P&G Power of Clean Rules

­Sweepstakes Rules:

No Purchase Necessary TO ENTER OR WIN.

The #PowerofClean Blog Reader Giveaways will begin no earlier than September 16, 2015 at 8:00 AM Eastern Time (“ET”) and ends no later than October 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM ET.

ELIGIBILITY: SWEEPSTAKES ARE Open Only to Legal Residents OF THE fifty (50) UNITED STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, who are at least 18 years of age.  Void Where Prohibited.  Employees (and their immediate families (parent, child, spouse or sibling and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and those living in their same households, whether or not related) of Sponsor, The Motherhood, the participating bloggers, and their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win.  By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor, participating blog and/or judges, which are binding and final on matters relating to this Sweepstakes.  Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.

To enter: To enter, follow the directions provided in the Sweepstakes Posting on the participating blog. All entries must be received by the date and time stated in the Sweepstakes Posting to be eligible.  Limit one (1) entry per person/email address.  Entries received from any person or e-mail address in excess of the stated limitation will be void.  Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means or by any means which subvert the entry process are void.  All entries become the property of the Participating Blog and will not be acknowledged or returned.

Drawing:  Potential winner(s) will be selected in random drawing(s) by the host blogger. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Potential winner(s) will be notified by the blogger and may be required to execute and return an affidavit of eligibility, a liability release and, where lawful, a publicity release within seven (7) days of date of issuance. If such documents are not returned within the specified time period, prize notification is returned as undeliverable, or a potential winner is not in compliance with these rules, prize will be forfeited and, at Sponsor’s discretion, an alternate winner selected.  If a potential winner is at least 18 but still considered a minor in his/her jurisdiction of residence, prize may be awarded in the name of his/her parent or legal guardian who will be responsible for fulfilling all requirements imposed on winners set forth herein. Winners will be required to send their mailing address to the host blogger.  Failure to do may result in forfeiture of prize and, at Sponsor’s discretion, prize may be awarded to an alternate winner.

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Winners’ LIST: The names of the winners will be announced on an individual basis by each blog host.

Sponsor:  The Motherhood in partnership with Procter and Gamble.


The Social Good Summit Rocks Year Three


“My mom always told me to use my brain, but to make sure it’s linked to my heart.”  

- Angelique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, singer and songwriter


The third annual Social Good Summit concluded yesterday and it was chock full of brains and heart.


The Summit — organized by the United Nations Foundation, the 92nd Street Y, Mashable, Ericsson, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNDP — brought together an incredible mix of speakers who talked about the inventive ways they are using technology and social media to solve big problems.


Just to name a few of the extraordinary speakers … U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice,  Dept of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Olympic Gold Medalist Allyson Felix, primatologist Jane Goodall, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, author Deepak Chopra, musician Peter Gabriel, author Deepak Chopra, actors Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Maria Bello, Mira Sorvino and Alexis Bledel, and leaders or founders of Wikipedia, MeetUp, Grameen Bank, the Climate Reality Project, ForbesWomen, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Time magazine, Glamour magazine and many more.


Distilling down the days of back-to-back presentations into a single post is impossible, and there will certainly more blog posts to come, but here are just a few of the things said that grabbed my heart:


“You serve best by doing the thing you love most.” –Maria Bello, Actress and ambassador for Haitian Women.


Maria Bello talking about empowering women globally. Photo credit: Isabel Kallman, Alpha Mom





“Never again should a country be called a basket case. Every country can develop, every country can end poverty, every country can boost prosperity, every country can create jobs for young people.” –Jim Yong Kim, President of The World Bank


“People don’t tune into cat videos to see a cat meowing at the screen and you shouldn’t be uploading videos of people sitting there staring at the screen … Let’s all take a cue from cat videos. Flood the Internet for social good.” –Jessica Mason, YouTube for Good


“You’ve got your time, you’ve got your dime, and you’ve got your voice. You’ve got to use all three.”  –Maggie Fox, President and CEO, Climate Reality Project


“Philanthropy is about using the resources you have at your fingertips to improve the world.” –Melinda Gates, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


