Monthly Archives: September 2011

My favorite place to shop for kids’ stuff…

This is part of the Show Us Your Life series at Kelly’s Corner.  This week’s topic is:  Favorite places to shop for kids’ stuff.

Well, first things first.  I’m cheap.  I do not like paying full price for anything- especially not clothes for Mabel that she’ll outgrow rapidly.  So, where do I shop to avoid breaking the bank?

Once Upon a Child– which sells gently used kids clothes (from infant to teen), gear, and toys.  It’s a national chain, so chances are there’s one near you (you can find locations here).

I routinely find Tea Collection, Zutano, Janie and Jack, Baby Gap, Children’s Place, Stride Rite, and other name brand items for a tiny fraction of the original price.  I do particularly well during clearance time when clothing items are 10 for $10!

Take this haul for instance:

So what’s there- 8 dresses (Old Navy, Children’s Place, etc), 5 pairs of pants (Zutano, etc.), 3 tops, 1 Baby Gap Sweater, a music table, and a tricycle.

All for a grand total of….. $45!  Yup.

To see a similarly spectacular haul from a more recent trip, see this post.

I try to go to Once Upon a Child first whenever I need something.  Since Mabel was born, we’ve gotten our Britax umbrella stroller, her Farm set, her rocking horse, the music table, her tricycle, and lots and lots of clothes and shoes there.  They have pretty much any baby/kid related item you could think of from bikes to Bjorns.

The other plus- you can sell the items you no longer need to them for cash!  Last year when I wanted to get a bed rail for our bed (so I could nurse Mabel without worrying about her rolling out!) I sold some clothes we didn’t want and was able to get the bed rail for next to nothing!

I tell every new mom about Once Upon a Child.  It is a major money saver.


Filed under Mother, steals and deals, SUYL

Wordless Wednesday

Two dozen roses, delivered to work, to celebrate our anniversary.


Filed under Wife, Wordless Wednesday

Happy Anniversary

Today is my third wedding anniversary.  Three years ago today, this was Mac and I.

Today, Mac ran errands and entertained Mabel.  I was at work, wishing I was home (although the 2 dozen red roses that came for me certainly took the edge off!).  My car wouldn’t start,  Mabel’s swim class was canceled, etc.   There was other craziness/worry that just made me appreciate my husband and our marriage even more.  Dinner was late and consisted of microwaved leftovers.

It wasn’t necessarily romantic, but there’s not much I would change.  I am a lucky lady.


Filed under Wife

Steals and Deals: Rainbow Steps Mary Janes on Totsy

Mabel has been outgrowing shoes like it’s her job.  I’ve complained about it before.

Well, thanks to a Living Social voucher where I could get $30 to spend on Totsy for only $15, Mabel got some new shoes.  Specifically, Mary Janes.

Back in Auguest, Totsy was having a sale on Rainbow Steps shoes.

I’m a fan of vibrant colors, so these are the ones I chose:

Description: Rainbow Steps Mary Jane with Velcro

I also purchased these Pipsqueaks:

Description: Pipsqueaks Mary Jane with Daisies

I got the first pair in in a Little Kid 6, and the second in a Little Kid 7.  I had to scour the internet for a size chart since Totsy’s didn’t make any sense.  The sizes listed in the chart (1,2,…,1,2- yup there were more than one of several sizes with different measurements), didn’t match the pull down menu to pick a shoe size (little kid 4 v. big kid 1v. toddler 1).  So, I was practically ordering blind.  Of course there’s no 24 hour toll free number to call for help and they have a Draconian return policy- so it’s buyer beware.

Anyway- I hadn’t purchased Rainbow Steps before, so I wasn’t sure about the quality of the brand.  Now that they are here, they seem a little bit cheap.  I can already foresee the velco closure ripping away from the shoe- it doesn’t seem securely attached.  Also, there are some areas around the sole of the shoe where the glue has oozed out and discolored the upper.  If Mabel keeps growing at this pace, the quality may not be an issue- she might grow out of them before they wear out.  For what I paid, with the Totsy discount and all, I’m OK with them and really love the colors.

The Pipsqueaks seem to be better quality, but since they are still too big for Mabel, we’ll have to wait and see how they hold up.

Overall, I’m not a big fan of Totsy.  In addition to the inexplicable size chart, their ordering system is a wreck.  Every time you revisit your shopping cart, the visible countdown showing you how much more time you have the item reserved for (before it becomes available to another shopper) resets.  So, you really have no idea if the item will still be in your cart when you check out.  I learned this the hard way when I had a pair of shoes in my cart, then through the whole checkout process, hit submit and found the item had disappeared at that final moment.  Their customer service was unapologetic and unhelpful.  Despite reporting this to them, they still haven’t fixed it.  I think it’s a big sham to get you to pay for shipping and handling on separate orders because something went missing.  So, if you’re thinking of ordering from them- beware.


