Thursday, July 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

When I step outside it smells like home; a bit musty, faintly tainted by pluff mud and paper mill, with a hint of salt from the sea. Home. I always forget the stress release I get by just stepping off the small commuter plane onto the tarmac and smelling the sweet smell of home.

I like living abroad. I like being able to go see things I have never seen before, travel to towns that are unfamiliar, and meeting people that I would never have the chance to meet had my husband not joined the military. However, there is no feeling quite like coming back to the familiar after months or years of being away. Navigating roads that still feel like the back of your hand despite the new construction around them makes me happy. Shopping in familiar surroundings and knowing exactly where to find exactly what I need is comforting. Knowing that the intersection of Sam Rittenburg Bullivard and Highway 61 is going to be an absolute nightmare at 5pm snaps me back into my previous life; the life before I married my military man and we embarked upon our adventures.

Of course now we are in real life. A life where our little girls get funny looks because of their semi-English accents, not because an English accent isn't desirable, but just unexpected in these parts. A life where despite feeling at home here, I can feel at home anywhere.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Competition Time

How would you like to win a Merlin Annual Pass? This pass will let you get into such parks as Thorpe Park, Legoland, Madame Tussuades, Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventure or Warwick Castle for the next year! How do you win? To win guess which park the photo on this page was take at and leave a comment. The correct guesses will be added to the pot between all the other blogs that are taking part in this event and a winner will be selected. There are not very many blogs taking part so your chances are pretty good. This is part of The Suns 2 for 1 Days Out Challenge.

What park was this photo taken at?


(yes it is supposed to be scrambled)

Your choices are:

· Thorpe Park

· Chessington World of Adventures

· Alton Towers

· Legoland

· Warwick Castle

· Madame Tussuads

· Lego Discovery Centre

Good Luck to all!

*I was compensated to run this competition.



Sunday, July 25, 2010

LaLa is Smarter Than Me or Why I Am Eating Humble Pie

For weeks now LaLa has been telling me that the largest number in the world is "gram" and I kept saying "No, the largest number is infinity" and then she would go on to insist that it was "gram". Well, tonight I thought I would prove her wrong and show her that I was right and "gram is a unit of measure not a number" by using Professor Google. Have you ever seen a woman eat humble pie? Let me paint you the scene of what happened at the Bungalow.

As I was all high and mighty, I Googled, "what is the highest number in the world?", only have "Graham's number" pop up on my screen and my jaw HIT THE GROUND. Apparently the word infinity is not actually a number at all, just a describing term. Also apparently, Graham's number is not actually the largest number (since you could technically just add one) but it is the largest number that can mathematically be calculated (but not by us mere mortals only superhuman mathematicians).

So, she was as right as a six year old can be and I was wrong. Now, I must go finish my humble pie.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dear So and So...Summer Holidays

Dear My Lovely Children,

No, I am not above bribing you. If it gets your room clean and I don't have to touch it I will PAY you, seriously.

So Sick of Cleaning, Mom
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Dear Girls,

Quit screaming in the house. My ears and patience can't take it.

Love, Mom
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Dear My Spawn,

Wii is an optional activity. Get my drift?

Love, Mom
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Dear My Heathens,

We have 6 weeks of this. Thank goodness we will be in the states for 3 of those weeks.

*deep calming breath* Mom
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Dear Readers,

If you have letters please link up! I hope you have a wonderful and safe weekend.

Big Hugs and Kisses, Kat
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Hoooooot! (hot not hoot for the record)

It has been so hot here for the past couple of days. Me and the girls sleeping in our knickers (don't you internet pervs get any ideas.) (My house is hard to find.) (I have a guard dog named Elizabeast...she's ferocious.)


(see?) (grrr, bark, woof!)

(She actually mauled a pizza man once.) (Not really.)(She just scared him by barking..through the door.) (I didn't even know he had come to the house.) (And he ran away...back to Dominos.) (And I had to call to find out when I was going to get my damn pizza.) (They had to send out a different pizza man.) (You would think that pizza men would be immune to dogs.) (Apparently not.)

