Sunday, December 30, 2012

Great Family Game!

Stuck inside during a storm can get tedious. If you're like us, you also don't want to spend the afternoon watching movies or television.  So, we've been trying to spend more active family time together playing games and doing unique indoor crafts and activities.

One of our favorite recent purchases is the family game, The Best of Charades for Kids. It's fun for the whole family since kids can roll dice, count spaces and then have a blast acting out various charades. For kids who aren't reading, there is even a picture option. The charade choices range from recognizable tasks, like brushing hair, to more challenging concepts to act out, like being a vampire. It's fun for the whole family and always results in a lot of laughs. You should have seen me have to represent cartwheel! We found the game at our local toy store, but it's also available at for around $12.95. It's a great way to spend family time together!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook...

When thinking about the tragedy that occurred on Friday, December 14, 2012, I can only hold my own little girl tight and thank whatever powers that be that she breathes another day healthy and happy.  As  a mother and a teacher, this horrific event affected me in so many different ways.  I cannot begin to imagine what those families are going through... having to resume some sort of normalcy...or not.  My heart weeps when I think about the children who are changed forever and their reentry back into school.

As you know, Sandy Hook will be closed indefinitely and the children will be relocated to a different school...where teachers and parents are already hard at work recreating a familiar environment to welcome them back to.  If you are looking for a way to help, the National PTA and the Connecticut PTSA are asking schools and families to send along handmade snowflakes that will decorate the school, creating a "Winter Wonderland." Snowflakes are due by January 12, 2013 to the address listed below.  

What better way for those children to feel the love and support both locally and nationally.


A message from the National PTA:

December 17, 2012
It is with heavy hearts and the deepest sympathy that we express our condolences to the families and communities affected by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We have watched with profound sadness, pained that school violence has again claimed so many beloved students and educators. As you read these words, the families in Newtown, Connecticut are enduring unspeakable heartache and loss. Together let us pray that they will receive the comfort they so desperately need.
National PTA and the Connecticut PTSA pledge our unwavering support to the Newtown community. In the past few days, we have met with PTA leaders of all of the schools in Newtown, including the Sandy Hook PTA, and community leaders who have requested our help in supporting the families. For those of us who are looking to be of assistance in the aftermath, we share the following projects in need of your support:
Welcome Students to a Winter Wonderland
When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA address at the end of this email.  
Donating and Organizing Fundraisers for Sandy Hook Elementary School
Donations will be accepted indefinitely to the Connecticut PTSA “Sandy Hook Fund” to provide ongoing support to the community. Please send checks to the Connecticut PTSA address listed at the end of this email. Group fundraising projects may include walk-a-thons, spirits days, pajama days, etc., which may be scheduled at your convenience.
For student-run coin drives, please submit all donations by February 14, 2012.
The Newtown community has requested only monetary donations at this time. For service or product donation inquiries, please contact To contact Sandy Hook PTA, please email
National PTA Advocacy
Toward the end of the week, we will be prepared to share with you how best to advocate for school safety at the state and federal levels in response to this tragedy. As we said on Friday, National PTA prioritizes the protection of children in all schools and believes it is fundamental to learning. We have several position statements and resolutions related to school violence and child safety, which we will package and share widely very soon. Rest assured, we fully plan to engage our powerful network of nearly 5 million dedicated members to make a difference on this issue.
Many parents may feel at a loss about how to approach the subject of school violence with their children. For information on helping your child cope, discussing issues of violence and hate, and keeping your school safe, please visit our website at
Thank you for your generous support and dedication to the children and families of Newtown, Connecticut.
Warm regards,
Betsy and Jim
Betsy Landers
National PTA President    
Jim Accomando
Connecticut PTSA President
Please send all snowflakes and donations to:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Top 10 Tuesday: Accomplishments of a "big girl"

Lila ran into the bathroom bursting with the most exciting news. "Mama! Listen..." She proceeded to whistle "Jingle Bells." Preoccupied with getting ready for work, I almost didn't realize what she was showing me that was so special. She stood there, clenched fists, huge smile, practically shaking with excitement, anticipating my response.

