What Makes You Smile?

Now that the weather has produced some grey, cool days, I’m finding myself, more days than not, behaving like Mrs. Crankypants.

It’s as if my smile and good mood disappears with the sun and gets packed away with my sundresses and sandals. Sure, there will be some gorgeous days ahead, but as I type this, my family has spent the past few days trapped indoors, watching the rain and questioning whether we’d be the neighborhood idiots if we turned on our fireplace this early in the season.

So, it requires a lot of mental recognition, focus and decision to turn my frown upside down. And to do this, I have to take stock of what makes me smile. Things like my kids laughter or funny things they say, Nutella, otters and awesome friends and family members.

And there’s a new family music album out that I can add to this list!

Smiles Ahead

Mighty Mo Productions is a new music label out of Kansas City that launches this fall, and its first release, Smiles Ahead, is one fantastic coming-out party, filled with hit songs from top artists in the family music biz.

Started by Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove, in an effort to “more broadly distribute quality family music by cross-pollinating artists into new markets,” this album is a collection of some of my favorite family music artists like Brady Rymer, The Okee Dokee Brothers, The Pop Ups, Kira Willey, Mista Cookie Jar and The Verve Pipe.

It also features artists that are making their debut in the family music genre like country musician Rissi Palmer with “Best Day Ever” and Katydid, with “Together Song.” The Verve Pipe, who may very well be one of my favorite cross-over artists, also penned a new song for the album, titled “Get Happy.”

The album jacket lists some of the things that makes the featured artists smile, and even these will make you grin! The Okee Dokee Brothers, obviously, mention “Taking a walk through the woods,” “My boys, my family, my dog” makes Frances England smile, and Mista Cookie Jar beams from “Kickin’ it with the fam-bam!”

Verve Pipe 1Brian from The Verve Pipe says “I’m always very happy when I’m performing, (above w/Channing Lee), but I’m even happier when the whole family gets involved! (below with Evangeline, Willow and Lux Vander Ark).”Verve Pipe 2

Check out a sneak preview of Smiles Ahead below!


Mighty Mo Productions’ Smiles Ahead is available October 16, but because I adore you lovely readers so much and want to make YOU smile, I’m giving away a free copy to a lucky winner! All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter below by Monday, October 12th at 11:59pm EST. Open to contiguous U.S. residents only.

I’ll be posting throughout the day and week with things that make me smile, and I’d love to see what turns up the corners of your mouth! Be sure to let me know what makes you smile in a comment below, or even better, share your  pictures and stories on my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #SmilesAhead.

Good luck, and get smiling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosures: I was provided a copy of this product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. 

The Wilson Elementary Bedtime Chart: A Parent’s Perspective

You may have seen the chart floating around on Facebook from Wilson Elementary School. It’s the one that tells you what time your child should be going to bed based on what time they need to wake up. If not, you can find it here.

Now, I’m a Virgo and love me a good spreadsheet, so when I first looked at this meme, I thought “Wow, that’s PERFECT! Every age and time is laid out so easily that I can pinpoint to the minute what is the best time for my child!”

Sleep Chart

But then, I got all sweaty and irritated, because this chart?

It made me feel like a loser parent. Sure, this chart is meant to be helpful, but it feels more like a scolding. Guess what, Mom? You are depriving your child of precious sleep. SHAME ON YOU!

Like many families, I’m sure, there is NO WAY IN HELL I could meet this finger-wagging spreadsheet. My kids have an erratic after-school schedule. Sometimes we aren’t getting home from practices until 8:45, a good HOUR AND A HALF past when my six year-old should be getting to bed, according to Wilson Elementary. My kids wake up at 6:45 every morning during the school week, so by this chart’s calculation, two out of the five nights of the school week we’re going to bed way so late that I fear I’d get called by Child Protective Services.

Because I think the last time my daughter went to bed before 7:30 was when she contracted the flu. Before that? When she was a toddler.

Perhaps what would be more helpful is a chart about how much hand-wringing, screaming and real tears you’ll need to get your kids in bed an hour or so earlier.

Even with a semi-strict 8:30 bedtime, I already have the Bedtime Nazi vibe going. The task of watching the clock is exhausting and turns me in to a Tasmanian devil at bedtime, rushing through the routine and speed-reading Dr. Seuss as if I’m on crack.


