Monday, January 29, 2018

Parent Talk Celebrates Our Super Volunteers, Part 2

Parent Talk is happy to honor Meghann Freni and Laura Perras as recipients of our Volunteer of the Year service award.  On December 27th, we celebrated with a blog post on Laura, and today, we follow up with a post on Meghann!
Spotlight on Meghann Freni, Volunteer of the Year

Meghann Freni is someone who seems to like getting off to a running start, judging from her habit of diving headfirst into each new volunteer experience with Parent Talk! 

Meghann is wife to Jon and mom to Ryan, Colin and Nora (ages 5, 3 and 1, respectively). She shares the Volunteer of the Year title with Laura Perras because of her remarkable willingness and courage to jump in and lend a hand, and leadership, when needed.

After giving birth to Ryan in 2012, Meghann left her Human Resources job in Boston to become a stay-at-home mom.  She moved with her young family back to her hometown of Needham.  Once in Needham, she joined a Parent Talk playgroup.

When Ryan turned 4, Meghann had her first real volunteer experience with Parent Talk.  She became Co-Chair for Parent Talk's Preschool and Kindergarten Fair in 2016.  She quickly followed that experience by once again, stepping in as Co-Chair, this time for the annual Summer Camp Fair in 2017.  Meghann explains, "I had friends who were involved with Parent Talk [who] really enjoyed their volunteer experiences, so they encouraged me to get more involved and I'm so glad I did!"

In chairing each event, Meghann's responsibilities included reaching out to schools, enrichment programs and camps to invite them to attend and purchase a table at either of the two fairs.  "From there, it was logistics such as set-up, materials needed for the event, and of course, the [Preschool Fair and Camp Fair] booklet[s]!"

While learning the ropes from the bottom up may be the preferred way many of us get started on a new adventure, a lack of past experiences appears not to have posed any constraint on Meghann!  Consider that freshly off of her second Parent Talk volunteer experience of co-chairing the Summer Camp Fair, Meghann neatly stepped into her current Board role as Parent Talk's Fundraising Co-Chair. 

Meghann has continued her involvement in Parent Talk because of what she views as the rewards of volunteering -- getting involved, making friends, and gaining a sense of community.  Of her experiences with the Preschool Fair and Camp Fair, Meghann says,  "I was able to see both events from start to finish.  It was great to see how families got a lot out of both events and I enjoyed the planning process and meeting new families and Parent Talk members.  By volunteering, you are helping to promote a sense of community, which in turn helps those who are new to the area or those who are looking to find something new within our community."

Thank you, Meghann, for all you do to make great events and programming possible for the entire Parent Talk community!

Are you thinking of volunteering or filling a leadership role for the first time? Perhaps take a page from Meghann's book and jump right in, learning trial by fire!  If that's not your cup of tea, keep in mind that beginning your involvement with Parent Talk can be as easy as clicking on the next Sign Up Genius link that you see, and filling a one-hour volunteer slot!  Volunteer opportunities are announced in Parent Talk's weekly  e-newsletter and Yahoo Groups discussions.  They are often also announced on our Facebook page and website.  Keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity!

About the Author:

Darlene W. Cancell first volunteered for Parent Talk at its biannual Used Toy, Clothing and Equipment Sale.  She followed that with at stint as PT's Blog Coordinator and currently is enjoying her role on the Board as Volunteer Chair.  She hopes she can help make volunteering with Parent Talk even more fun, convenient and rewarding.  If you have any suggestions, comments or questions about volunteering, please email her at

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Successful Parenting Advice for Single Dads

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Successful Parenting Advice for Single Dads

Being a father can be an overwhelming challenge, especially if you are flying solo.  It’s a struggle more men are facing, and with the right tools you can be a successful dad with happy and healthy kids. 

