Wednesday, September 30, 2009

100% REAL Boy! by Cara

My six year old is such a boy. A REAL boy! A play in the mud, climb a tree, dig a trench boy! Which is not to say that nice, quiet, sit and read boys AREN’T real boys. They are most certainly “real” boys too! But my boy is a BOY! A get down and dirty (thank you, Oxyclean Laundry spray!) boy! So it is of no surprise that my son came home yesterday with (and my “boy” husband bought for him) new pets: Hermit Crabs!!!
I realized my son was a “real” boy around age two. Up until then, I had bought my son “gender neutral” toys such as building blocks, shape sorters, farms and farm animals, a varity of animal theme books. But one day, we went to a playdate at a friend’s house. This friend of mine has two boys, one my son’s age and the other a couple year’s older. And scattered all around my friend’s playroom were trucks! And cars! And trains! All toys my son had never seen, let alone played with before!! At that moment, I knew that there most definitely is a gene in boys for preferred play with trucks, cars and trains! My son made a bee-line right to the biggest truck he saw and started pushing it all around, making vrooming sounds as he went! How did he know to do this? Where did he learn to play with the trucks and cars this way?! The only explanation I could rationally come up with was that it was in his genes!
My son was then obsessed with trucks, cars and trains! Every truck he saw while we drove, he would call out, “twuck!!” as if he had never seen one before! So the nice, “gender neutral” toys slowly were replaced with trucks and cars of every size. And along with that, another obsession emerged: Trains. Particularly “Thomas the Train”, trains! At one point we probably had close to 30 Thomas trains, and wooden tracks, bridges, tunnels, and every sort of accessory one could imagine for these trains! We even had just about every Thomas DVD ever produced! And every day, after I picked my son up from daycare and fed him, we had to put in a Thomas DVD and build a track system so that as many trains as we had at the time could all caravan behind Thomas! But alas, this extremely expensive train obsession came to an end by the time my son turned four. I refuse to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of wooden trains and tracks, so they are packed up and ready for a special friend, when her baby’s train gene emerges and he wants to play with trains!
Then, around the time my son turned five, we were digging in our garden to plant a flower, when my son spotted an earthworm! A big, fat, pink earthworm! No more than 5 minutes had gone by when, like the whirlwind my son is, he ran inside the house, got a plastic container, put dirt in the container, and in went the earthworm...named, “Wormy.” I knew right then I was doomed. My REAL boy was blossoming into now 100% REAL boy! And what does a mother of a REAL boy to do than to “adopt” a garden worm? Thankfully we were going on vacation ten days later and my son’s pre-K teacher agreed to “watch” Wormy while we were away. Even better, my son forgot about Wormy after we returned, so his teacher let it go free in the dirt outside without my son even aware.
From there my son spent months begging for a “pet” snake. I negotiated and bought him an earthworm hatchery kit. I tried to convince him that they were “small snakes.” But eventually we had to let them go free in the garden. Then we bought caterpillars and watched them hatch into butterflies! We kept them and fed them fresh fruit, but you could tell that they wanted to fly free, so we watched them go! Next my son became obsessed with lizards and geckos and wanted one of them as a pet! Both my husband (thankfully) and I vetoed both of those creatures.
Well, now we have new pets:“Hot Rod” and “Speedy” (neither of them moves much, but okay, they can think they are racers!). And although I adamantly put my foot down that I would NOT care for these creeping, crawling things, I know that their care will ultimately fall to my domain of care. Oh, and did I mention that we already have two dogs and two fish? And guess who takes care of those?? Hmm??

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ensuring That I'm Insured -- by Jamie

Almost immediately after my daughter was born, I made an appointment with a lawyer to draw up a will and legally name a guardian for Jayda, as assurance that she would be taken care of, upon my untimely death. I also rushed out to meet with a life insurance agent to make certain Jayda’s potential guardian would have plenty of money with which to take care of her. Then, I breathed a sigh of relief: I had done my duty as a responsible single mom.

Fast-forward to January 2009, when my long-time job as a children’s book buyer for a large retailer was unexpectedly eliminated. Fortunately, along with a nice severance package, my former employers also agreed to pay their usual share of my medical benefits coverage for an entire year. Again, I breathed a sigh of relief…albeit a temporary one. But recently, I realized there was another investment I’d neglected to make. Because I had the foresight to purchase a life insurance policy, if I die, Jayda will be fine, financially. But what if I don’t die…and I simply can’t work anymore? I’m a writer, but what if an accident renders me physically unable to write? Or coach? Or teach? Or do a myriad of things I’m exploring now as future careers. I lost my disability insurance along with my former job, and I now realize how crucial it is for me to have it…not just as insurance for myself, but for Jayda. Crucial…and very, very costly.

Disability insurance premiums get more expensive as you get older. I guess it’s a good thing I’m looking for coverage now, before I turn 40, but, on the other hand, it would have been even better to have secured a policy when I was only 35. And the more money I require to live on every month, should I become disabled, the more expensive the insurance becomes (and the maximum I’ve been approved for is far from generous…living on it would still be pretty difficult). In addition, the fewer loopholes and more extensive the coverage, the more costly it is. And, well, in short, the kind of disability insurance I need is very expensive: A high monthly payment for coverage I hope I’ll never realize a penny from. Ugh. Sometimes being responsible sucks.

