Saturday, December 29, 2012

Calling All Potty Training Parents! {Giveaway}

Written by Emily Roach

Raise your hand if you are in the thick of potty training. Not there yet? Lucky you. Today I'm sharing some of the latest gear and services available for parents in our area. Hopefully it will make the process a little easier. Plus we have an awesome giveaway for a lucky Parent Talk member!

I went to a hilarious event called "Potty Palozza" last month. It was hosted by Pinwheel Books to celebrate the launch of a new book by Kate Hayes, All About Poop. Some kids do better with potty training when they understand what is happening in their body behind the scenes. The book takes a cute look at the how and why of potty time.

Jamie Grayson, the "Baby Guy" also attended the event and had us giggling as he showed us the latest gear on the market.  I never knew there was so many potty choices. Magic Beans brought in a huge assortment of potties; some song sang songs, some ring bells and others are just down right cute.  Did you know there is a "potty purse?" I actually think this would be awesome for the car, or for us down the beach next summer while we are (hopefully) starting potty training with toddler #2.
We also got to hear from Salina Gonzales Frazier, the owner of Diaper Lab in Cambridge. If you ever think about using cloth diapers, please head to her store. They carry over 50 different brands in the store. I'll bet you had no idea there was that many cloth diapers to choose from.  We are a cloth diapering family and it made me happy to hear that children often perform better at potty training when they are not in disposables. The child feels the wetness and is more apt to ditch the diapers earlier. I really like Salina's approach to cloth diapering. She wants it to work for your family, not against it. (If anyone is interested in having Salina speak to a playgroup about cloth diapers, let me know!) She also advised using ATTITUDE Eco-Baby Laundry Detergent for cloth diapers, so even I learned something new.

It's giveaway time! A lucky member will get the Fisher Price Froggy Potty for their toddler to enjoy. Plus they will also get the Potty Time Sticker Chart to help track your child's progress. It's a an easy to use sticker chart that hangs over the bathroom door handle. You can get additional ones at CVS. 
Please enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Winner must be a Parent Talk member. Contest is open until Jan 11th.

About the Author
Emily lives in Needham with her husband Jim and two children.  After working in retail for 10 years, she decided to stay home with the kids and bake.  Emily writes the blog Random Recycling, co-manages the Parent Talk Blog, and is a board member of the Needham Farmers Market.  Disclosure: I attended a promotional event and also received a potty and sticker chart to help facilitate this review. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Do I Move?

Written by Annie Bauman

Preparing your home to sell can feel especially overwhelming for parents with little kids. I sympathize with sellers who worry the home has to be immaculate in order to be presentable. Interestingly, a show-ready home does not require swapping out counter tops or other costly improvements. Based on the dozens of local homes I tour every week, I've established a four-step plan that should take a busy family no more than three weeks to complete. The tasks are broken down into four action items that can be executed in two hour increments. About the length of a  toddler's nap. In less than a month, your home won't be perfect. But it will be ready. 
1) Purge. Forget scoring boxes behind Roche Bros. Head to Wal-mart  and invest in a large plastic bin for every room in your home. Make sure they are clear and big but not so big that when filled with stuff, you won't be able to lug them. For large rooms and perhaps your basement, buy several. It won't be cheap, but you'll use these again throughout your move and also to store stuff at your new home. 

Spend two hours every day for five days filling the bins with everything you will donate. All the stuff you don't want coming with you but someone else might like or need. On the sixth day bring it to the swap shop at the dump or the church or the Salvation Army. The sixth day will be much more work and will include your partner or friends. But by day seven, your house should not have anything in it that isn't coming with you. Put the empty bins back. 
Purge and it will be easier to pack and sell your home.
2) Clean. Deeply.  Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, a squeaky clean house is one of those unquantifiable features that will endear a buyer to your home. Two hours every day for five days should suffice. The first day should be a room by room trash collection. Devote the second, third and fourth day to surfaces and floors. This is yellow-rubber-gloves-on-your-hands-and-knees kind of cleaning. Use vacuum attachments. Take a baby wipe and clean the window grids. Wash out the basement fridge. Scrub stuff. On the fifth day and throughout that second weekend, turn your focus to the outside of your home. Again, no shame in hiring professionals. Time and energy may be wisely saved here. Regardless, give your house a bath. Rent or borrow a leaf blower for the back deck, garage and  front steps paying close attention to every cranny. Rent or borrow a power washer and blast off any dirt or unsightly mold. Finally, wash the windows. 

3) Fix. Assuming you are not aware of any major necessary house repairs, dedicate the beginning of week three to anything that's broken. Does a ceiling need some touch-up paint, is there a hallway light that's never worked? Could the nursery use some spackle around the curtain rods? Does the front step need replacing? Make a to-do list and tackle as many projects as you can manage each day.

4) Appoint. This is critical. We assume that a buyer won't mind that the linen closet is in the baby's room or that all the Christmas stuff is shoved into a corner of the basement. Not true. While your better half is working on repairs, this is the time to organize the home you always wanted. (But were too exhausted to!) Whether your 'out building' is used for extra storage or as a water color studio is beside the point. Just make sure the purpose and possibilities of every room are clear to a buyer. 

