Monday, November 6, 2017

Awesome Early Chapter Book Series


With the onslaught of video games, after school activities, homework, and handheld devices constantly beckoning our kids, it's not hard to imagine why reading for fun often takes a backseat. My son, now 7, picked up reading at an early age, and I was thrilled to share my passion for the written word with him. However, his interest in reading waned as his world expanded to school, sports, friends, and of course, screens.

I eagerly brought home handfuls of books from the library, hoping to introduce him to the perfect series-- the one that would not only grab his attention, but keep it and encourage a lifelong love of reading. 

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

For over ten years, I've taught a wide variety of students, including those with significant dyslexia and ADHD, how to read and how to comprehend, and yet I couldn't inspire my own child!

Thankfully, after lots of trial and countless errors, we found four age-appropriate chapter book series that he really, truly enjoys, and that as a reading teacher, I think are fantastic for elementary students who know how to read but don't necessarily like doing so.



  1. The Data Set by Ada Hopper.
One requirement I have for an engrossing early chapter book is that it includes plenty of pictures. Because while our kids will insist they “aren't babies anymore,” I find over and over again that pictures engage kids and help them comprehend what they read, which is the goal of reading once you know how to read.

The Data Set series is about a group of whiz kids-- boys and girls-- who are interested in science and experiments. The vocabulary is what I would deem 'just right;' Hopper carefully introduces and reviews new words, but most of the words are familiar. The characters are diverse, and one even introduces basic Spanish to readers through conversations with his mother. The characters engage in easy-to-follow dialogue, and the storyline is entertaining, fresh, and quick-moving. This is truly a perfect series.

  1. Dragon Masters by Tracy West.


Dragons are all the rage these days (if you hadn't noticed), and I happened on this enchanting series while randomly skimming the library shelves. It's another one about a group of boys and girls who go on adventures, but this series takes place in a fantasy world with kings, queens, and pet dragons. There's a wizard (of course) who guides the new “dragon masters,” and it contains charming illustrations on almost every page. The plot is easy to understand, the story moves quickly, and the vocabulary is just right. Perfection!

  1. The Magic School Bus (by a variety of authors).
The Magic School Bus franchise has been around forever, but I'm specifically talking about the early chapter books. In the chapter book series, a classroom of elementary school students goes on adventures all over the world with their wacky teacher, “The Frizz,” and learn about anything from volcanoes to dinosaurs to the human body. The pictures are comprehensive and keep readers engaged and understanding the plot. New concepts are cleverly defined and reviewed throughout the book. This is a great series for curious readers who love learning as much as possible about whatever their current fixation may be.

       4. According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney.

My son mentioned his teacher was reading a Humphrey book to his second grade class. I hadn't heard of it, but since he said he liked it, I made a beeline to the library and checked out a few. The Humphrey series is about a cute class hamster named Humphrey who makes smart observations in the classroom and takes turns visiting different students' houses. The reader hears the story from hamster's perspective-- Humphrey is the narrator-- which is amusing to young readers. Again, there are plenty of pictures to break up the text and aid in comprehension.


Literacy experts stress the importance of reading comprehension as kids grow because generally in third grade, the focus at school transitions from learning to read to reading to learn. What the experts don't always address is how to help children enjoy reading to reduce battles at home and to avoid making reading feel like a chore. These four series hit the mark in our house, and I hope they help others in the same situation.  

What early book series do you love (besides Harry Potter)? What ones have been a hit with your students and/or kids? 

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Monday, October 16, 2017

Letting Go of Holiday Card Angst


It's fall, arguably the most gorgeous season of all, which can only mean one thing... golden leaves? plump pumpkins? Nope. MAKING HOLIDAY CARDS & the frantic attempts for the perfect photo.

[insert blood pressure spike here]

Let's take a deep breath together now... Innnnn....Outtttt...

Whew!

Isn't it defeating to point of it all-- spreading good cheer-- to make the annual holiday card some kind of competition/stress case/source of insomnia? I've noticed over the last few years that the majority of cards we receive are professionally created and beautifully crafted. Nothing wrong with that. IF you enjoy it. After all, I love a great family photo, and I think the expense of getting them professionally done now and then is worth every penny.

BUT an annual formal family shoot with the intention of sharing it with everyone on our address list totally stresses me out. Planning the perfect time, place, outfits, and most challenging of all-- getting the kids to behave-- is the stuff of tension headaches and heavy drinking.


#reallife

This year I've let my expectations go. We will still make a card, of course, but I have let go of the idea of the 'perfect' one.

Last Sunday, in fact, my husband asked, "should we take a photo now?" I looked at our clothes-- we happened to still be in church clothes-- not perfect, but not bad. The sun was out. The leaves were pretty. The kids were...well fed and relatively content.

