Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Say No to the PTA - An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Self,
The kids go back to school next week, and let's face it, that means you do, too.

But it doesn't have to mean that. It could mean freedom and relaxation this year instead of endless PTA projects and class mom responsibilities that never seem to end.

Self - let's do things differently this year.
Let's not do what you do every year. Self, do you remember last year? You attended that first day of school meeting for all of the parents, and when the representatives from the PTA stood-up in front of the crowd and explained how imperative parent involvement was... you said yes to everything. And when you over-commit, I over-commit.

And this year I'm not doing it.
I'm reminding you what you promised you would remember to do this year:
Just Say No to the PTA.
We can't take another year of school-wide volunteer coordinating, party planning, fundraising over-drive and over-kill.
I will not sit by while you willingly sign-up for another year of agonizing over how to get the remaining three families to contribute their class dues.

Or watch you worry about how to most effectively balance the dietary needs of the lactose-intolerant classmates with those suffering from acute tree nut allergies. And don't forget the needs of the mom who called you before each-and-every party to remind you which foods or child particularly liked, or even more importantly, disliked.
I will not suffer through another poorly planned classed party that resulted in the misstep of giving twenty-four 3-year-olds noise makers as part of a pretend New Year's Eve party celebration. Nor will I endure the phone calls from other parents who wanted to know what the hell we (you, really) were thinking serving preschoolers mocktails at 10am.
And most of all, I will not be here to whisper encouragingly 'You can do it!" as you wonder if you can muster the strength to pick up the phone and beg yet another parent to chaperone the class camping trip.
This year, I'll be relaxing on the couch watching Dexter and Modern Family. I'll be taking leisurely baths while reading the latest issue of Us Weekly The New Yorker.
This year, I hope you'll join me - and not the PTA.

I'm linking-up this post to Yeah Write and to Finding the Funny (which is co-hosted by Kelley's Break Room and My Life and Kids, two of my favorite communities online. Join them - and not the PTA.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Other Stuff I Wrote Lately - The MoMA, Iced Coffee and Where to Pick Your Own Fruit in New Jersey

Summer's almost gone, but I'm gonna pack as much fun into these last few days of the season as I possibly can.

Here are some of the summer-themed posts I've written lately:

For BaristaKids.com I wrote about the MoMA exhibit Century of the Child. I totally recommend a trip there (without kids) to check out all the great objects of design. (Exhibit closes November 5.)

For New Jerseyans, over at NJFamily.com I have top picks in the Garden State for a nice cool iced coffee, and where to Pick Your Own Fruit - but hurry, the fruit-picking season - like summer - is almost over.

I also found a few fun ways to encourage your child's pre-writing skills, so many creative ideas! Now to see if my three-year-old feels the same way.

And last, over at Momtrends.com I wrote about Blume and their cute tees for kids. There's my son rockin' the tie-tee last summer:

What are you doing on these last few summer days?

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Giving the People What They Want: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor

This week's Giving the People What They Want didn't come from a Google Analytics Search.

No, this week it's a real-life example of Giving the People What They Want.

My husband and I left work behind on Friday and took our six- and eight-year-old on a summer's-almost-over outing to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

Can you tell how much I love water parks?

We had a blast, and it sure beat working. Or, as my husband put it, "we're participating in an important on-site client meeting."

Albeit a client meeting with a lazy river, a wave pool and water slides. And the next day, for me, a sunburn.

I was not compensated for this post, which is the case in most things I do in life as well as on this blog.

You can read a full-review of our day at Hurricane Harbor on BaristaKids.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Update: Kay and Big Duckie Are Emulating... Eric Conveys an Emotion!

Last week I posted these photos of my daughter, her bestie Doofy the Giraffe, and her other bestie, Big Duckie.

Kay is showing the emotions (clockwise from the upper left) of: sleepy, happy, excited, worried, and surprised.

She is emulating the once super-popular website, Eric Conveys an Emotion.

I used to love that website, and so did, like, everyone else. It even has its own Wikipedia Page.

But now, Eric and his emotions are all but forgotten. Oh Internet, you capricious soul.

Though I'm guessing Eric has gone on to new and awesome adventures, and is most likely the founder of some start-up in Silicon Valley, but still I can't believe how quickly that once popular site has faded from memory.

Now that I've revealed EmotionEric.com is the name of the site, does anyone remember it now?

Monday, August 20, 2012

At the MoMA - Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000

My kids have certainly put a crimp in my museum-going aways, and this irony was not lost on me when I made my way to a rare museum visit to see the MoMA exhibit Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000, on display until November 5, 2012.

I'm so glad I found the time to see this fascinating exhibit - and equally glad that I experienced it without my offspring. While the exhibit focuses on the furniture, toys, books and other miscellanea of childhood, it is an exhibit geared towards adults.