About the Author
-Annie Bauman is a Parent Talk member, mom to twin 8 Yr olds and a 3 yr old and a Realtor for Coldwell Banker in Needham. Her last two sales were the inspiration for this article. A bedroom from one of those sales is featured here.  Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Needham, MA  
781.343.4068 (office)
617.510.4994 (mobile)

photo credit: dataceptionist via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We need you – and your recipes – for the new PT Cookbook! Contribute a recipe today!

A group of committed ParentTalk members is putting together a family cookbook to sell in 2013, with all proceeds benefitting ParentTalk.  Please participate and contribute a favorite recipe to this worthwhile project!  We need your “family favorites” and your “go-to recipes” for appetizers, entrees, salads, desserts and side dishes.  (Feel free to submit recipes that you got elsewhere; just attribute it accordingly.)  Please submit your recipes to by January 31.  Here are a few “starters” to whet your appetite!


Honey-Apple-Brie Phyllo Cups
By Vidya Kagan
(Full disclosure:  I got this recipe from a Pampered Chef party I hosted several years ago.)

This recipe marries so many of my favorite ingredients, and the finished product is delicious!  The apples and honey provide a touch of sweet, the walnuts and brie give a touch of salt, and the phyllo cups hold everything nicely to make a simple yet elegant presentation.  It is also a very kid-friendly recipe. After prepping all of the ingredients, get your kids to help you assemble each phyllo cup.  It’s fun and easy, and you might even get them to try one!

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 medium red apples, finely diced (about 2 cups)
¼ cup honey
1 4-inch round (8 oz.) Brie with rind
2 packages mini phyllo cups, 30 cups total (you can find these in the freezer aisle of your grocery store)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Combine lemon zest, walnuts, apples and honey in a large bowl.  Mix gently.
3.  Cut Brie into thirty (30) ½-inch cubes.
4.  Arrange phyllo cups on a large baking sheet.  Place one Brie cube into each cup.  Top Brie with a small scoop of the apple mixture.  Bake 6-8 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Curried Cashews
By Vidya Kagan

When I was a kid, I remember my dad always eating nuts.  Cashews, peanuts, pistachios, almonds … you name it, we had it, and he was eating it.  My dad always preferred spicy and salty snacks over sweets, and years later, so do I!  Experts tell us that nuts are good for us, so why not give this recipe a try?  These curried cashews are super easy to make, a total crowd-pleaser and incredibly addictive.  You can serve them at a party or eat them as a snack. They’re delicious AND versatile!
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons curry powder
4 teaspoons kosher salt
6 cups unsalted cashews (if using salted cashews, omit the kosher salt)

1.     Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 250°F.
2.     Whisk lemon juice, curry powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cashews; toss to coat. Divide between 2 large rimmed baking sheets; spread in an even layer.
3.     Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Becoming a Helper

We don't have anything profound to share; no comforting words to ease the fear and pain brought on by the tragedy in Newtown last week.  As parents with young children we're reeling over what happened and our hearts ache for the families who lost their loved ones.  We were searching for something, anything we could do for the families suffering when we came across this:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. "To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."  - Fred Rogers

While no amount of thoughtful notes, kind gestures or financial donations will be able to heal the hearts of families in Newtown, we found some solace in becoming a "helper."  One of many "helpers" that make it abundantly clear that there's a legion of caring people - near and far - holding their hands and gathering around them in support during this time. 

If you too have been looking for what you could do, we've compiled a few ways to help below. Please feel free to share more ideas and thoughts in the comments.  

Donate to one of the funds set up to help the Sandy Hook Families
Set up by the parents of children who survived and other locals, this fund will help with funerals, as well as ongoing living expenses such as food, mortgage payments, daycare, insurance and fuel until they are back on solid ground.

A new fund founded by Brian Mauriello, who describes himself as a long-term Newtown resident and a parent, to pay for short-term expenses as well as a memorial and a multi-generational foundation fund for the Newtown, Connecticut, community. He is seeking board members.

-- Sandy Hook School Support Fund  
c/o Newtown Savings Bank 39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470
This fund was set up by United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings Bank to provide support services to the affected families and community. Among other efforts, it will support day and night walk-in hours at the Newtown Youth and Family Services Counseling Center

-- The Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund 
PO Box 263, Newtown, CT 06470
Dedicated to supporting the immediate and long-term needs of those in the Newtown community who were affected by the Sandy Hook School shooting.

Send a card or flowers 
The school address has been widely circulated over social media and in the news, however keep in mind there has been no official release from the school that they have the staff necessary to process the cards. The address for the elementary school in case you decide to send a card there:

Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482

Another option is to send cards and notes to the local funeral homes who have staff available to handle the letters of support that are delivered for the individual families. 

Do good in their name
Support a cause in one of the families or child's name or vow to do random acts of kindness in honor of each of the children. 

