Splish Splash, We’re Having a Bash!

When little lady asked for a mermaid fifth birthday party I knew I had to go big. Not because I’m one of those moms who always has to go big, but because FIVE is big. In fact, it’s huge.

But you know what didn’t have to be? My budget. Yep, that’s right. All decor you see in this post arrived at a total of under $115. Photo booth, centerpieces, backdrops, and more, all for just over a hundred. Here’s a break down of all of the mermaid magic that I made from simple household items and inexpensive goodies from Amazon.

Bubble-riffic Photo Backdrop

img_0777-1
Photo courtesy of Life of Mom

Supplies:

– Green streamers (dark and light)

– Scotch tape or doubled-sided tape

– 5′ x 4″ cardboard slice (I used the top of a display board which I also used for all the signs at the party – see below)

clear balloons

-photo booth props

Instructions:

Tape randomized pieces of streamers in desired length all along the piece of cardboard, then drape over other side, and adhere with one more piece of tape. Blow up balloons in varying sizes and adhere to top of cardboard. Hang on the wall and viola, you’ve got a backdrop!

I even made a sign for it, which is optional, but only cost me about an extra two bucks. Supplies included glitter glue, glitter, and the same display board I bought for the backdrop.

Item cost: $35 (although some of these supplies will be used elsewhere)

Mermaid Tail ‘5’ Centerpiece

Supplies:

green foil cupcake liners

– cardboard

– pencils & ruler

hot glue & gun

Optional supplies:

pipe cleaners

coffee filters

– 1 marker (to be disposed eventually)

shells

Instructions:

Trace the desired number on cardboard, then cut it out. Also prepare a base to attach the number to. Cut each cupcake liner in half, then glue in a alternating pattern from the bottom to the top of the number. Glue the number onto the base and use fortification if necessary. Color the base blue, then cover with hot glue.

Optional instructions:

Coffee filter coral can be made from dyed coffee filters (open a marker and stick one end into water, allow all of the color to bleed in, then dip dye the filters). Other coral pieces can be made from pipe cleaners. Then glue them in!

Item cost: $5-$20 (depending on what you have at home already)

Fishnet Photo Display

Image via DeaVita

Supplies:

net

clothes pins

earthquake putty

– photographs of the birthday girl throughout the years

– shells

Instructions:

Hang, pin, and enjoy (this is a great way to add easy, themed decor!)

Item cost: ~ $15.00

Centerpieces

Supplies:

blue mason jarsblue mason jars

flameless tea lights

– sand

– shells

– flowers from Trader Joe’s (optional)

Instructions:

Place sand in jar, and flame less candle on sand. Close the jar to avoid spillage. Add flowers for more fun!

Item cost: ~ $25.00

Guppy Grub

Supplies:

– goldfish

blue sixlets (cheaper than M&M’s)

glass fish bowl

– serving spoon

Instructions:

Mix, pour, enjoy (this is a crowd favorite, for sure!)

Item Cost: ~ $15.00

Trendy Little Letterboard

I know, I know. It’s so trendy. Like, too trendy. But it’s little, cute, and it makes a statement, which is kind of my life mission. So, when I found this cheap one on Amazon I couldn’t resist.

Item cost: $16.95

Total Cost: <$115!

Relatedly, if you’re in the LA area and would like more information on the wonderful company we hired for our outdoor play, Pump and Splash, see their website.

Lessons From Mom

As performed in the live show Expressing Motherhood in May and June of 2018

There are things our parents choose to do that stay with us forever. These actions, good or bad, teach us the lessons we carry into adulthood and especially parenthood.

Like the time my older brother found a wallet filled to the brim with cash. I was four and he was seven, but as children of a single mother in the eighties, we already knew the value of a dollar; Mom was never one to shelter us from our reality. I remember my brother handing her the leather square in the narrow aisles of a pharmacy. Mom had just tearfully admitted to the clerk she had only enough money for one antibiotic regimen, but two sick children. After she grew a bit sharp with her tongue, as she sometimes did, she was given back the prescription slip and turned away. Only moments later the Universe delivered her a wallet full of money.

