Blog Archives

Choosing a Path

forkintheroadWhen I started this blog, I was at that metaphorical “fork in the road”. My kids were in school full time, I knew I wanted to do something that would flex my creative and intellectual mind, but what was that elusive perfect pathway. I didn’t want to go back to work full-time, my kids are still relatively young, but I needed to give myself something that I could say I was accomplishing. So, what do you do when you come upon that fork? You know you want to go in some direction but you’re not sure which one.

My theory is to hang out in the intersection for a little while. You don’t want to idle there, though. You need to be active, keep revving your engines, get a feel for the road, an understanding of your options.  If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, make a list of all the things you are interested in, then throw them out there and see what sticks. That’s what I did with this blog.

I liked the idea of designing a blog. I liked writing. I liked the psychological journey of self-discovery. I liked creating self-help workbooks. I liked using humor. I liked writing about the creative things I do with my kids. So, I put all of those things together within this blog.  I then spent the last few months getting feedback on what resonated with my readers and tuning into what parts of this blog I liked doing the most and which area I thought I could turn into a viable pathway for myself. And that has turned out to be sharing my thoughts on how to raise a more creative child.

So, it’s always good to hang out in the intersection for awhile, but at some point, if you want to move forward, you need to narrow your road ahead and choose a path. You may find that once you’re down the road, the path you have selected isn’t quite right for you. That’s o.k., just turn around, go back to the intersection and choose something different, but you need to keep making active decisions and taking actions that keep moving you forward.

I will keep working on this blog because it is here where I will be able to share my business ideas as I move down my selected path, and I always have to have somewhere to share my daily-life rambles. However, I have also started on a new journey, my chosen path to help raise awareness on how important it is to help your child build their creative mind. In 2010, Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary shared the results of her study of 300,000 Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) scores of children and adults. She found that over the last two decades, as we’ve entered this new electronic age, the measure of creativity in our children has been spiraling downward. Kim says, “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant.  It is the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade – for whom the decline is most serious.”

blogpicThe good news is that all children are born with some degree of creativity. When parents become educated about creativity, they can help their children preserve their natural inclination to it. Research has shown that creativity can be nourished and taught and that creativity training can have a strong effect. Real improvement doesn’t happen overnight, but when creativity is fostered through a child’s everyday process of home or school, brain function improves.  It is to this end, that I created a new blog called “www.RAISECREATIVEKIDZ.com”.  In that space, I will share more research on creativity in general, and supply ideas and activities to help you nourish your own children’s creativity.

This is the path I have chosen to explore. I hope you will visit me there, as well as, keep on coming here to this blog for my perspective on being a mom in general – the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – and maybe pick up a tip here or there to help you choose your own path.

http://www.raisecreativekidz.com  Research shows children’s creativity is declining at an alarming rate. Luckily, as parents, there is much we can do.

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Addicted to HGTV

IMG_2970I know I’m getting older.  I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I stopped watching MTV’s Real World and started watching HGTV (Home and Garden Television).  I became less interested in a show about a group of people living together in a house, and much more fascinated by the house itself.   Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are in the process of a few renovations ourselves.  We’re adding a sunroom, a more substantial front porch, and a pool. We’ve been working with an architect and we just sent the project out to builders for bids.  The problem with watching HGTV is that the more I watch it, the more things I add to our own project.  I saw an episode of “Million Dollar Rooms” that showed a pool with one side that was all plexiglass so you could see through it.  When I asked our architect to see about incorporating that into our pool plans, he just shook his head and said it was out of our budget. I guess the show is called “Million Dollar Rooms” for a reason.  And then I chose railings that I saw in a special they ran on Newport Mansions. Again, not just any mansions – Newport Mansions.  So, needless to say, I guess I couldn’t be that surprised when the architect recently came back to us to say that the bids he was getting in, were over the highest range he projected.

So, I don’t know that my addiction is a good thing.  I have even found myself referring to HGTV designers and contractors when I talk to our architect and potential builders. I referred to an episode of one of the shows where even the “famous designer” had trouble having his contractors show up on time and so if it could happen to him, how could we be assured that it wouldn’t happen to us.  I actually saw them roll their eyes at that. And we haven’t even gotten started on the actual construction.  I see whole houses being renovated over the course of a sixty minute show. I’m afraid I’m in for a rude awakening with the actual time this project is really going to take.

The construction phase will probably start in about four to six weeks. Will living my own renovation reality show curb my addiction to HGTV or will it just make it worse?  Will I be happy with the finished project or are my t.v. expectations too high? Well, our next meeting with our architect is next week to review the contractor bids and decide where we need to cut back to bring the budget back in-line. But on HGTV when a family has to get realistic and cut some things out of their budget, usually at the end of the project, the designer on the show gives them a new couch or flat screen t.v. and that makes them feel better.  Does that not happen in real life?

