Project You Magazine, Back AT School section

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project you Pursue your passion one dream at a time.

A Role Mommnye Magazi Fall 2011

Gifted Schmifted When Your Kid

Doesn’t Get into the Honors Program

Surviving Mama Drama


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Table of Contents


4 Editor’s Note

School Daze, Take Two

21 Better Late Than Never

Back AT School

Ideas for Travel Procrastinators.

5 Gifted Schmifted

Your kid didn’t make the cut into the honors program? It’s for the better.

7 One Bad Apple…

Sooner or later your kid will be placed with a teacher who leaves a lot to be desires.

9 Back to the Routine of School

Politically Correct Children’s Book plus other Dad musings. Electronics are practically a teenager’s middle name.

22 Weight Loss Wonder

Getting motivation through Mama-vation.

23 Makeover Madness

One woman’s very organized journey.

Between Us It can be as simple as talking and drinking less.

27 Is It All Over for My Favorite Name?

12 Be Selfish

Go ahead – think of yourself for once. You deserve it.

Answers from Baby Name Wizard.

28 Halloween Decorating and Party Ideas on a Budget

Star-Struck 13 My Mom Crush…

32 Mama Drama

Sarah Jessica Parker talks parenting.

14 “A” for Avon

The 125-year-old company remains committed to women.

15 Budget Beauty

Nine Tips to keep you and your beauty budget intact.

16 Tuning In – or Out

Stacking up next to TV’s favorite moms. Why every woman should have a circle of friends.

How to best celebrate the season.

25 7 Steps to a Happy Marriage

10 “E’s” the Word

17 High Five

21 Fall Travel is All About Foliage, Fun and Fear


How can you volunteer when one class mom is a control freak?

34 Red Hot News

Learn about the warning signs or heart disease.

Pursue your passion one dream at a time. Editor in Chief

Beth Feldman Passion: To inspire others to stop talking about what they want to do and show them how to just do it!

Managing Editor

Jeanne Muchnick Passion: To live life to the fullest.

Art Director Katie Schlientz Passion: To make the world a more beautiful place, one page at a time.


Jennie Baird Lorraine Brock Danielle Feigenbaum Elizabeth Mascali Amy Oztan Cindy Richards Eric Ruhalter Dawn Sandomeno Jennifer Wagner Laura Wattenberg Andrea Woroch

Role Mommy is an online community and events company dedicated to inspiring today’s busy parents to pursue their passion while raising a family. Role Mommy hosts online writing and career workshops as well as events that bring entrepreneurs, authors, parenting experts and bloggers together to share how they’ve reinvented their lives while raising a family.

editor’s LETTER

School Daze, Take Two I

can’t believe it’s been a full year since we first launched Project You and I’m thrilled to say that we are back with our Back at School issue and hope you enjoy our heartfelt, sarcastic, inspiring, informative and bittersweet articles. Like all our issues, we tackle topics you might not necessarily see in an everyday magazine. Instead, we share what’s really on our minds - including the “Mama Drama” that takes place when an overbearing class mom shuts you out of a volunteer project; or a candid account about gifted programs that truly tick off the parents whose kids don’t make the cut. And what about mean teachers? Don’t you just love it when your child gets stuck with a teacher who should have retired ages ago? There’s more to Project You than our Back at School peeves! We’ve got an incredible weight loss story from digital mom extraordinaire Amy Lupold Bair and tips from Selfish Mom’s Amy Oztan on all the amazing things you can do for you now that your kids are in class. Plus, Connect with Your Teens contributor Jennifer Wagner shares her favorite gadgets of the season and our favorite party gals from Partybluprints offer some fabulous ideas to make any Halloween party an absolute scream. If travel is in your future, then we’ve got great tips on how to zag when everyone zigs and find the best deals for you and your family. And Traveling Mom offers some terrific fall trip options for the ultimate procrastinators. As always, we’ve got some celebrity sightings in our issue - including a candid look at “I Don’t Know How She Does It” star Sarah Jessica Parker who shares how she and husband Matthew Broderick attempt to keep their kids grounded. So what are you waiting for? Take some time out of your breakneck schedule to let your fingers do the walking. Read, relax, be inspired and most importantly, make time for you!

