Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Product Review: Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I shower and wash my hair every day, unless I'm sick. It's a necessity of life, with having the oily hair and skin I was gifted by genetics.

I have some favorite products that I use regularly. They generally have some similar characteristics:
1. Relatively inexpensive.
2. Really good at what they do.

Dr. Bronner's soaps are one of my all-time favorite products, and I've been using them since I was about 15 years old, off and on. They are made with organic oils, contain no detergents, are vegan, are certified Fair Trade, and are packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles. I don't know many other products I can buy that don't make me feel like I'm helping to destroy the planet for my daughter.

And if there's something you need to clean, these versatile soaps can do it: laundry, people, pets, dishes, surfaces, toilets. You can find posts online that tell you how to make inexpensive and effective cleaning solutions, like this one:

The peppermint and tea tree soaps are my favorites, and are readily available at New Life Natural Foods, EarthFare, Whole Foods, and sometimes Publix. They smell so fresh, last forever, and really do what you expect them to do, which is to clean all the things.

Except... I do not use them as shampoo very often, because I haven't figured out a configuration that doesn't make my hair feel like hay. They are very strong and thus can be drying. So be sure to dilute with water and to moisturize.

Otherwise it is a very versatile, useful, affordable product. And while it might not work as shampoo, you know those commercials in the 80s and 90s that said, "Hey, ladies, do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?" Well, there is nothing fresher than peppermint ladybits!

Sorry, Mentos. Dr. Bronner's is The Freshmaker.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How do I make history relevant to a 10-year-old?

Monday, February 23, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, Emerson is a good student. But, right now, she has a low B in social studies.

"Emerson, what is this grade about?" I asked her, genuinely confused.

"I dunno," she said. "Social studies is boring."

Boring? History is storytelling, at which she excels! I take her to the historic reenactments, Living History Park, former Confederate forts - heck, I WORK at a university with historic cannons (on which she has spent years climbing if I am not looking), which sit in front of an historic former armory. Her father has a degree in history. I worked at the Renaissance Faire - which, now that I type that out, is much less an endorsement of an enjoyment of history, and more like a Badge of Nerd Honor. ... But the point is, we've tried to make history a part of her life from day one.

"But... you talk to me about history all the time," I said. "You tell me all the stories, and you sound so excited."

"Yeah, they're good stories. But I feel like it's all fake, since we lost all our history when the library burned down in Egypt."

Wait, what?

Turns out, she didn't realize when the library was destroyed. After I told her it was "in Egypt, during the time of Pharoahs and pyramids," a light went on.

Maybe I should stop telling her one-off stories out of context. Next she'll think the Trojan Horse was a petting zoo.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My powers of observation might need some work

Friday, February 20, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So we took some students up to the state capitol to meet with our legislators and talk about issues in education.

We set up our table with our beautiful banners, university literature, and logo giveaways to build our branding in people's minds. We were giving away mini bottles of hand sanitizer. Because I am big dork, I like to come up with something punny to say when people come by, to get their attention and encourage them to take a logo item.

"Would you like some hand sanitizer?" I asked a passing delegation, with a smile. "Politics can be a dirty business!"

One of the gentlemen smirked at me: "Yeah, we know."

It was a delegation representing the Cherokee nation.

Sigh... I didn't spend the rest of the day hiding under the table, but I wanted to.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's my lunch and I'll cry if I want to

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 By


I'm microwaving lunch when a co-workers walks in.

Him: "That smells spicy."

Me: "It's just crappy Lean Cuisine."

Him: "That's redundant."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Family Travel: The Georgia Aquarium

Monday, February 16, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson decided that she didn't want a party for her 10th birthday. She wanted to go to visit family in Atlanta, and go to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke with her BFF, Kayla.

We stayed at my parents' house and took MARTA into the city to avoid traffic, parking, and the very real possibility that I might get us lost and end up in Chattanooga. It's just how I do.

Kayla had never ridden MARTA before, and it had been a couple of years since Emerson had ridden MARTA. We parked at Indian Creek station and paid $15 total for round-trip Breeze cards for the three of us, which is roughly what we'd have paid in parking fees and gas, anyway. They were fascinated by the turnstiles, the escalators, the train, and the scenery. At every stop, they reported back to me how many stops we had left. Thanks, guys.

We exited at Five Points, one stop before we needed to. For the tourist attractions around Centennial Olympic Park, you should exit at the CNN Center station. But we wanted to hook around to the McDonald's and get breakfast to eat on our walk. It was cold outside and utterly wonderful. The girls felt all grown-up walking through the big city. If they'd had hats (and were old enough to get the reference) they might have spun around and tossed their them in the air.