You’re not alone.  More households than ever are led by single fathers.  According to studies cited by ABC News, the number of single father homes in America rose by 62 percent in a single decade, with numbers totalling over 2.2 million.  It’s believed that the rise signals acceptance of men’s ability to function successfully as single parents, and the number is only expected to continue to grow. 

Challenges.  Single dads struggle in many of the same areas single mothers do, with financial strains and finding balance between work and home life.  Unfortunately, single fathers often don’t feel they can reach out for help, fearing loss of custody. There are things you can do to face your challenges head on and work toward overcoming them, beginning with asking family and friends for help when you need it.  Get involved with local or online support groups, too - you’ll find there is benefit in shared struggles, and sometimes you may glean tips or assistance when you need help with your many obligations. 

Coping skills.  Being a single parent can be extremely stressful, but with good coping skills you can manage your concerns and overcome the obstacles in your path.  As explained by the experts at Behavioral Wellness & Recovery,  "It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems."  Some simple skills you can incorporate into your lifestyle are:
      Reading a book.  Take a book with you wherever you go, and when life is feeling complicated enjoy an “escape” into the pages. 
      Strolling outside.  Nature has a positive, healing effect on your well-being; a walk in the park or even around the block to enjoy some green space, fresh air and sunshine can work wonders for your stress level.
      Petting animals.  Engaging with pets offers terrific benefits, like lowering your blood pressure and improving self-esteem.  If you don’t have a companion animal of your own, consider volunteering at a local shelter.

Finances.  Experts note that one of the most important issues you face as a single dad is budgeting your money.  Understanding your income and financial obligations, planning how you will meet them, and arranging your spending habits to accommodate your needs will give you a sense of security and control.  If you need to go back to school, do so.  Studies reflect that improving your level of education directly and positively impacts both your parenting style and communication, not to mention the potential for improving your work situation and income.

Enjoy yourself and your children.  Establish a daily routine in your household and make sure fun is part of it.  It’s healthy for you and your children to engage every day, talking and doing activities together.  Having a routine schedule gives your family security, and it’s better for everyone to know what expectations are.  Don’t think that because you’re a dad you can’t be close with your children; experts at Livestrong note that studies found the opposite: “...the relationship between a single parent and a child can be one that is close and affectionate.  A child in a single-parent home often sees the parent in a new light, and a single parent may be more likely to focus love and affection on a child when no spouse is involved.  The parent and child are mutually dependent on each other, and in many cases this leads to a relationship that is more supportive and communicative.”

Life as a single dad is challenging, but you aren’t alone in your struggle.  Reach out for help, use good coping skills, take control of your finances, and enjoy your children.  With these terrific tools you can achieve success as a single dad!

About the Author
Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Parent Talk Celebrates Our Super Volunteers

Some people go the extra mile, and Parent Talk would like to recognize two of our extra milers! This year's Volunteer of the Year recognition is shared by Laura Perras and Meghann Freni.  We first shine this week's blog entry on Laura! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Meghann.

Spotlight on Laura Perras, Volunteer of the Year

While friends might call Laura Perras fun, outgoing and friendly, and clients might find in her a local realtor who does a great job with the buying and selling of a home, Laura describes herself as a "total music nerd" who has been an "underground edm dj for almost 20 years."  She spins house, techno, drum n bass, breaks, downtempo and bass genres while also producing techno and house music. You may not have moved lately or have been lucky enough to see Laura's musical talents in action, but there's a good chance that you have run come across Laura at some point of your Parent Talk experience over the last two years. 

Maybe it was reading Laura's posts on the Parent Talk Matters Blog, where she could probably win another award for being such an entertaining and humorous blogger.  "I take my own experiences, successes and failures, and the info I've found and try to simplify and condense it into something that's also entertaining to read," she says.  "At trying times, I've really gotten a lot of relief from brutally honest, humorous parenting blogs like Scary Mommy, and I hope that along with sharing some good tips I can provide a little humor as well. I think everything seems to get a little easier when we don't take it too seriously."

