Tag Archives: best family life blog

I’m a Jew who loves Christmas

Celebrating Hannukah and Christmas on carpoolcandy.com

As I may have mentioned, my mother is Jewish and my father was Episcopalian. For a kid, it was the best case scenario: we observed all cultural holidays, but I had no religious education whatsoever.

As an adult, I felt a bit cheated.

Not only do I know nada about the Bible, I often feel lost during religious services because I have no frame of reference. As a child, it was cool to get presents for Hanukkah and Christmas, and search for the hidden Passover matzoh and hunt for Easter eggs.

In my 20’s, I decided I wanted a bit of religion in my life and felt most comfortable with Jewish traditions. I slowly began to learn about half of my religious heritage by attending services a few times a year and celebrating holidays with more observant friends.

Wilson grew up as a conservative Jew and became a bar mitzvah so he knows his prayers and religious background. When we married, we made a conscious decision to raise our kids (now 8, 10, and 13)  with a Jewish education.

I’ve never wavered on that choice — in fact I’ve never felt more certain it was right than when my oldest son, Jacob, became a bar mitzvah this year. Our boys’ Hebrew school experience has helped them build a sense of self, and enriched their lives in ways they can’t appreciate now, but will understand more as they mature.

Bar Mitzvah pic on carpoolcandy.com

They’re learning the history of our religion and people, and taking pride in their Jewish identity. While I’d like to think I could have taught my kids to perform “tzedakah” which translates to “righteous behavior” and charitable giving, I know they’re getting that message every week at Hebrew school.

They’re part of a community– something larger than themselves– which gives them a sense of belonging, and will help them understand their place in the world.

When I hear them saying Hebrew prayers in synagogue, singing Jewish songs, or excited about doing good deeds, I envy them.

I feel good about our choice to honor Jewish traditions. But every year around this time, a wave of nostalgia sweeps over me and I miss Christmas.

Back in the day, my father was a bit of a Christmas junkie. He made a big deal about picking the best tree — had to be a Douglas Fir– and although I hated standing in the cold picking out the one that was least crooked with the most branches, I loved the smell of the pine needles that took over our car and apartment.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

Christmas 1977

Decorating the tree was a ceremonial experience. As Andy Williams crooned Christmas songs in the background, my parents argued over  lights and ornament placement. My dad wore plaid pants and a turtleneck, and we drank eggnog with cinnamon as we worked.

Christmas 1977 on carpoolcandy.com

That year’s loot:  Shaun Cassidy album and poster, dollhouse,  Snoopy bank.

My parents often hosted a party with honey-baked ham and a variety of homemade cookies my mother baked with care. On Christmas morning, all our presents from Santa were unwrapped and creatively displayed in our living room, our stockings filled with candy and trinkets. My brother and I worried that Santa and his reindeer wouldn’t be able to land on our apartment balcony, so we were always thrilled to see they had eaten the cookies and sugar cubes we left them.

Good times.

Wilson doesn’t feel comfortable having a tree at home, but I make up for it in my own way. Holiday lights twinkle around our windows and my childhood Christmas decorations nestle closely  to the dozen menorahs and the kids’ homemade Stars of David we’ve collected over the years.

Every year around this time, my boys help me make dozens of cookies to give to friends and teachers, and we spend an evening shopping and wrapping presents for a needy local family who can’t afford them.

decorating Christmas sugar cookies on carpoolcandy.com

On Christmas Eve we drive to Manhattan to see the Rockefeller Center tree and the retail windows on 5th Avenue. Then we eat out– last year it was a traditional sushi meal– and enjoy the unusually quiet streets. On Christmas Day we go to the Knicks game and hot dogs replace honey-baked ham.

Celebrating Christmas at Knick game 2010Knick game on carpoolcandy.com

For a few years, I mourned my old, conventional Christmas traditions. But my kids love the holiday, so I’ve embraced it too, even if we don’t mark it the way I did as a kid.

Celebrating Christmas has never been about religion for my family.

I’ve realized it doesn’t matter if it’s hanging ornaments or cheering a slam-dunk, traditions are about being together and sharing an experience. I hope my kids look back on all their childhood traditions with the same fondness I feel for mine.

My California adventure ( with photos!)

Hiking Runyon Canyon with kids on carpoolcandy.com

Can you find the Hollywood sign?

We just returned from a week with family in California. You know with family, sometimes it’s great… and sometimes you need a triple dose of Xanax.