Emerson kept wanting to tip everyone. The police officer who confirmed our directions, the McDonald's cashier, the homeless guy who "helped" us cross the street by shouting at us to "watch the [eff] out for the [effing] bus" that was coming...

I don't know why she wanted to do that. For safety reasons, I wasn't carrying cash, so she was disappointed in me all day. Apparently I am not classy. Whatever. Kids get weird ideas in their heads. Also, thanks, homeless man. That bus actually scraped the curb we'd been standing on not 10 seconds earlier.

We cut through Centennial Olympic Park, which was a lovely walk. But the two playgrounds locked us into their tractor beams and pulled in the girls. We were literally right across the street from the Aquarium, and could not escape for almost an hour.

But we still got to the Aquarium right as they opened because of my momtastic planning. And we had pre-printed our discount tickets, so we didn't have to stand in line.

Get discount tickets here:
Or here:
Or here:
Or keep an eye on Groupon.
Also, consider a City Pass, which is well worth the money.

The aquarium fills up quickly - with people, not water - so you want to prioritize a few activities. I recommend this order of importance:

  1. AT&T Dolphin Tales
  2. Animal feedings
  3. Touch pools
  4. Penguin walk-through
  5. The 4D movie: Deepo's 4D Undersea Wondershow
  6. Ocean Voyager tunnel

If you can get to the first dolphin show of the day and the first animal feeding times of the day, you will have a much more peaceful experience. The first shows and feedings are way less crowded. Show times are posted online, and animal feeding times are posted daily at the aquarium.

The touch pools usually include one with sharks and rays, which was closed due to remodeling this time. But the second touch pools with sea stars and anemones was also enchanting.

The penguin walk-through includes a clear bubble inside the penguin exhibit, in which you can stand and get up close and personal. Take a selfie with the goofy seabirds.

AT&T Dolphin Tales was initially a special add-on expense. But now it's included in every ticket. That means whereas people initially began lining up for seats about 20 minutes before the show, now the hallway begins filling up an hour before the show starts. Children can get impatient. I foresaw a great disturbance in the Force, so I had the two girls go watch the 4D movie while I stood in line. Is that the best idea? Mmmm... I don't know. I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life. But it worked for us.

The show is pretty cheesy. I dubbed it "Thomas Theatercamp and the Xanadu Pirates." The storyline is something about a star-spinner (Thomas Theatercamp, in all his summer stock glory) and some sea monsters, and you have to raise a sunken ship by singing, and... look, we're all really there to see dolphins doing cool stuff. I realize this isn't AT&T Dolphin University, but I'd rather see a show where we could learn something about dolphins, ocean life, and maybe conservation. Get out of here with your weird version of "Starlight Express-On-the-Waterfront."

No photos allowed in the auditorium. This is a promo shot.

My favorite part of the show was any time a dolphin would refuse to do what the trainers asked it to do. Tell 'em, you dolphin rebel! The trainer would just kind of have to wait for the dolphin to decide to get back on track.

At the end of the show, the trainers stand at the corners and answer questions. We asked one about her training, the dolphins' training, and finally about the animals' occasional refusal to perform.

"These are intelligent animals, and everything they do is voluntary," the trainer said. "If they don't want to perform a trick, we don't make them."

Fine. Be all nice to them. I guess I won't be rescuing a dolphin and taking it home under my coat today.

Anyhoodle, I let the girls set the priorities, because today was not about having an agenda. It was about doing things they enjoyed, however they enjoyed them. So we hit all of the above, except we skipped the Ocean Voyager tunnel. But we did that because I knew a secret from a previous visit...

There's an event hall upstairs. In it is a smaller, private window that lets you observe the Beluga whales. This event hall is not open to the public. But we asked nicely - prepared for rejection - and a kind janitorial staff member allowed us a few minutes with the belugas. Then a manager kicked us out of there. But he directed us to an adjacent hallway with a window for observing the Ocean Voyager tank. They let us hang with our Ocean Voyager peeps for as long as we liked.

It was quiet, it was private, it was heaven. We grinned as the giant whale sharks followed the inflatable feeding boat around like a puppy begging for snacks. We laughed as a smaller stingray repeatedly swam up to the glass and thwacked against it, waving its fins and smiling at us as it slid slowly past. One of the janitorial staff told us that the same stingray plays with her as she cleans the window's glass every morning. We pointed out giant grouper, sawfish, and more. We gasped at its monumental size as the whale shark swam so close to us that it slid against the glass.

