Why is my 12 year old so pissed off?

It starts in the morning. Aden never wants to get out of bed, and pre-teen hormones and angst have not improved the situation.

I quietly pad into his room and gently sit down next to him on his bed, careful not to get too close. (DON’T POKE THE BEAR!!)

I stroke his still soft cheeks and whisper, “It’s time to wake up….” and then cringe inside. He usually pretends he doesn’t hear me the first time and after several soothing prods, I might get a guttural groan that translates to “GO AWAY!”

Always wary with a hint of a smile

Always wary with a hint of a smile

I’m not allowed to turn on the light or open the shades. I can’t say too much, and God forbid I ask what he wants for breakfast or lunch. It’s a delicate dance on eggshells each day.

He takes his sweet time to get ready– like, longer than Sofia Vergara on her wedding day, with the same attention to his hair — and often screams downstairs at me if one of the only two pairs of sweatpants he deems worthy, is dirty.

There are no smiles, just snarls and eye rolls galore as he rushes through his cereal (Life with carefully sliced strawberries,)  grabs his backpack and slams the door behind him.

Despite kind requests, pleading, scolding, and groundings he often doesn’t text me when he gets out of school, lingering in town with friends, and making me worry. When he strolls in and I ask him about homework, he hisses at me “I did it already!” or  “I don’t have any!” If I dare follow up with a question on what he did have, he throws his head back in disgust.

“OH MY GOD MOM!!”

Not totally sure of the subtext. Could be “Leave me the hell alone,” “Why do you care?” or “”It’s none of your damn business lady!”

Hard to know.

What I do know is that every word out of my mouth is the most annoying  ever uttered in the history of parenthood. I am useless, irritating and an obstacle he must remove to get to his room, where he will slam the door (once so hard the knob fell off and remains broken.)

funny teen cartoon

He lies on his bed staring at his phone– participating in a group chat, spying on friends on Instagram or obsessively playing his STOP app.

He’s 12. Middle school. I get it.

But wow is he hard to live with sometimes.

12 seems to be the worst age because they’re certain they know everything, but the one thing they know nothing about is themselves. How they appear and sound to people who aren’t 12 seems  inconsequential. Every thought they have is the most important and must be expressed, no matter how nasty it is.

London with kids on carpoolcandy.com

Sometimes he likes me

Of course Jacob went through this too. I went back to the blog archives and found this excerpt from when Jacob turned 13…. sounds very familiar…..

Jacob has slipped into the inevitable yet loathsome phase of believing that every member of his family is a dunce. He barely listens to our conversations, unless they’re about him– because we are clearly not worth his time. When he does grab a detail he deems worthy of his attention, if he doesn’t approve, he snarls his lip, squints his eyes, and cocks his head.

He stares incredulously with contempt and I can only think he’s wondering how he could be related to people so moronic. When we tell him to do something– anything, really– from flipping a light switch to completing a term paper– he sighs loudly and shrugs so deeply I’m surprised he hasn’t injured his shoulders. We’re such a burden, I don’t know how he tolerates us.

So yes, it’s a phase they all go through. But Aden has always been more moody and internal so he’s teenish times ten, and his contempt for me (and poor Eli, his other target) seems more visceral and intense.

But what choice does a mother have but to bite her tongue to resist the temptation to put him in his place…. and maybe even laugh at his remarkably consistent overreactions to anything that offends his fragile sensibility.

Some day– sooner than I think or want to admit– I’ll wish I had a 12-year-old home to frustrate me. So I’ll tiptoe into his room again tomorrow, and be happy he’s still waiting for me under the covers.

 

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Golden Globes 2016: a forgettable year

Variety

Variety

The 73rd Golden Globes ceremony was a bit lackluster, even for this TV and movie fan. The film that swept was one I’m not sure I can endure, and many of the TV winners were for shows I’d never heard of (Mr. Robot, Mozart in the Jungle, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend )?!

Makes it harder to get excited when you don’t have horses in the race.

One ongoing theme was the seemingly genuine surprise of winners, apparently convinced someone else would take home a Globe. (“I can’t believe this! Wait. am I really up here? I was not expecting this!”)  Perhaps that speaks to the talent level in every category.

Let’s get to the deets…..

The show:

Ricky Gervais was back as host. Many stars looked terrified as he took the stage and started spewing insults. His indiscriminate barbs spared no one, including the show’s network NBC, which he gleefully pointed out did not get one nomination.

He was wry, sarcastic, and funny…but kind of an anti-host. Not deeming the event worthy of a tux, he went with a blazer and no tie. No one felt welcome or comfortable when he was on the stage, and he often spoke some hard-to-hear truths about Hollywood, quipping “it’s funny cuz it’s true!”

Ricky-Gervais-hosts-the-73rd-Annual-Golden-Globe-Awards-on-Sunday-January-10-2016

When introducing presenter Matt Damon, he called him “the only person Ben Affleck hasn’t been unfaithful to.”  Midway through the show, he came on and said with disgust that the ceremony was “waaaay too long. Let’s get through it!”

But the one-note “I’m so over you people and you need to get over yourselves” routine got old after a while, and I was yearning for the creative and playful Amy and Tina.

