Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Allusive Work Life Balance



I can't even bring myself to write in full sentences. I've had a writer's block for months. At this current moment, we're at the end of a Saturday. I'm feeling so anxious and overwhelmed; I mainly experience this way on Sundays. The sensation that there is too much to do, not enough time or energy, that things are slipping through the cracks.

In addition to the normal stress of work, home, leisure and the upcoming back to school extravaganza, I've been interviewing for a new job. For the past month. My nerves can hardly stand the suspense and unknown. I'm torn between what is comfortable and known and what is new, scary and potentially extra workload. I don't want a more difficult work life balance. I don't know if I can handle an even heavier load.

I enjoy being a working mom to a certain extent, but I don't necessarily want to be totally entrenched in my profession at the expense of stretching myself even thinner. Will I ever have balance and well being? At my current job I am able to be available to the children and their special events, doctors appointments and their sick days. I get a plentiful amount of vacation, personal days and work at home options. I don't want to sacrifice that.

Is an increase of pay worth it? I almost think not. But then again, the reality is that my finances are tight and I could use the extra money. I am pursuing the opportunity and seeing where it takes me. I may not even get an offer. And if I do, I don't have to take it. In fact, maybe I could become a non-working mom for good measure! Quit working altogether! Yeah, probably not a wise move.

What does a good work life balance look like to you? I need a pep talk.

P.S. In other happy news, it seems as though my l'il Chicken Hawk (3.8 years old) is officially potty trained! Underwear 24/7 - yay!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chickadees' Music Review: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's Perfect Quirk

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's new CD - The Perfect Quirk
 Secret Agent 23 Skidoo recently released their new CD - The Perfect Quirk. We love it!
"Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is the King of Kid Hop! Purveyor of Family Hip Hop at its finest, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo has captivated crowds internationally with his own funky brand of positive half pint party music. Combining deft wordplay, great storytelling and pure positivity on top of thumping drums and sophisticated multi-instrumental productions, 23 Skidoo speaks to kids and parents alike. 23 Skidoo bumps up the volume and kids’ self esteem, while setting the family music bar higher than a hidden cookie jar..." More about Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and Family | Photo Credit: Mike Belleme
Songs include:
  1. You're It
  2. Unwind 
  3. Imaginary Friend
  4. 3 Pointed Back
  5. Pillowfort Pillowfight
  6. PJs All Day
  7. Guess What
  8. Caught in the Screen
  9. Time Machine
  10. Nightlight
"The Perfect Quirk, a raucous celebration of originality and the quirkiness of being a kid in this crazy awesome world, is the ideal soundtrack for living room dance parties or a summer vacation on the road less traveled. The tunes are classic hip hop spiced with Motown, reggae, club thump, blues, and the occasional pirate shanty, each one aimed at the quirky soul of the funky family." (That would be applicable to my funky family of five!)
Skidoo explains, "The word 'weird' derives from the Old English 'wyrd,' which translates as 'destiny' or 'fate.' I hope this album will help kids realize that their quirks are their own funky destinies, meant to be lived to their potential. Oh yeah, and I hope it makes 'em dance like they're crazy!"

My six year old chickadee has definitely been uplifted by their songs and messages. She has told me countless times after listening to their music that she's unique and special just the way she is, so she has gotten the message. Her older sister can be quite harsh and mean-spirited towards her, so it's a constant struggle to reverse the self esteem damage. 
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo also has a new music video for their song, Pillowfort Pillowfight. It's so fun, playful and silly. Watch and see for yourself.

I have loved Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's music since I first heard their song Space Cadet on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live; then I saw the video - so cute and catchy! Their songs are super fun, light-hearted, entertaining and have a positive message for kids (and parents). Have you ever heard Gotta Be You? -- "Whatcha gonna be?" "I gotta be me!" That is a great reminder for even the grown ups out there, struggling to be true to their 'perfect quirk'.

What's fun about Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's music is it's got a little bit of hip-hop (they call it kid-hop) mixed with a little bit of some funky Mother Goose. My favorite song on The Perfect Quirk is Unwind - it is certainly an uplifting summer song.

"Daddy-O" loves the band too. His assessment: "They are a cool band with great music that helps build kids' character. It's fun, entertaining and I like the whole family experience; everyone's got a part."

