School is out, but as someone who has lived with an elementary school teacher for nearly seven years, I know that teachers are still hard at work, all summer, and year-round. Just as parents are encouraged to keep their kids reading and doing educational activities during school breaks to keep their knowledge top of mind, teachers too need to keep their instruction and methods current and relevant to keep their students engaged and progressing.
Even after teacher has been at the job a decade, common core lesson plans do not come automatically. Classroom instruction varies year to year, class to class, and while the main core curriculum may be dictated by the school board, teachers are given the freedom to apply their own style and sensibilities in ways they feel will best suit their students.
In the progressive Piaget philosophy that my son’s school follows, a child is not an empty vessel to fill with facts and figures but a developing and learning being that when using knowledge in practical, experiential ways can develop life-long learning skills that extend beyond school and into careers and interpersonal relationships.
Mentoring Minds is one resource for teachers who follow this constructivist way of learning, where children learn critical thinking skills for life. While teachers will still always be immersed, as many of them would have it no other way, in creating the lessons for their classes, resources like Mentoring Minds are not only helpful in guiding them but also affirming in the success of the program.
It’s a Picnic, It’s a Party, it’s a Movie Under the Stars
A Saturday night at the movies has never so fun as Street Food Cinema. The summer event series, held May to September, features outdoor movies projected on a giant inflatable screen at parks around Los Angeles with food trucks, music, contests and other entertainment.
Our party of six – three adults, three kids – recently attended a showing of the animated feature Escape from Planet Earth for Street Food Cinema Family. The event included a live mini concert of Disney movie tunes by True Enchantment Entertainment, face painting, free Slurpees (Slurpee sponsored the event, connected by integral product placement from the movie); free cotton candy courtesy Fearless, a new contemporary Christian church and a playground for the kids.
The family events are much less crowded than usual Street Food Cinemas events that screen more grown-up-themed flicks, so there’s plenty of room to pitch a picnic blanket. Popular movies, like Pitch Perfect, Rocky Horror Picture Show or Swingers, generally sell out and there’s not much walking room amidst the wall-to-wall people and patchwork of blankets. The key is to arrive early (doors open around 6 pm) and stake your piece of grass, as even in the reserved grassy area up front space is tight.
Most events are held at Exposition Park with special nights at LA Historic Park and other locations. The food trucks are some of the best in LA, including Kogi BBQ, Cousins Maine Lobster, Belly Bombz, Dogtown Dog, Reuben Truck, and The Melt Bus.
The event itself gets two thumbs up, though some of the logistics needed some massaging. The lines for the food trucks get long, especially for those arriving closer to the 8:30 pm show time, and the service at the trucks was very slow, i.e., about a 40-minute wait for a hot dog and tater tots. Also, there could have been a few more porta potties.
Low chairs are permitted in the front grounds, and an area in the back is marked for higher chairs, so everyone can be comfortable. The event producers from TIL Lifestyle Marketing are ever-present at the event, making sure things are run smoothly. The laid-back atmosphere is fun and friendly, and even dogs are allowed at most locations.
General admission is $10, reserved seating is $15, and children are $5 and children under 5 are free. The online-only four-pack of tickets is a bargain at $32. Lot parking is $10, though there was plenty of metered street parking which was free after 6 pm near the Grand Hope park location. Overall, a great deal for dinner, a mini camp-out, a concert and movie night under the stars, all in one place.
Mom Entrepreneur Molly O’Kane and Best Friend Molly Mundy See a Growing Business in Buying and Selling Gently Owned Children’s Clothing and Gear Online
Getting ready for her second child, San Francisco mom Molly O’Kane cleaned out her two-year-old son’s closet. She found new clothes with tags on, and others worn only once or twice before they were outgrown. What a shame, she thought, that those adorable clothes – many of them cherished gifts – sat stored away.
O’Kane talked with other moms who faced the same dilemma. They wanted their children’s precious clothing to go someplace special, to a family that appreciated them – not in the bottom of a thrift shop bin. Likewise, they wanted to find new homes for their hardly used strollers, bassinets and other gear. That’s when O’Kane got the idea for Sweet Sprouts.
She took her concept of an online children’s consignment boutique to the Keiretsu Forum, a competition similar to TV’s Shark Tank, hosted by her Alma matter, Saint Mary’s School of Economics and Business Administration of California. With only three minutes to pitch her idea using no visual aids, and five minutes to field judges’ questions, O’Kane wowed the panel, winning mentorship to start her venture.
