Musings About Life... After Birth



Posted by Chelsea on August 02, 2011

Who's been enjoying this lovely summer weather? Hot, sticky and humid? Whee!!!!! Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

As if just plain 'ol enduring the heat wasn't rough enough, this grossness wreaks havoc on your hair, no? Don't know what kind of locks you're rockin', but my curly mane transforms into one big 'fro in this weather unless I use my trusty John Frieda Frizz-Ease products - namely, the Smooth Start Repairing Shampoo & Conditioner and the Frizz-Ease Original Strength Serum. I swear, this stuff is miraculous - so much so that random people stop me in the CVS and stuff to ask me how I get my curls to look so smooth and pretty. Swear!

If you'd like to enjoy the near-religious experience that these products offer, you're in luck! We're giving away one full-size set of all three products to one lucky winner! Here's how you can receive all sorts of  chances to win:

1) Become a Follower of The Momtourage Blog on Facebook (this is easy - just click the little blue Facebook button over near the top right-hand side of the page!). If you're already a follower, you're already entered!

Here's how you can earn additional chances after you become a fan on Facebook (or if you are already a fan):

2) Subscribe to the Momtourage mailing list  - in the light green box at the top, right-hand side  of the page here! In doing so, you'll be the first to know about special promotions, discounts and major league giveaways!

3) Follow us on Twitter: @themomtourageblog or, click on the little blue twitter "t" button over near the top right-hand side of the page

4)  Write about and link to this giveaway on your OWN blog! This will be worth THREE entries since it takes a little extra effort!

Good luck! We'll announce the winner next Monday!

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Posted by Janna on July 30, 2011

What's the worst thing a mom can hear from her middle schooler at ten o'clock at night? How about "Mom, I think I left my history study guide at school. Oh, and the test is tomorrow."

What can be done? Nothing, really. I mean, I guess you *could* stay up until midnight hunting relevant information on Google and then help your kid cram for a test with facts that may or may not be in line with that damned study guide...but at this point, there's truly not much you can do other than anticipate a really crappy tomorrow. If you've had any dealings with tweenagers, either as a teacher or a parent, then you know that this type of thing is not unusual for many of them.

I teach middle schoolers. Honestly, I think they rock. I also think that most of them need serious help with organization. I cannot tell you how many brilliant kids I have seen through the years who have grades that are in the toilet before the end of the first grading period because they can't keep their sh*t together. And seriously, I don't know who to feel more sorry for: those grim-faced kiddos or their frustrated parents.

The thing is, most of these kids are able to achieve grades that truly reflect their abilities when just a few simple tools and strategies are put into place. Knowing that, it seems to me that a great time to think about organization is before the school year begins (rather than after that scary progress report comes home).

To help you prepare for an organized (and hopefully less stressful) school year, I've compiled a list of nine items and accompanying strategies that your child can use from day one.

1. A well-planned student planner

Not all planners are designed with school-age kids in mind. An agenda like the one you use for tracking appointments or play-dates is probably not the best choice for your tween. Instead, look for an academic planner that includes both monthly and weekly spreads. The monthly spreads are best used for marking project due dates, tests, and other items that require time management over several days (or even weeks). The weekly spreads, which should also include labeled sections for each subject area, are for listing nightly homework, quizzes, and tasks that need to be completed to accomplish the larger items that were placed on the monthly spreads. This one, available at Amazon, gets serious Momtourage props.

Student Planner 2011-2012 School Year Planner High School / Middle School Content- 7X9" by The Student Planner, $5.75, available at

2. A sturdy locker shelf

You really would not believe how much middle school drama is directly related to poorly designed locker shelves. By poorly designed, I mean the ones that are held in place by tension. Seriously, don't do that to your kid. Before the first semester is over, that shelf will fall and sheer panic will ensue. Luckily, this is preventable if you look for a well-constructed locker shelf. The Container Store clearly knows what's up. Their Janus Locker Shelf is adjustable and allows the locker to be divided into three sections. It should be arranged so that the bottom section is tall enough to store upright textbooks. The middle section should be used for binders, folders, notebooks and extra packages of paper. The top should be reserved for a lunchbox and/or pencil bags.