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo are out on tour this year and we want to see them live badly! We're thinking of driving to Las Vegas to catch them in action this October.

Here are our eight and six year old's (our little chickadees) reviews of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's CD, The Perfect Quirk.

Little Chickadee's review:

My six year old's review of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's new CD
  • I think it is a jig
  • This jig is fun
  • I have never done a pillow fight
  • What does your songs mean?
  • I like your songs
Oldest Chickadee's Review:

My eight year old's review of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's New CD
Translation (organized by song, I think): 
  1. I like the beat
  2. It feels like summer
  3. Sounds really funny
  4. Great idea
  5. Love the synthesizer
  6. I love your voice
  7. I like the instruments
  8. I love all the songs
  9. I know you worked so hard
  10. I love your whole family
  11. My favorite songs is pillow fight, pillow fort
My little Space Cadets working on their 'Perfect Quirk'

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Chickadees' Review of Laurie Berkner's New Lullaby Album

Laurie Berkner, one of our favorite children's musicians, came out with a new lullaby CD recently and it is exquisite! Her voice is so soothing and warm and her songs are incredibly catchy. We've been listening to this CD in the car and at home and all sing along together to the songs.

I especially love the beautiful melodies, fun lyrics and some of the new twists on her popular songs (Pillowland, Moon Moon Moon, Goodnight, 5 days old, Under a Shady Tree.) My 6 year old chickadee said it best when she said, "I feel like I'll never grow up when I listen to her music." That's exactly how I feel.

After listening to Laurie Berkner's new album many times, I think one of my favorite of her new songs is Mahalo; it's definitely catchy and upbeat. Her music is geared towards children of young ages, but even appeals to my eight year old; they are not annoyingly babyish or 'sing-songy'.

Laurie is joined on Laurie Berkner Lullabies by band mates Susie Lampert (keyboards), Brady Rymer (bass) and Bob Golden (drums, percussion). The album is enhanced by the voices of children including Laurie’s own daughter, Lucy.

Laurie says of Lullabies, “I have been getting requests for this album for many years. I’ve now been a parent since 2004, and I’ve had a chance to feel that amazing experience of singing my own child to sleep. I’ve written lullabies for her and I’ve sung my favorites from my own childhood to her over the years. To me, making that time feel safe and full of love is so important. I hope some of these songs create some of those feelings and become as special to other families as they have been for mine.”

Here is what my youngest chickadee (6) noted about the album, in graphics and words:
A six year old's review of Laurie Berkner's new lullaby album
  •  Lullaby - I like it a little bit
  • Firefly - it's fun
  • Pillowland - I could fall asleep
  • I like it
  • I love it
  • I feel like I could never grow up
Here is my eight year old chickadee's review of the album in graphics and words:

An eight year old's review of Laurie Berkner's new lullaby album
She tried to put her notes in order, but she tends to get a little distracted... But I love how earnest she is and sweet. She really loves music.

Notes translate to:
  1. Soft and peaceful
  2. Creative talking and singing
  3. Loving and kind
  4. Love the instruments
  5. I like the title
  6. I love the beat
  7. I like the rhyme
  8. I love the melody
  9. Like your voices
  10. Sweet and good
  11. Creative rhyming
  12. It reminds me of Hawaii
  13. Kind of sad
  14. The name sounds weird
  15. Peaceful song 
  16. Grassy
My little chickadees rocking their spunk and creativity
 The album's songs include:
  1. A Lullaby 
  2. Fireflies  
  3. I Gave My Love a Cherry  
  4. Pillowland 
  5. Sing Me a Song    
  6. Under a Shady Tree
  7. Your Beautiful Eyes
  8. Moon Moon Moon 
  9. Hush Little Baby 
  10. All Around My Room   
  11. What Is the Color of My Dreams? 
  12. Mahalo  
  13. All the Planets 
  14. Nona 
  15. Little Boy Blue 
  16. In the Clouds 
  17. Like a Seashell 
  18. All Through the Night
  19. Five Days Old    
  20. Stars Are Shining
  21. Goodnight 
I'm a little melancholy that my chickadees are getting older and will be aging out of some of this fun children's music. I hope they carry these little gems with them in their hearts when life/school/friends gets tougher and it helps ground them in familial love. For me, being from a disconnected/dysfunctional family, listening to Laurie Berkner's music (and similar musicians) with my kids, it helps heal some of my childhood angst.

