Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year, Everyone!

2011 is winding down, and it is time to put away the Christmas decorations and take down the Christmas tree. The season is always too short for me, but my family and I enjoyed being together. My daughter will be returning to Manhattan and my life here in the desert will revert to the usual daily routines. I am eager to make the most of 2012, and I have lots of projects and ideas in mind. I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and may you and your loved ones be blessed in every possible way.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Safe and Sane Holiday Celebrations

Today I am scurrying around trying to finish my seemingly never-ending to-do list (just so you know, even my lists have lists). My daughter arrives tomorrow from New York where she lives in the heart of Manhattan. I always get so excited about seeing my children. No matter their ages they are and always will be the joy of my life. My son and his family live in Tokyo, Japan so they won't be joining us for the holidays although we would love it if they could. So for those of you surrounded by little ones, whether they be children or grandchildren, treasure the moments and make happy memories for them. They will grow up before you know it, and sometimes when we are young we think these days will never end.......but they will so have a wonderful time! Whether you have already begun to celebrate Channukah, or if you will be celebrating Christmas this weekend, I wish you and yours all the best. Remember the reasons for the seasons which are not shopping, toys, presents, baking, Santa Claus, partying, or exhausting yourselves to make things perfect. They are to remember the miracle of Channukah and to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. May you have peace in your homes and in your hearts, and may your spirits be filled with the thrill of hope for the coming year. As Tiny Tim said in A Christmas Carol, "God Bless us, every one!"

Monday, December 19, 2011

If You Like Skiing, Bed & Breakfast Inns, Great Food, And Beautiful Views

Today I received brochures from the newly refurbished and redecorated Heavenly Valley Lodge. This B&B is a wonderful property located in South Lake Tahoe, California. It is owned and managed by my friends the Du Plooys. Both of them enjoyed hugely successful careers but decided to give them up, leave New York and return to California to pursue their dream of owning an inn. I used to own a Bed & Breakfast Inn (it was a 132-year old house when I refurbished it and converted it to a B&B) which I loved. Having been an owner/innkeeper I know firsthand how much work the Du Plooys have done to provide their charming accommodations. No matter what time of year you choose to visit South Lake Tahoe there will be an abundance of things to do for the entire family. If you are looking for a vacation spot, a honeymoon location, a wedding site, or a family reunion location or you know anyone who is, please check out the website of Heavenly Valley Lodge and see for yourself the amenities and activities available. I received no compensation for this recommendation of their B&B but rather just want to do what I can to help some very nice people succeed in their new business.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It Is Friday, Time Is Flying, But Enjoy The Anticipation

Today is the 16th. Hanukkuh begins on the 21st. Christmas Eve is on the 24th. New Year's Eve is on the 31st. Now I realize all of you know these dates .......so why am I writing them in this post, you ask? If you are like I am, then your to-do lists are overly ambitious and guaranteed to cause stress and anxiety as the days on the calendar go by and the hours on the clock tick louder and louder. When this happens I seem to try to kick everything into high gear and just get it all done (must have been all those years in retailing that did this to me). Well, not this year.......I have decided that I want to enjoy the anticipation of the holidays, the actual preparations for them, the shopping and baking and wrapping and decorating, the parties and music........I will not just rush to get it all done this year. Life is so fragile that we never know what can happen between these holidays and those of 2012. Slow down, take some deep breaths, kiss your children and grandchildren, turn off the lights and sit in front of your Christmas tree or your Menorah and remember what the holidays are actually about and why we acknowledge and celebrate them. Enjoy peace, tranquility, togetherness and happy memories. That is what I am going to do!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Season of Miracles and Sharing Good News

Miracles come in all sizes..........and the size may be determined by how important they are to the people affected by them.........what may be small to some is huge to others and vice versa. Today I feel as if a huge miracle occurred because my older and only sister had surgery this morning and came through it very well. Lots of rejoicing going on in our family today, and blessings are being counted. I hope all of you have some good news today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday celebrations create opportunities for our little ones to dress up and join the festivities. We have velvets, plaids, cottons, and knits so visit http://www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com Perhaps your purchase will be passed down for future generations. Be certain to take lots of pictures because they will be enjoyed for years to come. Capture the loveliness and joy of the holiday your family chooses to celebrate whether it be Christmas, Hanakkuh, Quanza or Happy New Year and enjoy these precious moments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

As the different holidays we celebrate draw closer, I find myself wondering if we humans really do long for peace on earth, good will toward men. If we do, then we need to start by having peace in our homes and good will toward the people we love, people who depend on us, and people on whom we depend. Do we actually hear how we speak to spouses, children, parents, neighbors, and other people we encounter? We should pay attention because careless words hurt people we love, people we know,and people we come in contact with in public settings. Careless words create conflict which disrupts otherwise peaceful homes. Not only do we need to create and maintain peace in our homes and neighborhoods, but also when we venture away from home. Remember that the goal is peace on earth, good will toward all people.... whether we are in cars, on public transportation, in the workplace, waiting in long lines at the Post Office, shopping in busy malls, going to the movies, attending parent/teacher conferences, attending church services, dining out, participating in organization meetings, discussing politics or religion, or anything else we may be doing and anywhere else we might be. It amazes and appalls me when people behave badly toward others. By now we grown ups have realized that life can be hard so why do we want to make life more difficult or unpleasant by being rude,hateful or unpleasant toward others? Why do we feel the need to be disagreeable when we have a difference of opinion with anyone? Why do we exhibit a lack of respect for so many others? Why do we allow children to be disrespectful to anyone whether it be other children, their parents or teachers, or other people in authority? Whether celebrating either Christmas, Hanukkah or Quanza let us all begin the New Year 2012 with a sincere desire for Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All Men and back up that desire with our actions no matter where we are. I know that life can be made better for everyone if all of us behave better toward each other. That is my hope for 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Ends

It is obvious that I have been absent from my blog for a couple of weeks. Between illness, houseguests, and holidays I seem to have gotten quite sidetracked for which I apologize to those of you who take your valuable time to read my blog. As we head into the rest of the holiday season I will make every effort to be more consistent in blog posts. Thanks for your patience and for being loyal readers. I truly appreciate all of you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

HOUZZ and PINTEREST Are Great Resources

Today I was reading one of my favorite blogs Brunch At Saks by Annemarie, and she said she was over at HOUZZ so I decided to go to www.houzz.com and check it out. Previously I viewed her pinboards at PINTEREST at www.pinterest.com and found them inspiring. If you have not visited either of these sites, I urge you to do so. You will find great ideas, wonderful photos of everything from A to Z, and ways to collect the ideas you like and keep them in one location for future use. Whether your interest is in fashion, home decor, kitchens, nurseries, colors, art, etc. you will find these two sites incredibly helpful and fun to use. My problem is I already stay up way too late spending too much time online; now with two more tempting and useful sites I may never get any sleep. If you visit the sites I would love to know what your thoughts about them are...........so comments are welcome!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Losing Things - Like Moral Compasses

The Penn State scandal has just made me ill. Our justice system says that we are innocent until proven guilty, but from the media coverage it would seem the only true innocence was that of the alleged victims. Even though I am not a sports fan (in the true sense of the word), I have always known who Coach Paterno is and his stellar reputation. To see his career end in such a tawdry, ignoble way is a disappointment to so many. I don't know what to think about the grad student who witnessed one of the alleged episodes of molestation. I keep asking myself WHY did he not intervene to rescue the child who was being molested? Why, indeed! While I can accept that witnessing something like that would be completely shocking and unsettling, I cannot imagine that any decent person would not try to intervene immediately to rescue a child. And then I feel certain a decent person would contact the local police at once to be sure that no other child would fall prey to such abuse. When all is said and done, this news is one more indication that the moral compass of our society has been lost.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney

Having watched Andy Rooney's last appearance on Sixty Minutes I was saddened today to read of his passing. He was someone who made me laugh with his grumpiness, someone who made me think with his writing, and someone who spoke out with candor and conviction. Rest in peace, Mr. Rooney; and thank you for all of your contributions to our world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Andy Williams and Moon River

Today I read that Andy Williams has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. That is sad news, and I pray that the treatment plan he is undertaking will be successful. I remember watching his Christmas TV shows, and his recording of Moon River will always be one of my all-time favorites because it has special significance in my life. He is from a different era, and his theater in Branson, MO has continued to provide musical memories for thousands of visitors. Good luck, Andy Williams!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Celebrating Holidays During Tough Times

Halloween is now over, and immediately our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannakuh, Quanza or the New Year. During tough economic times being faced all over the world, how will celebrations be handled? Please share your suggestions and ideas for how you plan to enjoy the holidays and acknowledge the occasions without having the financial means to do what you may have done in previous years. I know that many of you have great ideas, creative suggestions, and positive attitudes that dictate making the best of everything despite the circumstances. If you share your thoughts in the comment section below I will be glad to publish them so they are available for everyone to read. Thanks for participating! Who knows? Your ideas may help another family celebrate in ways they would not have thought of, thereby making the holidays more enjoyable for them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Once Upon A Time and Happily Everafter