"Why not?" I shrugged. While smiling and kneeling on the wet grass with wiggly children wasn't the most fun 10 minutes of my life, it wasn't so bad. I liked the spur of the moment feel because there was zero pressure and buildup.

Are the tripod results yielding my favorite photos of all time? Not so much. But all four of us are looking at the camera with some semblance of a smile on our faces with our eyes open. This year, it'll do.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Favorite Fall Shows


I'll admit it: I love a good show I can really sink my teeth into. In general I prefer comedies, but I'm not averse to the occasional drama or reality show.

Here are a few shows I'll carve out time for when I can this fall (usually OnDemand!).

1. This is Us
A rare drama in the Frantic Mama household. If you are one of the few people who has not yet watched this gem (which started last year), you are missing out. Such good acting. Such a cool concept (jumps around various time periods). Just. So. Good.




2. Young Sheldon
Why did they only show us 1 episode and then announce it won't really start until November? I don't know, but that one episode has piqued my interest. If you like the Big Bang Theory (and I do), then you'll probably like this one: it's all about young Sheldon (aptly named). It's not all snark and sarcasm; there's a real sweetness to it. Plus, the boy (in a good way) reminds me of my son, and any camaraderie I can get with that situation is embraced.


3. The Middle
What an underrated show! It's been around forever, so you'd be remiss to start anywhere but the beginning. I'm thrilled it's on for another season. The characters are SO REAL. This is one show (besides sports) FranticMamaHubby likes too.


4. Before the 90 Days
My guilty-not-so-guilty pleasure. Delicious in all its reality show glory. This is about couples spending time together before their 90 day visa begins (based on the main TLC show, 90 Day Fiance, about couples who meet abroad (or online) and then have 90 days to marry if one of them moves to the U.S. due to citizenship laws). These shows document-- quite realistically in my opinion-- what happens during such a unique, emotionally intense situation. I Can't Look Away. Don't make me.





5. I'm open.
No, that's not the name of a show. I really am open to suggestions. Someone mentioned there's another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm coming our way? Is this true? If so, sign me up! What about Portlandia? I think I'm all caught up unless there's a season 8 or 9? I don't want to miss out on any Women and Women First action. Anyway, I want to hear what you love to watch, so tell me!




~Julia @ Frantic Mama 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How to Make Glitter Slime


Yes, you read the title correctly: I'm writing one of my rare how-to posts.

But first, a little backstory: All summer, my daughter asked if we could make slime. She saw it on some silly kids channel online and was dead set on making her own. Plus, she loves anything having to do with mixing and measuring. All summer long, I put it off. "Sure, sure we can do that...at some point." Well, all the sudden, it was the last day of summer break, and I felt pretty crummy-- we still hadn't made the darn slime.




I'm happy to report, however, I pulled up those shirtsleeves and we did it. We made slime. The incredible part was that for the recipe I found, we actually had all of the ingredients (there were only 3, but still).

Ready to show your kids you still have a little fun left in you?

Here's what you'll need:

Baking soda, glue, and contact lens solution.
Ingredients:
4-6 oz. glue (we used the blue glitter kind, naturally; or, if you're using white glue, you can simply add glitter into the mixture).
1/2 tablespoon of baking soda (we used a little more)
1/4 -- 1/2 tablespoon contact lens solution (if the slime seems too sticky, add an extra tablespoon of this)
This is not a perfect science. Play around to get the consistency your kid likes. 

Here comes the tricky part-- NOT-- You mix it all in a bowl.




Mixing was her favorite part. 
We added more baking soda than the original recipe to make it thicker.





That's it! She got her slime, and I got...a sticky bowl and a happy kid. 

P.S. I used old dishcloths to scoop out the slime and throw it in the trash when she was finished. I didn't risk putting it down the sink and clogging everything up!

What "fun" activities did your kids convince you to do recently?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama



Sunday, August 20, 2017

Hummingbirds, Elmer's Glue, & an Umbrella

Yesterday, while in a waiting room, I had the chance to page through a magazine I've never read before: Birds & Blooms, all about, of course, birds and flowers.

This particular issue focused on one of earth's most magical creatures-- hummingbirds. Plus, it was the only magazine in the waiting area, so I opened it up.

Paging through the issue, I happened to land on an incredible true short essay that caught my attention. It made such an impact on me that I want to share the gist of it with all of you:




One day, the author noticed a tiny hummingbird nest on a tree in their yard in Arizona. The eggs must have been miniscule. A few days later, however, the nest and its two eggs were on ground. The mother hummingbird frantically flew around the fallen nest, clearly distraught. One of the baby birds didn't make it. The other egg, however, was still intact.