When I was at the exhibit I saw many a parent pushing a child riding in a paradigm of modern design, who despite their clearly progressive leanings could not get the kid to care at all about what they were being told to show an interest in by their doting parents.

In addition to displaying stunning objects of design like Art Nouveau playrooms and pull-toys inspired by Keith Haring, the exhibit did a wonderful job explaining why these things took the forms they did, and the many forces at work that resulted in children being treated one way, or another, during the hundred-year span covered by the exhibit.

One of the most interesting shifts was in the 1960s, the first time that kids were viewed as a major economic force in their own right, and marketers began truly in earnest to create products to be purchased by, or for, this demographic. Children's lives, and their position in society, has never really been the same since this shift in outlook occurred.

A few other gems of the exhibit including a video clip of Geometry of Circles which aired in a 1979 episode of Sesame Street, and features an original work by Philip Glass.

And I loved seeing the original set from the Pee-Wee Herman Show, a perfect end to this amazing exhibit.

And last, I would like to note that my children are lucky enough to own - and be allowed to play with on a daily basis - a fair number of the very items on display in this exhibit. And a certain husband (not mentioning any names) should be overjoyed and grateful that his wife scours the Internet for these museum worthy design examples instead of wincing every time a mangled box filled with "used" toys arrives in the mail. Overjoyed, I tell you. Overjoyed and grateful.

You can read my full review of the exhibit at BaristaKids.com, as well as find all exhibit particulars at MoMA.org.

I was not compensated for this post.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Great Back to School Looks with Cookie's Kids

My daughters go back to school in a few weeks - I can hardly believe that summer is almost over, not to mention that come fall there will be a full-fledged 2nd-grader and 4th-grader in my house.

Time flies.

With school around the corner, we've started looking at what clothes still fit from last year, and what new things they'll need for the year ahead.

I was thrilled to join a program with Collective Bias to do some back to school shopping at CookiesKids.com to find some great pieces for my daughters.

The Cookie's Kids website has lots of options both for "regular" school clothes - what my kids wear to school - and school uniforms if that's what your kids need for the school year.

I went straight to the section labeled "Girl's Dept." which is easy to navigate by choices like tops, bottoms and shoes. Each item has easy drop-down boxes to see size and color availability.

For my daughter, Magpie - age 8 and soon-to-be fourth grader I picked out an orange and gray striped tee shirt (orange is her favorite color) for $8.99 and comfy gray leggings ($5.99) that will be perfect for days she has gym class.

For my almost-second grader, Kay, who likes fancier garb, I found a ruffly shirt that suited her fashion sensibilities while still being practical enough for school. The layer top ($7.99) came in a choice of black, purple or fuchsia, and after some deliberation I went for her favorite shade, fuchsia.

When the Cookie's Kids package arrived, I showed my kids their new clothes and both girls were delighted. (Phew.)

I wonder how many more years I'll have the fun of picking out clothes for my girls as a surprise, and having them love there new things.

I'm guessing not too many, but hopefully a few more before the real teen years are here.

On Polyvore (my new addiction) I had a lot of fun putting together their new kids clothes from Cookie's Kids in a kids fashion collection - I can see creating a lot more of these in the future!

Cookie's Kids Back to School

Happy Back to School everyone, here's to a great year!

Where do you like to shop for back to school clothes? What is your kid's style?

You can see more photos from my shopping experience at CookiesKids.com in my Google+ album here. You can also like Cookie's Kids on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @CookieKids or via the hashtag #CookiesKids.

A little background about Cookie's Kids - now in its 40th year!
In 1972, a young man named Cookie and his brother Marvin went into business together. They rented a 1600 square foot store in Jamaica, Queens, fixed it up, bought inventory and Summer and Fall, and opened a day after Thanksgiving with a full stock of holiday toys. The toys were a success and they put the extra money toward buying children's clothing for the next season. When that did well, they bought more clothing. The business was on it's way.

As the brothers Cookie, Marvin and Sonny, who had come in as a third partner in the business, began to open new stores in new locations, inventory expanded. Besides the latest fashions, our customers wanted shoes, toys, backpacks and accessories and we were prepared to deliver.

By the late 1990's there were six superstores throughout the NYC area, and though they previously had different names, by that time they were all named Cookie's Kids. Also in the late '90s came an important addition to Cookie's Kids' inventory: school uniforms. It was the steady success in uniform sales that paved the way for founding CookiesKids.com in 2007, which originally sold uniforms and soon after the entire Cookie's Kids Inventory.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and CookiesKids.com. #CBias #SocialFabric

Friday, August 17, 2012

Giving the People What They Want: Suffrage

Now that I don't spend my Fridays looking at old photos, I'm devoting that time to wandering around my Google Analytics - which is totally fun stuff.

