Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Beyond Sibling Rivalry -- Upcoming PT Lecture

While siblings have a special opportunity to develop close, strong bonds with one another, this special relationship can just as easily go the other way.  Siblings can engage in serious competition to such an extent that getting along just doesn't seem possible.  As the younger of two sisters, I have experienced sibling rivalry from childhood through my adult years.

"And a little sibling rivalry" by Cathy T

Some sibling competition can be good thing.  When my sister received a National Merit scholarship in her senior year of high school, I knew there was no question that I had to do the same. My senior year mirrored her accomplishment.  Although our paths took a different chronological order, we also both went on to graduate from the same university, attend law school, become attorneys, become part-time working moms and stay-at-home moms.  Along with similar interests, our competitiveness played a part in propelling us down similar, ultimately fulfilling paths.

At other times, sibling rivalry is not so pretty.  My sister and I have outgrown our rough and tumble cat fights as young kids.  But as an adult, I find it very easy to be pulled into the internal dialogue in which I compare the accomplishments of my child with her child, my niece whom I adore.  Based on our sibling history, I am certain that my sister does the same!   Luckily, for our families, this competition has not surfaced in any visible way (I hope!).

"Sibling rivalry" by Richard Leeming

If only there were some strategies and tactics that parents could take so that sibling competition among their kids doesn't become unhealthy rivalry.  Parents want their kids to nurture good feelings about each other and build supportive relationships that will last throughout their lives.

Interested in learning more about the pros and pitfalls of sibling rivalry?  Attend Parent Talk's  upcoming lecture, "Beyond Sibling Rivalry," by Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. at the Charles River School in Dover.  The author of a book by the same name, Dr. Goldenthal is an expert on sibling relationships and child development.  Parent Talk members are invited to attend for free and non-members can purchase tickets for $20.  Register and get tickets at

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Monday, April 18, 2016

PT Spring Sale: Six Reasons to Volunteer, Donate, Consign and Shop!

If you are pregnant or new to parenthood, the Parent Talk Sale on Saturday, May 7, 2016, is a must-not-miss event.  You can expect to see some high-end baby gear, clothing, and toys at bargain basement prices (literally...the Sale is held in a church basement!).  And all of it within a welcoming community of fellow moms and dads, eager to swap stories from the parenthood trenches or share resources ranging from pediatricians to preschools to summer camps.  It is so special that I have friends who travel from Connecticut and Western Massachusetts twice a year to volunteer and shop.  No joke.  There is simply nothing else like it.

A long line of shoppers waits to enter one of PT's bi-annual Sales.

If you are welcoming another baby to the fold, you also owe it to yourself and your growing family to check out the Sale.  Donate or consign some of that outgrown blue clothing and search for something new in pink!  Volunteer as a Sale staffer, share your hard-earned expertise with a friend, and learn something new from someone with older kids.  Simplify your life and pick up an extra set of everything (cheap!) for grandma's house, and never ever schlep another toy or pack-and-play there again.  Doesn't that sound amazing?!

I can't wait.  See you Saturday, May 7, 2016 at Christ Episcopal Church in Needham.  The General Sale runs from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., followed by the $10 Clearance Bag Sale from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.  The Sale is open to the general public.  Membership in Parent Talk is not required to donate, consign, volunteer or shop. 

 If you need a few more reasons to squeeze the Sale into your calendar, here are six:


The Sale has established a reputation for high quality.  You can often find brands like Hanna Andersson, Mini Boden, Crew Cuts and more.  Think Kate Spade diaper bags, Kelty backpacks, and Bugaboo strollers.  Even if you are just cleaning out a pile of Carter's jammies, you can feel good about making the donation.  Or, turn a tidy profit when you place your consignment cast-offs in the company of brand name merchandise.

Shoppers among the many racks of clothing.


Parent Talk is a 501 c3 non-profit organization, so your donations to the Sale are fully tax deductible.  Half of all that you earn on consignments also directly supports Parent Talk programs that benefit hundreds of Metro-West families.  Any unsold donations or consignments are scooped up by other regional charities that help needy or homeless families, such as Circle of Hope, Cradles to Crayons, and the Department of Children and Families.  Email for donation drop-off information and for information on consigning.