"Mom, this is such a great experience!" my daughter exclaimed, as a giant manta ray did dramatic flips in front of us.

"This is so cool, I feel like I'm going to cry," her friend said.

"Me, too," said Emerson.

And I really don't know what more you can ask for your child on his or her birthday.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My funny Valentine

Friday, February 13, 2015 By

Augusta, GA. - I picked Emerson up from school after her Valentine's Day party.

Emerson: "Mom, I got a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup for you."

Me: "Ooh, thanks, Doodle!"

Emerson: "But I ate it."

Me: "Ugh! Rawr!"

Emerson (cackling): "I couldn't help it! It just fell into my mouth! And I couldn't stop chewing!"

Well, I think we all know how that works about once a month every month.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Wherein I reveal that I am sometimes not very nice

Monday, February 09, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Sigh. You know how we all have those days where we are definitely NOT the person that Mr. Rogers knows we can be?

LOL, no. Not that Mr. Rogers.

Yes, this one. Umm... wait a minute - what are you doing, Mr. Rogers?

Anyway. One recent Sunday was, for about an hour, that day for me.

We'd spent 10 hours the day before walking around Atlanta. We had done ALL THE THINGS. Then, the next morning, I went to meet my fabulous friend, Penny, for brunch. I get to see her like twice a year, and that sucks. So it was a good weekend. I was in an awesome mood.

But while parking at the Decatur square, I realized I was low on gas. No problem, I thought. I'll hit a station on the way back.

Except... there wasn't one that was open. Not on Church Street, not on North Decatur, and then suddenly I was on Hwy 78, where there definitely wasn't going to be one. The red light was glaring at me as I hit I-285, the needle below empty. Blarg! Where was there a gas station?

I got off at Memorial Drive and took a right, drove for forever before I found a Shell station and pulled in with maybe 0.125 gallons of gas left in the tank... IF that.

The first pump was out of order.

The second pump was out of gas.

Out of the eight pumps, six did not work for one reason or another. Two were occupied.

I pulled in behind a man with a red and white pickup truck. He was moving at the speed of lead, but how long can it really take to get gas?

Apparently, it can take donkey's years, because this guy might as well have enjoyed a candlelit dinner with a solo violinist for the amount of time it took him.

He looked at me, directly in the eyes, and I nodded and gave him a friendly smile, because that is how I do. He looked at me a second longer, then turned back to the pump. Then got back in his truck. Then got back out of his truck. Then looked at the pump again.

I giggled, turned off my car and pulled out my phone. Might as well return a couple of texts...

I looked up a little while later. He was just sliding the hose into his gas tank. Wait, what? I glanced at the clock. I'd been sitting there for 10 minutes. Umm... okay, buddy... I shook my head and chuckled. Whatever.

I turned back to my phone. A few minutes later, I heard the pump *kachunk* off. The man was looking at the hose in consternation. Then he looked back at the pump. Then he looked back at the hose.

What was this guy doing?

I looked at the clock. I was an hour late getting back. I'd now been waiting at this pump for 20 minutes. Ugh.

Back at the pump, this guy and the pump were apparently having a battle of wits. I am pretty sure he lost. He kept looking back and forth between the hose and the pump.

Eventually, he got into his truck. Then he got back out again. Then he removed the hose. Then he hooked it back onto the pump. Then he got back in his truck. Sweet! My turn! I flicked on my engine...

... and he got back out of his truck and examined the pump again.

What? I sighed and put my head down on my steering wheel. I turned off my engine. I had a bad feeling.

When I looked up, he was sauntering into the gas station at roughly the same rate as a sea slug. I watched him enter. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, he came back out. He got into his truck. Then he started doing... something. I couldn't tell. But I knew what he wasn't doing: LEAVING.

I flipped on the engine, which started with a sputter. Yikes. And I waited.

And waited.

Seriously, what was this dude doing? I might have gone to another gas station, but I didn't see another one nearby and I couldn't risk running out of gas. There were now two cars behind me, and three behind the car at the only other working pump. I literally had no other option but to sit there and wait. And this guy was totally unconcerned.

He got back out of his truck, holding a lottery ticket. He looked me in the eye. I gave him a look that I think said, "Aaaaaand just where are you going?" And he sauntered back into the gas station, glancing around at the now three cars behind me.

Man... seriously?

A woman pulled out of line behind me and sped off, flipping him off as she drove by. He didn't even notice. It had been 30 minutes since I pulled in behind him.