"Ohhhhh! Lila! You can whistle!!" It finally dawned on me.

Whistling was something that Lila would try and try, again and again, and it would only lead to frustration and disappointment. The "give a 'lil whistle" song on Pinocchio would seem to mock her each time she would hear it. Now, look at her. Whistling away.

"Good job, Lila. You're such a big girl."

"I AM a big girl." She agreed and, right then and there, Lila came up with her own "Top 10."

Lila announced the "Top 10 Things I Can Now Do As a Big Girl," holding up each finger as she counted them out. Here they are:

10) "I can whistle."    
9) "I can brush my teeth by myself."                           

8) "I can clean myself in the bath."

7) "I can chew gum." 

6) "I can write my full name."                                          
5) "I can play with a yo-yo."

4)  "I can play catch."

3) "I can swing up high on the big girl swing at the park."

2) "I can put on my own coat and even zip it up."

1) "I can hold things that could break... as long as I'm careful!"

You go, big girl!


Lila: a girl of many accomplishments!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking a moment

"MAMA!!!! I can't find my cupcake book!"

I check the clock. It's 7:39 on Friday morning. On school/work days, our mornings are scheduled down to the minute. We must be in the car, buckled in, and on the road by 7:45am at the latest in order to get to school and work on time.

"I want to bring my cupcake book to school today!"

Lila hasn't read her cupcake book for months but for some reason, five minutes before we have to leave, she needs her cupcake book now. I quickly weigh out my decision-- a few minutes of looking for the cupcake book would be much better than a cranky, crying child for an entire car ride. I quickly join Lila in her room and we go through each and every paperback book on her shelf.

No cupcake book.

At this point, it's 7:50am.

"Lila, we will have to find the cupcake book after school. We have to go... now."

Lila's face scrunches up, bottom lip pokes out, and her eyes fill with tears.

"Lila! Don't start. Pick out another book and let's go!" I say firmly, very aware of the minutes flying by. We are definitely going to be late.

Fastforward to drop off. We arrive at 8:30am. I am supposed to be in my office at my computer at 8:30am. I fly out of the car over to Lila's door. I quickly unbuckle her and the tears start up again.

"But Mama, I don't have a book for school today!"

I pick up the first book I see on the floor of the car and thrust it into her arms. "Let's go!"

I rush into the building with Lila dragging along behind me. I hang up her bag and coat in her cubby and sign the sign in sheet. Lila is lingering outside of the classroom door, looking down at the floor.

I kneel down in front of her. "Lila, Mommy has to go to work now, okay? I will see you later." I give her a kiss on the forehead. She starts crying again.

"Lila, look at the clock. It's late now. I really have to go, but I will be back early today to pick you up."

She continues to cry. At this point, her teacher takes over. I give her one more hug and zoom out the door.

At work over coffee, I complain to my co-worker, another working mom, about how Lila gave me a hard time this morning. I go on with my busy day.

Then, I hear the news-- Twenty children (and six adults) are killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children woke up that morning, got dressed, brushed their teeth, said good-bye to their parents/caregivers, and went to school like any other morning. But, on this day, they won't be going home.

I am no longer aware of the time. My mental to-do list disappears.

My mind immediately goes back to Lila-- her crying and me rushing out of the door. All I want to do is hug her. I want to go back in time and give her those few extra moments that she obviously needed from me.

My heart aches for the families and community affected by this tragedy. I find myself hugging and kissing Lila a little more than usual and staying in her bed after storytime a bit longer than before.

The minutes do seem to fly by in our busy lives, but my hope today is to create moments with my family that are lasting.

...And not so rushed.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Fun with veggies

Lila loves her veggies. I realize I am quite lucky, because apparently not all kids do. According to other moms, many fight with their kids to eat their veggies. If you are one of those moms or are just looking for new ways to make veggies a little more fun, check out this cute idea.

At a recent holiday party, one of my co-workers brought in an adorable plate of veggies in the shape of Elmo. So cute! I plan to steal this idea and make an Elmo for Lila very soon. Hey, I might just make one for myself.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Nutracker: "We love you meeces to pieces!"

