Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School with Crocs

Thank you to Crocs for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about Crocs' new Back to School line. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

My kids are going back to school next week, and I am in full this-year-will-be-different mode. I'm determined to have a more organized and stress-free life this year, and I'm hoping a little advanced planning is all I need to make this (annual) dream a reality.

I started by going shopping for school supplies early this year - no being faced with emptied shelves for me! I got everything on the Kindergarten and second-grade lists. Feeling proud of me? Don't. 'Cause my kids are actually going into First grade and Third grade. Doh.

After the mom fail on the school supplies, I'm determined to get it right with back to school shoes for my daughters. Luckily, there are so many (thirteen!) cute styles out from Crocs, I know my girls will like them. From the mom-angle, I'm glad they're all school-approved, as the Crocs Back-to-School line features all closed-toed and closed-heeled shoes, along with signature Crocs comfort, of course. 

I'm pretty sure my kindergartner first-grader, and adorer of all things pink, will love the Kids' Dawson Sneaker:

And my second-grader third-grader will love these sparkly purple sneakers, the Kids' Hover Sneak Metallic:

And me? I'll love not being asked every day but my older daughter Magpie if she can wear the heels that I let her buy for her uncle's wedding to school.

Here's wishing everyone a great school year! What tips do you have for starting the year right? We need some at our house based on last year's school journal.

To view all the colors and styles available in the back-to-school line visit Crocs online, where you can also enter to win a family vacation to San Diego (no purchase necessary).

View this fun interactive video,"They've Got Summer Inside" - click on the shoes and go directly to that style on the Croc's website. You can also look for the hidden Easter egg, click on it and see what happens.

If you need a hint, here's what the Easter Egg looks like:

The most depressing email I've gotten in awhile

No need to read the whole thing, I highlighted the parts that make me most despondent about what life has become in our town since Hurricane Irene. (My comments in bold.)

There has been so much household loss due to the storm, we need special bulk pick-up.
1) Household Items Damaged in the Storm - The Township has contacted to have a curb-side pick up of these items (and only these items) on Friday, September 2nd; Saturday, September 3rd; and Wednesday, September 7th. The pick up will be by a private hauler's garbage truck between the hours of 7am and 3pm. Please do not put out bulk items not damaged in the storm. We are using the honor system here. Also, do not put your tree limbs and branches with the bulk waste. These are separate pick ups and your household and yard items should not be co-mingled.

2) I spoke to American Water representatives at 5:30pm and they are continuing the testing of the water supply. They assured me that free water will be distributed at the Maplewood Pool until an all clear message is given. That will only happen once the quality of the water meets state health standards. If we still have to boil water by the weekend, Amercian Water will be at the pool on Saturday and Sunday. I told them how important it is to get the system back to normal.

3) The Township is making non-potable water available at the pool also. Bring your own containers.

4) For those still without sufficient water pressure or no water, the pool is allowing member and non-member residents to take showers there. Pool facilities are available from noon until 7:45pm.This is especially convenient for anyone who works.

5) There are battery charging stations set up at Town Hall and the two library buildings. This will be available through Friday, September 2nd.  Because a battery charging station is almost the same thing as having power in your home. Almost.
What do you think? Am I wrong that the upbeat suggestions that giving me free water (if I bring my own container), a shower even if I am not a member of the town pool, and a place to charge my battery is not enough?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

{Wordless Wednesday} After the Storm

While most in New York City were spared the worst from Hurricane Irene, our New Jersey town was not as lucky. We're without power or water, and while our kids were happy at the prospect of "indoor camping" for the week, my husband and I were less enthusiastic, so we got outta this:

Photo from
 And drove down to this:

Ocean may look calm, but there are still very rough waves post-Irene.

Finding crabs on the beach.

And more crabs.

Heading back home.

As the skies darken.

To the boardwalk. When Ziggy saw these cars, I thought he would never leave.

My thoughts are with everyone affected by Hurricane Irene, and hoping all are able to rebuild and recover from the terrible storm.

If your kids were upset by the storm, here are five hurricane-themed children's books that might be of help.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene: The Kindy Photo Edition

The day after the hurricane we drove around our New Jersey neighborhood (I was too afraid of falling branches to walk), and as our home was essentially fine I was surprised and saddened to see so many of our neighbors had not been as lucky.

And, most everyone where we live is without power and without drinkable water.

I know it could be much worse, but it's still pretty bad.

All photos taken by my daughter, Magpie, Age 7.

As I'm sure you can tell, in some photos her sister Kay wouldn't "stop getting in the way!"

Their little brother Ziggy missed the outing, still asleep in the makeshift "safety fort."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How I prepared for Hurricane Irene: the Saturday Edition

1. Went to Pathmark for batteries and ready-made coffee (yes, it wasn't until today that I realized no electricity means coffee maker no-worky). Struck out on batteries, but scored on Starbucks ready-made lattes. So what we'll lack in light we'll make up for in caffeine.