As I look at my calendar, I can’t help but realize that January will be here before I know it…and my low-cost-to-me family health insurance coverage will be up. That means I’ll also have to find new medical and dental insurance policies for Jayda and myself. And my bank account will dwindle even more. How does anyone survive as a freelancer with all of these insurance costs? There must be lots of daredevils out there, living without them, and hoping for the best. But, as a single mom looking out for her priceless child, I find them non-negotiable: I need them all.

Yesterday, I got a free upgrade to a new, very high-tech Blackberry. As the salesman was filling out the forms and getting my signature, he asked me: “Do you want insurance?” I declined. It was nice for a change. I’ll take risks with my electronics, no matter how fancy they are—but never with my daughter.

Note: For those of you Long Islanders who missed my live TV appearance on “Something to Talk About,” it will be re-airing this week on the following channels:
Great Neck Cablevision 20 [15 GN/North Shore incorporated villages], Starting Tuesday, Sept. 29 airs for two weeks: Tuesday 8 PM, Friday 10 PM, and Monday 5:30 PM;
Verizon FIOS 37 [All of Nassau County]: Same dates/times as above;
Cablevision 20 [Different from the Cable 20 channel listed above] in the rest of Nassau & W. Suffolk [all of the "Cablevision WOODBURY System"]: Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 PM; Cablevision Digital IO 115 [all of the "Cablevision WOODBURY System"]: Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7:30 PM

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Life in the Fast Lane -- by Robin

For better or worse, I feel like I'm living life in the fast lane....literally.

Last week a friend told me about Mercury Retrograde because I felt like things just weren't going right in a wide variety of ways.

Well....this week, the universe continues to speak to me, and if I don't listen, I need to get my hearing checked.

I've had a cough for a couple of weeks now that is keeping me up at night. It's a dry cough, so I presumed it was allergies, post nasal drip or due to throat irritation from acid reflux. My dad has a gastro doctor he really likes, who I've spoken to on his behalf on the phone, so I decided to make an appointment to see him.

He had a lovely bedside manner, and I felt very comfortable sharing my health history and what brought me to him. After taking notes, he said let's take a chest x-ray. I haven't had one in a number of years, so I thought fine, and didn't expect anything.

I waited patiently for the results, and to my total shock, he told me I have pneumonia. I never had pneumonia before. How is that possible? Who knows!? But, it's here. I don't feel awful, and I always thought you would with pneumonia. He said not everyone is highly symptomatic.

So, I'm now on antibiotic and am so grateful that I didn't dismiss my cough. Goes to show you really need to know your own body.

Earlier this week, despite being ill, I was committed to attend a moms night out dinner for Motherhood Later in NY. It featured speaker Elaine Lerner on the subject of ADHD ( It was a very informative talk, and was enjoyable to spend time with mom peers, some of whom I met for the first time.

When the talk ended, I went to my Kia rent a car (You might recall that last week I was in a car accident, so my Camry is now in the be returned mid-next week.) and put my bags down on the hood while I said good-bye to a friend. We had to move our respective cars because we were blocking someone else. We chatted a bit more and then took off for home, and when I got home, I had my pocketbook, but my tote bag was nowhere to be found. I went crazy looking under the seats and all over, and drove frantically back to the restaurant, but no bag was turned in. I had my date book in there (which is my life), notes from the dinner talk, flyers, a CD, etc. Luckily my phone and camera were with me, so it could have been way worse. I recognize.

On my way back home, upset and without my trusty tote, I decided to drive very slowly on the main road and I head past papers flying all over the lane. I pull over into a safe side area, jump out, and dodging cars, I pick up one piece of paper and see that it's one of the Motherhood Later flyers from the meeting. I then look more closely and see my tote laying in the middle of the two way, four lane road, being run over by traffic. I scurry to grab it and look anxiously to see what is inside.

I lost the notes from the meeting, and my pens and card case were smashed, but other than that, the bag itself and other items were totally intact. (It was a lesportsac. Boy are those things made of steel. And, they've created a new line for moms.

I was in total disbelief that I even had this experience.

When I got home and looked back on last week, my tote bag incident, and now being under the weather, clearly it would seem that I need to get my act together in more ways than one.

What I came up with is this...

Slow down. Focus. Invite clarity into your life. Don't we wedded to "stuff." It's just stuff, and we are not defined by our "stuff".

Step back. Get off the spinning hamster wheel. It never stops unless you make it.

None of this is easy for me. I'm used to being a producer. And, being a mom has complicated that equation. I'm not entirely sure that we can have it all, though we/I try. It's for sure a juggling act and one that can wear you out. (I wrote last week about being worn out.) My to-do list is full of both big stuff and minutia, and it's a lot for anyone to handle. But, such is life, and it's not unique to me. I hear so many talk about being busy, busy.

