Once I was sure this trip was going to happen, I knew immediately that there was one place in New York I wanted to visit: Ground Zero. The last time I was in Manhattan, the Twin Towers were still standing.
It was weird looking at the Manhattan skyline from the airport car window and not seeing the twin towers jutting up into the sky. It's difficult to suppress a sigh. They were so magnificent. It's such a shame. I cannot imagine what New Yorkers must feel. They must miss it fiercely, as though the towers were limbs amputated from the body of buildings that is Manhattan.
Today Ground Zero looked like a busy, bustling construction site. As I looked down on the site from my vantage point at the World Financial Center, I remembered my own visits to the WTC. As a little kid, I remember standing on the ground, staring up at the two buildings until I was almost bent over backwards in my effort to see the top. I remember going up to the Top of the World observation deck in Tower 2. Another time, I remember getting off the subway at the station underneath the complex and shopping at Century 21 afterwards. On another visit, I remember having lunch at the Windows on the World restaurant in Tower 1, and looking out the windows and down at the clouds.
I stopped by the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, where they have a gallery of personal images, videos, artifacts and stories of people affected by the tragedy.
The volunteers have thoughtfully left boxes of tissues at strategic places throughout the galleries. I used my fair share of them.
I also signed up for a walking tour around the perimeter of Ground Zero and a couple of memorials built to commemorate the lives that were lost. I normally don't like organized tours, and I didn't want something where the guide points and the tourists gawk. I especially don't like the thought of commercializing and profiting from what happened.
But I signed up because the tour guides are volunteers who were survivors, family members, rescue workers, volunteers, or people who were significantly affected by 9/11. Each tour is different because each tour guide interweaves the facts with their personal accounts of their 9/11 experience. One of our tour guides was a retired firefighter and volunteer rescue worker who spoke of inhaling so much white (toxic) dust during his rescue work that his wife's lips burned when she kissed him. Our other tour guide spoke about the search for her daughter, hearing a little girl talk about how she saw "the birds in the sky were burning", and wondering how many years later that little girl would realize that what she saw burning in the sky were not actually birds. It was touching and moving and very emotional.
I know many New Yorkers feel almost insulted that tourists flock to the site, that it's disrespectful to be posing for photos in front of this place of such tragedy. But what happened at Ground Zero affected so many people to some degree, and it is fitting that people should go there to visit and pay their respects and mourn the loss of the landmarks and community and lives. It's what people do when they care.
Holy cow!! I'm a winner! I just got word that my Woodland Fairy Outfit has been chosen as the winning entry in the Klutz Paper Fashions Fantasy Design Challenge!
Here's the story: Klutz invited craft bloggers from near and far to submit their very own original fantasy outfit created using their new book, Klutz Paper Fashions Fantasy. I was given a copy of the book to review and invited to enter as well. The book is so much fun for little girls (and now you know, big ones too) because it contains stencils and patterned papers and embellishments and everything you need to create fantasy fashions out of paper.
I'm still flabbergasted that I won! I certainly don't think of myself as a craft blogger, just someone who loved doodling and creating so much as a little girl that she still occasionally dabbles in it when she thinks no one else is looking. There were so many amazing designs! Alfie, loyal soul that he is, told me he didn't think any of the other designs was any better than mine. I was told that Klutz chose my design because it used the most materials and elements from the book. But I'm so happy they liked it, I'm going to accept and say thanks before the Klutz people change their minds! So thank you, Klutz, Thank You!!
This post originally appeared on Bonggamom Finds. I just wanted to brag about it some more, so I posted it here as well.
Last week I put my on my
When I heard about this program, I knew I wanted to participate. When I was little and my birthday rolled around, my parents would always take us to the local orphanage to distribute ice cream cones to the children, and I always thought it was a wonderful way to teach children that blessings can be shared. I saw this as the perfect way to continue the tradition with my own children -- but quite honestly, we don't have the money to be hosting this kind of thing. So I offered to attend the party and paint children's faces, because I know every kid loves to have their face painted, and even though we don't have as much money as the people living around us, I can still contribute my time and talents and set an example of community service to my kids.