For more information, visit and

Contact us cover photos: © MurrayProductions



A Role Mommy Magazine l Back AT School 2011

Beth Feldman Editor in Chief

project you

Back AT School There’s always a reason to be proud of your kid.

Gifted Schmifted Your kid didn’t make the cut into the honors program? Believe me, it’s for the better.

© ArtisticCaptures


bout three years ago, my incredibly bright daughter was dealt an unexpected blow to her academic ego when she narrowly missed getting accepted into a gifted program that our school district offers to a small number of students entering the fourth grade. As parents, we didn’t want to pressure her when it came to preparing for the exam. I mean, she was only in third grade - why should we stress out a kid when they had been doing so well in school without our help? I vowed to be the anti-helicopter parent. The one who watches their child soar without hiring tutors, enrolling them in an after school learning center or spending extra hours teaching them the finer points of division, essay writing and grammar. The day the letter didn’t arrive in our mailbox announcing she had made the program, was devastating for my daughter. We later learned that she had missed getting admitted by one point.

As our daughter informed us that she had found out that nearly every single one of her friends made the program, we were so upset for her. We were convinced she was gypped and so, we did what any non-helicopter parent would do. We called the deputy superintendent’s office and made an appointment to argue our case. Okay, that’s a bit helicopter-ish, but we’re only human.

I’ll never forget that day. My husband and I were armed with all the important points of why our daughter should have made that program and no matter what argument we threw at the deputy superintendent, he shot us down every time. I’m sure it was because he had already heard from thousands of parents over the years who felt their own child was “gifted” and didn’t have the patience projectyou



project you

anymore to let their child down easy. At one point, I even broke down in tears - I know - I’m not proud of that moment, but I was so sad for my daughter - she was going to be separated from the friends she had made over the past four years and would not be receiving the same sort of education we thought she deserved because a standardized exam had decided she wasn’t good enough to make the cut. During that first year when her friends were in different classes, my daughter, who was once an incredibly popular child and was always on the invite list to every birthday party in our neighborhood, suddenly began receiving the cold shoulder from her former best friends. The invites began drying up one by one. And then she was hit by the lowest blow - a good friend of hers reasoned that she wasn’t smart enough to make it into the gifted program. And when she came home that day in tears, I was determined to show her that no matter what those stupid test scores revealed, she was still an amazingly bright child who had the world ahead of her. Gradually, she made new friends, took up softball and continued working hard at school. We also gradually discovered that NOT making that gifted program was the best thing that could have happened to her. In fact, when we met with her teachers, one of them confided that she couldn’t stand that program - she admitted it caused a rift between kids and even shared that she had a few students in her class not in the program who went on to become the valedictorian of their high school class. On the day our daughter graduated elementary school, we were thrilled to learn she was one of four children who had won the President’s Certificate for Academic Excellence (she was the one kid not in the gifted program to earn that distinction). And now that she’s in middle school, she’s a straight A student and continuing to work hard at her studies - all 6


A Role Mommy Magazine l Back AT School 2011

without our help. Fast forward to today and my son is about to start fourth grade and as fate would have it, he too didn’t make the gifted program either. While I was pretty aggravated at first - mostly because I was concerned he’d be the only kid who didn’t make the program again and face the same social issues my daughter did - I held it together as best I could. Luckily, this time around I learned that a few of his close friends didn’t get into the program either. Which means socially, he’ll be just fine. Academically, I know that my child is incredibly bright too - I found out after speaking with one of his teachers that he is a bit careless during the test taking process but what do you expect from an eight year old? While I do feel that history seems to be repeating itself, I have to say that this time around, I’m not as worried. My son is a really smart kid - yes, I know that I’m his parent and every parent thinks their kid is smart, but honestly, he really is. He can build an entire Lego city in a few hours, meticulously reading the directions from cover to cover so he can figure out where every piece belongs. He shares random facts about sharks, dinousaurs and monkeys. He can quote nearly every line from all the Austin Powers movies (okay, maybe that’s not appropriate but at least it shows his memorization skills are pretty sharp). And most of all, he’s an incredlbly funny, sweet natured child who my husband and I are so incredibly proud of. So for those parents whose kids have made the gifted program in their area - I offer you a heartfelt congratulations - may your child continue to achieve great things in their lifetime. And for those who didn’t, please don’t put any added pressure on your child. Let them discover who they are, who they want to be and make sure you tell them they are special every day of their lives. ■

