Monday, April 29, 2013

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate - To Dr. Saul Hymes There's No Question

Let me start out by saying that my children are vaccinated. When they were born, it wasn't a question for me. Vaccines save lives. They prevent humans from contracting dangerous conditions which are sometimes fatal.

My friend and pediatric infectious disease doctor, Saul Hymes, would agree with me on this. 

In fact, he feels so strongly about children getting vaccinated, that he wrote an article about his thoughts on the anti-vaccine movement as well as what can happen when parents refuse vaccines for their children in a publication called The Magazine. The article is called: Give it Your Best Shot 

The Magazine is an iOS based magazine founded by Marco Arment, creator and developer of Instapaper and lead developer of Tumblr. 

The anti-vaccine movement has been an axe to grind for Saul ever since he was in medical school. The fact that it seemed to him to coincide with the Bush administration and a trend of anti-intellectualism didn't help much. 

As Saul learned about the anti-vaccine movement, there were celebrity activists who were vocal in their stance against vaccines including centerfold and model Jenny McCarthy, who he calls out in his article for being ill informed with regard to the potential "dangers" of vaccines.

Saul's article is a in depth look into the history of vaccinations and attempts to debunk some common anti-vaccines theories out there.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Introducing Films of The 80s to Ari - A Video Series

The time has come.

Ari is of an age where he is able to appreciate and discuss more abstract concepts. He'll be turning five on May 6th. It is time to initiate him into the world of films of my childhood.

I grew up in the 1980's, which is a decade filled with classic films.

Here are some of the films I loved as a child:
Back To The Future
The Princess Bride
The NeverEnding Story
Adventures In Babysitting
Stand By Me

I'm going to introduce these films to him, slowly but surely, with the help of Netflix.

I'll be posting video interviews with him documenting his favorites.

But I need your help! What are your favorite childhood films of the 80s? Post a comment here and let me know!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mother's Day is Coming Up and Nerd Wallet Knows!

I got an email today from Matt over at Nerd Wallet

Without even knowing what the email was about I was excited, because I love the company's name. It's fun to say. Say it with me, "Nerd Wallet."

See! I told you!

Matt told me about this contest they're having over there...wait...over where? Why at Nerd Wallet of course.

Nerd Wallet is a financial literacy site that helps people stay out of debt and manage their money. Hey...maybe I should check them out. I'm terrible at managing money.

Anyhow, the contest works like this. Nerd Wallet wants to know what would be the best Mother's Day present for $25 and under. The winner gets $1000! So here's my answer.

Mother's Day is a Hallmark holiday. It should be Mother's Day every day, because moms are awesome, and let's face it, if it wasn't for your mom, you wouldn't be here on this planet.

But you know who makes money on Mother's Day? Greeting card companies and florists. Cards and flowers are overrated.

Here's what I think would be an awesome Mother's day present, take some family photos that you love (from your digital camera, phone or that you've already posted on Facebook) and combine them to make a photo book.

I love the photo books that Shutterfly makes. You can see them here. They're on sale for 40 % off right now and the prices start at 12.99.

Giving a photo book is meaningful way to express gratitude to the maternal one. It's also an excellent example of a gift that is thoughtful, but doesn't break your bank account.

 By the way, Shutterfly has no idea that I'm telling you this, and I'm not getting paid to say it. They're just awesome, and I thought you should know. So now you know! 

I love this gift idea for mother's day because it's personal. When you see pictures of your family compiled in a book, it feels like your partner put thought into their present. And it's something that you can look at for years to come. The nice thing about photo books as opposed to albums is that you don't have to worry about the physical pictures becoming weathered or damaged. The pictures and the memories are still there; they're just on printed paper.

The other thing that's special about this gift is that it allows the gift giver to express creativity. You can personalize your photo book in so many ways. No two photo books look the same.

What do you think would make an awesome Mother's Day present for $25 and under? If you think you've got a great idea enter Nerd Wallet's Contest! You could win $1000!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The D.O.E Was Mistaken - Ari Makes Gifted & Talented Along With 2000 Others

When I received the results from Ari's gifted and Talented test, I knew something wasn't right. I read the score explanation over and over again, and no matter how many times I looked at the paper, the math didn't make sense.

He was in the 95th percentile for non-verbal and the 84th percentile for verbal.
According to the score explanation, the non-verbal accounts for 65 percent of the score, while the verbal only accounts for 35 percent.

Now, I'm certainly not a mathematician, but the score I came up with was over 90 percent, while the score they sent us was 89.

I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.

I emailed my best friend, Mint. She confirmed my sense that something was amiss. When she did the math, she calculated 91.5.

