MommyCon Philly 2014  |  nextlifechapter.comTomorrow I’m attending MommyCon Philly at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It’s not too late to get your ticket! Check out the schedule and get your ticket at Here’s some conference info from their website:

MommyCon is a boutique style convention dedicated to bringing modern parents and mothers-to-be together. Our focus is on natural and organic parenting methods and timeless tidbits as we journey through parenthood together. Our seminars and workshops include babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, car seat safety, natural health and medicine, baby gear, childproofing and so much more! We end our day with amazing giveaways and each attendee gets a gift bag from our sponsors.

At 10:30am they’re also hoping to break the Babywearing World Record they set with 1,003 baby wearers at MommyCon Los Angeles last year. You can participate in the world record even without attending the conference (click the link above for details).

Larisha, a fellow Philly-area blogger from the blog We’re Parents has promo code WEREPARENTS for a 10% discount on tickets. They’re only $35 so 10% isn’t much, but every bit helps. If you’re not in the Philadelphia area, check out the MommyCon events calendar to see if they’re coming to a city near you. And if you do attend tomorrow’s conference, please come up and say hi if you see me.


3rd birthday_cake_wm

Since Adelaide’s 2nd birthday party was such a success last year, we decided to host a similar party this year. Again we had it at Herron Spray Park in South Philly. Again we had it in the morning and promised fruit and cake. Again we invited her friends from school and our friends with kids around the same age.

However, I wanted to mix it up a little bit and not have the exact same party as last year. Adelaide still adores Elmo and the Sesame Street characters, but we were looking for something new as far as balloons, cake, plates, napkins and party favors. Last year we got our cake at BJs, so I went there and looked through their book of cake specialty designs looking for inspiration. I thought maybe we could do a generic zoo theme since Adelaide likes animals and we have a zoo membership. I showed the cake to Adelaide and she seemed more interested in the farm cake. Call me crazy, but as a girl who lives in the concrete jungle of South Philadelphia, I thought a farm theme at the spray park would be a little difficult to pull off. Or maybe the Central Illinois girl in me, the one who grew up in surrounded by real farmers (although my parents weren’t farmers themselves), just couldn’t take the idea seriously.

Adelaide watches two TV shows other than Sesame Street, so I thought it would be fun to do Daniel Tiger or Curious George as themes. I searched online and only found party supplies for Curious George. I mentioned the idea to Adelaide and she seemed really excited about it, so the decision was made. When I finally got around to visiting Party City to get said party supplies (which I saw on the website), I was told they had been discontinued and were only available online. Still, Adelaide was pretty set on having a “George party,” so I thought I could still scrape something together with limited time and my Amazon Prime account. I visited Pinterest, but decided I didn’t want to put in the work of doing too many DIY craft projects. My parents were driving in from Illinois, and I wanted to spend time with them and feel as relaxed as possible. I didn’t want to stay up late the night before putting finishing touches on the goodie bags (like I did last year). Plus, I was just coming out of the first trimester of my current pregnancy and I just didn’t have the energy.

The morning of the party, the sky looked like it could rain, but the local weather guy said it wouldn’t rain until afternoon (I’m looking at you Tedd Florendo.) Of course, shortly after we got our tent set up at the park, it started to pour. My cell phone immediately lit up with text messages. “Are we still meeting at the park?”  “What’s the plan B?”

I started to have a panic attack. Yes, we’re meeting at the park. We’re already here and set up. I don’t have a plan B! I could blame it on pregnancy hormones, but it took all my strength to not break into tears. I I tried to hold it together for Adelaide’s sake. I didn’t want to cry in front of her and have her get upset too. My brain raced for a plan B. Where else could we go? What else could we do?

Our house was a mess. My parents were in town from Illinois and staying with us for the week. Their suitcases were strewn throughout the living room and the kitchen was a mess. I thought we could go back to the house and throw all their stuff in the basement and have the party at our place. But our place was too small to house so many people–that’s one of the reasons we decided to have it at the Spray Park in the first place.

I thought about postponing it. We couldn’t do it the following day because Tim was supposed to be in a craft fair. He needed the tent and I wouldn’t want him to miss the party. Maybe we could do it the following weekend? But my parents would miss it and the cake and all the fruit wouldn’t last that long. My dad checked the Doppler radar on his phone. The party went so smoothly last year, and I had visions of no one coming to Adelaide’s party. Not one kid.

