Won’t Back Down

Everybody has a voice.


Everybody has the ability to stand up for their children, to fight for better schools, to seek extra help from teachers, and to demand a safe place for their children to thrive.


Everybody has a voice.


Unfortunately, as parents, we’ve been silenced.  We’ve fallen victim time and time again to an educational system that, for the most part, fails our children.


Sure, certain schools in certain neighborhoods are second to none.  And yes, those phenomenal public schools, the ones that look very much like private schools, actually, open their doors to a few lucky lottery winners each year.  A few.


We celebrate those winning schools with ribbons, ratings, and accolades.  As well we should.  They are teaching our children to read, add and subtract, socialize, and create great works of art.  They provide safety and security for our children, and promote family involvement within the school.


These schools find success in the collaborative effort of teachers, administrators, school districts, and parents.  Parents, after all, play a critical role in facilitating change within a school.  When parents work collaboratively with teachers and administrators, classrooms succeed.


Sadly, nearly half of American public schools failed to reach federal achievement standards in 2011.  Countless students struggle to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic each year because public education has failed them.


In many cases, parents are silenced when they attempt to seek extra help for their child, request classroom changes, or simply ask for support.  “We’re doing our best”, is a refrain that seems to echo the halls of failing schools.  In essence, stop bothering us; we can’t change the system.


“Won’t Back Down” (PG), opening in theaters Friday, September 28, 2012, tells the story of a single mother who is fed up with the failing inner city public elementary school to which her dyslexic daughter is assigned.


In the role of a lifetime, Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays the frustrated mother, working two jobs to provide for her little girl, who takes on the public school system in a desperate attempt to change the climate of failure that exists within the community.


A fictional account that is inspired by actual events, “Won’t Back Down” is the story of parents and teachers joining forces to use the “parent trigger laws” to effect change in a low performing public school.  Parent trigger laws, currently in effect in California, Ohio, Connecticut, and Texas (and being considered in more than a dozen states), allow parents to force a school into a charter, close it, or replace the principal and teachers if 51% of the parents sign a petition.


“Won’t Back Down” uses a fictional law that requires both parents and teachers to sign the petition in order to overthrow the principal.  The genius behind this fictional adaptation of the “parent trigger laws” is that our teachers are our heroes.  If our teachers are on board with change, we have the potential to improve our public schools by leaps and bounds.


Viola Davis plays the exhausted teacher, frustrated and checked out, who finds inspiration in Gyllenhaal’s persistence and helps lead the charge.  Risking her job, her marriage, and everything she’s worked for, this heroic teacher stands up for the children who sit before her each day.


“Won’t Back Down” is a heartbreaking film full of hope and inspiration.  The message is simple:  We can change the system.  When communities unite and fight for the rights of our children, change happens.  When parents and teachers work side-by-side and stop blaming one another for the failures of the past, our children win.


Everybody has a voice.


It’s time to put our voices to good use.  It’s time to create a successful future for all of our children.  It’s time to stand together as a nation and say, “enough is enough”.  We will not stand for a 50% failure rate for one more day.


Check out the trailer here, and then head to your local theater on September 28th.  Because this movie?  Will change your life.




Disclosure:  I was compensated by Circle of Moms to attend a media screening of “Won’t Back Down”.  The opinions expressed within this post are my own.  I truly hope that, after seeing this film, you decide to use your voice for the betterment of our children as well.

On My Way to the Bath!

You know that moment of the day when you are certain that a little story time will get everyone through the crankiness, but you really don’t want to go there because you can’t possibly read Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink for the 37th time that day?  I have the answer to your prayers.


Ok, maybe not the answer exactly (I didn’t invent a robot that will read Pinkalicious on repeat), and maybe it’s not even me doing the answering.  But I will tell you about a brand new gem like no other in the world of children’s picture books.


On My Way to the Bath.