When reading to my own children it seemed as if all the first stories they loved began with, "Once upon a time......." and ended with, "and they lived happily everafter." As time went on their favorite books were more realistic, age appropriate, and were not fairy tales. There are so many lessons that children can learn from books. Books can inspire children to rise to amazing heights, to gain hope for a better life, and expose them to many professions and occupations. Books can also be an escape for children who live in unfortunate circumstances, and books can comfort them in learning that their situations are not hopeless. Biographies describe successful lives and how great and small obstacles can be overcome. Books can teach children about other cultures, other countries, and also open a world of imagination. Books can teach children the importance of integrity, ethics and even good manners. The children of today are our future so let's give them the very best possible foundation for learning........the ability to read is that foundation regardless of the subject matter. Start reading to your babies and toddlers. It is never too early. You too will enjoy that time with your little ones.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cast Iron Pans, Cornbread, and My Mother

Recently I have been wanting to once again taste cornbread as my mother used to make it. She passed away 12 years ago so it has been a long time since I last ate cornbread. Yesterday I brought out my cast iron pans and decided to give it a try. I remembered that she used to put strips of bacon in the bottom of the pan which not only flavored the cornbread but prevented it from sticking or burning. I have never attempted to cook or bake using cast iron pans so they have been languishing in a cupboard. I bought them several years ago, seasoned them as instructed, and then stashed them in a cabinet. Well, I am happy to say that the cornbread was delicious. The cast iron pan and the bacon gave it the wonderful taste and texture that I remember. Why I avoided using the cast iron pans for so long I have no idea, but I think I will begin using them frequently. I remember that my grandmother used to bake the most wonderful gingerbread in a cast iron skillet.......perhaps I will try that sometime this week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can You Describe The World In Which You Want Your Children To Live?

From all over the world we continue to hear about trouble, dissension, anger, hatred, bigotry, abuse of power, human trafficking, hunger, lack of clean water, lack of medical care, poor education, illegal immigration, crime, poverty, religious differences, natural disasters, fear, drug cartels, addictions, wars, and disease. It is time to realize that NO government is going to save this world and make it safe for our children and grandchildren. There is NO group called "they" who will do the right things, protect our children and provide for every need. We have to finally acknowledge that WE are the responsible people; WE must start doing the right things on a daily basis; WE have to start fixing everything that is wrong in one household at a time, on one street at a time, in one neighborhood at a time, in one community at a time, in one county at a time, and in one country at a time. Do we not think it is foolish to put our trust in politicians who do not heed our wishes? Do we not think it stupid to keep doing things the same way and expect different results? Do we really believe that everything that needs correcting is going to be accomplished without EACH OF US doing our share? We are wasting time, resources, energy, and the future of of our children by waiting for anyone else to do what we need to be doing for ourselves. We need to stop whining, stop complaining, stop procrastinating, and start doing the right things. I realize we will never get 100% of the population to do the right things, but if we can get the majority to do the right things then and only then will the world change for the better. Ask yourself if you are a constructive person or a destructive person? Reflect on your daily life each evening, and ask if you did the right things; if the answer is 'no' why did you not do the right things? Look into the faces of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and the children of your friends and neighbors. They are pure, innocent and depending on the adult population to take care of them and give them the future they deserve. What are the right things? Well, for starters how about: Honesty, Accepting responsibility for our actions and those of our children, Kindness, Self-discipline, Respect for ourselves and others, Being more concerned with our obligations instead of our rights, and ditch the entitlement mentality that seems to permeate our society.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Adults Robbing Our Children

Isn't it incredible the way music can transport us to a specific time or place in our lives or make us think of a special person or event? I have always thought life would be better with background music.........not elevator music, but music appropriate to our daily lives. Perhaps the saying, "Music soothes the savage beast" is correct. I think it might be very difficult to be filled with hate,rage or violence if people could hear background music that is happy, uplifting, and that makes them want to march or dance. I enjoy listening to music of different types depending on what I am doing and/or the mood I am experiencing. I have downloaded onto cd's and iPod the music that has special memories for me from throughout my life. I have not yet captured all of the songs, but enough so that I can enjoy, reminisce, tap my feet, smile, weep, or be uplifted depending on which selection is playing. In elementary school I learned to sing and the basics of how to read music from a wonderful teacher (Fiona Calder). I then learned more about singing and being part of a choir from Mrs. Kemp, the director of the junior choir at our church. In junior high school I learned about opera and classical music from Mrs. Wallach, a no-nonsense teacher who knew a great deal about music. Although I don't have a great voice and never learned to play an instrument, music has made a major contribution to my life. I am not artistic in any sense of the word, but I still remember art teacher August Pagel who taught in elementary and junior high school To remove music and art from public schools is doing a grave injustice to today's children and robbing them of the chance to learn what can make a monumental difference in their lives. Music and art can not only broaden the horizons of children from all backgrounds, but can also soften the hard edges of poverty and difficult home lives. Why do we think athletics are more important than the arts? I think athletics are important for the health and well-being of children, learning teamwork and sportsmanship. However, I don't think athletics should be saved at the expense of the arts because in truth our children need athletics, art and music to become well-rounded individuals. What do you think? Comments are welcome!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are You Courageous OR Are you not?

Yesterday I saw the movie Courageous. If you have not heard of it, it is an independent film by the same people who have had previous success with Fireproof and other films. I have not seen their other works but have decided now I must see them based on my reaction to Courageous. The movie is interesting, poignant, funny, inspiring, violent, and so spot on when it comes to what children need from their fathers. I wish this film could be shown to every boy and girl in junior high, high school, college, to every man who is already a father, and to every girl and woman who will select the father or stepfather of her children. There will be those who will opt to disregard the film's powerful message because they do not believe in anything stronger than themselves. But for anyone willing to listen with an open mind, there are definitely answers to some of the many problems that plague today's children, parents, and society in general. So many children are growing up without fathers in their homes or (even worse) in their lives. Some fathers who live in the homes are still absent due to work, other interests, and just not realizing what power they have to influence the lives of their children. Both boys AND girls need their fathers, and girls who are abandoned by their fathers tend to select the same kind of men so the cycle continues. I am aware that there are fathers and stepfathers who are abusive and dangerous to their children, stepchildren, and spouses; but they are NOT the majority of absent fathers. Gangs are a huge problem in our society, and statistics prove that being fatherless contributes greatly to kids joining gangs, doing drugs, commiting acts of violence,becoming prostitutes, and ultimately being incarcerated, or dying violent deaths. Single mothers cannot fill the voids in their children's lives left by the fathers of the children, and they should not have to. This film opened to a very successful weekend according to news reports, and I am encouraged by that news. Our world is in a heap of trouble on many levels so I hope more males will accept the responsibilities and the challenges of fatherhood and that the people in their lives will support them and encourage them for making the effort. It is not easy to be a parent of either sex or to be courageous. Parenthood is the most important job you will ever have because you shape the adult persons your children will become. The world needs less evil and more goodness if it is to be the kind of world you want your babies and older children to experience.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Flowers, Pumpkins and Haunted Houses

Tomorrow is October 1 and it is a gray day with thunder rumbling and some rain in the forecast. That puts me in the mood for Fall in terms of clothes, colors, holidays, recipes, and crafts. I have spent entirely too much time sitting in front of my computer today zipping through blogs, websites, and emails. I came across several things I want to try.............one is a pretty floral arrangement which is a project on http://www.michael's.com/Fall-Floral-in-Pumpkin but I may use real flowers and a real pumpkin .........but then again I may just go to my local Michael's Crafts Store and buy the materials shown in their list (they do make it easy). They have lots of other ideas in their Projects section so you might find something you like better than the one I chose. Then in a blog I happened upon I found really cute haunted houses made out of recycled materials like newspapers and empty milk cartons. The blog is written by a person in Australia where they do not even celebrate Halloween so it is nice that they participate anyway. Check it out at http://littlelovely.typepad.com/littlelovely/2009/10/halloween-treat.html

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If Social Media Frighten You........

