Back-to-School DIY Infants kids Motherhood Parenting

Baby Steps to Going Green

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Lately, I’ve been consumed with guilt over the amount of waste I personally produce. Living in a coastal town, I’ve seen enough news stories about marine animals killed by waste and plastics that I’ve worried that I personally contributed to each animal’s death somehow.

I have never, however, considered myself an activist of any kind. So don’t worry about me making some grand eloquent argument here for going off the grid and living the ultimate “crunchy” sustainable lifestyle (although, kudos to you if this is something you can accomplish and thanks for generating enough power with your stationary bike to read this blog.)

Being a mom living a modern lifestyle, there are lots of times where I choose convenience over conservation. I realize that most of us moms are constantly trying to be better and more mindful of…well…just about everything. Sometimes when it comes to the narrative about our environment, conservation can seem so daunting and helpless that it’s easier to default to, “Well, if I can’t make the big important strides for this planet, why try at all?”

Instead, there are just some itty bitty steps that, I think, are a great starting point for being mindful of the waste we produce.

Recycle often, and recycle PROPERLY

This is probably the easiest place to start. Just pay attention to the things that are going to the trash. Can they be recycled instead? And are you recycling them properly? First check the guidelines for your city or whichever company picks up your recycling. Pay attention to labeling on packing material and plastic bags – it can often be taken back to the grocery store to be recycled. Packaging for paper towels and toilet paper is often labeled as “store drop-off”! Then make sure you’re not contaminating recyclables. I’m always taking stuff out of the recycling to wash it after my husband throws things in because if it’s not clean, its contaminated and won’t be recycled.

Reusable Grocery Bags

If you want to reduce waste, why not start with the bags that literally only get minutes of use before getting tossed. I use my reusable grocery bags whenever I can PLUS resuable mesh bags for produce.

Reusable Food Storage

Too often I’ve packed snacks or lunch for the kids using ziploc bags that would get thrown away. Or buying water bottles while we’re out. Now, instead, I try to take my favorite Take & Toss bowls and cups. I even found these cute reusable ziploc bags at TJ Maxx that fit in their lunch boxes. For baby food or yogurt, I love these WeeSprout refillable pouches.

Switch to Bar Soaps

I have lots of hair so the plastic bottles I accumulated from shampoo, conditioner, and soap was feeling overwhelming. There are probably lots of local options for hand-crafted soap bars if you look around your town. For my hair, it took me awhile to find a product I like. I ended up trying a sampler of Ethique bars and found options I love for my thick wavy hair.

Menstrual cups/Period Panties

It’s an unpleasant reality, but feminine products also accumulate a lot of monthly waste. After a year or so of being on the fence, I finally tried a menstrual cup and don’t plan to go back to tampons. There’s a learning curve for getting comfortable with it, but I’ve been very happy with my DivaCup even with my heavy flow. If you can’t get onboard with the cup, how about a period panties like Thinx?

Thoughtful gifting

We go to a fair share of birthday parties for kids. For my own kids, I usually request “no gifts” because 1) my kids don’t need anything and 2) the things they do receive often go untouched or are broken in no-time (the middle child is especially destructive). I imagine other parents go through the same thing, so when the opportunity comes up, I try to do gift cards for experiences or to our favorite local ice cream shop instead of toys.

Cloth Diapering

This has been a long-term ambition of mine, especially because of the sheer volume of weekly waste disposable diapers produce. I thought about doing it with my first, but my husband was NOT on board with the idea. Then, after doing the vast majority of diapering for the first two kids, and gathering info from friends, I decided I was up to the task. I bought a cheap lot of cloth diapers from a friend and it didn’t take long to feel like I had a pretty good routine down for them. A friend sent me some info on Fluff Love University to help get me started. And then I checked out what Lucie’s List had to say about all the types of cloth diapers to choose from:


I put this one last because I’m just so lazy when it comes to composting, so I’m striving to be better about it. The kids help me create a whole lot of food waste, so I’m hoping to be better about taking the scraps we have to decompose in our very own compost pile. A friend recommends a compost pail on the counter to make it easy (and reduce odor).

How about you? What do you do to go green in your household? What would you like to start doing?