“We have to open our eyes not just to what’s going on in other places; we need to open our eyes to what’s going on right in front of us.” –Forest Whitaker, actor and UNESCO goodwill ambassador


“We’re living in a moment where anyone can be a diplomat—all you have to do is hit send. Share your ideas, mobilize your friends, take action online and off.” –Secretary of State Hilary Clinton


“One thing the humanitarian world doesn’t do well is marketing. As a journalist, I get pitched everyday by companies that have new products. Meanwhile, you have issues like clean water, literacy for girls, female empowerment. People flinch at the idea of marketing these because marketing sounds like something only companies do.” –Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist


Aaron Sherinian, Sharon Feder and Henry Timms announcing #GivingTuesday



“More is more. When it comes to conversations, more is more. It’s a favorite maxim of mine, and in this case it seemed to be coming from every corner of the Social Good Summit.”  –Aaron Sherinian, Vice President of the UN Foundation


“The Internet is allowing for us to really experience people in some of the most distant places in the world — as other people just like us. So get to know people, seek out bloggers from a country you’re kind of curious about. It’s about building empathy, and breaking through to the point of recognizing people as people.” –Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia.org


“I used Facebook during Libya’s uprising to urge women to get on board and play their role in the transition, and I did it again when the new government was forming, to encourage them to run for office.” –Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN


“The U.S. spends $700 billion on the military versus $30 billion on development. We have to focus our attention on cutting-edge technology that can help bring peace.”–Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


“One thing the humanitarian world doesn’t do well is marketing. As a journalist, I get pitched everyday by companies that have new products. Meanwhile, you have issues like clean water, literacy for girls, female empowerment. People flinch at the idea of marketing these because marketing sounds like something only companies do.”
–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist


Kathy Calvin introducing surprise guest Peter Gabriel. Photo credit: UN Foundation

“You always hear the phrase ‘advocacy starts at home.’ In reality, with all the power we have to connect, it really means at home — where you’re sitting. It’s about doing what you can from where you are. We’re fortunate to have these tools to let you distill your message to make sure you’re getting out what you want to say and create a call to action.”
 –Claire Diaz-Ortiz, lead social innovator at Twitter


“It’s about turning government into a platform for open innovation. Data by itself is useless. I can’t feed my baby daughter data, as much as I’d love to because I love data. It’s only useful if you apply it to create an actual public benefit.”  –U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park


A billion people in the world will never see a doctor in their lives.”  Josh Nesbit, founder of Mobile Medic


“More is spent in a single month [in the U.S.] fighting the war on drugs than all monies ever expended domestically or internationally fighting slavery from its inception.”
 –Mira Sorvino, actress and U.N. goodwill ambassador


“There wasn’t a time like this before where we had the tools and technology to help make the world a better place. It’s our time. It’s on us. I’m just trying to participate to connect in this journey we’re all on this spaceship called Earth.” –Forest Whitaker


“Social networks are the extensions of our minds. We’re seeing the evolution of human identity into a global identity. It’s inevitable—it’s the next phase of evolution of the human species.” Deepak Chopra, Author and Founder of the Chopra Foundation


More to come, but I’ll close for now with this video by Beyoncé in honor of World Humanitarian Day:



Learning About Safe Household Products from Deepak Chopra

I attended a panel discussion today called, “It’s Time to Take the Toxins Out of Our Lives” with Deepak Chopra, Sara Snow, Jeanne Rizzo, CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, and John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation, and sponsored by Seventh Generation.


At the event, Seventh Generation released the results of a survey saying that 2 of 3 Americans are concerned about toxins in their household products.


“Using products with petrochemicals causes inflammation in the body,” said Deepak Chopra.  “This type of inflammation is what causes many types of cancer.” said Deepak.


Deepak went on to talk about how as a country we have invested heavily for decades in trying to find a cure for cancer but we haven’t taken action to get rid of petrochemicals in the products we use daily on our skin and in our homes – even when we know they are dangerous.


“More Americans are becoming aware of the ingredients in products they put on their skin,” said Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle. “We can’t be healthy humans on a sick planet.  The level of concern voiced by the American public represents a mandate for immediate, sweeping systemic change.”