Well, either way, a couple of months living with a construction crew for eight hours a day, should be an interesting experience. I just hope they don’t have to cut for too many commercial breaks…

I See the Light – The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

You may have been wondering where I have been for the last two weeks. Well, I’ve been in the dark. Hurricane Sandy wiped out so many huge trees and utility poles that it has taken just shy of two weeks to have my power restored. And I have to say, it nearly broke me. I know others lost their entire homes, or even loved ones, in the storm so I really can’t complain – but I’m going to be a little self-indulgent for a moment.

We have a small generator but due to the electrical configuration of our house, we weren’t able to just hook it up to our electric box. So, we had to pick and choose small things to plug directly into it. We could only plug in one small space heater so we had to pick which room we were going to live out of. Our master bedroom is on the first floor so we chose that one. All five of us and a fish, one bedroom, wall-to-wall mattresses, for thirteen days. We slept in that room. We ate in that room. We played in that room. We did crafts in that room. We got ready for school in that room. The kids watched mommy slowly unravel in that room.

It wasn’t even so much the inconvenience of it all. It was more that one moment we were planning for Halloween and the next moment we’re about a week away from Thanksgiving. I feel like I was in a time warp. One that I couldn’t control. And the way our electric company handled things, there was no communication. No matter how many phone calls you made, it made no difference. And the hard part for me is I don’t like when I’m not in control and I have no plan. If at the outset, someone told me that I was going to be without power for two weeks and that the kids would be out of school for a week but back to school the second week, then I could have had a plan. Maybe we would have left the house and gone to stay with someone. But from the moment the power went out, each day we questioned what the next would bring. Maybe we’ll get power back tomorrow, maybe mid-week, maybe by the weekend, maybe by the following Wednesday at eleven o’clock at night like the automated ConEd service said, or maybe not until the end of the second weekend. There’s no way to plan for that or even to wrap your head around it.

Between the hours of midnight and six in the morning, we would turn the generator off in order to conserve gas. There really wasn’t much sleeping on my part. I had to worry about my eldest son who I usually don’t like him even having a blanket at night because he has trouble with sleep apnea anyway and then he finds a way of wrapping his head in the blanket and I’m terrified he’s not going to be able to breathe. So, I was on constant blanket patrol – making sure the kids didn’t kick the blankets off and freeze, while at the same time not have them burrow too far underneath them. And then if anyone woke up with a need to use the bathroom, I had to be ready with a flashlight, as well as to warm up the toilet seat with layers of paper because it was freezing in there and my eldest son has an aversion to things that feel too cold.  A few nights into it, my son got sick and I had to wake up my husband to hurry and turn the generator back on because I couldn’t see anything and I needed to take care of him. So, to say the least, I was on edge, on edge for thirteen days.

There were two highlights for me though. One, was how, once again, my children showed me how resilient they are. As mommy was becoming a shivering mess, shaking my head, and mumbling to myself, my kids were having a great time with their camp-out/sleep over, where they didn’t have to take showers, and got to eat take-out everyday.  The other highlight was a local community parent networking site on Facebook. It really was what saved me from going over the edge. Where no real information was forthcoming from our electrical company or our town officials, this network of parents was like being part of a stake-out. “Con-Ed crew spotted on Hardscrabble.”  “Copy that. In pursuit of crew.” “Hey, Momma Smith, this is Papa Jones what’s the 10-20 on the crew up on 133?” “No sight of them. Think they saw the mess and cleared straight out. We’re keeping the area under surveillance, though.” “You have the donuts, just in case?” “Roger that, donuts and hot coffee. We’ll deliver the package as soon as we see them set up shop.” “Wait a second. Crew in site. I repeat, crew in site. All moms in vicinity please ready yourselves. We need a round-the-clock onslaught of food delivery. Coffee and donuts are covered, but we’ll need a delivery of pizza at noon, and cookies and hot cider to follow. We can not let this crew get away. This is go-time people.  Keep that food coming.”

Somehow, what a town, whose residents include New York’s Governor Cuomo and former President of the United States Bill Clinton, couldn’t do for me, a band of rogue parents did. This group of moms and dads made me feel empowered. They were literally my lifeline. I knew which streets were still without power. I knew where the crews were working. I knew what gas stations still had gas. I knew what delis were open where I could find food for my kids to eat. I knew which laundromats to go to. I knew that I needed to tell my husband to add oil to the generator. I knew what roads were impassable. And most importantly, I knew I wasn’t in this myself and I knew I wasn’t the only one losing my mind and I knew I wasn’t powerless – I was part of a rabble-rousing group, who tried to break into meetings at the town hall, and made phone calls to the CEO of ConEdison and our State’s Representatives. There was even talk about taking the funds raised for the high school turf field, and suggesting to use it to bury our electric wires so that we didn’t go through this Armageddon again – yes, turf field funds – I know, kick-ass stuff.