I remember Mom looking around, then stuffing it deep underneath her arm in one swift movement. When we arrived home, she unearthed it from her purse, then began counting out the bills onto our hand-me-down coffee table. When she finished at just over a thousand dollars, she pulled out the Driver’s License within the plastic protectant and picked up the phone beside her. We waited with baited breath, unsure of what her next move would be.

“Operator? Yes. Can I please be connected with a ———– from Studio City?”

Moments later she was chatting with a very worried man who wanted to know the whereabouts of his wallet and missing mortgage payment. She offered him her work address and told him to pick it up the next day, but not before confirming how much dough he expected to be returned to him.

When she had replaced the receiver in its plastic cradle, my brother asked, “Why didn’t you return the wallet to the pharmacy if you weren’t going to take any of the money yourself?” To which she replied, “I don’t know if they would have returned it with everything inside. But, I knew I would. I don’t take what’s not mine, because that would be assuming we need it more.”

And at a very young age of four, I learned what my mom’s credo was: honesty must come before anything, including my own needs.

Speaking of Mom’s honesty, I’ll admit it wasn’t always my favorite. She had little filter, and people were often made uncomfortable by her. For example, she once wrote a letter that would be read to my entire sorority at a graduation-related event, which she knew when set out to write it. Despite this, she described in the note how I matured early, as well as that by the age of five, was already concerned whether I’d “get my period by college or not.” See? You’re uncomfortable. So, yeah, I didn’t always enjoy her openness.

But if Mom’s actions taught me anything it’s that the world needs honesty, even if people have trouble digesting it. There was the time she beat me to picking up the phone, and Corey Feldman was on the other line. At the age of seventeen I began running his website, and over the next four years would help him a great deal with local appearances. But, in this moment, he was my boss, and Mom was my very uncool parent who I obviously still lived with.

When Mom realized the gruff voice on the other end belonged to Corey, she was thrilled. She cooed,”Hey Corey! We actually just finished watching one of your films.” She hit the speaker phone and winked at me playfully.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “Which one?”

“Amy? What was it called?” Meanwhile, I have turned a ripe shade of red and was silently begging for the phone. But I whisper my reply nonetheless, “Edge of Honor.” She repeats me, and for a moment things seem O.K. because, hey, she hasn’t embarrassed me. It’s a miracle! Then she concludes, “You looked really drugged out in it.”

My heart fell into my stomach, and I instantly tasted bile. I held my breath as my recently exciting social life flashed before my eyes.

Corey waited a few beats. Finally, he replied, “Well, that’s because I was.” And with that, the floodgate opened. He talked about his difficult childhood and former addictions, and Mom listened. Just before Mom finally disengaged the speaker and handed me the phone, Corey asked her to attend an anniversary screening of The Goonies as his date. Much of the cast would be there, and he was inviting her to sit with them.

And, in all my years as one of Corey’s assistants, this would be the most Corey ever opened up. Thus, driving home Mom’s point that transparency is the most healing policy.

Mom’s emphasis on honesty was the most recurring lesson I ever received from her, and I suppose it is what led me to this point. To being a mother that strives to create children who are fair and thoughtful. And to pursuing a career that is intended to inspire mental health and a more accepting world. But, every parent leaves their children with indelible memories that turn into life lessons.

Maybe my children will be up here in a few decades talking about me, and with any luck, it’ll be positive. Maybe your children will be up here narrating what you did with your time as a parent. What will our actions teach our children? I wonder what sort of world they will create together with these lessons.”

To listen to this via Podcast, click here, but please pardon my opening night jitters.

This is 5.

Today began like any other day. We spent far too much time looking for our shoes, even though I remind both kids to use the under-the-stairs cubbies each time they take them off. We argued over what shirt would be worn in order to be warm enough in this weather. And just when tension was rising, Charlotte turned to me and said, “Mommy, I’m going to make you a card.”

