I was just looking for a free highlight job when I saw on one of my mommy boards that a national mom blog was seeking a makeover subject. I put my name in the hat, and soon I was a finalist, and then the chosen one for a Mom.me Mommy Makeover.
The makeover team, from stylist to coordinator, were top-notch professionals. The prep for the makeover and photo shoot was intensive, as was the actual makeover process. I felt like I was back in my film product days – early call time, no breaks for lunch, hustle and hurry from hair to make-up to wardrobe.
After all was said and done to me, the end result was … not what I expected, but a great experience and worthwhile, especially to have met and worked with the team. I learned a few fashion lessons – to not fear my curves, go bolder, accessorize, and some grooming tips – shape my brows, let my hair be messy, and in general, dress the part and you will feel it.
I’ve maintained some of the look I was given. I’ve worn the clothes (yes, they let me keep them!), and I got some The Joey Healy Elite Sculpting Tweezers to maintain my brows, and I am accessorizing more. I did however wash out the color from my hair. I’ve been a blond all my life, and the dark hair just didn’t feel like me. I’m also letting it grow out, as I like my hair longer. But it was worth a try at least once in my life to be brunette, or auburn as it were.
The story on the site was a bit embarrassing. I think I oversold my “poor me” story, as I sound like a sad sack. I do have my ups and downs as I search for a new job, but my outlook is not so grim as it sounds in the article. I really did want the highlights. Little did I know they would be auburn!
Thanks again to Mom.me for the makeover. They have an awesome site.
Treat Mom to Coffee, Tea or Lunch To-Go with These Tasteful Gifts
Mo’ Joe for Mom
Let Mom have it her way with the KRUPS XP6040 ($360.00), a state-of-the-art combination espresso and coffee machine. If her taste is for espresso, she can craft an exquisite cup with the Swiss-designed espresso machine, featuring an Italian-made 19-bar pump that delivers perfect shots that will make her feel like she has a café barista at her service. The espresso side also comes equipped with electronic controls, 30-minute automatic stop, removable front-access 50-ounce water tank, side frothing wand, and Thermoblock technology for ideal heating and durability. The coffee maker side of the XP6040 offers a 10-cup carafe, one-button electronic control, pause-and-serve feature, removable cone filter basket, non-stick warming plate and auto shut-off after two hours. The design not only takes less space than two separate machines, its stainless steel styling will look fabulous on her counter. Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond or www.krupsusa.com.
Tea for One … Great Mom
Mother’s Day is time for some “me time” for Mom, so give her the accoutrement she needs to relax. The Mother’s Day Tea Gift ($29.95) from Harry & David sets her up with scrumptious lemon shortbread cookies, Earl Gray tea, clover honey sticks and a special stainless steel teaspoon, all wrapped up in an adorable tin. If Mom likes to unwind with something a bit more fermented, Harry & David also offers Mom’s Day wine themed gift baskets as well as traditional flower gifts with treats, or a combination, like the Cookie Bouquet Gift of rose shaped sugar cookies in a bouquet ($39.99). All available at www.Harryanddavid.com.
Bring on the Cool Mom
Pack a special picnic for Mom in the adorable SoYoung insulated cooler bag ($29.99/small, $36.99/large). Perfect to take to the beach, the park, work or anywhere she wants to nosh, the cutely designed bags include a detachable carry strap and feature clever retro-inspired designs like Blue Bicycle, Purple Dandelion and Brown Bird on coated linen, and a leak-proof insert for easily cleaning. All materials are lead-safe, Pthalate-free and PVC-free. Available at select retailers or at www.soyoung.ca.
Constructive Family Law Puts Parents Rights and Needs Behind Child’s Interest
After divorce, sharing custody of children can often be a contentious proposition, but according to family law attorney Mark Baer, it does not have to be, and it should not be, for the sake of the children involved.