Why is it that some of us just have to be dragged kicking and screaming into new experiences, ideas, and challenges? I loved school, I am fortunate to be pretty much a quick study, and yet when something new happens in the world of technology I seem to have a death grip on what I already have and what I already know. Finally, when I absolutely have to I will learn what I must and then wonder why I was so reluctant to even give it a try. When I started my website I knew that learning search engine optimization would be required. Do you think I immediately set out to learn it? That would be a BIG no! When I finally relented and started reading about SEO I did not find it easy, but I know more about it today than I did and continue to learn. Then I started learning more about how business is conducted today and that social media is now the coin of the realm. I avoided Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and writing a blog by telling myself I was too busy, I was too old to learn, I really didn't understand, that those things were for kids, and anything else that would allow me to continue procrastinating. Finally, I acknowledged that in order to reach people looking for a baby shower gift, a newborn gift, a baptism, birthday or holiday gift then I would have to get a grip and give social media a try. I am pleased to report that I now have followers on Twitter, that I have friends and a page on Facebook, I am posting on my blog three times a week, and I am making progress on LinkedIn. Now I could kick myself because I have wasted months avoiding something that is really not rocket science and which is increasing traffic to both www.malcolmfortots.com and www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com. If you are hesitant to try new things, take it from me that you may find as I did that you can do them and even enjoy yourself in the process. Note to self: Don't drag your feet when new opportunities present themselves. Just jump in and try!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cow Jumped Over The Moon

Nursery rhymes are an important part of childhood. The same nursery rhymes I learned as a child were later learned by my own children, and then again by my grandson. The cadence of nursery rhymes can be soothing to a baby or toddler. Illustrations that accompany rhymes in books can create indelible impressions on children. Recently I was selecting flannel fabrics for our line's receiving blankets, and smiled to myself as I picked up fabric with a repeat pattern of a cow jumping over the moon. Immediately the nursery rhyme came back to me: Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such a sight, and the dish ran away with the spoon. There are so many things you can do to create happy memories with your children. Teaching them nursery rhymes will help them as they learn to talk, and memorizing rhymes will help them as they grow to pre-school and elementary school ages. Sometimes early artistic attempts will be images they have seen with the rhymes. Your public library is a great place to find nursery rhyme books to borrow. I remember teaching my son nursery rhymes when he was learning to talk. We reached a point where he could finish each line. I was very excited to have him share his new-found ability with his father at dinner that evening so we practiced throughout the day. You can imagine my disappointment when I said, "There was an old ________ (he immediately said, "woman") who lived in a _________" and instead of saying "shoe" he said, "garage" ... a word he had never said before and one which we were unaware he had ever heard since we did not have a garage. As a family we laugh over that anectdote from time to time and all because of a nursery rhyme. Sometimes small things create great memories so nursery rhymes are a good place to start. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Christmas and Chanukah Before Halloween? Greed or Efficiency?

A local newscaster mentioned earlier this week that there were only 95 days left before Christmas. That made me snap to attention. When my mother was alive she would start reminding me at the end of May of the number of days left until the December holidays. Since I spent 20 years in retailing there were many times I was not happy to hear her do her annual count down. I much preferred when I was growing up and September meant Labor Day signaling the end of summer and our return to school (in that order). Halloween was not given a thought until October when creative ideas for costumes started becoming paramount in our minds (of course, then costumes were not big business as they are today). In November we all started looking forward to Thanksgiving which was absolutely a marvelous holiday in so many ways. Growing up in the Midwest we always wished and hoped for the first snowfall to coincide with Thanksgiving (we had a long weekend off from school when sledding, making snowmen, and even ice skating could be enjoyed). Sometimes our wishes came true but usually not so then we began wishing for a White Christmas. We never saw a Christmas ad, a Christmas tree, decoration or Chanukah ad until after Thanksgiving. We always had time to shop and to savor the holidays, the music, the traditions, the food, and the excitement. I have always been annoyed by the huge newspaper ads placed by a major upscale retailer saying that they would not have Christmas decorations in their stores until after Thanksgiving (they neglected to mention that they required employees to work over the Thanksgiving holiday to install the Christmas decorations). With every passing year it seems that retailers in brick and mortar stores and/or on line are desperate to capture holiday sales earlier and earlier. This year I have actually seen Christmas merchandise sharing space with Halloween goods, and it was only the end of August. What do you think? Is it pure and simple greed that makes it necessary to compress all the holidays into one mass sales effort? Is it efficiency that makes it a good idea to capitalize on possible economies of scale by getting all holiday goods out in one fell swoop? Our children are little for such a short time, and it seems to me that to allow each holiday its own special time period might motivate families to shop for each special occasion and to appreciate their local retailers more and more. In the present economy retailers could spread a lot of enjoyment and hope by making each occasion a special one. They might even increase their sales by reminding customers that our country and our world have experienced tough economic times before and came out on the other side to prosper once more. What better public relations tools could there be than enjoyment and hope for the future? With the unemployment rate being so high it may very well be a lean year for retailers, but the good will they can provide in their communities can be an investment in future business when once again we recover and prosper.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When Good Things Happen To Good People

I love it when good things happen to good people whether I actually know them or not. Just recently I learned that one of my favorite blogs www.brunchatsaks.blogspot.com has been picked up by BlogHer. I am so happy for Annemarie (whom I do know) who is so creative in both her writing and photography. Then today her blog told me that she had been invited to attend an event at Warner Brothers Studios where she got to meet and chat with young actress Rachel Bilson. In addition, Annemarie got to see wardrobe selections for a new TV show starring Rachel premiering soon. For all you young mothers who may be fans of Rachel or her previous TV and movie roles, check out Annemarie's blog. I think you will end up following it because she does a great job about interior design, fashion, and food. Congratulations, Annemarie, and may many more well-deserved opportunities and successes come your way.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reunions - Love 'em or Hate 'em

Some people I know would NEVER attend a reunion of their high school or college graduating classes. Other people I know would not miss attending any sort of reunion. Personally, I love reunions. However, I remember when I first realized that not everyone has a happy time in high school, and I felt terrible that I had not realized that when I was in school. Perhaps I could have done something, or made an effort, and encouraged others to make an effort to reach out to those that could barely tolerate being there. How naive and thoughtless of me to assume everyone felt as I did, looking forward to going to school daily, waiting for the weekends for the football games and dances and all the things that contributed to my enjoyment of high school. I graduated in a class of 656 students, and I have to say I absolutely loved high school. I certainly did not know all of my classmates, but in retrospect I regret that I was oblivious to any of them who might have been hurting or suffering for any reason. My recent blog about bullies in schools has made me think more and more about children who are not able to enjoy their school days and years because of mistreatment by others, because of feeling excluded from groups, because of not fitting in, because of not being able to dress as others do, or not coming from a great neighborhood, or coming from a troubled home where any form of abuse is occurring. Out of the 656 students in my class, I wonder now who was perhaps physically abused, sexually abused, or verbally and emotionally abused at home. There were no published statistics about those things when I was in school, and people did not talk about those subjects in front of us. That does not mean they did not happen. I was not aware of any bullies in school, but I seem to have been such a Pollyanna loving my own life that I surrounded myself with friends just like myself. In reflecting on those years there are several students whom I do remember who may have hated school, and I wish I could find them and tell them that I regret I was so oblivious that I did nothing to help them. I actually have looked for them on line but have never found them, and they have never attended any of our class reunions. No one seems to know what happened to them after high school. I comfort myself by hoping that they became extremely happy and successful adults and do not attend reunions because they felt no connection to others, but I also fear that perhaps their lives have not been happy or successful and that maybe my friends and I could have done something to change that for them. Of course, I will probably never know but it makes me want even more to encourage you to teach your children to be kind to every classmate, to include them at lunch or recess, and to stand up for them if others are mistreating them. We pass through life only once. It is not a dress rehearsal, so let's help today's children have the best beginnings possible for themselves and all the others whose lives they will touch.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Will Your Children Grow Up To Be Bullies or To Be Bullied?

Last night I watched a documentary on television that boggled my mind when statistics were quoted about the number of children who have taken their own lives as a result of being bullied by other children in school. It is appalling that bullying is so rampant in our schools and our society. Bullies are cowards in my opinion who get away with picking on others because they can, and technology has allowed them to be even more cowardly. Using e-mails, text messaging, cell phones, and even in person children can be amazingly cruel to other children. Take a look at your sweet little infants and toddlers and ask yourself if you would be able to bear it if one day he or she took his/her own life because of being mercilessly tormented by other children. Of course, your answer is "no" so what can you do about it starting now to prevent it from happening? First of all, do not allow your children to misbehave toward other children or animals. Set a good example for them of how to treat others (Golden Rule applies here, folks). Teach them to respect others regardless of their differences. Disagreeing does not mean they have to be disagreeable or mean-spirited. Discipline them appropriately for their ages when they misbehave; make them understand that behaving badly does have consequences. In addition to teaching them how to treat others, also teach them how to deal with bullies. Teach them to not stand by and watch others be bullied but to intervene. Silence is consensus so everyone needs to stand up and speak out to diffuse the power of the bullies. Be part of your local parent/teacher organizations and speak out if bullying is going on in your schools. Help to pass laws in your states that allow school principals to deal with bullying even if it happens off campus so children will realize they cannot hide behind the cloak of anonymity the Internet or hour of day provide. Too many parents have abdicated their responsibility as parents so if there are no consequences at home and none at school, this leaves the victims of the bullies with no place to turn. I have always believed that all children are born sweet and innocent. Unless there is some injury or health condition that causes behavioral issues, I believe there are no bad children but only bad parents. To realize that children would rather commit suicide than face another day of going to school and being bullied and feeling helpless and friendless is horrifying. There are lots of problems in this world that need addressing, and this is one of them. Remember if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. Protect your children from others and protect others from your children.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Weather Means Cooler Kitchens For Great Meals

Today I received a delicious recipe for Saturday Potato/Bacon Soup from www.grandparents.com. If you have not checked out their website, do yourself a favor and take a look. Even though the site is intended for those who have grandchildren, as a mother I can tell you the site has lots of good advice, good ideas, ways to entertain children, and now regular recipes sure to encourage children to eat well. Before we know it temperatures will drop, daylight savings time will revert back to standard time in a few weeks, and since cooking at home is less expensive than eating out why not try some new recipes. I cannot wait to make a huge pot of Saturday Potato/Bacon Soup to share with my family and neighbors.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When Is It Happiness and When Is It Joy?