I have to say, I was delighted to find that the party -- and the face painting -- was a huge success. My table was mobbed! I stayed way past the party end time because there were still children asking to have their faces painted. I even painted the faces of some of the children of the party hosts. The children were all so excited, from the moment they began leafing through my books of designs, to sitting still (well, not so still) while I painted their face, to looking in the mirror and seeing the designs on their faces for the very first time. It was wonderful to see, and I was happy to be a part of such a special event. And I was happy that my kids were seeing me and the other moms doing something nice for other kids.
But believe it or not, even though this post is almost over and I've been blathering about myself, this post is not about the One Nice Thing that I did. Almost an hour after I was scheduled to finish up, I finally packed my painting kit up and called my kids to come with me and head for the car. When Jammy, who had been playing soccer with the other kids, heard that we were going home, his face crumpled.
Me: What's wrong, honey? It's really late, and we have to go home!
Jammy: But I don't want to go home yet! I want you to paint my face!
Me: I didn't know you wanted me to paint your face. You should have lined up, just like all the other kids.
Jammy (now crying in earnest): But I wanted to let all the kids who've never had their faces painted go first. I kept looking over to where you were and you were always painting someone else's face.
Me: Honey, I'm really sorry, but it's going to be your bedtime soon, and we have to go.
Jammy (wails): But I wanted my face painted!
Me (holding Jammy close and whispering): That was a very nice thing you did, letting everyone else go first, and I'm sorry I don't have enough time to paint your face today. But you know, Jammy, I can paint your face anytime. These children don't get very many chances to have their faces painted, and so today is for them.
Jammy (after a pause, sniffling and holding back a sob): Okay, mama, you can paint my face some other time.
I'm so proud of my son.
This post was inspired by Debbie Tenzer's Do One Nice Thing, September's choice for the Silicon Valley Moms book club. Click here to see other posts inspired by the book.
Actually, it turns out that even big kids like those boxes.
Today the kids invited some friends over for the afternoon for a special sort of playdate. I had been given a boxload of Zhu Zhu pet hamsters and playsets by Mom Select, so the kids and I set out to throw a fun Hamster Pet Party with creative crafts, fun activities and yummy food.
As soon as each guest arrived, they got to choose their very own Zhu Zhu pet to play with and keep. Zhu Zhu pets are furry little hamsters that scoot up ramps, scurry around corners, and make the most adorable sounds you've ever heard. Oh, and they're battery powered, so I figured none of the parents would mind if their child took home a new pet. Along with the Zhu Zhu pet, I gave each child a goody bag with teeny little pet costumes that I had made the week before -- girls got hamster tutus, boys got hamster pirate hats, and everyone got hamster superhero capes. Oh, the cuteness! Our house was filled with squeals of delight -- no, not the hamsters', the kids'.
I prepared a hamsterrific lunch consisting of Ham(ster) Sandwiches, Hamster Kibble (cereal and veggie sticks), cherry tomatoes, and brownies shaped like hamster faces. I think The Pea's little hamster, NumNum, couldn't wait to dig into those treats, but the kids barely touched the food because they were having way too much fun.
I connected all the the Zhu Zhu hamster playsets together to make one giant hamster run, and set it up in the back yard so their hamsters could run through it (By the way, in case you're wondering, my kids' friends don't really have stars for faces -- I stuck them onto this photo, and onto subsequent photos, to protect their privacy).
I set up a craft table with tiny straw hats, and the kids had a great time decorating the hats with ribbons, flowers, beads, and other embellishments.
Here are two models, all decked out in the latest fashions.
Earlier in the week I had made a hamster maze out of some cardboard boxes because I was afraid that the hamster run would get way too crowded with so many excited kids. I thought it would be good to have an alternative (albeit uglier) place for the kids to put their hamsters in, to minimize the pushing, shoving, and "So-and-so's hogging the hamster wheel!". My kids got in on the fun -- 3Po and Jammy constructed a hamster skate park, and The Pea made a fun house with a bouncy house, styrofoam chip pit, and fashion runway.