–Happy to see Jon Hamm win for best actor for playing the miserable Don Draper for seven seasons, on “Mad Men.”

Lady Gaga won for a guest role in American Horror Story: Hotel. I don’t watch that show and don’t doubt her talent but find it hard to believe she was actually the best actress? Holding back tears, she gave a very, very dramatic acceptance speech so maybe she is.

Mr Robot poster

–This Mr. Robot show has now intrigued me,  after it won for best TV drama and Christian Slater won for best supporting actor in the series.

Standout moments:

–The crowd went nuts when Sylvester Stallone won for reprising his Rocky role as best supporting actor in Creed. 

Denzel Washington winning the Cecil B Demille award. Man, watching that clip reel was incredible. So many great movies and he brings gravitas to every role. I was a little disappointed by his speech. I like that he brought his whole family on stage but he seemed overwhelmed and too off the cuff to say what he really meant. He stumbled around on his speech and realized aloud he should have brought his glasses. Not as inspiring and strong as I expected.

–Taraji P Henson gave out cookies on her way to the stage after winning best actress for playing Cookie on “Empire.” When they tried to wrap her up she wasn’t having any of it: “No, no, I waited 20 years to be here you’re going to wait!”

The Revanent poster

Leonardo DiCaprio got a standing O after winning for growing a long, fuzzy snot-filled beard in “The Revenant.”  Seriously, that movie also won best picture and best director for Alejandro González Iñárritu— but it looks hard to watch: cold, violent and not a woman or laugh in sight. Not sure I can do it. Leo was the only winner who got political, saying we have to “protect indigenous lands from corporate interests and protect this planet for future generations.”

Moments that made my kids laugh:

Jonah Hill donning a furry hat and pretending to be the bear from The Revenant, doing an insulting bit so foul-mouthed  and inappropriate he got bleeped and started a “what did he say” frenzy on Twitter.

Jamie Foxx did a spoof of Steve Harvey‘s Miss Universe gaffe by claiming that “Straight Outta Compton” won for Best Original Score … before admitting he didn’t “read the card right” and it was really “The Hateful Eight.”

Full list of winners here.

The clothes:

I noticed that the always reliable and smooth Ryan Seacrest was specifically not asking women who they were wearing as often as usual and sometimes not at all. This must be due to the #AskHerMore campaign from last year that demanded actresses be asked more about their work than their fashion choices. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls started their own campaign on Twitter #SmartGirlsAsk where fans could pose substantive questions on social media to ask stars on the red carpet. Definitely made for more interesting chatter.

I’ve been doing these awards wrap-up posts for years and I sometimes feel like a broken record picking the same gals as best-dressed, but when you know what looks good on you, you make good decisions. Perhaps some of my winners may sound familiar….

Vogue victors:

My three favorite looks of the night were:

julianne-moore

Julianne Moore never disappoints. This year she brought designer Tom Ford and wore his custom navy sequined sheath with a sleek design and subtle details. She wore her red tresses long and slightly messy to complete the look. Glamorous, modern, perfect.

Kate Hudson has become more known for her style than her acting, no? She definitely made a statement in a light pink Michael Kors beaded sheath that from the front looked like a bandeau top was separate from the long skirt but was actually attached in a sexy twisted back. The cutouts were accentuated by her unbelievable body. She topped off the look with messy bed hair and jewels.

attends the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.

attends the 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.

The ever svelte Olivia Wilde in a burgundy sequined sheath with deep halter top: Beautiful, lustrous yet with old Hollywood flair.

Amy Adams usually does it right and her long, tight orange Versace dress with an interesting sequined pattern at the belt line popped on the carpet and off the stage. Also loved her long loose wavy red hair- like a fiery sunset.

Also liked Kirsten Dunst’s black velvet Versace sheath with very risqué, cleavage-bearing cutouts and a delicate strappy back, accentuated with a messy bun and diamonds.

And speaking of big-time cleavage, Jaime Alexander ( from “Blindspot”) had a memorable emerald green and black gown that was tight and open on top and flowing on the bottom. Her updo added to the striking look.

It’s hard to talk about a red carpet and not mention JLo but frankly it was not one of my favorite looks for her. The mustard yellow skin-tight Giambattista Valli sheath had beautiful texture and lines, balanced by an attached cape on top. She went with very minimal makeup and flat hair so it wasn’t a wow. Don’t get me wrong– she still looked good, just not a standout.

Taraji P. Henson stood out in a sexy, sleek white strapless Stella McCartney sheath and long dangle giant emerald earrings.

Helen Mirren looked elegant in a black velvet sheath with a sweetheart top and sexy diamond necklace that seemed to be paving a path right to her ample cleavage.

Best dressed men for my money were Rob Lowe– aging well  with salt and pepper coiffed hair and a gray tux that fit snugly and perfectly….Jason Sudeikis in a handsome tux and Air Jordans, with socks to match wife Olivia Wilde’s gown….and Will Smith who knows how to wear a suit.

Fashion fails: 

I love Jane Fonda, but she made a fashion faux pax in a white dress with some kind of dust ruffle clown costume on top. It was a risk that did not pay off and overshadowed how great and real she looks in her own skin.