“Through Kiretsu I was able to receive mentorship and gain a true understanding of venture capitalist funding and angel funding,” said O’Kane, who took the reigns as Sweet Sprouts CEO. “The best advice I received was to bring the idea to fruition without taking venture capital funding or angel funding. This way I could really make the business my own, instead of answering to funding requirements.”
With confidence in her idea, which entrepreneur experts believed had the potential to be a $30 million business in five to 10 years, O’Kane got the financial support of family and friends to begin building Sweet Sprouts. Along with her MBA education, O’Kane found her background as a registered dietician and former school nutritionist was helpful and inspirational in during Sweet Sprouts’ start-up phase.
“I was used to being creative to stretch lean budgets when I had to devise healthy menus for school children,” said O’Kane.
During the time O’Kane was developing her new business, similar sites sprang up, but O’Kane set Sweet Sprouts apart from the competition by offering sellers a much higher profit margin for their sales. To avoid the pitfalls that her competition faced, O’Kane put strict quality controls in place regarding what could be sold on the site and guidelines for interactions between users, so high-rated sellers would attract more buyers, and low-rated members would be removed from the community.
O’Kane’s philosophy was that families came first. The site was designed to save families up to 75 percent of what they would pay for clothes and gear at a retail store, and it offered families an easy and safe way to sell their goods. There would be no need for an appointment or a trip to a consignment store, and sellers would not have to invite strangers from sites like Craigslist to their home for transactions.
O’Kane offers several ways for sellers to be involved on the site. They can sell items for themselves and earn up to 80 percent of the sale price. They can become a local Sweet Sprouts boutique owner and sell items for other families and earn up to 50 percente on sales, or they can ship items to Sweet Sprouts for Personal Seller Service and net up to 75 percent of the sales. For moms like herself, O’Kane wanted to offer users the opportunity to be part of the Sweets Sprouts enterprise and work from home with a flexible schedule.
To help her realize her vision, O’Kane enlisted the help of best friend and former college roommate Molly Mundy, a former social worker and now stay-at-home mom. The two shared many things in common, besides their first names. Both had a dedication to social service, both had a young child at home, and both were seeking a way to stay home with their children while supplementing their family incomes. Mundy also had specialized skills in social media as a proficient user of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks.
Together the Mollys came up with a Sweet Sprouts site that gave back to the community by donating a portion of every sale to local charities. They created a user interface that was intuitive and simple-to-use, so users could easily upload photos and descriptions of their items to sell. They also loaded the site with rich social and interactive features. The Sweet Sprouts that grew aimed to help other moms “make money, make connections, and make a difference.”
“We, like many moms, want to contribute to the household income but still have the flexibility to choose our own schedule, allowing us to be present for our children when they needed us. Sweet Sprouts offers us the opportunity to do that,” said Mundy.
O’Kane and Mundy work on Sweet Sprouts several hours a day, in between their children’s nap times and other breaks in their day. The experience has been rewarding financially and otherwise. Particularly gratifying for both women has been their ability to help non-profit organizations fundraise, giving them an alternative to ubiquitous candy selling fundraisers, which former nutritionist O’Kane believed promoted kids eating unhealthy, sugary candy.
“I figured that an exchange of clothes, like an online swap meet, would be a much better way to support schools, churches, sports teams and other non-profits. They wouldn’t have to do candy sales, and they could sell the clothes year round,” said O’Kane.
Another way O’Kane and Mundy feel Sweet Sprouts can make a difference is by helping moms meet each other, virtually and in person. Through local Sweet Sprouts boutiques, moms can get together for sales events, and online they can share stories, challenges and triumphs of motherhood. As a first-time mom and former social worker, Mundy appreciates the value of these online and personal relationships and the power of the Internet as a resource for support. She regularly updates the Sweet Sprouts blog, Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages with helpful information for other mothers.
“We wanted to give other moms the ability to use the site to connect to each other. During the first year with a new baby, many moms struggle to find one-on-one time with their friends. Being able to share their stories and give each other support and advice can help them feel they are not alone,” said Mundy. “Sweet Sprouts provides a place for moms to grow together.”
I was just looking for a free highlight job when I saw on one of my mommy boards that a national mom blog was seeking a makeover subject. I put my name in the hat, and soon I was a finalist, and then the chosen one for a Mom.me Mommy Makeover.