I waited some more. Finally, he came out, still moving like a turtle.

Honestly, the only thing comforting about these slow-walking people is that they will be the ones between me and the zombies when the apocalypse happens. And this guy was so slow he was almost walking backwards. Sorry, sir. You're definitely zombie food.

Finally - finally! - he climbed back in his truck.

I flipped on my engine again.

And then he got back out of his freaking truck.

Oh. My. God. What the ever-loving French toast is he doing?

Two cars behind me, a driver honked one long, frustrated blast and threw up his hands in frustration. I hear ya, buddy.

I looked at this guy and frowned in consternation. He looked at me. Then he started walking over to my car. Warily, I cracked my window.

"Hey... were you waiting for this pump?" he asked.

I blinked at him, and reflexively glanced behind me at the vehicles lined up.

"Uh, yes, sir."


He stood there.

"Well, I didn't know."

He kept standing there.

"Well... I think we're all waiting for the pump, sir."

He looked behind me, and then glared at me. "Well, how was I supposed to know that?"

And that's where I kind of lost it.

"Are you kidding me?" I snapped. "Why else would we be here?"

"I didn't know!" he exclaimed.

"Just... could you please just move your truck? I am literally about to run out of gas this second."

"How am I supposed to know why you're parked behind me? You could have had a bunch of reasons!"

"Like what, man? We're all just trying to get gas and be on our way. Can you move your car, please?"

The owner of the gas station came out of the station and observed the situation. I looked at him and gestured towards the driver trying to indicate that he should maybe help move him along. Angry honking man sped off from behind me, around the pump, past the owner. He honked again as he left, a long blast of wordless noise that improves nothing on this planet. Ever.

The truck driver was still standing at my front bumper, grumbling to himself. I stared at him, incredulous. He looked up at me, set his jaw, and called me a bitch.

Oh. Hell. No.

"Move your car!" I shouted.

He glared at me again.


The truck driver stomped to his car and drove off. The woman behind me was laughing hysterically. But she'd only been here for maybe 10 minutes, just enough to observe the last part of this nonsense.

I pulled up to the pump, and the owner materialized beside me like a ninja.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.

"Sorry, tell you what, sir?" I asked, startled.

"Tell me that you wanted to get gas. I could have helped you." He looked at me like I was an idiot. He could have helped me? I mean, few people really need help with this task, right? Besides the guy who had just left, of course. It was so ridiculous that for a moment I thought, "Wait, am I in the wrong, here? Did I make a mistake?"

NO. I did not make a mistake. I followed every cultural and social protocol that Americans use at a gas station. It is not complicated. Pull up to pump. Get gas. Vacate pump. Wait in line if the pump is occupied. Promptly yield pump to those behind you once you have finished filling your tank. Why didn't I tell him that I wanted to get gas? Because I am at your gas station! It should have been obvious!

But I did not tell him that. I almost choked to death on the amount of effort it took to not respond to him with irritation. He didn't observe the entire situation, so he couldn't have known the extent of the stupid.

"I am not sure what you could have done, sir," I said.

"Well, I could have turned on another pump for you," he said.

"Wait, what? So... they're not... broken?" I stared at him.

"No, I just turn them off. I don't like too many pumps going at once."

I sighed, and shoved the hose into my gas tank.

I think am just going to buy a camel.

Bonus if it comes with '90s Brendan Fraser.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Perspective on parenting

Friday, February 06, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - I'm talking to a coworker.

Her: "My sister's pregnant. She's 22 weeks."

Me: "Oh, that's great! Congratulations!"

Her: "Oh, it's her third. Nobody cares."

Me: "oooookaaaayyy...."

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

It's a hard knock life for us

Wednesday, February 04, 2015 By

Apparently how Emerson views herself.

AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson made a huge mess. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. But she acted completely incompetent in cleaning it up.

"Emerson, go get something to scrub this," I said, for the third time.

She looked balefully at the mess and slumped her shoulders. And just stood there.




"Emerson. Help me clean this up, please."

I wasn't even making her do it all on her own. It was an accident, and when people have accidents, we help them. That is what humans do. Some people are all "blah blah survival of the fittest," but I think that is just them excusing themselves for being big jerkfaces. Humans have survived bigger, stronger predators and exposure to the elements for thousands of years due to our abilities to organize and cooperate - not our ability to shove someone else out of the way and deny responsibility.

So she needed to get with the program. We are helpers in this house. That is WWJD, for crying out loud.

