Angela Amman

Invisalign Straight Talk on Straight Teeth

– Posted in: Sponsored Posts

Invisalign No matter how much she “wiggles” her bottom teeth, Abbey’s baby teeth are still firmly in place. Always interested in things that I think should be years away, she asked about braces the other day. I answered yes, I’d had them when I was younger, and no, she didn’t need to visit an orthodontist yet.

I guess I deserved the indignant sigh I received when I told her she was too young to worry about straightening her teeth, because Invisalign set me straight — get it? straight? — on that issue.

Myth — I don’t need to take my children to see an orthodontist until they’re teenagers.

Setting it Straight: The American Association of Orthodontics recommends taking children for their first orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. The American Dental Association says this is because, “Your child’s dentist can spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present.”

Seven? That means we’re going to have to think about scheduling a consult much earlier than I anticipated. Though I know things have changed since I wore braces eighty-million years ago, I have to admit the idea of using something like Invisalign instead of traditional braces is really appealing.

While I love the results of those long-ago, brace-wearing days, I cringe at some of the memories of those days, like my cheeks snagging the metal brackets or the torture of attempting to thread floss between the wires.

Invisalign

Invisalign Teen wants to make it easier for teens — and pre-teens — to have a straighter smile.

Invisalign Teen clear aligners are removable and can straighten teeth without a mouth full of metal and all the disruption and sacrifice that comes with it.  With Invisalign, teens look better and feel more confident than they ever could in traditional braces.  Take the Invisalign Smile Assessment to find out if Invisalign is right for you or your child.

Since we haven’t even had to determine tooth fairy rates yet, it’s hard to believe straightening teeth is even on the horizon. Thanks to Invisalign, I’m happy to know there are alternatives to traditional braces — and since I’m a planner, I like that they’ve put together this Straight Talk: Smart Path to Straight Teeth infographic about the timeline for pre-teen and teen orthodontic work. I wonder if we can get a discount on a mini-Invisalign for Dolly?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Invisalign. All opinions are my own.

Have you done an orthodontic consultation for your kids yet?

Check out Invisalign on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to enter for a chance to win a Free Invisalign Treatment (sweepstakes ends on October 1, 2014.)

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Rare Bird – A review

– Posted in: Book Reviews, Book Tours

Rare Bird

The countdown to school is ticking loudly. Months have dwindled to weeks, and now days are becoming hours. Soon, the house will be quieter, at least for several hours a week.

They’ve become little puppies lately: running, yelling, tumbling together in piggyback-ride-dance-move-cartwheels that inevitably turn to squabbling and elbow throwing and tears. I attempt separation, but they’re gravitationally connected right now. Within minutes, they’re giggling and fighting and laughing and tumbling again.

With their energy — their togetherness — filling our rooms, it seems fitting that the passages about the sibling relationship between Jack and Margaret in Rare Bird bubble at the surface when I think about this portrait of grief and hope.

Rare Bird by Anna Whitson-Donaldson is a story no mother should have to tell — that of the loss of her son, Jack, to a flooded creek that rose from a trickle to a dangerous hazard in a horrifying afternoon.

Jack was twelve and a brother, a friend, an actor, a LEGO lover, and through reading Anna’s blog and Rare Bird, I feel like I know him a little bit. When Anna describes how Jack chose to share a room with his best-friend-younger-sister while on vacation, I can’t help but think of my own children, who often fall asleep head-to-toe in Abbey’s top bunk.

I won’t pretend I didn’t sob when I read this line:

“I wonder, is Margaret still a sister if her brother is gone?”

- Anna Whitson-Donaldson, Rare Bird

My heart broke when I read Rare Bird, though I knew Anna’s story, and it broke when I read through my underlined passages and dog-eared pages, and it will break again when I revisit this beautiful journey of hope through pain. And I will revisit it. Through her anguish, Anna threads love, faith, and the promise that there is a way to live a life after an unthinkable loss.

Jack lives through Anna’s words and through Anna’s faith, a part of Anna she questions and affirms in countless ways as she moves around the grief spiral. As someone who struggles — who is struggling — with faith and religion and spirituality, I wasn’t sure I would be able to relate to that part of Rare Bird, though I know Anna’s faith is an integral part of who she is.