But, it looked like the rain was passing. It started to let up and I sent out text messages and emails saying we were still a go. That we were at the park and and it looked as if the rain was passing. I told everyone that we had a tent if it started to rain again. I mean, we were at a spray park–the kids were coming to get wet, so it should be fine, right?

I got texts that people were on their way, that a little rain never stopped them. Then, they slowly started to arrive and I realized that people really were coming (I was seriously worried that we’d have a party with no guests and I was feeling so sad for Adelaide.) Then, another friend appeared.

After the scare and early shower, it ended up being a nice morning. I think there was only one family that decided not to venture out. The kids had a great time and Adelaide had a blast playing with all her friends in the water. I mean, playing in water, eating fruit, drinking juice (a rarity in our house) and eating cake all while surrounded by her best friends–sounds like a pretty great 3rd birthday to me. Thanks to everyone who braved the weather and helped make her day special.

Curious George Birthday  |

Under the tent checking the weather report and waiting for the rain to stop.

Curious George Birthday  |

Table set up with strawberries, blueberries, melon and of course, cake. Coolers with small water bottles and Honest Kids juice “boxes.” We’re ready for a party!

Curious George Birthday  |

Party favors (in the blue bowl) are Safari Rubber Duckies. Each child was allowed to pick one to take home. Worked well as a toy to play with in the sprinklers too.

Curious George Birthday  |

Invitation designed by my husband Tim.

Adelaide says…

A few weeks ago Adelaide refused to give Tim a hug and kiss before bedtime. It was my night to read to her and before going upstairs, she usually says goodnight to Dad and gives him a big hug and kiss. For whatever reason she didn’t want to do it that night, so I took her upstairs to brush her teeth. Afterwards, we were getting dressed for bed when she started whining that she didn’t give Daddy a hug and kiss and that she needed to go back downstairs to do so.

“Why didn’t you give Daddy a hug when we were just down there?” I asked. “He asked you for a hug and you said no.”

“Because I’m a bad guy,” she said without hesitation. “I’m a stranger.”


A few years ago I started a “Talented Friends” series and featured my friend Erin Parker. She is a friend from college, a roommate during those early angst-filled months post-college, and many years of friendship later, the officiant at our wedding. Now, she is in the final week of a Kickstarter campaign to launch her debut album with MAS Nashville. I’m so proud of my talented friend that I wanted to share her inspiring story of how getting off your butt and making things happen (instead of waiting for opportunity to come to you) can result in the unexpected.

See Erin’s guest post below and please consider supporting this amazing group of women artists for their campaign, MORE MAS – Our Debut Album…And MORE!

MAS Nashville Kickstarter  |

Erin is second from the left. Image by: Anthony Matula

What the heck is MAS?!?
Chances are, if you don’t live in Nashville or aren’t a Facebook friend of any of the MAS members, you haven’t heard of us, so let me give you some basic “about us” info. MAS is a Mutual Admiration Society of five female performers who bring music, comedy, cleavage and class to live productions in a “cabaret-meets-concert”style. What we do is irreverent, funny and sincere. You might laugh and cry at our shows. Heartstrings are pulled. F-bombs are dropped. Standards (and heels) are high. Necklines are low. We aim for beautiful AND bawdy all at once. I think the best description for what we do is “Celtic Women meets Sex in the City.” If you visit the “who we are” section of you’ll find the official scoop, but here’s my personal back-story:

About three-and-a-half years ago (while I happened to be visiting Beth in Philly, coincidentally) four of my girlfriends in Nashville and I were dreaming up a little show via email communication. I had been talking (yet not doing anything) about putting together a cabaret-of-sorts for years, but a desire to do everything “right” (or fear of doing something “wrong”) held me back. That need/fear has paralyzed me into inaction more than I care to admit in my life, but around that time, something in me finally clicked. I just didn’t care about doing something “right” anymore. I felt that the only way I could fail was by not trying. I don’t know if it was a shitty breakup that I had gone through the year before, the confidence (and cash) I had gotten from recently being awarded a grant as a theatre artist, or the fact that I was going to be leaving town for a long-term job in the near future (or a combination of all of those things), but I was ready to stop talking and start DOING. So I reached out to some awesomely talented girlfriends whom I thought might share my enthusiasm, and we hatched a plan.