So, where was I? Oh yeah it is really hot and I am really really happy that it is supposed to rain buckets tonight!


"Mummy"

I was laying on my bed, my husband asleep next to me around 10 Friday morning. I wasn't sleeping, just laying there. My kids were at school. The house was quiet, for once. Relaxation. From behind me I heard a little girl say, "Mummy". Remember, my kids are at school. The hairs on my arm and neck stood on end and I turned around to see nothing at the doorway behind me. I know what I heard though. Someone or rather something said "Mummy".

I have now tried to rationalize this whole experience because for one, I spend a lot of time at home alone, at night. Also, I really have an active imagination. So here are possible explanations I have come up with to sooth myself. The cat meowed and it just sounded weird. Well, this doesn't work unless my cat has learned the ability to speak with an English accent. Last I checked he hadn't. The other explanation I came up with is that maybe I was half asleep. Only, I wasn't half asleep. I didn't even have my eyes shut.

Creepy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dear So and So...Letter to the Girls

Dear LaLa and KiKi,

You're getting so big. I can hardly believe it. There have been so many milestones in the last couple of weeks and I don't know if I am ready for them.

KiKi today is your last day of nursery school. Next year you will be a big girl in primary school! You have become so confident in yourself in the past year that it is a bit overwhelming. Next year you will be in school with your sister! You even get to wear a uniform just like her! How cool is that?

La, your first wiggly tooth!! Keep wiggling it because I see your big tooth coming in behind it! How exciting. I bet you just can't wait for the tooth fairy! I hope she brings you something nice!

Both of you are so special. I love you with all my heart and can't wait for this summer holiday to begin.

Love Always, Mom

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Dear Readers,

So what is the going tooth fairy rate?

Love, Kat
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Monday, July 12, 2010

I Understand It Now

LaLa came into the living room on Sunday afternoon wearing a long shirt and a pair of tights. Now, the shirt did come over her backside, so I can see where the confusion as a six year old would come from- as in, it covers my bum it must be a dress. She is six so I let her get away with it. We aren't leaving the house. No harm, no foul.

Then I got to thinking about it; I have seen this look before. I have seen this look on the university girls down in Cambridge! I have ranted in my head "Just because you put a pair of tight on under that shirt doesn't make it ok, sweetheart!"

Of course the girls at Cambridge aren't the only summer fashion victims I have seen whilst living in England. There has been the man in short shorts at the market. The rather large woman sporting large amounts of pink wobbly flesh in the local town square. Ok, to be fair there are is a lot of wobbly pink flesh all over the place at the moment. In general- and you Brits can yell at me later about this- the British do not fair well in hot weather. In fact when it get hot there is not much clothing to be found on man or woman. I now understand it, however. It is not only hot here, but there is no central air conditioner to be found anywhere. You lot are just lucky I am not walking around town in my knickers.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dear So and So...Get It Together

Dear Brain,

OK, I know that you might be semi fogged because of allergies, still on vacation due to CyberMummy, whatever, it isn't funny anymore. I need to quit forgetting things. Seriously. I forgot my keys in KiKi's nursery room this morning. This makes twice that I have forgot my keys there- THIS WEEK. The teachers are now asking me if I am pregnant because apparently I have "pregnant brain". Not funny, brain, not funny at all.

Get It Together, Kat
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Dear LaLa,

Quit whining. Period. I can't take it anymore.

Love, Mom
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Dear Elizabeast,

Your vet appointment is on Monday, if you could just quit itching until then I would be most appreciative. It is nearly impossible to sleep with you on the end of my bed scratching all night. Hummmm, maybe this is why I am so irritable these days. Yes, I shall blame it on you, Beastie.

Love, Your Human Mom
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Dear Eye Twitch,

This is day 3. Stop. Seriously, it isn't funny.

Highly Annoyed, Kat

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Dear Readers,

Here's to an eye twitch free weekend. If you have a letter please link up!

