My Favorite Toys As A Kid – A 70s/80s Flashback!

This past weekend the family took a quick roadtrip down to Philly for a visit to the Please Touch Museum.  It’s a great place where kids and adults can get a truly “hands on” experience.  You are allowed to touch and play with EVERYTHING.  They also had several vintage, iconic toys on display such as Lite Brite, vintage Lego sets and the very first Mr. Potatohead, but unfortunately, you couldn’t play with any of those!

One toy in particular caught my eye and instantly took me back to being six years old and happily playing in my parents’ living room. It was the Tree Tots Family Tree House from Kenner.

Sure, it just looked like a weird green plastic tree, but push the button on top, and the magic happened: out popped the secret home where the Treetot family lived.  The Treetots were pretty hip for the ‘70s, after all, they did live in a tree, so they were I guess the first truly “green” family! Their home had an elevator, mod furniture, an outdoor swing, and even a stylish car. Treemont & Willow Treetot lived there with son Chip, daughter Honey and the family dog Barky, who of course had his own baseball-sized bush for a doghouse.

Honey Treetot was my favorite.  She kinda reminded me of Pebbles Flintstone with her red pigtailed hair.  Sometimes I would carry her around in the pocket of my Toughskins pants (there’s another 70s throwback) and forget she was there.   I would go into a panic when she went missing.  Soon after, my mom would hear something banging in the dryer and discover Honey, now a little cleaner and no worse for the wear.

Seeing that Tree Tots Treehouse put a huge smile on my face, and got me thinking about the other toys I enjoyed when I was a kidlet.

Here they are, in no particular order and photos of each are below:

Rub-A-Dub Dolly – Rub-A-Dub Dolly likes to take a bath with you! Mine sure did, and I don’t think she ever had any clothes on, even when I took her out into the world.  I always wanted the Tugboat caddy that went along with it, but my parents never got it for me. If you clicked on the link and saw that video, I’m sure you got an eyeful.  That ad would NEVER run today without landing someone in prison.

Dorothy Hamill Doll – As a young girl I was totally caught up her 1976 Gold Medal Olympic win and even had my hair cut into the famous Hamill wedge.  She had skates instead of shoes and a little stand for an ice rink.  You move the rink around with your hand and she skates and spins around and around.

Bionic Woman Styling Boutique – I loved to play beauty parlor at home, pretending to wash, cut and brush my mom’s hair while she was watching Phil Donohue.  I didn’t really think the Bionic Woman was all that glamorous (Farrah Fawcett, the styling head I actually wanted, was) but she did the trick – ugly green eyeshadow and all.

Bargain Hunter –  Predating my love of shows like “Supermarket Sweep” and “The Price Is Right” as well as my my obsessive-compulsive couponing, why this board game appealed to me now makes perfect sense. You had your own plastic credit card and went shopping-what could be better?!

I’m now searching E-Bay to see if I can find a complete Tree Tots Treehouse that won’t break the bank…I think my kidlets would really enjoy watching mommy play with it.

What was your favorite toy when you were growing up?

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Boo At the Zoo – A Family Field Trip

 

I think I love going to the zoo almost as much as my two kidlets do. Luckily, our family lives in the NYC metropolitan area, aka the Jersey ‘burbs, so it’s an easy hike to great places like the Turtle Back Zoo, Bergen County Zoological Park and Maritime Aquarium to just name a few.

This past weekend we went to The Bronx Zoo, located in the “Boogie Down Bronx” as the hubs jokingly told our son on the drive over.   My son was as confused as I was by this comment, but we just went with it ;)   Our kids are big fans – during our last visit our daughter became obsessed with peacocks and this time she announced that we had to see the rhinos!

This year we finally sprung for a family membership, which gives us unlimited visits to the Bronx Zoo as well as zoos in Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens, and the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn. There are lots of plans for different budgets: we spent $130 and got four pre-paid parking passes, worth it for those alone, I think, sixteen free attraction passes, plus a cool limited edition wildlife t-shirt (my son claimed it immediately!) and plenty of additional perks. If you hit the zoo more than once a year, you’ll save a lot.

