Is Your Family Ready for an Earthquake or Tsunami Level Emergency?

Creating a Emergency Preparedness KitGoing through Facebook and Twitter, one can’t help but notice the outpouring of support for the tsunami victims in Japan. A status message from my friend Orietta really struck me. She said, “Thinking its time to start practicing some earthquake drills at home with the kids and get them involved in making an emergency supply kit.” How many of us are prepared with a disaster supply kit at home or in the car? What goes in a disaster supply kit or emergency preparedness kit?

Think about committing a weekend to updating telephone numbers, buying emergency supplies and reviewing your emergency plan with everyone in your family. How can you get your kids involved?

Emergency Supply Kit:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Additional Resources

Have you created a disaster supply kit? How often do you review what’s in there? How often do you do earthquake drills with your kids? Let us know in the comments.

Image credit: telstar

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Mom + Entrepreneur = Momtrepreneur Networking

Photo credit: Cheryl Marquez

Being an entrepreneur can feel like a lonely road, this could be especially true for moms who are entrepreneurs. You might have a mix of friends who are stay at home moms or working moms but rarely will you find a group of friends who are entrepreneurs like yourself. Part of you can relate to the stay at home moms and trying to find time to get everything done in between carting the kids to all their activities, keeping the house in order, and being the personal assistant to everyone in the family because these are your challenges too. Being an entrepreneur correlates to business challenges, except you have to do everything yourself, learn how to do it, or find someone to do it for you because you can’t hand it off to the non-existent XYZ department.

I’m fortunate to have my parents, my sister, and her family who are taking care of my kids when I was in Seattle getting Hand Things Down off the ground. The last piece of the puzzle is having a group of entrepreneurs to bounce ideas against and to share resources. My co-founder and I graduated from Founder Institute where we collaborated and were accountable to a group of entrepreneurs a few times a week. What if you’re a work at home mom and you aren’t participating in a startup accelerator? How do you find people like yourself? The answer is to find a local entrepreneur’s group in your area via a website like

I found the Founding Moms Meetup Group in Bellevue, Washington and was impressed by the diversity of women and their backgrounds. Some women were at the idea stage, some had prototypes of their products, some were service providers, life coaches, authors, a radio personality, and a photographer turned children’s book creator. The thought of attending a networking event or mixer can be daunting but as a business owner, you have to push yourself beyond your limits or have someone push you. There is a part of me that is very shy and experiences anxiety when faced with a networking situation. In these situations, it’s best to pause as you enter the event, take a deep breathe, then look around to get your bearings., and review your goal for the event.

Examples of Networking Goals:

  • Talk to at least 3 people – To get the most out of an event, tell yourself, “I MUST talk to at least three people before I allow myself to camp out with the people I already know.” Once you start circulating you will flow from one person to another.
  • Find out two things about a person’s background. Ask interesting questions or questions that pertain to the event.
  • At a WordPress event ask what theme they are using and why they selected it or what is their favorite plug-in.
  • At a conference, ask people what they hoped to learn or who did they want to meet at the event. It’s always great when you can facilitate a connection for someone.
  • If you exchange business cards with someone, aim to email them within a day of the event with the information you promised to give them. Follow through is key to networking.

The Founding Moms group made me feel instantly at ease. When I walked in to order my tea before joining the group, I was met by Deborah Drake who introduced herself and let me know where the group was meeting. It was nice to be greeted by the host/organizer because the anxiousness of having to join a new group was removed. When I entered the room, she had already written my name on a nametag and handed it to me. We started the meeting with a round robin where everyone had an opportunity to introduce themselves, their backgrounds, and what they were working on. Some of the women in the group either chose to stay at home to raise their young kids, then as the kids got older; they decided to see if they could turn their passions into a business. Some of the women were laid off or were teachers who also decided it was time to start their own businesses. No matter which route, we all ended up in that room to help each other talk about how we could keep each other accountable for accomplishing the goals for the next 30 days.

Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  • How do you win the inner game of procrastination?
  • How do you find the time to get some of the work done when your meetings are usurped by sick kids or doctor’s appointments, which clearly are a priority?
  • What tools do you use to get more done?


