Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day For Kids (With Links)

With the three-day weekend upon us, it's important to remind our kids (and ourselves) that Memorial Day is more than burgers and parades. It's a bittersweet occasion to remember those who protect our country now and did so in the past. 

The holiday originated on May 30, 1868, when Union General John A. Logan declared the day (then called Decoration Day) as an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. A mere twenty years later, the name was changed to Memorial Day. On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1971. Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May. 

To celebrate it, you might want to take the kids to a local military site (it could be a graveyard, museum, or historical venue) to chat about what it means to be in the military and the sacrifices each service person and their families make. Here's a list of links that explain what Memorial Day is all about:

1.  This link from Apples4TheTeacher offers short stories about Memorial Day; they are appropriate for elementary school kids.  

2.  Visit Arlington National Cemetery online and show the kids how important this site is to our country.

3.  This site, US Memorial Day, gives the full history of the holiday and explains why the red poppies are the symbol of veterans.

Oh, and watch this excellent YouTube video explaining Memorial Day:

I think it's important for kids to understand the sacrifices those in the armed forces have made and continue to make. Memorial Day reminds us that freedom comes at a price and that many have paid that price so that we can live free in our country today. 

How will YOU celebrate this holiday? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Got Entitled Kids? Look In The Mirror Before You Blame Them

Yesterday, I parked two blocks away from school to pick up my daughter. I was running late and understood that the walk was my penalty for five extra minutes of seeing the DVRed finale of Mad Men. When I got to the front of the school, I was astonished to see a woman pull up in her massive 2015 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV and park IN THE CROSSWALK. She was nonchalantly talking on her cellphone about her full-time nanny and how her tennis game had just gone. Apparently she didn't get the concept that 1) it's illegal to park in the crosswalk 2) she was blocking the visibility of kids and parents who would soon be in that crosswalk and compromising their safety 3) that was she was doing was just plain WRONG. 

We've all heard, and many have experienced, the behavior of “entitled kids” who feel they should reap rewards and gain benefits without doing anything to earn these things. Yet, I wonder how many of us realize those kids act this way because many of their parents act “entitled." These are individuals who don't feel that societal rules apply to them, ignore rules because they consider themselves above authority or don't obey rules because they know people who can fix any penalties they might incur.  I would also add that some older people consider themselves entitled merely because of their age. 

You've met these adults!  In addition to the example given above (bitch!), they are the people who:

  • cut in line at the bank, grocery store, movie theater, department store, bus stop, etc.
  • get their food faster than the rest of us in a restaurant because they complain loudly

  • run their cars in the “no idling” zone at school
  • let their kids run all over a restaurant without blinking an eye
  • talk loudly and often use their phones in the movie theater

  • send their kids to school in inappropriate clothes knowing that the principal won't do anything about it because he doesn't want to deal with them
  • take up three extra seats on the train so their bloody diaper bag has a seat while you stand
  • have free reign at a department store as their kids play under the racks of clothes

  • drop their kids at the library and expect librarians to babysit the kids

I'm sure you could add to this list. So what can you do about these people besides gritting your teeth or letting these situations roll off your back (which, admittedly, is probably the healthiest option):

  1. Call them on it, but only if you're sure it won't result in any danger to you. For example, a few weeks back when another parent parked in the crosswalk, I gently knocked on her window and explained that what she was doing was dangerous and that she COULD get a ticket for parking there. She probably blew off the “dangerous” part, but the prospect of getting a ticket perked her up. She hasn't parked there since. It's remotely possible that the perpetrator honestly doesn't know or realize that what they're doing is wrong.

  2. Let an authority know. I've called the principal a few times when the same person kept her car idling in the “no idling” zone. He went out and spoke to the mother and is now monitoring the situation.  I've also called the police.  Okay, someone parked in a crosswalk isn't life-threatening, but it does pose a danger to the general public.  Dangerous situations should be reported.