While the kids never get bored looking at all of the exotic animals, the zoo also plans seasonal themes keeping it fun and ever-changing all year round.  This Halloween season, it’s “Boo At the Zoo” where kids, and even adults, can dress up in costumes and can go “trick or treating” throughout the zoo, grabbing treats like Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and granola bars.  There was a haunted hayride and maze — we ran out of time for those — as well as some Halloween mask making…you see the kidlets’ handiwork in the photo above.

If you go with little ones, go early.  We got there soon after it opened and grabbed a plum parking spot.  We also took advantage of short lines for “in demand” attractions such as the Wild Asia Monorail, Jungle World, Tiger Mountain, the Children’s Zoo and the Congo Gorilla Forest which can really get crowded as the day goes on.   In addition to our kids’ favorite animals, we saw zebra, buffalo, a red panda, okapi (sort of a half zebra/half brown horse, kinda weird but neat looking), elephants and baboons.  We never made it over to the monkey and reptile houses and to the sea lions – it’s really hard to do it all in one visit!

The whole family even took a ride on the Bug Carousel.  The carousel has a photographer that roams around and takes your picture, and he took a great one of me & my daughter, but quite honestly it wasn’t a great enough photo to spend $13.95 on.  In fact, I didn’t see one sale of a photo during our ride on the carousel.  Sidebar here: the hubs & I decided that with digital photography today, it can’t cost them more than $1.00 to print out a photo, if they lowered the price to 9.99, parents and grandparents would be buying the pix like crazy.

We walked everywhere on our visit and must have logged more than 2 miles, plus lots of pushing the stroller uphill-a better workout than the gym!  If you don’t want to walk, you can catch a tram, which are scattered around the zoo, but be warned, you have to buy an attraction pass to ride them. The zoo itself is so large – 265 acres – that even though there were lots of people, you never felt like you were over-crowded.

Another plus for a family looking to keep costs down, like ours, is that you can bring your own food with you.  I made sandwiches, packed some juice & milk boxes plus some snacks and put them into a little cooler made just for outings like this.   Not only does it save money –the food can get pricey – but I can actually get my kids to eat something they are familiar with. Plus it helps mom/dad avoid the inevitable fried lunch! My hubs joked he’s feeling like a gourmet expert on chicken fingers!

Our four hours at the zoo was perfect-and went fast.  The kidlets fell asleep the moment we pulled out of the parking lot.  They were still talking about all the animals they saw on Monday morning and couldn’t wait to tell their pals at school what they did.

I’d have to say that The Bronx Zoo is one of my favorites – with the Denver Zoo and Philadelphia Zoo coming in second and third respectively.   Our next animal outing is likely going to be the NY Aquarium. I’ve never been, so I will share our experiences as soon as we go.

What is your kid’s favorite animal to see at the zoo?  What’s your favorite zoo?

And Now For A Balancing Act

Like many moms out there, I’m a working mom.  Well, all moms work, so I guess I mean I also have a job that pays me! Outside of my The Harried Mom duties, I work full time outside the home.  It’s a career I’ve spent almost 20 years building, one that I think I’m good at and enjoy-most of the time.  For me, there was no question as to whether I would go back to work after having my kids.  Growing up I’d always been told that I could have it all: husband, family & career.  Well, I finally did have it all, but now how the heck was I going to manage it?

When I returned to work after my first child, everything felt like a race.  Running to get him to daycare, running to catch the train to get to work, running to the new mother’s room to pump, running out of work to catch the train and get my son from daycare…you get the idea.  I was literally running myself ragged to be “the perfect working mom,” a mix of Lois Lane career gal with a splash of Mrs. Cleaver and a dash of Martha Stewart homemaker, all rolled into one.  It had me doubting myself as a mother, wife and career woman.

I thought I was alone and a failure-until I started talking to other moms in the exact same boat I was in.  Once I shared with and listened to other career-minded moms, I was finally able to put things into perspective and get a picture of what work/life balance meant to me.

For me, that meant working with my boss to create a flexible work schedule so I can pick the kidlets up from Pre-K/daycare, make dinner and still have some quality time with them before they go to bed (FYI – my husband has his own work/life balance that he’s figured out, taking over mornings, making breakfast and spending time with the kidlets before heading out for the day!).  I try not to “sweat the small stuff” and instead focus on what my kids and husband really need-which is me. I’ve learned no matter what, the laundry will eventually get washed and the groceries will somehow magically appear in my kitchen!