I got an email this week from someone looking for an image to go with a post she was writing in honor of tomorrow, August 18, being the day the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women in the United States the right to vote was ratified by congress.

Which made me wonder, do I get a lot of suffrage-related searches (and by a lot I mean any searches at all)?

I looked and saw that there are quite a bunch of suffrage-related searches (meaning about 10), and those people seem to be sticky. And that makes me super-happy, because I like to think there is someone besides me utterly fascinated by my suffrage postcard collection.

I was also happy to see searches for anti-suffrage - because I have a swell collection of anti-suffrage postcards, too.

And let this be a reminder all of us to vote this election season! Especially me!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ziggy Turns Three!

My little guy turned three this week.

His sisters made him really awesome birthday cards filled with all his nicknames (Boodle-pants is a favorite, and no, I don't know where it came from or how it started), the radio station played his favorite song Firework complete with birthday dedication, we rode every kiddie ride at the amusement park, and he ate his weight in ice cream.

All in all, a pretty perfect three-year-old day.

The birthday cards with the nicknames reminded me of this cool project on Pinterest where you write all your kid's favorite things down on a photo on their birthday (or the first day of school or other occasion).

So I made one with Ziggy's favorite things as of three years old.

Can't wait to see what makes the list when he is four.

Happy Birthday, Boodle-pants.

Unlike a lot of Pinterest projects, this one only took about five minutes. I used Picasa, but it could be made using PicMonkey or any other photo editing program.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kay and Big Duckie

When we were on vacation at the beach we had one particularly long rainy day, so we spent part of the afternoon taking photos of Kay and Big Duckie (don't ask how that guy got to come along on our family vacation).

She's emulating a once (very) popular website, which I think goes back as far as the 1990s. I don't think we called it a blog back then, but that's what it was.

I just checked and the site is still alive, although the last two updates were once in 2008 and once in 2006. Let's hope he (or she) has gone on to bigger and better things.

Does anyone else remember this site, or am I the only one who was a fan?

Linking-up to Finding the Funny at Kelley's Breakroom and My Life and Kids. Check it out, you'll laugh (not cry).

Other Stuff I Wrote Last Week: JoShu Tees, Kids Books and More

I write a lot of stuff for other websites, though I usually forget to share the links over here.

Here's what I wrote last week:

JoShu Tees: A New Line of Modern Graphic Tees for Babies and Kids - Fab 100% cotton tees for kids and babies from a New Jersey mom and designer.

Awesome Summertime Activities - A round-up of fun activities to do with kids that are also filled with lots of (secret) educational value. Shhhh.

A Perfectly Good Rainy Day at the Shore - I hope you never need this advice, but if you're at the beach with kids and it rains, this might help.

Children's Books for Ages 4-8 - I reviewed two fabulous books for kids, both by beloved children's authors. Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes, and Ava's Poppy by Marcus Pfister. I highly recommend them both.

Toy Time: Toys for Kids - Toys covered here are a great magnetic robot set from Mudpuppy that is perfect for travel, and a grow-your-own windowsill terrarium. So really, something for everyone.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Giving the People What They Want: Monsterz

Like a lot of bloggers, I enjoy checking out my search terms to see what search terms bring people to my little cottage on the information super highway.

So I've decided to start devoting Fridays to giving the people what they want, now that the day is open since I've reached the bottom of my drawer of old photos and Old Photo Friday has come to an end - at least for now.

First up, I give the people what they want with... Monsterz.

I get a crazy number of searches for Monsterz (a stuffed animal by Ty), and currently I just have one post that mentions them - and by mentions them I mean mocks them.

I saw Monsterz at the Toy Fair back last February, and while they're not really my thing, they are totally my daughter Kay's thing - she loves all those Ty big-eyed stuffed animals, so I'm not surprised a lot of other people do, too.

There was a huge Monsterz presence at the Toy Fair. Here's everything I got:

Giant Monsterz Sign:

I think her name is Trixie

People dressed-up as Monsterz - and if you look closely, there are tons of the stuffed animal Monsterz hanging off of the person-Monsterz:

And last but not least, a stuffed animal Monsterz with his lil "Luv me" heart.

I gotta admit he is kinda cute.

I was not compensated for this post.

You can buy Monsterz, which I now realize are spelled Monstaz, at Ty.com. Currently, they're $5.99 with free shipping! Hurray, Monstaz for everyone!

Friday, August 10, 2012

GapKids Holding Shine On Family Events Saturdays in August

This post is sponsored by GapKids. Check out all the fun Shine On activities at your nearest Gap store. For event dates and locations, visit Gap’s Facebook page and join the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #ShineOn.

Looking for something fun to do with the kids? Saturdays in August, GapKids is hosting Shine On events at stores across the country. At these events kids will be able to unleash their inner artist when they participate in special art projects created by Merrilee Liddiard of Mer Mag.

