50 Reasons to Move from NJ to Vermont

This list is, in part, courtesy of my sister who started a campaign to get us to leave New Jersey shortly after her arrival in the Green Mountain State with her husband. I’ve linked to proof of my statements and other interesting factoids so click on a few if you’re curious (especially the one about the serious maple syrup pride).

Drumroll please…

  1. You can see more than 5 stars from your backyard
  2. Burlington, Vermont was named by Parenting.com as #2 in the Top 10 Best Cities for Families in 2012
  3. Ben & Jerry’s!!! (almost got the #1 spot in my list, haha)
  4. No sales tax in Vermont when ordering online (at least for now from Sephora and Amazon)
  5. Second healthiest state in the US
  6. Sugar on snow in the winter from a maple sugarhouse and…
  7. Serious maple syrup pride statewide
  8. Kid-friendly Shelburne Farms with farm animals and activities
  9. WalletHub ranked Vermont 3rd best in its list of “The Best and Worst States for Working Moms” (NJ was 15th)
  10. Kid-friendly indoor waterpark at Jay Peak Resort (indoor= instant vacation in the middle of winter!)
  11. The Northern Lights!!
  12. The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium (got a Groupon deal for a years family membership for less than the price of regular admission for 1 trip with my family!)
  13. Rated the 5th Happiest State in the nation in 2013
  14. The Stowe Recreation Path
  15. Breweries: Magic Hat, Long Trail, Harpoon
  16. Not one but two Hot Air Balloon Festivals: Quechee and Stoweflake
  17. Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest U.S. state capital and the only one without a McDonalds.
  18. There are more than 100 covered bridges in Vermont
  19. Lake Champlain Ferries (I see the appeal, but I find it terrifying)
  20. Champ, Vermont’s own Loch Ness Monster of Lake Champlain (this is adorable though!)
  21. Billboards are illegal
  22. Vermont is the 5th most educated state of 2013 (ahead of #6 New Jersey)
  23. The Vermont high school graduation rate is roughly 90 percent – one of the highest rates in the nation. And highly rated schools overall.
  24. Leaf Peeping season
  25. Walk the trail to Quechee Gorge
  26. Cleaner air  (Fine. I guess we won’t miss the garbage smell on the way to Newark Airport)
  27. Traffic and rush hour are almost non-existent (especially when compared to NJ/NYC)
  28. About 2 hours from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  29. Lots of farmers’ markets and artisan/craft fairs
  30. Cutest ever trick or treating event for little kids, Halloween morning on Church St.
  31. Open Community swimming pools (unlike residency-required pools in NJ too full to even accept new membership)
  32. Cut your own Christmas tree farms
  33. Movie theaters where you don’t have to buy tickets in advance
  34. The King Arthur Flour company (the bakers out there will be excited with me!)
  35. The Vermont Solar and Small Wind Incentive Program (cool)
  36. Legal same-sex marriage since Sep. 1, 2009 (I definitely want to live in an open-minded, liberal state)
  37. VT Restaurant week
  38. For my husband: fishing!
  39. No IKEA. :( Which makes anti-materialism the pro here. Kind of.
  40. It’s possible to house livestock in your backyard (my husband has always wanted chickens)
  41. Getting away from the Blue Laws in Bergen County, NJ (practically nothing is open on Sundays)
  42. Just look at these beautiful pictures (from Buzzfeed)
  43. The Green Mountain Reiki Institute (for my mom who had enormous success using Reiki in treating her migraines).
  44. Skirack‘s Annual Bike Swap (one person brought in 34 bikes to swap/sell and there were a number of people with 10+!)
  45. For my husband: there IS a Five Guys in South Burlington
  46. You’ll see stories about baby moose roaming around the city in the local newspaper
  47. And the newspapers write stories about helping turtles, frogs and salamanders cross the street, if it’s safe to do so. (FYI to self: look up how to identify a snapping turtle and DO NOT TOUCH!!!)
  48. Mandatory composting
  49. Getting out of a super expensive area! Forbes magazine’s 2012 Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States list included 12 Bergen county municipalities in the top 500. (And in 2013, Alpine, NJ, a Bergen county city, was #8). Yikes.
  50. Your husband gets a great job offer…

We’re Moving to Vermont!!!

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Our Summer Bucket List


I found this on another blog and I’m glad I did! First of all, I love making lists period (have I mentioned this before?). So making a specific summer fun bucket list is something I’d naturally gravitate towards and one I haven’t done before. I’m going to try to make sure that my list includes both family fun activities and some mommy fun stuff too. Still a work in progress obviously, but wanted to post the first few things that came to mind.