The author somehow thought to use Elmer's glue to help restore and secure the tiny nest to its tree branch. The mother hummingbird went right back to guarding her single egg. She didn't abandon it.

The mother and her nest were soon in for another challenge as a hailstorm was fast approaching. The author stood out in the hail to protect the nest using an umbrella. Eventually, the wind was too much for the umbrella and it snapped. For rest of the storm, the author used her hands to shield the nest. Miraculously, the egg and nest remained intact after the storm.

When the bee-sized baby bird emerged from its fragile egg, it appeared the mother and baby hummingbird knew how much this human had helped them. Hummingbirds are notoriously skittish, but these two happily buzz about the author and her husband. The baby has even perched on the author's shoulder.

I find this story remarkable for so many reasons. I love witnessing that fierce, instinctual mother-child protection. In this story, we see two versions of it-- with the mother hummingbird, and with the human.

I love that in a world so often filled with cruelty and sadness, one where everyone always laments how "busy" they are, someone devoted so much time and care to help one of earth's tiniest creatures.

And I love a happy ending.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama 


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Growing up


If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I haven't had the easiest time with my son. He recently turned 7, which I both can and can't believe.

I've written about his high sensitivity before. It's hard to put a finger on the challenges I've faced with him since he was a baby. He was a beautiful baby, and I was so thrilled to have him, but very soon after birth I noticed that his disposition was 'harder' than other babies. He cried and fussed more; he was not happy-go-lucky. As a toddler, he was the 'hardest' in any playgroup, and then in preschool he continued to be challenging, often getting into issues with other children or acting out with the teachers.

It is impossible to sum him up with a few words. He has a hidden old-soul sweet and sensitive side, and a hilarious sense of humor. He has also always been easily overstimulated and overwhelmed, and that's when negative behaviors occur (yelling, hitting, outbursts). You might say he's quirky, to put things lightly.

As a very little boy, he didn't get along easily with other children at the park. His social struggles have made me sad countless times, and I know he isn't unaware of his challenges. Though, with time, he has made some friends. I am so happy for him.

I'm sure he could see the differences between himself and the easygoing kid at the park who easily blends in with other children (like his sister). He still cries and angers easily, to the point where I can lose my patience and question every decision I ever make, but that's also dissipating somewhat.

When my little guy started kindergarten, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. How on earth would he be okay away from home for 8 hours a day? Here's the silver lining: my son had a great 1st year of school.

His experienced kindergarten teacher seemed to understand him almost immediately. She quickly recognized his intelligence as well as his challenging [often obsessive] need for perfection. She easily grasped that he loves a challenge and loves working hard and learning new things, but that he also has a low tolerance for frustration and for other kids picking at him.

Here's what I learned from his teacher: she didn't expect him to be perfect socially. What I think she recognized early on that I'm just beginning to accept is this: you can't be perfect-- or even good-- at everything. Everything can't be easy for you.

She focused on his talents rather than his struggles. She was excited about his abilities. He had another great 1st grade experience. He made a few good friends. He laughed more. He enjoyed his sports and even went to some birthday parties. School has suited him.

When we have those hard, patience-testing moments, I'm trying to remember this: No one is perfect at everything. No one is even good at everything. This should be my mantra-- for both of us.

When my son triumphantly arrived home after finishing his last day of kindergarten, and again after his first and last day of 1st grade, smiling and proud, I felt proud of him too.

In those brief moments, I feel myself letting go of the constant worry, the wondering if he will be "okay," because while he may never be like the vast majority of his peers, he is special the way he is. I'm a better person because of him.

I'm excited to see what my bright, challenging boy will discover and accomplish in his life, and what will emerge from his unique brain. I hope I'll be the mother he deserves to support him and embrace him as he grows.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Favorite Kids Clothes


I love a good hand-me-down. I do not feel compelled to buy my kids fancy clothes they'll wear once or never. However, as a mom, you've gotta #treatyoself sometimes, right? It's fun to occasionally buy cute outfits for the kids. And we all deserve some fun.

My friend Leah Adamski sells Peekaboo Beans children's clothes. It's now my go-to brand for well-made, nice-looking clothes for my son and daughter. They have simple designs, bright colors, and best of all, they are sensory-friendly-- no tags, no itchy spots, no ridiculous buttons and ties that are impossible to buckle. The whole point of the line is to make your kids comfortable so they can play and have fun. [Okay, and look cute doing it.]

I'm trying to eliminate unnecessary chemicals in our home. Unlike mass produced children's clothes, Peekaboo Beans are free from carcinogenic dyes, heavy metals, and chemicals that can be absorbed by the skin. The company pays fair wages to its employees, and they support Playground Builders, a non-profit charity that builds playgrounds in war torn countries. Plus, the entire company was started by one mom. Moms are awesome.