We called ourselves “MAS”–an acronym for “Mutual Admiration Society”…which also happened to sound like “más,” the Spanish translation of “more”–and we loved that. More! There’s always room for more, so why not throw something out there! It was to be a cabaret-type-thingy that we hoped we could rope 10-20 of our friends into watching–maybe on a Wednesday night at a coffee shop. Perhaps we could get some feedback from our pals. We could do some fun group numbers, solos and string it together with witty banter. We would have fun building a show together, and then we would high-five each other and take that knowledge into whatever ventures we tried out next.

But that’s not exactly how it played out. Something kind of magical happened. The stars aligned. Or maybe it was shot glasses that aligned–not stars. I don’t remember. Anyway – instead of 10 people showing up, there were over 100. This group of five over-achieving women put on a show that sold out, got rave reviews and turned into something we still do on a regular basis (as our crazy-busy schedules allow) over three years later. Which leads us to this Kickstarter.

MAS is aiming to make an album of our “greatest hits,” as well as get ourselves “official” by creating a company. We also want to get a leg up on our upcoming holiday show, so we decided to ask for help and see if there were people out there who would be interested in backing us. Every time we do a show, people ask, “Do you have a CD?!?,” so we thought we’d give them a chance to get in on the ground floor and get that music as a reward.

Asking for help has never been my forte, but we’re all flabbergasted at the generosity and support we have received so far. We still have a ways to go though, so THANK YOU BETH, for helping us spread the word! We have a YouTube channel  if you’d like to check out some videos. Just keep in mind that at least a few hundred of the Firework views are Beth listening to it on repeat… 😉

It can be hard to follow your dreams, and it can be hard to ask for help, but we hope you’ll consider supporting five gals who are doing their best to raise the standard, demand more of themselves and each other, and create more cool stuff. MAS is all about working hard, laughing harder and inspiring others to follow their own hearts, so please join us and help us do MAS!

Thanks for reading!


MAS is comprised of these five essential pieces: Melodie Madden Adams, Megan Murphy Chambers, Cori Anne Laemmel, Laura Matula, and Erin Parker.   Links to everything MAS-related can be found at

Mas Nashville_performance


worksheet_REVAdelaide moved into the three-year-old room at the beginning of the month and that class is a pre-school class with actual homework. We’re only on week two, but it’s just a couple of worksheets that they’re given on Monday and they have until Friday to return them. Tim is home with Adelaide on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so that gives us plenty of time to finish the worksheets each week. In fact, last week it gave them something fun to do on one of her days away from school. However, this week, Tim forgot about the worksheets.

So tonight Tim had to work, and I was left to my own devices to fit in dinner and homework and the bedtime routine. We did the worksheets after dinner with the promise that we would watch the end of Frozen when she finished. It was just two worksheets. One tracing and writing the letter “B” and one tracing and writing the number “2,” and I totally lost my patience with her. I wasn’t the calm, understanding mother I always dreamed I would be. I was snippy. I was pushy.

Instead of drawing a line with two half circles, she started drawing these random circles on the page. “What’s that?” I asked frustrated.
“I’m making Mommy.”
“No, we’re not drawing Mommy, we’re writing Bs.”

She wasn’t listening and she wasn’t following directions, and now I feel I’ve ruined her experience with homework for the rest of her life.

I could see myself from this outside perspective, and I could see the damage I was doing. I mean, I wasn’t yelling or even saying anything unkind. I was just rushing her and getting easily frustrated. I wanted her to do it herself, but I guess I wanted her to do well to please her teacher and felt that her work would somehow be a reflection on me as a parent. I think if we hadn’t waited until the last minute, and I wasn’t feeling rushed for bedtime, I could have treated it more like a “for fun” project.

Instead, she was in tears and I finally started to snap out of it. She’s never been asked to draw a “2” before, she might not even know what a “curve” is. If her 2s don’t look like 2s, it’s okay. She’s only three! Finally, I gave up. I put the worksheets away in her folder. Maybe her dad can help her finish in the morning. Maybe not. We went upstairs and got dressed for bed. I changed the tone of my voice, talking about how worksheets are fun and how she did such a great job. I was nearly in tears myself by this point, mad at myself for the way I handled things.