Part of it is time management. For me, another part is de-cluttering. My house looks like a bomb hit it due to our basement construction. But, in the next month or so, we will be done with it, and can work on inviting positive energy back into our home and lives. We will purge and organize and create a system that ideally works for all of us.

A cluttered home leads to a cluttered brain leads to potential incidents such as the ones I've been having of late. At least that's my philosophy. I need to cut myself some slack. Take stock of what is truly important. Practice self-care. And, not feel guilty if I take a break. If not now, then when?!

A perpetually overtaxed mom isn't good for anyone.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Whose Homework is This Anyway? -- by Cara

I’m tired of my son’s elementary school. And he just started first grade. I’m still getting over being tired of it from last year, when my son was in Kindergarten. What am I so tired about? Homework. And not just the part of homework that my son has to complete, but the endless, detailed instructions that the PARENTS (read: Mothers) have to complete in order for their child to correctly complete their assignments.

Take, for instance the buldging workbook that came home yesterday along with three different assignments! Supposedly, from what I can gather after reading the instructions on one of the assignments a half dozen times, I am supposed to copy certain “sight words,” preferrably on colored paper, and hang them up all over my house, make “flash cards” of these “sight words,” and run around after my child, while he is home, holding up these cards or pointing to the words hung up in each room and “quiz” him on these particular words! I also have to glue a smaller set of these words in a “Word Wall Book” with the instructions,”Be CAREFUL! Don’t glue the pages together!” What? Am I now in first grade too?!

I don’t get it. I am more than happy to assist my son with writing words, helping him read simple books, and suggest illustrations to complement what he wrote. But all of this copying, taping, pasting...who realistically has time for this in today’s world? And I have just one child! What do parents do who have several children, all of who’s teachers are requesting what will probably amount to an hour’s worth of time copying, cutting, taping and pasting too?! And to top it all off, we were reprimanded! Although it was not stated anywhere in the detailed instructions that all of this had to be handed in the next day, we were sent home a note reminding us that we were supposed to return the pasted,“Word Wall Book” AND the three other lengthy assignments the next day! Tisk, tisk on us! We also didn’t get to hang up “sight words” or make flash cards either! Oh, for shame!!

Last year, at the beginning of school, the Kindergarten teacher asked us to buy a two pocket folder. The PARENTS were given 2 weeks to cover the entire folder, front and back with photos that our children would use in order to create “stories” which would be presented back to us at the end of the year. This little project took me, all totalled, two HOURS to complete! Since our home color copier was not working very well, I had to upload some 20 to 25 photos to an internet photo website where copies were printed and mailed back. I even had to upgrade the cost of shipping to Second Day Priority, so that I would have time to do the SECOND part of this exciting project! Once I received the photos, I then had to group similar photos together, then cut and paste them all over both sides of this “Creativity Folder!” I spent so much time on this thing I took photos of it! And guess what? My son did not use one photo grouping to write his “stories!” I personally spent two hours over two weeks preparing this rediculous folder only to find that my son didn’t want to write about the photos! He had his own creative agenda. Can you say, TOTAL waste of time, money and energy?!

So guess what I am NOT going to do this year? I am NOT going to make colored “site word” cards and place them all over my house. I am NOT going to be making any flash cards and chase my son around, asking him what each card says. And I am NOT playing “Memory Game” every single night to help foster “sight word” recognition, as my child’s teacher puts it, “in a snap!” No, I am not going to do any of that. Unless my son’s teacher would like to come to my home each evening and make my family’s dinner, do the dishes, get lunches ready, put in a load of laundry and also feed and walk my dogs. Well, then it is just not going to get done. Sorry, Ms. First Grade teacher. It is just NOT going to happen in this house!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Won't You Be My Baby? by Jamie Levine

Although I’m almost 40 years old, I will always be my mother’s “baby.” So, of course, I often look at my 28-month-old toddler, and still think of her as the helpless little infant she once was. But, as Jayda constantly reminds me, herself—when she pees in the potty or swings from monkey bars—“Jayda, big girl now!” In fact, she’s so ”grown up” that when she sees a smaller child in a stroller (a vehicle she, herself, shunned long before the age of two), she calls him or her “a baby”—even if she’s only mere months older. And the smaller the child, the more enamored she becomes, and the more she wants to help take care of the “baby.”

I know all the babies at Jayda’s day care by name—from the infants to the 18-month-olds—because Jayda insists on visiting them all in the morning before she goes to her classroom, and, again, in the afternoon, before we go home. When we visit my friend who has a daughter Jayda’s age, as well as an almost-one-year-old, Jayda generally shows more interest in the baby than in her contemporary. And, when we go to the playground, Jayda always stops her climbing and jumping and swinging as soon as she sees a stroller glide by. She’ll run over and peer inside, and refuse to do anything else but stand and watch the baby.

At home, it’s the same story; Jayda has an arsenal of toy babies whom she dotes on, night and day. There’s “little baby,” her very first doll, which I let her pick out from a shelf full of options at a toy store (and who happens to be African American), and “big baby,” a giggling, bottle-sucking doll that was a birthday present from a friend. There are also countless other dolls and stuffed animals whom she calls her babies, all of whom get fed and cuddled and dressed by Jayda with care.