2. Ask my husband to set the table for lunch, and realize when doing so he has thrown-out my iced coffee because "the ice looked melty." In the midst of my outrage, my mother suggests perhaps I could just write an Instructions for my Husband post about it and let the rest of us eat lunch. Realize this housing-an-evacuee thing may be more difficult than I had originally thought.

3. Obsessively watched CNN and, even though they had no new information.

4. Neurotically worried my brother would not make it back from his trip upstate to his home, and pregnant wife, in Brooklyn. (No judgement.)

5. Wrack  my brain deciding where my kids should sleep most safely over night as storm, rain, winds and tornadoes approach our New Jersey home.

6. Wondered how I would pass the day tomorrow without electricity. Was glad to see Cool Mom Picks had Dozens of ways to turn hurricane time into fun time, until I realized they were almost identical similar to my 6 Ideas to Keep the Kids Entertained Indoors - Even if the Power Goes Out I wrote for New Jersey Family two days ago.

7. Considered the implications for my mom - who refers to herself now in the third person as "The Evacuee"- that all major news outlets are exclusively showing her apartment building when talking about areas of Manhattan that will be hit the worse by the storm.

8. Pass part of the evening looking-up children's books about hurricanes and heroines named Irene.

9. Pass the rest of the night on Twitter, find the hilarious tweets of Seth Fried, which are so funny it almost makes the hurricane worth it.

10. Go to sleep, hopeful I will wake-up in the morning and this will all just be a bad dream.

Hoping for everyone's safety in the storm.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How I Prepared for Hurricane Irene: The Friday Edition

Today I continued with my pathetic attempts to prepare for Hurricane Irene. I began the day by reading a series of tweets about purchasing generators, as well as a slew of Facebook comments about buying camping lanterns.

I am not familiar with either generators or camping lanterns, but of course I wanted both of these items. Immediately. 

A quick search online showed that apparently everyone else in the greater New Jersey area also wanted a generator and a camping lantern in advance of Hurricane Irene's arrival. I felt very in and with-it. Until I realized these people were actually in and with-in, and had purchased all available generators and camping lanterns, and even camping stoves, yesterday.

Oh well.

So moving on, I realized despite not having a generator or a camping lantern, or even a camping stove, and despite having stockpiled on Thursday copious amounts of toys, junk food and craft supplies... I didn't have any diapers. Or paper towels. So I went to Target with the rest of New Jersey. I enjoyed seeing eleven people I knew, but the 40 people in line in front of me I could have done without.

Home again from the Target odyssey, I spent the better part of the afternoon convincing my aged mother (who lives in Battery Park City) that staying the storm out in my lovely suburban home (admittedly with three very "Gramma! Gramma! Gramma!" grandchildren) was preferable to the public shelters of Manhattan (see photo above).

In the end, I convinced my mom to stay here in New Jersey. She is concerned that she does have a library book, and it is due tomorrow.

Here's hoping everyone rides out the storm safely and soundly.

Update: our cousin (who knows my mom too well) just called to ask, "So are you at a shelter?" and to tell my mom not to worry, she is sure the library will give her a grace period to return the library book. Thank Goodness for that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How I Prepared for Hurricane Irene: 10 Easy Steps to (a Little) Peace of Mind

Today I realized Hurricane Irene is a real and actual thing, and being as it is a real and actual thing, a weather event even, I'd better get prepared. Here are the 10 easy steps I took to bring myself (a little) peace of mind:

1. Accepted the fact that we really and truly were not driving down to Bethany Beach for our vacation as planned. Further accepted that we were out of everything, in preparation for said vacation. Sighed heavily.

2. Went to the grocery store and purchased the same insane quantities of food I (and everyone else) purchase pre-snow storm. Also allowed the kids to throw sick quantities of junk food into the shopping cart -  in case we really are housebound for an extended period of time, I want all the treat enticements I can get.

3. Stopped at the craft store for craft supply reinforcements, though truth be told, we have plenty. If multiple quantities of everything cuts down even the smallest percentage of child bickering, it was totally worth it.

4. Reminisced with myself about the week my family went without water or electricity in rural Virginia in the 1970s. (1979,  Hurricane David, to be exact. Thanks, Google!) Decided to add a trip to the toy store to the list of preparedness activities.

5. Further reflected on that September week in 1979, and add going to the drug store to the list of things to do. A week without running water, is a long week. Purchase all sorts of hygiene and cleaning items that do not require water - wipes, facial cleansers and toners. Also get nail polish, if a life-threatening hurricane isn't the best time for a home manicure/pedicure, when is?