Audition jitters... Rehearsal exhaustion... Back stage chaos... Pre-show butterflies... you would think that I was the one performing in the Nutcracker!

Nutcracker season has come to an end and while Ellyn and I wonder how we were able to pull off managing the girls' rehearsal and show schedules plus volunteering back stage to dress and prep ten little meece, it was all so worth it. It was an amazing experience for Lila and Clara-- and they were truly amazing. (Broadway, here we come!)

I'm sure Ellyn has her own stories to tell, but I will give a glimpse of one of mine...

The first performance was full of drama-- not on stage, but behind the scenes. It was my first day volunteering. My assignment? Wardrobe. I received my instructions and hestitantly entered the Meece dressing room-- a tight, narrow space filled with ten bouncing, crawling, and giggling little ones. And they were everywhere! The mission? Dress them all within 45 minutes. "Okay. Deep breath. Let's do this."

They were dressed with time to spare. Phew.

"15 minutes before showtime!" The Meece lined up, each grabbing the tail of the one in front of them (so cute), and headed to the Orchestra Room, off stage. They began their "warm up" which was simply running around the room and laughing. The coordinator explained that this helps them to get the sillies out before going on stage. Makes sense. But then it happened...

Whack!!!! Lila collided with another Mouse.

"It's okay. It's okay." I hugged and rocked her as she screamed. After a few tight hugs I pulled back to look at the damage... Blood and tears and smeared make-up. Lila had busted her lip.

"10 minutes before showtime."  

Just moments before, in the dressing room, Lila had spent a good 5 minutes carefully applying her lip gloss and then making kissy faces in the mirror. She was quite cute, I admit.

"Could someone bring us a tissue?" I pleaded.

"Get me a mirror!!!" Lila demanded.

Lila took one look at her lip and slipped into a classic diva moment-- "I want to go home! I'm not doing the Nutcracker!!! I want to go home... NOW!!!"

Crap. All of the practice and hard work had gone out the window. All of the fun and excitment had vanished. Was this it? Would the show just go on without Lila? Would we go home?

Rolling up my sleeves, I decide right then, "Absolutely not!"

I looked Lila straight in the eyes and she stopped crying long enough for me to give her the best pep talk I could muster up in that moment. I can't remember exactly what I said, but shamefully there was a promise of candy or cookies or something at the end. Who cares? It worked!

Lila went on stage and was fabulous! As was Clara, who also proceeded to get sligthly injured on the stage. (But the pro that she is, the audience had no idea and the show went on.) Lila, Clara and the entire Meece cast totally wowed the audience performance after performance. There were many smiles, "awwww's" in unison, and laughter galore when the Meece took the stage.

I think Ellyn would agree, the feeling of seeing our girls on stage was unbelievable. I laughed, teared up, felt butterflies, and was just simply blown away.

Congrats Lila & Clara! You make us so proud.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

December Dilemma

The December Dilemma

As an interfaith family, it’s been fun to celebrate two December holidays. But we are very aware of the focus that is spent on Christmas compared to Hanukkah. While we plan many Hanukkah celebrations and have great fun at synagogue, it is hard to ignore the plethora of Christmas trees, Santas and Reindeer all around. Even at Sarah’s preschool, kids and teachers are talking about behaving nicely to ensure a visit from Santa. Recently, however, I’ve come to notice how broad Sarah’s perspective has grown without much prompting from us at all. She is quick to tell her friends, child and adult, that she celebrates Hanukkah. Recently, she even said to another child, “families can celebrate all kinds of things like birthday parties or Hanukkah.” I suppose that’s the best thing a parent can ask for – a kid who can recognize difference and find it cool. Perhaps she can teach that same openness to us all!
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From Clara's Point of View: Take 2

Clara continues to take more photos and videos than I can keep up with. Look here to see some of her photos from last summer.

Here are some of my favorite recent shots of hers. I thought the lighting and positioning of the dolls below was quite creative, and I love the starkness of her portrait of her foot.

I have always been a fan of close-ups in photos and video. It's fun for me to see her experimenting with close-ups and perspective in her photos and to see that she takes after me in the way that she sees the world through a lens.