Best of all, talking to other working moms has definitely kept me from turning into “Mommie Dearest!” What it comes down to is that we, as moms, are our own best resources.  It’s all about us sharing what we know.

I took part as a panelist in a Tweet chat with Mom Corps NYC for working parents.  The chat will focused on resources, inspiration and networking for working parents and will be the first of an evolving conversation series for NYC area working moms.

Click here for a recap of the chat.

 

In A World Of Hi-Tech Gadgets, I Still Prefer Pen To Paper

Every now and again I find products that I really like and find useful to being a mom — muslin blankets, disposable bibs, single packet handi-wipes, kid-centric entertainment coupon books — and tell my other mommy friends about my “finds.”  Here’s this week’s entry.   I am not a spokesperson and am not being compensated for this review. This is just my way of “paying it forward” to other moms who might be interested…

Things I Love – momAgenda

Lots of moms I come across can’t wait to get their hands on the latest hi-tech gadget. Sure, I love my iPad and Blackberry (well, maybe I don’t love the Blackberry!), but when it comes to figuring out my day, for me nothing beats good old pen and paper!

Yep, I am one of those dinosaurs who actually still uses a day planner to help me, well, plan my day!

Maybe I don’t trust technology enough to tell me where I need to be, what meetings I have, what activities my kids have, etc.  Hi-tech gadgets are fine, but if the battery dies and I don’t know it’s the dreaded “ravioli day” at my son’s daycare, well, look out!

My go-to was one of those standard planners you could get at any office superstore. It was fine for work, but after I got married and bought a house, it seemed inadequate.  After having a baby, forget it! Luckily, soon after my son was born my husband gave me something called a momAgenda. It quickly became my personal daily bible.

My momAgenda was hot pink and about the size of a 5×7 picture frame. Each day had its own devoted page with enough space to keep track of up to four kids.  But, it was still “mine”: between reminders of playdates and parent-teacher meetings were plenty of pages to compile lists of my favorite books, movies, and wines, plus party and vacation planning prep pages as well as expense record keeping.

Whew!

It even came with an additional little booklet that slipped into the back page of the planner – which keeps addresses, key family member info, birthdays, anniversaries, plus my favorite: a page to list all of the websites I love (and the passwords I am always forgetting)! The best part of all? It had my name embossed on the front cover!

I was in love.  And of course, totally organized!

The next year I got the super-sized faux red/pink crocodile desktop version.  I found it was a little too big for me-perfect for work, hard for me to schlep around everywhere.  Plus, I needed to see my whole week at-a-glance. So this year I went back to the mini-planner size in a funky giraffe design pattern, and now I feel totally ready to take on today, tomorrow and every day through 2012. It fits easy inside my purse (which right now is so huge I could probably fit a real giraffe!) so I can take it to the library, to my son’s soccer practice, grocery shopping –EVERYWHERE.  I never know when I’ll need to “schedule” or make a list it’s always handy.  I also like taking it into meetings….the giraffe print is very funky and I get lots of compliments on it and lots of questions from other moms about the planner itself.

How do you stay organized? Are you tech geek and up to date on all the latest scheduling apps?  Or are you like me and take to writing everything down?

Telling The Kidlets “Pop Pop Is Sick”

About six weeks ago my mom called me at work. I instantly knew it was bad news because she rarely calls me at work and this was the first time she’d ever called me there using her cell phone. She got right to the point: “Your father is in the hospital.”

Dad is 85 and his health has been declining for the past few years. There’s been a few scares, but he’s always come out on the good side of luck. This time, though, it was much more serious: his doctor ordered him to undergo a colonoscopy and sent Dad right to the hospital from his exam.

The doctor had found a mass and quickly determined it was malignant. Somehow it fell on me to tell both him and my mom the cancer diagnosis, but that’s a story for another time. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and the doctor wanted it removed as soon as possible. However, Dad already had plenty of other health problems, – he’s on blood thinners because of clots, has bad circulation in his legs, plus he had recently told he’s diabetic. His entourage of doctors were fantastic and within five days, they were able to get his blood count up and his various other ailments under control enough so they could perform the surgery.

This triggered a flashback from when I was six years old: when my parents told me and my sister that my dad was going to have an operation on his arm and would be in a hospital for a while. I don’t think they ever said the word “cancer,” but I do remember overhearing my mom saying the word “melanoma” when talking to other adults about it. Details are hard to remember, but I’ll never forget feeling scared and not understanding what was happening.

