Back to School Supplies

Back to School (wide-ruled) bundle

It has been a fabulous summer here in New York with perfect weather and not too many excessively hot days.  But most schools will begin in less than three weeks and it’s time to start getting ready to start a bright new school year.  Many kids have been working on summer packets and reading lists and now are looking to buy their school supplies for the coming year.  And Amazon makes it so easy to get most of your supplies in one click of the mouse with their Back-to-School Bundles and Back-to- School- Essential Bundles.

Back to School Essentials

Save yourself the aggravation of running from store to store to get everything on the list.  These bundles come with marble and spiral notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and index cards.  The Essentials Bundle also comes with scissors, glue, crayons, markers, and a pencil box. Grab your supply list and start checking everything off with one click of your mouse!   Then sit back, slather of the sunscreen and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Mother’s Helpers

I want to share five things that have helped me get our lives a bit more organized and a little less frazzled around here.  These are things that I find that I bring up again and again whenever we’re hanging out with friends and we’re talking about our kids.  Most of these items have been found on Amazon and you can click on either the picture or the underlined word to take you directly to the links provided for easy access.

  1. The Storage Cube This has replaced our coffee table and makes it SO easy to hide the mess quickly.  They are sturdy and have certainly stood up to being rolled around and played with by a 5-year-old.  We have these in gray, the fabric cleans easily and still looks nice after 7 months.  It can also be used as additional seating, even for adults.

2. The Timer.  We were at a friend’s house a few months ago and the kids noticed this large timer on the table.  Our friend explained that their daughter had a tendency to drag out dinner and  often they would end up sitting for over an hour, waiting for her to finish.  Once they incorporated the timer dinner was now a more reasonable 25-30 minutes and they had time for other family activities after dinner.  This gave me an idea, not for dinnertime, but for cleanup time.  And so we introduced the Time Timer to our kids.  Now, we use it not only for clean up time, but to monitor screen time and for taking turns with a favorite toy.   The kids now will set the timer themselves and the red  visual cue which shrinks as time counts down, can be seen from across the room.

3. The Chore Chart.  Our day gets so hectic sometimes that I  will forget to make sure the kids have done their tasks before we leave for school and work.  So I made these charts and used self-adhesive laminating sheets to cover them.  You can then use either a china marker or a dry-erase marker to check off each job and wipe off the sheet at the end of the day with a cloth.  SO EASY!  You can download my chore chart by clicking on the link below.

Chore Chart Template

4. Command Utility Hooks.  I wish I invented these!!!  I use them all over the house – to hang pictures, hats, even pots in the kitchen.  I hung the 5 lbs. ones by the door so the kids could hang their coats up as soon as they came in.  They hold two rain coats or one winter coat.  And now the kids can grab their own coats as we head out the door.  One more step towards their self-reliance, one less thing for mom to do, whoo hoo!

5.  The Rice Cooker.  As we are a blended family of several different cultures trying to teach our kids healthy eating habits, we eat rice and fish at least four nights a week.  This Zojirushi Rice Cooker makes it so easy to prepare dinner, it switches from cooking to keeping the rice warm automatically and cooks rice perfectly every time (even brown rice!).  And it has a steamer that you place on top to steam vegetables.  I recommend not adding the veggies until it clicks to the “Warm” setting and then let them steam for a few minutes, otherwise the veggies end up soggy.




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Montreal Road Trip

View of the city of Montreal from the top of Mont Royal. On a clear day, you can see all the way to New York!

Bonjour mes amis! Comment ça va?  We have returned from our trip to Montreal where we have a wonderful time, met wonderful people everywhere we went, and had terrific food. And I have to say, that for our first big road trip with the kids, things went fairly smoothly and no one got car sick, thanks to our Sea Band bracelets.

I thought I was being pretty clever when I decided to forego packing our stuff in luggage and instead used a clear Sterilite container with lid.  Omg! So easy.  I was able to pack the kids clothes, shoes, and raingear and still have room for my clothes.  We packed my husband’s clothes and gear in a smaller Sterilite container and, Voila!, we were good to go! The only other things we packed were the umbrella strollers, a cooler bag with water and snacks, and a storage cube that fit perfectly between the kids’ car seats in the back.