Happiness is wonderful, but joy is a rare and incredible feeling. It is a feeling that races through your body and bubbles like champagne in a crystal flute. I consider myself to be a very happy person, but this weekend I was treated to a dose of pure joy. I was in San Diego to attend the 30th reunion of the management team with whom I opened Neiman Marcus San Diego. They were all very young then, and I was the eldest. Working 24/7; getting to know each other; living on pizza and snack machine food; getting punchy from being tired; having anxiety about whether all would perform to the level needed to ensure a superb store opening; going through all types of team building exercises filled with laughter and learning meant that we bonded in a very special way. It is a way that does not happen when joining an already up-and-running entity. I was a person who always wished to be like television's Mrs. Walton with a huge family (a wish God in His wisdom did not grant). The youngest of my two children went off to college at the time of this store's opening, and the prospect of an empty nest was very unappealing. All of these then young people became like my own children. They worked hard; had fun; made me proud of them; allowed me to love them; spent Christmas Eves in my home if they had no family in the area; and bestowed upon me the great gift of loving me in return. As years passed we went our separate ways, and I watched with pride as they achieved success, married, had children, and moved to various locales. Most of them remained in touch with me which has both pleased and honored me. Our 10th, 20th, and 30th reunions have been so much fun that everyone wants to do it again in five years instead of waiting ten years. Watching these people I love reunite with each other, seeing them pick up where they left off the last time they connected, and knowing that their affection for one and all remains gave me an overwhelming infusion of joy. I am still bubbling!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day When Many Are Unable To Find Jobs

Today is probably not as enjoyable a holiday as usual because so many of our fellow citizens are unemployed and desperately seeking work in order to support their families. Being unable to feed one's child or children must be excruciatingly painful. For those of us who are more fortunate or for those who have jobs or businesses, let us not forget those who are struggling. Remember.........our turn might come before this economic disaster ends. When shopping perhaps buy an extra one or more boxes or cans of non-perishable food. Through churches, civic organizations, food banks, charities you can easily find a place to drop it off where it is needed. A hungry child or a family in need will be blessed by your small, kind, caring gift. God Bless America, and God Bless You for caring and helping.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Does Your Little Boy Have A Matching Hat and Scarf?

This is the newest item listed on our website and in our ETSY shop at http://www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com

Friday, September 2, 2011

Are Two Heads Really Better Than One?

There is an old saying that "two heads are better than one." Do you believe it? I do! If two heads are better than one, then dozens or hundreds or thousands must be EVEN better. Because I believe it I cannot help but wonder why we are all waiting for the government to resolve our problems. Politicians cannot stop campaigning or arguing long enough to focus on solutions and gaining consensus. I firmly believe that in every neighborhood, community, city and town of any size in America we have the capacity, the intelligence, and the ability to resolve many of our problems on local levels. Think about it! When this country was first settled people were strong, brave, resourceful, resilient, and optimistic in spite of all the odds. They were entrepreneurs (or actually the first solopreneurs even though this is a recently coined word). Whether they were farmers, blacksmiths, storekeepers, bankers, ranchers, saloon keepers, sheriffs, deputies, preachers, teachers or doctors they assessed what they and their communities needed, and they made things happen. They helped each other, and they shared with those less fortunate. Did they always agree? No. Were they always successful? No. Did they make mistakes? Yes. Did they make progress anyway? You bet they did. Did they have any of the many assets we have today such as education, communication, technology, health care, medications, transportation, etc.? No! Yet somehow they managed to create a country that was envied by the entire world, a country where people longed to come to fulfill dreams, a country where freedom existed, and a country where slavery and segregation were finally ended. We all have the ability to work together, and yet we act as if we are a flock of sheep waiting for Little Bo Peep to find us and guide us home. I am convinced that if people would come together in a spirit of unity to prioritize what the community's needs are, determine all the available resources, distinguish between what is necessary and what is desirable, and be more concerned with the good of the community than the good of the individual that ideas for solutions would flow faster than anyone could write them down. Because there are problems and there are symptoms of problems it must be agreed that problems are to be solved and symptoms will take care of themselves as a byproduct of problem solving. An unbiased, objective, fair facilitator must lead each group to ensure everyone is heard and no one is shut down even though others may disagree with what is being said. Respect and courtesy are a must. Once everyone has had a chance to contribute to the vast list of "problems" then as a group they must decide if each item is a symptom or an actual problem. Very quickly it will become clear that while there may be a jillion symptoms the actual number of problems is manageable. People get overwhelmed when they think they have to solve all the symptoms, but once problems are identified and prioritized then the formation of solutions can begin, time and action calendars developed,and individual or group responsibilities established for the actions. Call me crazy, but I know that this approach works. For what are we waiting? Let's put our heads together and do it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do You Know What A John John Is?

When John F. Kennedy was President of the USA, his then adorable little son was called John John. Jackie-O was a mother who dressed her children with the same impeccable taste she used in selecting her own wardrobe. John John would frequently be photographed wearing one-piece short-length rompers either with or without a shirt underneath. Whether worn with sandals in summer or long socks and closed shoes in winter the look is timeless. That same style of romper was and continues to be popular because of the comfort and ease of movement provided as well as keeping little fellows looking neat and well-groomed even at play. This style is also still in great use in the South where genteel, gracious entertaining includes traditional, classic clothing for children. John John rompers for boys made of cotton, denim, or velvet are as prevalent there as are hand-smocked dreses and heirloom sewing for girls. These are looks that I find eternally appealing so we are including John Johns in our merchandise selections for Fall/Winter.

Monday, August 29, 2011

When The Wrong People Have Children

Today I cannot blog about my intended topic because I am so disturbed over two things in the news. The first one is about a father who allegedly tossed his crying 7-year old son overboard from a harbor cruise boat after slapping him and threatening to throw him overboard in front of about 80 other passengers. Another boater rescued the boy although the news article said the father did dive in to get him (as if that somehow makes him a good father). I realize children can try our patience at times, but there are constructive, non-threatening ways to deal with them. I am not a swimmer, and even as a mature adult the idea of someone throwing me overboard would be enough to traumatize me. To do it to a young child is just unconscionable and abusive and is not something that little boy is ever likely to forget. The other news article that is beyond horrible is about a boy who died because the two people who should have been parenting him withheld water from him for about a week. There are so many people who would love to have children and are unable to for various reasons, and then there seem to be ever-increasing numbers of people having children who neither want them, are capable of parenting them, and who will end up being abusive in so many ways that the children cannot help but grow up as damaged human beings. I continue to find it appalling that people must take tests and obtain licenses to drive a car, ride a motorcycle, sell real estate, practice medicine or dentistry, teach school, and a host of other things but for the most important job in the world any ill-prepared, unkind, troubled person can bring a life into this world with no qualifications, no skills, no resources, and even no desire to raise that child appropriately. What is wrong with this picture? Many of our sweetest, most vulnerable citizens are helpless and at the mercy of people who are themselves obviously damaged by the way they were raised. As our society sinks deeper into selfishness, bad behavior, and economic despair I fear the number of children suffering is going to increase. I write this blog for people who have children, who want children, grandchildren, or foster children; and I implore anyone reading this blog to parent your children well and help others who may be struggling with the role of parenthood. If you or someone you know need help or advice, if you have trouble with anger, if you have a difficult child due to a disability of any kind, don't take it out on the child. Seek advice and help. Help is available, and my hope is that someday there will be no children harmed by the people who are supposed to love, nurture, protect and guide them.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to Pre-School, Day Care, and Germs

I have been watching with interest the blogging progress of a young woman from Brazil. She covers pertinent topics for young mothers, first-time mothers, or anyone who provides care for children or grandchildren. This is why I have included one of her blog posts in my blog today. You may want to check her blog out for yourself. I wish her success!

Essential Mama Baby: Restaurant high chairs dirtier than toilet seat!