Adelaide recovered quickly and we cuddled together on the couch to watch the last 10 minutes of Frozen. Although she’s seen it several times now, she squeezed my arm when it got to the scarey part and I knew I needed to write this story. To remind myself that she’s only three and we have many more frustrating days of homework ahead of us, and to forgive myself for not being perfect.

CityKids logoFor those of you in the Philadelphia area, South Philly’s CityKids Consignment Sale is tomorrow Saturday, September 13 from 10am-5pm and Sunday, September 14 from 10am-2pm. Many items will be 50% on Sunday, so come by early on Saturday to get all the really good stuff, and come back on Sunday to see what 50%-off steals you can find.

The non-consignor proceeds benefit the South Philly Parents Resource Center, so it all goes to a good cause. The SPPRC offers educational programming, new moms groups and other support to parents, and we recently received our 501(c)(3) paperwork. We are officially a non-profit organization! (And I’m Vice President!) This is only our second sale, but we are expecting over 6,500 quality, gently used toys, gear and clothes for your children, as well as some maternity clothes. The fall sale is appropriately dedicated to fall and winter clothes, Halloween costumes and other holiday items. Our spring sale is coming April, 2015.

The sale is free to enter and free to park! Thousands of name brands. Join us at Neumann Goretti High School on 11th St. between Moore and Morris.

SPPRC-kids-shirt_smAlso available for sale at this weekend’s CityKids Consignment Sale are the SPPRC fundraiser t-shirts designed by my talented husband Tim. The shirts come in three styles:

  • YO SOUTH PHILLY KID (toddler t-shirts – turquoise with black writing + onesies – black with silver writing)
  • YO SOUTH PHILLY MOM (dark gray with silver writing)
  • YO SOUTH PHILLY DAD (dark gray with silver writing)

The t-shirts will be on sale for $12 and the onesies are $15. We are running low on some sizes and will be making a new order soon. So, you may also sign up for a shirt you want and “pre-order” a sold-out size or size we didn’t order the first time around.

Check out Tim’s digital print designs on his etsy shop: Brothers Pannell

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end of summer 2014_watermarkSummer is coming to a close. Can you believe it? Back in early June, when I was in early pregnancy, I wished the summer away. I felt nauseated all day every day and looked forward to the second trimester of more energy and just all around feeling better. We don’t have central air conditioning, and I dreamed of the cooler fall days.

Fortunately, this summer hasn’t been extremely oppressive. That’s not to say we didn’t have our fair share of hot days. Still, thinking back to the awful heat waves of last summer, where we holed up in our bedroom in the cool of the window unit, this summer was no comparison.

I guess I got my wish because June, July and August have flown by. It was filled with a lot of family fun–a visit from my in-laws in early June, my parents visited for Adelaide’s birthday in late July, and my sister was here to help celebrate my birthday two weeks ago.

I’m now 21-weeks pregnant, over half-way through my pregnancy, and returning to the “real world” of 5-day work weeks and a “normal” schedule.

From a blogging perspective, I have several things I’d like to share here. I want to write about Adelaide’s 3rd birthday party, her first trip to Sesame Place, our new baby’s gender reveal (!), Adelaide’s potty training in one very long week back in April, and my feelings coping with this new pregnancy after two miscarriages. I want to write about my over-night birthday trip to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch staring Neil Patrick Harris, and our beautiful experience at Diner en Blanc Philadelphia. I want to write about my experiences at Blogger Bash–an amazing conference I attended in NYC in June where I learned about new toys coming out this fall, won an amazing Joovy double stroller and got to meet other blogging moms.

I don’t know that September will necessarily bring more writing time in my schedule (I’m scheduled to teach a Continuing Education creative non-fiction course starting at the end of the month), but it may bring more structure that will hopefully be more conducive to writing. Stay tuned!


Last year Maryam from the blog Hi and Hello surveyed daughter Margaux on a series of questions right around the time of her 2nd birthday. I thought it was cute and wanted to steal the idea for myself last year. But, at age 2, I knew Adelaide wouldn’t be able to answer most of the questions. I figured I would get blank stares, and it wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post. Fast-forward a year and I dug up the list of questions again. Adelaide is incredibly verbal now, so I knew she’d be able to do it. I thought it would be a fun thing to do each year at her birthday to see how her answers change over the years.

