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    A Giant Elephant and the Jersey Shore

    Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, early fall day in NJ.  We knew we definitely wanted to get outside.  Looking for inspiration, I tweeted: 


    After some contemplation, checking out the online festivals, we decided to take a trip down the shore!

    I hadn’t been to see Lucy the Elephant since I was a kid myself… so off we went!


    Lucy was built in 1881(!) She still stands, through numerous hurricanes, and demolition threats, 6 stories and 65 ft high in Margate, New Jersey.  She’s pretty amazing – and, charmingly kitschy, too – and reminds me of my childhood summers spent on the Jersey Shore.  The nice one, the beautiful one, the family one – NOT the one represented by television shows (ugh, sometimes the continual negative representation of New Jersey in the media really gets to me).  She’s impressive to behold, and more than just a bit unusual sandwiched between condominiums and the Atlantic Ocean. The kids LOVED her; so did I. For $3 per child & $6 per adult, we received a tour of the giant elephant.  Our tour guide walked us up through her legs into her belly (which, since my childhood has been entirely renovated & looked nearly completely different than I remembered.) where we watched a short video about her history.  Around her belly were “windows into the past” where you could look through & see her original white painted wood structure (which is how I remember her as a child), a classic bathroom from when she was a residence for a short while (how COOL is that that someone lived in an ELEPHANT?), and various other memorabilia related to her history.  From the top, which is still open to the air, you can clearly see Atlantic City to the North and Ocean City to the south. There is also a cute little gift shop with elephant-themed items. In all, it was a fantastic, inexpensive destination for kids.  Plus, she’s right off the ocean - perfect for a day at the beach.


    Driving up Atlantic Ave

    Lucy through the scrub pines

    Climbing Lucy’s Toes

    Walking up Lucy’s leg

    Peering into Lucy’s bathroom

    Lucy memorabilia

    Lucy’s birthday postcard (is this not cool??)

    View from the top  

    Lucy’s peanuts

    Lucy’s profile

    After exploring Lucy, we decided to head south a few miles to Ocean City, for a walk on the boardwalk, and delicious pizza!  Ocean City really clears out after Labor Day, yet, the ocean remains warm – September is the perfect month to visit!  We walked up on 14th street, and the kids immediately took off for the beach. The surf, while a bit rough, was an amazing temp – had to have been in the 80s!  Even with the sea breeze, the kids were soaked to the bone (they went swimming in their clothes!), but not cold.  

    Running to the water – not wet... yet!

    Half wet...

    All wet!



    No trip to Ocean City is complete without a trip to Mack & Manco’s Pizza because, really, it is the best pizza.  Anywhere. Just make sure you bring cash – and nothing else.  They don’t allow any outside food or drink, serve only pizza, and don’t take credit cards.  And there’s always a line to get in, no matter what. But you won’t care once you taste their pizza. :)


    The best pizza 

    My daughter agrees.

    Walking back to the car


    To close out our trip, we had the best ice cream in Ocean City – Hobby Horse Ice Cream parlor on 8th & Ocean.  

    Stained glass window on the ice cream parlor

    Riding the carousel horse out front

    We had a fabulous day trip to the Jersey Shore (plus, the kids fell sound asleep on the drive home - yes!) - and all on the spur of the moment... that's what I love about living here.  We're so close to everything! This tweet I received in response to my inquiry, sums it up:



    Posted: Sep 26 2010, 16:11 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Seasons | Travel | Family Time

    Keeping it Positive - Alternatives to No

    I believe children are better able to grow and flourish when they are in a positive, "yes" environment in which they can safely explore. Yet, often, as parents, we end up using the word "no" to guide our children's behavior, far more often than we may want to, which can lead to a negative environment where children are prohibited from exploring and growing to their full potential. Using the word no is easy and can become habitual - a knee-jerk response, and also can quickly become a toddler’s favorite word, and/or the word least paid-attention to by your children. This, in turn, leaves parents feeling ignored and children feeling stymied. Yet, children do need limits, and as parents, it’s our duty to keep them safe. 


    So what do you do when you want to keep your child away from something dangerous/fragile/breakable or need stop an undesirable behavior... but you don't want to say no?