Seventh Gen is ahead of the curve here.  The company’s products are all “bio-based”, meaning all ingredients are derived from plants, animal, marine or forestry materials.  I think you’ll be hearing more about “bio-based” materials – which are different from organic materials, in that organic speaks only to how something is grown and certified organic products can still contain petrochemicals.  Bio-based products do not.


As Deepak said, “We are not nouns on this planet; we are verbs. We are in action on the planet every  day.”



Bloggers to Brands: Best Practices for Working Together

It’s not your mother’s marketplace out there. Brands in the Internet age market through bloggers and social media. It seems like a win-win: brands get the word out about their products through the authentic voices of people who really use them, and bloggers get to try new products, build business relationships–and yes, for some types of work, get paid.


Often, the relationship between brand and blogger is a fruitful one. Sometimes, due to missteps on one or both sides, the relationship isn’t all that it could be. In The Motherhood yesterday,  Carol Cain of Girl Gone Travel hosted a talk on best practices for bloggers and brands to work together successfully. Carol was joined by panelists Jen Rabulan-Bertram of The Next Kid Thing, Niri of Mommy Niri, Roo Ciambriello of Nice Girl Notes, Corine of Complicated Mama, and Tracy Iglesias of Ascending Butterfly. They held forth on what’s worked well in their blogger-brand relationships, what’s a deal-breaker, and what both sides can do to make the process  better for everyone.



How to Lose Friends and Alienate Bloggers (or Brands)


The blogger-brand relationship is just that: a relationship. Just as you would (hopefully!) reject an overture from a guy who approached you and said, “Greetings, attractive woman. I have an offer I think you might be interested in,”  our bloggers tend to reject generic pitches that start with “Dear Blogger,” and clearly show the brand’s PR person has no idea what the blogger is about. A cursory glance at most blogs will reveal the writer’s name and her interests.  Corine also hates seeing, “I thought your readers might be interested in….. {insert super cool event that you were not invited to when it happened}.” In short, brands that show genuine interest in, and respect for, prospective partners are likely to get bloggers’ attention and best work.


Bloggers need to recognize their part in the relationship, as well, of course. Perhaps the most common offense on the blogger end is a lack of professionalism. Carol points out, “Blogging can be a ‘hobby’ for some, but not when you want to work with brands. It has to be more serious than that.” Niri says, “Keep it professional always – if you want this to be a career, treat it as one in everything you do – from your emails to your conduct at events. Everyone is watching. If you would not do it for a regular job, you should not be doing it here.” Roo concurred, musing, “I never understand when bloggers get trashed at parties. I mean, I understand, but I think it’s bad form to puke on your shoes when brands you’re trying to work with are standing right there.” It may be easy to feel that because your work is taking place online, the relationship is more easygoing and casual, but in reality, professional conduct is just as important as in an office setting.


That professionalism extends to things like making sure you meet deadlines, doing your research, and not accepting projects that aren’t a good fit for you and your readers. Even if the compensation is great, if a product or brand isn’t a good fit, you won’t enjoy your work, your readers won’t respond to it, and the brand won’t be satisfied with it. If you choose to reject a pitch for whatever reason, at least take a moment to respond to it,  rather than just deleting it. Take the long view of any prospective relationship with a brand. Carol says, “I have learned to take some time to feel the brand (or rep) out. The goal should always be, whether that is the intention of the brand or not, to make them a long term client.”


Other things bloggers can do to make it easier for brands to reach out to them: make your name and contact info readily available, on your “About” or “PR” page.  Likewise, set forth things like your kids’ ages as of a certain date so brands will know if a pitch is a good fit, age-wise. Consider including the geographical region in which you live, the types of products you are (and are not interested in). All of these things can help someone considering pitching to bloggers get to know whether a campaign or product would be a good fit, and make a more personalized pitch.


The issue of compensation is difficult for some brands and bloggers. Both sides need to be clear on what work is being done and what it is worth. Our bloggers agreed that being paid to do a review feels wrong. But so does being asked to do legitimate consulting work while being treated as a “free message board” for the brand. As Jen points out, “ROI has to be more definitive on both ends, for sure…whether it’s monetary or not.”


