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Why do our cute loving babies have to turn into s***-heads? Not to sound too harsh, but seriously, why do they? I miss the good old days when my son used to love me, snuggle with me and think I was better then ice-cream. Now it’s mom can I? Would you? Give me? and the inevitable “I hate you!” and “You’re the worst mom ever!”

Now these exclamations aren’t an everyday occurrence, but they are often enough to make me reminiscence about the “good ol’ days”. I try so hard not to turn into my mom or dad with the “You don’t know how good you got it and the when I was your age”. But damn kid! You seriously don’t know! Most of the time I can stay calm and do my best to be the adult. But there are times when the 7 year old in me wants to just get down on their level and battle!

I seriously understand and appreciate those old Calgon commercials on a whole new level.
It’s funny in a way because the behavior we start to except from our children we would never take from our peers. Could you imagine if you told your friend they couldn’t borrow your computer and they threw themselves on the floor screaming and yelled “I hate you! You’re the worst friend ever!”  We would probably smack them across the face and tell them to get a hold of themselves. But our darling children pull this same crap and we just say to ourselves, oh it’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it, they need to express their feelings etc. Forget that! They need to get their spoiled butts up to their room and clean it, and do some laundry while they are at it!

A few months ago I went to the open house at my son’s elementary school to hear information about the new Common Core curriculum. At first it sounded okay. A few of us parents wondered at the new terminology for simple math terms, but figured we could handle it.

What started to bug me and some of the other parents  was the “standards” that HAD to be met at each grade level. I for one feel that every child is an individual and learns in different ways and at different speeds. How could we possibly group all children together as one and expect the same result from every child?

Now I know public school has its limits and I as the parent must do my part to give my child a well-rounded education(which I think I do). But what the hell am I paying over $8,000 a year in taxes for? A new system that wasn’t tested? A system that we the parents, who foot a good part of the bill, were never consulted on?

After speaking to other parents and teachers from other parts of the country who have already been using the Common Core, it seems this is more about a standard for teachers and not really about the kids. It is a way to grade teachers on their results. It has also been said that it gives school districts a way to fire teachers even if they already have tenure.

If a teacher does not have a certain percentage of students in the 3-4 range (3=meets grade expectations 4=above grade expectation) they can be fired. I know of several teachers that are now stressed about the pressure to get good results. How is this benefiting our kids? Now I know my son is smart, but I also know he does not do well with pressure.

My husband and I have spent well over an hour with our son on homework that probably should only take 15-20 minutes each night. But that’s what our son needed to have a good outcome with the work. At the end he was happy and proud of the work he had done. If we had pushed him to get it done faster, it would have been a disaster.

I know that most of our teachers are doing their best and we have great ones in our school district, but I feel this Common Core crap is going to hurt both our students AND our teachers. I know I am not the only one concerned about this, check out the meeting minutes from the New Paltz BOE here.

So It’s been 14 years since I’ve been single and yet here I am in my early 30’s dating again, who would have guessed? Since right before my daughter started Kindergarten,I’ve entered the new phase in both our lives known as Play-dating. It can be just as tricky navigating the playdating world as was when you were trying to find your mate. Sometimes you’ll meet a family where you love the parents, but the kids don’t get along or the kids are thick aS theives but you find yourself watching the clock because you have nothing in common with the parents. But one day the stars align and you meet the perfect playdate family. This happened to me on Hannah’s first day of Kindergarten when I inadvertently met our family’s playdate match in heaven while interviewing a woman for an article for Hudson Valley Parent at Hannah’s Kindergarten open house.

Besides our kids being the same age, in the same class, living just around the corner from us and having sons roughly the same age, my husband and I really get along with the parents as well. So being the Discount Diva I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t identify the top seven ways playdating saves you money.

1. Your House or Mine? Either answer means that you can skip the trip to Jumpin Jakes or Chuck E. Cheese or the plethora of other kiddie entertainment venues that are ripe with sick kids. So you save money by not going out and the money you would have spent on cold medicine and doctor’s visits.