This year, we had a terrific time. Two of my closest friends live in West Hollywood so I get girl time while Wilson and the fellas watch football.  We had dinner at Umame Burger at The Grove, a sprawling outdoor mall that satisfies every need from eating, to shopping, to movies, not to mention supreme people watching.

Umame burger on carpoolcandy.com

Umame burger-yum!

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the 15th impossibly tall, wanna-be actress donning the skinniest of jeans and giant designer sunglasses, toting her chihuahua under one arm, and iPhone and shopping bags in the other.

I also love the holiday displays in LA. Santa sits in a heap of fake snow as holiday lights twinkle from palm trees. Ah Hollywood kitsch.

CA holiday lights on palm trees on carpoolcandy.com

On Sunday, we gathered up the kids, my friends, and my brother and hiked Runyon Canyon to see the gorgeous views of the city. It was the perfect activity for all ages and athletic aptitudes.

Hiking Runyon Canyon with kids on carpoolcandy.com

Wilson’s aunt and uncle live in Orange County so we stayed at their house for the rest of the week. 14 people and 4 dogs in one house keeps things interesting. There’s basically no escape. Everyone is in your bidness. Every meal is a production, and so many opinions and needs means we often take hours to decide what to do.

Tuesday we made our annual pilgrimage to Disneyland, where we had on off day.

Disneyland in November on carpoolcandy.com

It started off ok, as you can see from this flattering Splash Mountain photo. Can’t tell if that scream is panic or delight….

Splash Mountain Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

We didn’t plan well and had some bad ride karma. We were there for 10 hours but only went on 4 rides… although we did 3 of them twice. (Don’t ask!)

Too much standing and waiting made us cranky and tired.

One of my favorite rides is the Indiana Jones Adventure, but while we were smack in the middle of Indy’s journey, the ride stalled for a good 15 minutes. We were stuck in our jeep as the lights went up, revealing stark black walls that only moments before felt like a scary trip through the jungle.

Stuck on Indiana Jones ride Disneyland on carpoolcandy.com

Waiting in dark for ride to start

We had to finish the ride surrounded by bright lights and no sound– a bizarre behind-the-scenes look that demystified the experience.  We did get a repeat ride once it started up again, but it wasn’t quite the same.

We waited online for the new Cars ride at the California Adventure park and after 90+ minutes in line they announced the ride was closed due to mechanical difficulties. By that point I wanted to run someone over.

Cars ride Disneyland California Adventure on carpoolcandy.com

The ride that wasn’t meant to be

Then we ran back to Tomorrowland to make our FastPass for Space Mountain and just as we got to the front of the line, they announced it was closed due to “guest issues,” which apparently translates to somebody losing their lunch during flight.

We were not feeling the Mickey Magic.

Disney disappointment aside, it was still a fun week of togetherness. Wine flowed freely, Wilson and I got in a few sunny runs, and I saw two movies. (Caught up on Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett is amazing and the story compelling, but don’t go for the laughs. Dallas Buyers Club is also rather dark but Matthew McConaughey is better than ever and the story inspires.)

Thanksgiving turkey on carppolcandy.com

The kids loved playing with their cousins, and we all ate ourselves silly on Thanksgiving. Our Aunt Ruthie slaves for days to create a traditional, delicious meal, with two turkeys (one baked, the other fried) and stupendous sides from marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes to my favorite creamed corn.

Thanksgiving dinner on carpoolcandy.com

Cousin Jeremy stuffs his plate

hanksgiving dinner on carpoolcandy.com

….10 minutes later. Seconds?!

As the week came to an end, the kids begged us to change our flights to stay an extra day. We wanted to, but it would only prolong the sad goodbye. The boys’ spirits were lifted by DirectTV at their seats on the flight home. Nothing like inappropriate movies and unlimited soda to plaster a smile on a young boy’s face.

And just like that, vacation was over.

The house is a mess, the kids scrambled to finish homework they neglected, my packed suitcase is still sitting on the bedroom floor. Back to work tomorrow and a week filled with meetings, doctor appointments, carpools, holiday prep.

Makes waiting in line at Disneyland seem like, well, Disneyland.

Reality bites.

What was your holiday highlight? Tell me in the comments.

Teaching empathy to kids is no easy task

If you asked me to name the qualities I most want to instill in my children, empathy would be in the top three.

In my youth, like most kids,  I cared mostly about myself and how everything affected me. But as I got older and saw more of the world, I began to understand how lucky I was to grow up safe, loved, and wanting for very little. When I had three healthy children who opened my heart, I learned new depths of gratitude.