  3. Embarrass these people. No one likes to be embarrassed and when I see kids with free reign at a department store, I rather loudly say to my child, “See how kid is allowed to run around? It's dangerous because they could get hurt or taken. WE DON'T DO THAT.” Most entitled people are idiots and don't care, but you could impact one who does.

Correcting other people is always dicey at best, but for me, knowing that I tried to solve the problem makes my blood boil less. And if people don't like me for it, so be it. Who wants to be friends with people who consider themselves above the rest?

Oh, and a world to anyone who feels entitled because of race, economic status, or age: GET OVER YOURSELF! YOU'RE NO BETTER THAN THE REST OF US!

Note:  I'll resume calmer posts soon.  This piece was prompted no only by the woman in the SUV, but as I'm reading the book, Teaching Kids To Think.  Review coming up shortly.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

7 Natural SolutionsFor Seasonal Allergies

I couldn't wait for it to be here: Spring! Warmer weather, flowers blooming, trees blooming.... and New Jersey hit with what they're calling a Pollen Tsunami. For the last three weeks, at least one of my kids has been sneezing; their eyes water and get itchy. They are cranky and miserable. 

They're pretty, but their pollen causes suffering!

So, outside of giving them over-the-counter medications (which I'm not opposed to, but I don't want to reach for first), how can I help them?

  1. Saline Solution – I buy a basic, generic saline solution for the nose and encourage them to use it. Irrigating the nose with salt water (JUST salt water – no decongestant) may help soothe upper respiratory allergies by removing irritants that become lodged in the nose and cause inflammation. Saline solutions can even wash away some of the inflammatory cells themselves. Tip: if you have multiple kids using multiple bottles of this stuff, label them. You don't want kids sharing this (ewwwww!).

  2. Nightly Washing – Every night we wash our faces, but what about the pollen that collects in our hair and is deposited on our pillows? My kids take a baby wipe on nights they don't shower before bed and wipe down their hair.  And even I do this so I don't transfer pollen to my daughter's pillow when we cuddle. 

  3. Close The Windows – Sure, it's lovely outside, but breezes carry pollen. We've turned on the
    air conditioner early in both the house and car.

  4. Drink Lots Of Water – Keeping everything hydrated washes away irritants and helps our mucus membranes get rid of pollutants. 

  5. Wash Your Pet – We have an indoor cat, so this isn't a problem for us, but friends who have dogs are giving their pooches nightly washes with water on a washcloth to remove pollen from their fur.

  6. Mint Tea – The kids are drinking decaf (OMG, yes, DECAF) mint tea with breakfast to open up the airwaves.

  7. Cold Tea Bags – Since we do drink a fair amount of tea, I keep a few used teabags in the fridge to sooth puffy eyes at night. The coldness feels really good on inflamed eyes. 

If the kids do need medication, the first thing I try is Hyland's 4 Kids Complete Allergy. This stuff is all-natural (or supposed to be) and doesn't make them sleepy. My daughter was on this for months last year and it was great. I like the fact that it doesn't last 24 hours because, honestly, her allergy symptoms only presented in the morning.  To learn more about Hyland's, click here.

Now, please note: I am not a doctor. I am a mom. These are remedies that work for me and my family. Please consult a doctor if you have any questions or if your child has severe allergies.

How do you cope during allergy season?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Take A Pic, Post It To Instagram, & Get A Needy Child A Pair Of Shoes

What is you could help a needy child and it wouldn't cost you a cent?  Now you can! 

Between May 5th and May 21st, the shoe company, Toms will donate a brand new pair of shoes to a child in need and all YOU have to do it take a photo of your bare feet and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #withoutshoes.


Yep, that's it!  Just post a picture of bare feet (your own, your family's, neighbors, etc.) and Toms will give children in the United States and abroad a new pair of shoes. 

Think about it:  YOU can make a real difference to needy children!  For more information on #WITHOUTSHOES, click here.

Spread the word!  This is too easy NOT to share!

Monday, May 4, 2015

To My Teen, As You Come Of Age

In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, as with some of the major religions, there is a point in a child's life when their status changes within the organization.  Years of study, plus required Congregational and Community service, have been completed.  They are ready to be welcomed into the fold as adults.