  1. Have baby #2 and recover
  2. Make sure little O still feels loved, secure and hopefully not too jealous of the new baby
  3. New Jersey State Fair – we miss this every year! And it’s usually in Secaucus which is one stop from Penn Station. Even though O is probably still too short for any of the rides and my prego belly is going to keep me off the fun rides, there’s usually still a petting zoo, fun demonstrations, carny food, etc.
  4. Make initial pancakes (and decorate with whipped cream)
  5. Central Park Zoo – ashamed to admit we still haven’t been here
  6. Make fruit popsicles
  7. Bronx Zoo again – we’ve been to this one but didn’t make it through the whole thing cause this zoo is Huge! Maybe an elephant or camel ride too?
  8. Use the new sand and water table that O got for her birthday from her Auntie & Uncle
  9. Paint with O using the Glob paint kit I just got (probably after newspapering the entire kitchen)
  10. Finally try that Turkish restaurant near our house
  11. Make room for another family member? (no, not #2 – he’s already got space)
  12. Catch fireflies
  13. Go to the beach (more than once!)
  14. Stay up late to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July
  15. Attend storytime at the local library
  16. Ride our bikes with toddler trailer (at least until hubby refuses to let me ride anymore due to the unfortunate combination of clumsiness + prego belly)
  17. Make homemade ice cream (decaf coffee choc chip for mommy!)

Big City Moms’ Biggest Baby Shower – Review and Gift Bag Show & Tell

I attended the 2012 Biggest Baby Shower Ever in New York City hosted by Big City Moms a few days ago and the swag I brought home was unbelievable (see pictures below). In fact, the things I’d picked up just from walking around the vendor booths were already digging into my arms after 2 hours (not the best decision making there but I couldn’t help myself!) so I was feeling pretty nervous as I waited in line to get my official gift bag (not visible from the line). But in a twist of fate, they rolled out a Peg Perego stroller with the gift bag balanced on top of it!!! (which I believe was my shower gift for visiting 40 vendors – they handed out Bingo style cards when you entered – and attending a seminar). And, as you can see this was a literal lifesaver (since I was on my own to get all this stuff home – my personal handbag isn’t even on the stroller in this picture), not to mention AMAZING!

I was a little uncertain about a few things before going to this event:

  1. The ticket price was pretty hefty: $100 for the Super Pass ($125 if bought after 4/1) – was it going to be worth it? As a comparison, the lowest price tickets were $60 for basic entry with no gift bag, which is still substantial.
  2. I had just gone to the MommyBites Summit the previous week. Were all the vendors (and goodies) going to be pretty much the same?

But it turns out I shouldn’t have worried: the ticket price paid for itself instantly since all attendees were given a Mombo Taggies pillow (retail $49.99) and all Super Pass holders were guaranteed a new Britax baby carrier (retail $139.99). Plus the Peg Perego stroller? Um, retail $399.99!!! So yeah, I think I can say, without even opening the gift bags, this event was worth the ticket price.

Second, I visited almost every booth and definitely less than a quarter of the vendors were repeats. Even most of the food vendors were different! And, as you’ll see for yourself below, there surprisingly weren’t even many repeat gifts between the two event’s gift bags (except for Mama Mio Skincare products, which I was totally fine with having more of!!).

So, I have to break this down into the actual event gift bag (which was bigger than a Moses basket for a baby – In fact, if I could find a way to safely convert it into a Moses basket, I almost would) and the gift bag I created just by walking around the event and/or buying products at special Biggest Baby Shower prices. Let’s start with the contents of the official Biggest Baby Shower Ever gift bag pictured below (this was all inside the black tote with pink writing if you’re looking at the picture at the top of this post).

I’m going to try to make this list as organized as possible since it was near impossible to get everything facing forward without blocking the view of something else. Here’s what was inside:

  • The Huge Gifts – Comfort & Harmony Deluxe Mombo nursing pillow & Infant Positioner, Britax organic baby carrier, Peg Perego Pliko Four stroller in denim (I know some other moms got diaper pails instead and maybe there were other shower gifts rotating as well).
  • Bottles – 6 full-size baby bottles from MAM (anti-colic), Evenflo (Bebek), Tommee Tippee, Similac (Simply Smart), Lansinoh (Momma) and a Playtex drop-ins premium gift set. As well as an insulated straw cup from Munchkin ( 12m+) and a Enfamil newborn formula sample set with D-Vi-Sol.
  • Clothing & Accessories -Moby knot hat, Baby K’Tan hat, Gerber bib, 7 A.M. Enfant 0-6m baby booties, Maclaren Travel Kit for baby (lavender scented), Sun Safety Bands courtesy of KSpin Designs, Eco Store Baby Nappy Balm, Boogie Wipes sample.
  • Home & Bath – Safety 1st Essentials Childproofing Kit, Squiggles – A Drawing Book courtesy of J&R jr., Episencial Sweet Dreams bubble bath, Dapple baby bottle and dish liquid, Clean Well antibacterial hand & face wipes, Think King Jumbo Swirly Hook (for strollers), M.A.Z.E cord blood laboratories water bottle, Q-tips (full-size), OXO Tot bottle cleaning kit, Oopsy Daisy playing cards, Little Pim foreign language DVD, Pantone Colors children’s book.
  • Just For Mom – Boob Tube and Tummy Rub samples from Mama Mio Skincare, Simplisse sample pack (nursing pads, nipple cream, breast milk storage bags), Bio-Oil, Palmer’s Tummy Butter, Destination Maternity Edamame Spa coupons, Premama vitamin drink mix sample, Fit Pregnancy magazine.
  • Food – Belvita breakfast bar, Kind Plus bar, Pretzel Crisps, Peeled Snacks, Sensible Portions Apple Straws, Godiva Gems, Little Ducks Organics Tiny Fruit, and baby food pouches from Organic Mash-ups, Ella’s Kitchen and Happy Baby.

And that’s not all, folks! (haha). Here’s the great stuff I was given (pictured above) by just stopping at all the vendors’ booths and entering their their giveaways or joining their mailing lists:

  • Free Samples – pacifier wipes and laundry detergent from Dapple, Eco Store laundry liquid, healing balm and hand soap from The Honest Co., Colief infant drops for colic, Camilia homeopathic teething aid, BabyGanics lip & face balm, Innobaby small baby food storage container, The Bump stroller ID tag (brilliant!), Tommee Tippee spill-proof First Sips Cup (4m+), retractable measuring tapes from both Project Nursery and from Ergo Baby, a baby food pouches from Happy Tot and Plum Organics.
  • Gift Bag from the ToyInfo.org booth featuring: a small parts tester, Crayola My First Washable Markers, Cloud B Mimicking Monkey, Ugly Doll small stuffed toy, BKids Go With Me soft cell phone toy (3m+).
  • Bought at a Discounted Event Price – Lucky Legs from Mama Mio Skincare (they gave me a larger sample of O-Mega Body Buff with purchase), WeanGreen glass baby food containers in green, BuggyLove organic stroller cleaning kit.
  • Plus LOTS of Coupons

There were food vendors sampling juice cocktails, baby burgers, cake pops for your baby shower, frozen yogurt and baby food if you wanted to try some out yourself. There were stroller and diaper pail demos, lots of photography studios, gorgeous sample nursery set-ups and tons of great speakers (Jessica Alba, Tia Mowry, Dr. Bob Sears,  Melissa Joan Hart and many more). Everyone was really excited to be there and the good mood was contagious. I had so much fun and I LOVED all the goodies I got (and I think 99% of them I’ll actually use too!). The Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower Ever is an absolute must for any brand new or expecting parents.

Narrated Playtime – Whoa, I Totally Do That!

or, A Review of Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

I just finished reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I almost didn’t bother, but when I read reviews that it is more autobiography than parenting manual (which I generally try to stay away from), I changed my mind and I’m glad I did. The book logs her efforts to first define the Parisian/French parenting style (which turns out to be more work that it sounds) and then to understand why it is so different from the current NYC/American style. You can tell from the reviews which people actually read the book and which just assumed it was just another American parent bashing tirade.

I appreciated that Druckerman clearly states her upper-middle-class and central Paris/elite Manhattan biases in the beginning and reminds us of them throughout the book so you know that not everything she describes necessarily applies to all of France or all of the US. But don’t let this dissuade you from reading; wherever you are, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen or done many of the parenting acts she describes in this book and will be able to relate.

The book was clearly well researched with tons of footnotes documenting the studies, articles and people she pulled from (I hate when people just write, “experts believe…” and leave it at that). And Druckerman was careful to interview and compare experiences between persons both native to each country with those who immigrated to the US or France, and between experts and regular moms  – all things I also appreciated and expected coming from a former journalist. But the book also felt very honest (she shares quite a few embarrassing parenting experiences) and was pretty amusing in many parts too. This book is an opinion piece, it is not straight investigative journalism, but even so, it seemed balanced and reasonable (not at all pushy). So whether you agree with Druckerman by the end of the book or not, you won’t regret reading it and it may give you some things to think about too.

But here is the excerpt in question that totally caught me by surprise:

American-style parenting and its accoutrements – the baby flash cards and competitive preschools – are by now cliches. There’s been both a backlash and a backlash to the backlash. So I’m stunned by what I see at a playground in New York City. It’s a special toddler area with a low-rise slide and some bouncy animals, separated from the rest of the park by a high metal gate. The playground is designed for toddlers to safely climb around and fall. A few nannies are sitting French-style on benches around the perimeter, chatting and watching their charges play.