15 questions to ask kids on their birthday  |


Here are Adelaide’s Birthday Questions & Answers at age 3:

  1. What’s your favorite toy?  “Baby” (When I followed up with “which baby?” she replied, “Annie,” as in Raggedy Ann.)
  2. What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch? “At school?” she asked. “Sandwich–peanut jelly sandwich.” (When I prompted her to follow-up with her favorite thing to eat at home, she said, “For dinner? When I wake up? Banana.”)
  3. What’s your favorite TV show?  “Frozen” (She doesn’t really distinguish between tv and movies at this point, and she just got Frozen for her birthday and saw if for the first time this week.)
  4. Who’s your best friend?  “The reindeer” (meaning Sven, the reindeer from Frozen) When I prompted, “Whose your best friend in real life?” she said, “Sadie” (a friend from school).
  5. What’s your favorite thing to play outside?  “The slide. And the balls.”
  6. What’s your favorite thing at bedtime?  “The book. The doggie one.” (When I asked which doggie one she said, “Go Dogs Go.”)
  7. What’s your favorite food?  “At school, Mommy?” she asked. “Anywhere,” I said. “Orange.”
  8. What’s your favorite song?  “Twinkle Little Star”
  9. What’s your favorite movie?  “George” (meaning the Curious George tv show–see above about not differentiating between tv and movies)
  10. What’s your favorite color?  “Green” (holding up the green crayon that happened to be in her hand at the time)
  11. What’s your favorite fruit?  “Pineapple” (which if funny because up until about 2 weeks ago pineapple was about the only fruit she wouldn’t eat)
  12. What’s your favorite snack?  “Goldfish” (crackers, obviously)
  13. What’s your favorite drink?  “Nilk and water,” she said immediately. “And juice!” (I asked her what kind of juice and she said “fruit juice.” Then she added, “I like grape juice.”)
  14. What’s your favorite holiday?  “Princess”
  15. What do you want to be when you grow up?  “A singer”

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new baby announcement  |  nextlifechapter.comIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or have seen me recently) you’ve already heard the news, but our family is very excited to announce we are expecting a baby in early January, 2015. Adelaide is especially enthusiastic to be a big sister. I don’t think she quite understands how long it is until “after Christmas,” but she knows that baby still has a lot of growing to do inside Mommy’s belly.

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Today is my baby girl’s last day of being two years old. She will never be two years old again and this makes me a little sad. I’m excited for her to be three and all that being a three-year-old brings, but it’s been such a fun age. Adelaide’s language and personality really exploded this year. This girl is a talker! From the moment she wakes up in the morning she is all-go Chatty McChatterson. She loves to put on shows, or put a blanket over head and play “wedding” or “princess” or “superman.” She likes singing the ABCs song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. She makes up her own songs, too.

She likes to take food orders and go pretend grocery shopping (real grocery shopping isn’t quite as fun, but she’s pretty good at that too, as long as we bring a box of raisins or some other snack). She knows her colors and most of her letters and can count to 15 pretty consistently. Sometimes she can count higher, but the numbers start to get mixed up and repeated (eleventeen is my favorite).

She loves the water and although we don’t get to the beach or the pool very often, she takes advantage whenever she can get the chance. Spraypark is definitely part of her vocabulary.

She often gets phone calls (using our remote controls) from Shrek or Princess Ona (Fiona), or from Mom, Dad or her grandparents. Her favorite shows are Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger and Curious George. Dad sometimes lets her watch Adventure Time although much of it is (thankfully) above her head. She loves books and having us read to her. She likes dancing and twirling and playing catch.

Coloring and drawing in her notepad are other favorite pastimes. She’s recently started drawing people with real faces, complete with two eyes, a nose, mouth, even eyebrows! She is very nurturing and often rocks her baby dolls, Grover etc… in her arms, puts them to bed, plays doctor and gives them medicine and shushes them when they’re crying.

Three years ago at this time I was about to go to bed, having no idea this was “the night.” (You can read Adelaide’s birth story here.) She’s the one who made me a mama, and she’s made me smile each and every day since. I love you, my sweet girl. Happy Birthday!

1st birthday |

First birthday party smash cake.

2nd birthday |

Second birthday party at the spray park.

3rd birthday |

Yesterday’s third birthday party at the spray park.

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