Written by Sarah Maizes, comedian, writer, and very funny mommy, and illustrated by Michael Paraskevas (best known for creating Maggie and the Ferocious Beast), On My Way to the Bath tells the story of Livi, a young girl with a huge imagination and core belief that “Everything is more fun than baths.”


In her quest to avoid the boredom of bath time, Livi turns everyday encounters into exciting adventures.  She slithers like a snake, she builds a statue, she becomes a “professional gymnastics girl, and she even sings like a rock star.  Finally, as the frustration begins to mount in her tired mommy’s voice, Livi becomes a jungle cat and pounces on her unsuspecting mommy before getting into the bath.



Based on her own struggles to get her daughter into the bath on time, Sarah Maizes perfectly captures a scenario that has played out for most moms at one time or another (or possibly every day) along the way.


The story will have your children at the edge of their seats each time you read it, and yes, they will ask for it just one more time!  This time you won’t mind at all.


This beautifully illustrated children’s book is as exciting and engaging for the reader as it is for the children who can’t help but cheer Livi along throughout the story.


And the final joke?  Never.  Ever.  Disappoints.


What are you waiting for?  Go order your copy of On My Way to the Bath today!


Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of On My Way to the Bath for this review.  The opinions in this post are my own, and my children ask me to read this book every night during dinner.  Incidentally, I read it over and over again during dinner because they love it, and they are more willing to sit and eat while I read it to them.  It’s a win/win.



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The Tuneables!

Sponsored by The Music Intelligence Project, “The Tuneables” is a music education program designed for children ages 3-8 that teaches the “ABC’s” of music in a fun and engaging way.  The Tuneables encourages active participation while exposing young children the fundamentals of tonal and rhythm patterns, the singing voice, basic music repertoire, and listening skills.  The Tuneables approach relies on aural perception, kinesthetic response, and verbal association to expose children to the basics of music.  In other words?  “Hear it, do it, name it”, as The Tuneables say!

The first Tuneables Audio CD and DVD set, “I Love Music”, teaches children to move to the beat, hear and sing tonal patterns in songs using the tones “Do, Mi, and Sol”, expand the range of their singing voices, and become immersed in the sounds and melodies of classical music.

The DVD tells the story of Annie and Max who, upon touching an unusual music box at the music store, find themselves magically transported to Tuneville.  Each of the characters in Tuneville resembles a different musical instrument and has a distinct personality based on that instrument.  They each play a role in exposing children to the fundamentals of music.

The story is fun an engaging, and the repetition ensures that children do start to understand the basics of rhythm and tonal patterns.

Having married a musician, I regularly find myself answering the question, “so does he have them playing any instruments yet?”  The answer is always no.  Although there are certain instruments that small hands can learn to handle (the violin to name one), Sean is of the opinion that the frustration involved in early mastery of instruments and the potential for burnout are reasons enough not to force your children into learning an instrument at an early age.  He generally recommends 10-11 as a great age to start if a child expresses an interest in a specific instrument.  But…music is all around us.

While we don’t seek out specific “music education” classes (beyond a local class that is more of a dance marathon while music plays), music is always a part of our day.  They have guitars, basses, a full-size keyboard, and a drum kit available for daily use (sadly for me, the drums get the most use).  They eat, dance, play, ride, and even walk around town with music in the background.  Despite their specific tastes, we try to expose them to different styles of music as much as possible.  On any given day you might find them humming along to toddler tunes, The Beatles, John Mayer, CSN, Coldplay, Christmas music, and the list goes on.  Music is a part of their daily lives.

Until The Tuneables arrived, we actively avoided the traditional music education DVD’s for babies and young children.  We have viewed some of these DVD’s, and did not see the benefit of early TV exposure given the content.  It just wasn’t for us.  After reading about The Tuneables, we were excited to give it a try.  The result?

Riley loves it!

