Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Back To School Time: 5 Tips To Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of

Hand, Palm, Fingers, Spread, Silhouette

With school starting, many of us will be interacting with people who will be looking for help, namely PTA organizations and school personnel. They have needs to be met, whether it's filling a less-coveted leadership position, buying school supplies, fundraising, recruiting committee members, or helping out in some other way. Sure, their motives may be altruistic (they're helping out at the school, after all), but the pressure they put on us can be relentless. I've dealt with folks who have outright tried to bully me into doing more at school because, “You're a stay-at-home mom. You have nothing to do all day.” Yeah, right.

So how can those of us who don't want to make enemies and be “nice” avoid being taken advantage of? Here are some tips:

  1. Understand the truly negative consequences of being a chronic people-pleaser. It's stressful and frustrating. It leads to resentment. You may find yourself blowing up at family and friends over minor matters that have nothing to do with those people at all. It also models negative behavior for our children, especially our daughters. Do you really want to do that?

  2. Pick your battles. It's one thing to be asked to bring in store-made cupcakes to an event and quite another to be asked to chair a year-long committee. Some things are intrusive; others are not. 

  3. Use “I” statements to minimize confrontation and keep the other person from getting defensive. When someone is defensive, confrontations get ugly. “I” statements tell the person that you care about the matter at hand. At the same time, you can set your limits. For example, “I know you'd like me to be at that meeting (you're being empathetic), but I can't (asserting yourself).”

  4. Learn to say “no.” This is something many women have trouble with because we want to avoid conflicts. However, a firm, polite “no” that you stand behind is the best way to avoid being taken advantage of. Decline simply and without embellishment. No long explanation of why you can't do something is needed. 

  5. If you feel put on the spot but don't want to give an outright “no,” it's perfectly okay to say, “let me think about it.” You can always get back to them later and politely decline.

No one likes being a patsy, but unfortunately, there are people who will disregard your feelings in order to get their needs met. Sure, we all want to help, especially when it comes to school matters, but often we can't assist as much as organizations or their representatives would like us to. Setting limits, drawing that line in the sand, allows us to help out as much as we want and permits more people to volunteer as well.


Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Happens To Your Online Life Once You Die?

We all have digital lives and, obviously, those lives continue as long as we do. But what happens to our online presence once we die?

Check out this great graphic from which answers just that question:


Interestingly enough, there is now a law in Delaware that authorizes executors, guardians, etc. to access the online accounts of the deceased, much like fiduciary trustees can access monetary and medical records “subject to a will, trust, or power-of-attorney.” Individuals can also specify that their heirs “never open or change their digital assets.” For more on that law, click here.

Until the whole country adopts or copies Delaware’s law, it might be something to think about the next time you make out your will or update your existing will.  And if you haven’t considered making out a will, read here for why you should.

Our online presence is important while we’re alive. We, especially as parents, who are in charge of so much online information for not only ourselves, but our children, need to think about what happens to it and who will have access to it once we’re dead.


 Please note:  This article first appeared on The Geek Parent

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Parent-Child Contract For When A Child Takes A Sport

Girl, Gymnastics, Exercise, Training 

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my daughter not only takes gymnastics, but competes in meets as well. It's a huge time commitment for not only her, but me as I schlep her to and from the gym. Plus, it ain't cheap. Last year toward the end of the season, she decided on more than one occasion that she “didn't want to go.” Each of those time slots was a big waste of money, not to mention the emotional toil it took on me as I tried to get her to go. Diva's father and I decided that those fits are NOT going to happen this year!

The first thing we did, was review with her the pluses and minuses of gymnastics. I've mentioned the minuses, but the pluses are she thinks it's fun, great exercise, the coaches are loving, the sport demands that she respect her body with good nutrition and she's delighted that she's made some good friends as a result of her involvement with the team.  We asked if she really, deep in her heart, wanted to continue.  She assured us that she did.

Secondly, my husband and I thought about what behaviors we wanted to encourage and discourage. I considered what needed to be done before I even get in the car to take her to the gym. Then, I drew up this contract:

Diva's Contract For Being On The Gymnastics' Team

  1. All playdates, whether you've played or not, must be over by (time specified) so that we're not late to practice.
  2. All schoolwork must be done before leaving for the gym.
  3. Dinner must have been eaten before leaving for the gym.
  4. If you miss more 3 practices during the Season, for any other reason than illness as determined by Mom, you will be off the team.
  5. If you have any fits/arguments about going, Mom will inform the Coach. YOU can then tell him why you're not there.
  6. If you are late, you will still go because you have a commitment to the team and understand that showing up for practice is very important.
  7. You must be in bed by (time specified) – no arguments, please.

I understand that taking gymnastics is a privilege, not a right. I agree to the conditions above.