My favorite purchase so far is this pair of stretchy bell bottom jeans for my curvy little girl. The waistband is elastic to fit comfortably on little buddha bellies, and they wash and wear so well. You would have no idea she's been wearing hers for a year!


My son, one of the pickiest clothing people on the planet, willingly wears these cool lightweight, elastic-waist shorts:

My next purchase is going to be this sweet little play dress that will take my daughter from summer to winter (just add leggings and a long-sleeve shirt under or over it):

Browse the shop and connect with Leah:  www.peekaboobeans.com/GGBeans 
Leah's e-mail: leah@thebetterbeing.com

*Psssst....It's a Canadian brand, so their prices are currently listed in CA dollars. American customers, make sure to do a currency conversion. Otherwise, Whoa! Sticker shock!

I'd love to know if you end up trying Peekaboo Beans! What did you order? What do you love? Is there another brand of kids clothes you love? Please share!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama




Saturday, July 15, 2017

Surviving Summer with Little Kids


It's now almost mid-July. How YOU doing?

I'll tell you how I'm doing: not terrible. not perfect. somewhere between meh and pretty, pret-ty good [channeling Larry David there].

Things get easier in the summer months for work-at-home and stay-at-home parents once your kids are a little older, mainly because there's more they can do! My daughter is 4.5 and my son just turned 7 (SEVEN!). They do a morning park camp most days of the week, which is when I work, get caught up on errands, and/or catch my breath a little. The afternoons are... pretty much wide open. Which is good until it isn't.

You see, I love getting outside in the summer, exploring new places, working in the yard, and doing All The Things. My kids don't always agree with me or with each other on these little adventures, and they are kids, so naturally, they get crabby, hot, hungry, tired, wet, etc. That's when Chaos Ensues.

Sometimes my kids make me want to tear my hair out. The bickering, the yelling, the crying, AHHHH! I like peace and quiet, or at least laughter and joyful screaming.

To cut back on the "Save me!" and support the "this is fun!" I have a few go-tos to help us get through the dog days of summer with as little pain and as much enjoyment as possible. I want to look back on these summers and remember the fun we had, not all the exhausting, annoying stuff. Who's with me?

Here are a few simple survival activities:

Parks. The less crowded, the better. I'm an introvert, remember? Pretty much the last thing I want to do at a park is try to carry on a conversation with another adult while also focusing on keeping my kids well-behaved with each other and all the other kids. I don't want to have to scold my kids constantly and I don't want to undergo the exhausting process of acting like every second is wonderful. I just want to sit for a few minutes and watch my kids play. Is that too much to ask? They have a ton of energy and a new playground is usually a good bet to occupy them for a while.



Library visits. My kids and I don't do great on super hot, humid afternoons (we're Minnesotans!). One way to escape the heat without turning on a t.v. is to visit a library. Even better if it's a new one or a less busy one (see above). Some of the local ones offer free programs throughout the summer like magic shows and a yo-yo master (seriously).

Cooking. My son has very little interest in cooking, but this is something my daughter LOVES. So I'll often pick out a simple baking recipe and let her help stir and measure. It's an activity we both enjoy, and we can do it in the comfort of our own home on a lazy afternoon.

Planting fun. Growing stuff may not sound interesting to everyone, but as luck would have it, my son shares this interest with me. He especially loves learning about and watching the vegetables we plant in the spring grow throughout the summer. We often walk around the yard to inspect which plants are doing well and which ones aren't, and he likes helping water them. It's another mutually enjoyable hobby we can do in our own yard.

In the meantime, let's drop the "everything is wonderful!" charade this summer, folks. Saying you had a hard day/week/summer with your kids does not mean you are a bad parent. It means you are a human one. The more open we can be with each other, the healthier and more real we'll all be.

What are your summer go-tos?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama




Thursday, June 29, 2017

5 Friday Faves: Summer 2017 Edition


Summer has officially begun here in the U.S., and it still baffles me that our friends over in Australia are gearing up for winter, correct?

Anyway, believe it or not, it gets warm-- hot even!-- here in Minnesota, not that I mind. I love summer. It's the best. That said, the kids have much less structure (i.e. school) June-August and therefore require a lot a lot a lot of attention and intention on my part. As they get older, summers are getting more fun with them, but it's still tricky to find the balance of work time/kid time/me time.

Here are a few of my summer faves to maximize our enjoyment this summer:

1. A summer read is a must-have, isn't it? Of course, most of us with kids have to wait until they are in bed to read more than a couple of sentences at a time. I've managed to read a couple of good books recently, so I'm cheating and adding two here (click the images to order your copy ;):

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman





The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende



(For more Frantic Mama book picks, check out #franticmamabookclub on Instagram. I add any books I'm currently reading to it).