My face lit up, thinking perhaps my recent lessons about starting with kindness may be working. Then she continues, “How do I spell, ‘I don’t love you?’”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right. Words have the potential to do much greater harm than weapons. Such a simple sentence, yet it cut straight to the heart. My first inclination was to be hurt and sad. I told her so, and I saw her face drop even more, which was not my intention either. She had wanted to hurt me, sure, but she hadn’t really understood the levity of her chosen words.

And that soon became today’s biggest slap in the face. Not that she was hurt enough to say those words, because she really hadn’t been, but that I have a child old enough to even want to formulate a proverbial slap in the face.

I officially have a big girl on my hands, this I know now. Which, as my initial sense of feeling unloved is over, shocks me. And also saddens me in its own rite. I have been guilty of rushing this parenting thing along from the getgo.

“I can’t wait for them to sleep through the night.”

“I can’t wait for her to be potty trained.”

“Ugh, the moment the paci is gone is the moment I’m free!”

But the busier life remains, the hastier time seems to wane. And parenthood can make even an empty schedule full in an instant. So, there went five years and with that barb, “I don’t love you,” they feel incredibly distant.

I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. She saw me crying. What she didn’t understand that I was no longer really hurt, just grieving her babyhood.

So, I chose to be open with her. I told her she hurt me, and saying that sort of thing wasn’t OK. But, that wasn’t really why I was crying. I told her that she is my daughter forever and I am her mommy for just about double that. And that it was already going by in the blink of an eye.

She hugged me. We made up, and by the time I dropped her off at school we were belting an MJ duet at the top of our lungs. I realized that this snarkiness may be 5, but that 6 will be here before I know it. And although time does not discriminate the speed at which it seems to progress, it does give us the gift of retrospection and introspection. And a lot of make-up hugs.

What is Mom2Summit and Why Did I Go?

Over the last couple weeks my social media accounts may have made you ask “what the heck is #Mom2Summit and why does Amy care so much about it?”

And to be brutally frank, before this weekend, I’m not sure I could have answered that question with confidence. As a first-time attendee, I would have offered “it’s a convention designed for moms that blog. We attend classes that promote professional development, and amidst all of them, we also have parties and fun. Oh, and brands join us, too, so we can help spread the word of how great they are. Did I forget to mention I get to leave my familial duties for three days and I don’t have to make ONE DAMN MEAL that entire time?”

The lovely Lucy of Life of Mom & I arrive!

 

But, as soon as we arrived at the Langham Pasadena I knew it was so much more than that.

Before I get into how I knew, let me be real: as a native of LA, born, bred, and breeding only a mile or two from where I grew up, it’s hard to create a village. I am a relatively young mother for our area, which means my village has consisted of mostly childless friends. But motherhood, especially early motherhood, can be difficult and isolating. Even moreso when your circle doesn’t quite understand the stages of your struggle. Doubly so when you’ve no longer have your own mother for guidance or support.

However, when I arrived at Mom2, it became instantly apparent that it is much more than just a convention. It is that village I’ve been seeking.

The inclusiveness Mom 2.0 Summit promotes is what makes the difference. Upon entering the event space, you will be greeted with warm hellos,  whether you know people or not. And if you don’t, it won’t be long before you find your crew. See a Mom Blog celeb you adore? This is the place to introduce yourself.  I made friends in bathroom lines, in sessions, on the dance floor, and even within our hotel room. And it was in all of these places that I found a community filled with support, love, and understanding.

This may seem trivial, but in a world where success is so often viewed as finite, it is comforting to find a space filled with women that build each other up. It is clear that the people that attend Mom2Summit realize it is their arena to create lasting connections, and not just with the big brands that can further their mission.

People are at the heart of the convention. Its mission is to enrich the professional and personal lives of its participants, that much remains clear.

Of course the programming is helpful, to say the least. The keynotes were uplifting and inspiring. I now feel like an IG pro thanks to last year’s Iris Award winner of Instagram of the Year, (and this year’s Best Photographer), Lashawn Wiltz. I’m ready to pitch producers segments for television shows courtesy of Orly Shani and Home and Family. I am even prepared to pitch a TEDx Talk topic because of Lori Granito’s informative how-to session.