Aside from blogging, she also helps maintain and update Parent Talk's Facebook page as one of PT's Marketing Co-Chairs. Or you may have met Laura at any number of Parent Talk events.   

It's Laura's can-do attitude, her reliability, and her contribution to so many aspects of Parent Talk that have made her such an invaluable member of Parent Talk.  She's a Most Valuable Player -- an MVP and a no-brainer when it came to candidates for Parent Talk's Volunteer of the Year.  From lending a hand for a few hours at each event like Flicks on the Field, Parent Talk's New Member Playdate, Winter Marketplace, and many more involved hours as a member of the Sales Committee, to sharing her personal research on parenting questions as blog coordinator and her commitment in her current position as Co-Chair of Marketing on the PT Board, Laura is a remarkable volunteer!  And she does it all with humor and grace.  We applaud and appreciate all of her efforts to help make Parent Talk resources available to all members.

Laura first got involved in Parent Talk after moving from New York City with her daughter, Violet (age 4), back to the area where she grew up.  As a William Raveis realtor in Brookline, she helped open an office for her firm in Needham, and now practices out of both locations.  She also tried to find a robust online mom's forum, similar to what she had in NYC. Parent Talk was the answer.  

She first volunteered at Flicks on the Field and came back for more by joining the Sale Committee. She says she loves the fast pace of the Sale, meeting great people, and getting amazing deals. But the best part for her comes at the end of the Sale, after buyers have already swept through in the first few hours of sometimes frantic shopping that includes the Bag Sale.  One of her favorite Parent Talk volunteer experiences was assisting a charity in collecting leftover Sale items for use for their members and clients.  

Another of Laura's memorable volunteer experiences has been donating to Project NightNight, an organization that collects bags, including a blanket, soft toy and book for children staying in shelters.  She says, "One of my favorite things about Parent Talk is that there are opportunities to volunteer with our kids.  I did a lot of volunteer work with my mother growing up (not all of it willingly, I admit) and it definitely shaped who I am."  She and daughter Violet put together a bag with an emoji pillow and book about Rad Women for an older child.

Asked what she might say to members who have not yet volunteered with Parent Talk, she advises, "You're missing out! Every time I go to a Parent Talk event, I leave inspired and energized. I not only get to connect with other parents and relate our parenting experiences, but I also get to remember what it's like to be myself, a person, apart from being a mom. And I think we can all agree most parents could use a little more of that."

About the Author:

Darlene W. Cancell first volunteered for Parent Talk at its biannual Used Toy, Clothing and Equipment Sale. She followed that with a stint as PT's Blog Coordinator and currently is enjoying her role on the Board as Volunteer Chair.  She hopes she can help make volunteering with Parent Talk even more fun, convenient and rewarding.   If you have any suggestions, comments or questions about volunteering, please email her at

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Battling Winter Boredom : Things to Do & Places to Go

As winter descends upon us with colder temperatures, windy weather, and early darkness, we can't rely on a trip to the playground to break up a monotonous morning or wear the kids out at the end of the day. So here are a few indoor options to keep us all from going stir crazy this winter.

Upcoming ParentTalk Events, Classes & Playdates:

Playdates at the Playspace! 10:30-12:30 December 7, 16, 21, 30  January 4, 13, 18
Craft Decorating at Architrave 10-11am December 9
Gymboree Play & Music Playdate 4-5pm December 14
Kidville Free Trial 3:30-4:45pm January 12

Indoor Playspaces & Playgrounds:

Drop in:
ParentTalk Playspace - Dover (don't forget about this one! As a member of ParentTalk you have access to our playspace, and can even rent it out for birthday parties!)
Inside Playground - Watertown
Kids Fun Stop - Dedham (ParentTalk members get $2 off child's admission)
Children's World - Canton
Imagine Playspace - Cambridge
Jam Time - Natick
Mini Athletes open gym - Norwood (10% off session costs for ParentTalk members)
Kidville - Wellesley (try a free class; check our retail discounts if you decide to sign up  - while you're there, bring junior to the Kidville Salon for $5 off a haircut)
Gymboree - Needham (try a free class; 10% discount for ParentTalk members)
My Gym - Newton (try a free class; $25 off lifetime membership or 5% off class tuition for ParentTalk members)
Charles River YMCA offers a wide variety if classes and camps - Needham (10% off membership dues for ParentTalk members)

Stores That Feature a Playspace:

Architrave - Needham (ParentTalk members get a 10% discount on toys)
Magic Beans - Wellesley (ParentTalk members get a 10% discount on full-priced toys)
Magic Beans - Brookline

Trampoline Parks & Inflatables

Jump N Slide - Newton - (right on the Needham/Newton line, ParentTalk members get 33% discount on walk-ins)
Jump On In - Brighton
Launch Trampoline Park - Norwood - this one has a separate area for toddlers
Launch Trampoline Park - Watertown - see their schedule for toddler jump hours

Indoor Rock Climbing

Rock Spot Climbing - Boston (ParentTalk members get 10% off any program or camp)
Rock On Adventure - Norwood
Brooklyn Boulders - Somerville
Dedham Health and Athletic - Dedham
MIT Climbing Wall (free) - Cambridge

Other Active Indoors Ideas:

Beanstalk Ropes Course at Jordan's Furniture - Reading
Enchanted Ice ($6 to ice skate indoors - includes skate rental) at Jordan's Furniture - Avon
Ninja Warrior/ Parkour Courses at Action Athletics - Wellesley

Get Creative:

Drop in for some arts and crafts activities at The Kids Place - Needham (15% discount for ParentTalk members)
Check out a free kid's workshop at the Home Depot
Register and take part in the Monthly Mini Model Build at the Lego Store - Natick
Take a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts - the museum often hosts family friendly events like the Hannukah Festival of Lights December 13


Ecotarium Science and Nature Museum - Worcester
Sock Skating!! Boston Children's Museum - Boston
Boston Fire Museum - Boston (walking distance from the Children's Museum - make it a two-for)
Museum of Science - Boston

More Indoors Fun:

Needham Public Library - check the events calendar for activities ranging from yoga to sing alongs to crafts
Check the Needham/Newton Chamber of Commerce community and member event pages for upcoming events of all kinds
Nature exploration classes at Puddle Stompers - Newton (10% discount for ParentTalk members)
Take a stroll through the Enchanted Village and visit with Santa at Jordan's Furniture - Avon
Come check out the Polar Express 4D Movie Experience at Jordan's Furniture - Avon
Check out a kid-friendly movie or entertainment at the Coolidge Corner Theatre - Brookline
Have the ultimate Lego Experience at Legoland Discovery Center - Boston
New England Aquarium is amazing any time of year
See a puppet show at Puppet Showplace Theatre - Brookline
For a fancy treat, attend a Teddy Bear Tea at the Taj or at the Four Seasons - Boston

Willing to brave the outdoors? Just a few suggestions ...

Zoo Lights - Stoneham Zoo
Free Ice Skating - this article is from last year, but probably still holds true, just call before you go
Tubing at New England Sports Park - Amesbury

Hope this list can save an afternoon or two! Stay tuned for more ParentTalk events posted on our website events calendar as well as on our Facebook page!

About the Author:Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Encouraging Kids to Cultivate Gratitude on Thanksgiving

After begging for months, your child no longer wishes to attend the expensive gymnastics classes you sacrificed your Sunday mornings for. Slumped in her chair, she glares unblinking at the table because the pizza upon it did not originate from her restaurant of choice. She refuses to wear the new black Uggs she'd previously been pining for, because her friend at school has pink ones. With bows.
And like a slowed-down movie clip you hear yourself asking the eternal parent-to-child question: "Do you realize how lucky you are?!!"