Baer, who practices in Pasadena and Los Angeles areas, rejects the title of “divorce lawyer” in favor of “family law mediator,” as he subscribes to a progressive movement in his field which focuses on resolving the conflicts between parents without the specter of litigation.
“The litigation model that attorneys are taught is adversarial by nature. It often exacerbates the situation and makes trust issues worse. I deal in constructive ways to deal with conflict,” said Baer. “First you need to build trust between the parties by tackling the easiest stuff first, then you move on once you have the ability to make agreements.”
Together, for the Kids
Honing his skills as at conflict resolution as court-assigned mediator in Van Nuys, Baer learned that often attorneys were content to collect their hourly rate as they drove clients further apart from resolution, even separating them during mediation sessions. Baer by contrast insists on parents sitting down together in mediation so they can talk out issues and see the bigger picture of what is best for the innocent victims of the conflict, the children.
Termed constructive family law, or integrative family law, Baer’s method always focuses on the well being of the children as the priority. Baer’s resolutions, while certainly not illegal, may not always be supported by law. In his view, the resolution reached in a court according to law might not be appropriate for a particular family dynamic. For example, an equal-time ruling may be what the law ordered, but it might not be in the best interest of the child.
“A fifty-fifty custody arrangement may not always be the best arrangement. A child may have not bonded with a parent, and after divorce they are forced to spend 50 percent of their time with that parent,” said Baer.
Likewise, just because the law says that a parent has the freedom of speech to bash a child’s other parent, as a recent case held out, the respectful, responsible way to act as a parent is to not make derogatory remarks about a former spouse to a child. In this situation, the trash talk not only puts a child in the middle of his or her parent’s conflict, it usually backfires, as a child resents the parent who disparages the other parent whom the child also loves.
What’s Mine is Ours
To help parents come together in making the best custody decisions for their children, Baer says seemingly small things like terminology can make a difference. When a parent says, “our child” instead of “my child,” and avoids talking in terms of their “rights” to a child, tensions can melt away, as both parents realize the child is part of both of them and that the child’s rights are of highest importance.
Similarly, Baer urges parents to view the needs of the child before the rights of the parent or the needs of the parent, so that a child does not become a trophy or property that parents fight over, ignoring what is best for the child.
Baer’s conflict resolution methods often involves using mental health professionals who guide the parents in finding ways to best relate to each other and their children. While Baer does not necessarily prescribe therapy for couples, he encourages them to use therapists as coaches to help fix or improve their relationship, which is not always attended to in the divorce proceedings.
“Therapists can teach exercises and coach parents on how to deal with their feelings appropriately. Often fear– whether real, perceived or exaggerated — gets in the way. Divorce has many emotions around it — of loss, grief, fear and stress. While feelings are raw, it is not a time to make important decisions,” said Baer. “Research shows us that second to death, divorce is one of life’s most stressful situations. Studies show that IQ test performance drops by as much as 30 percent in these situations. Your navigational system is off. You need to get your cognitive reasoning skills back online.”
Sorry is the Hardest Part
Though the marriage has ended, Baer advices couples to heal their relationship, often by taking personal responsibility for their part in the failure of the marriage.
Often an apology and forgiveness goes a long way in mending a relationship and begins the process of healing, for the good of the children. This holds true especially in situations where there has been an affair in the marriage, and the injured party tries to punish the guilty parent by withholding custody.
“An affair is between adults. It should not be used to prevent a parent from having a relationship with a child,” says Baer.
While an affair is, “irrelevant to law,” says Baer, “Once there is an apology, there can be forgiveness, and the emotional posturing is gone.”
Baer laments that the current legal system is “terribly flawed,” but he is heartened that more divorcing couples are seeking constructive family law as a way to deal with the aftermath of a failed marriage and taking the matter of custody into their own hands for the best outcome for the children, instead of leaving it up to litigation and the courts.
“You know your kids, yourself and your spouse. Is it up to you or your attorney to decide what’s best?