Back AT School

One Bad Apple… Sooner or later, your kid will be placed with a teacher who leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s how to cope. By Jeanne Muchnick


ess than two weeks into the school year, classroom and all of boys’ parents knew it.” Randy Green could tell her daughter, In other words, you’re not alone. At some Melanie, was going to have problems point, our kids are going to be placed in a class with her 8th grade English teacher. “Apparent- with a teacher who doesn’t like them, is either ly, there had been a book on the floor behind too strict or too laissez-faire with homework, Melanie’s desk,” says the Brooklyn, NY-based or someone who simply doesn’t mind embarmom “It wasn’t Melanie’s book – and rassing them with stern words. It’s like she hadn’t even noticed it was there any workplace: Just as there are -- but the teacher assumed Melanie some colleagues with terrific perwas the kind of girl who had no resonalities who have a passion for spect for books and said something their jobs, there are also plenty of to her along the lines of, ‘Well, we those who are there to simply colknow here who didn’t care for her lect a paycheck. The question besummer reading.’ My daughter came comes: How do you handle it? home crying, saying this teacher was Candi Wingate, mom of two and out to get her.” President of Nannies4Hire (www. NanDianne Sikel of Phoenix, AZ who blogs at who deals with many of these, says she had situations in the nanny world, advises parents a similar situation with her son’s first grade to assume that the teacher is acting with beteacher who seemed to dislike him from the nevolence -- that there is simply a miscommuget-go. “It was actually obvious,” she says. nication or an instructional style mismatch. “The teacher clearly favored the girls in the Talking and clearing the air is strongly recom-

© craftvision

Jeanne Muchnick




project you mended before going off the deep end (something I’m prone to doing when it comes to my precious cargo). ● First, get the facts straight. Begin by asking questions of your child to ensure that you thoroughly understand the situation from his/ her perspective. (Note to parents: Depending on age and maturity, your little Johnny might not always give an accurate assessment.) Next, ask questions of your child’s teacher for the full story.

“weird” post-discussion with the teacher, but that the teacher curbed her tone for the rest of the semester. ● If the situation is more serious, you need

to arm yourself with more information, i.e. are there school policies that govern this matter? Such fact finding can be accomplished by speaking with the school principal, the school board, or other authority.

● Above all, stay above board and do not ● Set up a meeting with the teacher with engage in personal attacks. This is a good the intent to find a middle ground (depend- time to remind your kids that in the “real ing on the situation, this can include your world” there are all kinds of people that they child). This is what Randy Green did, although will come across and that no matter how difshe first sent an email to the teacher with a ficult or challenging the relationship, you still cc to her daughter’s guidance counselor. “I have to plow through and work towards a viwanted everyone to understand that I didn’t able solution. appreciate the nasty way the teacher had spoken to my daughter and that the school year ● If all else fails, consider pulling your stuhad just begun. I wrote it all in a nice way but dent out of the situation, changing teachbasically asked why we can’t all just work it ers or changing schools. It all depends on out and how things may have started on the how bad “bad” is. wrong foot.” She says her daughter still felt Indeed, getting that “rotten apple” is all part of life’s journey. Dianne Sikel said her son’s situation with the teacher preferring the girls to the boys turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “It taught him early on that you have to deal with all kinds of personalities,” she says. “It’s a lesson that will serve him well.” ■

Jeanne Muchnick has published hundreds of parenting and lifestyle articles for various publications and websites including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Woman’s Day, Parents, and Westchester Magazine. Tonight, she’s having her “famous” mustard chicken for dinner (go to her website for the recipe.) 8


A Role Mommy Magazine l Back AT School 2011

Back to the Routine of School . . .