But here’s the thing: I know that my kids sleep well. They fall asleep right after we close their doors, they wake up refreshed and happy in the morning, and we have no complaints from teachers about their behavior. They don’t fall asleep in the car on the way home from school They’re getting at least 10 hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep at night, and I feel like that’s a win in the parenting column.

What irks me about this chart is that it doesn’t factor in many variables that cement sleep issues into reality. Some parents work until 6:00pm and want – no – need time with their children before bedtime. Don’t even get me started on school-aged children who are involved in activities where practice is scheduled so that it makes an early bedtime nearly impossible.

And if you have an older sibling who has practice, or one parent doing the bedtime routine on his or her own, this chart makes bedtime drag on for eons. At the end of the day, I don’t want to perform an hour and a half long bedtime routine when I could allow the younger child to stay up a few minutes later and let the older child go to bed a tad earlier to simplify the process.

The bedtimes in this chart are too narrow and hard fast. Nowhere in this graphic does it say it’s a guideline. It makes the assumption that 11 hours of sleep is the norm and the need for every school-aged child.

I’ve been working for a sleep consultant for a few years, and at the heart of our company’s foundation we believe that each child, and each family, is unique. Reducing bedtime down to an Excel spreadsheet with just ONE exact bedtime for an entire age seems like a disservice.

I took to my Facebook page to get a sample of how other parents handle bedtime, and while there were a couple of kids my daughter’s age who are going to bed at 7:30, the majority of children her age are going to bed later than that. I’m not alone, and there are enough of us to confirm that every family is different.

So, like with everything else that social media tells you about parenting, you have to do what’s right for your family. If that rigid chart shines light on the reason little Sally is so cranky all the time, and you have the wiggle room in your schedule to up her bedtime so that she’s getting a solid 11 hours of sleep every night, then by all means have at it.

But for me, I’m going to take my cues of my children and not a spreadsheet to determine if they’re getting enough sleep.

New Music To Head Back To School

It feels like this summer flew past in the blink of an eye, and now my kids are back in school. Like many parents, I find myself both wishing the summer were longer and grateful that school is back in session.

Don’t get me wrong, summers are fantastic. The weather is usually cooperative, and there’s a lazy feeling to the day as schedules are thrown out the window. Which usually means my laptop sits and collects dust for a couple of months.

Now that I have a few hours of my day back to myself, I’m grateful to be able to sit and write about recently released albums, as well some about to drop. So, let’s get schooled in some new family music, shall we?

New Music To Head Back To School

First up, Ralph’s World released Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads July 11th. This collection of Ralph’s favorite songs based on his children’s books is chock full of infectious songs.

Ralph's WorldRalph’s songs are just the right length for young attention spans, and they get to the point quickly. Not only that, but they exude joy. I think it’s physically impossible to be in a bad moon while listening to Ralph’s World, especially with upbeat songs like “Happy Lemons” and “Follow the Leader and Dance” with it’s funky Latin groove.

I was so happy to see that “We Are Ants” was included in this collection, as its catchy chorus makes this track one of my kids’ favorites of Ralph’s. My favorite, however, is the waltz “Sawdust and Spangles” with it’s rolling melody that envelopes you in to a circus journey.

Ralph’s World’s Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads is available on iTunes.

Jazzy Ash, the self-proclaimed first New Orleans Jazz Band made especially for kids, released Bon Voyage July 28th. As a New Orleans native, this music hits me in a spot that can only be cured by Zydeco music, gumbo and beignets.

Jazzy Ash Cover artJazzy Ash (a.k.a. Ashli Christoval) has a degree in early childhood development, and it shows. Most of the music on this album is interactive, providing prompts for kids to get up and move (“Leap Frog”), and would be great to get kids moving in a classroom setting.

The album is full of surprises at every turn, including the slinky, sneaky groove of “Hide and Seek.” Jazzy Ash’s strong, sultry vocals feel in the same family as Zooey Deschanel – inviting and comforting in its soulfulness. This is especially apparent in the song “Buddy,” which shows the full range and depth of Jazzy Ash’s vocals.

If you want to get a little taste of this treat of an album, be sure to check out their video for “Heebie Jeebies”:

Bon Voyage by Jazzy Ash is available on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

I have to admit, Renee and Friends’ album Simpatico (released August 28th and produced by Rich Jacques) is one of those albums I won’t be saving just for when my kids are in the car. The beautiful, tender voice of singer-songwriter Renee Stahl exudes love and warmth on this album, perfect for children and adults alike.

