#BBNYC Blogger Bash 2015 and Me

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I have barely shared on this little place of the inter webs in MONTHS.  And I have to come clean with you.  

Oh how I've missed you!!!!

Tracy panase, winner of the big buddha award. lol love this lady!

Tracy panase, winner of the big buddha award. lol love this lady!

This year has been filled with a lot of changes. Good, Bad, and ugly I suppose.  Changes that really have taught me a lot about myself, life & what I really want to be when I grow up.  (We all think that about growing up, right?)  After 20 years of chasing a dream in radio, I was forced to SLOW DOWN and make Motherhood work for me when my oldest was born.  I had to come to terms with a lot of things.  One of them being that radio wasn't what it use to be.  And if I wanted to get back to it, I better be ready to work hard to keep myself up.  And I did.  I got hired to host Better Philly, did a couple stops in radio too with Real Mom Radio on Ben FM, afternoons at Now FM & even a fun weekend at WXTU.  But in the end, I knew that this little space on the web that I've carved out for myself was something special.  It was MINE.  And no one could take that away from me.  

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So I hustled.  And I HUSTLED HARD.  I did tons of video, lots of social, events, meetings, and even picked up some amazing jobs along the way.  One of them was with Toy Insider.  I've been working with Toy Insider since about 2010 when I won a contest they had that required us to pin our favorite toys on Pinterest.  Myself along with 4 other women were picked.  One of them was Charlene DeLoach, the woman who hopped on board to create Blogger Bash with me.  Toy Insider puts on an event that I have heard in this space that was the GOTTA GET AN INVITE to event called Sweet Suite.  It was the ultimate toy event.  The Biggest Night of Play, we affectionately call it.

In 2013, Charlene & I were the only advisors still on board with Toy Insider and Laurie Schacht, the founder of TI & The Big Toy Book asked Charlene and I if we wanted to help her produce Sweet Suite that year.  It was the year Hudson was born.  And I was doing NickMom and lots of other things.  But I had been putting on events for years, it couldn't be THAT hard, right?  '

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Well.... it was. For me at least.  But at that time, Charlene grabbed the bull by the horns and got it done until I was mentally able to hop in to help her in June, 4 months after Hudson was born. That year, as we were an outside event at Blogher in Chicago, we all decided we needed something different.  Blogging 101 was so 2012 & our peers needed MORE.  A place to REALLY mingle with brands & other bloggers. Past the swag swaps & random pitching.  We wanted to create something that is far more advanced than the new blogger.  But yet we also wanted to help craft and create those new bloggers in a way that helps them grow.  Bigger.  Better.  More advanced Bloggers.  And Blogger Bash was born.

When I got picked to be apart of the Parent Advisory Panel with Toy Insider, it was really a natural fit for me.  I have really loved getting to PLAY in the toy business.  I love my annual trip to Toy Fair in NYC in February.  I love seeing so many amazing people that I've met through this blog & my love of toys!  I have close PR friends now that I've met JUST from working with toys.  They send me products for tv segments, they give me ideas for my site, my life & even my family.  When I started working with Toy Insider - I was already connected with plenty of brands in the toy space so it was an obvious extension for me! 

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My son Boston was about 2 years old when I REALLY dug my heels into my site with the goal of seeing what can happen with it.  Needless to say, about a year of loving the toys - I needed more than just toys.  (And my house was crazy packed with toys.)  It was exciting & rewarding to know that I was able to contribute to my kids play time.  Eventually, Boston got too spoiled that I stopped giving him any of the toys unless it was a special occasion.  Sometimes something came in that I knew he'd love & we made toys a teachable moment. Every year we'd purge and 'donate toys to boys and girls who don't have any'.  This was such an amazing opportunity for me to use my platform for something bigger than myself.  Giving back.  And that I did!  We started working with Kisses for Kyle 2 years ago and I've loved every second of helping these families at the holidays battling childhood cancers.  

I'd share those toys with you here.  From written reviews to video reviews, gift guides & more.  All born out of my LOVE of finding new products.  I even did it to support women entrepreneurs.  It was a really fun way for me to bond with my son, get through postpartum depression, and keep my mind activated with something creative.  I loved it.  It's been an amazing parlay in my life that has brought me & my family so much joy.  

erin bender, travel blogger pro

erin bender, travel blogger pro

But now that Boston is going into 2nd grade & my 2 1/2 year old, Hudson grows - I realized something that I wish I would have realized a long time ago.  I don't have to prove my worth to anyone.  I don't have to work if I really don't want to.  Yes, it is tight when I don't work...but my husband works hard enough for the both of us.  So why do I push myself to the utmost limits when the rewards were no where near the loss of sleep and sanity while doing it?  