In the cube I packed some essentials and some things to help keep them entertained, like books, dvds (my kids love Home), first aid kit, water bottles, travel pillows, light blankets for each, old-school disposable cameras, coloring books with the markers that only work on those books, tissues, wipes, and fruit n’ yogurt snacks.  I had saved two cereal boxes and cut off the tops.  In one box, I put the books, in the other I put the tissues, wipes, and snacks.  This worked out great!  The kids could grab what they needed or wanted without yelling for my husband or me every five minutes.  Our trip went fairly smoothly, although I had to laugh when, after crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, my son asked “Are we in Canada yet?  Do you want to go to China tomorrow?”

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Great Deal!

There is a great deal going on at Staples right now with copy paper.  It is a double pack of copy paper that costs $8.99.  And there is a rebate for $8.74 that you can either do online or mail in, which means that the double pack of copy paper only will cost you 25 cents!  That’s right, 25 cents!  And since, copy paper is on many school supply lists (sad that teachers can’t get copy paper in school, isn’t it?), this is a chance to check off one item for a super great deal.  And your child’s teacher will surely appreciate if you gave them an extra ream, it’s a win-win situation.

I have no affiliation with Staples, this is just a great
deal that I happened to stumble across while trying to buy
the items on my own kid's supply list that I wanted to share.
Prices may differ in other stores and I have no control 
over that. 



Confession#16 – I have been a teacher for 25 years and I have never felt as overwhelmed as I did last night when I sat in my child’s teeny tiny kindergarten chair and was handed an envelope for the school candy sale.

Confession #15 – Ever have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with two chocolate chip cookies?  Ultimate comfort food….seriously.

Confession #14 –  I am starting to sound like my parents… “When I was a kid, we didn’t have cell phones.  What did we do when we had something to say?  We spoke to that person face…to…face.  And I walked to their house, up hill both ways, in the snow, to ring their doorbell.   I didn’t sit outside and text them that I was here!”

Confession #13 – Just when I think I’ve got it together, I go and do something like show up a day late to a birthday party.  My own fault, I put the wrong date in my phone.  Luckily, my friend was very understanding and didn’t laugh at me (too much) when we rang her bell…

Confession #12 – I secretly celebrate inside my head every time I meet another mom who is just as frazzled as me, if not more.  That happened recently at a party where the kids were running around from one activity to another and I caught another mom trying desperately to keep tabs on her kid, like I was.  I gave myself a secret high-five for the brilliant idea of putting the brightest red t-shirt on my kid that he had.  He was easy to spot from anywhere in the room while speeding around from one bouncing house to another.

Confession #11 –  10 days until summer vacation – whoo hoo!

Confession #10 – I thought the kids could handle dressing themselves, until I heard my son exclaim from the bathroom, “Wait a minute, I’m wearing two underwears!”  Seriously, how do you not remember putting on the first pair?  (Says the mom who wore her pants inside out to work one day….)

Confession #9 – Fidget spinners drive me bananas.  My kid woke us up at 5 am because he couldn’t find his fidget spinner.

Confession #8 – I drink too much coffee.  K-cups make it so easy to make a great cup of coffee.  K-cups are the best invention.  K-cups and Amazon… two things I wish I invented.

Confession #7 – I am SO happy my kids still nap sometimes.  I know it is soon coming to an end, but I’ll push it for as long as I can.

Confession #6 – Sometimes I give the kids cold pizza for breakfast.  Tomato sauce (veggie)? Check.  Dairy (cheese)? Check.  Whole grains (pizza crust)? Check.  Three food groups covered.

Confession #5 – I never wanted to be one of those moms who drove a minivan, but after squeezing my butt  between the car seats for a drive with the family, I am reevaluating my opinion.

Confession #4 – I was hoping for a snow day too….