Janus Locker Shelf, $24.99, available at

3. Durable binders

If your school requires that students carry a different binder for each subject area, do yourself a favor and look for binders that can take a beating. Yes, you can find 99 cent binders at Wal-Mart, but you will likely have to replace those before winter break (and maybe again before the end of the year). Durable binders, like these by Avery, should last longer. They are also available in a variety of colors, which is important since each binder should be a different color. Read on to find out why.


1" Avery® Durable Binder with EZ-Turn™ Rings, $2.99, available at

4. Stretchy fabric book covers

These are a no-brainer. Every school that I can think of asks that students cover their textbooks. But instead of spending hours cutting up paper grocery bags, why not just grab some of these Jumbo Book Sox? Be sure to choose colors that match the binders you purchase. This will allow you to help your tween set up a color coding system. Give each subject area its own color, and make sure that each textbook is covered in the same color as its corresponding binder. This way, your child can quickly and easily find what she needs each time she visits her locker.


Book Sox® Jumbo Size Textbook Covers, $3.99 each, available at
5. A backpack designed for older kids

Your kiddo's elementary school backpack is not going to be the best choice for middle school and high school. Luckily, there are some great backpack options out there for older kids. This one from L.L.Bean offers plenty of storage and features a reinforced bottom and padded straps. Backpack tip: help your kid clean out his backpack each weekend. Less clutter in a backpack makes finding needed items much easier. While you're at it, look through those binders and make sure all papers are properly filed, too.

Super Deluxe Book Pack, $54.95, available at

6. Two pencil pouches

The best pencil bags aren't pencil bags at all; they are zippered leatherette bank bags. I realize your tween daughter may not be super psyched about these plain bags. I mean, they aren't exactly cute. However, you can help her get on board with this idea when you explain to her that they are perfect for decorating with paint pens and Sharpie markers. She can have all her friends sign one side and express her undying devotion to Justin Bieber all over the other. Now, why do you need two? Pencil bags, much like backpacks, become ineffective when there's too much stuff inside. Get two bags and have your child keep pencils, pens, and items that are always needed in one and place art supplies (such as markers, scissors, and glue sticks) in the other.

MMF Industries™ Zipper-Top Blue Leatherette Wallet, 6" x 11", $3.99, available at

7. A plastic folder for homework

Lost homework is such a pain in the ass. I believe that kids lose homework papers because there are too many opportunities to file it in the wrong place. A designated homework folder solves this issue. I suggest purchasing a plastic one, such as the Storex® Recycled Poly Two-Pocket Portfolio. Paper folders are just too flimsy to last for an entire school year, but a plastic one can. Each day, your tween should place assignments that are to be completed at home in the left pocket of the folder. As an assignment is completed, it moves to the right pocket. At school, the folder should be carried to each and every class (along with the student planner, of course). That way, when a teacher asks for an assignment, your kid will know exactly where to look instead of frantically searching for a half-hour through his notebooks, binders, textbooks, backpack and locker. Nearly every student I have had in my classroom who put this strategy into use was rewarded with a higher grade. True story.

Storex® Recycled Poly Two-Pocket Portfolio, $1.99, available at

8. White out tape

White out tape is truly a miraculous invention, especially for older kids who are frequently required to complete assignments in ink. This tape eliminates all of the hassle of using liquid white out (i.e., no mess, no drying time, no unpleasant odor) and allows your child to make corrections to assignments without messy scribbles. This is especially important when it comes to taking notes, because if notes aren't legible then studying becomes confusing and ineffective.

BIC® Wite-Out® Brand Exact Liner® Correction Tape, $6.49 for a package of two, available at

9. No smear highlighters

How bad does it suck when highlighters smear printed or handwritten words? Nearly all the highlighters I have ever owned have this design flaw. However, these highlighters created by Staedtler were tested by the folks at and not one of the eight colors smeared inkjet print. As for student organization, highlighters are invaluable tools. Students should use them to highlight key points in notes and directions on all worksheets, tests and quizzes to help ensure that they have read all of the instructions carefully. Students can also use different colored highlighters on their planner pages to mark homework that has been completed in advance, as well as assignments that require immediate action.