Donate your well-loved toys and clothes to the Parent Talk Sale, not the landfill.  Shopping for recycled treasures at the Sale is much more fun and eco-friendly than shopping at your local big box store or online.

Example of a "jackpot" item from a past Sale -- small Trek mountain bike.


Parents can shop with their children to teach them elementary math while making purchases and how to best manage their moneyKids enjoy a freedom of choice not possible at more expensive stores. 


If you serve on the Parent Talk Sale Committee and/or sign up for a 2-hour volunteer shift, you can shop from Sale items a whole day early, and under less crowded conditions.  Friday is a private shopping day for volunteers and some of the most desirable items are sold then, before the Sale even opens to the general public. 


The very last hour of the Sale is exciting.  For just $10, shoppers can fill a bag with as much merchandise as they can carry.  Even if you shop all day at Friday's private sale for volunteers, you will want to come back to bag the best bargains on Saturday.

The Parent Talk Sale is the Olympics of sales.  But you can't get to the PT Sale from your computer or your iPhone.  You have to show up to share the good gossip (maybe even get a warm hug!) and grab the deals of the century.

About the Author
Catherine Memory is a freelance writer and publicist, and a former Parent Talk Board member.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Parent Talk Photo Album: College Throwback

Fun abounded for those who attended Saturday's College Throwback night, this year's spring fundraiser for Parent Talk.  With a program that included food and drinks, DJ, NCAA basketball, a wish tree (wish list of items for PT's Playspace and community partners), raffle, and silent auction, what was not to like?  The dress code at the Biltmore Bar & Grille in Newton was college casual.  PT members rummaged through the back of drawers and closets to proudly don the names of their almae matres for one more night.  See pictures below!

Hey, that's pretty funny!

Line-up of items for sale in the silent auction.

 Just chilling at the bar.

We're starting our own College Conference.

Give me a P. . . P! Give me a T. . . T! Go, Parent Talk!

The PT crowd.

A great team starts here:  PT's President Megan Bourque (left), VP Ellie Beasley (center), and Executive Director Susan Kagan (right).

PT's wish list and a popular college past-time come together to dress up the Donation Tree.

This is better than guys' night out!

Members of PT's 2015-2016 Board and Event Co-Chairs.

Couples hang out.

Taking advantage of a chance to catch up.

Taking a break from watching the Syracuse v. North Carolina game.

Playgroup friends are the best!

A memorable experience to share with a friend.

Over 50 local businesses donated to Parent Talk through College Throwback 2016!  Parent Talk would like to thank these businesses and all of the silent auction donors and bidders, along with all of the Red Cup Raffle donors and winners.  The response to our wish list was gratifying.  Many items were donated to the Parent Talk Playspace and to other local charities.  Parent Talk thanks Ginger and Julia from the Biltmore Bar & Grille which was the perfect location for College Throwback.  The chicken and waffles were a hit!  And for their unwavering support of Parent Talk, including attending College Throwback, we would like to thank Needham Bank's Eric Morse and Michelle DiSimone. 
Parent Talk members can likewise support local businesses in our community.  Plan to shop at Needham Cash Mob on April 30th!  Spend at least $10 with local retailers.   The event starts at 10:00 a.m.   Shop anytime throughout the day!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Items Used and Loved: Donating It Forward

I was outside on the first warm(ish) day of Spring this year, playing with my kids in the yard.  As my 4-year-old walked past the plastic toddler slide, she stopped and looked at it as if she had not noticed it in a long time.  She climbed up the stairs (it only took two steps) and slid down it -- kind of.  Her outstretched legs stopped her slide about 8 inches above the wood chip floor.  She turned around and gave the slide a quizzical look which seemed to say, "Really?  Is that all you've got?"  Then she ran off to play with something else.

"Maya at the top of the slide" by Anathea Utley.

If last year had not meant balancing everything else that all moms juggle -- kids, work, and the day-to-day tasks that are a part of life -- I probably would have thought about the fact that my kids have outgrown the slide, and I would have gotten rid of it a year ago.  But to be honest, there is a little bit of nostalgia that probably played into the situation.  My kids used to love that slide.  They are still my babies.  Why would I give the slide away?