Confession #3 – Bubbles! I had just as much fun (maybe more) at the Gazillion Bubble Show.  And when the kids asked if we could go again tomorrow, I almost said yes.

Confession #2 – I cannot remember life before Amazon.  How in the world did people function without free two-day shipping???

Confession #1 – I ate you Halloween candy.  It was late and I needed chocolate.


The End of an Era

To nap or not to nap… that is the question.

We are sadly closing on another chapter of toddlerhood…. naps.  For many of our friends, their kids gave up naps a long time ago.  But until recently, my two little ones still took a nap every day and still slept nine hours every night.  And I cherished that hour to hour and a half of blissful, quiet “me” time!

But now we face the daily dilemma of trying to figure out if they can make it through the day without the nap.  The trade-off has big consequences.  If they take a nap, they fall asleep later at night.  If they don’t nap, my sweet cherubs show their fangs around dinner time and it is NOT pretty!  However, they do go to sleep a little earlier and quicker at night.  What to do? What to do?

That’s why I love this book, The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack.  This book has been my bible for handling sleep-training, naptimes, and all the possible situations that come with getting your child to sleep.

For now, I am going to hold onto naps a little while longer, but try to limit them to no more than one hour.  At least for the summer… when school begins, both kids will have a full day and by then, naps may have to become a thing of the past. <Sigh!>



Road Trip

Ahhh, summer vacation!  That sweet, sweet time of lazy days, summer camp, swimming, and traveling.  Our family is taking a road trip this summer.  That’s right, six hours (or so) of “Are we there yet?” and “Don’t make me pull this car over!”.  So.  Much.  Fun!!!

I have found some great things for our trip and wanted to share them with you.  Like a travel journal for the kids.  Mine are just learning to write, but each day we can fill it out together and help them remember where we went and what we saw.

It’s also really cool to see your travels from a kid’s perspective.  A tough waterproof digital camera is the way to go, like this PowMax HH-J52 Underwater Action Camera.

And don’t forget the snacks and water for the car!  We love the wholesomeness of  Don’t Go Nuts bars and GoGo SqueeZ Applesauce, even though no one in our family has any food allergies (they’re great for school, too!).

And we just got these Simple Modern Summit Water Bottles, they have 22 of coolest colors in 6 different sizes.  Each person in your family can choose their favorite and no arguing about anyone taking someone else’s bottle.  Look out world, here we come!

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Steve and Thomas

We had a new pet.  His name was Steve.  Steve was (is) a roly poly bug.  My son loves roly poly bugs (also called pill bugs).  So, today when we were outside playing he found one and immediately wanted to put it in his bug house.  After fixing up for the bug, he announced that “Steve” needed some food.

“You named the bug?” I asked, “Is Steve staying with us?”

Later, my son wanted to take Steve out for a walk.  “Steve needs fresh air,” he stated.  Steve was too small to use a leash so we carried him in the bug house.

Alas, my son took Steve out to show him the grass and Steve made a quick get-away for freedom by falling off his hand and disappearing into the grass.  For about three minutes, my son was crushed.  Until he found an even bigger roly poly bug and named him Thomas.

Au revoir Steve.  It was fun while it lasted.  Bonjour Thomas.

Check out this adorable bug house!  It comes with a bug catcher and magnifying glass.  Just add bugs!!!


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Battle of the Fruit Flies

We have been invaded!  I don’t know how it happened (I suspect the bananas, though), but it happened overnight.  Those sneaky little pests, in a covert operation, found their way into our kitchen several days ago and attacked us in a cloud of wings, dive-bombing this way and that, causing us to run for cover in confusion.

It happens every summer, at some point.  But this year was the worst ever!  One wall was literally covered in little black dots.  Ugh!

So, I went on the defense and pulled out the apple cider vinegar and dish soap.  It works, believe me.  I poured the apple cider vinegar into a small bowl and added a drizzle of dish soap.  I placed the dish in the corner where they seemed to have the majority of their troops assembled and stepped back to watch.  Sure enough, some of them starting circling the bowl, a few scouts daring to take a step or two down the steep sides, as if to prove they weren’t afraid.  I left the kitchen and took the kids out to play, confident that our trojan horse would do the trick.