Posted April 16, 2013on:
Parents of young children traveling by plane often have the dilemma of the pick-up. Either chance a taxi ride with no child booster for the car seat — as in most states this is allowable by law for short hauls in hired vehicles, or trouble a relative or friend to arrange for a booster for when they pick you up. You can now spare yourself the worry, thanks to the arrival of BubbleBum.
The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is an affordable ($39.99), convenient alternative to carting around a booster on a plane, and avoiding airline bag fees to check luggage. It tucks compactly into its own stretch carry bag, and can be blow up and ready to use in seconds. It is lightweight (1 lb.), yet when inflated it is sturdy and comfortable. Designed for children aged 4-11 and weighting 40 to 100 pounds, it is a handy extra seat for kiddie carpools, and because of its narrow footprint, it can fit three-across in a back seat along with other boosters.
The BubbleBum meets all US motor vehicle safety standards as requtred by NHTSA (FMVSS213), so you can feel confident in using it as a daily booster as well as a booster-in-a-pinch. As a testament to parent satisfaction the BubbleBum has been awarded a seal by Mom’s Best, including the 2012 Top Choice of the Year Award in Kids Travel by Creative Child Magazine, PTPA (Parent Tested Parent Approved) Media Awards and the JPMA Awards. BubbleBum has been awarded the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) “Best Bet” in their booster seat evaluation report two years in a row, where they’ve branded BubbleBum as one of the best for safety.
LEGOLAND Hotel opened with a flourish, literally, as a knight in full regalia, along with a dusty adventurer riding in a motorcycle sidecar, and pirate who repelled from atop the roof, welcomed the first guests as the 250-room hotel opened its doors last week.
The first of its kind in America, LEGOLAND Hotel adjoins LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, California, inviting families from all over, especially children ages two to 12, to enjoy a world of LEGO-themed attractions and activities.
Build It, and They Will Play
Amenities at the hotel include themed rooms decorated with LEGO models, characters and clues to unlock a treasure chest, Mini’s Lounge for grown-ups adjacent a castle and pirate ship for kids to play in, Skyline Café for upscale casual drinks and dining, the kid-friendly Bricks Family Restaurant with a scrumptious buffet, disco elevators complete with a mirror ball, light show and fave 70s grooves like “Dancing Queen” and “Do the Hustle,” and a lobby that is a kid’s fantasy play area, with a pit of LEGOs surrounding a multi-colored LEGO pillar that kids can help build.
Like a LEGO model in process, LEGOLAND Hotel seems to be experimenting with its environment. On opening weekend, the expected crowds of alcohol-imbibing parents never materialized at the Mini’s bar, but the families came en masse for the evening entertainment at the castle, so bar tables and padded stools were pushed aside to make way for song and dance parades of kids and performers.
Three Themes a Charm
The three-floor hotel features varying themed rooms with adventure, kingdom or pirate décor. Premium rooms have additional detailing and decal on the walls. In addition to a queen bed, all basic rooms have a separate, semi-private sleeping area with its own TV and bunk beds and a trundle bed for up to three little ones. Our party of four stayed in a junior suite that features the same kids’ quarters as the basic room plus a king bed and additional sitting area with a full-size sofa bed, to accommodate up to seven guests.
The rooms all had Wi-Fi, in-room coffee makers, hair dryers and the usual accoutrement of a modern hotel, as well as some other tech features like door locks activated by a wave of a key card and flat screen TVs with front-access accessory panels so guests could plug in their own devices.
Besides the conveniences for grown-ups, the hotel was a bounty for kids. Talking LEGO characters greeted guests as elevator doors opened, and figures and decorations lined the hallways – 3,500 models in all, along with fun surprises like talking mirrors in the hotel restrooms and a giant cartoon whoopee cushion on the floor that when stepped on emits sound effects that kids can’t seem to get enough of.