Both friends, as well as strangers who have observed Jayda’s behavior, have joked that I “need to give Jayda a baby sister or brother.” And, I do believe Jayda would be a wonderful big sis. But I don’t have the desire—or the resources—to have another child. Being Jayda’s mom is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life…but I don’t feel the urge to do it again. No other child could be a more perfect match for me than Jayda. But, as someone who grew up with siblings, I sometimes wonder if Jayda is missing out on anything by being an only child. And when I ponder this, I try to find comfort in something a wise friend once told me: Just because a child has a sibling doesn’t mean he or she will be close to that sibling. I have two siblings…a sister whom I adore and a brother whom I dislike. Sure, I love my brother because he’s my family, but has having him as a sibling enhanced my life? Definitely not. Would I be ok without him? Absolutely. So, there are no guarantees that giving Jayda a baby brother or sister would also mean providing her with a lifelong friend.

Lifelong friends aren’t born…they’re made. And so, I try to surround Jayda with people who love her…people whom she can count on when she needs help and support. People who will do all the things for her a good sibling can do. And, of course, I also try to befriend people who have babies of their own: babies we can visit—but whom I don’t have to take care of, too.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Worn Out - by Robin

I am worn out today (Thursday).

It's that time of the month, and my 40-something hormones are whacked, so this was not expected.

Seth is being a total Dennis the Menace....or should I say vandal.

And, I got into a fender bender.

I was driving through town, as I do many days, enroute to TJ Maxx with a friend for a shopping jaunt. I was looking forward to a fun few hours. My week has been consumed with carpet installation, inspectors, and painters. The main street in my town is in a constant state of gridlock, and today was no different.

As I approached a corner, two cars were stopped waiting to turn. It was taking forever, so I endeavored to get around them. I inched out, and as quickly as I did that, an SUV came careening behind me. I didn't see it, and it crashed into the right front side of my car. Totally took off my headlight and the surrounding hardware and part of the front bumper.

I called the police, and an accident report was filed. The other driver took it in stride and basically said, "accidents happen." I, on the other hand, felt it was his fault, and was very rattled about it. I was grateful that no one was hurt, but it made me a bit nervous to drive (although we did still go to TJ). And, it's made me all the more aware of how we can't control others. I have always considered myself a safe, defensive driver, but still, accidents can happen. I just have to accept that. Now we'll have to deal with our insurance company.

Then, once I get home, I made a discovery in the living room. Seth had decided to play Bob the Builder (or something like that). He removed (and destroyed) the hinges to our living room armoire and dropped them in the garbage, along with the screws. I happened to stumble upon the armoire that looked funny and realized the hinges were missing. On top of that, he decided to draw on the armoire with a pen, and denying doing any of it. My husband had the lovely task of dumping out the kitchen garbage and rummaging through it. Amazingly, he found the hinges and screws, but is unable to put it back together.

Then, we discovered that Seth took Duco Cement and put it on the living room phone. What that was about, I have no clue.

Then, we discovered that he scrapped off some of the paint and spackle that was newly done in the hall and on his bedroom door.

I've never seen him go through such a totally destructive streak. It left me completely speechless.

We took away his wallet (with allowance in it), threw out one of his pet fire trucks, took away tv and dessert tonite and told him that we have lost trust in him in our home. And, that he now needs to work on gaining it back.

Just unreal.

I am worn out from it all.

This weekend is the Jewish Holiday, and I look forward to spending some quality time with family and friends.

I'd like to be able to put this week behind me and see Seth work on regaining our trust. I realize he's only six, but he's gotta make some concerted effort to make up for these actions.

Wishing all the Jewish families out there a very happy, and healthy!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Playdate Etiquette for Moms? by Cara Meyers

My son is a very social child. I love the fact that he is social. First because he makes a friend or two just about everywhere we go, which keeps him entertained. Second, because it forces me to come out of my shell and drum up casual conversation with other Moms, which sometimes even lead to friendships for both of us.

But what do you do when your son has found his “new best friend” and you know in your heart that you just don’t “click” with that child’s Mom. What type of “etiquette” is warranted in situations like this? And where and how do you draw the line so that your child can still have playdates with his friend, while minimizing contact with the Mom in question?

I must say, my son has many friends, and I honestly enjoy the company of his friend’s Moms while we supervise their playdate. But my son has a new friend he adores; a polite, kind, happy child who gets along with my son beautifully. His Mom, on the other hand, is quite another story. I have to admit that I cringe when she suggests we all go somewhere for an outing or a special playdate. It’s not that she isn’t a nice person, we just doesn’t “click.” We share different philosophies about parenting, she comes from a completely different ethnic culture, which I normally would relish learning more about, but she makes assumptions that her ethnic culture is somewhat superior to all others. She is rather close-minded and frequently dominates our conversations. I feel belittled and exhausted from trying to be diplomatic throughout listening to her dissertations. I wish Miss Manners had a suggestion for how to handle the etiquette of such a situation.