What Really Works


We wanted to hear about the blogger-brand relationship when it’s at its best–what does that look like? Carol cited an atmosphere of respect: “I think any time a brand can treat and communicate with a blogger more as a partner than as an ‘subordinate’ the relationship tends to work well.” Roo values flexibility: “Sometimes the typical review/giveaway combo isn’t the most effective way to reach an audience. When a brand is amenable to veering off their usual course of action and listen to ideas, that’s always awesome.”



Genuineness and goodwill, even moving beyond a campaign, rate high with Jen: “I wrote about how a baby seat from 4moms helped my family out while the baby was in the hospital. It was a sample product that became invaluable. The company has since offered to donate to the hospital.” Tracy is currently in a well-run campaign that feels like a true partnership: “The agency (rep) that stands as the go between for the bloggers and the brand is a blogger herself; she gets what we need to make the campaign work for us. And the brand has truly taken the time to get to know us and give us all opportunities to know one another, so we are a team of bloggers working on this project together in every sense of the word.”


Our bloggers were mixed on the utility of press releases. Some never use them, many use them to generate story ideas and as a jumping-off point for an interview to gain more in-depth knowledge.


Likewise, the bloggers had varying opinions on the effectiveness of brand engagement at conferences. While, as Tracy observes, conferences can provide “the opportunity to really get to know the sponsors on a more intimate level,” Corine points out, “The people managing the booths almost always aren’t the decision makers that you would work with in the future anyway.” Carol says, “The follow up and communication after is really what solidifies the partnerships.”


Carol concluded with this thought: “The last thing I would want to say to brands, and to bloggers, is to hold out for the opportunities (and bloggers) that really speak to your niche and voice. I am most willing to work with brands who I know had to vet the hell out of me before selecting me. It lets me know that whomever else is on board is worth it too. No blogger, like no brand, wants to be associated with anything below their standards of work or professional ethics. I would rather be overlooked than selected with the masses.”

The Sh*tty Mom Movement is Here and Trending on Twitter

The Sh*tty Mom Movement is here.


If you don’t know about Sh*tty Mom, you will soon be hearing about it everywhere!


Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us is a brand new book by Alicia Ybarbo, Mary Ann Zoellner (producers of The Today Show), Laurie Kilmartin and Karen Moline and it is h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s.


The Motherhood hosted a Twitter party today with the authors and a fabulous group of co-hosts (see below) to celebrate.  During the party, #ShttyMom hit the #1 spot on the Twitter Trending List for most of the hour (just below the paid promotional link and above Ryan Reynolds):


Clearly, we’re not the only ones who think that the best possible way to kick off a Monday is tweeting with a group of hilarious women about our #ShttyMom moments. Some highlights:




































Congratulations, AliciaMary Ann, Laurie and Karen!!!!


Thank you, fabulous co-hosts:


Kimberly C. Blaine, The Go-To Mom

Maureen Dennis, Wee Welcome @Weewelcome

Heather Gibbs Flett, Rookie Moms

Dina Freeman, Babycenter, The Pursuit Of Cute

Isabel Kallman, Alpha Mom

Renee Keats, Windy City Momma

Sara R. Fisher, Self-Made Mom

Danielle Smith, Extraordinary Mommy

Tamara Walker, Mom Rn


Be sure to tune into The Today Show and  Kathy and Hoda to watch the #ShttyMoms tomorrow morning!


Calling all Sh*tty Moms! Let’s celebrate!

Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us is out (yay!) and we’re celebrating with the authors on Monday!  Mark your calendars for a Twitter party with our brilliant, hilarious friends, Today Show producers Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, and their fabulously funny co-author Laurie Kilmartin.  Join us at 1 pm, East Coast time / 10 a.m. on the West Coast.


Get ready to laugh.  Sh*tty Moms is LOL, tears-streaming-down your-face funny.  My girls kept saying, “What’s so hilarious, Mom?” and all I could do was laugh harder.


Why didn’t they write this book sooner?!