Kid Size Fun
Throughout the hotel there are special amenities for smaller guests, such as a kid-height peephole in guest rooms and toilet training seats in the bathrooms. The Bricks buffet for kids was also at a lower height, as was a dedicated kid sink in the restroom. The heated swimming pool also is perfect for little swimmers with a depth of five feet and a gradual incline similar to a beach shore.
LEGOLAND California seemed to benefit from the opening of the hotel, as the entire amusement park appears to have gotten a new coat of paint in recent months. The staff at the park and hotel seemed very enthusiastic about the hotel, and the staff was exceedingly friendly and helpful all around.
LEGO Land, Ahoy
After our fill of rides we ventured next door into the Sea Life Aquarium which has two tide pool exhibits where kids can touch the wildlife. The giant tanks give visitors a feeling of being immersed in the water, where plenty of sharks circled overhead, a delight for my son, who would not leave without a shark’s tooth souvenir necklace from the gift shop. Though the spring chill in the air made it too cold for us to indulge in the LEGOLAND Water Park, in warmer weather it is a wet wonderland with a Build-A-Raft river and six-person tube slides as well as a lower-key toddler area.
The park and hotel have implemented some of the same perks and features as Disney theme parks, with hotel guests entitled to early admittance to the park, an adjacent entrance for hotel guests, and character appearances at the hotel restaurants. Also similar to Disney pin trading with cast members, guests at LEGOLAND trade mini LEGO characters with staff. The minis are marketing genius, as my son became obsessed with finding a rare skeleton mini, prompting frequent trading and the purchase of six minis during our trip – but we have yet to come across the elusive skeleton.
Are We There Yet?
Lucky for us Angelenos, LEGOLAND is just 95 miles away, so it makes a perfect weekend road trip. We cruised to the resort in the new Mazda 2013 CX-9, which makes travel with kids easy thanks to its MP3 auxiliary input jack for iPods and other music media players. The blind-spot warning system made changing lanes on fast-moving I-5 a lot safer, and the rear back-up camera made parking in tight spots less stressful, as on-screen the green, yellow and red zones saved us the trouble of making someone get out of the vehicle to call out, “c’mon back.” The super roomy CX-9 is perfect for large families as the third row adds two extra seats. When the seats are folded down the cargo area is huge enough to fit plenty of luggage and gear. Though SoCal’s climate is generally moderate, the heated front-row seats feel great on a cold morning or chilly evening.
Hop to It
While LEGOLAND is a terrific weekend getaway, there is much more to explore than a family can conquer in a couple days. Two-Day Resort Hopper tickets at $112 for adults and $102 for children 3-12 years are definitely the best deal for families that want to bounce from the amusement park to the water park to the aquarium. Weekdays are always best to avoid longer lines, and the hours just before the park opens or just before it closes are often the least crowded.
Wisely, LEGOLAND has figured out that guests want to maximize their time at LEGOLAND, and having the LEGOLAND Hotel just a hop and skip away makes it all the easier. Ironically, there were so many exciting things at the hotel, my son actually wanted to leave the park early, asking, “Can we please go back to the hotel!”
Temps at Big Bear Lake are rising to the 60s and 70s, but all that means for spring skiers and snowboarders is shedding heavy coats for T-shirts and, of course, lower prices for just about everything on the mountain.
Bear Mountain Resort and Snow Summit Mountain Resort heralded in the spring season March 10 with a drop in full-day lift tickets from $72 to $59 for adults and $62 to $49 for 13 and up. Kids under six are always free with a paying adult. Besides discounted prices, which extend to lodging and local retailers, the benefits of spring skiing abound, including shorter lines for chair lifts and rentals, wide open slopes and easy parking at the resorts.
On our recent three-day spring getaway, our family stayed at Blue Horizons Lodge, an adorable complex of cottages tucked away off the main boulevard about 200 yards from the lake and within minutes of the ski resorts. The website photos did not do the place justice, as we were pleasantly surprised to find our rustic little cottage-away-from-home very tidy, decorated with cute lake-themed accents and updated furnishings and equipped with everything we needed for our stay. The wood-burning fireplace kept us cozy, and my son was thrilled with the XBox 360 and the library of DVDs for our evening entertainment.