Essential Mama Baby: Restaurant high chairs dirtier than toilet seat!: We all know that there are germs everywhere we go but how harmful are they and what should we do about it? The first thing to come to mind...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Go See "The Help" If You Have Not Yet Done So

Yesterday I went with a friend to see the movie The Help, and it is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time. The movie is well written, well acted, and the filming well done. The movie is dramatic, funny, and poignant but not overdone in any area. While it is in part a sad commentary on the way people of color were treated during a time in our country's history, it is also a tribute to the courage and spirit of good people who helped to change the course of the future. I know I really enjoyed it because not once during the film did I find myself trying to read my watch in the darkened theater or wondering how much longer I had to sit there. Go see it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Little Girls Love Hats

We have just added this handknit hat and scarf to our websites and will be adding other styles and sizes soon. If you are looking for a baby shower gift or newborn gift this set is a great solution to either of those needs. You may need something to keep your own baby's head and neck safe from cold air so this set will fill the bill nicely.
Visit our websites at http://www.malcolmfortots.com and http://www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com

Friday, August 19, 2011

I Did Not Vote For Meanness, Vulgarity, Stupidity and Trash Talk. Did You?

More and more I am less and less pleased or impressed with the veritable garbage dump that the Internet has spawned in terms of people leaving comments on websites, in forums, and in chat rooms, etc. When did it become okay to spout vulgar insults at strangers? When did it beome okay to pepper every blurb with profanity? When did it become a badge of toughness to see how many times the "F" word can be used in a sentence? Who decided and when that it is unnecessary to respect other peoples' rights to their own opinions regardless of how much they differ from one's own ideas? When did we become a nation of self-appointed experts droning endlessly on and on about topics for which no research or fact-finding has been done? Who decided that it is okay to make pronouncements as if they are indeed the Gospel truth when in fact they are either half-truths or blatant lies? Who ? Who voted to change from professional, polite, intelligent, sophisticated conversation to rudeness, interrupting, talking over other people, never listening or allowing audience members to listen, and that mass stupidity would be on display for the entire world to see? There are millions of children in this world and in our country, and we are raising them in what is looking and sounding more and more like the City Dump. I did NOT vote for these changes, and in truth I don't know anyone who did. SO HOW HAVE WE ALLOWED THIS TO BECOME THE NORM? WHY ARE WE TOLERATING IT? IS THIS HOW WE WANT OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO BEHAVE AS CHILDREN OR AS ADULTS? I for one say, "No, no, a thousand times no!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Other Blogs To Enjoy

Are you interested in fashion, hair, make-up, interior design, style, or food? Then I encourage you to become a follower of www.brunchatsaks.blogspot.com The young woman who produces this blog writes well, provides great photos, and has amassed quite a following and deservedly so. I find it always adds to my enjoyment of a day when I take a look at her blog and latest topic. My prediction is that she is going to have a stellar career.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mondays! Are They Beginnings or Endings?

September always feels like the beginning of the new year to me (I guess it relates to the start of many new school years). It is the time when I want to get organized and regain structure and routine to overcome the chaos and messiness that somehow crept into life during the lazy days of summer. I feel the same way about Mondays. I never think that Sunday is the first day of the week, but rather Monday. Mondays are when life gets back to normal, schedules exist, schools are in session, appointments are made and kept, and routine household chores are repeated. There are feelings of stability and security that can accompany structure and routine when so many facets of the world in which we live seem to be spinning out of control. Fresh, blank calendar pages quickly become filled with both the mundane and exciting events of our lives. Work weeks generally begin on Mondays, and most of us look forward to Friday nights to start two-day weekends. If I think of Sundays as the beginnings of each new week, then somehow I feel deprived of weekend time. I also like to have Sunday as the end of my week so I can attend church and make my apologies and attempt to wipe the slate clean of that week's mistakes and misdeeds. Then on Mondays I feel as if I have a new opportunity to try to be a better person, to be more organized, to accomplish more, and then to the reward of another glorious two-day weekend. Am I fooling myself? Perhaps. Does it work? You bet it does!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's For Dinner? Shrimp & Spinach Casserole, Of Course!

When you have had a busy day, a fussy baby, or a cranky toddler the thought of having to cook dinner can be overwhelming. To ease that pain I am going to share with you a very simple but delicious recipe made with ingredients that you can keep on hand in your refrigerator and freezer. I first enjoyed this Shrimp & Spinach Casserole in l989 at a beach-front home in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. I asked the hostess for her recipe which she generously shared, but I have no idea where it originated. Shrimp & Spinach Casserole:Serves 4 - 6.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 1/2 pound shrimp, cleaned, deveined and cut into pieces. 1 package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed. 1 cup sharp American Cheese, shredded. 1/2 cup finely cut green onions including green tops. 2 cups milk. 2 eggs slightly beaten. 1/2 teaspoon Thyme. Clean and cut shrimp into bite-size pieces. Combine eggs and milk. Press all the water out of the spinach. Combine spinach with the remaining ingredients. Pour into a shallow baking dish which has been lightly sprayed with PAM and bake 45 minutes or until firm. With some crusty bread and a salad you will serve a great meal. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Other Books Your Children Will Love If You Read To Them

A postscript to yesterday's blog post: I meant to mention that I also read to my children two books by Roald Dahl. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and The Giant Peach became two of their favorites. I was surprised at the lengths of their attention spans since the children were 2, 4 and 6 years old. They each had their favorite parts and characters in the books, but they all loved the stories and the time we spent together reading them. (My apologies for all the italics, but for some reason I am unable to change them).

Monday, August 8, 2011

When To Read Books Rather Than Stories To Your Children

Initially, start out reading a short story or just telling a familiar story (like The Three Bears ) to your babies and toddlers. They have short attention spans but will respond to the pictures, the inflections in your voice, and certain words as they ask you to read or tell again and again the same story. Toddlers are very smart so if you try to skip a page or change words in the interest of time (getting them to sleep faster, for example), they will call you on it after they are familiar with the story. They will also know when you have read the words that mean it is time to turn the page. Children are just short people and much smarter than adults sometimes expect them to be at such early ages. When you tire of reading the Little Golden Book variety of stories, then read a book consisting of a number of chapters. When I had 2, 4, and 6 year-old children it was not always easy to find a short story that appealed to all of them. I decided to read Dr. Doolittle to them, and we did it night after night, chapter by chapter. The book is much, much better than any film version They remembered where each chapter stopped, and they would beg for another chapter when the one for the evening had been read. Even the two-year old would sit and listen as raptly as the older children did. When we had completed Dr. Doolittle we went on to The Bobbsey Twins which was a good choice because the key characters are both boys and girls and two different age groups. The author made the stories appealing to little ones as well as children already in elementary school. There is an entire series of Bobbsey Twin books, and we read through all of them. Not only did these reading sessions foster a love of books in my children, but also gave them a nightly ritual which made bedtime pleasant. Require baths taken, teeth brushed, and pajamas on before reading to them. Asking for promises to go right to sleep after the chapter for the night is read makes for peaceful evenings, regular bedtimes, and first understandings of what a promise is. If you start out reading or saying nursery rhymes to a baby (even as young as 4 or 5 months old) he or she will be soothed by the cadence of your voice. If you are reading from a book a baby will actually be attracted by the colors of the pictures. Being read to from early on can help a child learn to talk and sometimes when you least expect it. You may reach a certain page of a familiar story, and a little child will suddenly repeat a word after you which makes for a very special and memorable moment. As children grow up they will remember the books you read together, and if reading is something they enjoy they will be more successful in school since reading is the basis for every subject they will be taught. Time flies and before you know it children are in school, and you will have wonderful memories to last a lifetime if you regularly read to them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Does Time Get Away From You?

As the weeks fly by I ask myself where the time went and what did I accomplish. I recently listened to a series of webinars which provided me with some great ideas. Jack Canfield (well-known author, motivational speaker, and business coach) talked about how significant "the power of five" can be. He said that on our to-do lists we should list five things that move us toward our goals, and we should start each day working on those five things until they are completed. Then if time remains we can work on other tasks. While he was speaking about business goals I know that his advice also applies to taking care of children, running a household, and juggling work and family life. Most of us put too many things on our to-do lists with no real grasp of how long it would actually take us to complete the entire list. If we focus on what is most important to be completed and form our to-do lists with five tasks leading to the accomplishment of those things, we will get them done! If I am not pro-active I can easily get caught up in minutia, and probably a little of my own OCD also slips in there. I have been trying to follow "the power of five" advice daily, and I am amazed at how much more I am accomplishing. Whether I am concentrating on my business, household tasks and projects, or volunteer work I really am able to get the most important things done first. Try it. I'm sure you will be pleased with the results. I know that children can at times prevent adherence to schedules and plans, but more often than not I am confident you will get all or most of your five things done on a daily basis and still have time left to do other things. I am also thinking that as children enter school and take on responsibilities this might be a good practice to share with them. Let me know what you think. I hope you will sign up to follow my blog and give me your feedback on anything I write. Thanks in advance for helping me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is Your Baby Hungry?

Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, typically a baby eats about every four hours. Those four hours in between feedings can be blissful if you are sleep deprived and feel as if you could sleep for a week. I recall that having a new baby was a combination of the most exciting, happy time and the most exhausting time because of the feedings in the wee small hours. Based on babys' birth weights as well as weight they gain in their first weeks and months, you may find your baby awakening more frequently and demanding to be fed. Different doctors have different opinions and advice about when to start adding a little rice cereal to baby's formula. Sometimes breast milk and/or formula are just not sufficient to satisfy a baby's hunger for four hours. Talk to your pediatrician about adding a bit of rice cereal to baby's diet or whatever type of baby cereal he recommends. I have a friend who has just experienced this with a five-week old baby boy who had a hefty birth weight and just was hungry all the time. Formula replaced the breast milk, but he was still exercising his little lungs every two hours instead of the previous four. A little addition of rice cereal (his grandmother is an R.N.) to his formula, and he is sleeping 4 to 6 hours at a time and allowing his mom and dad to get some much needed sleep. Babies are wonderful blessings, and sleep is a wonderful blessing too so talk to your health care professional to be sure your baby's hunger is being satisfied.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Don't Let Your Baby Drown

Recently in the news have been stories about little ones drowning or nearly drowning which, of course, would be one of any parents' worst nightmares since drowning is preventable. While most such incidents involve swimming pools, today I want to caution you about keeping babies and toddlers safe in bathtubs, sinks, bathinettes, or wading pools. Do not, and I repeat do not, leave any infant or toddler unattended in any container of water even if the water is only one inch deep. Babies can turn themselves over accidentally and be left face down in the water and drown. Toddlers can slip and go face down, or they might try to stand up causing them to slip face down into the water. Do not leave a toddler with an infant alone in water. Accidents can happen so quickly. Nothing you have to do in another room or part of your home is important enough to disregard this elementary safety rule. It takes only a moment for a tragedy to happen and a lifetime to regret it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Children Are Precious So Why Do We Not Protect Them As We Should?

Yesterday's news was horrifying about a little girl dying after being locked in a box overnight for eating a popcicle from the freezer. Her guardian(s) are alleged to be the culprits in this oh-so-sad scenario. When I hear things like this it makes me physically ill. As I watch the world news about babies being abandoned en route in Somalia as their parent(s) walk to escape the famine my heart breaks for those innocent and helpless little ones. The idea of being cruel and abusive to your baby or toddler most likely would never occur to you, and yet it happens. The thought of leaving your newborn or child of any age on the side of a road to die would be something I pray you cannot fathom. And yet these things are happening, and I ask myself again and again what is it going to take to protect the children of the world. Human trafficking, child abuse of all kinds, abandonment, child predators, lack of food and clean water, no health care, and the list of problems in the world goes on and on. One person cannot do everything, but one person can do something. If all the "one persons" decide to do something then perhaps we can end some, if not all of the problems that make life so difficult and at times downright horrible for the precious children of the world. Ask yourself, what can you do? Even with children of our own, we still can reach out to help others. As we experience the present economic crisis in the USA, we probably all know someone who is struggling to care for their child or children. Look around for opportunities to make a difference, and if you see or know of a child suffering abuse of any kind don't stand by and do nothing. Silence is consensus, and little ones have no voices. Will you hear their cries? Will I? I certainly hope so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It Is Still Hot, But Start Thinking About Fall

Even though the temperatures continue to soar into triple digits all over the country, I console myself with the thought that soon Fall will return. It is my favorite season with leaves changing colors, a crispness in the air, and sweater weather. For me, Fall signals new beginnings more than January 1 does. Perhaps it is because growing up it meant a new school year, new shoes, new clothes, new books, and new school supplies. Even though toddlers are not yet in elementary school they can still look the part in new Fall fashions. Here is the first of our new looks for Fall: A 100% cotton red tartan plaid dress with white pique pilgrim collar has puffed sleeves and a full sash which ties in a bow at the back of the waistline. There are five buttons at the back neckline for ease in dressing. The dress is available in Size Toddler 2. So whether your little girl is going to pre-school, Sunday School, out for dinner, or any other event she will be the epitome of adorable in this little dress. It is available on our website at www.malcolmfortots.com and our ETSY shop at www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hot Weather and Hydration

With the soaring temperatures and high humidity all over the country this summer, it is important to remember how quickly little ones can become dehydrated. Obviously, staying indoors in air conditioned comfort is the best and safest place for children under five years old. That, however, is not always possible; and not every family has air conditioning and/or can afford to use it because of high utility costs. So remember to offer your little ones water often, and be sure to use sunscreen to protect their skin if you do take them outside. To be sure their fluid intake is sufficient pay attention to how often their diapers are wet or they are using the potty. As moms you are very much needed so be certain you also take proper care of yourself. Stay out of the heat if you can, and be sure you are drinking enough water to remain hydrated. My doctor says if urine is pale in color that is a good sign you are drinking sufficient amounts of water, but when the color darkens you need to drink more water. Take care, keep cool, and look forward to Fall.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mothers Must Unite To Change The World For Our Children

With the heart-wrenching news about the famine in Somalia come pictures of babies and children starving to death. With the news of terror and deaths happening in Norway, the land of the Nobel Peace Prizes, come photos I never thought I would see. There is no where left in this world to move to in order to keep our children safe, and there is so much anger and lust for power corrupting our leaders and other world leaders that it is time we Mothers said, "Enough!" and meant it! I encourage all parents to pay close attention to every election which affects you and your family. You must do your own research and increase your own knowledge of all the candidates vying for positions as city councilmen, mayors, assemblymen, senators, congressmen and ultimately president/vice president. With the wide-spread, never-ending stream of media coverage and the anonymity of the Internet, you must do your own research because it is no longer possible to believe what you read or hear regardless of the source. Facts are no longer being checked, and journalism has become a bad joke. Personal bias colors every publication and news broadcast, lying and deception have become the norm, and getting your decision-making information from a neighbor or relative is unwise since you have no idea where they obtained the information, whether or not they understand it, or if they are passing it on correctly and fully. If we as mothers do not take a stand right now and stop the chaos, corruption, crime and other huge problems that we are facing, we are dooming our children to a life that won't be worth living. Do we let our children behave badly? Should we allow them to behave badly? Of course, the answer to both of those questions should be "Certainly not!" Then, why oh why are we allowing our country, our states, our cities and towns to be run by grown-ups both men and women who behave badly and who are serving their own personal agendas rather than serving the people who elected them to their respective offices. I am sick to death of the in-fighting, lying, slandering, and distasteful performance of our elected officials all over the country. I am also sick and tired of people masquerading as journalists who do not report the facts so we can form our own conclusions but rather fill the airwaves with bias, untruth, and rudeness in talking over their guests. It is no wonder that children today are accused of having no manners because they are not seeing professional, well-mannered, intelligent, articulate adults speaking and behaving with integrity. They are instead witnessing a nation of adults acting like buffoons, schools that are turning out adults with appalling ignorance, adults lacking respect for anything or anyone! We must start a grassroots effort in our homes, on our streets, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our states and in our country to rein in politicians (both men and women), to demand truth in all media, to insist on professionalism and good manners for anyone who holds public office and represents us, and to work to eliminate the hate and vulgarity that fills the Internet because of the cowardice of people and the cloak of anonymity it provides. We are becoming a nation of pigs. Is that why we had children? Do we really want them to grow up behaving like pigs or living in a world run by pigs? I for one do not, and I cannot believe that most mothers want that for their children. Remember that we are the examples our children will emulate, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they have an opportunity to grow up in a peaceful, wholesome environment with lots of positive role models. Then perhaps we will be able to stop wasting so much time fighting and suing over every insignificant thing and spend time insuring that NO children starve to death anywhere in the world. We need to get our priorities in the right order. Your comments both positive and negative are welcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is Patience Really A Virtue?