Staedtler Textsurfer Classic Highlighter, $10.75 for a package of eight, available at


Happy back-to-school shopping, y'all!



Posted by Chelsea on June 22, 2010

I got a press release today from the folks at Lynnina, a new swimwear manufacturer founded by Lynn Werner, who is described in the release as “a California-based mom who wanted to create a chic swimsuit alternative that delivered style, coverage and comfort”. Lynnia’s debut swimwear line “features boardshorts in a variety of colors and prints, with complementary mix and match tops…that ensure that unsuitable suits never get in the way of a cool dip on a hot day or splashing around with your kids at the pool.”

I sooooo want to support Lynn and momtrepreneurs in general, but oh sweet Lord, these suits are FUG. Check them out:

If Mom Jeans were swimsuits, I’m afraid these would be them. Even these cute, skinny models look dumpy in them. Bleech. No. Freaking. Way.

Even though I myself do it all the time, it makes me sad that the word “mom” is so often associated with the pejorative. Ugly jeans are “mom jeans”, big ‘ol, unsexy minivans are too “mom”, etc. I know there’s this whole “hot moms” movement, complete with books and television pilots and skinny celebs who grace the covers of Us Weekly looking Victoria’s Secret runway-ready an hour after giving birth, but you know the female image that comes to mind when “mom” is uttered isn’t JLo. More like Patricia Heaton’s character on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

Just the other day, I was in workout wear store Lucy with Momtourage member Dana, and she was encouraging me to try on a pair of Lucy pants that she loves. They were cute, and quite comfortable. However, they they gave off a “this is as put together as I could get today - some workout wear/exercise clothes” vibe to me that I immediately associated with “mom” - and not in a good way. When I asked Dana if they were too “mom” she was like, “Um, I’ve got news for you, Chels - we are.” True, but does that mean we have to totally sacrifice attractiveness/style because we have kids? Personally, I refuse.

I know my bod’s not the same as it was before I had kids, and thankfully, there are some pretty hot-looking Miraclesuits and Spanx swimwear options out there. But this crap? Kinda feeling like it’s an insult to moms everywhere. Lynn, honey, give us a little more credit! Or at least some better colors and patterns.

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Posted by Chelsea on June 03, 2010

Thanks for all of the comments and emails you’ve been sending me about my participation in the American Express Membership Rewards “Live On Points” challenge to revamp my bedroom using points only. I promise, promise I will post pics once everything is in - no worries, y’all!

As I wait for the deliveries, the good folks at Membership Rewards have offered The Momtourage’s readers a chance to engage in their own version of home making-over: they’re giving me a $100 Crate and Barrel gift card to give away to one lucky reader! Wanna win one? Send me an email at and tell me what you’d use the gift card to purchase and why.

Good luck!

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Posted by Chelsea on May 28, 2010

So, we’ve cleared out our old bed and rug. The rug got tossed in the trash, and the bed, I sold on Craigslist, which the journalist in me now feels sorta yucky about because my husband says it essentially single-handedly ruined the newspaper business. Sorry, Professors Trimble and Lule from the Lehigh Univertily School of Journalism - I just wanted to unload my old bed! I’m thinking I’ll put the old night tables in my downstairs guest room. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Now our old mattress and box-spring are on the bedroom floor, white-trash style. The boys love the new set-up, as it makes for quite the trampoline/wresting ring. I think my husband is as into the idea as they are - for the exact same reasons.