When we returned, I checked the bowl.  There, floating away, having succumbed to the sweet smell of the apple cider vinegar, were at least twenty little fruit flies.  I smiled to myself.  I had won the battle.

But not the war.

That evening, I entered the kitchen, checked the bowl and was immediately bombarded by another cloud of fruit flies.  They were not happy about the fate of their brethren and were as vicious as they could be, flying into our faces, making their presence known.  What had happened?  I thought, surely, I had defeated them and the few that were left would die out soon.  After all, they have a life span of only 24 hours, don’t they?

Nope.  It turns out that not only do fruit flies lives about forty days, but they also lay several batches of eggs in that time.  Not to be outdone, I put out a fresh dish of apple cider vinegar and dish soap.  They fell for it the first time, why not a second time?

When I checked the dish in the morning, I smiled.  Once again, I had won the battle.  Once again, I turned around and discovered that the war wasn’t over.  There, waiting in the corner by the window, were fresh troops awaiting orders.  ARGGHH!!!!  I put out a second dish and went hunting for the fly paper that I knew I had in the junk drawer somewhere.

Of course, now the kitchen stunk of vinegar and you had to be careful what you touched.  I had fly paper everywhere.  I was going to put an end to this once and for all!  Even if that meant I spent the rest of the day with fly paper stuck to my head.  Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.  War is not pretty.

This went of for three days.  I had resorted to chasing them with a can of hairspray.  I was desperate.  The fruit flies had expanded their territory to the dining table, the living room and, finally, down the hall to the bathroom.  What on earth could the attraction in the bathroom be to entice them to set up camp there?

I needed to resort to the ultimate desperate measure… I needed to clean.  Deep clean.  I needed to find the headquarters,  and take out the breeding ground.  I headed back to the kitchen and began to clean off the counters, actually move things and wipe everything down.  At this point, my husband was home from work and we were standing in the kitchen discussing our next course of action against these tiny terrors.  I pulled out the extra drying mat I had tucked away behind the food processor and a rotting banana popped out and dropped to the floor.


Wide eyed, my husband and I stared at this vile fruit on the floor for several moments.  I was waiting to see if he would pick it up, he was probably doing the same.  Finally, sheepishly, I picked it up and tossed in the garbage.  Then, I realized, I had found headquarters!  I was going to banish these pesky pests once and for all!  I quickly tied up the garbage bag and threw it away.  I laid out fresh dishes of vinegar and soap, rubbed a little onion on the fly paper, and allowed a myself a moment to feel victorious.

We were on our way to winning the war!

Or so I thought, until we sat down to dinner and one launched a full-on frontal attack and dive-bombed into my nose.

In the words of Captain John Paul Jones – “I have not yet begun to fight!”


Summer Sand Pail List

Ahhh… summertime!  What a sweet, sweet word that conjures up images of lazy days, ice cream, feet- in- the- sand- kind of feelings.  School has just ended for most kids and it is time to get our vacationing on.  Many kids we know are going to summer camp.  My kids will not.   This is our special time together.  But I have decided that I will not jump into this special time without a plan and a budget.  So, we made a bucket list of 25 things that we would like to do with the kids this summer (okay, most of the stuff on the list was my idea, but the kids had a few of their own too):