The extra hamster runs were a great idea, if I do say so myself; the kids loved our homemade structures and played with them just as much as -- okay, maybe a bit less than -- the real Zhu Zhu hamster run.
And a funny thing happened on the way to the hamster wheel. Once everyone tired of the hamster runs, they looked at our homemade cardboard structures and got inspired to create their own. I had to keep going back to the recycling bin to dig out cardboard box after cardboard box. Armed with boxes, scissors, masking tape, markers and stickers, the kids made hamster bedrooms, houses, apartment complexes, subway trains and airplanes.
The cardboard boxes were the hit of the party. It didn't matter that their creations didn't look as perfect as the Zhu Zhu hamster run, that masking tape was sticking up everywhere, that their buildings had shipping labels and pictures of granola bars and yogurt tubes and cereal on them. In an age filled with electronic toys, it was heart-warming to see a bunch of children spend the whole afternoon playing with cardboard boxes!
My only problem now is what to do with the cardboard metropolis, a.k.a. Hamsterville, that's sitting in my back yard.
You can read my review of the Zhu Zhu Pets and their playsets on Bonggamom Finds. Or just feast your eyes on the little darling in purple and say, Awwwwww. Oh, yeah. The hamster's cute, too.
But I didn't hear any complaints about the results!
For more twisted things, head on over to the Photo Hunt.
Oh, and I'm trying out Mr. Linky's Magical Widgets, so if you leave a comment on this post, I'd love it if you could please leave your links below. Thanks, and have a great weekend!
Did you know that September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness month? Helping out and showing your support can be as easy as wearing a Pearl of Wisdom pin. When people comment on how gorgeous the pin is (and they will!), then tell them what it stands for. You can purchase a pin online or take your chances and enter to win one of five over at Bonggamom Finds!
Today I'm honored to have Michelle Whitlock as a guest poster on Finding Bonggamom. Michelle is a cervical cancer survivor who is expecting her first child (via surrogate) in November. I hope Michelle's story inspires women everywhere to learn more about the tools that can prevent cervical cancer.
The nursery is finished and I can hardly contain my excitement as I count the days – just over 50 – until my first child, a daughter named Riley Grier, is due. It’s been a long road for my husband and me.
In December 2001, at age 26, I was busy climbing the corporate ladder and completing my degree, and had just met my husband-to-be. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and my world came to a screeching halt. After having a fertility-sparing procedure, I thought I’d beaten the cancer, but two years later it came back, and I had no choice but to have a radical hysterectomy – along with painful chemotherapy and radiation. I was fortunate to be able to harvest my eggs before my treatment began. And, now, five years later, after multiple attempts, my husband and I are working with a surrogate who is due November 17th with our baby!
This year in the U.S., more than 11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 women will die of the disease. No woman, however, should lose her life or her fertility to cervical cancer! It is nearly 100% preventable if every woman knows about and benefits from the tools – the Pap test, the HPV test and the HPV vaccine – now available to protect them.
That’s the message the Pearl of Wisdom™ Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer (www.PearlofWisdom.us), which I lead on behalf of the nonprofit, Tamika & Friends (www.tamikaandfriends.org), wants women to get – and share with other women.
Here is what every woman should know:
· Girls and women ages 9-26: Ask your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine. It protects against the two types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers. Even women who have been vaccinated will still need to be screened.
· Women age 21 or older (or within 3 years of becoming sexually active): Get the Pap test, which detects abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.
· Women age 30 or older: Get the Pap test and the HPV test together as part of routine cervical cancer screening. The HPV test detects the virus that causes cervical cancer, identifying those women at increased risk who will need to be monitored more closely.
The Pearl of Wisdom campaign urges women to take care of themselves by talking to their healthcare provider about screening and vaccination. And spread this message! You can help do this by wearing a Pearl of Wisdom, the global symbol for cervical cancer prevention, and telling other women why you’re wearing it.
To help get the conversation started, we’ve launched the “Wear Your Pearl!” promotion this month during Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. We want women to wear their Pearl of Wisdom and submit to the campaign a photo of them wearing it (photos can be fun or serious). Photos will be featured on the campaign’s website, and everyone who submits a photo will be eligible to win a cool prize when the promotion ends October 31st. More information is available here.