Love, Kat
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Have Been Tagged

Miss Cherry Red has tagged me in a meme (in case you don't know how to pronounce that it rhymes with dream) in which I need to answer 10 questions about myself then tag some of you my lovely readers to answer the same questions. Here we go....

1) Are you a meticulous planner?

No. No. No. In fact I am the complete opposite which drives my mother completely bonkers. Here's an example of a conversation with my mom "So, Kat when you come to the US where are you staying?" "Well I figured we would split half our time with you and then half the time with The Man's parents and go from there" "Well make sure that you don't plan anything for the kids on the 30th, your aunt has already taken off work" "No problem. I have no plans for the kids on any of the days" "So you don't know exactly what your plans are?" "Nope," and then we go round and round and round with the same line of questioning a bit more. I would love to be a planner with meticulous lists but it just isn't in my nature.

2) Do you wear make up? If so, how much and how often?

I wear make up if I am going out on the town, which is to say I never wear make up.

3) What, if anything, do you wear to bed?

Well, it depends on the season. In the winter I wear as many clothes as I can possibly find and fit on my body at once and in the summer you're lucky if I have knickers on.

4) Look over your right shoulder what do you see?

The window that looks out of the front of my house and my husband's guitar.

5) If you had to take one random item to an interview to help describe yourself, what would it be?

A tatty well worn open book. Self explanatory.

6) What film would you have liked a staring roll in?

Pride and Prejudice. The one with Colin Firth, not the other one. Mmmmm Mr. Darcy.

7) Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant?

Cary Grant. Pure Class. Plus I am a sucker for The Philadelphia Story

8) Do you swear in front of children?

Sometimes. I am doing a lot better though. I certainly never swear AT them.

9) Do you sew or knit or do any other "womanly" craft?

Nope. I am not crafty. In fact, I am surprised I passed Home Economics class in high school. I must have passed purely on my cooking grades alone.

10) Twitter or Facebook?

Both. I spend more time on Twitter though.

Ok, so there it is. You have now learned that I can't sew, I have a soft spot for old films, old books, and that I don't plan things out. Now, who should I tag? I am going to blame hay fever for this and say if you want to do this meme, take it forth and propagate it. (I also like big words.)

Nipping It In The Bud

My friend, Emma, from Me the Man and The Baby asked an interesting question yesterday on her blog. It is actually a question that is very close to my heart. It is a question about discipline. She asked at what age should we start disciplining our children?

Emma's child is just over a year old. He is not quite a toddler, but not an infant. He lately has been using slapping as a way to express his emotions. At what point do we nip this in the bud? What do children at this age actually understand? My stance is at this age children are just learning to understand cause and effect. They may not have a complete grasp of the concept (heck, I know adults who STILL don't grasp it) but they know enough to get by. Therefore they are ripe for the beginnings of discipline.

When discipline is mentioned a lot of people, especially when the children are young, get a little overly sensitive. Discipline doesn't have to have a negative connotation. Discipline can be done lovingly. In fact children crave boundaries.

When a child is on the verge of being a toddler the most effective discipline is redirection. An example would be for a mother to catch the child's hand before they smack and saying "No, that hurts", and then redirecting them towards an appropriate activity. One step further is putting the child down in a safe spot and walking away for a few moments. Cause smack, effect mom put me down for a minute. At this age the concept will sink in after a few (maybe a lot) of repetitions.

When the child reaches the age of two a naughty step can become an acceptable form of discipline. I highly recommend this when correctly enforced. Think SupperNanny. A warning, then the naughty step, then they have to explain why they were in time out to you, they need to give some form of apology, and then cuddles. My children came to find that the naughty step could happen anywhere, even in public (you should have seen their faces when they got time out next to the coke machines at the mall). It worked though. I think the key is to be clear, be concise, and be consistent (even I have trouble with consistency though).