Renee & FriendsRenee’s music sucks you in with her alluring voice and lush composition and instrumentation. While presented as a children’s album, it might resonate with parents the most. The lyrics hit me in my mother-core, tapping in to those bittersweet moments we experience as we watch our children face new experiences, tough times and triumphs.

Included on this album is a veritable Who’s Who of guest artists (who are real-life friends of Stahl and Jacques and makes me wonder “How can I become friends with them, too?). Caspar Babypants makes an appearance on the track “I Am Not Afraid,” “Are We There Yet” features spoken word by the beguiling Colin Hay, and Molly Shannon sings “Happiness” from the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The amazing Maya Rudolf appears on the cover of Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee,” and with that track, my mind was blown.

As a life-long Toad the Wet Sprocket fan, I was so excited to hear Glen Phillips’ voice on the sweet “You Were Meant To Be.” It’s a tender song that could be played for your child during a time of challenge, but if you’re looking for that song that makes everyone cry at high school graduation, this is it. I couldn’t listen to this gorgeous song without tearing up. Me! The Ice Queen!

Lisa Loeb sings with Stahl on “Gather Round,” and these two voices go together as perfectly as Nutella and croissants. Their lovely harmonies remind me of The Story, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they collaborate more in the future.

Renee and Friends Simpatico is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

The Latin-influenced sounds of Hot Peas ‘N Butter will release their 7th studio album, Put Our Heads Together, on September 25th. It’s an album rich in an eclectic mix of rhythms and instrumentation, promoting themes of cooperation and harmony, especially with the tracks “No Bullies” and “Put Our Heads Together.”

Hot Peas N ButterDan Zanes lends his distinctly expressive voice to the opening bilingual track “Amistad.” “Seasons” sounds like a street party with its festive beat and samba-esque percussion.

The bicycle-centered tune“Fresh Spokes,” featuring Susan Lapidus, appears in three different versions on the album: an acoustic track, a dance remix, and the original track, which has a bit of a pop/club music vibe. The party continues on “Graduation Day” with a similar electro beat, making the album fun to dance to.

Put Our Heads Together by Hot Peas ‘N Butter will be available September 25th on Amazon.

José-Luis Orozco has been welcomed in to the Smithsonian Folkways family with his album ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, which will be released September 18.

Jose-Luiz Orozco19 different songs appear on the album in both English and Spanish, with themes that focus on healthy eating, colorful plates, and clean hands.

The short sing-along style songs are easy for kids to follow and potentially pick up a few phrases in a new language. If your child is a fan of the Music Together classroom material, they’ll love this CD, especially songs like “Leche” and the call and response tunes of “Chocolate” and “Ensalada fresca/Fresh Salad”

The lively “Rotana/Snack” is my favorite tune on the album and is great for dancing! And I love that this album sneaks in basic language building skills for Spanish with counting numbers (“La gallina de Juanito/Juanito’s Chicken”), animal names and sounds, and movement instruction (“El baile de las legumbres/The Legumes Dance”)

Look for José-Luis Orozco’s ¡Come Bien! Eat Right! on September 18 through Smithsonian Folkways and Amazon.

Here’s hoping for a fantastic school year!


Disclosures: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. Full Of It is a participant in the iTunes Affiliate Program. If you click on some of the product links above, I will receive a small commission which in turn helps run this site. Don’t fear, I only recommend tunes that I think you’ll love!



In Pursuit of Flawlessness

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m not young anymore. Having lived a pretty amazing 41 years, I’ve had some great experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Lately, though, my face is starting to show it.

In Pusuit of Flawlessness

I’ve got a cavernous line in between my forehead, the area around my eyes are starting to look like I permanently slept weird on my pillowcase, and don’t even get me started about my jowls. The parentheses that bracket my mouth don’t really scream 29 anymore.

To combat all these new roads on my face map, I tried all different kinds of skin care regimens. Anti-wrinkle creams, deep exfoliation, masks, serums, fillers, you name it. After a while though, I got tired of spending money chasing some genius product that would reverse time and poor SPF decisions and decided to stick to plain old moisturizer.

Do I want to look like a dewey college student? Not really. I don’t need to get rid of wrinkles entirely, just soften them a bit. I am tired of finding hidden crumbs in my facial features.

But, as life would have it, I’ve recently been hit with the Double Whammy of skin care: Adult Acne.