Our promotion is fun, but our message is serious. I hope you’ll help spread the word about both.
For the Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Let's pretend we're in Ricky Gervais' Land of Truth. Aren't my babies the tiniest, cutest little bundles you ever saw?
It's ok. You don't have to answer.
I have never thought newborn babies are cute, although I did make an exception for my own kids. I swear, it must be all those maternal hormones that keeps mothers believing their children are the most gorgeous things in all the earth. And it's a good thing, too......
... because in a couple of months, they will be.
And they still are.
I know, I know, I still need to get one for Finding Bonggamom. I'm not quite satisfied with my initial attempt at creating one; after all the feedback I received from Alfie online and from Alfie my friends and loved ones, I'm determined to come up with a better one. But for now, here's the Bonggamom Finds button, all ready for you to post on your own blogs. Because you know you've got to have Bonggamom on your blogroll, right? Feel free to grab away (but be kind, I'm ticklish).
Did you know that yesterday was World Gratitude Day? In 1977, the United Nations Meditation Group established World Gratitude Day as an opportunity to celebrate the things you are grateful for and to show appreciation for your blessings.
This holiday is great because everyone can take part by acknowledging what you are thankful for -- and I have the perfect venue for bloggers to do it. As many of you know, last month I participated in the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge, a 21-day exercise in finding things to grateful for each and every day. Just like with physical exercise, I found that exercising my Gratitude muscles made it easier for me to appreciate the simple, everyday joys in life.
Now, Tiny Prints has opened up the Gratitude Challenge to everyone, and I encourage you all to participate! You'll be in the company of some great bloggers to inspire you along the way. Watch the video above -- some of my fellow bloggers' stories are so touching, you can't but help find things to be grateful for in your own life.
Classmate 1: Mmmmmm... milk!
Classmate 2: Mmmmmm.... man!
Jammy: Mmmmm.... metamorphic!
Okay, I guess it's only a cute story if you happen to be Jammy's parent or grandparent. But in truth, I don't really see it as a testimony to Jammy's advanced vocabulary. It's more like a testament to the influence of his big sister!
And here's a photo of Alfie doing the very same thing, nine years ago.
Not much has changed since then. Okay, maybe the hair is a bit sparser and shorter, but he's still my Alfie.
Then I stumbled across this post. I literally stumbled across it, just came to it by accident as I was surfing this week's Photo Hunt entries.
And now I find myself in tears again. Which shows that even though my memory is shite, the grief is still there.
For more electric things, head on over to the Photo Hunt.
When I visited in July, the outside display and front of the store was devoted to the newest American Girl doll, Rebecca Rubin.
The first floor has the Girl of the Year, Historical Line of Dolls, Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins. The Historical section has life-sized displays of furniture and objects that might have been used by girls during the time period.
They have lots of beautiful displays, all designed to make little girls beg their parents to open their wallets.
The second floor has all the Just Like Me Dolls, along with all the American Girl of Today outfits and accessories, and all the Dress Like Your Doll merchandise. These Just Like Me dolls remind me of the Children of the Corn, all staring forward like that, although I'm sure the little girls squealing over the display won't think they look lifeless and soul-sucking whatsoever. The doll in the very center is one that The Pea got for her seventh birthday. That model has since been discontinued, so I'm glad she was able to choose the doll that looks the most like her while they were still making it.
The second floor also has the Doll Hair Salon and Tea Room. In most cases, I pay less for my own haircuts than you would to style your doll's hair over here.
Last, but not least, for the second floor is the Craft section, which has what I think is one of the best bargains in the whole American Girl Place. For $10 you can customize a shirt for your doll -- you pick the color and style of shirt, you pick a shirt design, and they will heat-transfer the design onto the shirt. They even packed it for me in a little doll-sized American Girl Place shopping bag, which The Pea loves since her dolls can do their own dolly shopping with the shopping bag.
I wish I could have taken The Pea and her brothers to see the store, but I had to be content with snapping all these photos, including one of me in the store so that I could show The Pea that I actually went there.