2. Tiny House Hunters on HGTV. I cannot explain this addiction. There is just something about this 30 minute show (OnDemand, of course. I have no idea when shows actually air). Maybe it's the tiny-ness of it. The cuteness of it. The usually very unusual people house shopping in it. I love all of it and find it the ideal summer relaxation show to watch with the hubby when the kids are in bed (yeah I guess a lot of my fun is after the kids are in bed! Ha!).

Photo from HGTV.com. Taken by Wheelhaus.


3. Arbonne Awaken Sea Salt Scrub. Ohhhhhh my. This might be my favorite shower product of all time. It's a huge tub of delightfully uplifting salt scrub scented with essential oils "for happiness." My skin smells good all most of the day when I use this in the morning and I do think it helps me "awaken."

Smells so good you'll want to eat it.

4. Cheeseburger Pie. Yeah, the name could use some work, but I can't think of anything else that accurately describes this dish in a more...elegant...way. In Minnesota, it's a hot dish. Anywhere else, it's a casserole. You can find my mom's recipe and my photos for this delicious dish on Splendry, where I contribute from time to time. The site is super cute and positive, and trust me, this recipe doesn't disappoint!

Nom. Nom. Nom.


5. What's summer without a few cocktails? Dumb, that's what. Here's an awesome spirit to add to your bar, and it's made right here in Minnesota (and no, this post is NOT sponsored by them). Tattersall Distillery's Sour Cherry liquor. I initially bought it because the bottle features a horse (and I'm obsessed with horses), and I love all things cherry. I do not regret this purchase. Add a generous splash of this ruby red spirit to ginger ale, drink it straight, use it in a martini...it'll be good.


Off to make a cocktail...


That's all for now. What are your summer faves?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more frantic fun on Facebook!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Thoughts on my birthday...


Well, folks, tomorrow is my birthday. While they are not as exciting as they are for our little ones, birthdays have a way of making us pause and reflect on the past year, the future, the present.

This year flew by for me for many reasons. One reason is that my son is in school now. As soon as he started kindergarten last year (he's now finishing up 1st grade), time sped up. Add in sports and extras, and the wheels haven't stopped in our house. Gone are the endless baby and toddler days, and that's mostly a good thing. I'd rather be out, busy, enjoying life than spending time in the house warped in nap schedules and baby routines (so new mamas, take heart-- there's hope!).


Oddly enough, I found this image with the "36" (my new age) on a photo database.
A sign of...something?
Also, I wish that were my cake :).



I also took on more work this year. I tutored throughout the school year, took on a regular contributing writer/reporter position for our local newspaper, and contributed more frequently to magazines and websites. I also renewed my teaching license. 

Whew! 

I'm tired just thinking about it all, but I don't regret the extra time I carved out for these professional and personal pursuits. While taking on more work projects ate up what remained of my meager social and free time, it feels really good to have my foot back in the teaching realm as well as quite a few publications under my belt.So what goals do I have for this next year? Truthfully, I haven't had much time to think about it [see above]. I'll have to keep you posted. I suppose at this point, my motto is 'keep on keeping on!'

How about you? How do birthdays make you feel? Old? Young? Accomplished, or not so much? Do you set goals each year? If so, what are they?

There's still a lot I want to do in my life. I hope I continue to be inspired in the upcoming year. I hope to be a content wife and mother while making room for my own passions and career.

And of course, I hope to write fresh posts on my trusty Frantic Mama blog for another year!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Friday, June 2, 2017

Amazon Prints is REALLY worth the try! $1000 of Amazon Gift Cards to be Won!

I'm a big fan of Amazon.com. Amazon and I go way back-- I remember when they just sold books in ye olden days when I was in college. Now you can get just about anything from them, photos included.

I'm obsessed with taking photos of my family (and of nature and animals and everything else). The problem with all these digital photos is that they often add up on my phone and camera instead of being printed and organized in a nice album or photo gift we can actually enjoy.





Amazon to the rescue! 

Amazon has launched a photo printing service that allows all customers to print their memories. Prime members can upload images to their Prime Photos account, print the product of their choice, and receive free delivery. 

If you’re not a Prime member, you’ll receive 5 GB of storage free on Prime Photos and be able to print your photos. Prints start as low as $0.09, but I'm a sucker for the photo canvases and photo calendar creation (I give my husband a family photo calendar with our favorite photos each Christmas. He says it's his favorite gift.). 

Here's a fun gift card giveaway I'm a part of in collaboration with Amazon: 






I hope one of my readers wins the big cash prize (because naturally my readers are the best!). In the meantime, keep snapping those photos! If you're anything like me, you'd rather have too many than too few :).