    Here are some alternatives to using the word No:


    - Keep baby-unfriendly items out of reach and/or locked away until baby is able to carefully handle them, while keeping a few safer "adult" items out for baby to explore with you.


    - Redirect the "no" behavior. If baby keeps going for the extension cord, and you keep saying no, and she keeps going for it, instead, get down on the floor with her, and redirect her with another intruiging (yet safer) object.


    - Use the words "We don't..." and describe the undesirable behavior.  For example, "We don't throw balls in the house." instead of just No! and taking the ball away.


    - Go one step further and give a "We do..." alternative. For example, "We don't throw balls in the house.  But we do throw trash in the garbage can - here, you try!"


    - Use an alternate word like STOP! to keep a toddler from running into a dangerous situation or HOT! to keep toddler from reaching up to the stove. Stop and Hot actually give more specific, yet, quick instruction as opposed to No, which is more generic, and more likely to be ignored. 


    - Practice the Stop! and Go! game with your toddlers in a danger-free zone, like a back yard, where you have the kids run when you say Go! and stop right away when you say Stop!


    - Use a weird word - HALT! or SLAM! or BEEP! or BOOGER! The word itself matters less than the tone of your voice, which is usually enough to get your baby or toddler to stop what they are doing long enough for you to intervene. Just keep a few surprise words in your back pocket - don't use them often, only when absolutely necessary to get immediate attention.


    - If you must say no, modify it with an alternative, like, "No, but you CAN (fill in the blank)". For example, toddler is about to hit the baby, instead of just saying no, say, "No hitting baby, but we can hit the drum!"


    - Take a breather. If your child is asking something that you're tempted to say no to right away, like, "Can I get a pair of shoes like that?" you can say, "Let me think about it", and then, do think on it.  Maybe an alternative solution can be reached when you've had some time to think.


    - Offer options as an alternative to no. Instead of, "No, we can't go to the zoo today" say, "How about we have a picnic in the back yard?" or "I just got a great movie in the mail; would you like to watch it?"


    - Give an informational answer to a question that you might otherwise be tempted to answer with a no. Like, "Can I have a snack?" could be answered with, "Dinner will be ready in 10 minutes."


    - Rephrase No to Yes. Instead of, "No, we can't go bike riding right now because I have a lot of work to do", try, "Yes, as soon as I finish my work. I should be ready to go in a half an hour."


    - Have a Yes day (or hour, or minute)!  Allow yourself to answer all of your child's requests for an allotted period of time with a positive answer, instead of a negative one.  Certainly, if the request is, "Can I poke the baby with a pencil?" you've got to draw the line there (maybe with a fun redirection or No, but you CAN... statement), but if the request is, "Can I play with your phone?" or "Can I pour the juice myself?" or "Can I wear flip flops with socks?", try saying Yes, (and offering assistance if needed) instead of immediately saying no. I've found behavior turns around quickly and no's are more quickly responded to, when more yeses are used on a daily basis.



    Do you have any other alternatives to saying No?  I’d love to hear!



    Posted: Sep 21 2010, 17:58 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Renewing My Commitment to Peaceful Parenting

    I just started watching the show, Dead Like Me.  For those who haven’t seen it, the premise is [**spoiler alert**] the main character, Georgia (George), is killed when she is 18, and becomes a grim reaper – that is, she takes people’s souls before they die violent/traumatic deaths, in order to spare them pain, so they can go easily to the next stage (whatever that may be). It’s a heavy show, no doubt.  But what does it have to do with peaceful parenting?  Well, in the pilot episode, George is shown to have a rocky relationship with her mother.  After her death, she visits her mother (though her mother doesn’t see her as she was, rather as a stranger at a garage sale – I know, I know, willing suspension of disbelief here, folks), and engages her in a conversation about what her deceased daughter was like.  Her mother says, “Truth be told, she drove me crazy.  She was stubborn; I like to think that was because she was so smart.  She knew a lot more a lot sooner than other people her age.” [obviously, I’m paraphrasing]. It had me in tears. But what really got to me was that the daughter, after this exchange, says that was the longest conversation she had with her mother since puberty. The utter sadness of it, the gravity of the distance between them… and what precipitated that distance, is what did me in.  So, here's where peaceful parenting comes in.  The mother had allowed her daughter’s willfulness (stubbornness, whatever word you want) to negatively effect how she related to her daughter.  Instead of releasing the negativity, and embracing her daughter as she was, she let it eat away at their relationship. The potential for a peaceful, loving, empathetic, and unconditional relationship – the potential we all have as parents – had been lost somewhere along the line.  The show continued on with more difficult relationships, more sadness, more introspection, and thoughtfulness into what happens when you live, and when you die.  I cried for a good long while after it was over. When you're faced with thoughts of the potential finiteness of life, as I was watching this show, what is most important becomes clear.