Yup, I'm not a fan of American Girl dolls. That's my line, and I'm sticking to it. Oh, who am I kidding, I hate the fact that they're little cash-suckers but if I ever won a million bucks I'd probably get The Pea the Kit doll, Kit's Treehouse and a horse to go with it.
Click here to see the entire photo set on Flickr.
Why can't you blog about motorcycles, so they can send you one to test drive? -- Alfie
Ooooooohhhhh...... -- Jammy
Why can't we keep the car? -- 3Po
I wish they'd just give you the car -- Alfie
Good-bye, cool car. -- Pea, this morning when they came to pick the car up
Nooooooooooooo.... -- me, as I handed over the keys.
You can read more about what I thought of the Lincoln MKT on Bonggamom Finds:
You know how you have to give a kid a new food, like, 1 skillion times before he acquires a taste for it? How you have to practice before you can ride a two-wheeler or swim a lap? After 21 days of doing the Gratitude Challenge, I've come to realize that gratitude is a bit like that; it gets easier with practice. Once you get on a roll, you find things to be grateful for all around.
For example, yesterday, Day 21 of the Gratitude Challenge, was a very ordinary day. But if I think back on yesterday with that Attitude of Gratitude, yesterday becomes a day filled with happiness and good fortune. I can easily find 21 things to be grateful for on Day 21:
1) I'm grateful that Alfie did breakfast duty so I was able to sleep in.
2) I'm grateful that he gave me the very last cup of our favorite greek yogurt.
3) I'm grateful that my kids put all their breakfast dishes into the sink.
4) I'm grateful that the fridge doesn't stink anymore.
5) I'm grateful that the dirty laundry hamper is finally empty (for now).
6) I'm grateful that I was able to finish writing two product reviews.
7) I'm grateful that I didn't break any bones or sprain any ankles when I fell off the Shred Sled for the first time. All I bruised were my wrist, my butt, and my ego.
8) I'm grateful we have so many computers in the house, so the kids were able to play computer games, Alfie was able to study, and I was able to blog, all at the same time.
9) I'm grateful for the extreme heat -- it was so hot that Alfie and I decided not to heat up the house any further by turning on the stove, and head out for an evening at the mall instead.
10) I'm grateful for the cool Lincoln MKT that the Ford Company loaned me to test-drive this weekend. The kids enjoy riding in it so much that they didn't whine about having to go shopping at all.
11) I'm grateful that I had the Gratitude Challenge Flip video camera with me so my kids could amuse themselves while Alfie and I tried on some jeans.
12) I'm grateful that I only had to try on 2 pair of jeans before I jound the perfect pair.
13) I'm grateful that I actually found the perfect pair.
14) I'm grateful that a random stranger handed Alfie a coupon for 30% off a pair of Lucky jeans, saving us $30.
15) I'm grateful that we could afford the other $70 so I could buy the perfect pair of jeans.
16) I'm grateful that my kids love sushi, so we were able to eat a healthy dinner at the mall food court.
17) I'm grateful that there was only a small mess in the kids' bedroom to clean up.
18) I'm grateful that the kids are now at the stage where they actually do the cleaning up.
19) I'm grateful that even though we couldn't find a babysitter, Alfie said he'd stay home with the kids so I could get dress up and drop by our friend's end-of-summer party, just to say hi.
20) I'm grateful that I knew enough people at the party to enjoy myself so much that I actually stayed way longer than I had planned.
21) I'm grateful that I didn't stay long enough to be there when the cops showed up (although that would have been interesting, it's been a long time since I've been to a party where the cops were called).
It's not just an Attitude of Gratitude, it's a Habit-ude of Gratitude.
Don't worry, I won't turn into Pollyanna and be all sweetness and light. I won't blog every day about how lucky I am. But I'll be thinking it, and if this keeps on, I think I'll be a lot happier for it. Hopefully, it'll be like learning to bike or swim in one more way: once you learn how to do it, you never forget.
It goes without saying that I'm incredibly grateful to have been included in the Tiny Prints Gratitude Challenge: Take Note, Give Thanks.