 ~ Julia @ Frantic Mama


*Thanks to Amazon for sponsoring this post and providing prizes for the giveaway!
**Amazon, Fire, and the Amazon Fire TV logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thoughts on my First Born's 7th Birthday


OMG. Omggggg you guys. My first born turned 7-- SEVEN-- last week. My longterm, loyal [amazing] readers know I reflect every year on my son's birthday, ever since I started the blog, right before he turned 2. TWO!

You know how everyone loves to inform exhausted, overwhelmed new mothers that "it goes by so fast-- enjoy every second!"? And how that 'advice' is completely annoying most of the time because if you are home all day every day with babies, toddlers, and young children the days go by anything but fast? Don't worry, I'm not one of those people. I don't have the Motherhood Amnesia so characteristic of mothers-in-law and random grocery-store shoppers.


This photo courtesy of the Mother-Son date I took him on for Mother's Day.
I treasure our rare one-one-one times and need to make them happen more often!

I can now say that okay, yes, I see how (in a way) the years do go by fast. But not the days. Definitely not the days. I've had some doozies in my life as a mom, and I have earned each one of these 7 years (~2,555 days) as a Mom Veteran. I'm a fighter, baby! And I'm still standing.

Still, I've said it before and I'll say it again this year: What my son's birthday most poignantly reminds me of is that Motherhood has brought me the greatest challenges in my life, but it has also brought me the most joy in my life. I'm forever grateful for my son. I love the person he has always been and, maybe even more, the one he is becoming.

Here's to the next 7 years of Motherhood... the challenges, the joys, the heartache, the triumphs... ALL of it.

Much love from me to all of you who have been with me since the beginning, and also to newer visitors. It truly takes a village-- and I don't care if it's online!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

You can find more of me on Facebook.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Paperless Post Fun


Have you heard of Paperless Post? It's a handy site that helps you create beautiful online and printed stationery that reflects your style. The founders started the business to show that communication can be personal and well-designed regardless of the medium.

I love the idea because I'm pretty really bad about remembering to send snail mail cards...you know, the whole buy a card, find a stamp, put in the mail ordeal...and remembering to do all of it a couple of weeks ahead of the birthday/party/event. I end up feeling guilty all the time because I never get my act together to send cards on time!


You can send this adorable card via e-mail or snail mail through Paperless Post!

Enter Paperless Post: They have customizable designs and online tools that make it easy to communicate for any occasion-- from birthday invites to baby showers to Father's Day to fundraisers. You can send online cards and invites, yes, but here's my favorite part-- you can have Paperless Post send a printed card to your recipient directly from their site, with your own personalized message!

You simply provide the address and message (you can even upload a photo). Voila! No frantic runs to the store to pick out a card or rummaging through the house scavenging for stamps only for the card to arrive after the holiday/birthday/etc. Your loved one still receives your beautiful note via their mailbox. 

Here is a link to their cute birthday inviteshttps://www.paperlesspost.com/cards/group/birthday_invitations.The kids birthday options are especially cute, like this one:



LOVE it. 

The cost ranges from free for basic online cards to upwards of several dollars (you buy "coins" on the site to pay for their products) for a customized printed card or invite mailed for you (which includes postage).

How about you? Do you send printed or online invites and cards? Is snail mail a lost art? Have you embraced the ease of technology to communicate and celebrate?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

We adopted...a cat!


I feel remiss, readers! I have not formally introduced all of you to our newest family member.

Please forgive me, and meet Pikachu!

Isn't she pretty?


My 6 year-old son, of course, is the one who came up with the name. He's obsessed with Pokemon right now, and Pikachu is a main character in the show. Here's the original Pikachu:


Do you see the resemblance ;) ?

She's been a great addition to the family. She was a rather lonesome barn cat for years, and when I told my riding instructor we were hoping to adopt a kitty, she suggested we take Tina (now re-named Pikachu) home. We couldn't have asked for a better pet. She's calm, affectionate, and playful. We LOVE her. [Side note: if you are thinking of getting a pet, consider adopting one! It's an awesome experience.]

The fact that my kids and I convinced my dog-loving husband to give a cat a try is also a pretty huge deal. He loves her now too and can often be found petting her on his lap in the evenings.


Besides, who could resist those chunky, fluffy paws, calico fur, and green eyes?
Ancient wisdom and folklore from many cultures have believed that Calicos are magical and bring good luck. I think I agree...

Pikachu is sitting/sleeping in her favorite spot-- my lap-- as I type this. You can find more Pikachu Pics on my Instagram page (of course): www.Instagram.com/FranticMama.