The property also had a pool (closed for winter), BBQ area with picnic tables, volleyball pit, horse shoe course and a vintage seesaw and train handcar that my son loved pumping around its circular track. The inn keeper, Sharon, a grandmother of 14, was a wealth of information about where families can go to eat and have fun around town, and she clued us in to several deals and discounts at Big Bear businesses.
We opted to arrive late in the afternoon mid-week so that we could relax, explore local attractions and shop. While Big Bear has given in to chains like Starbucks, Carl’s Jr. and even Big 5 Sports, the town still has an array of quaint shops, many clustered in the Village at Big Bear. Thankfully, the Village is unlike the generic shopping villages that have popped up at so many mountain resorts.
We walked the few blocks of boutiques and eateries that comprise the Village, stopping in a few novelty shops, like the Brown Bear Gift Shop and Bear Essentials, the latter where my son, a fan of Brave, got a child’s bow and rubber-tipped arrow set, with a whittled bear for a handle. The bear-themed toy was one of about a hundred bear encounters we had in Big Bear, as the town is bear crazy, with bear décor and businesses with “bear” in the name at every turn. Ironically, the grizzlies for which the town is named no longer live there, but the ubiquitous carved bears crawling into windows and bear statues standing on their hind quarters in front of stores show no sign of endangerment.
Spring is in the Air, and Snow is on the Mountain
Snow Summit Mountain Resort has the reputation as the more family friendly of the two main resorts, owing in part to its Family Fun Park, featuring small jumps, bumps and rollers for kids and learners, and loud speakers reminding guests to maintain slow speeds and ski with care.
Snowboarders tend to favor Bear Mountain, especially because of its halfpipe and superpipe features. Despite the signs on the chair lift poles declaring, “With courtesy skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the slopes together,” the reality is that many skiers would rather not share the mountain with the reckless riders who barrel down trails too close to them and their children, and many snowboarders resent the slow moving two-plankers and kids, or “bowling pins,” that get in the way of the jumps and jibs they love boost over and catch air.
Overall we had a pleasant ski experience at both resorts, though when my son wandered toward the side of one of the jumps at Bear Mountain, a Shaun White look-alike bombed by us yelling, “Get that kid outta here!” Then he stopped to apologize for his tone and explained he was just concerned for my son’s safety.
At both resorts, we found spring skiing had some terrific advantages — extremely short lines for chair lifts and equipment rentals and less crowded runs compared to winter, though the snow was slower and mushy by early afternoon from the sun, and the resorts opened at 9 am instead of 8 am, and the mountains closed at 4 pm, with no night skiing.
Another advantage to visiting Big Bear in spring is clear roads, no chains required. We drove up in a KIA Soul, which got great mileage and handled capably on the curvy mountain roads, which comprise about 35-45 minutes of the 110-mile, three-hour drive from LA. The fold-down seat in back allowed us to store two sets of skis and a snowboard plus all of our luggage for the trip, and despite driving in the mountains, we had SIRIUS Satellite Radio reception the entire trip and could monitor the commute on SIRIUS Traffic. As a bonus, KIA is the official vehicle of Big Bear Mountain resorts, so we were offered rock star parking by the attendants.
While Big Bear is best known for its snow sports, there are a number of great rear-round and summer activities and attractions on the mountain, such as the Big Bear Fishing Adventures, Alpine Zipline Tours, Big Bear Off-Road Adventures, the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, and the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary, home to Istas Pejuta, one of the wolves filmed for Twilight Saga: New Moon movie. So even after the snow melts, there will still be plenty of (wooden) big bears on their haunches, standing all around Big Bear, to welcome you.