I mean, acne and wrinkles at the same time seems unnecessarily cruel. Can’t a gal catch a break? I know I want to look a bit more youthful, but breaking out like a hormonally awkward high school Freshman is more than I bargained for. Nothing says aging ungracefully than a massive, painful goiter setting up camp on my forehead.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of a period-induced breakout, I went to get my eyebrows waxed. I figured if my face was at war with itself, at least I better make the battleground free and clear of shrubbery.

The aesthetician ripping my moustache off noticed that I was having some “skin issues” and recommended that I speak to one of the skin care consultants at reception when I checked out.

Desperate for some miracle cure, I discussed  the Appalachian Mountains on my forehead with a young woman in a pristine white lab coat. She nodded her head sympathetically, and the second I was done talking she touched my shoulder and said “I have the perfect product for you that will clear your blemishes up in a matter of hours!”

Then she handed me a $100 jar of acne lotion.

Holy crap! Is this how much it costs to have clear skin? Oh, and did I mention this jar was about the size of a mini York Peppermint Patty and would probably last me all of four days before I had to fork out another Benjamin Franklin? What the hell was it made of, baby unicorn blood?

However, I looked up from the half-ounce jar at this woman, caught a glimpse of my complexion in the mirror behind her and contemplated handing over my credit card. Why did all those red little bumps have to be so shiny? They looked like the Las Vegas strip.

As if to persuade me to let go of my plastic in earnest, she said “I use it, and now I don’t even need to wear makeup!”

Wow! Really! I’m sold!

Before I relented though, I gave this woman a good, hard look. That’s when I realized she was all of 19 years old, and I was overcome with the sudden urge to punch her in her perfect, poreless face. Of COURSE she has great skin, she’s a baby! How can I even compare her results to what would surely be disappointment when I slathered this stuff on my face?

Her untarnished face was the jolt I needed to knock me to my senses. I thanked her for advice then walked my zitty face out to my car with my $100 in tact.

In the parking lot, my pimples acting like a moving stop sign alerting cars that I was coming, I began to feel a bit better about my complexion. Sure, it’s not something I ever want to see on an HD television. But this imperfect skin has been with me through countless moves to unfamiliar towns, heartache and heartbreak and hardship, a lifetime of laughter, my wedding and 12 years of marriage, the pregnancy and birth of two children, and countless performances on stages big and small. It’s the face my kids kiss at night, even on it’s most pimply of days.

I’ll take that over baby-faced inexperience any day.


Celebrating the 4th of July With the Help of Tipsy Elves

Who’s ready for America’s Birthday? The 4th of July is coming up in a few short days, and I can’t wait to celebrate with family, indulging in way too many hot dogs, cold beer and more French Onion dip than should be humanly possible to consume.

While I get giddy about all the food, for many Americans, it’s also a day to celebrate our freedom. Those festivities come in the form of parades and fireworks where red, white and blue are the colors du jour. Colors that normally don’t exist in my closet. Every year I drag out the same tired, blue and almost-red-but-border-line-orange shirt I’ve worn for the past seven years and call it a day.

Bo-ring, right?

My kids like getting donned up in festive wear, and when we recently went shopping for summer clothes, they both saw patriotic shirts and begged to get them for Independence Day.

Wanting to join in on the fun, I looked around for a cute USA-themed shirt that was actually some form of red white and blue, but came up empty.

So when the guys at TipsyElves contacted me about their Patriotic Line, I jumped at the chance to try out some of their products. I’d browsed their site one Christmas when we were invited to an Ugly Holiday Sweater party, but being that I waited until the very last minute, I didn’t have time to get any of their gems shipped in time for the party.

4th of July Tipsy Elves

The two shirts I received are completely adorable! Here’s me in the Tipsy Elves’ Women’s American Flag Tank:


And this is the Tipsy Elves’ Women’s USA Tank Top:


I love the soft, good quality of the fabric of these Tipsy Elves shirts, and both hang really well. The cute cut around the arms is perfect for those hot summer days, but are feminine enough to not make me feel like I should try out for the JV football team. And while they’re patriotic, I don’t feel like they scream ‘MERICA!

Now the only thing I have left to do is decide which shirt I’m going to wear for the 4th. So I throw the choice over to you, dear readers. Since democracy is one of the foundations of this country, feel free to cast your vote.

What do you think?

Tipsy Elves

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own.