Back-to-School Infants Motherhood Parenting review

Review: Baby University

I am a huge advocate for STEM education in my children’s lives. Research has shown that building a foundation for these skills early helps children to be successful in school and in life. I remember attending my first science camp in middle school and falling madly in love with research. This spurred me on to pursue a degree in chemistry. I naturally want my kids to also find science as interesting and exciting as I do. I try to nurture early STEM concepts and skills through daily routines and play. I leave the music and art nurturing to their father. He is more adept in the fine arts than I am.

“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM
can refer to the subjects individually or one or more working together,
but can also mean a way of doing things that includes solving problems,
asking questions, and exploring the world around us.

Back-to-School Crafts DIY Parenting review

REVIEW: 4 Family Friendly Craft Books

As a result of some napping miracle, both of my babies fell asleep at the same time and I was able to look over these 4 amazingly-easy, family friendly craft books. I even made it halfway through a project before I heard that sweet sound of babies stirring in their cribs. I am not a crafty person by any means. I obsess over pins I find on Pinterest and dream about the day I can complete all the cute projects on my boards. I feel like there is a lot of pressure for moms, especially SAHMs to be crafty…as if we don’t have anything else to do. I always give it my best shot, but I’m definitely more of an Amazon Prime Mom than a Pinterest Mom. These books definitely make it easy for me to be sneakily crafty and add a little flare to some everyday things, like water bottles, name tags, training plans, etc.

Back-to-School Media Motherhood

Back-to-School Mini Series: Online Organizer for Busy Moms with Busy Kids

My husband and I are known for our punctuality. You can ask any of our friends and they will tell you “the Morris’ are never late, in fact, they are always early.” That is actually how we met. We both regularly showed up to Cross Country practice 15-minutes early and a bond was formed. Now that I have a LO that 15-minute early arrival is getting shorter and shorter. I hate to admit it, but I have even completely forgotten about some meetings and events that I promised to attend. If it does not get put on my calendar right away, with a bunch of alerts, there is a good chance I’ll miss it. I get overwhelmed just thinking about all the activities and events that will be added to our schedule once DD is enrolled in school and sports. Apparently, 1 in 3 parents have messed up picking up/dropping off their kids from extracurricular activities because of disorganization. Oh geez, that is definitely going to happen to us. I try to keep all of our appointments and DD’s playdates on a Google calendar that is shared with my husband, but I can guarantee you he either a) has forgot how to access it or b) has it disabled so that it does not send him alerts. This is going to be a real problem in a few years and I think I’ve found a solution.on-the-go-planner.jpg

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nikki Sacks, the co-founder of PodKeeper, an online organizer for busy parents with busy kids. Nikki told me a little bit about her family and what inspired her to create PodKeeper. Nikki and her husband both have successful careers along with two school-aged kids. Go ahead and add room mom and a youth soccer coach to their resumes and you’ve got a very busy family. Nikki said they wanted a better way to manage all of the day-to-day activities so they came up with PodKeeper. PodKeeper is a game changer for parents as they can easily access the schedules and details for many groups from a single dashboard.

Who here hates group texts and emails?? EVERYONE! They become so cumbersome the more people you add to them and the more details you try to flesh out. Something always gets mixed up or completely overlooked. My husband absolutely hates group emails. I’m pretty sure he just stops reading them after the first reply all. I don’t blame him, but that leaves me sifting through emails looking for important details. Through the PodKeeper web app, parents simply create an online group called a “Pod,” invite other parents to join, and finally have a place to stay on top of all the details. They can also manage household details with their spouse or a co-parent by creating a family Pod. PodKeeper acts as a personal planner app and syncs with online calendars.

Here is a screenshot of a discussion board for one of the Pods

PodKeeper is geared towards anyone who is in charge of organizing an event, team, class, etc. or who wants to be informed about said event. As an organizer, all you have to do is add the email addresses of the people you want to contact and they will be invited to join your “Pod.” I am excited to share PodKeeper with my family. Just this week, my aunt sent out an updated family contact list with 44 email addresses on it! (We have a big catholic family.) You can imagine how insane those email chains can get when we try to plan family events. When we start using PodKeeper, we will be able to easily schedule events like “pumpkin carving” and “ornament exchange;” create sign up lists for food and party supplies; store files and photos from the events; and even provide important last minute updates. I can already tell you some people in my family (*cough* *cough* my husband) will not join PodKeeper. I asked Nikki if this will be a problem for the group or that individual. I worried that if he does not accept the invite he will be left out. Nikki assured me this would not be the case at all. As long as their email address has been added to the Pod then they will be up-to-date with all the information via email. It also syncs with Google calendar, Yahoo calendar, Apple iCal and Microsoft Outlook.