  • Book:  Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen
  • iPhone apps:
    • Intuition – Mom’s personal assistant to do list for errands, family, groceries, work, school, etc.
    • Things – to do list that helps you get all your projects broken down into smaller tasks $9.99
    • Wunderlist – similar to Things but free and has a web version so you can sync between your computer and your iphone

Here are some of the women entrepreneurs and their businesses:

  • Deborah Drake – Mompreneur Facilitator – Writer/writing coach
  • Sheila Tan – Birthing Doula
  • Barbara Schmitz – Life Coach
  • Denise & Deanna Powell – Lullaby League Sitters – Like speed dating…except it’s for parents and babysitters.
  • Elysia – ZBS Childrens Clothing – 4-in-1 Adjustable length pants, shorts, and capris.
  • Akiyo Hernandez – Crystal Angels Jewelry – custom Crystal jewelry
  • Suzanne Strong – Seattle Photographer – co-creating a felt, photo children’s book
  • Sandy Smith – Facilitator/tutor of The Work of Byron Katie

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Kids Writing a YouTube Channel Story Board

Kids Writing a Sketch
Originally uploaded by sungazing

As a tech-addicted mom, I try to look at ways technology or gadgets can help bring people closer together. I never imagined the kids would find ways to use technology to create a richer, more imaginative way to play. I’m extra stoked that a by-product is that my daughters and my nephew are spending more time writing. Can you imagine how hard I would have to rack my brain to come up with a way to make writing fun?

Flip UltraHD Video Camera - Blue NEWEST MODEL
The Gift That Started It All
My nephew was super excited to get a a Flip video camera for his 12th birthday. The kids inform me it’s called a “Flipcam”. He was previously using the webcam on the computer to create “talkshows” on his first YouTube channel. My sister wasn’t aware he had a YouTube channel at first so she told him he needed to shut it down. I suggested that we lock down the YouTube channel so you can’t view it unless you have the password. Whew…my nephew’s directorial career has a chance to flourish.

Executive Producer in Charge (or maybe in the making)
The gift of the Flipcam opened a whole new world for the kids, now they aren’t limited by sitting in front of the computer to create their shows. My nine year old daughter emailed me the sketches she was writing for a couple episodes of my nephew’s YouTube channel. When I was 9 years old, I think I rode my bike, climbed trees, and had water fights with my friends in the neighborhood. I certainly wasn’t thinking about writing sketches for shows I plan to create with my friends. I don’t even think we were creative enough to come up with writing our own low-tech plays back in the day.

Proud Mama Moment
I can’t begin to express how impressed I am with my kids and nephew for their initiative and creativity in writing a story board for what they are planning to film for their YouTube channel. How do they even know they should write a sketch, create a story board, then write a script. Did I mention my niece who is taking a starring roll in the show can’t even READ what they are writing because she’s only three?

The Sketch
Here is my daughter’s email to my nephew with her suggestion for their first sketch. Besides a little spell-check, these are her words.

You should create a television station. But make it funny. Like, you could do commercials on random items like bring a nerf gun or a pen maybe even a pillow. Then have a news interruption reporting about something stupid like Maya winning a board game then put a close up on Maya winning hi ho cherry-o and you saying you just won nothing. Then you ask Maya random questions. Then make up an episode of your favorite show maybe the show punk’d, if my sister is happy we will do it on her. The news interruption will be outside and we will have papers and a table then Maya will be on the other side of the patio then we will do a close up.Or we can pretend we are in the woods (guest room at night or the weekend, doors closed, bring flash-light ) you, me & my sister are a family with blankets on the ground we’re camping then Maya roars. We think she is a bear and we are scared but then we forget we brought Maya to camp with us.

Do your kids have a YouTube channel? IF not, would you allow them to have one? Have they asked you for a Flip cam? Let me know in the comments, I would love to find out how other moms or dads are dealing with their kids desires to be the star of their own reality show.

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Tech Mom: Video Chat with the Kids When You’re on Business Travel

Video Chat

Video Chat with the Kids When You're Traveling for Work

Are you a working mom who has to travel frequently for work? Do you want to have a more meaningful exchange with your kids while you are in a different time zone? I’ve had an unusual relationship with my kids since work often takes me to another state for a couple months at a time. Using video conferencing or chatting helps to keep you close when you can’t be there in person. Here are a few video chat options you can use to keep in touch with your kids. I like video chating with them since I can see their expressions whenever they are telling me a story about their day.

Video Conferencing
Skype – Available as a free download for the computer and iphone.

Google Talk within Gmail – super easy to setup, just follow the link to install the plugin on your computer, it will usually detect your webcam.

Yahoo Video Chat
If you and your kids have Yahoo email accounts, you can setup your home computer with Yahoo instant messenger and configure it to use your webcam.

Facetime – included with iphone 4 and the latest ipod touches. If you have a Mac, just click on the link to install the beta to use Facetime for the Mac.