We cannot wait to laugh together on Monday.  Among the Sh*tty Mom topics we’ll cover are:


–  Organized Sports Might Be Great for the Kids, but They Suck for You


–  How to Get Rid of a Mom Who Wants to Stay Over During the Entire Playdate


–  How to Sleep in Until Nine a.m. Every Weekend


–  Yes, the Babysitter is Judging You


–  This Tradition Must Die: Handwritten Thank You Notes


Come ready to share your Sh*tty Mom stories and you could win one of TEN copies of Sh*tty Mom being given away!   You can sign up for the Twitter Party here.


The fabulouso hosts for the party are:


Alicia Ybarbo – @AliciaYbarbo, @Todaysmoms, @Shttymom

Mary Ann Zoellner – @Todaysmoms, @Shttymom

Laurie Kilmartin – @Anylaurie16

Kimberly C. Blaine, The Go-To Mom @Thegotomom

Maureen Dennis, Wee Welcome @Weewelcome

Heather Gibbs Flett, Rookie Moms @Rookieheather @Rookiemoms @510families

Dina Freeman, Babycenter, The Pursuit Of Cute @Dinadingo

Isabel Kallman, Alpha Mom @AlphaMom

Renee Keats, Windy City Momma @Windycitymomma

Sara R. Fisher, Self-Made Mom @Selfmademom, @2momsmedia

Emily McKhann, The Motherhood @EmilyMckhann

Cooper Munroe, The Motherhood @CooperMunroe

Danielle Smith, Extraordinary Mommy @Daniellesmithtv

Tamara Walker, Mom Rn @Momrn


Get ready for TONS of fun on Monday!  Can’t wait to see you there!


And be sure to tune into the Today Show the next day on Tuesday to see the Sh*tty Moms live!





Collecting Family Memories in the Digital Age

Our kids are probably the best-documented generation in the history of the world. Not because they’re spoiled or because we’re helicopter parents, but just…because we can.


One short generation ago, when we were kids, taking pictures involved a little forethought and patience. Pictures were for “occasions.” Our parents had to buy film and flashbulbs (remember those?) and carry around a camera that was a little on the bulky side. And when the last photo on the roll was snapped, that was it. Three days after you took them in, your pictures came back from the Fotomat. Your editing choices? Like it or lump it.


Left: Photo by Brandie Langer, Journey of 1000 Stitches. Right: Scrapbook page by Amy Mallory, Snap & Scrap.

Now, when taking a picture is as easy as whipping out a tiny digital camera or your phone, capturing family memories isn’t just for birthday parties and vacations. It’s all about documenting the wonderful, fleeting moments of everyday life, the ones that are so easily buried under, well, the rest of everyday life.


We talked today with Michele of Scraps of My Geek Life, along with Katie Pertiet of Designer Digitals, Stephanie of Bizzie Living, and Amy of Snap & Scrap. They shared their thoughts on capturing and preserving family memories in the digital age.



A Year In the Life


I’d heard of Project 365, but really didn’t know what it was about, or what was required to participate. It’s simply a project where you take a photograph every day for a year. It started as a way for photographers to hone their skills, but as Michele observed, it’s become much more. She says, “I see it as a way to capture my family’s daily lives…the mundane. The things you never think you are going to care about, but 10 years later are awesome. Like all the shoes in my back hall that drive me crazy….” Michele offers a link to this tutorial to help us get started. Although many people start their project on the first day of the year, starting on any day is just fine; Stephanie suggests that starting on a birthday can be fun.


Several of us expressed some regret at not having taken more pictures of our older kids while they were growing up. Project 365 provides motivation to snap photos on days that don’t necessarily cry out to be documented, and that can pay dividends later, as Amy notes: “My kids seem to be drawn to the everyday photos when looking through their albums.” Looking for inspiration? Michele recommends Googling “Project 365 shots” and checking out Photojojo, where she first discovered the project. View a sample of what Michele does with her photos here.


Okay, I’ve Taken My Pictures – Now What?


Taking pictures with film and having someone else develop them took a lot of the pressure off. On the one hand, if they came out badly, you couldn’t do anything about it. On the other hand, if they came out badly, you didn’t have to do anything about it. If you were feeling fancy, you put your pics in a self-stick album; if not, into a shoebox.