When looking for a place to live, Wilson and I chose a town where our kids would meet all kinds of people with different backgrounds and experiences. We donate to charity and volunteer for several organizations, sometimes with the kids. At holiday time, we give gifts to a family who can’t afford them.

I watch the news with my boys (ages 13, 10, and 7)  most nights and try to talk to them about other places in the world where kids don’t have access to food, clean water, and an education. They wonder how those kids live without an Xbox.

I hope it’s sinking in, but you just never know.

empathy graphic

I’d like my children to occasionally do things out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they feel forced. I’d like them to think about the feelings of others when making decisions.

Their empathy will increase as they mature and their brains are less wired to self-absorption.  But sometimes it feels like a personal failure when my boys are mean to another kid,  ignore cruelty by others, or act unsympathetic towards a stranger.

This week, 7-year-old Eli accompanied me to Trader Joe’s. He LOVES to use those mini shopping carts and help me check out. As I was bagging my groceries, an elderly woman stood behind Eli, watching him furiously unloading our cart onto the checkout counter.  Smiling ear to ear, she started chatting with him and marveling at his eagerness to help. We exchanged some cute banter about how fortunate I am to have my own professional, handsome checkout boy.

As I was paying, the woman moved to another aisle to check out. I whispered to Eli that he should go help her unload her cart. At first he looked confused, wondering why he would help a stranger. I explained to him that she was older and needed assistance, and would get a kick out of his gesture. He shrugged his shoulders and went over to help her.

I was busy checking out and loading my bags, but when I looked over to walk out, Eli had put all her groceries on the counter and the woman was beaming. As we exited the store I got a warm feeling inside. Eli grinned as he strutted to the car.  I told him how pleased I was that he helped the woman:

Didn’t it feel good to be nice and help someone? She’ll probably go back home and tell all her friends about the adorable little boy who unloaded her groceries. I’m so proud of you for helping!” I cried.

He kept smiling as he pulled a crisp dollar bill from his pocket.  “She gave me this!!!” he shouted with glee.

My heart sank.

That little stinker was giddy because his selfless deed was rewarded with cash!

kids money empathy on carpoolcandy.com

Was the empathy message lost in the excitement of spending plans for his new fortune?

I hope not.

I’d like to think Eli would have been just as happy leaving the store, knowing he helped someone, even if his pocket was empty.

eli with dollar2

But I’m not so sure.

My guiltiest pleasure and other personal tidbits

Good news! One of the cool bloggers I met at BlogHer13 last summer was kind enough to nominate me for a blogging award called the Liebster. I’ve never heard of it, but who am I to turn down an award nomination?

(It’s an honor to be nominated…I’d like to thank the academy…you like me you really like me…this moment is so much bigger than me…I’m king of the world!….my blog is great but really Beyonce’s blog should have won…)

You get the point. liebster award logo on carpoolcandy.com

Now I must pay it forward. First, I answer 10 questions posed by the nominator, the always amiable Amy of amynameisamy.com/. You should check out her blog here because she’s a terrific writer (I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it) who shares my affection for TV and pop culture, and offers relatable insight about her experiences with divorce and being single again, and as a mom of four kids.

Next, I pass on the love to other bloggers whom I admire and nominate them for this mysterious Liebster award. Hopefully it starts a chain of happy reading. You might find a new favorite blogger, and some hardworking bloggers may get much deserved recognition.

So here we go. I hope my answers will enlighten and/or entertain.

How did you pick your blog’s name?

Carpool Candy was once a column on AOL/Patch.com before I turned it into a blog. I wanted to come up with a memorable name, I’ve always loved alliteration, and I wanted it to say what I write about. Carpool covers the family life, and candy covers the pop culture. I also liked that the message was sweet.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 13-​​year-​​old self?

I’d tell myself to relax and not worry so much about what people think. I’d also tell me—just like my dad used to—that there was a great guy out there somewhere brushing his teeth, watching the Brady Bunch, and arguing with his parents just like I was…and when the time was right I would meet him. That’s you, Wilson. If I had believed my dad, it would have saved me a lot of heartache.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Tough to pick one, so here are some of my greatest hits: Family Ties, 30something, West Wing, Oprah, Sex and the City, Sopranos, Friends, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Modern Family, New Girl…I should probably stop now.

What are four things you cannot live without?

Things, not people, right? TV, Lip balm, yoga, chocolate.

Who is your favorite fictional character?

In TV, I’d have to say Mary Richards from the old Mary Tyler Moore show and Scarlett O’Hara.

Gone with The Wind poster

What is your most prized possession?