I highly recommend Laurie Berkner's new lullaby CD for your family!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Music Review: Bari Koral Family Rock Band

Our family of five recently had the opportunity to review a copy of the new CD by Bari Koral Family Rock Band, "The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee." We listened to it on our long drive from Southern California to Arizona on our spring break Grand Canyon road trip. What a fun way to spend hours cruising down empty stretches of desert highway; singing along to catchy tunes together.

Bari Koral is a popular kids music artist and The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee is their fourth album, which released this week. For this CD, Bari brought her band to Nashville to record the album under the guiding hand of legendary producer Brad Jones.
Bari Koral | Photo Credit: Shervin

Bari Koral songs on The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee CD include:
  • Dancing Bear
  • Apple Tree
  • Big Truck
  • Birthday Bee
  • When I'm Five
  • Sisters and Brothers
  • Roller Coaster
  • Yes/No
  • Fall Down
  • Back to the Farm
  • Give a Hug
Bari Koral has also established herself over the past seven years as a performer and a leader in the "yoga for kids" movement. Bari's catchy, pop-friendly tunes and interactive live shows feature a creative blend of music and movement, and many of her songs are also widely used in kids' yoga classes and preschool classrooms. Bari will soon be the host of the world's first yoga-based, movement-and-music TV show for kids, coming soon on the Veria Living Network.

I solicited some feedback from the family on our road trip about the CD and here are some of their comments. Keep in mind, getting children (and husbands) to talk can be like pulling teeth.
Daddy O: "Some of the songs have a beat too young for our daughters."
Oldest Chickadee (8): "I like her voice".
Youngest Chickadee (6): "I like the instruments and the beat."
Oldest Chickadee: "I love the art work on the CD. I like her face. I also like the tree design." (Apple tree with all the songs listed on the branches.)
"Bee bee bee don't bother me." - a catchy, fun song that was everyone's favorite.
Daddy O: "It's like a rockabilly version of Laurie Berkner's voice."
Oldest Chickadee: "She has lots of good rhymes in her songs."
Disgruntled Mommy (me): "I like the 'When I'm Five' song best; it's sentimental and sweet."
'Sisters and Brothers' is a fun and cute song that we all enjoyed singing along to: "Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters, when they're away you miss them. A friend when you need a friend."
Littlest Chickadee could relate to the song 'Fall Down': "I fell down once and hurt my knee. I don't have the owie anymore." Which proves that these songs are good family conversation starters.
'Give a Hug': All of us enjoyed this song.
Daddy O: "All these songs have the same rhythm, but I like the rockabilly sound."
Littlest Chickadee: "It was great and I hope we can hear it again. The songs are all about being confident and nice that we learn this through the music."
Oldest Chickadee: "It was great music! The beat, her voice, the stories and the songs all give happiness.
We would all happily listen to the CD again and would recommend it to other families.

Congratulations Bari Koral on your new CD and thank you for the opportunity to sample to your new music!

The Apple Tree & The Honey Bee is available at, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and at independent retail outlets throughout the country.
Highlights - Summer 2014

June 15         Hard Rock CafĂ©, Philadelphia, PA
June 21          Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
July 17           Madison Square Kids Series, NYC
July 30           Newport Festival Family Concert, Newport, RI
Sept. 21          Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey, CA

*Disclaimer: We were provided a CD from her PR agency in order to facilitate a review. All opinions are our own and are authentic.

Monday, May 12, 2014

40th Birthday Present to Myself: BOOBS!

I turned 40 last week! It's a little sad for me, but I had an awesome party to celebrate with about 60 friends on a booze cruise. I wish it never had to end though - I had so much fun!

I've been challenging myself leading up to my birthday to get in better shape, be more outgoing, adventurous and have more fun. In a way, it's an attempt to stave off depression that always wants to creep in. So perhaps I've been a little manic and uncharacteristic of myself lately, but I think I've definitely invigorated my life.