So, I wrote an email to gifted and talented as said the following:

I was just looking at Ari's score sheet and I'm just wondering about the results.

It says that the non-verbal accounts for 65 percent of his score and the verbal accounts for 35 percent of his score.

He scored in the 95th percentile for non-verbal and in the 84th percentile for verbal. If you average the two it's 89.5. However, if the non-verbal accounts for 65 percent of the score, would his total score be slightly higher?

I received a response with the most complicated mathematical jargon I'd seen. Mint and I were stumped.

Naturally, I  emailed my friend (and the smartest person I know) to help interpret it. His name is Saul and he's a pediatric infectious disease doctor, so he has to be smart, I thought. Also, I bet he knows math. 

He said:

His total percentile is not the average of the other percentiles—they recalculate the percentile again on the basis of this combined standardized score they generate but I guess don’t report on the sheet.

So I thought, it's over. He didn't get in. I was upset, and I wrote about it. 

Then something miraculous happened. 

I got a message from Saul:

Did you hear about the g and t testing screw up? A friend told me apparently Pearson who does the test scoring messed up and kids are getting reclassified--some who are not gifted are now gifted and some who only qualify for district testing are now qualified for citywides. Or so I've heard...?

Then I got a said:
Your child's score has increased based on this correction. Your child is now eligible to apply for district G&T programs.

I stared at it in disbelief. I read on, and it turns out that:

Upon receiving scores, two New York City parents contacted the Department of Education and questioned the formula used to calculate their child's results. 

I was one of the parents that contacted the D.O.E. The other parent, from my understanding of the situation, was a statistician, a word I can't even spell.

Because of this mistake, not only is Ari eligible for the Gifted and Talented program (as he should have been all along) but so are over 2000 other children.

I'm glad I said something.
I'm proud of myself for sticking up for what is right.

Even though it felt funny to challenge the result, I knew something wasn't right and I stood up for my son, and apparently over 2000 other children too!

When you believe something isn't right, say something. Speak your mind. You never know, you could help 2000 people. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flying Cats and Never Having to Say You're Sorry- Peter and the Star Catcher

Tonight I had the opportunity thanks to the wonderful Holly Rosen Fink at Culture Mom Media to see the prequel to the Peter Pan story, Peter and The Star Catcher.

I took one of my oldest and closest friends, Livvy, to see the show. She was also my doula for Samara's birth.

The play was held at New World Stages on West 50th Street. As soon as I stepped through the doors of the theater, I knew it looked familiar. Suddenly I realized that this place used to be the three dollar movie theater when I was in high school at F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts back in the 1990's. It had transformed from a theater with sticky floors to a cultural institution with a giant mural that read "create."

After embracing the space, Livvy and I headed into the theater to see the show.

Peter and The Star Catcher is about a boy who never had a home, a mother or a father. He spends his life in darkness. He meets a girl, Molly, who shows him that there is light in the world. She teaches him that girls are excellent leaders and that some cats can fly.

The show has a Greek chorus aspect to it. The cast tells the story of the boy by speaking in unison and becoming different roles from one second to the next. There are pirates, mermaids, an androgynous nanny, a crocodile, a mollusk, and many more colorful characters.

The story takes the audience on a roller coaster of an emotional journey. One moment I was feeling sad for the boy (who later earns the name Peter) and his lack of family, the next moment I was laughing hysterically as the man who will eventually become Captain Hook loses his hand by getting it stuck in a treasure chest full of sand.

As I watched the story unfold, my curiosity unleashed as well. I wondered how this no-named orphan boy would become the Peter Pan character that I grew up loving. Eventually that curiosity was quelled as the boy opened his heart to us and with it released something magical.

After seeing Peter and The Star Catcher, I'm ready to live in a world that has a little more magic.
Peter says he wants to live in a world where you never have to say you're sorry. That got me thinking, maybe that's possible. If we can get in touch with what we want in this life, maybe we don't have to feel sorry. We could all learn something from spending time in Never Never Land.

Take a trip over to see Peter and get yourself some magic! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Making of a Robot

Special shout out to Valeen, Ari's art teacher from Private Picassos, for making this project come to life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Magna-Tiles- The Obsession

I love Magna-Tiles. Yes, I'm 33 years-old and I love them as much as a four year-old does. I love them more than blocks and more than Legos. No disrespect to either building toy.

Ari loves Magna-Tiles just as much as I do.

His Pre-K teacher told me that she's never seen a four year-old create the structures that Ari has created with Magna-Tiles.

The Magna-Tile people don't know that I'm writing this. 