I needn’t have worried. Faith and God are a part of Anna, and they are a part of her story and of Rare Bird, but she’s not dictating how others should grieve — or live.

Her story is found in Bible verses, yes, but it’s also in blue jays and boxes of LEGO sets, a dedication in a school play program and two Thomas the Train engines. Her story is found in a mother-daughter trip to Target — Jack’s mother and Jack’s sister finding a little bit of grace and hope in a discovered gift card.

Anna’s words will help those who are grieving, I’m sure, but they’ll also help those who love people in the midst of grief. She shatters the worry that grief should be solitary; I have a passage highlighted with, “Be this for people,” in the margins. Anna’s prose is lovely and real; she doesn’t shrink from the pain of Jack’s loss, but there’s a sense of comfort in the way she weaves her story, her family’s story, together.

No mother should have had to write Rare Bird, but I can unequivocally suggest that everyone I know read this poignant, unforgettable book.

Please consider pre-ordering Rare Bird or making a note to purchase it when it’s available next month.

The Super Run makes running fun

– Posted in: Fitness, Sponsored Posts

The Super RunHot and sticky from lake water and lingering sunshine, we sat in the shade of concession stand umbrellas before tackling the climbing of the Warren Dunes. The kids were determined to run all the way up — for about eleven yards, where they realized steepness and sand aren’t as easily tackled as they’d anticipated. By the time we reached the top, clouds covered the setting sun, bathing everything in a gauzy light. We ran down, the sand already cooling on our feet, and I forget about the effort it took to climb to meet the weather-worn trees.

The next morning I attempted a long run, and my legs remembered every step of the previous evening.

The Super Run

I ran a short run, instead. The easy rhythm of a successful run never made it from my mind to my feet that morning, and it was a reminder that not every run will go according to plan. Even with a training schedule, some runs need to be cut short, some are lengthened because of a running partner or gorgeous new route, and some are just for a fun morning with your friends.

The Super Run

The Super Run in Ann Arbor is one of those fun runs.

On September 6, at 8:30 a.m., The Super Run is going to take over Gallup Park in Ann Arbor for a 5K — and 1K for younger participants!

The Super Run is all about combining a fun activity with doing good in the community. Each Super Run benefits a local charity and encourages runners, walkers, and families to enjoy a 5K in a supportive, exciting environment. The Super Run Ann Arbor will benefit Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.

A social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), LSSM is not just for Lutherans. The church has been meeting people’s needs since the early 1900s when a Lutheran “city missionary” arrived in Detroit to provide services to the poor. From the very beginning, Lutheran Social Services has reached out to individuals regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or national origin.

In order to really amp up the ambiance of The Super Run, all registration fees include a superhero cape, awareness bracelet, and temporary tattoo. I love the idea behind The Super Run so much that my die-hard Spartan heart isn’t even shuddering — too much — at the yellow and blue capes that will be filling the streets of the home of the University of Michigan.

If you’re interested in running The Super Run, you can use the code SRBLOG2 for $1 off registration. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Do you have any races planned for this fall?

Disclosure: I was offered a 5K registration fee in exchange for this post. I haven’t decided if I’ll use it, due to scheduling, but I love sharing information about fun, family-friendly running events. All opinions are my own.

Talking about My Other Ex

– Posted in: Writing & Blogging

After a much-needed dinner out with two of my dearest girlfriends, I felt profoundly grateful for all of the friends with whom I’ve had a chance to touch base this summer. Circumstances, life, and the sheer madness of time can keep us from the people we really love, and sometimes taking a few hours to connect with friends is a tangible reminder of the rejuvenating power of friendship — and of the impact a lost friendship can have, even years later.

women and friendships

I’m telling the story of a lost friendship in My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, alongside more than thirty other women. There are stories of young friendships and the friendships that grew later in life. We’re telling stories of friendships lost and friendships repaired.

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends is available for pre-order on Amazon now. Click over to pre-order, add the book to your “to-read” shelf on Goodreads, or just give me a high-five when the book is released on September 15.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home – A review

– Posted in: Book Reviews

fiction book recommendations
I finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home at my kitchen table, pizza cooking in the oven and my kids working together to craft “Pony Land” out of LEGO pieces. They worked with the oversized duple blocks instead of the tiny pieces I step on at least once a day. I’d like to think it’s because she knows they’re easier for him to maneuver, but I’m fairly certain it’s because towering structures arise more quickly from their thicker foundation. As usual, her words pieced together the story of the ponies tucked into the pony apartments, and he filled in minute details when allowed.