The DVD is very cute and engaging, and Riley has learned a lot about rhythm and tonal patterns.  In fact, she will often start pointing out high versus low notes when in the car listening to something completely different!  She is working hard on learning to clap to the beat.  This is no easy task for small children (and many adults).  The Tuneables makes marching, tapping, and clapping to the beat fun.  There will be no idle TV watching with The Tuneables on.  Riley is often seen marching around the room singing and tapping along, and all people in the room are required to join the parade!

The Tuneables is a great way to expose children to the basics of music without pressuring them to perform.  It’s cute, engaging, and makes music fun.  I encourage you to stop by and check them out today.  While you’re there, why not join the Tunies Club?


Disclosure:  I received a free copy of the “I Love Music” DVD and Audio CD set for this review.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for this post.



As a psychotherapist and, more importantly, as a mom, I am always looking for toys that are fun and have a focus on child development.  Don’t get me wrong; I want my kids to play and have fun.  Children grow, learn, and thrive when they are playing and having fun.  But I also see the benefit of choosing well-made toys that take child development into consideration.

There are a lot of poorly made toys on the market today.  There are a lot of dolls that appear dangerously thin and overly made-up targeted for very young girls, and a lot of destructive toys that are geared for very young boys.  I know, boys do tend to gravitate toward monster trucks and (gasp) toys with guns, and girls do love those very pretty blonde dolls.  But that doesn’t mean that their toy collections have to stop there.

I love it when a great new toy hits the market.

Enter Poofin.

Poofin is a toy designed by parents with the simple goal of celebrating what makes children unique.  It is a toy that helps develop self-esteem.  It is a toy that reminds children that their many different interests are what make them special.  It is a toy that celebrates similarities and differences.  It is a toy that builds character.

Poofin is a super soft star shaped pillow with a hole in the center.  The Poofin is very cuddly and makes a great pillow for a long car or airplane ride.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Each child fills their Poofin with charms (small rectangular pillows) that describe their likes and interests.  The Poofin Store has a large variety of pre-printed charms to choose from, and you can upload photos or other images to personalize them even more.  Over time, kids fill their Poofins with these little reminders of what makes them great.

Riley's Poofin and charms

Poofin sent Riley a pink star pillow with a variety of charms:  A personalized charm from a picture that I uploaded, a cat, books, Earth, a brown eye, and paint brushes and paint.  She loved it!  I didn’t tell her it was coming because I wanted to see a genuine reaction.  She ran around the family room exclaiming, “look!  I have my very own pillow with me on it!” and, “these are all of my favorite things!”  Liam wondered where his blue Poofin might be (oops).  Thankfully, the nice moms behind Poofin stuck in a blue racecar charm especially for him.

Riley with her two "favorite" charms

I love the idea of a toy that helps build self-esteem and reminds kids that they are unique.

I also love the idea of a toy that can be used as a comfort item for traveling (or when parents travel and kids need a transitional object).

Riley snuggling with her Poofin

And I love the idea of sending a Poofin along on a play date with another Poofin owner.  It’s a great way for kids to share their own interests and learn from someone with different interests.  It would make an amazing show and tell tool for schools.

And if that’s not enough…you can actually use the charms as a word identification tool for toddlers (although Poofin is recommended for ages 3+).

Poofin is the kind of toy that grows with kids.  While a three year old might enjoy the filling and emptying of the star pillow, a six year old will enjoy sharing it with friends and taking it on sleepovers.

My daughter enjoys her Poofin, and I’m sure yours will too.  The holidays are just around the corner…why not head over to the Poofin Store today?


Disclosure:  I was not compensated for this post.  Poofin sent me a Poofin pillow with seven charms for review.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

“Happy Chaos” Winner!

As I write this I am coming to the realization that the reason I don’t usually do giveaways here is that I wish I could give a copy of “Happy Chaos” to all of you!  Thank you so much for stopping by to enter.  I really enjoyed reading your fun family time activities and getting to know you a bit better.  But, alas, there is only one copy to send to one lucky reader.

(Drum roll)

And the winner of the signed copy of “Happy Chaos” is…

Mommy 2.0!