The makeover team, from stylist to coordinator, were top-notch professionals. The prep for the makeover and photo shoot was intensive, as was the actual makeover process. I felt like I was back in my film product days – early call time, no breaks for lunch, hustle and hurry from hair to make-up to wardrobe.
After all was said and done to me, the end result was … not what I expected, but a great experience and worthwhile, especially to have met and worked with the team. I learned a few fashion lessons – to not fear my curves, go bolder, accessorize, and some grooming tips – shape my brows, let my hair be messy, and in general, dress the part and you will feel it.
I’ve maintained some of the look I was given. I’ve worn the clothes (yes, they let me keep them!), and I got some The Joey Healy Elite Sculpting Tweezers to maintain my brows, and I am accessorizing more. I did however wash out the color from my hair. I’ve been a blond all my life, and the dark hair just didn’t feel like me. I’m also letting it grow out, as I like my hair longer. But it was worth a try at least once in my life to be brunette, or auburn as it were.
The story on the site was a bit embarrassing. I think I oversold my “poor me” story, as I sound like a sad sack. I do have my ups and downs as I search for a new job, but my outlook is not so grim as it sounds in the article. I really did want the highlights. Little did I know they would be auburn!
Thanks again to Mom.me for the makeover. They have an awesome site.
Treat Mom to Coffee, Tea or Lunch To-Go with These Tasteful Gifts
Mo’ Joe for Mom
Let Mom have it her way with the KRUPS XP6040 ($360.00), a state-of-the-art combination espresso and coffee machine. If her taste is for espresso, she can craft an exquisite cup with the Swiss-designed espresso machine, featuring an Italian-made 19-bar pump that delivers perfect shots that will make her feel like she has a café barista at her service. The espresso side also comes equipped with electronic controls, 30-minute automatic stop, removable front-access 50-ounce water tank, side frothing wand, and Thermoblock technology for ideal heating and durability. The coffee maker side of the XP6040 offers a 10-cup carafe, one-button electronic control, pause-and-serve feature, removable cone filter basket, non-stick warming plate and auto shut-off after two hours. The design not only takes less space than two separate machines, its stainless steel styling will look fabulous on her counter. Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond or www.krupsusa.com.
Tea for One … Great Mom
Mother’s Day is time for some “me time” for Mom, so give her the accoutrement she needs to relax. The Mother’s Day Tea Gift ($29.95) from Harry & David sets her up with scrumptious lemon shortbread cookies, Earl Gray tea, clover honey sticks and a special stainless steel teaspoon, all wrapped up in an adorable tin. If Mom likes to unwind with something a bit more fermented, Harry & David also offers Mom’s Day wine themed gift baskets as well as traditional flower gifts with treats, or a combination, like the Cookie Bouquet Gift of rose shaped sugar cookies in a bouquet ($39.99). All available at www.Harryanddavid.com.
Bring on the Cool Mom
Pack a special picnic for Mom in the adorable SoYoung insulated cooler bag ($29.99/small, $36.99/large). Perfect to take to the beach, the park, work or anywhere she wants to nosh, the cutely designed bags include a detachable carry strap and feature clever retro-inspired designs like Blue Bicycle, Purple Dandelion and Brown Bird on coated linen, and a leak-proof insert for easily cleaning. All materials are lead-safe, Pthalate-free and PVC-free. Available at select retailers or at www.soyoung.ca.
Constructive Family Law Puts Parents Rights and Needs Behind Child’s Interest
After divorce, sharing custody of children can often be a contentious proposition, but according to family law attorney Mark Baer, it does not have to be, and it should not be, for the sake of the children involved.
Baer, who practices in Pasadena and Los Angeles areas, rejects the title of “divorce lawyer” in favor of “family law mediator,” as he subscribes to a progressive movement in his field which focuses on resolving the conflicts between parents without the specter of litigation.
“The litigation model that attorneys are taught is adversarial by nature. It often exacerbates the situation and makes trust issues worse. I deal in constructive ways to deal with conflict,” said Baer. “First you need to build trust between the parties by tackling the easiest stuff first, then you move on once you have the ability to make agreements.”
Together, for the Kids
Honing his skills as at conflict resolution as court-assigned mediator in Van Nuys, Baer learned that often attorneys were content to collect their hourly rate as they drove clients further apart from resolution, even separating them during mediation sessions. Baer by contrast insists on parents sitting down together in mediation so they can talk out issues and see the bigger picture of what is best for the innocent victims of the conflict, the children.