Filed under Mabel, Mother, steals and deals

Grange Fair

A couple of weekends ago, we went to the local Grange Fair.  It was basically like a small county fair with farm animals and carnival rides and such.

It was pretty small as fairs go, and we had to pay admission just to get in, with all the rides and games being extra, however, for a 20 month old, it was the perfect size.

We were able to experience what the fair had to offer and still be home in time for a nap!

We started off the day with The Marvelous Mutts!  All the dogs are shelter rescues and their abilities are amazing!  Mabel was mesmerized and really enjoyed being able to meet the dogs after the show.

After the dog show, we checked out all the animals at the fair and got to meet some of the kids (as in human children, not baby sheep) that raised them.  Mabel even got to pet a blue chicken.  Yes, an actual chicken whose handler had died her fuzzy feathers blue.  There was also a pink chicken, but we didn’t get to pet that one.

After touching lots of animals, we washed hands and had some lunch.  There were cheese fries, gyros, pulled pork sandwiches, quesadillas, sausage and pepper sandwiches and the like.  We were too busy eating to take pictures, but it was good!

While we dined, we listened to a Southern Rock band performing and the music was too hard for Mabel to resist, so she cut loose and danced.  See videos here.

Since Mabel was too small for any of the carnival rides, after lunch we paid $3 and went on a hayride.  By this point in the day, she was pretty pooped, so you can see in the one picture below that she seems about to fall asleep on me.  But after all the walking around, it was nice to sit and relax and take in the sites for a few minutes.

Last up were the carnival games.  Mac really wanted to play a game with Mabel, and his choice was a sure-winner:  The Lucky Duck.  Basically you pick 3 ducks from the water and depending on the numbers on them, you get a prize.  Not surprisingly, Mabel’s added up to an amount that only entitled her to the small toys.  She chose a duck.

This fair was just the right size for a toddler.  Plenty to do, but not overwhelmingly large.  We’ll definitely be back next year- and perhaps Mabel will be tall enough to ride some rides!

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Filed under Mabel, Mother, Wife

Wordless Wednesday

Apple picking.

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Lamebook: For scientists

If there was a Lamebook for scientists, I would submit this.  (And yes, I do routinely query my Facebook friends for help with science-related topics.  My friends from undergrad, grad school, and post-doc are helpful!)

When my husband saw this, he asked, “Doesn’t your aunt know you’re a scientist?”  I’m not certain if she was joking.

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Filed under Scientist

How to turn a girl into a scientist.

While I’ve always been interested in science- specifically biology- there a few points in my life that were definitive in my journey from a girl to a scientist.

I was reminded of those points when Michelle Toomey from Cone contacted me about FIRST.  FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.  They engage kids of all ages in science and technology using things from Legos to robotics.  Their programs are successful in encouraging students to pursue their education, to pursue science.

They’ve even gotten from the Black Eyed Peas in on the deal!  (The video is long, but comes on about the 10min mark).

I’m not a huge BEP fan, preferring this to this, and while I have serious doubts that will meet his goal to, “change America by making science the coolest thing on the planet!” I do think FIRST is an important step in the right direction.

If I am an example, programs like FIRST are crucial.  They expose kids to science, let them see what it’s all about, get them excited about meeting challenges, introduce them to scientists, give them first-hand knowledge that making science a profession is an option.

I know, for me, I didn’t know a single scientist growing up.  Plenty of nurses, teachers, police officers, welders, builders, contractors, office workers, middle managers, day care providers, etc.  Not one single scientist.

So, in the absence of knowing a scientist, how did I set upon science as a career choice?  Programs like FIRST.

The summer after my Junior year of high school (and AP Bio), I participated in the UCONN Mentor Connection.  I spent three weeks of my summer in the lab of a chemistry professor there running agarose gels, learning about Fullerene/Buckyballs, and getting really excited about the prospect of working in a lab.

The combination of AP Bio and my time at UCONN clinched for me that I wanted to pursue a science degree in college.  UCONN Mentor Connection was a definitive experience that set my course for a science career.

Staying that course, however, would require another innovative program.

I got to college, I chose my major- an intimidating and arduous program combining the best/worst (?) of biology, chemistry, and physics had to offer:  Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.  I was frightened of my major and most definitely unsure of myself and my abilities.

I remember calling home to my mother feeling overwhelmed and unprepared after a chemistry placement exam.  She scolded me, “Listen, to me- that school has been accepting students for 300 years!  You are not their mistake!  Stop it.  You’ll do fine.”

My mom was right.  I did do fine, in large part thanks to STARS– the program that allowed me to stay the course.