Thanks again for entering, and be sure to head over to Amazon to pick up your own copy of “Happy Chaos” today.

Mommy 2.0- Please email me your mailing address so that we can get your copy in the mail!

“Happy Chaos” Giveaway! (Closed)

The big moment is finally here…it’s time for one lucky Practical Parenting reader to win an autographed copy of Soleil Moon Frye’s new book, “Happy Chaos”!

We all remember Soleil as one of our favorite ‘80’s TV icons when she starred in “Punky Brewster”.  I, for one, never missed an episode.  I loved the entertaining antics, the cutting edge fashion (I did the bandana thing, I’m not afraid to admit it), and even the more serious episodes that dealt with the emotional ups and downs of growing up.  As Punky Brewster she was funny, kind, energetic, and all smiles.  I was sure that, if only we had the chance to meet, we would someday become fast friends.

I’m happy to report that Soleil is every bit as kind and energetic as her former role, and then some.

For instance, Soleil was named the Mommy Ambassador for Target.  She regularly shares tips and advice about all things parenting, including must-have products (what practical mom can resist?).  Her videos for Target are so fun and energetic that you will find yourself plotting an immediate trip to the nearest Target to buy all items mentioned…before you even finish watching them.

And…she has an eco-conscious children’s clothing line and boutique in Los Angeles.  She wants nothing for the best for our precious little cargo, and the world they live in.

Much like the rest of us, Soleil learned the hard way that babies don’t come with manuals.  She immersed herself in motherhood and found that letting go is the key to being the best possible parent at any given time.

“Happy Chaos” is part memoir/part parenting manual and combines tales from her own Hollywood childhood with lessons learned during her adventures in motherhood.  She shares stories, tips, and the advice she needed when she first started down this path.

I had the opportunity to do a little Q&A with Soleil recently.  Here’s what she had to say:

Katie:  What are some of your favorite family time activities to help you stay connected?

Soleil:  Family dinner every Sunday night is very important for us.  It is a time when our phones aren’t answered and we really unplug.  The girls always help me cook and they love getting creative in the kitchen.

Katie:  Many moms reference experiencing “mom guilt” for a variety of reasons. How do you cope with moments of mom guilt?

Soleil:  I think we all suffer from mom guilt but we just do the best we can do, that’s all that matters.

Katie:  What kind of special time activities do your kids enjoy when they have 1:1 time with you?

Soleil:  My girls and I love giving each other manicures and pedicures and it’s a time that we can all laugh and experiment with fun colors. It’s relaxing too!  Reading is also very important to our family, so many times we just curl up, and read aloud to them.

“Happy Chaos” will be released on August 23rd, but is available for preorder today.

As I mentioned earlier, one lucky reader will win an autographed copy this week…so get your entries in!  Here’s how (I made it easy on you):

Required:  Leave a comment on this post

Extra entry:  Leave a second comment telling me what your favorite family time activity is

The winner will be revealed on Thursday, so you have a few days to get your entries in.  But don’t forget to preorder extra copies for all of the new moms in your life…

Soap Hope

Despite the current focus on going green when it comes to cars, homes, and beauty products, we continue to live in a world full of chemicals.  Riley’s allergies remind me to read every label on everything I purchase for the kids, from laundry detergent to granola bars and everything in between.

I make an effort to buy earth friendly and low allergen cleaning products for my home, as she reacts to just about everything these days.  I can only buy fragrance free and naturally based soaps, shampoos, and detergents for her.  When it comes to keeping her eczema flare-ups under control, I am always on the ball.

But sometimes I fall short when it comes to my own products.  I do have a love for Aveda, but apart from that I don’t pay much attention to what goes into the products I purchase for my own daily needs.  And it never occurred to me that I could purchase soaps, face washes, lotions, and cosmetics that would help other women all over the world.

Enter Soap Hope.

Soap Hope was created to provide healthful, top of the line products to customers, then use the profits to help women in need around the world.