And I would be remiss not to mention the out-of-state Pike electrical crews. The one that worked on our road was from Central Florida. They were sleeping in a semi-trailer, as the hotel ConEd wanted to put them up in was two hours away. They were also ill-prepared for our snowstorm and many didn’t have gloves or boots, so neighbors supplemented their supplies where they could. They had traveled many hours to get here to help out, missing out on Halloween with their own kids. And though it must have gotten old after awhile, they were always very appreciative when they received yet another box of donuts from residents.

So, now that my lights are finally back on, I still feel like I’m walking around in shock. What just happened? The town is still a mess with huge trees down all over people’s properties, including my own. My house is a wreck, which I’m still confused about since we only spent time in one room but with freezers to clean out and dishes in the sink and piles of batteries and random blankets and flashlights and the toy box that got dumped out, and then of course the boxes and closets that were strewn about in search of winter clothes I wasn’t prepared for because of the Nor’easter that came through, there’s still a lot of clean up to do. But with Thanksgiving on the horizon, for once I’ll have room in the refrigerator for all the food for the feast since we had to throw everything else out, and I will certainly be ready with my list of what I’m thankful for: for lights, for heat, for hot water, for a sound roof over my head, for the safety and love of my family, for every neighbor that offered me a hot shower (did my hair look that bad?), and for a community, which I’m still relatively new to, that helped me in more ways than they can imagine. And as I drove around the town today doing my usual errands, I saw one lonely orange utility safety cone by the side of the road, with “Pike” written on the side in black marker. It must have been left behind. Those out-of-state workers may be gone but they will never be forgotten. I had half a mind to pick it up and use it as the center piece for my Thanksgiving table this year with a candle stuck in it – it would be very fitting, and it doesn’t hurt that it would go with the color scheme of my holiday decor.

House Party – the Real Housewive’s way

When NBC started airing the “Real Housewives” reruns in the afternoon, right during the time I’m usually at the gym looking for something to watch – I got hooked. Not because of the drama. Not because of the entertainment value. But for two reasons only. One, being a housewife myself, I love to watch a show that denotes a “real housewife” whose important duties have nothing to do with cooking, cleaning, or rearing children. How great is that? And my second reason is for the fabulous parties they throw. Which brings me to today’s blog.

In October of last year we moved into a new house. Just about nine months later, we have finally sold our old house. In this housing market, no longer having to carry two houses, well, that calls for a party. And not just any party. I want to throw a party fit for a “Real Housewife”.  So, I am going to bring you on that journey with me.

Step One: The Germination Phase.

The seed must be planted from which the party blooms. The seed can be a theme, a venue, or it can be the entertainment. For me, I found my seed when I went into the city to see the Black Eyed Peas perform a benefit concert in Central Park. The concert was canceled due to weather conditions, so I found myself at the Prohibition Bar on Columbus Ave. The bar band consisted of two brothers, one on the electric guitar and one playing a drum-like box.  They were so good, so versatile, so charming, as they tried to fake a few Black Eyed Peas songs just so we didn’t go home empty handed. I had found my seed. A hip, eclectic duo direct from a NYC club – yeah, I can build a party around that.

The most important thing during the germination phase, in order to make your party unique, is to think outside the box and not be afraid to think big. When I saw The Doyle Brothers play, they had just announced that they had won a contest to go to England to perform in a concert as the opening act for Sir Paul McCartney. Others may have shied away from asking them to then come out to “the country” and play at a house party, but I remembered someone once told me that it never hurts to ask (which it actually does, by the way, when the response is no), but luckily, they said “yes”!

Step Two: The Nurturing Phase. I had the entertainment, now I had to supply all the things necessary for the party to grow. To do this, I looked at 3 things: Gregarious Guests,  Palate Pleasers, and Amazing Ambience.

Gregarious Guests were easy. I had two towns of people to pick from. I had a lot of friends from my old town that I knew would come just because the invitation said “party” on it. And they did not disappoint, turning beer bottle bands into fashionable bracelets for themselves. My new town was a little bit more difficult. I didn’t know a lot of my new neighbors yet. So, I turned to one of the more popular neighbors on the block and asked her for a list of people she deemed fun enough for me to invite to my party. She really helped me out, though she drew the line at my recon mission of  trying to obtain a list of  potential “the band is too loud” 9-1-1 callers to invite as a preemptory strike.