Photo credit:

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Undomestic Goddess: Cookies the Easy Bake Way

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

This undomestic goddess has been banned from the kitchen with the exception of providing taste test consultations. On Christmas Eve, I was relegated to the job of moving the cookies from the cookie sheet onto the cookie tray due to the mess I make whenever I undertake any kitchen related projects. It’s not that I’m incapable of baking, I just want to make everything from scratch and that usually results in flour everywhere and lots of dirty bowls, cookie sheets, spatulas, and whatever else. This is not ideal the day before a big family party.

My duty as a taste test consultant was shared with my 3 year old niece. She came up to me as I was removing the cookies from the cookie sheet and asked if she could help. I asked if she wanted to taste the cookies and she said yes, then took off after she had a cookie. My sister said, we share the same idea of “helping” and really the fun is in eating the cookies. I can’t wait for them to come out of the oven.

Following are the shortcuts my sister and daughter took to save time during a cookie baking marathon. For the undomestic goddess these shortcuts will make you look like Suzy Home Baker at your kids school or snack shack day.

Easy Cookie Lineup:

  • Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
    1. Follow the recipe for chocolate cookies on the brownie box.
    2. Take candy canes and put them in a sandwich bag, have your child take a small pot or rolling pin to smash the candy cane into pieces.
    3. Once the batter is mixed for the chocolate cookies, mix in the candy cane pieces.
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms

    Peanut Butter Blossoms

    1. Follow the baking directions for the Betty Crocker Cookie Mix Peanut Butter – 17.5 Oz
    2. While the cookies are baking, have the kids unwrap Hershey’s kisses, ideally one for each cookie. We usually have a case of naked cookies (see pic) when the kids and I eat too many of the Hershey’s kisses and when my sister wants some kisses for our guests.
    3. Once the peanut butter cookies come out of the oven and are sitting on the cooling rack (we just leave them on the cookie sheet to cool). Have the kids push the unwrapped Hershey’s kisses into the center of the peanut butter cookie.

That’s it! What shortcuts do you take in baking that still result in amazing desserts? Leave them in the comments, I would love to try your shortcuts in the kitchen.

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Light Up A New Christmas Tradition

Photo credit: Judy Hedding

Take a break from the holiday madness and create a new family tradition. When my family lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, we went to Christmas in the Park at Cesar Chavez Park in downtown San Jose to check out the Christmas trees, which were decorated, by local schools. They had an outdoor ice rink, rides for the little ones and of course, you can buy hot chocolate to warm up while strolling around the Christmas trees. As part of our holiday tradition, we would go to Vasona Park’s Fantasy of Lights in Los Gatos, it was about $15 per car and we would drive through a mile of Christmas lights decorated as Santa, the reindeer, and holiday ornaments. The younger the kids were, the more amazed they are by the lights and even as an adult, it reminds me of the magic of Christmas.

When we moved to Arizona, I thought, we needed to find a new holiday tradition. It’s easy to forget about making memories with the kids when you have a ton of cooking, Christmas shopping, and preparing to make your guests feel at home. This year, it seems part of the holiday pressure is finding something inexpensive to do with the family. Whether, you and your family check out a local Christmas light parade or if you just go around and find beautifully lit homes in your neighborhood, try this new tradition with your kids.

Here are our suggestions, tell us your favorite places to go see Christmas lights in the comments and we’ll add them to the list for next year.


Vasona Park Fantasy of Lights

When: The Fantasy of Lights runs from November 26 to December 31, 2010
Time: 6 – 10pm nightly.
Where: Vasona Lake County Park, 333 Blossom Hill Road (near University Avenue), Los Gatos, CA
How much:
$10 discount admission per vehicle through December 9th.
$15 from Dec 10th – Dec 31st.
For cars, minvans etc. holding 10-25 people, cost is $25 (no discounts) $50 for commercial busses.


Photo credit: Robert Tolar

Queen CreekLoop of Lights

Since this is a neighborhood, visitors have the option to walk or drive the loop.
When: Dec 1st through Dec 31st
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Waverly Subdivision @ Pecan Creek South
San Tan Valley, AZ 85140
How much: FREE or a $1.00 donation

Phoenix – Celebration of Lights

When: Every night, through Sunday, January 2, 2011.
Sunday, Monday through Thursday: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, Saturday and Holidays: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: At 99th Avenue and Loop 101 (at Thomas). This is a new location in 2010. Check the link for the map and directions to the event.

How much:
Passenger vehicles: $15 per vehicle
Buses: $1 per person, $15 minimum
If you plan to make more than three trips through this holiday season, you might want to inquire about a season pass.


Close up of NativityThis is a house I found while going on an evening jog on Beach SW Avenue at Alki Beach in West Seattle.