Variety

Variety

Rooney Mara had a rather severe hair look with a tightly pulled braid, which she coupled with a pale pink dress crowded with tassels and fringe that was more Spanish dancer than young starlet. I don’t think dressing up is her thing.

Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) looked like she was going to a 19th century funeral all buttoned up and lacy in black.

Lady Gaga had a nice frock but for her, it was rather ho-hum. The look was channeling Marilyn Monroe with platinum blond bob hair and a black velvet Versace 40’s style dress with a sweetheart tip. Snore.

Melissa McCarthy may be hilarious but she really needs a new stylist.  She lost weight and her face was glowing but the silver, drapy garbage bag of a dress was not doing her any favors.

I know I say this every time, but seriously, Giulianna Rancic looks not well. She made the mistake of wearing a dress with cutouts and standing sideways on camera and 1) you could almost see through her and 2) her head looks so large teetering on those bony shoulders and that frail body, if she keeled over and face planted into the red carpet I would not be surprised. Hope she’s ok!

To see all the red carpet looks click here.

That’s a wrap kids. I need some sleep!

 

 

Holiday wrap-up: guilt and gluttony

I’m baaaaaack! Did you miss me? That was the l o n g e s t stretch I’ve ever gone without blogging people, and it didn’t feel good. But I had a lot going on with work and a new business, and there are only so many hours in the day!

Rockefeller Tree on carpoolcandy.com

The holidays only complicate things with all the customs and expectations to keep up. The gift-buying and wrapping, house decorating, party attending, family hosting, calendar/photo book making, card sending, cookie baking, good deed doing, and tradition keeping all make me want to OD on sugar cookies and eggnog and sleep for two weeks.

Something had to give.

I felt terribly guilty neglecting the blog and spent much of these holidays worrying that no matter how dog tired I was at the end of each day, I had not done enough. The to-do list loomed.

I hate that.

And I missed getting my ya-yas out in this space and hearing feedback from you guys. It feeds my soul! So please keep reading.

I have much to catch you up on so I’ll break it up into bullet points and photos.

–I started a college essay writing/editing business.  I’ve been doing alumni interviews for Tufts for 12 years and I’ve offered to help several friends’ kids with their college essays over the years so this year I decided to hang up a virtual shingle and make a go of it. I did a lot of research last summer on what colleges are looking for and interviewed several people involved in the admissions process. Then I sent an email with info on my background and experience to friends. Within two days of sending the email I had a few clients, and between October and January first, I worked with 12 students on more than 35 essays.

keep-calm-and-write-the-essay-4

I loved it. Working with someone else’s kids was a fun and enriching experience, I relish the editing process and helping kids express their bests selves, and I’m getting an invaluable education in the college application game before I have to worry about my own kid. Some of the students I worked with applied early and already have been accepted to Columbia University, Rhode Island School of Design, Villanova, University of Vermont, UC-Boulder, and University of Michigan!

Only down side was that every spare minute in the last six weeks– right up until December 30th– was spent reading and editing essays (hence the lack of blogging.) And now I probably won’t work with another kid until the summer!

— Hannukah came and went. It was all too early and too fast. I didn’t get a chance to properly shop and wrap. My boys don’t need anything so it was a challenge finding gifts that were fun, surprising, and useful.

Hannukah

Some highlights were Eli’s Kindle Fire for Kids, Aden’s video drone and a guitar, and Jacob’s Giants jersey and gift cards to Bagel Chateau and the sushi place in town.

IMG_3971

We also got to celebrate with family and friends, which is always the best part.

Hannukah

Family Hannukah party

— We saw the Giants’ season ripped away. Always fun and mercifully not subzero temps. It was an exciting and important game against the Panthers.

Giants game vs Panthers on carpoolcandy.com

It looked like a blowout before the Giants came back and went into OT…only to lose moments later.

Giants game on carpoolcandy.com

Lots of long faces in the car ride home.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

–We honored our annual tradition: training into NYC to see the windows on Christmas Eve. While the warm December temperatures are a treat, they made getting around Manhattan even worse over the holidays.

Bulgari holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

The area around my midtown office near Times Square was a nightmare and Fifth Avenue on Christmas Eve was a mob scene. You’d think the NYPD were giving away iPhones on every corner from the endless lines of people streaming through the streets.

Barneys holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

We hit Barneys first… where they had an ice sculptor creating holiday works of art in the window. Eli could have sat there all night.

Barneys holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

His brothers, not so much.

So we moved onto my favorite, Bergdorf Goodman.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Most of the fantastical scenes were made of Swavorski crystals. Divine.

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Saks had an around the world theme, featuring the Seven Wonders… which was lackluster.

Saks holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

But we do love Saks’ light show to Silver Bells music which lights up the entire facade of the 5th Avenue storefront.

Saks holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

Macy’s had Snoopy and a message:

Macys holiday windows on carpoolcandy.com

We let the kids in on one of New York’s best kept secrets at dinnertime. Arguably one of the best burgers in the city, we snuck behind the velvet curtains at the Parker Meridien in midtown to try The Burger Joint.