The slide has been well-used and loved at our home.  There have been a lot of fun moments with that slide.  As toddlers, my girls had their very first slide experience on it, smiling from baby cheek to baby cheek.  It also played a part in their obstacle courses.  Their dolls went to the "park" and down the slide with their "mommies."  There were kiddie pool parties in the summer with the kids and their friends sliding joyfully into cool water.

"Boy and Bunny in the Playhouse 2" by Gordon.

But time has passed, and my kids are no longer toddlers.  They are full-fledged children.  My kids still have joy from things that make them smile, but the slide is no longer one of those things.  The slide is just taking up space that could otherwise be used for the rope ladder that my 7-year-old has requested for her upcoming birthday.  What our slide really needs is a new toddler who will love it and use it as it is meant to be used.

Luckily, I live in Needham, where a toddler can be seen strolling down the street with his or her caregiver at any given time.  And luckily, I am a member of Parent Talk and I know just where I can bring the slide.  Parent Talk's next Used Clothing, Toy and Equipment Sale is on May 7, 2016.

When I donate the slide to Parent Talk's bi-annual Sale, another lucky toddler will have a new toy just in time for lots of summer backyard fun.  That child will have just as many smiles using the slide as my girls did.  And the parents of that lucky toddler will get a great toy in very good condition for a fraction of what they would have paid if they bought a brand new slide.  Parent Talk -- the awesome group that does so much to build community for young families in Needham -- will even make some money from my donation.  Everyone wins.

Donated toys, interested kids, and the POD to move it all to Parent Talk's Sale location!

In short, I have discovered that donating forward is the best way to handle my case of mother's nostalgia.  When I am volunteering at the Sale (which I always love doing), I know I am going to smile when I see a chubby cheeked toddler running over to the slide with wise parents who know great deal and a recipe for fun when they see one.  Really, who can resist playing a small part in making a toddler smile?  I know you feel the same.

About the Author
Kara Veley is a member of Parent Talk who has previously volunteered for the Used Clothing, Toy, and Equipment Sale as part of the Sale Committee.  She plans to do so again this year, and wishes you a Happy Parent Talk Sale Spring 2016!

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Donated items to the Sale that remain unsold can still have a second life!  After the Sale, representatives of local charities are given a chance to claim any unsold items (for free!) to pass along to their clients and families in need.   Pay it forward!  Please consider donating your used items to Parent Talk's May 7, 2016 Used Clothing, Toy, and Equipment Sale.  Email for donation drop-off location and guidelines.  PT also needs help from many people to make this happen, and is seeking volunteers.  Sign-up for one 2 hour shift beginning April 7, 2016!  Email to get on the email list for volunteering.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gardening with Kids: 5 Foods You Must Try!

The amazing thing about gardening at home is that your kids will shock you with how much produce they will consume, straight off the vine.  Once you get it inside, wash it and put it in a lunch box, all bets are off.  But while they are standing there, half-naked in the garden, harvesting gorgeous little tomatoes, they can't resist devouring half of what they pick.  Watching my kids eat "sooger nap peas" fresh from the garden just about makes my whole summer.

"Soogar nap peas" fresh from the garden.  Photo credit: LJR Images.

We don't have any particularly green thumbs in our house, but the fantasy of what our garden could be is so strong that we have been attempting to garden for years -- in pots, plots, the yard, and window sill.  Through trial and error, we have discovered five super simple things that our kids love to cultivate with us.


We grow all kinds, but the kids' clear favorite are the cherry varieties.  Last year, the sungolds were the best.  The year before that, the sweet cherry 100s won the day.  The year before that, it was the yellow pear tomatoes.  Just grab two or three varieties (plants, not seeds) and plant them all.  The kids had a tomato and lemonade sale last summer that was a big hit with the neighbors.

Step right up!  Photo credit: LJR Images.

Sow in spring, just after last frost, and harvest in morning.