    (George & her mother; Dead Like Me) 

    So, once I’d composed myself, I decided that I was renewing my commitment parenting my children with peacefulness.  To reach that commitment, I will respect and listen to and appreciate and support my children.  I will accept them as they are, and work with their individual personalities.  I will strive to enrich their lives with my presence and vice versa.  I will be less worried about discipline and molding their behavior, and more concerned with demonstrating and modeling the behavior I wish to see – through peacefulness, happiness, respect, gratefulness, and kindness. I know that teaching through example is always the best way. 


    Of course I know there are times when we will not get along.  But, if I can’t be peaceful when I'm frustrated, then I’ll give myself a time out – a cooling off period until I CAN be peaceful, because that is what I would want them to do. If I can’t be cheerful (and understandably, we all can’t always be cheerful), I will let my children know how I’m feeling, and then I’ll take a break - figuring out what I need to help myself get back to a more centered place, just as I would like them to do. I will not allow my annoyance with myself or my current situation or mood to affect how I react to my children.  If my children’s behavior happens to be the catalyst of said annoyance, instead of being reactive or punishing, I will explain how I feel, why I’m feeling that way, and acknowledge their behavior (not them) is having an effect on me.  In short, I will strive to behave in the way I want them to behave.


    I will above all remember that they are children. My children, yet I don’t own them… I only have them for a short time – and no one knows how short or long.  My goal is simply to help them in the time we have together, to grow happy and healthy. I will remind myself that they are always learning.  That everything I do, they see, and internalize, and embrace (and mimic) in their own way…. so I will make sure what they see is good, and positive, and peaceful, so that when they are 18, and perhaps looking back on their childhood (not as grim reapers, please, thank you very much), they look back in a way that is filled with love, not regret. 


    Posted: Sep 14 2010, 19:05 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    Ten Things To Do While Breastfeeding

    Breastfeeding is the perfect opportunity for true multitasking! Here are ten things you can easily do at the same time as you are nursing your baby:


    1) Read. This is always my favorite thing to do while nursing! With my first baby, I finished many books in our marathon nursing sessions from the rocking chair. Clever pillow arrangement allows your hands to be free, or if you need a hand to support baby or your breast, you can get a book holder.  Set up a little table right next to your rocking chair, set the book in, and you only need one hand to turn the page! You can also read in the side-lying nursing position – just prop the book on a pillow, behind baby, and you’re golden. I don’t think I’ve read as voraciously as I did those first couple of months; I used to hope my daughter would KEEP nursing a little longer so I could finish my chapter! :)  


    2) Sleep. Make sure your bed is baby-safe, and get yourself & baby comfortable in the side-lying nursing position. The hormones released during breastfeeding are naturally relaxing and sleep-inducing. What better way to catch up on much-needed rest than while nurturing your little one?  Behind reading, this was definitely my favorite thing to do while nursing.  If you can get older siblings to nap at the same time, fantastic!  I found the best way to do this was to side-lie nurse, and have my then 2-year old cuddle up against my back.  She could reach over & snuggle me, and her movements (if she wasn’t sleeping) didn’t disturb baby.


    3) Play Poker. Yes, I have breastfed my newborn at the poker table! Really, with the right pillow or sling, you can nurse anywhere, doing pretty much anything. I’ve nursed while playing board games with friends, and I don’t think anyone knew the difference – not even my little one.  He was just happy to be with Mommy.


    4) Get on the Computer.  Just bring a comfy pillow to put below baby for support, latch baby on, and voila – both hands free to surf the web, work, or blog. The first few months of both of my childrens’ lives, when I was working from home, I did a lot of my computer work with a nursing (or sleeping) baby on my lap. With the dawn of smart phones, getting out on the internet while nursing is simple – you can do it anywhere – one handed!