Now of course, there are all kinds of options for photo editing and getting creative with how you display your photographs. Several people confessed to being stymied by Photoshop. Michele concedes that Photoshop can be challenging to master and suggests, “Photoshop is much more complicated, but Photoshop Elements takes the features most of us would use often for our personal photos and makes it easy to do them. There is a 30 day free trial. It’s much easier.” PicMonkey is a free photo-editing site that Deborah called “super easy,” and which offers upgrades for a fee.  Lightroom is a good option if you have large numbers of photos (Michele has over 75,000!).


Speaking of which…one of the joys of digital photography is that you can take all the photos you want. But then where do you store them?



Left: Photo by Stephanie Elie, Bizzie Living. Right: Photo by Katie Pertiet, Designer Digitals.


Katie says, “I have crashed iPhoto…and now that file is 400gig and I can’t get it backed up! Not good. I have gone to storing photos in a folder system on an external hard disk.” Others use external hard drives as well, and Michele also keeps her photos on Flickr. Her settings are such that only she and her family can see them, a privacy feature that’s likely important to you if you’re posting pictures of your kids.


If you want to share your photos, of course, the photo editing tools above can help you come up with hundreds of creative ways to do so. It may take a little patience to sit through the tutorials and master techniques, but it’s a lot better than handing someone a dusty shoebox full of snapshots with curling edges, isn’t it?

Succeeding as a Single Parent

Being a parent is hard. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have, or how smart you used to feel before you had kids. I’ve never met a mother who felt she had it completely under control, all the time.


Being a single parent has its own challenges, of course. No matter whether you become a single parent by choice or circumstance, in some ways, it makes a hard job even harder. No live-in backup when you need to take a break. Maybe no one to remind you, when you’ve lost all perspective and feel like you’re doing it all wrong, that you’re a wonderful person succeeding at one of the hardest jobs in the world.


But just as single parenthood has its hardships, it carries with it unexpected joys and blessings. Today in The Motherhood, we talked about managing the challenges and cultivating the rewards of single parenthood with talk host Issa Mas of Single Mama NYC and panelists Shannon of The Mommy-Files, Crystal of Kid Things, Linda of NYC Single Mom, and Teresa of TeresaOlvera.com.



There are Challenges…


The challenge most frequently cited by the moms we talked with today was simply, “never enough hands,” as Crystal put it. Teresa said, “The hardest part was when I was sick or working. I was the one that had to take the time off of work. I had to make sure (my daughter) made it to the dentist appointments. But when it came time for when I was sick, she had to learn to be there for me.” The upside, she noted, was that facing those challenges together made for a closer relationship over the years. Also difficult, Teresa pointed out, was missing her daughter on holidays when she was with her other parent.


One talk participant, who is a recent widow, spoke of going to her child’s back to school events: “It’s tough going alone, knowing there isn’t anyone there to laugh with or make fun of goofy speakers with.”


Issa Mas shared advice that is helpful with regard to both administrative and emotional challenges: “I am a believer in a little bit of planning and forethought going a long way. If you can sit down and identify what your challenges are or will be and try to address those needs before they arrive, it lessens stress considerably.” Sometimes just knowing what you’re facing helps you to be ready for it.



… and Rewards


Richard Bach wrote, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” And whatever problems are inherent in being the sole grownup-in-charge, they come bearing gifts.  One mom enjoys all the one-on-one time she gets with her child. Linda loves hearing her daughter acknowledge that she’s a good mommy. Shannon hears her sons using good manners (with one another, no less!) and thinks to herself, “I did that – I taught them to do that.” Those are no small things–they’re signposts along the path, reminding you that yes, you are headed the right way.  For the road is long, is it not? One of Teresa’s rewarding moments was seeing her daughter on her first day of college. And she guided her child to that proud day.


One of the great rewards of single parenting can be, as Issa Mas puts it, “growing your village.” Sometimes partnered parents are a unit unto themselves, and if it works, that’s great. But when you’re parenting on your own, it becomes necessary to build a network of trusted friends and family for those inevitable times when you need help or encouragement. It might be as practical as a group of other moms to trade off child care with. It may be as life-changing as creating a chosen family: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who may not be related by blood, but by choice and love.