  1.  Take a trip to Montreal – we are trying Airbnb this year and found a place just outside of the city of Montreal.   I’ll let you know how that goes when we get back.  We also used TripAdvisor to help plan some of our activities while we are there, like the Hop-on Hop-off Bus.
  2. Visit the Statue of Liberty
  3. Go to Muscoot Farm
  4. The Bronx Zoo – We go a lot during the summer,  having a yearly membership is definitely worth it.  Plus, part of the membership is tax-deductible (bonus!).  And we can’t wait to see the newest attraction this year, Nature Trek!!!
  5. Central Park Zoo – Once you get a membership to the Bronx Zoo, it also gives you access to the Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium
  6. Visit the Chihuly Exhibit at the Botanical Gardens
  7. Wave Hill – Family membership is $90 (tax-deductible).  Wave Hill which overlooks the Hudson River, has picturesque gardens and even an aquatic garden.  The kids love trying to spot the fish in the water.
  8. Westchester Children’s Museum  –  I think this is probably one of the best deals for your money.  This discovery museum is totally interactive and is a terrific way to spend a few hours with the kids exploring gadgets and activities, especially on a rainy day when you need to get out of the house and don’t want to spend a small fortune to go to the movies.
  9. Visit the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge
  10. Go to the Planetarium at the Hudson River Museum  The Hudson River Museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays.  The Planetarium is only open on Saturdays and Sundays.  However, Friday and Saturday nights there is a free show at 7 pm on through September.  We are looking forward to catching the Sesame Street show “One World, One Sky”, the kids have been fascinated with the solar system since they did a study in their Pre-K classes.
  11. Go to Untermyer Park, Yonkers – Free.  See the beautiful Persian-inspired gardens.  Last year we discovered the steps that lead down the hill, closer to the river and the views were spectacular.
  12. Visit the Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers
  13.  Take a hike at Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan – Free.  196 acres located at the very top of Manhattan, you can see the top of the Harlem River, the last natural salt marsh in Manhattan,and Spuyten Duyvil.  Sometimes you can see Columbia University crew team practicing there and often the tour boats that circle Manhattan. Once, we followed the trails and discovered that some of them will take you to the other side of the Henry Hudson Parkway to a beautiful park where you can practically dip your toes in the Henry Hudson River and imagine life when the Lenapes inhabited this area.  On Monday, July 10th from 6:00 pm -6:30 pm there will be a drum circle at Inwood Hill Park.  Bring your own drum (if you have one) and join in.
  14. Take a train ride to Grand Central Station, Manhattan – There is much to explore in GCS itself – see the mural on the ceiling with the constellations, the whispering hall, the transit museum, and the shops.
  15. Visit the Science Boat in Yonkers – suggested donation $5, this is a prototype of a sustainable urban farm with hydroponic greenhouse that operated completely off-grid with solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels.  Last summer when we visited, we got to pot a basil plant and bring it home for free.
  16. Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow
  17.  Walk the Highline in Manhattan
  18. City Island, Bronx – nothing like an ice cream cone from Lickety Split, the tiny ice cream shop that houses big homemade taste.
  19. Katz’s Deli – Famous for the pastrami on rye, it’s something everyone should experience at least one in their life.
  20.  Walter’s Hot Dogs – so famous that I recently heard about someone having them come to their wedding.
  21. Palisades International Park – As New Yorkers we have spectacular views of these steep cliffs that line the Hudson River.  I want to share with the kids the rich history behind the Palisades, including the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804 (right now, my son is fascinated with the presidents of the the US).
  22. Grimaldi’s Pizza and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory – Brooklyn – have you noticed that I have mentioned ice cream places a few times in the list?  I come from a long line of ice cream fanatics, my dad even had a special bowl reserved when we were kids.  No one touched it, it  was “Dad’s Ice Cream Bowl”.  It was really just a large plastic bowl, no frills, but it could hold a lot of ice cream.  Even now, the running joke between the grand kids and Pop Pop is he had “too much ice cream”.
  23. South Street Seaport – As a kid, my favorite thing about South Street Seaport was the coffee shop on the ground floor which had barrels of coffee beans with their heavenly aroma enveloping you as you read descriptions of each type of coffee that made you dream of far off, exotic locales.
  24. Grants Tomb,Riverside Park, Manhattan – Remember Trivial Pursuit?  We always thought it was funny when we got the queston, “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?”  General Grant National Memorial is open Wednesday through Sundays, admission is free.
  25. Visit a cat cafe – I’ve seen several articles lately about these cat cafes.  Apparently, many of the cats are also up for adoption, a great alternative to a shelter since the cats are giving space to roam, climb and interact with people.