And here we are.  The summer of 2015.   Two weeks after the 2nd Blogger Bash Event.  

amazing ambassadors with project gravitas

amazing ambassadors with project gravitas

Many people ask me about my experience with Blogger Bash and the number one thing I hear is 'I don't know how you do it all, Joey.'  But this year, I was asked to make a choice - either do Blogger Bash or all the other things I do.  I of course saw the opportunity to really change the digital space, and I of course chose Blogger Bash.  

I don't regret for one second that choice as it's given me great strength for other things.  It taught me a LOT.  In fact, Laurie taught me a lot.  She's a brilliant woman.  And as a woman in business, to meet and be around OTHER women who are killing it in the craft? A teachable moment for myself even.   Just.Plain.Awesome.  

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Laurie has her own toy story to tell that I love.  Her dad started the business years ago and after raising her girls she hopped into the seat and took over.  What a cool job, right?  She really is amazing & someone who I will forever be grateful to.  Laurie genuinely wants to help other women succeed.  She's got an amazing outlook on everything.  And between her, Charlene & I - we really covered every base.  Charlene-the organized, put together one.  Laurie, the business brilliance & ME.  Eh?  The PERSONALITY? hahaha.  Well, I know people. Sort of. HA!  Laurie brought me on to bring in top bloggers for Sweet Suite and in turn for BBNYC.  I did just that for the past two years but I'm ready to move on to other things.  The blogging landscape is rapidly changing.  The 'old school' talent is moving out of the space, closing up their blogs and moving onto other things.  Because of lots of reasons.  I honestly think the biggest is that having a blog isn't what it use to be.  But having a PRESENCE is.  Microblogging has taken over tradional blogging with facebook, instagram, twitter and now even periscope.  

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I've known that I was not going to return for a while now but I don't want to take away what amazing exposure this event has gotten.  (Ahem.  More images on Instagram than BLOGHER who just so happened to be at the same time as #BBNYC but in their 11th year?  Yeah.  That's a BIGGIE.  Plus all the amazing conversation about Blogger Bash that you can see online.

So, here I am.  Ready to share with my online friends - my retirement.  It's been a blast, but after 2 years where this conference seriously consumed me - I'm walking away gracefully.  It will be bitter sweet to watch it come to fruition in the future, but just like in show business - THE SHOW MUST GO ON.  

But the other part of me is THRILLED.  Honestly.  Laurie & Charlene are lovely.  VERY lovely.  But I miss my kids.  My BLOG.  My family.  My dog, husband & even my dirty house.  I have pushed all of these things aside for a couple years trying to get this conference up and going and I just don't want to do it anymore.  The rewards don't outweigh the amount of work that goes into something like that.  (Or the pay for that matter.)

Ok.  So, I have to now get moving cause I get to interview Meryl Streep & Rick Springfield now for the movie coming out called Ricki & the Flash!!  Have you heard about it?  How ironic.  The movie is a about a mom rockstar who follows her dreams after kids to be a musician, only to return when one of them get married.  The reviews, interviews & more coming soon!

This is where i spent the week after blogger bash.  my parents house where i grew up in illinois.  what life is all about. 

This is where i spent the week after blogger bash.  my parents house where i grew up in illinois.  what life is all about. 


joey fortman

Putting the TMI in Motherhood with #RealMomProblems from funny & fantastic to everything in between! Joey Fortman has been seen on Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends and more!

Calendula by Boiron Available at Target

Through this process of Blogger Bash, a conference that I am coproducing next week - I've gotten to meet some really amazing brands along the way.  One just so happens to be in my own town!  Boiron has been a staple in my life for years.  I remember being introduced to them when I was told to pick up Arnica Montana to help out with the aches and pains from a procedure I had to get done.  Then I knew this brand was totally legit!  TOTALLY awesome!

Boiron is of course a France based company but Newtown Square, PA is their US based office & I got the chance to check out their facility!  I got to actually go inside their pharmacy lab and really see how this product was made.  I have a great video I'm going to share with you later this summer in regards to that fun experience - but in the meantime - I got the chance to send some of my mom friends Calendula to try out!  And needless to say - THEY LOVED IT!  


TJ Maxx Kids Art Contest

Hudson is a LOVER of ice cream!  Thanks for the fun TJ Maxx!

Hudson is a LOVER of ice cream!  Thanks for the fun TJ Maxx!

One of my favorite stores of all time is having some fun with a Kids Art Contest!  TJ Maxx & the "Maxx Kids Art Contest" is going on now through July 7th and YOUR kid could win $250 savings bond & a chance to have their artwork on products sold at TJ Maxx benefiting Save the Children from TJ Maxx!