In Unitarian Universalism, however, there is no dogma to be perpetuated.  Instead, the youth have been exposed, directly, to other religious traditions.  In 6th grade, they travel to Catholic churches, Buddhist temples, the Church Of The Latter Day Saints, and various Jewish temples; there, they hear, directly from participants, what those traditions believe.  UU kids are taught to decide FOR THEMSELVES, what truths to embrace.  And when they make their Coming Of Age, they stand before the Congregation and declare their Credo, or what they believe.  It's understood that they may have come to the conclusion that their is no Supreme Being or that the form they feel is right is different from what others believe.  It doesn't matter:  UU embraces believers and none believers alike.

Parents of new Coming Of Agers are encouraged to write a letter to their children explaining what they're proud of or disseminating "wisdom" we've accumulated.  Here is mine, written to my 14th year old when he made his Coming Of Age yesterday:

My Son,  

I knew you before anyone else. I felt your first kick, hiccup, and actually SAW your foot extend from my stomach. My voice was the first you heard as I sang to you in utero. Meeting you was the most extraordinary moment of my life. Finally – I was face-to-face with the being who had been in my tummy for 9 months!

Truth be told, Coming Of Age is no bit deal. You've been aging your whole life with each year bringing new surprises, challenges, and joys. It's been an honor being with you.

I want you to know that it's the JOURNEY through life that's important, not the destination, not even the milestones. Do your best, as I know you do. Value yourself and don't accept it when others try to invalidate the miracle that you are. Understand that you will make mistakes, have regrets, and learn from them. They're supposed to happen.

Don't be so hard on yourself. My love for you is ABSOLUTE, it is infinite.

You are THE MOST AMAZING PERSON I HAVE EVER MET. You are sweet, funny, creative, thoughtful, and so wise!

Life me, you have trouble enjoying life. We're always afraid of what's coming around the corner. What if, What if?, is always in the back of our heads. The only antidote to this that I've found is:

Be grateful. Every night, count your blessings, no matter how small and stupid. This process will help you see how lucky you are, even when life sucks.

I love you more than anyone else and I'm proud to be your mom.





Saturday, April 25, 2015

5 Benefits That Happened When I Stopped Trying To Please Other People

The most AMAZING thing I've discovered about getting older is the ability to let the chaff go and keep the wheat, or in layperson's terms, letting go of the bullshit in life.  I'm talking about the pressure people and society put on us all to be politically-correct, fit in with whatever group we're facing, and succumb to the pressures of others, especially family.

I've realized that life is too short to spend hiding within others' expectations of me. And I've unearthed at least 5 benefits that happened when I stopped trying to please those around me: 

  1. I accept myself for who I am, imperfections and all.
    For years, someone close has told me I'm overweight, which I am. But every time I'd put a morsel of food in my mouth, he'd stare at me, disapproving, subconsciously shaming me into dieting. No more! Yes, I'm eating healthy most of the time, but here's a shocker as well: 

    My body is beautiful, curves and all! It works as it should.

    It is SEXY, vibrant. And because of this realization, I am more confident about my physical self than I've been in years. That confidence itself, makes me even more appealing. I LIKE what I look like!

  2. I'm using less energy living up to the expectations of others. 
    The word “no” is a bigger part of my vocabulary without regrets later on. Will I chair a PTA committee I'd hate? No. Will I take the son with two beautifully working legs to a friend's house five blocks away because he doesn't “feel” like walking. No. Will I clean the house to my husband's unrealistic standards? Not a chance. I do what I need to do, what I like to do, and let others live up to their own self-imposed “shoulds.” Their issues are no longer mine.

  3. I'm connecting with people more freely and have realized that I'm a genuinely nice person.  
    When there's no hidden agenda, no “I hope they like me” thoughts, it's easier for me to be myself, to be kind because I want to be, not because I “have” to be. I'm free to be considerate for no other reason than that it feels good.