First of all, I apologize that this note is coming to you via your blog, rather than on a notecard like the instructions say. But you know yourself, and you know that you're probably not going to get around to mailing the note until a week from now, so this way is quicker. And be honest, you know you want to save that cute Tiny Prints notecard for another occasion. Besides, people might want to know what it is you're taking away from the Gratitude Challenge. So, for the record, here are some things you told yourself you want to remember from these last 20 days:
* There's always a bright side. You just have to look for it. And if you can't find one, make one up. At least it'll make you laugh.
* Take your cue from your kids. If they're looking at you with solemn, scared eyes, it's time to take a step back, remind yourself that they're good kids at heart, and ask yourself if you're blowing things out of proportion.
* If your kids are laughing with delight, stop doing whatever it is you're doing, start doing whatever it is they're doing, and be grateful that you still have time left before they won't let you do whatever it is they're doing along with them.
* Everybody likes to be told Thank You. Everybody likes to be appreciated. Even yourself.
Whenever you're having a crappy day, don't forget to give yourself a slap in the face (it brings blood into your cheeks and makes them all rosy) and read this post!
PS: you're looking quite pretty today.
Just before school started we went on a day trip with the cousins to the Lawrence Hall of Science up in Berkeley. We had never been there before, and we had an absolute blast! This wall of orange pins was the first exhibit we came to. The kids loved pressing their hands and body into the pins to make impressionso of themselves, and they stayed there for about an hour. Fortunately we got to the museum just as it opened, so there were no crowds, and I was able to take picture after picture of them, with no other kids to take turns with.
For more orange things, head on over to the Photo Hunt.
I'm continually impressed with the patience and dedication of the teachers at our school. Each year, The Pea has told me that she thinks her current teacher is the best in the world... until she meets her next teacher. It looks like 3Po and Jammy have similar opinions. So this school year I'm determined to do what I can to help out the teachers who do so much to help out my kids.
In last month's Office Max blogcast, my co-panelist Heather told me something that totally blew my mind -- teachers spend an average of $1000 of their own money on school supplies for their classrooms! At Back-to-School night, the kids' teachers did ask for some classroom fees to pay for museum admissions and other programs that they'll be enjoying this year, but I know they need more. 3Po's teacher told us that the school gives her 1 printer ink cartridge each year. Given the number of photo projects she sent The Pea home with when The Pea was in her class 3 years ago, I'm sure that ink cartridge won't last her 3 months.
So if you want to do something kind for your child's teacher, don't give them apples or World's Best Teacher mugs. Give them school supplies. Ask them what they need, then show up the next day with a box of it.
I received an Office Max giftcard as a thank-you for appearing on the back-to-school blogcast from the folks at Office Max. I think I'll be buying a lot of printer ink this year.
When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel. --Harold Kushner
When they stand in front of a mirror, most women focus on the parts that they hate, and I'm no exception. There's always something to suck in, something to cover up, something to camouflage. Today I straightened up, squared my shoulders (okay, I did tuck my tummy in) and focused on 5 Body Parts that I love:
1) My eyes
My eyes are brown, with tiny flecks of green. You have to stare really hard into my eyes to see the green, so nobody really knows they're there. But it's like wearing smoking hot leopard-print underwear; I know they're there, and that's enough.
2) My lips
I never really thought about my lips until someone told me they were perfect and sexy as hell. After that line, of course, I simply had to marry him.
3) My cheekbones
I have no illusions about looking like a model, but you always read about models having high cheekbones, so in that respect, at least, it's nice to be in good company.
4) My shoulders
My shoulders are broad and square, which I'm thankful for because I never ever had to use shoulder pads. Now I can look back at those photos in the 80's when everyone wore shoulder pads and revel in the fact that I didn't look too ridiculous.
5) My boobs
In this breast-obsessed, bigger-is-better, Barbie-doll-boob world, you'd think I'd be secretly longing for D or C cups. Or B cups. But I'm actually fine with having small breasts. The age-and-breastfeeding-induced-droopiness is another matter altogether. And I suppose it would be nice to have boobs bigger than a twelve-year--old's. Ok, maybe this breast size thing is a work in progress, but on the whole I'm happy with what I have.