Burger Joint NYC on carpool candy.com

It’s a hole in the wall smack in the middle of a posh hotel, that serves great burgers, fries, beer and wine. The boys loved the food and the down and dirty scene.

Burger Joint NYC on carppolcandy.com

— I ate and drank a lot.  From candy canes to Cabernet…. latkes to honey-baked ham, I laughed in the face of moderation.  Hey, it’s the holidays! But my jeans say I’ve paid for it.

We watched Star Wars episodes 4, 5, and 6 before seeing The Force Awakens. When you’re the mom of boys– who happened to grow up with a brother who talked Wookie and had every single spaceship and action figure in the galaxy– you become versed in the ways of the Force. I’ve seen the movies multiple times and I know my bounty hunters and droids.

star wars force awakens movie poster

(LucasFilm)

We got tickets to see the new one on Christmas Day so we stayed up late Christmas Eve watching Star Wars and Empire, and then watched Jedi the morning before our afternoon showing.

Aden, Eli and I loved The Force Awakens, but Wilson and Jacob felt only lukewarm and left wanting more. One of my complaints about 1, 2, and 3 were they were too long and the stories were convoluted. I thought 7 captured the tone of 4, 5, and 6 and was well written and edited, funny, and fast moving. It was full of cool special effects and charming characters, and I loved that the protagonist is a badass woman. Harrison Ford was great and I can’t wait for the next one!

I’d like to say my holiday week was relaxing but I was working a lot and hosting family and friends so there wasn’t enough down time. I did manage to squeeze in two other movies.

The Big Short movie poster

(Paramount Pictures)

The Big Short is a compelling, well-acted story about the collapse of the housing market in 2008, but I don’t think it’s a terrific movie. There isn’t anyone to root for and it underscores everything tainted, greedy and shortsighted about this country. Sure, there’s Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling (va-va-voom) but they all wear such terrible wigs it’s hard to remember how hot they are. The breakout star for me is Jeremy Strong, the tough, gum-snapping trader who doesn’t suffer fools and is probably worth $50 million. One to watch.

(Open Road Films)

(Open Road Films)

Also made Wilson take me to Spotlight— about the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the epidemic of pedophile priests and the major coverup by the Catholic Church, exposed in a 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning  investigative report. I’m always amazed when a filmmaker can take a familiar story with an ending we all know and still build tension and drive. The performances  (by Michael Keaton, Liev Schrieber, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo) are understated and the story is very powerful. Disturbing topic, but great movie.

hamilton---digital-album-cover---final_sq-6aec6877614608af10cf4169380c490a7e78bf5f-s300-c85

We’ve become obsessed with the Hamilton musical soundtrack. U.S. history set to cool rap music from a Broadway musical?! I’m in heaven and Aden and Eli are hooked. Nothing makes me happier than when my little sports junkies appreciate art and culture!

2016 cookies on carpoolcandy.com

–We spent New Year’s Eve with family and friends sharing cocktails, good food, and lots of laughs. Hope for more of the same in 2016!

Good to back sharing. Happy New Year all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Thanksgiving: Top 7 favorite traditions

California Thanksgiving Hollywood sign on carpoolcandy.com

Are you still digesting turkey and all that pie? For me it’s the carbs that load me down: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and irresistible stuffing that makes me feel like I swallowed a beach ball, even days later.

But I wouldn’t have Thanksgiving any other way.

My family made our annual southern California sojourn last week and it was grand. After visiting LA and Orange County more than 15 times, we’ve seen most of the tourist sights so now we pretty much do the same exact things every year.

My boys like knowing what to expect and keeping up our traditions, and we have some great ones. You’d probably rather see pix than hear every detail so here you go…

California Thanksgiving The Sixty on carpool candy.com

We stay at the boutique hotel where my brother works as a chef concierge. He’s worked at the Luxe and the W in Hollywood, but for the last several years he’s been at THE SIXTY (formerly The Thompson Beverly Hills,) which is centrally located for what we like to do and whom we visit, and has swanky flair.

California Thanksgiving The Sixty on carpool candy.com

I love the great service and poofy beds, and my kids love the fancy rooftop pool overlooking LA, with a view of the Hollywood sign.

California Thanksgiving at Laurel Hardware on carpool candy.com

We loved the comfort food and couture cocktails at Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood.

We see friends and family. Besides my brother and cousin in LA,  I have two close friends who live in West Hollywood and it’s fun to see their kids every year and hang out at dinner, shopping, and in their hood.

California Thanksgiving family on carpoolcandy.com

Getting cozy with the future in-laws.

We had the bonus of meeting Adam’s fiancé (he recently got engaged which you can read about here) and her family, which was easy and more fun than probably any of us expected. It’s like we had known each other forever!

California Thanksgiving Tree People hike on carpoolcandy.com

Tree People view didn’t suck

We go for a mountain hike– It’s hard to find a healthy, social activity for all ages and genders, and I’m always looking to get my kids off their screens so hiking is ideal. For the last several years we’ve hiked Runyon Canyon with all the beautiful people and their adorable dogs…

California Thanksgiving Tree People hike on carpoolcandy.com

….but this week we tackled Tree People park which also had some nice trails and views.