Also, yes, the events are over-the-top fabulous. I mean, how many times can you say you jumped into a ball pit supplied by Stitch Fix, got a makeover courtesy of Dove, took headshots courtesy of Best Buy, or schmoozed with Taye Diggs?


But, like I said, at the heart of this remains to be the Mom2Community. A community I am beyond proud to have joined this weekend, and will continue to attempt to enrich year after year. See ya in Austin next, Mamas! 💓💓

When Death Means Something Different

It seems a weird time to talk death, what with so many blessings to be counted. But, if you’re someone who is grieving, you understand that loss has a way of affecting life at the most unexpected of times.

This death, however, is a bit different than most. It’s true, when my father passed a month and a half ago, the world lost a brilliant soul. He was handsome, charismatic, musically gifted, funny, and warm. At one time he was even a successful ethical law professor. Yet, he was also tortured. He lost three wives and a son tragically, sired two children he did not father, and lived with layer upon layer of consequent guilt and grief.

Dad avoided his biggest issues by drowning his emotions in alcohol. Thus, his addiction made him unreliable and disloyal. He lost jobs and relationships, burned bridges.

And then one day, his addiction killed him. He finally lost his psychological and physical battle against alcohol when he was 66. But the way I see it, he began losing his battle at the age of 18 when he started drinking.

In my last conversation with my father, I told him I was writing a memoir. He replied that he understood, that he had seen his fair share of torture, too. That he had learned being an open book with me helped alleviate some of the pain. I was lighter after talking to him about it. Then, he died a week and a half later, and I believe he is now lighter than he has ever been before.

So, as I broach the subject of death this time, it is with a different lens than I often do. This is nothing like the grief I have felt in the past. This time death has offered the loved one lost an ultimate peace he never experienced in life. This allows me liberty to put my heartache behind me instead of focusing on what I’m missing. And while I am being candid, time has also allowed me space to celebrate Dad’s successes, instead of being reminded of his shortcomings.

Dad is at peace & I am at peace knowing this. This death means something much different. ❤️

So, You’re Coming to LA?

Only days 29 days ‘til Mom Summit, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been packing/unpacking/planning outfits mentally for months. But, as a lifelong LA resident I have a lot less to prep than to obsess over. In fact, I was even a bridesmaid at the Langham Pasadena a few years ago, & I can’t stop dreaming of all the beautiful on-site photo ops.

A taste of the beautiful Langham wedding I was in

 

So, I thought I’d gather some of my knowledge of the area/resort/conferences, and answer some general questions for my more distant sisters in motherhood.

 

Should you stay at the hotel?

Um, yes! The grounds are stunning and diverse, and just about any shot you can think of, The Langham Pasadena can provide. The conference will likely have tons happening on-site, and as the Langham sits slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of Pasadena, it will be easiest to remain on the gorgeous campus. Plus, there’s a killer pool area, a gorgeous bar, high tea, Japanese gardens, and so much more.

However, if you cannot stay at The Langham, there are plenty of other nearby options. Yelp is always my safest bet to finding a great hotel.

What can you do on-site if you want some time away from the conference, or maybe even a little after-hour fun? 

If you’re looking for a some quick time away and a little recharge, the Club Room is a hotel guest’s dream come true. It offers refreshments throughout the day, internet access, magazines and newspapers, and more. If you don’t feel like risking a nap in your room, this is your best bet.
Now, I know how much fun and empowerment a conference can offer, but if you’re needing a respite (or will even be arriving early or leaving a day or two late), Afternoon Tea is an absolute must. The menu is divine and as Langham hotels honor tea traditions at all of their locations, it’s kind of a must-not-miss sorta thing.

📷: Langham Hotels, Afternoon Tea

 

For all of you convention lovers (like me), you know some of the magic happens after-hours, and the Langham Tap Room is the perfect setting for those connections and conversations you were hoping for. Its architecture is inspired by the hotel’s Prohibition-era roots, and it’s open late. Like, super late for us Moms (as late as 1 and 2 AM). And believe me, we will close it down. At least once. Because they have some delicious handcrafted cocktails and elevated pub food. *insert tummy grumble here*

What other local places are great for photo ops?