  4. I'm not controlled by family. Too often we do things because we “have to” for people who show no gratitude. Then we kick ourselves because we feel we've been taken advantage of. By putting my foot down and not caring what they think merely because they're part of that extremely powerful moniker known as FAMILY, I've rid myself of many people who were a negative influence on me. I'm attracting friends whom I want to help and who want to help me when I'm down. 

  5. I'm relying on myself for my happiness and spending more time determining how to do that. 
    I exercise because I want to, garden because the results make me happy, and write, not out of a sense of obligation, but because I genuinely like it.  I'm playing with my children because they're fun, laughing more than disciplining them over the little things, and letting them do more for themselves. 

Do I have fewer people around me? Sure, but those people are of a higher caliper than the ones before. Am I still overweight? Maybe and it doesn't matter because I know that I'm beautiful no matter what the number on the scale shows.

Am I selfish? Nope. I'm self-affirming, choosing self-nurturing over indentured servitude. 

And I'm definitely happier, with more items on my nightly Gratitude List than ever before. Not caring has given me the freedom to make choices that please me. And that, my friends, is an incredible feeling.

Give it a try and let me know what YOU think (if it pleases you).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

5 Non-Tech Games For When You're Travelling Or Stuck In Traffic

I live in New Jersey where it can take five minutes to drive a mile or half an hour, depending on traffic.  Yes, the Garden State is congested, which makes it a challenge when you're driving little ones around.  They get impatient and start to...

  • Whine
  • Complain
  • Fight
  • All of the above

That makes any potential trip hell for me!  


So I found these 5 Non-Tech Games For When You're Traveling Or Stuck In Traffic:
1.  Where's The Alphabet – Use road signs, billboards, shop names — any reading material outside the window qualifies as long as it's spotted on your side of the car. If you're the front-seat passenger, focus on the right. Look for every letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order, although the letter can be located anywhere in the word. For example, if there's a sign for a farm, there's your A. The exit for the Broad Street Bridge would cover B, Road Closed is C and so on. First one to the letter Z wins.

2.  Odd Or Even – Each rider guesses how many of the next 20 license plates will end with an even number. The closest guess wins.

3.  The Crazy License Plate Game – Take the license plate in front of you and make up crazy phrases to describe the driver. For example, FCB21M could translate into Five Cute Babies with 21 Moms.

4.  Count The Number Of Fools On Cellphones – Here's a diversion with a message. In my area, many people still, unfortunately, talk on cellphones while they're driving even though it's DANGEROUS and AGAINST THE LAW. The kids know this is wrong and we've talked about why it's so bad, but we can't do anything about it, so we've turned it into a challenge. We try to count how many stupid adults they see driving while talking on cellphones. Another benefit to this game is that it alerts me to which idiots probably do not have their minds on the road. Our highest count so far: 15 people in 30 minutes. Shame on those drivers!

5.  Count...Something - Count the number of...whatever. It can be anything: kids on bikes, telephone poles, headlights, train cars, blue pickup trucks, etc. All you have to do is shouting out the thing to keep track of the number. 
With my daughter having gymnastics practice four times a week and my son needing to get to baseball, friends' houses, etc., I'm ALWAYS on the road.  These games have been a God-send, even with a teen in the car.
Give them a try, then come back here and tell me:
Which worked for your kids?  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

In Honor Of National Pet Day: 5 Tips For Choosing The RIGHT Pet For Your Family

It's National Pet Day and while everyone is focusing, rightly so, on pet adoptions, the first thing you REALLY need to consider when thinking about a pet is:


We wanted a dog, but a cat fits our lifestyle better.

Here are some tips:

  1. Consider the time you have to devote to and take care of a pet Are both adults working? Are the kids old enough to responsibly care for one? This will help you determine if you need a low-maintenance animal (like a fish or cat) or can handle one that requires more care (like dogs or large birds).

  2. Think about health issues. Sure, you might want a rabbit, but if someone in the family is allergic, you can rule that one out. 