    4) Have a Snack or Drink. I’ve always felt it is so important to have a drink of water with me while breastfeeding – I even kept a bottle in my bed, behind my pillow, for those nights when baby was asleep on me, and I’d wake up thirsty, but didn’t want to move (and wake baby!).  In the early days, a healthy snack (or snackS for those extra-long nursing sessons) next to my favorite chair was just what I needed to keep me energized.  Fresh fruit, whole grains, veggies are always the best choice. Try oatmeal – tastes great, is nutrient-dense, and helps boost supply!


    5) Cuddle Baby’s Siblings. If you have older children, nursing presents a unique opportunity for cuddling ALL your babies! There’s always an extra arm (or hand or leg or foot) available for snuggling up to while Mom is nursing.  You can read to older siblings.  Or play simple games – like Go Fish, or Memory. Or watch a movie together. My oldest used to pat her brother on the head while he was nursing and we were reading together. I know this quiet time helped their bond – they are still so close!


    6) Eat at a Restaurant. Breastfeeding has never kept me home. When we wanted to go out to eat, I’d just grab my sling, and hit the road.  In a restaurant, you can arrange baby in your sling, latch her on, scoot into the table, and hands are free for your fork & knife! If you don’t have a sling, you can support baby with one hand (or use your diaper bag on your lap like a Boppy pillow).  If I was ever feeling self-conscious, I always found a cloth napkin tucked & draped at just the right angle to be a perfect solution!


    7) Attend a La Leche Meeting. If you’ve never been to a LLL meeting, I strongly suggest you try it – at least once! I was nervous to go at first, having heard some strange things over the years about LLL.  But once I went, I was so very glad I did! Being able to breastfeed around other women who are all breastfeeding, all going through the same things, having the same worries, and the same questions as I did, was so comforting, and empowering! It also helped me to learn to be more comfortable with nursing in public. You can find a local group by visiting La Leche League’s site:


    8) Go Shopping. Once I learned to nurse on the go – in the sling, life became so easy! You can place a fussy baby in the sling, latch her on, and continue down your grocery shopping list, without having to stop to find a place to sit (and keep toddler occupied at the same time).  There’s always online shopping too! :)


    9) Write, Paint, Draw. Get those thank you cards finished! Channel your creative energy! Breastfeeding is a perfect time to do those one-handed tasks that may not otherwise get finished in the whirlwind of new parenthood. Take advantage of the quiet downtime, and keep your hands & mind busy!


    10) Gaze at Your Baby. Particularly in the early months, when baby nurses quietly, without too much motion or distraction, gazing lovingly at baby increases the bond you have with baby.  Gentle touches, stroking her hair, talking or singing softly, are all wonderful ways to get to know your baby better… all the while reveling in the miracle of her being and your breastfeeding – you’re the reason your baby is here, and you are the reason she’s growing! Yay mama!


    Posted: Sep 12 2010, 12:30 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Babies | Breastfeeding

    Remembering 9-11

    I remember where I was 9 years ago. It was our one month wedding anniversary.  I was driving into work, down Rt. 95, listening to NPR, Suddenly, classical music came to a halt, and they cut in to explain that a plane had crashed into the world trade center. Wow, I thought, what a terrible accident.  I was almost to the library.  It was just a bit after a quarter of 9. I arrived at the library, walked through the front doors, to my desk. Everyone was working as normal. “Turn on the radio. There’s been a plane crash – it crashed into the World Trade Center.” I turned on my computer, pulled up CNN.com – I remember it was still working fine at that point.  The office radio came on; our ears glued to the news reports, still indicating an accident; when suddenly – another plane hit the other tower.  It was 9:03.  We were listening as it happened.  There was a transformation in the room at that moment… a sense of confusion descended, as a plane crash (accident) turned to a double plane crash (how can that happen?). Was there something going on with radar systems? Were there other planes crashing? I don’t remember thinking of the people IN the buildings yet – just the planes, and how they could have possibly both crashed into huge buildings. Thinking, almost exactly: what was going on?  