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Desperate Housewives Donate

Giving stuff away can be an emotional experience and sometimes overwhelming when it comes to parting with your kids’ precious things. In a recent Desperate Housewives episode, Lynette cried as she was folding Paige’s last onesie. She was crying because she was getting ready to donate Paige’s baby clothes to a friend who was pregnant. She was sad her youngest of five kids was no longer a baby and she wasn’t going to have a baby in the house anymore.

During our conversations with moms to find out what triggered them to hand down, sell, or swap clothes, toys, or furniture their kids were no longer using, we uncovered the main reason was simply running out of space. Some moms hold on to baby furniture because they haven’t ruled out having more children. This is especially difficult because handing down all the infant furniture, strollers, and clothes makes the decision not to have kids so final. From other moms we learned that giving away, donating, or selling baby furniture can actually be liberating.

Personally, I had gave away of my daughter’s baby things because we moved a bit when she was younger and I didn’t have space in our tiny duplex to store everything I wanted to keep. When I had my youngest 7 years later, I was able to buy new baby stuff and it felt like I was a first time mom again.

To make room in your home, here are a couple tips to preserve memories of when your child was a baby.

  • Turn your baby’s onesies or printed shirts into a quilt. Thanks @trulyuseful for the tip!
  • Create a digital keepsake of your toddler using digital scrapbooking software like RocketLife. This is software to make non-scrapbookers (like myself)  look like they can have scrapbooking talent.
    1. Download the software to your computer or use the website.
    2. Import your photos, no need to organize them.
    3. Select a theme.
    4. The software will create photo groupings based on their secret sauce to get a scrapbook in less than 10 minutes.
    5. You can order the scrapbook along with matching mugs or calendars to send out to grandparents.

You don’t need to be a desperate housewife to take these steps to make room for the next stage of your kids’ growth. Leave your tips trade kids things in the comments; we’ll update this post to include some of them.

Photo credit: goodrob13

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Book Swap for Insatiable Readers

Photo credit: libraryman

As much as I love my kids, I look forward to the time after they’ve gone to sleep so I can curl up with a good book and unwind. My reading tastes range from the Twilight series and John Grisham to the latest business bible and the occasional programming text. If your library does not reside on one of the e-readers pictured or you prefer the feel of physical books, then you are familiar with overflowing bookcases or stacks of books blocking the path to your favorite reading chair.  Be honest, how many times have you actually re-read a book that was not a bedtime story for the kids? The reality is they just gather dust and take up space after I am finished reading them.

As I have become more eco-conscious, I decided to see what I can do about trading the books in my library and saving money on my ever growing wish list. I was excited to find so many options to swap books with other bookworms for the cost of shipping. If your kids are budding bookworms, you can list their books too!

How it Works

  • List the books you want to give away to other members. Some book swap sites let you trade DVDs along with audio and textbooks.
  • When a member requests a book you listed, you are notified and you mail them the book. The only cost to you is postage.
  • You can also create wish lists of the titles you want to receive, saving you and your family money.

Membership is free. Some operate on points and you pay for shipping the book you requested, others make you pay to mail the book you listed. Try them out and pick the one that works for you. If you are already using a book swap site I have not mentioned, let me know in the comments.

Book Swap

  • Trade books and DVDs. Recipient pays $4.49 flat rate for each book received regardless of weight, eliminates all interactions between traders, great for anti-social souls.
  • Trade books and audio books, recipient pays for shipping.
  • Trade books including hard cover, audio, and textbooks using book credits. Pay for postage on the books you mail, free to receive books on your wish list.
  • Pay postage for the books you mail. Use your book points or give them away to charities like the Library Fund so a sick kid can get a free book delivered to their bed, I like that this site boosts personal karma.

Photo credit:

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Babies “R” Us & Toys “R” Us: 2 Days Left for the Great Trade-In

Stroller, crib, car seatIn the spirit of handing things down and saving money, Toy’s “R” Us and Babies “R” Us are wrapping up their trade-in event. Parents can bring in any used cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers, playards, toddler beds, or high chairs for a 25% savings on the purchase of any new baby items in those categories. The event ends on September 19.

Due to safety issues, it’s often difficult to hand down cribs or car seats because of recalls or damage. This is the perfect opportunity to clear out the garage and save money on future purchases.

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Join Hand Things Down

Sign up for the Hand Things Down NOW!Hand Things Down is creating an app to help parents trade the things their kids have outgrown for the things they need.

3 Ways to Get Involved

  1. LIKE us on Facebook
  2. Follow us on Twitter: @HandThingsDown
  3. To be notified when trading goes live, sign up

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