Their closeness is similar to the childhood relationships of the siblings in Tell the Wolves I’m Home, a comparison that became a contrast as the story built. Two sibling relationships are integral cogs — though not necessarily the main focus — in Carol Rifka Brunt’s first novel, siblings whose intensely close childhood relationships are splintered by time and misplaced blame for the directions in which their lives diverged.

At fourteen, June’s relationship with her sixteen year old sister has crumbled from the days when they waited at the bus stop as the Elbus girls, sisters who weren’t even distinguished by their individual names. Her closest friend is her uncle Finn, a quirky, cultured artist whose lavender and orange-scented apartment and city adventures are an enclave in which June can finally feel special, away from her talented, acerbic sister and overworked parents.

From the howling of wolves, to the growing largeness of Toby’s eyes, to June’s costume-like wardrobe of an ill-fitting Gunne Sax dress and medieval boots, Brunt’s prose sets a hazy, fairy tale scene.

As is par for the course in many fairy tales, she relegates the parents of her main character to the sidelines, this time in the quintessential 80s job of tax accountants during tax season. June and her sister, Greta, are orphans in only the most convenient of ways, in order to let the plot unfold with little parental interference, though their mother’s background and motivation plays a pivotal role in June’s discovering the chasm between her perception of her relationship her beloved uncle and the reality he lived when June closed the door to his Manhattan apartment and retreated to Westchester.

Finn’s portrait of June and Greta becomes one of the only ways the family communicates after Finn’s death, when June’s secret, unlikely friendship threatens to unravel her relationship with her family even further. Changes to the painting threaten its value, while Finn’s deliberate use of negative space may reveal more to June about her own motivation and her heart than she’s ready to admit.

As Tell the Wolves I’m Home unfolds, readers will fall in love with the achingly flawed characters who are all searching for the type of connections and relationships that will make their existences seem a little more meaningful. Set in the 1980s, in the days when AIDS might be transferred through a kiss and AZT was a collection of letters only heard on TV, Brunt addresses the complicated landscape of first loves, exceptional talent, blind promises and how all of those things intersect with the ordinary landscape of most of our lives.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is the type of book I will tuck into my heart for a long time. I hope to one day share it with Abbey and Dylan, as both a cautionary tale about the ripple effect of family secrets and a testament to the possibility of healing, even when it seems all is lost.

What’s the last book you’ve read that reminds you of your own family?

Glycerin

– Posted in: challenges
glycerin

attempting a giant bubble at The Magic House in St. Louis

Thunder rumbles in the background, though we’re bathed in sunlight. I vaguely consider moving my chair into the shade, my freckled skin never comfortable in direct sunshine, no matter how much I crave the heat.

I can hear him playing only five feet from me, shadowed behind the screened door. Pirates are coming to life under his busy hands and fertile imagination. I cherish his ability to settle onto the playroom carpet and visit a world of his own making.

She dips a wand into bubble solution again and again, an arm looping orbs into the air in collections of fives and tens. She asks questions, always questions, and perhaps she listens to me talk about glycerin making the bubbles stronger. Perhaps she simply waits for the space to ask another question, letting her thoughts drift off on the magic of bubbles shimmering in the sun.

Soon, she drifts, too. She searches for a frog beneath the trees, the ground wet with yesterday’s rain and the air thick with the promise of more. Unrewarded for her search, she wanders into the house to investigate her brother’s game. Leaves whisper together in the wind, and some version of guilt pushes the weight of the impending rain into my skin.

Our old neighborhood was overrun by the storms yesterday. Friends’ belongings floated on intruding water in basements until it seeped back into the ground, waiting for bleach and wet-vacs and insurance claims.

Our home is dry, escaping this round of rain, and I feel awful for dreading the next load of laundry. I know only a year separates me from needing to scrap waterlogged memories damaged beyond repair.