________________________________                                                ________________________
Signed                                                                                                     Date

I presented the contract to Diva and she, on her own, reviewed each point, considering it carefully. She brought up her objections to several and I calmly explained why those points were being included. I told her that that if she did not agree to the contract, I would not pay for her gymnastics for the upcoming month. It was not a threat - it was a fact.  She read the contract meticulously, once more before finally signing it.

The contract now hangs on the refrigerator. The beauty of it is that it clearly states what Diva's commitment is and what happens if she doesn't follow through. Since she has signed it, she can't say later on, “No, I didn't agree to that.”  The proof is on the fridge.  

Is it guaranteed to eliminate any tantrums?  No, but it gives me an out if she does resist on any of the points made. There will be no yelling or manipulating, on my part, to get her to go. As in the real world, if the contract is broken, the privilege will be pulled. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 Tips For Comforting A Child With Bronchitis

The Chillow helped my son when he had a fever.

It's been a rough nine days in my house. My son, who is NEVER sick, was running a 102 degree fever for 8 days. At first, the doctor thought it was a simple virus. When his temp hit 104.8 two nights later, I freaked, although the doctor on call didn't. She started him on an antibiotic. When he still wasn't any better, another pediatrician at the practice diagnosed him as having “bronchitis and 'recovering pneumonia'.” It turns out that two viruses are fighting for control of my poor Teen. She prescribed two more antibiotics which, THANK GOD, have brought down his fever, although he's starting on a steroid today to stop his wheezing.

Making him comfortable throughout this has been a challenge. Here are 5 things I've been doing which seem to be helping:

  1. Eucalyptus oil – A few drops of this on his pillow seem to make him cough less. I did when when my kids were babies and I couldn't rub Vicks on their chest.

  2. Using the Chillow when a child has a fever – When I reviewed the Chillow (read about it here), I suggested it might be helpful for a feverish child and it certainly was. The coolness of the Chillow helped him on very restless nights. It's now part of my arsenal whenever anyone is running hot.

  3. Ovaltine – Junior has not been eating much at all. Ovaltine was my go-to drink when my son was growing up and refused to eat fruits and veggies. Yes, it contains sugar but it also has 12 vitamins and minerals. It's one of those “comfort drinks” from when my son was little. I mixed it in with whole milk (because he needs the calories right now) and I'm happy that at least he's getting some nutrition in addition to the seltzer he lives on and, thankfully, has been drinking throughout this ordeal. For more on Ovaltine, click here.

  4. Salt water in the nebulizer – Although the doctor has Junior on Albuterol, at the first cough, I usually put salt water in our nebulizer and start the kid on that every few hours. The steam is comforting. I follow that up, at night, with the vaporizer. 

  5. Some fresh air – Junior has been weakened by this illness, but getting him out, just for a walk around the perimeter of the house, clears his head a bit. Plus, since being sick for so long is just plain depressing, it reminds him that there is life outside this house that he'll soon be a part of again.

He just announced he's bored. GOOD! If he can tell me that, it's time that he begins, gradually, to get back to really living. Later on, I'll take him for soccer cleats and a new backpack. High school starts next week and he needs to be ready. The bronchitis and pneumonia will soon be an unpleasant memory. These viruses have robbed him of two weeks of Summer vacation. It's time for us to re-claim what's left of this season before we move on to the next. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Flips Audio Headphone-Speakers Go From Solo To Social With Just A Flip

Flips Audio - In Solo Mode

Note: Although I received this product for reviewing purposes, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

When I opened the package containing Flips Audio, I was going to give them to the Teen to try. He is, after all, recovering from a nasty double virus (bronchitis and pneumonia). Maybe these would cheer him up. However, upon reading what they could do and feeling the quality of the headphones, I decided to keep them for myself. Hey – Mom deserves nice things, too, right? 

And nice they are! Upon opening the box, the first thing I noticed was the carrying case which is great if you, like me, tend to be a little reckless with headphones. My old earphones are kept with my electronics in a storage hassock and every once in a while either the cat or my daughter decides to explore in there. Plus, Diva is a pilferer who likes to “borrow” my stuff. The sturdy, egg-shaped “shell” means Flips Audio is well protected.

The headphones themselves are light-weight and fit perfectly; snug enough to keep outside noise out (although they are not noise-canceling headphones) but not brain-squishingly tight. I immediately tuned into some John Mayer, then Bach, and finally, The Bee Gees. The sound quality was impressive. There was no need to adjust the balance; every note sounded right.

The ear cups flip out to become speakers.  How cool is that?!
I then flipped the ear cups out and the device went into speaker mode. Interestingly enough, I liked the speaker mode is even better than when unit was on solo. The sound is clear, crisp and, again, perfect.