I have a really nice watch that I love. It’s classic and makes me feel like a grown up. Wilson and I split the cost of it many years ago. I saved money from my paycheck, and he chipped in his winnings from a March Madness rotisserie pool.

Describe yourself in three words.

Ugh, how stressful. Mom, wife, journalist or loyal, creative, fun

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Twitter, and dessert every night

What single quality do you most appreciate in people?


What’s your favorite post that you’ve written? (Link, please!)

The Memorial Day one remembering my dad’s Naval service in Vietnam was one I’m proud of and I love that I had vintage photos and a letter from my dad to support it. You can read it here.

liebster-blog-award0 logo2

Now it’s my turn to nominate some bloggers I love. I think you’re supposed to nominate those with smaller followings but in the spirit of keeping it real I’m going to nominate the blogs I actually take time to read because they’re that good:

http://dishuponastar.blogspot.com/ ….(extremely honest take on celebrity gossip. informative and funny.)

http://averagemomswearcapes.com/ …(mom/journalist who writes refreshingly honest posts about everything from raising boys to fitness to surviving what she affectionately calls, “the cansuh.”)

http://www.raisingcolorado.com/ … (I don’t even know her, but I feel like I do because her writing is both intimate and hysterical. and she always has great pix to supplement. I can’t explain it, you have to be there. go now. read.)

 http://chewnibblenosh.com/  (this food blog is well written and demystifies cooking.  it has easy to follow instructions on what’s for dinner and makes me feel like “I could make that!” instead of “that aint happenin.”)

http://www.peachesandcoconuts.com/  …(can you tell I like funny writing? if you do too, try this blog on for size. she’s a slightly neurotic stay at home mom in a 2-mom family, and she’s not afraid of oversharing.)

Here are 10 questions I pose to the bloggers::

–what’s your favorite part of blogging?

–what part of blogging makes you want to tear your hair out or cry?

–who are your writing (or other) heroes?

–what is your fantasy job/aspiration?

–if you could have dinner with any 3 people living or dead, who would they be?

–what are three things you can’t live without?

–what is your guilty pleasure?

–describe your ideal weekend.

–what are your favorite magazines?

— which famous person bugs the crap out of you?

–share your favorite post that you’ve written and tell us why you dig it.

You can find more details on the Liebster Awards here. Do yourself a favor and take a minute to check out my recommended bloggers. It will be your good deed for the day. You might even thank me.

Puppy 911!

I knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

Things have been going well with our new Golden Doodle puppy, Brady. He’s 12 weeks old (we’ve had him for 4 weeks) and growing quickly.

cute puppy eats poison on carpoolcandy.com

He’s super smart and eager to please, and the indoor accidents are down to 1 or 2 a day, and that’s only if we’re not paying attention. He’s the perfect combination of playful and cuddly and has responded so well to puppy training I’m considering enrolling my 3 boys in a PetSmart class. Do they have obedience lessons for children?

But one thing he likes to do is chew. On anything. And everything.

It’s normal puppy behavior. We have commands that make him stop, and there are a dozen plush toys, knotted ropes, and rubber bones littering the floors of our living space to occupy his sharp little teeth. But sometimes, life gets in the way and we can’t watch him every minute.

That’s what happened one night this week when Brady got into some trouble. My 7-year-old, Eli was having a bad asthma attack so I propped him up on the couch with a mask on his face to breath in his Albuterol treatment through a nebulizer. (It looks and sounds much worse than it is.)

kid using nebulizer on carpoolcandy.com

After the treatment, I put Eli to bed and came downstairs to watch TV. At some point in the evening– we don’t know when or how– Brady got a hold of a vial of Eli’s Albuterol medicine.

I heard him chewing on something, but it sounded like his rawhide bone. After a few minutes, I opened his mouth and realized it was an empty, chewed-up plastic vial. We could tell that it had been sealed, so he must have chewed it open and the liquid dripped out.

I tried to remain calm as it hit me that our unwitting puppy had just ingested poison. We couldn’t find any traces of the liquid so we had to assume he licked up whatever leaked out.

puppy eats medicine on carpoolcandy.com

Remember my recent blog about how my 10-year-old son, Aden, hurt his shoulder and I neglected to seek medical attention for 3 days because I didn’t think he was really injured? And then it turned out to be a fractured collarbone, torn ligaments and a medium sprain? (Oops.)

Well apparently, with my kids, I’m willing to risk bodily harm, but I’m not taking any chances with Brady. (In fairness, if any of my toddler boys had ingested poison he too would be raced to the emergency room.)