These are quick to sprout and early to mature, so you will be eating them long before your tomatoes come along later in the season.  We like to get the climbing kind, not bush beans.  Watching them snake their way up a trellis is half the fun.  These are best grown from seeds.  Sow them deeper than recommended or the bunnies and chipmunks will eat the seeds.  We grow them mainly to eat in the yard, so we almost never cook them.  We do have one pretty fabulous salad suggestion with snaps, radishes, sumac dressing and feta, but let's be honest.  Our kids are more likely to start spontaneously cleaning than eat this salad.  Because it's not all about the kids, try this salad.

Our favorite way to enjoy our tomatoes and basil.  Photo credit: LJR Images.


We usually pick up a few plants on our first run to the green house in the early spring.  We get them in the ground early and try our luck with the frost.  At the same time, we plant a couple of rows of arugula and spinach seeds.  We "thin" these by eating baby sprouts and greens every few days after they get started.  Our kids blow our minds when they eat greens from our garden, because lettuce was on the "never would I touch that in my wildest dreams" list before we started growing our own.  Now, they just nibble a bit here and there, but it's a start.


Who knew growing potatoes was fun???  We buy the spuds at our local garden store and plant them after the last frost.  They grow big, beautiful, full plants relatively early in summer before they become obnoxious, gangly, and start to fall over.  We refuse to stake them, so we ultimately end up mowing them a little bit by accident when we do the lawn.  When the plants start to die (which is normal, it has nothing to do with our mowing habits), we freak out and think all is lost.  Then, we start digging and uncover little golden globes of awesomeness in the dirt.

Finally harvesting the pumpkins in September.  Photo credit: LJR Images.

 Plant late May or seed inside 2-4 weeks before last spring frost.

Last fall was our first success with pumpkins, so don't give up if they fail at first.  We had two gorgeous green (but ripening to orange) pumpkins, a little smaller than soccer balls.  They were even candidates for carving in October!  Pumpkins are tricky because of the declining bee population, so you may have to help with pollination.  What an awesome lesson for the kids, right??? Just google how to pollinate pumpkins, and go for it.  (Of course, this is also a great reminder that you can plant a pollinator garden with your kids as well, which is a story for another post.)  Pumpkins need a lot of space, but if your backyard is miniscule (like ours), don't let this stop you.  Our one plant is in an area about 6'x6' and it gets lots of morning and mid-day sun.

A few other things we do?  We love to grow scallions, herbs of all kinds, and jalapenos.  We attribute a good deal of our success to the compost we work into the garden each year.  We have a bin, and we buy worms.  Freaked out? Then just buy some good dirt at the garden store.

Hard-Bargaining Gardeners.  Photo credit: LJR Images.

Worried about not having enough space to garden?  We have several different areas in our backyard that we use for veggies.  We mix in flowers, especially marigolds, because they are attractive to pollinators while allegedly deterring some garden pests.  As long as you have some good sun, you can plant anywhere.  You don't need to section off a giant rectangle with perfect 90 degree angles.  But, in case you're wondering, we do have a cool planter and we also had a raised bed with paver edges put in a couple of years ago.  Still, much of our garden grows along our back fence without anything fancy.  Okay - maybe a little bit fancy -- we picked up two of these trellises for our sugar snap peas.  And our tomatoes grow so high that we are always on the lookout for new ways to manage/stake them.  Give us your suggestions.

Happy gardening!

About the Authors
Dani & Cindy are two moms in Massachusetts.  They have never blogged before, so give them a cheer and a like.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Parent Talk will be partnering with Needham Community Farm to offer classes in the Spring.  Check the Parent Talk events calendar for updates!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Twisted Corned Beef and Cabbage with Eggs, Naturally

I love crock pot recipes for the ease and convenience they offer in creating a healthy, hearty meal for the family with little time investment.  But my personal experience with crock pot meals is that they typically result in food that is okay to pretty good, rather than delicious to mouthwatering.  There was, however, one exception.  On St. Patrick's Day 2010, my crock pot turned out the most incredible corned beef and cabbage that the world has ever seen!  I brought it to an office party where it was promptly devoured and exclaimed over.