    I called my husband at work – told him to turn on the radio, quickly. I was continually refreshing CNN.com – looking, maybe(?) for some indication this whole thing was a hoax?  But CNN, CBS, NPR, all the websites were showing the same horrible scenes; and talk was starting about purposeful crashing of planes. The morning passed simultaneously syrup slow and lightening fast.  I remember telling every student that came to the library front desk to check the news report – did you hear about the planes? Then immediately returning to my desk to check the news once again.  CNN.com was starting to slow down.  I remember feeling frustrated – I just wanted to know what was going on – why can’t the internet MOVE. At 9:37am, a plane hit the Pentagon.  Anxiety. I felt it.  Suddenly what had once been wow, then confusion, became terror. Panic. What is happening, right here, in my country, right now, in the city where I'd so recently worked? I called my husband again.  My cell phone didn’t connect.


      I kept calling, as we all moved down to the library’s basement – to the AV room, where they had a television set up.  All of the library staff was there, crowded into a small room, around a tiny television.  I think there were students there too – what I remember most was being surrounded by people – all of us scared, confused, staring at the screen, which was showing constant footage of two towers billowing black smoke, interspersed with images of the chaos on the ground in front of the smoking Pentagon building. I remember saying, “I used to work right there.” (I had worked briefly in WTC 7 – American Express – across Vesey St. from Tower 1) We were all standing in a group, watching in horror, amazement, disbelief.  The scene was unrecognizable, yet, so familiar. I used to take the E to the Chambers Street WTC stop to the underground mall. I would buy soup from Hale & Hearty. I used to have lunch in the shadow of the twin towers. I think I said some of this, or all of it.  My coworkers looking at me, asking questions.  Everyone confused, talking, trying to get phone calls to connect.  I finally got through to Adam – who told me to stay put.  Stay put.  We watched in amazed horror at people falling from the buildings to their death. Firefighters helping people out of buildings. Listened to people talking about their experience being up in the building, hearing the crash, trying to get down smoke-filled hallways, crowded stairways, repeated (over and over) footage of the second impact. And then…the first of the two towers fell.  The footage was spectacular. Unbelievable. Otherworldly.  Like something out of a science fiction movie.  People running, screaming down the street with smoke and debris in clouds behind them. Then the plane crashing in Pennsylvania.  Then, the second tower falling.  I felt like I was in the midst of a war. It was terrifying. 


     I don’t remember much detail of the rest of my day.  I was going through the motions.  Telling students what happened. Watching their faces go from wonder to horror at the library’s computers. Everyone on their cell phones – trying to contact family members.  I was so frightened, so confused, anticipatory.  What would happen next? I drove home in a daze, listening to NPR, turned on the television the moment I stepped in the door. And I’m not sure that we turned off the television that evening. I kept CNN.com on constantly. I cried. One short week after 9-11, the anthrax attacks started. I know for certain that I didn’t feel safe for a good long time.


    I have yet to visit ground zero.  I’ve driven by the end of Manhattan when the beams of light were shining up at night. Adam has visited. I’m just not sure I want to be there. I didn’t lose anyone in the attacks; just my ability to ever re-experience things there the way they were. I have memories in my mind of how it felt to be there, before the attacks… it still feels that way in some part of my mind. I don’t know when I’ll want to change that.

    As for our children and the attacks on 9-11.  We’ve said that bad people did a terrible thing, hurting a lot of people, on that day, and that we remember them on the same day, each year. I’m not sure that I’ll never be able to convey the real confusion of that day; the fear I – and everyone – felt. The fear that I think we all still live with – to a certain extent – in this country. A fear that my children were born into; are growing up in. I want to tell them the story as I experienced it – someday. I imagine it will feel the way my mother’s stories of the death of JFK felt to me – distant. But I do remember, and I’ll want them to know my memories. I want them to know the love I have for my country, and how scared I felt when I wasn’t sure it was going to be here anymore. I want to tell them how important peace is.  And how an event like this reminds us not to take peace for granted. Someday we’ll share our memories.  For now, I remember. 


    I wish peace to those families far less fortunate than I who lost loved ones in the attacks. Peace to eveyone in this country that I love. Peace to all people in all countries. Peace to the world – this one world we all share.   


    Deep peace of the running wave to you.
    Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
    Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
    Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
    Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.


    ~Gaelic Blessing


    Posted: Sep 11 2010, 23:59 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Nostalgia | Castle Building