As Wilson took to the internet to seek advice, I frantically called animal and human poison control, the vet, and the local 24-hour animal hospital. All concluded that Albuterol was BAD to ingest– especially for a 16-pound puppy– and required an immediate vet examination. I gave Wilson no option but to jump in the car with Brady at 11:45pm and head to the nearest animal hospital 30 minutes away.

Clueless little Brady made friends with everyone in the place with his tail-wagging and face-licking charm, and showed no symptoms of any distress. We were told the poison (if he ingested it) could cause heart problems, seizures, and/or disorientation. Although he showed no discomfort throughout the entire process, we were not willing to risk not treating him, especially since it was so late at night.

The vet hospital hooked him up to an IV with special fluids, fed him charcoal pills to soak up the toxins, and monitored him overnight. He came home the next morning exactly the same adorable puppy we know and love.

Except he did have a section of his paw shaved and taped where the IV was, which freaked the kids out a bit. But they slept through the whole trauma so Wilson and I bore the stress and guilt alone that night.

puppy eats medicine on carpoolcandy.com

Brady biting at his taped paw after the vet removed his IV.

Good news? Brady is completely fine and now we know what to do in case of emergency and how careful we must be about watching him.

Bad news? That little visit cost $800!

Would love some advice on pet insurance from you dog lovers out there. Looks like we’re going to need it.

Top 7 best eats in Martha’s Vineyard

Art Cliff Diner/ best food Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

It was only a few weeks ago when we were digging our toes in the sand in Martha’s Vineyard, but feels like a lifetime since school has started and I’m back to work. One of the things I love most about the Vineyard is how much there is to do, and more importantly, eat. With only a week on the island I tried to make every meal count. The food reminds be of being in Europe or other places where everything is homemade, with natural, and often locally grown ingredients.

Last year I made a list of my favorite foods on the Vineyard, but I was still able to come up with a whole new list for 2013 of my favorite eating experiences.:

Fresh baked bread — Oh my. I’m a carb whore. I know white flour is no good so at home I almost never eat bread that doesn’t have some wheat or grains in it. But the Portuguese and Sour dough bread on the Vineyard is worth breaking all the rules. You can probably try any local bakery but we ate several kinds from the West Tisbury farmer’s market and Cronig’s  Market on State Road in Vineyard Haven. Cronig’s carries a variety of Pain d’Avignon   breads (ferried over every morning from Hyannis) that are to die for. I highly recommend the rosemary sour dough dipped in olive oil. I’m swooning just thinking about it.

Best lobster seafood / best food Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Seafood – We like to set aside a night to pick up fresh fish from a local market to cook at home. There are myriad choices but we went with lobsters, steamers and chowder from the Net Result in Vineyard Haven. The ruddy kids running the counter know their filets and can help you decide what to get, how much to order, and how to cook it. The seafood tasted like it was caught a few hours before, which is completely possible.

State Road Martha's Vineyard review on carpoolcandy.com

State Road— Wilson’s birthday fell during our vacation week so we had an adults-only meal with friends at arguably the best restaurant on the island, State Road.  It’s a small place, with two rooms set in a restored barn, giving it a rustic feel. It’s fine dining, but very low key. There’s no dress code, very little décor and minimal candlelight but feels cozy.  The menu of farm-to-table offerings is simple but filled with unusual, tantalizing options. We ordered strategically so we could all taste as much as possible and none of the delicious plates disappointed. Among our favorites were the corn soup with lobster, quahog fritters, and pan roasted duck breast.  Amazing desserts included a berry cobbler and solid bar of dark chocolate with pistachios and sea salt. Explosions of yum in every bite. Make sure to call ahead for a reservation.

Sharky’s Cantina—If so much seafood is sending you overboard, sample a cerveza and chimichanga at Sharky’s. This Mexican tavern–with locations in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs— is perfect for families. It has a huge menu to satisfy picky kids and health-conscious adults and won’t break the bank. Make sure you order the guacamole and a watermelon margarita.

Humphreys Bakery sandwiches— Want to picnic on the beach? Humphrey’s has been serving up sammys on the island for more than 50 years. The menu of this old school shop looks like it hasn’t changed since the 70’s and why should it? The sandwiches start with thick homemade breads and generous helpings of meat. My chicken salad was excellent and Wilson loved their signature Turkey Gobbler, teeming with stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Call ahead to avoid the lines.