If that hasn’t already convinced you to give PodKeeper a try, I am not sure you are involved in enough activities. Go volunteer to organize the next playdate and introduce PodKeeper to your group; you will look like a genius!

Learn more by visiting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube.

Back-to-School Emergencies

Back-to-School Mini Series: Teaching Kids about Emergencies

I shutter to think about having to teach my daughter emergency situations. I know it is 100% necessary, but I legitimately worry I’m going to scare the sh*t out of her. Just thinking about it, my silly mom-brain envisions the most god-awful scenarios she might get herself into. For example, shortly after DD was born we experienced our first Earthquake. It was so small it didn’t even wake my husband, but in my mind I could picture the house splitting in half with the nursery on one side and me on the other. Ridiculous, I know; but I definitely do not want to transfer that fear to her when we teach her about emergencies. I want her to be confident in her abilities to get herself out of danger and to a safe place.

Below is an approach from Dr. Sanam Hafeez  – New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist – on emergency preparedness that won’t freak your children out.

First, you’ll want to explain the difference between an emergency and a problem to your children. An emergency is a situation that requires immediate assistance from the police or fire department, or requires immediate medical assistance through paramedics or EMTs. A problem is something that they need help with, but does not require emergency services. When your child experiences a problem, and they are home alone, he or she should decide whether to call you immediately, call a neighbor, or whether the problem can wait until you get home.

You’d probably want your child to call you if he or she:

  • Felt scared
  • Had trouble getting into the house
  • Got home and found that the electricity was off

The following issues would warrant an immediate call to 9-1-1:

  • A fire
  • Evidence of a break-in
  • A medical emergency, such as someone being unresponsive or bleeding profusely

To alleviate anxiety, be clear with your children that an emergency is something unusual that happens sometimes resulting in injury or causing damage to things like houses and cars. Explain to them that, every now and then, nature provides ‘too much of something’ like, rain, wind, or snow. Talk about effects of an emergency that children can relate to, such as loss of electricity, water, and telephone service; flooded roads and uprooted trees.  Explain that everyone is better able to take care of themselves in emergencies when they know what to do.

Dr. Hafeez points out that, “For younger children, it might also help to talk about who the emergency workers are in your community — police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and so on — and what kinds of things they do to help people who are in trouble.” This will clarify not only what types of emergencies can occur, but also who can

When to Call 911

Dr. Hafeez explains that, “Part of understanding what an emergency is, is knowing what it is not. A fire, an intruder in the home, an unconscious family member — these are all things that would require a call to 911. A skinned knee, a stolen bicycle, or an argument with a school mate would not. Still, teach your child that if ever in doubt and there’s no adult around to ask, make the call. It’s much better to be safe than sorry”.

Make sure your kids understand that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many places. In some cities, officials estimate that as much as 75% of the calls made to 911 are non-emergency calls. These are not all pranks. Some people accidentally push the emergency button on their cell phones. Others don’t realize that 911 is for true emergencies only (not for such things as a flat tire or even about a theft that occurred the week before).

Create a Plan with your Child

  1. Teach your child one parent’s cell-phone number or a good contact number. **I remember my mom teaching me our phone number and home address as a song. She even taught me to show the numbers on my hands along with the words.
  2. Choose a location other than your home where your family can meet. You’ll need to go there in case of a fire or an earthquake, for example. Your meeting place might be a local park, school, or shelter. Walk to the site with your child so he/she knows exactly how to get there.
  3. Designate a trusted friend or family member who can pick up your kid at child care or school if you are unable to get there in a disaster situation. Be sure that you give official permission to release your child to that person. **When I was a kid we had a family password. If someone different picked me up from Daycare, that I was not expecting, I was supposed to ask them for the password. If one of my parents had sent them, they would have told them our secret family word.
  4. Make a card with your plan for each adult’s wallet. Include contact names, your emergency location, and designated friend/family member. Put a copy in your school-age child’s backpack.
    • Inform caregivers and nearby relatives of your plan. Be sure to give a copy of your plan to your child’s teacher too.