Palate Pleasers came in the form of a professional catering service, as I have never pretended in any way that I know how to function in what I believe some people call a kitchen – for me it’s a place to store and warm up pre-cooked meals. Two things to remember when it comes to caterers: use one that a friend recommends and has used before and has been happy with (limits your worries), and secondly, make sure that the food selections you make all can be eaten delicately without ruining your lipstick, getting in your teeth, or dripping on your outfit.  Make sure those “Pleasures” stay in the middle range of your palate – don’t go too downtown with pigs in a blanket, nor too uptown with truffles. You don’t want food that would be served at a bad wedding, nor food that your guests can’t pronounce or identify.

That just leaves me with Amazing Ambience. Seems simple enough, I already had the music so, just turn down the lights. But alas, if only it were that easy. A party is nothing without lights, color, or the combination: colored lighting.  Somehow I needed to turn my country colonial home into a New York City nightclub. I began to think I had gone slightly overboard with this idea as I forced my sister to climb on the roof of our house to change out our flood lights to blue. I would have sent my husband up there, but our extension ladder had been purchased at a tag sale and was not quite stable. As close as I am to my sister, if the ladder were to give way, leaving my children without an aunt was slightly preferable over leaving them without a father. Luckily, with a few minor scares, she was able to revamp the lighting and climb down safely, all the while vowing never to offer her assistance in my “over-the-top”, “ridiculous party ideas”, again. Though I’m not really sure where she was coming from with that. I did get my husband up on a slightly smaller ladder, in order to change out all

our lights to pink in our twenty-foot, living-room ceiling. I then had a great idea to do colored uplighting under glass tables to give a real nightclub feel. Since it  was an indoor/outdoor summer party, I had our outdoor glass dining table aglow in a soft blue hue. I figured we would  have our stationary hors d’oeuvres set out there in the middle of the party. Note to self: when you have a lighted table with food on it, at night, the bugs that it attracts is horrifying, So, that particular, incredibly awesome idea, turned into an empty table glowing in the middle of our backyard. But still, a nice affect….

And because my background is in marketing and putting together pretty packaging, the devil is definitely in the details. A signature drink was a must and it had to coordinate with the overall ambience. So, it was light pink with glowing, light-up mixing sticks.

Step Three: The Bloom. Then you just have to let things unfold, and flourish under the weeks and weeks of planning that you put into an evening that lasts just four hours. Of course, it turned out we had a heat wave that day so everyone was dripping with sweat, and I forgot that when you’re the hostess, you don’t actually hear the music that the band is playing, or get to taste much of the food, or remember to take pictures of the actual event, because you’re making sure everyone else is enjoying themselves. Just all of a sudden, the party is over.  So, was it a party that rivaled the soirees of the Real Housewives? I’m not sure about that, but it was definitely a night to be remembered, that is, if I could remember all of it…

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Sure, Deck the Halls, But Why Stop There?

It’s the end of January, so hopefully you’ve all put your holiday decorations back in the attic. Now that’s done, I like to reflect back on how I thought the whole holiday vibe went. And I firmly believe much of the holiday spirit comes from the atmosphere you are immersed in. So, I use the holidays as another time when I can put my latent marketing and packaging skills to good use. It all started out one year with “Glitter Santa”. When I found him standing center-aisle, prominently displayed at Pier One, I knew he would be my muse for many Christmases to come.  From there I moved onto little glitter trees and this year, you can imagine my excitement to add “Glitter Reindeer” to the decor.

Every year, when upon reflection I don’t think that Christmas felt quite Christmasy enough, I think to myself, if only the decor had been a tad more festive, that would have done the trick. Decorating for Christmas has gone from a single tree with a few special ornaments picked up throughout the year, to three decorated trees all with their own color theme. During the holidays, you can’t walk through the main floor of our house without encountering a room decorated to the hilt. I almost feel like if we had little Pier One shopping baskets at the front door, guests would feel like they had just walked into a store franchise.

First we have the three trees: Family Room, Dining Room, and Living Room.

 Then we have the rest of the wonderland.

Why decorate every room? My feeling is, you never know when you might “need a little Christmas, right this very minute”.  By the way, I also had the player piano filling the air with constant Christmas Carols, had my youngest son prance around in reindeer antlers and a flashing red nose during a chorus of Rudolph, made up my own Christmas Charades game, and created my own signature holiday drink.

There may have been no snow this year. But when my family was over on Christmas Day, you better believe they weren’t allowed to leave until they would admit that the joy of the season had fully consumed them. So, did I finally achieve the ultimate height of holiday spirit? I would have to say I was pretty close this year, even Santa would have to be impressed, but I’m not going to rule out possibly adding to the Christmas madness…you never know what Pier One might add to their “glitter” inventory next year.

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