Art Cliff Diner Martha's Vineyard review on carpoolcandy.com

Art Cliff Diner— There was a lot of hype surrounding this tiny spot in Vineyard Haven—between the foody awards and constant crowd outside its door. I can tell you firsthand the Art Cliff deserves every accolade.  There’s an old-fashioned counter and maybe 15 tables, packed with plates of gourmet brunch food.  The thick French toast was cooked to perfection, the Nutella and banana crepe sublime, but it was the egg frittata with sausage, asparagus, and brie that knocked our socks off. It was, by far, my kids’ favorite meal. There was not a morsel left on any plate. The wait is crazy so I recommend you put your name in early and walk around Vineyard Haven to pass the time, but remember it closes at 2pm.

Art Cliff Diner Martha's Vineyard review on carpoolcandy.com

Art Cliff Diner Martha's Vineyard review on carpoolcandy.com

Back Door Donuts—I had heard the legend of this Oak Bluffs mainstay but didn’t understand why people would line up in a dingy parking lot to wait for baked goods at all hours of the day and night. Until I tried the apple fritter.  I don’t even like fruit in my pastry but I flipped for that fritter. Sweet, doughy, warm and gooey. The donuts weren’t bad either. Mmmmmm.

Back Door Donuts Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Now I’m hungry! Would love to hear your Vineyard food favs in the comments.

First days of puppyhood: week 1 with Brady

Brady Blue has finally arrived… and so far, he’s lived up to the hype.

After years of our children prodding, pleading and praying, our 8 week old Golden Doodle puppy showed up last weekend, making dreams come true. The breeder drove him and 4 of his siblings from Michigan to their new homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Wilson and I were away, so some generous friends offered to take him for the first night. (Shout out to the Backers– hope he left only memories and not puddles and teeth marks!)

As I’ve mentioned before, neither Wilson nor I had a dog growing up, so this was a big step and we anticipated a huge adjustment.

Before his arrival, I shook down dozens of friends for insider tips on care and training. I eagerly read the terrific book “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” and spent over an hour perusing the aisles at PetSmart.

1st trip (of many) to Petsmart for new puppy on carpoolcandy.com

1st trip (of many) to load up at Petsmart

The groundwork reminded me of being pregnant the first time, under the illusion that the best gear and thorough research would prepare me for anything.

But new living things– both furry and bald– are unpredictable. You’re never quite ready. But they’re so sweet, innocent, and helpless, your nurturing instincts kick in and you quickly forget what life was like without them.

We all fell in love right away.

10-year-old Aden– who pushed the hardest for the pup– has been extremely attentive and earnest in helping me train him.

New Golden Doodle puppy on carpoolcandy.com

A boy and his dog

Like an infant, the first few days were bliss. He cuddled and slept and smelled good. Every little noise and expression was adorable. By day 3, his personality came out and he became more brave, adventurous, and defiant. Now he’s going up stairs, teething on shoes and doesn’t need to be sitting on my feet all day (although it slowed me down, I loved that ephemeral phase.)

He doesn’t like the crate much. He resists going in and if you can get him in, he cries as soon as you close the door. It hurts to hear him cry so I don’t leave him in there much during the day when I’m home, but he sleeps in the crate near our bed at night.  Wilson and I have been strong badass parents. We don’t give in and let him out, and the crying has dissipated each night.

Last night– his 5th away from home– he only cried for 5 minutes and slept a glorious stretch from 11:30p to 6:20am. We’re on a puppy roll.

It took a few days to find a routine, but he sleeps a lot during the day so I’ve been able to get some work done when he naps and try to take him out every 2-3 hours and after every meal. He has met many kids and adults and is friendly and mellow.

1st days with new puppy on carpoolcandy.com

Brady exhausted after his morning romp

He can be affectionate, especially in the morning. I never thought I would enjoy a dog licking my face. Whenever I saw other people receive a tongue lashing I thought it was gross, but a peck from my pooch is now sweet. Plus, I know exactly where that tongue has been. He hasn’t had all his shots yet so he can only go in our backyard and the house.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of work. I get so frustrated when he has an accident in the house, mostly because it means I’ve fallen down on the job, and missed an opportunity for a teaching moment.  But there’s always another pee coming my way.

He has little bursts of activity where he goes nuts with a toy or a blanket, rolling over and growling while wagging his cute little white tail. But after about 10 minutes he’s spent and passes out.

New Golden Doodle puppy on carpoolcandy.com

There are certainly similarities between taking care of a puppy and a newborn but puppies are much easier. When I need to leave or get something done, I put him in a crate. He eats and drinks on his own. And he’s as cute and lovable as a newborn (let’s face it, some babies look like little, wrinkled old men, but there’s no such thing as an ugly puppy!)