Here's what you do.  If your kid is 14 & under, go visit www.tjmaxx.com/artcontest.  Download the the contest info and get your kid coloring!  "What is your favorite thing in the whole world?" is the question.  I honestly think I've personally created a monster in my house because my son said ice cream!  lol Oh well. Guess you only live once right?  Then take your kids submission to your local TJ Maxx store and boom!  They could be a big winner with TJ Maxx and do some great things for other kids with Save the Children. 

I love that TJ Maxx does great things for kids through Save the Children and can't wait to see what your kids drew! 

Mine?  Well.. minus the fact that he's the cutest thing in the world - I had to help him a little bit as he tried to DRAW with his bowl of ice cream.  Great stuff, right? We have a bit of an ice cream obsession in our house but I have a feeling that is all my fault. HA. 

TJ Maxx has a great partnership with Save the Children.  I love watching all the fun things they do and can't wait to see YOUR artwork too!

Check out Brooke Burke!  Even she got her kids in on the action!


Happy Father's Day from Nattie and the WWE

Many of you know how much fun I've had in the past year since meeting the WWE at Blogger Bash during the KidzVuz event.  I've met Nattie from Total Divas a couple times now and love how down to Earth and real she is.  She is such an asset to that organization with the way she loves to be around kids & share her truth with her fans. 

In honor of dad's day - here is a guest post from THE Nattie herself!  

Meet Nattie's Daddy: Father's Day Edition

Most people know that I have followed in my dad’s footsteps professionally, carrying on the Hart family legacy in WWE. However, what people don’t know, is how much I’ve followed his example outside of the ring. It’s easy for people to think that because of my last name, I was handed my position as a WWE Diva.  The truth is, I struggled a lot to make it to the WWE.  I am grateful for those doors being slammed in my face. I kept going, following my heartbeat, my pulse, and what made me excited to wake up every morning, my love for wrestling. I didn't realize it at the time, but all of the tiny wars and setbacks would make me stronger than I could ever imagine. My dad reminded me that I would become more skilled learning how to "drive" on that winding road, than on that straight, "perfect" road. So I kept going. I persevered through years of being rejected, trying to make it to WWE. It is true, I am my father’s daughter. Our professions may be the same, but I’ve learned much more about life from my father than I could ever learn about wrestling. Growing up, my father instilled in me several key values that have made me the person I am today. Most importantly, hard work and determination pay off, family will always come first and having fun is more important than winning. After all, in the end, it's the fun stuff in life that we want to remember!

My father always had goals. Before he came to WWE, he was a world class shot-putter. He went to UCLA on a full scholarship. He played in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders. Then, he went on to become a multiple-time WWE Tag Team Champion.  My dad was always working toward something. He had this incredible discipline inside of him. When he put his mind to it, there was nothing he couldn't do. He showed me that if you never stop setting small goals, big dreams come true as long as you have enough determination and motivation to not give up. He taught me that just because someone tells you can’t do something or a door closes, doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. That's when you grab the towel and hit the ground running!  Each set back and each obstacle is a learning experience that provides the knowledge you need to achieve your goal on the next try. My dad showed me that it's ok to fall down,  because when you get back up, you'll be strong like an ANVIL.

I’m also incredibly grateful that my father showed me what unconditional love looks and feels like. He has lived through major triumphs and some difficult pitfalls. Through it all, he never forgot the importance of family. My father has always believed that family is EVERYTHING. Winning the Divas Championship was a wonderful feeling and getting to be in the ring during WrestleMania is indescribable. However, I came to the realization a long time ago, that for me, if I don’t build relationships with people that share in my joy and help carry me when I stumble, my accomplishments won’t mean anything. Every time my dad watches me wrestle & cheers me on, I feel like I'm the champion of the world. 

Finally, my father taught me the importance of having fun... F-U-N! My father is my biggest supporter, and he is always there to remind me to smile, pause and enjoy the moment. I can still hear his words ringing loudly before I walk out for every match: "Don't forget to look out at the crowd and connect with them. They believe in you the same way that I do."  Being a WWE Diva is hard work, there’s no doubt about that. There are long hours, lots of traveling and intense training. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I really love what I do. My father reminds me to this day how lucky I am that my passion is wrestling because I never have to work a day in my life." (Insert ANVIL laugh while pulling his goatee!) For that reason, I never gave up on my dream, and now I get to live it every day. My dad pushed me to keep going because he knew I loved this. He knew how much fun it was for me. My happiness made him happy. 