Celebrity sighting in LA on carpoolcandy.com

We have celebrity sightings. Last year, we saw Will Arnett while eating lunch and was able to slyly take this pic…

This year, I walked by Nasim Pedrad (formerly of SNL and now on Scream Queens) outside a restaurant on La Brea. No photo. Had to play it cool.

California Thanksgiving Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

We go to Disneyland. We go every year and the magic never gets old.

California Thanksgiving Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

We got there early this year and made it onto Thunder Mountain….

California Thanksgiving Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom all before 10:30am. We made the mistake of waiting to Fast Pass Space Mountain and the boys had to wait 90 minutes to get on the ride. (I skip Space as it makes me dizzy and nauseated.)

California Thanksgiving Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

Cousins waiting to rack up the points on Buzz

Our collective favorite ride is Buzz Lightyear, where you have laser guns and have to shoot at targets as you go through a pop art spectacle of fun.

California Thanksgiving Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

Buzz is my favorite ride of all

We are a competitive family so scorekeeping is serious. For the record, cousin Jeremy won this year. Better luck next time Space Rangers.

heads up2

We watch football and play Heads Up. When I say “we” watch football, I mean all the men– and there are nine–  watch football pretty much the entire time we are there. I’ve learned to let it go and enjoy the sunshine. But at night, after dinner and several glasses of wine we often play Heads Up on the patio and laugh until our cheeks hurt.

California Thanksgiving on carpoolcandy.com

Aunt Ruthie checks the turkey. We had 25 at the table but she makes enough to feed all of Orange County

We eat until we feel sick. Aunt Ruthie’s Thanksgiving meal is spectacular year after year. Her motto is more is not enough. She served three turkeys, butternut squash soup, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, yams, asparagus, brussel sprouts, creamed corn, biscuits and dinner rolls.

Thanksgiving dinner plate on carpoolcandy.com

My favorites are the sweet potatoes with marshmallows and the creamed corn. Sweeter and richer than ice cream. Yum!

And you can’t load up too much on dinner because then there’s dessert….

California Thanksgiving on carpoolcandy.com

Only eight cakes, pies, and puddings to choose from– I needed to taste them all.     (Still working them off.)

Unfortunately, the trip has to end and we go home. But we are happy and full!

California Thanksgiving on carpoolcandy.com

How was your holiday? Tell me about your favorite traditions in the comments.

 

Carpool Candy Holiday Gift Guide for kids 2015

I don’t know about you, but my kids don’t need squat! I’ve been feeling kind of sick about all the “stuff” they have– most of which they don’t use or appreciate. Every parenting book I’ve ever read says providing children with traditions and enriching experiences creates memories that lead to happy and secure kids.

So this year I’m putting an emphasis on gifts that will provide creative, fun activities– many that don’t even require batteries!

But hey, I’m not Amish. I know people still like to give stuff so there’s plenty of that on the list too. On that note, I give you the Carpool Candy Holiday Gift Guide 2015….

As always, click on the name of the gift for website links to buy or get more info. All different price points included. And please note that I get nada from any of these vendors. You can thank/gift me by sharing this post on the Facebook or the Twitter, and/or by signing up to get my blog weekly in your email inbox,  just click on the right corner of your screen.

Happy Holidays!

knockerball on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Knocker Ball session–  Have you seen this? Kids and adults get in these ridiculous inflatable plastic ball suits and roll around. You can roll, flip, and knock down your friends or try playing KnockerBall soccer. KnockerBallers describe the sensation as almost defying gravity, without putting any stress on the body.  I think I’d be laughing like a hyena the entire time. There are places to play all over the country for about $35 an hour for six people. If you’re really nuts, you can even buy your own for the back yard. ($250 each)

dinosaur head light on carpoolcandy.com

Light and sound headlamps— This hands-free LED flashlight makes realistic animal sounds that will liven up your bedtime reading routine. Great for independent readers who– lil me– still like the feel of a book in both hands.  Adjustable elasticized band with Velcro® closure. Dinosaur or frog ($25)  If this guy is too intimidating, try these options…

panda light on carpoolcandy.com

Amazon has an adorable panda or lion  ($10)

lego mini headlamps on carpoolcandy.com

Or f your kid is more into superheroes or Star Wars, these lights are cool too. ($28)