And I didn’t have to carry him for 9 months or forego sushi and wine.

Look at this face.

1st days with new puppy on carpoolcandy.com

I’m sold.

Martha’s Vineyard with kids: Vineyard Haven was heaven

Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Just got back from a terrific week in Martha’s Vineyard. As we did last year, we rented a house with another family, but this time we were in Vineyard Haven.

 House on Franklin Street Vineyard Haven,  Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Our house in Vineyard Haven was 2 blocks from town and close to everything so the kids had a lot of independence

There are dozens of gorgeous beaches to discover, some found at the end of a winding dirt road, in the middle of the woods…others, the front lawn of spectacular mansions on the water.

Beach in Chappaquiddick,  Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Great beach walking in Chappaquiddick, Martha’s Vineyard

The food was amazing (another post on that later) and the weather ideal.

Lobster races on Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Lobster races: cruel but fun

We did have some rain, but very little humidity and a breeze cool enough to make a sunny day at the beach bearable, and a house without central air delightful.

I’ll post more about what we did next week, but for now wanted to share some of my favorite sights.

Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Boats docked near Menemsha

Everywhere we drove, I hung out the window snapping photos, trying to capture the island’s unique beauty, but my photos don’t do it justice.

You need to experience it yourself!

On one of our first evenings, we indulged in arguably the best fried clams on the island from a crab shack called The Bite, while watching the sun sink in Menemsha.

Sunset at Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

What’s better than friends, seafood, wine and this view in Menemsha?

Sometimes you’ll just be walking along and sandwiched between two houses you happen upon something like this….

East Chop Lighthouse near Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

East Chop Lighthouse near Oak Bluffs

I may take too many boat pictures, but who could resist this?

Boats in the harbor near Menemsha, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Boats in the harbor near Menemsha

We rented paddle boards again this year which was a big hit with the kids, but the wind was so strong they didn’t get very far.

Paddleboarding on Tashmoo Pond, near Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Paddleboarding on Tashmoo Pond, near Vineyard Haven

Look how clear the water is. 10-year-old Aden always finds an interesting animal….

Crab grabbing on Tashmoo Pond, near Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Crab grabbing on Tashmoo Pond, near Vineyard Haven

We took the 2-minute ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick Island. The wait to get on with your car can be 20 times longer than the ride, but well worth it for the magnificent beaches.

View from the ferry line from Chappaquiddick to Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

View from the ferry line from Chappaquiddick to Edgartown

Dusk is my favorite time of day at the beach. I couldn’t resist taking dozens of photos during our day trip to Chappaquiddick. The light was incredible.

Kayaks parked at Chappaquiddick beach, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Kayaks parked at Chappaquiddick beach

Much of the island is still wild and undeveloped like this road to the beach on Chappaquiddick.  It felt good to be surrounded by nature.

Road to Chappaquiddick beach, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Road to Chappaquiddick beach

This may be my favorite picture. It says beauty, nature, possibility.

New screen saver?

Beach path in Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard on carpoolcandy.com

Beach path in Chappaquiddick

Next summer, two weeks!

Summer of the rainbow loom

In July I had lunch with some friends who were talking about what gifts to bring their daughters for visiting day at sleep away camp. I was only half-listening– because I have sons who don’t go to sleep away camp– but they mentioned something about a Rainbow Loom.

Then one day my 7-year-old came home with a wrist full of rainbow rubber. Some girls on his day camp bus were madly making these bracelets and all he had to do was request a few colors and the next day, another one would appear on his arm.

rainbow loom bracelets on carpoolcandy.com

I started to spot the loom-lets everywhere. Boys and girls of every age, moms, dads, even some guy sweating in front of me in yoga class.

It’s a bonafide trend.

I always wonder how that happens so quickly. I remember the Silly Bandz craze a few years ago, but the Rainbow Loom takes it a step further because instead of just buying and collecting, kids create them. The small, plastic loom comes in a kit with a crochet hook and hundreds of tiny, colored rubber bands, that you somehow weave into accessories.

rainbow loom on carpoolcandy.com

The product is the brainchild of Michigan inventor Choon Ng, who created the Rainbow Loom in his basement as a family project with his two daughters, Teresa, 15, and Michelle, 12, and his wife, Fen Chan.

They started selling it locally about a year ago, but when national giant Michael’s craft store picked it up, the kit took off. The looms and rubber band refills have been bouncing off the shelves, often requiring Michael’s and other toy stores to put customers on waiting lists.