How about you guys? Who has pets? Are you a dog person, a cat person, or like me, an everything-with-fur person?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama



Thursday, April 13, 2017

5 Friday Faves: Au Natural Edition


I'll probably never be the Crunchy Granola type (I love me a little glamour!), but I am trying to eliminate just some of the more 'dangerous'* chemicals in our house and bodies [despite the fact my husband thinks I'm a little crazy].





Here are Five Friday Faves that fall into the 'Less Toxic, More Natural' Category:

1. Better Life Automatic Dishwashing Detergent.





I love this soap as much as one can love a dishwasher detergent (which isn't a ton, I suppose, because how much can one love dish soap?). It isn't very expensive, and it smells a million times better than the store-brand, chemical-laden, surely toxic gel we had been using for years. YEARS! And yes, it really works, better in fact, than our old one (but do note, I am a rinser).

2. Sunscreens:

Making the following switches has been no small feat for me. I expect a lot from a daily face lotion and a sunscreen. It needs to be light but moisturizing, it needs to be non-comedogenic, and ideally, it needs to contain SPF. Oh, and now it needs to be paraben-free.

My new favorite daily face lotion with SPF so far: MD Solar Sciences Daily Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30: It's paraben-free, contains natural fragrance (lavender), contains no mineral oil, and most of their products are highly rated by EWG (Environmental Working Group). I am currently using this chemical-based face lotion/sunscreen and lurve it, but I'm eventually going to try their mineral-based ones too, as I know those are probably better for my skin (sigh...).





Mineral sunscreen:

One mineral-based sunscreen I love for the kids and me: Rodan and Fields Soothe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. This lotion is fantastic. It contains physical blockers-- zinc and titanium dioxide-- and is paraben-free and fragrance-free. My son's skin is is ultra-sensitive and this is the ONLY sunscreen that doesn't ruin our lives when we are on vacation or during summer months when we are outside a lot with a high UV index.
(You do need to order this through a consultant.)

3. Here's a little natural treat to mix into your routine: Juice Beauty Green Apple Hand Cream.

This cream feels fresh and clean, and the list of ingredients doesn't look like one you would find in a chemistry lab. Enough said!





4. Norwex 

I was introduced to the Norwex brand last spring when a friend of mine hosted a party. I was surprisingly quickly on board with their products, even though I am not a cleaning fiend at all [it's hard for me to get excited about cleaning!].

Part of the reason I've always hated to clean is the strong chemical scent of so many cleaners, so my favorite Norwex product is their EnviroCloth. You use it with just water and it cleans your surfaces really well-- no chemicals needed to get rid of 99% of bacteria! They also reduce my paper towel usage. The wool "Fluff and Tumble" dryer balls are awesome too; they soften clothes in the dryer without the chemical-laden dryer sheets I had been using my whole life.

5. LifeFactory Glass Bottles

The plastic sports bottles we have been using (even though they are BPA-free) have made me wary. Just how much of the plastic coating is leeching into our water? Maybe none. Maybe some...




Either way, an easy switch has been to use these 9 oz. Life Factory Glass bottles.** These bottles are dishwasher safe, hard to break due to their silicone cases, and easy for little hands to open and close.


**Now please excuse me while I take out a second mortgage to pay for all these switches.

What are some of your natural faves these days?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*When I say 'dangerous,' I basically mean products containing known carcinogens or toxic materials that can leech into our food or bodies. I'm sure none of these products are perfect, but they have definitely helped me feel just a bit better.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

What's Your Sign?


When I was growing up, I always skipped ahead to read my horoscope in the back of my glossy magazines. I don't do that anymore (mainly because I don't have the time), but I can't help but think there might be something to astrology, and more specifically, the zodiac signs.

My birthday is June 9th, and I have always felt like my sign-- Gemini-- couldn't fit me more. (Hilarious side note: AstroStyle.com sums up Gemini as "the most versatile and vibrant horoscope sign, Gemini energy helps us communicate, collaborate, and fly our freak flags at full mast." Ha! And to spot me, they advise you to simply look for those of us with "a mischievous twinkle in their eyes, reading, talking with their hands." Check.) 

One of the eeriest things I read all the time about Geminis is that being a writer is a very typical/ideal career for them...




Now, skeptics (even me) could easily argue that zodiac descriptions are so general that they can apply to anyone. (But come on, who else but Geminis let their freak flags hang at full mast?).

Think I'm crazy or want to learn more? 

Here's a little history on the subject.

According to the American Federation of Astrology (it's a thing), the Babylonians are credited with the birth of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. 

Through the studies of famous wiseman like Plato and Aristotle, astrology came to be regarded as a science and was embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiacal signs are still used today). While earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of apparent chaos, it was soon utilized to predict weather patterns. 

The Zodiac is believed to have developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took 12 lunar cycles (months) for the sun to return to its original position. They identified 12 constellations they observed were linked to the progression of the seasons and assigned them names.