Don’t Forget About You


You’ve heard it before: parenting is like being on an airplane when the cabin pressure drops. The oxygen masks fall, and the temptation is to make sure your child’s mask is on, that they’re protected. But the reality is that if you don’t put your own mask on, you’ll be no good to anyone.


When you’re a single parent, self-care is your oxygen mask. It gives you what you need to be a better parent, and you should no more feel guilty about having it than you would about needing to take a deep breath of oxygen. Teaching the kids to pull their weight around the house is a form of self-care, as well as a means to build mastery in self-esteem in your kids. (As most of our panelists acknowledge, though, getting the kids to be helpful is something of a process. I guess some things are the same no matter how many parents are in the house.) Time to yourself, especially with friends who understand, is another important component of self-care. Being a mom is wonderful, but so is eating chocolate-covered doughnuts–and you wouldn’t want to do that 24/7 without a break, either.


It Gets Better, and Other Words of Wisdom


Single parenting can be overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re new to it.  Crystal says, “it does get easier. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it really does get easier. You’ll get into a routine and most day-to-day stuff won’t seem quite so difficult anymore.” Teresa reminds us, ” Try to do your best to have a decent relationship with the child’s father. Try to get along as much as you can.” Sometimes easier said than done, but always worth striving for. She also urges, “Try to be flexible with your child’s schedule and make time for you. Make sure you still live your life. Your child wants to see you independent so that they can learn from you.”


Good advice, from women who have been there, who are there, who are there for each other. Sounds like the village got a little bigger today.


Blogust Will Reach 10,000 Comments Today!

Big news – Blogust will reach 10,000 comments today!


In other words, one of the coolest, most amazing social good projects we have been ever worked on will reach its most important milestone today.


A little background … Blogust: The Blog Relay for Good has been a 31-day “relay” of blog posts, one per day for the whole month of August, with each post linking to the next in the relay.  For every comment on the 31 posts, a $20 donation has been made to Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation to provide life-saving vaccines to children who need them most, and as of today, we will reach the top number, $200,000 for 10,000 comments!


That means that 10,000 kids around the world will receive four life-saving vaccines to protect against measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and polio.  Fantastic, right?!


The Blogust blog posts have been absolutely gorgeous.  We highly recommend reading all their posts!


Today, Stacey Ferguson, Justice Fergie, will take us to 10,000 comments, and then Jyl Johnson Pattee, Mom It Forward, will post on Thursday and Jim Lin, The Busy Dad, will post on Friday, bringing Blogust to a grand finale.  Please visit their blogs and comment as we all take Blogust to the finish line!


We have loved working with the UN Foundation, the Shot@Life team, the incredible Blogust bloggers, and with Chrysula Winegar and Morra Aarons-Mele to bring Blogust to life.


Congratulations all around!!!

Oh, Snap: Taking Great Photos of Your Kids

Every year since my oldest was born, my husband and I have made a photo calendar of the kids as Christmas gifts for the grandparents. Consequently, we’re always on the lookout for “calendar shots” throughout the year. I remember one Easter eve. We were coloring eggs and my son was about seven. I wanted a picture of him and his four year old sister dipping their eggs and smiling. Trouble was, he just didn’t look happy enough. “Smile,” I urged him repeatedly, as he focused on not dropping his egg and splashing dye everywhere. “SMILE.” Unsurprisingly, my son looked increasingly stricken in every photo I snapped until, in the final one, he is wearing a terrified grimace and holding his egg out to me as if afraid I will crush it over his head.


You will not be shocked to learn that that picture did not make the calendar.


Fortunately for all of us, I am not in charge of handing out the photography tips around here. For that, we have a cracker-jack team of great moms and brilliant photographers whose kids do not start to tremble and break out in hives when someone whips out a Nikon. Hosting our photography talk today was Heather, aka Sprittibee. She was joined by Stacy of Kids Stuff World, Jamie of See Jamie Blog and Jamie Worley Photography, and Jacquilyn of Jacquilyn Avery, all with tips on how to capture those fleeting moments with your kids – and have fun at the same time.