Tutorials have popped up on YouTube to guide loomers to create different patterns like starbursts, fishtails, zigzags, rain drops, and diamonds. Crafty friends say looming is fun and can even be meditative.

Rainbow Looming is apparently crafter’s nirvana.

I love a trend that’s genderless and ageless.  7-year-old Eli has a birthday coming up and he wants his own loom. He’s excited to create bracelets with the colors of all his favorite sports teams.

That’s as close to crafty as we’re gonna get.

Have you or your kids caught the looming bug? Tell me in the comments.

Do you believe in fairytales?

My youngest son, 7-year-old Eli has a flair for the dramatic. His pre-school teachers encouraged me to start him in acting lessons and he loves being the center of attention. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he told me he was dying to see “Cinderella” on Broadway.

I told Eli and his 10-year-old brother, Aden, I wanted to take them to a show this summer and suggested “Spiderman.” Rock music and a super hero flying into the audience seemed like a no-brainer.

Aden looked at me like I’d just asked him to smell the inside of his sneaker (which could make you pass out.) “I don’t want to go to a play!” he cried indignantly.

kid and grandma at Mary Poppins on carpoolcandy.com

Aden and Grandma not believing the magic

I may have scarred him by taking him to see “Mary Poppins” on Broadway last summer with my mother. We all agreed it was kind of boring and the songs were just okay.

I chose “Spiderman,”  thinking it could spark their interest and I’d be able to jam a little culture into their sports-obsessed lives.

Aden wasn’t interested, but Eli’s eyes lit up.  “I want to see the one with the pretty dresses and the flying lady!” he insisted. He always runs to the TV whenever the “Cinderella” commercial comes on, gaping at the Fairy Godmother soaring through the air.

So this week, Eli, Nan (Grandma) and I went to the city for a matinée. After the Poppins fiasco I kept expectations low.

You know what, kids? I freaking LOVED it!

Grandma & Eli at Cinderella/ carpoolcandy.com

We all did. It had a simple story, talented performers singing and dancing their britches off, and beautiful costumes. What I didn’t expect was the magic. I don’t know how they did it, but they changed the set and costumes from rags to riches in seconds right before our eyes. It was truly amazing. And fun.

The Broadway production is the Rodgers and Hammerstein– not Disney–  version of the show, with a purposely modern twist.  They rewrote the book so the prince isn’t a one-dimensional Ken doll looking for the fairest lady in the village. He’s an insecure guy who has inherited his father’s kingdom but isn’t even sure he wants to run it.  Cinderella actually helps him through his identity crisis and makes him see the suffering of his people and effect change.

The evil step-mother lives up to her title but one step-daughter is funny and authentic– knowing she has no chance with the prince– and the other is more interested in a nerdy town rebel than being a Princess.

When the inevitable happy ending came, everyone was cheering like crazy and Cinderella got an ovation that I can only compare to the shrieking I heard at a Justin Bieber concert. I was grateful the theater was dark as I stood and clapped with tears splashing down my face.

I’m such a sucker for sap.

I had equal enthusiasm for the birth of the royal baby last month. I ate up all the photos and details like they were cream-filled crumpets. Too-cool-for-school Wilson rolled his eyes at every breathless mention of Prince George and his handsome parents.

“Aren’t you excited about it? It’s joyous news!” I said grinning like a toddler.

“NO!” he said emphatically from behind his newspaper. “I don’t care. Why should I care?”

Despite his virtues as father and husband, Wilson can be a real curmudgeon sometimes.

Royal baby on YouTube /Carpoolcandy.com

But he made me stop and think about why I did care so much.

It’s the same reason I enjoyed “Cinderella.” Even though I’m all about keeping it real, I love a fairytale. I love the possibility that magic can happen and dreams can come true.

My sense of wonder roused me up at 4am to watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles get married back in 1981… but then that devolved into disaster and divorce. So when charming, adorable Prince William fell for gorgeous, poised Kate, I swooned on my side of the pond.

watching royal wedding in 2011/ carpoolcandy.com

Watching royal wedding at 5am in 2011

She’s a commoner who married a prince. They’re modern and low-key (at least by royal standards) and look so sunny that it’s hard not to believe in their fairytale.

And I’m not the only one. When I told Eli about the royal baby he smiled and excitedly asked if it was a boy or a girl. When I told him it was a prince, his face fell.

“Darn it!’

Why did he care about the gender?

“Because if it was a princess, then maybe I could go to college in London and marry her so I could be a King!”

That’s my boy.