"Faces from the St. Patrick's Day Parade" by Jeffrey

Unfortunately, those were the days before I had any interest in cooking, so that recipe has pretty much disappeared.  But with St. Patrick's Day 2016 coming up, I did an online search for that corned beef and cabbage recipe.  I only remembered that it called for the somewhat surprising additions of orange juice and brown sugar.  A lot of recipes came up, but not the one I wanted. 

I took a stab at melding the recipes that I found with memory.  The result was a sweet and sour take on traditional corned beef.  For those with traditional tastes and like a strictly salty corned beef, this is a recipe to skip.  If you like sweet and sour and don't mind mixing it with salty, it could be worth your walk on the wilder side.  This was not a repeat of St. Paddy's Day 2010, but added to white rice, I thought this version of corned beef tasted pretty good.  And since pretty good is the hallmark of a decent crock pot recipe, why not share?



3 lb corned beef (with seasoning packet or already seasoned -- I used one from Trader Joe's)

1/2 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped

 12 large red potatoes, quartered

1 onion, chopped

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped (I used ready-to-eat carrots)

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 cups water

Place potatoes, onion, carrots and cabbage in crock pot.  Place seasoned corned beef on top of vegetables.  (Tip: if veggies are a bit too bulky for the crock pot, place half of the cabbage in the pot and let it cook down first before adding the rest of the cabbage.  Or, just wait until last hour of cooking to add cabbage, since otherwise it tends to disintegrate and disappear).  Mix orange juice concentrate and brown sugar with water and pour over the beef.  Cook in slow cooker on high for 3 hours, then switch to low for 5 hours or until done.  Serve over fresh white rice.


After St. Paddy's Day, I'm looking forward to trying out some naturally dyed Easter eggs.  Last year, I dyed some eggs with natural food coloring with this result:

The naturally dyed eggs are resting on a used Paas dyed eggs carton for drying.  They are darker in color when I used brown eggs.  Yellow on a white egg became orange to brown on a brown egg. I also attempted some two-tone striping that turned out a bit uneven.

Last year's experiment was a lesson.  This year, I will try to remember a few things.  First, I will buy white eggs instead of the brown that I normally get to achieve brighter colors.  Second, I will add extra-plenty of the natural dye ingredients (spinach for green, turmeric for orange/yellow, beets for pink, and blueberries for blue) with vinegar to get a more vibrant color.  Third, I'll leave time to do a second or even third dip for stronger colors and clearer striping, since the natural dyes tend to be lighter than synthetic dyes.

What to do in the down time between cooking a St. Paddy's Day meal and dying Easter eggs?  I'm tempted to find a good recipe for making a glazed ham, because then I can change the color of egg yolks by injecting some food color . . . and voila, Green Eggs and Ham!  Instant fun for my child's breakfast, when accompanied by the well-loved Dr. Seuss story!

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Peace Workshop to Help Kids Cope in a Stressful World

As parents, we try to shield our children from violence and turmoil in the news, but inevitably, whether they see it on television or feel it when our lives get hectic, kids seem to be affected by stress on some level from an early age.  It feels impossible to avoid the feeling of being rushed and certainly not all days can be spent quietly in the house.  However, just as we find ways as adults to insulate ourselves, we can teach our children ways to cope in what can sometimes be an overwhelming world.

"Peaceful Brooke" by Amy McCartney

Parent Talk is planning a Peace Workshop designed for this purpose.  Together with early childhood specialist, Ingrid Dahlin-Doherty from Wellesley Tree House, we will use yoga, music and art to inspire little ones to feel and understand a sense of peace.  Children will listen to music, sing songs and learn a few yoga poses.  They will make an art project to take home and will participate in a collaborative mural that will be used to decorate the Parent Talk Playspace.

"Sam's first downward-facing dog" by Quinn Dombroski
The Parent Talk Peace Workshop takes place Saturday, March 12, 2016 from 3:30-5:00.  It will be held in Room 215 at the Caryl Community Center in Dover.  Come join us and reserve your space by signing up at Eventbrite

About the Author
Liza D'Hemecourt is the Community Relations Chair for Parent Talk, following her previous role as Blog Coordinator.  She taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming a stay-at-home mom in Needham to her two children. 

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