My first approach, since my son’s friend lives only blocks away, was to have his Mom drop my son’s friend off at our home for a few hours to play. So the house turned into a tornado. Better that than two hours of listening to unsolicited opinions I have no interest in. Even better is when this Mom reciprocates and invites my son over to her home! A couple hours of peace and I make sure that my son cleans up before he leaves her home.

Still, I get those calls,”The boys are off next week, how about taking them to the farm?” Or, “If you have some free time over the weekend, let’s go for lunch and then see a movie with the boys?” What makes this worse is that this Mom usually presents the idea to her son who relates it to my son before I even get the call. Then I look like “Mommy Meanest” to my child if I don’t relent. And relent I do. Because my son is so incredibly happy with his “best friend.”

I’ve even tried the rude cell phone approach: Call someone and have a lengthy conversation while our children are playing. Or texting my husband so that I only have to HALF pay attention to this Mom. Still, she drones on and on about nothingness. I swear, I want to go home and take a nap after these playdates!

So, what WOULD Miss Manners do under these types of circumstances? Well, I consulted the 17th Edition of “Etiquette,” written by Emily Post’s granddaughter, Peggy Post.
Here she says, “The lesson here is to kill ‘em with kindness. By keeping your cool, you’re teaching by example, such as a parent does for a child.” So, I guess what I am really doing is supervising a playdate of THREE children. And I have to teach all of them by my example of staying levelheaded and remaining calm yet kind. Is this what Miss Manners would REALLY do? What do you think? And how would YOU handle this type of situation?
NOTE: Cara is wearing an exclusive t-shirt design available for sale in the Shop on

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Kid Oughta Be in Pictures -- by Jamie Levine

I think my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world. Doesn’t every mother believe that of her child? But my adoring perception of Jayda has been validated time and time again by more objective people than myself. From her “gorgeous blue eyes” and “amazing curls” to her downright “Gerber baby” appeal, I’ve heard more compliments about my daughter than you can imagine.

Even when Jayda was just a few months old, she seemed to have a mesmerizing effect on people. Wherever we went, we were approached by strangers who were charmed by her smile, men who stopped in their tracks when Jayda batted her eyelashes at them, and, even other moms who would joke that my child “was going to be a real man-killer” when she grew up. I’ve actually had people on the street ask me if they could take Jayda’s picture, and was once stopped by a television producer who told me that Jayda would be great on camera because “she’s got the great looks…and the charm.” So, yeah, my daughter is beautiful. Really beautiful.

My father is one of my daughter’s biggest fans. When Jayda was only a few months old, he began his rantings that I “must get her into modeling.” And every compliment Jayda has received from someone in a store or a restaurant since then, has only fueled his fire. As a joke, for one of my father’s birthdays, I gave him a sweatshirt with Jayda’s picture on it and the caption: “Get this kid an agent!” He wears it constantly. But when he prods me to get head shots taken of Jayda or to find her an agent, I shrug my shoulders and suggest, “You do it. I don’t have the time – or the desire – to parade her through modeling agencies and on casting calls.” I’m also not so sure I want to place so much importance on Jayda’s appearance; my daughter is quite intelligent and funny as well, and I’d rather focus on those qualities. But my dad still dreams of seeing Jayda in a print ad. Or on TV.

This Tuesday (September 15th), I’ll be appearing on a local cable TV show called "Something to Talk About.” The segment is about SMCs (Single Mothers by Choice) and I’ll be appearing with another SMC, and speaking about our experiences. It’s a live show, with viewers calling in, and the host, who has seen pictures of Jayda, has asked me to bring her on the show with me. There’s just one problem: The segment starts filming at 8pm – which is Jayda’s bedtime. Generally, Jayda is well-behaved and charming when we’re out of the house and around other people (it’s just at home that she melts down and can turn into a real monster…lucky me!), but we’re never out of the house at 8pm. It’s made me wonder: What might Jayda be like at that hour in a studio? When she’s overtired, she’s quite manic and silly. Will she embarrass me? Make it difficult for me to focus on the topics which I’m on the show to discuss? Or, will she be my darling Jayda — and make me feel proud to have brought her on the air? I wish I knew.

My father, of course, has offered to drive me to the studio with Jayda – and to watch her while I prep for the show. My more reasonable mother has offered to give Jayda dinner and put her to bed while I drive myself to the studio and film my appearance alone. More than likely, I’ll do what’s best for my child – isn’t that what’s most important? But maybe, just maybe, I will give Jayda her 15 minutes of fame.

If you’re in the Long Island area, tune in to my appearance on “Something to Talk About” (Great Neck, NY Cable 20 & Verizon FIOS 37: Tues 8pm (live), Fri 10pm, Mon 5pm and Nassau/W. Suffolk NY Cable 20: Thurs 7:30pm). I’d love to know what you think.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cool Toys -- by Robin

I don't typically blog about toys, but I wanted to share two really cool experiences Seth has had.
We were offered the opportunity to test out both Zhu Zhu Pets and the Fisher-Price TRIO Building System, and Seth had a ball with each, as did his friends.