Grommet ponytail hat on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Cableknit ponytail hat-– Peekaboo hats are designed to let your hair hang out. These adorable knit hats feature two hidden holes (for high and low ponies) in the back for your ponytail to peek right through.  You can keep your head warm and your hair pretty. Machine washable, comes in black and white.  ($40)yogibo beanbags on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Yogibo giant beanbags–   My kids borrowed a few of these monster beanbags for a recent sleepover and they were a huge hit.  With zillions of beads, they conform to your body’s shape and are super comfy, especially for video game playing. The full-size Yogibo Max functions as a chair — and also as a recliner, sofa, or bed when you want to stretch out from head to toe. ($100 and up)

singalong ipad stand on carpoolcandy.com

iPad Karaoke stand— This is an adjustable microphone stand with an integrated dock and speakers that transform an iPad into a personal soundstage. Crooners simply connect an iPad or any device with a headphone jack to the dock at the top and use the attached microphone to sing along with music saved in their iTunes library. Your melodic voice is transmitted through 2 powerful speakers in the base, and you can adjust the volume, balance, and echo to achieve chart-topping best holiday gift guide for kids 2015, best gifts for boys 8 to 14, best gifts for girls 8 to 14, best holiday gifts for girls 2015, best holiday gifts for boys 2015, cool gifts for boys into space,cool gifts for boys into dinosaurs, best creative gifts for kids, best gifts for kids who have everything, best gifts for teen girls, best gifts for teen boys, best gifts for sporty boys, best drone for kids, best gift for kids who love sneakers, sound. A recipe fro teen fun. ($110)skyviper_video drone on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideHD video drone— For future CIA agents….the Sky Viper Video Surveillance Drone takes astounding high-def videos from up to 200 feet away with an onboard SkyProTM 720p HD camera, giving kids and adults a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood or backyard. The camera can even pivot to capture astounding 360-degree panoramic views. Comes complete with a remote control, 4GB memory card that can capture up to 20 minutes of video and replacement propellers and screws. ($80)

Grommet zipbuds on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Tangle-free Zip Buds–  Zipbuds put an end to tangled headphone cords with a zippy design. The unique zipper-integrated cabling uses military-grade technology to provide strength and performance. Cool choice for music lovers. ($25)

grommet embellished hair ties on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Embellished hair ties—  For the gal who wears her ponytail holders around her wrist, some bling to brighten your arm and your hair. I love a gift that’s functional and pretty. (3 for $15)

toothfairy pillow and journal on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Toothfairy pillow and journal– For the kid who loves tradition. A little handmade pillow to hold a lost tooth until the tooth fairy arrives, and a matching journal to keep track of lost teeth and loot attained. Journal also includes interesting facts about dental hygiene. (Didn’t know there were any but ok!)  ($30)

uncommon goods claymation kit on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Stop-motion claymation kit — For the creative kid on your list….Explore the amazing art of DIY animation with this creative claymation kit. Claymation combines the principles of stop-motion animation with the fun flexibility of clay modeling for an easy introduction to movie making. The kit includes creature-creating clay, a miniature stage, interchangeable backdrops, props, detailed guidebook, and a phone stand. Just add your own smartphone with a stop-motion app of your choice, and practice saying “action!” ($20)

KIndle Fire HD kids on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideKindle Fire HD — This tablet is made especially for kids with a thick protective case and parental controls to limit screen time and content access. Includes a 7-inch IPS display and front and rear cameras. Unlimited, free access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited included.  Plus, a 2-year worry-free guarantee: if they break it, return it and Amazon will replace it for free– no questions asked. The gift that keeps on giving!  ($100-150)

Jenga Giant game on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Giant Jenga XL game— Get bigger crashes with this extra-large version of the classic Jenga game. As you stack the cardboard blocks and pull them out, you get a tower three times higher than the original game. Great for all ages. ($20)

dareway scooter on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Dareway scooter— I’d be remiss if I didn’t put this guy on the list. It seems every kid wants a hoverboard, but if you don’t want to fork over the $400, try this Feber Dareway 12V standing ride-on scooter. Kids will love driving it, with a foot pedal accelerator to control forward motion and handle-grip buttons to allow turns and 360° spins.  Travels up to 3.7 mph which is about as fast as I want my kids to go. ($200)

pb kids faux fur sleeping bag on carpoolcandy.com

 

Faux fur sleeping bag— Kids ( especially girls) like luxury so spoil them with this supersnuggly sleeping bag, or unzip it for a cozy throw. Teen version in chic animal prints, little kid version in adorable animal shapes. ($169)elephant rattle on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideWood baby rattle: I’m a sucker for a baby gift and these handmade hardwood wood rattles are cute and easy on teething tykes.  ($18)

sneakercon on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Sneaker Con tickets  — If your kids are obsessed with shoes like mine, Sneaker Con is the mecca of lace ups.  The show travels to several cities every year– including NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, LA, and Miami — offering common ground for sneaker connoisseurs to buy, sell and trade some of the most sought after footwear on the market. If you’re really nice, you’ll get the tickets and a budget to buy. (Tickets are $25 and up)

spinning spgahetti fork on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

Spinning spaghetti fork–  Great stocking stuffer….Eating pasta is now easier and more fun. Twirling is a better way to eat spaghetti but my kids have never been quite able to manage it. This motorized fork makes linguini a luxury again. Dishwasher safe. ($9)

messless chocolate milk mixing mug on carpoolcandy.com

 

Messless chocolate milk mug— Moooooove over fork! While we’re on fun kitchen gadgets, how about this mug that mixes your chocolate milk for you with the touch of a button? Works for hot and cold milk. ($15)