Shine On projects are inspired by the GapKids and babyGap fall collection, which features a new 1969 denim - Jewel Box Skinnies for girls (an update of the new skinny jean in bright stretchy denim) and Action Stretch Denim for boys (denim made to move and play).

Projects include creating geometric canvas art with paint and tape and make-your-own journals.

To catch some of the Shine On spirit, just watch this video from GapKids & babyGap and then get ready to get your own Shine On with your kids!

Here in New York City, Shine On events are being held the next three Saturdays at three different locations in Manhattan:

Saturday, August 11
Make Geometric Art
GapKids @ 54th & 5th
680 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10019

Saturday, August 18
Create Your Own Journal
GapKids @ 85th & 3rd
1511 Third Ave
New York, NY 10028

Saturday, August 25
Make an Animal Character Badge
GapKids @ 17th & 5th
122 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10011

And if you're not in the New York City area, there are lots more Shine On activities in other cities including Philadelphia, Dallas and Boston. You can check out the full list of Shine On locations here.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Old Photo Friday: The Yellow Bikini

I keep forgetting about Old Photo Friday! Which I think means it's time to give it a rest for awhile, but first (or should it be last?) these now and then pics:

Me, in a yellow bikini, 1970-something.

My daughter, in a yellow bikini, 2012:

My milestone birthday has come and gone, so I'm ending the old photo thing for now. Instead, Fridays will now be a new feature I'm going to call "Giving the People What They Want." I'll let you know what that is this Friday.

A big thanks to everyone who followed along in my extended trip down memory lane.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My thoughts on BlogHer12 - A tale of two conferences

Note: If you're not a blogger, you may just want to skip this post. It's kinda rambly.

I had an idea for a truly hilarious post comparing BlogHer12 to a wedding all written out in my head. There were so many similarities from the hotel ballroom setting to the outrageous outfits and the heavy drinking of some of the guests. I thought I could even work in a swag-as-wedding-favor angle.

But, in the end, it didn't come out very funny. It came out kinda bitter instead.

And I guess that's because I kinda am.

Having no prior BlogHer conference to compare this one to, I have no idea what it was like once. But I do know that this BlogHer that I went to felt very much like it was split into groups. And these groups weren't separate-but-equal, there groups were haves and have-nots.

The number of private parties, in my opinion, had jumped the shark. Or I guess more precisely, caused BlogHer to jump the shark.

It seemed that a majority of the seasoned bloggers were skipping almost all of the actual BlogHer conference to attend off site events. And while everyone needs to make the choice that is right for them, at some point the conference itself seemed at best a minor side show instead of the main event.

I had made my peace with being one of the masses following the conference agenda and attending the open-to-all parties. I was fine with not having made any effort to join one of the off-site activities - and to be fair there were some private events that were open to anyone provided you signed-up before they sold-out, so it was my own choice not to do this.

But even with my positive outlook, and sticking to the main conference site, there was still exclusivity. At one point I was turned away from the Starbucks sponsor suite for not having an appointment - which let's face it, seems a little much.

On the way to a session, I walked by a private event for a car company with a rep checking-off names on a list. Again, no big deal but at some point it is a big deal. You wonder why you're there, except to add a few more dollars to the BlogHer conference ticket sales.

To read this, I sound like just a whiny blogger. Before the conference there were tons of posts urging bloggers that BlogHer is what you make of it! If you don't have a good time, it's your fault! You can't worry about what you didn't get invited to, life is like that!

And I agree with all that, of course it's all good - and true - advice.

But even so, at some point I think it needs to be admitted that the stratification at the conference had exceeded what would be acceptable to the average, reasonable person.

At some point you have to admit that for a new, unconnected blogger having a good time just is not quite as easy as you make it sound.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ariat, the U.S. Equestrian Team and the Olympics

A few months ago, I had the chance to see the latest from Ariat at a press preview they held in NYC. Ariat is a company rooted in providing apparel and footwear for the top equestrian athletes, but which also has plenty of offerings for "regular folks," too.

Here are just some of the fantastic boots. I pretty much want them all.

When the London Games began, I was reminded of Ariat because they are the official apparel supplier and partner of the United States Equestrian Federation, and Ariat outfitted the U.S. Olympic Equestrian team with official team gear including the cap, jacket and polo pictured here:

And, for the rest of us who aren't Olympic equestrians, there is a retail-line inspired by the Olympic designs (all are available online at Ariat.com):

So far, medals in the equestrian events have been awarded to athletes from Germany, Great Britain and Sweden.  I'll be watching to see if Team USA will be added to the medal count this week - view the full schedule here.

I was not compensated for this post. I just love the intersection of the Olympics and fashion. And I've always loved riding apparel - you can blame that on my Virginia roots.

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