At the age of 5 time out no longer worked for LaLa so I have once again changed my tactics. This is a Dr. Phil form of discipline. Now, Dr. Phil as far as I am concerned is full of a lot of bull crap, but this actually works. I found her currency. What item does she crave more than anything else. Once I found that currency I knew that I could use it as leverage. An example of this is "If you don't do A then B will be taken away for an hour/a day/a week/until you earn it back" and it works. Once again be clear, be concise, be consistent.

Now, I am not an expert; I don't claim to be one. I just know what has worked for my family. Let me tell you, the best reward as a parent (next to cuddles and kisses) is having a stranger tell you how well behaved your children are in public. It makes all the hard work worth it, and it is HARD work.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Expectations Exceeded

With bleary eyes and a pounding head I woke up trying to remember what truck had run me over the day before. Only it wasn't a truck, it was one of the best weekends of my life. CyberMummy, the blogging conference for mum bloggers in the UK was this past Saturday. 200 women. One hotel. We converged upon the Ibis London Earls Court with jitters and expectations. All jitters were unfounded; everyone was lovely. The expectations were exceeded.

The conference started and there was a feeling in the air. A feeling that I can only describe as kindred sisterhood. We are not only bloggers, we are sisters. We understand one another. Through our posts we have shared our deepest feelings. We have read posts and connected. This was confirmed during the Community Keynote Speeches. As blog posts were read by their authors not a dry eye was to be found in the entire conference room. There were happy tears, tears of sadness, tears of "I've been there too", and tears of laughter. All these tears bonded the 200 women at this event together.

Friendships were born and sealed on Saturday. A few bottles (ok- many bottles) of wine were consumed. Conversations were animated. Boundaries of decency were pushed, bent, and maybe broken. There was never a dull moment. There was never a spare moment. I cannot wait to do it all again next year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Live Blogging From CyberMummy Today!!!

I am sitting at the conference and my mind is going a thousand miles a second, listening to Susanna and in awe. I can't wait until the session of Influence and Stats that I am live blogging. I hope you all will be with me from 12-12:50 to follow along with me as I give up to date analysis of the session. I can't wait and I am so excited. Also, expect spelling and grammar mistakes (like that is new here).

Update:11:50
Get ready for the Influence and Stats session! It starts in 10 min!!

12:00- Clare from FunkyAngel (moderator)
This session is about who comes to your blog and why they come to your blog. Introductions. Eve from Google Analytics. Belinda from LadyGeek. Justine from Mumsnet.


12:05- Eve from Google Analytics (nice to see another American Accent!!)

Eve has started a brief overview of Google Analytics. What do you want to know about your visitors? Where do they come from? Where are the traffic sources coming from? Do you advertise? Does anyone have e-commerce on their sites?

When you log into Google Analytics you get a nice dashboard. Under visitors there is a map overlay feature. This shows what countries your visitors are coming from. You can actually zoom to see exactly what cities your visitors are coming from. You can see how loyal your visitors are. You can see how long people stay on your site.

Under Traffic sources- You can see what search engines are leading to your site. Keywords are the terms that lead readers to your site. You can compare your stats from one month to another.

Under Content- You can see what your top pages are. For each individual page you can see some stats that may be relivant to you post. Such as how long your readers stay on each post. (AKA- if you have written a really long post but then they stay for only a few moments, maybe you need to change your content or it wasn't really that interesting)

Adsense- You can see how much money you are making if you use Adsense on your site. You can see which pages are driving your Adsense revenue.

12:17- Belinda from LadyGeek

Competition is not your biggest vulnerability, it is invisibility. You need to make your "brand" tangible. This gives you a way to make your blog "real" to others. Using multi-media can help you blog move from blog to business to brand. You can use survey monkey to do research about your blog audience. Experiment and see what sticks! Learn what you audience wants.


12:20- Justine CEO Mumsnet

Don't become obsessed with Google Analytics. Be careful, but use it because it is brilliant.

The Mumsnet story. How to grow by listening. "Mumsnet is like having a million big sisters who never get fed up with you pestering them."-Red Magazine.