StickerYou Laptop stickers on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Laptop stickers–  Custom die-cut vinyl stickers in any size and shape personalize laptops, tablets or liven up our locker. You can use photos for custom stickers or choose from hundreds of designs in various categories including animals, sports, art, music and more.  They’re weather resistant, water-proof, and will stick on most surfaces and materials but can be removed easily, leaving no messy residue behind. ($10 and up)

photo playing cards on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

Photo playing cards–  Kids never tire of seeing pictures of themselves so why not create a custom deck of playing cards with their shining faces on the back? Choose 1 to 4 photos, and/or add words or initials. They’ll think you’re aces.  ($20)

M and M peace blanket on carpool candy.com holiday gift guide

M&M’s plush blanket —  I’m not sure why my kids love plush, but they do and this cozy blanket combines softness and their affection for candy. Sweet! ($30)

Sticker gum on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

StickerGum—  Speaking of sweet….StickerGum was started by two intrepid Jersey sisters (even before they were tweens!) looking for a kid-friendly way to raise money for charity. Their edible artwork turned fundraising enterprise has now evolved into a grassroots passion project. StickerGum is a collectible novelty bubblegum customized with full-color images, individually packaged with matching glossy stickers. Their signature flavor Be Original™ is made with 100% natural chicle harvested sustainably in the rain forests of Central America and proudly handcrafted in the U.S. It boasts great flavor, “rocks killer bubbles,” and has no artificial flavors or preservatives. Don’t blow it– create your own design or use a photo of your kids. ($2.50 per piece)

laser peg animal set on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guideLaser Pegs contruction set— Construction toys never get old in my house. My kids still fiddle around with our Magnatiles when they pry themselves away from screentime–  and these light up Laser Peg sets are the next big thing in building. The options are endless– from this 12-in-1 animal set to an Indy race car to helicopters, spaceships, and architectural landmarks. Go back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the world and build your favorites like the Brachiosaur, Stegosaur, T-Rex, Velociraptor, and many more. And after you build them, THEY LIGHT UP!  (from $12-60)

little passports package on carpoolcandy.com holiday gift guide

LittlePassports subscription—  Here’s a gift that lasts throughout the year and is truly educational and enriching. Travel to international countries or explore the 50 states and learn about their culture, food and geography through activities, games, treasure hunts, puzzles and interactive maps. The first month kids receive a discovery kit and passport and then each month explorers get a themed package including information on landmarks, music, animals, food, art, oceans, natural wonders, world coins, space, science, celebrations, habitats, transportation, insects, and sports. It’s travel without the expense and long TSA lines! ($12 per month with subscription)

 

Didn’t find the right fit on this list? Try my list from 2013 and 2014 for more ideas!

Have a great gift to add to this list? Tell me in the comments. And stay tuned for the CCHGG for women and men coming soon!

 

Top 7 things I learned losing my iPhone, chasing it down and reclaiming it

I was walking to a friend’s house with Brady this week when it started to rain. As I began to run, my phone must have slipped out of my jacket pocket. You’d think I would have heard it– it’s in a heavy Mophie battery case– but I didn’t even realize it was gone until an hour later when I left my friend’s house.

I retraced my steps on the two-block walk twice, scanning the piles of leaves for sign of my phone, as the panic began to set in. Losing your phone is such a pain in the ass.

I remembered that two leaf-blowers were at my neighbor’s house as I passed by and thought if I dropped it near her house, maybe that’s why I didn’t hear it fall. The blaring sound of leaf-blowing rivals a plane landing.

As a concoction of angst and anger began to boil in my stomach, I went to my computer and tried to get on the “Find my iPhone” app through the iCloud. It proved challenging.

Our muse

Our muses

The rest of the story was like an episode of  Thelma and Louise meets Hart to Hart: two broads taking justice into their own hands and attempting to solve a mystery with no detective experience.

I got my phone back and I learned a few things along the way.

Put your Apple ID info somewhere other than your phone. Duh! Seems obvious yet I couldn’t find it anywhere so I had to reset my password and wound up on the phone with Apple support for 40 minutes straightening out my ID and iCloud information.

find my iPhone screen on carpoolcandy.com

Make sure  your “find my iPhone” feature is on at all times. Luckily I had just checked to make sure it was on so I was able to use the locator and find out where my phone was in real time. When I first logged in, it was at least 12 blocks from where I lost it. Someone had taken it. I wanted to believe that someone intended to return it. The support guy helped me put an alarm sound on the phone and message on the screen that said “This iPhone is lost. Please call this number and I will come pick it up. Thank you!” Then I waited.

An hour went by. Nada.

Have a good friend who has your back and is willing to face possible danger. My pal, MaryEllen (you may remember her from adventures in London) sprang into service as soon as she found out my phone was missing. “I’m coming to pick you up and we’re going to find that phone!” she exclaimed fearlessly. Within minutes she raced into my driveway in her shiny silver minivan, with her adorable Cavachon puppy, Rocket,  in the back seat, ready for action. (Rocket is Freeway from Hart to Hart in this scenario.)

She might as well have been wearing a cape.

I’d been tracking the phone on the locator and it had moved three times in 90 minutes, all through our neighboring town. My guess was that the leaf blowers across the street either scooped it up in a bunch of leaves and didn’t know they had it…. or one of them picked it up. Why else would it keep moving locations every 30 minutes?