2. Less Travel means less gas. Hopefully your child is friends with someone who lives fairly close by. If your super lucky like me, they might even live within walking distance eliminating both the money needed for gas and the need to strap your kids into the car.

3. Snacks are cheap or free. You can save a ton of money both on hosting or attending playdates. You can buy cheap snacks at Aldi or your choice of grocery store or you can get out your cookbook and enlist your little chefs to help you whip up a yummy treat for your guests for very little money. You can bring snacks to your playdates or just reciprocate by hosting next time.

4. New toys!!!
Often my kids just aren’t interested in playing with their toys, but invite some friends over and it’s like Christmas day all over agin. They take new interest in their toys and while at their friend’s house they get to play with toys they don’t have at home. New toys, games, and activities that’ll keep your kiddo’s busy for hours are usually just a phone call away.

5. Mom-dates. Just as you save money by not having to take the kiddos out for some entertainment, especially on these cold winter days you also don’t have to go out to dinner or shopping to have some great adult entertainment. If you get along with your child’s friend’s parents you can have great adult conversation while the kids are playing and in our case end up getting invited to parties as well.

6. Baby-sitting swaps. If your kids get along really well and if you’ve built up trust in the parents over time you could take it to the next level in your “play-dating” relationship and agree to swap babysitting services, saving both parents money on babysitting and giving each family a parenting night off.

7. Mom-networking – priceless! You never know what great new knowledge, experience or even goodies can be gained when moms get together. You want to know if that latest and greatest toy lives up to the hype, need someone to watch your child in case of a 2-hour delay from school, or don’t want to spend good money on halloween costumes next year – playdates provide great networking opportunities to share. You can swap toys, clothes or shoes. You can carpool to the town pool or playground. You’re only limited by your imagination. And if you’re really lucky maybe a playdate can turn into lifelong friendships between families.

What’s your experience with playdates? Feel free to share.

Here we go!

My first post.

Hello world out there!

An introduction to me: Most people write something here like: “I am a working mother of two” but that doesn’t come close to defining who I am. I don’t think anyone can do that in just one sentence. So I will try to do it in a few sentences, ha! So here we go. I am a crazy, fun, bitchy, sometimes irrational woman. I grew up in a hippie/divorced household and moved out when I was about 16. I like to live in a grey world of balance where nothing is black or white. I have two amazing, annoying, spastic, wonderful children who keep me constantly learning and growing as a human being. SO there it is in a few sentences.

I am currently the art director at Hudson Valley Parent magazine and really love my job. After seeing our other great blogs I decided I’d give it a go. I will do my best to give an honest and fresh perspective on parenting that will not be your typical “fluff” blog. Hopefully you will enjoy and commiserate with me in all the joys, heartache and madness that is being a mom.

It’s no secret that we’re living in tough economic times so I wanted to share with you my top five tips to save money on groceries. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Know what you want to spend.
Take a stroll back through your bank statement and tally all your grocery expenses from the past month, whether they were purchased at a grocery store, pharmacy, farmers market or convenient store. Now that you know how much you might spend in a given month, it’s time to decide how much you want to spend. It’s so much easier to save money on your grocery bill if you have a goal budget to work from. I set a goal of $500 a month for my family of four so that translates to $125 per week on groceries. By knowing my goal, I was able to keep focused on what I was buying and for how much and I came in at about $40 under budget this month.