Here are some of Ari's Magna-Tile creations:

Replicating the model on the box

The Egyptian Pyramids

A Skateboard Ramp

The trophy for winning the race off of the Skateboard ramp race

Oh Magna-Tiles, you're so awesome!

Does your kid love Magna-Tiles? What are some of the things that he/she has created with them?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing With My Left Hand

It was Saturday afternoon. I was having a party the next day. The house looked like a bomb hit it.

"What am I gonna do? I have to cancel the party!" I panicked to Wil.

Wil stood up, took out a notebook and handed me a pencil with it.

"What is this? Why are you giving me this?" I asked him, still in panic mode.

"Just trust me." He replied un-phased
by my panic. "Write your signature with
your right hand as many times as you can until I say stop."

I wrote furiously.
"Stop! Now write your signature with your left hand until I say stop. Go!"

I wrote, but it was harder.

"Stop! How many times did you write it with your right hand?"

"Four times." I replied

"And how many times with your left?"
"Two and a half." I said puzzled.
"But you still did it right it?"

I paused for a moment.

The next day I cleaned the shit out of
my house.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jewelry Party With Zachary Pryor!

My friend, Zachary Pryor is an amazing handmade jewelry designer. Here he is pictured with the lovely Dara Finkel!

You may remember him from this Vintage Key Necklace giveaway I did on my blog a few months ago.

When Zachary asked if I wanted to host a jewelry party for him, I said:

Then I panicked and thought, how am I going to organize this? What kind of food should I buy? What will people drink?

I consulted the amazing Dara Finkel who coached me through what I needed to do:
"The most important thing is that people have somewhere to sit. Oh, and make sure you cover the couches with something because they have stains."
Chairs? Check!
Sheets to cover the couches? Got that!

I decided that it would be fun and "adult" of me to throw a "wine and cheese party." Even though I don't really drink, I do like cheese.

So I went to Trader Joe's and bought out the cheese section along with 23423234 types of crackers. After which,  I went to the Trader Joe's Wine Store and bought 72349800982340 kinds of wine.

The morning of the party, I cleaned my house!

The kids even helped set up!
Then my babysitter came and took the kids to the Moxie Spot (an indoor play space) because she's awesome. Yay for Abby!

Then there was a party!

Even Egreck got in on the action!

Adriana, I wish there was a picture of us together! Let's pretend there is one here.

On a side note, Zachary is going to design custom collars for Simon and Egreck! 

Ladies, thank you so much for coming! Zachary, I love my necklace! Thank you for bringing your art to us. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

89 is One Point Away From Societal Validation

A couple of months ago, Ari took the Gifted and Talented test for placement in Kindergarten.
The test is administered by New York City Department of Education. We traveled to an elementary school in Williamsburg and I waited for an hour while he was quizzed by a stranger. 

Yesterday, I got an email saying that the results were in.

I anxiously opened the email wondering what lovely things it might say about my child.

It said:


It said "Based on the above criteria, your child is not eligible to apply for placement in a Gifted & Talented program."

If he had scored a 90, Ari would have been "eligible to apply for placement in a Gifted & Talented program."

He was one point away.

When I saw those two numbers, I got angry.

I was angry that the Department of Education was telling me that my son was not "gifted and talented" because I know that (quite the contrary) no matter what a series of tests says, Ari is a bright child.

Ari has impressive visual spatial skills. He is an amazing artist and architect. As his Pre-K teacher tells me, he builds formidable structures with Magnatiles and blocks.

I could go on about how smart and cool my kid is.

I got to thinking, what gives this arbitrary test the right to determine which children are bright(er) than others? Why do we (as a society) rely so heavily on these tests to separate out certain children from the rest?

Shouldn't we be telling all our children that they are gifted and talented in some way?

I'm not sure why I decided to let Ari take the test. Perhaps I wanted the Department to Education's validation that yes, my son is bright.

But ultimately it's not necessary. I believe in my son. Wherever he goes to school he will shine and that's what's most important.

Friday, April 5, 2013

ANN on Broadway

Last night I had the opportunity, thanks to the lovely Holly Rosen Fink of Culture Mom Media, to see ANN at Lincoln Center.

My cousin was in town visiting a graduate school she got into, so I decided treat her to a Broadway experience.

Did you know that Lincoln Center is considered Broadway?

ANN is a one woman show starring the fabulous Holland Taylor. Taylor wrote and stars in this piece, which chronicles the life and accomplishments of the one and only Ann Richards, democratic governor of Texas.

The play takes place at an imaginary university. Ann speaks candidly to the audience telling her life story.

She talks about her childhood growing up as a daddy's girl. Her father told her that she was smart and could do anything.