Soap Hope invests every dollar of profit (not just a portion or a match) into programs that help aspiring women become educated, obtain healthcare, and start a trade to provide for family.

Soap Hope is using good to do good all around the world.

The founders sent along a package of samples that included body washes, cosmetics, and laundry detergent.

Biokleen Free and Clear (32 oz) Laundry Soap

The Biokleen Laundry Liquid is phosphate and chorine free, and completely biodegradable (and not tested on animals).  It’s a great alternative to some of the chemical-laden products on the market.

I also enjoyed the Acure Day Cream, which is both paraben and sulfate free.  The chamomile gave it a nice scent and it adds collagen support for normal to dry skin.  Just remember to add some SPF!

Soap Hope delivers all products in an eco-friendly “ugly box”.  No excessive or harmful packing products here!

Soap Hope offers great products, but an even better message:  Women can help women end poverty.

Head over to Soap Hope and see how you can get involved.  At the very least, pick up some nice smelling eco-friendly products to brighten your day!

Disclosure:  Soap Hope sent sample products for me to try.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for this post.

Happy Chaos Trailer

Soleil Moon Frye (or “Punky Brewster”, as we all love to remember her) has a new book set to be released later this month and she’s reaching out to moms everywhere to say what we all need to hear:  Babies don’t come with manuals and we all need to help each other out!  “Happy Chaos” is part memoir, part parenting manual, and always engaging.  It’s your best friend sharing the mistakes and happy accidents along her parenting journey.

Stay tuned for more information on “Happy Chaos” and an exciting giveaway.  One lucky Practical Parenting reader will win an autographed copy of “Happy Chaos” in the next couple of weeks.  Be sure to check back for details on how to enter in an upcoming post.  In the meantime, please enjoy this trailer for “Happy Chaos” and pass it along to your friends!

Puristics Baby (Product Review)

Puristics has a new line of baby products on the market, which includes zinc oxide diaper rash cream, daily diapering cream, and gentle calming lotion.  As the proud mother of two children with very sensitive skin, I jumped at the chance to review new baby products that are 98-99% natural and effective on sensitive skin.  It almost sounds too good to be true.

While my four year old daughter only had one diaper rash during her two years of diapers, my two year old son is the king of the diaper rash.  I change him immediately, have tried every diaper rash cream/ointment available, and stay on top of it as much as possible.  It has improved slightly over time, but at least twice a month he is hit with a really painful rash.  So painful that he refuses to get in the bath and cries his way through diaper changes.  It breaks my heart.

My Puristics products arrived at exactly the right time.  Day two of a terrible rash with barely enough cream left to soothe.

I put the zinc oxide diaper rash cream to immediate use.  The cream is very smooth (and not at all sticky, like some others on the market) and has a very calming scent.  A quick glance at the ingredient list solved the mystery of how a diaper rash cream can possibly smell like a day at the spa:  Eucalyptus and rosewood oils.  The diaper rash cream contains zinc oxide to treat and protect against diaper rash by sealing out wetness, but the eucalyptus and rosewood oils are intended to soothe your baby.  They do.  They even soothe stressed out mommies, if you ask me.

The best part, of course, is that the diaper rash cleared up in ONE DAY!  We have worked our way through some very long and painful diaper rashes during the past two years.  I can’t tell you how amazed I am that this product worked so quickly and effectively.

Once the rash cleared, I decided to put the daily diapering cream to the test.  I reasoned that if I used the daily diapering cream regularly, we might be able to avoid future incidents.  Again, Puristics came through for us.  With a daily dose of the daily diapering cream, we managed to avoid a diaper rash for at least a month (until I got lazy and stopped using it regularly).  Not to worry, the diaper rash cream cleared him up in a day again and I learned to prioritize the daily diapering cream!