2. Know where to shop.
Not every grocery store has the best price on everything so it’s worth your time to figure out which stores have the best prices on what your family uses most. I’m not suggesting you drive all over the county to save fifty cents on bread. That would be crazy with the gas prices as high as they are. However if you can find a few stores all relatively close, you can save big bucks by knowing what they all do best. Here’s what works for me. Aldi is an amazing deal on staple items: bread, milk, cheese, frozen juice, some fruits and veggies, etc. Note: Keep in mind it’s predominantly store brands, only takes cash and debit, not credit and bring your reusable bags and a quarter for the cart. Then I usually hit ShopRite for their weekly loss leaders (these are sale items used to lure you in so you can buy more expensive items) if it’s something I can use, especially if I have coupons which turn a sale into a steal. Some items that I can usually get for a song are laundry detergent – I never pay more than $1.50 a bottle, toothpaste – always free with coupons and sales, feminine hygiene products – free or $1 each, cereal – with sales and coupons I can stock up for $1.50 a box or less, etc. Also don’t forget that ShopRite has some great pharmacy freebies like free prescription prenatal and children’s vitamins, certain antibiotics and some diabetes medicine. Then up here in Sullivan County we have these tiny little hardware stores called the Trading Post. The one in my town is also a small grocery store. I know it’s weird right. But while everything else tends to be expensive they have the best meat prices around. I can usually get 10 meat products for roughly $30-$40. So it pays to know which stores provide the best prices on which types of items. Then if you can coordinate them all into one trip it’ll save on gas. I start with the store furthest away and work my way back home.

3. Avoid impulse purchases.
Here are a few tips to avoid impulse purchases which eat a huge chunk out of your grocery budget. If at all possible shop alone. It’s helps to be able to focus your full attention on the task at hand. You’re more likely to throw extra impulse items like sweets and treats in your cart with the kiddos there begging for things at each aisle. My husband is also seriously prone to stocking a cart full of junk food or specialty items that will hibernate in my pantry till I get sick of looking at them and throw them out. So I like to go it alone. If you have to take the kids I suggest rewarding them with a small treat like a candy bar at check out if they agree to help you stick to your shopping list. I also like to skip the junk food aisles entirely unless there is one particular thing I’m looking for. Out of sight, out of cart. Ok it’s been said to death but it’s true, make a list and stick to it. But before you make your list do an inventory of what you have. I often get extra items because I think I’m out but as it turns out I’m overstocked on that item so it’s good to know what you don’t need as well.

4. Plan for leftovers. While watching an episode of Chopped on the food network that was dedicated entirely to making new entrees out of leftovers my husband said, “You’d be great at this. You’re the queen of leftovers.” If you don’t plan to use leftovers they get thrown out and that’s a waste of money. If you buy meat in bulk, know what meals you want to get out of that package. For example if I buy the family pack of ground beef I plan for three beef dishes like tacos, spaghetti, and chili. I also get whole chickens and plan on using the leftovers in casseroles, stir fry, in spaghetti sauce or soups. I always count the number of “meals” I can get from each package not the “meats” when shopping. So whole chickens are counted as two meals, family packages of ground beef are three meals etc. allowing me to buy less meat which is really expensive. Planning to use your leftovers when you buy your groceries means that there will be less food in the garbage which also means more money in your pocket.

5. Cook more and serve less. It’s always cheaper and healthier to buy ingredients than prepackaged foods. Prepackaged foods are good for one meal but the same basic ingredients can be used in many meals. There was a time when I never used recipes or cooked from scratch because I thought it was too complicated. But now if there’s something I want to make I get out my cookbook or do an internet search for a recipe. By searching online you can usually read how other people rated that particular recipe before you decide to try it.

When I was in grade school I went away on a two-day trip during which we ate in a meal hall with plates of food served family style at each table. The rule was you could eat all you wanted as long as you finished what you took. Every class had their uneaten food weighed at the end of the meal and it was definitely frowned upon to be the group with the heaviest amount of wasted food. What did I learn from this? Especially with kids, be reserved with your portion sizes. It’s more cost effective to serve seconds then to scrape a bunch of uneaten food into the garbage. I also try to get a feel for how much my family will eat. If we have too much rice or pasta leftover after a meal I cut back the next time I make it. If there are no leftovers at all, kudos to the cook.

I’m always in search of money saving tips so if you have any please share or if there is a grocery store you just love, let me know what their best prices are. I think we could all use a few more dollars in our wallets these days.

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