Since Seth is such a vehicle-driven kid, I embraced the idea of his playing with something other than a fire truck or ambulance.

To check out Zhu Zhu pets, visit (see photo above). Zhu Zhu Pets™ are fun, interactive hamsters that talk, move and even navigate their way around their own habitats.

Each hamster in a family of four has its own name and a unique personality. Chunk, Pipsqueak, Squiggles and NumNums will delight children of all ages with their cute squeaks, squeals and zany moves. You can watch the action as these adorable hamsters play, explore, run and slide. Chunk catches a wave on his own surfboard while Pipsqueak takes the car out for a spin and Squiggles races down a slide. A dozen add-on sets let your child create and explore a new Zhu Zhu Pets™ world every time they play!

Imagine a pet you don't have to clean up after. You can buy everything from toy cars to a ball for them to race around in.

Seth even took his hamster to our pool club to show him around.
To check out TRIO, visit If you have a child like Seth who loves building, TRIO is up their alley. Available for different age ranges, it's a portable buiding set that comes with bricks, sticks and panels, and instruction booklet that kids can easily follow themselves to buid a wide array of structures.
The Fisher-Price TRIO™ Building System is a must-have for kids who love to stack, build and create their own masterpieces! The easy-click bricks, sticks, and panels make building a "snap" for kids and moms will appreciate the storage bin that doubles as a building base.

Visit and you can save $5 off any TRIO set. The offer expires 10/1.

Note: Post a comment re: this blog post by 9/20, and be entered to win a TRIO Building System for your child. Winner to be chosen at random and notified via email. Please provide your email in your comment.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week of Firsts for Mother and Son -- by Robin

Seth's first day of first grade was this week.

He was both excited and mildly nervous. But, his nerves quickly turned to anxiousness in a positive way, as he readily hopped on the big school bus with the other kids. And, this time, because they're considered"big" kids, there is no bus attendant to make sure they're settled in their seats and don't leave behind any of their belongings. This is a big change.

It was a new experience for both of us. We had been spoiled. Up until this year, Seth's bus stopped at our doorstep, and we didn't know how good we had it. We would both roll out of bed and hustle to get ready, and no matter the weather, we waited inside the house most of the time until the bus pulled up, and I sent Seth outside.

Now, we have to wait at a bus stop with other parents and kids, and I'm not used to it. Before, to be honest, I'd often throw my winter coat over my nightgown or put on a nice house dress and kiss Seth good-bye. It's no longer like that. I need to put myself together, relatively speaking, since I'm out there in the company of others.

I'm discovering a whole new world of morning people. I used to be one of them. Ok....reluctantly.....but when I worked fulltime in NYC prior to motherhood, I got up early, commuted and even wore pantyhose (something I detest now). It was a daily routine, and I was used to it. I was also younger and had less responsibility.

These days, part of my challenge is that I often don't sleep soundly. Perhaps it's perimenopause? Or maybe the fact that my life feels so full (or overwhelming at times), that my mind is not at peace? Most like a combination.

All I know is that I typically wake up not feeling well-rested, and since I'm not a napper, I get through some days yearning for a good snooze (crossing my fingers that tonite will be a more restful night).

And, Seth is the energizer bunny. It will be interesting to see how he comes home as school becomes more demanding and then has to sit down and do homework. I'm told that in first grade a lot more is expected of them (and therefore the parents too).

Maybe I can learn to use the morning hours to my advantage? I heard that Michelle Obama rises at 5:30AM for her morning workout. But, then she also goes to bed early, and I fight doing that. I've always been a night person by nature. And, Seth too likes to stay up with me and watch a movie in bed. It's sweet.

School changes all that. He needs to get a good night sleep, even if I don't always.

I'll adjust. I have to. And, maybe I'll grow to appreciate the morning? There is a certain calmness about it that offers the promise of productivity and even renewed creativity. Your mind is clear before the day quickly takes over.

I've been looking at our local adult ed catalog to see if there is a morning class I might register for. It would be a new experience for me to be amongst people that early. To think there was a time in my life when I dealt with rush hour and was surrounded by office mates, feels like another lifetime ago. But, I am a people person, so I do miss the company you lack working from home.

I wonder how much conversation you can make while doing stomach crunches on an exercise ball? I am thinking that it might be fun to take a class that gets the blood pumping. I've never been a coffee drinker, so this could serve as my dose of caffeine, so to speak. It's just one idea.

Regardless, I am thrilled that so far Seth is liking his new school, teachers and classmates. At age six, he is really quite resilient. He transitions well. I commend him for that and look forward to seeing how the year unfolds for all of us. It will be a learning experience for everyone.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Back-to-School Makes Parents Want to Sing! by Cara Meyers

Many of you may remember the Staples commercial several years back. It showed a man riding on a shopping cart, tossing school supplies for his children into the cart, as the cart flew down the isles. In the background of the commercial, the holiday song, “It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year!,” was playing and this man’s face was filled with glee with his children scowling as they shuffled behind him! I don’t even think I had a child at that time, but that commercial stuck with me and now resonates with me since my son is going back to school, entering first grade today!
I have also been hearing about and seeing internet postings of some of the most bizarre school supply requests you could possibly imagine! (Contac Brand CLEAR contact paper anyone?). So I just had to write my own silly version of a different holiday song, tying the remembrance of the Staples commercial in with some of the most incomprehensible school supply lists I have seen!