Then a white, upper-middle-class mother walks in with her toddler. She follows him around the miniature equipment, while keeping up a nonstop monologue. “Do you want to go on the froggy, Caleb? Do you want to go on the swing?”

Caleb ignores these questions. He evidently plans to just bumble around. But his mother tracks him, continuing to narrate his every move. “You’re stepping, Caleb!” she says at one point.

I assume that Caleb just landed a particularly zealous mother. But then the next upper-middle-class woman walks through the gate, pushing a blond toddler in a black T-shirt. She immediately begins narrating all of her child’s actions too. When the boy wanders over to the gate to stare out at the lawn, the mother evidently decides this isn’t stimulating enough. She rushes over and holds him upside down.

“You’re upside down!” she shouts. Moments later, she lifts up her shirt to offer the boy a nip of milk. “We came to the park! We came to the park!” she chirps while he’s drinking.

This scene keeps repeating itself with other moms and their kids. After about an hour I can predict with total accuracy whether a mother is going to do this “narrated play” simply by the price of her handbag. What’s most surprising to me is that these mothers aren’t ashamed of how batty they sound. They’re not whispering their commentaries, they’re broadcasting them.

When I describe this scene to Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician in New York, he knows immediately what I’m talking about. He says these mothers are speaking loudly to flaunt what good parents they are. The practice of narrated play is so common that Cohen included a section in his parenting book called Stimulation, which essentially tells mothers to cut it out. “Periods of playing and laughing should alternate naturally with periods of peace and quiet,” Cohen writes. “You don’t have to talk, sing or entertain constantly.”

Whatever your view on whether this intensive supervision is good for kids, it seems to make child care less pleasant for mothers [footnote to a 2009 study]. Just watching it is exhausting. And it continues off the playground. …”

(I wanted to copy more but I’ll stop there)

Now, I know I’m definitely not narrating just to flaunt what a good parent I am because I do it when we were completely alone at the park and, as Druckerman mentions later, off the playground as well. But reading this and suddenly realizing that she was describing me, had me searching for the real reason why – at least my reason why.

So I think part of it came from reading that hearing language (reading and speaking to your child) is good for them and will help build their vocabularies. And since I suspect my 2 year old is dyslexic (her father is so there’s a 50% chance right away) and since she seems to have trouble saying the small sounds in words – I guess it was très américain of me to think the more the better, right?

And the other part was probably because we were alone. I’m a talkative person so I was  probably just chatting to fill the silence and to keep my daughter company. I’ve realized that this could be heading her down a path where she’d become one of those people that has to be stimulated constantly (like some of my college classmates who couldn’t write a term paper unless they had both headphones on and the TV going). Being able to handle quiet time is a skill that needs practice too.

So I went to the park today with my newly 2 year old and I consciously didn’t narrate. And guess what? My toddler was chattering away half the time and quiet half the time but still content the whole time. I also didn’t go up onto the actual playground tower with her this time (she usually asks for my hand to go up the stairs, etc.) but I didn’t sit on the sidelines since my little daredevil monkey loves the big kid area which is pretty high off the ground. I stood near every opening she approached just in case, but I was happy to be of no use there – we didn’t even have a near close call. And she handled every staircase, obstacle and maneuver with ease.

Things were going great! Then, my daughter then decided she wanted to try climb this terrifying (to me) curvy ladder instead of taking the stairs. Think a repeated S shape with a straight bar down the middle of it. Then bend that entire form from the top of the playground to the bottom and add an undulation to it. Fantastic.

Even though she could barely get her foot from one rung to the next, I let her try it (while holding a hand both in front and back of her lest a foot or hand slip, with visions of bloody lips and broken arms trying to force their way into the forefront of my thoughts – as is the normal state of my brain) and didn’t encourage her constantly along the way (which is much easier when you would really rather they back down, haha).

When she reached for my hand to help, I calmly said “You can do it.” And she immediately, without any kind of fuss, tried it herself – if she’d asked a second time, I would have helped or gotten her down, but she didn’t. She climbed that stupid thing 3 times all by herself. She even got stuck at one point and I watched her figure it out. Despite mommy almost having a heart attack, it was pretty cool. If I had been coaching, cheering and helping the whole time, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to use her brain a bit and it actually might have distracted her.

I found myself pointing things out or mimicking back the words my daughter said (“That’s right, a car”) as we left the park. I was narrating our walk, I guess. But I know the intention of this part of the book is not to say that you should stop talking to your kids, of course not! The point is just to make sure there is balance. And I’m glad this book gave me the opportunity to think it through.

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