Patience is not always a virtue! There, I've said it. I am not referring to having patience with children, the elderly, friends, and family which is de rigeur. I am referring to having patience with people who waste our time by having no respect for it. For example, it seems to me that we spend more and more time waiting for people whom WE are paying to serve us (or we are paying the insurance premiums or the taxes which pay them). We are their clients, their patients, their customers; and yet they behave as if our time is not as valuable as their time. I am talking about doctors and dentists whose schedules are so overbooked that appointment times mean nothing. We make appointments, we arrive on time, and then we wait..........and we wait..........and we wait. If we kept them waiting they would just tell us we missed our appointment (and they would charge us for it because we didn't cancel it). I am also talking about service technicians, tradespeople, and anyone we ask to come to our homes to provide their service or to repair whatever is broken. We usually are told a day they will come, and if we are lucky perhaps they will give us a four-hour window of time during which we might expect to see them. For many people, four hours means one-half of a normal work day which in some cases can mean paychecks being docked accordingly in order to stay home and wait and wait and wait. They surely would not wait for us if we were late getting home to let them in sometime during that "window" of time. They would leave and feel justified in charging for a service call. In many cases, we are charged for their driving time to get to our homes in addition to a service call fee plus the time, labor and parts fees. I am writing this today because I am sick and tired of being kept waiting and being charged for it. Being on time is part of good customer service, and it is arrogant on the part of business people and professionals who habitually keep patients and clients waiting. Everyone can have an emergency occasionally but not daily. Keeping people waiting is disrespectful of them, their time, and their patronage. I used to have a personal rule that I would wait no longer than 15 minutes for anyone with whom I had made a specific appointment. I also would not wait longer than 15 minutes for anyone who made an appointment to meet with me because to do so meant that everyone else for the rest of the day would be kept waiting by me. In today's world my personal rules would mean not getting the health or dental care needed because waiting is required it seems. Bringing up children to be punctual and to be respectful of other people's time is a good thing. There, of course, can and will be times of exception due to circumstances beyond their control but the operative word is exception. Do the world a favor and instill good habits in your children, and if you are a person who keeps others waiting please turn over a new leaf and keep appointments on time. In these tight economic times business people and professionals should value their paying customers more than ever, and not wasting their time is the best way to show that appreciation. All comments are welcome whether you agree or disagree.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Newborn Baby Sweater Fits up to 7 pound baby

Knitting is one of my favorite things to do, and knitting for babies and toddlers is absolutely the best. I learned to knit garments from the bottom up, knitting multiple pieces and then sewing them into a complete garment. I decided to try knitting a tiny sweater from the top down to have fewer seams. This cute little cardigan sweater is made of soft white 100% acrylic yarn and has four tiny bunny buttons from Italy down the front. Babies spit up often so for easy care this sweater is machine washable in warm water on gentle cycle and can be tumble dried on low, delicate cycle. It sells for $45 and will be listed later today on both our website www.malcolmfortots.com and in our ETSY shop www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dental Care For Babies and Toddlers

As soon as a baby cuts his/her first tooth it is not too early to think about dental hygiene. I know a couple who immediately purchased an infant toothbrush and faithfully twice a day gently brushed their son's tooth and then subsequent teeth. As long as the baby was growing and getting new teeth, they never failed to perform this ritual (he would be lying on the sofa with his head on mom or dad's lap so he was comfortable. Although not always overjoyed about being there he learned to remain still and allow them to finish and never had a problem with his baby teeth despite milk, sippy cups, juice, or treats. When his permanent teeth began arriving the ritual continued, but mom and dad had also before this time started teaching him to brush his teeth himself (with supervision to be sure properly completed and length of time for brushing was sufficient). They also taught him about flossing and made sure he had annual visits to the dentist resulting in great check-ups. Their baby is now almost six feet tall, is 15 years old AND has NEVER had a cavity. Think of the discomfort they saved their child and the money they saved themselves since no costly dental work has ever been needed. Some people think they don't have time for this type of care or training especially with multiple children, but take the time to instill good habits that will ensure your children have healthy teeth and gums. You are giving them a gift which will last their lifetime!

Monday, July 11, 2011

What You Need To Know About Children’s Asthma

What You Need To Know About Children’s Asthma This post appeared via Facebook from an insurance company headed by a young man I have known since he was in high school. Good information in the article which I thought was worthy of passing on to others.

Capturing Your Child's Early Antics

Even though we think we will never forget each cute, sweet, adorable, hilarious, clever, intelligent thing our babies say or do.........the truth is over time we do forget. I encourage all of you to write down even a brief description of what your little one says or does soon after it happens. In years to come you will want to recall all of them, but without a record precious moments will be lost. Whether you write with pen on paper, write in a journal, type notes in a computer file, or tuck a scrap of paper in a baby book for later..........just do it. You will be glad later on that you have captured poignant, fun, charming and joyful memories. I was recently reminded of an incident that occurred shortly after moving into our new home when our son was not quite two years old. He shocked me by bringing two same-age little neighbor boys into my bathroom, flinging back the shower curtain and saying, "That's my mom!" No lasting harm was done to any of them from my high-pitched shriek or from the view that I know of, but from that day on the bathroom door was locked when I was in it. Preventive measures were needed in case he had any inclination to do it again (there were 27 little kids on our street so lots of playmates for him and too many opportunities for more surprises for me). If you don't write things down and then another child is born and another, you will be unable to remember everything or even attribute it to the right child. Write, write, write! Who knows, you might even have enough material for a published book someday, and when the babies are grown up with children of their own they will enjoy looking back and comparing their antics to those of another generation.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Information Overload

For a number of weeks now I have been reading books, blogs, Tweets, and Facebook posts about business. In addition, I have been sitting in on webinars which are providing lots of good information. So many knowledgeable speakers on so many pertinent topics, but I have to admit I am suffering information overload. ETSY webinars, some great Laura Roeder webinars, and a Business Momentum series of presentations by 20 different speakers have given me much to think about, much to filter through to determine what applies to my business, and many great ideas that I would LOVE to try. I think I may be getting analysis paralysis so I am going to take a step back and try to digest all of it before making any decisions. The common threads running through almost all of them are: Have clarity of your vision; Believe it is possible and that you can do it; Focus; Have five things per day to do that take you closer to achieving your business goals and work on them first before doing busy work (emails, social media,etc.). I am a person who can get caught up in minutiae so that really applies to me. My advice to solopreneurs is to listen and learn but don't delay so long that you never get your business off the ground. I am psyched up to try some new approaches in my business, and I'll let you know how they work for us.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4th Celebrates Our Freedom Which Is Anything But Free

This morning in church the processional hymn was America The Beautiful. As the music swelled and the full congregation sang the words, I found myself getting tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Not only was I acutely aware of how much I have enjoyed growing up in America but also how drastically different things are today than they were when I brought my own children into the world. I thought of the thousands of men and women in the Armed Forces who bravely volunteer to protect those of us at home. They protect all of us even those who do not support them or their mission. I know of a young man who just went on his third tour of duty leaving behind his wife and four children for a year. The two older children are in middle school and high school, and they long for their father to come home and be with them. Telephone calls, emails, and SKYPE video calls help to ease their anguish about his safety and are certainly better than no contact at all. Yet it is hard being their ages and on a daily basis needing and wanting to tell their father about what is happening in their lives, to ask for his advice, to spend time with him, to get a reassuring hug from him and not being able to do any of these things. The two younger children are adorable little girls who are 5 and 3 years old. They adore their Daddy and can break your heart as they see him and hear him via SKYPE and plead with him to come home because they miss him. They cry and sob and don't understand why he went away and why he doesn't come home because they know he loves them. I cannot even imagine being a father trying to be strong and not allowing such heart-wrenching conversations with children to affect your ability to do the dangerous job you so selflessly volunteered to do. I cannot even imagine being his young wife trying to keep home and family going while having to deal with her own stress, loneliness and worry about her husband's safety. Think of what they all are missing in terms of their lives together. That scenario is repeated in thousands of families all across the nation. How can any of us not be grateful for the sacrifices entire families are making for those of us who are safe at home? How can we not be glad to live in this country that has allowed us incredible freedom, safety and opportunity? It is true that at the present time we are in the midst of political unrest with an ever-widening rift between the parties. However, we might all want to take a lesson from the young men and women risking their lives for us. They are all for one and one for all, trying to face their daily challenges, bravely taking life-threatening risks, and being loyal to each other and to America. They are not bickering, name calling, slandering, mud-slinging or behaving in self-serving ways. That would be our elected officials doing those things. I am convinced that if every elected official would decide to conduct himself/herself with integrity, maturity, professionalism, and determination to serve the public which they were elected to do that the problems we face would indeed be resolved. Except for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and tornadoes ALL of our problems are manmade. If we caused them then we can surely solve them, and we don't have to risk our lives daily to do so as our young men and women in the military are doing. As we celebrate with our backyard BBQ's, beach parties, and fireworks displays let us stop and remember exactly what it is we are celebrating and the supreme price that brave men and women paid and continue to pay so that we can be free.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Headbands For Babies

Sweet babies wearing sweet, delicate headbands look so adorable. We have just added headbands to our website www.malcolmfortots.com and our ETSY shop www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com We invite you to take a peek at them and give us your comments.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crafting With Toddlers