In honor of all the parents who are sending their children back to school today and are actually thankful that school is back in session, I have taken the liberty to modify a different holiday song. I dedicate it to my son, who is returning back to school today too.
(To be sung to the tune of “A Partridge in a Pear Tree):

Before the first day back to school, my teacher sent to me,
a letter with supplies I’d need:

12 #2 sharpened pencils, (Dixon brand; please sharpen at home EACH DAY)
11 pens for writing (Bic brand suggested, blue, black, red and green)
10 colored markers (in original colors only, please)
9 sticky glue sticks (30 gm size only)
8 spiral notebooks (8 mm ruled, 70-100 sheets each)
7 sets of crayons (only Crayola brand!)
6 EXPO dry erase chisel tip markers (Low odor/darker colors)
4 erasers (Sanford Magic Rub brand only, in white)
3 bottles of glue (Elmer’s ONLY, 4 oz., no larger)
2 art smocks (made from cutting up 2 of Daddy’s button-down shirts - sorry Daddy!)

So, to my son, I say, I love you and enjoy your first day back! And to all of the other children starting back to school today, have a great first day of school! I know I will!

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, September 07, 2009

What Kind of Mom Am I? by Jamie Levine

I was a stay-at-home mom once – if you count the 3 ½ months I was on maternity leave. I was also a full-time working/commuting-to-the-city mom – for about 16 months after that. And right now? I’m not sure what I am. After my beloved children’s book buying job of 10 years was eliminated back in January, I started freelance writing and consulting to pay the bills. In the past few months, I’ve also picked up some coaching clients (I’m a certified life coach). And I’m always networking. Always looking for more work and/or another full-time job, while trying to decide “what to do with my life.” It’s pretty time-consuming figuring out how to support my daughter long-term, by myself. Thus, as I often joke, I’m the busiest unemployed person I know!

When I first lost my job, my immediate reaction was to keep my daughter in her daycare – but for shorter hours – because I didn’t want to “disrupt” her life. She loves it there and well, I love having the time to get my work done without worrying about her. But now, over six months later, it sometimes feels strange. Mind you, Jayda and I have plenty of “extra” time together now that I’m no longer commuting. She’s up at 5 a.m. (and so am I, by default) and I don’t drop her off at daycare until 8. That’s a lot of quality morning time! And when I pick her up at 4 p.m., we still have hours together to do things, eat dinner at the same time, and enjoy a lot of unrushed book-reading and cuddling before bed. I give Jayda plenty of attention, and we’re closer than ever. But I sometimes feel guilty for not keeping her at home with me all the time. I mean, it’s not like I have an office to go to every day.

The truth is, I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom! I love my daughter…truly adore her. But being with her 24/7 drives me nuts! Especially when we’re just staying home or running errands. She’s a wonderful kid…but she is a toddler. A very intelligent, inquisitive, attention-needing, at-times-tantrum-throwing toddler. That’s why I keep us so active when she IS home with me (on weekends, holidays, etc.). I fill up our calendar as far in advance as I can, and run myself ragged going places and doing things with Jayda when we’re together. Because being at home alone with my daughter – and staying idle – makes me crazy.

Of course, financially, I’m not always sure Jayda’s time in daycare makes sense for us. Lately, I’ve been wondering if I should shorten her hours a bit more. But if I bring her in later in the morning, I lose my much-needed before-work gym time. And that’s what keeps me sane. And if I pick her up earlier, it cuts into her outdoor playtime with her friends. Also very important.

Am I being a spendthrift? Or worse – selfish? And what kind of mother can I label myself as now, anyway? I no longer truly identify with my full-time working-long-hours mommy friends…but I’m also not a stay-at-home mom, filling my days with play dates and Mommy & Me classes.

However, I do love our routine. I have just enough Jayda-time and just enough Jamie-time. And while Jayda’s face always lights up when I arrive to take her home from daycare, it does take us 15 minutes or more to get out of there. She’s too busy hugging all her friends, saying goodbye to her teachers, and simply, not wanting to leave. So, for now, I guess I’m just Jayda’s mom…a woman who’s trying to find her way professionally, working to stay healthy and sane, and most of all, is devoted to keeping her daughter happy and thriving. And I suppose that’s a pretty good kind of mom to be.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, September 04, 2009

Lap Lessons - by Robin

I accomplished a goal this week...or "sort-of."

For those who follow my blog, I've written about my on-going mission to swim across my local pool this summer doing the freestyle stroke. I just learned to swim (I could previously only do the breast stroke and backstroke), and I never thought it would happen.

Up until last summer, I had no desire to ever put my head in the water. In fact, I dreaded it. The chlorine turned me off, and I just didn't have any interest. Swimming was not high on my to do list.