The Huntington Library and Rose Gardens are a great option, as they host lots of  greenery and natural beauty. Stroll through stunning grounds, partake in amazing art collections, and simply enjoy some of Pasadena’s finest. You won’t regret it.

Huntington gardens in bloom

Old Town Pasadena is another favorite of mine – here you’ll get everything and anything you want: food, fashion, and fresh air. Whether it’s day or night, there’s always something to do or see. Walk Colorado Blvd and truly get a feel for Pasadena life.

If you’re looking for some extracurricular fun that speaks to your soul, I would suggest checking out The Norton Simon Museum. It is an art museum with an unrivaled collection (including work from Renoir, Picasso, and more) and a beautiful sculpture garden, too.

If the kids are with you, and you’re searching for more hands-on fun, a great idea is Kid Space Museum. It’s $14 per person for an interactive experience. Especially during LA’s heat waves, the water-focused activities are always fun. For more info and reviews on Kid Space, check out Yelp.

Now for the important stuff – where should you eat?

Squeeee! A foodie friend! Now you’re talking my language. And the best thing about Pasadena is that it’s a foodie haven, catering to a million and one cravings.  Here are a few different lists of places to go, depending on what you want to eat:

Pasadena’s Top Rated Restaurants 

Pasadena’s Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Pasadena’s Best Vegan Restaurants
Pasadena’s Best Bars

… and more!

Ok, so what should you pack?

Now we are really getting to the good stuff!

This is my very first Mom 2.0 Summit, but I literally grew up on the convention circuit, so here are a list of My Convention Must-Haves:

  1. Business cards – you are going to be networking with a lot of exceptional people during Mom Summit, and there’s no way you’ll remember them all. So, being able to swap business cards is essential. Here’s mine (if I had a dollar for every person who said “What a great color!” or “I love that you included a photo!” Id have a lot of dollars).

    My cards from Moo.com
  2. A portable charger for your phone. Between calendar keeping, photo taking, posting, and more, you’re going to run through your battery pretty fast. Bring ALL the chargers and replacement batteries you may have.
  3. Comfy shoes – you will be on your feet a lot (even in the convention after-hours), so pack thinking comfort (whatever that looks like to you).
  4. Clothing that expresses who you are – it’s SO easy to fall into the “omg, what am I gonna wear?” trap, but my suggestion at any networking gathering is to stay true to yourself. It’s important you show attendees what *you’re* about, so your connections are authentic. With that said, if you really need some guidance,  Mom 2.0 Summit made this amazing Pinterest board for clothing inspo (as well as this one). If you just can’t do it on your own, Stitch Fix has partnered with Mom 2.0 Summit (squeeee!), and you can enlist your own stylist. Isn’t the Internet Age amazing?
  5. A small bag that is neither cumbersome, nor too tiny to hold anything. A mini backpack is even smart (considering the 90’s are back and all), like this one by Calvin Klein.
  6. Warm clothing/a sweater or two – I know this sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. Yes, LA is going to be HOT (by May it’s generally in the 100’s), but between the airports and hotels you’ll be occupying, you’re gonna be in the cold a lot more than you may expect. Come prepared (for everything, apparently).
  7. Enthusiasm!!! – we are all Mamas in this crazy Internet Age together, and we are so lucky to have found a village in Mom 2.0 Summit. Just remember, your vibe attracts your tribe. The more open you are to making lasting connections, the stronger your links will be. Don’t be afraid to show us who you are. Chances are you will fall in mutual MomRom with someone who totally appreciates your brand of Momming. Just gotta show us! 

If you have any questions, feel free to comment away. And please, don’t hesitate to say “Hi!” in a few weeks! 💓

Chicken Soup for the Soul Friend Friday Podcast Interview

A huge thank you to Amy Newmark of Chicken Soup for the Soul for asking me to be her guest on today’s Friend Friday podcast show! She interviewed me about my various CSS stories, and we had the chance to chat about writers’ groups, as well as our random run-in on my birthday. It’s always a pleasure to be a part of this extraordinary organization. 💓