There are over 20 millions monthly page views and grew via word of mouth. You need to get your audience to be your word of mouth. They have never spent a penny on advertising. On Mumsnet you find other like minded mums.

Your average Mumsnetter- are quite smart. The more intelligent the crowd the better the advise. When asking readers the number one reason to visit was advise; second reason was entertainment. Sometimes you need humor to get through the ordeal of being a parent.

What makes Mumsnet sucessful? It is useful. The mumsnet users find the site very addictive.

If you want to change, you want to run it by your readers. See if they want a change. Listen to you users preference. Ask your audience what they want.

Mumsnet -"One of the great British Institutions"-Gordon Brown


12:30 Q&A Top Points

Learn from negative feedback.

How useful do you think bounce rate is?

If there are repeat vistiors then ignore then ignore the bounce rate. New ones, use it. You can separate it to see new vs. return.

If you read in a reader will it show it on Google Analytics?

No, you won't see them in your Analytics stats.

What is the difference between Mumsnet and NetMums?

Mumsnet goes up to teens. NetMums is a bit difference. Mumsnet started as a discussion boards. The demographics are a bit different than NetMums.

As a blogger, to get more readers, should I be using everything? Ads, twitter- How do you expand your influence?

Justine-Unfortunately there is no quick answer. You can't streak naked and run down the road. You need to use all the outlets you have available. You need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. Hard work will translate into word or mouth. Or you could try to get sued (JOKE-laughter).

Balinda- If you are starved for time, PICK ONE channel for communication. (She chose twitter). Have something interesting to say. Don't just promote yourself all the time. Carry one a conversation. Don't let your twitter stream become a narssistic exercise.

Claire-Don't forget YOUTUBE! Use free PR sites. Think of ways that you would like to promote yourself. Change your tweets promoting your post each time. Use bit.ly to shorten your links.

Eve- Have good content. Do the legwork to promote. Don't pay someone to promote you. Link you pages to each other. Such as new post to older posts.

Does the panel have a preference between Blogger, Wordpress, etc. Is there a book "Bloggers for Dummies???"

Justine- prefers WordPress. You can buy templates to suit your needs. Go for it try it! Make loads of mistakes (in order to learn)

If you blog once a week will SEO not work for me?

Eve- There is nothing wrong with blogging once a week at all. Obviously I can't talk about the algorithms that Analytics uses *moan of disappointment from audience*

Just to clarify on wordpress....should you use self hosting or wordpress.com?

Self Host (general consensus of panel) (aside from Eve who is pro Blogger obvs ;) )


Friday, July 2, 2010

Dear So and So...OMGoodness Ahhhh

Dear Epping (town in Essex, last stop of the Tube into London in my direction),

Could you please move your public parking area closer to the tube station? Or maybe you could just remove the gigantic hill I have to hike up to get back to my car. Either is good for me. As much as I love going to London and patronizing your city with some of my *cough* hard earned *cough* cash I really hate that 15 minute walk at the end of the day.

Thanks for considering it, Kat
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Dear Trafalgar Square,

I wish I could have stayed longer and really checked you out, but young kid with me yadda yadda. I will be sure to do more exploring next time. Plus it was Canada Day and the square was packed! Who knew there were that many Canadians in London....

In A Hurry, Kat
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Dear Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin in the Fields,

Lovely. Just lovely. Great atmosphere (ya know as nice as you can get with dead people all around you in the walls and floor and such), good food, and friendly service (hi creepy Italian guy with the bottle opener!) Thanks for letting us bloggers take over one of your tables for about 3 hours. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Love, Kat
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Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday!!! I love you. Can't wait to see you in a few weeks.

Love, Your Favorite Child
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Dear Readers,

Do we need another safety briefing? Don't drink and drive. Play fairly. Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal. Remember that it is still illegal even if the cops don't catch you. Don't sit too close to the TV. You'll go blind from doing THAT. No, we are not there yet.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to link up if you have Dear So and So letters!

Love, Kat
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