6. Neurotically searched online for what exactly needs to be done in advance of a hurricane. Find a ton of helpful resources. Follow these directions for How to Prepare for Irene, which includes what to pack in an emergency preparedness kit, as well as how to prepare a family evacuation plan. Also put together a "Go Bag" based on Babble's What Mom's Need to Pack.

7. Cleared off all tree branches and loose limbs outside our house. Debate getting our "questionable" trees removed, and reluctantly admit it is too late to undertake such a major project. Similar proclamations made in regards to our prone-to-leaks basement, past-its-useful-life roof and various not-quite-storm-proof-windows. Still very hopeful I get some points for even thinking about dealing with these things pre-hurricane.

8. Allowed kids to watch TV and play the Wii to their heart's content. Who knows how long we may be without electricity? They should get their fix now. Put my worry about an electricity free few days to good use and write a post for New Jersey Family magazine called 6 Ideas to Keep the Kids Entertained Indoors - Even if the Power Goes Out.

9. Read New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's quote that we should "pray," followed by his eloquent

"If I order a mandatory evacuation, you better leave. If it turns out to be less, we should thank our lucky stars."

Wonder how this is the best Governor Christie can come up with in this time when leadership is needed. Determine Governor Christie has never read Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy or Cory Booker's tweet stream to see how inspiration is done right. Further ponder if George Dubya is now running an elocution school, and if Governor Christie has been taking classes there.

10. Write this post and worry it will be out there on the interwebs while Hurricane Irene brings catastrophic damage, and feel like a complete and utter ass for taking it all so lightly.

On a more serious note: I know Hurricane Irene is a major storm, please take proper precautions and stay safe.

I'll be back with a report on Friday's preparations, which will include sleeping accommodations for my mom who most likely will be told to evacuate her home tomorrow.

A Review of Nanoblock: Addicting Japanese Micro Building Blocks

Last week I went to an event for the launch of Nanoblock in the US. The launch event took place at the very cool Konokuniya Book Store on Bryant Park in Manhattan. I love this Japanese book store filled with all my favorites - Anime, Hello Kitty, sleek stationary and assorted kitsch of the best kind. I also enjoyed the upstairs cafe, stocked with delicious Japanese pastries, sandwiches and green tea.

One of the very best parts of the Nanoblock event (besides learning about Nanoblock, of course) was meeting the host Melissa of Married my Sugar Daddy, who is just as awesome and vivacious in person as her online persona.

It was a pleasure to (finally!) meet the equally awesome and vivacious Mitch of Gay NYC Dad and Jennifer of Take 2 Mommy. And, it is always a treat to get to see some of my favorite online bloggy buddies who I rarely see in the light of day, including Michelle from everythingsabuzz and Kerri from Raising Three Savvy Ladies.

I was excited to learn about Nanoblock, because my daughter Kay is a building enthusiast. Nanoblock are tiny, micro blocks (the smallest toy building blocks in the world) that come in kits with all the blocks needed to make a single creation, such as an animal or building. Each piece has a patented double feather design that makes them fit together easily, and to stay put once they're connected. And don't worry every kit includes a few extra blocks.

Kits range in number of pieces contained, as well as in difficulty to build. At the higher hobby levels, Nanoblock kits can contain thousands of pieces and take twenty-plus hours to build.

Pictured here is the kit to make the Eiffel Tower:

My five-year-old daughter and I tried to build a "Level 3" koala that proved a little too much for the fledgling Nanoblock skills of my daughter, and me.

But my daughter had fun sorting the pieces, and I enjoyed working on a "mother-daughter" project together.

Undeterred, we went to the store and got a "Level 2" giant panda (over 150 pieces) that is coming along nicely. 

Currently, two Nanoblock series are available in the US: the "mini series" which is a variety of animals. and the "sites to see" series, which features famous places. More sets are rolling out monthly, including some fun holiday sets in November.

Once complete, you can assemble and disassemble your Nanoblock creation over and over again. But my guess is we'll be a single-build family, and will proudly display our finished creations, much like the photo below:

Nanoblock is distributed in the US by Ohio Art, the company that also makes my childhood favorite, Etch-a-Sketch.

For a full list of stores carrying NanoBlock, visit the Store Locator.

I received a gift bag at the NanoBlock event, but the opinions here are my own. As is my growing Nanoblock obsession.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Few Favorites from the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF)

This year I made my first trip to the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) at the Javits Center in New York City. I had been to the Book Expo and the Toy Fair at the Javits Center, so I had some idea of the massiveness of these kinds of shows, but still, I had no idea I'd have the chance to view so many incredible products. I wanted everything - which of course makes sense, it is after all the Gift Fair.

A few of my favorites from the NYIGF are below.

