandatory 10 Step Training Course has been implemented for all soon-to-be parents.  If you skillfully and successfully endure the various challenges involved, while being tethered to a lifelike, hungry doll that cries often, you will be prepared for bringing home a newborn.  If you fail, good luck to you.




Expectations:

1.  Sleep Deprivation:  All participants will experience a level of sleep deprivation the likes of which they have never known before.  You will occasionally be allowed 40 minutes of sleep at one time, but you will be quickly roused by the wails of your lifelike doll.

2.  Women:  Overnight, your breasts will enlarge to twice their size and become sore and hard as rocks.  They will leak throughout the day and night.  There is nothing you can do to prevent this.

3.  Men: You are not allowed to enjoy said enlargement.  Not only has the sleep deprivation taken its toll on you and your spouse, but one of you is always tethered to the crying, hungry doll.  You will have to wait [at least] 6 weeks to express prolonged physical affection.

4.  Entertainment:  On a beautiful Saturday evening, you will be forced to walk by several of your favorite bars and restaurants.  You will be hungry, tired, and in need of a strong drink, but in order to successfully complete this task, you must keep walking, with the doll strapped to your chest.  You will go directly to Babies R' Us and deposit your entire month's paycheck there.

5.  Diet:  You are allowed to eat only the following items:  granola bars, frozen pizza, crackers, and brown casseroles brought to you by elderly neighbors.  All food will need to be consumed standing up, hunched over the kitchen counter, as fast as you can, while enduring shrieking cries from your practice doll who is waiting to be fed again.  Bonus points will be awarded for participants who hold the doll in one hand and eat with the other.

6.  Bathing:  Neither adult participant is permitted more than one shower for the duration of the training course.  During this shower, the doll will remain in the bathroom with you and begin crying as soon as the water starts.  To complete this task, you need to bathe as fast as you can to get out and comfort the doll; this means no shaving, no deep conditioning, and for heaven's sake no shower gel.

7.  Attire:  Keep the clothes you are currently wearing as clean as possible because you will not be provided with fresh, new clothing at any time.  You will need at least 10 outfits for your practice doll, however, as it will expel simulated poop and spit up on its clothing like clockwork at every single feeding.

8.  Toileting:  Every time a female participant sneezes, she will pee a little.  Depending on the neediness of your practice doll and your tolerance for screeching wails, going to the bathroom may or may not be your only alone time in any given day.

9.  Grooming:  All participants will quickly notice more gray hair sprouting from their heads.  You are permitted to use tweezers on these new strands, but you will likely be too depleted (see #1 and #5) to use them.  No haircuts, no make-up, and certainly no toenail trimming will be tolerated during the training course.

10.  Escape Route:  There will be times when you want to run away with your hands in the air, laughing like a lunatic, or hide in a dark closet tucked into a fetal position, but remember this:  there is no turning back.  Despite the practice doll's powerful life-sucking abilities, you will come to love it more than you thought possible, and you might even get used to having spit-up on all of your clothing.

We wish you the best of luck.

Sincerely,
Parents Everywhere

Julia @ Frantic Mama

Psssst!  Clash of the Couples, a HILARIOUS book I contributed to, is available now on Amazon, and more!

Find Frantic Mama on Facebook and Twitter!