  3. Take into account where you live. Do you live in a high-rise in the city or have you got some land. You don't want to cram a large dog into small living quarters. Do you live in condo where pets may be frowned upon? 

  4. Discuss any fears family members might have. I love snakes but am afraid of the live crickets I'd have to feed them, plus my husband fears these reptiles, so snakes are not welcome in my home.

  5. LOVE guinea pigs, but I'm allergic.  No piggies for us.
    Hold a family meeting to discuss the plan, stressing that finding the RIGHT pet can take quite a bit of time.  This is not a decision to be made lightly.  Plan on visiting a number of pet stores and/or shelters to find the right fit for your family.   

Once you think you've narrowed down the type of pet you want, research it, speak with people who have that pet, grill the salespeople at your local pet store (if they carry that animal) or at your local shelter.

It's better to know as much as you can, so you make the RIGHT decision.

What kind of pet do YOU have?  And if you don't, what kind would you like if you could have ANY animal?

I would LOVE a hedgehog!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In Honor Of World Health: Improve Your Health IMMEDIATELY With This

It's World Health Day which means lots of articles on diet and nutrition. Okay, but those can take some time to render an affect on your body. 

There's something your can do RIGHT NOW to avoid getting sick and spreading germs:


Washing Your Hands IMMEDIATELY Reduces Your Chances Of Getting Sick!

Hopefully, this is something you do every day, but are you doing it to maximize the amount of germ killing you're doing? Here are some tips to remember:


  • Preparing food or eating
  • Touching your eyes (whether to put on make-up or inserting or removing contact lenses)
  • Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person 

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal, their toys, leash, or waste products
  • Touching dirty laundry
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes
  • Touching exercise equipment at the gym
  • Coming home from work or school
  • Getting off public transportation
  • Shaking hands with others


  1. Wet your hands with cold, running water. Using warm or hot water doesn't increase germ killing, and it actually raises your odds of skin irritation (source).
  2. Apply liquid, bar, or powder soap. Don't use anti-bacterial soap – it costs more and is no more effective at killing germs than regular soap, plus it contains chemicals that can actually damage your health.
  3. Get a lot of lather going! Lathering and scrubbing creates the friction necessary to lift the dirt, microbes, etc. from your skin. Make sure you get the backs of your hands, under your fingernails, and the space between each and every finger. Scrub for at least 20 seconds (or two rounds of The ABC Song).
  4. Rinse well and dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel before using a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet.


Hand sanitizers are great, but only when soap and water are not available (don't be lazy – go to the sink!). Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and remember to:

  • Apply enough to your palm to wet your hands completely (source).
  • Rub your hands together, again vigorously, covering of the surfaces and getting in the nooks and crannies until your hands are dry.

Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another effective option if used properly.

For a fun, catchy tune on how to wash your hands, watch the YouTube video below:

Now go wash your hands!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring's Here & It's Time To Fertilize - THESE Saved My Arborvitae!

I have a row of majestic arborvitae which help separate my house from the neighbor's.  They provide just a little extra sorely-needed privacy.  So after past seasons involving ice storms and Hurricane Sandy, one or two were looking....sick.  Their leaves were turning brown and I was concerned that they would never recover from ice and snow damage. 

Enter:  Miracle Gro's Evergreen Fertilizer Spikes! 

I found these at Home Depot last year and figured, 'What do I have to lose?  The shrubs are already dieing anyway!' so I picked up a package.  

These are fertilizer spikes.  You take one out, put the plastic cap that comes in the pack over the spike, and pound it into the ground per the package directions.   

Make sure the ground is soft when you do this.  I originally treated the trees last fall and just did it again today.  If, by any chance, some of the spikes are broken in the package, just dig a hole and put the cracked ones in.

These spikes DEFINITELY saved my precious trees.

Today's treatment took about 30 minutes for me to do a row of six trees, but that's a half an hour well spent to keep these beauties healthy!

Give them a try and let me know what you think!



Oh, and if celebrate Passover, Happy Pesach!  If you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter!  And if, like us, you're an Interfaith family  -