The short answer (which in a perfect world would be delivered sans eye-rolling) is "No." Of course she doesn't. Hopefully, her limited life experience has not included walking 3 miles in the snow to school every day in beat up sneakers, or being forced to sit at the table for hours until she managed to choke down her cold brussels sprouts. Everything she's ever done has been scheduled for her by somebody else (which, let's face it, isn't always fun, even if the scheduled activity is expected to be). She has very little control over or responsibility for her present situation, and almost zero perspective. So aside from asking rhetorical questions or haranguing her with tales of our own pre-internet, landline limited childhoods, how can we hope to help our kids see how good they've got it? And secondly, why should we?

According to quite a bit of research in recent years, cultivating a sense of gratitude in our everyday lives can have a significant impact on our overall happiness. Every day of the year holds opportunities to reflect on the many things we can be thankful for in our lives; however, as the name suggests, the Thanksgiving holiday provides a veritable bonanza of these opportunities. Like any lasting practice or habit, cultivating gratitude on a regular basis is the best way for it to really take hold in our minds, but Thanksgiving is the perfect moment to introduce these ideas, start the process, or check in with what we've already been doing. Here are some ideas for cultivating gratitude with our kids, our families, and ourselves this Thanksgiving holiday.

Talk about the food.

Where did the food on the table come from? Who prepared it, and how? Discuss each family member's favorite dish and why. When we immerse ourselves in our experience, and really look at why we like what we like and what it takes for us to get to enjoy those things, feeling thankful naturally follows. Letting our kids participate in cooking the Thanksgiving meal can also be fun - find some kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes here.

Talk about why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Ok, this is a sticky topic no doubt, and the truth about this time in our country's history is anything but pretty. Also, upon doing research for this blog post I discovered (and this may be true for you as well) that while I thought I knew how Thanksgiving came to be celebrated, I was missing a fair number of details.  Perhaps for these reasons it's even more worthy of discussion. For some guidance and ideas for broaching the topic without glossing over reality or traumatizing the children, give this article a gander. In addition to the history of the holiday, there is also the meaning it holds for each one of us, which in the end has more to do with why we continue to celebrate this tradition than the historical event that started it off.

Talk about what we are thankful for.

Just reflecting on this and discussing it tends to make us more aware of all we have. Go around the table and take turns saying one thing each person is grateful for and why. Or brainstorm a family gratitude list. Since anything and everything counts no matter how big or small, this can be a lot of fun.

Involve kids in donation.

There are ample opportunities to donate food this time of year (all year round, actually). When bringing food donations to a local charity, take the kids along for the ride. They can learn about what you're doing and why you're doing it, and they get to be a part of it. With older kids, consider participating in some form of community service, like serving food at a soup kitchen, or sorting donated items at a food bank.

Have fun being together.

For many families, this is the only time of the year that all or most family members are in the same place at the same time. While this can be stressful, bringing some fun into the mix is never a bad idea. Depending on what your family likes to do, you can start a yearly tradition : a flag footbal game, an ugly sweater competition, or a pie-eating contest (you're gonna do it anyway!)

To wrap this up, here's a link to some fun Thanksgiving games, crafts, and activities to keep the kids entertained. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

Monday, September 25, 2017

Consign or Donate Your Used Kids' Items at the Parent Talk Sale!


We all see the posts on For Sale and parent groups on Facebook, and it often occurs to me that I could get rid of the piles of outgrown kid stuff in my house that way, but I rarely do. The few times I've tried did not result in the easy success I anticipated. After volunteering at the Sale and seeing how it works, I realized that consigning was actually a much better way to clear out my used stuff than by attempting to sell items one at a time online.