Heather’s Hints


Heather dropped hints for getting good pictures throughout the talk like my kids drop Teddy Grahams throughout the house. I’ve gathered them here for your enjoyment (the hints, not the Teddy Grahams):


#1 : FRAME your shot.  Make sure the light is not too harsh, clear the clutter from your background – those are things that can’t be fixed easily in Photoshop… the aim is to try and take your BEST shot inside the camera.


#2: Get to know your camera. Read your manual. Get informal lessons from others who use your camera type if you are the SEE IT rather than read it type.


 #3: Look at other people’s photos for inspiration. Keep a folder of favorite pictures you want to try and mimic with your children for fun, or just take some notes and use your imagination. (See some of Heather’s favorites here.)


#4 : Get yourself in some of the photos or you’ll regret it later. Don’t feel sorry for yourself that no one else in the family thinks to take pictures of mom – be assertive and ASK someone to take a picture!


#5: Take photos of them with the things they love, doing what they love. This is a great way to memorialize the moments that make life and your unique kids special.


#6: Look for a different angle. Always shoot more than one shot of the same picture Sometimes just getting down on your kids’ level or getting a picture of the scene from a new vantage point will make your photo pop.


#7: Take some silhouette and profile shots. It used to be popular to have a dark photo with the light from the side, and to draw silhouettes and mod-podge them. These are coming back in style and there are some great iPhone apps that allow you to make the most creative photos from empty silhouettes filled with photos.


#8: Play with photo editing. It’s not that hard. IPhone apps are super fun, and easier than learning Photoshop. Heather has printed many of her iPhone photos that she has edited with apps and framed them in her house, the quality is so good. Heather recommends checking out Alli Worthington’s e-book to learn about iPhone apps to use for photography.


#9: Don’t miss the action. Learn to pan, learn about shutter speeds, get your kids running, laughing, doing whatever quirky thing they do. This is another reason why our DSLR cameras aren’t always enough.The iPhone is revolutionizing photography because it is always in your pocket.


#10: Make collages to tell stories. You can make collages on Picasa, on iPhone apps such as Diptic, and on BigHugeLabs.com from your flickr photos.


#11: Make friends with your iPhone and load up on photo apps.  Heather says, “I couldn’t do a talk without mentioning Instagram.” Heather’s blog post on Instagram is definitely a worthwhile read.  Stacy also has a great iPhone tip: “Did you know you could take a photo using the volume button on your phone? When you want to be in a photo yourself, use the flip camera option and use the volume buttons to better control how you frame your shot.”



More Brilliant Ideas


I’m a Pinterest junkie. If you are, too, you’ll appreciate all the great photography ideas and tips on Stacy’s photography board. Pinterest is a great way to collect and organize shots that you admire and would like to try. Stacy’s advice about taking pictures of kids is,  “Head out with the mindset of just having fun. Don’t expect to go out with lots of young children and do a professional shoot of some sort. For me, the magic of catching children in photographs comes through catching them in the moment. Go out to have fun and THEN  you will truly get some great shots.” Jacquilyn agrees: “Make picture taking fun! Act goofy – be crazy!”


I wish I’d talked to Jacquilyn before terrorizing my poor little dude trying to get him to smile at me while he was busy coloring eggs. She says, “Another tip I use with my own family is, don’t always worry about capturing images with them looking at the camera. My oldest son suffers from severe autism and has NO interest in looking at the camera whatsoever. We structure our photo shoots around capturing interaction. My husband and I playing with the kids, looking the direction they are looking, tickling or reading together. Capturing moments that are dear to us vs. trying and trying and trying for that perfect look into the camera everyone smiling shot… because for us, it just isn’t going to happen and that’s totally ok!”


And when it comes down to it, the stiff, posed shots aren’t the ones you love to look at over and over. Jamie notes, “I’m kind of a stalker, even in my family, for natural, un-cheese shots.” Those are the ones that turn out to be the treasures. As Stacy observes, “I think an often overlooked part of shooting our kids is just capturing those sweet moments part of your everyday life. The ones you truly want to remember, not the ones in the fancy clothes or the uncomfortable shoes. Just moments that, without the shot, you might not remember on your own.”


(Check out the transcript of the talk here for more great ideas and links.)

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