Termed constructive family law, or integrative family law, Baer’s method always focuses on the well being of the children as the priority. Baer’s resolutions, while certainly not illegal, may not always be supported by law. In his view, the resolution reached in a court according to law might not be appropriate for a particular family dynamic. For example, an equal-time ruling may be what the law ordered, but it might not be in the best interest of the child.
“A fifty-fifty custody arrangement may not always be the best arrangement. A child may have not bonded with a parent, and after divorce they are forced to spend 50 percent of their time with that parent,” said Baer.
Likewise, just because the law says that a parent has the freedom of speech to bash a child’s other parent, as a recent case held out, the respectful, responsible way to act as a parent is to not make derogatory remarks about a former spouse to a child. In this situation, the trash talk not only puts a child in the middle of his or her parent’s conflict, it usually backfires, as a child resents the parent who disparages the other parent whom the child also loves.
What’s Mine is Ours
To help parents come together in making the best custody decisions for their children, Baer says seemingly small things like terminology can make a difference. When a parent says, “our child” instead of “my child,” and avoids talking in terms of their “rights” to a child, tensions can melt away, as both parents realize the child is part of both of them and that the child’s rights are of highest importance.
Similarly, Baer urges parents to view the needs of the child before the rights of the parent or the needs of the parent, so that a child does not become a trophy or property that parents fight over, ignoring what is best for the child.
Baer’s conflict resolution methods often involves using mental health professionals who guide the parents in finding ways to best relate to each other and their children. While Baer does not necessarily prescribe therapy for couples, he encourages them to use therapists as coaches to help fix or improve their relationship, which is not always attended to in the divorce proceedings.
“Therapists can teach exercises and coach parents on how to deal with their feelings appropriately. Often fear– whether real, perceived or exaggerated — gets in the way. Divorce has many emotions around it — of loss, grief, fear and stress. While feelings are raw, it is not a time to make important decisions,” said Baer. “Research shows us that second to death, divorce is one of life’s most stressful situations. Studies show that IQ test performance drops by as much as 30 percent in these situations. Your navigational system is off. You need to get your cognitive reasoning skills back online.”
Sorry is the Hardest Part
Though the marriage has ended, Baer advices couples to heal their relationship, often by taking personal responsibility for their part in the failure of the marriage.
Often an apology and forgiveness goes a long way in mending a relationship and begins the process of healing, for the good of the children. This holds true especially in situations where there has been an affair in the marriage, and the injured party tries to punish the guilty parent by withholding custody.
“An affair is between adults. It should not be used to prevent a parent from having a relationship with a child,” says Baer.
While an affair is, “irrelevant to law,” says Baer, “Once there is an apology, there can be forgiveness, and the emotional posturing is gone.”
Baer laments that the current legal system is “terribly flawed,” but he is heartened that more divorcing couples are seeking constructive family law as a way to deal with the aftermath of a failed marriage and taking the matter of custody into their own hands for the best outcome for the children, instead of leaving it up to litigation and the courts.
“You know your kids, yourself and your spouse. Is it up to you or your attorney to decide what’s best?
Posted April 16, 2013on:
Parents of young children traveling by plane often have the dilemma of the pick-up. Either chance a taxi ride with no child booster for the car seat — as in most states this is allowable by law for short hauls in hired vehicles, or trouble a relative or friend to arrange for a booster for when they pick you up. You can now spare yourself the worry, thanks to the arrival of BubbleBum.
The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is an affordable ($39.99), convenient alternative to carting around a booster on a plane, and avoiding airline bag fees to check luggage. It tucks compactly into its own stretch carry bag, and can be blow up and ready to use in seconds. It is lightweight (1 lb.), yet when inflated it is sturdy and comfortable. Designed for children aged 4-11 and weighting 40 to 100 pounds, it is a handy extra seat for kiddie carpools, and because of its narrow footprint, it can fit three-across in a back seat along with other boosters.
The BubbleBum meets all US motor vehicle safety standards as requtred by NHTSA (FMVSS213), so you can feel confident in using it as a daily booster as well as a booster-in-a-pinch. As a testament to parent satisfaction the BubbleBum has been awarded a seal by Mom’s Best, including the 2012 Top Choice of the Year Award in Kids Travel by Creative Child Magazine, PTPA (Parent Tested Parent Approved) Media Awards and the JPMA Awards. BubbleBum has been awarded the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) “Best Bet” in their booster seat evaluation report two years in a row, where they’ve branded BubbleBum as one of the best for safety.