Things changed. As I watched swimmer after swimmer do matter their age....a lightbulb went off. I had to do it. I decided I wanted to one day be one of the seniors in the pool (G-d willing) doing laps. It struck me that swimming knows no age. Once you master it, it's yours, and what great exercise.

So, I bought my first pair of goggles. Hated another pair that worked better for me. Tried a swim cap.....still don't love that....but now I at least tie my hair back.

I could only put my face in the water with a nose plug, which I really didn't like. With the help of a friend of one of the local lifeguards, he convinced me to try dropping the nose plug, and now I no longer need it.

So, this summer I tackled the pool determined to learn to swim...and I did! And, I'm told I have a nice stroke, that is feeling more 'n more natural to me. I'm in love.

The water clears my head and gets my heart pumping. I feel my arms working, and my back stretching, and it feels great.

Now I'm working on breathing. I'm getting there....but still have not mastered it.

As the summer nears the end....I've been a bit dismayed. I'm not confident that I'll be able to get the breathing down, therefore, I was making peace with the fact that I would not likely meet my goal of getting across the pool.

That changed yesterday. The head lifeguard at the pool, who has been so supportive and encouraging and helpful, suggested that I focus on just getting across, even if it means floating or swimming on my back a bit and then continuing the freestyle...but at least not stopping completely in the pool as I'd been doing at the 5 feet mark.

I tried that yesterday, but it felt somewhat awkward.

Today I got the idea that I could start out swimming freestyle and then switch to the breast stroke if need be (so I can breathe), and then go back to the freestyle. worked! I did it! While I'm still not entirely comfortable in the deep water, I persevered. What an adrenaline rush!

And, it taught me a huge life lesson that I want to share with you.

No matter what your goal in life....if you can't get there exactly as you planned when you hoped for...perhaps there's another way to get there....even if it means shifting your goal a bit. And, if you can make strides that way, and you remain on your path, you will likely get what you ultimately aspire to do. Even if it take a bit longer, so what?! There's a lot to be said for the day-to-day achievement and to pat yourself on the back for how far you have come.

I'm a swimmer now....and who ever thought I'd call myself that?!

And, I can race my son in the pool and be an example to him of how it's never too late to learn something. Why says you can't teach an old dog (or later mom) new tricks?!

So....what's on your list that feels unattainable?! Go for it!! (and your kids will love you for it.)

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow -- by Cara Meyers

Back in May, my son’s school had a Plant Sale to raise money for the PTA. I offered to volunteer at the Plant Sale that day to not only help with the sale, but to also be there when my son’s class came to buy plants. I wanted to help guide him towards plants I knew would grow well in our garden, especially considering that the amount of sunlight in certain parts of the garden was pretty minimal at best.

I took him to the shade loving plants. No interest. I took him to the flats of impatiens and petunias and suggested we plant them in containers in the sunnier parts of our yard. He barely gazed at the beautiful flowers. He was on a mission. He wanted to buy a vegetable plant. A specific vegetable plant. A tomato plant.

My heart sank. How would we be able to grow a vegetable plant that required quite a bit of sunlight in a garden that was almost pure shade? No amount of reasoning would do. He HAD to buy that tomato plant! I relented and let him buy the tomato plant. And a cucumber plant too. My heart was hurting for him knowing he would be so disappointed when his plants didn’t fair well in our shady garden. But he was beaming! He was going to grow tomatoes! And cucumbers! He could hardly contain himself! He couldn’t wait to come home from school to plant them!
I was despondent. This little boy planted his tomato and cucumber plants all by himself using a plastic sand shovel. He lugged the watering can full of water to the plants, making sure not to “drown” them. My heart was heavy knowing that his plants would most likely not make it. I would be surprised if they grew much at all.

Then came an unusually cold and extremely wet June. My son kept checking on his plants. They were not growing much. He would talk to them and water them (even though it had been raining practically every day!). He kept asking me how long it would take to get the tomatoes to grow and the cucumbers to appear. I didn’t have an answer other than, “Let’s wait and see. As the weather gets warmer, maybe the plants will grow some more.” But I wasn’t hopeful. Even the impatiens and petunias I bought and planted myself looked “leggy” and waterlogged. My heart was hurting for my little boy.

We had pretty much forgotten about the vegetable plants until a big storm blew a large tree branch onto my son’s tomato plant last week. I couldn’t believe my eyes! This plant was not a plant anymore, it was a huge bush! And once my husband and I staked it up, we saw about a dozen bright red, cherry tomatoes! I wanted to jump up and down! My son would be so delighted when he came home from camp!

When he arrived home, I walked him over to the tomato “bush.” He saw the tomatoes and ran to get a container to collect them! He delicately picked all the ripe ones in the front, but in trying to reach the ones in the back, I had to move a cucumber leaf. There, staring up at us was this beautiful, perfect green cucumber, ready to be picked! I was astonished! Under the worst conditions, the vegetables still grew! And all my son could say was, “See Mommy! They grew! You just have to know how to take care of them!” It made me think of how well I was faring as a parent. Even under some of the worst conditions, my child thrives. Even when I least expect it, he flourishes. All I could think of was how true he true he was!

Labels: , , , , , ,