1. I can get everything out of my house at once.
2. Everyone who sees my items will be specifically looking to buy these types of items, and there's a ton of people at the Sale. That's much better exposure than to people who may or may not be seriously looking to buy anything, may just see the post by accident, scrolling through a thousand other posts on their phones on the couch at night. Check out all the ready to go shoppers in the background:

3. If somebody buys my items, they take them right there. We don't have to schedule a pick up that may or may not go down. I've waited for someone to pick up free stuff and been stood up before, I imagine that happens more frequently when it isn't free.
4. If somebody buys it, I get some $$, while also supporting this fantastic organization - both financially and by contributing my really cool items to make the Sale the awesome event that it is.
5. No negotiation. Nobody is going to show up, dig in their pockets and say "Oh, I've only got a 5 - is that ok?"
6. If nobody wants my stuff, it's still out of my house. And it goes to charity.


This is the first time I'm consigning things at the Sale, and probably like many people who've never done it before I kind of assumed it would be a big project. One I might never actually get around to. I decided the best way to test this theory would be to actually do it, and for motivation, try to write a blog post about it. Which is working.
SO . . . I'll break it down and make it EVEN easier for you than it has been so far for me :

1. Click on this link CONSIGN AT THE SALE. It will take you to a page with all the info you need about consigning.
2. Download your SELLER'S KIT. This document is yet another testament to the mind blowing efficiency and organization that is the legacy of 25 years of ParentTalk planning. Don't be overwhelmed by the sheer size of it - it's not because this is complicated. It's because this pdf is an easy-to-navigate compilation of the answers to every question posed by sellers over the last 20 years. It practically consigns your stuff FOR you.
3. Get yourself a Seller's ID by emailing the following information to :
Full Name
Address including zip code
Phone Number
Preferred Email Address
4. Decide what's going. The Seller's Kit has guidelines as to what will and will not be accepted. For the Fall Sale, I'm consigning fall and winter clothing, a shelving unit for organizing toys, and a baby carrier, among other thing. Here's my pile so far:
You don't see any toys, because I'm hiding them.
5. Print out your tags from the template, also found in the Seller's Kit.
6. Label them clearly with price and Seller ID - pricing suggestions are included in the Seller's Kit. To make it easier and make sure your labels are readable, we'd suggest typing in your Seller ID before printing the tags. Some people type in all or a few prices before printing (for example, "$4 shirt" if you're consigning a bunch of shirts) to save time and avoid having to write the same price over and over for similarly priced items.
7. Attach the tags to your items. You might want to purchase a tagging gun like I did. If you are volunteering as well as consigning, this gun will come in quite handy later on - veterans know what I'm talking about. If you don't have a tagging gun, make sure the tags are fastened securely with strong tape so they don't fall off, as items do get moved around quite a bit as people are shopping.

8. Bring your tagged, priced items to the Christ Episcopal Church at 1132 Highland Ave on Friday October 13th between 9am and 8pm. Place them in the areas where they belong, ie. clothing downstairs on racks with the appropriate size, toys upstairs - the Seller's Kit also includes a sizing guide for clothes, and explains where everything goes.
9. Wait for your check. You will receive 50% of all proceeds collected before 11:45a.m. on Sale day, which is Saturday October 14th this year. All items not sold prior to 11:45 a.m. will become a tax deductible donation to Parent Talk.

If you're looking for an even faster way to clear out your gently used items, you can donate them to the Sale and we'll do all the work for you! Donations are currently being accepted at our two drop off locations (6 Birds Hill Ave and 10 Noyes St), or you can bring items directly to the church on Friday October 13th.

If this sounds good to you, check out this other blog post about consigning your used kids' items :
How To Consign and Donate to PT's Sale

Once you've gotten your consigned goods cleared out, it's time to buy more! Consider volunteering 2 hours at the Sale for preferred shopping hours. Check out this post about how much fun it is :
Do Good, Have Fun, and SHOP

See you at the Sale!

About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s involved in Parent Talk as Board CoChair of Marketing and Communications, Blog Coordinator, and Sale Committee Member.  Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here :

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