With the world’s largest alpine lake at its center, beautiful Lake Tahoe is a wonderful family destination offering plenty of mountain sports and activities for kids of all ages, with a “winter” season that begins around Thanksgiving and lasts through early summer.
Our family resort hopped across Tahoe starting with the massive Squaw Valley, which got a $24 million facelift in 2012. The terrain has endless expanses of trails and family friendly options, with beginner, intermediate and advanced trails often using the same chair lifts. The view from the 1960s Olympic skating rink at the top of the tram is a sight to behold, and skating costs just $12 an hour for adults and $6 for kids, including rentals.
Diamond in the Snow
At a gem of a resort, Diamond Peak, our family took a private ski lesson together. With expert instruction, my five year-old son progressed at an amazing rate from snowplowing to paralleling. The resort has lots of wide open trails that families can ski together. Diamond Peak’s owners also own the Incline Village Recreation Center about a mile from the base lodge. The huge complex features a pool, sauna, basketball and other sport facilities, along with a massage therapist on site.
The aptly named Heavenly features vast terrain for skiers and riders of every ability and preference, including a Roundabout trail that that winds around the mountain and is a better thigh burner than any Suzanne Somers contraption.
Children’s ski lessons at Heavenly are impressively streamlined with kids quickly placed in groups by skill level and whisked off to the slopes. Despite my son’s initial separation anxiety, by lunchtime he was downing hot chocolate and cookies in the lodge with a new gaggle of friends. By day’s end he conquered intermediate runs with full confidence. Highlights of the lesson were captured digitally courtesy of EpicMix, a very cool photo service that snaps pics on the slopes that you can access and buy online.
Skis In, Skis Out
We rented skis through Black-Tie Rentals. They brought our skis to our hotel for fitting and picked them up at the bottom of the slopes when we were done. Our high performance equipment was in tip-top shape, and the service was outstanding.
A private snowmobile tour by Zephyr Cove Resort was a highlight of our trip. Our guide led us over the hills and through the woods atop of our ultra-powerful luxury snowmobiles, outfitted with hand warmers. The tour was complete with a break for hot chocolate, made from melted snow.
The Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino is one of the area’s finest dining establishments with a wonderful ambiance and blazing fireplaces. The menu includes delectable dishes like Durham Ranch Bison Tenderloin, pan seared California Sturgeon and the fabulous Baked Tahoe dessert.
Local favorite Azzarra’s at Incline Village serves up authentic Italian cuisine in a relaxed family friendly atmosphere. The generous portions of seafood paella, swordfish over an awesome risotto, and traditional spaghetti with meatballs were all superb.
Another Incline Village locals’ favorite is Austin’s, a tiny 13-table restaurant with great down-home Tahoe charm and mountain country cooking. Popular dishes include chicken fried steak, classic meat loaf and a legendary rib eye steak.
South Lake Tahoe’s Riva Grill offers stunning views and décor of polished wood, just like Milan’s famed Riva sleek wood boats. The artful menu consists of gourmet comfort foods like pork ribs with a pomegranate glaze, rib eye char grilled with rum peppercorn sauce and a wonderful bread pudding with Callebaut dark chocolate.
The Other Side of Cal-Neva
Our family stayed at Cal-Neva Resort, Spa and Casino, located in North Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada borderline, divided down the middle of its banquet hall, swimming pool and grand fireplace with a painted stateline. The hotel was once the hangout of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pak who used its famous network of underground tunnels to escape fan mobs.
The Cal-Neva is past its glory days, but the beds are comfy, and the housekeepers kept our room impressively clean and neat. Best of all, it is very affordable with spacious rooms.
For Kids Only, and Their Parents, and Everyone Else
On our way out we stopped at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. My son had a blast exploring the hands-on Nevada-themed interactive science, nature, history, math, music and art exhibits.
Tahoe’s majestic mountain peaks seem a world away from home, but Tahoe is just an hour flight from Los Angeles. Though we were sad to leave, the good news is that in a few more months we can discover a whole different Tahoe in summer.