STARS stands for Science, Technology, and Research Scholars- a program designed to support women, minority, economically underprivileged, and other historically underrepresented students in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The STARS program provides undergraduates an opportunity to combine course-based study, research, mentorship, networking, and career planning in the fields of science and technology. The program seeks to improve student performance and persistence rates in the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and related majors, such as Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science.

My freshman year I had the luck of being in Dr. Black’s chemistry lab course.  She started STARS.  She encouraged me to participate and I did.  I started in my sophomore year as a STARS I Scholar- having fellow-scholars in my classes, attending tutoring and study sessions with upperclass-scholars, enjoying Popeye’s study breaks and Dr. Black’s house, and generally benefitting from a supportive scientific community.  Having allies in my pursuit of science was crucial to my persistence and success.

I went on to the STARS Summer Research Program.  I had tried and failed to find a lab that would take an inexperience Sophomore on as a student… until STARS.  The program had a good reputation and approaching labs a STARS scholar allowed me my choice of labs.  That summer I joined a lab at the Medical School and continued doing my undergraduate research there until graduation- as a STARS II Scholar.  All along the way there were research talks to give, classes on keeping a lab notebook, opportunities to meet scientists, practice writing/speaking/presenting/explaining my science, as well as financial support (STARS was able to funnel the work study portion of my financial aid package to ‘pay’ me for the research I did during the year- without which, I would have had to give up the lab work in favor of a paying work study job).

My extensive undergraduate research, academic success, and science literacy made getting into graduate schools a non-issue.  I was able to choose from among several top-teir research universities.

The benefits of STARS didn’t end when I was accepted to grad school.  Having presented my undergraduate research many times- in lab meetings and in larger forums organized by STARS, giving graduate student colloquium was nothing new.  While classmates spent the first few years getting comfortable talking about their research and presentation skills, I was able to fine tune my skills right away.

I can’t say without UCONN Mentor Connection and STARS I wouldn’t be where I am today, I do think it would have been a much harder route, and I may very well have given up on a science career.  When I look at my fellow STARS scholars, with whom I am still close, there are several MDs, a physician’s assistant, a research scientist, a science education advocate, a genomics technician, the list continues.

The program worked.  We stayed in science.  Programs like FIRST work.

Now that I am where I am, I do what I can to encourage science literacy and get involved in science outreach.  I had a great time judging last year’s Westchester Science and Engineering Fair.  I reached out to my old high school to offer current students the opportunity to do summer internships at my company.  I’m writing this blog post, so that a kid or a parent might see it and another girl (or boy) could be set on the same course.

At a time when school funding is dwindling and resources are scare, programs like FIRST and Science for Citizens are all the more crucial- helping teachers make the most of their limited resources.

Do what I did- spread the word about science, tell your local school about FIRST.


Filed under #scimom, Scientist

iPhone (Droid) Photo Friday

This week was pretty fun!

Sunday we went to the local Grange Fair- rides, farm animals, pig races, dogs doing tricks, a souther rock band, cheese fries, gyros, pulled pork sandwiches, games, etc.  To see hilarious video of Mabel rockin’ out to the band, click here.

These Dahlias were AMAZING! The size of my face!


Checking out the bull.

Mid-week I had a late meeting (7pm), so Mac and Mabel came down to meet me for dinner.  Here she is enjoying a shake at Rita’s.


And here she is running around like a maniac in the store- I was glad the only other customers were a dad with his two wild children.

She's a maniac, maniac on the floor!



Filed under iPhone (Droid) Photo Friday, Mabel

Mini Mod #4

Mabel has a closet full of gorgeous clothes- dresses, jumpers, jeans, shirts, etc- most of which she never wears.  Why does she never wear them?  Because her dad is the one that dresses her on weekdays when I’m at work- and he tends to mostly choose the same outfits over and over again.  Sometimes I’ll pick out an outfit and lay it by the changing table, or even leave a stack of outfits to choose from.  However, most days I have all I can do to get myself dressed, so picking out clothes for Mabel isn’t on my radar.

When Mac first started staying home with Mabel, her outfits left much to be desired and I’d usually laugh at them when I got home.  I tried to use positive reinforcement, making sure to comment on how much I loved an outfit if it was particularly cute or well put together.  It seems to have worked!  Most days Mabel is in a cute outfit- although still usually the same few over and over.  I’m not sure why my husband never puts Mabel in a dress.

On Wednesday Mac and Mabel met me for dinner near work because I had a 7pm meeting to get to.  We went for pizza and then walked next door to Rita’s for them to share a shake.  This is what Mabel was wearing:

I think it was a super cute outfit!  A Garanimals shirt, a hand-me-down skort, her ruffled socks, and Mary Janes.  Well done Mac!


Filed under Mabel, Mini Mod, Mother