The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:

  • Fire Signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
  • Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
  • Air Signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
  • Earth Signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo

The division of the 12 signs of the zodiac is based on the earth's year-long rotation around the sun and relates to character traits and areas of life.




Aquarius
January 20 - February 18
Pisces
February 19 - March 20
Aries
March 21 - April 19
Taurus
April 20 - May 20
Gemini
May 21 - June 20
Cancer
June 21 - July 22
leo
July 23 - August 22
Virgo
August 23 - September 22
Libra
September 23 - October 22
Scorpio
October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius
November 22 - December 21














It's tempting to focus on solely the positive aspects of my sign-- Geminis are open-minded, can talk to anyone and love to create and experience everything-- I have to admit it, the negatives that go with mine ring true too-- the emotional highs and lows, the restlessness and nervous energy, and the tendency to take on too much and become overwhelmed and distracted. My son is a Gemini too-- it'll be fun to see if it fits him as he grows.

Check out AstroStyle to read their in-depth descriptions. I want to know what you think!

Does your sign fit you or is it all just a bunch of hogwash? 

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Make Mom Friends

Are you a new mom? Or have you recently made a change-- decided to go back to work or to stay home with your kids? Or maybe you have older children but want to branch out and meet other ladies in the same stage of life? I get it. I soooo get it.

As much as I love being alone (allll alone), being alone with kids is a totally different story.

Part of my mission as a blogger has always been to support other moms. My recent post up on Parent.co hopefully does just that.






If you like it, please consider sharing it with a new parent who looks a little lost, or maybe with a co-worker who just decided to stay home, or perhaps you need a little encouragement to get out there. I think it's especially valuable for moms (like me) who don't have family nearby.

In the article, I share my realistic, real-life ways to meet potential friends during your current Mom Stage of Life. My ideas aren't made up. I have done them. All of them. I have no shame!

Click here for the article :).

Also, thank you readers for all of your support over the years. As important as in-person friendship is, I can definitely say that I have met some amazing friends online too, and your support is never forgotten!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Natural Deodorants Put to the Test

Welcome to Frantic Mama!

If you read my previous post, you know I've been on a quest to find healthier body products for my kids and me (my husband could put vegetable oil on his face and his skin wouldn't react. Plus, I doubt he'll wear anything smelling of lavender anytime soon).

Natural deodorant is one of the trickiest things to change over to. I've been a Secret Soft Solid Powder Fresh Antiperspirant/Deodorant girl for as long as I can remember. It does the job, and I am a serious sweat-er, no matter how in (or out of) shape I am.

My priorities for a new brand were twofold: it can't have aluminum (which eliminates any type of antiperspirant) or Parabens (known endocrine-disrupters and possible carcinogens).

All four of the following meet those two criteria, and they all had their plus sides, but I do have one favorite.



First, I tried Schmidts:

Pros: It smells really good and has a soft solid feel which I prefer to a wet gel. It's a decent price, available at Target.

Cons: I definitely had to reapply throughout the day in order to smell fresh. Still, if you aren't a super-sweaty person, this might be a good bet for you.

Next up was Desert Essence:
Pros: Again, it smells nice and light and was available and inexpensive at the local natural foods store.
Cons: It's more of a gel, which isn't my favorite. I had to reapply often (yikes!) in order to avoid smelling like a teenage boy! Not a good one for me overall.

3rd try: Arbonne 
Pros: Refreshing unisex mint scent. Clean ingredients and packaging. Works pretty well, though you might need to reapply if you sweat a lot or workout.
Cons: It's the most expensive of the bunch by far and you have to order through a consultant. It's also a gel, which I don't love.

4th try is a charm: Native 
Pros: My friend who had recently converted to aluminum-free products said this was her favorite after trying about 5 brands. I was 0 for 3, so I quickly ordered some. It smells really nice like the Schmidt's, and it is that same powdery feel that I like. *(Shout-out to Amanda for her recommendation!).


Most importantly, Native works the best!

Cons: You have to order it online as far as I know, and it costs more than, say, Schmidt's, Tom's of Maine (which still often has aluminum in it!), or Secret, of course, but with free shipping it came out to about $10-- worth it for being un-smelly and mostly chemical-free! It is like a magic potion. You simply can't believe it works but it does.


What have you tried and liked?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations when it comes to going more natural. What works? What doesn't? What are you avoiding, and what are you embracing?

My next mission: To round up my favorite mineral-based sunscreens!

P.S. This is a completely unsponsored post. I purchased all of the products myself, and I am not participating in any kind of advertising campaign for any of the brands I note. Though if you want to try Native and earn us free travel sizes, feel free to use my referral link :).

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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