We hear about how Ann met her husband on the debate team in high school, a foreshadowing moment that she would later be involved in politics.

She combines humor with brutal honesty. At one point she tells the audience that she thinks she may have offended people when she went to a costume party dressed as a tampon. At another point she tells a dirty joke involving a great dane.

One of the most colorful parts of the play is when we see Ann sitting in her office, acting as the governor. She talks on the phone to Bill Clinton, teasing him about doing a crossword puzzle in pen. She speaks to several other government officials and "busts their chops" with each phone call.

The audience also sees Ann leave frantic (yet amusing) messages for her speech writer, Sandra.

During the intermission of the play, while Alissa and I were eating cake, cookies, and ginger ale at the concessions stand, we met a man who asked us:
"Are you a fan of Ann Richards?"
"I haven't actually seen her in action." I confessed.
"Oh, well you've got to look up on YouTube her 1988 Democratic Convention speech. Whenever I'm down, I watch it. "

So I looked it up when I got home, and it's amazing; she's amazing.

Not only is Ann Richards awesome, but I realized what an amazing job Holland Taylor did portraying her. Taylor becomes Ann.

One of my favorite moments in the play is when Ann talks about the day she knew she was going to run for governor. She and her husband were standing in a hot kitchen, and he turns to her and tells her that she should do it. She should run for governor. It was like time froze in that moment. She knew her whole life was about to change.

The real Ann Richards was an incredibly powerful and dynamic woman. Taylor portrays her as just that. I feel like I stepped into Ann's life for two hours. I feel like I know her. I relate to her.

If you want to meet Ann, and hear her life story while laughing your head off, head over to Lincoln Center.

For more information on ANN click here. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Samara's Day Out...Of Her Mind

Yesterday Samara had a brilliant idea. She spontaneously removed her diaper and ran down the street. We were headed to the bank. It was supposed to be a fairly routine errand.

At the bank, I quickly scribbled my account number on the deposit slip while a diaper-less Samara chased Ari around the bank table, bright blue lollipops in hand.

I was praying that she wouldn't pee or poop on the floor in those two minutes.

After the bank I ran (holding Ari's hand and carrying a diaper-free Samara) to the bodega on the corner.

I bought overpriced diapers and attempted to pin her down to replace the diaper she had recently stripped off her body.

Unfortunately, Ari and Samara were (yet again) racing each other fueled by the sugar in the bank lollipops. Thankfully, I managed to get Ari to stop with the promise of Pirate Booty. The cashier behind the counter pointed out that we could see Samara on the security camera in various aisles of the store running, semi-naked, laughing maniacally.

Eventually, I got her diaper on, but fearful that she would remove it again, I thought maybe I'd better buy her some underwear; perhaps this is a sign.

So we entered an overpriced yuppie kid's store on the off chance that they might sell underwear.

"We have diaper covers." The woman behind the counter said purposely trying not to smile.

I wondered, why she looked so constipated, and then I realized that Samara was behind me throwing Thank You cards on the floor and scattering them like rice at a wedding.

"Oh! I'm so sorry." I said frenetically picking up the cards.

But that was only the beginning. Samara laughed, ran behind the angry clerk and entered the store's private bathroom.

"No, no, sweetie you can't go in there." The woman said, obviously uncomfortable with the situation and not knowing what to do or say.

I ran into the bathroom and collected a screaming Samara, who was intent on staying in the bathroom. She ran back in there at least 10 times afterward.

She then climbed up on the chair behind the cash register shouting "chair!"

"I really apologize." I said to the woman. "Clearly she wants to work here."
The woman laughed awkwardly.

"Samara's crazy!" Ari said laughing and attempting to pick up each expensive object she threw on the floor.

Eventually, Ari, the saleswoman and I managed to pick up everything that Samara had strewn about.

"Uh oh." Said the saleswoman "There's a screw missing here."

Samara managed to disassemble a miniature metal locker and lose an integral screw in the process.

So, the three of us (Ari, the saleswoman and I again) carefully got down on our hands and knees and searched every corner of the store to find this phantom screw. But, to no avail.

"Do you want me to pay for a replacement screw?" I offered pathetically.
"Let me call the owner." Said the saleswoman. "Oh, she also scribbled in this journal. I think it can be erased but let me ask the owner what she'd like to do."

As the saleswoman called the owner, Ari and I distracted Samara with some colorful clothespins that were on the floor (also Samara's handiwork).

"The owner said it's okay, we can replace the screw, don't worry about it. And I was able to erase the spot in the journal."

I bought the diaper covers and left the store a little less sane that I'd been when we entered it.