Instead, this is what I got:

I said a silent prayer.

"Emerson. Go to the kitchen. Look for the scrubber, or something, to clean this."

She went to the kitchen. She opened the cabinet under the sink. She stood there for precisely half of one second. Then she came back. And just looked at me. 

I looked at her.

She shrugged her shoulders: "I couldn't find it."

"You couldn't find it."


"You couldn't find anything to clean with."



She sighed. "I'm just not good at looking."

I resisted the urge to bang my head against the floor.

"Emerson, there has to be something with which you can help clean this mess."

"I didn't see anything. I don't know this stuff. They don't teach that in school, you know."

Are you kidding me?

"Oh, well, I will have to start rectifying that gap in your education. Tonight, we're going to learn how to clean things."

"What?! But you said I could come home and lazy around!"

"Young lady, I said no such thing."

"But it's my birthday!"

"Your birthday was yesterday."

"But... I only get one day?"

"Yeah, that's kind of how that works, sweetie."

"I thought I'd get a week."

"A week?"

"Yeah..." She looked at the ceiling and scrunched up her shoulders. Clearly, once she voiced it out loud, her expectation seemed much less reasonable. 

"Well, it only took one day to give birth to you. So one day is all you get. I, however, should get about nine months to just lazy around."

She rolled her eyes and grinned.

I have a $10 gift card to Family Dollar. I am going to take her to that store and let her buy $10 worth of cleaning supplies. 

Then? We're going to have an education. 

Oh, yes. You gone' learn today.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Product Review: Nivea Body In-Shower Nourishing Body Lotion

Monday, February 02, 2015 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Whenever I get a sample of a skincare, hair care or other beauty product, I am prepared for snake oil in a bottle. I can't count the number of "anti-aging" serums I have received. They're usually of no particular benefit (anything Garnier puts out for skin) or just pale imitations of better products already on the market (Freeman Beauty Vita-K). Generally, I like to stick with a couple of tried-and-true products for my skin: pretty much anything Olay (but in particular, their 7 Effects line) and Neutrogena put out.

Nivea's products are also good quality. However, they're harder to find in this area, so I haven't gotten into them. But I bought a Nivea moisturizing facial gel while I was in Chicago back in 1996 that I loved so much I hoarded it for a year. Alas, they don't sell it anymore.

Even though I have loved some of Nivea's products, I was very skeptical when I received a sample of Nivea Body In-Shower Nourishing Body Lotion for Very Dry Skin. It's moisturizer that you put on while you're in the shower. GET A SAMPLE HERE.

Basically, you do your shower routine. Then, when you're just about done - maybe right after you put your conditioner in your hair, but before you rinse it out - you step out of the running water and apply this stuff all over. Then you finish your shower routine, and rinse it off. Dry as normal and go about your business.

Well... that just sounded like bullcrap to me. I mean, you're in the shower and you wash it off. How can it moisturize? Get out of my bathroom with that nonsense.

But if I don't moisturize daily, my body gets really dry and itchy in winter. It's annoying, and I'll find myself absently scratching my heinie. That's not good. So I'm always looking for a great moisturizer.

Y'all, I love it. It went on easily, rinsed off easily, and actually did what it said it was going to do. It didn't leave a greasy or slippery film on my skin or on my bathtub. It has almost no fragrance, so it won't activate allergies and sensitivities, nor compete with your soap or perfume.

I used it for a week and it didn't gunk up my towel. It also didn't stay on the surface of my skin so that it got all in my hair when I was blow drying it. And my skin felt great all day. In fact, every day I used it, my skin felt better than before.

My skin did feel very slightly tacky when I was drying off. Just a little. But not as much as when I tried Johnson's Baby Oil Gel. And I didn't have to walk around mostly naked until my lotion absorbed (mothers of boys, how do you do it?).

Are there better moisturizers out there? Well, sure, olive oil is a better moisturizer. But who wants to smell like caprese salad all day? (Now I want some caprese salad. Thanks, Internet.)

I can heartily recommend  Nivea Body In-Shower Nourishing Body Lotion. But I probably won't continue to use it. Because although I really, really like it, I just can't justify the $15 price tag for a 13.5 oz. bottle.

Stick with the cost-effective old standards, Eucerin and Cetaphil, both of whom are also recommended by Consumer Reports, and range from $9-$13 for a 16.9 oz. bottle. I lean towards  Vaseline Intensive Care because it has almost no residue, also scores well with Consumer Reports, and currently costs less than $5 for a 10 oz. bottle.

As always, use what works for you.