Recently, I moved to a new house. I hired movers, thinking I would just sit back and let them take care of everything. I hate moving! My cats hate moving. My goldfish hates moving (Ok, I don't have a goldfish, but you get it!).  Instead, my father insisted on coming to oversee the move. He took such pride in taking the reins and making sure everything went smoothly. What is normally an exhausting and stressful event turned out to be one of the best days I’ve ever had with my dad. I also schemed up a plan with my dad to break a plastic lion head my mom bought me at a garage sale. I secretly thought it was absolutely hideous. I didn't have the heart to tell her I did not want it hanging front and center in my living room. Who else could I turn to? Of course, I asked my dad for his assistance! I told him to pretend he tripped over the sprinkler outside and "accidentally" broke this horrendous plastic piece that was truly uglier than any garden gnome I've ever seen. Without fail, my dad happily body-slammed this plastic hunk of junk onto my driveway, risking my mom yelling at him if she had caught him. Imagine what the neighbors were thinking!?  My dad did it for me! Mission accomplished! He broke that plastic lion head and my mom's feelings were spared! Now that is LOVE.  During the move, we worked hard, we laughed, and when he couldn’t quite get the giant couch out the door by himself, I got the other end and we moved it together. 

My father has taught me about love, perseverance, reflection, and how to throw a great punch! I am so proud of my dad. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. I'm still working on growing my Anvil style goatee so I can be just like him :) 

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!  And Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there!

joey fortman

Putting the TMI in Motherhood with #RealMomProblems from funny & fantastic to everything in between! Joey Fortman has been seen on Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends and more!

BEACH and BOARDWALK Summer Survival #RealMomTravels

Summer!!  Ok, sort of.  It's JUNE so that's a start!
Again, one of my most favorite people of all time - Jennaphr Frederick and I commiserated the insanity known as NO SCHOOL!So what DO you do with your kids in the summer? 
Many moms need help planning theirs - so here are some GREAT BEACH finds to make that beach trip a little more enjoyable with little ones!  One Step Ahead is a biggie in our house.  I've known them for a couple years and LOVE sharing some of the fun products I find that they carry!  So in honor of the insanity known as SUMMER VACATION - without further ado:

BEST OF THE BEST:

COLLAPSE A PAIL SAND BUCKET:  Get ready to hit the beach this summer with this ingenious space saver!  No more juggling with your child’s bucket or cashing out for a new one on a trip.  This sturdy, flexible silicone sand pail collapses to just 2 inches high.  Let your child play away with this amazing bucket in sand, water….even snow.  This one is a must have for all beach goers.

SUNSMARTIES INFANT CABANA:   Beach + babies = nightmares of sunscreen and sand stuck all over baby?  Now you can erase those thoughts from your mind and enjoy beach and  baby with this adorable Infant Cabana.  The UPF 50+ cabana pops up in seconds allowing little ones a cool place to play, rest and even sleep!  They even offer a padded, water-resistant floor mat.  Roll-down privacy shades, storage pockets and ground stakes.

 

GELEEO COOLING STROLLER LINER:  Bring on the boardwalk!  Nothing WORSE than a hot baby in a stroller….well now we have an answer.  This stroller pad has an active gel technology that absorbs and dissipates baby’s body heat.  Can Mom get one too?   No need for refrigeration, just pop it in stroller and watch baby relax!   Fits all stroller makes and models. For all ages.

ONE STEP AHEAD SUN CARE KIT:  Last minute trip to the park or beach?  Well, you will be thrilled to know you have this amazing kit in your baby bag.  This take along clip-on pouch contains  5 SPF 30 sunscreens, 4 lip balms, 2 burn relief gels, 6 hand wipes, and 3 sting relief pads. All this in a weather-resistant pouch that can be reused for anything! Sunscreen is for ages 6 months and up.

SUN SMARTIES HAT AND HAIRBANDS HAT:  No more fighting baby to wear a sun hat!  This extremely lightweight sun hat offers the highest UV protection available while still being soft enough to love!  Its made of a peached microfiber that will delight baby’s head and keep Mom happy too.  UPF 50+, adjustable stay put chin strap and machine washable.

HEADBAND:  Stylish and sun-safe?  Now your little fashionista can be both!  Two ways to satisfy her need for style thin/thick to  hold back hair and keep scalp protected.  UPF 50+  :stretchy swimwear fabric that is machine washable.  One size fits all.

ANTI-TIP STROLLER BAG:  How many times have you placed your baby bag on your empty stroller ….just to have it tip completely over?  No more with these amazing stroller bags!  These saddlebags are side-mounted to your stroller making it MORE stable.  Each bag holds an amazing 6lbs, and can work as a shoulder bag.  They even fold into a self-pouch.  What more could your stroller want?

SANI-LITE UV HANDHELD SANITIZER:  Ready to hit the road, but afraid of exposing baby to GERMS!   No more need to use chemicals on every surface baby touches.  This handheld sterilizer uses ultraviolet waves to destroy 99.9% of germs, bacteria, allergens and viruses on hard surfaces.  It can disinfect a 12” area in 20 seconds!  Use this handy tool in home too!  One button operation and requires 4 AA batteries.  Fits easily into diaper bag.