This is where my dilemma began.

What was I going to tell my kidlets about Pop Pop? To them, Pop Pop is king. Why, I’m not quite sure. Dad doesn’t play with them, can’t hear them – he wears hearing aids in both ears – but does light up when he sees his grandkids and loves to give them hugs, kisses and let them sit on his lap. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they would ask me why they haven’t seen Pop Pop, especially if we went and visited Nana. What if something happened to my dad? How could I explain that without giving them a backstory?

That night my husband and I discussed it. Our kidlets are four and almost two. How should we tell them? When? How much did they need to know? Would they even understand?

We decided that we needed to tell them something and right away since we were going to take turns going to the hospital each night to see Dad. We came up with, “Pop Pop is sick. He’s in the hospital so they can help him feel better.” It was simple, direct and easy to understand. Luckily, the kids accepted it pretty well, not too many questions that we had to deflect. They both immediately started to color pictures for Pop Pop so he could hang in his room.

Phew, I thought. Crisis averted….until my four year old son wanted to visit Pop Pop in the hospital.

My husband and I had another round of discussion and this time with my own mom and dad. With some hesitation, we agreed that our son could visit. Our daughter wasn’t even a consideration. She is way too young and could be traumatized by seeing him there. She would hang out downstairs in the hospital with her aunt during the visit.

Two days before his surgery, after a few blood infusions, a good grooming and not too many tubes sticking out of his body, Dad looked well enough to see his grandson. The visit only lasted 10 minutes, long enough for my son to give his Pop Pop a paper plate fish with googly eyes and a round of hugs, kisses and “I love yous.” It was good for both my son and my dad to see each other. My son still talks about how brave he was and how happy Pop Pop was to see him! I think it was the right decision.

My father made it thru the surgery, but his recovery has been very slow. He’s now in a rehab facility to build back his strength. I go and visit him at the rehab after work a few times a week, and the kids always make sure I have some new drawings to give him. Dad’s bulletin board is covered with artwork including of Chuggington, Cars and Curious George. He’s doing physical and occupational therapy and is finally starting to walk again, so it won’t be too much longer now before both the kids can see their Pop Pop again.

Have you ever had to tell a child something difficult? How did you do it?


Things I LOVE – Boogie Wipes

Every now and again I find products that I really like and find useful to being a mom — muslin blankets, disposable bibs, single packet handi-wipes, kid-centric entertainment coupon books — and tell my other mommy friends about my “finds.”  Once a week I plan to share some of  them here.   I am not a spokesperson and am not being compensated for this review. This is just my way of “paying it forward” to other moms who might be interested…

This week….BOOGIE WIPES

It seems to me that my kids ALWAYS have runny noses.  When did allergy, cold and flu “season” become a year-round event? My two kids are both under the age of four, and unfortunately they yanked the only useful prescription medication off the market (we hoarded it like precious nectar until it ran dry).  I’ve been told I can use OTC medications, but I’m too worried about over-dosage.  So, I’m constantly wiping noses!

With my younger daughter, the goo comes out fairly easily with saline spray and a suction bulb.  She used to laugh when we did it-now, like many things that are no longer so amusing to her, she just screams.  I usually wait until the snot actually starts coming out of their noses (I know, gross, but you know exactly what I’m talking about!) and then wipe it away with a tissue.  The problem is even using a so-called “soft” (aloe-infused) tissue, all the constant wiping means a sore, raw patch under their tiny noses that only gets worse.

I saw something called “Boogie Wipes” at the store last winter and gave it a shot.  They come in a green plastic dispenser and, despite the name and groovy packaging, have nothing to do with 70s disco music. Guess what? They really helped. Hooray! If you don’t know what they are, your kids’ noses are missing out. Boogie Wipes are sort of like baby wipes, but are made with saline which help dissolve mucus.  And because they are moist tissues, they also keep the area from becoming chapped.

They’ve become a staple in our house – especially this time of year.  I keep a packet of them in my purse, kid go bag and even in our cars. The only downsides are that they don’t come in those round jumbo size containers or are available at one of our wholesale clubs…maybe someday!

Until then, I have a nose (or two) to wipe.