If you’re not good at texting, improve your skills. When cell- phone signal strength goes down, texting often still works because it uses less bandwidth and network capacity.


Discuss Region-Specific Natural Disasters

You probably won’t need to waste much time on teaching a child that lives in the Midwest how to manage a hurricane, but he/she will need to know what to do in the event of a tornado. Talking about the natural disasters that are most likely to occur in your area and making a specific plan to deal with them is imperative, especially if you live in a region that’s particularly prone to environmental emergencies.

Photo courtesy of Modern Survival Blog

Work Out a Home Evacuation Plan

In the event of a fire, home invasion, or a natural disaster, your entire family will need to have a coordinated evacuation plan to ensure that everyone makes it out of the house safely. Dr. Hafeez stresses that, it is important to explain to your child that all material possessions, even favorite ones, can be replaced and that it’s far more important for them to exit the house than it is to save their belongings. Make sure that he/she knows how to get out of the house if you’re not able to reach her, to make her way to a pre-arranged family meeting place and what she should do when he/she arrives there first.


Role Play Specific Scenarios

Netflix’s Stranger Things – fantasy role-playing D&D

Dr. Hafeez explains that, one of the best ways to determine how much your child knows and what she still needs to learn about emergency preparedness is to role play specific scenarios that she could potentially encounter. There’s a reason why public schools practice routine fire drills: they help kids prepare in a relatively low-stress environment for an emergency so that, in a high-pressure situation they know how to react. Role playing serious injury situations, weather emergencies, a house fire, and even potential intruder situations gives you an idea about what your child knows and helps you teach them more detailed information so that they’re prepared to handle any emergency.

Sanam Hafeez Psy.D

New York State Licensed Neuropsychologist and School Psychologist

Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist.  She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C.  She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University.

Dr. Hafeez graduated from Queens College, CUNY with a BA in psychology.  She then went on to earn her Master of Science in Psychology at Hofstra University.  Following that she stayed at Hofstra to receive her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) She later completed her post-doctoral training in Neuropsychology and Developmental Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital.

Dr. Hafeez’s provides neuropsychological educational and developmental evaluations in her practice.  She also works with children and adults who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…) In addition, Dr. Hafeez serves as a medical expert and expert witness by providing full evaluations and witness testimony to law firms and courts.

Dr. Hafeez immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was twelve years old.  She is fluent in English, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi (Pakistani and Indian languages.) She resides in Queens, New York with her husband and twin boys.


Back-to-School DIY

Back-to-School Mini Series: Duct Tape Projects


Here is the answer to yesterday’s POP QUIZ:

  1. Mandarin – With more than 955 million speakers, Mandarin claims the top spot as the world’s most common language — and one that often requires professional translation services.
  2. Spanish – Its prominence in the Americas as well as in Europe makes Spanish one of the most common languages, with 405 million speakers.
  3. English – English used to be the second-most common language, but Spanish-speakers have increased much more rapidly over the past 15 years. Still, scholars have named English the world’s “most influential language,” due to the number of speakers (360 million) and the number of countries in which it is spoken.

I like to pretend to be crafty every now and then. I get all of my ideas from Pinterest and am successful at completing most of the projects that I attempt (there are a few Pinterest fails every now and then). I am always so fascinated when I find craft ideas using Duct tape; I never would think to use it in such a way. I remember a girl, when I was in school, who made a purse and backpack out of Duct tape. I thought that was the coolest thing I ever saw. If you are interested in trying your hand at Duct tape crafts check out these projects below and tell us what you’ve made out of Duct tape! 

Back-to-School Motherhood

Back-to-School Mini Series: School Prep

Labor Day typically marks the end of summer and official start back-to-school. Parents everywhere are rejoicing! Or are they? I saw the movie “Bad Moms;” PTA meetings and extracurricular activities sound like a whole lot of extra work that you didn’t have over the summer. If your kids are older you are probably also worried about finding the right tutors and making sure your little Einstein is taking all the right classes to get into college. Geez! I sure do not remember focusing that much time or energy on getting into college, but hey maybe I should have…