In retrospect, this process was SUPER simple, not to mention really, really fun! Using American Express Membership Rewards Points to makeover my bedroom was a snap. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d be happy shopping solely at mall staple furniture stores like West Elm, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. However, as I discussed yesterday with Momtourage member Alison, when I think about it, even if I wasn’t using store gift cards purchased with Rewards Points, that’s most likely where I would have shopped anyway, really. And sure, I could have used points to purchase an AmEx shop card, which is accepted anywhere AmEx is, but like I said, I probably would have taken said card right to PB anyway. Those stores just have great stuff, and their “look” - well, it’s what I and really, most folks my age, like. Guess there’s a reason they do so well. 

And cashing in the points to get gift cards - a total no-brainer. and the points redemption process were really easy to navigate. I’m not just saying that; really, if the experience was negative, I’d surely write about it, but it wasn’t. At all. And perhaps it’s because I redeemed a lot of points in the last two weeks (100,000 and 150,000, respectively), the standard seven business days wait time was upgrade for free to a three-day wait. Who doesn’t feel honored and valued when offered a free upgrade?

So thanks, Amex and Membership Rewards! I had a blast with this challenge. Again, I’ll post pics when all is delivered and made over. Next week, they’ve provided me with a GREAT giveaway for all of you, just so you can do the same with a room in your house! More details on that later….ya’ll are in for a real treat! 

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Posted by Chelsea on May 26, 2010

Here’s the most recent update in my adventures participating in the American Express Membership Rewards “Live On Points” challenge to revamp my bedroom using points only:

So you know how I said I needed a place to put all of my clothes? Scratch that. Storage is highly overrated. What I really need is a new bed and new night tables! The ones I have just arent right for my room. Well, at least that what I realized when I saw this stuff (that’s clearly soooo much better!) over the weekend:

Inspired by these super-cool mirrored night tables I saw in an InStyle magazine spread on Ashley Tisdale’s home (I know, I know…LAME), I am presently in love with these from Pottery Barn. They’re catalog/web only, but I saw a set in the store that someone was returning because they were damaged and realized I had to get them. Fortunately, my second round of 100,000 membership rewards points would cover them, as I could use them to purchase $1000 worth of PB gift cards (as I did to buy the rug). Once tax, shipping and handling was added in, I’d be right at $1000.

Park Mirrored Bedside Table, $399 each

And, of course, to go with those new night tables, I need a new bed. Honestly, the one we had never really worked in our room - it was way too big for the small space, and like all of the other furniture in the room, it was dark wood, and I wanted something in that room to be “lighter” looking. I’d always thought an upholstered bed might be nice, but nothing that was too frou-frou-ish. I’m thinking clean, modern, yet still “pretty”. When I was at C&B over the weekend, I saw this bed, which I LOVED:


Crate and Barrel Colette Bed, $1599-1799

I’ve got 150,000 points to work with this week, which normally wouldn’t quite cover the cost of this, but I asked the salesperson at C&B if they had any floor samples or if they were running any specials and she told me that they were having an upcoming Memorial Day weekend sale and that she could give me 15 percent off, which gets me right in at my $1500 worth of C&B gift cards $150,000 membership rewards points can purchase. Woo hoo! Bed is ordered, and I’ll post photos once everything’s in!

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Posted by Chelsea on May 22, 2010

Here’s the most recent update in my adventures participating in the American Express Membership Rewards “Live On Points” challenge to revamp my bedroom using points only:

So, we checked out the furniture at the outlets and ultimately, it was a big ‘ol bust. There was lots of good stuff, just nothing like what we were looking for. Oh well. We tried, right? Back to the drawing board.

Tomorrow my plan is to drag my poor husband (and visiting mother-in-law and the two boys) to Crate & Barrel to look for dressers, night tables or a bed. We may never get invited back again.



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Posted by Chelsea on May 19, 2010

Here’s the most recent update in my adventures participating in the American Express Membership Rewards “Live On Points” challenge to revamp my bedroom using points only:

This week, I’ve got 100,000 points to use, which is essentially the equivalent of $1000. A lot of money, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to purchase chat I really want to get, which is some dresser-like storage for our bedroom. My husband and I have an older house, so we have teeny, tiny closets. I don’t have enough space on this blog to reveal how bummer-fic this is for me, a real-life, Jewish Carrie Bradshaw - at least when it comes to clothing consumption. My shoes and clothes are all squeezed into the little space I have like commuters heading uptown on the 6 train at 6 p.m. It ain’t pretty.