When I was a teenager and also when my children were small, I did some teaching in the nursery class during Sunday services at church. It is not too early to introduce toddlers to the fun of coloring, pasting, drawing, finger-painting, or using stickers to decorate their masterpieces. Scissors are too much for them to master so any cutting should be done beforehand (or by you during the crafting). They can use simple items like pipe cleaners in lots of colors that bend and twist so easily into decorative chains. Popsicle sticks in lots of colors can be used for building or making simple picture frames. Egg cartons and round oatmeal boxes can find new life in their hands. Not only will your toddler enjoy spending time with you and be proud of his/her creations, but it helps his/her dexterity, hand/eye coordination, and encourages him/her to be creative. Let them be free to make what they want as they want it. Although you can demonstrate to them how to use the materials, don't expect them to do it perfectly or to do it "your way" (just keep them safe from eating the paste or getting paint or crayon marks on the wrong places). Buying a couple of yards of oilcloth at your local fabric store will provide years of use as protection for your table, floor or whatever surface you opt to use for crafting. The Dollar Store is a great place to find inexpensive craft supplies. All kinds of simple craft ideas and instructions can be found on the Internet. You can also find coloring pages to download from various websites. If you save paper that has been printed on only one side you can be eco-friendly by printing the coloring pages on the remaining clean side. In this world that sometimes seems to be filled with bad news, I promise you that spending time with toddlers is refreshing and delightful. They are pure, they are innocent, they are funny, and they are smarter than you might think. Remember, they are just "short" people! Have a great time, and I would very much appreciate receiving comments about your experiences.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summertime Lunches For Toddlers

Little children are usually delighted about anything fun or different when it comes to eating lunch. My own children loved to eat lunch on our patio regardless of summer heat or chilly days. Whether they were eating indoors or outside they loved it when I made sandwiches using their favorite cookie cutters. Such a simple thing to do and yet they reminisce about those lunches years later. Once your oldest child starts school and is no longer home for lunch, a younger sibling will be thrilled to have lunch served in his/her very own lunchbox. No matter if the lunchbox is new, used, homemade, or passed down from older siblings there is something about having a lunchbox that makes little ones feel special and more like a "big kid" and less like a baby. There are so many ways younger children try to emulate older siblings, and having a lunchbox is a good place to start. Sweet and simple memories are part of a happy childhood so enjoy creating them with your little one(s).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do Employers Teach Today's Employees How To Serve Customers?

Sometimes I wonder if today's employers bother to train their employees to serve customers? I had the opportunity to spend 20 years working for Neiman Marcus during years when the customer was always right, the customer was always most important, and customer satisfaction and customer service were the hallmarks of the company. Employees were empowered to satisfy the customers. It was a marvelous experience and one that in truth spoiled me for dealing with other retailers and businesses. Today I went to a major office supply store. A young woman checked me out but gave me no greeting, no smile, and no thank you. Instead I greeted her, thanked her for handing me my purchases and told her to have a nice day. Then I walked next door to one of the supermarkets, filled up my cart, and headed to the checkout line. Again, I received no greeting, no smile, and no thank you. Once more I was the one who greeted her, thanked her for putting the bagged groceries in the cart, and told her to have a nice day. I will think twice about going back to either of those stores. In today's economy businesses are not in a position to turn away customers, and more than fifteen million people are out of work so every employee is replaceable. Wouldn't you think that common sense would suggest that customers need to be given a reason to return to a place of business? I have many choices for office supplies, groceries, pharmacies, etc. I want to shop where I feel my business is appreciated and where common courtesy is the coin of the realm. I would not blog about today's experience if it had just happened for the first time, but it has happened a number of times in both of these establishments. Like most customers I did not complain to management or to the checkers, but I made that silent decision to shop elsewhere (which is what 80% of customers do when they are unhappy with the service they receive or their shopping experience). For those of us who have online shops and stores, our potential and/or actual customers cannot see our smiles or hear our voices. It behooves us to do everything we can to enhance their transactions from making our websites truly user-friendly,selling quality products, packaging them nicely, shipping them promptly, having a clear return/exchange policy, and always remembering to follow up and thank the customers for shopping with us. They have literally thousands of other choices today via the Internet so we should be most appreciative that they opted to shop with us. and the employees who are fortunate enough to have jobs should be willing to work at keeping the customers returning or I feel certain some of the 15,000,000+ unemployed would be thrilled to replace them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gift for Baby Christening, Baby Shower, or New Baby

Are you are having your own baby christened? Are you looking for a gift for someone else's baby who is being christened? Do you want to give a gift at a baby shower or to a newborn that will be very special? Here is a suggestion for a gift that can become a family heirloom and be passed down for generations to come. Handknit of acrylic yarn, this 33" x 36" white basket-weave patterned blanket will keep baby warm, cozy and complement a christening dress or suit (or any outfit) for either a girl or a boy. It may just become the baby's favorite "blankie" which will be okay as the blanket is machine washable and dryable. The price is $75 + S&H. We have made only one of these blankets. To order it go to www.malcolmfortots.com or www.malcolmfortots.etsy.com

Friday, June 17, 2011

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

In the l950's one of the first science fiction movies in theaters was titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Kevin McCarthy. The story as I recall was that people in a community started acting very differently than their usual selves, and it turned out their bodies were being taken over by alien pod people. Well, I feel as if that movie has become reality in our country because too many people seem to no longer display a sense of decency, dignity, honor, respect, tolerance, or integrity. I am sick to death of hearing the "F" word everywhere. Have vocabularies diminished to the point where only profanity is remembered? Has illiteracy become the goal of the day? Today I heard of a math professor urinating on the door of a colleague with whom he had a disagreement. What is that about? This morning I saw a video clip of women and men hitting each other over a seat at a murder trial. Who are these people? Last night on the news I learned millions of gallons of precious water had to be drained from a reservoir because someone urinated in the reservoir. Bodies found stuffed in suitcases, babies dying from physical and sexual abuse at the hands of people who should be protecting them, children being bullied in person or cyberbullied, adults in positions of authority and trust having sexual relationships with the young students they teach, and the stories go on and on and on. I know the media does not report the good news about the many people who do not do these things, but what is it in our society that makes us think those barbaric incidents are more newsworthy? Why are people more interested in a politician's lewd photographs of himself than in resolving the humongous problems our country is facing? What kind of chance will our children and grandchildren have to grow up and be happy, healthy, well-mannered, respectable, successful, honest, honorable men and women when the behavior bar has been lowered to the level of the gutter? Some days it is like living in a pigsty instead of in the "shining city on a hill." All of the people doing these disgusting things were raised by someone: parent(s), relative(s), foster care, orphanage, etc. These behaviors as adults occur because as children they are given no boundaries, are not held accountable for their actions, are not taught to respect adults or authority or differences, are not expected or encouraged to do and be their best, are not taught good manners at home or at school, and parents and other adults set no examples for them. Now we are faced with many major problems at all levels of government, and money for education seems to be less important than money to study how to tell the sex of a box turtle by the color of its eyes (or other interesting but non-essential studies). Anyone who is reading this and disagrees with me please feel free to tell me so and tell me why. Anyone who has ideas of how we can restore decency, dignity, honor, respect, integrity, tolerance and good manners to our homes, neighborhoods, communities, cities, towns, states and our nation please don't be silent..........speak up! It is time for the body snatchers to be foiled!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Important is Good Customer Service To YOU?

Having been in the business world for many years and having worked for large companies (Pillsbury, Reynolds Metals, Neiman Marcus) as well as for smaller organizations, customer service has always been of the utmost importance to me.....both giving great service and receiving great service. Lately, I am becoming more and more annoyed with the lack of customer service that seems to permeate our society. Poorly trained employees, rude employees, disinterested and unappreciative business owners, and just a lack of common courtesy are complaint topics that I hear about and read about all too often in today's world. Companies seem to be aggressively seeking new customers but are failing to take care of their existing customers. Think of any product or service and I probably have either complained myself or heard a complaint about it from friends, family, neighbors, business associates, etc. So for those of us who are building businesses it seems to me the way to have an edge over competitors is to provide the absolute best customer service anyone could hope or expect to receive. To succeed our products, services, accommodations, etc. have to be great, but even if they are great we will lose customers if our service is poor. What are you doing to ensure your business is not being negatively affected by poor service? A point to remember is that many people won't actually complain. Instead they will just make a silent decision to never again shop with you, stay with you, or use your services. Time to get back to basics in these difficult economic times, and customer service is one of the most basic business principles which will grow your business. Think about it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do You Know Cameron Herold or Laura Roeder?

Today I attended a one-hour webinar conducted by #LauraRoeder. She interviewed #CameronHerold about his book #Double Double which is a guide advising how to double your revenue and profit. Whether you are a solopreneur or part of a large corporation, Mr. Herold says the book is applicable to all sizes of businesses. He has had a very successful career, and much of the content of the book and also his DVD's are part of the course he teaches at MIT. He is a goal setter, a positive thinker, a common-sense businessman, and someone who has mastered work-life balance by working smarter not harder. I am going to buy his book and delve deeper into his wisdom. Kudos to Laura Roeder whom I think is a bright, talented young woman running a successful business with spirit, business acumen, and results. I'll let you know when I have doubled my revenue! In the meantime, check out http://www.BackPocketCOO.com which is Cameron Herold's website and http://www.lauraroeder.com which is Laura's website.