Years ago, I watched a Christmas episode of My So-Called Life, wondering a little why a show I’d claimed as mine would devote such an important hour of my life to the perspective of a mother.   Yet its moments are etched into my soul: the echoing church, the mother’s stunning realization, the whispered “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I feel those moments all these years later, the tenuous threads between parents and their children and the steps we take toward and away from each other, away from ourselves, away from our beliefs.

Our home was safe from the rain this week, but it might not always be so.

Clouds snuff out the sunlight, and I can hear the wind rise through the windows. Soon errands will need to be completed and laundry folded and Little Pony houses built from LEGOs and mental blueprints I don’t have the power to see.

I will try to do those things with a smile, hoping my hugs and my words are the glycerin that will keep their bubbles strong in the face of rain.

Have you experienced any close calls lately?

Marriage, Grease, and stalled conversations

– Posted in: Guest Posts

marriage advice

I’m in Canada today.

Not literally, but my words are spending time there, courtesy of my friend Laura and her “Writing Vows” series on marriage. Please come by and read about one of the ways Ryan and I keep our marriage strong, even when we’re running in seven hundred different directions.

I even reference Grease, the live musical version of one of my favorite movies of all time.

“Keep talking, whoa, keep talking” is on Mommy Miracles.

Vanity, thy name is Blonde

– Posted in: challenges

Raising a daughterHer hair gleams in the light, sun pulling strands of lighter honey through the darkening curtain framing her face. Photos show paler hair framing her face, but through every shade darkening year, I think of how perfectly it suits her.

On days she doesn’t insist on brushing it herself, I’m able to unsnarl and shine it and let its thickness weigh against my hands.

When she started asking about my own darker roots and the unhighlighted portions at the nape of my neck, I considered abandoning my chosen hair color. I’ve coaxed it back to its original blond with highlights for almost twenty years, a little unsure of what darkness hid beneath the regular retouches.

With one last dose of color to ease the transition, I began weaning myself from my foil-coated hair addiction. With ombre hair still limping along as a viable fashion option, I talked myself out of feeling self conscious about the variated shades of color meandering down my head. Genetics saved me from gray.

Freedom from foil made my head feel lighter for a while. I wasn’t monitoring my roots in the mirror and calculating appointment dates to fall comfortably into the window between too-soon-to-be-budget-friendly and late-enough-to-ruin-photos. I bought shampoo that promised volume instead of worrying about protecting color.

I reveled in extricating myself from the cycle of highlights I’d perpetuated for years, from the  stale jokes about blondes, from my inner debate between ashy and warm tones.

And I began avoid my reflection in the mirror.

I didn’t feel like me anymore.

Hair is one of those things I always promised myself I wouldn’t fight about with my kids.

If they want to grow it, fabulous. Cut it? Cool. Dunk it into Kool-Aid or spray it with glitter or maybe even shave it into mohawks? Fine and fine and fine.

I told myself I would save my parental heel-digging for other issues, like facial piercings before job interviews and why they should always feel safe calling me if their ride is drunk — even if they are their own ride and they are terrified of the consequences.

I wanted to debate the complicated balance between not throwing around wanton sexual experiences too young with not rushing headfirst into marriage in some notion of saving oneself for an institution — not the appropriateness of something that will generally grow back.

In trying to remove myself from the trappings of hair dye and beauty expectations, I’d forgotten my stance on hair.

It should be free of rules. It should be personal. It should make the person wearing it smile when looking in the mirror or smoothing out the snarls or wrapping it around hot rollers that promise entry into the club ruled by “the bigger the hair, the closer to God” mantra.

Hair should be fun.

So I shook off my notion that the only way to teach my sweet girl to love her hair color is to stick with the exact shade that grows out of my head. I made an appointment for highlights this week, and I told her that when she’s ready to pay for them, she is welcome to add purple and pink and yellow streaks in her own locks.

Do you color your hair? 

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls – A review

– Posted in: Book Reviews

Miss Mabel's School for Girls

 

Witches hold a strange sort of power in stories. I can remember playing The Wizard of Oz with my friends when we were kids, taking turns being Glinda, because she had the prettiest costume. Abbey’s Halloween costume this year was the Wicked Witch, but she was more interested in the oversized shoulder pads and giant emerald brooch than any of the witch’s actual misdeeds.