Police don’t go after lost cell phones. Apple told me to call the police and report the phone as stolen. When I did, the lady on the phone impatiently dismissed me, saying “they don’t go after stolen cell phones.” I explained I could see where it was but she didn’t seem to care. She said I could come into the station and file a report and a detective would get to it when he got to it. Didn’t sound like it would be anytime before Christmas.

Police don’t care if you do! When I kindly suggested that I couldn’t wait that long because my moving cell phone might be out of the county in an hour, the aloof police lady seemed too be rushing me off the phone. “So you’re telling me I have to go after my phone myself?” I said in disbelief. That seemed like asking for trouble.

But there was no way I was going to let that phone just wander away, never to be seen again.

Friends on carpool candy.com

Don’t we look like badassses? Or at least phone detectives!                                        (This is a file photo as I had no phone to capture the moment and we were using hers to find the truck.)

So ME and I drove towards the address where the phone was last spotted (having someone at home watching the locator would have been ideal but no one was around to help,) not knowing what we would say or do when we got there.

We rode into Newstead in that Honda Odyssey with fire in our bellies and hair flapping in the wind, ready to take back what was mine.

Sure enough there was a leaf blower truck right in front of the house and a guy packing up. I asked him politely if he had found an iPhone and he instantly said yes, his co-worker had found one earlier. He claimed it was locked so he couldn’t call me (true if neither of them had their own phone) and we chose to believe he had good intentions. Although I’m not sure what his plan was with the phone after his shift was over.

He handed the phone over easily and we rejoiced.

leaf blower truck on carpoolcandy.com

We spotted the truck!

Put a sticker on your phone case with name/address and or phone number so there’s no excuse not to return it.  For years, I’ve always taken those printed address stickers you get free in the mail from charities and put them on the back of my phone and camera, in case they get lost. But since I got my Mophie case, I haven’t put a sticker on. Maybe if the leaf blower had seen the sticker and realized the address was RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET, he might have returned my phone right away. One woman on Facebook said her screensaver has a photo of her kids holding a sign that says “If this phone is lost, please call this number” so even if it’s locked an honest soul could get it back to her.

Back up, back up, back up! In those two hours without my phone I saw my life flash before my eyes: blog post and story ideas, contacts. calendar, photos! If I hadn’t been regularly backing up, I would have been crushed.

Yes, yes, I see the irony — flashing in neon lights– that just a few days ago, I blogged about trying not to be so attached to my phone and just be in the moment.

But completely without it? Out of the question!!

Have a funny story about losing your phone? Tell me about it in the comments!

Can you survive an hour without wifi? A test.

I had time to kill in Manhattan last week between work and dinner with friends. That hour or so turned into an interesting experiment that shed light on where I am on the scale of phone addiction.

iPhoneIt was one of those amazing unseasonably warm evenings we’ve been having here in the Tri-State area (thanks global warming) and I was on the Upper West Side and had to get to east Midtown so I decided to take a subway and walk.

There was no cell service in the subway and it’s awkward to read your phone while walking, especially in New York, where you can run into a street sign, construction zone, or really pissed off person in a hurry if you aren’t looking where you’re going. I forgot my headphones so listening to music or a podcast was not an option.

So for about an hour I didn’t look at my phone. No big deal, right?

Have you done it recently? Have you been out and about — not at work or in a movie or exercising or distracted by life at home– but out in the world during prime texting/emailing time and not felt compelled to look at your smart device?

It’s probably more difficult than you think.

I consider myself a thoughtful, balanced person who knows that I should not be sucked into screen time and should live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around me. I’m constantly scolding my boys for excessive screen time. “Your mind will turn to mush if you watch one more episode of Hawaii 5-0!!” I yell emphatically. “No phones at the dinner table!”

cell phone ban graphic/ carpoolcandy.com

But there I was walking up Broadway holding my handbag on one arm and clutching my iPhone for dear life in the other, willing myself not to look at it. Once I sensed my anxiety, I started to become acutely aware of the temptation to check for a new text or email, or to scroll through Facebook or Twitter.

Then it became a game. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need to check my phone as I walked through the crowded streets during rush hour. I could use the time to think.

Remember free thinking?

I often find I come up with some of my best ideas while in the shower. That 10-12 minutes of warm water and meditative sounds provide clarity. I remember things for my to-do list, generate story ideas for articles or blogs, and even work through tough writing tasks for ongoing projects.

But in the shower I have no choice. Looking at my phone is not an option.

On the street, I started to feel restless. I was surprised and a little embarrassed as I realized my co-dependence on that small screen in my palm. I forced myself to use the time to look around, take in the people-watching– no place better than New York for that– and see where my thoughts would lead me.

It was a humbling exercise.

When did I turn into such an information addict? I know intellectually that so much of my attention spent online is wasted.

Social Media Relationship Rules

Social media sucks me in the way TV consumed me when I had more time to watch it. I’m a pop culture and news junkie, and I’m interested in people so I find it all impossible to resist.

But there’s something to be said for being with your thoughts. I know I’m not allowing myself that luxury enough. Are you?