Back AT School

By Eric Ruhalter


f there’s one thing a Mom appreciates more than a Dad who helps out around the house on school day mornings. It’s a Dad who helps out around the house on school day mornings in a fashion that is actually helpful. The kids don’t make it easy. They know you haven’t had coffee yet and you’re vulnerable, you have to act as a flowchart, keeping them on task as they go from A to B to C to Bus Stop. Firstly, if they have 30 minutes to eat, wash up, dress, pack and go, a good first step is NOT to let them turn on Cartoon Network. When feeding them, simpler is better. French Toast- Bad! Cold Cereal–Good! The kids may not always want the same thing as one another or feel like eating what you’ve made. That is, as we say in the parenting business – “Tough Crap.” Kids wouldn’t mind wearing pajamas to school, I’m sure. It’s easier. But they have to put on school clothes. On that front it’s wise to outfit your kids with pajamas they’d be embarrassed to be seen in (i.e.: My Pretty Pony nightshirt for boys). And they should brush their teeth, wipe off the milk moustache and get their school bag packed. The homework that is due today? That should be in there, thus saving Dad (or more likely, let’s be honest, Mom) a trip to the school. Then they have to get shoes on and they’re out the (sep-TEM-buhl-ay-shun) n.: door. If you stay focused, you’ll be The utter glee that washes over some stay-atable to keep them focused and the home Moms at the end of summer when their whole thing will be a snap. Except kids return to school. when it’s not. ■

KidDictionary Word:


The (d.a.) D-LIST of

New, More Politically Correct Children’s Books

Eric Ruhalter


●C harlie and The Factory of Organically-Grown Well-Balanced Hypoallergenic Meals ● T hings That Go, Powered by Earth-Friendly Alternative Fuels © NWphotoguy

● T he Pokey Little Puppy Who Came From a Shelter, Not Some Inhumane Puppy Mill ●P at the Bunny in a Non-Threatening Manner and If and When He Consents to Being Touched ●O ne Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish or Any Other Color Fish for We Do Not Discriminate ● T he Cat in the Hat Comes Back After Being Properly Spayed ● T ales of a 4th Grade Nothing Who Got a Trophy Anyway So His Feelings Wouldn’t Be Hurt ● T he Giving Tree Who Complied With All Pertinent Federal Tax Laws ●H arry Potter and the Sacred Chalice of a Non-Denominational Secular Public Institution ●A lexander and the No High Fructose Corny Syrup, Bully-Free, Non-Smoking, Very Healthy Day

Eric Ruhalter studied economics at Dickinson College, in Carlisle PA, where he learned, first and foremost, that he’s not the least bit interested in the theories and principles of economics. So rather than study, he began spending most of his time writing. Don’t tell his father. He works in television in New York City, and resides in New Jersey with his wife, Kara, three children, and their two cats who will not stay off the dining room table no matter what Eric says or does to them. (Eric often speaks in the third person with hopes that it will make him seem more important.) projectyou



project you By Jennifer Wagner

“E’s” the Word “Electronics” are practically a teenager’s middle name. Here, a fall roundup of the hottest ones. Nintendo 3DS portable game player

If you did not buy your teen a Nintendo 3DS when it originally came out, you might consider buying one now. Nintendo already dropped the price down to $169.99 and is launching new games in November that are sure to thrill teens, such as Super Mario 3D Land and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Nintendo also plans to add new features such as 3D video (in addition to a 3D camera).

Alura-Tek Bump Mobile Speakers

Amazon Kindle

Ebook readers are on their way to becoming essential tools, especially for students. And with the ease of sampling chapters and then buying books, your teen might actually become a more avid reader.