Since we can’t make closet space, I’m going to look for a dresser of sorts, but a tall, multi-drawered one, because we have a big wall where we can fit a decent-sized piece of furniture. But it’s can’t be too big, or it would be pretty overwhelming for the room, which isn’t exactly huge. Ultimately, I’d like it to be something with lots of drawers like this Marston 8-drawer tall dresser from Restoration Hardware:

Unfortnately, the price ($2150) is outside of my alloted points range for this month, so I am going to visit some more furniture stores and hit the internet for the next couple of days to see if there’s a cheaper alternative. Got any suggestions? If so, let me know, y’all!

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Posted by Chelsea on May 13, 2010

Here’s the most recent update in my adventures participating in the American Express Membership Rewards “Live On Points” challenge to revamp my bedroom using points only:

So, for my initial 50,000 ($500 value) points purchase, I decided to get myself a new rug to replace this positively nauseating one my husband and I have had for years. I actually think the “rug” is a banded piece of carpet we got a like, Home Depot or something. Both of my kids have barfed on it at some point or another, and our dearly departed cat peed on it a few times too. Lovely, no?

I don’t think this photo does the stains justice.

In order to find a nice replacement, I went to the mall to look around, stopping in at Pottery Barn. I’m a big fan of PB’s rugs - they’re really pretty and durable, and I figured that they’d likely have one that matched the robin’s egg blue and khaki color scheme in my room. They can be expensive, but the other day when I was in there I noticed that they were having a really good rug sale, and found one that I knew would be perfect for the space, not to mention my points budget.

So, once had made my decision to purchase the rug from Pottery Barn, I knew I had to cash in my first 50,000 points for a Pottery Barn Gift card. I logged onto and saw that with my points I could actually get two $250 egift cards, which would allow me to get them within a few hours and then use them immediately in-store or online. The online points redemption process was super simple - after creating an account, I went to “use points”, then to the “shopping” section, then “gift cards”, which is where I found the PB ones. I picked the ones that equaled 50,000 points (the two $250 egift cards) and then a few hours later, the link to print them out appeared on my membership rewards account page. Really, it was as easy as pie. I’ve had online Target shopping experiences that were more labor-intensive.

Here’s the rug I’m going to get (as well as a rug pad to go under it to keep it from slipping around!):


Granada Rug,

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Posted by Chelsea on May 10, 2010

Okay, so how cool is this? Check it out:

I was recently contacted by the folks at the American Express Membership Rewards Program, who asked me a) if I had an Amex (Um, totally - in fact, I use it way too much and often get “Honey, this month’s Amex bill is kinda ridiculous” talks from my husband) and b) if I used their membership rewards program (Yes, all the time - those points aren’t just for frequent flyer miles and stuff, sisters - you can get Saks 5th Avenue gift cards and all sorts of other cool things with those points!). After I passed muster, they asked me if I would be interested in taking part in their “Life On Points” challenge. The task at hand: revamp a room in my home using only Membership Rewards points to pay for the things I want and need for the project, and document the experience as I go along.  They’ll credit my account with 300,000 points (roughly $3,000), alloting 50,000 points to use in week one, 100,000 in week two and 150,000 in week three. On week four, they’re giving me an awesome membership rewards prize to give away to one of you so you can begin using points to get your home spruced up for summer!

Who am I to refuse a challenge, Amex? I’m in! Bedroom, you’re about to get a much-needed facelift. (And sorry, honey, but this won’t include items from Victoria’s Secret.

So, for the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about my experience using American Express Membership Rewards points to purchase some new goods for my bedroom. Namely, a new rug to replac a seriously disgusting one we’ve had for years, some new night stands to replace the ones that absolutely do NOT go with the rest of my bedroom furniture and some new bedding to replace my mismatched sheets.

Fun! Stay tuned…...

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