One of the interesting things about Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross is that this story’s “wicked” witch is stunningly attractive, her maliciousness buried inside a beautiful package. There’s a danger in writing about something so universally popular, like witches, because there’s a need to balance a sense of the familiar with an original story.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls has many of the things you’d expect from a story about a girls’ school for witches — spells, jealously, some clairvoyance and an uneasy threat of danger lingering in the very place that should be safest for the girls. There’s also a great deal that shows Cross’s foresight in world-building, with a governing body in place for the witches, grumblings of past revolts and talk of border disputes.

Cross does a really wonderful job with the pacing of the story. There are secrets lurking within Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, and the reader knows not all of them will be revealed this story, as it’s the first in a series of books. However, readers won’t be disappointed at the end of this book. Many of the questions that arise throughout the book are answered by the conclusion, though — of course — more are raised.

Cross’s characters truly come to life as the book progresses. Bianca Monroe, the main character, has been raised knowing she would eventually have to face the powerful witch who cursed her family long ago. Her tenacity and single-mindedness are nicely balanced by the more relaxed personality that comes through when she becomes friends with two of the girls in her class.

Leda and Camille are interesting characters in their own right — one knows exactly what she wants and has the ambition to get it, and the other is unsure where her talents lie. Camille’s uncertainty is a welcome addition to a young adult story, because that feeling of not being exactly sure what to pursue is so relatable. The trifecta of friends manage to balance each other very well in this first story, and readers will be interested to see how the friendship plays out in future books.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls brings an original voice to the story lore of witches, and readers who enjoy YA will especially want to start this series before Cross’s next book arrives.

Do you have a favorite witch series? (I love Harry Potter and the Mayfair Witches, as different as they may be!)

The Tipsy Lit Book Club is discussing Miss Mabel’s School for Girls Friday, July 31 at 8:30 p.m. EST. Like the book club page on Facebook and join us to chat!

The Interestings – A review

– Posted in: Book Reviews

The InterestingsFor a brief period in college, I obsessively looked at applications to be a counselor at a sleep away camp. After having a rollicking good time for two summers as a day camp counselor, I wanted to take the job up a notch. Deterred by bugs and logistics, I took a job at The Gap instead, and after reading The Interestings, I’m glad I did. Meg Wolitzer’s novel proves what I suspected back when I was a sophomore in college — summer camp can be transcendental for the campers, but counselors are just background players.

One summer in the 1970s, six friends bond over vodka and Tang cocktails in their summer camp teepee. Their lives and their paths are knit together that summer, and The Interestings follows along as they broach young adulthood and drift into middle age.

Jules Jacobson is born that summer. She previously lived as Julie Jacobson, a girl who might have been happy doing anything at all until she met her lifelong best friends Ash and Ethan and discovered she has an interest in comedic theater. Each of the six friends finds themselves in varying degrees of interest in artistic fields, from animation to dance. Of course, their levels of talent vary as well, and Wolitzer doesn’t gloss over the struggle between talent, ambition and practicality.

Not all of the six friends will end up doing what they dreamed of that first summer. In fact, not all of them will end up remaining friends at all, and the friendships that thrive also wade through the emotional waters of envy, jealousy and questions about whether people really change from their teenage selves — even if everything changes.

I adored The Interestings, and I could ramble about it for many, many words — anyone want to chat about it? Since I doubt anyone’s interested in a dissertation-length review, here are three specific reasons it settled into my “must purchase*” list.

I have a mild 80s obsession, and there was something compellingly voyeuristic in watching the friends navigate 1980s New York City as young adults.

Wolitzer’s ambitious scope, sweeping through the years and varying points of view of the characters, worked for me in a visceral way. I felt like I could understand each character’s motivations, even when I cringed at some of their actions and emotional reactions throughout their lives.

The observations about art, artistic expression, talent and economic advantage are fascinating. As a writer who always wanted to be a writer but who has taken several side steps along the way, the challenges of making a life out of something you love resonated in a way few stories do.

The Interestings layers storytelling, characters, social commentary and nostalgia in a way that makes me excited to read more of Meg Wolitzer’s books. My only regret is that it took me so long to find her work.

Do you think you’ve changed, fundamentally, since you were fifteen?

*Disclosure: I borrowed The Interestings from our library.

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