I tried the gentle calming lotionon both my son and my daughter.  Los Angeles is a very dry climate, and at this time of year the kids are scratching away at their arms and legs.  We’ve tried several baby moisturizers in the past and have had some luck some of the time.  My daughter loves the scent of the “spa cream” as we’ve come to call it (I’m telling you, the eucalyptus and rosewood are a huge hit in this house) and my son actually sits still long enough for me to apply some each night (which is really the best review I can give).  It’s light, calming, and safe for sensitive skin.  It’s the perfect post bath moisturizer to ease them into the bedtime routine.

As if all of this isn’t enough, Puristics never tests their formulas on animals, and their formulas never contain animal ingredients.

For more information on the ingredients in these products and on all of the Puristics lines, please visit Puristics.

Puristics products are available at Drugstore.com, Rite Aid, Walgreens, King Soopers, and Harris Teeter.

Puristics Baby:  The power of pure.

Please look into these products for your little ones today.  You will not be disappointed.


Puristics sent the above-mentioned products for me to review.  The opinions stated in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for this post.

Product Review: Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion

Shielding lotion Uses, Ingredients and Safety.

Although my skin has always been sensitive, I never experienced any eczema (or severe dry skin) until I was pregnant with Liam.  While my skin glowed during my pregnancy with Riley, Liam left the skin on my legs thirsty, cracked, and prone to bleeding, with patches of eczema around my ankles.  2 years later I am still trying to get back to normal!  I love him anyway, but it’s time to resolve the eczema.


A few weeks ago, I was asked to review Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion. At this point, I will try anything!  I have spent a lot of money on potential “cures” for my eczema, only to end up sticking with Vaseline.  After visiting the website www.skinmdnatural.com to learn more about the product, I decided to give it a try.  I’m really glad I did.


Here are a few words from Skin MD:


“There are thousands of skin irritants in our modern environment that didn’t exist even 50 years ago. These irritants can strip the protective barrier off your skin causing dry skin, eczema and other skin problems. These changes in our environment have brought about the need for a new type of dry skin care solution – a shielding lotion.

Shampoos, antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, colorants and other irritants bombard and penetrate the skin. These harsh chemicals and irritants can break down the skin’s natural protective ability. Some strip away moisture, while others lodge in the pores where they cause irritation and other negative reactions.

Unfortunately, conventional lotions have one basic goal – to simply make up for the moisture that our bodies are losing by adding an artificial source of moisture. Many common household products including soaps, are absorbed directly into the skin, causing dry cracked skin and other skin disorders. Also, when participating in other activities from gardening to painting, furniture restoration to fishing, or exposure to harsh weather, you are further drying and irritating your skin. Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion helps to break the dry skin cycle by restoring skin’s natural moisture and protection.”


The goal of a shielding lotion is to provide a natural barrier on top of the skin to protect it from chemicals, irritants, and even hard water.  I decided to try the shielding lotion for three weeks before evaluating the results.  Sean is prone to dry skin under his watchband, so he also gave it a try.


The results are in:  Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion rocks!  Shielding lotion feels different than a moisturizer with the first application.  It feels like you’re wearing a protective layer, although it’s completely non-greasy.  The directions indicate usage every 2-8 hours until moisture is restored, and then once every 12-24 hours.  The best news is that a very small amount goes a very long way, so a 4oz bottle lasts forever!


Within a week, Sean and I both noticed considerable improvement (his dry skin was almost completely resolved).  After three weeks of twice daily usage, my skin is no longer dry, and the patches of eczema are a thing of the past.


I am in awe of this product.  I thought I had tried everything, but Skin MD Natural Skin Shielding Lotion is the first skin care product that actually followed through on its promise.  Practical Parenting recommends this product for busy moms on the go who suffer from excessive dry skin due to the many environmental irritants that we come in contact with every day.


Just in case that’s not enough, Skin MD Natural Skin Shielding Lotion is eco-friendly and manufactured in a 100% solar facility…you just can’t argue with that!


Visit www.skinmdnatural.com to find a store that carries this product in your neighborhood.


Skin MD Natural sent me a free trial of this product for review.  I was not compensated for this review.