Flips Audio is the answer to the question, “What are you listening to?” They are now my headphones of choice. And since they're collapsible, they easily fit into my Fall/Winter purse so that I can carry them around and enjoy my media while I'm waiting for my son to finish soccer practice or my daughter to finish gymnastics.

As I said, Mom deserves nice things. Flips Audio is definitely one of those.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reusing Cardboard Car Air Fresheners

I love the smell of those cardboard Yankee Candle Air Fresheners that you hang in your car. I not only use them in the CRV, but in my small powder room and the porch. Unfortunately, they're a bit expensive and don't last as long as I'd like. Recently, during a caffeine-induced “eureka” moment, I realized that those air fresheners are made of cardboard and cardboard is absorbent. Hmmmm...

So I picked up a bottle of scented oil at the Dollar Store and poured a little on a dead YC air freshener. The oil was immediately absorbed into the cardboard and the scent was great. Okay, so it's not as lovely as a real Yankee Candle product, but for a fraction of the cost, it did the job!

Since my local Dollar Store has a nice variety of oils, I can change the scent with the season and not break the bank on getting my car, porch, and bathroom to smell nice. See if it works for YOU! 


Thanks for reading!   Please follow me on Twitter:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Have You Heard Of Lammily – A Healthily-Proportioned Doll

I was disgusted this week, when I learned of yet another female who wants to look like a manufactured doll. If you haven't heard, a 16-year old named Lolita Richi is having her 10 minutes of trashy fame by claiming that she looks like a doll naturally, without the use of cosmetic surgery. Her proportions, of course, are improbable and experts, who apparently have nothing better to do, are weighing in saying that her looks are not natural. According to, the teen says “she wanted to look perfect and noted that all women should want that, too.”

The problem with looking like a doll is that it's NOT perfection, but someone else's idea of perfection. I'm not sure if that someone else is a designer or manufacturer, but it has become, to some degree, society's ideal. And we know the proportions of most dolls are unrealistic and unhealthy.  They suggest to girls that they, too, should do all they can do look "perfect."

That's why I was happy to learn of Lammily, a doll with “realistic” proportions. Her creator, graphic designer Nickolay Lamm, based her dimensions on averages of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (to learn more about the creation of Lammily, click on this article from The Atlantic).

As you can see, Lammily isn't super-skinny or sexy. Her boobs wouldn’t cause her to tip over in real life and it look as it she actually eats. Nor is she fat. She's healthy and natural looking, without the whorish make-up some of the dolls on the market sport (i.e. Bratz dolls, Monster High, etc.). Her wardrobe is pretty and contains pieces most girls would wear and we would let our daughters wear. Lammily looks fit yet fabulous. She's a great alternative to some of the current dolls on the market which have looks that are unattainable and, to some degree, not appropriate for their target audience.

Is she someone else's image of what a girl might want to look like?  Sure, but Lammily's motto, "average is beautiful" reminds girls that it's okay to be themselves and that they don't have to embrace society's image of perfection.  To learn more about Lammily, visit

If Lammily catches on, maybe there will be more girls who will see the beauty in being healthy and accept themselves for who they are, rather than take outlandish and unhealthy measures to attain unrealistic ideas of “perfection.” One can only hope. 


Thank you for reading!   

Monday, August 18, 2014

5 Ways To Savor The Last Weeks Of Summer

Suck it up, Kids.  You're going!

As yet another Summer winds down, I'm in a last-minute dash to get some of my “Must-Dos” off my list. It's not going to be easy this week because Junior is down with a fever, but here's what's on my list and what you might want to do for the next two weeks before school starts:

  1. Drag the kids to the pool as much as possible. Inevitably, the cool weather we're now having in the Northeast will subside and hot-hot weather will come back to this area, ironically enough, just as the town pool closes. Sure, the kids claim they're all “pooled out,” but once they see that “Closed For The Season” sign, they'll be wishing they'd gone more often.

  2. See as many out-of-town friends as possible. Those are the people we won't be running into at the grocery store or local functions and we may not see them for quite a while once school begins.  Now is the time to have them visit.


  3. Get the maximum use out of sandals, flip-flops and shorts. They won't be fitting the kids next year.

  4. Sit out in the backyard and savor these warm evenings. It's already getting darker earlier in the evening and once school starts, there won't be any time to enjoy the lawn chairs and leaf-free grass. Do it now before you wind up packing the cushions and umbrella in for the Fall.

  5. Greedily bite into the fruits of summer while they're still local. Watermelon, peaches, cherries, cantaloupe are especially delicious this season. Sure, I can get them “imported from Chile,” but why wait when they're harvested nearby?


The leaves are just beginning to turn colors and soon the pool bag will be put away and the backpacks taken out. Schedules will get tight as, once again, the seasons of our lives change. It's time to “seize the moment” and grab the last bits of Summer while we still can!