For travelers:

I was instantly smitten by everything from Miamica, which has first-class accessories for travel:

I an a big fan of their clever boot packing solution

these hilarious luggage tags:

And these fun whimsical wallets:


For parents:

My Blue Bumbershoot has solved the problem faced by every stroller-pushing parent, how to keep yourself dry in the rain. Sure, your kid is protected by 10 plys of latex, but the stroller chauffeur is left out in the rain. Not anymore! This clever umbrella attaches to the arm of the stroller. Now if someone could just invent a stroller cup-holder that actually works, stroller chauffeurs everywhere will really be set.


For kids:

I saw so many wonderful kids products, but I especially adored these Jack-in-the-boxes by Jack Rabbit Creations:

Jack Rabbit also makes gorgeous wooden toys and a line of super fun plush that (almost) makes me want to by my kids another stuffed animal.

I also loved Anamalz, bendable wooden animals and dinosaurs from Australia. Honestly, I'd buy these for myself as much as for the kids, because they really are that awesome. Just check out this triceratops.
 I also saw some great items from Trumpette, some new versions of their signature baby socks-as-shoes:

And these great schlep bags, which come in a range of sizes.

It was an incredible experience talking to the creators and designers behind these wonderful products, and I can't wait till the show rolls back into town in January.

P.S. I also saw a lot of really amazing Brooklyn-born wares, but I'm saving those for their own Brooklyn-rific post coming soon.

I have lots more photos from the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) on Facebook - to see them just go to

{Wordless Wednesday} Not so sure I'm glad I saw it - this sign in Millburn, New Jersey

The other day we were driving home, through the usually scenic downtown of Millburn, New Jersey.

But on this day, not so scenic. There was this sign outside the hardware store:

Barely open due to men with feces for brains.

Part of me loves it, but a larger part of me hates it - this is a family town!

But most of all... I want to know the story.

Any Millburn locals have the scoop?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Glad I Saw It: A Second Grader's School Journal

With the new school year starting in just a few weeks, I finally decided it was time to dig through the piles of papers from the last school year.

And I'm glad I took the time to read through the piles, instead of following my first inclination to just brush it all into the trash can in one grand sweep of the arm.

My kid's journal was eye-opening - and not because I realized I had a seven-year-old Emily Dickinson living in my home. But because it told, quite clearly, how she felt about school. And it was all news to me. Here's three entries:
Entry 1:
I hate this journal because 1. It's stupid 2. It's dumb 3. It's boring 4. I'd much rather read 5. Duh!

And her teacher's response: I'm sorry that you feel this way. I always enjoy reading what you write.

Entry 2:
Plain letters are boring. Fancy letters are awesome.

And her teacher's response: Please write with plain letters.

And last...
Entry 3:
I rock, rock, rock, and rock. I'm awesome, awesome, awesome and more awesome. I rock, and am more awesome.

And her teacher's response: Please write something more meaningful.

On a more serious note,these entries show a real lack of interest in school from my daughter, which pains me. And her teacher clearly thinks my kid is making a lousy effort, as indicated by the margin notes, which also pains me.

I wish the journal had come home during, instead of after, the school year, so I could have know my kid hates writing in her journal, thinks it's dumb, and thinks it's appropriate to write duh. 'Cause, Magpie? It's not.


I am taking any and all advice on how to start the new school year off in a more positive way, please.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Portrait of Polly (Pocket) in 827 Tiny Pieces

Two weeks ago I photographed my kids gigantic Barbie collection. This week I'm documenting Polly Pocket: A Portrait in 827 Tiny Pieces.

Here, I present the Polly Pocket dolls all twenty-something of them:

But the Polly Pocket dolls are not the main part of the story. The real story of Polly Pocket is the itty-bitty accessories. The nineteen purses.

The fourteen pairs of matching shoes.

And in our case, the thirty-five unmatched shoes:

My mother and I, who are both clearly a similar type of crazy, spend forever matching the shoes. We put them in pairs, in little plastic boxes.

We admonished the children, "Put the shoes back in the itty bitty plastic boxes when you're done!"

We begged the children, "Please, please don't mix-up the shoes!"

Of course, they don't listen. Instead of matched shoes in the itty bitty boxes, there is this:


But what really gets me is who makes these shoes? Are "they" out to drive moms (and grandmas) out of their minds? Who thinks to make eight pairs of hot pink doll shoes that are all different, yes oh-so-very-similar.

Look closely. These are nine more pink shoes. That don't match. Not a one.

And maybe now it's time for me to stop matching shoes, and instead, to take the advice of an older friend, whose children are now grown (and who turned out just fine).

She told me, after listening to a particularly long tale of Polly and her shoe collection, "Quit talking about how the Polly Pocket shoes keep getting lost and get out the damn vacuum. Life is too short."

What do you think - should Polly and her shoe collection get the vacuum?

I'm linking-up to Finding the Funny. Because that's what I like to do.

Head over to Kelley's Break Room and My Life and Kids to read a lot of really funny stuff.

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