My latest rebellious act is that I've scheduled a breast augmentation! I'm having surgery this Thursday (three more days)! I'm excited, but also nervous. I've always been small chested, so it's part of my identity! I think it will be interesting to adjust to a real chest for once!

In a way, I wish I didn't go around telling people I'm having it done though. Some people have an opinion against it and question my motive. I think they are valid arguments against breast augmentation, and I've believed those things myself in the past. But now I have decided not to live with a teenage boy physique anymore. I have developed a funny retort: "I'd like to have bigger boobs than my husband." (Which is true; he does have plump man boobs right now, and mine are shriveled up nursing boobs.) I successfully nursed three healthy babies for almost their entire first year of life, so these boobs have been very giving and utilitarian; they've done their job very well! Now it's time for them to shine!
"What Nine Months of Pregnancy Actually Does to a Woman's Body" - Huffington Post
When I told my mom, she said to me, "I think you've been living in California too long."

Here is the email I got from my mother in law when I told her the news:
"Wow! What a surprise. I had no idea breast implants were on the radar!  You seem so "organic", to put something foreign into you body would have been the last thing I would have imagined. I always pictured you camping, hiking; the all natural outdoor girl from Washington."
She also is concerned about the message it sends to my daughters, their body image and that women are viewed as sex objects. (Personally, I'd like to be seen as a sex object right about now!)

Here is a Facebook message I got from a coworker/friend:
"A mom-friend of mine posted this article and I looked at every photo and a piece of my heart is breaking a bit. It shows what a woman's body looks like after carrying a baby for 9 months. Such a feat of power and creativity changes our whole lives, including our bodies. The women in these photos, and you, are so beautiful.
Ok, ok, I know I'm just a coworker. (And hopefully a friend who is becoming a better and better friend!) And you only let me into this very personal disclosure this week because you trusted me enough to tell me, and NOT so that I could talk you out of it or judge you for it. So I will steer clear of doing either of those.
"Just a coworker" you may be, but I love you like my weird big sister. I can't say if it's "wrong" to get a boob job. And it probably isn't wrong. But it is so easy to do for the wrong reasons. I guess, I just wanted to lift you up and encourage you to take a deep breath and a moment to meditate on where your heart is at. Do you *actually* believe you are beautiful? Do you know you rock and that you are strong and original and creative and quirky and crazy-hard working and highly-accomplished and independent and that ALL of that and your identity and personal sense of confidence and beauty get to come from none other than the almighty God of the whole universe!?! The creator of the concept of looking good itself formed you Himself. He made no mistake when he fashioned your proportions.
I don't think that means we ought to never "upkeep" and dress up our bodies, but, we are able to do so without a single bit of our identity/confidence being extracted from our bodily appearance. After that big list of your character traits, "has a body Hollywood would approve" just pales in comparison. The Psalms say "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

When I talk beauty, I'm not saying you have some prima pretty princess body. I'm calling it "fearful," "Wonderful!" Far from some perfectly propped up Barbie figure, according to Psalms your body is downright formidable!! Capable of wielding new life, running an ugly sweater 5k, AND bringing a grown man to his knees! (Hopefully your husband ) Please believe me when I say I am not trying to talk you out of a boob job. I just want you not to do it out of perhaps, for a minute there, forgetting where your beauty and confidence comes from. I just think you are such a woman of high accomplishment and a rocking babe." 
What 9 Months Of Pregnancy Really Does To A Woman's Body - Huffington Post
I love her sweet, caring demeanor and genuine concern for me. But I'm still getting boobs!

In addition, my older sister has given me several talks about beauty and self esteem and sent me a link on a documentary she happened to stumble upon recently with a pro-woman slant: Missrepresentation.  And she gave me a meditation healing CD in the mail for my birthday. Perhaps I will listen to it when I'm recouping from surgery with my new bigger boobs!

My husband and most of my friends (with and without children) are understanding and supportive. Many friends want to have the same procedure done!

As I said before, I'm nervous, but very excited to fill out my shirts, dresses and bathing suit this summer! The 'icing on the cake' is that I'm also getting a little liposuction on my belly button region. But shhhh... don't tell! That would really get people up in arms!! The vanity of it all!!

Which side of the fence do you sit on when it comes to plastic surgery - specifically on mom bodies?

Wish me luck!