What are you going to do to savor the last moments of Summer? I'd really like to know! 


Thanks for reading!  Enjoy the day!  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why I WON'T Buy Back-To-School Clothes

Cry on, Kid.  Not happening.

In case you hadn't noticed, the ads for back-to-school clothing are in full swing on TV. Some of them are pretty aggressive, telling kids the “must-haves” they need to look good come September.  The commercials insinuate that the success of your whole school year is determined by what you are or are not wearing.  My daughter is taking more copious notes than she'll ever take any semester and even the Teen is occasionally looking up from his iPad to catch a glimpse of the latest fashions.

They can look all they want. Diva can plead with and eventually scream at me to take her shopping until she turns blue. I do not buy back-to-school clothes. Here's why:

  1. My kids have plenty of nice tops and shorts to wear. They don't need any new clothes. At least yet. 

  2. Their clothes have not been placed neatly in their drawers as I've asked them numerous times to do. Garments are strewn all over the kids' rooms, hanging from drawers, littering the floor. Since my children are not taking care of the clothes they have, they do not deserve new ones. 

  3. The weather is my part of the country is presently cool; too cold, in fact, to go to the pool this past week. It will stay cool through the next few weeks and go back up into the high 90s just AFTER Labor Day. That means any of the woolen/corduroy/heavy-cotton garments currently being sold will be too warm for the kids to wear, probably for many weeks.

  4. They are both due for growth spurts sometime between September 1st and October 15th. I'm not kidding. It happens every year and is most prominent in The Boy. The sweatpants that fit him perfectly in early September look like knickers by mid-October. And the shorts that looked great on Diva that first day of school will be inappropriately short a mere few weeks later.

  5. She especially will be influenced by peer pressure and change her mind about what she wants after she sees what her richer friends are wearing. So even if I bought clothes now, she'd want different ones after the first week of teaching ends.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not depriving my kids of new clothes. But there's a massive difference between WANTING a new wardrobe versus NEEDING one. Do I want them to be social pariahs? No. But as I said, they have nice clothes, fashionable clothes, ones they chose in the Spring after their last growth spurts. I'm not asking my daughter to wear saddle shoes and poodle skirts or my son to wear cardigans. My brood will get new attire when the time is right and I decide, not a bunch of marketing executives circling my kids like sharks pressuring them to pressure ME to buy the latest merchandise. “Must-haves?” I know what my kids must have and when. Not advertisers. 

May you, dear reader,  always be able to resist the temptation of marketers...

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How To Make & Eat A Dutch Baby

As the Summer gradually winds down, I'm still crossing off items from my “Must Do This Summer” list. One of those is to take the kids for a Dutch Baby; they love the look of horror on their friends' faces when they brag that they ate a baby!  Now, for those of you who are cringing, a Dutch Baby is a delicious, pancake-crepe hybrid that is roughly the size of a football; it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to bake. The waitress at our local pancake house explained the process (and it is a process) of how to eat one:

  1. Gasp at the sheer size of the dish.
  2. Spread butter over the surface of the baby.
  3. Squeeze a little lemon on it.
  4. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar.
  5. Dig in!

My kids, of course, forget the lemon, preferring to spread a lot of butter on the pancake and then dousing it with sugar. Because it's taken so long to make, they tend to savor the dish and, yes, my 8-year old daughter, has eaten an entire Dutch Baby.

 Food, Menu, Button, Restaurant, Knife

While the kids prefer to go to our Original Pancake House for their babies, I have made them at home. Here's how to make two small Dutch Babies:


  • Two small oven-safe pans
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter for the pans or non-stick cooking spray
  • lemon wedges, more butter, and powdered sugar to put on the finished product

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place about a tablespoon of butter into each pan and put them in the oven to melt the butter. The alternative is to spray non-stick spray all over the inside of the pans; you don't need to put the pans in the oven, but you still need to preheat it.

Step 2: In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, and milk and use a whisk to combine them.

Step 3: Gradually add in the flour, salt, and sugar until there are no lumps in the batter.

Step 4: If you've put pans in the oven to preheat them, take them out now. Divide the batter in half and pour it into each pan.

Step 5: Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are puffy and brown.

Step 6: Serve with butter, lemon, and powdered sugar.

This is one of those dishes you can make for special occasions and if you wanted to make it as a after-dinner dessert, add some ice cream. 

 Fork, Metal, Cutlery, Eat, Tool

While I don't like to gush about food, it's really the 20 minutes waiting for the Dutch Baby in the restaurant that's special. I love taking my kids out for breakfast...and away from their video screens. My daughter giggles in anticipation of her baby as my son, who can easily eat two, challenges her to get through one. It's a great way to start the day and bond with my children.


Thank you for reading! Please follow me on:

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