Sanyo Eneloop Mobile Booster

The charger will make sure your teen’s mobile devices stay charged so that they can always reach you in an emergency. The Eneloop is extremely small, yet has a lot of power.

Courtesy of vednors

Teens listen to music mostly from their mp3 players. This can make it difficult to listen together with a group of friends. The Bump Wireless Speaker is about the size of a small cup and can be used either with your computer or mp3 player. To use the speaker with your computer you just turn on the speaker and plug the Bump USB into your computer. To use the speaker with your MP3, you just turn on the speaker and then connect the Bump audio cable from your player to the speaker. The sound is fantastic.

Back AT School

Livescribe pen

Jennifer Wagner

Connect With Your Teens

The Livescribe smartpens are perfect for students. They record everything you hear and write so you don’t miss a thing. Since it captures audio, students don’t need to feel nervous that they are not getting everything down in their notes. The pen also allows you to transfer your notes to your computer where you can than do keyword searches to find what you need.

Noise canceling headphones

A pair of noise canceling headphones will benefit your teenager in two very important ways. It will cut out all distracting noise while your teens are trying to study. And more importantly, because these headphones work so well in reducing outside noise, the music can be played at a lower volume thereby helping to prevent hearing loss.

Jennifer Wagner has been working with Millennials for years, mostly as an academic law librarian teaching students legal research. Her blog, Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology, helps parents keep up with pop culture and technology as a way of bonding with their teenage children. projectyou



project you

Be Selfish

Go ahead….think of yourself for once. You deserve it. Plus­—Yippie!—Schools’ back in session. By Amy Oztan

Give yourself a little “me time” and feel refreshed by taking yourself out to lunch­.


think it goes without saying that I love my children, but as a work-at-home-mom, I have a hard time getting much done when they’re around. My kids are seven and ten and largely self-sufficient, but I’m also very easily distracted, so having the house to myself again come September is something I look forward to with only slightly less giddiness than my children have around December 23rd. There are things that I like to do for myself that are difficult to do with kids in tow. If I have to, I can work after they go to bed. But what I can’t do after they go to bed is go clothes shopping, or go to the spa, or go out to lunch with a friend.Here, some ideas of things to do that 1) don’t take all day and 2) leave you feeling refreshed:



A Role Mommy Magazine l Back AT School 2011

Amy Oztan

© RuslanDashinsky

Amy Oztan, founder of SelfishMom. com, is a full-time blogger and writer whose work has appeared in Redbook Magazine and online in,, and more. She also co-founded a weekly podcast covering blogging and technology topics at Originally from Buffalo, Amy now lives in a spooky brownstone in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.

● Get a manicure and a back massage. ● Walk to a far-away errand. It seems like One of my least favorite things in the world is whenever I walk anywhere I’m in a hurry— to sit there stiffly in a chair while my nails dry either I’m going fast to exercise, or I’m late, under the little fan thing, not able to use my or I’m just trying to get a lot done. If I have an phone or read. So now I always couple a mani- hour to spare and an errand about a mile away, cure with a twenty minute chair massage. I strap on headphones and stroll there. It only adds $20 (plus tip) to the ser● Catch up on TV. Usually when I vice, and makes me feel like I had a have the TV on, my attention isn’t mini-getaway, but the entire thing really on it. Either I’m on my comonly takes about an hour. puter, or other people are in the ● Take yourself out to lunch. room distracting me. But there are Sure, I eat lunch alone most days, some shows that really need to be but I’m at home, with work and watched, and I save those for when phones and doorbells and a pile of nobody’s around. Sometimes I even laundry and dishes staring at me. Takmake popcorn. ing an hour to go out to lunch lets me get ● Take a nap. Nothing makes for a crankier totally away. I bring a newspaper or a maga- mom than when you’re tired. An hour nap is zine, and try to go someplace that’s not full of usually just right for me – long enough that I moms with their kids. Because frankly, when feel refreshed, but not so long that I get into I’m not around mine I don’t want to be around a deep sleep and feel groggy for the rest of anybody else’s either. the day. ■