With hugs and kind thoughts to all of your families,
Mary & Kate

photo credit: Douglas Brown via photopin cc

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Time and Sanity Savers

The seven days of Hanukkah have raced by, Christmas is fast approaching, and soon we’ll be correcting 2012 with 2013 – this time of year time takes on a unique preciousness. Already jam-packed schedules and never-ending lists must magically make room for all that goes into making the season special.

At a gathering of Parent Talk’s Career Moms this fall the topic of the evening was “time saver” – helpful anytime of year, but especially when we’re all attempting to make it to the holiday season finish line with a little grace, dignity and sanity.

Here are a few highlights you will hopefully find helpful…

Finding Balance

  • Telecommute, work part-time or shift your workday to hours that better fit your family’s schedule – don’t be afraid to ask, your employer just might surprise you.
  • Amazon Prime -- orders arrive in 48 hours, shipping is free and you avoid wasting your precious weekends driving around, shopping and waiting in lines.
  • Buy cards (happy birthday, new baby, wedding, sympathy, get well, etc.) in bulk and stow them away, instead of running to the store every time you need to put a message in the old fashioned mailbox.
  • When you see something you know someone would like, buy it, even if their birthday, Hanukkah or Christmas are months away, stow it away – you’re there, save yourself some time, heck, you might not remember this gift when the time comes. 
  • Buy yourself a little extra time in the morning, set your alarm a few minutes earlier -- it will make getting out the door in the morning so much easier.

Leveraging Tech

  • Coordinating multiple schedules is a constant challenge. Several Career Moms use Google Calendar to get the job done. Others recommend checking out – you can coordinate multiple schedules, shopping & to do lists, and meal plans, and access it all via your home computer or smart phone.
  • Use that camera you’re always carrying around with you – your smart phone – to capture visual reminders.

In the Kitchen
Make the freezer your friend

Taming the Adorable, Little Beasts

  • Beep & Boop – this free iPhone application “is a simple, fun app…that turns learning good behavior into a game kids love”.
  • Layout clothes for the whole week – eliminates one more thing for you to do in the morning and encourages kids to dress themselves.
  • If you have a bathroom upstairs and down, buy toothbrushes and toothpaste for both – eliminates running back upstairs to brush forgotten teeth when you need to be running out the door.
  • Don’t be afraid to share the work with your little ones – age-appropriate chores (setting and clearing the table, watering plants, helping with the garbage, even a preschooler can put away silverware) help them build self-esteem and learn the importance of pitching in.
  • Find a Mother’s helper and use them -- buy yourself some time to get things done, or just read a magazine.
Hope you find a tip or two to help you through this holiday season, and through the coming New Year.

Lollie Weeks blogs about life in suburbia, being a parent with ADD, her culinary adventures, Pinterest obsession and doughnut addiction at The Fortuitous Housewife. She lives in Needham with her Handsome Husband, the Baron of Boredom, Master of Mischief and their not-so-bright, but oh-so-sweet Border Collie, Zara.
photo credit: via photopin cc
photo credit: aprilandrandy via photopin cc

Monday, December 3, 2012

Top 5 Holiday Gifts for Your Kids – Recommendations from an Estate Planning Attorney

Written by Rachel Schneller Ziegler
As the winter holidays approach, if you are like me, you scour the stores, catalogs, and on-line retail websites for great holiday gifts for your kids, ones that won’t end up in the bottom of the toy bin by New Year’s Eve.  Although my recommendations may not result in shouts of joy, consider giving them to your children this year.  These gifts will help to ensure that future holidays are bright and will give you peace of mind.
  1. Appoint a Guardian for Your Children.  Prepare a Will in which you appoint a guardian for your children upon the death of you and your spouse.  If you die and have not done so, a court will select a guardian, but may not choose the right person.  
  2. Prepare a Revocable Living Trust.  Prepare a Trust to hold, manage and use assets for the benefit of your spouse and/or children after your death.  A Trust will ensure that your assets will be held and managed by a Trustee selected by you pursuant to terms set by you.  It may even save estate taxes.
  3. Buy Life Insurance.  Every parent of young children should have a life insurance policy to replace income and maintain the family’s lifestyle in the event of death.  Consider that a stay-at-home mom may also need a life insurance policy to cover the costs of child care and household help.    
  4. Save for College with a 529 Plan.  A 529 plan is an investment account to fund your child’s college education.  Money contributed to the plan grows tax-deferred and distributions used for your child’s college expenses are tax-free.  It is a low maintenance, flexible, and valuable way to save for college.     
  5. Ensure Access to your Electronic Accounts.  If you manage finances and accounts on-line or by e-mail, make sure someone can access them after your death.  This will ensure that your assets will be accessible to your spouse or child’s guardian or trustee upon your death. 
Rachel Schneller Ziegler is an attorney with the Kaiser Law Group in Wellesley, Massachusetts concentrating in estate planning and estate administration.  She is happy to respond to concerns or questions about your estate plan at (617) 641-0000 or
Disclaimer:  This information is not a substitute for legal counsel.  Nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.  Please contact an attorney for advice specific to your needs.
photo credit: || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || via photopin cc

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